Every week of hiatus, I hosted a live tweet of Supernatural’s season 10 episodes (i.e. #WFBRewatch). With the insight afforded by knowing the outcome of the Mark of Cain plotline, I watched each show specifically looking for stories and dialogue that foreshadowed what was to come at the end of the season. How far back did the writers know that “The Darkness” was going to be the main myth arc of Season 11? Were there clues throughout season 10 that the Mark of Cain was a key, and what it would unlock? Were there hints as to the exact nature of the Darkness, or how it might be defeated? What I found surprised me!
[This article is completely spoiler free. All of the theories proposed are speculation, based on episodes that have aired. The comments are likely to contain several spoilers, however, so be warned. Everything is welcome there!]
The MoC as a Key
As early as episode six, “Ask Jeeves”, the Mark of Cain’s function as a supernatural key was foretold.
Knowledgeable Outsider: “This is interesting…It’s a key.
Sam to Dean: A key to what?”
The premise of “Ask Jeeves” was that at the end of a battle in which Bobby defeated a supernatural evil (shapeshifters), a woman begged Bobby to spare the life of her child, the spawn of that evil. Being moved with compassion, Bobby locked away the supernatural threat and entrusted the key to a caretaker who would forever guard the imprisoned evil. When both Bobby and the key’s owner died, they were no longer able to fulfill the responsibility of guarding the prisoner, so the key, disguised as a family heirloom, was passed to Sam and Dean. They knew nothing of the original fight or its resulting truce to confine rather than destroy an evil, yet once they had the mysterious key, it became their responsibility to “clean up the mess” that resulted from their surrogate father not eliminating the evil in the first place. They were thrust into finishing the job he started.
The parallel to the MoC key is haunting. God the Father engaged in a battle with a supernatural evil many eons ago. Rather than destroying the evil, for reasons yet to be revealed he locked it up and gave someone he trusted (Lucifer) the key and the responsibility to guard the evil. Lucifer passed that responsibility to Cain. After also gaining the title of Father (of Murder), Cain passed his family’s “heirloom” to Dean. Once Cain died, he too was unable to fulfill his responsibility as gatekeeper, so Dean inherited something that was secretly a key that held back an evil. Even though he had no knowledge of the original battle or the prisoner of war it confined, a father had given Dean the responsibility to finish a job he started and now Sam and Dean were faced with destroying an ancient evil.
We were told why Bobby didn’t wipe out the supernatural creature he battled. If the analogy is completed, why didn’t God destroy the evil when he had the chance? It is the offspring of something or someone? Like Bobby, was he moved by compassion to banish rather than kill?
“There’s No Place Like Home” (10.11) was also about a key that ended a war which was consuming a world.
Charlie explained how the war in Oz was won:
“He said for us to win, I had to unleash my true darkness, which he meant literally. He used the inner key of Oz. It opens a door to your soul and lets the darkness out”.
Since we now know that the MoC was a key, that statement perfectly foreshadowed season 10’s finale and season 11’s myth arc! The key to Oz freed an amoral evil that had been imprisoned by good (the good in each person). The key had been inherited by Sam and Dean as Men of Letters, yet they knew nothing of its origins or its power. Ultimately, they were able to use the key to restore good’s power over evil, so again they were victorious in a case started by a key.
The Oz story gives an additional clue to season 11’s Darkness. In trying to understand her fate, Charlie learned from Clive that the original key was now useless in this world:
Clive: The six keys of Oz were forged from Oz steel. They can only be repaired in that magical realm.
Good Charlie: So there’s no going back? I can’t put my darkness away?
If the parallel continues, then the original key, Dean’s Mark of Cain, is not the answer to recapturing the Darkness. Another key, also forged by Biblical power, must be ‘summoned’ and used. If you remember, they’ve done that before. If we go back to the first Biblical evil the boys unleashed (seasons 1-5), they defeated and reincarcerated Lucifer by reassembling an ancient Biblical key to his cell (the horsemen’s rings).
