Dean’s journey is Season Ten was indeed a rich one, but in a way it bothered me.  Sure, it’s a compelling story of fighting the evil within and Jensen knocked it out of the park, but for someone damned with such a dangerous curse, his path ended up being rather predictable.  The plot certainly wasn’t rocket science.  He’s a demon, then he’s cured, then he fights that monster within all season and then some tragic death sends him off the rails for the big showdown with brother Sammy.  It all seems textbook.  In this deeper look though, I hope to find some nuances that take this basic story and give Dean a few extra layers beyond the basic plot.  They’re there, but just like Sam’s plight, there are times you have to look hard.  

Dean’s mission was to simply keep on hunting and try to do good until he went bad.  It took until episode 19 for him to openly question that plan.  How successful and/or interesting was it to watch Dean fight that inner monster?  Just like with the inconsistency of the episodes, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  

“Black”

I found it an interesting choice that instead of becoming ruthless, Dean just resorted to lazy fun.  Sure if he turned on that switch he could be very lethal, but he had to be prodded to do so.  He mostly wanted to do the things that Dean Winchester normally likes to do for fun, drinking, screwing around with hot women, and I can only imagine that the real Dean had a go or two at Karaoke.  It was Dean just letting go and not caring about anything.  The difference is being a demon, he could also be a dick to anyone he wanted.  He’s there for the party and nothing more.  

Is this possibly the real Dean Winchester at his most primitive core, minus the moral values? I can’t help but make comparisons between Demon Dean and Soulless Sam after seeing this episode.  The two are pretty similar.  Soulless Sam, aka Sam without the inhibitions, had sex with numerous women anywhere (public restroom!) and was pinpoint focused on the hunt, not to mention being a dick to whoever he wanted.  Just like Demon Dean, he was also a bit of a loose cannon.  That’s what happens when self control isn’t a requirement.  I’m sure that parallel was in mind when the story of Demon Dean was constructed.  

Overall though, what did we learn from this display?  The same thing Crowley did, Dean Winchester makes a shitty demon.  

“Reichenbach”

Now this is what happens when Dean Winchester goes evil!  It’s delicious, and very jarring as well.  

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This episode raised the question much better, is Dean’s soul truly corrupted?  There was plenty of evidence it was and this is the only time that evil Dean really gave us chills.  It definitely proved once and for all, as a demon Dean could be very deadly.  His only problem, just like we saw in “Black,” was motivation.  He didn’t want to serve an agenda.  He was enjoying the free form life of “howling at that moon.”  Well, he really wasn’t, but he didn’t want to do anything else either.   At least with hunting he had a purpose.  Dean showed exactly though it wasn’t a good idea to push him.  Crowley learned that the hard way in sending Dean to deal with Lester.   Crowley also knew better to fight back when Dean resorted to physical violence.  He had a better plan, call Moose!  (I love how smart Crowley is).  

Dean was hardly welcoming to Sam, challenging him to try and kill him, then mocking him and his trademark puppy dog look!  He didn’t want to be cured (what demon does?) or go home with Sam.  He’s even snarky when Cole interrupts their reunion.  “Right, right.  You’re the guy who’s supposed to put a bullet in Sammy’s brain.  Did you miss?”  Eventually Sam is able to step in and capture Dean during his encounter with Cole, and it’s so not pretty.  

Dean’s chilling words in the Impala easily make us think if he’s too far gone.  He even calls his baby just a car!  (Take that back you spiteful demon).  Sam refuses to believe that though, mentioning to Dean that let Cole live.  Dean doesn’t see that as being good at all.  “You call that mercy?  Imagine you spend your whole life hunting down the guy that knifed your father.  When you finally find him…he whips you like a dog.  How do you think that feels?  That kid’s gonna spend his whole life knowing that he had his shot and that he couldn’t beat me.  That ain’t mercy. That’s the worst thing I could have done to him.  And what I’m gonna do to you, Sammy…Well that ain’t gonna be mercy, either.”    

