The first half of season nine built itself elegantly around the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. We saw several incarnations---from Gadreel to Metatron to the Fall from Heaven to Castiel's bout as a mortal. Each serpent infected a particular Garden and set in motion consequences still rippling outward. It set the stage for the second half---allowing for it to continue the Biblical theme with the introduction of the Cain and Abel story. In that story, we see a Supernatural twist making Cain's Mark an inheritance from Lucifer. “Stairway to Heaven” bridges the two together, showing how each storyline reflects the other in literary symmetry.

First, let's look at Metatron and how he is using the serpent theme in his “story.”

In the opening sequence, we see an angel sitting at an ice cream shop. Another angel enters and we see a terrifying white flash. It systematically destroys everything, blowing the windows out and we know for certain that all inside must now be dead. It isn't until the Winchesters and Castiel watch a video that we learn exactly what happened. In it, we see the angel reveal a symbol carved into his chest. He then proceeds to stab himself in the center of it with an angel blade, declaring that he does this in the name of Castiel. Castiel tells the Winchesters that he'd never do such a thing, reiterating,“I'm gonna be sick.”

Meanwhile, we see Metatron trying on a trench coat similar to Castiel's. He seems pleased with himself as if he could pull it off better than the rebel angel leader. Metatron spends time folding it over, checking it in the mirror, and assessing how it fits. Upon being interrupted, we see him quickly hide it---only to see Gadreel in the doorway. He tells his second in command that they used their one shot on their “Lee Harvey” scheme.

In that moment, we clearly know just what the Scribe has done---and how he's planning on taking his chosen adversary down.

That doesn't mean it'll be simple. Metatron expresses that he's frustrated. Castiel's lead his army well---perhaps too well. It's clear that he hadn't planned on that twist. He had no idea that it would get this big or that Castiel would “be good at it.” He chose Castiel as his opposition and as such he now has to find a way to disarm and defeat him. If he doesn't do that now, it's possible that he could have a true adversary on his hands---one that he isn't writing the script for.

And so, Metatron decides that it is time to distort Castiel's image. Let's examine how.

As the Winchesters help Castiel investigate the case, it leads them to split up. Dean will hang back at Castiel's war room and investigate what lead to the angel attack at the ice cream shop while Sam and Castiel follow the trail of the potential mole. When Sam and Castiel encounter the missing angel, they discover that he was burned brutally with holy oil. There's hardly anything left but a burned body---and the angel is barely alive. Even so, he refuses Castiel's aid. Josiah tells him, “I would rather die than owe my life to you, Castiel. You play at being noble. You play at being one of us. But I look into your eyes and I don't see an angel staring back at me.”

It makes us wonder what would lead this angel to this point. It can't just be because he doesn't see an angel staring back at him. What would make Josiah change his mind now on following Castiel? It also has to be much more than the hopes that he can return to Heaven. It's apparent that he won't be doing that, either. Much like so many others, Josiah was duped by Metatron. By dousing him in Holy Oil and burning him to death, Metatron can ensure that the latest angel he's tricked won't be able to run back to Castiel's followers---or reveal his latest deception. It also allows him to put another angel's blood on Castiel's hands.

But why?

Metatron has been the biggest serpent all season long. He's the one that engineered the Fall that has created all the havoc. He did so by slithering his way into Castiel's ear and by gaining his trust. Using his silver tongue, he told Castiel that he would help them fix Heaven, ensuring that there would be an end to the fighting. Instead, he tricked the angel into helping him with fake Trials---all the while knowing that he was going to destroy Heaven as everyone's always known it.

He also charms his way into persuading Gadreel to follow him. It's easy for him to twist this angel to his bidding. Knowing that Gadreel had spent centuries inside Heaven's prison---locked away for his part in the Fall of Man---Metatron can manipulate him into whatever he wishes. It allows for Metatron to convince Gadreel that he will find redemption. It allows for him to push Gadreel to kill Kevin and more---all in the hopes that not only will Gadreel be able to return to Heaven, he'll return a hero. He's sold this angel on the idea that he'll be considered one of Heaven's elite and greatest instead of the lowest and vile---for now.

Metatron has slithered his way so deeply into the story as the serpent that he's now trying to “flip the script” in his own story. He wants to portray himself as the hero---especially if he wants to succeed as taking over Heaven as its new leader. It'll be his ultimate deception---and yet he must have an adversary that he can manipulate and destroy to convince the other angels that he's not the bad guy after all. And so, he chooses the same dupe he used in season eight: Castiel.

