This week, Supernatural brings us the much-anticipated return of Timothy Omundsun as Cain in “The Executioner’s Song.” Not only do we get Cain, but we also get to see some more of Rowena. It feels like a Supernatural Christmas.
[If you prefer to listen to this recap in an mp3 audio file, you can do so below, otherwise read on]
The Father of Murder
Looks like Dave Grohl is in jail. Poor Dave Grohl. The rock-musician-looking prisoner is on Death Row, and he is super creepy. We love scary monsters, but we hate horrible humans. If we wanted to see serial killers we would watch Criminal Minds. And we definitely don’t watch that disturbing show. The prisoner’s name is Tommy Tolliver. An alliteration reminding us of Gary Gilmore, whose execution Norman Mailer wrote about in the book The Executioner’s Song.
Tolliver taunts the prison guard, who reminds him his execution is around the corner. Tolliver derisively responds, “Let’s do it! Let’s do it now, tonight!” Once the guard returns to the observation area, the lights in the cellblock begin to flicker—never a good sign. Someone with a blade on his belt has appeared, walking beside the cell doors. As the lights blink out for a second, the figure appears in Tolliver’s cell. It’s Cain! When Tolliver asks who he is, Cain tells him he has many names, including the Father of Murder. Let’s hope he murders this horrible prisoner. Not that we advocate murder, or even capital punishment, just supernaturally driven TV murder of disturbing fictional characters.
Cain: “Now, I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing here. Did I come to punish you or save you? Well… The truth is, Tommy… I’m here to do both.”
Then he stabs Tolliver with his big shiny knife and vanishes with him.
Sam and Dean head to Livingston, Texas—home to the Allan Polunksy Unit, described by some as the most lethal death row anywhere in the democratic world. They introduce themselves as Inspectors Moore and Ranaldo, a Sonic Youth reference, from the Office of the Inspector General. The warden plays them the video showing the silhouette of Cain outside Tolliver’s cell. He looks like a devil with his pointy beard. Dean’s intense gaze indicates he recognizes Cain pretty quickly. The ache in his arm confirms it.
The Angel of Death
Castiel is torturing a Carrot Top demon for information about Cain. The demon tells Castiel that Cain’s been seen, but the demons have kept their distance since Cain likes to kill other demons. After he gets the information, Castiel stabs Carrot Top. Seems like Cain isn’t the only one who likes to kill demons.
The Queen Mother
In Administrative Hell, Crowley seems very bored. He just hasn’t been the same since he lost his bestie Deamon Dean. Crowley plays a video game while listening to a crossroads demon whine about not getting enough credit for his soul collections. Crowley indifferently agrees to the demon’s request, and Rowena makes a snide comment from her seat in the chamber.
Crowley: “Mother, you have, uh, an opinion you’d like to share with the room?”
Rowena: “Oh, no. Private thought, nothing to do with you or the affairs of the court. It’s just not what I would do.”
Crowley: “Oh, enlighten us all. What would you do?”
Rowena: “This demon asks you to equalize credit for his and another’s work—split the baby, if you will. Well, then I would well and truly split the baby. I’d cut this puling, pathetic, greed-grubbing git in two, literally, then I’d nail his bloody halves to the doors of the court—a reminder to all not to waste the king’s time. Whiners beget whiners. You can’t reward behavior like that—why I never gave in when you asked for sweeties as a child, no matter how much you cried. Well, you were a very … chunky child, darling. Bit of a bloater.
Crowley: “That’s enough.”
Crowley agrees with his mother, and has the crossroads demon taken away.
The Field of Blood
Dean is grabbing some food as Sam researches the killer Tolliver in the Impala. He finds that Tolliver’s father also has a record and has been missing for a week. Castiel calls, telling the Winchesters that it’s a pretty good bet that Tolliver is dead, as Cain has been very busy. We see that Castiel is standing amidst a mass of graves. Castiel has found Cain’s mass burial site, and someone is watching him from the trees. Run away, Cas!!! Cas realizes Cain is there and tells Sam and Dean he will call them back. Castiel confronts Cain, which seems quite foolish. Cain tells Castiel that he’s “just cleaning up a mess I made a long time ago.” When Castiel points out that Cain has resisted the Mark for so long, Cain tells Cas that he got the taste back when Abaddon’s demons came after him. Cain is planning a genocide—to kill his descendents, his “poisoned issue.” He tells Castiel, “If the Mark wants blood, I’ll give it mine.” Cain asks about Dean, and when Castiel says they need to find a cure Cain tells him there is no cure, but that he will be taking care of Dean in due time. Cas takes out his angel blade and Cain says, “Sorry, Castiel. You’re not on my list,” then disappears. Cain is SCARY! He was clearly a badass when we first met him in “First Born” (S09E11), but now he is coldly terrifying.
Manipulation and Guilt
Meanwhile, Rowena is trying to use their bonding experience to get Crowley to help her go after the Grand Coven witch Olivette. He tells her he isn’t that easily conned, but we think she might be wearing him down. Mostly he just seems depressed. Even the King of Hell feels a little blue sometimes.
