As one of the season’s final episodes, “King of the Damned” contained the dramatic conclusion of the Crowley vs. Abaddon storyline. The scene was powerful, intense and brilliantly acted. It contained great special effects and the end of a diabolical, major character.
If I’m completely honest, though, for me this episode was rather anticlimactic. I know I’m in the minority here, but I found “King of the Damned” to be an unsettling string of slow exposition narratives jarringly followed by an intense action scene. I’m not saying the show was bad, just oddly paced. Dean and Abaddon’s stunning battle was preceeded by nearly an entire episode of methodical dialogue that both advanced parallel stories and introduced new storylines. The mood of the first 43 minutes of the show (I timed it) was entirely different (for me) than the mood of the long-anticipated fight with Abaddon, which from beginning to end was only four minutes long. The war for Hell? At one point in the show, Abaddon and Crowley sat in armchairs in front of a fire, having a cocktail and sharing a “moment” about the slow-wittedness of Crowley’s son.
How very civilized of them. A few minutes later, chamber music played while Gavin read the newspaper, again sitting in front of a fire with his dad.
This was the set up for the triumph of good over evil? Sorry, but Crowley was still sitting in his armchair during the big showdown! Okay, he had been shot so he was slumped, not sitting, but you can’t deny he wasn’t exactly “fighting” for his throne! The scene of Dean finding the power of Cain to overcome and kill Abaddon has to be one of the best scenes of the series, but it felt like it was tacked onto the end of story hour. Instead of being on the edge of my seat anticipating the epic battle, I had been soothed into a cerebral state of mind by cunning psychological “interrogations”, lenghty explanations of time travel, and diplomatic angel negotiations. I was thinking, rather than feeling, which made the whole episode somewhat anticlimatic for me. I felt like Sherlock Holmes, dispassionately examining a scene as an unattached observer. Did anyone else experience that, or was I just having a weird night? I don’t mean to be a downer because I’ll take Emo!Sam and Supercharged!Dean every day of the week, and I’m not saying I didn’t like the episode, but it just didn’t grab me tight and never let go the way so many others have.
All that aside, though, it was full of answers and more than it’s share of teasers, so let’s get started!
New Evidence for Existing Threads
The Mark of Cain/ Addiction/ Brother’s Relationship / “I did what I had to do”
First things first – There is no doubt that Dean’s kill scene was epic! Who didn’t love the wind blowing through the room when Dean was calling on the power of the Mark of Cain?
An incredible end to the “Kill Abaddon” quest that the Winchesters have been on for so long. That is what Dean’s whole struggle had been about. Enduring the pull of the Blade, fighting the blood-lust, suffering through sleepless nights and lonely isolation, all so he could kill the Knight of Hell. Check that off the to-do list, as Dean so eloquently said after he killed Azazel! Why, then, did he insist on holding onto the demonic weapon that he both fears and craves? Is this simply Dean’s addiction to the Blade? I don’t think so. Let’s look at the clues.
Dean saw his mission clearly – kill Abaddon. He was “obsessed” in Sam’s words, with finding Abaddon. Once his enemy was in his sights, he approached his quarry with the focus and single-mindedness of a hunter after prey. This was a war that he intended to win. To accomplish his objective, he thought it necessary to shed Sam and all other distractions or possible liabilities to his battle plan, so he lied to Sam…again. Sam was understandably mad about this, assuming it was just another example of big brother not trusting him and being overly protective. Dean tried to explain his reasons, saying that Sam might have been used by Abaddon as leverage to escape. What I would have liked Dean to have said, instead, was:
“Sammy, way back during the trials you told me that I am smart. Well, this was me being smart. I was trained in field tactics. I see battles in my mind. I strategize, anticipating moves and counter moves. I plan strategies as easily as other people plan a trip to the movies. I wasn’t thinking of you here. I did what I had to do to get the job done. Everything isn’t about you. This was about the job – killing Abaddon. The best way to do that was for me to go in alone. You would never have agreed with me, so I lied to you. Plain and Simple.”
Sam might have understood this explanation a little better.
