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Supernatural 8.01 "We Need to Talk About Kevin" Review

          The season premiere of Supernatural, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, was definitely worth waiting for. Jeremy Carver delivered a tightly written script that packed the hour and set the stage for an exciting season. Our classic rock and Impala were back! We have a new word-of-God tablet-inspired title card! Having said that, I’m sure there is going to be some dissention in the dedicated fanbase over some of the developments, but I’m hoping that people will reserve judgment until the story has a chance to unravel a bit more. I think that much of what we think we know at this point is going to turn out to be not the actual truth.
            I loved the opening sequence when Dean (Jensen Ackles) comes back from Purgatory because it reminded me so strongly of the opening to “Wendigo” in the first season. Only this time, Dean is the perfect hunter. We quickly find out that Dean has come back with Benny (Ty Olsson) and that they share a close... friendship? It may just be a friendship of convenience or it may turn out to be more. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Benny. It’s impossible to tell if he is a good guy or a bad guy or some shade of gray... The call that Dean gets from him at the end of the episode had me thinking of the call Dean makes to John in “Home.” I found it interesting that Benny calls Dean “brother”. Dean seems to be clearly conflicted about his relationship with Benny and almost seems guilty over it. He seems to either not want Sam to know about it, perhaps because he’s ashamed of having teamed up with a “monster” or maybe he’s protecting Sam from Benny. I also found it interesting that Benny refers to Dean calling Purgatory pure and that’s the same explanation Dean gives to Sam (Jared Padalecki). My interpretation is that it was pure in the sense that Dean didn’t have to worry about figuring out who was good or bad or somewhere in between: he just had to kill everyone because everyone was bad. The rules were simple and Dean could give in to that part of himself that is, as he described himself so often, a killer. For whatever reason, it seems that Benny is not going to simply go his own way as seems to be their understanding at the beginning of the episode.
            I was disappointed in Sam’s not having tried to find Dean, but I keep thinking there has to be more to it. Certainly, Sam’s explanation to Dean made sense to me. I know I am in the minority, but Sam finding a life outside hunting really makes a lot more sense to me based on his character stretching all the way back to season one. Sam has been the one searching for a normal life in the “Pilot”, “After School Special”, and even last season’s “The Girl Next Door.” Sam’s entire argument was valid – if they had both been killed in defeating Dick, somebody else would have had to do those hunts during the last year anyway. When Dean finds that Kevin (Osric Chau) had been calling Sam all year for help, Sam does look guilty. Another “throwback” to Sam of season one is we get to see his smarts as he traces Kevin’s location through Kevin’s computer use.
            There are already rumblings that people don’t like Amelia (Liane Balaban) and Benny because they take away from the bond between Dean and Sam, but I can’t agree with that sentiment. As one gets older – and these guys are getting older, despite how many times they’ve died! – one’s relationship with their siblings change. Often this is for the better, and it is almost always as a result of the other relationships that we form in our lives. Dean is obviously hurt that Sam didn’t try to find him, but they also fall back into hunting together again very quickly and comfortably. The climactic fight scene demonstrates that Sam hasn’t lost his fighting edge and the brothers still fight as a team. Sam is obviously concerned about Dean’s state of mind, and Sam’s getting Dean a cheeseburger and fries is a touching and subtle show of affection. It’s the little things after all...
            Kevin was a perfect choice for prophet and he demonstrates the uses of a superior intellect throughout the episode. His defeat of and escape from Crowley (Mark Sheppard) is fantastic. The quest to shut the gate to Hell permanently sets up a great quest for the characters and having Crowley as part of the equation is going to make the season so much fun...
            The episode was expertly directed by Robert Singer. The fight scenes and special effects were what we have simply come to expect and be spoiled by. The subtle shifts in lighting and color to delineate Purgatory, the present, and Sam’s flashbacks wonderfully captured the mood of each setting. I want to make a particular point in commenting on the wonderful performances in this episode. Ackles delivers a Dean who is as he tells Sam, profoundly changed by his year in Purgatory. We see a perfect hunter and a PTSD soldier. He’s completely confident in the fight and challenging Crowley, but stymied by a vending machine. He’s pissed at his brother, but still looking for his brother’s respect and understanding. There’s more going on with Dean than in any other season we’ve seen so far. I may, however, been even more impressed with Padalecki’s performance. I wanted to be as mad at him for “abandoning” Dean as Dean was, but Padalecki’s performance made Sam compellingly sympathetic. I think we are going to see that Sam’s new found peace was actually hard won as the season unfolds.
            Chau gives a terrific performance as Kevin. I’ll admit that I liked Kevin last season, but I wasn’t completely on board with him being such a big piece of the puzzle this season. I’m on board now though. He does a great job of showing Kevin growing into being a prophet and a hunter. He’s grown up since last season, and in many ways, especially with him witnessing Channing’s death, he’s almost a season one Sam. He has great chemistry with both Ackles and Padalecki, and I hope there will be a lot of opportunity to see him interact with both.
            We didn’t see much of either Balaban or Olsson in this episode, but what we did see, I liked. Balaban played Amelia as smart and tough. She’s not falling all over Sam, and I think that sets up the possibility of a relationship pretty realistically. Olsson also shows a range in his portrayal of Benny. There are definite differences between the battle-hardened vampire in Purgatory and the vampire that is concerned about Dean topside.
            I’m really looking forward to having the past year filled in via flashbacks until we have a better picture of what’s really going on with the characters. I’m hoping that people will be patient and not decide that Carver is mistreating one character or the other before he has a chance to tell more of the story. And for the record, I was hoping for a glimpse of Cas, but before everyone freaks out about that, I’d like to remind viewers that Dean’s first concern was where his angel was and that he refused to simply let Benny lead him out of Purgatory without finding Castiel first.
            So, please sound off in the comments below. But please, respect each others’ opinions and yes, even each others’ favorites. And perhaps most importantly, let’s all be patient. I think this was a packed episode, but there are obviously lots of blanks to fill in in the coming episodes!

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