Blade Runners picks up the too long dormant Mark of Cain story thread and weaves it into the current unraveling of the bond between the brothers. Ross-Leming and Buckner also give us a good look at Crowley, allowing us to wonder both at his level of humanity and his capacity for the long con. Crowley is going to be very important to this arc in a way Sam and Dean haven’t yet realized. And I suspect it will be to their detriment.
The King of Hell opens the episode in rough shape, indulging in his addiction to human blood and human feelings. His minion, Lola, is taking advantage of his weakness and reporting everything she learns to Abbadon, including the search for the First Blade.
But she underestimates Crowley, who is not as off his game as she thinks. I’m not sure Crowley is as off his game as anyone thinks, especially Sam and Dean. Mark Sheppard has described his character as what happens when nobody is looking. I think Crowley is indeed fighting an addiction to human feelings and those feelings are impacting him in unexpected ways. Sheppard is doing a wonderful job showing those nuances in the demon.
But I also think Crowley has his eye on the prize and he’s finding ways to turn his weakness to his advantage. He spends a good deal of time asking Sam and Dean for support and trying to establish a connection between them because of the almost exorcism. The result is Sam and Dean both reacting in disgust at the idea and at Crowley’s condition, and that in turn means they are not taking Crowley seriously.
Dean should have already realized Crowley is far from out of the game when he learned the demon intended to lead other demons to Cain through John’s hunter friend. He was one step ahead of the boys there, which makes it less surprising to the audience he’s one step ahead of the boys in this episode. The question Sam and Dean should be asking is: what is Crowley’s goal?
However, Crowley is a master manipulator, so the boys are too busy telling him off to analyze him. It’s all shades of season four, when Ruby nudged Sam in all the wrong directions using a velvet glove. Crowley’s methods are different, but he’s leading Dean where he wants Dean to go, taking advantage of Dean’s emotional separation from Sam. Lola found out to her cost Crowley is far from losing his grip. Dean is soon going to find out the same.
Fortunately, I now believe that like season four, both brothers’ perception of how the other feels is inaccurate. Their bond is still there, and that bond is still their best defence against forces like Crowley and Abbadon.
The writers have been careful to show Sam’s fear of losing Dean in several episodes, despite his declaration he and Dean are just working partners, not brothers. Sam is no more able to turn off his feelings for Dean than vice versa. In this episode, he is in full brother mode as he snarls to the man he thinks is Cuthbert, “Take me to my brother.”
Dean is in snarl mode himself when Cuthbert threatens Sam. Both brothers are desperate to protect the other. How they end up doing so is key to the arc. Crowley lets Dean loose, and the elder Winchester takes up the First Blade without hesitation to defend Sam. The Blade’s cost begins to manifest as Dean is caught up in the feelings the blade evokes—feelings that are all about power and strength rather than morality.
The Blade mimics in many ways the feelings Sam got from demon blood which led him down his road of good intentions. Arrogance, pride, revenge – these were feelings that allowed Lucifer to manipulate Sam. And it was Dean’s voice of love that penetrated the red haze of anger Lucifer had cast over Sam.
The situation is reversed in “Blade Runners.” Dean is the one struggling with the attraction to violence and Sam’s voice pulls him back. I like the parallel, but I like even more that the story isn’t a straight parallel and the boys will have to do some growing to reach each other.
Sam has been very angry at the lengths Dean will go to save him, and that anger led him to say some very sweeping things about Dean’s motivations and Dean’s worth. Sam’s anger is justified, but I think he’s also taking for granted he’ll be able to work things through with his brother precisely because Dean has always been focused on him. Dean has stood in loco parentis for his brother far too often for that not to impact their relationship.
What Sam wants to work out with Dean is his feeling Dean doesn’t see him as a capable adult, a full partner. He wants to know Dean trusts his judgement and he wants Dean to acknowledge the logical result of that trust is that he can let Sam go if that’s truly Sam’s choice.