“Threads” readers pretty much agree that Dean is slowly losing his soul, but we are divided as to how far he will go. One theory is that the Mark is channeling the energy of Dean’s soul into the blade. It makes him drastically more powerful but uses up his soul’s goodness in the process, i.e. making him “soulless” or a calculating, unfeeling, stone cold killer. His dispassionate analysis of the battle with Abaddon was a good example of his Purgatory-like ruthlessness. Another theory is that his draw to violence will eventually turn him into a demon. Chilling examples of this progression include how much Dean gloried in killing a vampire in A4, or him mutilating Abaddon with repeated stabbings after she was dead. We saw in “Meta Fiction” that Dean was able to hold back his drive to kill when interrogating Gadreel, though. In “King of the Damned”, Dean again proved that he was still capable of rational thought, despite his addiction to a blood-lust that is slowly overpowering him. Dean was more than willing to interrogate Ezra. (By the way, I loved Sam’s little eye twitch when he was bothered by Dean’s enthusiasm to interrogate the prisoner. Such a subtle movement to show his concern. Incredible acting interpretation from Jared.) At first, Dean was going to lay into Ezra with the knife but Sam stopped him. Sam figured out that they could use psychology rather than torture to get answers out of Ezra, and Dean, blood-thirsty though he was, understood the ploy instantly.
Besides being a very welcome reprise of their unspoken communication and seamless hunting partnership, it was also evidence that Dean is still capable of non-violent strategies. Dean was willing to go along with this tactic because he realized it would get results, even though I’m sure it was not his preferred method of interrogation. He did “what he had to do” to get the job done.
Why is Dean insisting on keeping the Blade, then? He promised to return to kill Cain, but I don’t think that is the first thing on his mind. Does he simply feel he has a tremendous weapon and power to fight evil? Is he thinking with that purity of purpose he discovered/experienced in Purgatory? We are seeing a super-amped-up, Purgatory Dean. The question is, how long can he stay in control? Sam finally told Dean that he fears Dean is changing, but neither he, nor we, know into what.
If “Meta Fiction” was the turning point in Castiel’s redemption, “King of the Damned” was the beginning of the redemption arc for Gadreel.
The first time we saw Gadreel in this episode, he talked about honor. Gadreel said he agreed to meet with Castiel because he had a reputation for honor, then later Gadreel said, “I believe there must be honor, even in matters of war”. He also spoke of loyalty and his motivations. All this was done to soften our hatred and anger for Gadreel. These underpinnings were reinforced with Sam’s sympathetic memories of Gadreel as not hostile and “misunderstood”. Gadreel was also compared to Castiel, trying to make the audience sympathetic to his mistakes and establishing that bad things can mistakenly be done by good people (well, angels).
Castiel: “You’re eager to redeem yourself. Maybe more.”
Gadreel: “You refer to my support of Metatron’s campaign to rebuild Heaven?”
Castiel: “Your support? You’ve recruited for him. You’ve killed for him. I know you truly believe it is for the greater good but you’ve placed your faith in the wrong master.”
Gadreel: “You don’t know him.”
Castiel: “I know him too well, Gadreel. I made the same mistake and it led to the fall.”
Gadreel: “Which led to my second chance.”
Castiel: “This is about more than just you.”
Gadreel: “Castiel, are you suggesting I change loyalties?”
Castiel: “I’m suggesting you reclaim your original loyalty to the heaven and mission we were made to serve.”
Gadreel: “I thought that was exactly what I was doing.”
Castiel: “You’ve been deceived.”
Gadreel truly believes he is working toward a noble cause – the restoration of heaven. He fell for Metatron’s story, just as Castiel once did. Gadreel is now the dupe, and Castiel is trying to give Gadreel the benefit of his hard-learned lesson.
A comment to the “Threads – Meta Fiction” article contained the speculation that Metatron is counting on Gadreel’s betrayal, i.e. that Gadreel is just another antagonist in Metatron’s story. Is Metatron anticipating Gadreel’s change in loyalties? Metatron’s whole scheme is built on a presumption of predictability. He emphatically insisted that Castiel use HIS script; and to Gadreel that things would work “As long as everyone plays their part”. He knows that Team Free Will can go off-script because they already surprised him when they captured Gadreel. The story’s “twist” that Metatron loves so much will be another “surprise” that either Gadreel, Cas or the boys cook up. I don’t think Metatron knows Dean has the MoC, so that is a Winchester advantage and a basis for an “off script” variation. If Gadreel does redeem himself by changing sides at the most crucial moment (which I believe he will do), this “twist” plus the Winchester’s unpredictability could be what will undermine Metatron’s grand plan and allow the good guys to win.
One more point. I have always assumed that Gadreel’s redemption would be his last, heroic act that would cost him his life. I’m beginning to wonder now, though, if he will not only be recruited back to the good side, but if the writers might allow him to live (in Heaven) as an ally to Castiel. Tahmoh is a strong actor and popular addition to the cast, plus Castiel could use Gadreel’s help in heaven. Gadreel wouldn’t be seen often, maybe only referenced occasionally, but it would be nice to expand Castiel’s circle of friends just a bit. What do you think?
