As winter comes to a slow close here in Minnesota, we start to see layers fall away little by little. As people shed coats, gloves, hats, and heavy boots, we see them revealed once more. Each layer exposes just a little bit more. It’s easier to see a smile or to know who’s been under the bulky winter gear all season long. In many ways, Supernatural follows this concept. It’s shown wonderfully in “Blade Runners.” Each layer builds up to make the full picture. As we strip the layers away, though, we can see how each one shapes the story and its characters. It allows us to get to the heart of it—and see what’s really there.
Let’s examine our first layer: the First Blade—and the search for it.
The First Blade was introduced to us in “First Born.” It is the very weapon Cain used to kill his brother, Abel, thus committing the world’s first murder. It’s a hunk of bone with teeth that might kill an average human with the right amount of force, but it can’t kill Abaddon without that Mark.
So, what about the Mark?
Biblically, we know that God gave it to Cain in order that he may never be slain. It was his punishment for his crime. He may have taken a life, but he would never know death. God tells him, “You are under a curse and driven from the ground.” The mark is placed so others may know this—and therefore not kill him for his crime. Cain is cast from Eden, made to wander the earth as a vagabond, bereft of his home and fruits of the land. Supernatural takes this angle and shapes it to its own story—making it a powerful layer.
Cain informs Dean that he acquired the Mark not from God but from Lucifer himself. We’re not informed as to when Cain acquired it. We’re not told if Cain was still human—living or dead—when he was given the Mark. We’re only told why he accepted this Mark. He tells Dean in “First Born,” “Lucifer was gonna make my brother into his pet. I couldn’t bear to watch him be corrupted, so I offered a deal — Abel’s soul in heaven for my soul in hell. Lucifer accepted… As long as I was the one who sent Abel to heaven. So, I killed him. Became a soldier of Hell — a knight.”
And to bear this Mark comes with a burden—perhaps a curse. We’re left to wonder what it might mean—especially when combined with the First Blade. Did it and the Blade shape Cain? Did they, together, drive his base murderous rages? What effect did it have on him after he accepted his fate as Lucifer’s “pet?” It’s clear that these two things, in concert, has some power over its wielder. Cain tells Dean, “I picked the First Blade back up, and it felt so good to have it in my hands again,” as if both Mark and Blade perhaps feed on anger and blood-lust. Dean accepts this Mark, however, in order that he may use the First Blade on Abaddon. Cain will not pick it up again, so now Dean chooses to inherit this legacy in order that he may destroy the last Knight of Hell.
But the First Blade will be hard to find as Cain cast it into the deepest ocean. This is where “Blade Runners” picks up the story: the search for it.
In the beginning of the episode, we see Dean trying to reach Crowley while Sam searches about Cain and Abel. They’re trying to pinpoint where their “ally,” Crowley, may be and why he hasn’t called back to tell them he’s managed to retrieve the First Blade. After all, the King of Hell did tell him he’d bring it to him.
Dean seems agitated, impatient, and beyond frustrated. Granted, much of this emotion may be connected to his distaste for working with Crowley, but it might be possible that the Mark itself is calling out to the Blade in some way—thus effecting Dean, too. We see it in how he paces, the tenseness of his body, and the edge in his voice as he leaves yet another voice mail. It makes us pause a moment on this layer, trying to see a glimpse of what might be underneath. Is the burden of the Mark truly beginning now?
The brothers eventually receive a distress call from Crowley, and he tells them that not only is he empty handed, but that Abaddon now knows that they’re trying to find the First Blade. Now it’s a race against the clock—and whomever gets the weapon first wins. Sure, the First Blade can’t be destroyed, but Abaddon can certainly hide it forever if need be.
The brothers take Crowley back to the Bunker—and lock him back up in his now familiar digs. There, he confesses to Sam, “And the First Blade was not, as hoped, in the Trench. It had, in fact, been scooped up by an unmanned sub, from whom it was stolen by a research assistant, who reportedly sold it to Portuguese smugglers who, in turn, lost it to Moroccan pirates in a poker game. “ After that, he’s not sure what happened to the object. Nevertheless, they must find it and fast.
