The second half of season nine introduced two formidable weapons. Each one had its strengths, weaknesses, and consequences. Each were taken up by their respective characters as a means to an end---to fill in the “I did what I had to do” piece of the over all season puzzle. These weapons shaped not only the story but these characters---and it isn't until they collide violently that we see the end result. It isn't until Metatron's use of meta fiction collides with Dean's First Blade and the Mark of Cain that we see those dire consequences exposed---ones that will surely be explored well into season ten.

First let's examine Metatron and his use of his chosen weapon, meta fiction.

In the episode “Meta Fiction,” we saw Supernatural take the concept to new levels. Rather than just a reflexive element to explore the story---as we see with the character Chuck---we see a character within the fabric of the universe use it as a weapon. It is a means to an ends to establish Metatron as the new God, replacing the old order with his new and improved one. We saw him select, carefully, his players, his hero and villain, his story arc, and tell us emphatically that it would end the precise way he had written it. He had taken story and turned it into an actual weapon that he would wield as any other character would wield a sword or gun.

Metatron exists in story and understands his world through this manner. He doesn't think about it in any other context or any other methodology. He sees it as a blueprint in order to create his world as he sees fit---with him atop it. The method was hidden, in plain sight no less, as he sat feverishly typing away at the “story” he was so proudly writing. He would gush at his second in command, Gadreel, about the latest twist, the latest turn of the plot, and how he was about to “flip the script.” Even when there were surprises---and there indubitably were with the Winchesters capturing Gadreel at one point---Metatron brushed these aside. After all, he had the story world on his side and could manipulate it any way he saw fit. He wrote it, it happened roughly according to plan, and in the end he got what he wanted: power and prestige as the new God.

Metatron chose Castiel as his adversary. Heaven was a stake, so he looked for an opposition that was Heavenly based yet considered weaker or a rebel. Castiel, after all, had led rebellions in the past against Raphael. He had joined forces with Sam and Dean against Michael and Lucifer in order to avert the master script that God had supposedly set down in stone at the beginning of time. Castiel would be a great foil to his new establishment---someone he could build up and turn into a faux hero to the other angels only to tear down when he found his opportune time. He saw Castiel as a great target. He knew that other angels were already flocking to him, and so he took advantage of this. Why not corrupt the leader they were already championing? He knew he had to neutralize Castiel and quickly. To do so, he would have to spin it so it would turn out in his favor---thus giving him all the clout with the angels formerly angry with him for casting them from Heaven in the first place.

In “Stairway to Heaven,” we see Metatron do just that. He waits, like a spider, to reveal the one big secret Castiel had hidden from his new and growing army: that he had stolen that grace. In that moment, Metatron turned Castiel into the new serpent in the Garden, allowing himself to sway everyone his way. Those followers automatically became his---they were now under his command and would do what he said no matter what. The script he had carefully written was now coming to pass. And yet, that wasn't the end for his story. He had the angels now in his corner, but what of humanity? They needed to worship him as their new God, too. His story would only be truly complete when he had both Heaven and Earth in his hands.

And so, we see Metatron slaving away at his keyboard, yet again. He will only answer to “God” and he has now decided to go amongst the people to finish his story. In it, he will appear them as a pathetic being, a lowly and homeless man that performs miracles for nothing in return. It's a page taken straight out of the Bible---Metatron wants them to see him as Jesus Christ. He wants them to feel that he is a benevolent God, one that cares for and listens to humanity's cries for help. He waits for his mark to appear---in this case at the head of a dead woman lying in the street---and has someone already there to capture it on film. Metatron may be a well-read angel, but he certainly knows the value of telling the story in all mediums. And so, we see him use his chosen weapon to manipulate the public. He has them film his first miracle---his own raising of Lazarus from the dead. She is revived---but not without a secret being conveyed to her ears and her ears alone: his next stop.

Metatron's no fool. He knows that he has to get all his players into place---and one way to do that is to give them a trail to follow. As long as they follow his chosen and selected script, he will get the happy ending he seeks. His use of story as a weapon is nearly complete. Once he has all of humanity believing in him as the majority of angels do, he's won. Metatron's chosen this weapon for a clear reason. He can control the narrative being told. He knows that those that control the narrative ultimately control the end results. After all, the famous saying that the winners write the historical record rings true---as he sees himself as the ultimate winner here, it is he, Metatron, that will write the story---now and forever if he should succeed.

