The Mark of Cain
“…with the mark comes a great burden, some would say a great cost”
The final seconds of the season 9 finale answered one question unequivocally: the cost of bearing the Mark of Cain is your soul. The Mark taps into the raw energy of the soul to make the bearer powerful and strong, but with each kill the soul is further corrupted until the bearer loses all sense of humanity and turns into a demon. After months of speculation and mounting evidence, that fate seemed inevitable. Still, we get to take credit for predicting Dean’s path. The speed with which the Mark assumed control over its victim and the degree to which the bearer was helpless to stop the exploitation was shocking, though.
On the other hand, it seems our second theory that the Mark would make its bearer immortal was only partially accurate. If Cain’s history was any indication of the Mark’s power, nothing less than “the new god” would have been strong enough to defeat and kill the Mark’s owner. Metatron was able to kill Dean even though Dean bore the Mark of Cain, so the Mark did not extend its owner’s life per se. Instead, just as with Cain, the Mark used death to convert the soul and resurrect the body into a demonic state. Yet Cain made Dean promise to kill him, so it seems death is possible if delivered by the Blade from another Mark. So, like the legend of the Highlander, the bearers can be killed but are essentially, or almost, immortal.
Given that living as a demon means you are also separated from all you loved in life, our suspicion that isolation comes hand in hand with bearing the Mark seems to also be partially true. Both immortality and isolation are undesirable side-effects of being a demon rather than unique consequences by themselves, thus the root of the Mark’s suffering appears to be becoming a slave to its bloodlust. It requires that its bearer continuously kill. If obeyed, its owner loses all sense of self and sanity, hearing only the siren call to kill. If resisted, it slowly kills the body so that in death it assumes complete control and turns the bearer into a demon.
I find that I am still a little uncertain that we, even now, know the whole story, though. I may be overanalyzing Cain’s cryptic omen, but why would Cain say that only some would consider there to be a great cost to having the Mark? Wouldn’t every human being think that corrupting your soul to the point of becoming a demon is a great cost?! Granted, there are some malevolent humans who would relish becoming an immortal entity of evil, so I guess I can rationalize that not all killers would object to the price of the Mark of Cain.
What about the burden reference, then? A burden is defined as “a difficult or worrying responsibility or duty”. What did Cain consider his duty? Was it restraining himself while he was human against a growing addiction to killing? I don’t think so. Since the Mark’s bloodlust escalates with use, it seems inescapable that the bearer will turn into a demon rather quickly, certainly much faster than the decades of torture in Hell that the process usually requires. The “burden” of restraint then would only be a fleeting problem. Maybe the burden is trying not to kill for all of eternity once you are a demon if you were once a moral individual, as both Cain and Dean were. Given their stated values, though, it seems both they and the Mark would enjoy ridding the world of the plague of demonic influence, so that wouldn’t be considered a burden. Is the burden knowing you can kill demons, but not allowing yourself that guilty pleasure, since it would erase all other aspects of your existence? Colette didn’t want that for Cain, and certainly Sam and Castiel wouldn’t want that for Dean, so that is possible. I don’t think we will know exactly what Cain thought was his burden until he reappears, presumably in season 10 when he is ready to die and calls Dean to keep his promise. What do you think? Do you think the consequences we’ve seen have fulfilled Cain’s prophecy or do think there is still more to the story?
By the way, I have wondered why Cain waited to call Dean. If Cain wanted to die so badly, why delay his demise? Was he waiting for Dean to kill the last Knight of Hell? Probably, since that would complete Cain’s own aborted mission. I am also guessing, though, that Cain had to wait for Dean to become a demon. Probably a human, even one bearing the Mark, couldn’t have killed Cain. How long do you think we will have to wait before we see Cain again? If I was Dean, I would immediately try to find the original owner of the Mark to learn as much as possible about my fate. A little late, Dean, but you might ask Cain to explain the Mark more completely.
I think we have to give ourselves credit for mostly correct theories about the Mark of Cain.
