Supernatural
’s “King of the Damned” was one of writing duo Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner’s better efforts. The episode was still plagued with unnecessary continuity errors and handled fan commentary with a good deal less finesse than Ben Edlund, but we finally got some real movement forward. RIP, Abbadon.

I’ll start with the parts I thought were weak, so I can end with the strength of the episode. The writers did a good job calling back to previous episodes, with Crowley mentioning how callously he treated his son in season six. Unfortunately, the reference makes it all the more baffling Dean has no memory of Gavin, even though Bobby and Rufus conjured his ghost in “Weekend at Bobby’s.” Are we supposed to think Bobby never told Sam and Dean what he learned about Crowley? Why?

It remains to be seen whether Crowley’s decision to save his son and thus disrupt the events of “Weekend at Bobby’s” is a deliberate plot point which will have ramifications in the story. I hope so. Sam and Dean make a big point of mentioning the butterfly effect, so I’m willing to wait and see on this one. If it’s deliberate, the option to rewrite major events since season 6 is intriguing but fraught with peril. It would have to be incredibly well done in service of an amazing arc to be worth the disruption to the narrative.

SamNDean fan

Meta commentary about fans is another device which needs to be handled very carefully—if at all. Supernatural has discussed its fans in the past, with varying degrees of success from the fan viewpoint. I loved Ben Edlund’s fond recreations of fandom, both because they were fond and because he didn’t so much engage as wave hi. I also loved the way Kripke explored the author as God and the way he used that to say a fond farewell to his story.

But I didn’t enjoy “Time for a Wedding” and the way Becky morphed from an intentionally exaggerated avatar to a more realistic depiction of obsession and dysfunction, with the embedded commentary on superfans as losers. At that point, the show is not just waving hi. It’s delivering a monologue. Once that door opened, fans insisted on having a conversation, not a monologue, which then, in my opinion, has further morphed into soapboxes. Fans are shouting at the show, and apparently they’re being heard, because the show is shouting back.

I understand why people involved with the show want to remind fans they are not personally involved with either the creative team or the actors. I know there are viewers who need to remember boundaries. But by the same token, so does the show, which at this point disposes of the fourth wall at will. If fans need to remember the narrative wall, so do the creators. The relationship between fan and show is a sensitive subject, one well worth exploring, but it takes a very fine hand to do it in the narrative in an even handed and satisfying way. Ross-Leming and Buckner don’t have that level of delicacy.

Crowley Gavin

However, they do handle other aspects of the script very well. It’s fascinating watching Crowley struggle with having humanity, while Dean loses his, step by step. Sam is finally voicing his concern about the impact of the Blade, which seems to function much like the ring in Lord of the Rings. The temptation to wield it is huge, but every use corrupts the soul. Dean is being taken over by the power of the Blade, which now answers his call—while calling to him, seductively, every time Dean puts it down. He allows Sam to hold the weapon when Sam insists, but Dean grabs it defiantly at the first opportunity. Sam’s voice is now harder to hear over the siren call of Cain’s Blade.

And that doesn’t bode well for Dean. Sam tells his brother in the final scene he’s worried that the Blade is doing something to his brother, changing him. He’s watched Dean’s ruthlessness get amplified to the point his loving qualities are being driven underground. Dean is addicted to the power of the weapon and to the sense of clarity it gives him.

DeanKillsAbbadon

That clarity is a respite to the elder Winchester, who has always struggled with a fierce drive to hunt complicated with an equally fierce sense of love. Dean has always felt the tension between duty and love, and this season that tension stretched to the point of snapping—at least in Dean’s mind. He hasn’t been able to resolve his knowledge he violated Sam’s autonomy with his inability to accept outliving a brother who in some ways functions as a son. The Blade quietens the noise of this inner argument, and Dean welcomes the calm.

Sam is aware something is changing in Dean, and he’s increasingly sure it’s not a good shift. Sam is still angry at Dean’s willingness to subject him to possession, and he wants his brother to acknowledge his love for Sam does not justify overriding Sam’s own needs. But he’s not happy when he realizes Dean priorized killing Abbadon over working with him. It’s not that Dean has no care for Sam—he cuts Sam out of the action in case he has to stand down because Sam may be in danger. But Dean’s emphasis is more on the impact that would have on his goal rather than the impact that would have on Sam.

Dean is showing some of the changes Sam has asked for in the last couple of seasons. He told Dean he should think of hunting alone in season eight, and that he should put duty before family this season. However, Sam knows there is something very wrong with this version of his brother. Dean’s protective love has been a driving force in his personality since he ran out of his burning home with Sam in his arms. That primal event led to constantly negotiated boundary issues with his brother, with particularly hurtful consequences this year. I believe Sam is now realizing there are worse things, and Dean may be turning into one of them.