It's why we see him face off with a fellow angel that is decrying him. On one hand, we can sense that this naysayer ruffles his feathers and treads on his story. This angel is calling him a fraud, an abomination, a simple angel and therefore not God. All these things could put the seeds of doubt into his human flock---and since that pesky thing called free will can't necessarily be entirely eliminated, he can't have that. We see Metatron prepare to stand against this angel, violently if need be. An angel blade appears at his side and he mutters menacingly about putting this angel under his thumb, “As I will you, brother, if you don't -”

But, his script is followed so closely that he need not lift a finger.

The crowd overwhelms this angel, swarming him in righteous anger. Their religious furor has heightened the longer this angel has spoken, and now they will easily fall into the mob mentality to destroy the threat to their new miracle worker---their new potential God. They violently beat him down, cover him in a blanket, and proceed to kick, punch, and jab at anything they can get. After Metatron kick an angel blade in their direction, we see him tell them, “It'll help.” It does, and this angelic threat to his new supremacy is ended. The angel is killed by one of the humans that have been blinded by Metatron's deceit---and one more act in his script is now in place.

But like any weapon, it can be eventually used against its user. Metatron has turned the pen---story---into a sword, and by it he shall live or die. He may have found a way to control the narrative. He may have found a way to write the script all shall follow, but he is not actually God. He is not actually in total control as much as he wants everyone to believe. He's also not omniscient---even when it seems he must be. His view point is actually limited----to his own. And that is one of his greatest weaknesses. It's why he doesn't see that his precious ending is being undermined no matter the counter measures he has in place. It's why he doesn't see where his narrative has torn, frayed, and is preparing to ultimately unravel. By the time he realizes this fault, it'll be far too late.

While he's busy making his move on humanity, we see his former second in command, Gadreel, turncoat. He has decided it is far better to help the Winchesters end Metatron's tyranny than it is to serve him. And so, he decides to help Castiel and Sam. They are to find the door to Heaven and retrieve the one thing giving Metatron this God-like power: the Angel Tablet. If they can find it and smash it, his power will be destroyed. He won't be able to spin any more story---and make it come to pass as he desires.

But it will not be easy.

Since Gadreel has already been accused of meeting with Castiel behind Metatron's back, it's unlikely that he'll be able to waltz into Heaven without question. That doesn't mean they won't try. Castiel, now imbued with an understanding of all things pop culture, holds up a pair of handcuffs and proclaims, “Wookie.” It's his first step in taking back the weapon of story from Metatron. They will use it against him and sneak their way into Heaven---with Gadreel pretending to turn in Castiel as his prisoner. As they approach the guards to the secret portal, they meet resistance at first. They are to keep the door locked until Metatron orders otherwise---but Gadreel points out that it's unlikely that Metatron would pass up a chance to question the rebel leader. So, they are admitted.

Unfortunately, just when they believe they've managed to use story against Metatron, they find themselves in prison. Metatron did have enough foresight in his grand story, after all, to know that Gadreel would try yet again to side with Castiel against him. For Gadreel, this is a devastating result. He had spent eons already locked within these walls, caged for the crime of letting in the serpent. He has spent his time since being released trying to redeem himself---by pledging to cure Sam from the inside, by turning on his human hosts to follow Metatron, and now turning coat yet again on his new master---only to be caught back into Heaven's prison.

Their first attempt at changing Metatron's script has failed---but not all hope is lost.

As they sit in their cells, Hannah, Castiel's former second in command, dismisses anything they have to say. She tells them flatly, “So now I'm expected to trust the word of an angel who's only ever thought of himself since the Garden, and you? You told us not a single angel more would die in this fight.” Castiel had lied to them before---there was far too much doubt to anything he said. It mattered not if Gadreel had done this in order to expose the truth---that as Metatron's second in command he was willing to do this. And yet, it is Gadreel we see that alters Metatron's script---he is the flaw in the Scribe's grand story.