They track down a seller to discover if he knows where it might be or who might have purchased it recently. He’s not forthcoming, and so Crowley briefly possesses him to discover that the First Blade is at the National Institute of Antiquities. Unfortunately, it seems they’re not fast enough. The guards are dead—after being possessed and trying to rob their own vault. Abaddon got there first, even if she did end up leaving empty handed in the end.
The curator of the Institute, however, knows where the First Blade is—and who bought it. His name is Magnus, and if they can find him, they can find it. She figured that they could never truly authenticate it, so rather than keeping it in the museum, she decided to turn a quick profit first.
This does indeed lead them to a rather odd hideout. Magnus, the mastermind behind the Men of Letters Bunker and its protective wards, has created another place that can only be found if Magnus wishes it. As the Winchesters call out, identifying themselves as Men of Letters, he lets them in.
Indeed, they do find the First Blade there. It’s in his collection of supernatural odds and ends, proudly on display. Sam and Dean have found it—and before Abaddon, too.
But it won’t be that simple—for the Winchesters, it never is.
Magnus is a master at magics of all types. He may be nearly ninety years old, but he looks young. He’s rather eccentric—and a strange recluse. He’s proud of his extensive supernatural collection—including the First Blade. Furthermore, he was ousted from the Men of Letters. He was found to be far too radical for them. He tells the Winchesters, “I would say, “we could stop all this. We could rid the world of monsters once and for all if we just put our minds to it”, but, “oh, no,” they said. “No, no, no. It’s not our place. We’re here to study. We’re here to catalog”” Magnus—his real name Cuthbert, which means brilliant—may be extraordinary, but he’s most certainly an egomaniac, too. His pursuits in the magics have slowly corrupted him into the man we see here.
Essentially, Magnus has taken the mission of the Men of Letters and perverted it. Instead of trying to understand the supernatural world around him for the good of humanity—including helping trusted hunters—Magnus has chosen to shape the supernatural world to his own liking. Due to his mastery of magics, he sees himself as superior. He flippantly tells the Winchesters, “There’s a spell for damn near everything.” Anything he desires—be it an object or creature—can be his simply because he can magically make it so.
Magnus is curious as to why Sam and Dean want the First Blade anyways. What value could it have for them? It has every value to someone like Magnus. He can boast about it being in his collection. But to anyone else? It’s useless—unless one possesses the Mark of Cain. Dean reveals it on his arm—and this is a grave mistake. Magnus is stunned, but pleased. With one spell, he ousts Sam from his home, leaving Dean in his clutches.
This is the very reason why he was booted from the Men of Letters. He’s far too dangerous to have in their ranks. Magnus doesn’t want to impart wisdom to Dean. He’s not going to help him with the First Blade in order to kill Abaddon. Instead, Magnus sees Dean as another item in his collection. He now has the First Blade and the Mark of Cain. Given enough time, Magnus thinks he can turn Dean into his own weapon to acquire the supernatural world—and then shape it to his own design.
He forces Dean to hold the weapon. He needs to know he does indeed have the genuine article—and the only way to know for sure is to combine the weapon and the Mark. Magnus is awed and giddy by the response it has on the elder Winchester. He’s very pleased that the Mark is indeed authentic and operable. It means that he truly has both rare items in his grasp. Magnus sees Dean as a possession. In this single moment, he’s taken the purpose of the Men of Letters and corrupted it utterly.
Magic is a drug to Magnus. He’s spelled his home, his body, and everything else he comes in contact with. The more magic he’s used, the more corrupted by it he’s become. It’s allowed him to become arrogant and overbearing here. Magnus has no problem with using Dean as he uses the vampires and shapeshifters contained in his zoo. His power, in his lair, is absolute—and that has tainted him completely. Whatever brilliance he may have had as Cuthbert has been forever replaced by Magnus, the monstrous magician.
And he has a spell for Dean, too. He casts it, sapping all of Dean’s will to fight. It’s temporary, for now, but Magnus isn’t worried. He has time. He can renew it as many times as he needs—until Dean’s completely molded to his will.
