Before leaving Castiel, Hannah asked a very poignant question: “What of the humans, whose lives we sacrifice in the name of that mission, what of them?” She was discussing the angels and their endless abuses of human kind under the guise of the “mission,” but as we see in “The Things We Left Behind” this is an issue that touches each thread of season ten. What of the humans? What about those the angels have used—or their families left behind? What about their survival? Just what is a human being worth? And how much will we fight to keep our own humanity intact? The mid-season finale explored all of these questions in depth—and set the stage for the remainder of the season to answer them.
Let’s look at the value placed upon a human life.
Crowley complains to his minion, Gerald, “Did I tell you the time that she almost traded me for three pigs, three! I was an attractive child, I could juggle. I was worth five pigs, at least.” Surely, a human life is worth more than a pig—or even five of them. Three pigs or five pigs, it’s a lot like apples and oranges. One cannot possibly equal the other. And a human life is always going to be valued more than the pig’s.
Later, as he’s confronted by his mother, Crowley reminds her that she once told him, “You said I would die in a gutter covered in my own sick.” On top of it, she abandoned him when he was only eight years old. For Crowley, this is something that still bothers him. He may have been “motivated to do better,”—and he may have achieved the throne of Hell—but it’s clear that he wants to understand just why his own mother didn’t value him enough to stay around.
His underling, Gerald, asks Crowley point blank, “If you hate this Betty so much, why not end her?”
It’s a good question. After all, Crowley, himself, is no longer human. He’s a demon—and as a demon he values human life on a different level. He sees them as human souls ripe for Hell’s harvest—and in that pursuit he’s ended many human lives without regret. And yet we see him not only tolerate his mother, but he shows her mercy when he stops Gerald from killing her. It makes us wonder why the King of Hell would value his mother—one that abandoned him no less—enough to kill a demon in order to save her life. Her life is a human life despite the fact that she’s a centuries old witch.
And it’s clear, by Crowley’s actions, that he finds value in having her alive—or at least her potential usefulness.
Usefulness. It’s something that we also see in Claire’s story.
Like Crowley, Claire has been abandoned by her parents, too. First, her father says yes to Castiel, taking Jimmy away from his family forever. In the aftermath of being possessed by the angel himself and her mother’s possession by demons, the young girl is dumped on her grandmother until she passes away. This leaves Claire vulnerable and another statistic in the system. She’s easily manipulated and preyed upon by people like Randy that promise to restore to her life the things Castiel took away: family and a place to belong. With those things comes purpose.
Her value is tied with Randy’s. She’s not frustrated that she was captured and tossed into solitary because she’s a bad kid or selfish. Claire isn’t doing this to act out for attention. She was trying to help provide for the “family” she feels obligated to help. Being locked away into the group home prevented this. And yet, as Claire finally manages to make her way back to Randy, we see another value placed on human life. Because she is a minor, Randy is willing to have Claire commit a felony. It’s clear that he’s led her to believe that this is the only way they can get out from under the loan shark he owes money to—but he’s also willing to risk throwing her future and life away. There’s no guarantee that if she had succeeded in committing this crime that she would have been charged as a juvenile, after all.
Rather Claire wants to see it or not, she’s only accepted into Randy’s family for as long as he sees her as being useful.
Furthermore, when Claire fails due to Castiel and the Winchester’s interventions, we see the young woman’s value change for Randy. She’s not merely a girl he can send out on money raids—stealing from anyone and everyone she can. Claire, herself, becomes the bargaining chip in Randy’s drive to wipe his debts clean. When his loan shark offers to erase them if he’ll give him Claire, he hesitates. Randy calls her “family.” The loan shark, Salinger, calls Randy’s bluff, retorting, “I know the con, alright. You find some kid with major league daddy issues and then you get her to steal for you.” Reassured that the deal will be a good one, Randy willingly trades Claire.
Claire’s value, to Randy, was about $5000, a bit more than the three pigs Crowley’s mother once asked for. But these are materialistic values; they’re physical and tangible figures that we can use and see to place value upon these people. In many ways, this is the opposite of valuing a human life. Both the money and livestock devalue these human lives. It’s the devauling that makes both examples shocking or heartbreaking. A human life isn’t comparable to either thing—it isn’t equal. It’s worth more.
What of the intangible—why is a human life worth more than pigs or money? What makes a human life more valuable than the “mission?” Why is humanity itself worth fighting for?