He takes a page out of the “Lee Harvey Oswald” project that Metatron used against Castiel---showing that he has learned how to use the weapon of story well against the master---and carefully carves the same symbol into his chest---all the while expounding on the true mission of Heaven. He tells them, “The only thing that matters in the end is the mission -- protecting those who would not and cannot protect themselves --the humans. None of us is bigger than that. And we will not let our fears, our self-absorption prevent us from seeing it through. Not anymore,” and turns, exposing the truth. He will break Castiel free and die if it means they can stop Metatron from polluting Heaven and Earth alike---if they can prevent Metatron from becoming the new and terrible God that will destroy rather than create life. In a tragic moment, we see him ignite the sigil, proving Castiel right. In the aftermath, they must make their move against Metatron---before it is too late.

They find the tablet---hidden in plain sight all this time---under the typewriter's keyboard. This is how Metatron turned story into his weapon of choice. Castiel smashes it to pieces, and as Metatron returns to confront him, he is furious. His one power source lies in fragments at his feet, useless. But it doesn't matter. His script has been written already, and he has won. Both angels and humans are now behind him---killing for him and following his “crook wherever it shall lead.”

He is so boastful, so brazen in his victory that he tells Castiel that it doesn't matter how he got this far. The other angels won't care---or believe a rebel like Castiel. Not anymore. And yet, he doesn't realize that his own tool is being used against him. He tells Castiel, “You never learned how to tell a good story. ” It's too late for Metatron, however, and Castiel tells him, “But you did.”

In the moment of bragging, Metatron defeats himself. He is exposed over the very angelic intercom he used to communicate with them. All the goodwill he may have brokered with them is now in ruins and he is hauled away to the very same prison Gadreel was once locked into for eons. It is a moment of poetic justice---first because his own weapon is used against him and second because he is punished as his second in command had once been. Gadreel had let in the serpent all that time ago---it was his fault in the eyes of so many that humanity was corrupted. Now, we see Metatron, the true serpent of season nine, cast into the very same prison presumably to rot the rest of eternity away.

Unfortunately, however, it was too late before we saw Metatron's weapon of story collide with Dean's weapon of the First Blade and Mark of Cain.

In the bunker, we see Dean still trying to attack Gadreel. He is feral, vicious, and angry. He needs to kill this angel---both for what he had done to Sam and because the Blade and Mark demand it. He teeters on the edge of slashing his way through Sam and Castiel to reach his goal only to be locked away in the very same room they once held Crowley in chains. He is too dangerous to be let out just yet---full of too much rage and changed far too much by the Mark and Blade.

And yet, stopping him from killing Gadreel and locking him away isn't the only punishment he faces. Dean is also being punished by the Mark and Blade. We see it in the moment he starts to cough up blood, overcome by a need to kill. When he ignores it, his body is punished. The Blade and Mark, until now, have largely gotten what they want: blood and pain. Dean has successfully killed with it nearly every time he has held it. He killed Magnus. He killed Abaddon. The Blade tasted Tessa's life force. This is the first time that we see Dean unable to finish a kill---and it is now that he learns the consequences for that failure: his own health.

Not only is his health deteriorating by not killing Gadreel, he learns just how bad this could become. Dean's told by Crowley that he will end up “the least best better” meaning that the Mark and Blade will kill him for not using them to kill. He is going to become a killer rather he wants to be one or not. Dean is clearly frightened by this aspect. He's been terrified by this side of himself since at least season six. He wants to be more than this----and yet it is the only thing he feels that he is any good at. Dean has a choice to make: does he then try to find away to get rid of the Mark or does he find a way out so he can kill Metatron?

In many ways, this choice is a no-win scenario for Dean. Even if he should successfully kill Metatron---something that he feels must be done---he will have lost more ground. This kill might tip him over the edge into something he can never recover from---and yet it's a risk he must take. He believes that there's no other weapon right now that could possibly hurt or kill the rogue Scribe. If they don't take their shot soon, it'll pass and he won't be able to take his revenge on the angel for Kevin. He won't be able to reverse what was done to Heaven, allowing Kevin and other spirits to finally cross, either. He must do this and since he is the only one that can wield the Blade, Dean feels that it is solely up to him.

He and Crowley make their escape with the Blade and make their way to ferret out Metatron's location. Dean comes up empty until Crowley's demons come to tell him of the viral video depicting Metatron's first miracle and track her down to a trailer.

