Saturday, October 13, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode 1: Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s back - and whatever else you have to say about Supernatural I have to praise the sound track

And these “the story so far” just get steadily more ridiculously epic.

So last season Lucifer died, Gabriel died, nearly all the angels died, Heaven is near death because of lack of angel batteries, a load of alternate world characters are hanging out and we have an Alternate world Archangel Michael who is made of awful.

He’s currently asking random people from all walks of life, what they want. And then getting all judgy if they’re not sincere

He interrupts a devout muslim during prayer to ask him what he wants - and being a good man he says “peace” and “love.” And Michael scorns him - because if he believed in peace he would have stayed in Syria, a war zone, and saved his friends who died (waaait… in the name of peace stay and fight? This does not seem consistent or logical). And if he believed in love he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife

And here we have the problem with the “good” Archangel Michael. His standards are too high. He doesn’t understand that humans can hold lofty goals that they don’t quite live up to - but that those goals are still very real and passionate and noble. No-one can live up to Michael’s impossibly stringent ideals especially since he fails to recognise Trying. And because of this he intends to purge everything.

Well that’s the idea I think. But then he goes to the angel Anael (playing preacher Jo) who claims to like shiny shiny fashion labels but Michael calls her out on lying when she really wants love and family. Like a human which he’s so against. Which I guess kind of fits - he disapproves of humans because they can’t match their own ideals. And he disapproves of angels for emulating these lesser creatures

Except then he decides to be totally on side with a vampire because it’s honest about his intentions - it just wants to eat. Well… yes? I just want to know how this is going to be developed. Because as it stands Michael seems to value… honesty? But even that has to be viewed as being caused by a, to be generous, extremely simplistic world view which lacks things like understanding of the greater good or working for something better - it’s simplicity that rests at the very bottom of Laslo’s hierarchy of needs but it’s not exactly… aspirational? This creature is honest because it’s starving is not exactly a… moral basis

I mean they could work on this - it could even flash back to the whole idea of the apple in Eden and knowledge being evil: the ideal world would be where everyone is reduced to basic needs. Except I don’t see Supernatural going there because it’s a level of depth the show tends… not to have? And it would be inconsistent with what we’ve seen of this world’s Michael and the many Archangels and angels in general up to and including Metatron. None of them are really upheld the idea that the true and proper position of humanity is to be bestial.

Aaaand… I’m going to say it. Despite the weird wardrobe choice I really don’t think Jensen Ackles is carrying this

So, that’s Michael - over at team Winchester we have Mary and Alternate Bobbie, some girl called Maggie who will probably end up with Jack at some point mainly because they’re opposite sex of similar age and in close proximity which in televisionlandia makes things inevitable. See also Mary and Bobby

I’m not actually against Mary and Bobby, I do think they’ve be kind of awesome together.

There’s also lots of Alternate world soldiers who are kind of extras and just there for the time being. They have an arsenal of specialist weapons for various monsters and are sending out all kinds of co-ordinated missions to kill the big bad

Except Sam who is driving himself to exhaustion trying to find Dean (Ketch is in London doing the same and Castiel in Texas)

Jack is all kinds of angsty because his grace has still not regenerated so he’s basically a normal human and really really not used to living without super powers. Bobby is training him and Sam is all close and comforting but Jack is clearly having self confidence issues and thinks he’s useless.

They also have Nick in a room, in the middle of a warded circle. Nick would be the human host of Lucifer - when Lucifer was killed last season his host survived. He’s healing but clearly fragile, perhaps wracked by guilt and not in a great place after being possessed by the devil. He doesn’t remember a lot but does remember that New Michael “wants to do it right this time”.

People who are not doing it right is Castiel who has decided to meet a demon to ask where Dean is - only to be ambushed by a horde of demons because Castiel hasn’t bothered to check if this is a trap. He’s quickly overwhelmed

Y’know, once on this show an angel could kill demons with a touch and demons would run the other way before daring to challenge one.

The leader of the demons calls Sam and demands he come and meet him in an oh-so-obvious trap. Sam rallies the troops and heads off - insisting Jack come along because he needs it, he needs to think he can help

Bobby disapproves - and I admit my heart kind of melted a little because Bobby is treating Jack like he did Sam and Dean and he’s protective and maybe there’s even an edge of Sam being a bit too John Winchester in his “get over issues by fighting” and I just love it. Bobby’s back, he’s actually back.

