TV Talk: SUPERNATURAL Season 7 Episodes 1 & 2

TV’s best genre show is back, but it’s stuck in a rut.

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Season six was a bit of a mess. There was a lot of trying to figure out the new direction of the show, but by the end things came together in an interesting storyline: Castiel, an angel who also happens to be best friends with our heroes Sam and Dean, took over the vacated position of God, and all signs pointed to this being a bad thing. That's a whopper of a premise for season seven - having Sam and Dean fight against God! - so it's weird that it was dropped immediately at the beginning of the season.

Castiel, using his newfound God powers, travels the globe smiting those who lie in his name - think Evangelical hate mongers - and curing lepers and the blind. But it turns out he can't handle all the power, or all the souls he had to consume to achieve that power, and his vessel is breaking down and he's likely to just explode. It's a very Marvel Comics thing, and is the usual fate of every villain who takes on Ultimate Power.

But it happens so fast. Forty something minutes into the new season Castiel is looking to unGod himself, and the idea of Sam and Dean trying to stop a God who is attempting to right the wrongs of the world (albeit forcefully) is dropped. This is good, meaty territory, but for some reason the showrunners decided they didn't want to explore it.

Instead they've gone for 'Evil force that possesses people so we don't have to spend money on FX' #278. This time it's 'Leviathan,' the ancient beast so powerful God created Purgatory just to contain it. This beast is also completely undefined in powers or goals, so there's nothing really uninteresting about it. Leviathan is really just Eve 2.o, but at least Eve had a plan from the start. Leviathan seems to be interested in taking over a hospital so it can eat human livers. There are hints of a larger plan, but as of right now it just feels like a standard demon of the week story, albeit with a cool monster mouth effect that is used at the end of the episode.

Meanwhile the fallout from Sam's time in Hell continues being a big issue, with Sam seeing Lucifer taunting him. Maybe reality isn't reality and he's still stuck in Hell? Except that it seems unlikely for the show to make all of season six a dream, so there's not much tension here. The show doesn't even play much with the idea of Sam, deluded, threatening his brother or Bobby. This storyline feels sort of wrapped up at the end, but it's hard to believe that all Sam needed to deal with his tattered soul was a pep talk from Dean. After all, much of season six was spent trying to get Sam his soul back and then having Death help keep him safe from the memories. That said, I really hope this storyline is over because it feels like it's just got nowhere to go, except to keep Sam emo.

Another tension problem: the show keeps on insisting that Castiel or Bobby are in danger or dead, but Supernatural has already played those cards. At the end of season five Castiel was EXPLODED and he still came back. And Bobby, who had been dramatically crippled, got his legs back. Never mind the fact that Winchesters are as likely to stay dead as I am to become Japanese. The show has proved to be seriously unwilling to truly harm the characters, and so every time someone is seemingly dead or in mortal danger I want to tune out. Supernatural has killed characters - good ones - in the past, but right now the cast is down to Sam, Dean and Bobby (with Cas showing up on occasion) and we all know those guys are off limits.

These complaints can be solved quickly and easily. The show's writing is still sharp - a confrontation between Death and Castiel in the season opener was great, great stuff - but the plotting needs to be tightened up. The Winchesters are stuck in a rut of reacting wildly to cosmic events, running around without a good plan of action. The fact that they jump into these situations without looking is part of their character, but it's a dramatic drag.

Supernatural needs a bit of a kick in the pants this season. The destruction of Bobby's house at the end of episode 2 helps - did nobody learn the lesson from the Hunter Roadhouse that these guys work best when they're on the road, not when they have a home base? Hopefully the next few episodes aren't just repeating season six all over again, except with Leviathan in the place of Alphas. I'm a lifer for Supernatural, but that also means I bring the tough love.

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