I really, really liked Supernatural’s season 10 premiere episode, “Black”. I thought it was a fascinating exploration of character, worthy of Supernatural storytelling. From the “Then” montage to the demon, human and angel stories, I hung onto every word of the dialog and every nuance of the acting. Let me share with you both my impressions and my analysis.
The “Then” montage was exceptionally good. I found the choice of scenes in the sequence fascinating and revealing. For example, it was very interesting that the “Then” included Kevin as a ghost. Not just Kevin being killed, which is a significant plot point, but Kevin as a ghost. While the writers’ intention may have been to include summaries of every season 9 episode (a theory that could easily be tested given more time and more rewatches. Is someone up to the challenge?), it could also indicate that Ghost!Kevin is important and will be used again in season 10. Also, the choice of music “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar was curious. I interpreted it to be all about Dean. I’m not sure why that was my read because Sam, Dean and even Cas have all broken hearts, but to me it was the writer’s first opportunity to define Demon!Dean for us. I listened to the lyrics intently to understand the message they were trying to telegraph. Then the last beat hitting just as Dean’s black eyes opened…superb timing, strumming the emotions.
The opening scene with the demon was also meant to deliver a message. The captured demon’s speech was written to make us think she was talking to Demon!Dean:
“…a Winchester, one of us? Whatever soul you had, whatever Boy Scout code you cuddled up to at night, it’s all gone. Leaving what? Look at you.”
The camera angle suddenly shifting to Sam and the overlaid “shocking” music were production choices meant to accentuate the surprise that she was talking to Sam, not Dean. Unfortunately, so many of us already knew it was Sam because of the promotional videos. The first big message, and intended emotional impact, was wasted and lost by spoiler releases. Then the directional choice of distorting Sam’s face was appropriate for the point they were trying to make about Sam and would have continued the emotional moment, but I actually found it a little distracting, even insulting. Neither Jared nor Supernatural fans need cheap theatrics to create or interpret intensity in a scene. Ok, though, I got the point. Sam is intense.
Then fans were treated to one of the most important revelations of the season – The season 10 title card! It was OUTSTANDING!! Love it!
At this point, the show had only been running for literally five minutes, yet again the music was playing a significant role in the story. Sam was in the bunker, alone. The strings, solo piano keys and haunting cello beautifully framed Sam’s loneliness. Then the curtains on the stage to this play spread open just a little wider, slowly allowing us our first glimpse at season 10’s story. What followed was some sharp dialog and outstanding acting that would bring those stories,and the threads that would be woven throughout its intricate plotlines, to life. So here begins our detection and interpretation of Supernatural’s season 10’s threads…
Let Me Go
Dean left a note for Sam. Sam smiled as he looked at the note he had probably examined dozens of times before: “Sammy, let me go.”
The “Let It Go” theme was laced throughout all of season 9. It went from being a central message of entire episodes to the words being used verbatim at critical moments in dialog. The closing episode of season 9 used it both literally (e.g. Sam screaming at Dean about the Blade: “Let it go!” and Crowley’s epilogue to Dean “Except, as rumor has it, the Mark never quite let go.”) to the implied, continuous battle between letting go of loved ones versus fighting to keep them with us.
Having a note that said “Sammy, Let me go.” then is extremely significant. First, there is the fact that there is a note at all. Demon!Dean wouldn’t care at all what Sam does, so why warn him off? Surely Mark of Cain Dean isn’t worried about being challenged by Sam, so why take the time to write a note? Why not just leave? Soulless!Sam would have just left. Then there was the use of “Sammy” instead of “Sam”. Only loving, big brother Dean used Sammy. I have a hard time believing the Demon!Dean wouldn’t just say “Sam”. It tells me that Dean’s feelings are in there somewhere. Then there was the specific choice of words. “Let me go.” When Sam lost Dean at the end of season 7, when Sam had no idea what happened to Dean and presumed him dead, Sam felt he had no other choice but to let Dean go. Dean resented or was hurt by this choice and held it against his brother for all of season 8. Now, in an obviously blatant contrast, he is telling Sam to repeat that same choice, despite a full year telling Sam he was wrong to do so.
