The Morning After
Shocking. That’s the word that comes to mind to describe Supernatural’s "The Scar". I had not been spoiled about Yadira Guevera-Prip’s return as Kaia, so our first glimpse of her in Castiel’s mind sweep of Dean prompted a mouth gaping, sudden inhaling, gasp of shock. That was only nine minutes into the episode! The tension didn’t let up from there. My entire body stiffened when Jack’s teenage delirium pushed him to within feet of the bunker’s door, thinking that running away would solve his problems. Dean’s over-the-top hostility and strain maintained the uneasy atmosphere of impending doom in the episode, until the tension was shattered by the crack of Jody’s arm being broken and her cries of agony. Anyone else cringe and yell out “Not again!”? Then, just to twist the knife a little deeper, Jack starts coughing up blood. “Now what??” was all I could say as my headache set in and I collapsed back from the edge of the seat on which I had been perched.
“The Scar” was an exciting hour of Supernatural, continuing its 14th season’s opening trifecta. Once again, character development and relationships were the centerpiece of the story’s engagement. Nuances in Jensen, Jared, Misha, Kim, Alex and Yadira’s acting were captivating. During the episode, I tweeted that I wondered if someone who didn’t know these characters as well as we do would be able to sense the depth of the unspoken story being told - the long history of archangel possessions that enables us to understand Dean’s denial of his internal terror; Sam’s sensitivity and experience with his brother’s coping mechanisms; Jody’s tender, motherly connection to “her boys”.
This episode would have been significantly cheapened if Robert Berens narrated those subtleties for newer viewers. Instead, he respected the intimate connection Supernatural’s fans have with Sam and Dean, and let us feel the story rather than be told the story. Smart choice given the talent of this cast. That’s not to say there weren’t some puzzling leaps in the storyline, but if one accepted that those seem to be becoming the norm and just “hung on for the ride” as we were advised to do earlier this year, the fight sequences and fast pacing filled in the blanks between emotional moments – or visa-versa depending on your perspective.
Dean’s return was ostensibly the main theme of this episode. Dean’s back, in all his brooding, guns-blazing, stoic glory. Predictably, and completely understandably, Dean bottled up his feelings about being possessed.
Castiel: Why would Michael just give up his vessel like that?
Sam: I don't know.
Cas: And Why was Michael helping monsters?
Sam: Cass, truth is we don't know anything.
Dean pushed himself and others forward into a case at break-neck pace to avoid facing, or even thinking, about what had happened to him.
Sam: This isn't a joke. Something huge happened, and you won't really even talk about it. But this whole Michael thing, we need to deal with it.
Dean: Okay, I'm literally going 80 to deal with it. How can I be running from something when I'm racing towards it?
Sam: I don't know. - Kind of your thing. Okay, look, I'm just saying, you said you let Michael in, then, bang, you're back in a blink. But for me you were gone for weeks. I didn't know if you were alive. I just need you to talk to me, to slow down so I can catch up.
This was a brilliant moment between the brothers. Sam told Dean what those anxious weeks were like back at the bunker, being left behind waiting and wondering if he would ever see his brother again. Sam recognized and communicated what he needs to deal with their most recent separation, rather than trying to force Dean to deal with the trauma before he’s ready. Even though Dean is back physically, Sam is still alone and isolated, waiting for his brother to return to him:
Sam: He's working something out. And he's working it out alone. Only thing I know -- He's not ready for this case.
Jody: Maybe. Maybe he needs it.
Interestingly, it was DarkKaia who called Dean out on his avoidance behavior:
Kaia: You're much weaker.
Dean: Maybe. But you're still scared.
Kaia: Not of you. Of them -- the monsters he sends after me. Every time I slow down, there's more. There's always more. You're no different than him -- threats, violence, anything to get what you want.
Dean: I am nothing like him.
