"Brother’s Keeper" definitely had all the elements of a finale: it addressed all loose hanging threads and the major plot of the season and of course left with a major cliff hanger to gear up for next season, yet somehow it felt lackluster overall.
Angels and Demons
Castiel is left in charge of Rowena’s spell casting and recruits Crowley to gather the three ingredients: a piece of the golden calf, the apple from the Garden and someone Rowena loves. This plot took up a fair part of the episode but offered little dramatic input to the story, in my opinion. Castiel’s recruiting of Crowley was incredibly lackluster and so simple. I expected more payoff from this storyline – a betrayal by Crowley (in particular after the striking showing last week from our King of Hell) or at the very least something beyond the small display in the café and presenting of the Immortal to Rowena (more on this later).
The role of both Castiel and Crowley in the finale was minor, given the power and prominence of these characters overall. Furthermore, speaking to the spell itself – the hunt for the ingredients was treated with a few sentences. In the past we’ve featured the boys chasing down necessary elements to prevent apocalyptic events with great excitement developing in the story as a result. Thus, because of the very limited use of both Castiel and Crowley and the one-line solution to the so-called hard-to-get spell ingredients, this all seems like a lost opportunity to use for both character use and some plot elements as a result.
Our all-powerful centerpiece, connecting all of our characters, managed a very last minute and unexpected (?) betrayal/escape with the Book and Codex, leaving Crowley defending against Castiel, amped up on Rowena’s favourite mad-dog enchantment.
So, here is where the issues begin. I’m not clear if we were supposed to feel sorry about Rowena killing the boy – there was not enough time to know him or come to understand his relationship with her. She’s evil, that much has been clear from the jump ergo her choice to sacrifice him for her own freedom was neither unexpected or really that horrifying, given who she is and how long we’ve known this character. This backstory about Rowena’s relationship to the Polish family and her inability to love, etc. was an incredible amount of filler – and while Rowena’s wit opposite Castiel, Sam or Crowley has its charm on occasion the story I’m most interested in at this juncture is Sam, Dean and the Mark of Cain.
Finally, why was Crowley so surprised by what took place in the end? Truthfully I’d been waiting for Rowena to use the Book to her advantage for a while now and we know she’s an old and powerful witch. What was shocking about what happened, exactly?
Dean the Hunter: Blunt and Indiscrete
Once again, both boys turned in an incredible performance for the finale. Starting with Jensen, we had a totally unrecognizable Dean throughout the majority of this episode. We started off with what appeared to be the aftermath of a bender- perhaps to stave off memories of beating Cas to a bloody pulp – and next we see Dean standing over the body of a young girl killed by vampires. Except this isn’t the Dean Winchester we know and love, punning and commenting while digging for information with the local law enforcement – instead he’s “noticing” the apparel of our young victim and it’s whorish style. So on so forth. Dean can’t even play nice with fellow hunter Rudy when he arrives, telling him instead to go away because he’s just going to get himself killed.
This Dean, aggressive and candid to the point of offence, displays parallels to when we last saw Cain. He demonstrates a sense for “sin” and makes references to knowledge of the dark secrets in the deceased girl's house when he visits (and dramatizes for life, no doubt) her parents. Finally, he tracks the vampires down and ultimately, though he frees the kidnappee, does it with no finesse, no regard for getting Rudy killed by taunting the vampire to stab the other hunter and no concern for the girl after the vampires are dead. Nope, not the Dean we know. But oh so fun to watch this dark change of pace.
Understanding, perhaps like Cain did eventually, that he is too dark, Dean summons Death (played again by the chillingly talented Julian Richlings) after preparing a spread of deep-fried delights for his honour. And this is where it starts to get really interesting. Finally, somebody ups the ante on the vague notion of “consequences” of removing the Mark that’s been tossed about for weeks by having Death explain it’s in fact a lock to keep an ancient evil – The Darkness – at bay and out of the world as we know it. It’s an intriguing concept, for sure and I’m curious as to where this will be taken when given more exploration next season.
Death, of course, can’t kill Dean or remove the Mark – but he can lock Dean away where he can’t hurt anybody. With one caveat: Sam’s life. And this is how we know Dean is beyond messed up: he agrees.
Sam: The Saviour
Jared has played this particularly well the last few episodes: the building stress, the quiet anxiety – and this episode was no exception. Throughout the show Sam’s building anxiousness was palpable as he kept falling one step behind his brother, when Rudy contacted him and finally when he discovers the unsettling note leaving ownership of the Impala to him. He knew, piece by piece, his brother was being swallowed by the Mark but Sam couldn’t allow himself to give up.
The exchange between the boys in the restaurant was incredible – one of my favourite scenes. In so many ways it called back to Swan Song for me. Sam is on his knees, beat up, and though he says to Dean he will surrender, he tells his brother he knows he is a good man. Sam staring up at Dean, looking all the part of a little brother calling to his big brother, tearful eyes with nothing but forgiveness and love, handing over the photos of their young family, so that someday in the future Dean can find his way back – such a great moment. And it works, too. Dean overcame the power of the Mark in the moment just as Sam did way back in the cemetery. These boys have a connection to each other – plain and simple.
Death and Darkness
So Death is dead? Somehow I doubt this will stick. I expected, if that were truly the case that Rowena’s favourite not-son would rise again. But he didn’t and obviously Death is too awesome to truly fall. But, that’s the second time the Winchesters have betrayed him, so I don’t think pizza and taquitos will cut it next time you meet, guys. It wasn’t unexpected, because Dean wasn’t going to kill Sam but Dean slicing through Death wasn’t quite what I thought was going to happen either – nor was Death crumbling to ash. So, interesting twist.
The Mark is gone! Anyone else feel like a parade? Sure, we had some good times, but it definitely overstayed. The lightening strike and spell though, again I have to say felt a bit lackluster over all. I can’t say what I was expecting – but for all the build up in the translation and the Book and the costs to get there, the spell and tiny fireworks of the removal itself seemed more an afterthought to this story. That said, the lock is open so bring on the Darkness. Quite the note to leave us hanging on: five months is a lot of suspense to hold!
As finales go, the course of the episode was missing the build up through most of it. There was no deadline tension for the spell ingredients, no imminent betrayal to be discovered, even between Sam and Dean – while dramatically good, was only in the later points of the episode and didn’t create quite the intensity and nervous action-drama of past finales. The acting was excellent, as usual and the visuals offered here were the perfect tone for the episode overall. Overall, I enjoyed the episode, it had its flaws yes but the pieces that were good, were really good. The brother parts are the best points to the finales and this had some fine ones. And the end, featuring Sam and Dean, was fantastic - especially that final ominous fade away we were left with. Where will The Darkness story go? It’s got some serious potential for epic villains and interesting plots for season 11. Any theories?
Your thoughts on the season 10 finale? And, is Death dead?