In part two, things really unravel for poor Dean now that he has the Mark of Cain, which seems like a chicken scratch for a bit of the second half until he gets to touch the First Blade. It’s the great fall of Dean Winchester, and it all plays out like a Greek tragedy.
(For those that missed part one, I suggest checking that out first).
In my Deeper Look at Sam Winchester, I pretty much roasted the writer for Sam finding out Dean had the Mark of Cain and reacted like Dean had a small scratch. Then it was forgotten until episodes later when Dean started acting strange (go figure). So here I wonder, why the hell didn’t Dean at least Google the Mark of Cain after taking it on? Buyer’s remorse? He didn’t want to find out how screwed he was? There are many that debate that Dean couldn’t have been so distraught after one episode that he takes on the MOC, but I’m okay with that. The visual of Kevin’s death was pretty jarring. Also, many don’t want to flirt with that buyer’s remorse, so I assume Dean put it off until later when he realized s*** wasn’t right.
There’s something I don’t get in Sam and Dean’s prickly reunion at the hospital. Why is Dean not happy to see Sam? I get Sam’s reaction, but why was Dean so agitated? He should have been happy to see that Sam was at least healed and back out doing cases. I know, it’s the whole “I’m poison” crap that’s still lingering in his head. Good thing it doesn’t stick when Sam calls him out on it later.
I digress though, because “Sharp Teeth” is a mess all the way around, so to dwell on what I thought was Dean OOC would be pointless. I will say though, I did like his final parting with Garth. He was supportive, even though he was ready to kill Garth earlier (I’m not sure what changed his mind, but there you go). He did with Garth what he did with Castiel in “Heaven Can’t Wait,” he supported the idea of him having a normal life, even if he was a werewolf now which is hardly normal. He even initiated the hug this time! Oh Dean, you’re such a softie.
Any goodwill I had for this episode blew apart with the “token” brotherly chat though. I mean, what happened in “Sharp Teeth” that caused Dean to go from, “I told you we can't hunt together, it's for your own good,” to accepting Sam’s terms of a partnership that’s strictly business? I honestly don’t know how he got from point A to point B. It doesn’t seem far fetched knowing the history of this show that he misses and wants to be with his brother, but we didn’t see anything on screen in this episode to show how and why he decided that hunting together was now okay. Maybe the hug from Garth squeezed some magic mojo into him or something? The smell of Sam’s musk? At this point any theory wins because the Lycanthrope story taught us nothing.
We don't...see things the same way anymore -- our roles in this whole thing. Back in that church, talking me out of boarding up hell? Or -- or tricking me into letting Gadreel possess me? I can't trust you -- not the way I thought I could, not the way I should be able to.
Sam did raise an issue though in his speech to Dean that is relevant to Dean’s deteriorating psyche. These brothers have never really seen eye to eye, but there has been a certain sense of harmony that’s broken right now. Dean thinks just a few more W’s on the board will get them back to where they were but Sam is way to hurt right now to consider that. This really hurts, because relationships mean everything to Dean. He craves the family dynamic, with not only Sam but his closest friends as well, and without it he becomes vulnerable, isolated and self-loathing. Sam values honesty and trust though more than family, thus the comment, “You say that like it’s some sort of cure-all, like it can change the fact that everything that has ever gone wrong between us has been because we’re family.” Yes Sam, but it’s also the reason everything’s gone right too. I really wish Dean had come back with that.
Dean is back at the MOL bunker, and he’s already starting to fray. Is it the MOC or just plain depression? Who knows, but this is our Dean of the week (hey, it was worse with Sam). He does at least admit he was researching the Mark of Cain online, among other things. We get a hint of what Dean is feeling when Sam asks if he’s upset about what he said about not being brothers. He was being honest. Dean got that, and he may be playing it cool, but he’s not okay with it. No one is punishing Dean more than himself right now and Sam is only making it worse.
I do appreciate how there are laughs in this, because this ends up raising a very serious issue for Dean. He values relationships. He doesn’t need “chick flick” moments, but loyalty and appreciation is a must have on his list. So how is Dean supposed to take this conversation?
Dean: About what you said the other day.
Sam: I thought it didn't bother you.
