The title of Supernatural’s Season 10 finale, “Brother’s Keeper,” refers to Cain’s response to God after killing Abel from Genesis 4:9: “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is they brother Abel? And he said, I know not; Am I my brother’s keeper?” By the end of “The Prisoner,” Dean has turned away from Castiel and Sam, becoming increasingly consumed by the darkness of the Mark of Cain. Cain predicted that Dean was destined to follow his path in “The Executioner’s Song,” and we have already seen Dean almost kill Castiel. Will Sam suffer the same fate as Abel? Or can Sam finally save his brother? Supernatural has got our attention with “Brother’s Keeper.”
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Any regular Supernatural watcher looks forward to the Season Finale for “The Road so Far” montage. For Season 10 they integrated the amazing version of “Carry on Wayward Son” from “Fan Fiction” with the classic song.
It’s Not Easy Being Dean
Dean wakes up on the floor of a motel room. After dragging himself up, he takes a sip of beer and says to himself, “I’m good. I’m good.” He doesn’t seem so good.
A fellow hunter, Rudy, has called Dean for help on a case of a dead girl, Rose, but he can’t take Dean’s rudeness. Who knew the Mark of Cain would make you a jerk, as well as homicidally violent?
Dean isn’t able to keep his FBI-agent cool. After hearing Dean accuse her parents of being horrible people, the dead girl’s brother decides to tell Dean that his sister Rose and her friend Crystal went to a cabin in the woods to meet some dudes.
Whatever it Takes to Save Dean Winchester
Despite Castiel’s misgivings about the unknown consequences of using the Book of the Damned, Sam is resolute they must use it to remove the Mark. Maybe Cas is just mad at Dean after being pummeled by him in “The Prisoner.”
Sam creates a witch-killing brew to threaten Rowena with, but she calls his bluff. Rowena should start selling timeshares in Hell, because she knows how to use Sam’s desperation to her fullest advantage. She renegotiates their deal, telling Sam that he will set her free and give her the Codex. Castiel tries to warn Dean again, but Sam is determined and agrees to Rowena’s new terms.
After coming to this new agreement, Rowena reads the spell to Castiel and Sam, who realize that there are yet more steps in the race to a cure. The objects —the apple from The Tree of Knowledge, the Golden Calf, and the sacrifice of something the spellcaster loves—aren’t as easy to come by as rabbit bones. Let’s revisit the steps needed to possibly cure Dean:
- Research, research, and more research.
- Find an online reference to the Book of the Damned. Hope it might yield something useful.
- Send Charlie to retrieve the Book of the Damned. [Technically she volunteers when she realizes Dean is totally losing it after he beats the crap out of Bad Charlie in “There’s No Place Like Home.” It’s weird how people (Cole, Charlie, Cas) end up wanting to help Dean that much more after he beats them down. That’s the Cult of Winchester.]
- Have Charlie return in “Book of the Damned” with said book. Meet the Stynes. Almost die. Pretend to burn book.
- Make a deal with Rowena to kill Crowley in return for her help with the book. [That original deal seemed like a win-win for Sam, but that’s exactly how the timeshare salespeople get you.]
- When Rowena admits she cannot read the book, get a codex to break the code from a suicide house. Almost die. [“The Werther Project” reinforces that the Mark does have some value, when it saves Dean and Sam. Mark-enhanced Dean can’t be killed by something as silly as a curse or spell.]
- When Rowena still claims she cannot break the code, bring in Charlie to help in “Dark Dynasty.” Force Charlie to stay locked up with Rowena until she can’t take it anymore and does something dumb. Take a last call from Charlie as she uploads a decoding file and is brutally murdered.
- Promise your brother you will not use the Book. Realize you have the decoding file. Break said promise.
- Get bossed around by Rowena. Try to kill Crowley. Fail.
- Spend hours creating a threat against Rowena in the form of a witch-killing potion. When she calls the bluff, fold immediately and give her whatever she wants.
- Locate forbidden fruit, a destroyed artifact, and something Rowena cares about.
This plan is way more complicated than Sam first realized.
Rowena claims she loves nothing and no one, but when Castiel does his mind-reading trick he finds that Rowena loved an 8-year-old Polish peasant boy, Oskar, 300 years earlier. Angels can be quite useful to have around, especially when they’re full of grace.
