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Supernatural - Stranger in a Strange Land - Review

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Supernatural, “Stranger in a Strange Land” was written by co-showrunner Andrew Dabb and was directed by Thomas J Wright. I was excited to see Jensen Ackles’ portrayal of Michael, but I have to admit that I was disappointed. His clear intention is to make Michael seem detached and cold, but he comes across as merely bored. I was also distracted by his pronunciation of certain words – though he’s impressive with the Arabic in his first scene – his stilted English again didn’t seem to achieve the effect he was looking for. In general, I found the episode boring despite really good performances from Jared Padalecki (Sam), Samantha Smith (Mary), and Alexander Calvert (Jack). I will say that I was delighted that Mark Pellegrino is back!

Michael spends the episode trying to figure out what people want, and apparently who is worth saving. Michael eventually catches up with Sister Jo (Daneel Ackles), and we get a great shot of Michael’s true form – after all the hype, I did find it a bit underwhelming – hardly burn-your-eyes-out, but it was very bright… It was fun seeing real husband and wife play a scene together.

Jo has gone back to healing people for money and tries to tell Michael that’s what she wants, but Michael can see the truth. He sees that what she really wants is love, a family, to belong. Clearly, her true desires put her right in line with the Winchesters and set her up to be an ally rather than an enemy to them. This seems like a bit of a retcon from last season when it seemed that what she really wanted was power… Michael determines that that is just sad, and in fact, that all the angels in this world are sad and not worth saving.

The Bunker has become a command center. Sam is making runs in the Impala – giving Wright his opportunity for some nice Impala shots at the outset – to try to find Dean. Mary is really running the hunters out of the Bunker, and Maggie (Katherine Evans) is helping out where she can – though she can’t hack traffic cameras! There are some nice moments with Mary trying to reassure Sam and get him to rest and eat.

Jack is struggling with being human, and Bobby (Jim Beaver) is trying to teach him how to fight. It’s nice to see him step into the same surrogate father role he played for Dean and Sam. I loved him telling Jack that it’s not how hard you hit but how hard you can get hit and still keep going, and Jack asking if that was Ghandi!

Sam checks on Jack and tries to reassure him that he can get past losing his grace, but Sam is too busy with everything else and gets pulled away to tend to Nick.

      This was a great reveal. It was pretty obvious when he opened the dungeon that it was Pellegrino sitting on the bed – but the fact that this was actually the vessel Nick was an interesting twist. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to keep Pellegrino on the show, but this is a ridiculous retcon. The Archangel blade ONLY killed Lucifer? Really? Then why do angel blades always kill the host and they aren’t even as strong? I’m also curious as to why they are keeping Nick in a Devil’s Trap - or is it an angel sigil? - in the dungeon. If there’s no demon left, shouldn’t he be able to step out of it? Isn’t a Devil’s Trap- or an angel sigil - too weak to contain Lucifer anyway?

Sam, of course, is uniquely able to relate to Nick as another Lucifer vessel. He asks how he slept, and Nick tells him the nightmares are getting better. Nick only remembers bits and pieces of things, but he does remember Lucifer saying he wanted to do it right this time.

Meanwhile, Ketch is in England looking for the demon/angel bomb that got Lucifer out of the President, and Cas (Misha Collins) is in Detroit following a lead. The lead turns out to be a second-rate Crowley demon named Kip (Dean Armstrong). Cas, being Cas, has walked into a trap and is captured and used as bait to bring Sam to Detroit. It’s clear that Kip has been visited by Michael when he tells Cas that someone recently asked him what he wanted. He didn’t know then, but after thinking about it, he decided that he wanted everything. Armstrong is no Mark Sheppard, though he does get a few great lines like: “Coffee is like saltwater taffy or infants. I just like the taste.”

After Sam gets the call from Kip, Mary warns him that it’s a trap – d’uh – and Sam asks her, Maggie, and Bobby to come with him. Jack also insists on coming, and against Bobby’s recommendation, Sam says yes, telling Bobby that Jack needs it – to feel useful. It’s apparently a little brother thing that Sam can also totally relate to.

Without Dean, the Impala driving scene turns to Mary and Sam. Mary again tries to reassure Sam, but he tells her to stop. Smith is really good in this scene. She tells Sam that she knows they might never get Dean back, but she has to think about the good or she’ll drown in the bad.

Jack and Bobby drive together, and there’s a nice scene in which Bobby tells Jack that in the alt-verse, Jack saved them many times – in other words, he doesn’t owe them anything. Bobby is happy to return the favor now. He’s happy to have Jack’s back.

Sam gives Mary the demon killing knife because he’ll be searched and goes into the bar. It is hysterical when Kip is clearly fanboying Sam: “you’re a damn legend! The shoulders! The hair! You are my Beyonce!” Kip captures Jack and Maggie – how stupid was that?

Kip wants to make a deal with Crowley dead and Asmodeus “Kentucky-fried.” He wants to be King of Hell and for Sam to leave them alone in exchange for information and help from time to time. The Crowley deal. Sam points out that Crowley never had a deal – and Kip is no Crowley. Padalecki is terrific in this scene, especially after the fight, which he stops with an “Enough” after killing Kip. He tells them there will be no King of Hell – ever. And anyone who wants the job will have to go through him. The demons smoke out.

The fight itself was reasonably well done. I loved the demon parkouring across the back of the bar. I also loved all the loving shots of Mary fighting – though putting the knife throw into slow motion really highlighted that she isn’t a very good knife thrower… And of course we get a classic “Balls!” from Bobby when Jack tries to come to his rescue. It was also nice to see Maggie step up and save Mary.

Back at the bunker we get a nice scene between Cas and Sam. Cas apologizes for working with a demon – again. Sam tells him that he just wishes that he’d thought of it first. They are on the same page to do anything if it gets Dean back. And of course, Dean, himself, won’t be happy about that.

The happy beer scene in the Bunker kitchen goes to Mary and Bobby. Hmmm. Are they setting up a romance here?

Finally, I would be remiss in not giving a shout out to both Misha Collins and Calvert for their performances in their last scene. Cas checks on Jack and reassures him that he did well. Jack feels like all he did was get punched in the face. Cas’s sardonic answer “To be fair, we all got punched in the face” is perfect, classic Cas – and 100% true of all the human/monster fights! Cas finally says what we’ve all been wanting to hear – Jack’s grace will eventually re-generate. But is this also a retcon? Why be so concerned with getting graces back in the past if they simply regenerate?

However, Cas is there to reassure Jack who feels like he has nothing. Cas tells him that that is not true – Jack has him. He has family. They’ll find Dean and defeat Michael because that is what they do.

The episode ends with Sam getting a call from Jo – she’s clearly being primed to join the family. She tells Sam that they have a problem and we cut to Michael, who has finally found someone worth saving. The thing he wants “is simple and clean. You just want to eat.” So a vampire is worth saving? What? This may be the stupidest twist yet on this show. It sets up lots of drama – but it makes no sense.

And one final note on future reviews. I really love adding as many screencaps as I can to help illustrate my comments on the episode. However, with the FCC destroying net neutrality, it's now virtually impossible for me to get those screencaps. Because screencap sites are "grey sites" they are heavily throttled and blocked. You might want to vote for any party that wants to free our Internet back up. Going forward, I will likely have a lot fewer pictures in all my reviews.

What did you think of the premiere? Were you happy to see Pellegrino back? Is there a chance for Lucifer not to be really, really dead? Do you think Jo will join team free will? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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