DarkKaia: Yeah, you are. You always have been.[…] I know where it comes from -- your anger, your impatience. It's fear. You're scared. And you're weak. Michael hurt you. He hurt me, too.
Since the beginning, Dean has been more than Michael’s perfect physical vessel. Gabriel pointed out many years ago that Dean and Michael were made from the same mold - the older brothers, the soldiers, the fighters, who felt they were responsible for keeping their younger, rebellious brothers in line. Kaia’s words struck home for Dean. She said what he was thinking – that he and Michael are alike. As it was, Dean was already blaming himself for Michael’s actions:
Dean: I put us all in danger today. Stupid danger. You were right. I didn't want to look at it, what Michael used me for. I just wanted to race ahead, you know, skip to the end of the story, the part where I get the weapon and I take out the bad guy -- the part where I kill Michael. You know, I said yes to him because I thought… It was stupid. I was stupid.
Sam: Dean you did what you had to do.
Dean: And it wasn't a blink, being possessed. I made it sound like that, but it wasn't. I don't remember most of what Michael did with me because I was underwater, drowning [Water Thread from last year], and that I remember. I felt every second of it -- clawing, fighting for air. I thought I could make it out, but I -- I I couldn't. I wasn't strong enough. And now he's gone and he's out there putting an army of monsters together and he's hurting people. And it's all on me, man. I said yes. It's my fault.
Shouldering guilt is a Winchester trait. Yes, Dean’s invitation saved Michael’s life when he was vulnerable, defeated and could have been killed. Dean’s decision ended up dealing down the level of monster threat facing the world, though. How quickly he has forgotten that Lucifer, another archangel, was supercharged with Nephilim grace, and was intent on destroying the universe. Michael was THE only thing that stopped Lucifer. So now the world has to deal with a megalomaniac who’s building an army of monsters, but at least the world is still around to deal with anything at all. If Dean hadn’t said yes to Michael, Lucifer would have destroyed everything. At least now they are only chasing down a mere archangel instead of an indestructible, insane, amped-up archangel. Dean’s decision was impulsive but that doesn’t mean it was wrong. Why can’t these guys see the good that they do! Do you think Michael's rampage is Dean's fault?
Dean’s guilt is partially fueled by his fear that he isn’t good, strong or smart enough to overcome the evil he has to battle. DarkKaia’s psychological assessment of Dean insightfully included that he was acting as he was because he was afraid. Dean reflexively accused DarkKaia of being afraid too. To her credit, she admitted she was, but of monsters not of him. All of the discussions of fear highlighted that DarkKaia’s battles are external whereas Dean’s are with himself. Yes, Dean must eventually face Michael but first he has to again accept and forgive himself for being only human. Jody summed up her own fears in a way that reflects back onto Dean:
Jody: Raising three Hunters and fearing every day that I might lose one of them. Didn't really even get a chance to know Kaia before she Di-- I just feel like I already lost before I ever even began.
Dean has to conquer his fear of his own weaknesses or he’ll lose before the battle with Michael even begins.
Disguises and Weak/Strong
Michael: I didn't come here to fight. Not if I don't have to. This face you know, but I'm just borrowing it. We haven't met. But I've sensed you ever since I came to this world. You're like me. You bleed new energy. So does that.
Threaded throughout “The Scar” was the idea of someone taking on another person’s identity, looking like them but not being them. Dean had to repeatedly affirm that he was no longer Michael to Sam, Cas, Jack, the random hunter in the bunker, Kaia and Jody. Michael in turn had to explain to DarkKaia that he was not Dean. Sam, Jody and Dean had to come to terms with DarkKaia looking like but not being Kaia.
Both DarkKaia and Dean are half of a two-sided coin but they occupy opposite positions: Bad Place Kaia is the ‘dark’ side of her twin sister; Dean is the ‘good’ side of his universal match up. DarkKaia knew everything that happened to Kaia; Dean is struggling to remember what he did and saw as Michael.
