Opening with a musical montage. What a great move! I love when SPN does this (they don't do it enough, omg) and it started things off on a great note. It said a lot and developed a lot efficiently and effectively -- I loved the intercuts to flashbacks and the song choice was FABULOUS. No really, look up the lyrics because it's awesome. That first shot of Dean lying in bed was fantastic, and then the scrambled eggs! Such love.
New opening. I like it! Definitely the most explosive yet (no pun intended). I was really surprised it wasn't green (where's my sci-fi SPN?) but it was pretty cool.
Bobby's speech. "You got OUT, Dean! And I was so damn grateful, you got no idea!" The way he phrases it - "a woman and a kid" - is heartbreakingly Bobby. It's all he ever wanted for himself and you can hear it in his voice how much he wants it for Dean. Mr. Beaver, you are always wonderful.
Dean's speech. "I showed up on their doorstep half out of my head with grief! I drank too much, I had nightmares!" Of course he didn't leave it alone! And he had PTSD WEEP WEEP. This was heartbreak in four sentences and I LOVED it. Jensen is really amazing. This little speech is Dean at his Deanest, and the only thing missing was for Cas to interrupt with a remark that made Dean roll his eyes.
Dean tucks his shirt in now. Adorable!
Sid. He's a little bit annoying and plot-dumpy, but he was funny. The possum conversation was ROTFL! I'm sad he's dead even though I know there's no way he could have stuck around for the whole season. I am interested to see if they address his death in the coming episodes.
Dean and Lisa on the stairs! The two of them sitting side by side was a GREAT shot, and the pacing was really good -- lots of pausing and looking away. It was so weird to hear Dean talk about a long term relationship, and characterize it as "a wreck half the time," but I found it pretty believable and surprisingly touching. Because of course what Dean really meant was that it was the best year he'd ever had, too. They talk about it pretty candidly, with Dean wanting a home and Lisa wanting a dad for Ben, but I thought the whole relationship reflection very adult. I don't know that they need each other, but they love each other. They both want their life together. It also got me thinking about Lisa's backstory; assuming she is Dean's age, she was 20 when she had Ben. Which is my age now. Wow.
Dean jumps that fence like a champ. Nice.
Flashbacks. Dean gets freaked out by a little dog! They shoot the reunion hug from the exact same angle as All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2 (which was also the last shot in the Sam-retakes-his-body montage in the finale). And when they talk about who brought Sam back, he says, "That's a good question," just like Cas did at the end of 5x01. It is appreciated.
Dean's choice. This episode actually does a great job with showing Dean's conflicted feelings about the family he has grown to love and his lifelong call to hunting. We know that his life with Lisa and Ben was what he always wanted, and that he was happy there (expect for missing Sam), but he says in no uncertain terms that he lived that life because Sam asked him to. It's fascinating. Dean wanted it, but he knew it would be dangerous for Ben and Lisa, so he viewed it as a selfish option he would deny himself -- but Sam asked as his last favor, so Dean did go, against his better judgment and fulfilling his deepest desire. That's complex shit. It could practically be a play! Then in this episode, Dean describes his current predicament -- that in choosing Ben and Lisa he marked them as targets, and he can't abandon them now, not only because he has made a home with them, but because they are in danger. Protecting them has become an obligation (of his own making) and he stays out of duty, but he also gets the benefit of living with the people he loves. It goes in circles. Amazing.
Sam's just "back". No leads, no memory of how he got here. WTF THIS IS THE BIGGEST COP OUT EVER. I don't even know what to say.
"You had ancestors hacking the heads off vamps on the Mayflower." Samuel says this line in the same creepy obnoxious way the famous surgeon says, "My hands have been inside presidents," to Clay in Awake. It's a weird, over-the-top method of instilling confidence that ends up just being fail. Also, who decided it was a good idea to bring back Samuel with no hair whatsoever? He looks SO creepy -- and he died with hair, remember?! And like everybody else, I'm wondering where Deanna is. The could have even recast her like they did for Karen! Sheesh.
This is getting kind of old. SPN has run with "We've never seen this before!" as a season premise since Season 3. Starting with The Magnificent Seven, new demons and/or creatures have escaped in multitudes, overwhelming hunters every year. It's all getting waaaaay too routine; when Sam tests himself with the knife and salted holy water for Dean, it was SO SLOW AND LAME. Been there, done that. It was like we just had to get push through it. When Dean and Bobby went through this routine in Lazarus Rising, it was funny and interesting. Watching Sam do so with almost no input from Dean was unbelievably flat and boring.
