by Mieke Trudeau
‘You may not be able to see it, but your way back is right there, you and her. You’re gonna help each other.”
It’s always great to welcome back a favorite TV show after a long summer hiatus, but when a fall premiere kicks off an 11th season, it’s extra special. Supernatural returned in fine form this week, with an episode that managed to intrigue even after all these years. I find it a very good sign that I have a lot of thoughts and questions after watching Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire.
The Darkness is introduced to us in a most interesting way. Adding to the feeling of unknown menace is that the story structure is purposefully playing with time. We don’t really know how long both Sam and Dean were out after being hit with the cloud in the season 10 finale and we first see what happened to each of them in a series of scenes that never quite make clear if we are watching a flashback or current time. Dean ends up inside the cloud that we saw engulf the Impala, where he meets an adult woman who thanks him for releasing her. Emily Swallow plays this scene with an intense stillness and her chemistry with Jensen Ackles as Dean is palpable. Dean later tells Sam that the woman saved him but leaves out that she also said that they will never hurt each other.
From casting spoilers we know that this adult woman is Amara, the embodiment of The Darkness that was unleashed upon the earth when the Mark of Cain left Dean without being passed on to someone else. When we meet Amara later on in the episode however, she is only an infant; born right in the moment the Mark was expelled. Her parents are killed and she is entrusted upon a young inexperienced Deputy.
The name Amara means immortal or eternal, but it also is a form of the Greek name Hemera, as was pointed out to me by someone familiar with the mythology. Hemera was the goddess of day, lifting the mists of darkness every morning to once again bathe the earth in sunlight. The young deputy Jenna Nickerson (Laci J. Mailey) who is tasked with baby Amara’s care, tells Dean: “Joy comes in the morning”; something her grandmother would tell her from her bible studies. The Winchesters assume that what they unleashed is of unspeakable evil, based on what Death told them and what the books said, but Amara is born from darkness and chaos and perhaps cannot be so easily defined in terms of good and evil. She claims to be bound to Dean and she carries the Mark of Cain on her shoulder, both in infant and adult form.
Dean certainly seems very focused on protecting the Baby Amara. Of course giving Dean Winchester a baby to protect brings back all kinds of memories and instincts and it is no wonder that he is ready to fight his way out, guns blazing. Perhaps one of the best moments of the episode is what happens next, when Sam stops him with a powerful speech. He tells Dean that he understands that this is who Dean is, and he will let him be him, but that he also needs to have Dean let Sam be Sam. They used to balance each other perfectly, until that literally went to hell years ago. Sam was always the conscience, the one to see the light and hope, the good in people and monsters alike. He tells Dean that they need to get back to the saving people part of the Winchester family motto. Saving each other is a given; Sam says that even knowing what he knows now, he would save Dean again, in a second; but they also need to save ALL the people, even the ones infected with this rabid spell or virus that The Darkness has unleashed.
Dean visibly softens at Sam’s pleas and lets Sam take the lead with his plan to lure the rabids away so Dean can escape with Jenna and the baby without killing anyone else. Dean indeed gets safely away but the plan backfires when Sam encounters a rabid nurse when he hides and is forced to kill after all, resulting in him getting infected when her blood splashes on him.
It all is very reminiscent of some of the early seasons of the show and the season 2 episode Croatoan in particular. The show has been slowly unspooling the Winchesters story over the past few seasons and it seems that we are at the point where perhaps some of the damage done to the brothers themselves when they were forced apart by the machinations of heaven and hell, can be undone. Most promising is the revelation to Crowley by one his minions that god-awful noises are coming from the cage, that either Lucifer or Michael (Adam who?) is crying out in warning about The Darkness being unleashed. This of course also reminds us that the name Lucifer means “Light Bringer” and that we know someone will be reaching out to Sam in the form of visions.
The balance of dark and light, in the context of Dean and Sam Winchester has always been a theme of Supernatural and I am thrilled to perhaps see it come to a head in the 11th, record breaking season of the show.
I would be remiss to leave out the B and C storylines of Cas and Crowley in the episode entirely, although my thoughts would have to start with “Meanwhile, Cas and Crowley”, which of course is exactly the ongoing problem. Cas is fighting the attack dog spell Rowena put on him and we see him fleeing and hiding from a family of hunters (the regular non-supernatural kind) whose dog he apparantly killed. He seems to be somewhat in control but when he is cornered by police and calls on his fellow angels to help him, he ends up in a dungeon with a bag over his head. I guess heaven is not pleased with our lost angel. Crowley escaped what seemed like his certain death at the end of last season by taking over another (female) vessel temporarily and hiding out in the swinging suburbs having a 70’s style orgy, though with deadly consequences. Here’s hoping Rowena will show up soon and that somehow these stories will be woven together. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to next week’s episode and more of the epic clash between darkness and light.