I loved “The Things They Carried”. It was intense. Too gross for my liking, but still, intense. I owed you a BIG Threads article though, so you are not going to believe what I tried to do with this article. I don’t believe it myself.
I wondered if we would be able to predict where Sam and Dean’s story line might end up by year end if we wove together all the threads that had been given to us thus far in Season 10! To try this experiment, we will look at episodes 1 through 15, which is roughly the first two-thirds of the season. In the interest of sanity, let’s exclude a detailed look at the Heaven or Hell myth arcs and confine ourselves mostly to the Mark of Cain plot plus some of the general themes that have appeared in episodes thus far. Ready?
The Story…and The Truth
Sam and Dean have a long history of lying to each other. Sometimes they have lied to avoid an argument because they knew they had opposing views, as was the case with Sam’s reliance on Ruby in season 4. Sometimes they lied because they were uncertain about, afraid of, or ashamed of their actions but felt they didn’t have a choice, as Dean did with the Ezekiel secret in season 9. In contrast, this season we have had a number of examples when the brothers have shared honest feelings with each other. The latest examples include Dean admitting he wasn’t “OK” after beating up Charlie, then later when he told Sam that he was afraid to die in his battle with Cain. Their recent openness may be signaling a newfound maturity and trust between them.
Besides numerous instances of them talking frankly with each other, this hopeful rekindling of honesty has also subtly been woven into the dialog throughout season 10 by repeatedly using the word “truth” in conversations. “The Things They Carried” contained several overt references to “truth”, as when Dean explained his actions to Sam:
Dean: Sammy, when we work a case there’s always that point when we have to face the truth even if we don’t like it. Well, truth is, there’s no way around this. We saw what happened to Cain, OK? I’m not happy about it, but I got to move on. So I’m gonna keep doing what we do while I still can, and I’d like you to be there with me.”
[Kudos to the continuity since Dean used some of these same words when he told Andrew to “move on” in “Halt and Catch Fire”]. Dean may have believed he was facing the cold, hard facts when he conceded that he probably couldn’t avoid ending up like Cain. The reality, though, is that he seems to be accepting only a portion of the truth about his future with the MoC. From 10.14 “The Executioner’s Song”:
Cain: That seems to be weaker than what I would expect from you holding the Blade. I think you can do better…unless…you’re holding back! What is it Dean? Do you think If you hold back just enough you won’t succumb?…that you’ll leave this fight the same as you entered? Look to my example, boy! There is no resisting the Mark or the Blade! There is only remission and relapse!”
Given those two choices, Dean is currently in remission since he had once already succumbed to the Mark. He didn’t know what was happening to him then, but he now knows the entire story. Do you think he truly believes it is possible to avoid relapse if he stays focused on his work and “holds back”, or is he lying to both himself and Sam? We at least can be fairly certain that Dean has not told Sam about Cain’s terrifying prediction (10.14):
Cain: Has it never occurred to you? Have you never mused upon the fact that you’re living my life in reverse? My story began when I killed my brother, and that’s where your story inevitably will end.
Dean: No. Never.
Cain: It’s called the Mark of Cain for a reason! First … first, you’d kill Crowley… And then you’d kill the angel, Castiel…And then! Then would come the murder you’d never survive, the one that would finally turn you into as much of a savage as it did me.
Cain: Your brother, Sam.
The season has been filled with examples of people who fabricated stories to avoid painful truths (see prior Threads articles for examples). Dean doesn’t seem to be blindly lying to himself with a misguided story, as he did in season 3 when he said he was “freed” by the knowledge that he could do anything he wanted because he only had one year to live. Still, he clearly doesn’t accept or believe the prophecy that he will try to kill his brother. In 10.13, Dean admitted to the co-ed that he deals with painful memories with whiskey and denial, so he may be in denial about the whole truth.
Below the façade of being honest, actually both brothers have fallen into their old habit of avoiding the whole truth. Both Sam and Dean avoided talking about the research Sam was obviously doing when Dean told him they were hitting the road.
Then there was Sam’s troubled, ominous silence when Dean told him they had to “move on”.
Both instances were warning signs that Sam is retreating within himself to look for solutions he knows won’t have his brother’s approval. At the end of “The Executioner’s Song”, Sam was terrified when he told Castiel “Dean’s in trouble”. A terrified Sam leads to a desperate Sam, which in all previous situations has led to a secretive then dark Sam. I am anxious to see if this year’s emphasis on honesty and working together will win out over their pattern of lying and separation. Since we know there will be a season 11, something has to go terribly wrong.
