The first episode of Season Ten of Supernatural helped us to get a sense of our bearings, providing opportunity for a lot of action as we move forward. The “THEN” montage concentrated on the end of last season and the previous episode, indicating that we will continue to focus on our current theme: Just how evil is Dean and what is Sam going to do about it? Though Supernatural stand-alone episodes are great, delving deeper into a season’s theme often provides a more intense viewing experience.
We open with a flashback of Dean killing the father of the man holding Sam prisoner, who we have come to know as Military Dude. Dean looked so young in this flashback, one can’t help but wonder if they used old footage of him. So we learn Military Dude’s story and reinforcement that if not a hero, Military Dude isn’t exactly a villain. Is he on a parallel path with Dean? Learning about Military Dude’s reason for hating Dean reinforces that Military Dude could be a good guy—well, a good guy of sorts in the realm of Supernatural—because let’s face it, no good guys kidnap and torture someone, outside of Supernatural. Also he smiled a lot at the thought of torturing Sam. During this exchange two events shocked us. First, Military Dude calls Sam “Sammy”! What the hell? Only siblings get to do that. Secondly we learn that Military Dude is named Cole. Oh no! Don’t give him a name—that only humanizes him. If farm stories have taught us anything, it is that once the naming occurs, it will just make us feel sadder after the butchering.
We find Dean at a club acting not exactly evil, but certainly like a jerk and then later like a thug. Dean harasses a dancer and gets into a fight with the bartender. We go between scenes of Dean beating up the bartender at the club and Cole thrashing Sam in the barn. Even when they are apart, Sam and Dean are together in spirit. Back to Sammy being held captive, when Cole is interrupted by a call. Nice ringtone. Does Cole really want his enemies to know that he has a family or that he likes bells? We are reminded again that Cole loves his family and again feel a little conflicted because we hate him for hurting Sammy. OMG! Cole has he left his keys on the ground with a jackknife! The creepy music tells us that Sam will take advantage of this lucky break, and when Cole comes back Sam is gone.
Dean experiences true terror—teenagers harassing him. Kids don’t care if you are a teacher or a demon, they just do what they please. This hearkens back to a hilarious scene from the “Yellow Fever” episode in S4, when after Dean becomes infected with Ghost Sickness, he crosses the road because he is scared of some teens in the street. Kids harassing adults is a classic comedy device (though none do it better than David Mitchell on Peep Show). Supernatural teaches us that little kids may be creepy, but teens should fill us with dread. Crowley snares Dean outside the bar and tells him they have to talk about Dean’s “anger management issues.” Crowley, as usual, has awesome lines.
“Kids. Am I right? In my day, we respected our elders. Of course, back then, anyone over 30 was ancient. Now 40-year-olds are still living with Mommy, lying on OkCupid, and taking pictures of their food.”
We go to Castiel and Hannah recovering from the wounds received in the last episode. Castiel can’t even heal himself due to his diminishing grace, so Hannah restores him to his poor state of health. How un-angelly Castiel must feel. The most memorable aspect of this scene is that it takes place at an interesting location—a boat harbor. One of the ways that Supernatural pays attention to detail is the varied and interesting locations they use. While still at the harbor, Castiel receives a call from Sam telling him that Dean is a demon.
Sam: “The Mark, I guess it messed him up. I don’t know.”
Castiel: “That is a vast understatement.”
While driving to go and help Sam, Hannah tells Castiel that she thinks the Winchesters are a bad influence on him. I think we have heard this before. The angels always want to keep Castiel to themselves. Cas is so messed up he runs the car off the road after being asleep at the wheel. He can’t heal himself, which represents his angel deficiencies, but falling asleep at the wheel! Of all the sad human failings, falling asleep at the wheel is one of the more ordinary ones.
Dean joins Crowley at a bar and orders shots for himself and a fancy drink with a tiny umbrella for Crowley. This seems like their regular bar. I wonder if they like to go because everybody knows their names? Spoke a bit too soon about the varied locations, it seems. Crowley tells Dean that he needs to keep killing:
“I know you want to keep the party going and have fun, fun, fun until Daddy takes the black eyes away. The fact is you need to kill now. Not want to. Not choose to. Need to.”
How do we know that the anger and bloodlust will build up in Dean until he breaks? Because Crowley says so? Not sure he should be believed. Seems like killing a human is much worse than killing a demon, even if she is supposedly going to die anyway. Crowley shows Dean a picture of his appointed victim, Mindy, and we get a close-up of the wonderful pink flamingo and yellow star decor of the bar top. These are the little touches that make Supernatural so good.
After Castiel and Hannah are run off the road, the local mechanic tows the crappy Lincoln and brings the two angels to her home. She is the nicest mechanic ever. Is that what mechanics do out in the country, invite strangers to stay in to their house with their children? Though admittedly, we kinda love her. In an ideal TV world we would find out this mechanic is a Hunter and she would become the new Bobby. Castiel immediately falls asleep in exhaustion once they get in the house. Hannah seems to be getting all sentimental and feeling-y about Cas. Sure, we all love Cas, but we don’t expect Hannah to love him too. The next morning, the mechanic’s daughter tells an adorable tale about her snot rocket dream. The nice mechanic notes that it’s “too bad” that Hannah is not involved with Castiel. Yeah it is. Because Castiel is very handsome and sometimes pretty nice, when he is not being a megalomaniac.
