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'Supernatural' Season 8 Premiere Review: The Dog Days Are Over

October 4th, 2012 9:44am EDT

Padalecki and Ackles As much as I love dishing out juicy spoilers for my favorite television shows, I actively avoid them for “Supernatural” premieres and finales. So I went into last night’s season opener not entirely sure of what to expect, especially since the show—now in its eighth season—has a new showrunner in former writer and producer, Jeremy Carver.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that in Carver’s hands, this paranormal drama, like the Impala, is slicker, sharper and burdened with history, but there are still some issues under the hood.

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” began with a new, post-Purgatory Dean Winchester. He was bloodied, haggard and violent around the edges after tumbling out of a ball of bright light and terrifying some local campers. After hitch-hiking to the countryside, we discover that Dean isn't reuniting with Sammy just yet and that he hadn't been sprung from the afterlife’s waiting room to burn a specific set of bones, but to give birth to a vampire who saved his fine, bowlegged hiney in Purgatory. Thankfully, we were spared the Bella Swan-style monster labor as the vampire’s soul/essence/aura was buried deep into his arm. If it was disconcerting to watch Dean essentially perform the opposite of sending a supernatural baddie to the great beyond, it was downright nauseating to find him engaged in (im)mortal combat in Purgatory as the flashbacks revealed. At least the beheadings were cool! The stint had strengthened Dean’s inner warrior (and apparently destroyed Castiel), but left Dean struggling with real world banalities. Vending machine goodies are a few coins and keystrokes away. Kids can run around the parking lot “killing” each other with toy guns. People can go to college without fear of being eviscerated by a ghoul or drained by a vampire. It'll be interesting to watch Dean re-adjust to civilian life, especially when it seems that he’ll be forever dragged deeper into the murk by his mysterious partner-in-crime, Benny (played by a charismatically evil Ty Olsson). But don't worry, Dean girls, he's still in there as this adorable exchange between Sam and Dean proved: "It's a burger." "It's a treasure."

While Dean’s backstory was entertainingly ominous, Sam’s was confoundingly flimsy. There was no explanation as to how he escaped Dick Roman’s leaderless leviathan and demon-infested headquarters or how he prevented the tainted high fructose corn syrup from rendering humans into mindless monster food. Believing that his brother to be dead, Sam stopped hunting and aimlessly drove until he hit a dog. Flashbacks find Sam staggering into an animal hospital, positively frazzled at the thought of killing a stray animal, which felt a little strange after watching him slaughter poessessed humans without batting an eye. He, of course, falls for the raven-haired veterinarian, even though the two actors have as much chemistry as Kim Kardashian has self-respect. Sam explained that he didn’t abandon the family business, but instead "found something I never had all my life" with Amelia.

I don’t blame Sam for retiring from the never-ending sacrifice of hunting, but I couldn’t swallow how flippant and unaffected Sam seemed to be by it. Jared Padalecki normally digs into the emotional scenes with the same oversized aggression that his fictional doppelganger attacks a grave, but his performance was uncharacteristically detached and shallow as if even he wasn’t buying it. I think and hope there's far more to his story, and the shadowed figure looming outside of his home hints that there is.

Together but hardly united, Sam and Dean set out to find the prophet Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), who had been kidnapped by Crowley last season. What a difference a year makes, Sam had hung up his weapons and ditched his phones, while Kevin had honed his. Crowley had given him a make-over and tasked him to translate another tablet bearing God’s word, which detailed how to rid the world of demons forever. Season eight just flipped the script as the Winchesters and a Tran prepare to strike back against the evil that has plagued their families! As the heartbreaking death of Kevin’s high school sweetheart promises, the quest will not be easy or casualty-free.

In its 150th episode, “Supernatural” proved that it still has some badassery up its flannel sleeves, and yet some of the elements felt like a love letter to the previous 149 episodes. Dean’s sundrenched walk down a dusty road evoked memories of the show’s gamechanger, “Lazarus Rising.” Dean sneaking off to call his evil sidekick touched on an event in the same episode, where the secrets and dishonesty created the cracks in the foundation of Sam and Dean’s relationship as it surely will again. Their motel room, with his heinous forest wallpaper and viney bedspreads (that looked an awful lot like Purgatory, yes?), was a shout-out to those chicly tacky motel rooms of the first three seasons. Finally, Dean tackling Sam like Brian Urlacher as soon and ultimately pinning him reminded me of the very first episode—the scene that started it all and established that "Supernatural" was just about two brothers saving people and hunting things. Eight seasons later, it’s about two brothers setting out on a insanely impossible mission to vanquish all evil on earth. My how those boys have grown.

Grade: B-

What did you think of the premiere? Did you miss Castiel? What do you think of the new-and-improved Dean Winchester? Did you love the gore in this episode? Hit up the comments section below.

Next week: Sam and Dean find Thor's hammer at Willa Wonka's house!

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Photo Credits: The CW Network

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