Ouch. 

“Soul Survivor”

And the deliciousness ends with a giant thud.  So much for the “Year of the Deanmon.” 

“Oh, I know how to thwart my determined brother from curing me, I’ll insult him!  I’ll make him cry!  That’ll stop him!”  I was not impressed that Demon Dean didn’t know how to hit Sammy where it hurt until he hurled a hammer at him and forced him to make the decision to kill him or not.  Sam Winchester has taken about every verbal insult imaginable.  He won’t break that way and Dean knows that at his core, demon or not.  I would have been more impressed if Dean pretended to be near death just to get the drop on Sam (leading to a longer cat and mouse chase) or made chilling threats because he could, rather than bringing up the whole Lester thing (you know, throwing guilt around about a guy none of us care about) or AGAIN bringing up that “my mother would still be alive” line.  It just didn’t work on many levels.  

My take away comes from the closing scene with Castiel.  No doubt, Dean feels very awkward about the situation.  He isn’t celebratory, he’s freaked out.  He feels awful that he tried to kill Sam with a hammer, but knows all to well this isn’t over.  The MOC is still there and same thing  could happen again, or even something worse.   It’s the impending sense of doom!   This is not a happy ending.  

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“Paper Moon”

Dean has a double problem.  Not only does he have to find his own footing again, but he has to deal with his jumpy brother watching him like a hawk, waiting for him to go postal at any second.  He deals with it by going back to work.  R&R is definitely not working.  When Sam asks if he’s okay, Dean deflects.  He brings up Lester, wondering if Sam is okay.  Dean can justify what he did to Lester, he was a demon.  But can Sam justify what he did?  Dean backs off, deciding to end the point with the fact that they both aren’t okay.  

Oh, but there’s more.  Dean even hints to Sam, when they are debating over whether to kill Kate and Tasha, that all he did for him was futile because he still has the Mark.  That maybe the collateral damage wasn’t worth the price.  Sam doesn’t want to equate their situation with the two sisters.

Dean finally admits he feels embarrassed by the whole thing after Sam brings up the trauma of having to carry his dead body back to the bunker.  He even tries to say “thank you.”  The brothers are square for now.  

“Fan Fiction” 

Nothing like a dose of appreciation for your brother and life on the road.  At least Dean realized his crappy situation was better than robots and space. 

“Ask Jeeves”

There are a few ways to interpret Dean’s first kill since being cured.  The way I see it, he scared himself.  When he does that, he refuses to talk about things, especially with Sam.  It’s consistent with what he said at the end of “Paper Moon.”    

“It’s about getting back in the saddle.  Okay?  Doing something good instead of stewing in my own crap.”  

He’s trying to stay focused and not completely lose it.  Is he okay?  Not really.  But he has to keep hunting.  It’s the only way to do the right thing.  

“Girls, Girls, Girls”

Dean is finding some very interesting ways to cope.  He’s finding dates online now?  That’s one of his vices, demon or not, hooking up with hot women and looking for one night stands.  It’s one of his coping mechanisms.  Granted the whole thing was a setup from the writers to have some teasing from Sam, but it does make you wonder why he’s sliding back like this.  He’s drinking on the job again too.  Perhaps the incident in “Ask Jeeves” really hit him hard.  

The showdown with Cole is significant though.  He wants to make things right with Cole and set the record straight about what happened this time.  He owes Cole that much after what his demon self did to him in “Reichenbach.”  Dean remembers the case.  He remembers that Cole’s dad was a monster.  His speech is one of the most earnest things Dean has ever said:

“I get it, that was your story. Look man I got one of those too, okay but those stories that we tell that keep us going. Man, sometimes they blind us. They take us to dark places -- the kind of place where I might beat the crap out of a good man, just for the fun of it. The people who love me, they pulled me back from that edge. Cole once you touch that darkness... it never goes away. Now the truth is... I'm past saving. I know how my story ends, it's at the edge of a blade or the barrel of a gun. So the question is is that gonna to be today? It gonna be that gun?"

