Saturday, September 25, 2010

Exile on Main Street Recap and Review

Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW ©2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Supernatural has never had a bad premiere.

Season 1, the pilot, introduced us magnificently to the brothers (and their chemistry) as well as the premise of the show and the overarching mystery of the season.

All premieres after have followed suit. Season 2's "In My Time of Dying" flows directly from the finale and shocks by the credits. Season 3 is probably the weakest, but maybe I just say that because Isaac's death disturbs me so much. Season 4 brought Dean back from hell, with all attendant angst, and while Season 5's jumpiness at the beginning made it a little difficult to figure out, it threw us headlong into the war.

Bottom line: The Season 6 premiere had a lot to live up to. So let's see how it did...

First we get the new image (I like the blue) "One Year Ago" recap, followed by "Now" over Dean's new life. That stupid alarm that EVERY ALARM CLOCK SOUNDS LIKE goes off, but Dean's already awake. Wow, he looks young for some reason. And despite the coziness of the shot, you can tell by looking at him: Dean's not okay.

In classic Supernatural style, we get awesome music ("Beautiful Loser" by Bob Seger) with clips of Dean in his new life interspersed with comparable scenes from the past. It's fabulously done, amusing and poignant. I love seeing Dean happy, at the same time mourning what he's (and we've) lost.

I found myself thinking "that's Jensen, not Dean." There were subtle but powerful differences—the way he wears his hair, the now-famous tucked-in shirt. He moves easily, smoothly, not the always-alert stalker-Dean charging around, bent under the weight of his life and responsibilities.

Ahhhh, but there's the shotgun under the bed. He's not completely changed.

Despite the weapon, he seems fully immersed in his new life. A new friend ("pest control," he tells him when he asks about his past). A partner—he doesn't hesitate in his affection and cuddling with Lisa. Easiness with Ben, when in season one, he had no answer to Sam's "Name two kids you even know."

It's nice to see his normal reaction to a scream in an abandoned building, though. He doesn't hesitate here, either, and he's packing a gun in his beater construction-guy truck. The abandoned building yields ominous gouges and some blood, but no victim. A pretext call to the police gets him nothing but suspicion from Lisa. Uh, oh, he's lying to her. Not a good omen. Is it bad that I loved how smoothly he covered?

"It's eleven thirty."

"It is? That explains why he was asleep when I called him."

And now we see that his easy, comfortable, normal life has undertones. He checks outside again, makes sure the demon trap under the rug is intact. Now he's clearly uneasy, and we wonder if the routine had all that subtext before the scream, and we just didn't see it from the outside.

The next scene made me feel like I was watching a feature-length thriller. More gouges, in a telephone pole, a billowy sheet (loved that shot!), a shed door. Dean's flinching at the little yappy dog evokes memories of "Yellow Fever." But our moment of amusement is over when he finds sulfur.

Lisa catches him gearing up from the Impala's trunk, under tarp but at the ready. I like that Dean has clearly told Lisa all about himself. She asks if he's hunting something, doesn't question or argue against his desire to send her away and keep on the hunt.

Now, if you read the opening credits (or attended the July Salute to Supernatural in New Jersey), you know what's coming. After a few creepy teasers (flickering light, rolling ball—why is it always a rolling ball?), suddenly we have...

THE YELLOW-EYED DEMON, aka scenery-chewing Fred Lehne!

He tells Dean "you had to know we were coming for you." You know, I thought that, too, at the beginning, that just because the apocalypse was over didn't mean all the evil monsters stopped wanting Dean's head on a plate. But then I remembered the Enochian carvings in his ribs kept him hidden. That's why he's been safe for a year. Isn't it?

Shocking moment number one: As YED chokes Dean into unconsciousness, Sam stabs him with...milk? Yeah! But wait, then Dean gasps awake...and we go to commercial. Was it a dream? But no, when we get back (yay, Harry Potter trailer!), he's waking again, and Sam's still there.

Right off the bat, Sam bothers me. He's cold. Gone is the well of emotion Sammy drew from. He's flip and actually looks a little smug when Dean finally hugs him. He "proves" he's Sam by drinking salted holy water and cutting his arm, but that stuff doesn't work on angels, and Lucifer was an angel. I don't know if this is a hole or something that might come up somewhere along the line.

Now Sam reveals how long he's been out of the cage—almost the entire time—and we see the Real Dean again. "I wanted my brother!" Sam still sounds cold in his logic, and acts almost bored with the tedium of relating his story to Dean. I almost hate him. But on the other side of it, the old Dean would have punched Sam in the face. I wanted him to punch Sam in the face. He doesn't seem to have that bottomless pit of anger he's had since Dad died. Hmmmm.