I have to wonder if “Let it go” won’t then continue throughout this season. Is it exactly the lesson the brothers need to learn to rebuild their relationship? What do you think?
Stage 1 of figuring out Dean’s fate:
When Sam was talking to Castiel about Dean, Sam said, “It will be better when I get him back…after I kick his butt”. This made it sound like Sam believed Dean was alive and could be “saved”.
Castiel: “Why would he just disappear?”
Sam: “Who says he had a choice?”
Castiel: “Well then who wrote the note? Do you think there’s any chance, any chance at all, that Dean is still…
Sam: “…still even remotely Dean?”
The last time Sam saw Dean, Dean was dead – body getting cold, rigor mortis setting in, dead. Sam and Cas obviously believed that someone brought Dean back to life – someone like Crowley? They both know how possession of a dead body works. The last Ruby possession explained it clearly. Ruby made sure the soul had left the body. It was nothing but an empty vessel. Ruby was “alone in here”. So the dialog revealed that Sam and Cas thought Dean was resurrected and kidnapped or otherwise taken, not that he was possessed. THAT is why Sam was so utterly shocked when he saw Dean’s eyes roll black at the convenience store.
Stage 2 of figuring out Dean’s fate:
Once Sam saw Dean’s black eyes, he changed his theory to believing that Dean was possessed by a demon. That theory lasted only a few minutes because Crowley set him straight:
Stage 3 of figuring out Dean’s fate:
Crowley: “Your brother is very much alive, courtesy of the Mark. The only demonized soul inside of him is his, and his alone. A wee-bit more twisted, a little more mangled beyond human recognition, but I can assure you…all his.” He continued on to say, “You don’t care that he’s a demon. Heck, you’ve been a demon, we’ve all been demons.”
Leading us, and Sam, to believe that Dean IS a demon. That his soul had been corrupted and had become demonic. Yet, there was the next conversation between Crowley and Dean, which leads to …
Stage 4 of figuring out Dean’s fate:
Crowley: “The Mark needs to be sated, otherwise…”
Dean: “…otherwise I turn into a demon. Yeah, yeah. Sort of got that 6 weeks ago.”
WHAT?? So Dean IS NOT a demon…YET?? He’s just a…. sociopath? According to one description of this term, “Sociopaths have little regard for the feelings of others and manipulate others in order to get what they desire. People who have this disorder often have no sense of right or wrong.” The official definition of the condition is “someone who behaves in a dangerous or violent way towards other people and does not feel guilty about such behavior.” This is exactly what we are seeing in Dean! While Sam now believes Dean is a demon, the viewers are privy to insider information that advances the theory. It seems we are being told that Dean has not yet taken his final vows to demonhood. He may be an initiate, a deacon or a demon-in-training, but he isn’t fully converted….yet. That would also further support my pre-season “Threads” theory that the brothers will take all season to track down research and a “cure” for the Mark of Cain branded on Dean’s arm.
Not being a full-fledged demon would also explain why Dean seemed momentarily flustered when Crowley said he had talked to Moose. Dean’s “What?” seemed to indicate he was a bit shaken hearing about Sam again. It caught him off-guard and for a split second he was less cold and unfeeling. The final scene of the episode certainly eradicated any hope that Dean is sentimental about Sam, but there was still a moment… “I left you an open tab at the bar. Knock yourself out”. That line implied that Dean might have felt a fleeting non-aggressive familiar bond toward Sam. After all, knowing Sam was on his way to that location, Dean could have waited in ambush to kill Sam if he wanted him dead (by the way, does anyone believe that Crowley intentionally stayed on the call with Sam too long? Crowley was looking for a way to move Dean out of that bar and Sam’s imminent arrival did the trick! …or was Crowley being truthful again and his human emotions got the better of him?).
