Despite of, or maybe because of, the overcrowded story that was packed into "King of the Damned", I have my suspicions that it may just end up being a pivotal episode in the overall, long term storyline that is the basis of the entire Supernatural series. Like a land slide of rocks that suddenly redirects the course of a mighty river into splintered, unexpected directions, this episode dramatically and abruptly changed the landscape of the Supernatural universe.
First, it shockingly gave Crowley a family. Given that a central theme of the entire show is the importance of family, I cannot believe this is an inconsequential development. Will having a tie to humanity affect Crowley’s future actions? Further, with Crowley’s humanity strengthened by his addiction to human blood, he actually cares about this family member, as evidenced by him taking steps to save Gavin from torture and certain death on a doomed voyage, then repeatedly giving him fatherly advice.
The scene of father and son sitting by a fire reading the newspaper at first seemed completely out of the moment to me, and in fact was entirely contrary to what was supposed to be happening in the rest of the episode. Yet, maybe its purpose was to foreshadow a longer, more normal relationship which was not part of this family’s past.
The second thing in this episode that could have a permanent, long lasting effect on the series was that the laws of time were broken. In Sam’s own words, “The lore all says the same thing—you change any one thing in the past, the ripple effect impacts everything that follows. You don’t bend that rule, okay? You don’t. We’ll take him back to the bunker, figure out the spell. That’s the way it’s got to be.” Crowley’s emotional decision to keep Gavin alive, in the present time, opens up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities for every single Supernatural myth arc. The writers could go back and change any past event simply by linking it somehow to Gavin. I shudder to consider that the Winchester’s whole lives might be erased by some “ripple effect” in time. Could we be headed toward them not needing to be hunters at all? Maybe their lives stay white picket fence and apple pie because 1) Gavin’s death doesn’t pain his dad back in Scotland, so 2)Crowley never sells his soul (do you really accept that Crowley sold his soul for “a few more inches of willy?” I don’t. I’m sure we have not heard the real reason he sold his soul. He is honorable and sentimental after all), and then he 3)never becomes a demon which 4)changes the history of Hell somehow….etc.
Other significant season 9 plot developments that were crammed into this episode?
· A Knight of Hell, Crowley’s rival for control of Hell, was killed.
· Castiel learned that he had a traitor in his ranks and Team Free Will learns that Metatron has an “elite secret squad”. These spies will later be revealed to be the kamikaze angels.
· Through conversations with Sam, Castiel decides to approach Gadreel about being a double agent or defecting. This is the beginning of the new stream that leads to Gadreel’s redemption, him saving Cas’ life and angels being able to return to Heaven.
· Dean reveals his thoughts about being the bearer of the Blade and takes a stand to keep it with him rather than stash it until it is needed. Dean’s simple “No” to Sam’s request to bury the Blade is an unmistakable indicator to Sam of Dean’s chosen and now inescapable path.
There is no doubt that this episode was a critical game-changer in several current and future myth arcs for the show. Whether or not it skillfully delivered these changes is a matter for debate (as you will read from our other reviewers!). Still, the fact remains that the entire storyline was and could still yet be completely altered. The motto of this episode: The ground we are all standing on is treacherous and we need to beware of falling rocks.
(live tweets from the show)
· "it's open warfare [on angels]" -Too bad we've only been shown it in like... 1 episode.
· I wonder... Devil Trap a bullet, shoot Abaddon, dismember her and drop the body in vat of holy water.
· And Crowley's son gives us a clue how we should be watching this episode (lots of drinking)
· DO NOT USE TIME TRAVEL! You are never that prepared, Carver years.
· IT'S HARPER! Love him, wish that actor got more work. [i.e. Ezra]
· It's the same alley where they trapped Gadreel and Castiel had his mind trip... angels should really stop walking down there.
· And the talking extra kind of looks like he's dressed like Malcolm Reynolds... my fanfic bone is getting all kinds of love.
· I admit, I like the "dramatic approach" [echoing footsteps] of Castiel.
· "I needed to do something." ...What? WHAT? are you going to do? What happens if you don't?
· All the demons are dressed in fine suits, all the angels dressed in regular clothes. Metaphor?
· Where are Abaddon & Crowley in Metatron's story? Why angel v angel and not old fashioned angel v demon?
· "How did you" "I know..." "No I mean, why didn't you kill me in the past & stop my rise?"
· I mean Bobby brought Gavin's ghost back once, why can't Abaddon just grab his spirit and torture it?
