So, did anything good happen in this episode? Well, maybe that Gadreel changed sides? Other than that, Castiel lost his followers, Tessa was killed, Sam was shut down and Dean…well, we are going to spend a lot of time talking about what happened to Dean.
Opinions on this episode have been passionate, and diametrically opposite. Many people loved it, seeing it as one of the best episodes of the season, while others considered it the last straw that literally ended their love affair with the show. I don’t seem to hold either extreme opinion. I enjoyed it well enough and certainly a lot happened to advance story lines. Curiously though, it didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, but I haven’t had a particularly strong empathetic response to the many of shows the last few weeks. That may be due to the writing. Several of you have shared my quizzical reaction to recent events, like deciding loyalties via a game of bowling, or going for humor when Castiel desperately sought a doorway to Heaven (this was the big lead into the finale. I should have been shocked by heartbreaking choices and dramatic events, not party rooms filled with balloons!). Maybe it’s me. I’ve become so accustomed to analyzing the scripts for threads that maybe I’ve lost my emotional attachment to the fate of the characters (I’m a little worried about that actually!). The gut wrenching cliffhanger will undoubtedly answer this question, though, and many of the other questions we have posed all season.
For the past eight months, we have worked hard to find evidence for theories and to read between the lines as to where the writers would take our beloved characters. Together we have tracked myth arcs, clues and threads, and we only have to wait a few more days to see where we were right and where we were wrong.
So once more unto the breach, dear friends.
New Evidence for Existing Threads
The Mark of Cain/ Addiction/ Brother’s Relationship
“But you have to know with the mark comes a great burden. Some would call it a great cost.”
Dean is isolated. In comments last week, I said “The MoC is making [Dean] cold. He can be non-violent if that is what will get the job done; but he can also be mercilessly violent if that is faster... He doesn't care either way. Nor does he care about Sam's feelings right now, or maybe even Sam's safety, as your Poughkeepsie observations pointed out [not warning Sam of impending danger] and as the bleeding-out incident in A4 might have suggested. The brother's relationship is in danger because Dean IS changing (into the true bearer of the MoC), not because he WON'T change (to think of Sam as an equal partner).”
Dean’s addiction to the Blade and/or to violence has made him lose the capacity to connect to anyone or anything other than the Blade. He unapologetically lied to Sam about bringing the First Blade with them to investigate the angel kills, then he berated Sam for being concerned. He publically flogged Castiel for his past mistakes in front of his followers. He was very fast to shed Sam during their investigation, sending him to “help” Cas follow Josiah’s trail in Colorado. He told Sam that not only aren’t they brothers, they aren’t a team. Dictatorship!?? It was clear that Dean now regards Sam as nothing more than a soldier who should take orders. The biblical Cain was isolated from everything he loved. The Supernatural Cain, though, didn’t stop loving Colette, so I never imagined Dean would stop loving Sam!
We saw the brother’s relationship completely break down once before. In season 4, Sam and Dean came to blows and went their separate ways in disgust and anger. Sam was convinced he was right and saw Dean as a weakness that would keep him from completing his mission. Even as he prepared for his final confrontation with Lilith, though, Sam had doubts and kept asking himself if he should reconcile with Dean. Sam might have been addicted and misguided, single minded and self-righteous but he still tried to convince Dean to see his point of view. He begged Dean to join him. This Dean doesn’t care about Sam or anyone else. Dean declared himself the dictatorial leader of Team Free Will. He told Flagstaff that “there are no other men like me”. He believes he has superior skills and is better off alone. The brothers have hit rock bottom again.
