“No one know what’s its like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, Behind Blue Eyes…”
I’ll throw this out there right now, my inner Sam girl is having full blown seizures of happiness right now. There are some things that should have me hating this episode, or at least question its intent, but honestly, I loved all of it. I don’t know how, but I did. Perhaps because the writing was fluid, or that the pacing was enjoyable, or the direction was some of the best damn stuff we’ve seen in a while. Maybe it was movement on the Mark of Cain storyline, or that all of geekdom exploded when Castiel and Charlie finally met, or the fact that TPTB forked out for a totally awesome Who song on a decimated classic rock budget. Whatever it was, I’m happy.
“The Book of the Damned” gave us plenty of great nuggets. I mean, when was the last time we got to really see deep inside the tortured soul of Sam Winchester? Oh yes, it’s been hinted countless times, and I’ve been saying for weeks that they’re setting Sam up for a fall, but we’ve rarely if ever got a true glimpse into how deep that pain goes and what’s truly driving him. No episode illustrates a glimpse inside the real Sam better than the legendary “Mystery Spot” but this was pretty damn good. I’m very, very worried.
No doubt, Sam is falling apart. His mission to help Dean has grown more frantic, more worrisome, and there are no longer any boundaries. He will go all the way no matter what the consequences. Sam is most scary when he’s like this. Remember his obsession with killing the Yellow eyed demon in season one? Or his full blown fixation in killing Lilith in season four that resulted in dramatically dire consequences? He’s so focused on the task he doesn’t see the downside staring at him in the face. All the warnings are there, from Dean, from Bobby, but he won’t let go. He is John Winchester’s son, that’s for sure.
As usual, there’s quite a bit of brotherly disconnect, which I know doesn’t sit well in the fandom, but it is working for me. The rift is most evident by the brotherly chat in the cabin. Dean wasn’t willing to allow this evil book to fix him. He could personally feel the darkness that came attached to it and this scared him for a couple very good reasons. Not only was he concerned what would happen if the book fell into the wrong hands, but what would happen if the book fell into his hands? It’s clear he doesn’t trust himself and in a way is just waiting for the shoe to drop. Where he’s complacent about that idea, Sam won’t have it. He can’t watch Dean turn into a demon. He can’t go through the cure again. “I guess I really understand now that this is my life. I love it. But I can’t do it without my brother, I don’t want to do it without my brother. And if he’s gone then I’m…”
That was the one moment of the episode that made me take a real pause. That does seem odd doesn’t it? Sam was all “light at the end of the tunnel” back in season eight and believing he could have a normal life. Hunting now makes him happy? Or even bigger yet, he loves it? I know that hunting is second nature to Sam right now, but I have trouble accepting that he loves the life. It’s more like he doesn’t know any better. I wonder if he’s telling himself he loves the life for Dean’s sake. He isn’t going to experience that devastating loss again now that he has his brother back. He’s not letting it go. I do believe though he cannot keep doing this without Dean. Just looking at how unhinged Sam was without Dean in the first two episodes of this season explains where his mindset lies. If he doesn’t have his brother, it’ll be the end of him.
Of course, if anyone was having doubts about Sam, all we needed was that powerhouse ending to accent with an exclamation point how desperate Sam has gotten. It’s all brilliantly capped to a montage of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” (so that’s where this year’s classic rock budget went!). Behind those bluish (fine hazel) eyes is someone keeping a very dangerous secret, one that could unravel everything. Sam isn’t just lying to Dean this time, but Castiel and Charlie as well. He hides it from the others, pretending to laugh and enjoy the time together, but the secret is eating away at him. It even hurts him more that Dean is seeing this as a win, even if it's for Castiel's sake instead of him losing the Mark. Sam just cannot share that joy, as evidenced when sharing that congratulatory beer with Dean. “But my dreams, they aren’t as empty as my conscience seems to be.” Just wow.
Based on what we saw in this episode, Sam’s actions are primarily fueled by guilt. He was oozing with it in the closing montage, but it’s more evident than that. Dean in that conversation brought up Sam’s very hurtful words at the end of last season’s “The Purge.” So how did Sam get from that point to now? Dean’s spiral, death, and transformation into a demon obviously shook him hard. He must have it swirling in his mind that if he had been there for Dean, had his back, he wouldn’t have taken on the Mark of Cain. Sam now feels personally responsible for the well being of his brother and won’t accept that its Dean’s cross to bear. It’s not that he needs to fix Dean and set things straight, he MUST at all costs, even if they are high. “If there’s a cure, we’ll do it and deal with the consequences later. I can’t lose you.” Oh no, this can’t be good.
This reminds me a lot of the main theme of this season of “The 100.” The main characters wanted to be the heroes, but in a fight for survival, numerous innocents were hurt and killed. When the main character Clarke, after the total massacre of her enemies, met up with her mother afterward, she said, “I tried to be the hero.” Her mother’s answer, “Maybe there are no heroes.” That’s how I feel with Sam’s situation, and writer Robbie Thompson alluded to that with Charlie’s comment about hunting leads to a bunch of Sophie’s choices, death or tears. If Sam saves Dean using the book, the negative reaction and impact on the earth becomes biblical. If Sam doesn’t save Dean, he watches his brother die or worse, he becomes a demon and begins killing innocents, perhaps going as far as genocide like Cain intended. At this point is he thinking about being the hero? Does he think saving Dean will result in the greater good, much like Dean did last season when he tricked Sam into angel possession? Or are Sam’s motivations purely selfish, knowing that his psyche cannot handle losing his brother again? Quite a humdinger, isn’t it?
