There is a... challenge in goodness, a difficulty in being good. There's the vagueness, of course, the uncertainty; it's easy enough to say, "Murder is wrong," but this isn't exactly a challenge that's going to come up often for most of us. So that means making small moral choices every day without being exactly sure you're making the right ones, or even if there is a right one, or if it matters whatever you do. But say you get past that. Say, after years of patience and commitment and compassion, you arrive at a point where you feel reasonably confident that you're a decent person. That's when things get even more frustrating, because just because you have a pretty solid understanding of the difference between right and wrong, that doesn't mean everyone agrees with your understanding. I'm not just talking about minor philosophical points, either; there are going to be people who actively and aggressively object to some of your most treasured values. How do you handle this? How can you accept that there are groups out there dedicated to perpetrating acts that you find abhorrent, groups that will get in your face day after day, that will lobby for political power, attempt to shut down opposition, scream at you for your perceived sins? You can try being polite. You can try being reasonable. But it goes on and on and on, and they just don't stop, and there doesn't seem to be any common ground to meet on. It would be so much easier if you could just make them listen. If you only had the power to make the world a better place.
Welcome back, everybody. It's time for the seventh season of Supernatural, and I won't lie: I'm excited. I always forget how much I enjoy this show when we break for summer. I had plenty of criticisms for last season, which I think was overall too scatter-shot and sloppy to be really effective, but that doesn't mean I didn't dig watching it and writing about, and I was pleased to discover during tonight's episode, "Meet the New Boss," how excited I was to get started again. This is the seventh season, and that's an impressive number, especially for genre shows. Star Trek: The Next Generation ended after season seven, and The X-Files only pulled off a couple more years before going off the air. (And some would argue that show should've ended earlier, anyway.) Seven years is long in the tooth indeed, and what's really cool is how well Supernatural is holding up. Eric Kripke, the series' creator, left after season five, and while last year showed definite signs of wobbling, it wasn't the sort of season you get from a show that's creatively dead. And as premieres go, "New Boss" isn't bad at all. It's a little abrupt in some ways, which has me worried the season will burn through plot too quickly (that sounds silly; given how long Supernatural has been on the air, the writers should have some idea how to pace things, but one of last season's big frustrations was a lot of aimless wandering), but we do get an idea of some of the big problems the Winchesters and their surrogate father Bobby will have to deal with down the road. The episode hit many of the expected beats, from Sam and Dean bickering to magic spell recipes to The Car rising slowly from the dead. In some places, it was maybe a little too familiar, but it's good to have these guys back on my television.
At the end of last season, Cas had sucked in all the souls from Purgatory in order to defeat Raphael. He won the fight, but then things got awkward when he declared that he was the new God, and demanded that Sam, Dean and Bobby kneel before him and praise his name. "New Boss" picks up right where we left off, and most of the episode is spent watching the fallout of Cas's ascension. As God, he's proactive, which doesn't work out so well for humanity. After basically telling our heroes to stay out of sight and keep their noses clean lest He strike them from their faces, Cas goes on the warpath, wreaking vengeance on anyone He believes has it coming. This includes hypocritical priests (a lot of these), the Klu Klux Klan (as Dean says, no big loss there), a bunch of New Age transcendentalists, and an incumbent senator and her entire staff. He has various reasons for all of this, but it's notable that he doesn't seem to have much time for non-lethal miracles; apart from healing a blind beggar's sight, Cas is too busy laying waste to brighten anyone's day. Which is what I was getting at in that introductory paragraph above. Cas has never been the brightest bulb in the box. That sells him short; it's not that he's stupid, exactly, just that he was never much for seeing shades of gray. He's not just being good now, in his mind He is Good, and that's a lot of responsibility. Maybe the God who abandoned His creation had a point in doing so. Divine interference is so tempting, but it nearly always ends in blood.
While this is going down, Dean is getting depressed, and Sam is having hallucinations from his time in Hell. It's these middle scenes of the episode between the Winchesters and Bobby that are probably the weakest out of everything. A lot of this is going over old ground. I understand the difficulty for writers to find new things for their characters to say when they're once again facing the same basic situation they always seem to be facing: a catastrophe so huge they can't possibly stop it without some terrifying, enormous sacrifice. And the dialogue is far from bad. It's just, well, I'd be happy to never have to go through another scene where Dean decides he's going to give everything up and then accuses his brother of hiding something from him, while Sam is still hopeful they can make some kind of change. I'm also not sure that everyone should be calling Death so regularly to handle their problems; one of the reasons his first appearance was so terrific is that it felt like a major, one off event. Much as I like the actor and the character, he shouldn't be this easy to get a hold of. (Between him and Crowley, it sort of felt like "New Boss" was just making a point of cycling through its surviving cast to remind us they were around.)
Still, the episode started and ended strongly enough that an occasionally sluggish mid-section wasn't too painful to endure. Sam's hallucinations are very effective, and that they culminated in the return of Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino again), a phantom that effectively questions Sam's grip on reality, was a clever, unsettling choice. And while I'm a little disappointed that the threat of Cas the God was resolved so abruptly, I can't say I'm that upset about it. Cool as the idea of a former friend going crazy on soul food is, I'm not sure how many stories they could've told this year if Cas was the Big Bad. One of the bigger problems the show has had over the last few seasons is a need to keep topping its threats, and at some point, you have to draw a line; Cas was so powerful, and so quick to arrive whenever the Winchesters got to close to screwing with him, that it would strain credibility if he kept showing up, giving some speech on how they need to love him, and then disappear again. (That said, I could've seen a season where he basically hired the Winchesters in the same way he hired Crowley, to do some of his dirty work.) Plus, I'm still not completely convinced in the characterization of a power-mad Cas. It works enough for the short time it needed to, and now its apparently over, and we've got a new threat: Leviathan. (Leviathans? Or is the name inherently plural?) We've also got Cas in full on Joker mode, which should be interesting, and Sam's run off to be tormented by his brain demons. Seems like everybody's being controlled by something bad these days. It's hard to be good, but man, being bad seems like it's a little too easy.
- I'm trying to remember, are there any recurring female characters left alive on the show? There certainly weren't any in this episode.
- Any hopes for season seven? I'm keeping fingers crossed we'll get some solid Monster of the Week stuff again.
- "Tell your flock where your genitals have been before you speak for me."
- Shot of Crowley with the souls in his stomach trying to break free: cheesy or cool? Or both? (It reminded me a little of a Nightmare On Elm Street sequel.)
- "I'm not sure new Cas gets irony any better than old Cas."
- It's probably for the best that Cas gets possessed almost immediately after releasing the souls. He killed hundreds of people. I'm not sure he can really atone for that, soul-drunk or not.