In “Stairway to Heaven,” we see this meta fiction come to pass: the story itself reflected and revolved around the serpent in the Garden and now Metatron uses that very concept to set up his chosen foe. It would be a key theme in his own story---helping him to write it as he sees fit. He may have modernized it with the reference to Lee Harvey Oswald, the oft considered patsy in the JFK assassination---but he's cast Castiel as his serpent none the less. What of the garden? That's also built in for Metatron. It's none other than Castiel's command center and the flock of angels that have gathered around him.

Metatron waits, like a spider, for the right moment to expose the serpent amongst the rebel army. Placing a video chat to Castiel's war room---and with the most angels present as possible---Metatron reveals that he, too, has been attacked by these terroristic Castiel followers. He met with the last independent angel leader---seemingly in good faith in his telling of it---when one of these nuclear angels came in and killed Tyrus. It would have nearly done the same to him if Gadreel hadn't guarded him from the blast. He sells it hard here, making it seem that Castiel has secret orders given out to these rogue angels---all while his other soldiers fight on thinking they're supporting the better option.

We know it to be a lie---as do Sam, Dean, and Castiel---and yet Metatron calls upon the one rule of any good lie: wrap it around a grain of truth and make it the foundation. It's how he attaches the stigma of serpent to Castiel's name. He asks Castiel, “Have you told them about your stolen grace?” Instantly the skeptical crowd turns towards their leader, expecting a vehement denial. When they receive none, the last piece of Metatron's puzzle falls into place.

It also doesn't help that the other angels saw an angry Dean Winchester unleash about Castiel's past deceptions---declaring loudly, “The last time you had this kind of juice you did kill humans and angels and you did nothing but lie to me and Sam about it the whole damn time.”

Castiel has been branded in that single moment. He is now seen as a serpent himself. They may have come to him in search of a leader----but they feel that he should have told them the truth. Castiel has been leading them all the while being the serpent amongst them. As he protests, telling them that Metatron's lying about the attacks, it all falls on deaf ears. The fact that Castiel is holding stolen grace that is slowly burning out is enough. Any good faith he had with his angel army is now a moot point---especially when he refuses to “punish” Dean for what happened with Tessa. They won't hear anymore.

Metatron, story savvy as he is, has taken a major story theme and made it his centerpiece. Instead of making himself the serpent, he has chosen Castiel. And yet, he's still very much the serpent in this story. We see it in how Tessa was manipulated---and in how all the others he unleashed were manipulated.

Tessa has always been an agent of the Natural Order. Her job is to reap the souls of those that are in the in-between, waiting to move up or down or into Purgatory. It is her job to escort them and in a particular order. She knows no other path, no other means to exist. She follows the order of those that have died, reaps their souls, and deposits them where they belong. There's no malice or benevolence in her. It is simply what she does and who she is.

Metatron's spell that destroyed the fabric of Heaven, however, has changed all of that. Tessa can no longer do the job she was meant to do. She is as helpless as the spirits she is meant to guide. Not unlike the angry spirit she once warned Dean about becoming, Tessa is slowly becoming mad. The longer she is trapped in limbo unable to do her job, the harder it becomes. It's also apparent that she's also going to become all the angrier for it, too. She is becoming one of the vengeful spirits we see her prevent---and more.

Tessa has fallen victim, in her ever growing madness, to Metatron's latest ruse. He has appeared to her somehow as Castiel, telling her that he has a job for her. That job is to take out a target---exactly the same way that the angel in the ice cream shop did. Tessa has fallen so far in the time that Heaven's been locked up that she will take any out once she sees it.

We see this in her confrontation with Hannah and Dean. She's angry, combative, and restless. Tessa has lost hope and thinks everything has become meaningless. What does it matter if humans get caught in the crossfire? As she sees it, they're doomed rather they die in a tragic explosion or in their sleep. Heaven's boarded up and there's no way to escort them there anyways. She also believes that this was something that only she could do. She was chosen to do it---as others were “too weak.” Tessa has been bedazzled so much so that she's willing to commit a terrible act---one that we know she wouldn't under ordinary circumstances.

Once alone with Dean, she confesses, “I guess I just couldn't hear their screams anymore.” It's the first honest moment she's had since being captured by the elder Winchester. Tessa is in agony, driven well past her brink. Unable to simply do her job and unable to restore the Natural Order in which she has always existed, she would rather it end here and now. She can die, too---and that seems like freedom from the chaos that has been unleashed since Metatron destroyed Heaven's access points.

