Marked by cataclysmic upheaval, Supernatural season nine culminated in massive earthquakes. Each one has reshaped the landscape forever. We saw it in the finale on every level---and now we're seeing its aftershocks in the season ten opener. As the earthquakes reverberate from the center, we see them ripple through each and every character on Supernatural. None have been left unscathed. The aftershocks we witness in “Black” focus on Castiel and Heaven, Dean and Crowley, and Sam. Each one has its own effect on the world---big and small---and each are to shape the remainder of the season in their own ways.

First, let's look at the first ripple from the epicenter: Castiel and Heaven.

At the end of season nine, Castiel was left with wanning and stolen grace. That grace is slowly burning out, taking the angel with it. He's not given an expiration date, but with every use of it and with each day that passes, that grace only wans more. This earthquake has left the once powerful angel weak. The aftershocks of it are apparent the moment we see him appear in “Black.” Sprawled over a bed in a bath robe, Castiel is sleeping when the phone rings. In his attempt to answer, he ends up breathless from coughing, unable to hold back the sickness that his body is fighting. Looking at him, it's evident that the grace inside him is flaming out even faster than we saw him last in Heaven.

Even so, the angel wants to help Sam find Dean. He wants to help any way that he can. It matters not to him what it should cost him. If it can help someone else, Castiel is willing to try. Unfortunately for the weakened angel, Sam doesn't agree, telling him to take care of himself---something that he's later told by Hannah.

Castiel's mood isn't much different than the one he had in Purgatory. He may feel he deserves this and that it is another penance. After all, he finds himself in this predicament because he stole another angel's grace. He knows it's another crime that he will face punishment for---and so he is willing to take it without complaint. We see this clearly when he tells Hannah that he feels like a “million dollars,” something we and she can tell is nothing but a lie.

Hannah. The angel that became his second in command in the mission against Metatron is there to ask for his help. It would seem that the reverberations from the earthquake that took Metatron down---shown physically in the smashing of the Angel Tablet---are starting to sound throughout the celestial realm. Now that the door to Heaven is permanent, angels can now move between Heaven and Earth once more. Heaven may not be fully back in business evidenced by Castiel and Hannah's need to drive places, but there's progress being made. The rubble left in the quake's wake is slowly being cleaned up---but is it for the better?

On some level, this progress is good. They are forming councils, holding discussions and debates, and trying to work together as a group to determine what should happen moving forward. It would seem---after Metatron especially---that the angels are tired of having one single leader dictate everything. But that's surface. Dig deeper, and we learn that Heaven is still rife with the solider code of doing as one is told. Hannah has been sent to acquire Castiel's assistance in persuading some “rogue” angels to return to Heaven. It is where they belong and it has been decided by the rest that they must come home or face the punishment for disobeying.

Just as it was when Anna disobeyed, that sentence is none other than death. Return to Heaven as commanded or die on an angel blade. It's evidence that this aftershock is still rippling through the ranks of angels now able to pass into and out of Heaven. On one side, there is the drive to fall back into old and familiar patterns: do your job and follow orders. On the other, it is to take this experience with free will found in the aftermath of the Fall and explore it to its full potential. Why return to Heaven when one can make their own paradise here, on earth? There's no angelic command, no orders, no directives, no top angel to make one fall in line. There's simply exploring the freedom that comes with being on earth.

Castiel and Hannah track down two dissidents that had already fought back once. They are there to put the screws to Daniel and Adina.

Daniel and Adina have chosen to stay on earth and to pursue their found freedom. To illustrate how passionate they are about this, Daniel tells them that he's fishing for trout and the method he's found works best to capture the biggest and smartest of fish. It's a brilliant analogy for himself and other angels wanting to escape Heaven's rigid net. He tells them, after Castiel asks if the fish struggle, “The ones that truly want to be free---they do.”

It's clear that the debate is now about fate as understood in Heaven and free will found on earth.

