Castiel is back but which one did Sam and Dean get: the madman or the megalomaniac?
When people begin to vanish at the same time as natural disasters, the Winchesters have a case yet something is off. Though he knows he needs to focus, Dean is seeing Castiel everywhere he goes; on the side of the road and even outside his window. Elsewhere, Kevin and his mom are still on the run but have been talking witch named Delta Mendota to get them materials to make demon bombs. Delta wants the money upfront but when Mrs. Chan isn't willing to pay without the goods, Crowley appears to take Kevin and give Delta a better deal. Shortly after, Castiel appears to Dean and this time, it is the real deal. Without rhyme or reason, he is back from purgatory. What Dean saw earlier was him but his power had not yet fully returned. It's at that point that they get a call from Mrs. Chan telling them Kevin has been taken. When they track him down, Castiel tells them that all of the people that were taken are potential prophets but there can only be one alive at a time. Crowley is playing for keeps and with seven other potential prophets not wanting to die, Crowley can afford have a stupid prophet but not a stubborn one.
After seven episodes, season eight's story is coming together. Supernatural has felt like it was missing something the entire time and that void was Castiel; the three of them together is a welcome familiarity since Bobby passed on. One weak point in the story was Delta Mendota since her betrayal of the Chan's was predictable from the moment she was introduced. It was only surprising how quickly she came to the decision that it was easier to deal with the king of hell than it was an older woman on the run with her son. Her betrayal may have been predictable but it felt like she had Crowley on speed dial.
Though they had a certain appeal when they began, Dean's flashbacks from his time in purgatory didn't have the payoff I was hoping for. Dean remembering the final moments before escaping differently than Castiel was weak storytelling and how Castiel corrected that was too simplistic and as a result, Dean's guilt and secrets he kept from Sam make even less sense with more context. Would he have felt any differently had he said anything to Sam if his memory was wrong anyways? It would have been better if several leviathans appeared at the last possible moment, cutting off Castiel and Dean from the portal. Castiel would have fought them off to give Dean the time he needed to escape. In doing so, it would have been more shocking that Castiel survived and tied in nicely with his idea that he deserved penance. Taking the selfless route to save Dean would provide Dean with his guilt and show that Castiel didn't believe he deserved to get out but instead be hunted, or killed, by leviathan for what he had done. Also, why was the portal closing? If demons and leviathan couldn't use it, why would it suddenly have a time limit?
Lastly, this may be a nitpick but the set design needs to kick it up a notch. Even on a limited budget, all of the scenes in purgatory could have been filmed at night; reinforcing the idea of the unknown and something terrible beyond what they can see. Instead, purgatory was the surrounding Vancouver area in the fall. Heaven, as shown by the final scene with Castiel and Naomi (played by Amanda Tapping) was an office reception! If anyone remembers the series Angel, do you remember the white room? It was barren and peaceful yet unnerving in its deliberate simplicity. A bit more creativity can go a long way.
A Little Slice of Kevin had its lows, but Castiel is back and unknowingly participating in an angel agenda. It's a mystery that shows both sides have been playing the game all along and that is only good news for fans of Supernatural. We'll see if Castiel has missed a beat since his time away in next week's Hunteri Herioci.