Tessa has decided that she can't do it to herself, however---hence why Metatron as the serpent he is could slither his way into her ear. And so, when confronted by Dean, she explains how hard it's been for her. She tells him about the souls, “All of them. The lost souls. The ones that can't get into Heaven now that it's been boarded up. I hear them. They are so confused. They're in so much pain. All I want to do is help them. It's what I do. It's my job. But I can't. So I suffered... Until death, nothingness. Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad. It seemed quiet.” In some ways, we can tell that she's trying to convince Dean to kill her---she needs out and she needs it now.

It is also another example of literary symmetry reflecting the role reversal Sam and Dean are experiencing in the second half of the season. Tessa was once to guide Dean to his final resting place in the afterlife. Now it is his turn to release her from the agony that has gripped her, allowing her to find the peace she so badly desires.

As Dean pulls out the hidden First Blade, we see her gasp in recognition and in horror---and yet as she pulls Dean in, we see her end everything. Tessa chose her own destiny in this moment, deciding that it was too much to live in this chaotic situation with no hope to end the suffering of those she can no longer help. The Blade does what it was designed to do---and yet it is this moment that bridges the two stories: that of the serpent in the Garden and that of Cain and Abel.

The First Blade, especially when coupled with the Mark, is itself a serpent. It may not be an actual being, but it is clear that it can slither and worm its way into a Garden---in this case Dean's psyche. In the moment we see it brought out in Dean and Tessa's conversation, we can clearly see it for exactly what it is: a serpent that is in the process of corrupting its wielder into something terrifying.

The First Blade is far more insidious than even Metatron, however. Instead of externally manipulating players into positions, it corrupts from inside. It needs control over its wielder in so many ways---otherwise it simply goes back to being that worthless bone lying at the bottom of the ocean. To do that, it will slither its way deep into its wielder's mind, chipping away at resolve and impulse control. It will latch onto weaknesses, emotional wounds, and twist them to its own ends.

Born as it was, in fratricide, we see it easily hone in on the brotherly relationships of its wielder, manipulating them. It knows that it faces something it didn't with Cain: the other brother. Each time we see Sam gently nudge Dean away from the Blade, we see it turn up the elder Winchester's anger. It makes him just a bit harsher, say something a little crueler, and push back harder. It sets Dean further on edge, changing him little by little.

It would seem that the First Blade wants no one else in Dean's sphere, and it has no qualms about removing them if need be. If they are a hindrance to its use and to its wielder holding it, the weapon will find a way to drive back that person by any means necessary. We see it in Dean's lying about holding the weapon back at the Bunker. We see it in how it comes back to Dean's hand in the showdown with Abaddon. We see it in the way Dean so casually gives up the angel blade before interrogating Tessa. The Blade sees itself---even if it seems like a simple bone on the surface---as the one in power here. In many ways, it is.

We see the Blade twist Dean so much so that when they return to the Bunker it is doing all in its power to separate the brothers---to pull on the raw wounds that Dean feels and amplify them to heights that will remove Sam as an obstacle. And so, in its possession of Dean, it drives him to say cruel things, declaring the fragile partnership built after “The Purge” into that of a “dictatorship.” This doesn't absolve Dean, no, but it's clear that the First Blade sees Sam as the adversary and will try any button it can to push the younger Winchester away.

Sam, on the other hand, sees exactly what this Blade is doing to Dean. He has experienced this same rush---the same power and the same belief that it is all up to him no matter what. After all, he once told Dean that he was the only one that could kill Lilith---despite the fact that the angels said that this was Dean's task. He knows how this feels because he endured it with his demon blood addiction. In the moment Dean delivers his harsh words, we see anger flicker across his face---slowly to be replaced by terror.

Sam's addiction to demon blood reflected his character. Always the more internal than Dean, this addiction infected from inside. It pulled on his fears of becoming a monster and twisted his drive for revenge into a terrifying crusade. With each use of his powers, we saw Sam change further. He became darker, angrier, and unpredictable. The more demon blood he consumed and the more power it gave him, the more pleasure Sam felt. That's most apparent when we see him use those terrible powers on Alastair and again on Famine. It gave him an edge---one that he wanted to keep no matter what.

As he tries, in vain, to convince Dean to leave the First Blade behind while they investigate Castiel's case, he tells Dean, “Magic that powerful comes at a price and right now we don't know what that price is.” Due to his own experiences, Sam knows that whatever the First Blade is doing to Dean will have far reaching consequences---and given the evidence so far, none of these will be good ones.