Castiel, Sam, and Dean have gathered in the bunker. Sam confirms that Cain is wiping out families. They realize that Cain will kill Tolliver’s estranged 12-year-old son next. Dean is all ready to go, but Cas and Sam give him a look. When Sam asks what he’ll do, Dean says he’ll kill Cain. Maybe this is what Cain actually wants. Dean reminds Sam that when Cain gave him the Mark, Dean made a promise to kill Cain when the time came. When Sam questions why he would go after Cain now, Dean responds, “Cain resisted the Mark for a long time, then I came, kicking up trouble about the Blade. I sent him down this path. This is on me.” Dean loves the phrase “This is on me”—he has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. When Dean tells Sam he’s going to need the First Blade to kill Cain, Sam is worried.
We generally enjoy suspending our disbelief, but even with the Blade, it doesn’t seem like Dean can kill Cain. Cain has been killing since the beginning of humankind, only taking a break from it the last couple centuries. But of course, we are rooting for Dean. Who doesn’t love an underdog?
It looks like Rowena might have gotten Crowley involved in her plan. He actually seems slightly interested. She tells him she will use the Rune of Amaranth to create an illusion. The phone rings and he sees it’s from Dean (listed as “Not Moose” on his cell) and Crowley politely excuses himself. Dean tells Crowley they found Cain and he needs the First Blade. When Crowley questions why he should give him the Blade, Dean tells Crowley a lie: “Cain has a kill list, and you’re on it.” This gets Crowley to agree, but we think he might’ve agreed anyway because he has a soft spot for Dean. When he returns to Rowena, he tells her something else has come up. When she realizes that he’s going to bring the Blade to Dean, Rowena insists that Dean Winchester is a threat to his life and his reputation. As Crowley walks off, Rowena yells after him, “You honestly believe that they’re your friends, that they care about you?” Poor Crowley. He really does.
First Blade, Last Chance
Sam, Dean, and Castiel are in Ohio, by a barn outside the house of Tolliver’s young son. Dean suggests they use the son to trap Cain. Crowley shows up—Dean plays the Mean Girl, telling him, “There is no us. You’re here for one reason. That’s to hand me the Blade.” Is that really necessary, Dean? Perhaps Dean is still sore about the time Crowley turned him into a demon. When Sam and Dean are alone in the barn, Sam asks what happens if they capture Cain. Dean responds:
“You know last week, when I said that I would go down swinging when the time came? I meant that I was at peace with that. I just didn’t realize the time would come so soon, you know, like right now. I’m scared, Sam.”
You should be scared, Dean. Cain is freakin’ scary.
Cain comes for the boy, Austin. Cas tries to stop Cain with his angel powers, but only manages to blow Cain’s hair around a little. Cain throws Cas across the yard with a flick of his wrist. Austin runs into the barn and as Sam shuts the door. Cain reappears in the middle of the barn, right in front of Austin. When Cain tries to kill him, Austin disappears. It’s an illusion spell and Austin is long gone. Cain recognizes it’s an 18th-century spell using the Rune of Amaranth. Crowley says its something he picked up from his mother. They have Cain in a devil’s trap, but he warns them it won’t hold him for long. Sam tells him, “It won’t need to.” Then we see Dean in the door glaring at Cain. They shut the doors and walk away.
Dean, Sam, Crowley, and Castiel gather. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the four of them together. Sam says they can help, but Dean tells him, “I’d be too worried about what he could do to you … or what I could. Plus, I need you three out here to take out whatever comes out of there. And I’m serious. I mean whatever comes out.” Crowley responds, “Happily.” Oh Crowley, we know you can’t stay mad at Dean. Crowley hands Dean the Blade. A look comes over Dean’s face—relief, restrained joy, pure evil—it’s hard to tell. If we were Crowley, we would back away very, very slowly after handing Dean the First Blade. Dean says “I’m good,” and as he leaves to face Cain he looks a little Deamon Dean-ish.
Dean makes it clear that he intends to kills Cain. Cain calmly challenges him, “Then do it.” As they begin to battle, it’s evident that Dean is no match for Cain without his killing rage. When he realizes that Dean is holding back, Cain tells him:
“Do you think if you hold back just enough, you won’t succumb, that you’ll leave this fight the same as you entered?! Look to my example, boy! There is no resisting the Mark or the Blade. There is only remission and relapse!”
It’s all about the addiction metaphors when it comes to the Mark. Cain tells him that courage is Dean’s weakness. Rather than kill Castiel when he found him at the burial site, Cain let him go so that he would report back to Dean. Cain knew that Dean would bring the First Blade, which is what he really wants. Cain takes the Blade. Will Dean go all Gollum on him to do whatever he can to get the Blade? Cain tells Dean that by killing him he’s saving Dean from his fate.
Cain: “Have you never mused upon the fact that you’re living my life in reverse? My story began when I killed my brother, and that’s where your story inevitably will end.”
