Supernatural “Hellatus” is finally over!
“Supernatural returns with an all-new episode this Wednesday, October 10th. The official description for “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?”, we include the promotional trailer via YouTube courtesy of the CW Network’s website :
“MRS. TRAN JOINS SAM AND DEAN ON THE ROAD — Kevin (guest starring Osric Chau) talks Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) into checking in on his mother (Lauren Tom). When they arrive, they see that evil Crowley (Mark Sheppard) has surrounded her with demons so they rescue her and take her along on their quest to find the tablet.”
“However, they soon discover Kevin wasn’t kidding when he said his mother was a strong-willed woman after she tries to take on Crowley. John Showalter directed the episode written by Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin.”
Season eight of “Supernatural” did arrive, and lo – the fandom did rejoice. For their long period of shipping drought known as “Hellatus” hath been ended, and the Winchester brothers (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) once again roameth the back roads of America looking for monsters to choppeth into tiny bits, in Thy mercy.
It has felt like an eternity since the finale of season seven in May, and the fandom has been on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting October third and the promise of a new era. Show runner Sera Gamble stepped down and was replaced by Jeremy Carver, a former SPN writer who had been overseeing the Syfy Channel’s American take of the BBC hit “Being Human“. Carver has stated that he is a fan of the fallen angel Castiel (played by Misha Collins), something that delighted many fans – including myself.
Why? Last season was nearly Cas-free, and (in my opinion) the show seemed a little less lustrous because of it. Although the seventh year had several shining episodes where the angel was not present (“Time After Time”, “Repo Man”, and “Death’s Door” were all brilliant), the knowledge that Castiel might never come back weighed heavily on the hearts of all Minions (the title bestowed on all of Collins’ fans).
A little background might be in order. At the end of season six, Castiel unwisely cracked open Purgatory (the final destination of all slain monsters) and absorbed innumerable souls in order to gain enough strength to win a heavenly civil war against the archangel Raphael. However, the power went to his head, and he declared himself the new God (an incarnation that fans dubbed “Godstiel”). But the souls inside proved too strong, and Cas was taken over by the nefarious Leviathans; they took his vessel to the public water supply, where it erupted and dissolved, unleashing the ancient Biblical baddies.
The Winchesters mourned their fallen comrade, along with the fandom at large, but they had to battle on against the tide of flesh-eating monsters Castiel had inadvertently set free. Led by the dastardly Dick Roman (James Patrick Stuart, almost always wearing a Cheshire-cat-who-ate-all-the-canaries grin), the Leviathans proved formidable foes, vulnerable only to the chemical borax and decapitation – provided the head was kept away from the body.
Finally, hope emerged at the darkest of hours. The mystical wall that held back Sam’s memories of the time he spent in Hell had been shattered by Castiel at the end of season six (as a way to distract Dean from stopping his Purgatory ritual). Sam grew steadily worse as season seven progressed, finally ending up in a mental hospital, tormented by ongoing hallucinations of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino). Desperate for help, Dean found a healer named Emmanuel – who turned out to be none other than Castiel with amnesia.
Once his memory was restored, Cas healed Sam by taking the Hell madness into himself. Needless to say, this altered his countenance drastically, and it took much convincing to get him to assist the brothers and their devious ally (and old foe) Meg the demon (Rachel Miner) in their quest to finish off Dick Roman. (A way to off the critters for good was discovered by the prophet Kevin Tran, played by Osric Chau, reading from an ancient encoded tablet called the Word of God.) But in the end, they were victorious – sort of.
Dean and Castiel worked together to kill off Dick, but they were standing too close when he exploded; the shockwave carried the Hunter and the angel down into the wild woods of Purgatory. The season ended with Cas inexplicably vanishing, leaving Dean alone amid a pack of advancing monsters.
We Need To Talk About Kevin:
Enter season eight, one year later.
A camping couple in 100-Mile Wilderness, Maine, is rudely awakened by an intensely bright light and a filthy, bloodied Dean. Four days afterwards, Dean has hitched a ride to Clayton, Louisiana, where he digs up an old skeleton – his left arm clearly causing him distress the whole while.
“Hold on, you bastard,” he mutters as his left forearm starts to glow and writhe. He slices his own skin and bleeds illuminated blood onto the bones, chanting an incantation. The process is obviously quite painful, but it has the desired effect : bringing his Purgatory buddy back to life.
