Jacqueline Gualtieri ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Supernatural’s tenth year ended with what was probably one of the better episodes this season, which, unfortunately, is not saying much. Last season, what the Mark of Cain can do was discovered, but no one was expecting it to ultimately be the main villain throughout season ten. You can call Rowena (Ruth Connell) the main villain, but, face it, Dean (Jensen Ackles) was the biggest threat at the start of the season, and the season ended with him nearly turning into that again.
Last week, fans watched in horror as the once-hero killed an entire family, including a young man just desperately trying to start a new life, and then beat up the angel he once called his brother. This week’s episode opens at the scene of the crime, the bunker, but with a different brother, Sam (Jared Padalecki), desperately going to any length to save Dean. Although Castiel (Misha Collins) warns him yet again that he doesn’t know the cost that getting rid of the mark can have, Sam cannot think of anything past saving his brother.
All the way back in season three, in the episode “Mystery Spot,” Gabriel (Richard Speight), at that point the Trickster, warned that the obsession that the brothers have with one another, saving each other, never letting go, was going to be the death of them. Throughout this finale, that line becomes increasingly relevant. It’s been seven years, and neither one has learned.
While Sam worries, Dean is working a case in Nebraska. A fellow hunter, Rudy (Robert Moloney), called Dean in for help when the body of a girl was discovered while another was missing, and a nest of vampires is suspected. The Mark continues to rear its ugly head, in more ways than just violence. Dean condemns Rudy, saying that he’s, “playing dress up, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets himself killed,” and then condemns the dead girl to her own family, claiming that she was dressed like a slut and was looking for sex the night she was murdered.
Evil Dean was half right. After finding the nest, Dean goes in, guns blazing, to find Rudy held captive by one of the vamps. Although Rudy begs Dean to leave, Dean frightens the vamp into killing Rudy before he decapitates the vamp, cuts the girl free, and walks out, leaving the girl a terrified mess.
Back at the bunker, Rowena proves to be useful for the first time all season and decodes the spell that would free Dean, but the final ingredient is a bit of a problem for her: she has to kill someone she loves. It’s obviously not Crowley (Mark Sheppard), but it turns out to be the son of a family that took her in and helped her three hundred years ago: Oskar (Nathan Dales).
Letting Castiel and Crowley handle the ingredients, Sam goes after Dean, finding the Impala in a motel parking lot, but the room is deserted expect for Dean’s keys and one note reading: “She’s all yours.” For the first time in the episode, there was pain to be felt for these boys. If Dean was letting go of his baby, it meant that Dean was just letting go.
Which is why it was no surprise to see Dean summoning a character that leaves fans conflicted. They’re always happy to see Death (Julian Richings), since he’s sarcastic, clever, and powerful, but it usually spells trouble for the boys. Death never lets them escape unscathed, and this time would be no different. When Dean asks the most powerful being in all creation to take his life, it’s no surprise. The surprise is when Death says that he can’t do it.
As it turns out, the Mark holds a powerful darkness. It was created by God and given to Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) to keep safe, but Lucifer soon felt its curse and fell to it. When Lucifer fell, he gifted it to Cain, who could not handle the darkness either. Death can help Dean, but the darkness must always be contained by a host. For a brief moment, the old Dean returns, as he refuses to give the curse to anyone. But Death gives him one other offer: Death can send him to a place where he will be of no harm to himself and others, but it comes with a price. Because Death cannot have Sam trying to bring Dean back (and everyone knows he would), Dean must kill his little brother.
When Sam finds his brother, Dean has already made his choice. The Winchesters only bring death and pain, and it’s time to end the cycle. After Sam throws only one punch, Dean starts to hit back, beating his brother to a bloody pulp. Before long, Dean stands over Sam, ready to issue the final blow. Death hands Dean his blade.
The brothers have a deep codependency, it’s true. Their obsession goes both ways. Over the course of the series, the audience has seen Sam fight to save Dean and Dean fight to save Sam, but the thing to remember is that the obsession comes from a deep, unending love. At the end of the day, they only really have each other. They rely on each other. They need each other. They love each other.
It’s hard to believe, even for a moment, that Dean could really kill Sam.
But he raises the blade and issues a plea to his brother, “Sammy, close your eyes.” His little Sammy, the baby that he saved from the fire, the little brother that he raised. But it was time for Sam to save him.
Sam doesn’t argue. He doesn’t beg for his life. He begs that when Dean finds his way back, and he knows he will, he’ll find his family to guide him. From his pocket, he pulls out two pictures: One of them as children, and one of their mom. And for a moment, Dean just stares. Until he raises the blade again.
And sends it straight through Death’s stomach, who turns to ash.
Meanwhile, at the bunker, Crowley has discovered that Oskar, after growing into a young man, was made immortal by Rowena. All of the ingredients are in place.
Suddenly, Rowena, a character who has added nothing to the show, is worthy of sympathy. It is fun to have a character you love to hate, but Rowena is someone that you hated to hate. She was never a desired presence on the television screen. But now there was a spark that made her much more complex. She wasn’t just pure hate, pure evil. She could love.
But that spark quickly died as she made sure Oskar died, draining his blood and mixing it with the other ingredients. The spell was cast, and soon the mark was gone. But, as Death said, it’s not that easy. The darkness was set free, and Rowena set herself free of her bonds. Taking the codex and Book of the Damned with her, she fled the scene after casting two final spells: one to freeze Crowley where he was standing, and one to turn Castiel into a rabid dog to finally kill her son.
Sam and Dean tried to do their own fleeing as the darkness began to devour everything around them, but when the Impala became stuck in the mud, the darkness enveloped them too.
For a cliff hanger, it’s not bad. The audience doesn’t know what happened to Sam and Dean. They don’t know if Castiel burned up from the inside and died, like the others who had that curse cast upon them. They don’t know if Crowley was killed. This episode was underwhelming as a whole, though. The Mark of Cain became a boring plot point halfway through the season, and they beat it to death by the end of season ten. And it’s looking like Rowena, who became even more powerful after the spell, is set to be next season’s big bad, which leaves low expectations for season eleven.
Unfortunately, the strongest moment of the episode was Death’s return, but it looks as though Supernatural has killed off another great character. It will be interesting to learn just how the world will function without Death. The writers set that up well.
Knowing that the boys are back to their old selves, there is hope, still, that season eleven will be better than the Supernatural of the past two seasons.
Supernatural returns with all new episodes this fall on Tuesdays at 9/10 Central Time on the CW.
Overall Episode Grade: B-