So far, he already notices key ones. Dean's no longer sleeping---or he's sleeping very little. He finds himself having to mediate between his brother and Castiel after the angel attack video is revealed. He can clearly see Dean's insistence that he go with Castiel for what it is: the First Blade pushing him away. He sees all the warning signs because he's done similar things to serve his own demon blood addiction.

These are key examples of the role reversal coming front and center. Dean once tried to convince Sam to stop using his powers or drinking demon blood. He did so out of love and concern. Knowing what his own addiction lead to, Sam is now trying to stop Dean from going down this same track. He can tell that it is him versus the First Blade. As harsh as Dean was, Sam knows that much of what was said there was coming from the First Blade and not as much from his brother. We see it in how he handles Dean throughout the episode. He is gentle in his approach, trying to counter the anger the Blade makes Dean feel. If he can break through somehow, Sam knows he'll be able to counter its effects.

He can clearly see through its attempts to isolate his brother, too. Sam may have been angry after Dean's decisions surrounding Gadreel---and he may have decided to strip their relationship down to a strict partnership---but we see him continually push into his brother's sphere, keeping him close and making sure they are working together. He's the one that insists on staying with Dean at the end of “The Purge.” He's the one that protests Dean's attack on Abaddon---that Dean chose to go it alone rather than do it together. Sam has been trying to break through to Dean---especially after Dean left in “Road Trip” in an attempt to isolate himself.

The First Blade grabbed onto that aspect, and Sam knows it. He sees it here plainly as Dean lies about leaving it behind, in his confrontation with Dean about what happened with Tessa, and in his attempt to breach the subject after returning to the Bunker. In many ways, it is as if Sam's testing to see how far he can push the Blade. It's why he says, “You don't have to have it with you all the time, right? Just leave it. Please.” On one hand, he wants to separate Dean from the weapon. It's already taken too much of a hold on his brother, after all. On the other, it's the only way he can truly assess what he's dealing with. At every turn, the First Blade pushed back harshly.

The Blade is doing this to own Dean. It is clearly trying to eliminate all threats to its existence as a weapon. With each kill, we see it possess Dean a little bit more. It's an ideal choice for Dean---much more reflective of his character. This weapon is a serpent that Dean will find hard to resist. It's an external force and object that embodies the greatest fears in Dean. He fears that he is nothing but a killer and that it's the only thing he's good at---we see this sentiment expressed clearly in season six. Castiel explains that Dean's always a little angry---but this is different.

This external serpent---in the Blade---has tapped into all of Dean's weaknesses, allowing for his more violent and angry tendencies to burst forth. To those on the outside looking in, it's clear that Dean is losing control, that he's on edge, and that he's becoming a vicious killer. Internally, it's clear that the Blade, acting as serpent, has convinced Dean that he's stronger and faster now. It has convinced him that he's more powerful with it than without. To simply hide it away or to not use it is pointless, stupid, and reckless. The weapon is capable of killing anything---even more than the Colt once did---and as such it has convinced Dean that it is best to keep it handy.

As Gadreel enters the room, we see the serpent theme of the season add in another layer: that of the Blade turning Dean himself into a serpent. As they listen to Gadreel's speech about knowing that Castiel was right about Metatron, that he is here to give up everything he knows, and that he's willing to switch sides, we see fury bubble and brew up inside Dean. As Dean steps forward to seal their new alliance with a handshake, he firmly takes Gadreel's hand. In his other, he holds the First Blade and with it he slashes the angel across the chest. The Blade tapped into Dean's latent rage for the angel to get what it wanted: blood and pain.

As Sam and Castiel hold Dean back from delivering the killing blow, we're left to wonder if they can overcome this serpent in the First Blade---and how this will all shape up in the end as both serpents collide. Will the First Blade taste the Scribe's blood? If so, will Sam be able to break through to Dean yet again and shatter this serpent's hold on his brother?

Sam will have no choice but to try if he has any hope to save his brother.

Lindsey McKeon reprises the Reaper, Tessa. When Dean first intercepts her, we can sense a change in her from the get go. McKeon shows us that Tessa is on edge, jittery, and agitated. Once it's revealed that she's part of this suicidal bombing squad, she becomes combative. In many ways, McKeon captures all of Tessa's pent up rage and pain, channeling it into her clipped delivery. This shows best once she's in the room with Dean and Hannah. She's lippy and angry, almost baiting both of them in the room. Once left alone with Dean, we see McKeon's chemistry with Ackles come full force. Some of the edge falls away to be replaced by a sadness. McKeon conveys all of Tessa's devastation and desperation well in this moment. The pain is raw and it comes out in how she delivers the line, “I guess I just can't take the screaming.” She gains all of our sympathy as she explains how it's been impossible to watch all of these souls suffering. Tessa's always been an agent of the natural order and with it broken down as it has been all season long, it's taken its toll on her, driving her mad. McKeon shows us how utterly unbearable that is when we see her pull Dean in, only to skewer herself on the First Blade. She told us Tessa's tragic story all with nuance---showing us that the longer Heaven remained locked up the harder it got for her. Tessa only appeared a number of times, and yet McKeon was always a welcome addition.

