NOW! An awkward family reunion for Kevin leads to an expected addition joining the Winchesters as they hunt for the tablet, and Dean - still reeling from Purgatory - casts his mind back to the last time he saw Castiel...
Carry On, My Wayward Son... Last week's Supernatural was a solid if flawed season premiere and this Wednesday night's follow-up - the jazzily-titled 'What's Up, Tiger Mommy?' - is another mixed bag. When it's good, it's very good indeed, but like the previous episode, it remains hit-and-miss.
The main reason this writer was excited about 'Tiger Mommy' pre-transmission was that it promised to reveal the fate of Castiel - Misha Collins's deranged angel who was last seen leaving Dean to his fate in the season seven finale. It's established early on this week that Dean is still haunted by his time in Purgatory - a large portion of which, it transpires, he spent hunting for Cas.
Now back on Earth, Dean (Jensen Ackles) is no longer just ruthless, but bordering on the unhinged and seems a little overly eager to do things "the rough way" - this episode's flashbacks would, we hoped, shed a little light on what happened to both him and his angel ally...
But it looks like new showrunner Jeremy Carver is going for a 'delayed gratification' sort of angle this season - the highlight of the episode is indeed Dean and new friend Benny's catch-up session with the bedraggled, bestubbled Castiel. Their awkward reunion is deftly played by old pro's Ackles and Collins, and - even if it was for the best of reasons - the revelation that Castiel willingly left Dean behind sheds a little light on why the elder Winchester reacted so violently last episode when it transpired that Sam had similarly abandoned him, or so he felt.
The only problem with this Castiel flashback sequence is that it's all too brief and that final teaser - with Dean apparently abandoning an in-peril Cas - left us practically salivating. It looks like it's going to be a while before his final fate is made clear and we can't wait.
The A-plot this week follows Dean and Sam (Jared Padalecki) as they search for the misplaced tablet that might hold the secret to closing the gates of Hell, accompanied by Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), who's understandably still reeling a little from last week's events.
I complained last week that the season premiere suffered a little from a lack of humour, but this week Supernatural almost veers too far the other way - 'Tiger Mommy' starts out as a bizarre buddy comedy with the Winchesters, Kevin and his mother - the feisty Mrs Tran (Lauren Tom) - all on the hunt for the tablet.
Much of the comedy in the episode's early scenes is a little too broad, though some moments do stand out - it's hard to stifle a giggle at Dean's fury when Sam suggests auctioning the Impala or when Kevin's reunion with his mum is interrupted by a large dousing of holy water. But it all becomes a little tiresome by the time Sam, Dean, Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and an angel dressed as a wiener vendor partake in an evil auction, one that's taking all manner of sinister bids for Kevin and the tablets.
Thankfully, the auction takes a dark turn when Mrs Tran bids her soul to save her son and here the episode becomes significantly more substantial. The plan to save Kevin quickly goes awry and Crowley takes control of Mrs Tran, leading to an awesome climax - Sam does his best Chris Hemsworth and wields the power of Thor's hammer Mjolnir and Kevin, along with his now comatose mother, escapes, leaving the Winchesters right back at square one.
It's a pity that 'What's Up, Tiger Mommy?' takes so long to get going, but the hints at Castiel's fate helped hold our interest throughout and the plodding auction plot at least got a decent pay-off in the end. Consider this writer suitably jazzed for episode 8.03.
Sam Winchester Hair Watch - Sam's impressive locks no longer just blow in the wind, they now flick from side-to-side whenever he engages in physical combat. Get 'em trimmed, Jared.
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