In Part One of my Deeper Look at Dean Winchester, Dean is barely clinging on to control of the Mark of Cain.  In part two, the wheels fall off the wagon. Eventually. 

“About A Boy”

Dean is anxious to find that cure now.  He knows, as does Sam, that the wheels are starting to fall off the wagon.  He does actually talk to Sam this time!  He’s still feeling guilty about Charlie, forgiveness or not.  Sam has the perfect cure, time to work a case.  

Dean does have a small stroke of luck and meets a woman in a bar with as many hard luck stories as him.  This week, that little encounter offers perspective, especially when they both have been turned into young teenagers.  If anything, it reminds Dean what it’s like to get to save the girl.  It also gives him a glimpse of life without that Mark.  It’s an interesting dilemma.  Remain a teenager and not have the MOC anymore, and hope it stays away when he reaches his age some twenty plus years later, or try to go back to his current self and live with it.  

In the end, the choice was easy.  Turn himself back so he can save Sam and Tina.  He pulled a “Dean Winchester.”  Dean will take the win this time. 

“Halt and Catch Fire”

I don’t think I can buy that the victim of the week’s situation can parallel Dean’s Mark of Cain drama, but they tried anyway.  One take away, he regrets! (yes, they’re stalling).

Dean:  I have made more mistakes that I can count.  Ones that haunt me day and night.
Delilah:  So…how do you deal?
Dean:  Whiskey, denial.  I do my best to make things right, whatever they may be.  

Dean and Sam have their closing moment though and Dean is doubting that a cure can be found.  The answer is with him.  “I’m not just gonna give up.  I appreciate the effort, okay?  I do.  But the answer is not out there.  It’s with me.  I need to be the one calling the shots here, okay?  I can’t keep waking up every morning with false hope.  I got to know where I stand.  Otherwise, I’m gonna lose my freakin’ mind.  So I’m gonna fight it til I can’t fight it anymore.  And when all is said and done, I’ll go down swinging."

Those might be inspirational words, but considering the next episode is the Cain one, we all knew that wasn’t going to last. 

“The Executioner’s Song”

Oh boy, the beginning of the end!  Poor Dean, this time circumstances are beyond his control.  He’s forced into dealing with Cain, the only other holder of the Mark.  It’s clear after years of resistance the MOC has corrupted Cain in the worst way.  His plan is genocide of all his descendants and he’s gotten off to a gruesome start.  

This is one of the hardest tasks Dean has ever had to face and his confrontation here seems like a crafty parallel to Sam’s decision to say yes to Lucifer in “Swan Song.”  The chickens have come to roost so to speak, and this is all on him.   He’s scared and has every right to be.  He’s in a sense jumping into his own cage, knowing that if he comes out of this he won’t be the same.  Even worse, the MOC could finally take control and Dean becomes the monster every bit as lethal as Cain.  A lot is on the line. 

Dean:  When he gave me the Mark, Cain said that this day would come, that after I killed Abaddon, I would have to come and put him down.  
Sam:  Great.  So you’re taking orders from a madman.
Dean:  No, he wasn’t mad then.  Cain resisted the Mark for a long time, then I came, kicking up trouble about the blade.  I sent him down this path.  This is on me. 
Sam:  It doesn’t mean you have to be the one to go after him.
Dean:  Yes it does.  And there’s only one thing that can kill him. 
Sam:  The blade.  
Castiel:  Dean’s right.
Sam:  Dean, wielding the Blade against Cain himself…win or lose, you may never come back from that fight.
Dean:  I know.  

Dean is painfully aware what can happen, evidenced by his answer to Crowley about giving the First Blade back.  “If I survive and I come out of there and I don’t give it back, you’ll all have a much bigger problem on your hands.”  But Cain did so much worse than force Dean’s hand to kill him.  He messed with his head, foretelling a couple of very dangerous prophecies.  

