Supernatural's Season 8 premiere had a lot in common with its Season 4 premiere. Or was it Season 6? Gosh, these Winchester boys end up in other dimensions so often its hard to keep things straight. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” brought the basic requirements for a Winchester resurrection/reunion—including MAN HUGS—and demonstrated that one Winchester is human and one Winchester inevitably resents the other for some slight committed while he was dead or missing or whatever we’re going to call it this time around. Missing? Missing sounds good. For all intents and purposes, Dean was technically alive the entire time he was in Purgatory, though I’d love some more detail on just what being alive (or dead) in Purgatory entailed. We saw Dean slaughtering some vampire souls, but since they were SOULS, does that mean they came back to life later? Regenerating like some annoying video game baddie?
We met Benny the Friendly (for now) Vampire and watched Dean stick Benny’s soul back into his body upon returning to Earth, which confirmed that Benny was definitely dead during his time in Purgatory. But since Benny’s body didn’t go to Purgatory with him like Dean’s did, Dean could very well be facing an entirely different set of rules. However, after a year in what basically amounts to endless wilderness, Dean was looking pretty well groomed, which made absolutely no sense unless he ditched the meatsuit months ago. But then there’s always the Hell approach to the passage of time, right?
Right. Okay. So. Dean Winchester, freshly spewed from his never-ending hunting trip in Purgatory via a handy-dandy humans-only portal (really?), hitchhiked to Louisiana to reunite his new BFF Benny with his bones. They decided to part ways for a bit and Dean met up with Sam for his complimentary resurrection man hug. The entire sequence of testing Sam’s human pedigree was a nice wink toward those of us who have literally seen this process, like, three times now. Dean ended up testing himself for Sam’s benefit when Sam insisted that it was unnecessary, that he could tell that it was really Dean. Oh Sam, methinks you got soft in your early retirement.
So does Dean. Let’s see: Escape from Hell/Hell/Purgatory? Check. Man hugs? Check. Holy water test? Check. Bring on the resentment. Nothing says "Winchester Reunion" like resentment and secrecy.
To be fair to Dean, it is kind of a WTF that Sam didn’t look for him, and I sincerely hope that we get a better reason at some point this season than the whole “we promised not to look for each other” excuse. Like Dean said, that’s never stopped them before. I felt for Sam when he tried to explain that after so many years and so many dead friends and family and the loss of Bobby, followed by the apparent loss of Dean and Castiel, it was just too much to come back from. “Nothing says family quite like the whole family being dead.” Sam has seen what their constant defiance of death has done over the course of the series and at this point, maybe a small part of him is ready to finally accept that “what’s dead should stay dead.”
So while I understand where Dean’s hurt and anger is coming from, I just hope that Sam’s acceptance of his “death” doesn’t become the primary fuel for Dean’s immortal angst this season. To quote my man, comedian Lewis Black, “I don’t have the patience. I don’t have the patience.” You’re reunited. Sam explained himself. He’s sorry. Don’t be dick.
Unfortunately, not only did Sam neglect his Dean duties, he also seemed to ditch the whole hunter thing pretty fast and pretty thoroughly in general. Kevin Tran escaped from Crowley because God showed him how via another tablet, and he repeatedly called Sam for backup—calls that Sam never received. He admitted to occasionally browsing the paper for potential cases, but never followed up on them, which just added more fodder to Dean’s righteous anger.
But again, Sam’s complete abandonment of the hunter lifestyle makes sense. For Dean, hunting has always been a duty that extends beyond the family Winchester. Every hunt is personal. Dean, especially in the early days, embraced his unsung hero status. He knew he saved lives through his actions and every life saved was a tribute to his mother’s memory and a point in his father’s favor.
To Sam, hunting has always been about family, and ONLY family. As a child, he was forced into it, and without the memories of their mother that Dean drew so much strength from, coupled with Sam's rocky relationship with their father, he escaped to Stanford at the first opportunity. When the supernatural encroached on the “family” he had found with Jess, he found his reason to hunt and found that reason constantly strengthened by his loyalty to Dean, Bobby, and Castiel. With Jess’s death essentially avenged and the rest of his family apparently dead, Sam no longer had a reason to hunt. It sounds callous, but frankly, hunting was never about saving strangers for Sam. It was never about being a hero. For Dean, hunting was a duty and an honor. For Sam, it was a penance and an apology.
So despite his six-month head start, Sam and Dean eventually caught up with Kevin in an old church that he’d fortified like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone. However, Crowley'd had his feelers out for those six months and caught up with his former prisoner just as Sam and Dean went knocking. Kevin said that the tablet contained instructions for sealing Hell’s gates permanently, essentially cutting demons off from Earth for good. That's like a hunter’s wet dream and Dean jumped right on board. Sam was a bit of a straggler, but then Crowley killed Kevin’s girlfriend and Sam realized that he had a potential mini-me on his hands.
On a pit stop in the middle of nowhere, Dean took a phone call from Benny, who was feeling nostalgic for the “purity” of Purgatory. Dean reluctantly agreed. Maybe that will end up being our eternal angst this season? We got the implication that Dean did some not nice things in Purgatory and that Benny was a huge help. Despite their team-up ultimately leading to Dean's reunion with Sam, Dean is keeping Benny a secret. Benny is the new Ruby. What do you make of him?
– New title card: I like!
– “Cas didn’t make it.” Yeah, Dean. That doesn’t sound evasive at all. More please!
– I didn’t know if I would like Kevin, but I think I do. Do you?
– So are the Leviathans still a thing or is that over with?
– Kevin said that God helped him escape. By “God” do we mean Chuck? (Please mean Chuck.)
– Right before the flashback to Purgatory, Dean seemed to be utterly confused by the vending machine in front of him. Are we perhaps experiencing difficulty adapting to the real world? Is this what consequences look like? Am I setting myself up for disappointment, as usual? RESPECT THE EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE, YO.
– The fact that the Impala now smells like dog because Sam adopted the one he ran over delights me entirely more than it should. I’m just imagining Dean Febreezing the hell out of the backseat and glaring at Sam the entire time.
– What are your Purgatory theories about all the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff?