The introduction of the new big bad, The Darkness, is, without doubt, something completely new that the writers have not delved into before, being the first mythical creature that pre-dates even the Bible. This, along with plot twists, various character driven storylines and lots of action, made the start of Season 11 explosive and mysterious. However, I couldn’t help feeling floods of deja vu whilst watching “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” this week.
Firstly, we had something very similar to the Croatoan illness in the premiere which involved regular humans becoming possessed or infected turning them to randomly attack everyone they see, and continue to spread their disease through blood contact. Croatoan was a very interesting concept in the earlier seasons of the show that first made an appearance in Season 2, in which Sam had become infected with the virus but was immune because of the demon blood inside of him. Croatoan continued to be an over-arching threat through to Season 5 where Dean actually got a glimpse of the world if Lucifer had started the apocalypse and the disease took over. In this alternate 2015 future the Croatoan virus was brutal and ruthless, infecting a subject within hours, and had no known cure. This is almost exactly like the new infection The Darkness developed, aside from a few alterations.
5.04 “The End” – The Croatoan virus becomes an epidemic 11.01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” – An infected host
Unlike the Croatoan virus, The ‘Darkness Disease’, we’ll call it, can be identified in an infected person through black veins which spreads upwards from the person’s neck, depending on how long they’ve been infected for. Obviously, this was a visual signifier to show that The Darkness was responsible and, as I have said in one of my previous articles, is reminiscent of the Leviathan monsters from Season 7 who, when possessing Castiel, caused almost identical black veins on his neck and face.
7.01 “Meet the New Boss” – The Leviathans take over Cas’ body 11.01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” – An infected host
Secondly, as Sam finds out during the episode, the infected have “a shelf life” meaning that they can only attack, kill and spread the disease for a limited time before they die. Again, this reminded me of the witch, Rowena’s, attack dog spell, which Castiel was trying to battle with during this episode, whereby the individual is forced to attack and kill, developing bloodshot eyes, until the spell is too much for the body and they die. The infection’s shortened lifespan is very different from the Croatoan virus which didn’t destroy the host and could infect humans for an unlimited time period.
10.07 “Girls, Girls, Girls” – Rowena’s spell kills the subject 11.01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” – The infected die
The outbreak of the disease in the Season 11 premiere also led to other events which, I felt, we had definitely seen before on the show. Halfway through the episode, Sam and Dean find themselves trapped in a hospital with a wounded survivor and a baby to save. In Season 2’s “Croatoan” the Winchester’s were also trapped in a medical centre with a pack of Croatoans on their tail and humans to protect.
2.09 “Croatoan” – Trapped in a medical centre 11.01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” – Trapped in a hospital
For me, there appeared to be actual scenes in the Season 11 Premiere that the writers had repeated from Season 2: the discussion of the ethical conundrum involving whether to kill possibly infected humans to stop the spread to other victims, aiming to find a cure when they have no idea what the disease is in the first place, the brothers pledging to save one another no matter what evil is inside them or what evil that might unleash onto the world and, most importantly, Sam becoming infected with the virus/disease. This one got me a little irritated because it seems that Sam, once again, has to deal with a dark force that is growing inside of him, just like the Season 4 and 5’s demon blood storyline, and Dean, when he finds out, will now have to, once again, save and protect his little brother from the evil he could do. More annoyingly, in both Season 2 and the Season 11 Premiere it appears that Sam gets attacked and infected by a nurse on both occasions. So much for the brother’s battling something completely new this season.
2.09 “Croatoan” – Sam is infected with the Croatoan virus 11.01 “Out of the Darkness…” – Sam is infected by The Darkness
Additionally, we had repeated scenes from past seasons in this episode where the Winchester’s discuss changing their behaviour, what mindset is best for saving people, whether to kill first and ask questions later and pretending to work as a team but secretly lying to each other. Even though Sam understands that he’s been infected and what that will turn him into, he still decides to leave telling his brother about it until later. Dean similarly keeps secrets about the bond between him and The Darkness from Sam as well. Both Sam and Dean are scared or confused about their own problems and don’t want their brother adding more pressure or worrying about it. We’ve definitely seen this before.