Cain:  Look at my example boy!  There is no resisting the Mark or the Blade.  There is only remissions and relapse!...This may be hard to believe, in light of what I’m about to do to you, but I care about you, Dean.  I truly do.  But I know I’m doing you a favor.  I’m saving you.  
Dean:  Saving me from what?
Cain:  From your fate.  Has it never occurred to you? Have you ever mused upon the fact that you’re living my life in reverse?  My story began when I kill my brother, and that’s where your story inevitably will end. 
Dean:  No, never.
Cain:  It’s called the Mark of Cain for a reason!  First you’d kill Crowley.  There’d be some strange, mixed feelings on that one, but you’d have your reason.  You’d get it done, no remorse.  And then you’d kill the angel Castiel.  Now, that one, that I suspect would hurt something awful.  And then!  Then would come the murder you’d never survive, the one that would finally turn you into as much of a savage as it did me. 
Dean:  No.
Cain:  Your brother, Sam.  The only thing standing between you and that destiny is this Blade.  You’re welcome my son.  

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Dean bests Cain and with much distress and reluctance, delivers the fatal blow with the First Blade.  Cain is dead and Dean is devastated.  It’s all because he knows that as long as he has that Mark, Cain’s prophecy will likely come to be.  That is going to mess with his head from here on out.  Sure, Dean throughout this series has been a “prophecy be damned” sort of guy, but given his struggle with the MOC, he just might be believing he isn't strong enough to fight it this time.  

At the end, after Sam gives him encouraging words about holding it together after killing Cain.  “You know, if you can do that without losing yourself…that’s cause for hope, even without a cure.”  Dean excuses himself and is seen rolling his eyes out in the hall.  He’s not buying Sam’s words of hope at all.  Oh yes Sam, we know, Dean’s in trouble for sure.  

“The Things That They Carried”

Dean knows Sam is still trying to find a solution to get rid of the Mark, and he’s not being supportive anymore.  They have to face the truth and in the meantime, they can work the case.  They do. 

“Paint It Black”

I would quibble that this is irrelevant, but I think the confessional scene did capture something about Dean’s frame of mind.  

“You know, the life I live, the work I do…I pretty much figured that that was all there was to me, you know?  Tear around and jam the key in the ignition and haul ass until I ran out of gas.  I guess I just thought sooner or later, I’d go out the same way that I live – pedal to the metal, and that would be it.” 

"Now, um…recent events, uh, make me think I might be closer to that than I really thought.  And, I don’t know.  I mean, you know, there’s – there’s things, there’s…people, feelings that I want to experience differently than I have before, or maybe even for the first time.” 

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Dean wants to experience more in life.  I would actually call this little flash of perspective, one that may or may not be relevant later, to be far more healthier than Sam’s perspective on things right now.  It’s kind of refreshing to see.  But is it really Dean’s desire or just a set of writers trying to do some filler?  Given his upcoming beach speech to Sam (waiting for it…), perhaps that it’s the POV of a dying man coming to terms with the end of his life.  He does have a lot to experience yet.  

“Inside Man”

While Sam’s story ramps up a bit, Dean becomes the guy in the dark behind it all.  He’s getting worse, the nightmare he had in the beginning of the episode his biggest clue.  But also, he knows Sam is lying to him, but he doesn’t care.  He’s off to do fun stuff, like be a dick and steal money from normal guys playing pool.   Oh yeah, Rowena shows, but that’s just her seeing the power of the Mark of Cain and getting involved in this whole mess.  It’s a curse.  Uh oh, way to open a can of worms. 

However, I do love Dean’s little talk to Crowley about his mother.  It just goes to show, he still has a soft spot for the King of Hell and vice versa.  There’s still the real Dean Winchester in there somewhere. 

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“Book of the Damned”

Dean tells Sam that the MOC is a curse.  That as well as Charlie’s arrival sets up the whole ill fated chain of events… 

Oh, let’s just get to the beach speech.  It just makes me smile. 