It isn’t until Sam and Crowley find their way back inside his home that Magnus shows the real multitude of his corruption. He realizes that he’s wasting his time trying to spell Dean when he could coerce Dean by other means. He may not know Sam and Dean, but he can tell that Sam’s the key to making Dean do his biding. So, he sets out to torture Sam and make Dean watch until he gives in.
He makes a critical error—underestimating the Winchesters. With Crowley still loose and undetected, the King of Hell makes his move and frees Dean. The First Blade wants blood, and it shall have it. With one stroke, Dean slays Magnus, leaving his head rolling on the floor. The rogue Men of Letters magician is no more.
Crowley. What about our King of Hell, though? What does he reveal about the story? What is his layer saying?
In the beginning of the episode, we watch him on a bender. His addiction to injecting human blood has gone off the charts. Part of it is an after effect of his near-cure. Part of it might be grief over Kevin—after all he was genuinely saddened to hear of the Prophet’s passing. Part of it is craving the human feelings the blood gives him. Whatever the reason, Crowley’s consumed by this need. It’s his “burden.”
Crowley is helpless to this drive. We see that as he sits watching Casablanca. We see it as he stares in the mirror after killing Lola. Crowley’s falling apart, and there’s seemingly little he can do about it by himself. This helplessness is a key clue in his layer. It may seem to center on Crowley’s story, but paying attention to this very feeling will teach us something about the rest of the story—and in particular about both Sam and Dean.
After he calls Sam and Dean—and they do a crude intervention on the King of Hell—we see the lingering effects of his bender. He’s emotional, volatile, and trying to reach out to both brothers. He shows concern for Sam. He tells them that they’re partners. He cares about Dean enough to help Sam get them inside the magical fortress Magnus built.
Certainly, Crowley helps because he wants Dean to use the First Blade on Abaddon. Helping the Winchesters is a means to an ends. But that’s far too simple. If that was the case, he wouldn’t seem so comfortable with them. He wouldn’t try to push Sam’s buttons in order to get the younger Winchester to focus on something else than being anxious about his brother. Crowley wouldn’t tell them, in the end, “You can’t trust me. But, sadly, I can’t trust you, either.” His wording reveals his true feelings—sadly being the key word. He wanted them to believe his sincerity, but now he knows they won’t—or can’t.
Crowley’s been changed, fundamentally. He’s not forgiven, by any means, for his past sins—but it’s clear that there’s something different about him. Pursuits like sex and killing don’t seem nearly as pleasurable for the King of Hell, either. We may see him indulge in these things in the first portion of the episode, but they leave him feeling empty. This leaves doors open for what might happen to Crowley down the road. What does he want—besides Abaddon removed from the picture?
We know, in “Sacrifice,” that Crowley begged to be loved. Could it be that he wants to be human again? Now that he’s seen a glimpse of what it might be like to be free from Hell’s greatest torture—the absence of love—could it be that he’s seeking this? Is it forgiveness? He also begged for this. Is it possible that Crowley’s past sins haunt him almost more than Sam and Dean’s anger over them? He spent an awful long time locked away with nothing but his thoughts—his past deeds possibly were front and center for him.
It’s clear that he’s found a high in feeling human emotions again. It’s clear that they torture him—and yet he needs more. Crowley once told the Winchesters, “What are you gonna do to me that I don’t do to myself just for kicks every Friday night?” Is this what this new found addiction is? Crowley seems drawn to it, needing the self-flagellation that comes with the injections. Much like Pinocchio, he wants to be a real boy again.
Crowley knows he has a lot to make up for—but he’s also not one to crawl for Sam and Dean’s acceptance. He feels he has proven himself numerous times now—helping with the Wicked Witch, giving a few demon names, reading a snippet of the Angel Tablet, and helping Sam get rid of Gadreel to name a few. At this stage, Crowley feels he should be included with the Winchesters. He should be considered an ally, not an enemy.
Crowley makes the comment about Magnus, “So difficult — brilliant, ahead of your time, despised for it. Trust me, I know.” Crowley may have become more human during these past few months, but he’s certainly not without his own ego. He’s still the King of Hell, and he’s still evil. Crowley doesn’t seem bothered that he’s killed human beings in order to get his human blood high, either.