This aftershock divides Hannah and Castiel in this mission. Hannah is rigid, following the orders of the angelic council---or a yet to be named leader perhaps. Castiel is fluid, willing to at least listen to them explain why they're doing this. He, having been on earth for so long, understands. He says, his voice weary, “And then what? We kill him or he kills us?”

Hannah, on the other hand, finds all of this talk of freedom as disobedience. If angels are to be allowed to live on their own, they must do so at the behest of the angelic council. And yet, Castiel has another human insight to share with her. He tells Hannah, “Perhaps I've been down here with them for too long. There is seemingly nothing but chaos, not all bad comes from it. Art, hope, love, dreams.” He's been with humans---and in particular the Winchesters---for a number of years, witnessing their struggles and fighting with and against them enough to know that perhaps Daniel isn't so wrong.

Hannah, on the other hand, finds any human wisdom to be beneath angelic wisdom. What could a human hope to teach an angel? It's clear, in the aftershocks of Metatron's defeat, that angels are trying to rebuild Heaven anew---and yet they want it to go back to the way it was before. This may go back even further. They may still yearn for the steady and iron fisted control Michael surely once had over the Host. Since then, it has been chaos.

This is what really drives Hannah to follow her orders. It's easy to see why she abhors chaos. Chaos scares her. It is rife with problems. At any time, another Metatron, another Naomi---and yes, even another Castiel---could rise to power and start to squeeze everyone into their new found version of the angelic Host. To prevent that, Hannah turns to something she understands: order.

Not only does she want order, she wants Castiel to rise to be a leader again. She feels that he was just as invaluable to stopping Metatron---and she's not wrong. With his wanning grace, however, she knows there's not much time before he's gone for good. Why not replenish his grace now and return to Heaven with her so they can take his valuable input into the rebuild? Why not give him back time and power so he can rise once more as the leader she found him to truly be when he exposed Metatron's vicious lies?

Again, Hannah doesn't understand Castiel's reluctance. She is so smitten with the concept of rebuilding Heaven in the aftermath of the earthquake as it was once was that she can't see the pitfalls that lead to the problem in the first place. Castiel tells her, “And another angel should die so that I can be saved? Is this really that hard to understand?” When they confront Daniel and Adina, he begs her to stop. And he sees what this will lead to: more of the same angelic faction fighting and more angelic death. Killing them won't fix anything---it will only continue the same problem they've had since the Apocalypse was averted---if not before.

But Hannah---and the rogue angels---fall into the same trap, the aftershocks rocking them into old patterns once more. Adina attacks Hannah, Daniel jumps in, and before it's over, both are dead. Castiel had delivered the killing blow to Daniel, leaving yet another angel's blood on his hands. As we see him in the aftermath, we see the weariness etch across his face. He had wanted to show Hannah a new way. He had preached not killing when in command of his angelic army---before it was taken away. He wanted angels to stop with the massacring other angels that didn't agree with them.

It's clear that the aftershocks that rock the angelic Host are still working their way through. How will the debate about free will vs. order shape them in season ten? We're left to wonder just how Castiel will find a way to recharge his grace---or perhaps reclaim his own. What other aftershocks lie in wait to rock Heaven's boat? A new leader perhaps? Or will the angels finally learn that the old way is no longer valid?

But that is not the only earthquake the shake Supernatural in the season nine finale.

The most catastrophic earthquake was the one that rocked Dean Winchester. Its building tension and tremors indicated the devastation to come---and yet left us gasping in shock at their reverberations. This earthquake didn't simply leave one Winchester dead and one grieving. It fundamentally changed Dean in ways that aren't entirely known just yet even now. In the moment that Metatron's angel blade sunk into Dean's chest, the fault line snapped. Dean was mortally wounded and died---only to be reborn anew as something dark, twisted, and sinister. We saw it the moment his eyes opened to pitch black. This earthquake didn't simple crack things---it shattered them.