Sam: “No. Never.”
Cain: “It’s called the Mark of Cain for a reason! First—first, you’d kill Crowley. There’d be some strange, mixed feelings on that one, but you’d have your reason. You’d get it done, no remorse. And then you’d kill the angel, Castiel. Now, that one—that I suspect would hurt something awful. And then! Then would come the murder you’d never survive, the one that would finally turn you into as much of a savage as it did me.”
Cain: “Your brother: Sam. The only thing standing between you and that destiny is this Blade. You’re welcome, my son.”
Cain is about to kill Dean with the Blade when Dean suddenly grabs the knife Cain keeps in his belt and chops Cain’s hand off! That was unexpected. Dean takes the blade from Cain’s dismembered hand and stands.
Dean: “Tell me I don’t have to do this. Tell me that you’ll stop. Tell me that you can stop!”
Cain: “I will never stop.”
Dean stands over Cain and delivers a death blow with the Blade.
The King of Pain
Crowley: “You lied to me.”
Dean: “It’s not the first time today. Cain’s list—you weren’t on it.”
Crowley disappears. Awww, why you gotta hurt poor Crowley like that? Is it just us, or did Crowley’s eyes look a little watery just then? After Crowley leaves, Dean collapses in Sam’s arms.
Crowley returns to his throne room to find Rowena with her bags packed. She tells Crowley she’s leaving. He asks her what manipulation she’s up to now. When she denies it, he yells, “Then what, Mother? What do you want from me?!” She tells him that she was so proud to find that he was King of Hell, which, sadly, he seems to be eating up. She follows this by telling Crowley how disappointed she is in him for being the Winchester’s bitch. So mean. Crowley just can’t catch a break today.
Back at the bunker, Sam tells Dean how incredible he was. He points out that if Dean can do something like that without losing himself, that there is hope. Castiel appears, telling them that the First Blade is somewhere safe. Dean leaves to take a long rest, patting Castiel’s back as he goes by. When Castiel asks Sam how Dean is doing, Sam responds, “Cas … Dean’s in trouble.”
The Executioner’s Song
“The Executioner’s Song” was a good story, well acted, and beautifully filmed. We would’ve liked to have seen Cain for at least one more episode simply because Timothy Omundsun is so compelling to watch, and this particular interpretation of the Cain and Abel story is so interesting. Yet, we appreciate that Supernatural is not drawing out storylines excessively. If there’s any truth to Cain’s statement that Dean is living Cain’s story backwards and that Dean will eventually be driven to try to kill Sam, perhaps we will see a flashback of Cain killing Abel toward the end of the Season 10. The strong performances of Omundsun and Jensen Ackles made their scenes fanstastic to watch.
One of the scenes with strong imagery was Castiel standing amongst the graves of Cain’s slaughtered victims. It was reminiscent of the scene with Castiel standing in a field amidst slaughtered angels in “Meet the New Boss” (S07E01). He may not be Cain, but let’s not forget that Castiel has his own extensive body count of angels, demons, and humans. He is not afraid to kill when he feels it’s justified or necessary, or if he is just having a megalomaniacal day. Just as Cain made Dean promise to kill him, Dean asked Castiel to make a similar promise. In the episode “The Things We Left Behind,”Dean asked that Cas be prepared to take him out if Dean goes to the dark side again. Will Castiel keep that promise?
We always enjoy the interaction between Crowley and Rowena. Mark Sheppard did an impressive job of showing Crowley’s vulnerabilities and making him seem pitiable without overplaying it. Crowley’s continued contemptuous treatment by Dean, along with his mother’s manipulation, may drive Crowley over the edge into full-fledged evil. The Winchesters and Crowley have often needed each other, resulting in a marriage of convenience, but it looks like they are headed to divorce. It was inevitable that Crowley would have to become more villainous and less cooperative with the brothers at some point. Interestingly, the Winchesters know Rowena, and they know the Grand Coven is looking for her, but they still have no idea that she’s Crowley’s mum.
The themes examined here – morality, responsibility, dignity, judgement, family, and death – are similar to those found in Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song. There was no death by firing squad for either Tommy Tolliver or Cain, as Gary Gilmore had requested in his plea for an early execution. Mailer described how Gilmore had requested to be put to death as soon as possible and did not want to appeal his sentence, despite objections of others. It seems that Dean may be taking on the role of Gilmore, seeking out a “good death” before he stains his soul further. Mailer has described the theme of The Executioner’s Song as one based on the idea, “we have profound choices to make in life, and one of them may be the deep and terrible choice most of us avoid between dying now and ‘saving one’s soul.’” At the end of Supernatural’s “The Executioner’s Song,” when Sam says Dean is in trouble, does Sam sense that Dean is contemplating a release from the Mark through death? We are loving the Winchester brothers’ dynamic in Season 10. Though Dean keeps trying to wall himself off emotionally and physically, Sam continues to reach out and drag him back. Will Sam’s faith in his brother and their love for each other be enough to keep them both safe from the effects of the Mark?