I believe the addiction arc fulfilled its purpose and ended with that last scene of season 9. We watched Dean, Crowley, Metatron and Gadreel struggle against their additions, all with different outcomes. Dean’s inability to ever forgive and accept himself perpetuated his self-image as “a killer”. This led to him accepting the Mark, becoming addicted to killing via the Blade, and enduring the ultimate consequence - becoming one of the creatures he hated the most. Crowley’s involuntary addiction to human blood did the exact opposite. It made him less demonic, i.e. less ruthless and more sentimental. Crowley now has to balance being a demon with a conscience. I believe we will see a great deal more of the effects of Crowley’s semi-demonic existence as it is likely at the heart of him wanting a drinking buddy and a cohort with whom he can howl at the moon. Metatron’s addiction to pursuing and wielding the power of God landed him in an eternal jail, alone and without his beloved stories. Gadreel actually achieved the goal of his addiction to redeem his name, but the pursuit cost him his life. There will still be a lot of fallout from everyone’s addictions, but I think next season will focus on recovery. Dean must recover his humanity and Crowley will either become completely human or completely demonic again. Do you agree?
I don’t even know where to begin. The brothers have the most complicated relationship of all time. There were literally a hundred comments on the frustrations I expressed in my episode review to Sam’s “I lied” and “I know”. When did you lie, Sam? In the trailer park when you said you knew Dean needed to follow through to the end, no matter the consequences, or in the bunker when you told Dean you wouldn’t save him in similar circumstances? Then, you know what, Sam?! You know Dean loves you and never meant to hurt you? You know he will keep doing things to protect and save you no matter your wishes…or you know that he regrets what he did to you and is sorry? You know he learned a lesson and will give you back autonomy over your life, or you know he can never, ever stop being the big brother? Did you expect him to let you face Metatron together in a fight to the death, or weren’t you surprised that he sucker punched you, effectively still making your decisions for you? Then what did you decide Sam? Why did you call Crowley?
Dean. Oh Dean. Your decision to knock out your brother saved him but doomed you. You’re okay with that since you told him to leave you and escape before Metatron returned but when did you decide that you’re proud of what you and your brother had done and had become? Couldn’t you have said that to him before your dying breath? Now Sam is once again in a position to have to save you, only this time he can’t leave you to die in peace because you aren’t at peace. He has to act. At least Sam doesn’t have to compromise his oath because the circumstances certainly are not the same as when you decided to save his life. He could have chosen to go with Death, gotten a cold beer in Heaven (well, the veil, but that’s another story) and not hurt anyone ever again. You, on the other hand, are dangerous and have to be saved, stopped or killed. What a mess…and an outstanding set-up for season 10. Could these boys PLEASE get their act together!?
“I did what I had to do”
“Damn it Crowley. You got him into this mess. You will get him out, or so help me God.”I do not think Sam was going to make a deal with his soul, regardless of what Crowley assumed. Sam does not typically cover the same ground twice. I believe he was going to somehow try to force Crowley to find a solution to Dean’s problem. I think Sam’s complete sentence would have been “or so help me God, I will kill you this time.” He sounded threatening, not resigned. I think he is perfectly willing to do whatever he has to do to save Dean. For that reason, I think it is quite possible that this theme will extend into the beginning of season 10. The exact phrase was layered into so much dialogue this season that it would be overkill to keep repeating it next year, but I project that we will hear it at least a few more times before it is put to rest, especially from Sam.
We get full credit for believing that Gadreel would be redeemed. Castiel even specifically acknowledged Gadreel’s redemption. I was so very sorry to lose Gadreel, though. I really wanted him to continue to work with Castiel to restore Heaven. At least he had a fitting and honorable end. I am fascinated with his conversion and martyrdom speech:
Gadreel: “I sat in this hole for thousands of years, thinking of nothing but redemption, of reclaiming my good name. I thought of nobody, no cause, other than my own.”
Castiel: “You've been redeemed, my friend.”
