Airtime: Tuesday at 9ET on The CW
By: Dana Leigh Brand, Contributor
This week, SUPERNATURAL wrestles with whether Dean Winchester has truly gone bad (does Dean Winchester ever truly go bad?) or if he’s just regular Dean Winchester up-to-eleven. Either way I like it.
The episode begins with a flashback to June 21st 2003–which is two full years before this ridiculously long-running story even starts. A kid comes downstairs to find his father dead in a puddle of blood on the floor with Dean Winchester standing over him (Ackles’ face freakishly and magically modified back to those good ol’ baby-face days. Come on, now, it’s pretty enough as is.) “What’s this?” I say, “someone becomes a Hunter without their wife or mother being slaughtered?!” No, actually, it turns out the kid is the guy who’s kidnapped Sam and that he’s not a Hunter, he’s a fairly normal ex-soldier named Cole who’s just hell-bent on taking down Dean Winchester. He won’t even believe Sam when Sam tries to tell him about vampires and werewolves. I don’t know whyever not. Me, I’m sitting here trying to figure out what kind of creature Cole’s father was, because Dean might kill. He might kill a lot. But he doesn’t kill people. At least, he sure didn’t in 2003.
Dean spends the first half of the episode feeling up strippers and beating up bouncers. Interestingly, when Crowley gives him a job (read: murder) to assuage his bloodlust, we get all the stock scenes of an serial killer creeping up on a sexy lady at home alone at night. “Great, fantastic. Here we go again. Let’s kill off some women in grand, bloody fashion.” But lo! Dean spies a car pulling up in the woods. Who is this but the cuckolded husband who made the deal with Crowley to have his wife offed? Dean slips into the passenger seat of the man’s car, listens only briefly to the dude’s gross speech about “science” and “evolution” making it completely okay for him to cheat on his wife (but not for her to cheat on him) and then knifes him in the gut. You go, Dean Winchester. You keep on keeping on, you perfect crazy little show. Because as a demon, well, what’s the stop Dean from killing the most despicable human being he comes across? Demonization has essentially just removed the arbitrary lines that Dean had drawn on his human morality. And I like it. Crowley, of course, decidedly does not and launches into a speech about whether Dean is demon or human (insisting that he pick a side while, myself, I’m just incredibly fond of characters who are stuck in spaces between two things. Neither wholly demon, nor wholly human–now that’s the kind of story I can get behind.)
Sam escapes from Cole, displaying some of that early season prowess that made him wanted by the FBI, and spends his time hunting down Dean. Cole follows. Sam calls to inform a rough-looking Castiel that Dean’s a demon. That doesn’t do anything to make Cas look or feel better. For his part, Castiel has little do except be ill so far this season. Hannah (his old follower) keeps badgering him about his grace and even goes up to make a deal with Metatron to get Cas’s grace back, but Cas nips that in the bud. (Metatron, appropriately, is in a strait jacket behind some serious iron bars.) Cas sleeps a lot (to the point of falling asleep behind the wheel while driving) and staggers around looking haggard. Which is distressing, no doubt, but they’re going to have to tease me with more of what we’re going to do about Cas’s state before I’ll find it interesting and enjoy his screen time for more than just his pretty face. Also, since Cas held Hannah’s hand and there was the merest suggestion that Hannah was in a romantic relationship with Castiel, I’m terrified to even glance at the internet underbelly of Supernatural fandom, but I’m 95% sure the loudest voices are currently calling for her swift and violent end.
Crowley, despairing at Dean’s completely chaotic self-serving nature, leads Sam right to him “for a finder’s fee.” Dean is so far gone that his blood lust seems to extend even to Sam. The hokey speech about brotherhood and home gets a cutting “God, what is this, a Lifetime movie?” a la old Bobby Singer’s reactions to the same sort of eye-roll worthy scenes. Possibly another reason why I’m so incredibly fond of Dean’s current behavior is that is thumbs its nose at the over-dramatic, soap opera sap that’s so often demanded by the fandom. Cole, of course, breaks up the moment by coming after Dean with all manner of speeches about avenging his father’s death and Dean thoroughly whoops him. (In yet another example of why this show is my soul mate, I was going “okay Inigo Montoya” and Dean not two minutes later was mocking him for his “Inigo Montoya speech.” Stop flirting with me, Supernatural.) And once Cole cuts Dean and sees the wound heal before his eyes he finally believes in monsters. Sam told you, man. Dean leaves Cole to stew in his own inadequacy and is wrangled by Sam. Cole then stumbles to a local library and bleeds all over the books (there are few moments of true horror in Supernatural–this is one.) Crowley’s finder’s fee is simply the First Blade (the jawbone of an ass mounted on a handle that came with Dean’s Mark of Cain), not to use on anything but to keep away from Dean who is too much of a loose cannon for Crowley’s well-ordered demon hierarchy to handle. And now Sam essentially must babysit Dean forever. This should be interesting.
I’ll end with the most ominous thing I’ve heard yet in the entire series. Sam, with Dean chained up in the backseat of the Impala, comments on how disgusting he’s let it get. “It’s just a car,” says Dean. It’s just a car. Stab me in the heart, Dean Winchester! Things I never thought I’d hear come out of your mouth! If anything, that just shows that the part of Dean that’s gone is his sentimentality and compassion. With Dean Winchester’s life, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or a good thing. Feeling sentimental for the car you’ve literally lived in your entire life could probably be viewed as some kind of mental illness. On the other hand, I’m personally quite attached to that car, so you’d better frickin’ behave, Dean Winchester! At least where the Impala is concerned. But what is it about Dean as a demon that’s different from normal Dean Winchester? It’s hard to put a finger on, because he truly is very similar. There’s no element of demonized Dean that’s not prominent in his human counterpart. He’s now excessively cocky rather than self-deprecating, his self-hatred is gone, and he has no problem with being rude to people or actively seeking confrontation. It could be construed as a path to self-destruction if not for the fact that he heals pretty much instantaneously and is now possessed of demon strength. But it seems like, no matter what the situation, Dean is always on a path of self-destruction. Essentially, the characterization is perfect, but only in the context of his previous existence.
Is season 10 actually any good, or am I just a self-confessed Dean Winchester junky who loves amorality, personal integrity, and relentless pragmatism? Both. I’ll go with both.