Tahmoh Penikett continues to show us how disillusioned Gadreel is becoming in “Stairway to Heaven.” We see in that first opening scene as he barges in on Metatron. Gadreel has always questioned Metatron to some extent, but now the questions turn more towards the why rather than the how. Penikett captured all of the angel's doubt in facial expressions and vocal tones. We see this best when he delivers the line, “Surely it's not that.”Penikett also shows us how frustrated he's becoming, almost as if he's ready to tell Metatron to take this job and shove it, just in how he glances at the Scribe. We see it at the bowling alley. There's a reluctance on his part as he once again is called upon to be Metatron's muscle. It's almost as if he's going through the motions, and Penikett conveys that well in his gestures. Once he listens to Metatron's triumphant speech, however, we witness the disgust etch itself across Gadreel's face. Penikett wrinkles his nose and narrows his eyes as if he'd rather stab a blade through Metatron's heart than be his second in command. It's easy to see that more of Sam Winchester may have rubbed off on the angel than he'd admit---just by looking at the expression Penikett makes. It's as if we're seeing the wool truly begin to fall away from his eyes as he realizes just who he's hitched his star to---and that he's been duped now just as then. When Penikett's Gadreel arrives at the Bunker, we see him become cautious yet friendly. He's not there to fight---he's there to change sides and we can see it just in how he stands and how he speaks. Penikett's given the character a strange charm and sense of honor---and yet we may see that somehow cost the angel his life.

Curtis Armstrong continues to show us the petty and prideful Metatron---and “Stairway to Heaven” is no different. In the beginning, we see an annoyed and frustrated Scribe. He's not sure how it is that Castiel continues to thwart him at every turn---and yet we can already see the machinations he's thinking. It's in his gestures---from trying on the trench coat to talking about their plan to turn Castiel into Lee Harvey Oswald. Armstrong shows us that Metatron's a petty being when they're at the bowling alley---it makes him seem off putting as if he were a car salesman making a pitch for a lemon vehicle. He's impatient and forceful as he tries to convince the last remaining angel leader. Armstrong gives him a distasteful sheen as he delivers his lines. When it comes time to out Castiel's secret, we see him amp up that element, making him sound all the more prideful and conceited. He makes the Scribe seem as if he knows everything and that he's a benevolent being trying to help his fellow angels. It's all in how Armstrong delivers the line “I'm not the best, but I'm the best you've got.” Once returned to his study, we see him gleefully praise not only himself but his plan, showing his hubris. Armstrong puts all of Metatron's pride in how he gestures, laughs, and folds his hands over his chest. He feels that he's already won---that he's inevitable. All the while, Armstrong conveys that Metatron's oblivious to the obvious distaste on Gadreel's face. As we head into the finale, we're left to wonder just when his own pride will come back to bite him.

Misha Collins pulls on the subtle layers introduced into Castiel's character in the front half of the season brilliantly in “Stairway to Heaven.” We can see the full range of emotion---from his disgust and anger to his concern. Collins builds on his chemistry with Padalecki in the scenes they share. His new understanding of pop culture is tempered well with his literal understanding of the riddle above the door---and the way Collins delivers the line “Well, seven is a prime number,” gives the moment great charm. We see this play off well with Padalecki, too, as they start to mesh well together as they make their way towards the phony Heaven door. Once Castiel's ousted by Metatron, Collins captures all of the grief at losing his followers and the common cause to fix Heaven. We see him hold the blade given to him after he's told to kill Dean or else with great sadness. Collins conveys all of Castiel's struggle in the one gesture of putting the blade away and saying, “No. I can't.” Once they're back at the Bunker, we see Collins connect with Ackles as the angel and Dean talk about what to do next---and we can see that Castiel's perhaps more comfortable following the Winchester lead than leading his own army yet again. Now that he's had to face Gadreel and help restrain Dean from killing him, we're left to wonder just what will become of the angel heading into the finale and into season ten.