Dean: You know, Sam, I saved your hide back there. And I saved your hide at that church... And the hospital. I may not think things all the way through. Okay? But what I do, I do because it's the right thing. I'd do it again.
Sam: And that... is the problem. You think you're my savior, my brother, the hero. You swoop in, and even when you mess up, you think what you're doing is worth it because you've convinced yourself you're doing more good than bad... But you're not. I mean, Kevin's dead, Crowley's in the wind. We're no closer to beating this angel thing. Please tell me, what is the upside of me being alive?
Dean: You kidding me? You and me, fighting the good fight together.
Sam: Okay. Just once, be honest with me. You didn't save me for me. You did it for you.
Dean: What are you talkin' about?
Sam: I was ready to die. I was ready. I should have died, but you... You didn't want to be alone, and that's what all this boils down to. You can't stand the thought of being alone.
Dean: All right.
Sam: I'll give you this much. You are certainly willing to do the sacrificing as long as you're not the one being hurt.
Dean: All right, you want to be honest? If the situation were reversed and I was dying, you'd do the same thing.
Sam: No, Dean. I wouldn't. Same circumstances...I wouldn't. I'm gonna get to bed.
And then, we get this face…
Well, if anything, this proves one point from “Sharp Teeth.” These brothers definitely aren’t on the same page. They’re not remotely in the same chapter. Dean is in survival mode, do what it takes to fight. It’s the same mentality he’s had the entire series. Sam has moved on from that. Some things aren’t worth fighting for, like being normal. Dean didn’t get why Sam was angry, so yes, the brutal truth hurts, but sometimes the brutal truth is the only way to get a point across.
Sam is so angry right now (understandably) he doesn’t (or can’t) see things from Dean’s POV. Dean believes he deserves a bit of gratitude, or at least a show of respect. Everything Sam said is far from respectful. It essentially scolded Dean for loving his family too much. Remember how wounded Dean was after Sam’s words in “Sex and Violence” in the beginning of “Death Takes a Holiday?” He takes such comments personally, no matter what the circumstances. I’m not sure what human being wouldn’t in this case. The question is, what is Sam truly saying? He wouldn’t try to save Dean’s life, or he just wouldn’t have under the same circumstances? I took it to mean just under the same circumstances, but Dean took it to mean that his brother wouldn’t have his back. Heck, maybe Dean has no idea what it means since Sam ends up acting so erratically through the rest of the season (something he calls Sam out on once or twice I might note). One thing is clear about these words, Dean took them to be an emotional blow and that is a major contributor to Dean falling into darkness.
Kevin, I'm sorry. You did not choose this life. You busted your ass, you lost everything, everyone you've loved... And your reward? Getting killed... On my watch. If I... It was on me. It was my fault, and... And there's nothing I can do to make that right. I am so sorry.
The guilt over losing Kevin is really eating Dean up. While I loved seeing Dean take this opportunity to say what’s been weighing him down, but I also love Kevin’s reaction, which essentially tells Dean to stop the pity party.
“No, this is not happening. Didn’t spend months struggling to break through the veil just to get stuck listening to Dean Winchester having a self-pity session. Didn’t hear enough of those when I was alive.”
Hee, a Dean Winchester smackdown from the veil. This time, Dean didn’t mind one bit. Anyway, our takeaway from this comes yet again from the closing scene.
Can you two... Get over it? Dudes, just 'cause you couldn't see me doesn't mean I couldn't see you. The drama, the fighting... It's stupid. My mom's taking home a ghost. You two... You're both still here.
Dean is willing to chat, but Sam disappears to his room. He may have hesitated before going in, but Dean didn’t see that. This time though Dean isn’t wallowing in pity. He’s pissed. He’s tired of Sam acting like a child. Right now, angry is not what Dean needs to be. It’s another turning point.
I don't know, man. 'Cause lately with you, up is down and down is sideways, you know? I-I -- I don't know what you want.
Dean expresses frustration right off the bat with Sam. He has a damned good right to. Obviously he’s not too far gone, because he takes time to be sentimental with Sam, recalling when they were kids pretending to be Superman and Batman (a broken arm, a trip to the ER on Dean’s handlebars, and a lesson that Batman can’t fly). Dean isn’t seeing that Sam is starting to thaw a bit though, or if he is, it’s not enough. Sam is still pushing away.