Worse than if Sam had been hunting alone for a year, however, is the truth—he's been hunting with family. Campbells, who grew up as hunters, but who never knew about Sam and Dean. And here's "shock" number two (again, only if you didn't read the credits and managed to avoid all spoilers). Grandpa!

I wonder if Samuel remembered Dean's trip back in time. I was never clear on if that was real for those in the past, or only for Dean. Samuel sure treats Dean as if they'd met before. He's been returned to life, too, pulled from heaven. Even though he says he wanted to tell Dean everything but deferred to Sam's wishes, he strikes me just as cold as Sam.

So let's get to the monster of the week. It turns out Dean's hallucinations were due to poisoning by djinn, who can pass for human and kill with a touch. They came after Sam, apparently for revenge, so the hunters knew they'd go after Dean next. Realizing he left Lisa and Ben vulnerable, "Take me home!" Dean demands, and who would think that would be one of the strangest things ever said on this show?

The guard they had on Lisa and Ben is dead, and the house is empty, and we finally get a glimpse of the old Sam, torment on his face as he comes in and exchanges a despairing look with Dean.

Lisa and Ben were still at the movies, though, and come home safe. Dean tells them he's taking them to a friend's house. But before Ben goes upstairs, Sam comes in, and Lisa immediately recognizes him and the import of his appearance.

Suddenly we jump to Bobby's. He's sadly not pleased to see Dean. "if you're here, there's something wrong." He lets them in, sends Ben upstairs ("Don't touch the decor. Assume it's all loaded.")...and is totally unsurprised when Sam appears.

Poor Dean. They left him alone to be happy, to have a life and a family and a home, but he's far more alone now. He reveals how hard it was—he was out of his head with grief, drank too much, had nightmares...

Sorry, Bobby, but I'm with Dean. I guess they had good intentions, but I'm sorry, letting him believe Sam was in the cage could never be balanced by what he gained. Not even the love he clearly has from Lisa and Ben.

Dean takes a moment with Lisa, apologizing for bringing this stuff to her, for not knowing it would lead to this. And Lisa becomes my favorite person when she says "when a guy who just saved the world shows up at your door, you kind of expect him to have issues" and when she tells him it was the best year of her life. She turned out to be exactly the kind of woman Dean needed. Maybe when the show is over, he can wind up back with her. :)

Dean returns to the "family." I don't like them. They're patronizing and seem to be plan-less, and excuse me, but Dean's only been out of it for a year. Samuel was out, what, 35 years? More? Dean's far more professional. (And he responds accordingly!) That other cousin looks like Rick Schroeder, BTW.

"Nice house." Something about Grandpa Samuel is bothering me. He's too controlled. The Samuel we met in "In the Beginning" was passionate and protective. We get a flash of the old hunter as he describes the upheaval in the supernatural world, but his "we're blood, join us" speech still rubs me the wrong way.

The djinn are watching, not moving in, so Dean sends the Campbells away in order to be better bait. He and Sam talk a little. Sam doesn't want to talk about being in the cage. But if he was removed almost immediately, how much could he really have endured? Will they ever reveal it? If they follow pattern from past seasons, it'll come out eventually.

Sid and his wife are being killed next door, so Dean takes off, going to try to save them, while Sam yells that they're already dead. Dean gets attacked—the female reveals that the djinn killed was their father. They poison Dean and leave him for dead, joining their brother(?), against whom Sam is faring much better. I guess the differences in their fighting is supposed to illustrate that Sam's been doing it for a year and Dean's lost his edge, but I don't like the redundancy in the attacks on Dean.

Who's hallucinating again. Lisa and Ben in danger, YED after them. Lisa winds up on the ceiling, Ben drinking demon blood, all Dean's nightmares in vivid detail. YED says "This...something else...there's something coming for this one [Ben], and you can't stop it." Oooh, is that just the hallucination, or foreshadowing?

Sam fights like his old self, too, but is losing when Samuel gets the drop on the demon attacking him. But he sends Sam to get Dean, and instead of killing the female djinn, they capture her, hustling her to the van before the boys come back. Great. Secrets. Yeah, I trust dear old Gramps.

So Dean's okay, despite the double poisoning. Samuel and the cousins are gone, Sam's going to meet them, but Dean says no, he's not going. Sam's argument feels disingenuous or something. You know what it is? He has the same tone Meg!Sam had when he was talking to Jo, in "Born Under a Bad Sign." Then he says something that really gets to the heart of how much he's changed. Dean says he's a liability, he did something stupid, but Sam says no, Dean cares, and Sam wouldn't even have thought to try. That it's better with Dean around. But there's still not much emotion behind the admission, which makes me ache.