These are reasonable goals. However, just as Dean did not communicate that trust to Sam in the church, Sam did not communicate his enduring love for his brother in his talks with him. I don’t mean to say Sam doesn’t feel the love, just that his words didn’t convey the complexity of what he feels for his brother.
I think Sam is now fully aware of that complexity, as he still feels the need for Dean to acknowledge his actions hurt Sam, but at the same time he feels Dean slipping through his fingers in a way Sam does not want. Sam knows all too well the seductive pull of power, and this episode opened his eyes to the danger of the Mark of Cain.
In a way, it’s been odd it’s taken Sam this long to eye the Mark suspiciously. But perhaps it’s not so odd when his feelings about Dean are factored in. When Sam finds out about the Mark, he is focused on his anger at Dean, and not entirely clear on whether he’s most angry at the possession, Dean’s lies about the possession, Dean choosing to leave him rather than listen to him or Dean replacing him with Crowley of all people as a partner. Sam’s got so much on his plate, the Mark doesn’t grab his attention as it normally would, and that in a nutshell shows that breaking the bond is not a source of strength for these two.
The Mark I think is now firmly on Sam’s radar as something to worry about. I think it is on Dean’s radar, too, but he’s having to fight this battle on the inside and he no longer feels his tie to Sam is his anchor. Dean has never before really thought his bond with Sam was severed, not even in “Swan Song” when Lucifer looked out of Sam’s eyes.
This time, it’s different. It’s not outside forces breaking the boys apart; it’s their own relationship issues. Dean knows why he can’t accept Sam losing hope and deciding to die, and he knows he doesn’t feel sorry for saving him. But at the same time he knows why Sam finds the idea of possession so horrific, and he knows he shouldn’t have allowed his lies to his brother to stand. Dean has never been good at verbal communication; he shows his feelings with actions. Sam needs to hear something Dean doesn’t yet know how to say, and Dean needs to see Sam show him his love in a way Sam isn’t used to doing. The result of all this non-communication is Dean losing himself in a way neither he nor Sam want.
Crowley is using the space between the brothers to ooze in and use Sam and Dean for his own purposes. He’s been upfront that he wants Dean to help him with his succession issues by killing Abaddon. But he hasn’t been so upfront with all that he knows about the Knights of Hell and the impact of the Blade. I think he has plans for Dean past killing Abaddon.
Given Cain’s story, I think it’s very possible using the Blade will push Dean toward turning into a demon, something he’s been afraid of since season three. If Crowley can find a way to control Dean as a Knight of Hell, he will be much more powerful than he was before the rebellion. Cuthbert had the same goal and realized Sam was the key. But as Dean gets closer to Knighthood, will that continue to be the case? Or does Crowley have another means of control in mind?
I think Sam is going to realize he is the key to a lot of plans, and he’d better try to take control of the impact he has on Dean before he loses his brother completely. The love Dean has for Sam has always been messy, but then love *is* messy.
Dean’s boundary issues with Sam hurt Sam, and Sam’s response hurt Dean. The part of love that makes us vulnerable is the way we fear to lose it and the way it lets us know our partner’s weak areas. But love also lets us feel truly known, flaws and all. I think Sam is going to decide messy love is worth fighting for—and that fight will in the end clear up some of the mess for both brothers.
Photos courtesy of homeofthenutty.com
Now I agree Crowley is taking full advantage of the situation and it will blow up in their faces. Dean is vulnerable right now with the rupture with Sam and the Blade is very seductive, especially to a man who has already written himself off because he believes he's a killer and going to burn for Kevin's death. In the end, Meg really hit the nail on the head when she said the problem is always Crowley.
