Death’s dead and The Darkness is free.
Try as you might, it’d be hard work to find any pair of characters who’ve screwed the pooch more royally or as vigorously as Sam and Dean Winchester. Granted, many of the faux pas have benefit, even if by accident, the greater good but too often their actions have been not for those they are supposed to save, but each other. The question arises then that, after a veritable lifetime of doing things their way, with the brothers learn they need to change course?
But first—the Darkness.
We all saw the monstrous black cloud moving towards the trapped brothers, malice in its form. Sure, it was similar to the cloud of demons released from the Hell Gate in season two, and the Leviathan scourge that broke free from Purgatory but neither of these blights had a beautiful woman at the center of the storm, one who appears to share a mysterious connection with Dean.
Backtracking a bit, we see the initial storm from the perspective of both Winchesters. Dean is swept up into the storm and, in it, speaks with the personification of Darkness, a conversation revealed in pieces as the episode moves forward. Sam, eventually finding Dean a mile from the car, saw his brother taken, but little else. “She saved me,” Dean murmurs to Sam when they are reunited minutes later, yet despite his words, he vows to put the Darkness away, no matter what it takes.
On the other side of town, Castiel’s still suffering from the rager spell Rowena placed on him. His memories return in fragments as he recalls stabbing the immobilized Crowley. But the savvy King of Hell squirmed out of his favorite meat suit seconds before the final blow was dealt. For his part, Cas knows the rage is still within him and does everything in his power to prevent the spilling of innocent blood, even praying to his angelic brethren to help. Eventually two of his angelic brothers come to pull him away but they have no designs on taking him back to Heaven. Not by a longshot.
Returning to the Winchesters, they drive into town but come across a massacre. Several members of a maintenance road crew and a family of three are dead. A lingering member of the road crew approaches them with murder in his crazed eyes before Deputy Jenna puts him down for good. She’s not doing too well, with an injury of her own, but gives the boys a summary of what happened. They take her to the hospital a few miles out to get stitched up and find more death. Based on Jenna’s observations and their own, Sam and Dean hypothesize this infection may be an after-effect of the Darkness cloud that slammed through the town.
While Sam explores the hospital’s bloody remains, coming across a man and his newborn, Dean patches Jenna up and…
He remembers her. Her familiarity, her words. “I like it here,” she says, “with you.” She steps closer. “I haven’t felt this peaceful in a long, long time.” She is drawn to him…as he is to her. It’s a bond deep, forged by…
…escaping death, Crowley finds his way into the body of a suburban career woman. His powers are a bit on the fritz though—possibly due to Rowena’s spell—but he can still call on his minions after spilling a bit of blood. But when he finds himself in a most unusual suburban situation—menage a trois, I dare say—he makes the best of it. After the orgy, Crowley is reunited with his best suit and gets some disturbing news on the Darkness. Hell is freaking out and based on the soul-piercing scream from the Cage, Michael or Lucifer (possibly both) may be trying to warn the devil’s denizens of the game-changer.
At the hospital, Sam introduces Dean and Jenna to Mike. The new father relays the story of his wife’s death in childbirth and the senseless attack to everyone. Sadly, sometime during his flight, Mike was infected. “I can feel it inside,” he says. “Something’s happening.” They all know Mike isn’t long for this world and Dean’s all for the gank but Sam and Jenna want to lock him up, let the sickness run its course and Mike die or a cure be found. The dying father hands his baby over to Jenna, confident she’ll take care of his little dewdrop, before disappearing into the halls. The three peeps and a baby head for the exit but are halted when the infected cavalry arrives.
For those of us who have watched Sam and Dean over the years, we all know the younger Winchester has always been the more empathic of the duo. Dean’s always been the hammer; ready to employ maximum force to get the job done. He says as much as the three plan their escape. “In order to get out,” he says, “we go through.” Sam’s always looks for the less violent solution but his words to Dean show a perspective that I felt the brothers never truly understood regarding their actions.
Sam proves that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.
“When did we forget how to do this?” He asks his brother be for continuing. “Dean, if we don’t change—right now—all of our crap is gonna keep repeating itself.
“Saving people means all of the people, Dean. Not just the baby. Not just each other.” Though Dean tries to argue it, his eyes tell a different story. “We have to change,” Sam finishes and, finally, Dean understands.
The plan, though not the best, involves Sam leading the ragers away while Dean, Jenna and the baby make their way to the car. Things don’t go as planned (when do they ever) as Sam kills a closet rager only to have her blood spill onto him. Dean and Jenna are accosted by the newly raged Mike, who is somehow able to maintain a small portion of control. Before he succumbs, he tells them his baby’s name: Amara.
Out of the furnace, Dean touches base with Sam. He’s taking Jenna and the baby to her aunt’s and plans to meet up with Sam down the road. Never told about Sam’s infection, Dean’s mind drifts…
She is close now. SO close. “We’re bound, Dean. We’ll always be bound.” She pulls back her dress…she carries the Mark on her upper chest. “You helped me. I helped you. No matter where I am, who I am, we will always help each other.”
As Jenna changes baby Amara, she pulls the hospital blanket away only to find a very unique birthmark on the child’s upper chest. Not a birthmark but the Mark.
A very good start to season 11. There were some great moments and hints at some serious twists but the two biggest moments have to be Sam’s plea to Dean on their need to change and the connection between Dean and the Darkness. Starting with Sam’s epiphany, I mentioned the obtuse nature and selfishness of Sam and Dean’s actions a few months ago. Their myopic nature, despite saving many, has cost the world quite a bit. It’s difficult to look past the bond and see things for the greater good, true, but “saving people” has been, for a long time “saving each other above all else”. It’s no surprise Sam is the first to recognize they can’t continue on this way. Now, it’s well and good to say it but will they live it?
Now, on to Dean and this tether he shares with the Darkness. The final scene makes his determination to protect baby Amara that much clearer. One of my concerns coming into this season was how to make something like the Darkness fresh and original without falling over some of the tropes the show has explored in seasons past. Well, Dean’s mystical urge/compulsion/need to protect the Darkness at all costs and vice versa will make for a very, very interesting season 11.
There wasn’t much I’d call bad in this episode. Sure, Mike’s transformation and death as a rager was a head-scratcher but, until we know more about the infection and what fights it off, it’s only a minor gripe. Also, it would seem that someone would have called for help at the hospital during the massacre but who knows, maybe the phone lines were down…
- The Road So Far is a staple of the show and the season opener’s does not disappoint, especially when you consider it’s “Run Through the Jungle” by CCR. Let’s not forget, “Bad Moon Rising” was the tune that sent us off from season one’s cliffhanger finale. Coincidence?
- What would Supernatural be without pop culture references. I caught the “28 Days Later” nod to the ragers (very apropos). Female Crowley’s “I apologize for nothing” feels very familiar though I cannot place the origins though could it be a nod to Hedonism Bot from Futurama?