“King of the Damned” also showed Castiel in his new role as commander. It perpetuated his image as a humbler, wiser leader, pursuing a non-violent solution to the angel war (maybe as a sharp contrast to Dean’s solutions?). SueB posed a theory that I thought was fabulous in the last “Threads” discussion. She speculated that “Cas is playing the Jesus role in this story. I think he will permanently open back up the Gates of Heaven by sacrificing himself.” This idea is brilliant! It never occurred to me, nor do I think I would have ever thought of it. Cas once called himself “God”. Well “God” became human this season, just as the divinity of God became human in the man named Jesus. God has always favored Castiel, just as God declared his favor rested on Jesus. Castiel has also been resurrected several times, just as Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus died to open Heaven. It would be an easy leap to expect that Cas, with all his new-found humility and repentance, would willingly sacrifice himself to open the doorway to heaven (redeeming himself in the process). Cas has died at least twice before – he was killed by Lucifer and he died when he was overcome with Leviathan power – but that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be killed again. Sam and Dean have died several times! It would also be another ironic twist on Metatron, who said Cas would be the only one to NOT die. I think this is a very imaginative possibility.
– Will Abel have to kill Cain (i.e. will Sam have to kill Dean), or will the foreshadowing from “First Born”of Cain accidentally killing Colette come to pass? Will Dean accidentally kill Sam?
– Sam is watching Dean change under the power of an addiction and is (so far) powerless to stop it, just as Dean was powerless to stop Sam’s addiction to demon blood.
– The demon vessel may have angel grace in him; the angel vessel now has a demonic power growing in him.
– Sam did not stop Dean from killing his prey (Abaddon) just as Dean couldn’t talk Sam out of killing Lilith. Both demons needed to die, but will there be unintended, global consequences again?
– Metatron=Chuck. Metatron is hogging all the prophet powers for himself. That would be another parallel to him being Chuck, the chronicler of the Supernatural story.
Will someone else turn out to be who they aren’t supposed to be?:
Crowley – On multiple occasions, I have highlighted the fact that Crowley’s smoke is red, not black like all the other demons. The only other “red” character we have seen so far is Cain. I was a little troubled, therefore, when Crowley recounted his conversion to being a demon.
Gavin: “You sold your soul? Sold it? For an extra 3 inches of willy?”
Crowley: “Priorities change. I wasn’t the bon vivant that I am now. I’ll simplify. My soul did a stint in Hell, where it became demonized. Then I had to possess another person so I could traffic with the living.”
This is the established, run-of-the-mill way to become a demon. Are we to believe that’s all there is to Crowley? What about the red smoke? That is not a continuity error. It has been shown repeatedly so I know it is important! Crowley’s story confused me. Theories?
Castiel’s Spy – I predict that the angel who handled Ezra, i.e. the “stuffy” angel who brought the brothers to Castiel’s office, is the mole in Castiel’s organization. His warning to Ezra:
“Be careful what you say. You never know who might be listening…
You said plenty. Apparently you felt the need to discuss your relationship with Metatron. His strategies – priveledged information. You speak that freely and there are consequences”
Before I even knew there was a mole in Castiel’s ranks, I thought it was odd that this angel’s reproach to Ezra focused so much on Metatron. His words could also be prophetic if you read them with a double meaning. Besides, this Cas follower is the only other angel we’ve met who had a speaking part (aside from Hannah in “Meta Fiction”, but she had too great of a smile to be a traitor). In practical terms, that actor is credited differently from actors who just have walk-on parts. The writers made a point to introduce this angel as a character. It makes sense that they are going to use him again.
“You’ve [Sam] seen everything that he’s [Gadreel] seen”-
We finally got to hear Sam describe what he experienced! It was a very short scene, but I’ll take whatever crumbs I am thrown, as we’ve all been starving for Sam’s point of view!
Sam: “He didn’t possess me, completely. More like we shared housing. I was still me.”
Castiel: “Did you ever sense a presence?”
Sam: “I don’t really know what I felt. Maybe that I wasn’t completely alone.”
Castiel: “Did you ever feel threatened?”
Sam: “No. More that he wasn’t at rest, like he had unfinished business. Now that we know more about him, I’d say he felt misunderstood.”
Castiel: “…but not a danger? Not hostile?”
Sam: “No. I was wrong, obviously, He killed Kevin.”
