Symmetry is a powerful tool when relating opposite events and in cases like these, the potential armageddon or apocalypse. Back in season 5, It was Sam, under the control of Lucifer who pounded and beat Dean, the last person that could stave the end of the world. Now, in season 10, it is Dean who is beating Sam in the effort to save the world from ending, yet the emotions play out in similar fashion. Under brilliant moments, the tale as a whole has the weight, but the sheer speed it took us to get to this season’s cliffhanger sacrificed some of the necessary impact on the second half by bloating the first half with a rather redundant plot.
What stylistically worked was the rigid and crumbling personality of Dean throughout the start of the episode. His hungover awakening sold the status of his decaying mold, yet later on he’s relatively calm as a cucumber except when it came to having any feelings toward anyone at all. While I don’t feel this was an accurate picture of the mark of Cain mythos, he was fairly consistent with the attitude he was showing and even if it weren’t for the mark, Dean would probably say a few of the same things in regards to the vampire murder. As a whole, there were times I applauded the depth of field certain characters showed including a very frustrated Sam, but the shocker moments and overall reveal of the next big evil fell very flat in my view.
After Dean recovers from solitude and drinking, he attempts to solve a vampire murder case that also involves a kidnapping. Sam renegotiates with Rowena and has Castiel fend for the unique ingredients needed to remove the mark from Dean. Castiel engages Crowley for help and he uncharacteristically agrees when he learns the third ingredient is someone the spell castor loves. Crowley finds and brings Oscar, an immortal who’s family once helped and cared for Rowena hundreds of years ago. After the unfortunate death of a fellow hunter, Dean saves the kidnapped girl but decides he’s finished with the mark’s hold. He summons Death and wants to be killed, but Death explains that Dean can’t die and the mark is a lock keeping an ancient primordial evil called “The Darkness” at bay. Realizing what’s at stake, he calls Sam and the two meet. Dean reveals that he intends to live forever in solitude with the mark but has to kill Sam because his brother will never stop at getting rid of the mark. The two fight and Sam finally gives in, giving Dean his family pictures to remember and hopefully return to good someday. Dean, unable to kill Sam, slews Death with the reaper’s scythe and seemingly kills Death. Meanwhile, Rowena completes the spell even after sacrificing Oscar the immortal she loved. The spell works and Dean’s mark is removed. Rowena then departs with the book and codecs as she casts a spell that puts Castiel in a murderous frenzy as he tries to eliminate Crowley. In the final scene, spears of light strike around Sam and Dean’s location and furious pillars of smoke emerge all converging into a huge wave of smoke that engulfs the Impala with Sam and Dean in it.
I’ll have to pepper the good with the bad in this episode as it felt far from perfect, but had very much the potential to be exceedingly epic. Dean’s spiral started off great, but then it reverted back into sarcastic careless Dean who resembled more of his demon visage than that of a hungry killer. There seemed to be some inconsistency with the demon aspect and being immortal as Death told Dean he couldn’t die. From my perspective earlier on, it was established that if Dean died he’d revert to demon Dean again, or possibly that was the perception but only Death knew the absolute truth. In any case, Dean was mostly in control of his persona but lacked the empathy to save Rudy which was one of his tipping points in summoning Death.
And then there was Death. In the grand scheme of pure awesome characters, Death was the pinnacle of suave and sincere. Yet, in his final scenes, this was a very different Death as he spoke of a war that predated the physical universe. He had urgency in his mannerisms and in the end, he handed Dean the one weapon that could effectively kill him. And Dean slew Death, reaper of souls. This just doesn’t add up in any real way. I get the idea that Death’s weapon can kill him, but it was literally brought on screen two minutes before it was used, so the impact there was barely resonating. Not to mention, actually killing Death was positively the worst thing to do. If it weren’t for Death saying he could kill Sam if Dean didn’t, I doubt Dean would have specifically cut into Death. Now they have nobody to explain what The Darkness is and what it will manifest into, even though it’s fairly obvious they are the primordial demons before humans became them. I don’t want to believe that this was Death’s final episode, but I get that they need to sell the validity of these new villains, yet why take out Death in this matter. In his first episode he had a presence that told the watcher, he was forever and beyond the realm of Earth and God. Now he gets eliminated as easy as this? And what’s the repercussion of losing Death to Death? It just felt entirely too off.