Rowena has been locked inside Crowley’s dungeon “for weeks” after her capture. She’s been trying to get an audience with the King of Hell—her son—only to be ignored. And yet, we can see her valuing her life—a human one even if she is a centuries old witch. Rowena is clearly all about survival. She will say and do anything it takes in order to come out on top. It’s clear that Crowley didn’t only learn a few witchy skills from his mother—he learned to put his own skin first from her, too.
As another prisoner is dumped into the cell with Rowena, we can see the wheels start to click in her head. She quickly gets her cell mate to tell her why Crowley’s locked her up. Trish tells her that she’s “not supposed to be here,” which makes the witch raise her eyebrows. After all, she must have done something in order to be chained into Crowley’s top side dungeon. Rowena gets her to explain it. The King of Hell only wants certain demons to be on earth—those not on the list don’t make it out. Trish managed to make a deal under the table with another demon that allowed her to be on earth until she was caught. She knows she’ll be questioned as to who helped her and how they managed it—and she knows Crowley isn’t going to “ask nice.”
Rowena makes herself seem sympathetic to Trish—but we can see that she’s storing this tidbit of information away for use later. Finally allowed to see her son, she quickly pushes all the buttons she can—telling him that she said the things she did to motivate him to “do better” and that “I’ll always love you.” It’s clear from Crowley’s expressions that Rowena’s words have touched a nerve—but in reality the witch is playing these cards to get what she wants most: her freedom.
Taken back to her cell, Rowena plays her cards. She tells Crowley that Gerald is the demon that helped Trish break out of Hell. It incenses the demon that she would out him—or falsely accuse him of doing something so shady behind the King’s back. This gamble nearly costs Rowena her goal: her survival. Gerald starts to choke her—even if Crowley tells him “That’s enough, Gerald,” several times. Unable to stop—or unwilling—Crowley’s left with little recourse than to stab him through the head.
Now that Rowena’s proven herself to be useful—outing the potential smuggler for instance—Crowley decides to grant her what she wants. She’s free to join him in the throne room—and from there who knows what Crowley’s mother has planned? It’s clear that she values his potential usefulness just as much!
But these are only the most basic values of human life. She wants her freedom and her survival.
What of the question that Hannah posed to Castiel? How has the angel taken this and digested it? How does he put the human lives they sacrifice first? For Castiel, this is truly the first time he’s ever actually considered this question head on. He’s brushed against it in the past—faced with allowing Dean to determine the outcome of the town when Samhain rose for instance—but this is the first time he’s looking closely at the issue and considering humanity’s value at a micro level. After all, the Castiel of the past was annoyed by the Winchester’s drive to save two orphan boys—despite the fact that one did turn out to be a monster. One human life was not worth sacrificing the overarching mission.
In his quest to answer Hannah’s question, Castiel sets out to find Jimmy’s daughter. He knows that it’s pointless to try and make it up to Jimmy. When finally face to face with Claire, he confirms to her that Jimmy’s no longer in his “vessel.” Castiel is alone in there. Jimmy went to Heaven after Raphael killed him, brutally ripping him apart at a “subatomic level.” All the physical appearance is a reassembled form granted to him from God.
Instead, Castiel will try and fix the implosion his interference in Jimmy’s life caused for Claire. Much like Rowena, Claire wants nothing more than her freedom. She’ll need the angel’s help to bust out. They appear in front of the group home leader and plead their case. It doesn’t go well as the leader is nonplussed by Castiel’s evasive and odd answers about why he was gone for so long and what he does for a living. Protecting humanity from “deadly threats” just doesn’t ring true—even if it is—and their claim is denied.
Castiel will have to find another way to help Claire achieve her goal. After all he’s done to her—destroying her family and putting her in this situation—he feels he has little choice but to help her get out. He arrives later that night, using his grace to power past the guards and opens the door, leading the young woman out into the night.
And yet, Castiel has only begun to see what Claire’s value is. He saw helping her get out as a first step to making right what he had done wrong to her. There’s no way he can truly restore or replace what he’s taken from her, either. It doesn’t mean he won’t try. After she bolts on him, Castiel calls Sam and Dean to help track her down. In his view, she’s become his responsibility. After all, Hannah had charged him with the original mission: to protect humanity. Helping Claire, even if she is only one person, is the first step to doing that.
