Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 1, “Black” or “Who the Blank are These People?”

by sketchyfeminist

Yep, so I saw last week’s Supernatural Season 10 premiere.

It was terrible.

And I seriously thought about ending my review right there. Because what else is there to say, really? I didn’t like it. At all. I think it had maybe one or two good lines (courtesy of Crowley) and that’s about it for the good parts.

And the show was written by long-time showrunner Jeremy Carver and directed by long-time showrunner Robert Singer, and this was, naturally, announced in the opening credits (y’know, where episode writing and directing credits usually go) so my hopes were all up.

Aaaand then I watched the episode.

The episode opens with Sam torturing and killing a woman (or a presumably female demon in a possibly-dead-but-possibly-not female human body). This, of course, pings my “SPN random-acts-of-violence-against-female-characters” detector, but this sort of thing is such a common occurrence in the SPN ‘verse that after nine seasons, I don’t have much of a reaction to it. (And maybe my lack of reaction itself indicates the insidious potential effect of these scenes, or maybe this scene in particular is just boring.) The boys, for their part, haven’t batted their long-lashed eyelids at torturing and killing the human vessels of demons for years now. And yet the demon Sam is torturing is all, “Wow, you’re far gone. You must be the demon brother.” Like she thinks that a Winchester torturing a demon is somehow an event worthy of note.

Guess she’s new in town.

My subjective opinions on the episode can be found under the cut:

The Title

The title of this episode is “Black,” presumably referring to Dean’s brand new demon-black eyes. Fair enough. There’s also a Pearl Jam song called “Black.” It has some nicely evocative lyrics (“All the love gone bad turned my world to black”) that could maybe be applied to the boys’ situation this episode if ANYTHING AT ALL WAS EXPLAINED THIS EPISODE. But since we’re kind of in the dark on that front (get it? get it?), I’m just going to assume that this was a title chosen for its generic lack of telling the audience anything of interest.

It’s “mysterious”. Woo-oo-oo and [insert other ghostly noises].

The Setup

OK, so last season we got a kind of “meh” season finale that was still something of a redemption for an even more “meh” season (that I will eventually finish blogging, really). However, said season finale did end on a promising note: Dean opening his coal-black demon eyes like he was frikking Bellla Swan waking up as a vampire.

And we were all, “Holy frell they went there.” And I was really excited, because I was one of those fans who always kinda wanted to see Buffy turn into a vampire back in the day, just to find out how that would go down. (It was her biggest fear.) And now, I was getting that plot arc with Dean, whose worst fear is becoming a demon. And the Winbros learned how to “heal” a demon in Season 8, so Sam was probably going to try to heal demon!Dean, giving him a concrete goal going into the next season. And, after Sam had an angel in him at the beginning of Season 9, now Dean was going to be a demon at the beginning of Season 10. What narrative symmetry! What potential for brotherly conflict! What potential for internal conflict!

At the end of Season 9, Crowley brought Dean back from death as a new demon, using the First Blade of Cain and the whole “let’s howl at the moon” speech. Now, Crowley and Squirrel have been on their very own bromantic road trip ever since, and what do we learn that Dean’s “howling at the moon” entails?

Hanging out at seedy dive bars, singing karaoke poorly, drinking, sleeping around and being kind of a douche to women. And killing … exclusively demons, all in self-defense.

Dean, you are the worst demon ever. Ever!

So, Sam is hunting his demon brother, but the stakes are ridiculously low, because the stuff Dean is doing is all basically weak sauce. And what is with Dean’s karaoke selections, anyway? Where’s the Led Zeppelin? Was his taste in music, like, the first part of his personality to go when he turned demon, and the rest of him is just taking its sweet time catching up?

So, since SAM HUNTING HIS DEMON BROTHER was apparently not enough to build an episode around (WTF, show?), this episode introduces several new characters whom I could not care less about. My apathy is palpable here, people.

The New Faces of Season 10

The last new characters I disliked having introduced this much were the potentials in Season 7 of Buffy. (And I still don’t like the potentials in Season 7 of Buffy.)