Vampire Benny (played by Ty Olsson, who also portrayed a vampire named Eli in season two – the casting has sparked speculation as to whether this is another prime example of the patented “Supernatural” guest-star recycle or whether Benny actually IS Eli) formed a bond with Dean in Purgatory and his soul somehow hitched a ride under the Hunter’s skin. Olsson has given Benny a creepy southern drawl that reminds me of Stephen Moyer’s Bill in “True Blood”, and he manages to pull it off without it feeling like SPN decided to snake a little inspiration from the HBO hit.
The two part ways amicably – after Dean warns Benny, “Keep your nose clean.” They even share an embrace before heading off into the world.
Meanwhile, in Kermit, Texas, Sam departs a comfy house, sadly leaving behind a beautiful girl and a friendly dog and travels to the brothers’ old hideout in Whitefish, Montana…although it is unclear as of yet what caused the migration.
Dean is awaiting him in the cabin, where he subjects his younger brother to the standard tests to make sure he is not a demon (holy water), a Leviathan (borax), or a shifter (cutting with a silver blade). Dean also proves his human status (against Sam’s protestations that he cease and desist), after which the boys share a reunion hug.
Dean explains where he spent the previous year : “Well, I guess standing to close to exploding Dick sends your ass straight to Purgatory.” When pressed for details about how he escaped, Dean keeps his answer vague…and the vagueness continues when Sam asks about Castiel. “Yeah…Cas didn’t make it … Something happened to him down there. Things got pretty hairy towards the end and he…just let go.” He admits to not actually seeing Cas die, only remarking, “I saw enough.”
Dean is highly unpleased to learn that Sam stopped hunting after his departure; he chides his brother for quitting “the family business” , but Sam answers, “Nothing says ‘family’ quite like the whole family being dead.”
“I wasn’t dead,” Dean growls, “in fact, I was knee-deep in God’s armpit, killing monsters – which I THOUGHT is what we actually do.” His disappointment grows when he discovers that Sam did not even try to find out where he had gone. Instead, Sam fixed up the Impala and set out to find a “normal”, monster-free life. “Good…that’s good. No, we always told each other NOT to look for each other. … Course, we always ignored that because of our deep, abiding love for each other, but not this time – right, Sammy?”
Things get worse when Dean digs out Sam’s ditched cell phones and discovers a series of months-old messages from Kevin, who was last seen in the clutches of Hell’s reigning king, Crowley (fan favorite Mark Sheppard).
Somehow Kevin escaped Crowley’s goons and tried contacting the Winchesters for help, only to find himself ignored over and over. “He was our responsibility, and you couldn’t answer the damned phone,” Dean snarls.
Sam tracks Kevin’s last message to Centerville, Michigan, where his high school girlfriend Channing (Lissa Neptuno) is now attending college. Feeling guilty about leaving Kevin hung out to dry, Sam suggests that they go track him down.
Once outside, Sam tosses the keys to the Impala back to Dean, a move that parallels a subtle action from the first episode of season four, “Lazarus Rising” (when Dean was pulled out of Hell after forty years downstairs). Dean says that the car smells like dog, which Sam firmly denies. They stop at a motel for the evening, and the sight of two boys playing with toy guns sends Dean into a Purgatory flashback.
In fact, there are many flashbacks in this episode (brilliant penned by Jeremy Carver and directed by SPN executive producer Robert Singer), and we have been told that this “Lost”-style narrative device might be around for a while. This first blast to the past shows us Dean chasing down a vampire in old-fashioned clothing before pinning him to a tree. “Where’s the angel?” he demanded, and was not pleased when the vamp protested ignorance, beheading him with a hand-made axe that the creature dropped. Dean was then attacked by a second vampire, only to be saved by Benny.
Back in the present, Dean again expresses his displeasure in Sam’s decision to leave hunting, and then finds out there was also a girl involved. But Sam cryptically states, “Yeah, there was a girl – and then there wasn’t.” To deflect, he asks Dean for more about Purgatory.
“It was bloody…messy…thirty-one flavors of bottom-dwelling nasties,” Dean answers. “Hell, most days felt like three-hundred-and-sixty degree combat. But there was somethin’ about being there – it felt pure.” In another Purgatory flashback, Dean recalls the first time he spoke with Benny, who offered him a way out – something he called a “human portal”.