Dean’s inquiry to Cole later, “How do I know my brother is still alive?” sounded more like a factual inquiry rather than a concerned plea, still, Dean used the term “my brother” rather than just calling him Sam or some derogatory name.
Is Dean still on the path to full demon ranks? Dean’s defensive retort to AnneMarie about being “the kind of guy who sleeps with every skank in every small town dive he passes through – that sure as hell sounds like me” reminded me of the self-flagellating dean. The repeat of the reflective cello music, the contemplative look Dean had after AnneMarie left the room, the fact that he got plastered drunk after his conversation with Crowley…all made me think that Dean’s guilt and self-hatred is alive and well inside this new version of him.
Even “Crowley said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you. I truly don’t.” If Crowley doesn’t know, how are we supposed to figure it out? All things considered, this week I think we saw the “ExtremeBadBoyDean”. That’s what AnneMarie called him, so maybe the writers were giving us a hint as to how to view Dean, at least in this stage of his decline.
Two things were established unequivocally. First, Jensen was superb as BadBoyDean.
I got chills when he said to Crowley, “You sold me out.” He sounded truly menacing.
I wondered if even Crowley had to watch himself! Jensen’s conflicted expressions and his shifts from violent sociopath to protective wanderer,
from carefree bar gamer to willing but unwitting apprentice to the master demon,
to troubled drunk, all conveyed the part-Dean, part-not-Dean character that Jensen admitted he interpreted from the script.
The second thing we know for sure? Dean, demon or not, CAN NOT SING.
Even though this episode could have been all about Dean – his fate, his debauchery and his violence – Jared gave a riveting performance that made this episode equally about Sam. The following scenes solidly communicated Sam’s state of mind, his emotions and his point of view partially through dialog, but mostly through non-verbal acting.
· When the demon continued to taunt Sam with “eat me”, Sam subtly shook his head yes and smiled. Absolutely fabulous acting by Jared! Sam looked like he welcomed the chance to channel his rage, grief and frustration into sadistic torture.
· Sam called Castiel in his excitement at finally having a lead. Sam exuberantly explained the lead to Cas, oblivious to Castiel’s weakened voice. Then Sam finally noticed Castiel’s coughing. The look on Jared’s face, closing his eyes, rolling his head… you could read his thoughts of “Oh, how could I be so stupid? Listen to him. He is dying and I’m ignoring his situation.” The writing was excellent but Misha and Jared really sold the scene.
· When Sam first saw black eyes in Dean. The change of expression betrayed the emotions and the racing thoughts of “we were wrong. He didn’t take off, he was possessed!” Superb reveal from Jared.
· Sam’s declarations to Crowley: “I will save my brother, or die trying…. I am going to save my brother.” The use of the word “save” versus, find or rescue or some other heroic gesture clearly referred back to Sam making the exact opposite decision he made at the end of season 7. The commitment, the passion in Jared’s performance was riveting.
Even though Jared and Jensen deliver great acting every week, their performances in the premiere carried this episode and made their characters’ anguish believable and worth watching.
Castiel, Heaven and Hell
In Castiel’s phone call with Sam, Cas asked Sam, “How are you, Sam?” I was particularly touched by this caring moment. It was an exact reflection back to when Castiel first heard Dean’s voice on the phone in 9.18 “Meta Fiction”. Cas paused, smiled, and simply asked, “How are you Dean?” It brings, I don’t know, humanity? a recognition of what’s real? back into their world. I see it as a perfect pause in the action. A way to slow down the dialog, the action, the angst and the worry and have a moment of sensitivity that the show so masterfully portrays.