Gadreel: “The only thing that matters in the end is the mission -- protecting those who would not and cannot protect themselves --the humans. None of us is bigger than that. And we will not let our fears, our self-absorption prevent us from seeing it through. Not anymore…When they say my name, perhaps I won't just be the one who let the serpent in. Perhaps I will be known as one of the many who gave heaven a second chance.”
I get chills hearing that speech. Gadreel eloquently summarized in a few words what Castiel had been trying to say for so long. In the end, one of the very first angels to be disgraced at the beginning of time was the only angel who understood the path that Castiel saw so clearly. God’s mission for the angels was worthy of their lives. It was their one, true calling. Gadreel, you’ve been redeemed, my friend.
Ironically, Gadreel's death was also instrumental in redeeming Castiel. Gadreel’s sacrifice convinced Hannah that Castiel had been telling the truth about his own intentions and about Metatron’s deception. The angels believe in Castiel again (having heard Metatron’s confessions).
Hannah: “You're doing the right thing -- letting him live. It's what a leader would do.”While the revealed truth redeemed Castiel in the eyes of his followers, it was really humility that allowed Castiel to accept redemption. After so many attempts to save Heaven and Earth from Lucifer, Raphael, Metatron and a host of angels who saw themselves as the new god (including Castiel himself), Castiel found his true self by again believing in his mission. I am curious as to whether he will be allowed to be “just” an angel, or if he will be compelled to lead others to their rightful path. After all, there is still the problem of the veil to be addressed. The most likely scenario is now that Cas seeks simplicity, he will instead share the brothers’ fate of being a reluctant hero.
Castiel: “I'm no leader, Hannah. I never was. I just want to be an angel.”
Even though Gadreel and Castiel found their redemption this season, I think the redemption arc will have to continue. Instead of following the quests for the angels’ redemptions, though, I believe (hope, pray) we will finally see Sam and Dean both offer and accept redemption for themselves. I think we are also moving towards Crowley finding redemption for his eons of havoc. These thoughts fills me with hope, so I choose to predict that the redemption theme will continue.
My episode review mentioned some masterful reversals in the finale:
- Sam and Castiel locking Dean in the dungeon mirrored Dean and Bobby locking Sam in the panic room in “When the Levee Breaks”. Blood addiction, whether ingested or spilled, seems to lead to incarceration by your friends and relatives.
- Dean faced the object of his obsession (Metatron) alone, just as Sam faced the object of his obsession (Lilith) alone.
- The staging, dialog and events surrounding Dean’s death were direct echoes of Sam’s death in “All Hell Breaks Loose-Part 1” (a Winchester yelling “Noooo!” from far away; sprinting to the dying brother to only be able to witness the last few seconds of life; lying about how easily the wound would be healed then holding the doomed brother while he dies in your arms).
- Sam standing over the lifeless body of his brother, wondering what he is supposed to do, just as Dean stood over Sam’s lifeless body and wondered what he was supposed to do, in “All Hell Breaks Loose-Part 2”
Other viewers pointed out that season 9 began with Dean trying to keep Sam from dying and ended with Sam trying to keep Dean from dying. Also, Dean began the season by calling angels and Sam ended the season by calling a demon.
All season we have been tracking reversals: demons becoming human while humans became demons; the angelic vessel turning demonic while the demonic vessel housed an angel; the lowly becoming god (Metatron) while the previously self-proclaimed god (Castiel) became lowly. The parallels have been so prominent that it seems likely the conclusion to all these arcs would also follow prior seasons' resolutions. If that happens in season 10, we will have come full circle. Everyone will have lived through the mistakes and choices faced by others. This might be what finally allows the brother’s relationship to grow and mature, what finally allows Cas to save Heaven and the angelic hosts, and what finally gives Crowley love. While I can’t predict exact events, it seems we should continue the reversal thread as well.
1. “You’ve [Sam] seen everything that he’s [Gadreel] seen”- This did not end up being important in either defeating Metatron or in the angels regaining access to Heaven, so from that standpoint it doesn’t seem to have been an ominous or foreshadowing comment. I can’t completely disregard it as a loose thread, though, because it is a major addition to canon. Crowley clearly explained more about how possessions work. That is a circumstance that the writers can capitalize on sometime in the future. I’ll give us half credit on this one!