But Castiel doesn’t understand why he was denied Claire’s custody in the first place. The group leader told him that she understood that he wanted to be Claire’s friend, but that was the problem. She tells him, “Claire doesn’t need a friend—she needs a father.” It leads him to ask the brothers about their own father. Did they love him? Did they think he was a good father? Having his own father absent—and never having actually met him—Castiel isn’t sure what exactly models good fatherly behavior. Dean tells him a story about sneaking into the legendary club, CBGB, and how John managed to track him down. In return, Dean confesses that he told his father that he hated him and that he had embarrassed him. Castiel isn’t quite sure how this relates to his situation with Claire until Dean tells him that his father told him, “It’s okay that you don’t like me. It’s not my job to be liked” and Sam finishes, “It’s my job to raise you right.”
Castiel learns that he has to be the guiding force in protecting Claire’s life. He’s to stand up for her, to stand up to her, and to do what he must in order to keep her safe. It’s the first step he’ll truly take in transforming Hannah’s words into actual action. It’s one thing to give into Claire’s demands—helping her get out of the group home—it’s another to provide her with what she really needs.
As they track Claire back to Randy’s, they arrive just as she’s being traded to Randy’s loan shark. The three break into the house, brandishing their weapons and Castiel using his grace to make his way to the room where Claire is fighting for her own survival. Castiel doesn’t want the girl to remain here any longer than necessary and pulls her away from her assault on her attacker and escorts her outside.
Unfortunately, as they all try to extricate themselves from the house, Dean is the last to leave and is caught by the angry bookies looking to take at least one of these crashers out for intruding on their negotiations.
It is here that we see the deepest meaning of human life and of humanity itself.
Throughout the episode, the Mark of Cain has become more sentient and far more sinister. At the start of the episode, we see it taunt Dean with a horrific nightmare. It’s a vision of what it will make the elder Winchester do. It is a warning that it is tired of biding its time—of killing mere demons or monsters. The Mark of Cain craves something sweeter and far more frightening. It values something higher than the blood of the creatures Dean’s killed since his cure.
It craves the very thing it was created by: human blood.
The Mark of Cain values human life highly. No, it doesn’t see it as something to save or something to treasure. It values it on a far different level. The Mark of Cain thirsts for its destruction. Since its power was first generated by the First Blade’s use on Abel, the Mark wants only one thing more than killing in general. It wants its bearer to kill other human beings and fall to its disease. Like a cancer, its starting to slowly make its way through Dean, taunting him, cursing him, and reinfecting him little by little through the episode. We see it in the angrier than normal appearance of the Mark—its redness and puffiness shows that it is preparing a strike.
And, it comes in the flashes we see in his nightmares and visions. We can see its end game clear. The Mark of Cain has no qualms about showing Dean what it wants and that it will have its way no matter what. The Mark is pressing on Dean, telling him explicitly that it is in charge and that it will no longer be ignored.
But just as the Mark of Cain craves human blood, Dean’s value on his humanity is just as strong. We see it clearly in the way he tries to hold the Mark’s appetite for blood at bay by indulging in watching The Three Stooges or eating everything he can. They’re coping mechanisms to fill the holes the Mark punches into his humanity, trying to push him to do something he fears most: becoming nothing more than a bloodthirsty killer.
This becomes most apparent when Dean sits down with Castiel, telling him that he “can’t be that thing again.” He knows that a relapse is possible. He fears that it is inevitable. Dean is in the fight to retain his humanity—and he can feel himself failing little by little as they work to find Claire. We can see it in how he demands his friend throw him into the sun if he should turn demonic again. Dean is almost anticipating the worst—preparing for the fight to be lost.
He knows he has a tenuous grip at best. In his second clash with Cole, Dean showed extreme restraint. He handled himself well in the hand to hand combat, but it was clear that he held back, using far more defensive moves to block or derail Cole’s wild attacks. Dean didn’t want to hurt him—nor did he want to repeat what he had done to the young man in their first encounter while he was still a demon. He tells the ex-marine that the darkness that had touched him had led him to “beat the crap out of a good man, just for the fun of it ” The restraint we see exhibited in that second scuffle is slowly starting to chip away in “The Things Left Behind”—and Dean knows at any moment he might snap, giving into the Mark of Cain’s brutal demands.