Meanwhile, Sam is left to chase after his brother---much as he's done figuratively and literally since “Road Trip.” As Castiel and Gadreel debate on how they will get back into Heaven, they bring up the proposition of using Dean as the weapon against Metatron. Gadreel feels that it would be useful---but Sam isn't so certain. He snaps back at both angels, “Oh, right. Excuse me. Sorry, guys. Uh, sorry I'm a little less than eager to hear that our best chance is -- is arming the warhead and hoping it hits the mark. This is not a bomb we're talking about. This is my brother.”

Sam has already seen the devastation the Mark and Blade have wrought on his brother. Each time, he's noticed that it's taken just a little longer for him to reach through to Dean. He knows what this is like---and the more that this beast is fed, the harder it will be to bring Dean back. While eliminating Metatron may be their end game, Sam knows that he's still in a death match with the Mark and First Blade---and the prize is his brother.

Even knowing this, though, Sam refuses to abandon Dean---or make it seem he's stubbornly standing against him. If Dean has already taken the Blade and is being led further into battle with Metatron, Sam will be sure that he is there to stand with him in it. He will be there, if needs be, to pull Dean back from the precipices the Blade is trying to tug him over. There's no other way for him to proceed if he has any hope of saving his brother.

Sam knows that it is crucial that he stand in support of his brother's choice. They can hash out all their lingering issues after they've succeeded in ending Metatron's threat. It's much more important that he stand in solidarity with Dean---and it's for this reason that we see Dean choose him over Crowley, too. Sam has chosen him and in turn he has chosen Sam in order to face this fight---together.

It's this that will also give Dean the resolve to do what he feels he must when they finally do find Metatron.

The brothers, reunited again, follow the path to the homeless camp Metatron had infiltrated earlier that day. There, before they can enter the camp, Dean swiftly punches Sam so that he can go it alone. On one had, this is because he is afraid---as was the case with Abaddon----that Metatron might use Sam against him. It's a valid point. The Scribe might attack or kill Sam, and he can't have that distraction.

On the other, he has felt the growing urge to kill, and when he disobeys it causes him to feel great pain. What if, after he should succeed at killing Metatron, the Blade demands he kill Sam, too? What if he's too far gone to stop himself---or heed Sam's voice? Dean knows now that he's going into a fight facing two adversaries---not one---and as the two weapons of season nine prepare to do battle, Dean must make a difficult choice.

The last reason is perhaps the saddest and most frightening. Dean wants to go in alone so Sam won't really see what this is: a suicide mission. Dean is hoping that he can kill Metatron, yes, but in the process it's possible he hoped he wouldn't come out of it alive. If the Mark and Blade are that corrupting, he would rather die than become its servant. He would rather die than become the vicious monster it is slowly shaping him into being. This is not the Dean Winchester he wants his brother to ever see---and he fears that Sam will see him become this or die trying to stop it. Dean simply can't do what he feels he must any other way.

This bears out when we see Dean and Metatron face off. Unlike his showdown with Abaddon, Dean and Metatron share several exchanges of words. He killed the Knight of Hell without saying a word. He didn't expound on anything nor did he let her wax on too much. Despite all the times he ended up pinned against the wall, Dean had a clear mission: Kill Abaddon. He even confessed to Sam that he knew nothing would stop him. Here, rather than simply engaging in the physical fight, Dean lets Metatron explain himself---expounding on why humanity needs him now and how God was really terrible at showing his “love” for his supposed chosen creation.

Metatron calls him out on his stalling, telling him, “That's why you're stalling. Because you know nothing's gonna come of this unless your pals succeed upstairs. Well, here's a news flash -- humpty and dumpty are starring in their very own version of "Locked Up Abroad: Heaven'.” Metatron couldn't be more wrong. That's not why Dean's stalling at all. Not really.

When it finally comes time to see Dean make his move, he's allowed Metatron enough time to counter it---violently throwing him against a wall. It knocks the wind out of Dean, leaving him vulnerable. He isn't able to recover fast enough nor is he able to strike with the First Blade in time. Before he can kill the Scribe, we see Metatron viciously stab an angel blade straight into Dean's torso, delivering a mortal blow.

