Welcome back!! You knocked it out of the park! \o/
Lots of Love
I think I can safely say that is my fave season opener after 2.01 (In My Time of Dying). I know 4.01 (Lazarus Rising) is pretty damn awesome too, but as it was the beginning of a season of secrecy between Sam and Dean I think I'd put that slightly behind this one.
This episode had a lot to achieve in a very short time. I'm happy to say that it not only achieved everything it had to, but it achieved it all so damn well. It was wonderfully paced and deftly crafted. There was an underlying sense of urgency and yet it never felt rushed. It even managed to get in some humour. I am so proud of my show!!
I think the biggest challenge was the re-introduction of Mary. It really needed to be handled sincerely and meaningfully for it to ring true. And it did. In fact, I thought it was beautifully handled. Sam Smith's performance was a stand out. She had a constant air of confusion and fear about her - mixed with an almost child-like bewilderment of the new world. She had to absorb so much in a short amount of time. It could have easily been melodramatic, but the script, directing and acting ensured it never tipped over into that. I wiped away a tear a number of times during her touching scenes with Dean.
I like that we got some extra backstory between herself and John. I also like that it suggests that John shared those stories with Dean, which paints a nice picture of some shared time between father and son. Of course, we have no idea the manner in which John told him, but I'll probably fanon that it was over a shared beer as they watched the sunset.
Jensen gave Dean a good mix of disbelief and then relief
at having Mary back. The chemistry between Jensen and Samantha was strong - you could see shades of "little boy" when Dean was around her. Dean's "I know we make the world a better place" was perfect. So good to hear him be positive again. (And how wonderful is it to have Dean is back - not possessed, or under any influence (Mark, Amara etc) - it's Dean, as Dean! \o/).
And then we got Dean's awesome trademark badass determination once he knew Sam was missing. I love how this totally contrasts the last time Dean knew Sam was being held (when he was uncaring demon!Dean).
In fact, I love just how different this torture scene is compared to the one with Cole in the beginning of S10. These tortured Sam scenes were so much more poignant. It wasn't just torture for the sake of it, it was used in such a way that showed us more of Sam's character (and how damn hard were those scene to watch?! You know I'm a hurt!Sam fan, but wow... they were so difficult for me. I wanted to turn away a few times...).
Jared's performance was stellar. He balanced the mix of fear, vulnerability and stubborn determination perfectly. It was so heartbreaking - knowing he's been here many times before. He's no stranger to torture *sob*. Even with the knowledge that Dean is dead, he's fighting on. He was able to fight through the hallucinations because he knew that's exactly what they were. It was reminiscent of his hallucinations in When the Levee Breaks and of course the ones he had post Lucifer's cage. We saw Sam's current state of mind - the way he blames himself for all those deaths. We also saw clever and resourceful Sam, tricking Toni into thinking he'd killed himself (I gasped out loud at that moment).
I was puzzled why Sam didn't make sure Toni was definitely out cold before he tried to escape, but I reconcile that with his state of mind and what he's had to endure to that point. Even though he could have (and probably should have) killed her, he's still the Sam that hold back on killing humans. And that final shot of Sam alone on the stairs has to be the most heartbreaking moment in the episode. He's so totally alone and knows that no one will come to help him. I seriously hope all this hurt is matched with some comfort in the coming episodes. Sammy needs it!
I even liked Toni! I know I know. She was horrible - but she was a really interesting horrible. She wasn't portrayed as a cardboard cutout villain. She's been given some interesting layers. I am curious who Mr Catchit (something like that?) is - someone she is clearly terrified of (saying she never wants that psychopath near her again). She's seen as a loving mother and yet has such disregard for human life. We often got her point of view watching Sam with (almost?) admiration. Most definitely curiosity. I think there could be some really interesting story lines ahead for her and the BMoL (I think she's been indoctrinated into this life without a opportunity to see things differently - maybe Sam and Dean will show her (them?) that you can be a hunter without being totally soulless. We'll see.
Cas was back to being badass, but his abilities were a little mystifying. I assumed that his fall meant he wasn't fully powered - but he did zap the guy in the truck in the beginning, so he had some juice. I wondered way he didn't use some angel juice to fight the BMoL thug? I am going to assume those magic knuckle dusters prevented angel juice and gave he extra strength (a very cool weapon!). I really enjoyed the badass women in this episode.
Crowley hunting for Lucifer felt a little like an amusing interlude. The "teenage girl" demon certainly made me chuckle.
I really liked the balance of all the characters. It's an absolute given that the show needs some series regulars to help spread the load of the Js. If they balance it out, like they did in this episode, I'll be pretty satisfied with that.
The fabulous use of music (*guh* that last song - "Solitude" by Black Sabbath).
The snappy editing of the opening sequence. Great summing up of S11.
Mary's reaction to the car.
Dean realising she's remembering the fun times her and John had in the back seat *g*
Toni's "We want to make America safe". A nice tie to Trump's slogan (and maybe a nod to their "evil" ways...;D)
The "Mystery Spot" billboard Cas crashed through in his landing.
The little moments of stillness - Dean and Mary on the bench, the final scene of the Impala driving away and Sam on the step.
Great cinematography as always.
So. A really strong start to the season. I can't wait for next week. I can't stand the thought of poor Sam being left alone in that hell hole.