In the end, we see him tell the brothers that he’ll keep the First Blade. After all, Crowley knows how to do one thing well: put Crowley first.
So, what do these layers say about Sam and Dean?
Let’s look at Dean first.
In the beginning of the episode, it’s clear that Dean is frustrated. He’s pacing and agitated as he continually fails to get a hold of Crowley. Part of this is because Dean wants nothing more than to kill Abaddon and remove her threat. But this seems different. He’s a tad more on edge and it shows in how he interacts with nearly everyone through out the episode. Could this be the Mark of Cain calling out to the First Blade and vice versa?
This seems it may be the case—for as they get closer to it, Dean becomes a bit more riled. He’s forceful with the seller and the curator. He’s testy with Crowley. He’s frustrated—albeit rightly so—with Magnus. Dean’s never been known for his patience, no, but it would seem he’s growing restless. He wants the weapon so he can finish what he’s set out to do: kill Abaddon.
That being said, Dean has no desire to be part of a supernatural collection. He tells Magnus, “And what if I take a knee?” The Mark and Blade may have called to one another, but that doesn’t mean Dean will willingly become someone else’s weapon, either. Magnus won’t take no for an answer, and he shoves the Blade into Dean’s hand, forcing the elder Winchester into a corner.
It isn’t until we see him grasp the First Blade for the first time that we truly understand what is starting to happen to Dean, however. It seems that it has called to him since they started the search at the beginning of the episode, but now that he’s holding it the angry emotions whirling inside have now found a laser focus. He vibrates with the sheer power of it, the Blade demanding blood and fury.
It’s easy to see that this could indeed become addicting, too. Like Magnus and Crowley and their own addictions, the power of the Blade could corrupt Dean. We know from Cain’s story that it “felt good” to pick up the First Blade when he slaughtered all the other Knights of Hell. It’s apparent that the “burden” of the Mark of Cain is in part an unquenchable rage—a blood thirst that has no end. All it took for Dean to fall somewhat under its powerful spell is to hold it briefly once.
And yet, that first taste seems to sear him. He drops the Blade, frightened by the anger it found inside him.
But Dean’s not strong enough to resist Magnus—not yet—and so he must stand there, unable to fight back from being nothing more than a statue on display. He lacks even the strength to fight against his bonds, added security for when the spell wears off. It isn’t until Sam makes his way back inside that the fight that the Blade has awakened re-surges forward.
It is in this moment that the First Blade claims Dean from Magnus. It’s clear that the weapon, combined with the Mark of Cain, has a dark power all of its own. It sings for blood—and now that it has tasted it, we know that Dean’s also fallen under its powerful and terrifying allure. It’s clear in how helpless he is to drop the weapon after Magnus has fallen. He’s almost animalistic, border-lining on snarling into a berserker mode.
In the earlier layers—especially Magnus and Crowley’s—we see flashes of foreshadow for Dean’s possible future.
On one hand, we see the sheer helplessness to the addiction. We see how overwhelming it may be for Dean. We see how drawn to it he will become. It is pure rage. It is pure hate. It is pure blood thirst. The First Blade and using it could quickly become a drug for Dean—and while he’s only had one taste, one kill, we know that it’s possible for him to fall to its siren song and feel the withdrawal while Crowley has it in his hands.
It could also isolate him—harkening back to the Biblical curse of banishment—reflected in the story of Magnus and his expulsion from the Men of Letters. The brothers are already at odds, but could the First Blade and the Mark of Cain amplify this? Will Dean be able to fight back?
Will this withdrawal make Dean angrier? Now that he’s killed with the First Blade—and activated the Mark—will other kills done with other weapons feed the growing bloodlust?
Will Dean become like Magnus? Magnus was corrupted utterly by his magic. He was an egomaniac that thought he could do whatever he pleased because he had the power to do so. Will Dean, in his growing rage, be corrupted this way? Will he, too, feel that he’s unstoppable?
Both the addiction and the potential isolation are frightening paths for Dean to follow. Both could end tragically for him and those who care about him.
That brings us to Sam.