Monsters…and their Families
Season 10 has repeatedly studied the effect that families have on creating, or saving, monsters. In “The Things They Carried”, it was Cole’s turn to let go of a best friend….
Sam: Look Cole, we know you want to protect your buddy…
Dean: …but if he’s a monster, we gotta put him down.
Cole: That’s the way it’s gonna have to be, huh?
Dean: That’s the job.
…and a family member, both of whom had turned into monsters:
Cole: My dad, he got something inside him too, right? You think this is what he felt like when he turned?
Dean: Maybe. I mean he was human before he was a monster.
Cole: I get it – why you did it Dean. My dad wasn’t my dad anymore.
This aspect of Cole’s story paralleled Sam’s crisis since Sam refuses to let go of the person who is both his best friend and his family, i.e. Dean. Cole’s story went beyond the parallel to Sam’s struggle, though. When Cole’s body was invaded by a supernatural force, his fight for his life also represented Dean’s battle with the MoC. This parallel was most obvious in the continuation of Cole’s conversation with Dean:
Cole: If I go down that same road, I want you to do that to me too.
Dean: That road? That means giving up. If you think that’s where you’re headed, then you got it ass backwards. You’re gonna fight, harder than you ever have. Understand?
Cole’s struggle to hold onto his humanity depended on whether a friend (Dean) could find a solution before Cole succumbed to the monster’s influence, and (as Dean reminded him) whether Cole’s love of his family could give him enough strength to endure the supernatural force taking him over. The same thing is happening to Dean. Dean’s best friends (Sam & Cas) are in a race against time to find a way to defeat the monster inside of Dean. In the meantime, Dean knows that his fate depends on how hard he can fight the MoC. He knows he is once again in a desperate fight for his life. His admission that he’d like Sam with him means Dean knows he is stronger with family by his side.
As a further parallel to Dean, Cole’s crushing desire to sate his thirst with Dean’s blood mirrored Dean’s on-going “thirst” for blood.
Cole: I appreciate the talk coach but honestly all I can think about is slicing your wrist and drinking you like a fountain. Guess that makes me a monster, don’t it?
The supernatural forces that attacked Cole and Dean are also symbolically linked. The Mark and the Khan worm are both parasites that attach themselves to a human’s body. They feed on their victim, and when their host has given all they can give, the parasite drives them to kill others to be fed. Kit repeatedly said, “I can’t stop myself”, most notably when he was just about to kill his wife (by holding her down to transfer the worm). The parasite drove him to turn on the one person he loved the most, and he couldn’t stop himself.
Kit turning on Jemma and Cole turning on Dean were strong messages about how Dean will turn on the people he loves. Cain told Dean that he would first turn on his friends (Crowley and Castiel) then finally the family that means everything to him. Just like the victims of the Khan worm, Dean won’t be able to stop himself.
“Saving People”, i.e. Saving Dean
The dialog of “The Executioner’s Song” was the first time I noticed an emphasis on the word “saving”. In 10.14, Cain taunted Tommy by saying,
“Now, I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing here. Did I come to punish you, or save you? Well, the truth is Tommy, I’m here to do both.” [italics added to note the threads]
Saving someone by killing them is an intriguing concept. The idea was advanced more significantly in Cain’s battle with Dean:
10.14 Cain: …I let [Cas] go knowing that he would report back to you; knowing you would bring into battle the one thing that could kill me; the one thing I truly wanted. …This may be hard to believe in light of what I’m about to do to you, but I care about you Dean. I truly do, and I know that I’m doing you a favor. I’m saving you.
Dean: Saving me from what?
Cain: From your fate.
Of course, the boys’ motto is “Saving People, Hunting Things” but I believe the emphasis on saving people is more important than a reference to their mission. It will be interesting during the post-season WFB Rewatch to specifically listen for this thread in earlier episodes, but it was clearly reiterated in 10.15 “The Things They Carried”. When Cole first confronted Sam and Dean about finding Kit, Cole said “we are not going to hunt my best friend…we are going to find him, and that’s the difference”. The reference to “hunt” reminded me of the show’s motto, so I started listening for more references to saving people or hunting things. After Kit’s convenience store spree, there were two references to saving people. First, in Jemma’s phone call to Cole, when she was pressuring Cole to find her husband, she said “you gotta save him”. Then after Cole was infested with the worm, he said, “Heh, hey, Sammy, if we can fix me we can save Kit, right?”
Cole tied it all together when he referred to the hunter’s life:
Cole: “Damn, Day in and day out, you and Sammy saving people from things they just can’t wrap their minds around. Hell, nobody even notices. At least I get a medal for my efforts. But you? I tried to kill your ass. I almost took you off the path(?). Who’d be saving me now?”