Rowena did her best to sell the idea that she loved the child that grew into Seth/Oscar but it was very difficult to buy into. If anything, it seemed like she was faking the emotion just to throw Crowley off, yet she did the deed and performed the spell as intended. Which also begged the question, did she immediately do another spell to free herself and why didn’t she just do that to begin with? She might have even been able to save Oscar with other potent spells now that she’s rooted in the book’s power. The good news is she’s still around to be a threat and it’s the smart move to have her continue on the show. Crowley was also rather indifferent after his revelation from Sam’s inability to kill him. This didn’t feel like the Crowley that was ready to revel in the demonic role he was born for. Instead Crowley played the docile sarcastic wit he’s always been and not a darker shade of himself from evil’s past.
It was almost comical that they introduced a hunter we barely heard about then killed him like that would in some way matter as much or more than Charlie’s death. What would have had more impact was if that was Garth on the receiving end, but since Garth is happy as a werewolf, that wouldn’t have translated as well here. The vampire subplot really did take precious time away from the finale at hand, and I would have easily traded those minutes for more screen time with Death or an extra few dozen punches from Dean to Sam just to sell the importance of the scene like they did in season 05.
And finally, there’s The Darkness itself. I read Top Cow’s “The Darkness” so it’s very amusing to see this entity(s) get introduced with the same basic background and lineage. While I’m interested in the shape these Darklings will be taking, I also feel this came dangerously close repeating the start of season 7 when the Leviathans were introduced. It borders on paralleling so much in fact that I’m just hoping The Darkness characters don’t wear suits and work on fattening humanity up to eat them. If The Darkness was a powerful force that the archangels couldn’t really stop, they should be able to make Earth a pin cushion in no time. Too bad there are no archangels left. If only Gabriel’s cameo was really him before.
Everything with Death up until that strange kill scene. Though off, he still had the presence he’s known for. His love of certain foods followed him which is an endearing trait, but most of all, he was the oldest character retelling events that essentially shaped time and space itself. Any character that gets to reminisce on such things has to command the screen when they’re there, and he did so brilliantly, even if it did kind of shadow the aspect of the Death persona into a character that actually cared that something beyond Death was locked away for fear of what they would unleash in the universe.
Go Sam Winchester. He showed some heart tonight and delivered a clutch performance from beginning to end. His snippet with training a gun on Rowena was somewhat lackluster, but his performance outside of that was golden all around. His words to Dean were nearly as poetic and striking as Dean’s were to Sam when Lucifer nearly beat him to death. There were interesting similarities, but each brother fell to an object that brought them back to reality.
Thank you very much for keeping Metatron out of the finale. That’s one expectation I had and they followed through with it. Now his access to a demon tablet could be handy especially if it relates anything to The Darkness.
I’m certain Death would have been just as happy with Chicago style pizza. And too bad the scythe wasn’t left behind. That would have been handy against The Darkness. And I don’t believe for a second that Death is truly gone.
The Darkness smoke could have been more layered in otherworldly effects unless the goal was to showcase them as similar to demon smoke as possible. Could that mean they have the same limitations on Earth as demons do?
Nice little throw there with “Seth” as Oscar’s alias. It had no bearing on the mark of Cain, but there were some quick nods to the lore and that’s always cool to see.
Nice try but the last scene with bloody-eyed Castiel about to kill Crowley isn’t even close to believable. Neither character will expire, but whether Castiel’s condition is long-term or not remains to be seen. I’m sure he’ll be right as rain by the premiere.
8 out of 10. Very solid work by the brothers and Death. Rowena and Crowley were great supporting characters and the cliffhanger did stir up the franchise by introducing the literal beings that transcended the light. Seeing them in human form will probably not be as impressive. The main plot was engaging aside from the vampire segments. I nitpick that the intro should have had the normal start to Kansas’s beloved Carry on My Wayward Son,” but the sentiment was just as well received. Season 11 will carry forth the next chapter to Sam and Dean as two humans who now must battle the literal first beings of evil. This could force some interesting groups of allies especially if the Earth crumbles around them. Until next season, thank you for reading.
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