Unfortunately, it's also the very moment Sam comes in---and his suicide mission is exposed and ends in failure. He didn't succeed in killing Metatron. Instead, he is simply waiting to bleed out and to die. Sam has to prop his brother up, trying to hold in the gushing wound just a little longer. He doesn't care what it takes, telling Dean, “We'll stop the bleeding. We'll -- we'll get you a doctor or -- or I'll find a spell. You're gonna be okay.”As the Winchesters slowly make their way back towards the Impala, we see Dean weaken steadily.

Dean, knowing that it is far too late, though, simply stops their slow crawl. He tells Sam the one thing he wants to say before he dies: I'm proud of us.

In an echo of “All Hell Breaks Loose,” we see Sam cradle Dean much the same way Dean cradled him once upon a time. Dean slumps against him and dies, leaving Sam to hold him in despair. This is a physical manifestation of their role reversal. It is another bridging of meta fiction and the Mark of Cain storyline colliding---with emotionally devastating results.

As Sam delicately lies his brother onto his bed---another echo of “All Hell Breaks Loose”----we see him rush to the same summoning ingredients Dean used earlier. He will do whatever it takes to force Crowley to fix this mess. After all, the King of Hell got Dean into this.

Sadly, instead of answering his summons, Crowley sits in a chair by Dean's bed, telling him the final piece in Cain's story---of how he actually became a demon. To do so, he had to die while wearing the Mark. To die would allow him to be reborn. Crowley claimed that he didn't know this would happen---though he had hoped to “Believe in miracles.” He understood that Cain had felt the same way Dean had: that he didn't want to be this killer. Cain didn't want to become this demon. Dying, however, wasn't enough. The Mark would hold on tight and revive him---and now it would do the same to Dean.

Dean has fully become now a servant of the Blade and the Mark. This is the devastating result of the two weapons of season nine colliding.

To bring the serpent and Garden of Eden story full circle in season nine, we're revealed the true serpent: Crowley. He manipulated his way into Dean's sphere at every turn, convincing the elder Winchester to take upon himself the Mark and the Blade---the very weapon that has now corrupted Dean into the very last thing he wanted to ever be. Crowley states, “You have to believe me. When I suggested you take on the Mark of Cain, I didn't know this was going to happen. Not really. I mean, I might not have told you the entire truth. But I never lied. I never lied, Dean. That's important. It's fundamental.” No, Crowley never lied, but he most certainly took advantage of this situation at every turn.

Crowley was the serpent in the Garden from the beginning to end---allowing every other serpent to be exposed while he remained hidden in plain sight. His bout with human emotions made him seem less of a threat---made him seem impotent at times even. He wormed his way into Dean's trust, gaining the elder Winchester's ear as he slowly pushed Dean down the path he had chosen. He may not have expected this to happen, and yet we can tell, as he expresses the desire to believe in miracles, that he knew that this was a possibility---one that if he had told Dean about would have made the elder Winchester reconsider gaining the Mark in the first place.

Crowley, the serpent he is, had to keep that information hidden. He needed to maneuver Dean just right. He had Dean convinced that this was about eliminating the far more dangerous threat in Abaddon, that she was going to supplant him on his throne and be a far worse Queen of Hell than he ever was as King. Crowley was wise enough to know that this was truth---she would bring chaos and death to everyone around them. It was enough to convince Dean that he should do this---no matter the burden.

It's not the first time we saw Crowley lie by omission to Dean about this. He, after all, stepped back to let Dean fight off the demon assault threating to overrun Cain's home. It was so he could watch Dean fight---and most importantly to let Cain watch Dean fight. Now that Dean has truly become the servant to the Blade, we're left to wonder if this was truly Crowley's end game all along. As we see him as the serpent he truly is, we can't help but ask this question---no matter his platitudes about never lying.

As we wait in anticipation of season ten, we're left to wonder just how the Winchesters will find themselves out of this one. Dean has been transformed into the one creature he feared becoming in Hell. He has become nothing more than the killer---and worse, one that does it for the sheer pleasure of the act. We're left to wonder what this will mean for Sam and how he'll manage to save his brother from this. While things seem extremely dark right now, there's still hope to be found. They know so much about demons now---Dean told Sam so when he convinced Sam to stop the Trials. Is there something in that knowledge that will help him reclaim his brother from the demonic monster he's become?

We will have to endure a long hot summer before we can find out.

