Supernatural S11E01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm
Writer: Jeremy Carver
Director: Robert Singer
Essential Plot Points:
- Season 11 starts off exactly where season 10 left off: the Winchesters have just released yet another Big Bad upon the world as pay-off for ridding Dean of the Mark of Cain, and Dean took everything to a whole new level by literally killing Death.
- Because that makes total sense.
- This time our villain is set to be the ominously named “The Darkness”, but in this case, we really should not just listen to the rhythm of our hearts.
- As The Darkness manifests from the ground as a huge plume of smoke, Dean’s swept into a vision where he’s landed right in the eye of the storm. But he’s not alone – there’s a woman there with him…
- Turns out that from Sam’s perspective, as soon as The Darkness hit the Impala, Dean vanished. In the aftermath, Sam finds his brother lying in a field a mile from the car. Once he’s back and conscious in the Real World, Dean wastes no time telling Sam about his encounter with “The Darkness”, and he doesn’t mean the smoke storm, oh no. The Darkness is the woman he saw in the smoke storm.
- Meanwhile, Castiel is still slave to the effects of Rowena’s Attack Dog spell. The last time we saw him, he was raring to kill Crowley under her orders, and we see that although he dealt the supposed killing blow, Crowley smoked out at the last second. He’s Crowley, after all. There’s no way he would allow himself to go down so easily.
- The Winchesters quickly discover that there’s a pretty horrific Croatoan-esque virus spreading near The Darkness ground zero, manifesting in the form of black veins at the throat and a sudden rabid thirst for murder. They find a police officer who’s still alive but wounded, so run her to a nearby hospital, only to find that the virus got there first.
- As a result, everyone in the hospital is dead; obviously not ideal. While Dean deals with their wounded police officer, Sam scouts around and discovers one of the Rabids viciously trying to break into a store cupboard. Turns out there’s a baby and her father in there, but luckily for them the Rabids seem to have short-term expiry dates.
- As the man Sam rescued, Mike, tells the Winchesters how he and his new-born evaded the Rabids, Sam makes the damning observation that Mike has those ominous black veins trailing up his throat. How long ’til he becomes one of them?
- Mike makes a deal: Jenna, the police officer, takes his baby, and he goes and waits to succumb to the virus. They agree.
- Cornered and with nowhere to go, Cas turns to prayer, asking his brothers and sisters for help, no matter the consequences. He’s desperate not to hurt anyone else, even if it means facing the wrath of Heaven. Following that, he calls Dean to make sure that the Mark of Cain is truly gone – and then finds out that they accidentally freed The Darkness. Just another day in the life of Team Free Will..!
- Unfortunately, Cas’s prayer has drawn the attention of two of his brothers, who’re more interested in capturing him than getting him to Heaven.
- As a whole new group of Rabids turn up at the hospital, the Winchesters debate how to deal with them. Dean’s all for going in guns blazing, but Sam wants to see if they can find a cure. After all, sure they hunt things, but they also save people. Sam wonders if maybe Dean’s lost track of “that half of the bumper”. So Sam uses himself as bait, letting Dean get Jenna and the baby out unharmed. Unfortunately, in the process Sam locks himself in a storage cupboard where a Rabid has been hiding out, and gets himself infected.
- As Dean and Jenna head for the exit, none other than Mike appears, and he’s well on his way to full Rabidity. Before he collapses down dead, he manages to tell them that the baby’s name is Amara. Something to keep in mind.
- Crowley smokes back into his re-mobilised vessel after a bit of fun involving orgies and murder, only to be told that The Darkness has been let loose on the world. He doesn’t believe it at first – The Darkness is just a bedtime story, nothing more. But his lackeys tell him how there were noises from the Cage – you know, the one that’s got archangels Lucifer and Michael stored away. Ominous.
- The final moments of Dean’s encounter with The Darkness are revealed, where it turns out she has a mini Mark of Cain branded on her skin: a sign that she and Dean are “bound”.
- The kicker is the final shot of the episode: Amara has that same symbol, branded right there on her skin…
Season 11: that’s some achievement. With this season, Supernatural has claimed the title of longest running sci-fi series in North America (obviously it can’t hold a candle to the likes of Doctor Who), and it’s still going strong. Season 10 proved to be one of the better, more engaging seasons in recent years, giving us the utter delight that was Demon Dean, the introduction of the enchanting Rowena, closure for Jimmy Novak and a whole new storyline for his daughter Claire, plus it also gave Jensen Ackles a chance to really show off his acting chops as he portrayed Dean’s struggle with the Mark of Cain.