The Campbells. They are straight up weird and out of place. It's like Sam just pulled them out of his pocket! Even Dean says, Sam coming back and Samuel coming back are two huge things all on their own. But there's all these random cousins just chilling, too. IT'S SO TRANSPARENT. The show's in its sixth season and things are getting stale, so they added in a bunch of Cousin Olivers to try to keep things interesting. (Forget believable.) And they sit there all matter-of-factly and do nothing when they're oh-so-formally introduced. The whole thing has a bland action-movie-team feel. It doesn't help that they all look like underwear models, especially the guys. What happened to hunters being scruffed up dudes in plaid? All the cousins are wearing action movie black -- girl cousin even has black hair! Though to be fair, she does don a hunter style jacket in typical canvas green later. But the badass team vibe explains why Domestic Deanna couldn't get raised too! Too bad, because I just don't like them. Girl cousin is a brat that mocks Dean's house! The guys are creepy quiet! Even Samuel is all, "Your life is lame, you're selfish, join Team Campbell!" to Dean. Maybe lifelong hunters are just bitches? They don't have the compassion or respect for normal family life that pulled-in hunters like Bobby or Ellen seem to have.
Dean and Lisa's dialogue. Last season, Dean and Lisa had one scene of actual dialogue at the end of 5x17, and it was AWESOME. The whole thing was perfect; the way it was scored, the way it was shot, their chemistry, everything. Especially the writing! The wording deliberately went around using mythology-specific terms. Dean says "the people I'm gonna see next" instead of angels, and Lisa says "your kind of bad" instead of hunting or monsters. And it worked. That conversation was seriously emotionally charged, and when Dean says goodbye and Lisa cries, your heart breaks too. I guess this season it makes sense for them to sound more familiar, but this time their dialogue crosses that invisible line of way too forward/casual. Lisa tries to sound in-the-loop cool when she says, "Are you hunting something?" but it comes off pretty unconvincing in every respect. She also describes Dean as a "guy that basically just saved world." These, especially the last one, are very fanfic sounding and not in a good way at all. Their dialogue was much more effective when they avoided heavy terms and spoke in obstructed, semi-normal sentences. The conversation on the stairs felt very disjointed and intentional with the way they jumped from topic to topic, like they had to make sure to cover everything, and Lisa's "You're an idiot!" was too much typicality for me. Ick.
Sam. Sam earned my respect last season for being kickass, heroic, and a self-sacrificing object of Dean angst, but for this whole episode he acted like a jackass so we're back to square one. And he was SO blasé about everything, about him being back and leaving Dean in the dark and cutting himself with that knife. He's self-possessed and un-Sam-like in his insensitivity. It was supremely irritating. AND HIS HAIR STILL LOOKS RIDICULOUS. At the end of the episode, he recants his wish for Dean to have a normal life and asks him to just head back out. WTF jackass? As if this whole episode was not about how much Dean cares about Lisa and Ben? And when did Sam care so much about hunting, anyway? Sam doesn't like hunting, not the way Dean does. Er, did. For the most of the series, Sam's been on the road with his brother with a specific goal to achieve. To get Dean out of his deal. To kill Lillith and stop the apocalypse. To save the world from Lucifer and Michael's showdown. Sam and Dean haven't been hunting for the hell of it since Season 2 -- as Dean reminds us in Two Minutes to Midnight. Now he's getting off gallivanting with his little team? And he's into them because they're family. WTF SAM DOESN'T CARE ABOUT FAMILY, REMEMBER?
Ben is mondo underused. He was awesome in 3x02 being witty and adorable and awesome when he helped Dean get the kids out of the cages. But now he's older and less able to rock the cute factor, and was anybody else like, "LOLZ voice change!" when he said his two lines? His character was a major placeholder for this episode -- he's important, but he doesn't get any screentime even though other characters talk about him a lot. Kind of like Mary Winchester, actually. But we know the kid can keep up! He's awesome as a little mini-Dean, and he deserves more lines.
Bad scene cuts. Quiet, underplayed reunion scene and then Dean says, "You gotta take me home right now!" Suddenly the dramatic music is playing and we're supposed to be tense and freaked? OMG FAIL. Worst shift ever! Slightly redeemed by Dean's adorable hugging, but come on. And WTF they don't even show Sam rescuing Dean from the djinn? Suddenly they're just walking in daylight and Dean's fine and dandy, and shows no aftereffects from his "double dose". Lameness, and just poor attention to detail in general.
Bad, bad writing. Sam and Dean's dialogue scenes especially. It's all Dean asking, "What, why?" and Sam just blowing him off. Their conversation didn't feel right at all. Maybe it's the gap and the distance that a year put between them, but their chemistry was all screwy and let me tell you, my sympathies were not with Sam. The closing scene was the worst part of the whole episode. Talk about stilted, badly flowing conversation! "And that's exactly why I want you. You just went. You didn't hesitate, because you care, and that's who you are." UGH. That is straight up bad writing and it's all on you, Sera Gamble. You are better than this crap. RAWR.
Dean's hallucination. The way they shot it was très unusual for SPN -- it was way more in the vein of True Blood, actually, but I liked it. Interesting creative decision! New, different, but done pretty well. The vision played great in plot development; it drew on Dean's fundamental issues with family and Yellow Eyes, and it effectively tied down his attachment to Lisa and Ben. If we have more cool shots/effects like this one it'll be great cinematic evolution for the show.