The front half of season ten has shown Dean what he may lose if he does become “that thing” again. He has been slowly building his relationship with Sam, making them an equal partnership and strengthening the bond that they share. We see it in how he’s allowed Sam to direct their hunts or telling him how he feels after a kill or in sharing the simple moments like watching the Three Stooges or hanging up the “Samulet” from the Impala’s mirror. Dean’s been able to reconnect with new and old allies, too, gaining friends that are willing to listen to him when he needs to talk. He knows he’s not alone in this. Dean has taken a new stock in his life and knows he wants to get back to doing what they do—-saving people, hunting things, family business—so he can redeem himself for the time he was demonic. Through fans eyes, Dean learned that he’s seen as a hero, someone that can and does fight for humanity.
Most of all, Dean learns that he should treasure that humanity and not take it for granted as he once might have—that if he truly wants to be more than the killer the Mark wants him to be, he’ll have to fight back.
And yet, as we see him try to leave the house with his brother and Castiel, he starts to succumb to the Mark. He fights valiantly not to attack these men. Dean knows that these men are not good men. He knows they’re shady and that they’re criminals. He knows that they were about to ruin a young woman’s life for their own pleasure—but they’re still people. They are human. Unlike his usual foes, these men aren’t demons or angels or monsters. Dean values their humanity.
He tries to ward them—and the nightmare vision the Mark keeps feeding him—away. They may only see one man they can easily overpower and kill—but Dean knows that they have no idea what he will do if cornered. It is the very internal explosion he’s been trying to avoid all this time. As we see him take a blow to the face, we see the minute change in Dean—one that triggers the avalanche—and we know he has lost this round.
While they strike him and knock him to the floor, the Mark takes over, taking his value of humanity and twisting it to its own perverted view. It wants these men to die and it wants to taste their blood. It will manipulate and shape Dean into the brutal killer to accomplish it. Not only will it make Dean kill them, it will make him butcher them savagely. It is as if being pent up all this time has made it a far more vicious creature.
When Sam rushes in to see the horror that his brother has wrought, he kneels down and begs him, “Tell me you had to do this.”
Dean, shattered by his devastating loss to the Mark, tells him brokenly, “I did—I didn’t mean to.”
He lost something here—a portion of his humanity has been tainted by this incident. The Mark has taken a stronger foothold than it has since the cure, and we know that there’s one hell of a fight on for the Winchesters. If they are show the Mark and everyone else the true value of a human life and humanity they will have to face the darkness that is inside one of them—and overcome it together.
Otherwise they will only see the Mark destroy it all.
Kathryn Love Newton plays an older—and far more troubled—Claire Novak. From the moment we first see her, we can tell that she’s a fighter. Newton has the young woman struggle all the way down the hall. As we see her locked away in the isolation room, we can see the truth shine through in Newton’s performance. This angry young woman isn’t all the bravado she shows to the world. She may be taking it out on the wall and the provided punching bag, but as her anger burns to a cinder, we see that she’s really the little girl that Castiel left behind all those years ago. Newton slumps as she stands forlorn in that room, looking direction-less and lost. When we see her first encounter the angel, Newton puts all of Claire’s heartbreak into her facial expressions, showing us that the last few years with her family shattered has also broken her in to pieces. Newton is harsh at first with Collins, giving Claire’s anger real presence. It’s in how she says, “Yay for him” upon being told that Jimmy has gone to heaven. As she helps Castiel try to ready for the interview with the group home leader, we see her turn gentle. Newton shows us that Claire misses her father as she musses with Castiel’s tie. She knows this isn’t her father, and yet the way she does these gestures conveys a sense of affection—as if she may have done something like this with her father in the past. After she’s busted out, Newton shows a softened Claire, having a conversation with Castiel at Sharkey’s. She teases the angel—recognizing that he’s different now than he was then. The amusement in her voice as she says, “Kind of a doof,” is sweet. When Newton ends up ditching him to head home to Randy, we can see that sadness and sorrow roll off of Newton—and all her vulnerability emerge as she’s pressured to commit armed robbery. There’s a shakiness in her frame as she goes through with the crime—until she’s stopped by Castiel. Confronted with the angel and the Winchesters, Newton shows us that Claire is broken as she shouts at Castiel, “My father was a good man, what messed up world does he die and you get to live? ” When she arrives to find the loan shark, and is hustled upstairs, we see her wound tight. Newton may convey that Claire is troubled and easily influenced, but as she’s put into a dangerous situation with a strange older man, we see her play along only to position herself to make an escape. As she’s ushered out, we see her shock and horror at Randy’s decision to trade her for his debts. When she follows Castiel back into the house to see the horror Dean has wrought on the men, we see that she’s still very much a little girl, shocked and horrified by this brutality. Now that Castiel has shaken her world again, how will Claire deal—and how will Newton show us her story?