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We know that he was being honest, but why did he tell Sam that he was telling Cole what he wanted to hear?  Was it to cover the fact that he doesn’t think he’s coming out of this alive?  That he can’t tell Sam what he is truly feeling?  Sam knows Dean, he should know he wouldn’t say those things to someone just to talk them down.  But clearly Dean isn’t really to share those deepest fears with Sam, thus causing more doubt in Sam’s mind that Dean is stable.  This behavior is classic Dean.  

“Hibbing 911”

Dean is clearly frustrated with research by now.  Obviously they aren’t finding answers.  Working sounds better than digging through more MOL books.  In the end, killing felt like him, not the MOC.  “All I know is, back there, killing those vamps…I felt like me again.”  They’re going with that.  As we all suspected, it lasts one episode. 

“The Things We Left Behind”

Let the homicidal nightmares begin!  Time to feel the aching Mark!  Something is off!  

No, all kidding aside, this was a big turning point for Dean.  It showed us once and for all that the world is starting to crumble around him.  He’s back on the path of losing control and it’s scaring the crap out of him.  For Sam’s sake though, he’s not letting it show.  Castiel though isn’t as easily fooled.  

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It all starts in the first frame with the nightmares.  The next frame in the MOL library, the way Dean is laughing at classic Three Stooges, is certainly weird.  Sam notices.  Then Dean’s a bit snarky too, throwing out the best zinger of the season.  “An emergency is a dead body, okay?  Or-or a wigged-out angel, or the Apocalypse, take three.  Some chick bolting on you is not an emergency.  That’s, that’s every Friday night for Sam.”  Dean’s behavior is demonstrating one clear thing, the MOC is all about extremes. 

It’s some very weird advice that he gives that tips off Castiel though.  “The people you let down, the one’s you can’t save…You got to forget about them.  For your own good.”  When Castiel calls him out on that, asking if that’s what he does, Dean does confess it’s the opposite of what he does.  “But I ain’t exactly a role model.”  Now Castiel sees that something isn’t right and the whole thing takes an interesting turn.  Once Castiel presses, Dean entrusts him to do something that he knows Sam can’t do.  

Dean:  If I do go dark side, you got to take me out.
Castiel:  What do you mean?
Dean:  Knife me.  Smite me.  Throw me into the freakin’ sun.  And don’t let Sam get in the way, because he’ll try.  I can’t go down that road again, man.  I can’t be that thing again.  

Perhaps we would have gotten a better reaction from Castiel if they didn’t cut to the other fluff…Rowena…Claire and Randy…Randy and Claire…Claire acting out…Rowena and Crowley filler…Claire in trouble…my finger on the fast forward button…

Okay, I do have to comment on this, and I know I probably ripped on this in my original review, but why was this John Winchester story even in here?  To prove that Dean still cares for his family?  I won’t even touch how the whole story makes no sense knowing Dean as a teen, but let’s just say that the whole trip down memory lane didn’t really enhance Dean’s current struggle at all.  It’s filler.  

So, after that big opener, we had to wait through a bunch of Castiel and Claire fluff until the big end.  Dean was provoked by assholes.  It reminds me of that classic Incredible Hulk line (the TV series with Bill Bixby), “Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  Dean commits a massacre of horrifying proportions and…Castiel must not have promised to take Dean out.  If this wasn’t the sign of going darkside I don’t know what was.  Good to know Castiel doesn’t have the guts either.  One thing for sure, judging by Dean’s dazed reaction, he has no idea what happened.  That’s definitely not good. 

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“The Hunter Games”

A remorseful Dean is finally getting on board with getting rid of the Mark, instead of telling Castiel to take him out.  “That was a massacre, it what is was.  There was a time I was a hunter, not a stone cold killer.  You can say it, you’re not wrong.  I crossed a line.  Guys, this thing’s got to go.”  I don’t think Brad and Eugenie read the script before this one.  Anyway, Castiel decides that if anyone has the answer, it’s Metatron, and he’s not wrong there.  

