Supernatural 6.01 “Exile on Main St.” Review

Oh, boys, how I’ve missed you. It’s been a long summer of spoilers, anticipation and Comic Con videos. There’s been discussions of where the show can go after the Kripke’s original plan was done and whether the changing of the showrunner would mean a big change for the show we loved.

I’m happy to tell you that despite the fact that long-standing producer, Sera Gamble, has taken over as showrunner, the show has not really changed. There’s been talk that the season would be darker, and while the premiere was primarily serious, there were still traces of humor.

We opened on a light note, in fact – seeing scenes of Dean living his new life with Ben and Lisa in suburbia, cut with similar seasons with Dean and Sam in earlier years. Let’s be clear: Dean may be happy with his new family, but he never stopped grieving for Sam. In fact, we learn that he spent the last year researching ways to get Sam out of hell, despite his promises not to do so.

But before we get to that, we start in a nice blue house, where Dean uses salt for omelettes instead of lining doors. Where he works in construction, plays poker with the boys and goes out for a beer with a neighbour named Sid. Until this peaceful life is interrupted by a scream in an empty building. This leads Dean to scratches on the wall, blood, and strange sightings around his neighbourhood. Finally, after hallucinating Azazel, Dean is rescued by Sam.

After proving he’s not a demon or a shapeshifter (although not really proving he’s NOT Lucifer), Sam and Dean reunite with a hug. To be honest, I found the scene less moving than the brothers’reunion after Dean returned from hell back in the season 4 premiere. Maybe it’s because we knew this was coming and we had already done this before.

Sam admitted he had been hiding his return from Dean for almost a year and for exactly the reasons I had predicted in my season 5 finale review – because he wanted his brother to have a happy, normal life. While Sam has readily admitted that his desire for a normal life disappeared after five years of hunting with his brother, Dean has always hung on to this wish, even if it took longer for us to realize that it’s what he wanted. Of course, he probably wanted that life WITH his brother, not because of his death.

Then we’re introduced to the extended Campbell family – three distant cousins and Grandpa Samuel. This is really the only weak part of the premiere. Samuel says they suspect whatever resurrected Sam brought him back too and I had to roll my eyes at that. Really? That’s all we’re going to get, even in just the premiere? I hope the writers have a better explanation planned. Sam’s return I can buy (in terms of his importance in the world and as a reward for his sacrifice) – but Samuel’s return is going to require a better explanation.

The family meeting reveals that a djinn has been behind Dean’s recent hallucinations, which leads him rushing back to Lisa and Ben, believing they’re in danger. He immediately packs them off to Bobby’s house for protection. But Bobby doesn’t seem all that surprised to see Sam. As it turns out, he knew that Sam had returned. Dean is understandably upset, but Bobby agrees with Sam – he wanted Dean to have a normal life too, even if it meant keeping Sam’s return a secret. For a few minutes, there’s a tense scene between Lisa and Dean. Until this moment I thought Lisa had been very understanding of the current situation – but you can tell she’s not happy to be giving Dean up to a life of hunting. After all, she’s been happy with him, and particularly happy with having a good father to Ben for the last year.

The Campbells and Winchesters return to Dean and Lisa’s house (we learn Dean plays golf!), where Sam and Dean agree to act as bait to catch the djinns. When Dean spots a djinn killing his neighbours he runs off to save them. He gets poisoned again and hallucinates Azazel coming after his new family. Sam manages to kill and a djinn and go save Dean, but Samuel (who rescues Sam at the last minute) is hiding something. He and one of the cousins only capture the last djinn and he hides this fact from the boys. What, exactly, is Grandpa up to?

At the end, Dean elects to stay behind, despite Sam’s desire for his brother to join him again. Sam admits that he’s different now. That he’s not so eager to save people like Dean’s neighbours, who he thought were a lost cause. Despite this, Dean refuses to go with him, saying that he brought this trouble to Lisa and Ben’s door and he needs to stay and protect them.

If I had to pick a season premiere that was my favorite, I would pick the fourth season premiere, ‘Lazarus Rising’. That episode was brilliant from the opening of Dean in the coffin to the ending and Castiel’s first appearance. This episode felt more moderately paced. Sometimes disjointed. Like the show was bringing us up to speed after a year had passed in the Supernatural verse. The quiet goodbye between the brothers in the end felt anti-climactic, but the episode felt like it was building to something. Things can progress from here and it left a lot of questions – how did Sam get out of hell? What is Grandpa up to? What will it take to get Dean back on the road? Why couldn’t Bobby get more screen time?

I know we’ve read a lot about how Sam’s become harder and this is certainly true. But, as my friend Tamara and I discussed after the premiere, Sam realizes that there’s something wrong with him. At the end of the episode he asks Dean to go with him, as if he recognizes the deficiency in himself and wants Dean to help him be a more caring person again – to balance him out. Therefore, one could argue that all hope is not lost for Sam.

The question, of course, is what it will take for Dean to leave his suburban life to go back on the road. While I don’t mind seeing him with Lisa and Ben, I never believed this was the life for Dean. He’s a hunter, and he’ll always be one. Golf and barbecues will never be the life for him. I argued to Tamara that he’s staying with Lisa and Ben now out of duty. After all, the person he loves most in the world is back, but Dean’s always been one to take responsibility seriously. That’s not to say he doesn’t love his new family, but it cannot compare to what he feels for Sam and their old life. Hunting is in his blood and he’s going to leave suburbia once he feels Lisa and Ben are protected – or maybe even before that.

I like how the relationship between the brothers feels better. There was awkwardness, but not mistrust and almost-hatred, which we’ve seen before. The events at the end of season 5 went a long way in healing the rift between the Winchester boys. While Sam’s new attitude might cause cracks in their relationship, I don’t think we’ll see an all-out battle between them again. At least, I hope we don’t.

Overall, this was a decent start to a new season and, as Tamara said, I’m hopefully optimistic. Most of my fears have been put to rest and I want to know why the monsters are acting differently (chaos in hell because the world is off-balance after the failed apocalypse?) and especially what Mitch Pileggi is up to. B+

clarissa@tvovermind.com
twitter.com/clarissa373

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