Supernatural premiered its eighth season at its new and improved timeslot Wednesday evening and what a return it was. New showrunner (and returning writer) Jeremy Carver penned the episode, giving viewers an excellent indication of the tone of the new season. In almost all respects, it wasn’t just reassuring. It was downright exciting. Not only can I not wait for the next episode, I already love one of the new recurring characters. My mixed feelings on the other raises one of the only red flags I felt in the taut and compelling “There’s Something About Kevin.”
Let’s start with Dean. Dean’s personal journey has been centered on trying to reconcile his fierce warrior side with his need to have and protect relationships. John Winchester insisted his eldest son do what he could not himself: be the perfect caretaker of Sam and the perfect hunter. An episode as early as “Something Wicked” in season one showed the pressure Dean was under to never slip up in either role. And since these two roles do not play well together, they pull Dean apart, with one or the other side winning the struggle at any given time. I’ve always felt Dean’s personal journey will finally end when he learns how to reconcile his capacity for love with his capacity for violence.
But that will not be any time soon. Last season Dean’s warrior side had great difficulty seeing the value of what he does, because he was depressed over the loss of so many important relationships. The side of him which values relationships was at the forefront, but unfortunately with a sense of despair that prevented forward movement. Dramatically, it’s a tough spot to stick a character in for any length of time.
Carver took note of that sense of Dean being stuck and decided to use Purgatory as a place to refocus and reenergise Dean. Alone in a place which rewards aggression with survival, the elder Winchester allows a primal side of himself to emerge. Without relationships to balance and guilt to shoulder, he drops the existential angst and accepts the maxim of kill or be killed.