Dean:  We’re due for a win, okay?  Overdue.  I’ll tell you another thing, if this actually does work, we’re gonna take some time off.
Sam:  What, like a vacation?
Dean:  Mm-hmm.  And I’m not talking just like a weekend in Vegas or sitting in some crap motel watching pay-per-porn.  No, I’m talking about a beach.  Drinking cervezas, go for a swim, mingle with the local wildlife.  When was the last time either one of us was on a beach?
Sam:  Never.  
Dean:  Sam between our toes, Sammy, sand between our toes.

Dean is hopeful, until he feels that book.  Oh no, this is not going to work.  It’s evil!  The Mark knows it.  When the Stynes come for the book, Dean demands that Sam destroy it.  He knows deep down it is for the best of everyone, despite the fact that it means he keeps the MOC.  He finds his “win” in Castiel getting his grace back instead.  When he finds out…

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“The Werther Project”

Dean is feeling edgy for sure and is finding more productive and reckless ways to deal with his bloodlust, like take out a vampire’s nest all by himself.  All in a day’s work!  He knows Sam is bothered by this, but in a role reversal from Sam's days with demon blood, he's getting very irritated by Sam's attitude toward him.

Dean:  Come on, man. It’s the only way I can take the edge off. I’m sorry. I don’t always like to wait around for you, especially with you looking at me like that all the time.
Sam:  Look at you like what?
Dean:  Like that. Like I’m some sort of a-a-a diseased killer puppy.

Despite his irritation with Sam though, when Sam runs off by himself to work a case Dean tracks him down.  He wants to help and feels guilty.  He doesn't seem like a guy overcome by the Mark of Cain and not as bad as Sam is believing.  But after he's affected by the enchanctment and sees Benny, that look inside what Dean is truly feeling right now is fascinating.  He's scared and that's because he knows deep down his "plan B" is flawed.  

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Benny:  Remember what you said to me when we first met? About the purity of this place? Dean, slow down. Dean, stop. Listen. This…. This place you don’t have to go looking for a fight. All you have to do is be still for one moment, and that fight will come to you. That’s why you’re here, Dean. That’s the purity you crave – killing with no consequence. 
Dean:  No, Benny. I don’t wanna fight anymore. I’m tired of fighting.
Benny:  The Mark ain’t. So, can’t leave, don’t wanna stay, bit of a bind ain’t it? Good thing there’s always a third way out. You can’t say you haven’t been thinking about it. 
Dean:  That ain’t gonna happen, ever.
Benny:  Come on, Dean. I know you can see it. The purity, the honor.
Dean:  There’s no honor in that.
Benny:  What., you just wanna wait for the Mark to reclaim you? Go out swinging, die topside, then what? Maybe kill a few humans? Kill Cas? Kill your brother? Yeah, that’s mighty honorable!
Dean:  Benny, shut up!
Benny:  Oh, I-I’m sorry. I forgot… about your plan. You gonna get Sam and Cas to put you down? You really think that they’re gonna keep that agreement? Come on. Dean, let’s say they do. Do you think they will ever recover from that? It will ruin them. This little backup plan of yours, I know you’ve been thinking about it for a time, I know it’s been gnawin’ at you. You can’t leave that job to them. 

This is the real inner Dean.  His hope that Sam and Castiel will take him out when the Mark of Cain takes over isn't realistic and he knows it.  He doesn't want to fight anymore but the Mark of Cain won't let him be.  It's because of the Mark of Cain though that Dean overcomes the enchantment and saves Sam in time.  To him, death is not an option.  The Mark wants him alive.  He wants to be alive with his brother.  It's no accident that the Werther Box needed blood from both of them and they would have died if they had gone on their separate ways.   

"The universe is trying to tell us something we both should already know. We’re stronger together than apart."

“Angel Heart”

Was Dean in this?  Oh right, he played mini golf with a teenager.  And he snapped in the bar, just to prove to us he’s getting worse. 