Dean is irrational. Until “Stairway to Heaven”, I felt that Dean could still be rational when it served his purpose. That has changed. Dean didn’t listen to Sam’s flawless argument about leaving the Blade home. Dean’s need to be with the Blade led to Tessa’s death, which started off the chain reaction of an ultimatum that he be punished, Castiel’s refusal to kill his friend, and the defection of Castiel’s entire army. The influx of venom Dean ingested from the Blade after killing Abaddon has robbed Dean of his logic, his self-control and his conscience. He is mindlessly violent, irrational, uncaring…soulless. There is a huge difference, though, between Soulless!Sam and Soulless!Dean. Sam was unfeeling. Neither positive nor negative emotions influenced his actions. Rather he was controlled by pure logic. Dean, however is subscribing to the version of soulless we were introduced to in “Mother’s Little Helper”. Sam theorized that everyone reacts differently to losing their souls. “Stairway to Heaven” showed us a Dean who is relentless and obsessed. I’m not even sure he needs a prey or a hunt anymore. He just longs for the kill. He tried to kill Gadreel even though, if kept alive, the angel who had betrayed Dean could be the turning point in the war for Heaven. Gadreel offered to spy for them. He knows the location of Heaven’s door as it is moved and he can deliver Metatron to them. Gadreel is the key to victory and an end to the angel war, yet Dean’s hate blinded him to the overriding need to let Gadreel live.
Dean longs for violence. When I speculated about Dean becoming a stone cold killer, my vision was of a Dean who had no feelings – a Dean who wouldn’t hesitate to kill because he had no empathy or fear; a Dean who would masterfully overpower and kill his prey. From that standpoint, this theory was correct and has been fulfilled. The Dean we saw in “Stairway to Heaven” has gone far beyond this, though. This Dean is past lost or addicted – he is corrupted. I never imagined Dean would combine pitiless hunting instincts with unbridled fury. I imagined him killing Sam as an unemotional, calculated tactic because Sam stood between him and Dean’s prey, or unintentionally during a blinded rage of violence, or maybe even accidentally as foreshadowed by Cain killing Colette. I’m beginning to wonder now, though, if Dean might kill Sam purposely because the Mark’s violent insanity will magnify the resentment, hurt and confusion Dean feels toward Sam. Dean’s bloodlust escalates every time he uses the Blade. It increased again after the Blade killed Tessa. Once Dean kills Metatron, Dean’s drive for violence will be uncontainable. It will be almost equal to Cain’s reign of terror. Whatever circumstances and whatever his motivation, Sam is both Abel and Colette, and all indications are that Dean will try to kill Sam.
Dean’s fate. In “First Born” Cain said “…I killed [Abel]. Became a soldier of Hell – a Knight”. If Dean kills Sam purposely, out of rage or as a calculated casualty of war, would Dean complete the transformation from a killer whose soul is dead into a supernaturally charged force whose soul has been corrupted? In other words, will Dean become a demon, a Knight of Hell, just as Cain did?
…or will the shock of what he has done get through to Dean? Killing Colette forced Cain to stop himself by throwing the blade into the sea. Dean’s self-hatred would probably drive him to a different action:
Dean will kill himself, either immediately before trying to kill Sam or immediately after he kills Sam.
Ironically, I believe this possibility was foreshadowed in “Stairway to Heaven”. The events of the angel war introduced the desperation of beings committing suicide. These angels were brainwashed, just as Dean has been brainwashed by the Blade. Tessa was also reintroduced into the plot. Tessa was present so many times before when Dean faced impending death that she is his omen of death. Then there were Dean’s own ominous words (to Tessa):
“Why are you doing this? What would make a person want to pop their top, huh? I mean look, I have been in bad shape, I have, but I have never been that damn low.”
I checked the dialog in “First Born” (9.11). We assume that the First Blade is the only thing that can kill Cain. He demonstrated that the demon knife didn’t affect him at all, and a millennia of demons and Knights were unable to end him. If this is true, Sam would not be able to kill Dean (since the First Blade is not powered-up in Sam’s hands). Cain also never said he couldn’t kill himself, but we assume that as well since he made Dean promise to come back and kill him. So either Cain didn’t have the ability or the will to kill himself. Would Dean be able to kill himself, though? This would put Sam in the exact circumstances Dean faced. When Dean wants to die, will Sam save Dean against Dean’s express wishes? Sam would have to confront his convictions of letting his brother die.
I don’t know how Castiel’s dwindling grace will play into this scenario. I don’t know if he will be gone because he will be leading angels back into heaven, or if he will be too weak to stop Dean or save either brother. He may even be dead and watching events from the veil. In all cases, though, one or more of our heroes will either be dead or lost at the moment that season 9 ends.