The key to lock away evil was nothing like the key that freed the evil (which was the breaking of the seals), which lends credibility to the theory that a new key must be found to rebind the Darkness.
So the MoC as a key was clearly foreshadowed in season 10, if not long before that. I’d have to go back to reread the season 10 Threads articles to be sure, but does anyone remember us picking up on the repeated use of the key theme?
Charlie’s explanation opens up other possibilities as well. Her repeated use of the term “the darkness” was a blatant parallel to season 10’s end game. She told us that darkness resides within the souls of all beings. Is that the true nature of the Darkness? Where did IT come from? Could it possibly be the “evil” that had once resided within God? Once split from Him, it was pure evil and he was pure Goodness? Death said,
“Before there was light, before there was God and the archangels there wasn’t nothing, there was the Darkness”
That clearly says that the Darkness predates God. So was the Darkness an immense power that was buried in the “soul” of the universe, and if yes, was it too powerful for even God and the archangels to destroy? That would be consistent with our concept of pure evil. It must exist in balance to goodness. Evil cannot be destroyed. It can only be defeated, contained and controlled. In the finale, the brothers discussed their mission to fight evil,
Dean: “Why? Because we track evil and kill it? The Family Business?
My 10.23 Threads article discussed this extensively, so should we define Darkness to be the essence of evil?
Dark Charlie, acting as the voice of darkness, said, “You know what I learned about being dark? It sets you free.” During the season, we thought Dark vs. Good Charlie was a lesson about the struggle between MoC and Good Dean (which it was) but we didn’t know about the Darkness yet. Maybe there is another layer of meaning? Will unleashing the Darkness, i.e. pure evil, corrupt the soul of everyone it touches, unleashing their inner evil? Is that how it overpowers the good in the world?
In 10.07, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, Dean tells Cole, “Once you touch that darkness… It never goes away”. The idea that the darkness touches a person then stays with them forever has to be more than a clever play on words. It again implies that the darkness corrupts the goodness, or slowly destroys the goodness, in a person’s soul, much the same as the MoC did to Dean.
Charlie’s darkness was defeated, or more precisely, weakened then confined and guarded, by reuniting with good. Does that lesson hold the answer to the Darkness, just on a larger scale? Do the brothers have to find a way to weaken, then recast the original spell that confined the Darkness, or does the ‘Jeeves’ solution mean they have to destroy the darkness? My guess is closer to the former. That would be consistent with their solution to stopping but not destroying Lucifer and the apocalypse, and would respect the supposed enormity of the threat they face. What do you think?
Ironically, on Charlie’s return visit later in the season, she may have again provided another clue as to how to defeat the Darkness. In “Book of the Damned” 10.18, Charlie recounted the history of the Book, saying,
“The Book of the Damned is a spell book for creating or undoing any kind of damnation there is…About 700 years ago, a nun locked herself away after having visions of darkness… There’s a spell inside that thing for everything. Talking some black mass, dark magic, end-of-times nastiness.”
That description clearly implies that the nun saw the Darkness that battled with God, and was moved to being the scribe of ancient spells to undue such horrors. If the nun saw the Darkness and the spell that unlocked something that only God, Death and the archangels knew about, maybe she had visions about the entire battle not just the post-war imprisonment. Since the Book of the Damned was meant to help those who have been damned (and surely human kind was damned when the Darkness was unleashed), maybe she also saw the spell to contain the Darkness and deliver humanity out of damnation. That means the Book may hold a new key, perhaps in the form of a spell, to ending the Darkness.
“The Werther Project” (10.19) introduced another possibility for defeating the Darkness. Susie’s ‘ghost’ haunted Sam, saying “You Let It Out!” The Werther spell was a human-scale version of the Darkness. Both were a colored, evil, deadly, smoke released by the use of a spell.