Dean does tell Claire this at the end of the episode though, just to reinforce what we’ve been seeing all season long:

Claire:  Are you gonna be okay?
Dean:  Me?  I don’t know.  But I will keep fighting.  I’ll keep swinging until I got nothing left.  

“Dark Dynasty”

Ugh.  Alright, there’s one important moment.  Dean finds out that Sam didn’t burn the Book of the Damned.  His confrontation of Sam is downright creepy!  Hovering over his brother, looking like he would snap his neck at any moment, it took my breath away.  But nothing like that cell phone ringing to break up the mood.  Once that call reveals that Charlie is in trouble though, Dean is furious.  Oh geez, how far will this push Dean?  

“The Prisoner”

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The anvils are falling!  In something that was called a mile away, Charlie is brutally murdered and Dean uses her death as the reason to go off the rails.  The purpose of the episode is to show how low and how deep Dean will sink, but I think all it showed was that we are getting really tired of watching Dean Winchester the killer.  They’ve been foreshadowing this moment would happen for a season and a half now and now that it’s here it’s so…underwhelming.  Look at Dean massacre the bad guys, even the kid who was a good part of the bad guys!  See how stunned and horrified we are!  

Here’s what’s important to know for what is really the true showdown coming in the next episode.  Dean is really pissed at Sam.  He sees what Sam did, trying to find the cure behind his back using The Book of the Damned, as a betrayal.  It got Charlie killed.  He even flat out tells Sam that should be him on that pyre, not Charlie.  That is just enough to make us believe that Dean is so far gone, he’s willing to kill Sam.  So just remember that scene.  It’s extremely important for later.  The rest is window dressing. 

“Brother’s Keeper”

Dean is not good and he knows it.  After causing the death of another hunter (we hardly knew you Rudy!) he pulls the ultimate desperation play.  He summons his good buddy Death.  If anyone can kill him, Death can!  Death knows better though.  Dean cannot ever lose that Mark.  It’ll unleash “The Darkness” on the earth.  He can take Dean far away where he can live in isolation and never hurt anyone again, but he must continue to bear the Mark of Cain.  There’s one condition though…

I have to smile the way Death keeps doing all these “tests” with the Winchesters, particularly Dean.  He flat out tells Dean that he has to kill Sam, and Dean sees the logic in this.  Dean even calls Sam and summons him to where he is, just to drop the bomb that he has to die.  Even though Sam’s death was Death’s condition to helping Dean (since Sam wouldn’t stop at trying to find his brother), he insists that Dean has to deliver the final blow.  You know he had to know that Dean couldn’t do that, no matter how far gone he was from the Mark. 

Sam:  You traded my life.
Dean:  I’m willing to live with this thing forever, as long as I know that I and it will never hurt another living thing. 
Sam:  This isn’t you.  This doesn’t make any sense.
Dean:  No, it makes perfect sense if you stop thinking about yourself for one damn minute!  

But Death’s motives aren’t the issue, Dean’s are.  Dean tries like mad to justify what he’s about to do, pulling with Sam the whole, “How are they not evil?” argument.  Not only does he think he’s evil, but he thinks Sam is as well.  Dean is all about killing evil.  It’s the MOC and its corruption trying to convince Dean what he's about to do is right.  This is clearly the MOC talking: 

Dean:  Remember when we were in that church, making Crowley human, about to close the Gates of Hell?  Well, you sure as hell were ready to die for the greater good then. 
Sam:  Yeah, and, Dean, you pulled me back. 
Dean:  And I was wrong.  You were right Sam.  You knew that this world would be better without us in it. 
Sam:  No, no, no, wait a second.  You’re twisting my words here, Dean.
Dean:  Why?  Because we track evil and kill it?  The family business?  Is that it?  Look at the tape, Sam.  Evil tracks us.  And it nukes everything in our vicinity - our family, our friends.  It’s time we put a proper name to what we really are and we deal with it.  
Sam:  Wait a second.  We are not evil.  Listen, we’re far from perfect, but we are good.  That thing on your arm is eveil, but not you, not me. 
Dean:  I let Rudy die.  How was that not evil?  I know what I am, Sam.  But who were you when you - when you drove that man to sell his soul…or when you bullied Charlie into getting herself killed?  And to what end?  I have this thing on my arm, and you’re willing to let the Darkness into the world.  