Jensen Ackles plays a man possessed in Dean. We see it through every action, gesture, word and in just sheer body language. Ackles captures all of the rage bubbling just underneath the surface beautifully in so many ways. We can tell that he's on edge from the moment we see Dean wake Sam to the last harrowing moment as he snarls at Gadreel all the while being held back. Ackles shows us how amped up Dean is when we see him talk to Flagstaff. He's tense and harsh in the way he speaks to her. His usual lines---such as the “explosive personality” don't drop as humorous. Instead, they come with the crisp edge revealing the trouble brewing just under the surface. Once he turns the tables on the angel and forces her to the floor with a blade to her throat, Ackles shows just how much pleasure Dean takes in the violence that is threatening to consume him entirely. Ackles makes Dean curt with everyone, and yet we can see the edge temper as he talks with Tessa. As she reveals her anguish at being unable to fulfill her job, we can see that Dean sympathizes, and yet he's not quite able to connect as he would otherwise. After Tessa has chosen her fate, we see Dean absorb the kill and almost wallow in its pleasure as the First Blade seems to overtake him in that moment, feeding the violence impulse all the more. It's in his expression and body language just as he stands there holding the Blade. Ackles also manages to convey just how helpless Dean is in that moment---that he can't resist the Blade's pleasure as it continues to corrupt. Once the angels confront Castiel about punishing him, we see Ackles put all of his Texas drawl and channel Dean's pure anger into the line, “Y'all can go to Hell.” Back at the Bunker, Ackles delivers the harshest lines we've seen Dean speak all season---pinpointed at Sam. We hurt with Sam as he says these things---and yet Ackles captures that this is the Blade amplifying and twisting Dean to protect itself from Sam. It's in how harsh he says the lines. Once he's with Castiel again, we see that edge lessen as the threat to the Blade has now passed---until Gadreel appears that is. As the angel tries to bridge the gap and flip sides, we can see the rage boiling in Dean the longer he listens. Ackles shows it in a clenched jaw and tense body. As he steps forward to take Gadreel's hand for a handshake, we see that rage explode. He slashes the First Blade without impunity, wounding or worse the second in command to Metatron. As he's held back by Sam and Castiel, Ackles shows just how Dean's lost to the anger and violence that's been threatening to consume him all episode long. Ackles sets us up in that moment to be anxious for the elder Winchester as we see him become rage personified.

Jared Padalecki shows us that on the surface Sam was all business about working the case---he's the mediator in this episode, navigating his brother often around others. We can sense a patience in him when he herds Castiel and Dean into the office all in how Padalecki carries himself and in how he speaks his dialog. There's a sense that Sam's becoming more and more the voice of reason as Dean becomes further unhinged by what the Blade has done. He's gentle in his approach about leaving it behind---even if Dean ended up taking it with. Padalecki has great chemistry with Collins, too. We see it in the car as they ride to Pray, Montana. Their relationship has deepened in the back half and we can sense that he has a patient understanding of the angel. There's a subtle charm conveyed in Padalecki as Sam approaches the angel throughout---particularly when they discuss the riddle that opens the door. The way he says “Because seven eight nine” isn't condescending or aloof. Instead, it's patient and quietly amused. We see this again after he sees the Last Crusades blades nearly slice them. When we see them return to Castiel's base of operations, we see Sam return to his business like attitude---peppered with a heavy dose of concern for Dean as they learn what happened with Tessa. Padalecki blends all of Sam's emotions well here, showing us his frustration and anger at Dean lying about leaving the Blade behind and his fear and concern for what is becoming of his brother more and more. At the Bunker, when Dean declares things a “dictatorship” we see this blend again. Padalecki tenses his body and his facial expressions, telling us that Sam is angry---and yet as we look at his eyes and the expression dawning over his face we can see that he's terrified for Dean the longer the conversation goes on. He's truly scared for Dean in this moment. When Gadreel enters, we see Padalecki show all of Sam's anger and anxiety at the angel's arrival---and yet we can sense that he's also willing to listen if need be. As Dean charges and slashes, we see Sam rush to stop his brother from succumbing to the rage. Now we're left to wonder if Sam can break through that anger yet again in the finale.

Best Lines of the Week

Dean: Y'all can go to hell.

Dean: Only if it's Fiddler.

Sam: And maybe that's the problem. I mean, people have been doing messed up crap in the name of faith -- in the name of God -- since forever.

Sam: It's because seven eight nine.

Next week the showdown with Metatron happens---but what about the showdown between Sam and the First Blade?