Ready for our next brain teasing exercise tracking Supernatural Threads? Settle in because there is a lot to cover! On the surface, one wouldn’t have expected “Sharp Teeth” (9.12) and “The Purge” (9.13) to provide many new threads since they were not heavy myth arc episodes. Their impact related more to the emotional tremors that rocked the brother’s relationship. Sam delivered two lines at the end of each story, first a cryptic implication about not being brothers (9.12) then he told Dean that he wouldn’t save him (9.13). That last line sent fandom into a shared heartbreak over the brother’s pain and emotional separation, followed by an endless analysis of Sam and Dean’s positions, passionately defending one brother or the other. If we put aside the emotional blow of the broken bromance for a moment and look for clues to the season’s arcs, they are several interesting dialogues to consider.
Answers …and that is being generous
“The Problem” – In the conversation between the brothers on the pier at the end of “Road Trip” (9.10), the writers set up a hook for viewers to ponder:
Sam: I was ready to die, Dean!
Dean: I know. But I wouldn’t let you, because that’s not in me.
Sam: So what? You decide to trick me into being possessed by some psycho angel?
Dean: He saved your life.
Sam: So what? I was willing to die…..
Dean: Can’t you see, I’m poison, Sam. People get close to me…they get killed or worse. I tell myself that I help more people than I hurt and I tell myself that I’m doing it all for the right reasons, and I believe that, but I can’t, I won’t drag anybody through the muck with me, not anymore.
Sam: Go. I’m not going to stop you. But don’t go thinking that’s the problem, ‘cause it’s not.
I listed that last line in the 9.11 Threads article, but we didn’t really discuss it (I was so sure we talked about it! I reread the article and comments twice looking for the conversation on it!).
Well, three episodes later in “The Purge” (9.13), Sam finally explained what he thought was the problem:
Dean: You know Sam, I saved your hide back there, and I saved your hide at that church and the hospital. I may not think things all the way through, k, but what I do, I do because it’s the right thing. I’d do it again.
Sam: and that is the problem. You think you’re my savior, my brother, the hero. You swoop in and even when you mess up you think what you’re doing is worth it because you’ve convinced yourself you’re doing more good than bad but you’re not. Kevin’s dead. Crowley’s in the wind. We are no closer to beating this angel thing. Tell me, what is the upside to me being alive?
Dean: You kidding me? You and me. Fighting the good fight together.
Sam: Just once be honest with me. You didn’t save me for me, you did it for you… I was ready to die. I was ready. I should have died. But you. You didn’t want to be alone. That is what all this boils down to. You can’t stand the thought of being alone….
Dean: You want to be honest? If the situations were reversed and I was dying, you would do the same thing.
Sam: No Dean. I wouldn’t. Same circumstances. I wouldn’t.
Putting these two conversations back to back helps us look at the continuity. So the problem is…..what? Since Sam said “that is the problem”, he obviously thinks Dean stated the problem clearly. Well, I for one am not clear on the matter! There are several components to Dean’s statement, each of which could be the problem. I don’t think Sam is objecting to being alive, per se (“I saved your hide”). Sam probably isn’t anxious to die, even though he has to be tired of fighting the combined forces of Heaven and Hell. Is the problem that Dean keeps saving Sam (“I’d do it again”) to the detriment of everyone else, and each time he saves Sam, Dean does more harm than good? Maybe the problem is Dean’s fear of being alone? Sam says it “all boils down” to that.
So if I try to restate “the problem” more precisely, it could be:
Dean is so afraid of being alone that he keeps Sam alive, regardless of the consequences…
Stated differently, though, changes the problem:
Dean loves and believes in Sam so much that he keeps him alive, regardless of the consequences…
….even if Sam’s death would bring about something good, (e.g. closing Hell), and living would risk further harm (e.g. Kevin’s death).
So is Dean acting out of fear or out of love? That is the difference between those two restatements. What do you think? What about Sam? Is he upset because he doesn’t believe his life is worth the sacrifices that have been made? He said he wouldn’t make the same choice and sacrifice the good of the world for Dean’s life. Does he think no one is worth that price? Then why did he tell Castiel that he was right when Cas said nothing was worth Sam’s life (when Cas stopped the fatal procedure of extracting Gadreel’s grace). I am confused by the inconsistency.
In any case, I think Sam wants Dean to objectively weigh the pros and cons the next time he is faced with a life or death scenario for Sam. Given Dean’s make-up, though, can that ever happen (“that’s not in me”)? Is this a realistic expectation of Dean? Is it based on Sam’s poor self-worth? If Dean’s motivation is that he believes the world is better off with Sam alive rather than dead, does that make a difference? I told you I didn’t think it was a very clear “answer”!
