Look at that! A Winchester is bound in a chair and for once it’s not Sam! Sam’s got Dean in lockdown and it’s time to find out—can Demon Dean be cured, and, more important, will he be able to keep that hair if he is? Let’s find out in this Ackles directed doozy.
1. “Doctor.” “Doctor.” “Father.”
Indulge me, please. When I recapped “Pac-Man Fever” back in Season Eight I thrilled at the sight of Dean Winchester dressed as a doctor again (and as a soldier at the same time, which was almost unfair to my adoring eyes.) This time? I got to briefly see Sam as a doctor, looking incredibly calm, cool and frickin’ gorgeous, and I would quote Meg about dewy meatsuits but, as much as I miss Meg, that’s just icky. I am wistful for the old days of the boys in disguise. It looks like that’s back in next week’s episode, and that makes me, if not dewy, happy indeed.
2. “You know I hate shots.” “I hate demons.”
And so it begins. The blood cure. This time not to save the planet, but, again, for the love of one man. Every time Demon Dean is injected with the blessed type-specific, he looks as though he is being poisoned and Sam is left to wonder and fear: is this truly the cure? Or will this be Dean’s cause of death? Jensen Ackles plays Demon Dean so differently, in ways we will not appreciate until we can see them later contrasted with the Winchester we love so much. He is brutal—hateful. His voice is edgier, with more growl. His eyes squint with rage and disdain and his jaw is always tight. Dean is a man, but Demon Dean is a monster, and Ackles has the talent to show us who’s who.
3. “The demon must be dealt with.”
How must it have killed Cas to say this? It was a small thing—a toss-off of a line, really—but the thought of an incurable Dean having to be dispatched at his and Sam’s hands must have broken his best friend’s heart. We’ve been hearing a lot about what it means to be human in these opening episodes of Season Ten, and certainly friendship is one of the most dear and important of the things that make us us (even more important than the joy of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) Cas is trying to teach Hannah why being a human is wonderful, and being reminded of what makes it difficult as he does. Misha Collins manages to portray Cas’ weakening state as both peaceful, knowing he has done his best, and a little panicked, knowing what he still needs and wants to do.
4. I Know What You Did Last Summer
Dean will say anything to torment Sam as he administers the holy injections, and he has just the ammunition he needs. As the blood cure progresses, Demon Dean gleefully tells us all of Sam’s secret shame—Sam used poor old Lester the contract kill to get a crossroads demon to interrogate, and in the end, despite Sam’s intentions, that cost Loser Lester his life. The small changes in Jared Padalecki’s face when Sam is reminded of what he did really show us the guilt Sam feels. The shame of being found out and called on it. Demon Dean asks the ultimate question—what makes him a monster and Sam a hero? Defining those terms are a challenge on Supernatural. One that we’ve been told will plague us all season.
5. Boring as Hell
Crime and punishment? About as much fun as the novel. Crowley misses the days of foosball and bar sex. He’s stuck in hell, administering consequences for treason and they all end the same. Blah blah blah, stabbed in the gut, blah blah blah. He tries to be snarky but it hardly amuses him. Can anything? Apparently, yes. Crowely is stood up to by a demon version of the Mockingjay. Said demon thinks it is hellishly unfair that despite the fact that Crowley’s minions have “tempted and tormented with distinction” all they get for it is stabbed and evaporated, seemingly because they don’t have a name that rhymes with Lean Minchester.
Demon Katniss protests Crowley’s rule by lighting himself on fire, a move Crowley didn’t see coming, and we are left to wonder if there will be a rebellion against the king.
(Side note? Apparently Mark Sheppard’s son Max is a demon too! Guess it runs in the family.)
6. Road to Relationship Nowhere
First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate how beautiful Erica Carroll is? She. Is. Stunning. And thus so is Hannah, natch, but that means absolutely nothing to Cas. She is still smitten—perhaps even swooning a little—but when she is angel-blocked by Sam’s calls for help Cas reminds her that there ain’t no time for “distractions”. (Is there anything worse than the “I didn’t mean to hurt you” let you down easy speech? Ugh. Been there, Hannah.)
Cas and Hannah go to gas up the car (side note a deux: the name of the gas station was a shout out to Jensen Ackles’ nephew Levi, which is adorable.) Unfortunately, Adina lies in wait, and she is a woman scorned. She attacks both Hannah and Cas, taking them out for the count, and I am left wondering: I get why Cas is so weak, but what’s up with Hannah? First the nausea, now she’s put down by being thrown into a bookshelf? Hmmmmmm.
Help comes in the most unlikely of forms—the King of Hell himself. He steals Adina’s grace, corks it up into a skull stoppered bottle and then feeds it directly to Cas, because he is worth more alive than dead. After all, Cas might have to rid the world of the obnoxious Demon Dean. When Cas reminds Crowley of this, Crowley bluffs like a grapeless fox by telling Cas, “I’m not sentimental.” Of course he is. And we saw the cowboy-hatted picture to prove it.
