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Supernatural kicked off its tenth season with a six-week time jump and an intimate story that moved last season’s cliffhanger forward in a compelling way while failing to launch any big storylines. This was new territory for a series that religiously uses premieres to show the audience a glimpse of where they’re going in the episodes to come. What we found in “Black” was our favorite characters in vastly different places than where we left them. Sam is a desperate wreck hellbent on finding his brother. Dean and Crowley are taking a howl at that moon by drinking, playing foosball, and bickering like an old married couple. Castiel’s grace is leaking out from under his trench coat. We get mentions of last season’s major story arcs – the angel factions post-fall, Abaddon’s followers, Metatron in prison – but this episode was about picking up the pieces, not putting them together.
The destruction left in the wake of Season 9 dominated both plotlines in this episode. In a nice contrast from the beginning of Season 8, Sam spent "Black" obsessively searching for Dean. His gaunt face in the opening scene and his injured shoulder hinted at the horror he’s faced during that search. Seeing Sam so unhinged was a jarring way to jump back into Supernatural. For all the jokes made this hour, “Black” felt hard around the edges. The fissure that opened up between Sam and Dean last season slowly eroded the sentimental center of Supernatural that gave fans something to fall back on when times got rough. Come hell or high water, we could always count on Sam and Dean having each other’s backs. The final moments of this episode proved that’s no longer the case.
I spent the majority of “Black” rolling my eyes at Dean’s subplot. The writers were given a chance to go anywhere they wanted with a Dean Winchester freshly raised from the dead. They chose a karaoke bar in North Dakota and made “Deanmon’s” conflict with a waitress a central focus. Given the character-centric approach to “Black” I wouldn’t say this plotline was completely inappropriate. We know Dean well enough to know that drinking, singing karaoke, and sleeping around is his idea of a great time. It was merely disappointing that this particular place is where we pick things up with Dean. I was infinitely more fascinated by his evolving relationship with Crowley. The self-proclaimed “King of Hell” wants Dean as his partner in creating a better version of the underworld. Dean isn’t interested since, as we now know, his interests post-resurrection are strikingly similar to his pre-resurrection ones.
If and when these BFFs split, Dean won’t have a steady stream of tomato can demons to keep the Mark of Cain satisfied. He’ll drift away from what humanity remains and eventually become a full-time demon. The Winchesters are famous for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the last second. But I get the sense Dean becoming a full-fledged demon would be a point of no return for the character. Now that I understand the stakes, I’m curious to see how Sam thinks he can fix this problem. If the Mark is removed, will Dean die for good? Keeping the Mark seems like a ticking time bomb. Either way, it seems unlikely Sam can realistically pull his brother back from the brink this time. This being a show about two brothers saving people and hunting things (the family business), we all know Dean will eventually be fixed. What will sell this season early on for me is how effectively the writers handle this process. If it’s bungled, we could be in for a long season. If they stick the landing, we should all be very excited. The results for these turning point moments have been mixed during the show’s illustrious run, so we’ll see how the ripple effects of Deanmon affect the rest of this season and beyond.
The B-story reunited Hannah and Castiel for a quest to track down two rogue angels. What I took away from this plotline was two things. First, Castiel is beginning to realize just how much humanity has seeped into his DNA. The conversation in the car with Hannah where he described those human traits revealed a lot about his state of mind following the fall and angel civil war. Castiel is physically and mentally vulnerable right now. Hannah will soon come to see that the angel she hopes will lead Heaven going forward is not equipped to lead. He’s always been too independent and forward-thinking for Heaven’s unyielding hierarchy. The true question is whether Castiel is willing to kill again for fresh grace. You have to wonder if there’s a permanent fix for this problem. I’m not ready to see a “grace addiction” storyline play out this season. Castiel has much bigger issues to deal with as Heaven attempts to rebuild itself.
Judging by the final scene, “Black” was meant as the first part of a two-week premiere. Next week we’ll see the reunion that’s been over six weeks in the making (in the show’s timeline). Dean is not Sam’s biggest fan right now. The youngest Winchester will do whatever it takes to save his brother. Someone is walking away from this confrontation broken-hearted. Something tells me Sam is in for a lot worse than an injured shoulder after Dean gets done with him.
Line of the week
“Your brother and I were wondering if you hit another dog.” – Crowley
Next week on Supernatural
Dean vs. Sam – ready, set, fight!