After a year, Dean escapes Purgatory and re-unites with Sam, who’s given up being a hunter. They track down Kevin, the ‘prophet of God’, who may have uncovered a method for eliminating demons.
Narrative gaps are very much part of modern TV shows: they allow writers to change a show’s set-up without all that tedious storytelling and character development stuff. If they are done well, they can create a space for inventive flashbacks filling in the missing time with important story information.
In the case of the first episode in Supernatural’s eighth season, the approach seems to consist of various characters sitting around and having a chat before a flashback shows us exactly what they’re telling us about. This might just about have worked on paper, but it doesn’t exactly make for great television.
Dean’s escape from purgatory (with the help of a vampire named Benny) is well done, and there’s still a mystery surrounding the fate of Castiel. Sam’s new life (girlfriend, dog) looks set to be explored a bit more (hopefully) as the season moves on. It would be very easy for the series to drop that storyline, but it looks likely to be useful in explaining Sam’s changed attitude to the Winchester’s ‘family business’.
All-in-all, this is business as usual, even if Crowley (a brief appearance from fan favourite Mark Sheppard) is depicted as being more stupid than before. The demon destroying formula held by Kevin has the smell of series finale all over it, so perhaps the seeds are being sown for Supernatural’s end after an unnaturally prolonged run?
Verdict: More of the same, as Supernatural sticks to a well-worn formula…
Episode 1 ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’: 6/10
Brian J. Robb