But it’s this episode we get the first clear cut sign that the brutality within is starting to take hold of Dean. He struggles with Roger the villain, a human, over the knife but gains control, slowly pushing that knife into him until he dies. His expression through that long kill is cold, calculated and without remorse. Dean was killing a human, not a monster. Sam realizes something may not be right. So, he does nothing. In parallel, Harry killed the other deputy bad guy and is very disturbed by that. It’s a contrast meant to show how Dean is taking a turn, and it’s about to get worse.
Here it is, the BIG moment. Dean touches the First Blade for the very first time. Yep, a pretty explosive reaction. Dean definitely didn’t see it coming and it plain freaked Sam out. No doubt, combined with the MOC there is an overwhelming power flowing through Dean that he won’t be able to control. Sam got through this time, but what happens next time?
I should note, it’s pretty good to have an episode where there’s not a mention of the brotherly strife. Dean and Sam start carrying on status quo and it seems to be working. Which is an interesting question, would Dean have fallen to the Mark of Cain if Sam wasn’t around to talk him down? Is his anger and frustration over Sam shutting him out emotionally making his need to kill worse or the same? We never really get a good answer on that, but it’s certainly implied to be the case.
Mother’s Little Helper
Now the wheels are starting to fall off the wagon. Dean won’t go with Sam on a case. Sure the guise is he must find Abaddon, but Crowley hit the mark pretty early. Dean’s little encounter with the First Blade spooked him and spooked him good. He enjoyed the power, he enjoyed how easy it was to kill. Yes, a parallel with Sam and the demon powers of season four. But Dean knows there’s a lot of evil behind that power. Now he’s questioning what he’s done, and what the MOC is making him. And he doesn’t like it one bit.
What’s really sad is only Crowley sees it, and as we learned from his little scenario with the other demon he was only there to test Dean and his readiness (or his loyalty to him or something, I’m not really sure). Sam guesses that’s something’s up, but he’s still in “just business” mode keeping his emotional distance. Judging by how much Dean was pounding down the whiskey and beer in this ep, he needed more than that. Not that a brotherly chat would have necessarily saved him, because once the wheels are in motion, it’s hard to come to a full stop. But just saying, he needed one. At least he was keeping in touch with Sam by phone regarding the case for sanity’s sake.
So what did we learn from this? Dean is leaning on the King of Hell to get through this and not his brother. That’s bad news, and that’s so season four in reverse.
Oh man, Dean kills me in this one! Any hope of him maintaining control is slipping away. First, the angsty shower of angst! The way he shoves away the water rolling down, the gaze in the mirror, something inside him is changing. Whatever’s got a hold of him is very unsettling and he’s having trouble fighting it. His mood is darker, he’s clearly troubled, and Sam notices but takes the “I’m fine.” Except “FINE” is an acronym for “F***ed up, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” Never accept that word Sam!
Dean and Sam capture Gadreel, but Dean sends Sam away to find Castiel. He tells Sam he’s too out of control, but clearly Dean has powerful urges and wants a piece of Gadreel. He chooses to go to dark places to get there. He doesn’t want Sam to see this side of him, probably because in part Sam will try to stop him, but mostly he’s still going on the notion that this is his fight and his fight alone. Sending Sam away is the only option. Of course conversations like this only fuel Dean’s internal justification that he has to do this alone.
Gadreel: I have been in your brother's body, Dean. He would not trade his life for yours.
Dean: Well, thanks for the rerun, pal. Sam's already told me all that crap. Hell, he's told me worse.
Gadreel: He told you that he has always felt that way, that he thinks you are just a scared little boy who's afraid to be on his own because daddy never loved him enough? And he is right, isn't he? Right to think you are a coward, a sad, clingy, needy...
Dean (punching Gadreel): Keep it up!
Gadreel: Pathetic bottom-feeder who cannot even take care of himself, who would rather drag everyone through the mud than be alone, who would let everyone around him die!