Worried Sam

The last line of the episode is very simple: “No.” That "no" sums up Dean’s headspace right now. He is less and less able to hear Sam and more and more willing to listen to the Blade. I think Dean is headed down a dark road, and he’ll get a long way down before Sam finds a way to reach him.

The journey will be important, though, as Dean heads down a path Sam walked before him. I think the only thing that will save Dean will be his bond with Sam—and that bond needs mutual understanding and forgiveness to give it the strength to withstand the dark side of both their natures.

Crowley and Cas also get some meaty exploration. The King of Hell gets a taste of family when Abbadon plucks Gavin from the past to use as leverage against her competitor. Amazingly, her plan works. Crowley hasn’t been able to shake his attraction to human feelings since Sam almost cured him, and he finds he actually is fond of his charming if clueless offspring.

Dean afterkill

Crowley’s faith in Dean’s power pays off when Dean is able to use the Blade to kill Abbadon. Whether Dean’s demonic abilities are exactly what Crowley hoped to see or whether he sees them as a possible threat is not yet clear. It is clear he is still motivated by the kind of love Dean is finding hard to access. Which one will end up more demonic is a question – and possibly a matter of succession. The title of the episode is foreshadowing.

Castiel has his own leadership issues as he accepts the role the other angels have given him. The mantle doesn’t sit easily on his shoulders. He wants to avoid conflict, but asks Dean to torture on his behalf. The disparity between Castiel’s viewpoint as an angel and the Winchesters’ is made clear when Cas asks Sam about Gadreel.

Sam admits he never felt in danger from the angel and that Gadreel felt misunderstood more than anything. However, for Sam, that is cancelled out by Gadreel’s murder of Kevin. For Cas, the case isn’t so simple. He can understand Gadreel’s motivations, including killing Kevin, because he knows all about the need for redemption. He meets with Gadreel to offer him a better route to that redemption, as the two of them can work together to defeat Metatron and heal heaven.

GadCas 0798
Gadreel shows he and Castiel share many traits. Both of them value honour and truth. Both care about their missions and their ultimate purpose. And both feel a need to redeem themselves for past mistakes. I’m not sure how I will end up feeling about Gadreel, but I think it’s always a good idea to round out the antagonists’ characters.

The writers will have to be careful how they handle Gadreel’s story, because of the impact on Sam’s. I don’t think anything is black or white in the possession scenario. Everyone was trying to do the best they could with what they knew at the time. But Sam was hurt in a terrible violation, and that can’t get lost in a redemption arc for Gadreel. The idea of different perceptions of the same act, however, has been in play since season 8. I hope it leads to a satisfying pay off.

Photos courtesy of Homeofthenutty.com



Comments  

cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-05-08 18:26
Great review. I just finished a rewatch. When Dean said "I still can't believe Crowley had a son" it almost sounded like he couldn't believe it from the first time he heard it so he still can't wrap his head around it.
The writers did make a big deal about the time paradox. They really do need to be very careful if that is the route they are going (no, it was all a dream shower scene-well depends on who is in the shower). But how about Gavin runs into Ichabod spinoff.
As far as the fan digs they do have to be careful with that. Everyone involved with the show acknowledges that it is the fans that have kept this show going for 9 years. Jokes are one thing lecturing is something else.
I will have to say on first watch I didn't care for this episode but the second time around was much better. Still some problems, like what was the point of the hellhound? It got Sam and Dean away from the body for a moment, was the blade planted then if so why, if not what was the point other than the Juliet joke. Was the red shirt angel just planted there to give false information to Cas? Seems like fairly important information for a grunt. Floating portal is a nice twist.
Is Abadon really dead. Seemed like an awfully easy kill. In the church she smoked out why not here.
I hope that the angel possession is handled well. There was a real effort to show that all of the characters were doing what they had to do. Except for Sam. He was a helpless victim and that really needs to be addressed and not forgiven. Especially Gadreels actions. I don't care how much of a sap he is he has to know killing Kevin, Abner and all of the angels on Metatrons hit list has to be wrong. Please don't hand wave that away. I don't care if there is redemption for Gadreel but there really needs to be a scene between Sam and Gad with a satisfying result. Not Sam saying well I did bad things too so who am I to judge, then the whole story line would have been just a plot device to get Dean in the headspace he is in now. And Sam would have had absolutely no story for the entire season.
I would have liked Cas to have commented on the Mark but I guess there was too many other things going on.
It really was better on second watch. Looking forward to the rest of the season.
Gerry
# Gerry 2014-05-08 19:54
Hi Cheryl42, thanks for reading! I'm not sure why the hellhound, except it did emphasize Crowley's orders were not being carried out and it make it getting the blade a little more difficult. And maybe just a nod to continuity. I'd rather they'd worked out the Gavin thing, instead.