Dean tries to give Sam the Impala, but he easily declines. Okay, he has a sweet car, too, but it's no Metallicar. When he says, "It was really good to see you again, Dean," it sounds like any person who ran into a friend they hadn't seen in a while. Not a brother who'd given his life to save his only family, and been saved the same way.

Oooh, they got new promo shots! Sam looks hot in leather, with now!Sam hair (instead of season 2 hair). Dean's hot, too. The preview for next week looks awful (in a horrorific way, not a badly done way!). But Sam seems more like the guy we've loved for five years, and it looks like they'll be pulling Dean back to the life slowly. I like that. His year with Lisa and Ben has been significant. His fight to shed his old life was a true battle. It makes sense that he'd want to hold on to it, and it's more natural to ease into the new reality than to just abruptly change everything, as TV writers are wont to do.

So, let's analyze this. Obviously, this is just my take, and your mileage may vary. :)

My husband felt a lot of the episode was slow. I thought those slow parts were unnervingly tense. Production values were high—music and editing and scene and cinematography were excellent, and I think the writing was, too. I have no qualms about overall quality this season.

I LOVED the first third of the show (OH! Including the new title card, shattering glass!), and when I break down the new reality, I'm satisfied. All of what we writers call GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) are there. It makes sense that Sam would be cold and closed off after his experience. When Dean came out of hell, he still had his brother to protect. Sam did, too, but his choice to protect him was to stay away, which removed Dean's influence on him and vice versa. Instead, he's been with these hunters who were raised to be cold and removed. Unlike the Winchesters, who hunted out of anger and pain and even love, the Campbells hunt out of legacy and expectation.

Dean's choice to stay makes sense, too. His brother isn't who he used to be, and he allowed Dean to be tormented for a year. He's fought for the life he created, and he's not ready to give it up. Besides the fact that he set up Lisa and Ben to be in danger, and can't leave them vulnerable to it.

The only thing that concerns me is the sense through two-thirds of the episode that everything was off. The entire world of Supernatural has changed, and it doesn't fit all that well. Shows that last this long often stagnate as they try to hold on to what made them great. Other shows try to evolve and fail. We can't really tell from one episode, but hopefully, Supernatural's evolution will be the rare success.

So now it's your turn! What did you think?


MJFredrick said...

AWESOME recap, Natalie! I can't believe you did it so late! LOL.

I loved the show. I didn't know what to expect, and I've been disappointed by openers before, and was very happy to find that I LOVED it. I don't know where they're going or how they'll get there, but I'm happy to go along for the ride.

Unknown said...

I'm glad that they've peaked my interest with the mystery. I was afraid of the lack of intrigue - I mean, after the Apocalypse, they've really set the bar high. It looks like this season might measure up.
Did anyone else feel suspicious of Grandpa from the beginning? Somehow Yellow Eyes seems fits him too well. It's a little freaky.
I agree with Natalie that I loved Lisa when her & Sam had the moment of her saying it was the best year of her life. Didn't your heart ache for the two of them! She's awesome & I hope she doesn't become a casualty.

Trish Milburn said...

I agree, great recap. I've been so busy this week that would you believe I, gasp!, forgot it was on last night? I was at a party at a friend's house. But I just watched, and I agree with so much of what you said. I don't like the Campbell crew. Something is definitely up with them. I'm wondering if they're really who they say they are.

I'm hoping Sam becomes more and more like his old self, and maybe being around Dean again will bring that out.

Pamela, I too hope Lisa and Ben don't bite it this season. I like them, and what they represent in Dean's life.

I love the Impala, but I gotta say I was digging Sam's Charger too.

MJFredrick said...

My first whine last night was WHERE'S MY CAR???? At least she's still on the show.

I was very worried about Lisa and Ben's fates last night. I can't wait for next week!

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Thanks, guys! :)

LOL, MJ, I had to watch it again, and work has been INSANE all week. I worked until 2:00 a.m. I knew you'd miss the car! It will be a big deal when he gets it out of the garage. :)

Pamela, I was totally suspicious of Grandpa from the beginning!

Shame on you, Trish! LOL I doubt you were busier than me, and *I* didn't forget! (Though, part of my to-do list was this recap, so I guess it's not a fair comparison...). I think you're right, and being around Dean will bring back some of who Sam is at core.

Unknown said...

Oh!! I forgot about Sam's Charger. I LOVE THOSE CARS!!! Excellent choice for Sam. It's a "new" version of the Impala, IMHO. Kinda represents the changes in Sam, dontcha think?

Anonymous said...

I def loved the episode. And I'm also suspicious of the Campbells. I especially didn't like the girl cousin. They all had a superior attitude. I'm very excited about this season and can't wait to see where things go. I saw that last night's combo of Smallville and Supernatural brought the CW it's highest Friday night ratings in two years. Yay!

Trish Milburn said...

