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curled around these images
just enough to make us dangerous
9.11 ep reaction / review 
24th-Jan-2014 12:33 am
Jared blah blah hair
This may be the longest reaction/review I've ever written. It's far too long and I really should shorten it but there seems to be so much to say. It's a mix of reaction and an attempt to understand some things that were going on.



Sacrifice, love, family, friendship, betrayal, choice, loyalty, redemption, forgiveness, revenge, pain, purpose, awareness, stupidity and stubbornness. I'm sure I've missed a few but wow, this show is dealing with a lot of stuff.

I am rather blown away by the continued intensity and epicness of the issues this season. On the surface I felt this episode really delivered. A new myth arc is revealed (of which Dean seems to be the centre of) and more questions are opened up. Digging a little deeper I felt there were a few problems in the ep - but ultimately it didn't diminish my thorough enjoyment of it.

The story:

I suppose the show was always heading toward a Dean and Sam / Cain and Abel story line. They flirted with it in an earlier episode (5.13) stating that Sam and Dean are direct descendants of these biblical brothers (though wouldn't everyone be descendants in some way? ::not thinking too hard about that one::). It's a curous place to insert this new story direction. The angel possession issue still hangs over the brothers' heads, the fallen angels are still a major issue and the fight for leadership in Hell still rages. Clearly this isn't quite enough for the brothers to deal with so Dean is given the Mark of Cain which I imagine will be tied into the season finale somehow. Personally, I think this is pretty exciting. Sure they probably should stick to one problem at a time, but (if handled well) the mix could prove to be really interesting. I'm hesitant to speculate where they might be heading with this but I see some major angst heading into the season finale. ;) (Though man, can Dean take any more life consuming "burdens"? Surely he (and Sam!) have had their fill.

The characters

Dean

It's hard to know where to even start with Dean this season. I'm inclined to say it's been a messy journey (much like Sam's last season), but I actually think it's becoming clearer as the season progressed. I know some won't agree with this (seeing some comments throughout the season that Dean's only job is to get thrown around), but right from his highly questionable decision to let an angel possess Sam in the first episode he's been heading to the very moment he accepted the Mark of Cain. He needed to be full of enough self hatred that receiving it was unquestioned. He didn't care about the "burden" Cain mentioned. He's so full of revenge and low self worth that he just doesn't care. I know we've been here before with Dean (season five in particular), but I have no problem revisiting this (Carver seems to want to revisit many of the deeper character issues presented to us in earlier seasons). It's got a slightly different twist to the last time (less alcohol involved for instance) and I think this is probably a Dean who has even more self loathing that he's ever done before.

But this is the thing that struck me the most:

I posted this on tumblr earlier

This Dean reminded me SO MUCH of season 5's "future" (2014) Dean. There was a constant steely, murderous intent that Dean carried throughout the episode. I love the way Jensen maintained that. I have no idea if it was his (their) intention to mirror "future" Dean, but I rather loved it. I honestly don't think we are heading toward that particular version of the future (though I might just love it if they did!), but I rather love that they may be hinting at it.

Dean and Crowley

Jensen seems to create a very strong chemistry with whomever he plays opposite (particularly with male characters). As questionable as this partnership was it was fun to watch - there was definitely a level of energy between the two of them. I am so much happier with this version of Crowley than previous ones. He's much more conniving and mysterious. It's hard to know just how "bad" he is. Being turned into a human at the end of the last season casts doubt over his level of evilness. I think the dialogue between Dean and Crowley was some of the best in the episode.

Dean and Cain

The chemistry was there again between Dean and Cain. There was a simmering danger and wariness between them. I actually felt Dean's "bravery" (though some might call it stubbornness or stupidity) as he kept hounding Cain. Dean sure seemed to have a death wish (again, much like the Dean we saw in S5 just before he said yes to Michael).

The actor playing Cain was perfect. He gave it the gravitas the character needed (I haven't actually seen this actor before. Clearly I have been living under a rock). He was fabulous to watch.