New Evidence for Existing Threads
Thank goodness the last two episodes didn’t introduce any new arcs! The prior weeks’ stories gave us enough to track! “Sharp Teeth” and “The Purge” did, however, provide us with several clues that might help us sort through our various theories.
The Mark of Cain – “With the mark comes a great burden, some would say a great cost” (Cain, 9.11). I have stated that I believe this line established the arc for the remainder of season 9 at a minimum. We also discussed how it is probably the thing that reunites the brothers and fixes their relationship once and for all. What does this ominous threat mean, though?
– being immortal? Most of you thought not. The demon in Cain is probably what made him immortal so that wouldn’t apply to Dean.
– becoming evil? Does the mark corrupt the wearer? Cain said that the mark was “from Lucifer himself” which implies that the mark is evil. Perhaps using the First Blade to kill corrupts the soul. Dean’s soul being corrupted and he becoming a demon was a very popular theory at first because it implied that Sam would have to save Dean’s soul. It also redeems Sam from his perceived season 3 failure when he couldn’t save Dean’s soul or keep him from going to Hell. The majority opinion was that Dean will not become a demon, because a) he didn’t knowingly sell his soul as Cain did and b) you have to be dead before becoming a demon. You also observed that Cain seemed to distinguish the part of his story that involved his deal from the burden that comes from the mark.
A related theory was if Dean does become a demon, Sam may have to cure him. This whole scenario would involve Dean becoming a demon without dying or making a deal, but it would lead us back to Sam’s knowledge of how to cure a demon. Slick connection between season 8 and 9 and intriguing plot twist. Cain’s warning to Dean doesn’t completely support it, though. I don’t think Cain would call becoming a demon “a burden” nor do I think he would say some would see it as a great cost – I think all would say losing your soul and becoming evil is a great cost! So I think these theories are interesting, but I’m not entirely convinced yet that Dean will go evil. That doesn’t mean that Dean won’t lose his humanity or his compassion for others, though, by wearing the mark. That leads us to the next possibility…
– becoming a stone cold killer – Crowley described Cain as “The deadliest demon to walk the face of the Earth”. Was that because he was invincible wielding the First Blade, or was it more than that? Will Dean lose his humanity and become an efficient, unfeeling killing machine? There were actually clues in the last three episodes to support this theory. First, Cain said as much when he gave Dean the mark:
Cain: I can give you the mark, Dean if it’s what you truly want.
Dean: What are you talking about?
Cain: The mark can be transferred to someone who’s worthy.
Dean: You mean a killer like you?
Dean: Can I use it to kill that bitch?
Cain: Yes. But you have to know with the mark comes a great burden. Some would call it a great cost.
There was an argument that killing doesn’t make someone worthy. Rather, Cain might have meant that Dean’s love of his brother above himself made him worthy. While I like that interpretation, it isn’t supported by Cain answering yes when asked if he meant being a killer was the worthy trait. The second clue came at the end of “First Born”, when Crowley told Dean “He was right, you know. You are worthy.” Crowley knows that Dean has always been a fierce warrior and that his skills were further refined in Purgatory. Crowley even banked that Dean’s fight with the demons would convince Cain to give them the blade (“fight night”). Since Crowley admires competent, formidable opponents, he may be saying that Dean’s combat skills make him “worthy”. This implies Dean’s combat skills were and are the key to using the Mark of Cain.
The third clue was that once Dean took on the Mark of Cain, he was ready to kill monsters without mercy in both “Sharp Teeth” and “The Purge”, not seeing any extenuating circumstances in either case. In “Sharp Teeth” (9.12), Dean was satisfied that he and Sam should kill the whole pack based on the sheriff’s ambush:
Dean: We have all the answers we need.
Sam: I don’t know Dean. I think we need more…[Do we know] Enough to kill Garth? Come on man. Let’s do this right.
Then again in “The Purge” (9.13), Dean was ready to kill a “monster” that had not hurt anyone.
Dean: Once this place clears out, we’re going to make this a family affair.
Sam: Wait, Dean. We’re not going to kill Maritza.
Dean: She’s a monster.
Sam:….Yeah, who saved our asses…I still have a heart.
In both cases, Dean would have blindly killed innocents if Sam hadn’t been there to stop him. This may be revealing a growing coldness in Dean. This reminded me of Soulless!Sam, who had to be monitored, reigned in and told when and why killing wasn’t warranted. In “Sacrifice”, Dean told Sam that they could “turn the tide on the war” without Sam dying to close the Gates of Hell. Dean could now use his new ruthlessness to end demons on Earth, as Cain used his powers to end the Knights of Hell. This would actually appeal to Dean.