Ruth Connell returns as Crowley’s mysterious mother, Rowena. With her lilting Scottish accent, she gives the character great presence in every scene. Connell captures all of the character’s smarts as she gathers information on Crowley’s operation from her fellow prisoner. Even though she’s chained to the wall, we can tell that she’s not as helpless perhaps as we might be led to believe. She clearly isn’t going to simply sit and wait—evidenced first by her begging to talk with Crowley and her prodding her fellow prisoner for information. Rowena has an agenda, and Connell conveys that through every line and every facial expression she uses. She has great chemistry with Shepard, especially when she’s finally allowed an audience. Upon their first head to head clash, Connell shows us all of Rowena’s stubbornness—captured exquisitely in the way her lilting voice says “Fergus” in answer to Crowley’s insistence on not being called that. She also shows us that Crowley’s mother knows just what buttons to push on her son, asking him pointed things like how he died and telling him that she was motivating him by telling him he’d die in a gutter. As we watch Rowena tell Crowley, “I’m your mother and I’ll always love you,” we can’t help wanting to believe her, even if we know she can’t possibly be trusted. Rather than simply being thrown back into the cell, she springs her latest trap, snaring Gerald. She outs him craftily, fingering the demon as the one responsible for smuggling undesirables topside. Her cold face as she delivers the line, “Him,” shows us Rowena’s steel. Connell makes us sit up and pay attention here, hinting that this mysterious witch has many secrets yet to be revealed—and that there’s something sinister in her charisma. After Rowena’s nearly choked by Gerald, only to be saved by the exasperated Crowley, we see her deliver the sweet line, “I’ll be back in a flash,” to Trish, her fellow prisoner. Now that Rowena has gained her freedom, we’re left to see what she’ll do next—and how Connell will portray her.
Mark Sheppard portrays a conflicted Crowley. The King of Hell has always been a complex character, but we are shown just how much by his mother’s appearance. On one hand, Sheppard conveys well all of Crowley’s anger and frustration at the woman that abandoned him when he was merely eight years old. On the other, Sheppard shows us that Crowley might be softer on her than we might think. Crowley may have kept her chained up in his topside dungeon for a few weeks, but in that time we can see that Crowley’s reached a crisis stage. He’s confused, talking it out with his minion, Gerald, and pacing back and forth trying to determine the next move. Sheppard shows us that Crowley’s not as confident here as he normally would be—he doesn’t have a contingency plan on dealing with Rowena—or if he even considers her truly a threat just yet. There’s great comedic timing in Sheppard’s performance, too. The way he delivers the line, “She was a horrible mother,” and keeps retorting back to Rowena that his name is “Crowley,” makes us laugh. Sheppard also makes us sympathize with the King of Hell as we see him stagger emotionally after Rowena tells him that she’ll always love him. He shows Crowley’s vulnerability well as we see him close his eyes and lean towards her. The gesture conveys that he wants so badly to believe here—and yet the past tells him to know better. When he enters the room to hear how another demon manged to be topside without his consent, he seems patient with Gerald as the demon attacks Rowena—but when that demon won’t stop we see him coldly kill Gerald. His nonchalant glance back towards Rowena as he offers to let her out to talk freely seems borderline affectionate in the way Sheppard says the line, “Coming?” Now that he’s decided to accept his mother, we’re left to wonder what that bodes—and we know it can’t be good news for the Winchesters in the long run.