Tahmoh Penikett has truly taken the character Gadreel and made him his own. He has taken cues from Padalecki's version of the angel and molded him into a nice blend that makes the character rounded and real on screen---especially now that we know his true identity. Now that Gadreel has changed sides, Penikett gives a strange but naive charm to the angel. It's subtle in nature---and it exposes much of Gadreel's gentler nature. We see this in how he talks to Castiel---first when he warns off his brother about healing him and again when we see them prepare to make their play on Heaven and Metatron's office. The naivety that was once a hallmark of Castiel's character has translated well in Gadreel's clueless response about Star Wars and Wookies. It's all in how Penikett delivers the line, “Brother, I have no idea what that means.” When he escorts Castiel through the Heavenly offices, we see Penikett sell it with his facial expressions. He seems smug as he parades his “catch” past everyone. But, as they're tricked themselves, we see Gadreel break. As the prison walls rise and encase Castiel and Gadreel, Penikett shows us just how broken Gadreel is. The one place he never wanted to go back to---the one place he has spent ages in has now trapped him again. Just by how he slumps down against the wall and by the crushed expression on his face, we see Penikett convey just how devastating this moment truly is. He lost everything on this gamble---and he's back where he started. As Castiel keeps Hannah talking, Gadreel takes advantage of the time delay and prepares his last act. Penikett shows us that the angel is desperate just by how he tells Castiel to move to the other side. And as he delivers the line, “When they say my name, perhaps I won't just be the one who let the Serpent in, perhaps I will be known as one of the many that gave Heaven a second chance,” we begin to fear the worst. Penikett gave Gadreel a strange charm---and in the end we saw him reach an epiphany---that sometimes in order to redeem yourself you must sacrifice. It's sad to see this angel now go. Penikett certainly took over the role well---and made him memorable.

Curtis Armstrong takes Metatron's egomania tonew heights in “Do You Believe In Miracles.” Just when we think we've found his plateau for revulsion, Armstrong digs just a bit deeper and manages to find another layer of conceit. He's hubris personified with every word and action. Armstrong oozes all of Metatron's pompous nature throughout the entire episode. It starts with the blatant ignoring of the angel assistant calling his name---only to answer to “God.” Armstrong just takes it to new heights as we see Metatron bring his brand of Jesus-like miracles to humanity---all in an effort to cement himself as the humble God amongst his flock. We, the viewer, see clearly through it from the moment he arrives to revive the poor woman struck by the car to the moment that he persuades the people to attack the angel threatening to expose him. Armstrong puts all of Metatron's megalomania into the line, “Better” after he's labeled a Messiah. However, we don't really see his true cruelty and nature until we see him face off with Dean, head to head. In a showdown we expected to end with the Scribe skewered on the First Blade, instead we see him maliciously manhandle Dean---even if that's only half the story. Armstrong makes him a force of malicious intent here as he toys with the elder Winchester---and just when we're not sure he'll twist the knife any deeper than he has with his words, we see him stab viciously and with pleasure into Dean's chest, delivering the mortal blow. Once the Angel Tablet is smashed and he has returned to Heaven before Sam can deliver the killing blow, we see his hubris climb even higher. He's convinced himself that there is nothing anyone can do to him now, and so with the rope provided, Metatron hangs himself. Armstrong shows it best in the speech, telling Castiel, “And then? They will do nothing because they are frightened little sheep following my crook wherever it leads. And where I'm taking them, back to our rightful place atop this mountain of human shame and excrement -- when that happens, trust me, they're not gonna care how they got there.” Once he's been outed by his own words over the very radio he commissioned to broadcast to his “Host,” we see him angry. Armstrong shows just how Metatron thinks that he'll somehow be able to find away around this turn of events---even locked in his new prison cell. Even so, we can tell that this is poetic justice---for this is where the new serpent belongs. Armstrong certainly made Metatron a character we all loved to hate---now it's just a question if we'll see him rotting at all in his cell during season ten.