7. Family Don’t End With Blood
As Sam administers a cure that may ultimately lead to Dean’s demise, he is painfully forced to listen to Dean blame him for everything: Dean’s loss of any sense of normalcy, turning John into a man so consumed by his mission that he neglected his children, and, most hurtfully, the death of their beloved mother.
Again, Padalecki’s acting is superb here, conveying heartbreak with subtlety so effectively. “This isn’t my brother talking,” Sam says, knowing that is the case. But as Demon Dean taunts him Sam is reminded that everything he is saying is factually true. Sam has always borne the responsibility of being the start of the end, and felt that he was the reason that Dean never had a family or a home. As Demon Dean snarls it at him, it hits him in his core. It is cold, and cruel, and reminds me of the times Dean has lost faith in Sam in seasons past. “Don’t you say that,” Sam begged then. “Not you.” This time? It is we wishing Dean’s vile accusations would just stop. Sam wavers but ultimately holds fast. He has said he will save his brother or die trying, and that is exactly what he intends to do. Demon blades and tablet stones may break a Winchester’s bones, but Sam won’t let words stop him.
8. Scattered Pictures of the Smiles We Left Behind
Sam retreats to Dean’s beloved bunker bedroom, maybe to remind himself of what he’s fighting for. We see Dean’s bed with the memory foam mattress and the lone pillow. Copies of Busty Asian Beauties are scattered on the couch. A piece of half eaten cherry pie lies abandoned on a table. (Which is the most unrealistic part of the episode, IMO. Dean? Not finish his pie? Absurd.) Sam sees some pictures tucked under Dean’s detailed notes about a job, and looks at them wistfully.
John and Mary.
Bobby and his “sons”.
He and Dean, so young, before so much changed them.
He and Dean sharing another more recent rare moment of laughter. It is a shout out to devoted fans (especially since the last two pictures are taken from series gag reels) that both makes us smile and tears our guts out. Ten years of fighting the good fight has ripped our boys’ smiles away, and ours too. As Sam steadies himself and returns to what must be done, the history both weighs on and fortifies him, reminding him of how far they’ve come and how they’ve managed to survive despite the odds. He has to believe that this time, just like all those before it, their (questionable) luck is still with them.
9. Heeeeeeeeeeere’s Dean!
Sam’s cure? Ends up being more than he bargained for in a whole different way. As Dean becomes more human he is less subject to demonic restraints. Bummer. Unfortunately, there is still enough demon in Dean to want revenge, which he intends to get by killing his little brother. Misha Collins questioned Dean’s choice of a hammer as a weapon, but I found it even more menacing. Was he going to use it to break down doors or bash in skulls? Either way, Dean was chilling as he walked around, looking for Sammy, especially bathed in the Bunker’s red emergency lights.
After an extremely tense game of hellcat and moose, it was proven, Sam, using his brain and reflexes, can beat a demon with one hand tied against his side. But could he kill him? Truly? Just like with his dad in Season One, the answer, as we and Demon Dean knew it would be, was no.
Thankfully, Cas had impeccable timing and the mojo to hold a brother down. Sam slumped in relief. The battle? Not over. The war? For the time, won.
10 “You look worried, fellas.”
The cure proved true. Dean got splashed in the face with holy water and instead of a sizzle we only got his usual disgruntled look. It is here that we truly see the gift Jensen Ackles has an actor. Human Dean? Much softer and more kind. His small smile unthreatening. His shoulders down, not prepared to spring.
Sam sees the difference, too. “Welcome back, Dean,” he says, and it seems his smile is also temporarily found. He made the right call. Thank Chuck.
Cas is also relieved, but wary. He reminds Sam that while Dean may be cured, he still bears the MoC. This fight is far from over. Sam, for the moment, is too weary to care. “I’m gonna go grab my brother some cholesterol. And then I’m gonna get drunk,” he tells Cas. A very Human Dean-like thing to do. Later, Dean looks through his little pile of pictures. When Cas checks on him he asks if Sam wants a divorce. “ It’ll take a lot more than trying to kill Sam with a hammer to make him want to walk away,” Cas says, and we are all twisted enough to find that sentence unbearably sweet. We are left unsettled, but grateful, wondering if there is any monster left within.
Bonus! Who’s that girl?
I admit, even though it would totally make Dean’s sacrifice meaningless, I was hoping, when I saw that long red hair, that somehow Abaddon was back (mostly because I love and miss Alaina Huffman so much.) But it is not! It is a mystery woman who pins dead bellhops on the ceiling. I guess that’s one way to avoid having to tip.
So who is she? Crowley’s witch of a mom? Another contender for the throne? Abaddon’s cousin twice removed? Maybe we’ll begin to uncover her cruel intentions in next week’s episode, “Paper Moon”. See you then!