One of my absolute favourite moments in the episode was that little scene of Cain's POV (by his wife's grave). We didn't really need that scene, but it brought a wonderful quality to the whole episode. The character was well developed (for such a relatively brief appearance). He's no doubt been introduced as a mirror to both Sam and Dean (in terms of sacrifice, choice, doing the "wrong thing for the right reasons" etc) and it will be interesting to see just how many of his past actions will be reflected in Sam and Dean's. Will Dean be put in a position of having to kill his own brother in order to "save" him? Will he perhaps pick up where he left off in Hell and be (finally) confronted with the choices he's made in the past? Will he make a better choice than Cain did? We'll have to wait and see.

Sam and Castiel

Oh boy! This one's a tough one to discuss because I both loved and disliked it at the same time. I'm not sure how that is possible but there it is.

I have been longing to have some Sam and Cas interaction in FOREVER so I was thrilled that we finally got that. On the surface I enjoyed it. The banter was fun and any chance to see some Sam pain is going to grab my attention. I appreciated the attempt at giving us something between them (thank you Robbie!) but I can't for the life of me figure out what we actually got. I watched the episode a second time simply to try and figure out why the scenes between them existed (other than needing to have Sam and Cas on the screen).

It could be just to see them bond - perhaps share their common experiences (which I know many of us have been begging for). But why? I'm not entirely sure what was achieved by the end. I don't think Sam felt any better for the experience (though maybe he did?) and all Cas seemed to do was express his better "understanding" of Sam - which is nice and all that but I wonder how that is going to help him in the future? Maybe he'll have to explain something to Dean about Sam later on that will help Dean. I suppose time will tell why that was important (I know that sounds callous but because it didn't feel organic (more forced) I feel like there had to be a deeper reason for why Robbie felt that we needed to see a whole episode of Sam and Cas bonding (other than fan service). Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to see it but I'd like if there was a reason for it all.

It could have been about finding Gadreel. But that was a bust. So nothing was achieved there. Unless of course Cas DOES know where Gadreel is and didn't tell Sam? Which doesn't actually make a lot of sense to me because after all the touchy feely talk nothing will have truly been changed for Cas if he's deceiving Sam. I felt he genuinely acknowledged his humaness (in a very clunky way) so turning around and lying to Sam would have meant that was all for nothing. He even asks Sam to join him in his search for Metatron so I don't think there was any deception there.

It was most likely about us seeing Sam's state of mind and seeing Cas's his new angel self. I thought it was disappointing that Cas had to tell us how he's changed rather than us actually seeing it. I know we got to see him make a decision to stop torturing Sam but I did think we'd get to see his new understanding of humans gradually as the season progress. Instead we were mostly told how he's changed (though other than psycho power hungry Cas I never got the sense that he didn't feel for humans. And I'm sure he's understands guilt from what we saw in S7 and S8).

Mostly I just felt it was a little forced and actually awkward at times. As much as it was nice to get the hug I can't figure out what compelled Sam to hug Cas (and expect a hug in return). Was it because Cas told him his life meant something? Was he missing Dean maybe? Cas reached out to him so maybe he's simply grateful for that. Maybe he was just thankful for being completely healed.

That's all very very nitpicky. I didn't hate it and in fact loved that it probably goes some way to balance out the constant Dean and Cas scenes we get.

Sam

Oh Sam. Aside from the clunkiness of some of the Cas and Sam scenes I actually liked a lot of what Jared was doing with Sam. It bordered a little on self pity, but I think he reigned it in enough to see that it was more about his continued belief that he's not worthy to either save or live. I'm a little confused by Sam's return to feeling like this though because we've often seen Sam acknowledge that there are some things that happen that are out of his control. Cas telling Sam that they've both screwed up in the past jarred me a little because it made it seem like Sam has screwed up this time. Of all the times Sam may have screwed up (and S4 is the only major Sam screw up that comes to mind) this is the LEAST of the Sam screw ups. I don't get why he'd be feeling responsible for Kevin's death. He accepted what Soulless!Sam did quicker than what his body was made to do with an angel inside him.

But. It's also very Sam. *slaps him upside the head*. I would like to think that he's continuing to feel like this because he not only failed to complete the trials (at Dean's begging), but that his brother felt that he didn't have the strength to be told the truth about the angel possession (didn't trust him with it etc). Sam seems to have picked up from where he left off at the end of S8. He feels that he has let down his brother and learning that Dean didn't trust him enough to make a choice about his own life, is now feeling even worse. He's angry (I did get that sense when Cas mentioned Dean) but he's also on a mission of revenge (these boys and revenge) and (*sigh*) redemption.