This theory would also give Sam the opportunity to “save” Dean because it is Sam who will “keep Dean human”. So Sam would not only be redeeming himself for his failure in season 3, it would also be a reversal of roles of season 6 (see reversal, below).
– exiled from home and all you love? The biblical story reports that Cain was exiled from all he loved. Supernatural’s Cain had to keep moving (demons were hunting him) and he lost his wife, thus he had no home or family. If this solitude is the “great cost”, maybe a supernatural force is pulling Sam away from Dean. This theory only tracks to a point. If Sam is not there to “keep Dean human”, it is likely that Dean would go on a killing spree eliminating demons (back to the stone cold killer scenario). Sam would obviously want to chase him to restore his humanity. If the Cain/Abel parallel continued, Sam would be killed (as Colette was), or the brothers would remain separated probably into season 10. Intriguing plot twist, but I just don’t know if the writers would do that to us or the show!
Given the various possibilities, I’m leaning toward the stone cold killer scenario. How do you interpret the evidence?
– A new consideration about the MoC is how is Dean going to get rid of it? It doesn’t seem likely that it will be a part of his story until the end of the series. A few theories were offered. One idea was that Dean would eventually pass the MoC to someone else. Who would he pass it to, though? I don’t think he would pass it to Crowley because Dean doesn’t trust Crowley and it would make Crowley too powerful. He couldn’t pass it back to Cain because we are right back to him not being able to kill Cain when Cain is wearing the mark. Another idea was that the mark disappears once Abaddon AND Cain are dead, having served its purpose. We have absolutely no clues on this yet, but it is a curious problem.
The First Blade – Cain said, “Your spell brought you to the source of the blade’s power…me. The mark and the blade work together. Without the mark, the blade is useless” (9.11). Then later he said, “Nothing can destroy the blade”. If Dean is the master of an indestructible weapon against evil, this power supports both scenarios where Dean becomes a killer. I don’t think by itself it favors one theory over another, though, so I don’t think it helps us predict the direction of the myth arc.
Reversals – Recent events are ironically giving everyone a different perspective on things. Everyone seems to be reversing roles.
Sam saving Dean. Nice to see that once in a while.
– Dean has a demon mark on him now, even though he is the vessel for the strongest angel; and Sam had angel grace in him even though he is the vessel for the strongest demon.
– In season 5, Sam had to battle Lucifer’s influence. It appears that it may be Dean’s turn to battle Lucifer’s influence since he is bearing his mark. Dean saved Sam. Will Sam save Dean?
– The two supernatural beings, Castiel and Crowley, have learned a lot about what it means to be human by becoming or nearly becoming human. The two humans, Sam and Dean, have been skirting the edges of becoming supernatural, Sam with Gadreel possessing him and Dean now with a supernatural MoC with whatever powers that entails (I cannot find this quote again to give proper credit, sorry!).
– Castiel is now “bonding” with Sam instead of Dean. They are working together to find Gadreel and Metatron, even though Dean said he was going to do that alone.
– Dean is working with Crowley (Crowley will eventually return with the First Blade) to kill Abaddon, so Dean is working with a demon to kill a Knight of Hell. In season 4, it was Sam who worked with the demon Ruby to kill “Lucifer’s First”.
Sam told Dean that they see their roles differently now. Is that the arc? Everyone’s roles are reversed?
Brother’s Relationship – The focus of the last two episodes was clearly the strain in the brother’s relationship. They are changing. The little brother doesn’t want to be protected anymore. He not only wants to be an equal, as he stated openly as early as season 5, he also wants control over his life, from all forces, including Dean. Both brothers are feeling guilty about Kevin. Both brothers are feeling their lives are unworthy. The conversations at the end of the past several episodes are a testament to the pain they are both feeling, within themselves and toward each other. Honesty is a buzz word they are throwing at each other. The Cain and Abel parallel is obvious. One brother (Cain/Dean) condemns himself to save the other brother (Abel/Sam). Castiel 9.11 – “That PB&J taught me that angels can change. Maybe Winchesters can too.” We don’t need clues to see that the brother’s relationship is being changed…the arc is hitting us with sledge hammers!
Redemption – Here are all the threads I have seen about redemption:
– “Sharp Teeth” added Garth to the list of people who are looking for redemption this season. When Dean was leaving, Garth told him, “I screwed up again….I want to make this right. I never should have left you guys, especially Kevin. Kevin was my friend. Friends don’t do that.”
– Sam made several speeches about seeking redemption in season 8. Then most recently in “First Born”, he asked Cas to “Please help me do one thing right”.