This is a vital revelation. First, Sam maintained his identity while Gadreel was in control, yet Sam didn’t have any conscious awareness of being possessed? He was allowed to speak to Dean frequently, actually most of the time, yet Sam never knew what was happening to him? Was Gadreel continually wiping Sam’s memory? Not knowing what was happening is consistent with him not knowing that Gadreel met and agreed to work for Metatron. Still, we have Crowley’s statement “I know how possession works, Sam. You’ve seen everything that he’s seen, even if you can’t remember. That’s what I need you to do. I need you to remember.” (“Road Trip 9.10). Can Sam “remember” more of his time being possessed? Can he remember something strategically important?
Secondly, it seems Sam feels guilty that he misjudged Gadreel. Sam once fought and expelled Satan’s possession. He surely has to believe that he could have overcome Gadreel. Sam’s statement “I was wrong, obviously” tells me that he feels responsible for Kevin’s death.
Is the Angel Banishing Spell Reversible, i.e. What does Crowley know from the angel tablet? – The story does not seem to be going in the direction of Crowley being able to open the gates of Heaven. Rather, the story has introduced the concept of a back door. This week it was revealed that the backdoor to Heaven is a moving portal – Metatron’s personal, secret passageway. I have to wonder if this is what Crowley discovered when he read the tablet. Metatron has been using the knowledge he gained from writing the angel tablet to mastermind his whole scheme. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that a second entrance would be explained in the tablet, that Metatron would consequently know about the backdoor, and that Crowley discovered this secret when he glanced at the tablet? That would be a “huh” to Crowley, as in “Interesting. Store away for future use”. He hasn’t needed to use that knowledge yet, but it would be a great bargaining chip when Sam and Dean inevitably dissolve their partnership with him and threaten his life. In “Holy Terror (9.09)”, Kevin also found something in the angel tablet that he thought Metatron purposely hid from prophets. Could it have been the escape hatch?
Threads on Hold (no new clues this time)
What is the significance of Castiel’s stolen grace (is it the key to reversing the angel banishing spell)? There wasn’t any new evidence in this episode related to Castiel’s grace, but the comments from the last Threads article included a new theory that Castiel’s borrowed grace will burn out and he will volunteer to be the vessel for all the souls that need to get into Heaven. This would be the sacrifice he would make for all the angels he has killed.
Letting Go/Grief – The idea of grief has been revisited in several episodes this season. The concept of Letting Go of loved ones was explored first with Timmy’s mother’s ghost protecting him, then with Mama and her Alex, and then with Jody and her husband and son. Later the theme was deepened to explore what happens when people don’t let go, i.e. the lingering effects of grief, especially for Kevin. That may be a bigger theme than previously realized, in fact, it may be central to the season’s finale. That’s scary.
New Themes (Storylines?)
I think the time has come to formally acknowledge arcs that are introduced in one season with the express purpose of bridging to the next season. These aren’t exactly threads. They aren’t subtle clues woven into dialogue. Rather they are the seeds of new story lines planted into episodes so that they can be carefully and slowly nurtured for future harvesting. To get away from the farming analogy and back to the idea of threads, I believe we are seeing the weavers of our story beginning the design of a new tapestry. They are sketching the overall big picture, with the details to be filled in later. I don’t expect any of these ideas to be developed further in season 9. Rather, I believe these ideas started to percolate when it was confirmed that the show was renewed for another season. These are the connections between this season and next. I have detected three so far:
Who is Kevin’s real father? – This teaser was first dropped in season 8 when Crowley possessed Mrs. Tran. It was revisited when she emphasized the significance of Mr. Tran’s ring. I think something is brewing here.
Female Hunters – At the end of “Alex, Annie, Alexis, Ann”, it was very clear that Sheriff Jody Mills was open to the possibility of permanently caring for Alex, a teenager who desperately needed guidance and love:
Alex: “When Mama offered, I couldn’t disappoint her again. I have enough to be ashamed of as it is. Jody, I’ve done things.”
Jody: “You don’t have to explain. I know. Whatever you want from me, I’ll give it. If you want, I’m here…but what you’ve been through the last 48 alone. Losing your entire family, everything you’ve ever known or loved, no one can understand that.”
Alex: “You can.”
Alex was established as a strong character, who had already experienced pain and heartache because of the supernatural world. The combination of Jody and Alex would be a great substitution for Ellen and Jo, who we loved but were lost to us in season 5. They would also be a great female duo, to balance the strong male dominance in the show. Their dialogue was clearly meant to parallel the conversation between Sam and Dean in “Sacrifice” (Alex=Sam and Jody=Dean here). Combine this with the female pairing of Dorothy and Charlie, and I believe the show is experimenting with, if not introducing, strong female counterparts to Sam and Dean.