Dean goes to do the job assigned to him by Crowley of killing Mindy. While he is standing outside of the house, Dean spots the soon-to-be soulless Lester observing the house from his car. Dean gets into the car and reminds Lester that having an alibi while your wife is killed is “Murder 101.” Dean quickly finds that Lester is pretty awful. We already suspected as much because, well, he wants the mother of his children murdered. The scene between Dean and Lester is comical and scary at the same time, with some amazing acting by Jensen Ackles. We hate to say it, but Dean may be funnier without Sam. Dean refers to Mindy as a “North Dakota Eight,” while Lester is a four and a half. Love the North Dakota context for his rating system. Do we believe that Dean was really going to kill Mindy before Lester really messed things up? It sure seemed like it, but we still have hope in our hearts. Though that hope was greatly diminished after watching the intense pleasure Dean gets from watching Lester die as he stabs him with the First Blade.
After escaping from the barn prison, Sam follows up on a lead to find Dean. During this investigation, there is another reference to Sam’s broken arm. When he is asked about it he says it is just a hunting accident—very clever. As Sam drives away it becomes apparent that Cole let Sam escape so that he can follow him and ultimately find Dean. Cole is quite the predator.
Dean stops by the bar where Crowley apparently does all his business now. Dean tells Crowley that he killed Lester and Crowley freaks out.
Crowley: “What do you think you are doing?”
Dean: “Oh, whatever I want.”
They get into a confrontation and Dean shoves Crowley, then chuckles in an extremely evil manner. His chuckle is spine-tingling scary. After being pushed onto the floor, Crowley’s snaps at his minions who are smiling about the exchange. It is surprising that Crowley’s minions smile at this point, not out of a fear of Crowley, but because Dean is absolutely terrifying. Normally Supernatural shoots scenes in a manner that obscures the height advantage that Sam and Dean have over most of the actors. In this conflict, they use Dean’s height well, making him seem that much more monstrous. During Dean and Crowley’s break-up scene, Crowley explicates what we have been wondering this episode and last: is Dean more human or demon? “Pick a bloody side.”
We return to Hannah and Castiel and discover that—Hannah can drive?!? That would have been good to know before Castiel fell asleep at the wheel. Castiel wakes up at the playground to Heaven. Love the playground portal to Heaven and the forms of the angels that guard it (creepy kids, harried mom, grandmothers). Hannah left Castiel sleeping in the car (a lack of grace makes angels very tired) and took off to Heaven.
Sam finds Crowley—or did Crowley find Sam? Sam hasn’t been having too much success on his own this season. He didn’t really escape, he didn’t really find Crowley, and then there’s his broken arm. Not knowing that Crowley and Dean have broken up, Sam is willing to make a deal with Crowley to find Dean. Sam is kind of a sucker and seemed a bit too quick to make a deal. He should do some reading on negotiating. Crowley says, “Hello Bullwinkle. Ya miss me?” and Sam responds, “So much.” Hey, Sam made a joke, though I didn’t catch it the first time, only after watching the episode again. Very subtle—maybe too subtle.
Hannah has gone to Heaven to try to convince Metatron to give Castiel back his grace. Didn’t think we’d see Metatron this soon. A little more time away from him would have been good, but he does get some great lines, which he delivers with gusto. Metatron is imprisoned and wearing a straitjacket. What does the straitjacket do? Is that just how our human eyes interpret heavenly bondage? During the negotiation for Cas’s grace, Metatron says he has tired of Earth and offers to amscray to other planets or galaxies. In S5 Death made reference to other planets and galaxies, but it’s pretty eye-opening to hear about it again. Hannah acts not boring for the first time when she assaults Metatron and says, “Watch your mouth.” Is this the effect of hanging out with Cas? She had a lot of moxie during this scene and seemed much less robotic. But before Hannah can give away the farm Cas shows up and demands to know what she is up to.
Metatron: “You know perfectly well what she’s doing, Ass-tiel.”
Hannah: “I had to. You’re dying.”
Metatron: “She’s right. You totally are.”
Castiel seems to have learned from some of his past mistakes as he tells Hannah that deals like this always end in blood and tears. Hannah acknowledges that her going to Metatron was a mistake and leaves. Metatron tries unsuccessfully to get Castiel to make a grace-for-freedom deal, but Castiel says he is at peace with his fate. Metatron and Castiel have a great conversation about lying—it is true Metatron is a terrific liar, while Castiel, not so much. When will Metatron manage to get out of his heavenly prison? We are starting to think it won’t be a century, but in fact will be this season. He warns Castiel what will happen when he does get out, saying, “Here’s a little sneak preview. Everybody dies.”