Castiel repeated this sensitivity when he wanted to listen to Daniel. I really liked Daniel and the multi-layered conversation he had with Cas about fishing and freedom and choices. “With each choice, I begin to discover who I really am… You would understand why it’s worth fighting for.” In contrast, as in some of the latter episodes of season 9, I was frustrated by Castiel’s inability to articulately express his views. We know he agreed with Daniel, yet why didn’t he express all of the lessons he has learned about interacting with humanity? Does Cas get tongue-tied when talking with angels? Does he have trouble reconciling their directive to follow orders with his obvious dedication to free will? He often offers incredible wisdom to the brothers. Why doesn’t he share this wisdom with his own family? I don’t understand this failure in his character. Regardless, the emphasis on free will and the revelation that angels other than Castiel have discovered choice and are capable of embracing freedom makes me wonder if independence of thought might become a thread for Heaven’s storyline. Maybe the angels, through Hannah and Castiel, understand the mission to protect humans by choice rather than edict, and that choice heals their rifts and repairs Heaven. This would be supported by Crowley’s emphasis on trying to redesign Hell with Dean. Maybe the reinvention of Heaven and Hell is where these three years of angelic and demonic wars have been going! What do you think?
Aside, did anyone else think Castiel’s squeaky Continental with the bad shocks was meant to be an obvious juxtaposition to the Impala? Cas and Hannah’s road talks were also parallels to Sam and Dean having conversations while driving. The angels even got out of the car and had a conversation over the car roof, Hannah leaning on the roof just as Sam has often done, and Cas remaining on the driver’s side in Dean’s traditional position.
Hannah ended the conversation abruptly when she wanted to avoid further discourse, just as Sam and Dean have done to each other. Later there was the reflective talk in the car, at night, with rain on the windows. Sam and Dean aren’t together so our “car conversation” fix was supplied by the Hannah and Castiel!
“It’s my truth.”
Castiel said that line to Hannah when explaining about his health. That reminded me so much of what the faith-filled woman in the church said to Cas “Your truth, not mine” in 9.03 “I’m No Angel”. I find that reuse interesting and curious. I have to wonder if the boys are going to have to hold onto their own truths to gain peace and some type of closure, happiness and purpose again.
“Now I’m the monster.”
The promotional releases and interviews for season 10 all talked about the exploration of who was the real monster, Dean or Sam. The opening sequence of the episode between Sam and the demon was clearly meant to shock viewers to believing that she was accusing Sam, not Dean, of being a monster. Yet it was Cole who called himself a monster. This seems like it is going to be a farther reaching thread throughout the season.
By the way, I thought it was odd that Cole broke his arm by sitting on the handlebars of his older brother’s bicycle. That reminded me too much of Sam and Dean’s similar story. Anyone remember which episode that was in?
Jared’s hair cut!
LOVED convenience store kid! He did a GREAT job! He really put Sam in his place too! Way to give a one-shot appearance everything you’ve got!
Crowley: “I will treasure our flickr albums forever.” Great line!
The jury is still out on the Cole storyline. Gordon was inserted into seasons 2 and 3 to make a point about humans being monsters more than monsters were monsters. Cole seems to be making that same point. I’ll wait to see what happens with him. I wasn’t a big fan of the Gordon distraction so Cole is starting at a disadvantage with me.
I very, very, very much enjoyed this episode. There weren’t any shocking developments or revelations, but so much had been leaked beforehand. I had to watch all the spoilers to be able to post descriptions (not my personal preference by the way), but I am curious if the episode had more of an impact on people who were spoiler free. Still, I was riveted by every word of the dialog (yes, even the angel’s dialog!). I was fascinated by the parallels being drawn and the subtle references to previous character growth. My passionate hope is that season 10 is filled with redemption. I hope that Gadreel’s redemption was the beginning of a much larger multi-year redemption arc that both brothers and Castiel, and maybe even Crowley, share. I want love and hope back in this show. Nothing in this episode made me believe that won’t happen in season 10, so I am still just as excited by the year’s possibilities as I was before the show aired.
As those familiar with my Threads series from last season may remember, I don’t read other reviews or your discussion comments before writing my articles. That is the only way I can ensure the clues I detect and the theories I propose come purely from the episode, unaffected by other people’s interpretations of the story. Now is your time to bring it all together and test if these theories and threads hold up against evidence I may have missed! Please share your reading of the clues and your opinion on my theories! Add anything you’ve been wondering about! Together, let’s find and perfect the threads left for us by the writers! Go!
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com.