Misha Collins plays a layered Castiel in “The Things We Left Behind.” The humanity that has slowly changed him since the beginning of season nine is starting to firmly take hold here. The question Hannah asked before she left has clearly left the angel wondering about his vessel and the family Jimmy left behind. As Castiel visits Claire in the group home, Collins shows us all of the angel’s guilt and sadness. It’s in how he addresses Claire, trying to reach through to her and understand the pain she feels. Collins makes it clear that Castiel feels responsible for this girl considering that he had taken her father from her to do his work on earth with the Winchesters—and elsewhere. There’s a gentle side revealed in the angel as he talks with her, saying in a much softer voice this time, “I’m not your father,” and his later admission, “Yes, well… before I was very self assured. I was convinced I was on this righteous path. Now I realize that there is no righteous path, it’s just people trying to do their best in a world where is far to easy to do your worst.” Collins also makes use of the comedy given to him in the script when Claire convinces the angel to sign her out of the group home and to look the part of a dad. The way he fiddles with the tie, trying to get it right only to have the young woman adjust it reveals that the naïve angel we’ve known all these years is still there. When asked what his actual work is, Collins puts everything into Castiel’s answer, making us laugh at how ridiculous such an important job sounds. He doesn’t even try to hide the truth—stating in a deadpan voice, “I fight certain deadly threats to humanity.” After Claire tries to cover this up by providing Castiel with the idea of exterminator, Collins shows us that Castiel has no problem sticking his foot firmly in his mouth and awkwardly saying that the group leader shouldn’t let the bed bugs bite. Collins connects well with Ackles and Padalecki respectively. We see him first share a scene with Ackles as he tries to understand what he should do about Claire now. Collins shows us that Castiel is frustrated in his body posture—and that he’s taking Dean’s advice with a grain of salt. His expression clearly reveals that he knows Dean is feeding him a line of bull considering his own track record. As Dean tells the angel that he wants Castiel to pitch him into the sun if he becomes the evil monster again, Collins conveys all of Castiel’s sadness. There’s a sorrowful expression on his face as he answers his friend’s demand. As Castiel sits with Sam and Dean at the bar to listen to Dean’s story, we can see him take all of it in, listening carefully and considering each word. And as they finally track Claire down first at the gas station and at Randy’s house, Collins shows us that Castiel is still as commanding and powerful as we’ve always known. His presence easily fills the house as he makes his way to save Claire from the loan shark. When we see him enter the house again with Sam, we see horror flicker across his face as he sees his friend succumb to the Mark—and then protect Claire by leading her out. Now that Dean has done this, will Castiel be able to hold to his promise?
Jensen Ackles gives us a richly nuanced performance as Dean in “The Things We Left Behind.” He’s boyish at the beginning, enjoying the simple pleasure of watching a clip from the Three Stooges. There’s great joy in seeing Dean smile and laugh like this. The little boy shines through more when Ackles uses his great comedic timing to show us Dean’s love for food. The cheesy sandwich Sam gives him is yet another simple pleasure that Dean has no problem indulging in fully. It’s all in how Ackles conveys it here. Ackles also shows us that it’s not all simple pleasures for Dean, either. We see him stir from an awful nightmare or vision of him surrounded by dead bodies and himself covered in blood. It’s a startling and stark vision that leaves Dean haunted the moment he jars awake. Ackles shows us just how frightened Dean is by this moment as he glances down in horror at the Mark, knowing it had to have shown this to him. He continues to show us this when Dean talks with Castiel, asking the angel to “throw me into the sun” if and when he goes dark. All of Dean’s guilt, fears, and anguish, however, is put into the line, “I can’t be that thing again.” Ackles makes us feel all of Dean’s pain—and there’s an ache in the aftermath of this moment. Ackles draws us in when he tells Dean’s story about sneaking into CBGB. We can’t help but be drawn into the story, his voice painting the picture so well as he sets the stage. As an audience, we want to lean forward and hang on his words. It’s all in how Ackles delivers this, making us believe and see a young Dean be busted at a club by John—and how everyone in the room was instantly intimidated by the larger than life eldest Winchester. Ackles also conveys all of Dean’s growing aggression well in this episode. He is a bit harsher when he tells Castiel that Claire isn’t a real emergency—and he seems tense and wound tight when having to deal with it. At Randy’s house, Ackles brings this out to the forefront in how he carries his weapon and barks at Randy and his men. We can see him being pulled taut just in body language alone. As he backs away to follow Sam, we see him snap minutely in the way he shouts at them to back off, brandishing his weapon. It’s the aftermath, however, that breaks our hearts. In near perfect mirror image of the visions that had plagued him throughout the episode, Ackles shows us just how broken Dean is here. He’s covered in blood, surrounded by those he’s brutally murdered—and yet underneath it he looks like the lost four year old he’s always been. It’s in his facial expressions and the slumped posture. When Sam asks him if he had to do it, Ackles makes his voice quiet and small as he says, “I did—I didn’t mean to,”—and it shatters us as it shatters Sam. Now that the Mark of Cain has tasted human blood, will Dean still be Dean?