To understand the aftershocks of this quake, we must address the tremors that lead up to it. Needing a method to eliminate the threat Abaddon posed, Dean needed a weapon that would kill the Queen. That weapon emerged at Crowley's nudging in the form of the First Blade and Mark of Cain. The King of Hell led the elder Winchester straight to Cain's front door---and allowed him to be marked by the original Knight of Hell.

To get it, Dean had to prove his worth to Cain. Was he a killer worthy of this Mark? In a stunning dance of death that belied both grace and horror, Dean singlehandedly killed every demon Cain let in. In its terrifying elegance, Cain witnessed another man that reminded him of himself---and thus worthy of the Mark needed to operate the First Blade. Before he could warn Dean of the consequences, Dean simply wanted to know if it would help him achieve his goal. Would it help him kill Abaddon? Yes. That's all that mattered.

Upon accepting the Mark, nothing seemed to change aside from the raised skin. It wouldn't be until Dean grasped the First Blade for the first time that the true change brewing---the tremors in the fault lines starting to build---would be evident. The brothers managed to find the First Blade hidden in a rogue Men of Letters hidden home. Magnus didn't want to give Dean the weapon. Instead, he wanted to keep it---and Dean. He wanted to make sure the Mark was genuine and see just how the two functioned together. And so, he caused the first fault line to snap.

Magnus shoved the First Blade into Dean's hand, activating the Mark. Instantly, we can see it overwhelm the elder Winchester. Magnus makes a mistake when he uses Sam against him. It leads to Dean using the Blade for the first time, hacking the spell master's head clean off. It causes another tremor to shake loose---a foreboding of the earthquake to violently come.

After making his first kill with Mark and Blade, Dean is a ball of pure rage ready to snap. He teeters on the edge of becoming feral. If not for Sam breaking through, he may very well have done so. After, he is separated from the Blade by Crowley. The King will hold onto it until he can locate Abaddon. If tCrowley had simply kept the weapon, it may have prevented the earthquake---but he needed Dean to use it, and so instead temporarily put off the inevitable.

Killing Abaddon is the next massive tremor to shake loose. He may have achieved his goal, but it has come with a great cost. Dean is cold and calm as he takes on the Queen. The Mark and Blade work together, calling to him and taking possession of him. It's a hint at what fate it has in mind for the elder Winchester. The Mark and Blade want him to be nothing more than a brutal killer, lusting for blood. As he finally manages to deliver the killing blow, it consumes him completely for the first time. He is unable to stop the mutilating of her body in the aftermath, violently stabbing and beating it. He's no longer Dean in this moment. Instead, he's something far darker.

We see it again in how he interacts with everyone from Tessa to the other angels to even Sam. Cruelly, he informs his brother that this is a dictatorship. He may mean that he's in charge and calling the shots---that he is the dictator, but it is clear in this building fault line that the Mark and Blade are really the ones in charge. They are the ones calling the shots and they are the ones that will get ultimately what they want from Dean.

It isn't until we see him brutally stabbed by Metatron that we realize just much control the Mark and Blade had. In his dying moments, Dean realized that they were turning him into something he doesn't want to be. It's best that he die now before he fall further under its spell. He doesn't want to be like Cain. He doesn't want to be the violent killer.

If only that was the end for its control.

Dean dies in Sam's arms and is taken back to the Bunker. No, he won't be revived by something Sam does. He won't be resurrected by an angel. He won't be granted a hunter's funeral. Instead, he will endure the greatest earthquake season nine generates. The Mark and Blade had begun to possess him---to change him---and now we learn just how much.

We learn it the moment Dean's eyes open pitch black. He may have died, but they weren't ready to let him go.

It is now, in “Black” that we see the aftershocks of this quake. He has left with Crowley to “howl at the moon.” On one hand, Dean is a sad barfly partying all day and night. On the other, he's a brutal killer, almost bored when he makes his kills. And yet, he's addicted to the rush, fueling the need for more violence in a vicious circle.