· Abaddon time travels: drops off note to herself: "Be the demon Crowley makes a deal with, hold his contract."
· I need to make a gif of Gavin... this scene of him really does express the audience after S9.
· My only problem with this interrogation scene is you can't tell what was planned or what's clues to Dean & Sam's minds.
· Hmm... when did Dean switch out his father's leather jacket for the new Carhartt one?
· It is funny how Dean keeps donning jackets that my father has in his closet.
· "I'm the King of hell." With Gavin's accent they should have launched into Monty Python in that scene.
· The editing is kind of all over this episode too. The viewer kind of feels like a pinball bouncing between two shows.
· Did they ever solve or establish who killed Harper?
· "He didn't possess me." ...No I'm pretty sure that was possession. Man the writers are trying to retcon their own season.
· Since when did Crowley gain Metatron "download knowledge" ability?
· I like Mark Sheppard & all but I kind of wish they killed him & let Gavin have a S10 arc of learning to be a prince.
· I'm going to watch this Castiel/Gad scene a 2nd time just to see if anything's actually said in it.
· Yeah, twice through, Cas & Gad manage to say practically nothing.
· Seriously. "It will be worse under Metatron". What will, Cas? How do you know?
· For being all "no more killing", Cas didn't try that hard to not kill in that fight.
· "Hey a gun! Well I'll just throw this away. Not like I'll need it against humans or anything."
· So Metatron has a spy in Cas' "camp". But he made Cas be a leader previously & was typing it up and all...
· I can't believe that after all this season, Sam actually TRUSTED Dean just now.
· Hey, the MoC is actually starting to DO something.
· Jedi'ing the Blade is something I've been waiting for the MoC to do FOR AWHILE NOW.
· Remember when Abaddon was all loving the future & using tech? Where's her knife-proof vest now? the gun she just used?
· "We're not killing you Crowley." WHY? WHY AREN'T YOU KILLING HIM? I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO KILL HIM!! I THOUGHT CROWLEY WAS DEAD AFTER ABADDON? WHY AREN'T YOU STABBING HIM???
· "No one breaks the rules like you two-" THEY DON'T BREAK THE RULES OF TIME TRAVEL!
· I'd laugh so hard if next episode it turns out Crowley isn't the king because of time paradox.
· Is Sam mad at Dean about ditching him or mad at himself for actually believing his brother?
· Dean: "She could have bargained her way out." Like Crowley just did... wait, what???
· Huh... where was "Bloodlines"? That doesn't get to show up in the replays? XD
Just… what is there left to say? You don’t, do NOT bring time travel into a story unless you have a very clear plan for the implication and rules. Otherwise…
Why pick up Gavin? Why not wipe out Crowley now? Why not leave note for your past self to stop Crowley’s rise? Why not wipe out the Winchester line now? Why not just wipe out the line of the woman Cain falls in love with so he never turns on you guys and kills all the knights? Then you have allies and Dean has no MoC to bother you with.
Then we have Sam believes Dean for… reasons.
Castiel says he has to fight Metatron and that Metatron has bad plans because… reasons. We don’t even get a logical moment of Castiel saying something like, “I’ve played God. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions start…” What has Metatron done? Kicked the angels out of heaven? He didn’t go on a killing spree like Godstiel did. He’s not running around on earth meting out vengeance. Ok, so they say he screwed up the veil – except when he didn’t (Charlie). Sure he killed Kevin but it’s not like he can’t bring the kid back once his plans were finished.
Look, I don’t mind Metatron being a villain, but SHOW him being a villain! But that’s the scene this season: We’re going to tell you one thing, then show something else on screen. Like Castiel saying he wants to not kill other angels, then have him stab a bunch on screen instead of restraining them somehow or vampiring out their grace and mortalizing them. Or you have Cas complaining about a spy, when in a previous episode we saw Metatron typing up Castiel’s actions on the typewriter. (is he recording actions? Influencing actions? They never tell us) How do they know Metatron didn’t just pop in, gank the dude, and then leave? WHY ARE YOU LETTING CROWLEY LIVE? YOU SAID AFTER METATRON HE’S NEXT! HE’S RIGHT THERE! HELPLESS! STAB THE F**** ALREADY! WHY AREN’T YOU GUYS STABBING HIM???