The emphasis on “saving people” came to a climax at the end of the episode,
Dean: Don’t blame yourself for Kit, man.
Sam: I can’t help it Dean. It feels crappy.
Dean: I know it does.
Sam: I tried. I did. I tried. I just couldn’t save this one.
Dean: You know, you can do everything right but still, sometimes, the guy still dies.
Dean’s message to Sam was the exact same message the Trickster tried so hard to teach Sam in “Mystery Spot”. No matter what Sam did, Dean was going to die and there was nothing Sam could do to stop it. Sam was devastated that he couldn’t save Dean in season 3 and now both brothers are in the exact same spot again. The longer the Mark remains on Dean, the closer Dean will be to giving into evil and becoming a demon when he dies. The clock is ticking and Sam can’t change that. If we look back to season 3, Sam went so far as to seek out a surgeon’s Frankenstein-type methods to keep Dean immortal so he wouldn’t go to Hell. This brings us to the question that is foremost on our minds for season 10: How far will Sam go to save Dean this time?
Sam’s Role and How It Will End
With so much foreshadowing and some outright predictions, it seems inevitable that the Mark will push Dean to try to kill Sam. For example, “There’s No Place Like Home” (10.11) portrayed Sam as the personification of goodness when goodness was reviled. Even DarkCharlie called Sam an “albatross” holding Dean back. As the Mark makes Dean darker, will he resent Sam’s interference and turn against Sam? In 10.14, Cain directly warned that the ancient Mark specifically wants a brother to kill a brother. In 10.15, Kit and Cole’s actions when controlled by a parasite imply that Dean won’t be able to stop himself from attacking those closest to him. Do you agree that this is where the story is headed?
There’s been another, slower paced story that might also be a clue as to what might happen to Sam and Dean, though – Witchcraft. Witchcraft has being mentioned and explained more frequently as the season has progressed. It was introduced this season in 10.07, “Girls, Girls, Girls”. We got our first close up look at Rowena and a detailed introduction to the world of witchcraft:
According to the Grand Coven, there are 3 recognized kinds of witch in the world:
· the most common are the borrowers – those who harness the powers of a demon in order to practice the art
· secondly, and the rarest of all, are the naturals – those who are born with the gift [Rowena’s category]
· third, the students – those with no natural ability, who, with enough practice and training and a Grand Coven approved mentor to show them the path, can eke out a modicum of witchly power.
Giving such a detailed introduction to the world of witchcraft seems noteworthy. Then in 10.12 “About A Boy”, a witch was the “monster” to be defeated. It was a witch’s spell that removed the mark by throwing Dean backward in time. I can currently see three possible directions for the continued emphasis on witchcraft:
1. Witchcraft stays within Crowley and Rowena’s arc. Something to do with Crowley adopting witchcraft or Rowena’s witches becoming another threat to Heaven, Hell and Hunters. That would bridge witchcraft as the carryover into Season 11.
2. Sam starts to dabble in witchcraft to try to find an answer to Dean’s curse. Sam uses his new found dark powers to cure Dean, but that leaves Sam in some kind of world of hurt for S11.
3. Sam starts to dabble in witchcraft to try to find a cure for Dean, but Dean then tries to kill Sam to save him from turning darkside. Cain supposedly killed Abel to save him from Lucifer, so this path would be history repeating itself. Dean also considered killing Sam to save him from becoming a demon (season 1-4), so again, there is precedent in the brother’s past for this storyline.
Options 2 and 3 would explain why 10.15 introduced Sam as being more secretive. What’s your take on the witchcraft storyline? What do you think will drive Dean to try to kill Sam?
The related question is what will cure Dean? Will it be witchcraft? Alternately, Sam may be getting secretive because he is getting desperate enough to get Castiel to go back to Metatron for answers. Let’s look at Metatron’s clues again:
Clue #1. “The river shall end at the source” – Metatron taunted that the secret to removing the Mark was in this cryptic message (10.10).
