"Supernatural" Episode 10.10, "The Hunter Games." Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, and Mark Sheppard; Written by Brad Buckner and Eugene Ross-Leming; Directed by John Badham.

Good LORD do they know how to pick opening numbers or what? The episodes that celebrate a return from hellatus always feature great tunes, but tonight's use of "Long Black Road" by ELO ranks pretty high on my list of Most Awesome. Growing up, most of my cousins and relatives were a decent bit older than me so I learned an awful lot about Rock and Roll, and "Supernatural" music always makes me want to start a bonfire and drink cheap beer - in the best possible ways. Sidebar - has Jack White covered this song? He totally should. 

The show's return also did a lot to clarify the season's direction, the purpose of plot devices, and even a resolution or two. 

"The Hunter Games" opened with a "so far" montage, and then cut to Crowley reigning in the halls of Hell. Also being hella-stabbed by his subordinates in Hell. But alas it was all a dream, and TIL that hex bags work in the underworld. Who knew? Rowena, shocking no one, is currently plotting... Something. Is she planning a coup? The end of demonkind? Simple filicide? We're not sure, and even by the end of the episode her motives are only narrowed, not revealed completely. No complaints from me, as not only do I enjoy a good cliffhanger, I also prefer to know the general direction in which the plot will advance. 

Meanwhile at the Batcave, Sam and Castiel are worrying over Dean's recent, erm, episode. You know, the one in which he violently murdered a bunch of humans. Humans that were about to buy a child, mind you, but violently murdering humans is still somewhat of a faux pas in the Hunter world. Dean is completely contrite, and expresses his desire to permanently remove the Mark of Cain. Ye Ol' Demon Tablet might have offered a clue regarding the removal, but since it's gone Castiel advises the brothers on an alternative. And since this is "Supernatural," it's a jaw-droppingly terrible idea. In its preliminary stage it involves advice from Metatron, and in phase two it involves the retrieval of the First Blade. Terrible, terrible idea. But again, since this is "Supernatural," the boys express their apprehension and dissatisfaction and then just go ahead and do it anyway. 

In close chase behind the opening music, my favorite moment of the show had to have been the look of pure terror on Metatron's face when confronted with a pissy, ready-to-"interrogate" Dean Winchester. It was a lovely shot, with Dean's face shrouded in shadow and some creative lighting that left his eyes an ambiguous, perchance demonic, shade of dark (and we all know that Jensen Ackles has the green eyes of a goddamn Disney princess, so there's that). Curtis Armstrong has just been a delight on this show. He plays the Voice of God as a rotten little pissant who managed to get a hold of too much power, like the first time your older brother got to babysit. And I love love LOVE it when the writers throw in little nerd references - I feel like it's a nod to the, uh, older crowd. Meaning me. Because I'm old. The torture scenes were beautifully filmed as well, and I loved the little detail of the blade singing as it cut. Plus, Cas got to be a total BAMF and we don't get to see that much anymore. 

Meanwhile back in Hell, Rowena and her lovely, lilty little Scottisch accent are sowing the seeds of discord. She's plotting and pitting Crowley against all of Hell's minions, but the minute she's left unsupervised she performs a spell and snatches the First Blade, and gets Crowley's most loyal butler pal bladed in the process. I mean, that guy could buttle like nobody's business. Pretty sure "buttle" is a word I just made up, but by gummy I like it and I'm going to keep using it. 

The scenes in Hell, however, are really my only complaint about the episode. Crowley has, in the past, not shown himself to be the most competent Big Bad. He bumbles, he ass-kisses, and frequently his schemes bite him in the butt. He's still formidable and can be scary as shit, but I genuinely enjoy the many facets of his character. He could have been a humorless antagonist, or he could have been Gomer Pyle goes to Hades, but with a little from column A and a little from column B he makes for great entertainment. BUT. Crowley has never been this stupid. He is getting played like a Stradivarius. And I do feel that this is a bit out of sorts for him, especially when the virtuoso is the mother he claims to have hated for three centuries. Unless he's not, and it's all a ruse, and then in that case bravo, writers, 'cause you had me going. 

The plot line involving Claire Novak reached a tidy conclusion tonight, and managed to further another plot point in the process. Claire forked the evil eye at both Cas and Dean, but Cas refused to give up on his amends. He decided that maybe Dean should speak with her, because they're both so full of anger. Which, OK, whatever. It seemed like a stretch at first because Claire watched her father get possessed by an angel and Dean has a mark from the first murderer ever, but upon further consideration I realized that Dean was chock full of anger before he ever had that mark or blade. It's why I loved the Cain story line so much in the first place. So that did make sense. But Claire, being full of rage and ethereal confusion, asked her new friends to ax-murder Dead when he came to apologize. I have to admit, I was anticipating that the chums were inhuman, and I was totally wrong. They had never heard of Dean Winchester, obviously, 'cause they came at him with a bat and an axe. Pfft. You come after Dean Winchester you better come a-shootin'. But Claire saw the err of her ways and now she and Cas are cool-ish, and her time on the show appears to be over. Dean was able to stay the power of the mark, and he let Axeman and Batgirl live. Didn't even beat the snot out of them. 

Sam shared an epiphany with Dean after Metatron was returned to his Heavenly cell. Metatron shouted "the river ends at the source," which Sam interpreted to mean Dean's own power is a source of energy that can conquer the mark. Cain had been doing it for an eternity. I, however, interpreted it to mean that only Cain, the source of Dean's mark, can remove it. Mostly just because I want more Cain on the show because that guy was awesome.

Sometimes it's hard to review "Supernatural." I'd like to provide more insight and not just scene by scene recaps, but - and I mean this as praise - this ain't exactly a Thinkin' Man's show. But that's exactly why I love it. Sometimes I just want to be entertained for an hour and not think too hard about symbolism and mis en scene and all that jive. And in that respect, this was a perfect hour of television. I had a great time while watching, I got some answers, and I'm really looking forward to the next episode. What more can you want on a Tuesday night?

So what say you, fellow hunters? Was this a satisfactory return to form? Is Dean or Rowena our Big Bad this season? Or maybe it's Crowley and all of this is part of his plan to do something nefarious? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Tags: Supernatural , The Hunter Games