And finally, the cute baby Amara, which, as it turns out, is The Darkness. Although this has never really been done before exactly, I felt it was similar to the Season 5 episode “I Believe the Children Are Our Future” in which young boy Jesse is revealed to be the Antichrist, a half-demon, half-human mutation. The biology Vs. environment debate of whether to kill Jesse because he is genetically evil and destined to destroy Heaven alongside Lucifer, or to spare him in hope that he is raised in a positive environment, leading him to use his powers for good in adulthood, was a strong message in the episode. I feel that we might delve into the same debate this Season with Amara, especially since Dean seems to be drawn to protect her, but also driven to destroying The Darkness.
There’s also the Season 6 episode “Mommy Dearest” where, once again, a supernatural illness, created by the Mother of All, Eve, sweeps across town, causing the infected to become mutated monsters to eventually die. Sam and Dean strive to protect two young brothers and get them out of town, even carrying out all the necessary hunter tests to make sure the kids are not infected themselves. However, after revealing that “Little Ryan” was actually a “Jefferson Starship”, a name Dean came up with for the new mutated monsters, and had infected his older brother, Eve hints that the Winchesters could never resist saving a young wayward orphan.
6.19 “Mommy Dearest” – An infected Jefferson Starship 6.19 “Mommy Dearest” – Little Ryan is actually a monster
This is very similar to Amara who is, after her mother died in labour and her father became infected with The Darkness, an orphan who Dean showed no hesitation in offering to adopt. This repeated idea is; Can the boys kill a seemingly innocent child despite knowing that they are evil? The boys have always seen young kids as completely innocent victims that need saving and, now that Dean has a protective bond with The Darkness, this is going to be a huge dilemma.
Continuing on Dean’s storyline in this episode, he replicates Sam in lying to him about what he knows about The Darkness. Dean explains how The Darkness saved him and he saved her by setting her free, but decides to leave out the detail of the bond between the two of them and how The Darkness hints that Dean will always protect her no matter who she is or what form she will take. This obviously leads to Amara which explains why Dean was so protective of her in the hospital and why he was so eager to violently go into the battle guns blazing.
In terms of The Darkness, although I quite enjoyed the scenes with her and the reveal of Amara and The Mark of Cain branding on her chest, she is another sexualised female villain. We’ve already had this with Lilith and Ruby, who tried to seduce Sam, both sexually and also tempting him with demonic power. Eve lured victims in through the sexual attractiveness of her virgin host, and Abaddon made various sexual and flirty euphemisms towards Dean and other characters, even repairing her burnt meat suit purely because the body was feminine and sexy. For once, I would like to see a female antagonist who is just bad ass, independent and powerful, without having to seduce enemies with their sexuality, and I hope The Darkness doesn’t try to do this with Dean.
Now, let’s talk about Castiel’s storyline which, although we had never really seen it before, was slightly boring in my opinion. There was also the repeated concept that the other Angels look down on Cas because he is a rebel and fell from grace. Just when you think Cas had regained his species’ trust by capturing Metatron and restoring Heaven, the Angel’s shun him again for misleading them and breaking Metatron out of jail to help Dean. How many times are the writers going to play this Castiel-being-broken-and-cut-off-from-Heaven card?
11.01 “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” – Castiel asks Heaven’s help to shake Rowena’s attack dog spell
Then we have Crowley whose scenes I enjoyed most of all. Normally, I dislike the individual Crowley storylines because I find them boring and repetitive as it always involves Hell and it’s instability but, this time, it was very much a funny and new situation and was a lovely comic relief from the seriousness of the rest of the episode. Crowley manages to escape Castiel’s attack and possesses a middle-aged, menopausal women whose husband had organised a four-person orgy. It was so in Crowley’s character to have the orgy and kill the participants before calling for help from his demon minions on getting his original meat suit back. I was really starting to miss the old Crowley who was quirky, fun and wasn’t confused over his humanity or loyalties, making him a pretty awesome King of Hell, and I am so happy that he’s back. Additionally, I absolutely loved the reference to Lucifer and Michael who were apparently trying to warn everyone about The Darkness from their cage in Hell.
Overall, I am excited for the rest of the Season but just hope that, because the show has been reinvented so many times and has evolved so much since Season 1, that the writers can do the same thing this year instead of copying old storylines.