Purgatory was designed to hold monsters, not humans, so Dean has a chance to leave, and Benny will gladly show him the way…provided he gets to hitch a ride. Dean agreed, but wanted to find Castiel first, to Benny’s annoyance.
Sam and Dean find Channing, who proclaims she has not seen Kevin in a year. So the next question arises – why had he gone to Michigan? Sam suggests they ask around to see if anyone has spotted him. “Sure,” scoffs Dean, “Asian kid, about yay high, at a university? THAT should be easy…”
Unfortunately for Channing – and even more unfortunately for her innocent roommate – the prophet’s former girlfriend is possessed and uses her buddy’s blood to contact Crowley using a magical goblet (a staple that has been around since season one).
The sight of a passing dog sends Sam into a flashback as he recalls meeting the girl he spoke about earlier : veterinarian and Emmy Rossum lookalike Amelia (Liane Balaban), who helped him when he ran into aforementioned pooch.
Back in the present, he provides Dean with information about Kevin – he HAD been in Michigan but left without seeing Channing, and Sam was able to track down his current whereabouts to Fairfield, Iowa, where the prophet has been squatting in an old church.
Kevin greets the Winchesters with a borax shower. “What the hell happened to you guys?” he demands. “Cliff notes?” answers Dean. “I went to Purgatory, Sam hit a dog.”
Kevin has tricked out the church with devil’s traps and wardings, much to the brothers’ surprise. He tells about what happened to him after Crowley took him – he was forced to read another Word of God that might have been entitled “Everything You Wanted To Know About Demons But Were Afraid To Ask”.
The tablet laid out a ritual to open a hellgate in Wisconsin, and Kevin cleverly told Crowley he would perform the spell. But instead, he did another enchantment – one that killed the demons guarding him and left the King of Hell in a field, surrounded by goats.
And a wise choice it was indeed, since opening a hellgate means big trouble. A devil’s gate was opened at the end of season two, and it led to all sorts of problems for the Winchesters. But Kevin’s quick thinking spared the world, for now. He stashed the tablet away, but not before reading something else – how to shut the hellgates. All of them. And banishing demons back to Hell. Forever.
Dean is enthused by this nugget of intel, though Sam is concerned about Kevin’s safety. He apologizes to the young prophet, who has been trying to take his life changes in stride. But Sam tries to assure him that, should Hell be sealed up for good, maybe things can get back to normal. “I guess I just don’t see how I get from here to there,” Kevin muses sadly.
Their departure is interrupted by a quake that cracks the devil’s traps – always a bad sign. Two of Crowley’s henchmen enter, and are quickly slain by the brothers, with some help from the fast-thinking Kevin and his newly-learned tricks. (Chau is starting to show promise – his Kevin is not longer just a flustered and somewhat whiny plot device, but a full-fledged sexy Hunter-in-training, a character I look forward to seeing more on my screen.) But finding themselves face to face with Crowley and Channing gives them pause.
Kevin bargains for Channing’s freedom, especially after Crowley allows him to speak to his old friend to try and explain her current situation. “There’s a demon in you, and you’re going to your safety school,” he says, and from Channing’s reaction, it is unclear which revelation she finds more disturbing.
Kevin goes to grab his things, but takes too long for Crowley’s taste. When he decides to investigate, Kevin douses him and Channing with buckets of holy water before fleeing with the Winchesters. As they drive off, Crowley instructs his companion to “find another meatsuit”; after the black smoke has left Channing’s body, he locks eyes with the passing Kevin and cruelly snaps the girl’s neck.
After driving all night, Dean receives what he declares a wrong number on his cell phone before he tries to offer Kevin some comfort. Unfortunately, it sounds more like a foxhole pep talk, something Sam notes with dismay.
Dean exits the car and redials his phone – it turns out the “wrong number” was actually Benny, who is (creepily) stalking a funeral. Dean advises that they ought to stay out of contact for a while, something which seems to annoy Benny. “I think you had it right, bud … Purgatory WAS pure. I’m kinda wishin’ I had appreciated it more, y’know? Like YOU.”
What does the future hold for this newly formed odd couple? What was Castiel’s fate? Can the gates of Hell truly be sealed? Season eight promises to answer all these questions and more. Buckle up, Ackleholics, Moosekateers, and Minions! If this episode is setting the precedent, then the bar is high. Onward!
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