“I have to think about the good, Sam. If I don’t, I’ll drown in the bad.”
In any war, any battle, even in victory, there are casualties. Injuries, emotional trauma, death. It can be anything really and, if you’re not willing to pay the price, there’s no point in fighting that good fight. The Winchesters know all about this type of sacrifice, losing friends and family for more than thirteen years. It’s why they keep winning. Take chances, understand the consequences and be prepared for the worst.
Unfortunately, Dean was the biggest casualty in last season’s final battle against Lucifer. Sure, he may not be dead, but being trapped in your own body while an archangel is behind the wheel…not the best of circumstances.
It’s been several months since De’Michael (unimaginative amalgamation, I know) disappeared, dapperly dressed to “do it right this time”. That “it” is cleansing earth. It’s something the Alt-Michael has experience in though, he’s admitted that maybe his first try didn’t end up quite like he wanted. So, here he is again, popping up across the world, asking people “what do you want?”. If his words put you in mind of a genie, ready to grant an extraordinary wish, there is a caveat. De’Michael’s ability to see the truth within someone makes them ripe for his judgment.
In those months, Sam has cultivated a very chic Captain America-type beard as he flags down every lead he can in search of his brother, his best friend. Generally the optimist, the wear this most recent circumstance has had on him is evident. He’s close to losing hope and Mary can see her son is close to giving into the despair. She has to remind him, even if with false bravado, that they will bring Dean home.
As premieres go, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, is nothing special. Yes, there are a handful of moments—Castiel with Jack, Jensen Ackles sublime performance as De’Michael—but that is tempered by a slow pace an uneven action. The prospect of De’Michael—and, indirectly, Dean—being the season’s Big Bad is both promising and worrisome. Yes, having a significant portion of the season sans one-half of the best duo in television history is mixing it up but there is the chance that, despite Ackles’ ability to effortlessly channel another character, one that we want to see more of, the lack of the Sam and Dean dynamic is a gamble.
Additionally, Supernatural is such a diverse show, mixing elements of horror, drama, action, and humor so well that, when one of those pieces is missing (let alone two), it creates a hole. “Stranger” offers fans a promising journey through season fourteen but, as a premiere, it fails to build that wow experience one expects from a Supernatural premiere. Aside from Jensen Ackles once again reminding us of how truly talented he is, there isn’t much “Stranger in a Strange Land” offers us in terms of rewatchability. With that said, one stumble doesn’t deter my faith or anticipation for this season.
- If it seems that I’m harping on Jensen Ackles’ performance, you’d be right. Throughout the series, especially within the last few seasons, he’s had moments where you have to step back and say “Wow”. From his conversation with Chuck/God to calling for the Almighty’s help, he continues to hone his craft. Even if we’re to despise De’Michael, if Ackles keeps it up, I’ll be loving every second he’s on the screen.
- It’s so good to have Jim Beaver back in the fold. While he may not be a regular, his Alt-Bobby was the boost in the arm the gang needed. Couple that with the fact of the hints of promise between he and Mary…they may not get a happy ending but maybe a few moments of respite from two people that have suffered so much is all you can expect.
- It’s a bummer when you’re reminded of just how much you miss a particular character who’s no longer amongst the living. I thought I had dealt with Crowley’s death but the appearance of Kip, a demonic Crowley-wannabe with designs on taking over Hell’s kingship, was a dagger to the heart. No offense to the actor, Dean Armstrong, who does a serviceable job exuding the charisma of a truly evil bastard, but his persona just makes me wish that somehow, some way, they bring back Mark Sheppard and his one-of-a-kind antihero demon.
- The bar fight between our white hands and Kip and his demonic goons was uninspiring, disappointing in its choreography, and went on entirely too long. That sounds harsh but, after so many years of good action, it’s fair play to call out a stinker. It happens to the best of ‘em.
- No Supernatural premiere is complete without the familiar rock tunes that hail its beginnings. This time around it’s AC/DC’s “Shot Down in Flames”.
- The episode title was extremely relevant to our main cast. Yes, it’s obvious that the De’Michael situation is front and center but everyone has their own issues. There’s Sam, so lost without his brother. Jack, feeling useless as he awaits the recharging of his Grace and return of his powers. And then there’s Nick, the vessel the now-deceased (?!) Lucifer has worn for the better part of a decade. The man miraculously survived the death of his hijacker and now he’s left with the memories—and nightmares—of the depravity Lucifer enacted while in the driver’s seat. It’s not a stretch to say that Nick may play a major role in the things to come.
- Celestial beings making deals with demons and monsters; it’s pretty much a staple in the gray world of De’Michael selecting a monster, one more in tune with his/its nature than any human, for his vision of what’s to come…it’s not what one would call a promising future for our heroes.
Supernatural – “Stranger in a Strange Land”