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Is Supernatural Just Rehashing Its Classic Fifth Season?

Sam and Dean play dog-catcher to the stars... Of Hell

MaryAnn Sleasman

A wayward hellhound "broke out" of Crowley's (Mark Sheppard) prized kennel and started terrorizing the locals. Crowley revealed that this particular hellhound was Lucifer's (Mark Pellegrino) first demon puppy -- of course -- and as such, could only be controlled by her true master, Luci himself. This might have been a good time for Supernatural to get the King of Hell to reveal who he has chained up in his basement, but honestly, did you want him to waste that whammy on what was otherwise a basic case-of-the-week that was so basic that Dean (Jensen Ackles) even referred to their damsel-of-the-week as the "girl-of-the-week?"

Nope, neither did I -- but remember when Lucifer used to be a scary, evil, big effing deal on this show? Supernatural has effectively gotten itself stuck between a pointy rock and a hard place by trapping Lucifer in a rune-d out meatsuit from which there is no escape until (probably) the season finale. On one hand, I'm happy with this reveal, because the inevitability of Luci getting out of Crowley's clutches was just too obviously destined. This move is a band-aid though. An admittedly cool Batman or, like, Frozen, band-aid, but still just a band-aid.

Supernatural has an extremist problem.

It all comes back to the problem we encountered earlier this season, when Rick Springfield was wearing the Lucifer pants and doing a fine enough job, except that Rowena (Ruth Connell) came along and poofed him away, and then he knocked up a presidential aide and got grounded by a magical Easter egg. And now, apparently, just enchanting the hell out of (or into?) a moldy meatsuit is enough to keep the archangel himself, the prince of lies, the evil one, and Sam Winchester's (Jared Padalecki) biggest stalker/unwanted fan subdued in one of Hell's sub-basements.

Make no mistake: Lucifer's prison is flimsy, his captivity is temporary, and given Crowley's habit of blinding smugness paired with an impressive number of defective underlings, Luci will be terrorizing topside shortly... But what is Supernatural's endgame here? Sure, we have the added threat of Lucifer's monster-baby, and the inevitable throwdown between the British Men of Letters and the Winchesters. But we've already seen the devil destroy Dean and Sam and their most precious ideas of themselves way way back in season 5. Lucifer's presence tore them apart and the only way-- the ONLY way-- to put the monster away was to sacrifice. That time, physically, it was Sam. Mentally and spiritually, it was so much more.

Supernatural reminds us that families are awful.

As much as I adore season 5, I don't want a rehash of that season at this point in the show's run. However, I'm not sure what kind of ending the show has in mind for season 12 that would pack the same emotional punch, and so irreparably alter the landscape of the series as thoroughly as season 5 did... When Lucifer is in play, the possibility of total destruction needs to be on the table.

Supernatural has struggled with the big, broad strokes lately, though. The best stuff in recent seasons -- and especially this season -- has been the smaller stuff, the focus on family, the relationships between Dean and Sam, their allies and frenemies, and now their undead mother. Family has always been the strong undercurrent pulling Supernatural's story along. But for the first time ever, I watch an episode and don't really feel like there's a clear idea of who Sam and Dean are, and how they relate to each other or the world anymore.

We had some great brotherly banter this week -- and a divine Walking Dead shout out -- but did anyone else find the ease with which Dean jumped on the B-MOL bandwagon just a little out of character? His logic was sound, but the Dean I know wouldn't have been so "yeah okay whatever" by the revelation that his little brother had been feeding them cases from the B-MOL all this time.

That's at least worth a punch in the face, right?

Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)