The Werther spell was defused, defeated and destroyed by sacrificing the blood of the ones who created it (MoL). I wonder if the spell that unleashed the Darkness can be reversed by sacrificing the blood of the one who cast the spell, specifically, Rowena?
Susie also berated Sam for making her the first casualty of his “misguided mission”:
“Making deals with witches, opening Pandora’s Box down there? You’re the reckless one. You’ll do anything to keep clinging to that doomed brother of yours. How many more will die, Sammy?”
Pandora’s Box could be a perfect analogy for the Darkness. Once it was unleashed, evil spread across the world.
According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar, in modern accounts sometimes mistranslated as “Pandora’s box“, releasing all the evils of humanity—although the particular evils, aside from plagues and diseases, are not specified in detail by Hesiod—leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again.
The evil unleashed by Pandora was never defeated. Instead the battle continues everyday with the strength of hope. Could that give us a clue to dealing with the evil that our Pandoras, i.e. Sam, Cas, Crowley and Rowena, unleashed on the world? Is it with us permanently, forcing humanity to continue the fight of Good vs. Evil? Although Pandoras’ lore might apply, I don’t accept permanency as the lesson. If that were the case, the plot line wouldn’t have a point and our boys wouldn’t be heroes. For now, it seems that this concept was introduced as a literary reference to the historical precedent and as foreshadowing of the season 10 finale, but not as a possible solution to be pursued in season 11. Do you agree?
Dean made an interesting observation about their victory over the Werther spell, though.
“Something the universe has been trying to tell us. We’re stronger together than apart.”
The universe would be the celestial entity that operates on the same plane of knowledge as the Darkness. Is the universe telling them that they can defeat the Darkness, the evil they unleashed, if they work together?
It was their unity that defeated Lucifer. Supposedly Sam and Dean work together all through season 11. Since this episode was so heavy with foreshadowing of the Darkness, it is reasonable to accept that it laid the path for what is to come.
In both Charlie’s and Jeeves’ cases, someone else explained what the brothers were facing, and the history and use of the keys. So who besides Death (who is supposedly now unavailable) can help the brothers decipher this case?
Metatron and the Demon Tablet
In “Inside Man” (10.17), Metatron said of the Mark, “It’s OLD magic, God Level Magic”. Even though I don’t like reducing God to a mere magician or his powers to being magic, Metatron was right about the Mark. He knew it was very old (frequently referred to as pre-biblical by Death and in the writers/actors’ commentaries about season 11) and that it was created by God. Metatron seemed to be telling the truth that he didn’t know the details about the Mark, so he may not know the details on how to contain or defeat the Darkness. Then again, he may still have some useful, basic knowledge.
In “The Hunter Games” (10.10), Castiel mentions the Demon Tablet when talking about the MoC (that Metatron scribed and now has in his possession),
“This reaches back to the time of creation. It may pre-date the lore. If we had the Demon Tablet, maybe.”
So did God put anything about the Mark or the Darkness in the Demon Tablet? I’m not convinced Castiel’s mention of the Demon Tablet and Metatron’s tease ‘the river ends at the source’ were all bluffs or writing mistakes. I still wonder if they are foreshadowing for S11. Everything else that Metatron said in this episode about the MoC’s effect on Dean was true, signifying that Metatron knew at least something about the Mark. What could be the plotline connected to the tablet then? At this point, Castiel’s mention of it is our only clue. I’m guessing Metatron is not the pivotal player in this though. I think his possession of the Demon Tablet will be a side plot. What are your theories?
Rowena and Witches
Even if Metatron’s role in the Darkness story is unclear, Rowena will definitely be right in the center of it. In retelling his story from Oz, Clive said,
“A coven of witches grabbed me. They used the inner key on me, unleashed my ID. He was awful. He killed all the witches…”.
That is (now) an obvious parallel and foreshadowing of a witch using a key to unleash an evil. It is especially interesting that the evil turned on the witches and killed them. Are we being told that Rowena, and all witches, need to fear the Darkness? It is possible that Rowena feels she can control or is at least immune to the Darkness since she was its liberator, and now has immense power because she controls the Book.
