It seems third time really is the charm with this family, because not only did they present a much more menacing and intimidating force (as opposed to the cartoon villains they emulated at times previously) but they were also more legitimate in their power and control. First, we have the opening scene with young Cyrus. The bullies were all talk until the recognized Styne cousin emerged from the car, and of course it was clear Mr. Hoodie wouldn’t make it far after that encounter. With a fancy tattooed arm like that, how he could he not be sent to the parts shop in the basement?
Poor Cy is intelligent and sympathetic, wanting nothing to do with his family, but having no real choice in the matter though we see him plotting an escape with an Internet friend. Cyrus was a great character for a number of reasons. First, it showed that not every member of the Styne family just woke up and went along happily with the slice-and-dice family motto, which simply wouldn’t be real in that long family history. Secondly, since he was such an endearing character it made Dean killing him in the end that much more stunning – illustrating how far away the Mark has drawn Dean from his moral road. As far as the prisoner metaphor – not only was Cyrus trapped by his family quite literally in the life; he was a prisoner of their name and their crimes as well and died by them despite his wholly honest desire to be free of it and make his own life normal.
The tribute to Charlie was a beautiful send off, with the boys preparing the pyre and standing over the fire against flashbacks of their memories with Charlie. This was a great way to incorporate the tribute to the character and an appropriate beginning after last week’s heart-wrenching end, without pulling any focus by over dramatizing. One thing Supernatural does well – even when we don’t like it – is main character death and goodbye. You know the episode will be an intense one when there are tears less than five minutes in.
Of course, Sam starts to say a few words and when he gets to the apology, it triggers a rage-filled Dean to say a few of his own. Now, given where these boys are emotionally and taking into account the Mark of Cain, I believe what was said to be both shocking and more MoC than anything. Dean and Sam were both so opposite emotionally as they stood over Charlie here: Sam had his emotions on his face – sorrow, guilt, pain, loss. Dean was pure, slow burning rage. Both Jared and Jensen did an exceptional job in this exchange – Jensen in particular with the neutral, contained fury. As always, these two never disappoint when it comes to the emotional, dramatic encounters.
Well, well – I will admit this twist I didn’t anticipate, not sure how I feel about it but am seriously glad to see Crowley in his true and powerful glory. For a very long time, I expected somehow Crowley and Sam would arrange something to make Rowena think Sam’s end of the bargain was held up – after all, once Crowley learned of his mother’s betrayal – surely he’d want vengeance, etc. no?
And while I much prefer when Crowley is working with the boys in some roundabout way (cause he’s just so much damn fun!) watching him dig out that bullet, go Crossroad Demon red-eyes, which we haven’t seen in ages, and light up that hex bag was exceptional fun too. Except for Sam. So, there is still the unpulled thread about Rowena’s ex-demonic lover for Crowley to tug and now he’s all shark. It presents an interesting dynamic for the finals for sure.
The interaction with Sam and Crowley was an intrigue to watch. For Sam, he was pacing like a caged animal – and truly he is a prisoner of his circumstances. There is a domino chain in effect that has to fall exactly so or Dean is going to be lost to him. The anxiety he was feeling made me want to tug on my hair as a viewer – waiting for something to happen, anything, because he needs it over. Sam must have felt like he was watching the little hourglass on the computer or the spinning “loading” symbol on a dial-up connection. It makes you antsy, doesn’t it? So, yeah, Sam unloaded a bit and included all the rage he felt about Crowley’s hand in Dean having the Mark of Cain. Ultimately, everything happening now can be traced back to the demon who lay dying in front of him – revenge feels good doesn’t it?
Of course Crowley was bidding time. And letting Sam talk, unknowingly encouraging a darker Crowley and confirming what Rowena had said about the Winchesters earlier in time – Crowley’s their bitch. Hey, he came when “Dean called”, got shot in the back for it and nearly killed. Umm….awkward.
As to Rowena, she didn’t offer much this episode other than to put Sam in Crowley’s path and get Crowley back on the crooked and evil path with a bit more oompf. As a character, she’s more valuable to Crowley’s storyline when the two don’t interact. Still, if she refuses to translate the book until her son is dead – where does this leave us?
Saving each other – it’s kind of their thing, isn’t it? Castiel does say something like this to Sam later in the episode about Dean, but earlier one line Sam said to Dean while arguing his perspective caught my attention, a bit due to the irony of the statement given where they were: “You’re all I have.” The interesting thing is that in the “Then” flashback we hear Dean and Bobby referencing family being about more than bloodlines and presently we have Charlie’s body burning after she died for them – having just seen a memory of her saying she loved them. And in the end we have Castiel’s speech to Dean – which I’ll discuss in a moment – about the people Dean loves, including himself in the list. The interesting point is, when Sam and Dean started out it may have been true they only had each other but it’s no longer absolutely the case. And in pursuance of protecting this “only have each other” false reality, they can develop a tunnel vision that inadvertently costs them other people who love them (and whom they love equally) – like Charlie.
Poor Sammy – the guy just needs a hug at this point. After receiving the email from Charlie and confirming with Rowena it was in fact the needed translation, you could see the struggle within as Sam decides again to pursue the Book angle of the Mark and persuades Castiel to keep with him on this path. Frankly at this point, do they have any options otherwise? When Dean tells him it should be him burning on the pyre rather than Charlie and that he’s going to get blood vengeance on every Styne member – well, you can appreciate how easy it is for Sam to decide to keep chasing the Book of the Damned cure by this point. Any glimmer of hope in the storm.
