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If last year’s season premiere was a callback to Season 4’s “Lazarus Rising,” this year’s,“I think I’m Gonna Like It Here,” was Season 2’s “All Hell Breaks Loose 2.” We have Dean sitting bedside a not a totally dead Sam, but a dying one, and Dean has hit his emotional bottom and will do anything to save his brother. Anything includes making a deal with a supernatural being that in better times he wouldn’t trust with his beer money. We know that’s not going to end well. We also close with Sam repeating the line from the season 3 premiere, as well as the pilot, “We’ve got work to do.”

In another location, Cas struggles with the new knowledge that he’s lost his grace and his power to hurt a fugly biker. His new reality is slow to set in, as we see him not ready to admit that he needs pocket money. But that will come in time. He’s also dealing with the new realization that his angel brethren not only won’t forgive him, but are now a threat to him.

We launch the season with the Winchesters and Cas hunted by an ominous and powerful supernatural force. I like it! t’s like season 7 was supposed to be but wasn’t.

The Highlights

Yikes Dean, what did you do? Sam’s been violated as a baby with demon blood that changed him on a cellular level and left him with a feeling that he was damaged - that he had evil inside himself. He’s been possessed by a demon. He’s been possessed by Lucifer and helpless to stand by as Lucifer beat his brother senseless. He once found himself in a position of not being in control of his body or his actions when his soul was ripped from it. And there were a lot of rape insinuations around his time with Lucifer in the cage. But none of this was ever orchestrated by someone he trusted.

Dean knows this, and seemed to acknowledge that he knew Sam’s inevitable reaction if he learns about the possession. But Dean is a gambler, and he throws his rational sense out the window when it comes to his family. He had no option other than to lose his brother, and this is what he does when he’s out of solutions. When Sam was in the cage, Dean let a doctor “kill” him, with a predicted 75 percent chance that the doctor could bring him back, so that he could contact Death to ask for his help. Dean is gambling that Sam won’t ever find out about the possession, and that Cas’s assessment of Ezekiel as good is true – although as we saw with Cas’s encounter with another angel – things have changed.

The Good

Showrunner Jeremy Carver, who wrote this episode, opened with a strong multi-plot front. We have Dean orchestrating Sam being possessed by an angel, Crowley in Dean’s trunk, a pissed off earth-bound troupe of angels out to get the Winchesters and Cas, and Cas discovering humanity and rediscovering his self-preservation instincts.

Tahmoh Penikett as Ezekiel promises to be an interesting and possibly menacing character. I watched Tahmoh on Battlestar Gallactica, and although I wasn’t as fond of his character on that show, he wears his new angel face well. He is believable as Ezekiel, and his grin as Sam gives his consent is chilling. To see more of Tahmoh’s performances though, we’re going to have to get Ezekiel out of Sam - but give it time.

Cas seems to have a more promising arc this season than being the butt of jokes or an outlet for Dean’s frustration. I wasn’t excited after hearing Cas would become human because it’s been something that seems like it’s been teased - and dragged out - since season 5, but there was something appealing about watching Cas shed his trenchcoat and his angelic tolerance. Cas is hungry, and he killed. Self-preservation is kicking in, and that makes him more relatable - something we haven’t seen from him since season 6.

It’s always nice to get a glimpse inside Sam’s head. It’s a busy place in there, and we get a peek inside too rarely.

Supernatural’s freaky weather is back. I love it when SPN shows how the rest of the world perceives and tries to explain away the Supernatural events that are commonplace in Sam and Dean’s world. In this case it was freak global meteor showers on the news.

Even unseen in a trunk, Crowley is still funny.

We got Cas in his underwear, stripping in a laundromat. Speaking of which, did he steal someone else’s clothes?

It was nice to see Death again. (That came out sounding strange.) Julian Richings always gives a commanding performance. It was also nice to hear Death’s validation of Sam and his contributions after Sam has been heaped with so much blame over the seasons.

The Bad

Although I liked the exploration of inside Sam’s head, there was something lacking. Namely something that made it personal – that made this debate about Sam, and not about Joe, the butcher down the street. I had trouble connecting the dots and understanding how Sam feels about all of this. Did the Amelia experience reawaken hope in Sam? Hope that was crushed when the relationship ended and Sarah was killed? That’s one plausible possibility. Did Sam lose faith when he gave up the trials? That’s another. Has Sam always believed he belongs dead since Dean brought him back in AHBL2? That’s possible as well. There wasn’t enough to tell me why Sam really wanted to die, or even confirm that he wanted to die. Did he go along with Dean because he still has hope, or because he’s the younger brother and it’s too ingrained in him to follow his older brother?

The debate “should I move on or fight” was on a cerebral level, rather than an emotional one, and it told me little about Sam. There was no connection that Sam made to something in his past that explained to me why this makes sense for Sam. Maybe that's supposed to be obvious.  It's understandable why anyone who's had a life as crappy as the Winchesters would want to move on.  But still, I wanted it spelled out for me.

And this has been a writing issue for several seasons now. Sam’s soullessness played out as academic exercise on what having a soul means, rather than it being used to illustrate who Sam was. Had Bobby become soulless rather than Sam, he would have been portrayed very similarly. Sam’s post-Hell experiences were mostly centered around surviving the physical trauma rather than being used to expand the depth of his character. There’s potential in this angel-possession storyline to tie back to Sam’s feelings about his past with demon blood and possession. Let’s hope the writers don’t pass on another opportunity to show us who Sam really is.

I’m not sure how I feel about Dean’s line, “There ain’t no me if there ain’t no you.” It’s certainly true. The brothers’ codependent relationship has been the foundation of this show since season 1. The old “no chick flick moments” Dean wouldn’t have said it though. That might be my issue. Maybe it’s time to let that Dean go. The tough-talking, posturing Dean has been gone for several seasons now and replaced by one that sings out loud to Air Supply in the car and dresses up as William Wallace in geek LARPing events. I kind of liked the old Dean better, but characters change.

The “Huh?”

So an angel is in Sam without Sam giving knowing consent? The whole consent thing was a pretty big deal in season 5, and even Lucifer didn’t try to pull one over on Sam. However, even “good” angels on the side of Michael have been known to be duplicitous. Zachariah bent the rules in a similar fashion when he caused Sam to hear a fake phone message from Dean, which would push him over the edge to kill Lilith. So I’ll give Carver that one. Sam did consent to letting Dean help him, even if he didn’t understand the nature of the help. What’s made me go “huh?” though, is that we’re supposed to believe Sam doesn’t know that there’s an angel inside him. Sam’s had an angel in him before, by the name of Lucifer, and that must have left a mark. I can’t believe he wouldn’t sense that it’s happened again.

What did it mean when Sam’s head-Bobby told Sam that Sam, not Sam’s head-Dean was responsible for Sam getting out of Hell? A tease of a soon-to-be-reopened season-6 storyline, a mistake in SPN history, or something implying that Sam’s perception is that Dean didn’t help get him out? [Note: Someone pointed out that this about Bobby getting out of Hell and not Sam.  I'll have to recheck that.]

Another thing that makes this list is Cas’ trip to the laundrymat. Where on earth was Cas where buying a snack costs a quarter? Did he take another trip back to the 70s?

How come Ezekiel could heal Sam but Cas couldn't when Sam started changing in season 8?

The Speculation

Do we even know that Ezekiel is actually Ezekiel, and wasn’t lying, or is even an angel for that matter? He obviously has powers and is something supernatural, but he could be lying about everything.

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