Television: Supernatural S6.01 Exile On Main Street – Romance, Bad Djinn & Annoying Relatives Makes for An Odd Mix for the Start of Supernatural Season 6

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I know the Djinn in Supernatural S6.01 Exile on Main Street (written by Sera Gamble) are suppose to be the bad guys, but I wonder if they would grant this viewer a wish anyway; to send Grandpa Samuel Campbell (Mitch Pileggi) and the Campbell cousins into exile and off of Supernatural as quickly as possible (and why is Mark Campbell now a cousin when back in season one he was Mary’s brother?). I’m going to be right upfront and honest. I never thought any group of new characters introduced to Supernatural would be so immediately annoying to me as a viewer more than the Ghostfacers were. I was wrong. Gramps and the Campbell cousins have the Ghostfacers beat, hands down. Unfortunately, I’m sure that we have a lot more to see of the Campbell clan in episodes to come. Supernatural has been filming since late July and there is no magic wand or handy good Djinn to make the Campbell crew disappear from those episodes. So the best I, as a viewer can hope for is that the storyline involving them gets good enough to make me change my mind about wanting the Campbell’s to go away.

That said, and my immediate adverse reactions to them aside, there are some interesting questions surrounding the decision to bring these characters into Supernatural for season six. As I was watching this part of the story unfold in S6.01 Exile on Main Street, it left me wondering if this wasn’t somehow a loop back to the pre-writer’s strike part of Supernatural season three. Back before the season got shortened and Supernatural, like all the other scripted series affected by the writer’s strike, had to ‘cut to the chase’. Was this the direction they were headed in when Ruby( played in this instance by Katie Cassidy) had Sam investigating Mary Winchester’s background? I’m wondering what meeting the Campbell cousins back then would have brought forth in season three since we know that Sam was originally suppose to have saved Dean from going to hell. It seems pretty clear from S6.01 Exile on Main Street, that Grandpa and the cousins know more secrets about hunting than John Winchester did and are going to play a pivotal role in Sam Winchester’s new storyline and direction.

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Before I go into my next observation, I just want to make it clear, I actually like Lisa Braedon (Cindy Sampson) as a character. When she was introduced in Supernatural S3.3 The Kids Are Alright, I liked that she and Dean had a passionate history together and the whole ‘what could never be now’ kind of romanticism to their interaction when they caught up with each other. I still like Lisa.

According to comments made in a an on-set interview session that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki participated in recently, Ackles found himself a bit dismayed by the way in which his character of Dean Winchester had been written for his new storyline. Jensen commented that he felt that his character had been written to come off as ‘too soft’ after only a year of having been out of the monster and demon hunting business. I agree with him that Dean Winchester wouldn’t have gone that soft after only a year. The issue for me is, in my opinion, Dean Winchester isn’t Dean Winchester anymore. To put it bluntly, from the settled down life in a beautiful home with a lovely woman, to driving a truck instead of the Impala to playing golf and going out and having a beer with friends, it seems to me Dean Winchester has turned into Jensen Ackles.

What cinched this for me was when the waitress (who, unknown to Dean and the viewers at the time, was one of Djinn baddies) wrote her name and phone number on the bar tab receipt and Dean, while showing it to his buddy remarked that he didn’t know why chicks dug unavailable guys. Then he ripped the piece of paper up. This whole bit, with the exception of it being a receipt instead of napkin, was lifted directly from something that actually happened to Jensen Ackles in a bar in his real life when he was in a steady relationship with someone. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Jensen Ackles is a talented actor and a very nice man. He is always a pleasure to meet at publicity events and to interview. However, as a viewer, I watch Supernatural to see Dean Winchester. If I wanted to see Jensen Ackles, I would go back to attending Supernatural conventions.

While I wish the actors all the happiness in the world with their real life situations, I just don’t ‘dig’ fictional male characters that become ‘unavailable’ and I tend to walk away from them if the ‘unavailable’ aspect becomes permanent. For five season of Supernatural, Dean Winchester (and Sam Winchester for that matter) has had the kind of alluring mystique that an angsty, free spirited action hero character should have. I want Dean Winchester to go back to being himself, a little older, a little wiser yes, but still himself.

