We return from a Supernatural hiatus to episode 18, “Book of the Damned.” Only a few more episodes until the end of Season 10. Best to savor each one.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Supernatural has an affinity for dark alleys. It looks as though the cameramen have gone down the wrong Vancouver backstreet and started filming Arrow. But no, it’s Charlie in a hoodie being chased by some bad men. Then one of the bad men pulls out an alethiometer, or something that looks like one. Charlie is kicking ass with a sword. Looks like all that LARPing really paid off. Or maybe it’s Dark Charlie’s skills that are keeping her alive. It appears someone from The Originals is chasing Charlie. Alright, so it’s not the Mikaelson’s or their kin, but a handsome dude in a fancy coat with a Cajun accent, which is why Charlie refers to him as Gambit. Dean tells Sam that the Mark of Cain is a curse. Look who decided to be honest with Sam! He tells Sam that Rowena is Crowley’s mother and about their adventures during “Inside Man.” Will Sam return the favor and tell Dean about Castiel and Bobby’s heavenly break out of Metatron? Guess not. And what is Dean doing in a sweatshirt? What the frack is going on here? Charlie calls Sam and Dean from a payphone, telling Sam, “I didn’t know these things existed outside of Bill and Ted.” But the adventure she is having is not excellent. She tells them, “The Book of the Damned is a spell book for creating or undoing any kind of damnation there is. If we translate this thing, I think we can that can get the Mark of Cain off you Dean.” She tells them the dudes chasing her seem to be tracking the book somehow. “This book is old and scary and I’ve never seen anything like it.” Let’s hope so. The Winchesters take off in the Impala to meet Charlie, listening to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.” Dean is happy. He is making plans to go on a beach vacation if they are able to remove the Mark of Cain. Sounds too good to be true. Though they have managed to survive all this time, we’re not sure that good things happen to the Winchesters. At least not the bright, sunny beach vacation kind of good thing.
Castiel and Metatron, Roadtrippers
Elsewhere, Castiel is trying to get back his grace back, dragging along his verbose hostage Metatron. Metatron won’t shut up about music, feelings, and whatever else he feels like going on about. What is Sussidio about anyways? Just say the word. Castiel calls Sam. Though we find Metatron hilarious, he is making Castiel feel murderous, which only adds to the hilarity. Castiel reassures Sam that they will find a cure for Dean. Metatron mutters, “I don’t know why you’d wanna cure that little firecracker now. He’s finally interesting,” and Castiel punches him in way that’s as close to slapstick that Supernatural comes. Metatron is finding there are some things to enjoy in the mortal life, such as oversized waffles covered in fruit and syrup (“Food, glorious, food”). He’s right, of course. He also describes the digestion process as “sorcery.” Metatron is surprised that Castiel does not miss being human and all its feelings. He points out that the two of them have a lot in common.
Metatron: “Can’t we be besties?” Castiel: “No, because you killed my friend?” Metatron: “Oh phfft, Dean is fine… mostly. Can’t you get past that?” Castiel: “Never.”
Castiel makes for a fantastic straight man alongside the comedic Metatron. All that food has made Metatron’s tummy upset. They head for the bathroom and we see that there is someone with an angel blade sitting at the counter. Never a good sign when they flash their angel blade. It turns out the dude who was sitting at the counter is now in the parking lot waiting for Castiel and Metatron. He is one angry cupid. He’s not like some of the cupids we’ve met before – this one’s wearing clothes and has lots of body hair. It’s surprising that more angels aren’t hanging around waiting to get vengeance on these two megalomanical-leaning angels after all of the heavenly death and destruction they’ve caused. In the fight, the cupid seems to be getting the better of Castiel, but Metatron ends up killing the cupid. Castiel still pretty much hates Metatron though.
Evil Book of Hope
Dean and Sam meet Charlie at a cabin. Charlie shows them the creepy Book of the Damned. It’s made out of human skin and written in blood, reminding us of another supernatural book from the literary world of the All Souls Trilogy. She’s also found some research notes on the Book of the Damned. Dean has a freaky moment while looking at the book and he tells Sam and Charlie, “I don’t think it’s a good idea that I touch this.” The Book of the Damned is written with mysterious symbols. The symbols look like they were drawn by Noel Fielding, but the blood makes it spooky. The research notes are written in ancient Summarian and encoded.