We open the season to find Dean in a bar, singing bad karaoke---“I'm Too Sexy”---and sleeping with anyone that will have him. For the first time in his life, Dean has no responsibilities---and he's indulging in his downtime. There's no fire for him to rush towards. There's no crisis to call his attention. He doesn't have to do anything for anyone else if he doesn't want to. It's rather liberating for the elder Winchester. He can't help but have fun after a lifetime of heavy burdens and hard responsibility.

And yet we can tell that he's gone perhaps too far---indulging just a bit too much.

It's as if the change has amplified his lesser qualities even more. Dean can't quite see just how far its caused him to tumble yet. He's become the very loser he's always feared being. Rather than doing grand things or fighting monsters---or pursuing the family business of “saving people, hunting things” Dean has become stuck in a rut. He's idling in the bar, repeating the same routine each day. It's a facade he's used on cases or retreated into to nurse wounds in the past---but now he's actually become that person he's feared being. He's becoming---rather quickly---a joke.

It doesn't seem like it at first, but we realize he's more aware of this fact than we think. It comes out in his scathing conversation with Anne Marie. Finally bored---and perhaps a little wary of seeing his in pursuit little brother---Dean tries to convince her to go with him. Why not run off together and continue the party they started here? She turns him down, telling him gently, “We barely know each other.” It's clear that while so much of Dean has changed, so much remains the same. He wanted someone to let him know that he's not the loser, that he hasn't fallen this far. Instead, she's confirmed what he's been hiding from all this time. To deflect his inner pain onto her, Dean retorts, “The kind of guy who sleeps with every skank in every small town dive that he passes through? Boy, you really do know how to read people, cause that sure as hell sounds like me.”

It stabs deep at Anne Marie, and yet it's not about her at all. He knows he's becoming an even bigger loser the longer he lingers at the Black Spur. He hears it every time someone boos his karaoke or throws something at him. He can feel it every time he takes another drink. While he's having a great time howling at the moon, he's still not happy with himself.

Crowley, steadfast at his side, plays an important role in Dean's current predicament. The earthquake that changed Dean has had a rippling effect. It's turned Dean into this barfly, allowing all his inhibitions to fall away. Crowley intends to use that to his advantage. He knows that Dean will eventually learn his true power---or become a full demon before too long---and when that time comes he may challenge the King of Hell.

And so, Crowley rises to a part of Shakespearean proportions to prevent that particular aftershock. He will play the role of Falstaff for Dean. He will encourage Dean to sleep with whomever, drink as much as he likes, and engage in any bar game he likes. He'll be that “partner in crime” having a great time “howling at the moon.” It'll keep Dean distracted and sated---all the better for him and his plans to use Dean as a weapon against possible Abaddon hold outs. What fear should he have for any challenger to his throne if he has Dean in his back pocket, Mark, Blade and all?

He can feed a demon to Dean when he's not busy drinking or sleeping around---and it keeps the Mark sated so Dean won't totally turn or turn on him.

It's this that reveals the darker and more frightening aftershock of the quake that took Dean's life---and soul. Dean has always seemed to enjoy the hunt and the kill on some level. It's what makes him good at his job---gives him an edge in executing the family business. Just as he's feared being that joke barfly, he's feared being just a killer far more. Here, however, that guilt has fallen away. Violence makes him immensely happy. He wants to fight and to kill and he has no problem doing it anywhere. He wants “challenges.”

He brutally kills a demon in a gas station---in full view of cameras. At first, this fight is in self defense---but not for long. Too quickly the tables turn and we can see him go far overboard, stabbing ruthlessly, beating senselessly into his victims body. Once sated and bored with the latest kill, he simply returns to the porn magazine he had to abandon in the attack. We see him go too far in his violence against Anne Marie's ex-boyfriend, beating him with an unbridled glee. He thinks he should be worthy of praise for his brutality. It's written all over his face when he turns to look at her and the crowd that's formed.

As he faces the demon in the alley---another of Abaddon's supporters and one Crowley fed his way---Dean seems almost bored. He attacks and fights and kills the demon quickly, and as we see him drop the body off the blade, a nonchalant bored expression crosses his face.