Part of this duality of characters was categorizing who was weak and who was strong. Twice Dean was called weak by DarkKaia, and he himself said he “wasn’t strong enough” to break free of Michael. Michael has the superior strength of the two and was able to stifle Dean’s existence. Dean was thus categorized as the victim who must now fight his way back to dominance. In contrast, DarkKaia, “must’ve been strong” to hurt Michael, so she entered the plot from a position of strength.
Dean: Yeah, I don't know how I got it.
Cas: Well, what could hurt Michael like that?
Sam: Whatever it was, must've been strong.
The witch’s storyline even reinforced the usurper theme. The old witch stole the appearance and strength of three young girls in order to sustain herself. This was essentially the same transference of life force that Michael stole from Dean when Michael was saved from death by possessing Dean. The weak are overpowered, willingly or not, and their appearance and strength are infused into another. Even Jack feels weak without his powers and is struggling to feel useful again. Dean insulted Jack’s strength by saying he was “barely 100 pounds soaking wet” (a phrase that used both the numbers and the water threads). Is Jack’s “weakness” now manifesting itself in bloody tissues?
Say What Now?
Jack coughing up blood was the cliffhanger shock of the episode. Why would he be so sick? I’m reminded of Sam coughing up blood when the trials changed him on a cellular level. The spikes of supernatural power he received every time he completed a trial weren’t compatible with his human body. Did Dean ever cough up blood in the advanced stages of his Mark of Cain sickness? Could this be the corollary? Does Jack’s Nephilim body need his supernatural power in order to survive? On the surface, that doesn’t make sense. If that were the case, you would think all the angels would have died when they lost all their angel grace. Soulless, that’s the only source of life energy they had. Jack has a soul, so wouldn’t losing his angelic half just make him human? Perhaps the human side of him differentiates him from the angels. Maybe his human side can’t simply downgrade to 100% human; maybe its survival is linked to the other 50% of his life force.
Alternately, do you think he is sick because of the witch’s spell? Did he absorb something when he broke the talisman, like Harry, Ron or Hermione absorbed Voldemort’s evil when they held or broke his horcruxes? This season is writing the book on Nephilim canon, so anything is possible I guess. His sickness came out of nowhere, without any foreshadowing or subtle hints that something was wrong. Another sudden twist in the last scene that seems so far to be season 14’s modus operandi. What are your theories on Jack’s illness?
While we're considering if the talisman made him sick, what do you think of him instead of Cas realizing the talisman could save Laura? It made sense at first because Laura told him all about the witch's Dorian Gray comment and that the witch gave the girls "nice things" like the necklace. Didn't Castiel hear that conversation too, though?
Lastly, let’s talk about Dark Kaia. For the record, I love Yadira as Kaia. After Kim and Briana, I think Yadira was the strongest member of the Wayward crowd. She did an exceptional job in the mid-season 13 finale, “The Bad Place”, and I’m thrilled to have her back in the cast. She is a witty, expressive, strong actor who holds her own against the giant talents on that set. Her physical agility and impressive fighting skills add immensely to her presence. Did you see that sweeping kill of two werewolves?? She even impressed Dean! Kaia’s character is mysterious and strong. Far from being a non-white, teenaged, female token, she adds genuine diversity, depth and intrigue to the story. I hope she develops into a worthy myth arc.
Having said all that, I was astonished they brought her back. Yes, this acknowledges the obvious set up of Dark Kaia staring at the open rift, so chalk one up for plot continuity. The Bad Place was such a colossal misstep in the storyline, though, a great deal of my shock when she was first revealed as causing “the scar” was surprise that the writers didn’t want to sweep away the whole dinosaur foot print in one grand, it-never-happened memory wipe. Instead, the entire Wayward Sister debacle jumped through the rift (or however she mysteriously arrived) with Kaia, following her like a shadow demon that no one sees but everyone senses.
