Supernatural: Season 12, Episode 1 – “Keep Calm and Carry On”

A new showrunner and the reappearance of Mary Winchester promises an intriguing season 12.

It’s been an interesting summer for the CW’s Supernatural. Not only was it featured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly‘s Fall TV Preview issue, but fans have been speculating on just how new co-showrunner Andrew Dabb (replacing Jeremy Carver) will change the show’s dynamic. (Also, the CW’s affiliate changes mean several viewers across the country will now face fewer local sports-related delays.)

Season 12 opens, as usual, with a recapping montage, this year set to April Wine’s “Bad Boys”. Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) finds himself reintroduced to his formerly deceased mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), presumably brought back to life as a goodbye gift from Amara (Emily Swallow) at the end of last season. One might have expected a very emotional mother/son reunion here, but the moment, culminating in an awkward hug, seemed very rushed. As hokey as this plot development is, it does bring in an interesting new (old?) character, with an important backstory for those who’ve followed the show from the beginning.

Although Mary spends most of the episode bewildered by today’s modern technology — she’s been dead for more than 30 years, after all — she did prove to be a valuable aspect to the team by saving a (too-easily) overpowered Dean and Castiel (Misha Collins) from the brass-knuckled hands of a Man Of Letters goon (Bronaugh Waugh). Adding depth to her character is the closing scene, set to Black Sabbath’s “Solitude”, in which Mary seems remorseful for her role in killing and disposing the goon’s body.

The goon, of course, is one of the still-mysterious members of that organization holding Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) hostage. Possible season 12 “big bad” Lady Antonia Bevell (Elizabeth Blackmore) shot Sam in the final moment of season 11, then paid off a bewildered veterinarian (Colin Lawrence) to help him. Apparently, she’s been torturing Sam in order to get information on American hunters, as the British branch of her organization is on a mission to make this country monster-free. Another weird plot development but, so far, we know just enough about Bevell to distrust her, especially as we see her order Sam to be tortured. Honestly, though, after Sam’s literally been to hell and back at least twice, aren’t the scenes of her burning his feet with a blowtorch and shooting him up with a hallucinogenic drug rather underwhelming?

We didn’t see much of Crowley (Mark Sheppard) in this episode, but we can assume that he’s back in (some kind of) charge of Hell, as he orders random demons to search for Lucifer. Led to a house full of bloody victims, he surmises that the devil is searching for a powerful new vessel.

Also making the most of little screen time is Castiel, who’s bounced back from the events of the finale (being Lucifer’s vessel) with a more aggressive disposition. Instead of being his usual rational, if not passive self, Castiel was quick to knock out an innocent bystander, steal a car, and threaten a witness. Is there a big reason for this personality change?

All in all, “Keep Calm and Carry On” (which was originally advertised under the episode title of “Family Ties”) was an intriguing, if somewhat uneventful, episode that nonetheless offers a promising preview of the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how next week’s introduction of Rick Springfield as Lucifer’s new vessel adds to the season’s focus on the darker side of things.

RATING 8 / 10