It's clear another aftershock is brewing in the aftermath of the earthquake that may have forever changed Dean. He already has expressed anger at Crowley for lying to him about the demons attacking him---and then for talking to Sam and chasing him from his favorite bar. Sooner or later, Dean will learn the strength of his claws. When he does, we shall see one of the biggest aftershocks yet.

With the mysterious Cole---who holds a grievance against Dean for unknown reasons---putting chum in the waters, we may find out very soon just how bad it'll be.

But there's far more fallout for this earthquake.

The earthquakes of season nine claimed their greatest casualty not in Dean Winchester---but in Sam. He spent the second half of season nine watching his brother transform, the tremors preceding the coming quake all too frightening. And yet, he could not stop what was to come. When the quake finally hit and all its upheaval began to reverberate, Sam Winchester was forced yet again to watch his brother die. And yet, it is the aftershocks that are far worse for Sam.

The earthquake that claimed Dean's life---Metatron's angel blade---was devastating. Just as he was rebuilding the fragile and tenuous relationship with his brother, he loses him. It is a hard blow, one that shatters him in the moment the earth cracks. He watches the blade sink into Dean's chest and knows that he will have to endure once more what he has so many times before. He is watching his greatest failure happen again. He has watched it hundreds of times in the Mystery Spot and in countless ways. Heartbreakingly, he had to watch his brother torn to shreds by hell-hounds---the failure he's never quite recovered from and what has driven him ever since.

But the aftershock of this terrible quake could forever tilt Sam Winchester's world on a new axis. This aftershock is a nightmare he's never had to fear before: that Dean isn't Dean anymore.

For all of Sam's life, Dean has been his north star. Whenever he is lost, if he can find that point in the sky, he can find his way home. Dean has been the one constant. He has always been the same: stubborn, over protective, domineering, and strong. When the rest of the world would fall apart or explode, Sam knew he could turn to Dean. Dean would remain as he always has been: his brother. It's why Dean is his “stone number one” throughout all of season seven. It's why, even when he has no soul, he finds himself pulling Dean back into his orbit. Dean steadies him, anchoring him to their strange reality in a way nothing else ever has or will.

Even when Sam is his angriest with his brother, he knows he can rely on this truth. Dean is and always has been Dean. It's a security blanket that Sam has always returned to. He may have run after their father, ditching Dean in season one. He may have sided with Ruby in season four. He may have been rudderless without his soul. Sam may have been lost at times to his hallucinations in season seven. In every case, Sam has found a way to find that guiding star point and make his way home.

Now, however, the earthquake that took place at the end of season nine has dimmed it to black.

Sam could see the tremors building. They were tell tale and at every turn. Each one jolted him. Each one made him fear that he could finally lose the brother he's always known---the one true constant in his life. He saw it the very first moment that Dean picked up the First Blade and used it to strike Magnus down. The cruel snarl, the iron grip, and the blood lust in Dean's eyes made him seem like a different person. Thankfully, he was able to pull Dean back from the brink---but not for long.

There's always been an aggression in Dean. Sam has known this side of his brother, too. Dean has admitted to torturing---and has tortured in front of Sam. He's ruthlessly killed monsters, demons, angels, and men with efficiency. But what the First Blade and Mark of Cain did to Dean was wholly different. He became harder edged and his fuse shortened considerably. Little things could set Dean off and make him strike out. The changes in his brother made Sam's concern ratchet up. He watched for any new development, fearing what version of Dean would result. Frantically, Sam scrutinized each and every new crack as they formed, fearing for the earthquake to come.

Sam knows this personally having been addicted to the demon blood. He could see these signs so well because he had experienced them first hand. The good traits that formed Dean's character---love, loyalty, compassion, and honor---seemed to be submerged by some of his bad---anger, being too controlling, and impatience. Each time Dean held or used the Blade, it only seemed to get worse. Sam could see the tremors of the coming quake jolt through his brother more each day.