As for Dean, the fact that he’s feeling a little consequence shy though tells us that he isn’t too far gone. The darkness still scares him and the ramifications of embracing that darkness are still very fresh in his mind. He still believes in doing the right thing, and he’s willing to let go his dream of vacationing on that beach. There’s where the disconnect is with the brothers though, all Dean sees is a missing beach. He doesn’t see what this is doing to Sam or that Sam cannot handle keeping him on lockdown in the bunker every time he goes dark. He doesn’t see the behavioral changes, the descent into darkness, the hunger for evil like the draw of The Book of the Damned. Or maybe he does, but he’s still choosing to fight. That’s exactly why I wonder which brother is in the deeper trouble right now. Given Sam’s act of betrayal with Rowena, I’m thinking Sam.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also offer major kudos to this week’s director, P.J. Pesce. Talk about using the shot to capture the raw emotion of the situation. He went for some very unique angles that practically exposed Sam internally and it wasn’t comfortable at all. Take for example the POV from inside the hex box, looking upward at a very troubled Sam, especially when he frantically deliberates whether to destroy the book or not. We see the anguish and most importantly, his inability to let go despite the risks. But that close up on those tortured eyes in that closing scene, just before Sam’s deception is unveiled, that says it all. It the Sophie’s choice. He’s choosing life for his brother above all else. So who dies? I also love the angles of Charlie in that phone booth. It was visually catching (note for Nightsky in that visual review!)
In all this analysis though, I’m leaving out the very entertaining B-plot! Words cannot describe how much my inner fan girl geek exploded when Castiel and Charlie finally met. They’re adorable together. Castiel heals Charlie in their first meeting? How sweet. They were having pizza, laughing and playing fortune teller! My ideal dream sequence (well, that and the Winchester brothers on that beach). We have our new Supernatural spinoff right there, with Metatron thrown in for hijinks.
Let’s talk Metatron. We all knew he was going to get away, but can I say I’m glad he did? He really annoyed me last season but this year he’s being written properly. The fact that he’s out there, currently powerless but holding a major source of questionable power that he can tap into, it makes you wonder if he’ll be making a play on Crowley’s throne. Perhaps he wishes to dominate Heaven, Hell and Earth? With Rowena’s help? It doesn’t seem to matter if he has his grace, he knows enough dark magic and spells where he can be very dangerous. As long as Metatron is written like he was in this episode, I’m perfectly fine with him being the new big bad. I like him better roaming the earth than sitting up in Heaven being a total dorky buffoon writing trashy novels. Isn’t it Ironic, don’t you think? (Kudos to Robbie for using real irony with that quote!)
What got me the most about Metatron’s characterization this time how he was again shown as the master manipulator. He really should be a demon. His words to Castiel were spot on. “Still spitting out the company line like anyone cares.” “What we really are is a bunch of glowing lights filled with self loathing or delusions of grandeur, or both.” What is Castiel going to do with his life? He’s just been wandering aimlessly around the earth, he’s not welcome in Heaven and wouldn’t be content even if he was, and what happens when he gets his grace back? No doubt that struck a chord with Castiel. “What is your mission now?” I’m dying to know that answer. Maybe we should be asking how far will Castiel go to save Dean, or maybe he will find himself having to save Sam too?
I loved the Castiel “re-gracing” scene and didn’t find it anti-climactic at all, but I do think it was intentionally downplayed. It plays into Metatron’s words of “now what?” Since we’re on the topic of irony, it’s quite ironic that the one thing that saved Castiel resulted from Metatron giving him all those pop culture references last season. He knew the story of Don Quixote! He knew the answer to the riddle that retrieved his grace just in time. I was very, very sad though to see how damaged Castiel’s wings were. He’s the not fearsome angel warrior that exploded onto our sets in season four. I assume he fell to the ground like the other angels at the end of season eight and that’s where they were damaged. Do angel wings re-grow? I hope so because I want him to start flying again. This car thing is growing tiresome.
Another The Princess Bride reference! Sammy is the Dread Pirate Roberts of hunting. Hee! So does that mean he gets to retire rich and passes on his torch to someone else? So is Dean really Inigo Montoya?
My favorite line? “Kind of like a buddy comedy without the comedy,” “Or, without the buddies.” A rare zinger for Castiel! Here’s some other good ones:
- “A phone booth. I didn’t know these things existed outside of Bill and Ted.”
- “I don’t know why you’d want to cure that little firecracker now. He’s finally interesting.”
- “The sand between our toes Sammy - the sand between our toes.” PLEASE let that be a whole season 11 episode.
- "Did we just become best friends?" Hee, Charlie even punched Castiel in the arm. I say they are!
- "Poor Castiel. Swam so far just to drown in shallow waters. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?"
I LOVED Dean mocking “Mr. Styne” with his best southern accent. Oh wow, Dean should totally use that more often. It was perfect.
I applaud Robbie Thompson for revisiting Sam’s words from “The Purge,” proving what many of us believed, that Sam said that at a time when he was angry. He doesn’t feel that way. That’s been a hot topic of debate on this site for a while now, so I was glad to see that addressed.
Overall grade, ah, I’m feeling generous. I’ll go with an A, although A- is probably a more accurate grade. There were still some character questions dangling that could end up making more sense later, but I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt anyway. Next week, it looks like Sam’s deception will probably backfire on everyone. What else is new?
(Screencaps courtesy of springfieldspringfield.co.uk)