2. What did Crowley learn from the angel tablet? – This is still an open point that I intend to carry forward into season 10. Crowley read something on that tablet. I believe it is important.
3. Is the Angel Banishing Spell Reversible? /Is Castiel’s stolen grace the key to reversing the angel banishing spell? Although we haven’t talked about it previously, Metatron actually created two separate problems with his “angel banishing spell”. He cast the angels out of Heaven but he also closed Heaven’s gates. Castiel now controls the backdoor to Heaven. Presumably angels will be allowed to reenter Heaven this way. Regardless, the issue remains as to how to reopen the gates of Heaven. So far no one has tried reversing the spell, probably because they didn’t have access to the angel tablet, so we still don’t know if Castiel’s grace is needed. The finale also did not mention anything about the millions of souls stuck in the veil being accepted into Heaven. Maybe Kevin repairs the tablet? Maybe Crowley knows the counter spell (from reading the tablet)? Somehow Heaven has to get repaired so it is still possible that Cas’ grace is required. We definitively learned that Cas will die if his own grace isn’t restored, and according to his own estimate he doesn’t have much time left, so the plot line seems to be leading to how Castiel finds his grace to heal himself versus healing Heaven’s rift. While this may indicate that Castiel’s grace is not the key to Heaven’s door, we really don’t yet know how Heaven's problems will be resolved.
So several of Heaven’s storylines must continue into season 10. The angel tablet was destroyed; Kevin is stuck in the veil (with all the other confused souls); and Castiel is in charge of Heaven but is dying (while Metatron is still alive).
One solution might be to “convince” Metatron to retrieve the vial containing Cas’ grace. If the grace was entirely expended for the angel banishing spell, though, then Kevin in the veil seems like an obvious kismet – Kevin repairs the tablet which holds the keys to reopening Heaven’s gates and restoring an angel’s grace. Cas is healed and Kevin and all the lost souls receive their heavenly reward. It is unlikely that the writers would resurrect Kevin, as in bring him back to Earth alive, though. There were comments that Kevin was a loose end that kept popping in and out of plots. Where was Kevin? Why weren’t the brothers helping Kevin? The writers needed to kill Kevin to solve a recurring awkwardness in the storyline. I think at best we will get a welcome, but short, revival of Kevin’s character before he is shuffled off to Heaven permanently.
Of the many unresolved questions about Heaven, I was also left wondering about the story Metatron had been writing. He said it was “a marvelous story full of love and heartbreak and love”. That struck me as odd because I haven’t seen a lot of “love” in his story yet. He said he was the hero and that Castiel was the villain, which makes sense for the chapters related to Metatron returning all the angels to Heaven. That interpretation doesn’t seem to be about “love and love”, though. Metatron also said he “knew” the end of his story. Have we reached the end that Metatron “knew”? Surely he didn’t see himself in prison as a result of a coup. He said he was “going on a short trip…, but rest assured, all will be explained [upon my return] and it will be glorious”. He changed into his “pathetic” clothes “to tell the rest of the story”. We know his trip was to Earth to reveal himself to mankind, expecting all humans to accept him as the new god. I assume he envisioned returning to Heaven in triumph, taking his place on Heaven’s throne as god, with humans worshipping or at least obeying him, maybe becoming martyrs in his name. He would rule Heaven and Earth with absolute and complete autonomy and power, with the host of angels in Heaven and the entire race of people on Earth united in the “Love” of him alone as god. Was this the “glorious” end to the story he was writing? A regime change in Heaven? Was his ending foiled when his boasts were broadcast by Castiel, or are we just witnessing one of his plot subversions? Just as I don’t think the writers would resurrect Kevin, I don’t think they would extend Metatron’s role much longer. Most of us were happy to see him defeated. Still, I just don’t feel settled that this was the ending he “knew”, and I sense him being alive is an important clue we shouldn’t dismiss. What do you think?