It wasn't until Sam saw Dean kill Abaddon that he realized how much the Blade had changed him. It wasn't the actual triumph over the Knight of Hell that gripped Sam's heart with fear. It was the aftermath. Dean turned vicious---going far overboard in his brutal stabbing and beating of the now dead Queen. He turned animalistic and cruel in that moment. Sam couldn't see Dean in that man in that moment---not anymore. It took him pleading to coax Dean back from the brink---but barely.

He saw the tremors shake harder when Gadreel made an appearance at the Bunker---there to switch sides and help them against Metatron. Dean deceptively steps forward to shake the angel's hand, only to slash him across the chest with the First Blade. His rage upon behind held back from making the kill is terrifying for Sam. His brother is losing ground fast to the growing fault lines ready to snap.

In the moment that Dean is stabbed by Metatron, the earthquake hits. Dean is dying but that's not the end. Grieving and heartbroken, Sam gently takes his dead brother home to the Bunker, lying him on his bed and preparing to do whatever it takes to fix him.

We know that Sam wants to save Dean in this moment---but before he can either find a way to resurrect Dean again or give him a proper hunter's funeral, Dean disappears. It is here that the aftershocks start to hit, churning the already devastated ground that is Sam's world into rubble.

In his despair and desperation, Sam tortures a demon named Dar. He needs information to find Crowley and by proxy his brother. The demon won't talk. She taunts him, telling him that he's now “one of us.” As Sam pushes her harder for information, she cracks, crying out that Crowley won't answer and that she doesn't know where he or Dean is. Beyond his breaking point already, Sam shouts, “Where is my brother!”

This aftershock isn't simply about Sam. It's also about the audience. We may watch Dean's antics in the bar. We may know the where, who, what, and how when it comes to Dean's movements, but we're also Sam. Sam is our avatar here, the aftershock of season nine's ending coming to full fruition. We watched a role reversal unfold in the back half of season nine---and now we see it bloom. Sam is searching for his brother and we are hoping to see him find him before it is truly too late.

Gathering his emotions, we later see him reach out to other hunters, trying to patch quilt any leads together that may help him find Dean. He seems almost hopeful. There's a task at hand to be met and he knows how to research and to hunt. As he searches for possible demonic possessions, he strikes something. A man that had been missing for years turns up murdered in Wisconsin. In his elation, he calls Castiel to tell him that they finally have a lead---their first to tracking down Dean.

It is as if a weight is lifted from his shoulders for but a brief moment. Up until now, he only knew that Dean had been taken by Crowley---leaving only a note etched with, “Sammy, let me go” on it. It meant that Crowley had found a way to take his brother's body---and perhaps have some demon possess it.

Eagerly, Sam tracks this lead and finds a cop willing to show him the footage of the murder. The moment he sees the video, he is knocked on his heels by another powerful aftershock. In it, unmistakably, is Dean. He knows that face anywhere. Allowed to peruse the footage alone, he slows it down to watch carefully anything that might tell him what Crowley is doing with his dead brother's body.

It is here that the next aftershock rockets through Sam's world. In the image, he sees the horrifying truth. Dean is indeed possessed. The black eyes don't lie to him. It's not something the cops would be looking for, but now that he knows, Sam is driven even more to save Dean.

As much as it hurts Sam to see Dean this way, he knows that his brother---his real brother---would be devastated by this turn of events. He had died, telling Sam that he didn't like what the Mark was doing to him. He had died wanting to remain human. Sam understands this feeling all too well---and now he will find a way to honor Dean's dying wish. Whatever is parading around and looking at porn---isn't Dean. Dean is dead.

He visits the murder scene, meeting the witness. He's a clerk and he happens to have the phone the victim had. Once alone with it, Sam makes a call to Crowley with it. The King of Hell is eager to add to the jolting pain the aftershocks have already inflicted. Sam tells him that he'll pay for stuffing a demon into his brother's “meat suit,” to which Crowley crows, “Moose, I'm afraid you haven't allowed yourself to dream quite big enough here. Your brother is very much alive, courtesy of the Mark. The only demonized soul inside of Dean is his and his alone. Wee bit more twisted, a little more mangled beyond human recognition, but I can assure you all his. There now. Feel better?”