Mark Sheppard returns to the much more sassy version of Crowley in “Do You Believe In Miracles.” He is amusing, charming, and clever at every turn, making the King of Hell seem more like the demon we've come to know through the years and less like the one struggling with human emotions. Sheppard always delivers some of the best lines and always with great panache. Lines like, “Liquor before beer, bad taco? How should I know?” and “ So this is what you and moose do, eh? Crisscross the country, searching for evil, order your nitrates, partake of the local attraction,” and “Well, I guess I've been Winchestered,” capture that best. He gives the impression of a hurt Crowley when the brothers brush him aside in favor of going it alone without his help---but we can't help but notice that he's feigning most of this just by how he delivers the biting remark, “I'd wish you boys good luck... If I thought it would help.” As sly and amusing as Crowley is, however, Sheppard also shows us great depth in the King of Hell. We see it best in the final scene as he sits by Dean's bedside, telling him Cain's true origin story. There, we can sense a blend of excitement and joy and one of regret. He wants to believe in “miracles” that Dean will truly become like Cain and in turn perhaps become one of his servants. On the other, we sense that he regrets that Dean has come to this crossroads and has now failed at preventing himself from becoming a demonic monster. It's all in how Sheppard delivers the lines---remarking that he never thought this would happen. And yet, as we see him put the Blade into Dean's hand and ask him to open his eyes we see the truth. He may have wanted this all along. Now that Sheppard has been named a series regular for season ten, it'll be interesting to see just what Crowley does now with a demonic Dean---perhaps at his beck and call.

Misha Collins has grown Castiel's character beautifully over season nine---from dealing with his humanity to stolen grace to the unwanted leadership position. Collins has given the character a lot of subtly in how he portrays him, showing us that there's more depth underneath the awkward nature. He's taken every layer introduced this season and translated that into a richer Castiel. In “Do You Believe In Miracles,” he shows us Castiel's determination and strength. We can sense that it hurts him to have to lock away Dean---and that he's afraid of what will become of his onetime charge. It's in how Collins stands and glances in that opening scene. And yet, Collins conveys that Castiel knows they must take their shot against Metatron. He shows us that Castiel's not going to back down from stopping Metatron---no matter the cost. Collins and Penikett have great chemistry---evidenced in that first moment when Castiel heals Gadreel despite his protests---as they end up working together to break their way into Heaven. Often on the opposite side of the pop culture exchange, for once we got to see Castiel drop a reference only to be met with confusion. Collins plays this humorous exchange beautifully. As Gadreel parades Castiel through the offices, we see Collins give the rebel angel a look of defeat to sell the ruse---only to show the confusion at the tables being turned. Once they're in Heaven and locked away into its prison, we see Collins try to reach through to the devastated Gadreel, trying to give him hope. It's captured best in how he delivers the line, “You've been redeemed, my friend.” After Gadreel dies, we see Collins convey all of Castiel's regret as he asks Hannah, “Do you believe him now?” Once he's in Metatron's chair, facing the Scribe down, Collins shows us the range of emotion as he learns that Dean has died. He's defiant at first, knowing that he has an ace up his sleeve to trap Metatron at his own game---but as he learns the truth about Dean and Metatron's encounter, we see Collins show all of Castiel's devastation. His expression morphs one of pure shock and rage and sadness all flickering in brief moments. Now that Metatron has been locked away, Castiel must face head on the matter of his grace---and with Collins as a regular in season ten, it'll be curious to see how he does that.