– Crowley asked Sam “where do I start to even look for forgiveness” at the end of season 8. Could Cain’s retirement be foreshadowing a possible redemption road for Crowley? It was Crowley who realized that Colette’s request “To Stop” was enough to save Cain.
– Castiel admitted to his need for redemption when he said to Sam in “First Born”, “The only person who has screwed things up more consistently than you, is me”.
– Gadreel is desperately seeking redemption for his one, catastrophic mistake. I think it will be the end of the season before we know if Gadreel is a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. He might be smarter than he appears, and he really does have a grand plan to defeat Metatron and restore Heaven, or he might have limits to how far he will go against his own values. Either way, it is clear that his motivation is and will be his own redemption.
So we are left with Dean. How will redemption play into his storyline?
Letting Go –The idea of letting go was mentioned twice during “Sharp Teeth”!
Garth: I found it. Love, and a family. Who cares where that comes from?
Dean: I do.
Garth: I get it. When I first got here, I couldn’t let go either. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it didn’t, I had to accept the truth.
Then when Dean was leaving Garth and family, Dean said:
“Who cares where happiness comes from? Look, we’re all a little weird, we’re all a little wacky. Some more than others but if it works, it works. You’ve got something here…. Don’t let that go…You’ll never forgive yourself.”
It seemed like Dean was taking his own advice when he later decided to ask Sam if they could work together again.
Existing Threads (no new clues this time)
Will someone else turn out to be who they aren’t supposed to be?
- Dean is Cain;
- Sam was Ezekiel who was really Gadreel.
- Castiel, a leader of angels, became human. He is now an angel again, but powered by Theo’s grace
- Crowley, the king of hell, is semi-human
“You’ve seen everything that he’s seen!” – Sam might have knowledge from Gadreel to use against Metatron.
Why did Crowley want Kevin’s blood instead of Sam’s? Prophet’s blood? Different tasting human blood? Toying with Kevin? It will probably be a while before we get more clues on this.
Is The Angel Banishing Spell Reversible – Is Crowley the key, because he read the Angel Tablet, or is Castiel’s grace the key? Cat offered an observation on this from 9.11: “Crowley seemed very sure that Dean wouldn’t kill him even after killing Abaddon. Considering Dean’s current mindset and the fact that he is becoming more powerful and dangerous to demons than he ever was, Crowley couldn’t be that positive unless he knows that Dean will need him. Maybe Crowley does know how to reverse Metatron’s spell.”
“I did what I had to do.” I am waiting to hear Dean say this to Sam at some point in the future!
“Here is the FIRST name on your to-do list.” – I’m sure the new names will give us insights into Metatron’s ultimate plan.
Sam looks …..curious, doesn’t he? I thought so!
– 9.12 Garth: “I messed up…..I was embarrassed. I thought it was best for everyone if I just stayed away.” I thought this was an alternate explanation as to why Dean left Sam on that pier. It was soon after this conversation that Dean tried to reconcile with Sam.
– 9.12 Dean to Garth: “Besides, somebody’s got to live to tell this damn story someday. Who better than you?” I hated hearing that line! It sounded like someone, somewhere was starting to think about how to end the series!
– Spoiler** Both episodes were about families of monsters finding a way to “coexist” with humans. Part of each family peacefully coexisted while another part of the family wanted to embrace their inner monster and feed off of or destroy humans. This seems to be a blatant build up to the spin-off pilot.
– Loved how Sam just caught the flashlight that Dean tossed to him in 9.13. Seamless teamwork, and honed reflexes!
– When Dean was searching the storeroom in the basement of the spa (9.13), the background sound appeared to be growling animals (sounded like lions). I thought that was really weird, and noticeable. They didn’t use that sound for Sam’s search. I found that very curious…Dean was the predator.
– I wondered about the whole revenge dialogue in 9.12. Did it simply refer back to John Winchester, or was it a warning about chasing Gadreel?
Reverend Jim: The road to revenge is a dark and lonely one, which you never get off. And that hole in the pit of your stomach…your never fill it…ever.
Dean: Yeah, I know. I get it.
Reverend Jim: So I chose to look forward, not backward.
– I didn’t mention this before, but in 9.11 Cain seemed to be able to kill by “smiting” other demons, much the same as angels can kill by laying their hands on their victims. Cain’s glow of death is red. Crowley “essence” is red. Is this a clue to Crowley’s identity and another parallel between Cain and Crowley?
Your turn. I’ve laid out many different interpretations of what people said in the last two episodes. What are your best guesses on our current theories and the season’s direction now? The problem? Dean and the Mark? The brothers? Letting Go?
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com