Despite the purging the brothers are undergoing in their relationship, it is clear from the beginning of “Blade Runners” that Sam cares very much for his brother. He’s the one researching Cain and Abel. He’s the one watching his brother become more agitated the closer they get to the First Blade. He’s the one that has to watch his brother be taken hostage by Magnus—and then by the First Blade itself.
Sam is as frantic this episode as Dean is agitated. It comes out in bursts of irritation and anxiety. He’s irritated with Crowley—both when they’re back at the Bunker and again when Sam’s trying to find his way into Magnus’s home. He’s wound tight when they talk to the curator and the seller—we can tell that Sam wants to perhaps take Dean the other way and run, even if he knows they must stop Abaddon and he’s chosen to stand with his brother on it.
Sam doesn’t know what the Mark of Cain or the First Blade will do to his brother—or what it all means. He also doesn’t know what effect this may have on him. Cain had killed Abel, so we don’t know if Cain and Abel would have been driven apart by this. Could it make the Winchester’s relationship that much harder to repair?
For Sam, that’s a frightening prospect. It’s harder to fight something you don’t understand—and this falls under that category. To Sam, not understanding what is happening is the most terrifying part. It leaves him feeling helpless—harkening back to Crowley’s layer—and that is a feeling Sam has never handled well.
Sam’s also concerned by Dean’s growing reliance on Crowley. Pointing back towards the front half of season nine, it’s clear that Sam sees Crowley as another serpent, trying to worm his way into Dean’s life—and between him and his brother. Considering how disastrous the previous serpent turned out to be, we can’t blame Sam for his worry. After all, Sam knows Crowley’s not one to be trusted.
Sam knows they must kill Abaddon by any means—but it doesn’t escape him that Crowley’s the one that brought Dean to Cain. It doesn’t escape him that it’s Crowley that went to find the First Blade. Given his own past experience with a demon leading him, he knows that the path can turn dark and cruel quickly. He knows it can also be addicting.
So how do the earlier layers point to Sam’s story?
Crowley is the biggest layer that reveals Sam’s own. Just as Crowley was helpless to his human blood addiction—and to its side-effects—Sam is helpless to do anything about the Mark of Cain and the First Blade. He can’t take it away. He can’t stop it from changing Dean. He’s in the dark about what this might mean or where it might lead. Much like Crowley’s not entirely sure what his brushes with humanity may do to him, Sam doesn’t know what type of Dean he’ll have after they do manage to kill Abaddon.
But Crowley also exposes another layer for Sam: that of his caring.
Sam has always been an empathetic character—Soulless period aside—and therefore in touch with the emotions around him. No matter how angry he is with Dean about what happened with Gadreel, it’s clear that he cares very much about Dean. Why else would he research the first brothers? Why would he want to be in on this case so desperately? Why else would he fight his way back to Dean—to stop Magnus?
Crowley’s fumbled attempts to reach out to Sam throughout the episode reflect some of Sam’s attempts to do the same with Dean. Crowley tries to make small talk with Sam, telling him, “You and I both know we shared a mo back in that church. And on some level, we are bonded.” When being “nice” fails, we see Crowley hit back in a form Sam is much more familiar with—angry barbs. He tells Sam, “If memory serves me, I’m the one who helped your brother find Cain so that we could find the Blade, so that Dean could receive the Mark. I’m the one who flushed that lout Gadreel out of your noggin. So, lately, big boy, I’ve seen more playing time than you,” goading the younger Winchester to take action and dig himself out of the rut he’s in on trying to break into Magnus’s home.
Much like Crowley’s addiction may foreshadow Dean’s path, we can see that the King of Hell’s behavior may foreshadow Sam’s reactions to what may happen with Dean. The angrier Dean gets, the more likely it is that Sam may react in kind. It won’t be because Sam doesn’t care or is angry back—it’ll be because he’s scared. This situation will test both brothers emotionally—and it seems it may get darker before it’ll get better.
We see this truth best when we see Sam coax Dean to drop the First Blade after he’s killed Magnus. It takes all of Sam’s empathy, all of his patience, and all of his love to reach Dean. Underneath that, though, we can clearly hear his helplessness. His brother is standing before him, nearly ready to fly apart, and all that stands between him and a possible repeat of Cain and Abel’s tragic story is finding a way to coax his brother off the ledge with his soft words.