Gadreel was using that whole speech as an act of intimidation, but if there was any way to push Dean’s buttons, this how to do it. The trouble is, Dean believes he’s correct. It fits with what Sam said in his speech in “The Purge.” To question whether Sam really feels that way strays from the point of this article, but if Dean believes it and no wonder he’s ready to take on the world on his own. He feels isolated, lonely, abandoned by everyone including his brother, and he’s teetering on a dark edge right now. To hear words like this when Sam keeping his emotional distance, all while his internal well being is falling apart, its a lot for one man to bear.
Oh, and Castiel finally finds out about the MOC. He knows this isn’t good, but leaves it at Dean’s comment , “It’s a means to an end.” The question is, whose end? This is the foreshadowing that Dean is being setup for a fall. Yes, my primal screaming flares up again when all Castiel does is tell Sam to keep an eye on him. Um, could you elaborate a bit more on that Castiel? Maybe give a little warning about what’s really happening here? The ignorance of both Sam and Castiel regarding Dean is just mind numbing. It’s so obvious Dean’s not okay.
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Dean manages to reel it in a bit this week, but he’s still embracing his dark side and that killer within. Now killing is kind of natural, and possibly a bit fun. It’s the cold, brutal killer that’s always been inside of him, but the one that’s been held at bay by his relationship with his brother. Sam was always his moral compass, his reality check. Both Sam and the MOC are releasing that inhibition, and it’s frightening. Sam again notices there’s a problem, but isn’t doing anything to stop Dean yet other than saying something then dropping it. Yep, message received and virtually ignored. Whatever is stirring inside of Dean is mushrooming now and it’s going to be impossible to stop.
Also, to reinforce what Gadreel drilled in his head last week, Dean is definitely believing now that Sam won’t try to save him. It’s obvious when he unhooks a barely conscious Sam from the tubes draining his blood.
Yeah, I know, you wouldn’t have done the same for me.
Ouch! Bitter much Dean?
Honestly, I wish Dean did go First Blade crazy on all this lot. No such luck though. Useless filler.
King of the Damned
I kind of named this one “Dean vs. the Obligatory Kill.” I mean, it was a bit too easy to off Abaddon, wasn’t it? Of course, I see the point of that now. By him believing that these powers were making him invincible and he was able to do all this alone, that set him up with delusions of grandeur for the big showdown with Metatron. So I dismiss any reservations regarding how Abaddon ended up being kind of useless. It’s like Sam defeating Lilith so easily and then realizing Lucifer was right behind that. It’s a parallel, sort of.
What bothers me is Sam is still not fully aware of what his brother is becoming, and Dean is continuing to keep his brother in the dark. Dean once again sent Sam away so he could do his kill alone. He also refuses to listen to Sam’s advice to put the First Blade into safe keeping. The power of the blade has clearly hooked Dean now and he can’t shake it any longer.
Stairway to Heaven
Honestly, do I have to cover this one? I swear the episode just went out of its way to make Dean look like a dick. Since when does someone who’s spiraling into darkness equate to having to be a total jerk to everyone, including his best friend and brother? By taking that approach, suddenly you don’t feel sympathy for Dean. You are waiting for someone like Sam to cold cock him because the asshole had it coming. It’s piss poor writing and doesn’t serve this arc well at all. I hated this episode for many, many reasons, but I guess our takeaway is the new target is Metatron, Dean is off the rails and Castiel and Sam must do something about it now. Finally!
Do You Believe in Miracles?
Yep, trying to get through this one without weeping. The fall of the tragic hero. Oh Jeremy Carver, you magnificent bastard.
Dean, fresh off his attempt to kill Gadreel, has been banished to the dungeon. He throws the “I’m the only one that can kill Metatron” card, and sadly he’s right. Unlike the drama we got when Sam was locked in the panic room in “When The Levee Breaks” (more parallels!), Dean gets out pretty quick. Apparently the dungeon has all the supplies needed to summon a demon! But the important part, Dean is getting sick now. Physically puking out his guts. So what’s up? Crowley knows the answer.
Dean: What the hell's happening to me, you son of a bitch?
Crowley: Liquor before beer, bad taco? How should I know?