Gavin’s Impact on Time – Why did Abaddon and Crowley spend so much time convincing Gavin that he had time travelled? Why was Abaddon so patient, sitting with Crowley, showing Gavin the 21st century?
Abaddon did not benefit in any way from Gavin understanding what had happened to him. Why did she allow Crowley so much time to talk with Gavin privately? She needed Gavin as leverage, and her eye-bleeding stunt proved that Gavin’s safety could be used to manipulate Crowley. So why didn’t the story just move along to her threats against Crowley, or to planning the demise of Sam and Dean? I believe the emphasis on Gavin’s time jump was made to address the character’s transition from 18th century Scotland to modern day. A lot of time was also spent between Crowley and Gavin, with Crowley remembering Gavin’s brutally abusive childhood. This was clearly exposition. That only happens when a character needs to be established.
Gavin: “I grew up knowing I was nothing. Less than nothing. You worked me harder than the horse. You never let me go to school. To this day, I can’t read.”
Then later, “So if you’re a King, does that make me a Prince?”
Gavin was established as a half-witted, conniving, self-promoting lout, whose father is the King of Hell (“comes with perks”), and whose grandmother was a witch. Gavin negotiated with Crowley, “If I was to accept you as my father, you could keep me from eternally burning in Hell, no matter my sins? This might work out. For the first time in my entire life, I can see possibilities…a future” [emphasis added by me]
Besides Gavin’s and Crowley’s dialogue, Sam and Dean’s emphasis on never changing the time stream was blatant. There is no doubt that this episode needed to set up Gavin as a full character. Why else would the writers (annoyingly) spend several, precious minutes in a heavy, myth-arc-resolving episode on a throw-away, only-mentioned-once-before character? Gavin’s presence in the current time will be important.
– Just as in “Meta Fiction”, we once again had a scene where the characters talked straight into the camera, purportedly talking to someone, yet seemingly talking directly to the audience:
Dean: “I get it. He’s a fan.”
Sam: “A fan. Yeah.”
Dean: “You’re a fan. Look, just ‘cause you’re hot for Metatron, or Bieber or Beckham…Just ‘cause you know everything about them, doesn’t mean you actually know them.”
Sam: “…or that they even know you exist.”
Dean: “Oh, that’s cold Sam.”
Sam: “I’m just saying, man.”
What I don’t understand is why the writers did this? Two episodes in a row (if one takes “Bloodlines” out of the sequence as a one-off) the writers told fans to back off. First they felt compelled to say “we own the story, not you. We know the ending”. I was okay with that because they posed it as the true philosophical question that it is – Reader vs. Author. This week, though, it was “You don’t really know the people you idolize. They don’t know (or care) about you”. Why are they purposely antagonizing the fans? It doesn’t make any sense. Are they really threatened by the fandom? Jared and Jensen have far more interaction with the fans than the writers (at conventions) and they continually reiterate how much they love being with fans. Happily, the fandom doesn’t seem to be upset by this insertion, but why do you think the writers did this?
– It didn’t make any sense to me why Abaddon didn’t just kill Crowley after she shot him. She could have killed him with an angel blade while he was incapacitated. She knew the Winchesters were already on their way. She didn’t need Crowley anymore. Kill him and the war for hell is over. Was she keeping him alive just in case she needed him, or was this a “don’t look closely” moment of the plot?
– Abaddon knew time travel because she was trained as a MoL. She used it to follow Henry Winchester to the 21st century.
– Can the non-damned hear hell hounds? In “Crossroads Blues” (2.08) the dialogue established that Sam could not hear the hell hounds heard by Evan (a condemned man). In “Abandon All Hope” and “Trial and Error”, I remember everyone deducing the hell hounds’ presence by visual cues, but never hearing them. I was therefore surprised when Sam heard a hellhound in the cemetery. I’m thinking this was a canon error?
– Crowley must have more than one pet hell hound because the preview recalled him saying, “Sic ‘em, boy”, yet this one was a female named Juliet.
If you’ve read this far, I have one closing observation. I opened with my confusion about the calm before the storm atmosphere created in “King of the Damned”. Maybe the whole point of the episode’s tranquil atmosphere, though, was to put into sharp contrast the violence overtaking Dean. Everyone else – Sam, Castiel, Gadreel, even the King, Knight and Hound of Hell – were civil and reasonably peaceful in this episode. Dean on the other hand, was brutally violent. The irony may have been the entire point.
Screen Caps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com.
References confirmed with www.supernaturalwiki.com