“I did what I had to do”
This theme was blatantly used again in “Stairway to Heaven”, first by Dean, then Tessa, then Metatron.
When Dean showed Tessa the First Blade, she was immediately appalled. She recognized it and asked:
Tessa: "Dean, what have you done?"
Dean: "What I had to."
Tessa: "Welcome to the club."
….then she killed herself. Did she do what she had to do to stop the screaming in her ears, or did she have to do it because she had been brainwashed to commit suicide?
Then when Metatron was giving his big speech to Castiel’s followers, Cas asked him:
Castiel: “Who are you to lecture me on lying? Your deception led to the fall.”
Metatron: “I did what I had to do. I have always done what I’ve had to do, for God and for the angels.”
One of our three heroes is going to do what he has to do in the finale, with I’m sure, dire and unpleasant consequences.
Hurray! Gadreel finally saw the light and switched sides! I wouldn’t exactly call it redemption, though. He didn’t express regret or seem remorseful for his past actions, but he did admit that he had “made mistakes” and he offered to put himself at risk to do the right thing. We discussed last week how Gadreel was still holding onto altruistic values, such as loyalty and honor. He really thought he had been conducting himself honorably, by dutifully carrying out orders that supposedly would lead to the restoration of Heaven. He thought he was serving his “original purpose”. Metatron’s use of kamikaze squads pushed Gadreel too far, though. Gadreel was upset saying “You should have told me your plan. Tessa, Constantine – I recruited them and you brainwashed them into blowing themselves up….and what about Josiah?” Metatron acted without honor, deceiving angels, “brainwashing” them into sacrificing themselves and killing innocents. I don’t think Gadreel objected as much to their deaths as he did to Metatron’s dishonesty. Castiel differentiated himself from Metatron by saying “I would never ask an angel to sacrifice himself to kill innocents.” In the end, Gadreel chose the right side. I hope he is still alive so he can help defeat Metatron.
- Dean believes a demonic weapon can be used for good, i.e. the end of an unstoppable foe; just as Sam thought demon’s blood would be his weapon of righteousness to kill the oldest, most powerful demon they had faced.
- Sam’s eyes turned black as he teetered on the verge of becoming a demon. He confessed that he didn’t know that would be the cost of using the blood. It seems inevitable that Dean’s fate is to become a demon, too and we will yet see his eyes turn black. He also didn’t know this would be his fate.
Will someone else turn out to be who they aren't supposed to be?
It turns out that Castiel’s organization was full of people who weren’t who they were supposed to be. Orin (sp?), Tessa and Constantine were all working for Metatron without even knowing it themselves. Dean said Tessa “thinks she is [telling the truth]”. Then much later Gadreel confronted Metatron about “brainwashing” angels he had recruited. These angels were forcibly turned into something they weren’t. They were Metatron's elite squad, brainwashed into killing themselves for “Castiel”. Before being brainwashed, Orin was “full of life”. They said he was new, so he had probably been captured, brainwashed, then planted inside Castiel’s organization. Tessa was brought back to the story also, but only to kill her? I felt like I was watching Sarah die all over again. Besides foreshadowing Dean’s death as discussed above, though, Tessa’s presence also made the “elite” squad more relevant to us, because we knew Tessa and her convictions to play by the rules and always do her job. She was honest and worthy of trust. We knew that she wouldn’t be easily swayed by nonsense or empty promises, so her betrayal made Metatron’s brainwashing tactics more credible. Darn it, though. I really liked Tessa.
I predicted that the angel in the maroon suit, i.e. the “stuffy” angel, would be the spy in Castiel’s organization. It seems that I was wrong. Josiah confessed that “after Ezra, they told me that I should come to him. Metatron told me that I could go home. I just want to go home”, so it seems it was Josiah who betrayed Castiel. Who was Josiah, though? We never saw him before! No fair picking someone we had never seen before!