Lisa's leather jacket. Lisa is a yoga instructor, and the show has been pretty good with showing her in track jackets and sweat pants when she's just chilling (I noticed that purple sweatshirt in the breakfast scene, A+). She also wears cute sundresses/nightgowns when she represents Dean's domestic dream girl. So the leather racer jacket she's wearing for this episode really stands out. As you recall, Ruby wore a gray racer-style leather jacket for Season 3 (while she was still morally gray!). For Season 4 it was black (when it becomes clear that she is a corrupting influence). I always really, really loved this about Ruby and SPN's costume choices in general. Lisa's jacket is brown. It could mean a lot of things. Firstly, she is Dean's girl now, so it would make sense for her to have a jacket that matched his. And she knows about hunting and monsters and what Dean did at the end of last season; it represents her being "in" to some extent (how much she knows is still unclear). But it could also mean that she's going to get more badass this season and possibly learn more about hunting? She is currently staying at Bobby's. I'm still not sure how I feel about Lisa the hunter, but it would be a cool direction to explore and props to the show if they take it.
Mysterious Cas. Sam's been praying to Cas? And apparently, he's not answering? Hrm. It could be that Sam's lying, which would be cool. Or that Cas is just ignoring Sam, which is also cool. But, um, what about trying to call him? Does his phone not work and/or does he still have one? Neither of them seem to know where he is or what he's been doing. Which leads to the natural conclusion of Awesome Important Angelic Business, Being the New Sheriff and/or Finding God, For Real This Time. Which is awesome. It also means that Dean and Cas haven't been in contact - sadface - but it's good, because Cas would not have put up with the nonsense of hiding Sam from Dean.
Djinn girl is kidnapped! Samuel says, "Get her in the van, quick now before the boys get back." Well, well! The Campbells are doing stuff behind Dean and Sam's backs, or Dean's at least. Yes! What exactly are they going to do with her? Torture? I've heard some people say that the Djinn antidote is made from actual Djinn, which sounds gross and pretty freaking awesome.
Um, they did not address Sam's mysterious appearance at the end of the finale AT ALL. Which was the burning question we fretted over all summer. WTF REMEMBER THE EXPLODING LIGHT? So, are we just supposed to assume... what, exactly? I'm still in favor of Samifer but things remain unclear.
The new opening. It is cool, but there's no white like there was for the last two seasons. For Season 4 we had flashing black and white with red text: heaven, hell, and blood. It also has that flapping wing sound we associate with the arrival of angels. Season 5's all-white opening streaked with red was definitely indicative of the greater angelic focus of the story arc, the all-important demon blood consumption and the role of Croatoan. It was backed with Enochian whispers, too. This new opening is that mysterious blue and it's backed with these weird growl sounds. Which is probably reflecting this purported focus on monsters and pull back from angel politics -- something I am NOT happy about.
Random new characters. They did this in Season 2 when they brought in Ash, Jo, and Ellen, who were all a little awkward at first and similarly transparent in their new-season-direction/development add-on-ness. I even remember the tagline the promos used, "There are more of us." So, yeah, it's been done before and we all grew to love Jo and Ellen and Ash. Admittedly they were more charming (nothing says adorable like Ash snoozing on a pool table) and less weird/quiet that these random Campbells, but they were still plopped down in the beginning of the season and turned out to be awesome later.
Misha Collins is still a regular! We know Cas doesn't show up until episode 6x03, which is a long wait, but he is very much a part of SPN and what makes it awesome. The missing Cas is a BIG PART of why this episode was kind of so-so. I have faith that once Cas returns things will absolutely pick up. Weird things have been said about where his storyline is going this year, but even Kripke-less the show wouldn't stupid enough to fuck with his character too much. Cas is the fangirl darling and SPN respects its audience.
Premiere syndrome? Season 5 also had a weak opener that was a total shock after the way the last season ended. It was flat, it was full of raw material that would be important for development later (Nick and Lucifer's scenes were SO weird/displaced), and they randomly threw Becky in there. Most notable of all was Cas appearing only in the last five minutes, frustrating the hearts of fangirls everywhere. I'm pretty sure they did this just to dangle him over the fans, so I guess they're taking it to the next level this year. Season 5 didn't fall into a good rhythm until 5x03 Free to Be You and Me, and 6x03 marks the return of Cas so I have good feelings. Mostly.
Sam vs. Samifer. I am ready to overlook Sam being weird and annoying this whole episode because I'm hoping my Season 6 fantasy can still be the pivotal plot arc, that Sam coming back is a trick and it's actually Samifer in there. I swear Sam was giving Lucifer face the whole time! And there were two times his lines sounded funny -- he starts a sentence in reverse, "Had I..." instead of "If I had..." and he says "We were certain" instead of "We were sure," which we can chalk up to more bad writing (please no) or the Lucifer syntax poking out. Mark Pelligrino did a terrific job as Lucifer, infusing his character with this eerie grace, so if Sam is channeling that I'll be quite pleased. Plus, he cut and tested himself. Set up! Most suspicious of all, when Dean offered the keys to the Impala (symbolic! symbolic!)
All in all, um, not so happy. But there's hope, right? Yeah.