Supernatural returns for its 14th (!!!) season on Thursday, October 11. Hypable previewed the premiere “Stranger in a Strange Land”, so if you want to know what we know, read on.

Spoiler Warning: This article contains generalized spoilers for the Supernatural season 14 premiere. If you do not wish to be spoiled at all, do not read this article in advance of the airdate.

When we left our heroes back in May, they were not in the greatest shape. Jack had just been drained of his grace by his abusive biological father Lucifer, who the Winchesters managed to slay, at long last.

However, to do so, Dean had to allow himself to become the Michaelsword – the very destiny he’d spent about ten seasons saying a hearty eff you to. Castiel, begging Dean not to consent after all this time, was left behind shellshocked at the Bunker, and Sam looked on in horror as the Apocalypse Archangel Michael broke his one-time-only for-the-greater-good handshake deal with Dean, and took off with his perfect vessel.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Bunker became the home base for about thirty hunter refugees from the Apocalypse World, including alternate versions of Bobby and Charlie.

Season 14 picks up about three weeks after the fact, with Michael on the lam and Sam mobilizing his handy new army in order to both track down his brother and stay on top of the necessary regular monster hunting. The official synopsis for Supernatural 14×01 reads:

ALL HANDS ON DECK – Sam enlists everyone’s help in trying to track down Dean, who can literally be anywhere. Meanwhile, Castiel may be in over his head after meeting up with an unreliable source. After being drained of his grace in season 13, Jack is adjusting to life as a human, learning new skills and figuring out how he fits in to this world of hunters. Thomas J. Wright directed the episode written by Andrew Dabb.

“Stranger in a Strange Land” is not quite a standard season premiere, but then, Supernatural is not a quite a standard show. Supernatural has always blended arcs together as part of a massive whole – there are no neatly bookended Buffy or Teen Wolf-esque seasons on this show, just one truly tied-together story that plays almost as a single 300-episode “season.”

That’s why it is not necessarily a bad thing to recognize that “Stranger” is, itself, somewhat slow – pacing is a long-game factor when it comes to Supernatural. This show breathes. It takes its time. In this case, the premiere’s stasis mirrors the reality that both Sam and Michael have been living these past few weeks – painting the audience a picture of the false starts, the persistent drudgery, working towards their respective aims with no real results. And of course, a breakthrough is offered for each respective party at the close: now we can begin in earnest.

If you need to know more, right now, in order to prepare yourself for Supernatural’s Thursday return, here are 14 special observations from our advance viewing of “Stranger in a Strange Land.”

  1. The song chosen for season 13’s ‘The Road So Far’ recap is by a band or artist who’s provided the soundtrack of least one Road So Far of yore. In a fun twist, its use is diegetic, transitioning from the montage to the Impala’s radio, which Sam then shuts off. (Yes, despite varying reports, Sam is definitely behind the wheel in Dean’s absence.)
  2. The season 14 title card features a very specific image, rather than a more abstract pattern. It’s a bit of a redux of a previous title card, and given how that particular season played out, this one offers up some very interesting implications about the season’s plot and themes.
  3. Dean Winchester has been banished from Jensen Ackles’ performance in a way that surpasses even the highest expectations. Despite getting to break down a Michael sneak peek with the man himself at SDCC, it was shocking that discover that – for me, at least – there was zero cognitive dissonance seeing Ackles in this way. My acceptance of Ackles’ Michael was instant, and Dean’s absence was much less jarring than anticipated. Also, Michael seems to have found every single consonant that Dean dropped over the years, and as expected, Michael has access to all of Dean’s knowledge and memories. No update so far on when or why Michael took his shopping trip with Tommy Shelby.
  4. A huge team of new hunters gaining access to the resources of a place like the Men of Letters Bunker equals one VERY well-stocked arsenal, and a whole bunch of potential to see Sam and Mary’s season 12 MoL/hunter coalition aims done right. Sam, despite stress and sleeplessness, is an excellent general, implementing strategy on the fly, and despite the dire circumstances, the dynamic between him and his troops is positive and efficient. Jared Padalecki walks away with this episode’s MVP trophy easily: Sam shines taking charge. He’s clever, capable, and compassionate, and command looks very good on him.
  5. Castiel’s “unreliable source” is Kip, a Crowley wannabe who has some lofty ambitions and takes some extreme liberties. Guest star Dean Armstrong is as flirty and flamboyant as can be, a fantastic foil to Misha Collins’ patented, withering “1000% done” modus operandi, but Kip openly admits that the behavior is an affectation, as demonkind seem to believe this is the way to win over the Winchesters. He takes Cas hostage in order to get to Sam and basically asks for Sam’s blessing to become the new King of Hell. This goes about as well for him as you’d expect, but the incident does leave lingering questions about the power structure downstairs.
  6. Katherine Evans as Maggie (the young Apocalypse World refugee we met in several episodes of season 13) may prove to be important, so keep an eye on her. She’s the most heavily featured new character and joins the core group on their mission to rescue Cas.
  7. A particular part of the Bunker (one oft-mentioned in fandom) is seen for the first time, and if this room recurs, it’ll be a great setting for the staging of various angst-filled moments, so fingers crossed we get to keep it! A hint: it’s immediately reminiscent (both in style and function) of a regular location in the post-college seasons of Buffy.
  8. A type of monster is that has not been heard about since season 1 is mentioned.
  9. The episode plants at least two smoking guns – things that could be used to save Dean or vanquish Michael. One is mentioned for the specific reason that has this potential, which means it probably won’t be the one. The other hasn’t occurred to the team in that context, which means it might be a winner.
  10. When Michael meets Anael, or Sister Jo as she still prefers, you’ll see what angels inside vessels look like to one other. Whether this is akin to an angel’s vessel-free Chrysler-Building-sized “true form” is unclear, but the “angelvision” explains how angels are always able to recognize each other’s true identities when meeting in new vessels.
  11. It might be just me, but it sure vibes like Mary Winchester and Bobby Singer 2.0 are already doin’ the do. If not, well, it’s definitely not an unentertained idea for either of them. Subtext, y’all.
  12. The (non-sexy) bonds formed between Jack, Bobby and Mary in the months we barely glimpsed in Apocalypse World are strongly lent upon and depicted as extremely established in rather moving ways, and the whole family group – Sam, Cas, Mary, Jack and Bobby – are all uber-supportive of one another, communicating clearly with lots of perceptive observation and open dialogue about how they feel. There’s a particular chat between Sam and Cas at the close of the episode that very much harkens back to some particular similarities between them that I mentioned in my recent exploration of Team Free Will.
  13. Just as Alexander Calvert’s delicate performance in season 13 could have wobbled off the knife-edge of adorably innocent into annoyingly cheesy but never did, here, Calvert shoulders the massive task of making Jack mourn his powers without making him appear to be power-hungry. Jack, frustrated and helpless, reacts to his downgrade in a way that comes across as selfless rather than bratty, with no shades of any sort of superiority complex or condescension, even though, on paper, he’s effectively hating on himself for only having the capacity of a mere weak human. Jack’s struggle to identify his worth when it’s not defined by his usefulness is clearly going to create a ripple effect that causes others, particularly Castiel, to reflect on similar things.
  14. Finally, have fourteen random yet significant words without any context whatsoever: Darlene. Chief. Detroit. Love. Everything. Anything. Gandhi. Chanel. Beyoncé. Pointy. Sunshine. First. Unknown. Pure.

‘Supernatural’ returns October 11, 8/7c on The CW

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