Sam: “An entire book of unreadable text, that’s also in code. Great.” Dean: “And you call yourselves nerds. C`mon. You got this.” Charlie: “He’s right. Let’s get our Alan Turing on. Decrypt this bitch.”
As Sam looks at the evil book, he realizes that Dean can’t stop looking at him looking at it. It appears our heroes are running out of time because The Originals are on Charlie’s path (again, they aren’t really from The Originals, which is probably obvious because the main villain has a better New Orleans accent than anyone on The Originals).
Back with the skin and blood book, Charlie can’t crack the code. Dean tells her that perhaps that’s for the best because the people following them are the Styne family. They are an old corrupt family, or, as Charlie calls them, “the supernatural Duponts.” Dean tells them they can’t use it because it’s dark magic that will come at a big price. Sam and Charlie still think they should translate it and see what it says. Dean tries to explain how dangerous it is:
“The book’s been calling out to me ever since I laid eyes on it, okay? Calling out to the Mark. I can hear it like it’s alive. It wants me to use it, but not for good. Look, I wanted it to be the answer, too, okay? I really did. But we have got to get rid of that. Burn it, bury it, I don’t give a damn. We’ll just have to find another way to fix the Mark.”
No body likes what Dean has to say. Charlie accuses him of giving up. Sam complains that he can’t watch Dean become a demon again. Dean them that the Book of the Damned is not the answer, “We gotta destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands, and that includes me.” Dean decides it’s time to grab some snacks and makes a dramatic exit. Sam tells Charlie the story about how he was at peace with the idea of dying to close the gates of Hell, but Dean wanted to save him at any cost. Sam now understands how desperate Dean was to keep him alive. Sam explains, “I guess I really understand that this is my life. I love it. But I can’t do it without my brother and I don’t want to do it without my brother. And if he’s gone….” We agree Sam. Yet another affirmation that the show needs both brothers to continue.
The Paper Chase
Castiel and Metatron are at a library looking for Castiel’s grace: “No one goes to libraries anymore. It’s the safest place in the world.” Metatron says that he doesn’t know where the grace is because he told another angel to hide it. Scary Castiel comes out and he tortures Metatron for a bit. Finally Metatron admits that he told the angel to hide clues in his favorite book. Metatron grabs Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and inside Castiel finds a clue that says, “What is the maddest thing a man can do?” Metatron and Castiel continue searching the library shelves for clues to where Castiel’s grace is hidden. Metatron is making Castiel question himself: “If I’m gonna die, I want answers. Like, who are you now? Like, you’re obviously not an angel of the lord. And what about all of this ‘walking the earth like Kane from Kung Fu’ crap? Cleaning up heaven’s messes. How many more rogue angels are there out there? And what are you gonna do once you’re done with all that? Go back to heaven? Please. The angel formerly known as Hannah has restored order up top. Smoothest it’s run since God cut the ribbon on the pearly gates. So tell me, Castiel, truly, what is your mission now?” But Castiel is not really one for introspection. While Castiel is distracted (we still have no idea why Cas took Metatron out of those handcuffs), Metraron uses his blood to make a spell. As Cas falls to the floor Metatron says, in his most sarcastic tone, “Swam so far just to drown in shallow waters. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?” Metatron finds the next clue in Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, which says, “What two things do you need to succeed in life?” Metatron provides the answer to this Mark Twain quote: “Ignorance and Confidence.” It leads him to a huge fake book with the demon tablet hidden inside. Metatron says, “Oh, the places I’ll go with this.” Despite laying on the floor gasping for breath, Castiel has caught on to the quote game and realizes the clue from earlier is a quote from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. After dragging himself over to the novel, Castiel opens it and finds his grace contained. Metatron makes his escape and Castiel gets his mojo back. Cas is back. Metatron is gone. And librarians everywhere can sort through the mis-shelved call numbers for obscure clues.
Meet the Stynes
Dean goes to the local Gas n’ Sip, where Jacob Styne has just killed the store clerk. Dean realizes who it is when he sees his tattoo. Another baddie creeps up behind Dean and manages to restrain Dean. Jacob Styne sees that he has the Mark of Cain on his arm. Jacob Styne tells Dean:
“Nobody had seen that redheaded girl. And then a man bearing that Mark comes in here, to me. Well, there’s coincidence, and then there’s just Providence. See, The Book of the Damned, it wants to be found. It wants to come home. Let me guess. You want to use it to get that gift off your arm, don’t you? Power is wasted on the weak. Now, the book… can remove that Mark. But you mess around with that, you’re gonna do far more harm than good. So, why don’t you do the right thing here, boy, and tell me where that book is?”
