Did you hear the train whistle as Dean entered the “Too Tired” motel and again when the car pulled up to the hairdressing salon? Does that symbolize impending doom as the weight and force of the engine barrels down the track? That background sound has been in so many episodes this season.
The poor teddy bear! I was so hoping it wasn’t going to animate and give me nightmares for weeks. There are way too many teddy bears in my house for me to suddenly fear them (I still haven’t gotten over Dr. Who’s angels!).
Besides the old-fashioned scare, “Love Hurts” advanced the season’s myth arc and included a few unmistakable underlying themes. Let’s start with the one that surprised me the most.
I really thought the season 11 witchcraft theme might have died off with Rowena. Its return implies that a spell will be needed or used to rebind the Darkness and deal once and for all with the Mark of Cain curse that has plagued Dean for 2 years.
Mrs. Parker: She called herself a ‘white witch’.
Dean: Let me guess. She gave you a spell.
Mrs Parker: Yes, a return to love spell. All I had to do was chant it and seal it with a kiss.
Sam first found Rowena’s name in his research because she created a powerful spell from scratch and was the only one to ever use it. This positioned her as a creative, original master of the dark arts who could ‘home cook’ new spells. It is therefore intriguing that the witchcraft used in this case was also custom brewed.
Sam: As far as I can tell, there is no lore. My best guess is this was the white witch's home cooking.For the past few years, the brothers have repeatedly discussed that there isn’t any lore concerning the Mark of Cain or the Darkness, and that the only information about the cage or Lucifer is in The Book of the Damned. Resurrecting spell work in the mythology suggests that Rowena may yet be useful. If her soul is reanimated as a demon, she might be able to use her knowledge of the Book of the Damned to write a new spell that would bind Lucifer and/ or Amara. The implication is deepened with the reminder that she ‘loved’ Lucifer, but he betrayed her love. Instead of the tender kiss she thought she was receiving as a reward for her loyalty, his ‘kiss’ killed her. The hairdresser’s rant about stupid women and unfaithful men deserving to die could have been an entry in Rowena's diary, entitled "Loving the Wrong Man". For Rowena, love truly did hurt.
Dean: You have to keep paying it forward. If you don’t you die.
Sam: Melissa, this curse started with you. And I think it wants to end with you.
The witch’s curse was also a veiled reminder of the Mark of Cain. Death once told Dean that the bearers can release themselves from the MoC’s power and eternal damnation by passing the curse forward to someone else. Dean refused to burden anyone else with its bloodlust, choosing instead to banish himself forever. Sam’s further explanation to Melissa that it “started with you and wants to end with you” could equally be applied to Dean and the Darkness. Like Amara, this curse could change appearance. As Sam later reminded Dean, Amara saw Dean first, and for whatever reason, it wants him above all others. Her new life began with Dean and she is singularly obsessed with having him love her, or in metaphorical terms, stealing his heart. It seems that the only way out for Dean is to pass the curse forward to someone else.
Was that Dean's red DemonDean shirt, the one he wore when the Mark of Cain had complete control over him?
Heroes and Hostages
Dean kissed Melissa in an instinctive move to exchange himself for the one who was in danger, the hostage of the curse. Dean’s continuing need to sacrifice himself didn’t go unnoticed by Sam:
Sam: Wait a second. Are you serious? You think it's a-a good idea to give yourself a fatal curse?
Dean: Well, target's off her back, ain't it?
Sam: I'm just saying you don't have to do this -- be the guinea pig. The martyr. Try and carry the weight by yourself -- do this.
Dean: I'm gonna be fine, okay? And as long as I'm good, she's good, and that's the important thing. Besides, it proved our theory, didn't it -- that this whole "kiss of death" curse is transmittable? I'm not asking for the Nobel here, but, uh, you know, thank you.
Ironic that Dean yet again gave himself a fatal curse! His heroic move to save Melissa added to the season’s repeated examples where victims were saved by substituting a new hostage. Happily, the replacement hostages have been able to talk or fight their way out of the stand-off, either redeeming or killing the threat in the process. That is a hopeful foreshadowing that some kind of substitution will save Castiel from Lucifer, and Dean from Amara.
Love vs Lore
Dean’s deepest, darkest desire was Amara.
Sam: Does that surprise you?
Dean: It doesn’t surprise you?
Like Sam, the audience was well aware of Dean’s obsession with Amara. What was a very welcome surprise was that Dean confessed his feelings to Sam. Their conversation was mature and honest. Hallelujah! Qareen said she could see inside Dean’s heart and it was cloaked in shame.
Sam released Dean from this shame, though, with the forgiving, compassionate, non-judgmental recognition that sometimes humans have limitations, especially against the power of gods. Understanding a problem is the first step in solving it. The brothers are now working together again to combat Amara.
Knowing their weakness, they can plan and adapt to anticipated vulnerabilities. As a true strategist, Dean told Sam that he wasn’t going to be effective against Amara. He acknowledged that he is powerless in her presence, even though he can’t explain it as love or desire. This predicament will climax the theme of love being at odds with hunting. Again, it suggested that love will make Dean weaker as a hunter, even though time and time again it is the love of family that has gotten him through dire situations, and proven that they are stronger together.
That doesn't mean that we won't worry for the next 10 episodes, though.
Did you see other symbolism in this week’s case? Were there more layers to uncover? Let’s figure this out together!
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