It also matches with what we saw in Sam's head when he was prepared to die. Sam accepts his fate. He accepts pain and whatever it takes to make things right. It's both sad and incredibly admirable.

Dean leaving Sam at this time is a pretty bad move actually. I'd say Sam needs some reassurance from Dean that he's not a screw up. But Dean's clearly got other priorities at the moment so maybe Sam will have to work it out for himself.

I will say though that I'm not seeing a weakened Sam in these last 2 episodes. Sure he's suffering but he kicked ARSE when he booted out Gadreel in the last ep and he took on that pain LIKE A BOSS in this ep. I have no idea what they plan to do with his story line. I am reserving judgment until we get a clearer picture. I now have a clearer idea of what I'd like to see though. But I'll be patient...

Awesome moments

The fight scene with Dean and the demons was pretty awesome (and annoying - see below)

Tara was awesome (until she wasn't - see below). She's actually one of the few women I see on the show that I can actually picture Dean with. Dean is often paired with brunette, rather demur women but I think older, gutsy women are more his match. That's totally personal of course (and I'm seriously hoping someone might write some Dean/Tara).

Sam enduring the pain for what he perceived was a greater good was both incredibly painful but also a lot of what I love about Sam. He, like Dean, is ridiculously stubborn (or brave, depending how you look at it). I might not (yet) understand what they're doing with Sam's story but I like seeing this determined, driven and kickass nature of his.

Cain and bees and corn. Good call.

Cas and sandwiches. Just something about that.

Sam and Cas poring over books and researching together. <3

Both Sam and Dean saying (something like) "we'll find it". Even though the other isn't there they refer to themselves as "we". So much love for that. <3

And even though the boys weren't together in this episode it felt like they connected in their struggles
.
Annoyances

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY DEMONS FIGHT WITH THEIR FISTS! I mean I know it makes for some great action (thank you) but with a wave of their hand they can pin a human to a wall. Or have I missed something? Maybe only certain demons can do that? We've seen both and I'm confused what they can and can't do.

Such shame Robbie couldn't find a better way for Tara to be killed by that demon (I really wish she hadn't been killed because I would have LOVED to have seen more of her) - but the gun shot on the Devil's trap (and failure to re-make it) was seriously weak and not worthy of the character they set up for her.

Needle in the neck. Not so much an annoyance but a WHAAAAA! That was cringe worthy! The pain must have been there for a reason. Sam suffering must be important somehow (or maybe they just like Sam in extreme pain).

I'm not sure why Dean's attention shifted so quickly from hunting Gadreel to teaming up with Crowley to hunt for the first blade. I'm assuming he had no leads on Gad so this was the next best thing (I get it in terms of the story telling but after last week it seems Dean was hell bent of finding Gadreel).

So did Cas take ALL Gadreel's grace? All that was so messy. Cas stopped extracting the grace because his humanness took over and he couldn't continue to hurt Sam and yet it was suggested that all the grace was gone anyway. And then Sam was reverting to his pre-possessed state and then Cas healed him fully. Why didn't Cas do that earlier? Could Cas only do that when all the grace was gone? Ack! it hurts my brain. Probably something I shouldn't be thinking so hard about. I don't think I'll ever fully understand what was going on in the Cas and Sam scenes.


Did you make it this far? GOLD STAR for you! (Or rather, Sam is a clinging t-shirt for you!). If you didn't wade through all that blather I'm still keen to hear your thoughts.

