In “The Werther Project” Sam is falling back into the Winchester patterns of secrets and lies we so frequently see in Supernatural. Despite Sam and Dean being honest with each other through most of Season 10, Sam has fallen off the wagon, starting with getting some heavenly help from Uncle Bobby to break out Metatron in the episode “Inside Man,” and then pretending to have a spell book bonfire in “The Book of the Damned.” Contacting Rowena to get help translating the Book of the Damned is the biggest betrayal so far. Though no one trusts Rowena, least of all Sam, we can’t help but wonder if she will still get the upper hand. If Macbeth has taught us anything, it’s never trust a Scottish witch.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
We flash back to St. Louis, Missouri in the 1970s. After being forced by her unprogressive mother to do laundry, a teenage girl sulkily takes the laundry down to the basement as her brother blasts the family with “I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren. Once in the basement, the girl (Suzie) puts the laundry aside to convey her dissent by smashing in the cellar wall. Right on, sister! After demolishing the wall, she discovers a secret room. Oh the ’70s! Those were the days—high-waisted pants, fantastic wallpaper, unabashed feminism, and secret rooms. It’s all very Amityville Horror. In the secret room a nasty greenish-yellow smoke escapes from what looks like a mystical oven, knocking Suzie out. When she regains consciousness she finds her entire family is dead, or soon to be dead. So maybe the ’70s weren’t all great.
“And you all know, security, Is mortals’ chiefest enemy.”
Rowena and Sam are talking terms. Before Rowena can finish explaining her initial offer, Sam quickly agrees to kill Crowley. Sam apparently doesn’t care why Rowena wants to kill Crowley and is eager to do it. Negotiation 101 tip for Rowena: Don’t trade for something you probably could’ve gotten for free. Yet Rowena realizes Sam is pretty desperate, since he is asking for help from her, his “mortal enemy.” So dramatic, these Scots. She wishes she was powerful enough to be the Winchesters’ nemesis, but perhaps she’ll get there. Apparently Rowena can’t decode the book without a codex—not Felicia Day’s avatar on The Guild, but an ancient manuscript of spells written by Grand Coven witch Nadya. She suggests Sam start looking for it in the Men of Letters Bunker since it was those bastards who murdered the witch and took her codex.
Meanwhile, Dean singlehandedly takes care of a nest of six vampires in Tulsa. Sam arrives after the fact and scolds Dean for not waiting for him:
Dean: “C’mon man, it’s the only way I can take the edge off. I’m sorry I don’t always like to wait around for you, especially with you looking at me like that all the time.”
Sam: “Lookin’ at you like what?”
Dean: “Like that. Like I’m some sort of a diseased killer puppy. You know what, man? I’m sweaty and covered in vamp juice. Can we just talk about this later? I’d like to get back to the bunker and get my buzz on and, you know, pass out watching Speed 2: Cruise Control. We cool?”
Sam is clearly not cool. He’s probably never been cool.
During his research Sam finds that Cuthbert Sinclair, who we last saw in “Blade Runners” (S09E16) when Dean took the First Blade from him, had locked the Codex in a box referred to as the Werther Project. Sinclair warned the Men of Letters that there is only one way to shut down the project, and they won’t have the guts to do it: “You are not men. You are librarians. Nothing more.” Ouch—librarian burn. After rebuking Sinclair, the Men of Letters decide to entomb it where it is, in St. Louis.
“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.”
Sam calls Rowena, asking for a spell to break a violent enchantment protecting the codex. Sam goes to the house we saw earlier in the episode, planning to break in. He is quickly dissuaded by a woman with a gun, and goes back out to his car. He gets a second surprise when Dean shows up, jumping in the car and asking him how the case is going. Sam’s eyes get all big. How Dean doesn’t realize something’s up we’ll never know. It turns out the house is known as the St. Louis Suicide House. Fun. Dean believes Sam is following this case alone as payback for his own solo work in Tulsa. Sam tells Dean that the house belonged to the Men of Letters and they have a responsibility to defuse the time bomb that’s inside it.
Dean knocks on the door of the Suicide House and pretends to be Dwight Twilley, a member of the Neighborhood Watch. He asks for a description of the man who has been trying to break into houses. Suzie describes Sam as: “Tall, white fella. Pretty hair.” Awesome description. Dean distracts Suzie while Sam tries to set the spell in order to break the enchantment. When Sam fails, he impulsively attempts to open it with brute force. Oh Sam. Desperation makes men do foolish things, but by Season 10 you should have known better. When he grabs the handle, the yellowish smoke emerges once more, making its way upstairs and entering Dean’s and Suzie’s eyeballs. Gross.
Suzie has hallucinations of her family urging her to join them, and before Sam can get to her, she shoots herself. Sam has a hallucination of Suzie taunting him about his fruitless search for the Mark of Cain:
“You think Dean’s the wild card, the loose cannon. But don’t you see? Making deals with witches, opening Pandora’s box down there? You’re the reckless one. You’ll do anything to keep clinging to that doomed brother of yours. How many more will die, Sammy? You know it. You have to be stopped! And the only one who can stop you is you! Do it, Sammy! End this farce once and for all!”
