I gotta say, if "Brother's Keeper" did one thing (and trust me, it did many things), it gave us enough possibilities to keep us all happily speculating and theorizing for the next five months (yes, October is that far away). Far more possibilities have been raised than last year and I was freaking out this time last year. The whole can of mythological worms was opened, and between this and all the alternate dimension time travel dynamics I've had to absorb with "The Flash" finale, my mind is already blown.
Every character was on their A game and no wonder, because you won't get a better writer than the Carver. He is the man and gave us a chunk to take in. The direction and visual effects were stunning too, but do you expect any less from director Phil Sgriccia and Mark Maloche's VFX team? They brought their best, that's for sure. When given good stuff the actors really shine too, and Jensen, Jared, Misha, and Mark just killed it. The best outing from the whole ensemble we've had in a long time.
I wouldn't say the episode was perfect though. The first 15 minutes were a bit slow for me, save the first scene with Sam and Castiel. The rest of the episode more than made up for it though. But enough rhetoric, let's just jump to the burning questions.
I don't believe for a second that Death is dead. Death is a pretty smart dude and knows Dean Winchester all too well. He even acknowledged to Dean that he keeps getting burned by the Winchesters. Heck, I think that Death is grooming Dean to be the next him. While else would be put Dean through all these tests every time he sees him? There is no way Death would be dumb enough to bring the one scythe that would kill him and put it in Dean's hands. He had to know Dean would never kill Sam. In "In My Time of Dying" Tessa said that reapers can create illusions. If anyone can do that, it's the big guy. Death is technically a God and definitely a horseman, and we already know you can't kill a horseman. The other horsemen didn't die either. They just went off into obscurity.
Let's pretend though that Dean did indeed strike the final blow, if anything for amusement. What happens now when people die? Or can they? If "Supernatural" is willing to go there more power to them, but they have a lot to answer to by killing Death. I just don't see them going there.
What I want to know is why would Death have Dean kill Sam and not do the deed himself? There are three reasons I can think of off the top of my head: 1) Plot contrivance because it makes better drama, 2) Because Death is testing Dean for some unknown reason and Dean either passed or failed that test or 3) Because if Dean killed Sam, the Cain and Abel prophecy would be fulfilled and Dean's time on this earth would truly be done. It was the unspoken technicality to him going off to his new life.
Dismissing number one (only because this is Carver here - Ross-Leming and Buckner would have made that answer a yes), I'm inclined to go with number two. Death needs the Winchesters to clean up messes. Remember "Appointment in Samarra?" Remember how Dean had to be Death for a day before saving Sam? Death wanted him to find out what was happening to the souls as well as teach him a lesson. Or how about Death helping out Sam and Dean with that eclipse in "Meet the New Boss"? He warned them about the Leviathan (aka fight them). How about letting Sam go in "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here?" Because Sam and Dean needed each other to fight corruption from the Mark of Cain (alright, I might be stretching with that one). And now, essentially letting Dean choose whether or not to let The Darkness out? Death could have easily grabbed Dean, zapped Sam and that would have been the end of it. It seems that whenever some terrible, evil force is about to infiltrate the earth, Death is turning to his go to guys and needs to be sure they're up for it together. Sure, he has a very strange way of going about it, but he's Death! Nothing is simple with the number one grim reaper. He gets bored.
I do see why Death would want Sam dead though. It became obvious in the very beginning scene. Sam made it clear that Dean was the only priority. He was dismissing any other warnings because no one was saying for sure what would happen. I suppose once you save the world from the Apocalypse, taking on other ramifications might seem like a cake walk. Castiel was leery of consequences, but followed Sam's lead anyway. So the big question of the episode (and really the whole season) is raised in the very opening. Who is the real evil?
I know Nightsky raised this whole issue in far greater detail in her article, and it's going to be something open to debate for a while, but my take on it is ultimately, this is the Winchester Gospel. It's the story of what happens when two brothers refuse to give up on one other. There are a lot of consequences, a lot of ramifications, a lot of upsetting the natural order. Some good comes out of it, but so does some bad.
The whole confrontation in the Mexican restaurant gave us some hiatus fodder for discussion, but ultimately Dean said those things to break Sam's spirit and resolve. He was determined to get Sam to stop fighting and let go. Was Dean judging Sam by pointing out that not giving up in his brother was causing more harm that good? No more than he was judging that young dead girl he called a whore. It was the Mark of Cain, the corruption of evil inside. Just like a demon, that evil inside Dean exploited character flaws in an attempt to trigger the guilt and self loathing inside. After all, it's something Dean's foes have used on him quite a bit.
Sam though, he could see through it. Does he feel lousy about all that he's done? I'm sure he does. I'm really hoping that next season he does address his role in unleashing The Darkness on the earth. But he isn't the only one to blame. Dean is to blame by taking on the Mark of Cain in the first place and not knowing the true burden he was accepting. Castiel is to blame for not stopping Rowena despite his reservations. Crowley is to blame for helping with the plan. I'm certain Crowley had a far better idea of what could happen by removing the MOC than anyone. That's why I'm hoping we don't get any "you broke the world" guilt trips against Sam next season, especially from Dean. If the writers revert to that type of drama to kill time, I'm truly giving up on this show. Or I'll just severely blast them in a review. :)
This is season ten and by now I'm usually desensitized by everything this show throws at me. But tears were streaming my face when Sam was on his knees crying, putting his fate in big brother's hands. He was ready to die believing that Dean wasn't evil and would find his way back. Carver was clearly going for the parallels with "Swan Song" when Sam pulled out the pictures to remind Dean of his humanity, just as the army men toys in the Impala did for Sam back in the season five closer. I especially lost it when Sam wouldn't close his eyes, despite Dean telling him to do so a few times, looking at his brother with teary despair. Dammit, this show still knows where to hit me hard.
