Yep, I’m still trying to process this one.  Don’t take that as a negative though.  This is a good thing.  I haven’t been this stunned in a while.  Not even last season’s finale left me as shaken as “The Executioner’s Song”.  It was an emotional script, but they put so much more into this episode than that.  It was a return of all the elements I loved in the older episodes, the whole package.  The acting, writing, direction, cinematography, editing, set decoration, and even the score all came together to tell one powerhouse of a story.  And it’s about freaking time we got something like this.  

The pacing was intense, the tone somber and suspenseful, and the perfect mood was set for the gravity of the story being told.  There were no gimmicky lines or feeble shoutouts to get fans stirred up.  Just good old fashioned story building and it felt like every second mattered.  Well, every second with that didn’t involve Crowley and Rowena that is (more coming on that).  I felt a big pit in my stomach for not only Dean the whole time but Sam as well.  Every glance at Sam and Dean told the story that something wasn’t right.  It scared me just as much as Dean’s fear during his showdown with Cain. 

There are multiple moments where I just yelped out loud.  The first was Dean staring into that security monitor at the prison, knowing from a mere silhouette of a man and the pain in his arm that Cain was the culprit.  Sam noticed.  The second was Dean in his room, packing for the inevitable confrontation with Cain.  It reminded me in many ways of Sam facing the daunting task in “Swan Song” of taking on Lucifer.  Dean would have to confront Cain, and the end result wouldn’t be pretty.  Sam spelled out the stakes for us.  “Dean, wielding the blade against Cain himself, win or lose, you may never come back from that fight.” Dean only broke our hearts with his answer.  “I know.”  Wibble.  The memories are still fresh of what that ordeal with Lucifer did to Sam.  He really hasn’t been the same since.  Dean this time is staring down that same fate and it scares me. 

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The third moment was Dean and Sam in that barn, watching the kid play basketball, waiting for Cain.  “I’m scared Sam,” ripped me to shreds, as did something I noticed last week.  Whatever resolve he had made to live with the Mark ended as fast as it began.  “I didn’t realize that time would come so soon, like right now.”  Yes, if the promos hadn’t given that away, we would have been realizing that with you too Dean.  

Everything after that was more than a yelp.  It was a heart crushing blow, but it was also classic “Supernatural” aka tragically poetic.  I just about lost it when Dean took the blade from Crowley, trying to convince Sam he was good, while Sam watched Dean with total fear and worry.  Sam didn’t stop him though, even though every expression on his face showed he wanted to, because he knew this had to be done and it was Dean’s fight alone.  It’s the role reversal to Dean standing by Sam’s side in “Swan Song”.  I do think Mr. Berens (who turned in a near masterpiece here) had that episode in mind when constructing this story.  Sam, Castiel and Crowley faithfully played their roles to trap Cain, and the rest was up to Dean.  

The grand event though was clearly Dean’s confrontation with Cain in that barn.  What a stunner.  First, how perfect was that setting?  Dean standing in that gorgeous barn setting, the ghostly lit ceiling in the background, the straw covering the floor, the wide open dimly lit space for these two men to engage in a final confrontation behind closed doors.  It’s epic.  Second, Tim Omundson as Cain was stunning this go around.  In “First Born” he was just awesome, here he was master class.  It was inevitable that he was going to come back to Dean and force his hand, but it had to be something extremely horrific.  It had to be so bad that Dean would have no other choice but to go down that road. Now the burden of the Mark of Cain takes on a whole new meaning.  

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This scene was Jensen’s turn to take his acting to a master class of his own and I got chills seeing just how great he was with Tim Omundson.  He played it as if Dean wouldn’t be coming back from that fight and it hurt. Every bit of Dean’s anxiety pored into that confrontation with Cain, and Cain tragically anticipated every move.  He knew Dean perhaps better than Dean knew himself, and no matter what the outcome, Dean wasn’t coming out of it unscathed.   

Every inch of this scene was brilliantly constructed, both verbally and visually, the back and forth like a ballet (yeah, that sounds hokey, but it’s true).  I’ve read various theories on why Cain returned, and I don’t think his mission was to defeat Dean.  I think it was to push the right buttons to get him to kill him.  Cain’s lust to kill was too great and his fight had gone one long enough.   He provoked Dean in every possible way, including taking the First Blade away as a challenge to fight for it.  

Dean anguished over the idea of killing Cain no matter what was said to him, mostly out of resistance to losing himself in this process.  No matter what he tried though, Cain forced his hand.  He even pulled the one card that was sure to get Dean, mentioning that Sam as the end recipient of his very dark fate.  It’s the worst case scenario that’s popped up time and time again in this series and it’s Dean’s worst nightmare.  Dean had to choose, kill Cain at accept a very dark fate or be killed and let the genocide continue.  Obviously he wasn’t going to choose the latter, despite the personal cost.  It was the no win scenario.  Cain even called Dean out on his courage and reckless bravado, knowing exactly what Dean would choose.  

Even after Dean cut off Cain’s hand though and the vulnerable man was kneeling, passively accepting his fate (gorgeous visual), Dean gave him another chance.  “Tell me that I don’t have to do this, tell me that you’ll stop.  Tell me that you can stop.”  Cain had already made up his mind.  “I will never stop.”  Dean fought every urge, knew every consequence, and he killed Cain anyway.  The thunder as he did so was the most ominous of signs.  The wrath has begun.  Dean Winchester as we know him is dead.