I'll join you in hoping Sam's feelings get aired and they count to both Dean and Gadreel. I think the situation has shades of grey, but there's no doubt Sam needs his voice heard in a real conversation. I don't like it when the writing focuses one brother at the expense of the other, as if it's too difficult to write for both. Both Sam and Dean need to talk and to listen. I doubt its happening this season, unfortunately. I really hope it doesn't turn into a season long arc next year.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-05-08 21:21
Honestly I think Dean is going to learn first hand how it feels to not be in control of his own body. He will learn exactly what he did to Sam and why Sam was so angry. Sam is also going to learn what it means to be able to save Dean at a great cost. He will learn how Dean felt when Sam was dying or under the influence of DB. They are going to walk in each others shoes or this season won't make very much sense. I am afraid after Cas and Sam's conversation about Gadreel that Gadreel is going to be shown as a sympathetic character and all of his misdeeds are going to be swept away. So Sam isn't going to get to air any grievances about anything and we will get another silent Sam storyline. With Dean I can accept that but with Gadreel I would like to see Sam get some revenge for what his body was forced to do.
Rick D
# Rick D 2014-05-09 21:23
Sam's grievances swept away as if they were meaningless? Color me shocked. Not. And even though I found all scenes with Crowley's son to be boring, tedious and ultimately pointless- this is the first ep I've liked out of the last eight. Don't know if this turn around will be enough to salvage this train wreck season. Best part- the interrogation scene. I literally laughed out loud at the "fan" comment.
Ginger
# Ginger 2014-05-08 20:40
Another great review, Gerry. I'm glad you brought up talking to the fans. I always loved Edlund's episode, but I didn't like the lecturing in this one. This isn't the first time that has happened by any means, and I always notice it.

This episode had a lot of problems; some of which you point out, but I did like the mytharc part. The two things that brought out some worry is for me is that this episode seemed to really bring out that the writers are just doing a rewrite of Sam's S4 story. I really don't like poached storylines and these writers seem to thrive on that. Sam and Dean are two distinctive characters that have very distinctive motivations for what they do, and I don't think a rewrite will do justice to that fact.

The other thing is what is up with the brothers working together as if nothing has gone on between them before. They are looking more like the brothers working together than the 'professional partnership' they seemingly agreed to. I absolutely must have some resolution to Sam disowning Dean because of Dean's decision to allow possession to save Sam's life, but the writers seem to have shifted away from that and on to Sam is worried about Dean and it is the 'power of love' that will save Dean (whether this season or the next).

As an aside, I took the hellhound as another trashed canon thing. Since when can normal humans who have not sold their soul and their time is up hear hellhounds (or have special Clark Kent glasses)? And a nitpick: Abbadon died emitting white lights, and I think a reaper did that, too, last season. I guess that means the color used for dying demons, angels, reapers, or anything else has no significance anymore.
Gerry
# Gerry 2014-05-08 21:22
Hi Ginger! I agree, the fourth wall breaking is a dangerous game and not everyone is Ben Edlund. Sadly.

I'm intrigued with the season 4 redux, which at this point seems pretty inarguable, because I think the point is to have the boys take a walk in each other's shoes so they can truly understand each other and forgive each other for past wrongs on both sides. I don't think the writers have moved on from Sam's harsh words. I think they've shown Dean accepting them, while showing that Sam did not mean for them to be taken at face value.

I think Dean and Sam communicate differently. Dean shows his feelings through action. Sam uses words. I think Sam threw out those words in The Purge to get Dean to engage with his hurt. Dean was supposed to fight back and they'd end up somewhere in the middle. But Dean doesn't fight that way. So he backed away instead and left those words hanging in the air between them. He's waiting for Sam to show him how he feels and Sam's waiting for Dean to tell him how he feels and the space between them remains, even though neither wants it there.

I think Sam is the one who will finally break and try to reach his brother, who at this point he clearly still believes is his brother. But Dean is going to be too far gone to hear him. I think next season will have Sam trying to find a way to save Dean from whatever happens to him in the finale. He'll need to take action, and I hope that leads to Dean eventually being able to tell Sam in words how he feels about lying to Sam about something so important.