Rowena arrives, wearing her awesome cape, and takes care of the Suzie hallucination with a dispelling spell. She seems to be subtler in her manipulations of Sam than she was with Crowley.
“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?”
Meanwhile, Dean has found himself back in Purgatory with the Leviathans and other terrifying creatures he previously battled. That can’t be good. Sam and Rowena find Dean in a trance. So … not actually in Purgatory. We won’t lie—the previews fooled us. They tie up Dean to keep him from hurting himself and go down to the basement to try to break the enchantment securing the Werther box.
Dean is surprisingly aware that Purgatory is his own hallucination. We suppose the boys have had enough of these kinds of experiences to tell the difference. He comes upon his old friend, Bennie Lafitte. Dean tries to ignore him, politely pointing out he’s merely a hallucination, but Bennie tells him there’s a reason his subconscious chose this hallucination—it’s where Dean wants to be. Hallucination Bennie tells him:
“This place, you don’t have to go looking for a fight. All you have to do is be still for one moment, and that fight will come to you. That’s why you’re here, Dean. That’s the purity you crave—killing with no consequence.”
The Bennie hallucination tells Dean he can’t rely on his brother and Castiel to kill him if he goes all demony again, and even if he did and they carried out his wishes, they could never live with it. Bennie urges him to take his own life:
“You make the right choice in here, you’ll sleep forever, and you won’t ever hurt anyone ever again. No one needs to know, Dean. What happens in Purgatory stays in Purgatory.”
This from someone who previously escaped from Purgatory.
“It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood.”
Sam and Rowena realize that to break the enchantment, the box requires the blood from a Man of Letters. Sam cuts his arm and his blood pours into the box. The enchantment seems to require more blood, and Sam seems willing to give it whatever it needs. While Sam bleeds in the basement, Dean tells Bennie that the Mark won’t let him die, and kills him. This wakes him up from his Purgatory hallucination. Dean finds Sam in the basement, almost passed out from the blood loss, and offers his own blood to complete the spell. Dean seems unaware of Rowena, making us suspect she was part of the hallucination that was trying to get Sam to kill himself. They get the codex out of the box, and later Dean destroys the Werther box. Out at the car, Dean tells Sam, “The universe is trying to tell us something we both should already know. We’re stronger together than apart.”
Sam hasn’t gotten the universe’s message, because he later meets Rowena at an abandoned warehouse with the codex. At least Sam has the good sense to chain Rowena up. He tells her she will decrypt the book, find a spell for Dean, and that is all she will get from the book because he’ll then burn it. He’ll kill Crowley when she’s done. As Sam leaves she yells, “You big bambot!” Again, so dramatic.
“The Werther Project” Review
The scene with Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) in Tulsa was exciting and funny. It was a different way to showcase the Winchesters’ continued hunting without weighing down the narrative with a full Monster-of-the-Week episode. Dean is so deadly with the Mark of Cain it’s difficult to envision any supernatural creatures as real threats at this point. Seeing his satisfaction after he has killed a nest of vampires singlehandedly was a clever way to bring us back to the family business while tying it into the overall story.
In previous Season 10 episodes we loved the interaction between Rowena (Ruth Connell) and Crowley (Mark Sheppard), but she was pretty fun to watch with Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) as well. We are guessing she would become an extremely dangerous force if she were to get her hands on the Book of the Damned.
The last scene, in which Sam chains up Rowena, reminds us that Sam can actually be much more cold and calculating than Dean, which reflects some of what the Suzie hallucination said to Sam. Though Sam appears noble at times, he can also be a ruthless killer when it serves his needs—especially when it comes to saving his brother.
The episode was also a twist on an old idea by having Dean be aware he was in a hallucination. In previous seasons we have seen Dean or Sam struggle through an episode, reaching the realization they are in a hallucination or spell towards the end. It was refreshing that Dean knew right away that Purgatory was not real and that he was battling within his own consciousness. The only question was how to get out. It was great to see Bennie (Ty Olsson) again, especially when he was so recently brought to mind after hearing Jacob Styne’s similar-sounding Cajun accent in last week’s episode, “The Book of the Damned.” We can’t think of any character that could have better represented the part of Dean that finds simplicity and a sense of respite in killing.
Supernatural continues on a streak of very strong episodes with “The Werther Project.” We are now not only worried about Dean’s damnation, but also that Sam could be putting his own soul at risk by messing around with the Book of the Damned. Season 10 of Supernatural continues to be one of the best in the series, and we are on the edge of our seats as we move closer to the season’s end.
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What I find most interesting about Sam is his hypocrisy; any time Dean relies on Crowley, Castiel, Benny, random other character A or whoever, Sam turns all sulky (remember his behavior during and around “Blade Runners” during Season 9, for example?) But if Sam’s the one who’s going to go behind backs, make deals with the enemy (going back at least as far as Lilith in Season 4) or anything of that sort… well, then it’s totally okay.
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Agreed. Sam can be annoyingly self-righteous when Dean strays from the script Sam thinks he should follow. Yet Sam has no problem working with demons or witches when he’s convinced it’s the right thing to do.
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