Crowely is so playing the brothers. The look on his face showed it throughout the episode (at least after the blood chugging) he planned this whole scenario.
cheryl and percy i totally agree. i sometimes feel dean is the fandom...what i mean is, it seems at times that what dean thinks, a portion of the fans think as well, even though a lot of the time, dean has selective hearing when it comes to sam and what he thinks and what actually is are two entirely different things. i agree that it's a reaction towards the way dean reacts. i fear that's the burden "sam winchester" bears. :(
i think sam has shown dean how much he loves him. giving dean the prize from the cereal box, giving dean the samulet, coming back to hunting in the first place because dean said he didn't want to do it alone, jumping in the pit, believing in dean when no one else did including dean himself, telling dean to his face how much he wanted to be like his big brother, trying to lead dean into the light at the end of the tunnel by doing the trials ...hell he even told dean he loved him in sam, interrupted. yes i know he was medicated, but the medication didn't make sam love his brother, it only broke down his inhibitions enough so he can say the words.
neither brother seem to be able to say the actual words, as they are not only men, but winchester men. i always thought though that both brothers have equally shown that they love ea. other through their actions. i never really doubted either brother's love for the other. but they are different and have different views. dean loves his brother to the point of holding on too tight and going to any and all measures to save him and keep him safe. sam loves his brother enough to abide by his wishes even if it kills sam to do it. he loves his brother enough to let him go if that's what dean wants.
i just think neither of the brothers truly understand the other's pov. once they do finally see where the other is coming from, they'll come to understand ea other as they never have before and not only will they change what needs to be changed, but they can accept what cannot. ;)
i have no doubt that's where we are headed. :)
crowley that evil bastard. he's definitely the puppet master in this scenario...i look forward to finding out who/what crowley really is and what he really wants....
Percysowner: thank you for spelling things out a little more clearly. I too think Sam is onlky speaking of the specific set of circumstances they're in. Not everything either of them has ever done in their life.
And Sam is now really first time noticing the threat from the Mark. I think when it was dormant, Sam just forgot it in away as the boys had their own trouble going on and still have. I am fairly certain that Crowley will continue to use Dean and in next episode he gets one step closer to the dark side. "Vader voice"
Nice review and totally awesome picture in the end. Dean with black eyes. ;)
I am having also an extra thought because of that picture. If Dean will be the boss of knights of hell. Which color demon eyes he would have?
I thought about it a little myself. Is it golden, white, red or black? Or a new color. The effect on his arm made me think burning lava a bit. Totally new.
Spoilers: Speak of the devil. Clip from next weeks episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzryBtQSwA4
Dean is in so much trouble. Watching that clip I think he knows it too.
Sorry I forgot Great review Gerry! I really enjoyed it and agree.
Sam is finally seeing himself in what Dean is doing (consciously or otherwise) with the Mark. The good intention is there, but since when have any of these things gone well for the Winchesters? They both know that, Dean is going back to his dark place. He has always had little faith in his own self-worth, but this time it's different. He told Sam at the start of the Trials (thank you TNT for reminding me) that he doesn't care what happens to himself anymore, and I doubt he's changed his tune. Luckily, Sam saw it then and clearly he sees it again now. It's about time he gets a chance to save his big brother. I hope he succeeds.
At the same time there's an imbalance running through seasons GR8 and DIV9. Remember how pissed Dean was at Sam for bringing him to the faith healer? And Dean turned around and did the same thing to Sam. Sam's anger is justified, but again I don't think he's so much mad at Dean as hurt that Dean overruled his decisions. They have to repair the damage, but actions speak louder than words. They have to save themselves before they can save their relationship.
In the end I snickered, chuckled, and laughed through Sam's annoyance with Crowley. The demon is being so over the top again that I'm sure parts of his routine were a ruse for the Winchesters just like him leading Dean on to meet Cain. Some of it seemed genuine, so we'll just have to see where it goes. I'm ready for a return of the trench coat, but if Misha directed the next one (YAY MISHA!!!) then I doubt Cas will be a big player. Why can't Bobby just show up and kick some Winchester ass over all this?! Don't deny you wouldn't want to see that!
At any rate things always get worse before they get better so as much as my spidey-sense flared up over Dean being drawn to the effects of the Mark I bet he will face much worse before Sam brings him to his sense and/or he can redeem himself. This whole story arc reminds me of "The End," "On the Head of a Pin," and yes as Gerry pointed out: "Dream a Little Dream of Me." I foresee more clenched fisted finishes before the season is over.