It was all going great, right up until fan favourite Charlie Bradbury was unceremoniously killed off. Things only went downhill from there, ending in what was a spectacularly lacklustre and disappointing finale. Fans have understandably approached this new season with trepidation, with the question “can SPN pull itself back from that?” on their minds.
First impressions? It’s too early to tell, but foundations are certainly being set for a promising-looking season to come. That said, there’s one thing we have to get off our chest: “The Darkness”? Really? As Big Bad names go, it’s hardly the most creative, and doesn’t exactly instil a feeling of power. “Lucifer”, “Leviathan”, “Metatron” – these are names that bring to mind biblical-scale catastrophe. “The Darkness”, though? It’s memorable, but not for the right reasons.
Anyway, silly name aside, The Darkness looks to be a fearsome enemy for the Winchesters. It’s (or should that be she is?) already causing havoc by spreading Croatoan-like viruses, and apparently she’s “bound” to Dean, which doesn’t bode well for the future.
While we’re on the subject, it’s almost aggravating that the creators decided The Darkness is going to take the form of a sexy woman with a low cut dress. The Darkness could have been anything; from the way other characters were going on about her in season ten, we were almost expecting some sort of Eldritch abomination. (Although Cas lampshades this somewhat with his “The Darkness is a woman?” query.) It’s not exactly unexpected; SPN has a habit of giving supernatural beings busty vessels, but it’s a disappointment. Still, looks aren’t everything – if she’s as badass as we’re hoping, that’ll help make up for it.
A real point of interest in this episode is seeing the different ways Sam and Dean react to the appearance of the Rabids. Over the years, the Winchesters have taken a more “kill first, save later” approach to things, whereas in earlier seasons they would at least try to save the innocent person behind the possession. But while Dean’s suggesting gunning them down before they can hurt anybody, it looks like Sam’s finally seeing the light. “What happened to us? Hunting things – we’re good at that, sure, we’re great at that. But that’s only half of the bumper sticker.”
He’s determined to find a cure for these infected people. Of course, it becomes a matter of personal urgency when Sam himself gets infected. So far he hasn’t told Dean, but given their overly co-dependent dynamic, it’s likely Dean would make an exception in his “gun ’em down” policy if he knew.
It’s a shame that Castiel didn’t get much screen-time this episode, but at least we’ve seen that he’s not been entirely overwhelmed by Rowena’s attack dog spell and has enough clarity to contact the Winchesters. He might not be with them, but that’s understandable since he doesn’t want to risk hurting them – doesn’t want to risk hurting anyone. It’s telling how desperate he is not to do so that he sends a prayer to Heaven; he’s really, really not in their good graces, and it looks like it’s going to backfire horribly on him. Apparently Cas constantly getting the short end of the stick isn’t something that’s stopping anytime soon. Poor guy. At least Dean’s showing some concern for him!
“Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” is a decent scene-setting episode overall, if a bit slow-going. We’re already being given the impression that The Darkness is not a force to be messed with; that this is just the tip of the iceberg as to the havoc she could wreak. Even Crowley, the King of Hell, doesn’t want to believe that she’s been released unto the world, and he’s a difficult one to scare. And considering her release has garnered the attention of the likes of Michael or Lucifer? The Winchesters are going to have their work cut out for them.
- A decent scene-setter for the season, continuing nicely from the events set at the end of season 10 – even if those events were more than a little questionable.
- Jenna is a great new character – a strong-willed police officer who survived what was essentially a zombie attack and took on a baby as her prize.
- Sam’s spiel about saving people is a fist-pump inducing moment. He’s right – they have lost their way over the years, and fans have been shouting it from the rooftops, so to see Sam finally acknowledge it is great.
- Crowley absolutely rocking his temporary female vessel is really fun to watch.
- “I don’t know this Death, and he doesn’t know me” is a foreboding quote from The Darkness that does well in showing audiences just how “before time” she is.
- The Darkness’s name and appearance. Uncreative all round, and actually disappointing.
- Cas doesn’t do very much – he deserves more screen time.
- There’s definitely some tetchy consent issues surrounding Crowley’s possession and subsequent orgy of businesswoman Marnie. Then again, he’s the King Of Hell. That he would do something like that is entirely believable.
- When it comes to pacing, this episode feels a bit too slow and lacking in content.
And the Random:
- E4’s trailer for S11 is a work of art.
- This season’s “Road So Far” song is “Run Through The Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
- The title card this season looks to be a representation of The Darkness’s smoke storm.
- Speaking of the smoke storm, many have noticed that it heavily resembles Lost’s “Man In Black” monster.
- Dean makes a hilarious Magic Mike reference when Jenna asks the boys to “show her some skin”.
Review by Jessica Anson