Jensen Ackles absolutely nails this version of Dean—not only because he brings a palpable sense of edgy tension to the character, but also because we have seen hints of this Dean before. He’s the guy who could climb off the rack in hell and become the star pupil in torture. Dean has dark areas and I found it believable Purgatory feels very pure to him, because he can allow these primal instincts free reign without his caretaker side interfering with guilt.
Yet at the same time, the part of Dean that values relationships so highly is still there. He forms an unlikely friendship in the Purgatory fox hole with a charismatic vampire called Benny. In Purgatory, the friendship helps Dean survive. But back in the real world? Right from the premiere, we can see how complicated this friendship is going to be for both characters.
And speaking of Benny, what an introduction for his character. One of Supernatural’s strengths has been its great supporting cast. From Fred Lehne’s Yellow Eyed Demon to Kurt Fuller’s Zachariah, these characters were charismatic, complicated and much missed when they met their demise, even if we cheered their ends. The supporting characters who managed to survive more than a season to become part of the Winchester extended family were compelling from the get go, with Castiel being the best example. Benny’s entrance into the story suggests he’s going to join the list of memorable characters—and perhaps be very difficult to classify as friend or foe.
Dean and Benny’s first meeting illustrates what drives the engine of their story: they need something from each other. The hug they give each other when they separate back on earth allows further shading: they genuinely like each other. Foxhole friendships are intense. Their friendship looks set to cause both characters problems, as they each have other loyalties. Dean already feels he has to lie to Sam about his new friend and I’ve no doubt Benny’s vampire nature and possible ties to the Alpha Vamp will cause him difficulty in keeping his promise to Dean to keep his nose clean.