‘Supernatural’ is back with Demon Dean and antiquated technology

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After a season 9 that was full of angst, high hopes, and low expectations from a long-jaded fandom, Season 10 of Supernatural rolled in tonight with the first episode and an exciting premise: Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) has been turned into a demon in order to save his life, and his brother has no idea where he is. […]

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After a season 9 that was full of angst, high hopes, and low expectations from a long-jaded fandom, Season 10 of Supernatural rolled in tonight with the first episode and an exciting premise: Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) has been turned into a demon in order to save his life, and his brother has no idea where he is.

In theory this poses all kinds of interesting possibilities. For the first time since the series began, Dean is the brother who’s dealing with an evil demon possessing him (or at least trying to). Among the many questions Demon!Dean poses is the issue of what happens to a human soul when it undergoes possession. Obviously we all want Dean’s soul to still be around, but what shape will it be in when we see it again? It would be awesome if Dean’s experience causes him to question himself and his worldview on demons as the things it’s his job to kill. Unfortunately, since this is SPN, that might be unlikely.

So how did tonight’s episode, “Black,” deal with all those issues? We’ve got the recap below.

The episode opens with an extremely dark Sam torturing a demon for info on Crowley and Dean. The toll Dean’s absence has taken on Sam is extremely noticeable. Jared Padalecki looks his age for maybe the first time in history. Demon!Dean, ever devoted to his kid bro, took the time to leave him a note at some point begging him to let him go, which is straight out of approximately 8 million fanfics. Meanwhile Castiel is clearly dying because of his fading stolen grace from last season, and Sam is almost too obsessed with finding Dean to feel bad about it. Sam and Castiel enjoy a heartfelt late-night phone call, but they’re both talking about Dean, so don’t expect anyone to be jumping ship from Wincest or Destiel for Samstiel any time soon, especially given that they bond over how much they miss him.

Dean’s off doing what demons do, which is apparently singing bad karaoke, playing bar games, and rescuing damsels in distress. So basically he’s himself but with worse taste in music and an even lower voice register. I know, I didn’t think that was possible either.

Next there’s an awkward moment where Hannah the angel is unprepared to deal with Cas’s shirtlessness. Don’t go there, show, it’s too soon for another Meg. Hannah shows up to tell Cas that the angels need his leadership. She wants his help but Cas is wearing business suits now and clearly isn’t himself. He says yes anyway so it’s off to heaven.

Sam, in his investigative role, spots Dean at a gas station holdup where he watches Dean get jumped by some of Abaddon’s groupies. He’s still carrying around Cain’s sword and for some reason even though Sam knew Crowley spirited Dean away, he didn’t know about the demon thing. Whoops. Demon!Dean does the black-eyed thing and then we’re at the commercial break. 

Can we just all admit how much fun Jensen is clearly having as Deanmon? The hilarious part is that Regular!Dean is only a step away from Evil!Dean.

A guy with a cereal box family and a home gym gets a Grave Message delivered via fax, which is so anachronistic I’m totally thrown. It’s a printout of Dean’s convenience store mug shot. Dude, they couldn’t have just uploaded that shit?

Hannah and Cas banter over car sickness and everyone misses Destiel and the Impala for that matter. She confronts him about dying, and he refuses to take action because it would mean killing another angel. She gets huffy and flounces. At least he’s back in the trench coat.

Sam hunts for info on Dean and gets stuck with a really snarky extra who’s trying hard to be memorable. He gives him the phone of the guy Dean killed and Sam uses it to call Crowley. 

Crowley finally gives us the scoop on what’s up with Dean’s soul. Turns out, unless Crowley is lying, Dean’s soul is his and his alone, “twisted and mangled beyond all human recognition” but his.

Crowley taunts Sam by talking about how great his new friendship with Dean is, because he knows nothing threatens any character on SPN as much as male intimacy. Sam vows to save his bro like eight times and does that huffy thing where he breathes really hard through his nose.

