On behalf of the Supernatural family, I want to thank you for the tremendous gift you gave us in “The Executioner’s Song”. The emotional depth you put into your performance left us breathless.
You conveyed intensity alongside tenderness, and courage that coexisted with fear. You exposed Dean’s vulnerability, then his strength to “do what had to be done”. When Dean admitted that he didn’t expect he’d be facing his final battle so soon, you conveyed the deepest of human emotions, that of confronting our own deaths. The moment was tender, raw and honest, as you gave Dean’s fear a voice. Then, as Dean walked up the stairs into the barn loft to face Cain, you moved slowly, purposely, showing us the warrior who must enter a battle that, regardless of outcome, he knows he cannot win. When Cain overpowered Dean, you showed a brother more horrified by the prediction he would kill the one person he loved the most than by the thought of his seemingly imminent death. The climactic triumph, though, when Dean outmaneuvered Cain to finally gain the advantage, was your portrayal of a Dean torn apart by Cain’s brutal honesty that the bearer of the Mark cannot and will not stop killing on his own. Your eyes betrayed Dean’s pain. Your body’s defeated poise conveyed the torment of knowing that ending one killer would help to create another. Instead of being a trite scene of a victor gloating over the enemy, you filled the moment with Dean’s gut-wrenching conflict. Then after the battle, Dean’s emotional and physical trauma was evident in your deliberate movements that revealed how close Dean was to utter collapse. Your eyes met Crowley’s when you earnestly told him that you had deceived him. In that moment, I couldn’t tell if Dean’s honesty was meant as a confession or a taunt, which wonderfully conveyed the duplicity of the relationship between Dean and Crowley. You then allowed Dean to look at Castiel, taking comfort in recognizing a steadfast friendship. The brilliance of the scene, though, was how you had Dean avoid looking at Sam, because you knew that Dean would fall apart under the weight of the prophecy of what would come. It wasn’t until Dean fell into Sam’s embrace that Dean could let go of the control he had been maintaining throughout the entire ordeal. In just a few seconds, your eyes, movements and breath showed Dean’s sheer need to have Sam carry Dean’s pain, doubts, relief, exhaustion and fear.
All of this had to have taken a tremendous emotional toll on you. If I am not mistaken, you also did your own stunts, repeatedly rolling off punches and diving onto hard ground during the battle with Cain. That meant you had to remain technically vigilant to the demands of the scene while also allowing yourself to channel the extreme tension of Dean’s torment. I just want to tell you that you succeeded masterfully in doing both. From my interaction with fellow fans on Twitter and this website, I know others feel the same way as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Timothy, Misha, Mark and Jared also gifted us with exceptional performances. Every line they delivered conveyed their character’s anguish. Timothy was utterly outstanding as Cain. Everything about him brought to life Cain’s long history, embattled conscious and conflicted desire for the Blade. I felt sorry for the Father of Murder, and wished he could have found redemption. I felt Castiel’s empathy for Adam and Eve’s oldest son when Cas tried to understand why Cain was killing again. I felt Crowley’s confused desire to receive love and acceptance from his mother, and his shattered betrayal that Dean had tricked him. Lastly, Jared’s portrayal of Sam’s support for his brother brought a ray of hope to the entire episode. In every scene, Jared delivered a presence of unfailing strength to you, Jensen, and as Sam to Dean. Sam’s heartbreak at watching his brother’s death march was agonizing. To powerfully end the drama, the timing between Misha and Jared in the closing scene poignantly emphasized Sam’s plea “Cas, Dean’s in trouble”.
Behind all these great performances was Robert Berens’ superb script. Fans have waited a long time for the inevitable show-down between the two bearers of the Mark of Cain, but Robert gave us so much more than a fight of good vs. evil. He looked beyond the battle to create a story about the emotional conflict of the doomed warriors. He turned it into a climax for both Cain and Dean’s search for redemption, ending one journey and derailing the other. It was an impressive addition to the list of the series’ best, classic episodes. Congratulations, Robert.
The episode was also immeasurably strengthened by Jay Gruska’s music. His score powerfully underpinned every emotional moment and epic battle. Phil Sgriccia’s direction was also superb, as was Serge’s cinematography and Jerry’s set design. Everyone put forward the best of their talents, creating a masterpiece. Our sincere gratitude goes to all of you.
Jensen, I know you’re not a person who takes bows or lingers on successes, but you should be proud of “The Executioner’s Song”. Your work on Supernatural is always outstanding, but this episode can count itself among the best. Thank you for giving us every last ounce of your talent. We recognize and appreciate your hard work. Your brilliance combined with the awe-inspiring work from an excellent acting partner, supporting cast and top-notch crew, created an episode that was, in short, a triumph.
Please feel free to add your feelings and reactions to “The Executioner’s Song”. If you were also stunned from it’s emotional impact, please add your appreciation to the outstanding actors and crew we count among our family.