Despite my niggles I really did love that episode. I voted "4" in my poll. Thanks to those who also voted. I LOVED knowing what you all thought - it was nice to see that the majority was 5/4. :)



(For super spoilerphobes - there's a small character spoiler in the first comment..;D)
Comments 
24th-Jan-2014 11:45 am (UTC)
The thing is, so far they have done absolutely nothing to make me think that Sam DOES need to get Dean, and they've done a great deal to convince me that Sam needs to stay the fuck away from Dean as long as Dean stands by what he did to Sam. Yes, both their searches will go better if they pool their resources, but no one, absolutely no one should be in partnership with someone who demonstrably will not, in principle or practice, respect the autonomy of their body and their mind. Until Dean owns that he was wrong and at least expresses the intention of trying to change on the matter of the roofies and noncon possession, Sam should absolutely not be working with him, for his own most basic safety, because if push comes to shove Dean can't be trusted to respect Sam's most fundamental boundaries of personhood or even to acknowledge that he ought to try to do so. It's not a question of whether Sam should forgive what Dean has done -- Sam is in the position Dean would have been in at the start of s5 if Sam had informed him that he was planning to go right on drinking blood and beating Dean up. Dean's not just someone who has done something profoundly evil to Sam, he's someone who is still insisting that he gets to do it, that it's not "in him" to do otherwise. As long as that's Dean's stand on the matter, the idea of Sam continuing in partnership with him is literally nauseating to me.


25th-Jan-2014 02:47 am (UTC)
I'm still trying to muddle my way through how to say what I think of this season. Yeah, I agree with your comment.  I should have written that that's how I think they'll write it in terms of the show.  I was trying to write what I thought Cas was doing there so I was thinking from those terms, not from Sam's point of view.  Sounds like I write for the show.  They'll come up with a reason for Sam to need to find Dean even if it will only be to save Dean from himself.  I'm not real confident they'll ever really address the non-con mess that Sam's life has been.  Sam hasn't been allowed to have his own bodily autonomy since he was 6 months old.  I don't really think the show cares.  They had him going to try to call Cas even while he was dealing with the effects of Cas knocking his wall down.  Sam has always gotten a lot of flack for leaving but it was a self-defensive move that made a lot of sense.  But he keeps going back or is pulled back against his will and that's driven a lot of the plot since the beginning.  It's his half of this twisted waltz he does with Dean.

I think I keep wishing we were somewhere back at the end of S5 where there actually had been some growth on Dean's part toward letting Sam make his own choices.  I think I'm in denial about what's going on now because I'm doing some form of grieving.  Before, whenever Dean was being an ass, there were still bits of him that I loved.  I feel like the Dean that I cared about is lost to me at this point and I'm struggling to care about this version.  Even when Sam was on demon blood and headed for a personal train wreck, I still was able to find things to like about him and wanted to see where his journey took him.  I worried about him.  I still care about what happens to Dean but only in terms of being curious about where they're going with this plot. I don't feel emotionally connected to him like I did.  I think I'm hanging on because of who he used to be and hoping against hope that the show will give me a Dean I can care for again.  I have a tendency toward hanging on much longer than I should, which seems to be the show's theme song.  I hope this makes some sense and actually says what I'm intending.  I'm finding this to be really frustrating.
25th-Jan-2014 02:58 am (UTC)
I wrote out some of my thoughts in an LJ entry today in maybe more temperate form, and you might enjoy maraceles's comment to that entry: she put some Dean stuff in ways I hadn't thought of that made a lot of sense.

Sam reaching out to Cas in 7.1 is something that works for me, both as a moment where Sam's capacity for forgiveness is a genuinely good thing (Sam, who had once tended to be passive about his moral agency and hoped that if angels existed it might mean he could be saved, ends up using his experience of making a huge mess by his own choices and turning it around to have faith that he could maybe save an angel) and as a moment that, I think, shows that that capacity is also a coping mechanism, and not an entirely beneficial one. Sam wants to deal with hurt by doing something about it: turning to vengeance, running away, treating it as atonement, forgiving it and moving on. Some of those responses are obviously a heck of a lot better than others, and forgiving is on the good end, but I still feel like Sam's control issues are also at play. He's not willing to stay there in the hurt and process it and go through natural stages, he wants to do something with it now, at once. He has a hard time settling down patiently and working through stuff.
25th-Jan-2014 03:22 am (UTC)
Great points about Sam and Cas. I think the point about not being able to work through stuff, either through avoidance or running from the latest calamity is a large piece of the problem for both Sam and Dean, plus the fact that they rarely talk with each other honestly and when they do, one of them ignores it because they don't want to hear it. Am off to read your post....
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