Castiel and Hannah arrive at a stream where a dude named Daniel is fly-fishing. He’s so serene it’s particularly creepy, so his metaphorical speech about trout attempting to free themselves is totally lost on me because I’m thinking about how creepy angels are. Daniel goes on a rant about how he’s ironically trapped in America, the land of the free, and Hannah cuts him off and votes to kill him. For the first time I like her.

Back at the bar, which seems to be Deanmon’s permanent habitat, just like old Dean, Crowley is feeling stifled and Dean is clearly muffling an existential crisis. Crowley wants them to move the party to Hell but Dean isn’t having it. I gotta say, Deanmon! Dean is so much like old Dean it’s not making the impact it otherwise could have. Crowley pulls his trump card and tells him Sam is coming there to meet him, so it’s either give Crowley what he wants and skedaddle or make Dean face family. Dean is pissed.

That night Sam is driving down the road when his car dies and the bench-pressing fax owner from before stops him and knocks him unconscious. He accomplishes this so easily you wonder if Sam is even trying at this point. Man, everybody’s slumping except for Dean, who is drinking and singing more bad karaoke. I hope the S10 dvd extras have a whole hour of bad karaoke. The blonde chick Dean shagged and then protected earlier is back to cuddle him when he wakes up. She tells him his tendency to beat goonies into a pulp clearly has nothing to do with protecting her and everything to do with his own issues. Dean counters by implying she’s disposable and he’d sleep with whatever came along, and she trots out this line:

“Now see? I’m so screwed up myself I’m gonna walk out if here thinking I actually deserved that.”

Gee, thanks for that, Supernatural. At this point we all stop and remember the “on a good day, you get to kill a whore” line and remember why we can never fully place our trust in this show. Still, this is more self-awareness and refusal to participate in Dean’s constant pity party than we’ve seen from a female character in a while, even if she is just here for an episode.

Cas and Hannah meet up with another angel, Angelina. Even though Castiel clearly sympathizes with them, things get out of hand and they wind up killing them instead. Oops.

The dude who has Sam hostage tells him he and Dean go way back. “Now he’s prey,” he says. I like this guy. Sam tells him to go back to the Army recruit poster he came from. Aww, who am I kidding, I ship it. People are already calling him Fax Machine Guy on Tumblr (I knew it).

Hannah and Cas debate whether to report the angels they killed. Cas gives a pretty speech about faith, hope, and love, and Hannah calls him on having turned into a human. Cas is like, yep. I can literally hear the Destiel shipper meltdown happening on Tumblr.

The guy who’s got Dean calls him from Sam’s phone and does the typical bad guy taunting thing. Dean, who’s finally left the bar with Crowley, doesn’t do the typical Dean thing and fly into a rage and drop everything to come after him, but he does promise to hunt Fax Machine Guy down and kill him. Then he adds that Sam will know he means it, because he knows “If I am one thing, I am a man of my word.”

OK, Dean and Sam haven’t even talked yet and they’re already planning to kill for each other. This is unexpectedly compelling.  I’m into it, especially the Broody McBrooderson act Dean pulls as he drives on.

All in all, this was a pretty positive opening for the season—seriously light on plot but high on fanservice. If it’s a harbinger of things to come it means we can expect plenty of unsubtle brotherly and angel/human angst. The biggest surprise for me is how unchanged Dean seems overall—Crowley’s statement that his soul is twisted beyond all recognition just seems like trolling. The episode’s title, “Black,” is clearly meant to be about more than the color of Dean’s new demon eyes, but this aspect of the show falls extremely flat, much like angel Daniel’s attempts to proselytize about free will. Still, the stakes are high enough that things should be interesting from here on out.

The fandom’s reactions seem similar to mine, with viewers divided over whether Demon!Dean is too similar to old!Dean or whether Wincest or Destiel is getting more love from creators. I’m just ready for the next episode.

And maybe to find out whether Fax Machine Guy also keeps his demon contacts in a Rolodex.

Screengrab via Netflix

Aja Romano

Aja Romano

Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.