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Dean finally convinces Sam that he must die through the act of brutality, beating him bloody.  What a better way to show what a monster he’s become that physical violence?  But Sam knows how to get through, refusing to close his eyes for the fatal blow, even when Dean orders him to do so, and then breaking out the family photographs.  Sam though pulls the one card that Dean cannot overcome, family.  One look at those photos of him, Sam, and Mary and his weeping brother on his knees ready to meet his fate and no wonder Dean can’t do it.  The Mark just isn’t that powerful.  Family is the greatest power of all.  Of course he accidentally misses Sam and hits Death instead, causing a whole mess of problems.  Hey, that’s what season 11 is for.  

Overall analysis

Dean’s season ten journey is his season one journey full circle.  He did everything in his power to hold the family together then, and now that Sam has done that for him during his darkest hour, he is reminded of that devotion that has ruled his life.  It’s all for Sammy.  It’s so complicated, yet it’s so simple.  Everything these brothers do is for each other.  

When Dean said that it should be Sam dead on the pyre instead of Charlie, was that him or the MOC?  It was him, just without the filter.  He was angry and the MOC as we have learned releases inhibitions and self control.  He chose in his betrayal and hurt to go it alone, like he has done in the past (think season nine’s “Road Trip”).  The MOC gave him the power of revenge without fear.  With Sam not around, he could carry on his act without his brother's interference.  It was in a way easier than dealing with the pain.  As I said in part 1, Dean under the Mark’s influence is essentially Soulless Sam.  

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Oh yes, I could joke about Dean's well known fears, but think about it.  Dean could have gone back to Sam in “Brother’s Keeper” asking for help or taking his revenge on his brother, but he went to Death instead.  Was he doing that to spare the world from his tyranny and find the solution that Sam couldn’t?  Was he doing this for Sam’s sake as well as his own?  Sam was right, it wasn't an evil act.  When Death made Sam the condition though, Dean gave into the MOC by convincing himself he's evil.  It was the only way to not feel the pain and guilt of killing his brother.  

No matter which brother is under the test, the result ends the same, love of family triumphs all.  Even Lucifer couldn’t best the Winchester bond, and now the Mark of Cain couldn’t either.  Not we’re not surprised, but I did think they did a great job of raising that doubt in our mind that Dean was so far gone that he could have killed Sam.  But no, of course Dean couldn’t do it.  But by killing Death, how much more of a hole has he dug them into on top of The Darkness? 

Was the Mark of Cain harder on Sam or Dean?  After looking at both their journeys, I’d say it was of equal consequence.  Dean had to fight that monster within, fighting every instinct he had to hurt his brother after the Demon cure.  He didn’t want to feel or experience that again, especially after feeling the huge regret of trying to kill Sam in “Soul Survivor.”  Dean fought every urge until “The Prisoner.”  For Sam, the sheer agony and desperation of seeing his brother struggle ate him alive.  Both were hurting pretty bad.  

I do wonder, is Dean’s ultimate goal and dream now to just experience the finer things in life?  His speech in “Paint it Black” called back on Dean the dreamer.  Dean experiencing friends and relationships that don’t end in death, Dean experiencing the simple moments that he’s been robbed of his entire life like a beach.  Will this brush with the MOC push him toward that desire to experience the simple pleasures, even with the Darkness looming?  While there may be no happy ending, how about those Tuesday afternoons flying a kite in the park?  I do hope that a new perspective will emerge from the whole experience, for his sake and ours.  We need to see Dean be happy once in a while.  Maybe it’ll rub off on Sam too.    

So that concludes my “Deeper Look” series for season ten.  What are your hopes for Sam and Dean in season 11?  Yes Mr. Carver, you owe us that beach.