​ "Stranger in a Strange Land" – Supernatural S14E01 Review

So Michael is in Dean's body, and Sam doesn't got him.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" picks up where Season 13 ended. The Apocalypse World refugees, including Bobby (Jim Beaver) and Maggie, made it to the Winchesters' Earth (Earth-W?). Michael made it to Earth-W, Dean (Jensen Ackles) offered to let the archangel possess his body if Michael would fight Lucifer, and Michael did. He stabbed Lucifer with an archangel-killing blade, but then left in Dean's body.

The episode starts with Michael approaching a seemingly-devout Muslim man, Jamil (Shafin Karim). Michael asks what Jamil wants, but when Jamil says "love and peace", Michael points out Jamil left his friends to die in Syria and cheated on his wife. The archangel figures that Jamil isn't worth saving and... end scene.

The other two times we see Michael, first he's talking to Sister Jo, aka the angel Anael (Daneel Ackles) and asking her what she wants. She claims to want expensive human things, but Michael points out she's lying and she's just a sad pathetic angel. The other time... we'll get to that.

Back at the Men of Letters bunker, Maggie (Katherine Evans) is tending to a refugee Hunter who had a run-in with a vampire. Sam (Jared Padalecki) is grimmer than usual after a trip to Atlanta where he failed to find Dean, and Castiel and Ketch are in Detroit and London respectively looking for leads on Dean's whereabouts. Bobby is training Jack (Alexander Calvert) in boxing since Jack lost his powers when Lucifer took his grace.

It turns out Lucifer is still around... or at least his host body, Nick (Mark Pellegrino). Mary (Samantha Smith) can't stand to be near him, but Sam is okay with Nick and treats his wound. He speculates Michael's weapon killed Lucifer but left his human body intact. Which seems to overlook the fact Crowley recreated Lucifer's body so it shouldn't be human or much of anything. Maybe they'll explain that later. Maybe they'll tie in the fact there's a "kill the possessing entity, leave the human body and mind intact" weapon out there when it comes time to destroy Michael and save Lucifer.

Castiel (Misha Collins) goes to what it appears to be a combination BBQ and bar to talk to a demon, Kipling (Dean Armstrong) and threaten him for information. It turns out all of the customers and staff are Kipling's demon minions, they capture Castiel, and Kipling calls Sam and demands a meeting.

Sam, Jack, Maggie, Bobby, and Mary go there and Sam goes in alone. The demons capture Jack and Maggie, and Kipling tells Sam that he wants the "Crowley deal": he provides occasional information and help, and the Winchesters look the other way while he works his way up to King of Hell now that Crowley and Asmodeus are gone. Oddly, Kipling claims he's been a demon for 600 years. But then says that he rode with Genghis Khan and his Ye Olde Jolly Ruler thing is just a façade to impress the minions who liked Crowley. Genghis died in 1227, so that's almost 800 years ago. And Kipling doesn't look particularly Mongolian.

Mary and Bobby come in shooting and after a big fight where Jack and Maggie prove useless, Sam kills Kipling and tells the minions there ain't gonna be a King of Hell on his watch. They wisely get the hell out of dodge and go back to Hell.

Back at the bunker, an off-screen unheard Ketch calls Sam and tells him that he couldn't find the Men of Letters device that drove Lucifer out of the President's body. Jack is all upset that he was useless but Castiel assures him they solve everything because they're a family. Mary and Bobby share beers and congratulate each other on kicking ass. And Michael shows up for the third time to chat with the person he found that he can work with: a vampire.

It's an interesting start to a Supernatural season. Dean isn't Dean and isn't with Sam. That gives us a chance to see Team Winchester and we get some focus on Mary and Jack as teammates rather than plot devices. Castiel doesn't seem to have much to do, other than stumble into an ambush. Jim Beaver is good ole Bobby, slipping back into the role of grumpy old man. He even gets in an "Aw, balls". Maggie is pretty much useless, but we don't get to find out if she's as bothered by it as Jack is. She can't fight, she can't hack traffic cams: all she can do is pull out vampire fangs from wounds.

Jensen Ackles does a complete 180 playing Michael rather than Dean. The body language, the diction, everything is completely different. It's nice to see Ackles get a chance to shine. Padalecki gets to play Sam as a team leader rather than the younger partner in a supernatural-fighting duo. Yes, it's been 14 seasons since Sam was a newbie, but he's still been played as the "younger brother". Putting him in charge of Team Winchester gives him some different notes to hit. His "get the hell out of my town"-type speech to the demons is something that he's done rarely in the past, if at all.

The creative team tosses in several dangling plot threads that look like they could run at least part of the season. Is Lucifer really gone for good? Whether he is or not, what part does Nick/Lucifer have to play with Team Winchester? And what is Michael's plan? Nick "remembers" Michael telling Lucifer he wants a second chance to do things right. Using vampires as field soldiers seems an odd place to start. Vampires have never been that threatening on Supernatural. Even with Michael fighting by their side--although he doesn't seem to be the field officer type--or giving them an angelic power boost, they're hardly Big Bad season-length threats. So presumably we'll get a few episodes of vampires until Michael finds someone else to recruit.

Also Jo calls Sam to warn her about Michael. She was working with Lucifer last season: what does she do now? We've seen angels before that like the good life on Earth. Heck, Kipling acts like that this episode, ahhing over coffee and calling Sam "My Beyonce". The team already has an angel, do they need another one?

There's also the current Sam/Dean rift, or Sam/Michael rift, or whatever you want to call it. It's hard to imagine a full season of the Winchesters apart from each other. Yes, Team Winchester without Dean is interesting. but it's hard to believe they're going to keep Dean on ice for a full season. So once they restore him (probably in time for the mid-season finale), what then?

Hey, that's half the fun of Supernatural: watching them go one way and then turn the wheel and take an abrupt corner. It wouldn't be the first season to do it, and as long as the actors and creative team want to stick with the show, Season 14 won't be the last season to probably do it.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Oct 12, 2018

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