Oz’s experience that once unleashed the ‘evil’ killed all witches seems to contradict that, however. At least going into season 11, season 10 seems to predict that Rowena is also in danger. If true, this may motivate her to once again work with the Winchesters to cast the binding spell from the Book.
In “Girls, Girls, Girls” (10.07), Sam’s research uncovered:
“…in the 18th century, there were accounts of demons killed by witchcraft. Apparently they were vanquished by a spell called ‘defigere et depurgare’ which is Latin for ‘to bind and purge’….from what I can tell, that spell hasn’t been used in over 300 years. And it was only ever known by one person, the witch who created it…Rowena.”
This is also very intriguing background on Rowena. She knows how to create a spell “to bind and to purge”, exactly what is needed to free the world from Darkness. This strengthens the argument that she will be somehow convinced (maybe by the aforementioned threat) to help defeat the Darkness.
A last note on Rowena. In “Executioner’s Song” (10.14), she said about herself and Crowley, “Of course I was manipulating you! I am your mother, after all. Manipulation’s who we are.” An interesting, if not disturbing, character analysis for the MacLeod’s!
In “Soul Survivor” (10.03), when Crowley saved Cas’ life and gave him more borrowed angel grace, Cas in a way became indebted to Crowley. Then in the season’s climax, Castiel owed Crowley for finding the rare ingredients needed for the spell.
Crowley also has something to hold over Sam. In 10.22 “The Prisoner”, Crowley let Sam live saying, “From here on, I want you to know that the only reason you’re alive is because I allowed it” implying ‘you owe me one’. Crowley is always playing the angles, assessing the odds and building up his chits. Since he is, in fact, a master manipulator, how might he cash in on these debts in season 11?
The ‘Beast’ spell was a favorite spell of Rowena’s, first used on the ‘girls’ in episode 7 then later on the college boys in episode 17 (“Inside Man”). In hindsight, it is fairly obvious that she would turn to it at the end of season 10 to incapacitate Castiel. Did you see that coming? Humans can’t overcome the spell so obviously Castiel has to find an original solution that pertains specifically to angels. Ironically, he had just told Rowena that he was “a lot like a human”.
The Stynes said the Book of the Damned couldn’t be destroyed. Do you think the Holy Oil Dean splashed on it would have worked, had Sam actually thrown the book into the fire?
In “The Prisoner” (10.22), Sam said he was never going to forgive himelf for “getting Charlie killed” (which I don’t buy into by the way). Then when Cas asked Sam “What Happened?”, Sam replied “Me”. That says a lot about how much Sam is going to blame himself in season 11 for releasing the Darkness.
“About A Boy” 10.12 was all about second chances (e.g. Tina, young Dean). Were there any other references to 2nd chances in other episodes? It seems to me that would be a good theme for S11 with Dean restored to himself.
“Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Ask Jeeves” and “There’s No Place Like Home” were steeped in foreshadowing. Additionally, in “The Things We Left Behind” 10.09, Dean told Cas,
“Knife me. Smite me. Throw me into the freakin’ sun, whatever. And don’t let Sam get in the way, because he’ll try. I can’t go down that road again, man. I can’t be that thing again.”
Dean was predicting that he would ask a more powerful being to kill him and that Sam would need to be ‘dealt with’ to keep him from interfering. This directly foreshadowed the finale! These were superficially the simple monster of the week stories, yet they win the award for predicting the most about what was going to happen by the end of the season. Maybe we should pay closer attention to the non-myth arc stories. Remind me of that when the next silly episode airs in season 11!
So there are the season 11 threads woven into season 10. I didn’t cover all the episodes, and I’m sure I’ve missed things, so please chime in with your ideas. I’ve also thrown out a lot of theories here, so I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait too long for answers now, but until all is revealed, let’s keep unraveling those threads!