Supernatural Starts Season Nine With Lackluster Premier

Supernatural used
to be a show about two brothers, Sam and Dean, hunting monsters as they drove across the
country in a 1967 Chevy Impala searching for their missing father. When they
found Dad and defeated the first Big Bad, the show got bigger: They went to
Hell and back, discovered angels, and found themselves as part of a design of Biblical proportions. But after the Winchester brothers averted the apocalypse, Supernatural hit a decline. Neither the
writing nor the narrative has been as good since the season five finale, when creator Eric Kripke left the show. After eight years of rehashed plots, it
seems the only thing the Winchesters can’t
do is stop being, in the words of the late angel Zachariah, “psychotically, irrationally, erotically codependent on
each other.” 

Season nine of Supernatural
opens in Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) head. He’s dying again, and despite giving up
the Trials to close the Gates of Hell in order to live at the end of last
season, he spends the majority of the premiere in a coma, once again choosing
between life and death. This is wasted effort. There’s no tension—we know a
Winchester brother isn’t going to die during a season premiere, especially when
Sam chose to keep fighting in the previous episode. The time spent in his head should have been used on a
plot that hasn’t been done half a dozen times in the course of Supernatural

The consequence of this overused storyline is, of course,
that Dean (Jensen Ackles) has nothing to do but sit and worry. Over Supernatural’s nine-year run, Sam got
supernatural powers, drank demon blood, saved the world, lost his soul, and
hallucinated visions of Jacob from Lost.
But Dean’s most significant myth arc was way back in season three, when he was
gearing up to go to Hell … in order to sell his soul to save Sam. The show is called Supernatural, but one brother is getting
more than his fair share of “super.” Dean’s entire existence seems to revolve around protecting his brother. But now
that Sam is 30 years old, it all feels a little contrived. If Dean had been
allowed to complete the Trials, he would have had the chance to be a hero rather than a caretaker. No matter how much screen time, brief moments of
badassery, time travel episodes, or other weirdness the writers give to Dean, constantly
angsting about Sam, Cas, Benny, Lisa and everyone else in his life does not a
Myth Arc make. Nine seasons in, the show could certainly use a new angle. 

The premiere’s saving grace (pun intended) is the
counterplot featuring former angel Castiel (Misha Collins, promoted to series
regular for the first time since the unfortunate season six) as he learns to
adjust to life as a human. Cas meets Hael, a fallen angel that looks eerily
like his genderbend. She hasn’t been to Earth in a while, but wants to visit
the Grand Canyon, which she claims she built. Normally this would hit a
sentimental note with me—one of my series finale fantasies involves the
Winchesters finally seeing the Grand Canyon—but I took introductory geology for my
Area 5 requirement , and I’m not ready to believe this wide-eyed angel did the work of
millions of years of geologic processes. Only The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can get away with that kind
of nonsense. Unsurprisingly, Hael turns out to be crazy; she’s obsessed with
Cas and wants him to be her meat suit. This does not go over well. 

As much as I dislike Hael, it pains me to add another female
character to Supernatural’s body
count. Last season’s fan-favorite Abaddon returns in episode two, “Devil May
Care,” but I doubt she’ll last long. The show is still dominated by white men,
onscreen and in the writers’ room. It wouldn’t be Supernatural without Sam and Dean (and Cas), but it’s frustrating
that our heroes get to rise from the dead time and time again while women are
lucky to return for one-off guest appearances, as ghosts or in alternate
universes. This season of Supernatural
probably won’t remedy its treatment of female characters, but hopefully Abaddon
can succeed Crowley as Queen of Hell before her inevitable demise. 

I digress. Back in the episode, a day without food or water takes its toll on
Castiel. His scene at a laundromat is the episode’s strongest: As he prepares
to wash Jimmy Novak’s bloody clothes for what may be the first time in five
years, he stares longingly at a vending machine and finally decides to spend
his quarters on an overpriced water bottle—never mind that he doesn’t have any
detergent. It must taste good, because Cas greedily downs the
bottle in a scene reminiscent of Dean’s orgasmic return in season four’s “Lazarus Rising.”
Cas dons a stolen outfit and heads for the road, leaving our favorite trench coat behind, although we know from past experience that even trench coats don’t
stay dead on this show. 

I love Supernatural.
It’s the show I look forward to most every week, and I would recommend marathoning
the first five seasons to anyone. Supernatural
has struggled in recent years, but still tells stories worth telling: the fight
between good and evil and the line that separates them, the bond between
brothers, and the redemption of an angel who lost his way. It has wonderful
moments of character development, some heartbreaking death scenes, and a gallery of rogues to quicken the heart of any horror fan. It will always be worth
watching to me, but I know it can be better than this episode. Supernatural airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CW, and the first eight seasons are available on Netflix. Start from the
beginning—you won’t regret it.  

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