Dean is back at the Flamingo Lounge pondering his fate. Can you truly be evil when you are pondering whether you are human or demon? Then Sam shows up at the bar and things really get good. We love this new fast-paced style of Supernatural. Sam finds out Dean is a demon episode one, finds him episode two. No dragging the mysteries out for too long, as happens sometimes. Dean asks Sam, “What winged ya?” Though Sam doesn’t tell him how it happened, it is another reference to Sam’s broken arm.
Dean: “I told you to let me go.”
Sam: “You know I can’t do that.”
These brotherly exchanges are really the heart of Supernatural and what keep us coming back season after season. Sam reminds Dean that they can cure demons (we totally forgot about the demon cure!). Sam tells Dean that he maybe he doesn’t want to be cured. Dean warns Sam that this demon thing may not be so easily resolved.
Dean: “Cuz right now I’m doing all I can not to come over there and rip your throat out. With my teeth.” Dean is spooky! Dean informs Sam that he is not going with him. “What are you going to do? You gonna kill me?” When Sam tells him he won’t kill him, Dean responds, “Why? You don’t know what I’ve done. I might have it coming.” Dean is quite convincing as a demon. Sam tells him: “ I don’t care. You are my brother and I’m here to take you home.” This pulls at our heartstrings, but then Dean cruelly mocks Sam’s comment. Hey there now! We love Sam’s emotional brotherly comments—maybe Dean is evil after all.
Suddenly, tear gas gets lobbed into the bar, causing Sam to cough his way outside, though it has no effect on Dean. We find Cole outside and he knocks out Sam, then he confronts Dean. This can’t end well for Cole. As Cole describes how Dean murdered his father, Dean mocks him in his funny but frightening way. Though we might be reading too much into things, it seems like Dean may have had a regretful look or two before he went back into demon mode. Jensen Ackles is very effective at conveying emotion through his facial expressions and gestures. “Yeah, yeah, you’re that guy from that thing.” Smirk, shrug. We love the Princess Bride reference and we suspect that it’s lost on Cole, who has spent most of his free time training to kill Dean. Cole gets to say all kinds of silly macho lines while Dean says it all with his face. It’s clear that Demon Dean loves fighting, but then so does human Dean. During the fight Dean shows Cole that he is a demon with his scary black eyes. We love the little click we hear when we show Dean’s demon-eyes. Good use of Dean’s height again to make him seem more terrifying. When he normally fights monsters they must constantly have to put the monster-actors on boxes to make them more menacing. Naturally Demon Dean thrashes Cole, but in a twist chooses not to kill him. If what Crowley says is true that Dean needs to kill, why not kill Cole? His heart must not be in it. Here comes Sammy, capturing Demon Dean. Dean’s growl after Sam handcuffed him really made us think that Dean was going to kill Sam. Dean truly looked like a monster in that moment.
Next thing we see is Crowley meeting with Sam. Apparently the deal they made was for Sam to turn over the First Blade in exchange for Dean’s location. Not sure whey Sam felt compelled to keep the deal except that he probably doesn’t want it anywhere near Dean. Despite that, you would think there would be a better option than giving it to Crowley. Though Sam ultimately gets what he wants because he has Dean, he still seems a bit toothless on his own. When Sam threatens Crowley, he responds, “Oh stop it Samantha. No one likes a tease.”
If you have been wondering what happened to Cole, which you probably weren’t, he’s visiting his local library. The librarian does not appreciate Cole bleeding all over her books. Through his grunts and groans, Cole asks for any books on demons. We are not so crazy about this Cole storyline. It has probably already served its purpose, but who knows what’s to come.
Crowley is feeling sad about his breakup with Dean. He is looking at a picture of them in happier times while Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl” plays in the background. Best use of music we’ve seen in Supernatural for a long time. One of the minions tells Crowley that it’s time to move on. Crowley acquiesces and leaves the bar with his minions (who we are surprised he hasn’t killed already after witnessing his impotence—look who’s not so evil now). But we don’t want Crowley to move on—we love Dean and Crowley’s chemistry. Hopefully this won’t be the last of their mischief-making.
Sam drives Dean away in the Impala. At first it seems like things could be all right. Like Sam, we want to believe that Dean let Cole live because of some remnant of good in him. Then Dean creepily explains he let Cole live not out of mercy, but so Cole would be tortured by what happened. Dean crushes any hope we had for his humanity to win out when he says, “And what I’m going to do to you Sammy—well, that ain’t gonna be mercy either.” Sam actually looks a little frightened at this point, as well he should be because Dean is scaring the bejesus out of us.
“Reichenbach” delivered strong acting and writing. Dean is pretty terrifying during this episode—scarier than many of the antagonists we have seen on Supernatural previously. Why is being a villain so much more entertaining that playing a hero? Just as it was compelling to watch Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when he became evil Angelus, Dean has been captivating so far. Changing the moral compass of a character so that someone who we have known as good causes misfortune to those he once loved brings a particular kind of terror. We are hoping that Dean stays a demon for a while, because it makes for good TV.