I hope all this adds to our understanding of the boys, so the retread is not just a retread but instead leaves the boys in a stronger place. So, that's my viewing lens at the moment!
Ginger
# Ginger 2014-05-08 22:49
"I think the point is to have the boys take a walk in each other's shoes so they can truly understand each other and forgive each other for past wrongs on both sides."

I agree. I think that is exactly what the writers intend, but I also think that there could have been a better character study of both of them had the writers did not always take the easiest path. I won't go into the how's or why's and will just leave it at I am not a fan of poached storylines. That doesn't mean that it won't end up being good. So far, though, the relationship was stalled and only recently started to move forward.

I do agree with your other points, that Dean fights differently than Sam and Sam will be the one to reach out to "save" Dean from his addiction, just as it was Dean who tried to save Sam from his addiction. Dean failed in that, but I expect Sam will have to succeed.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-05-08 21:32
In Trial and Error everyone seemed to be able to hear the Hellhound. In The Devil You Know they could hear the Hellhound, as well as in Abandon All Hope. I think any time someone gets ganked by an angel blade white lights ensue. So maybe because the Blade was given to Cain by Lucifer it has the same properties as an angel blade.
As far as the brothers working together like brothers when did they ever stop? This is the friendliest rift these guys have ever had.
I just assumed that Dean is going to go through something similar to Sam's demon blood story line because Dean needed to learn first hand what Sam had gone through and Dean needs to quit ragging on Sam for all of his past mistakes.
debbab
# debbab 2014-05-10 12:33
Jo, Ellen, Sam and Dean all were aware of the hell hounds' presence prior to Jo's mortal wound. Meg did say "sick em". Sam and Dean did know that Juliet was in the cemetery this time- did he feel her breath or hear her growl?. So who assigned them there as Crowley seemed surprised and yet they did respond to his voice- clearly they are loyal to him. I found it odd that Dean did not remember the Gavin story from the Bobby's soul episode unless he meant that he just couldn't believe that Crowley had family to care about. I found the fandom bash over done. Be careful not to hurt the hand that feeds you- indelicate. Most of the episode was "awesome".
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-05-08 21:18
i disagree that sam disowned dean, as he didn't. it wasn't because of what dean had done that sam said what he said. sam's comment was an angered and frustrated response to dean's comment that all they had to do was go to work as usual and put a few w's in the win column. this is what dean tells sam right after sam explains to dean that they are damaged. dean broke a trust and sam can't trust him. dean just wanted to go back to being partners as usual....so sam responded in kind....you want to be partners fine, we'll be partners but if you want to be brothers......w ell those are my terms. sam wanted more from dean than a simple brush off after all dean had done to him. but dean didn't or couldn't own up to his actions. he just wanted sam to bury it all, something i'm afraid sam could not do. so out of anger and frustration sam said the only thing he could think to say to get to his brother....and it worked. unfortunately, dean's pride got in the way. he knew sam was trying to break him and sam was trying to break him, to get dean to confront him. instead of dean apologizing and owning up to what he'd done to sam, dean told sam he didn't break easy...so again, out of frustration and anger, sam told him that he was just being honest. but sam was blatantly upset as dean left the room, his hopes dashed as his brother walked away.

thanks for the nice review Gerry. i share the same hopes.
mary9930
# mary9930 2014-05-09 06:43
Thanks Gerry. I have been hoping for a "walk a mile in my shoes" resolution for the brothers but I was thinking of a closer switch. When you mentioned that Sam may see there are worse things than over protective Dean I realized that makes more sense than Sam making a Dean like decision over Dean's autonomy. Then as far as Dean being possessed, he is obviously losing his autonomy to the blade.

About Gadreel's redemption, I would be more amenable if they would do a flashback where he seems devastated by what he did to Kevin & his old friend. At the time it seemed more like he just found it distasteful. Maybe we go back even farther & see Gadreel holding a dying Zeke who makes him promise to get the angels back to heaven. At first Gadreel sees the Winchesters as the winning team. Then things start going sour & Metatron seems a better bet.
bjxmas
# bjxmas 2014-05-09 10:57
I'm relieved I'm not the only one to have issues with the episode and the possible direction of Show. When it initially aired all I saw were glowing comments about how awesome it was. To me it felt crowded and rushed, most especially Abaddon's demise. My main go-away at the end was feeling a tad let-down because it felt like the entire season was headed toward this epic battle between Abaddon and Dean and yet she wasn't much of a threat in the end. My main issues with Brad and Eugenie has always been their penchant for using magic and flash instead of building a solid story that stays true to canon and the tone Kripke set for the show.