To again be perfectly blunt, the whole ‘Dean as a family man with a woman and kid’ storyline does more than ‘mildly domesticate him’, in the opinion of this viewer it effectively gelds Dean and takes away a crucial part of the crux of the success of Supernatural. Supernatural has foremost always been the story of two brothers on the road together, hunting things, saving people and being the stuff of romantic fantasy along with a healthy dose of action and adventure. Dean’s very sexual, slightly hedonistic nature has always been a part of the character. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I want a ‘happy family with a twist of supernatural involved’, well that’s what I watch the Medium for. I’m not sure if Supernatural is going to be as much fun to watch if one half the attraction continues to ‘be gelded’ by his current storyline.

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I for one am glad that Jensen Ackles took a vested interest in how his character was written and did what he could to make sure Dean’s real ‘voice’ was heard and not overwritten by the new story direction. I was especially impressed with how Jensen conveyed Dean’s anxiety and how off balance it made him when Sam and the Campbell’s invaded Dean’s home and began mocking things about the normal life he was trying to fit into. To me, Dean has always been a ‘family man’ and it just seems to me that he has replaced Sam with Lisa and Ben and not because he really wanted to, but because it was Sam’s ‘dying wish’.

Of course that said about Dean being with Lisa and Ben because it was what Sam wanted, I do find it very intriguing how this storyline weaves not only into the changes in Dean, but the changes in Sam as well. For five seasons of Supernatural, we had seen Sam Winchester balking at the fact that his dad and his older brother were always making decisions for him. Part of Supernatural season five was about Dean learning to treat Sam as an equal and realize that Sam had to make decisions on his own. Then in S6.01 Exile on Main Street, we find the uncomfortable shoe on the other foot and this time it’s Sam not allowing Dean to make his own choices.

Sam decides that Dean would be better off not knowing that Sam had been sprung from Lucifer’s cage and brought back for a year. Sam, along with Bobby their other father figure, had decided they know what was best for Dean. As a viewer, I hope they don’t drop this part of the storyline just yet. I would like to see more of Dean’s reaction to Sam’s changing even more into John Winchester and taking the alpha role in the brother’s relationship with each other. I want them to delve into how, even as Sam wanted this ‘apple pie’ life for Dean, Sam showed some distain for his brother in it—“Really, Dean, golf?”

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The new version of Sam Winchester is interesting, but just what in hell (yes really in hell) happened to Sam’s hair? It looks like he borrowed his hairstyle from ‘Malibu Ken’ and it really should be softened up a bit. Other than that little quibble, I was really impressed with Jared Padalecki in this episode. Sam Winchester has always been about, oh yes I am going to say it, emo type body language or about making himself look non aggressive. Ever since mid season five when Sam sort of stopped beating himself up about the thing with Ruby (played in that season by Genevieve Cortese), he has slowly become to display more confident body language again. In S6.01 Exile on Main Street, Jared Padalecki gave us a whole new Sam Winchester as far as body language and such. Gone were the wide, sweeping ‘emo’ gestures. In their place were the more controlled, tightly coiled movements of a big cat. As a viewer, I am looking forward to see where they are going with these changes in Sam Winchester and looking forward to seeing what Jared Padalecki brings to the role within them.

Over all, I think the writers have something interesting to offer for Supernatural season six (I want to know why Yorkies have it in for Dean).

Next up is Supernatural S6.02 Two and Half Men, which I already have a quibble with. Why would Sam Winchester be surprised that Dean can be paternal? Why would this be considered a new aspect to Dean Winchester’s character, when we know that he helped raise Sam after their mother died? Guess I’ll have to wait for the episode to air this Friday October 1st at 9 PM EST on the CW Network.

Grade B-

Photos are copyright2010 to Warner Brothers and The CW Network and screen capped courtesy of Crystalchain