Jared Padalecki gives us an intimate performance as Sam in “The Things We Left Behind.” From the very first moment Sam joins his brother to watch the Three Stooges to the final emotional moment, we feel as if we are experiencing Sam’s story through Padalecki’s subtle portrayal. As Sam sits down to watch that video, Padalecki shows us how conflicted the younger Winchester is. On one hand, he’s amused by his brother’s antics—and perhaps more than a tad grossed out by his eating habits as Padalecki scrunches his nose to convey this—but on the other we can tell the moment is bittersweet for Sam. It’s all in the way he glances at the angrier than normal Mark of Cain, reminded that this quiet and fun moment won’t last forever. There’s a sadness that flickers across Padalecki’s face, giving us insight into how much this hurts Sam, as if he’s merely waiting for that other shoe to drop. He quickly shakes himself, and Padalecki shows us that Sam’s willing to set aside his fears as he tries to soak up every moment he has with Dean before it does get bad again. When it comes to helping Castiel with Claire, Padalecki shows us all of Sam’s sympathy and patience. He understands why the angel would like to help the girl, and when we see him question the group home’s leader, Padalecki shows us that Sam’s empathy for Claire only grows. As Sam and Dean talk about fathers with Castiel, Padalecki shows us how much Sam does indeed miss his father—and there’s a beautiful warmth in the way Sam shares in telling the story with Dean. It’s in how Padalecki smiles and nods or how he delivers the line, “It’s my job to raise you right.” It’s no secret that the younger Winchester had far more scuffles with John Winchester, but Padalecki makes certain in this scene that we know Sam still loved the man and that he still means something to the brothers. When confronted with Claire after her failed robbery, we can see him try and diffuse the situation, keeping his large frame hunched slightly to make himself seem less threatening with his hands out. He’s soft spoken, too. Padalecki’s best moment, however, comes when we see him with Dean and Castiel at Randy’s house. He’s by his brother’s side, trying to accomplish their goal of saving Claire—all while remembering that these are people and not their usual quarry. As they prepare to exit the house, Padalecki conveys with his body language and quick glances towards Ackles that Sam believes Dean to be right behind him on the way out. The longer it takes for Dean to join him in the Impala, however, the sooner we see the awful realization dawn on him. We get a great close up shot on his face as Sam understands that his brother is committing an atrocity—and his expression turns to one of absolute horror. Once inside, Padalecki breaks our hearts as he begs Dean, “Tell me you had to do this.” The timbre of his voice captures all of Sam’s sorrow and horror at what has happened—and under it all we can hear guilt perhaps for not realizing Dean had been delayed. To put the final nail in the emotional coffin, Padalecki cups Ackles’s shoulder, and delivers the line, “Tell me it was them or you!” with such anguish that we can’t help but feel for both brothers. Now we’re left to wonder how Sam will handle the aftermath of this horrific moment.
Best Lines of the Week:
Crowley: She was a horrible mother. Did I tell you the time that she almost traded me for three pigs, three! I was an attractive child, I could juggle. I was worth five pigs, at least.
Rowena: Of course you had a father. You were just conceived during a winter solstice orgy, and it’s not like I was taking names.
Dean: I can’t be that thing again.
Castiel: I fight deadly threats to humanity.
While in Vancouver for the Salute to Supernatural Convention, Bardicvoice lead a Fan Van around the beautiful city to various locations that the show has used to film. While on the tour, we looked for a place to eat. Not only were we hungry as a group, we were also lucky enough to be near a location site that happened to also be a restaurant. That restaurant featured prominently in “The Things We Left Behind,” but we were there because they had also used it in the past for the season six episode “Unforgiven.” When we arrived at Sharkeys, the hostess asked us if we were a party of four only to realize to her shock that were were a party of eleven. We were promptly seated at a long table—well many smaller tables smooshed together so we would all able to fit. Bardicvoice filled us in on the site itself, where the boys would have sat for their scenes and how this restaurant was the very same one that Soulless Sam was captured on film in someone’s steak photo. Now, we can say that Sharkey’s—with its name and canopy featured—also is a site for Dean and Castiel to discuss what will happen if Dean should become Demon Dean again. Here’s some photos taken from our visit. The crab salad is highly recommended by me. It was very tasty.
Is it January 20th yet?