Instead of the characters driving the story with how they'd realistically react to a situation, it seems more that these writers want a certain thing to happen so they lead the characters in actions that seem a bit weak and ill thought out. I'm talking about why didn't Abaddon keep the Winchesters from retrieving the blade if she knew where they were going to grab it? It would make a little sense if the hellhound was sent to maul them. I loved the hellhound scene because it was the most tension we got in the ep, along with a good balance between the humor and the terror. It was also unexpected and felt organically like Sam and Dean! I also don't think it was satisfactorily explained why the Winchesters didn't kill Crowley at the end when he was immobilized with the devils trap bullet. For several episodes they've both discussed and agreed that as soon as Abaddon was gone, he was next. Not that I wanted him dead, far from it, but find a better explanation for him slipping through their fingers.

With the longest THEN segment in history, it was clear from the start there was too much story to tell in 40 minutes. As a Mark of Cain fan, I wanted Dean's struggle and ultimate kill of Abaddon to be the focus instead of just one of many stories running through the ep. I thought it would run through these final three episodes with some intense hand-to-hand brawls between Abaddon and Dean before the big kill. I actually would have been thrilled to have her continue into S10. I'd much rather see them tie up the angel-heaven-Me tatron situation this season and leave the Crowley, Abaddon, MOC Dean story as the cliffie that catapulted us into Dark Dean and Sam saving him.

Which only makes me more scared for Dean now, because what is going to happen to him in the next two episodes? I hope the plan is good and satisfying and not shelving Dean while they deal with Metatron. I agree with a previous poster that the episode was better on rewatch. It's always those damn expectations! There were some nice twists and surprises but I still have a hard time getting past the conveniences these writers tend to depend on. If they do intend on rewriting what happens next by using Gavin's time displacement, then they need to tread softly. That could either be great on an epic scale or a treacherous path.

I do miss Ben Edlund's deft touch, quirky mind and how he knew the Winchesters. His episodes always left me rewatching for more joy and with admiration for the way he could craft a story and surprise me while still holding firm to the truths of the Winchesters. I'm anxious now more than excited to see what happens next, hoping they pull everything together to awe me.

B.J.
Gerry
# Gerry 2014-05-10 09:58
Hi B.J., it's always great to hear from you! I agree with many of your points, about the writers and about how crammed the episode was. But as much as I think Ross-Leming and Buckner have a history of twisting canon to suit a story line and of trying to put too much story into too little time (see "Taxi Driver"), I think Carver has his share of the blame for the way Abbadon's story was handled.

I think Abbadon was never meant to be the real big bad, she's the deke out big bad, just like The Mother was in season 6. The writers could not take your excellent suggestion to wrap up the angel arc and bring out Abbadon and Crowley as the continuing story because the angel thread has to continue into next season so Castiel's story line can be serviced. So Abbadon does not get developed the way she deserved to be, despite the absolutely sizzling scene between Dean and Abbadon that started off the season. Why would any showrunner waste that kind of chemistry?

Instead, we get Bart and Malachi, who died off screen this week and nobody noticed, and the other boring angels in the boring angel story line. Fortunately, I think Gadreel and Metatron are much more successful - but that story is going to suffer from not being Sam and Dean's focus. Castiel is going to take the lead on the heaven story line. It will be interesting to see if Gadreel ultimately pushes Sam's story or Castiel's. To make this season really land, Sam needs to get some point of view that resonates with much of the audience more than his angry words did in The Purge. To do that, we can't be focused on Gadreel's redemption unless we get some really really stellar writing with Sam and Gadreel and Dean. Maybe Carver will pull that off. He's got the writing chops. But I'm not sure he realizes the need.

As we bear down on the finale, I suspect Dean will turn out to be the real big bad, and that will drive his and Sam's story line into next season. Whether that will make up for Abbadon's anemic story and end and the diffused focus between the Winchesters and Castiel for the heaven story line remains to be seen.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-05-09 11:32
Maybe the whole Gavin thing is going to explain some of the cannon issues there have been the last 2 seasons. The Grand Canyon, the reapers, the whatever everyone has issues with. Maybe this has been the plan all along. What the end game might be? I got nothing.

Or a way to bring Bobby back??
debbab
# debbab 2014-05-10 12:50
Dean was so focused and calm when he killed Abaddon. His face and hand were bloodied. Did anyone notice that the beautiful, new, suede, jacket seemed to be blood spatter free? Maybe it was how it transmitted to my t.v. . Then in the final scene, which jacket is Dean sporting? Do dark characters get better wardrobe? Just kidding around in light of the dark road he seems to be going down with "no!". How these characters grab us with their one syllable words- "so?" and now 'no".