I honestly believed that Dean would kill Sam and I wasn't buy his greater good talk at all. I figured Dean was corrupted enough where he would. I credit the show for building up to that over the season, constantly raising that doubt, especially when Dean did try to kill Sam in episode three. Cain's talk of Dean's evil prophecy helped too. I also have a lack of faith in this writing team where they would go there for the sake of shock value. But the fact Carver didn't was so much better an outcome and consistent with the theme of this show. I'm very, very glad they didn't go there.
Yes, we got some cliffhangers, but I think everyone will come through it. Crowley and Castiel will overcome their twisted situation. Sam, Dean and baby will survive the blast wave and then it's time to clean up the mess. This is where I get very concerned. The whole idea of unleashing The Darkness, the first evil, on the earth seems like a very ambitious plot to me. That's more biblical end of the world mythology than we've ever seen before. The problem is, are they going to follow through? I feel burned by all the angels falling to earth and nothing coming of it, or Demon Dean with the Mark of Cain being set loose on the world and that going out with a big whimper. What's to say that The Darkness won't end up like The Leviathan, living quietly among us and creating havoc slowly through food additives?
This is a low budget sci-fi show that only likes to address the big plots about six episodes a year. Unless these writers commit to following through the entire season, taking their leads from seasons four and five, I fear that season eleven will turn out to be yet another wasted opportunity. But for now I'll have this one to cling onto. The episode had all the goodness I expect from a season closer. Heck, I just fell in love with watching an engrossing, fluid story, something that I didn't see in last week's "The Prisoner." But I'm one that actually loves Jeremy Carver's scripts. The dialogue is always superior, the attention to detail is top notch, the stories are well constructed and he makes me cry. I still remain his bitch. Thank you sir.
Other Random Thoughts
Nice job of opening the show with the "Fan Fiction" version of "Carry on Wayward Son" before going onto the Kansas version. A very nice touch given it was closing season ten.
Glad to meet you Rudy. Sorry you’re dead within the first 15 minutes. Thanks for playing.
“Not my literal heart, feathers.” Ha! I LOVE that nickname for Castiel. I shall be using that quite a bit now. Anyone have a t-shirt of Castiel with "Feathers" on it yet?
Dean’s bluff with Rudy mirrors Soulless Sam letting the girl die in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Nice.
Castiel and Crowley MUST have a lot of adventures together in season 11. Think of it, Heaven and Hell working together to fight a common enemy. They've always been so good together I've been disappointed that they've been separate all season. That scene where Castiel summoned Crowley was priceless. “Who summons me anymore. Can’t you call?” “You’re not on my contacts list.” Bwah! That is so Castiel.
Interesting the reveal that the Mark of Cain is what corrupted Lucifer and caused him to fall. The Darkness still found it's way to earth through him if you think about it. Maybe The Darkness is really evil that has long corrupted the earth? Now it's just in greater force? You think that maybe this will bring a return of the archangels? Gabriel at least? Please?
“Brother, I’m done.” Meep!
“A long, long a time ago there was an evil bitch, I mean witch.” Oh, how I've so missed the great Crowley lines this year.
“And there was that time you stood me up.” Ooh, bitter much Death?
Here's a snippet of that Sam and Dean conversation, just in case you need a good sucker punch to the gut:
Dean: Evil tracks us, and it nukes everything in our vicinity. Our family, our friends, it’s time we put a proper name to what we really are and we deal with it.
Sam: Wait a second, we are not evil. Listen, we’re far from perfect, be we are good. That thing on your arm is evil, but not you. Not me.
Dean: I let Rudy die. How is that not evil? I know what I am Sam. But who are you when you drove that man to sell you soul, or when you bullied Charlie into getting herself killed. And to what end? A good end, a just end? To remove the Mark no matter what the consequences, Sam, how is that not evil? I have this thing on my arm and you’re willing to let the darkness into the world.
Sam: You’re also willing to summon Death to make sure you could never do any more harm. You summoned me because you knew I would do anything to protect you. That’s not evil Dean. That’s not an evil man, that is a good man trying to be heard, searching for some other way.
Dean: No, there’s no other way Sam. I’m sorry.
Yeah, I'm not sure why Sam threw the first punch either other than Carver decided that Sam never throws the first punch, so why not? And yes, these Sam lines are just gold:
"You'll never, ever hear me say that you - the real you - is anything but good. But you're right, before you hurt anyone else, you have to be stopped at any cost. I understand. Do it."
"Wait, take these. One day, when you find your way back, let these as your guide. They can help your remember what it was to be good, what it was to love."
Overall grade for this finale, an A. As I said, not the greatest finale, but as far as this very uneven season ten goes, "Brother's Keeper" easily one of the greatest. Time to spend five months over-speculating what we saw and what's to come! Good times for an SPN fan.