There are still some takeaways from this that make some sense.  Dean losing it on Metatron was predictable, but expected.  After all, Metatron did kill him!  Still, you have to wonder if Metatron got in his head with this line:  “My morality is being judged by Dean Winchester?  How many people have suffered and died because they believed in you  How many times have you lied to Sam, including, oh by the way, when he was possessed by an angel?  And you say, ‘oh well it’s for the greater good” but lately buddy, that greater good thing went away, didn’t it?  And now people die because you want them to.”  

But the whole thing turned out to be a dead end and now Dean is again without an option.  He’s clearly out of control, so Sam proposes that it’s really Dean Winchester losing control, not a man under the influence of the MOC.  He just needs to fight it.  “Maybe part of that powerful force has to be you.”  Hee, things went back to not making sense.  There’s no way that’s going to work, and both of them know it.  

“There’s No Place Like Home”

There’s some of those layers!  No doubt that Dean is losing control of himself, and this episode really digs at Dean’s inner battle.  Dean is doing what he can to be a better person, even trying to eat healthy like Sam.  Yeah, we knew that wouldn’t last long.  While getting ready to leave, Dean’s hand is shaking.  It only takes one harsh interrogation early on in the case to confirm that doubt Dean is very rough around the edges.  

The two Charlies story is rather brilliant, one good and one dark, so they could pair Dean with the darker half.  It only made sense since they both were dealing with their ominous and sinister halves.  To watch Dean face the dark side of someone who he loves and adores is a great parallel for forcing him to stare at his own darkness.  

“Our Charlie?  Yea high, wouldn’t hurt a Hobbit, practically sparkles?”  

No doubt seeing that side of Charlie disturbed him  and got him thinking about his own demons.  He gave her the benefit of the doubt around the guy who killed her parents in the auto accident, and Charlie deceived him by killing him anyway.   It’s definitely on Dean’s mind when they talk in the bar:

Dean:  You lied to me.
Dark Charlie:  You lied to yourself.  That’s kind of your move.  Something’s off about you, though, isn’t it?  It’s always something with you boys.  
Dean:  I’ve made mistakes.  But I’ll pay for mine.  And you’ll pay for yours.  
Dark Charlie:  Come on, Dean, I’m not the monster here.  He was.  He got what he deserved.  You know I’m right.  You know what I learned about being dark?  It sets you free.  And part of you knows that’s right too.  

I wondered what Dean meant about him paying for his mistakes.  Does he think that he’ll die from this experience?  Does he think Castiel and possibly Sam will really take him out?  It’s definitely a nice clue following his conversation with Castiel in “Things We Left Behind.”  The fact is though that Dark Charlie knew exactly how to bring out that inner monster in Dean, provoking him at Clive’s house, and it worked too well.  Dean in retaliation almost killed Charlie, and Sam stopped him just in time.  As Sam comforts a wounded and distraught Charlie, Dean is left to realize that he’s losing control of that monster inside.  

Oh, but Dean in his self loathing gets a gift.  It’s the real Charlie again, the one who’s all heart, the one who will do anything to save Dean from himself.  “I’m not letting what happened to me happen to you.”    Dean still won’t forgive himself. 

Charlie:  You’re a Winchester.  I forgive you Dean. 
Dean:   Yeah, well, I don’t.
Charlie:  I know.  Kind of your move.  How’s that working out for you, huh?
Dean:  I’m so sorry kiddo. 
Charlie:  Then prove it.  

Dean and Charlie share a big hug before she leaves, aka the hug of forgiveness.  Dean tells Sam he’s not okay after Charlie leaves, but his hand is steady now.  Is this a sign of self control?  Has the inner beast been tamed for now?  TBD…

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Coming up in part two, Dean eventually goes off the rails.  Something we saw coming all along.  Will a better man come out the other side?