Pamela, I agree about the cars. The Charger is black, has a newer feel to the old muscle cars, so it's like it's his own version of a kick-ass car but is obviously influenced by Dean and the Impala. And it's a big "growing up" moment, I think, that Sam wants to stick with his own car because "he's got it how he wants it." So I'm curious if we'll have two brothers and two cars this season. Sam's not the sidekick in the passenger seat anymore.

Unknown said...

I loved last night's premiere, but I felt like it was all off. Like something was missing.

First off, I don't like or trust Samuel and "the family." If they are indeed real family. I think maybe they are some demonic threat, remnants of Hell's legions and perhaps they are protecting Sam/Lucifer.

Either that or Sam is somehow under their control. Don't know if I'm right, but something bothers me about Sam and his situation. I didn't expect the old Sam, but I didn't expect this flip, cold guy.

And why the YED "hallucination" for Dean? Sure the grandpa connection, but aren't the djinn supposed to show you your greatest wish? And if they were doing the opposite then wouldn't it go to greatest fear? Was that really Dean's greatest fear after all this time? Come on, after Lucifer, the YED is like a puppy. I would think Dean's biggest fear would be Lucifer rising again as Sam and harming Lisa and Ben.

All this being said, I am on board for wherever Supernatural goes. Dean and Sam are my guys. I like the Charger...However, I can't help, but hope that it will be wrecked at some point so the brothers can get together once more in the greatest car known to all mankind, that gorgeous Impala. She is a character unto herself and it wouldn't be Supernatural without her.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I love the Charger and cringe at the idea of it getting wrecked, but that would be the likeliest way to get Sam back in the Impala, I agree.

I think that "off" feeling, Melissa, was totally on purpose. Kind of saying "sure, the apocalypse is over, but that doesn't mean everything is okay." Just like all the monsters are acting odd, defying their rules, so too has the microcosm that is the Winchester world. I think things will come into alignment.

Good point about the YED, but I'd say they chose that for a few reasons, some internal, some external.

*They wanted to bring back Fred Lehne because we love him so much and he's great to work with.

*They didn't want to confuse the issue re: Lucifer. Lucifer's chapter is done, and presenting him to us, even in a hallucination, would float the possibility of his return, which I don't think they want to do. At least not now.

*For Dean, Lucifer was a momentary and global threat, and he didn't actually do them much harm. Sam CHOSE to go into the cage.

*YED, on the other hand, poisoned Sam with demon blood and killed their mother (and their grandfather!), setting up all the pain and hardship of their entire lives. They hunted him actively for two entire years. Then he killed Jessica and their father and was responsible for Sam's death. It's completely logical that once Dean has a new family, new people he loves, his greatest fear would be losing them--and his deepest, irrational fear would be losing them the same way he lost other people he loved.

Unknown said...

I see you points, Natalie. The more that I think about it, the YED would strike Dean on such a visceral level.

I am confused, though. I thought the YED's purpose was to set the whole showdown in motion by poisoning Sam, killing Mom and J, etc. The way everything was explained when L first took over Sam and they had the confab in the mirror. Was that not his purpose? And if his purpose was fulfilled, why would he be back? And if it wasn't, then what was his whole deal? Why do all that stuff to the Winchesters? Do you think this season will show us what the YED's true motivation was, like maybe he had his own plans for Sam that had to wait until the fight with Michael came. But, then how could he have known the big fight would have turned out with Sam dumpster diving into the cage willingly. Unless he has future vision like Sam did...

I better quit before I take up all the room on this page. LOL Gosh I love coming here.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I love you coming here! LOL

Yes, that's my understanding of YED's purpose, too. But he didn't actually come back. He was all hallucination, all due to the djinn's poisoning. He can't actually come back, because when demons are actually killed (with the Colt, the knife, or Sammy Mojo), they're gone for good. But then, the apocalypse broke a lot of rules, and "coming back" has always seemed a bit flexible. :)

Maureen Child said...

I'm weighing in late....and sadly, it seems I'm alone in that I was really let down by the premiere.

I LOVE this show and after such a looonngg wait for the season to start again, this episode felt very 'meh'.

Bobby and Sam lying to Dean for a year? Sam being so cold and callous? Grandpa all of a sudden giving orders and that's okay with Sam? What's up with these 'cousins' telling Dean to let the professionals handle it?


I want my Winchesters back. In the Impala. And let's lose dead grandpa and the others.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I'm sorry you didn't like it, Maureen. But you're not alone. I heard dark things from outside Supernatural Sisters, and I was SO relieved that others felt like me! :)

You'll get the boys in the Impala back. They know what drives the success of their show. But I love that they're brave enough to shake things up, and not just ride on what's been successful. That would be boring and disappointing, IMO.

Have faith! :)