So it turns out that The Book of the Damned is like the One True Ring and it wants to be found. At the convenience store of death, Dean manages to get away by unloading a whole clip of bullets into his captor, while Jacob Styne flees.
Dean races back to the cabin to warn Charlie and Sam. He tells Sam he has to burn the book. We wonder if Sam will really burn the book. He didn’t listen in “Paint it Black” when Dean told him to burn the ghost Isabella’s journal. Will he listen now? They soon have visitors as the Stynes family goons come for the book. Dean yells to Sam to burn the book and Sam fumbles with the key to open the lead box they have placed the Book of the Damned inside. Charlie and Dean take care of the goons, but Jacob Styne comes into the cabin and sees Sam with the book. By the Jacob makes his way over the Sam there is a book burning in the flames. Jacob starts to strangle Sam (because Sam gets strangled in every episode), but Sam manages to stab him.
Party at the Bunker
Sam and Castiel talk at the bunker, each congratulating the other on their good work. Charlie and Dean arrive with beer and pizza. OMG! Charlie has never met Castiel! She hugs him. Awkward. He can’t cure Dean, but he can cure Charlie’s carpel tunnel syndrome. She punches Cas and asks, “Did we just become best friends?” It’s hard not be a fangirl when dealing with angels. Well, some angels. Dean returns and asks Castiel how he was able to find his grace and Cas lies to Dean, telling him Hannah got the information. As the Who’s Behind Blue Eyes plays, the little group enjoys some beers and pizza, with Charlie and Dean getting silly. Seems like a win overall, but the song and Sam’s face still make us feel sad and worried. What should we know about what’s behind those eyes? We find out why Sam was so pensive when we discover that Sam didn’t burn the book after all! And what’s more, at the end of the episode, he meets up with Rowena to make a deal to get her assistance to remove the Mark of Cain. We were hoping that Rowena would be back. And now, it looks like she might be an ally of the Winchester brothers. Or their worst nightmare. We shall see.
“Book of the Damned” Review
What’s not to love about “Book of the Damned”? It had great music, humor, literary references, boy melodrama, Charlie’s fantastic pop culture references, and a very menacing villain in Jacob Styne (Jeff Branson). There was very good dialogue throughout the episode. We love Supernatural when it’s both funny and emotional, while still moving the overall story of the season along effectively. “Book of the Damned” was written by Robbie Thompson, who brought us “Fan Fiction” and “There’s No Place Like Home.” Charlie (Felicia Day) was excellent in this episode, probably her best yet. She really felt like a part of the family. Castiel (Misha Collins) and Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) were fun to watch together and we were so happy Castiel finally got his grace back. It was refreshing to see Dean have some fun. Jensen Ackles played Dean’s highs and lows with subtlety and skill. In a strong episode with great performances, Jared Padalecki was a standout in “Book of the Damned.” The scene with Charlie was very moving and all through the episode you could feel Sam’s desperation. Padalecki stole the scene at the end when they were eating pizza. It was an interesting contrast to see Dean laughing, while Sam looked so forlorn. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention how amazing the music was this episode. It complemented the mood of scenes with the classic rock sound associated with Supernatural. We thought Sam really had burned the book, making the end of “Book of the Damned” a fun revelation. Season 10 just keeps surprising us, mostly in a good away.
Final note: At the end of “Book of the Damned” the end card noted that the episode was dedicated to the memory of Jaap Broeker (1950–2015), who had been a stand-in for Jensen Ackles during the first 7 seasons of Supernatural, substituting for him prior to filming to assist in production preparations. Broeker passed away in January of a stroke. He was remembered by Ackles, Jim Beaver, and Mitch Pileggi on Twitter. Jim Beaver described Broeker on Facebook as “funny, prickly, silly, and, to me, endlessly kind and helpful.”
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Love the show, the characters are intense. Keep up the good work. Diane Sjoblom
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Thanks! It is a fantastic show. Will miss it over the hiatus.