“Sympathy for the Devil” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
How does the world end? With a bang? With a whimper?
It ends with a Tweet.
The general makeup of a Supernatural fan runs the gamut, anywhere from a fangirl who has figured out Jensen Ackles’s bathroom schedule to the people who catch the show when it’s on but won’t cancel plans for a new episode; however, the one thing they have in common is the universal love they share for the show. The fandom itself is a unity, everyone coming together to express their love for the brilliantly-twisting plotlines, the hilarious one-liners and heartwrenching monologues, and the antics of the beloved actors and actresses that make up this little dark horse of a show.
So when Supernatural fans decided to wage war on Twitter by trending the hashtag #luciferiscoming to promote the Season 5 premiere, I was among their ranks. When I brushed my teeth this morning before work, I tweeted “Good morning everyone! #luciferiscoming.” When I went to lunch, I threw that tag in on the end of a tweet about my meal. And then I saw it; not only was #luciferiscoming on the top trending topics, but so was #Supernatural and several other related terms. We were dominating the Twitterverse— people who had never seen the show were clicking on the hashtags out of curiousity and finding out the adoration and unflinching devotion of tens of thousands of fans all anxiously awaiting to see Lucifer rise on tonight’s premiere episode.
And then came P. Diddy, who, among others, is being blamed for what happened next. Puffy is apparently not a Winchester fan, as he decided to ask his over-a-million-followers fanbase to rise up and tweet “#Godishere” to refute the “Satanists” who had taken over Twitter. Soon enough, the trending top ics were battling for dominance until Twitter itself stepped in and laid the smack down, deleting both hashtags and stating that they didn’t want a “religious war” on their hands.
As the day went on, the celebrities themselves got involved; Traci Dinwiddie and Chad Lindberg both expressed amusement and amazement over the insanity, Fox News and several other news websites reported on “Supernatural” taking over Twitter for the day, and when fan-favorite eccentric Misha Collins himself signed onto his account, he informed everyone that he would be personally declaring war with P. Diddy over his interference on our Twittering fun.
And so the world ended, and the show began amidst the bubble of anticipation that most of us had ridden out all day in a sea of 140-character-induced chaos.
One of the things we were told at San Diego Comic Con 2009 by Eric Kripke was that the show was being done on a tight budget, and that the writers were jokingly calling it the “Wal-Mart Apocalypse”. This had me a little wary, since this is one show that has never skimped on the special effects and flash before; in truth, it has far more advanced special effects and makeup than most shows of its budget could ever dream of being. However, from the opening scene as Dean and Sam clutched their eardrums and Lucifer split the floor wide open with his presence, I was glued to my set. The show didn’t pull any punches; there were horrific scenes of gore and emotional torment throughout the episode, and some of them were honestly a little hard to watch.
When Season 4 ended, I found myself wanting to alternately kick Sam in the shins and shake him until he apologized to Dean for his stupidity. However, this entire episode my heart was completely broken for him. Since the series premiere, Sam has always been portrayed as the ‘softer’ brother, the more sensitive one, who likes to think a problem through while Dean tends to charge in headfirst and recklessly. The one time that Sam decided to be selfish and make decisions for himself, he screwed up royally and destroyed the lives of everyone around him, forever altering the bond between him and Dean. One of the most beautiful things about the show is the way that the writers have managed to develop each character as the seasons go on, taking them from two-dimensional archetypes and not only breathing life into them, but then taking everything you as a fan know about them, smashing it to bits, and gluing it back together in all the wrong order.
Last season, Sam was arrogant and overconfident, his fragile ego reinforced with steel by the constant needling and taunting by his demonic lover Ruby. This season, not only has Sam been knocked down a peg by her betrayal and the consequences of it, but he has been bitchslapped off the ladder completely and is now flat on his back at the bottom. He is apologetic, sincere, and for the first time in many months, he is the Sam Winchester that we know and love. He has changed, sure; there is something in his eyes, a terrible tragedy and the knowledge that he is forever tainted in his brother’s eyes. Jared Padalecki does an incredible job of advancing Sam in this way; gone is the happy-go-lucky research and faithful sidekick we first met as an undergrad student at Stanford. We are now faced with a strong young man who has done terrible things and made impossible choices, who carries quite literally the weight of the apocalypse on his shoulders. This transformation is phenomenal and leaves so much potential for growth and development as the show progresses this season.
Likewise are the remarkable changes we see in Castiel, the stoic Angel of the Lord who rode the fence for the entirety of last season, unwilling to take that plunge and choose one side over the other until it was the eleventh hour (and ultimately, too late). Many of Castiel’s ‘good’ deeds last season were offset by sabotage or deceit; while he may have been the one to free Dean from the green room of Heaven to try and stop Sam, he was also the same one who released Sam out of the panic room in the first place. While he did try to warn Dean of the superiors’ motivations, he also kept things from Dean that would have ultimately altered the course of the apocalypse entirely. This indecision and fickleness made it almost hard to love Castiel; many fans thought that he might turn out to be as traitorous as Ruby was in the end, at least until Castiel took his final stand against the archangels in order to save Dean and Sam. While this episode may have begun with Castiel quite literally gone to pieces in the prophet Chuck’s living room, his reappearance two-thirds of the way through the episode made up for it; Cas showed up with guns (or, more specifically, a blade) blazing and slaughtered several of his angelic brothers, faced down his superior Zachariah, defied a direct order, and gave the Winchesters the ability to hide from every angel in existence. These are all bold moves even for a typically-brazen character, but for a taciturn, subservient one like Castiel it was absolutely jaw-dropping. As always, actor Misha Collins not only stole the scene he was in, he put it in his pocket for safekeeping and promised to return it later; his entrance was nothing short of spectacular. He was fierce, unrelenting, and brave— in short, it looks like a year in the company of Dean Winchester rubbed off on him after all.
Dean is honestly the only character who hasn’t changed much, at least not yet— from recent interviews with writer Sera Gamble and creator Kripke, this season Dean will truly find his calling and have a purpose other than just protecting his own family, and he’ll be forced to grow up and take on the weight of the world without the constant support of Sam at his side. In this episode, however, those fractured, agonized moments between him and Sam were the only evolution we got of Dean. He is still wisecracking to cover his fear and insecurities, he is still fearless and confident and determined, and he is still fiercely loyal to what is right. When his life, Bobby’s wellbeing, and Sam’s existence are threatened by an unrelenting Zachariah, Dean does not cave— this is an amazingly apt parallel to the earlier storyline in which Alistair mocked him for being so easy to break in the episode “On the Head of a Pin”. We saw, in that episode, the fracture in Dean’s eyes when he realized that it was his own weakness that kickstarted the Apocalypse; he is not willing to make such a compromise with Zachariah, and withstands excruciating pain and the torment of the two people he loves the most without caving to the angel’s demands. Dean has learned from his mistakes and they will not bear repeating. If he wins this apocalypse, it will be the same way it has always been; on Dean’s own terms.
All in all, the premiere was an explosive appetizer of the tricks that the show’s amazing production team have in store for us this season; from the hilarious in-jokes regarding the fanbase’s fanaticism to the absolutely brutal conversation between Lucifer and his chosen host Nick, the episode did not let up for one second. If the rest of the season is this way, everyone should batten down the hatches and prepare for one adrenaline-soaked night a week that will leave you speechless, stunned, and counting the hours until the next installment of the Apocalypse, Winchester-style.
No, it’s no longer #luciferiscoming.