In honor of how resentful and disoriented I feel at being made to deal with these new characters, here is a screenshot from The United States of Tara:

Screencap of Kate asking "Who the fuck is this?" in her Princess Valhalla costume in The United States of Tara

“Who the fuck is this?”

This screen capture has nothing to do with Supernatural, of course, but it does perfectly encapsulate my feelings about this particular episode of Supernatural. Also, y’all should go watch The United States of Tara, if you haven’t already.

The new faces in this episode are:

  1. Some ex-marine with a grudge against human!Dean, whose fax machine suggests that he either doesn’t get cell reception where he lives or he’s somehow stuck in the 1990s.
  2. A couple of new “rebel” angels, who seem ready to defend to the death their right to make a hippie commune on Earth.
  3. Some random girl at some random dive who makes the mistake of sleeping with demon!Dean. He doesn’t kill her, though; he just gets drunk and insults her. And beats up her asshole ex.

And I DO NOT CARE. Oh, I care so little.

All of these characters have names, I think, but damned if I could remember them after watching the episode.

Dean’s several-night stand (the Internet calls her Ann Marie) may be just that, and I can’t tell from this episode if she’ll ever prove to be significant to a later one. Dean says misogynistic stuff at her to hurt her, and it hurts her. Apparently, Dean’s working out his demonic nature by offending women with cruel and sexist jibes and offending bar patrons with his terrible singing. My assumption is that this is what is literally happening, and demon!Dean is causing a lot of small pains so that he won’t have to cause anyone major pain. Crowley is in Dean’s corner on this for some absurd reason, and he’s been feeding him “demon chum” to keep Dean’s mark of Cain under control. Crowley eventually decides enough is enough (because he has way more patience for this crappier and less-interesting version of Dean than I do), so he gives up Dean’s location to Sam by letting Sam track his phone.

Meanwhile, Hannah recruits an ill Castiel (fading stolen Grace gives angels the flu?) to help her track down a couple of rebellious angels who have refused to return to Heaven. Why “Team Free Will” Cas is going along with this at all is a mystery to me. They find the rebel angels, and Hannah tells them that they all, as angels, have a duty to follow Heaven’s commands.

To which I say: hruh?

Last I checked, Hannah was the highest-ranking angel left standing (unless Gabriel is really out there) because the others all died or–in Metatron’s case–got locked up. Castiel might be able to compete with Hannah for a leadership position, but he’s basically a retired angel (::cough:: living on Earth and not taking orders ::cough::).

So … anyway … where are Heaven’s orders coming from!? This seriously makes no sense.

Hannah’s crew has already killed one of the rebellious angels. Hannah tries to kill the other two and Castiel tries to stop her. However, he’s very bad at stopping her and ends up killing one of the remaining two rebel angels instead, to protect Hannah. Because he likes Hannah better, or knows her better, or something. Not that I wanted Hannah to die either (extinction’s starting to seem like a very plausible threat to angels as a species), but still, I think it’s time to revoke Cas’s “Team Free Will” membership card.

And, at the end of the episode, the ex-marine dude (Cole, apparently) kidnaps Sam in an attempt to lure Dean. What’s his beef with Dean (or Sam)? No idea. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to recognize this character or not. (Oh, Carver called him a “new character” in at least one interview, so probably not.) So far, this guy is just some random person with a grudge and no clear motivation. I have so little interest in him that he makes Sam’s kidnapping boring.

And sure, there have been boring Sam-and-or-Dean kidnappings before, because that’s pretty old hat by now, but I think that this is the first time that I’ve been this bored by a season premiere. Supernatural has such a good track record for season finales and season openers in general that this Season 9-Season 10 transition is, for me, one of the biggest disappointments of the series.

Final Thoughts

The best part of the episode? The “Road so Far,” set to Pat Benatar’s “Hearbreaker.” At least these sequences are still consistently awesome. There were also a couple of good Crowley laugh lines in the episode proper.

The worst part of the episode? Everything else.