Dean: I can't turn it off! Ever since I killed Abaddon, it's -- it's like this whole...other thing. I get this high and I-I-I need to kill. I mean, I really, really need to kill. And if I don't –
Crowley: -you yak your guts out. It's the mark.
Crowley: It wants you to kill. The more you kill, the better you feel. The less you kill, the less better you feel.
Dean: How much less better?
Crowley: One would imagine the least-best better.
Dean: So dead? Well, Cain had the mark. He didn't die.
Crowley: Cain was a demon. Your body's not strong enough to contain the blade's power.
The truth is now out. Crowley asks Dean if he wants to give the mark back, but Dean is only focused on Metatron. But this time Sam catches up with Dean. Sam tries to sell going after Metatron together, and Dean agrees, but then knocks out Sam before the showdown. Dean had already decided, this was his fight and his fight alone. This also ended up being Dean’s fatal error.
Dean is so super charged now, he went into the fight half cocked and alone. That’s never gone well for Sam or Dean ever. I have this theory that this played out exactly as Metatron had intended all along. It goes back to his story and how he said in “Meta Fiction” he was the hero in his story and knew the ending. It played out perfectly. Powered by the Word of God, he stabs the “bad guy” (aka Dean) in the knick of time. Everything he did was so this could be the outcome. It does make me wonder, did he and Crowley consort? Another debate for another time I guess. (Metatron did underestimate his foe though, but this time it was Castiel he underestimated, not Sam and Dean.)
Dean’s stare at Sam right after the fatal blow is crushing. It says it all. The pain, the regret, or just basically “I’m sorry” for failing. It’s not for just one act in particular, just a dying man making his peace with his (semi) estranged brother. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. Once again, so much story told in one expression. It’s beautiful, as is Sam’s shocked reaction when he saw that blade go in his brother’s chest. Both these guys just kill it when it comes to non-verbal acting, and this is just another awe-inspiring achievement.
Dean is strangely at peace with this. He believes his death is the only thing that can free him from the MOC, and he’s alright with that. He even tells Sam it’s for the best. “The Mark. It’s making me into something I don’t want to be.” Sam won’t accept it though, he’s ready to save his brother.
Dean: What happened with you being okay with this?
Sam: I lied.
Dean: Ain't that a bitch?
Hee, even in the face of death Dean won’t let Sam forget about that. Big brothers I tell ya. He did get to see before the end that Sam does care and will do anything for him. It’s really all he needed to see. He surrenders with his final words, “I’m proud of us.” It’s beautiful, it’s poignant, and it’s likely the way Dean always visualized he would go - in his brother’s arms, going down swinging.
Oh yes, the cruel twist of fate, because this is a cliffhanger, not a series finale. The Mark of Cain didn’t let go, and the same fate that fell upon Cain is now Dean’s. He is resurrected from death, as a demon. The rest of it plays out now in season ten, but no doubt this is Dean’s worst possible nightmare come true. We know it’s probably Sam’s. It was supposed to happen after he went to Hell in season three, but that would have been through years of burning away his human soul. Here he’s been twisted and turned at his core into something evil, soul and body.
It’s really shocking and tragic this outcome, and there’s still the open debate that it happened because Sam turned Dean away emotionally. I don’t think it’s solely that, but it played a role for sure. No doubt Sam’s words at the end of “The Purge” left an indelible impression, intended or not. But a lot of Dean’s downturn was fueled by years of self-loathing and guilt, something we’ve seen in Dean since season one. Those inner demons (so to speak) were too powerful to exorcise by the time he made that deal with Ezekiel (Gadreel). When the King of Hell picks up on all that and uses it for his advantage, Dean didn’t have much of a chance. The family bond has traditionally saved both Dean and Sam in past, and a break in that bond resulted in the worst when the timing was right. Considering that break happened due to Dean’s desperate act though, it all gets kind of circular, doesn’t it? It’s really nobody’s fault in the end, and everybody’s too. It was all bound to catch up with Dean eventually, and no doubt this will hit Sam very hard too (TBD).
So that’s season nine Dean Winchester in a nutshell. What did you think of his plot progression? Was it logical or half-baked? Did you enjoy it, or are you tired of his character being put through the contrived emotional wringer like this? Speak up, there’s still plenty of Hellatus left to debate.