If you’ve been reading me for any time you’ll know that I discovered Supernatural late and fell completely in love with the show’s mixture of humor, pathos, violence and good old-fashioned serial storytelling right away. For my money this is the best genre show on right now, and it’s the true heir to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer throne. But the vagaries of life meant that I was never up to date with the show… until now. I have finally caught up with Supernatural, all the way through the latest episode to air, and for the rest of this season - and more, should they happen - I’ll be doing reviews of the new episodes.
And 6.12 feels like a good spot to start. It’s the show’s return after a winter hiatus; last episode we were left on a cliffhanger after Sam had his soul returned to him. The basics were that at the end of season 5 (which had been planned as the show’s ultimate conclusion), Sam - whose body was being ridden by none other than Lucifer - tossed himself into Hell in order to avert the Apocalypse. But it turns out that Sam’s body returned almost immediately, while his soul remained in Hell.
The first half of season 6 had some bumps, but I really liked newly soulless Sam. Old Sam was weepy and whiny, while new Sam killed people and banged hookers so good they wanted to date him. And never once did his lips tremble and his eyes fill with tears. But soulless Sam was untrustworthy, and so Dean tried to get his brother’s soul back. Sam, knowing that his soul, trapped in a box with Lucifer and the pissed off archangel Michael, was torn to shreds, didn’t want it back and so he tried to keep it out. Sadly doing so required him to kill Bobby, the boys’ mentor and the closest thing they have to a father figure (finally made really, really explicit in 6.11). Sam didn’t succeed, but Bobby has a hard time letting go of his near death experience at Sam’s hands.
There will be spoilers for the new episode past this point.
And so the new begins with Sam in a coma, recently resouled. Death has put up a wall in Sam’s soul so that he can’t remember his time in Hell (I realize that if you’re reading this without being a fan of the show this probably all sounds like gibberish), but even still nobody is sure that Sam will ever wake up. He does, though, and all seems well - his lips are trembling, his eyes are full of tears and he doesn’t remember anything about the last year and change, including his body’s unsouled time on Earth.
But there’s soon a case to be dealt with - a mysterious disappearance of a young virgin in Portland turns out to be one of many. And whatever it is, it’s also taking gold. Something is taking the pure of pussy, and one survivor - a girl who wore a promise ring but who had actually been, as Dean calls it, ‘dehymenated,’ describes the assailant as looking like a huge bat.
Research happens while Sam tries to figure out why Bobby is being so weird to him. And even though I like tough Sam better, it’s impossible not to be happy at having the old brotherly interplay back in full effect:
Sam: So what kind of thing likes virgins and gold?
Dean: P. Diddy?
Sam: You know, it’s comforting.
Dean: What’s that?
Sam: I died for a year, came back, and you’re still not funny.
Dean: Shut up, I’m hilarious.
The body language and interplay between the two is returned to a state that we haven’t seen in a while (since the show spent so much of season 5 driving a wedge between the two), and it’s refreshing and a reminder of why I loved this show in the first place. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have the beats and emotions of real brothers, and that’s only solidified as the show has gone on. While the plot mechanics of Like A Virgin kept the brothers apart for the middle of the story, every bit where they were together was a delight, and felt like old times.
In the end it turns out the baddies are dragons, who are not only supposedly legendary and not real but also too expensive for the show to actually ever present on screen. For budgetary reasons the dragons turn into dudes who get scales drawn on their skin when stabbed with a magic sword (which was in the possession of one of Bobby’s ex girlfriends, a character who I hope returns). By the last minutes of the episode we learn what they were trying to do - to open a portal to Purgatory and let in a being known only as Mother Of All. And they succeed, as they must for the second half of the season to have a throughline
Meanwhile, Sam quickly finds out about his condition from Castiel, despite Bobby and Dean trying to keep it from him. And so we have the other aspect of the back half of season 6 set up: Death specifically said that Sam should leave the wall in his mind alone, because what’s behind it could destroy him utterly. Sam, though, is a hero, and he knows he did bad things and thus needs to find out how he can make amends. I imagine all of this comes to a head in about ten weeks.
The Lore: The Mother Of All is obviously the mother of all monsters, the creators of the Alphas that everybody had been hunting down in the first half of the season. My guess is that she’s the Biblical Lilith - Adam’s first wife and the mother of demons. The problem, of course, is that the show already had a very prominent Lilith, so either they won’t use this character or they’ll change her name.
What I hope is that the Mother Of All coming to Earth means that we’re going to see more monsters. This show has been giving us guys with contact lenses as monsters for too many years now; I want some solid prosthetic work. Pick up the torch from Buffy and Angel and give us rubber-suited guys!
Meanwhile, Castiel’s story remains sidelined. There’s a war in Heaven but he keeps showing up to aid the brothers in stuff that is, frankly, mundane. I feel like the war in heaven storyline is being sort of tossed aside when it could have yielded terrific fruit - the search for Biblical artifacts alone could have been a season-long story. It also could have finally gotten Sam and Dean out of America - there’s a big world out there, and I’d like to see them visit it.
I really like the way that Sam’s storyline is working out. There’s an organic progression to it that works. I can nitpick elements of season 6 (I don’t think Sam should have showed up so soon, for instance), but overall there’s a lot going on that’s intriguing and that, best of all, doesn’t feel like wheel-spinning.
But the way that the show avoids wheel-spinning this season is too have too many plates in the air. We have Alphas, The Campbells, Purgatory, Soulless Sam and a war in Heaven. Many of these will likely end up intertwined (and obviously the Alphas, The Campbells and Purgatory are all connected), but the show treats them as their own things, allowing it to jump from one storyline to another. On the one hand that’s great - there’s nothing I hate more in serialized TV shows than episodes that are just stalling - but on the other hand it feels overly busy. And, as I said, like some stories are perhaps not getting the service they deserve.
And In The End: Like A Virgin feels like the show getting all of its shit back together. Things were rough at spots in the first half of the season, but this episode was them firing on all cylinders, with comedy, long-term Lore and a decent monster. I do think the ball was dropped on the music front, though - how amazing would it have been if some grandiose metal started playing when Dean tried to yank that sword from the stone?