It scares both brothers greatly. We can tell just in how they act after the fact. Both have spooked expressions—and we know that Sam is afraid to let his brother handle the First Blade anytime soon by how he holds onto it, keeping it away from Dean.
We’re left to wonder where these layers will take us. What more will be revealed? How will Sam and Dean continue to fix their relationship while this “burden” threatens to tear both of them apart?
When Sam was facing the uncertainty surrounding his psychic powers in the aftermath of Max Miller, we see Dean tell Sam that he has something Max didn’t: him. For Dean, he has something that Cain didn’t have: his little brother, Sam. It is this that will give them a fighting chance.
Nicole Polizzi brought Snooki from the Jersey Shore to Supernatural with tongue firmly planted in cheek. She plays a crossroads demon summoned by Sam and Dean in order to learn where Crowley is. It’s clear, in her performance, that Polizzi has no problem poking fun at herself. She comes off as the stereotypical version of Snooki we all imagine here—right down to the twirling of her hair and eye-rolling. Of course, the shot taken from above shows just how small Polizzi is in comparison to Ackles and Padalecki, adding to the surreal humor here. Sure, “Snooki” may be a demon, but it’s clear that Sam and Dean are the bigger threat! It was a short scene—but Polizzi made sure to have fun with it—taking Ackles and Padalecki along for the ride.
Kavan Smith played the rogue Men of Letters, Magnus. When we’re first introduced to him, Smith makes Magnus seem rather eccentric, but a possible ally. There’s a charm in how he delivers his lines—and we find ourselves liking him at first. He’s full of great knowledge and wisdom—and he seems very intrigued by Sam and Dean’s connection to his former student, Henry Winchester. Smith makes Magnus seem almost larger than life in some ways here—but as he makes comments about the Men of Letters, we can tell that he’s still bitter. Once he uses a spell to make Sam disappear, the real Magnus is revealed. He’s more egomaniac than brilliant—although that’s exactly what Cuthbert means. Smith shows us just how much his magic addiction has consumed him—for that’s what it is—and we see this in his keeping of creatures in his “zoo” and especially in his attempt to keep Dean as part of his collection. He makes Magnus particularly cruel when he uses the spell to start zapping Dean’s will—and again when he starts to torture Sam—and in turn, Dean—to get what he wants. In many ways, Magnus stands in for the old adage “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Smith showed us that Magnus had been totally corrupted with a subtle and smart performance.
Mark Sheppard brings a new side to Crowley in “Blade Runners.” It’s clear that the near-cure—and Crowley’s subsequent addiction to injecting human blood—has taken some of the King of Hell’s edge. There’s a strange vulnerability in that performance—even amongst some of the debauchery and death. It shows best in the scene when Sam and Dean intervene with Crowley’s blood habit. He needs help. Sheppard puts a great blend of comedy and drama into this performance. We can’t help but laugh when we watch Crowley sob his way through Casablanca or read Little Women. It all seems ridiculous. Juxtaposed with this, however, Sheppard shows us that Crowley’s emotional state isn’t necessarily all fake. He may be a bit more “sentimental” while the human blood is pumping, but Sheppard shows that Crowley’s bonding with both Winchesters in his own way. He wants in as a full partner—and it’s clear that he may want to be trusted, even if he knows by the end that they won’t. Sheppard shows this best in the scene back in the Bunker with Sam and then again during the rescue mission after Magnus ousts Sam from his hideout. Sheppard has great chemistry with Padalecki, and it shows in both the comedic moments when Crowley tries to get Sam to open up and again when we see him push Sam’s buttons during the rescue. Sheppard also shares great chemistry with Ackles, evidenced best by the comedic scene surrounding the vending machine and dramatic by the way Crowley exits at the end. Comedically, he shows Crowley almost like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, slinking away from the vending machine after Dean’s chided him. Dramatically, we see this in how he directs his lines about keeping the First Blade at Ackles. Sheppard knows how to make Crowley a great foil to Sam and Dean, taking the script to another level.