Crowley undoubtedly knows more than he's saying. Cuthbert's fate suggests that Dean will not be easy to control. Crowley's hubris is that he believes he is always in control. He started out this season in bad straits. I think it's debatable whether he will survive this or not.
I don't see Dean becoming a demon myself. He's now the alpha hunter, alpha killer seeing less gray than he did before. I think Purgatory Dean was a brief taste of this. The guy that felt no remorse at killing to achieve his goals. The goal was noble, saving Cas, finding the demon tablet, killing Crowley; but the means were not. Indiscriminate killing and torture regardless of who or what as long as the goal is reached. I keep thinking of the Purgatory Dean mantras... you're either in or you're out, I'm the man with the mojo and the plan, when is decapitation not my thing. Chilling.
That is what the blade did to Cain. It turned him into a demon. I just watched FB again. Cain became a demon that ruled and trained the knights of hell. What broke the spell that the blade had him under was evidently the love of Collette. So I would assume that the love of Sam is going to have to get through to Dean just like it did in Cuthbert's house/zoo. Even Jensen said that they needed to open a window or something because the story was going very dark for him.
With regard to Dean never making Sam use his demon powers, in 'It's the Great Pumpkin' episode Dean could have stopped Sam from using his powers - which Sam was cornered into doing because he had lost the knife. It was use the powers or die because Dean didn't lift a finger to help him. Dean had the demon killing knife by his foot, he knew it was there and he did nothing, and he could see how much strain Sam using his powers was putting on Sam. If Sam's power had failed him at that moment he would have been killed by Samhain because Dean left him to get on with it.
Anyway I said I wouldn't say any more about it, so I really do have to stop now
I had to see what happened in this episode though because the storyline for Dark Dean is kicking off and it looks like it has so much potential and such a growth curve for him as an individual! And over the past many episodes I find that these writers are the ones who actually seem to remember what motivates Sam is as a character (and want to include him as a character in their stories) so they get my thumbs up even though I KNOW I am in a minority
"This time, it’s different. It’s not outside forces breaking the boys apart; it’s their own relationship issues. Dean knows why he can’t accept Sam losing hope and deciding to die, and he knows he doesn’t feel sorry for saving him. But at the same time he knows why Sam finds the idea of possession so horrific, and he knows he shouldn’t have allowed his lies to his brother to stand. Dean has never been good at verbal communication; he shows his feelings with actions. Sam needs to hear something Dean doesn’t yet know how to say, and Dean needs to see Sam show him his love in a way Sam isn’t used to doing. The result of all this non-communicati on is Dean losing himself in a way neither he nor Sam want."
I am now looking forward to the rest of the season with anticipation. I hope we have some resolutions by seasons end but I have a feeling much will carry over to S10. On that note - YAY for season 10!
I wished I disagreed with that. I still want them going to preposterous lengths to save each other. That's what fuels their drive to find a way out when all seems hopeless. I know Dean will feel anchored to Sam again but now I kind of wish I waited & binged watched this whole season :(
I think tense story lines are easier to binge watch, because you don't have to spin your wheels in a painful spot. You can hurry on and see where the writers are going. But ratings depends on us using the week by week route, so I'll keep watching the old fashioned way. :)
The other reason is I’m trying to figure out who best knows Sam’s voice. Robbie Thompson writes a great Dean; Bob Behrens brings out some really nice layers in Cas–but who writes Sam well? To date, I don’t have an answer (although I loved the comment further upthread about Sam being the 'dumbest smart person on TV, because the character can only be as smart as the writers. ) I’d love other fans’ input, although I doubt this is the right thread for that. Mea culpa.
Thanks Gerry for this great review; like you, I thought Blade Runners was an entertaining episode, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was written by Ross-Leming & Buckner, a team that can tell a good story but has a nasty habit of ignoring canon in the process. They created a fantastic character in Magnus (the first villain in a long time I was really sorry to see dispatched so quickly), contributed an awesome expansion to the Men of Letters lore (Magnus is gone, but that secret lair and his zoo–shudders–st ill exist, right?), and finally (finally!) gave us some much-needed progression in the Mark of Cain storyline.
