Saturday, October 6, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 6 -- The More Things Change . . . : a Review of the Season 8 Premiere of "Supernatural"

Although Supernatural fell off my viewing schedule in its 2nd season due to an over-stuffed time-slot, it's been on my "I need to catch up on that" list ever since. Recently, thanks to Netflix Instant, I was able to marathon through the first 7 seasons in time to watch the Season 8 premiere, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," this week. I was curious about how the premiere was going to shake out since it would be the first episode under the command of new showrunner Jeremy Carver, who is taking over after the somewhat critically panned two-season stint of Sera Gamble. Carver was on staff with the show during the reign of the original creator/showrunner Eric Kripke, and in interviews has made statements to the effect of wanting to bring the show back to its roots.   As someone who feels the last couple of seasons have been slightly more miss than hit, I was hoping this wasn't just lip-service. Having now seen the episode, I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I do like that the quest that's set up in the episode is of a less apocalyptic nature  than the last few seasons; the Winchesters are being proactive rather than reactive, which is a nice change of pace.  Now there's no ticking clock by which they have to succeed or watch the world end; instead, they're on a mission to make the world a better place by ridding it of one it's more persistent plagues.  Whether this quest is truly a through-line for the season remains to be seen, and it's possible that at some point a new and world devastating Big Bad will rear its ugly head.  But for now, I remain hopeful that with a somewhat lowered threat-level, the Monster of the Week episodes won't feel as shoe-horned in.

On the other hand, the show has already started to rely on one the the series' most irritating tropes:  having the brothers lie and keep secrets from each other.  This is the sort of story that is irksome to me at the best of times, and having watched the bulk of the series back to back, the constant rehashing of it season after season (under both Kripke and Gamble) wore on me, especially in light of the fact that it always ends badly.  I will try to reserve judgment until I see how it all plays out, but I have a feeling things are going to get ugly once Castiel pops up again.

And speaking of attempting to reserve judgment, there was one aspect of the pilot that rang totally false to me: Sam giving up completely and living a normal life.  It's not Sam giving up hunting or not searching for Dean that bothers me; after all, Sam was the original Winchester who tried to break ties with the world of hunters, and he really had not reason to believe that Dean wasn't vaporized when Dick died.  No, what bothered me was that Sam just left Crowley walk off with the new-found prophet Kevin without trying to hunt him down at all.  As much as Sam might have been devastated by his loss of his last surviving relative, I just can't see him ignoring something like that happening to someone he knows.  Now, Carver has said in interviews that viewers shouldn't be too quick to judge either of the brothers for what they did during the missing year, as things might not be what they appear, so I'm going to chalk this up to misdirection for now.  But still, it took me out of the show, and damaged Sam's character for me.

In the end, it's hard to say if Carver's tenure as showrunner will correct the show's course, or if it's really just a case of the show outstaying its welcome.  Still, I enjoyed the premiere on the whole, and am willing to see how it all plays out.

Plus, they've brought back the Impala, which is a step in the right direction.

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