Josiah also said something else that was interesting. He said to Castiel “You play at being noble, play at being one of us, but I looked into your eyes, and I don’t see an angel staring back at me.” What did he mean? Did he see a celestial being who had broken free from the mindless obedience that is so typical of angels? Did he see someone who had been human, who knew free will, tough choices, struggles and triumphs? Did he see someone who was only partially an angel, because his grace was diminishing...or did he see something more, something greater than an angel? Castiel has been God’s favorite, resurrected inexplicably several times. Last week I introduced the theory that Castiel was playing the role of God’s son who became human to redeem the world. Was this another hint at Castiel as the Redeemer?
Metatron also attacked Castiel’s identity when he said, “Cas? He is not what you think he is. He sends angels out to die. Have you told them about your stolen grace, Castiel? How it is fading away? And when it burns out, so will you?” Twice during the episode, characters emphasized that Castiel is not who they think he is, not who he is supposed to be. That is intriguing.
What is the significance of Castiel’s stolen grace (is it the key to reversing the angel banishing spell)?
“Stairway to Heaven” again mentioned the fact that Castiel seems to be running out of time. Metatron said Castiel will “burn out”. Does he mean Castiel will die, or that when his grace is fully depleted he will simply revert to being a human again? That is what happened when his own grace was stolen from him. So will our angel have do one last heroic deed before he loses his powers? Save Sam? Succeed in returning the angels to Heaven?
Threads on Hold (no new clues this time)
- “You’ve [Sam] seen everything that he’s [Gadreel] seen”-
- Is the Angel Banishing Spell Reversible – So far, it doesn’t seem that it is. Instead, angels might get back into Heaven through the secret passageway.
- What did Crowley learn from the angel tablet? – Maybe about the back door to Heaven? Njspnfan said: “While the angel factions are fighting it out, it wouldn't surprise me if he made a back end run for heaven.”
Booklady pointed out that there was another example in “King of the Damned” of needing to let go of loved ones: “Crowley's inability to let go of Gavin by returning him to his time and death on the ship to the colonies…There have been personal and hurtful consequences to Dean (and others) for not letting go of Sam and I think the same will happen with Crowley regarding Gavin”. Thanks for catching that for us!
If we recall all the examples we have been shown of people not letting go of their loved ones, this thread may be one of the most dominant themes of the season:
- Timmy’s mother from the veil
- Kevin watching over Mrs. Tran from the veil
- Mama stealing a substitute for her Alex
- Jody grieving over her son and husband
- Crowley changing time to save Gavin
- Dean’s advice to Garth to never let go of the love of family
- Dean’s advice to Timmy “You gotta let [the one you love] go. You’ll be OK. Sometimes you got to do what’s best for you even if it’s gonna hurt the ones you love”. This was the same advice Sonny had given to Dean as a teenager.
- Sam, Dean, Castiel, Gadreel and others needing to let go of pain, guilt and self-loathing
Will Sam let go of Dean in the finale?
New Themes (Storylines?)
Who is Kevin’s real father?
Gavin’s Impact on Time
- How did Gadreel get into the bunker? There is supposed to be only ONE KEY. I wondered if since he has been back to Heaven he has been recharged, i.e. got his wings back. Maybe Metatron “healed” Gadreel and he can fly again, and appear at will. He seemingly disappeared last week when Castiel was ambushed. Did he just “appear” in the bunker? He obviously knows its location. That makes more sense to me than he still had a key.
- When Hannah said she had heard a lot about the Winchesters, Dean said “What can I say? Cas is a fan”. Do the writers suddenly have a pre-occupation with the dynamics of fandom?!
- Sam sleeps in his clothes, even in his own room in the bunker? We need to start a charity drive: “Send Sam PJs” or better yet, “Send Sam Sleeping Shorts” (you notice I only suggest pants, not a top). If enough of you are in, maybe we do this over the hiatus. They could always give the shorts to a local charity!
By this time next week, we’ll all be in mourning for both our heroes and for us since we will be in Hellatus. So last chance to theorize. What do you think will be the conclusion of the season 9 Threads?
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com
References confirmed with www.supernaturalwiki.com