Jensen Ackles shows us the ruthless killer Dean is being turned into all the while showing us the four year old still trapped inside. He's feral in the start, wanting to get through anyone and anything to slay Gadreel. Ackles shows all of Dean's anger at being locked away, at being sidelined just as they're preparing to make their important moves on Metatron. As we see Dean begin to cough up blood, we see the little boy emerge. It shows itself in how Ackles glances in the mirror, frightened by what his body is doing as he was forced to stop from killing. As he confronts Crowley, we see Ackles put all of Dean's fear and desperation into his voice as he explains what's going on. He looks less like the frightening killer that eliminated Abaddon and more like the four year old we know to still be there after all these years. There's many layers in this performance, and Ackles taps into each and every one of them to convey Dean's tragic story in the season finale. We see him on edge as he and Sam meet again---as if he's trying to push Sam away with his words about Gadreel and what has happened between them since. We see it reach new heights as he explains to the unconscious Sam that “Sorry, little brother. It's not your fight.” There's a despondent edge to how he delivers this line. As we see him face Metatron, we see through his bravado and realize that he's not fighting Metatron as much as he is fighting the Blade. He wants Metatron dead, yes, but we can clearly see that he's struggling against what the Blade demands. In every action, Ackles shows us that Dean is afraid that this fight might tip him over the edge and mould him into the ruthless monster he fears becoming. Ackles shows us this in how he holds the weapon, the tightness of his voice, and how his body seems to tense up the longer the scene goes on. He tells us through all these cues that Dean's trying to resist the Blade's terrible power---until he can't any longer and uncoils, launching his ill-fated attack on Metatron. As he is mortally wounded, Ackles captures all of Dean's shock and fear as he is vanquished. His expression becomes a strange mixture of sadness and almost relief---as if he's now been released from the Blade's terrible grip. As Sam rushes to his side and they slowly make their way towards the Impala, Ackles pulls on all of our heartstrings as he slows them to a stop and delivers the line “I'm proud of us.” It hits right into the gut with its force, only to be followed up with his slow slump as we realize Dean has died. We're left to stare, with Sam, at his body laid out on his bed at the Bunker---and even in repose, Ackles captures Dean here. He looks almost serene and at peace here---until Crowley appears. Even though it's only the action of opening his eyes, Ackles puts a lot of suspense into it as he reveals what Dean's now become. As we enter season ten, just what will it take to get Dean back and how will Ackles portray this new version of Dean?

Jared Padalecki gives us the stubborn and concerned Sam in “Do You Believe in Miracles.” We see all his fear and concern for Dean as they force him to stop from killing Gadreel. We see it again as he realizes that the Blade is missing and that Dean is, too. Padalecki shows it in every action and word---the anger masking his fear well. He is stubborn about trailing his brother, not wanting him to do this alone. He's angry, too, when we see Castiel and Gadreel suggest they turn Dean towards the Metatron showdown. They feel it might be their best shot---but Sam's not so sure. Padalecki puts this best in the line, “Oh, right. Excuse me. Sorry, guys. Uh, sorry I'm a little less than eager to hear that our best chance is -- is arming the warhead and hoping it hits the mark. This is not a bomb we're talking about. This is my brother.” Padalecki's always been subtle in his performances, and we see that here when the brothers meet up again. He sees Dean's tactic for what it is---and we see Padalecki put all of Sam's countermeasures into how he says his lines. He knows this is not the time for them to hash out things, and so he tells Dean not to explain---they can do that later. As he rushes to Dean's side after the Metatron showdown, we see Padalecki's performance become heartbreaking. He is despondent as he tries to stop Dean's bleeding---as he tells him they'll find a way to fix this. As Dean dies in his arms, we see Padalecki's Sam cradle Dean's face, then crush his body to his as he begins to cry. There's no need for any words here as we feel so explicitly what Sam feels---all through Padalecki's acting. This carries over well into the next scene as we see Sam gently lay Dean's body out. The anguish Sam feels is etched across Padalecki's features as he looks down at Dean. All of Sam's despondent feelings ooze from him as he sits in the dark with a drink---before he goes to summon the King of Hell. Padalecki shows us all of Sam's determination and anger here, knowing who to blame for this. He captures it best in his tense body language, the way in which he prepares the summon ritual, and how he delivers the line, “Damn it, Crowley. You got him into this mess. You will get him out... or so help me, God.” Now we must wait until season ten to see how Sam will fight to get his brother back from this fate.

Best Lines of the Week:

Sam: Oh, right. Excuse me. Sorry, guys. Uh, sorry I'm a little less than eager to hear that our best chance is -- is arming the warhead and hoping it hits the mark. This is not a bomb we're talking about. This is my brother.

Dean: Oh, so you're full-metal douche again. Well, that's fantastic. Would you like a stuffed bear?

Castiel: Wookie.

Gadreel: Brother, I have no idea what that means.

Sam: I know. But if this is it, we're gonna do it together.

Gadreel: Move to the other side of your cell Castiel, and keep your head down. When they say my name, perhaps I won't just be the one who let the Serpent in, perhaps I will be known as one of the many that gave Heaven a second chance.

Dean: I'm blaming you for Kevin! I'm blaming you for taking Cas' Grace. Hell, I'm blaming you for the Cubs not winning The World Series in the last 100 freaking years. Whatever it is... I'm blaming you.

Dean: I’m proud of us.

Is it October yet? Please?