This is the worst aftershock yet. It was one thing to see his brother with black eyes and believe him to be possessed by one of Crowley's henchmen. It's another to find out the truth: that it is your brother. The north star that Sam has always relied upon---always turned to when his world has gone topsy turvy---has flickered and gone out.

And yet, in true Sam fashion, he becomes steely in his resolve to save Dean. He states firmly, “I am going to find you. I am going to save my brother, and then I am going to kill you, dead.”

Unfortunately, on his way to the very site his brother's holed up in, Sam is jumped by the mysterious Cole. The man has some grudge against Dean, and now he's using Sam as bait. Sam knows that it's useless to think this twisted version of his brother will save him---but he does know that Dean may show up anyways if just to kill Cole for fun. It's better than nothing.

We're now left to wonder what other aftershocks remain to rock Sam's world going forward. Just what will Dean do when he sees Sam? Is there any shred of the real Dean left in there for Sam to reach?

Or will Sam die trying?

Erica Carrol returns to Supernatural season ten as the angel, Hannah. As an angel, she seems distant and detached from the world around her. Carrol captures that well in her body language, showing us Hannah's wariness about being on earth. She conveys the angel's unease and distress with subtlety after the car ride---her gestures and facial expressions capturing her nausea are telling. It isn't until we see them confront Daniel and Adina that we see Hannah's first passionate emotions. Carrol puts all of Hannah's anger and impatience in her remark, “To hear more of this?” Once the bottle is uncorked, Carrol gives us all of Hannah's disdain for human emotions and ideas just by the look on her face and the way she scoffs. She also captures all of Hannah's confusion well in the conversation shared with Castiel, asking, “But those are human things.” Now that Hannah has experienced both sides of the new heavenly argument, we're left to wonder exactly where the angel will fall---and how Carrol will show that to us.

Mark Sheppard, now a series regular in Supernatural season ten, reprises the role of the witty Crowley. He seems as suave as ever, following Dean around as a wing man, helping his new “best friend” indulge. Sheppard plays Crowley with complexity in “Black.” He's not entirely the humanized King of Hell we saw throughout season nine, but he's not the completely evil King of Hell we've known for years, either. There's a subtle softness to how he's dealing with Dean here. He coaxes Dean into considering that it's time to move on for instance. The way Sheppard delivers the line, “We're not ending the party, we're simply moving the party” captures that element best. There also seems to be a lighter side to Crowley. Sheppard captures all of the demon's comedic timing when we watch them play foosball in the bar. Considering who he is and what he is, this moment can't come off as anything but funny. It's in how Sheppard conveys Crowley's urgency that Dean keep his focus and to win. That being said, Sheppard also shows us why Crowley's been the adversary for years now in his conversation with Sam. The way he taunts Sam about Dean's true new nature captures why the King of Hell is so hard to beat. Sheppard puts it all in an almost too cheerful voice, gloating in glee over his victory over both Winchesters. One he has in his back pocket, the other he has chasing after and unable to stop what's happening. Sheppard conveys all of Crowley's glee at that with facial expressions and vocal tones. Now that they've had to “move the party” anyways, what else will Crowley do and how will he handle Dean going forward? How will Sheppard show us all the layers that make up the King of Hell in this new found situation? We have the rest of the season to find out.