Similarly, his desperate frustration was easily exploited by Rowena – though she ended up putting herself in Crowley’s crosshairs in doing so. Now, while Sam did shoot Crowley with the Devil’s Trap bullet and use the hex bag – why didn’t he just stab him or exorcise him? What exactly was the purpose of that hex bag? Perhaps I missed something or have forgotten some previous canon along the way that explained that. It seemed wasteful and a clear opportunity for escape.
By the end, you can feel the frustration coming off in waves: Dean is getting worse, Charlie is dead, Rowena has the right material but is holding Sam hostage with it, Crowley is gone completely evil again and time is ticking away. The last we see of Sam he’s getting the bad news of Dean’s blood and body trail at the Styne mansion in Louisiana before racing back towards the Bunker. Truly, it’s a bad day for Sam that’s about to get much worse when he hears Cas’ story and sees the carnage.
Here’s the thing about anger, it has a few levels. The loud, raging level has its element of scary and it can come out at quick, emotional times or with a snap of frustration. But the truly frightening anger is cold, calm and calculating. It is unreadable, emotionless and has an icy, measured burn. This was the anger Dean delivered to each and every member of the Styne family with careful and calculated precision.
Consider the moment Dean escapes custody at the jailhouse – the easy way he slides the pen cup off the desk and then he snatches the officer and flips him to the floor with ease. At this point, there is some of original Dean present – later when he gives an extra smack for hurting the Impala – but by the time Dean escapes from the Styne’s chop shop, he is totally cold. This was another greatly executed moment – it was unexpected, at least where I sat, that Dean snapped the wrist cuff and slaughtered everyone the way he did. Unexpected and incredible.
The best scenes, by far, all take place in the bunker. First, Dean’s encounter with Eldon: as he was previously, Eldon is all ego and makes the mistake of adopting braggart position by offering to share details of how he killed Charlie. This is the clearest indication of how cold Dean is – there is no physical reaction, besides saying her name. The very best line here comes from Dean and then Eldon is dead:
“Your old man’s dead. They’re all dead. So you can save me the speech on the three hearts. The two spleens. The seven nipples, for the ladies. Or the fellas. I don’t judge. But even with all that, you still only have one brain.”
Dean wasn’t interested in a fight, or talking or anything from Eldon – he just wanted to kill him. Plain and simple. Single bullet in the single brain. Dean then turns to the boy – poor, young Cyrus. Despite his pleas and insistence that he’s different – that Dean “doesn’t have to kill him” the Mark clearly takes precedent when Dean responds “Yeah, I do” and delivers another kill shot. All I can think by this point is what the hell will Dean think when he looks back on himself after he’s cured? Well, that and HOLY GOD! This was a hell of a twist. Truly I expected Cyrus to live – someway, somehow, I thought that sweet kid was walking away to his new life in L.A. But this is the penultimate season finale – I should know better.
By this point, Dean looks atrocious. He is pale, covered in blood and his eyes, if you’ll forgive the pun, are dead. When Castiel enters and asks what Dean has done, he responds that he killed the monsters because that’s “what I do” – it’s a mission statement with focused delivery not unlike that with which Cain pursued wiping out his own evil bloodline last he and Dean met. Castiel’s appeal to Dean is very compelling, arguing that he is the one who will be around in centuries to come to watch him succumb completely to the Mark and he just can’t do that; that is why he helped Sam.
The two engage an intense fight – and honestly I was holding my breath pretty intensely in that last moment – until Dean stabs the book and not Castiel, who looks not dissimilar to the way Dean looked when he fought Lucifer-possessed Sam in Swan Song or when Cas was controlled by Heaven: really chewed up (though a bit less swollen). Cas is left lying on the floor in the mess that is now the Bunker to Dean walking away telling him and Sam to stay away from him. The “or else” very much unspoken.
Jensen presented this incarnation of Dean with superb delivery: it was intense, unsettling and disconcerting – Dean yet so very much not Dean. Last we saw Dean possessed by the Mark – full-fledged demon – he was sociopathic fun: amused without a moral compass. Now, he’s all extreme morals and completely unamused. And it’s is just going to get more intense.
Odds and Ends
Through the entire episode, I can’t help finding parallels to the Yellow-Eyes mission when the boys first set out on the road. First and foremost is the revenge drive: that is how this whole saga jumped off after all. Now here we are again with Dean out for blood for Charlie’s murder. Aside from that: the kill shot that took out Eldon, much like Azazel was a between-the-eyes headshot. And it all seems very appropriate: it was a beloved female family member, butchered protecting the boys much like Mary – whom we even saw briefly in an old family photo on the “burn” pile as the “hot mom.”
Speaking of the burning pile – was I the only one on pins and needles until that match went out when Eldon and Cyrus were pouring gas over everything valuable to Sam and Dean in the bunker? I really didn’t expect things to be destroyed, after all the Winchesters need their batcave, but you just never know at this point!
Excellent episode all around. Tearful sendoff to Charlie at the start and dramatic lead-in to next week by the end. The plot threads that had been left loose to this point seem to be converging nicely and every key player has been brought back to the Mark of Cain game board for next week’s finally with a decent role – even Crowley, though his is more tenuous because it has to do with desire for revenge on Rowena as opposed to anything else. The episode finally utilized the Stynes properly and ended them too – they were strong villains, so appropriate to illustrate Dean’s increased strength by having him execute the entire clan. Overall, exceptional set up for what promises to be a hell of a finale.