It’s hard to judge the impact of Wayward Sisters on Supernatural as a series. The fandom is sharply divided on this topic: the #Wayward fans who mourn the loss of the pilot concept’s potential, and “Thank Chuck that’s over so we can get back to normal” fans who resented every minute of screen time that was stolen from Sam and Dean. Although I count myself in the first group, I personally felt embarrassed for the show when I first saw DarkKaia again. The fandom was sorely disrupted at splintering the show into a spin-off. You’re reminding us of that gross miscalculation of having Claire be Dean and placing them in the Land of the Lost? Really? Somehow, and at this point I don’t know how, but somehow I have to mentally and emotionally separate DarkKaia from her origin story. I dearly want to see this character interacting with Sam, Dean, Jack and Jody. I want to see her face off with Michael again, part of the Team Free Will family that’s growing and uniting in the fight against evil. I want to see more of her youth, her martial arts, her strong will and her sassy comebacks. I welcome and embrace the wayward movement, so I can only hope that Kaia’s reintroduction signals a new direction for her character rather than a redux of a “bad place” we’ve left behind. Her "magical spear" is a mighty convenient plot development, too, again with no foreshadowing that I can recall. I'm guessing we'll get a one line explanation about the energy of alternate universes (akin to dark matter?). Go with the flow?
Cas about Nick: He was in a dark place.
It’s started again! References to The Empty were sewn throughout season 13 in mentions of darkness, blackness and sleeping. It’s great to have my old friends back again to resume feeding the Empty Entity theories of possession or subterfuge.
Time/Numbers and Smart/Stupid
Again this episode, numbers and times plus references to smart versus stupid were included in several conversations. I highlighted examples in the quotes above. Listen for others, as the subliminal urgency of the Winchesters’ situation permeates season 14.
I loved the emotion, the tension and the action in “The Scar”. I welcome DarkKaia and think she has as much potential as Jack when he joined the family. I’m intrigued that she and her spear “bleed new energy” and are weapons that Michael fears. I love that Dean is conflicted and that we’ll see him and Sam unravel Dean’s trauma over the course of several weeks.
I am comfortable that Dean is himself, but was surprised by his reunion with his family, who all seemed naively trusting that he wasn’t a ticking time bomb (as naively as they trusted Nick).
There also were no desperate embraces of joy or relief, but perhaps those would have punctured the aura of defensiveness and toughness he has projected around himself.
Again, this episode raised as many questions as it answered. As Sam said,
We still have no idea why Michael let you go or where he is now or what he wants... Truth is, we don't know anything.
Also, NOW we don't know what’s happening to Jack, or how DarkKaia will fit into all of this. Was it right of them to let DarkKaia leave with her spear?
"The Scar" characters repeatedly admitted that they are frantically racing, running, rushing forward, and that they fear dire consequences if they slow down. I now feel like Dean, recklessly racing down the road at 80 mph toward a battle with Michael without having any idea of what’s ahead or if I’m prepared to deal with it. One thing's for sure: with all the unexpected twists in the road, there certainly isn't a road map for this hunt! Maybe that's the point?
Cas: Get to Sioux Falls before the trail goes cold, and I'll catch up when I'm done.
Or as Sam stated for all of us:
Sam: Slow down so I can catch up!
What are your theories and thoughts on Dean, Michael, Jack and Kaia? You know the story as well (or better) than I do, so let’s dig in and figure this all out!
Transcript Quotes Courtesy of: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=supernatural&episode=s14e03
Additional screencaps courtesy of: homeofthenutty.com. At the time of publication, pictures of DarkKaia were not yet available.
Need to catch up on past Threads reviews? You can find them and all of Nightsky's articles on The WFB Writer's Page!
Note: Due to a family conflict, I won't be writing a Threads review for Supernatural's Halloween episode next week. Instead, we will publish a Halloween Special Feature of SPNFamily's Halloween decorations and costumes on Nov. 1! Watch for it!