Nothing, NOTHING makes a lick of sense in this episode. The more you try to think about ANY part of it, the stupider it gets. Nobody acts in character, they only do what the plot requires. The ONLY thing that salvages it would be that Metatron’s typewriter is controlling everyone’s actions. In which case, ok, now I’m down with him dying since he’s such a suck-ass writer. What does it say when the best explanation for the episode is that we’re not watching Sam & Dean, we’re just watching puppets?
And when the audience thinking is the worst thing for a writer, that’s a sign of a hack right there.
My takeaway: I think Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner improved their batting average this season in terms of quality. Unfortunately, this episode is pretty close to a strike out. “King of the Damned” highlights most of the issues of the season without providing many highlights. Even the much anticipated Dean/Abbadon fight to the death is a bust, and with those two actors, that took some doing.
Abbadon as a whole was badly handled this season. She started out all badass and sexy, purring innuendo-laden threats into Dean’s ear like a boss—and then pretty much disappeared as any kind of real threat. The best scene she has with Crowley is the one discussing Gavin’s brainpower shortcomings (“You must be angels!”). But her final fight with Dean relies more on cheesy special effects than raw chemistry between the actors. And the actors have chemistry. This scene should have had the power of Dean and Alastair, or failing that, even Dean and Zachariah. Instead, the scene is a windtunnel-driven posy bit of ridiculousness and a terrible send off for the Queen.
Jensen came through in the aftermath of this weak fight, as Dean loses control and beats Abbadon’s dead body, showing the impact of the Mark of Cain. I liked that only Sam can penetrate his haze of rage.
There is some good stuff to be found. I appreciated the ambiguity on why Dean hides Crowley’s warning from Sam. Dean tells Sam he knew the Mark of Cain would give him the power to beat Abbadon, so he didn’t need his brother’s back up. He then reveals he still feels the need to protect his brother when he tells Sam the only thing that could have stopped him is Abbadon capturing Sam and using him as leverage. And that makes sense, as only Sam’s voice gets through to Dean when the Mark of Cain takes over.
But Dean is not reaching out to Sam with this explanation. He’s coldly analytical, explaining he was finding a way to remove his feelings for Sam as a potential obstacle to his success. I was especially struck by this undercurrent because of the way the writers in general this season seem to be characterizing Dean’s feelings for Sam as selfish and the cause of terrible events. The Dean who will save his brother’s life at the expense of the big goal is taking heavy criticism in the writers’ room.
Yet this Dean who does the opposite is not sympathetic. He’s chilling, in the way Soulless Sam was chilling when he allowed Dean to get turned into a vampire to help the mission. Being able to divorce himself from his ties that bind is not turning Dean into a more authentic hero. It’s turning him into a monster.
That was the message we saw in “The End” as well. Breaking that family bond takes away a source of strength for Sam and Dean, because even though they can be manipulated through it or just make some poor decisions based on emotion, the bond still grounds them. Here, Dean feels the strength he’s getting from the Mark of Cain and feels a sense of clarity of purpose. But he’s blind to the way he’s losing himself.
I hope we see more exploration next season on that tension between the personal and the mission. Eric Kripke played with that dichotomy a lot in the first five seasons, and he ended up showing that family ties, in all the various ways we make them, are the foundation for the big picture values. Dean’s love for Sam and refusal to leave him helped stop the Apocalypse, not the colt. This season, Dean’s love for Sam led to decisions that hurt his brother and damaged the bond. But the Dean who does not feel that love and is coldly analytical about his strategy is much scarier—to us and I think to Sam.
Other thoughts I had about the episode:
· If your name is not Ben Edlund, do not write meta. It takes a light and skillful touch to get it right. These writers do not get it right.
· Why do Sam and Dean not kill Crowley? I can fanwank that it’s because Dean feels a kinship with the demon he’s not prepared to tell Sam, so he finds a convincing explanation to keep Crowley alive. But if so, why didn’t we see this conversation?
· The set up for Gavin to cause a time paradox next season is pretty clear. I guess it’s a nice option to have in the writers’ back pockets, but I’d prefer not mucking about in the story’s past and causing dissonance.
What do you think was the most important thing that happened in this episode? Did you like it more or less this time around? What did you make of this week's use of time-travel? Gavin' appearance? Dean's brutality? Crowley's compassion? Gadreel's second-thoughts? Castiel's leadership and army? Abaddon's death? Or maybe you want to talk about the extra dressed like Malcolm Reynolds (BTW, he was the angel in red who taunted Ezra!) Dealer's Choice!