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The question is, did everything that Cain say to Dean an attempt to provoke, or does Cain really mean that Dean’s story was playing out in reverse?  How much truth exists in that prophecy?  I feel like there’s something missing there that hasn’t been revealed yet.  Dean had no choice.  Judging by the bodies Cain’s been killing for a while, so perhaps this is exactly what he’s been doing since he went off on all those demons last season.  It was long enough for him to grow that gorgeous head of silver streaked hair (Yes, Sam Winchester, you’ve been out coiffed).  Dean has always resisted fate, insisting to be in control of his own destiny, but will the curse of the MOC prove to be too much?  He’s strong, but how strong?  Ah, that’s why this is the story of the Winchester brothers.  With Sam in his corner, there’s no telling how this will turn out.

No one has been leading the “Sam has no plot line” parade more than I, but that wasn’t the case here at all, and I’m not talking about Sam not playing the damsel in distress this week.  Sam played a very vital role here, every bit as vital as Dean did the afore mentioned “Swan Song.”  I think back all the way to the pilot when Dean confessed that he can’t find Dad alone.  Or when Dean declared in “Swan Song” to Bobby and Castiel that he wasn’t letting his brother die alone.  Neither can fight these weighty battles alone.  That’s the one constant of “Supernatural,” the thing that takes us to our happy place, no matter what the ordeal, one brother is there for the other.  Together they stand, divided they fall.  

The part that got me the most was when it was all over and a both physically and emotionally exhausted Dean came down those stairs.  He remained strong in front of Crowley, handing the blade over to Castiel so Cas could make good on that promise in “The Things We Left Behind.”  Once Crowley was gone, Dean collapsed in Sam’s arms.  There it is, the icing on the cake, the symbolic moment that has so defined this series - one brother holding up the other.  We’ve seen this so much in this series, yet such sentiment has been so rare of late.  It got me as emotional all these years later as it did back in “All Hell Breaks Loose.”  Or in “Sacrifice.”  Bravo, bravo show.  You haven’t forgotten.  

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Sam knew exactly what the consequences were before Dean entered that barn with Cain.  All that research had to reveal something about the wrath of killing Cain.  He didn’t believe Dean’s “I’m good.”  The eyes said it all.  He didn’t stop Dean either.  He knew there wasn’t any other choice.  The parallels to “Swan Song” are amazing.  Sam remained the faithful and supportive brother all the way through, even though he knew something was wrong.  

“If you can do that without losing yourself, that’s cause for hope, even without a cure.”  I adore Sam the optimist in front of Dean, but Sam is also pragmatic.  After an exhausted Dean went off to bed and the facade came down, the real truth emerged.  Sam’s expression told the harsh reality seconds before his answer to Castiel was uttered.  I didn’t need to hear “Dean is in trouble.”  Sam had already shaken me hard with his devastated look.  Both Jared and Jensen nailed every cue this week with perfection.  

Other Thoughts

All through the story, the angles and shots used were classic “Supernatural” and no wonder given it came from director since season one Phil Sgriccia.  His biggest gift to this show is knowing how to set tone, and the odd angles told us something wasn’t right and things are about to change.  He also captured shots in just the right way to maximize the emotional impact.  Couple those long lingering shots from his brilliant actors with a touching score and it’s another exceptional outing from the production team.  

There is one thing though that did prevent this from being a perfect script, but I don’t hold Robert Berens responsible.  So far he’s the best writer to do something with this whole Crowley and Rowena mess, making their story mildly entertaining this week, if not far less annoying than normal.  Still, the two killed some of the momentum of the drama with their antics.  Sure, this was probably the catalyst for making Crowley a feared foe again, since I don’t think that Crowley will take Dean double crossing him this time lying down, but having Rowena by his side to help with the deed isn’t exactly thrilling me with the future prospects of this story line.  I honestly didn’t need to hear about Crowley, aka Fergus, having his treats held back as a child since he was a little on the pudgy side.  I definitely didn’t need to hear Rowena’s pride about her son being the King of Hell, even if it did accomplish the goal of giving Crowley a kick in the pants.  Luckily the rest of the drama was so powerful, I was able to gloss all this over.  It also helps to have a fast forward button.  

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Another criticism, I adore Castiel’s faithful assistance to Sam and Dean in this matter, and it was more than thrilling to see the entire cast together for the first time this season, but if there’s any character who really is suffering from lack of plot, it’s Castiel.  I LOVED the scene between Castiel and Cain in the eerie field of bodies in the woods.  It was a reminder of Castiel in the woods during “Point of No Return.”  The two together were amazing and Cain clearly spared Castiel because he’s leaving him for Dean.  But Omundson owned that scene.  Cain was fearful, commanding, overpowering, and poor Castiel was somewhat neutered in the whole experience even if he stood defiant.  Even later his angel mojo couldn’t stand up to Cain.  I still long to see Castiel the warrior, but at least he was in this episode.  

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There were so many great lines and most came from Cain.  My favorite strangely was, “If the mark wants blood I’ll give it mine.”  Chilling!

Overall grade, an A.  Crowley and Rowena knocked this down from an A+.  This is the powerhouse the midseason finale should have been and for me this is so far the best of the season.  I vote for Robert Berens writing the cliffhanger scripts from now on.