Letting Go / Grief
In the opening scene of “Do You Believe in Miracles”, when Dean was desperately trying to attack Gadreel, Sam used the exact words of this theme as he tried to get the First Blade away from Dean:
“Let it go! Let it go! Let it go.”
Then Crowley’s long overdue story about Cain’s struggles revealed that the Mark also wasn’t ever going to “let go”:
“You have to believe me. When I suggested you take on the Mark of Cain, I didn't know this was going to happen. Not really. I mean, I might not have told you the entire truth. But I never lied. I never lied, Dean. That's important. It's fundamental. But...there is one story about Cain that I might have... forgotten to tell you. Apparently, he, too, was willing to accept death, rather than becoming the killer the Mark wanted him to be. So he took his own life with the Blade. He died. Except, as rumor has it, the Mark never quite let go.”
Lastly, Sam struggled with his decision as to whether or not to let go of Dean in death. At the time Sam made his decision, he didn’t know Dean would become a demon, so it was a pure dilemma of facing overwhelming grief and letting Dean rest, or holding onto him, finding a way to resurrect and restore Dean’s body and soul. Clearly, Sam chose to not repeat his choice of letting go of Dean in seasons 7/8 when Sam didn’t know where Dean was nor how to save him. This time Sam is committed to not letting go.
The theme of letting go and grief permeated the entire season. Characters and storylines kept advising the brothers that letting go was the smart thing to do. Not surprisingly, they didn’t listen to anyone’s advice. It seems both brothers have made their choices, so I believe the theme has served its purpose. I don’t see it continuing as blatantly into next season.
Will someone else turn out to be who they aren't supposed to be?
The season ended with the ultimate switch – the ultimate hunter became the ultimate demon. Yet I am stuck on the hunch that Crowley is not who we think he is. Until we know something for sure, this is a theme we need to watch.
New Themes (Storylines?)
Crowley: “I never lied. I never lied, Dean. That’s important. It’s fundamental.”
Why was this so important? Sure, Crowley knows how much lying got between the brothers, and he wants to start a new relationship with Dean, but fundamental?? Is it fundamental because trust is the basis of any relationship? My instincts tell me this phrase is as key as Cain’s warning, or Sam’s cryptic reference to “the problem” with his brother. I think this is the beginning of a new thread.
There were also three new possible threads introduced in previous episodes:
Who is Kevin’s real father?
Gavin’s Impact on Time
- The angel suicides in “Stairway to Heaven” were clues to the finale, but they were foreshadowing Gadreel’s end, not Dean’s. I had theorized that Dean’s comment to Tessa about never having been low enough to take his own life might have been an omen about Dean’s death. Instead, Dean was telling us he was strong enough to not kill himself. His remark may still be relevant later in his demonic journey, though, since Crowley revealed that Cain tried to kill himself. We will have to wait and see.
- Metatron and Gadreel did not know about the MoC and the First Blade. I appreciated knowing that detail for certain.
- A random thought: the show seems to be slowly giving Team Free Will the knowledge they need to eliminate everything Supernatural from the world. Metatron “turned off” the prophet engine so there may never be another prophet of God on Earth. The brothers know how to close the gates of Hell, effectively protecting Earth from future demonic influence (although would that trap evil souls in the veil?). They know how to cure people who are already possessed by demons, so theoretically they could either kill or cure every last demon on Earth. A reformed Crowley has limitless knowledge of monstrous creatures and how to tame, cure or eliminate them, plus hunters can already cure new vampires, and there is a growing faction of peaceful werewolves (Garth, “Bitten” Kate). What if, one by one, the Winchesters are eliminating all Supernatural forces from their world? The end of the series could be that they have accomplished what no other hunters could have hoped to accomplish – complete and total victory. Humans no longer having to contend with monsters. I abhor talking about the end of the series (because it will be eons from now) but this seems like a very realistic possibility to me given the slow progression in this direction. It’s like the longest thread imaginable. What do you think?
Let me know if I have triggered any new thoughts about the finale or season 10’s possibilities! Do you agree or disagree with my speculations??
Till Next Season…
Screen Caps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com.