TV REVIEW: Supernatural - Episodes One and Two

Supernatural's eighth season returns to Sky Living in the UK. It appears they'll be double-billing the episodes so I shall take a look at both each week in these reviews. So are you ready for the return of the Winchesters?

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Dean (Jensen Ackles) dies a lot. We have seen him die plenty of times before and at the end of last season, we saw it again as he got zapped into Purgatory with exploding Dick, the previous Big Bad. And we knew the series had been renewed for a new season so it was fair to say that Jensen Ackles would return. Return he did, escaping from Purgatory, but not without his usual gruff demeanour worsened by his time spent being hunted down in the big forest. Meanwhile, Sam (Jared Padalecki) has been living the domestic life complete with girlfriend and dog, but drops everything to return to his brother once he knows he is alive.

As season openers go, it's not the strongest from Supernatural, lacking a spark and forward momentum that really could kick it off with a bang. It does set up the big plot drive for the season, the Word of God that could seal all demons in hell for eternity and thus putting the brothers out of a large part of their job.  Their reunion is always a good moment, but the two have been split from each other by death/disappearance so often that it doesn't have the same impact it once did when the show was under constant threat of cancellation. In recent years, this has abated so it no longer carries the same weight it once did. 

That being said, it's not a bad episode; we get a few flashbacks for each of the boys from the previous year, setting up the central conflict between the brothers as they head back out on the road. We also get a nice Dean-related travelling montage to the strains of Styx's Man in the Wilderness harking back to the show's classic rock roots that seem to become increasingly rare though still great when they crop up (the brothers' rendition of Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive is one of the show's finest character moments). It's also a welcome return for prophet Kevin (Osric Chau) who proves that he's learnt a fair amount in his time on his own. 

And then there's Crowley, one of the best villains on television performed with glee by Mark Sheppard. He's as much a part of the Supernatural landscape now as Castiel is or Bobby was and it's always a thrill to see his name appear for an episode. Still in position as the King of Hell following the entrapment of the Devil, Crowley dogs the brothers' steps all the way and performs some pretty horrific acts in this episode, mainly killing Kevin's girlfriend as he drives away. 

We Need To Talk About Kevin provides a strong foundation for the rest of the season but sadly it is little more than that. There are a few good small moments like Dean's reunion with a burger and his reaction to finding out there had been a dog in the Impala, but it lacked a little of that spark that usually makes Supernatural so watchable.

What's Up Tiger Mommy?

Kevin is now in the company of the Brothers Winchester but keen to find out how his mother is after running away from her more than a year ago. Reluctantly Sam and Dean agree to swing by his house to check on her before running into a demon guarding party. Linda Tran (Lauren Tom) ends up going on the run too, proving to be more than a match for the brothers' lifestyle - the tattoo line was fantastic, particularly Dean's reaction to it. However, the tablet is in the hands of the god Plutus and about to go to auction in which Crowley is also a bidder.

Now this episode is more like; building on the first episode's tablet storyline, it's a reunion of the Trans and Lauren Tom is the standout in this instalment. Linda Tran is not a mum you want to mess with as she helps the Winchesters track down the tablet with her son. Encompassing everything that a parent should be - unexpected, embarrassing and fiercely protective - Tom's performance is the heart of this episode and makes the sad conclusion just that little bit more heartbreaking.

Elsewhere in the episode, I really loved the auction aspect of the show, complete with the odd bargaining chips and protective spells. It all adds to the world of Supernatural, particularly the return of other gods who have been plaguing the brothers for a while. There were also some neat icky moments, particularly the cold open in which a poor girl was butchered in a bank. 

We also got to see some more flashbacks about the two brothers, including what may have happened to Castiel in a brief moment. With Dean still sniping at Sam for leaving Kevin and hunting behind, there's a fair amount of tension between the brothers which could get worse if it transpires that Dean had something to do with the angel's demise. I just hope it doesn't become the defining dynamic between the brothers; they work much better as characters when getting on with each other. That's where the comedy comes from and the entertainment.

Two solid opening episodes then for the Winchesters and co. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Castiel narrative develops, but by the looks of things, we're back to monster of the week episodes next time so we may see the main narrative arcs put hold on for a bit. But that's ok, it means we just get to see more of the Impala.

- Becky

You can read Becky's Feature Friday on Supernatural here.

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