Quote:I too loved how they portrayed the brothers’ relationship in Blade Runners. The cold war continues but while working the case, they are the dynamic partnership they’ve always been. And when one is threatened (as each was over the course of the hour), the masks come down and their love and concern for the other is clearly evident). They’re not telling us anything we didn’t already know–S&D are both hurt and angry (in many ways justifiably) and lashing out, but you don’t stop being brothers just because you say ‘we can’t be brothers any more’–ugh!–but I loved the way their love and concern for each other was illustrated here.
Quote:He is a master manipulator indeed. While I agree that Crowley’s addiction is real, I also think he’s using it as just another means to test allegiances and move pieces around the chessboard in the current power struggle for Hell. He certainly did that with Lola, and Sam and Dean are no exception–but they’re much more valuable chess pieces.
I only wish that in one of the arguments between Sam and Crowley, Sam had thrown the deaths of Tommy Collins and (especially) Sarah Blake (from Season 8’s Clip Show) back in Crowley’s face. The King of Hell was at his nefarious best (or is that worst?) in orchestrating Sarah’s death and throwing that into the mix would have given those Sam-Crowley exchanges a lot more emotional weight.
I’m also concerned about the amount of intel Crowley has been able to gather about the Men of Letters through Sam and Dean. He’s been taken back and from the bunker several times (I’m sure Sam and Dean are covering their tracks but this is, after all, Crowley), with this episode, he's now been allowed outside the cell and into the bunker proper, and had a front row seat (and gathered up the necessary ingredients) as Sam figured out a spell to access a heavily warded fortress. Hmmm... Anyone else think that all adds up to the bunker being in jeopardy as we barrel towards the season finale? :(
When I finally read the credits, I can’t say it surprised me to learn Serge Ladouceur was the director; the episode looked fantastic. There were some unique camera angles and perspective shots used throughout that told me someone who knows cameras intimately was in the director’s chair.
And kudos to the effects team, too–loved the effect used as the door to Magnus’s lair opened–and to the set designers; the unicorn skull was awesome!
GERRY: Quote:No sure if you watch Revolution, Gerry, but Kripke has continued his penchant for in-jokes on that show. Last week’s episode featured a reference to the “Carver Re-education Camp.” I’ve spent the past week puzzling over just who is getting re-educated–Car ver or us? ;)
"Dean is in snarl mode himself when Cuthbert threatens Sam." This sentence made me laugh because another site was trying to decide if the growling was coming from Dean or Magnus.
But this statement was very telling, "The writers have been careful to show Sam’s fear of losing Dean in several episodes, despite his declaration he and Dean are just working partners, not brothers. Sam is no more able to turn off his feelings for Dean than vice versa. In this episode, he is in full brother mode as he snarls to the man he thinks is Cuthbert, “Take me to my brother.” I agree with you that when Sam was disavowing Dean as his brother, which he agrees with Deans statement that that is what he has done in the next episode, he thought he would have more time to fix the relationship. I fear that time has passed and now he may just have to look for a way to connect at all.
Eventhough Dean and the blade are one scary combination, I can't wait for DarkDean. This has reinvigorated this story to a level I am once again waiting on pins and needles for the next episode.
Dean : Sam, Watashi wa, anata o aishiteimasu!
Sam : Dean. te amo etiam
Dean : Watashi wa anata nashide wa ikite ikenainode, watashi wa sore o shimashita
Sam : Non possum ego a me putas? Donec non sum tibi, Dean!
Dean : Naze anata wa watashi ga nani o itte iru rikai dekinai nodesu ka?
Sam : Quare non potest intellegere, quae ego loquor tibi?
See... How can they understand each other if they use different language to speak to each other? So, to solve the problem, Dean has to learn Latin and Sam has to learn japanese. OR they use the same language that they both understand. It's not that they aren't on the page of the same book, they are. But somehow, they perceive the words on that page differently.