Along the way Mary offers more reassurances to Sam and he asks her to stop - he can’t hear any more “it’ll be fine” or “we’ll find Dean” when they know that may not be the case. She gives him a whole speech about needing to believe and I think it all kind of underscores just how awkward Mary is as the Winchester mother. Because as a parent we kind of expect her to be The Most Upset about her son being missing but at the same time Dean is still something of a stranger to her while Sam and Dean have the most overwhelming co-dependent relationship of anyone EVER.

So to Texas where Castiel is beaten up and imprisoned and Maggie and Jack are captured in the first two minutes. It turns out Hell is in chaos because Crowley and Asmodeus are both dead and there’s just no other candidates for the throne. This guy (Kip?) wants the job and decides to do it he needs Crowley’s deal with Sam: that he gives Sam some low key help and info now and then while Sam doesn’t come after him and turns a blind eye to the odd naughtiness here and there. And I think it’s hilarious that the whole messy complicated relationship between Crowley and the brothers (well, Dean) that the demons think Crowley struck a deal

Sam is more than a little confused because they never had such a deal. It was Just Complicated. Also he’s not making such a deal with a cut price Crowley-wannabe. And Kip even admits he’s a Crowley-wannabe and not even close to the real thing. Of course he could be himself - warrior in Genghis Khan’s horde who burned half a continent. Would Sam prefer that? He’s going this route because Sam’s also right - he is a cut-priced Crowley and no-one is impressed with him or afraid of him. But they’re afraid of Sam… and I think I really like this. After all after all the Winchesters have done in the last 14 seasons must finally be having a major cultural effect on the various beings they’ve been massacring. It’s reasonable for demons to be afraid of the Winchesters and equally understandable that a new king of Hell needs to address the Winchester presence

As a threat it’s actually pretty good. And the deal seems tempting. I was actually surprised when Sam said no - and Mary and Bobby come in and there’s a lot of massacring of demons

Including lots of fist fights. Um… a few seasons ago a human deciding to fist fight with a demon would be as squished as…. A demon picking a fight with an angel. But nope, the demons die and above all Sam manages to give Kip a good stabbing with an angel blade.

Yes the would-be-king of hell is killed in a wrestling match with Sam.

Sam then has a whole dramatic speech to everyone present that anyone who wants to be King of Hell has to come through him because he’s having no more. To which the collecte demons still alive all fleed for the hills, leaving their hosts behind

Part of me thinks Sam is putting a big target on himself with this but, really, Kip hunting down Sam expressly to establish his credentials as king shows the target was already there. The epic preceding seasons means any would be hellish ruler has to kill, placate or otherwise neutralise the Winchesters. Sam is just acknowledging and formalising what is already there and in doing so kind of claiming the power of that. There’s no real chance of a king of hell establishing themselves in the background and surprising the Winchesters when Sam has kind of made addressing the Winchesters as an important stepping stone in the path for hell.

Denouement time! So Jack pretty much epicly failed during the fight and needs Bobby and Sam both to give him pick me ups and remind he will get his power back and before that he is loved and cared for and has a family and that’s super awesome.

And Castiel and Sam have a moment which is kind of about apologising but really about Sam and cass having some air time together. And this is kind of one of the major things I think this season is going for and what will make it more interesting even if, this episode, was a little lacklustre.

I think this season may be Sam’s turn. Too often in the last few seasons, the more reasonable, logical, intelligent, practical, level headed and simply STABLE Sam has taken a back seat to the more impulsive, flamboyant, violent, flashy Dean. We see this by relationships alone - Mary, Castiel and Crowley were all Dean’s more than Sam’s. And I think they set Jack up to bond more with Sam but even that failed because Sam’s quick acceptance was a non-storyline - Jack winning Dean over despite his objection became the focus. So now Dean is out and about - and it’s Sam fighting the new king of hell (something Dean would have done before), it’s Sam announcing any new king would have to come through him, it’s Sam with complicated emotional moments with Mary, it’s Sam having heartfelt conversations with Jack and Mary and Castiel, it’s Sam who everyone is calling “sir” and acting like a general

This is Sam’s chance. And equally it’s time for Supernatural to take a step back and address the last fourteen seasons. The whole fact we have demons terrified of Sam seems willing to look at the Winchester reputation and make it part of their story and development.