Misha Collins returns as Castiel---albeit one that is unwell---in the season opener, “Black.” He captures all of Castiel's weariness just by how he carries himself. It's evident the moment we see him in that bed---to how he gets dressed and washed up in the mirror---and in the discussions he has with Hannah. Collins captures all of Castiel's fatigue with the never ending angel wars. It's in his body language and tired face. Collins shows us Castiel's wisdom, too, in how he gently delivers his lines about chaos. He also shows us Castiel's frustration, too. It's in his exasperated line, “And then what? We kill him or he kills us?” Castiel may have joined Hannah in her efforts to rein in rogue angels---but we can tell through his performance that Collins wants us to see Castiel's need to be needed. If he can't help Sam---even though he desperately wants to, he will help wherever they'll let him. It's clear the moment we see him say the word, “Yes” to Hannah's demand. Now that Castiel has once again joined in the angelic battle for Heaven, we're left to wonder just what side he will end up on---and how much time he has left before that grace burns completely out.

Jensen Ackles gives us an altogether horrific and tragic Dean Winchester in “Black.” We open to see Dean singing the bad karaoke---and on one hand we laugh at how silly this situation seems, on the other we can see how sad it is. Ackles knows how to tug on the comedic moment by how he stands---and by how Dean dances drunkenly. But underneath that comedic performance, Ackles also gives us the subtle tragedy. We can see it in his bored or drunken expressions. And while Dean has been forever altered perhaps by the Mark and Blade, Ackles manages to pull out that little boy that's hidden in Dean all the time. We see that best when Dean is stopped by Anne Marie mid drink---an open expression crosses his face and we can see what's trapped inside this new Dean. He's in there---somewhere. Ackles does this brilliantly, and all with facial expressions. Even so, Ackles also captures all of the darker elements of Dean's new transformation. He's horrific in his attack on the gas station attacker. He's frightening in his attack in the alley. Ackles shows us all of Dean's brutality wonderfully in the way he fights Anne Marie's ex, showing that Dean has lost much of his self control. This is a terrifying new Dean, and Ackles makes us fear him---and for him---when he's his most violent. We're left to wonder just how far he'll go in the rest of the season---and just how bad it'll get.

Jared Padalecki breaks our hearts with his performance as Sam Winchester in the season opener---making us feel everything Sam does from start to finish. His body language betrayed Sam's inner turmoil at every turn. When he was frustrated, we felt it. When he was hopeful, we felt it. When Sam was heartbroken, so were we. When Sam was pushed to the brink by his desperation, we were, too. It was clear in the opener when we watched Sam torture Dar. In every facial expression and gesture Padalecki used, we could see Sam tense to the point of breaking. Sam, through Padalecki's skillful acting, is an open book to us. All of the younger Winchester's emotions---and ours---was captured by Padalecki's delivery of the line, “Where is my brother!” We see his hope when he shares the new lead on Dean with Castiel---followed by the guilt at not being considerate of his angel friend's problems. Padalecki uses all of his subtlety to convey Sam's devastation when he finally sees Dean on the camera---and the black eyes that mark the truth about what has happened to his brother. He doesn't have to be overt in this reaction. It is far more heartbreaking when we see the realization and horror flicker across his face as he learns what we as the audience already know. It's a reflection of our own reactions during the season nine finale come to life in the season ten opener. And yet, Padalecki conveys all of Sam's determination brilliantly, too. He does this best in his speech on the phone with Crowley, telling him firmly, “I will save my brother or die trying.” Now that Dean has heard his voice, knows he is in danger, and has been taunted by someone who he's decided to kill anyways, will we see Sam reach his brother? We're left to wonder just how Padalecki will convey Sam's struggle going forward.

Best Lines of the Week:

Castiel: I'm sensing awkwardness.

Castiel: Perhaps I've been down here with them for too long. There is seemingly nothing but chaos, not all bad comes from it. Art, hope, love, dreams.

Crowley: Who do you think you are talking to here? Does the Tin Man have a sheet metal willy? Of course I lied.

Sam: I am going to find you. I am going to save my brother, and then I am going to kill you, dead.

Dean: Now you listen to me; there's no trade, there's no meet up, there's no nothing. Except the 100% guarantee, somewhere down the road I will find you and I will kill you.

Sam: So some guy comes in, kills another guy in your store on your watch, and you just -- you what? Just keep on keepin' on?

Next week, will Dean take that final step and succumb fully to the Mark of Cain?