This review contains spoilers.
8.1 We Need To Talk About Kevin
So after seven years of hunting, possessions, family feuds and more levels of hell than you thought possible, Supernatural apparently has more to show us with its eighth season. As is usually the case with premiere episodes of this show, the brothers have been separated over the summer break, and the episode sees Dean brought out of purgatory and reunited with the broodier Winchester all over again. With a new showrunner and an apparently simpler mission statement to be moving forward with, I wonder just what this season will be able to deliver.
Starting with the aforementioned showrunner, Jeremy Carver isn’t exactly new to the family. Leaving to run the US version of Being Human at the same time as Eric Kripke, Carver has contributed some of the most celebrated episodes, characters and story arcs Supernatural has ever seen. Changing Channels (in which the brothers are trapped inside a TV-style reality), Mystery Spot (the Groundhog Day episode), and The Rapture (where we explore the life of Castiel’s vessel, Jimmy) are all the work of Carver, and I’m truly excited about what he can bring to, or bring back to, the series this time around.
But getting back to the episode, I couldn’t help feeling a great sense of relief in how they’ve handled the purgatory story thread from last season’s finale. Honestly, we’ve seen the brothers trapped in one hell, heaven, alternate dimension or another too many times, and I was glad Dean was back in action within the first three minutes. The teaser was a lovely twist on the well-worn convention of seeing some beastie killing a mysterious victim, as we discover the beastie is actually a dirty looking, desperate and not at all Dean-like Dean. He quickly tracks down Sam and they recount brief versions of their year, all before the credits stop rolling.
But before that happens, we see Dean bring someone back to Earth with him. We know very little about this new character at this point, not even if he’ll be friend or foe to the Winchesters in the long run, but it’s always refreshing to find new blood in the mix. With Crowley adopting his pantomime villain act these days, we need an ambiguous player loitering around, and Dean’s new demon mate fills that role quite nicely. And, by using flashbacks to demonstrate what happened to him, Sam and Kevin, we’re kept guessing as to what sort of people they are now, and why the subtle differences in their dynamic have become apparent.
The episode is called We Need To Talk About Kevin, and we sure see a lot of chatting during these 41 minutes. It’s not exposition talk, either, but good old-fashioned pondering over each brother’s twisted moral compass. Discovering that Sam not only didn’t attempt to rescue him, but gave up hunting entirely, Dean isn’t best pleased with the younger Winchester but, hearing several messages from Kevin on one of the abandoned hunter phones, they set out (in the revamped Impala, yay) to find their missing prophet. He’s already managed to escape from Crowley and has a plan to close the gates of hell forever, thus setting up the boys’ mission for season eight.
Which also means we have a new passenger, and I sincerely hope Kevin sticks around for more than a couple of weeks. After eight years and an endless array of cannon fodder tagging along with the boys, it’s nice to have someone new on the demon-fighting team, and Kevin seems as popular a choice as anyone with long-time fans. It’s important to note that we don’t see Castiel this week, name-checked only to suggest his gloomy fate, but spoilers for next week prove he’s alive at least in flashback. Dean’s time in purgatory really seems quite interesting, so I’m glad it hasn’t been glossed over in favour of stand-alone weekly demon-fighting.
In general, this episode strongly indicates a lighter, leaner, Supernatural that’s thankfully shed a lot of unnecessary baggage from seasons six and seven. With a veteran writer back in the fold, some interesting new characters introduced, and a genuine love interest for Sam, I predict we’re in for a treat.
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