Jensen Ackles showed us all of Dean’s frustrations and anxiety about acquiring the First Blade well. From demanding Crowley get back in touch with him to the race to track it down before Abaddon could, we see how Dean’s becoming more and more agitated. Ackles also shows us great but understated comedy, exemplified when we see Dean chide Crowley for trying to steal from a vending machine. The way he delivers the line, “You’re the King of Rotten. Act like it,” makes it all the funnier. It captures all of Dean’s frustration and exasperation, all the while falling like the punchline to a great joke. We see Ackles build on that in the final scene as he sees Baby damaged and scratched up by Abaddon’s followers. He’s angry—and yet Ackles makes us laugh at how Dean tries to rub away the scratches that damage his beautiful car. That being said, Ackles also gave us fantastic drama. We saw it best in the scene at the home of Magnus. Once Sam is whisked away, we see Dean backed into a corner quickly. Ackles shows Dean’s stubborn nature and anger best here—all masking the fear written clearly on his face. He wants the First Blade, but we can tell that as he looks at it, he’s also terribly afraid of it. This is compounded when we see him grip it for the first time—against his will. Ackles makes this a powerful moment, just by how his arm trembles and his face betrays all of Dean’s inner turmoil—emotions like rage, hate, murderous intent, fear, and self-loathing all flicker by to tell us what’s happening inside the elder Winchester. This becomes even more apparent after Dean kills Magnus, the Blade singing out to him. Ackles shows us how powerful it is by squeezing his hand tighter around the blade hilt, his expression one of pleasure and pain. The cruel snarl mars his features, showing just how close he’s coming to falling under its spell, something not even Magnus could have controlled. Ackles doesn’t have to say anything. Instead, he captures all of Dean’s heightened feelings beautifully with just his eyes, facial expression, and body langauge. As soon as Sam has convinced him to drop it, we see that pleasure become terror. Now that the Mark of Cain has been truly activated, it’ll be interesting to see how Ackles tells Dean’s story for the remainder of the season.
Jared Padalecki captured all of Sam’s anxiety, irritation, and fear wonderfully in “Blade Runners.” We see it from the very start as Sam sits at the laptop, searching Cain and Abel. It’s in how Padalecki sits at the table, the concern on his face as he scrolls. We see it in the gestures. There’s too little information for Sam’s comfort, and Padalecki shows that brilliantly in the nervous gesture of biting his nails. He also tells us how Sam feels about Crowley being a part of this—both in vocal tone and facial expressions. He’s firm about killing Crowley once they acquire the First Blade, and Padalecki makes that clear in how he stresses certain words. He shows all of Sam’s irritation with Crowley brilliantly, especially in scenes Padalecki shares with Sheppard. There’s an exasperation in his tone as he delivers his lines that adds both comedy and drama all at once. We laugh because he’s annoyed with Crowley’s antics—but we see through it to know that Sam’s scared and anxious for his brother. It’s this aspect that Padalecki shows us best. Sam’s anxious about what’s happening to Dean—and we see it in glances at his brother, in how he approaches each stage of the case, his irritation really a signal that he’s apprehensive about getting the weapon, especially once he’s been ousted from Magnus’s lair. Padalecki makes Sam’s frantic search back in seem both restrained and frenetic. Once he’s back inside, and we’ve seen Magnus defeated, Padalecki shows us all of Sam’s fear at what’s happened to Dean. He’s desperate to reach his brother—and it’s all in his voice and facial expressions. He breaks our hearts with just the look on his face and the soft tones of his voice. Padalecki punctuates this best in how he says Dean’s name, putting everything Sam has into that one word. Once he’s managed to break through to Dean, we see Sam’s fear—and it’ll be interesting to see how Padalecki conveys Sam’s story for the remainder of the season.
Best Lines of the Week:
Sam: Did he drunk dial you?
Dean: Demon mitts all over my baby. Oh, come on! Now they’re keying cars?
Dean: Hey. Hey! Image! You’re the King of Rotten! Act like it!
Sam: Your slimy followers were counting on you to kill Abaddon, and you let them down.
Crowley: Back in this fetid pit. Could have at least added some throw pillows.
Crowley: Turndown service? I’d like a mint on my pillow.
In next week’s episode, it looks like things will indeed get darker before they get better for the Winchesters.