Clue #2. Metatron said that the First Blade is needed to remove the mark (10.10)
Regardless of Sam’s path to try to cure Dean, if Cain’s prediction that Dean will try to kill Sam is put together with Metatron’s two clues, a reasonable conclusion would be that Dean will inevitably use the same weapon Cain used to kill Abel, the First Blade, to try to kill Sam. Sam’s continued show of faith in Dean, though, as exemplified at the end of 10.11 “There’s No Place Like Home” and 10.12 “About A Boy”, implies that Sam will stick with his brother until the very end, (the reverse of “Swan Song”, fulfilling the Reversal theme of S10). Sam won’t stop believing in Dean even when Dean tries to kill him. This steadfast love has been shown every time Sam’s voice was the only thing that got through to a hypnotized Raged!Dean. Dean will hear Sam’s voice at the end and since we know Dean’s love for Sam supersedes everything else, even Dean’s own life (10.12), Dean’s love of family will give him enough strength to overpower the supernatural power within him (10.15). Since “The river shall end at the source”, the river of blood will end when the source of its power, fratricide, ends, i.e. a brother will refuse to kill a brother. Sam and Dean’s mutual love will thus shatter the Blade and the Mark’s ancient curse (10.11). In 10.13, Dean told the co-ed to “find a way to ask for forgiveness. I mean, real forgiveness. You can’t just bury stuff like this. You got to deal with it.” An added bonus would be if Dean takes his own advice and rather than judging Sam for witchcraft or judging himself for weakness, Dean asks for forgiveness. Dean will have found redemption by choosing love over guilt, violence, rage and self-loathing.
I feel like I’m writing fan fiction now! Does this scenario stand up to scrutiny? Is there further evidence it is right?
“Sammy’s Highway Cafe”! This is why Sam has been so distracted lately! He opened a side business! By the way, I live in a cold climate and trust me, no one eats at an outdoor café when it is cold enough to see your breath!
Would it have killed Dean to take off his button-down shirt when he was sweating profusely in the cabin?
Would it have killed Cole to apologize to Sam for torturing him mercilessly just a few months ago, or to thank him for saving Jemma?
Hooray! Sam is still a capable hunter! He defeated crazy mummy Kit all by himself!
For the record, I’ve updated the MoC attributes list (i.e. canon) we began in 10.02 (Reichenbach). Here’s what I have so far:
When borne by a human, the MoC:
1. Drives the bearer to kill.
– 10.08 Dean confirmed that the Mark had been continually “pushing” him
– 10.09 Dean lost control
2. Slowly corrupts the soul through each act of violence, making the bearer lose all their humanity. If they become a slave to the mark (lose their conscience and their will to choose mercy over murder, i.e. become evil), they turn into a demon upon their death
– 10.09 showed how far Dean could go if he gave into the Mark’s power.
– 10.10 Metatron confirmed “Dean, you’re going to get worse”
– 10.10 Metatron confirmed that the power of the victim is part of the equation. The bigger the prey, the bigger the step into darkness for Dean.
3. Makes the bearer a nearly unstoppable opponent in a fight, if they give into the Mark
– We had previously seen the two MoC demons, Cain and DemonDean as nearly invincible. Dean’s ability to prevail despite being vastly outnumbered in 10.09 implied that MoC humans were also invincible. 10.11 clarified that their fighting skills are better only because the dark side doesn’t hold back. It gives into and enjoys the violence, thus fights without inhibition (as proven by the fact that DarkCharlie won the war nearly singlehandedly).
– 10.14 Cain taunted that he expected more from Dean in the fight and that Dean was “holding back”, proving that Dean had learned how to resist the Mark’s urging to give in to violence. Dean’s victory was from his strategizing talent, his vast experience fighting superior opponents, and luck.
4. Uses vices to help it gain control over its bearer, i.e. contributes to the corruption of the soul?
– 10.09 Dean was noticeably eating more. It is still unclear if Dean is substituting food gratification for the allure of violence or if the Mark is intensifying all his vices to further corrupt him.
– 10.11 Dean practiced self-control by denying himself alcohol and his favorite unhealthy foods
– 10.12 Dean said he was going to “trust himself” when he took a drink. There was an ominous heartbeat, though, when Dean drank a shot of whiskey, implying the Mark “liked” Dean drinking
– 10.13 inhaled every morsel of food in sight
– 10.15 Dean continued his attraction toward food (although it was dessert!). Sam stopped his brother from eating.
5. Blocks sleep?
– 10.09 opened with Dean having a nightmare, so obviously he was sleeping. When Dean was addicted to the Blade’s power towards the end of S9, though, it was clear that he couldn’t sleep. This attribute is on the watch list.
When borne by a demon, the Mark:
6. Strengthens fighting skills superior to all other demons
– Referenced by Crowley and proven by Cain in 9.11 “First Born”
7. Grants near immortality through instant physical healing
– Shown in 10.02 “Reichenbach” during the fight with Cole
– 10.14 Dialog confirmed “There’s only one thing that can kill [Cain]…The Blade.
I’m sure your heads are spinning by now so I’ll leave the review of the episode to the other WFB reviewers. Don’t leave me hanging here, though! Can you prove or disprove this version of the S10 Threads? What do you think are the answers to all my questions?
screencaps courtesy of www.screencapped.net