Dean’s in Trouble
Hunter Rudy calls Sam to tell him that Dean’s “not playing nice with others.” Sam races off to Nebraska, entrusting Castiel to work with Rowena to complete the spell. Before Sam can arrive, hunter Rudy gets captured by the vampires holding Crystal hostage at the cabin in the woods. Dean comes to save the day, sort of. He kills one vampire and taunts the other until he kills poor hunter Rudy. Dean frees the hysterical Crystal, telling her he’s there to rescue her. Not quite the hero she was hoping for.
Dean returns to his motel room, where he takes out his frustration on the furniture in rock star fashion. Meanwhile, Sam arrives at the cabin in the woods and learns that Dean was responsible for Rudy’s death. By the time Sam gets to Dean’s motel, he only finds a note saying “She’s all yours” and the keys to the Impala. It’s clearly a suicide note, as Dean would never willingly give up the Impala.
In a last ditch effort to ensure he doesn’t hurt anyone else, Dean summons Death to an abandoned roadhouse. Trying to placate Death with snacks, Dean offers, “Queso—and, uh, taquitos, tamales. Homemade by yours truly. All with the bad fat. Consider it an offering.” It turns out not even Death can kill Dean because the Mark holds back “The Darkness:”
“Before there was light, before there was God and the archangels, there wasn’t nothing. There was the Darkness, a horribly destructive, amoral force that was beaten back by God and his archangels in a terrible war. God locked the Darkness away where it could do no harm, and he created a Mark that would serve as both lock and key, which he entrusted to his most valued Lieutenant, Lucifer. But the Mark began to assert its own will, revealed itself as a curse, and began to corrupt. Lucifer became jealous of man. God banished Lucifer to Hell. Lucifer passed the Mark to Cain, who passed the Mark to you, the proverbial finger in the dike.”
Death cannot remove the Mark unless Dean passes it on to another, so that the Darkness remains locked. Instead Death offers to relocate Dean somewhere not on Earth where he would no longer pose a danger to himself or others. Sounds sort of like Purgatory, or maybe the home planet of The Little Prince.
Who Invited Crowley to the Party?
Castiel summons Crowley for help, but Crowley’s not in a giving mood. He tells Castiel: “Maybe I’d feel a little different if Sam Winchester hadn’t just tried to bloody kill me!” Crowley suggests that begging might be a better alternative to threatening. Castiel’s not very good at pleading, but Crowley agrees to get the three items, telling Castiel, “Well, for starters, it’s a quince, you dummy, not an apple.” We can’t help but wonder what’s in this for Crowley—some form of vengeance against his mother, we assume.
Crowley returns to the diner we saw him at in “The Prisoner.” Crowley is back in old form, killing all the patrons with his arrival, and leaving a scared and confused server at the counter.
Crowley: “A long, long time ago, there once lived an evil bitch—sorry, witch—who was forced to flee her home and her only son because she was, well, horrible. Starving and homeless, she threw herself upon the mercy of a peasant Polish family who took her in, fed her, and nursed her back to full strength. This was a kindness she had never known. She was particularly taken by their 8-year-old son, who, apparently, she grew to love.
Server: “How do you know all this?”
Crowley: “A hamster told me. Tragically … the boy was terminally ill and soon to die. But before the witch departed, she gave the boy and his family the only thanks that made sense. She cured the boy with one spell and cast another that would take root once he was full-grown. That lying, manipulative whore mother of mine gave you immortality, didn’t she … Oskar?”
Crowley shows up at Rowena’s factory prison with Oskar. Oskar is the third ingredient she needs for her spell, since she has loved him since he was a child.
Rowena: “Even for you, Fergus, this is a new low—a cruel, shameful, disgusting low.”
Crowley: “It’s only cruel if you actually go through with it.”
Poor Crowley, you’d think he was a middle child.
After getting a call from Dean, Sam arrives at the roadhouse. When Sam sees Death, he knows something’s up. Sam tells him he doesn’t need to die, but it turns out there’s another plan in the works. Death has convinced Dean that he must kill Sam. Death explains to Sam:
“Even if I remove Dean from the playing field, we’re still left with you, loyal, dogged Sam, who I suspect will never rest until he sets his brother free—will never rest until his brother is free of the Mark, which simply cannot happen, lest the Darkness be set free.”
As Death walks past Sam he adds, “Then there was that time you stood me up,” referring to “I Think I’m Going to Like it Here” when Sam was on the verge of death. Death seems to hold a grudge. Sam tries to convince Dean that though the Mark may have caused him to do evil things and they are willing to take great risks to save each other, that they are good people.
Dean: “To remove the Mark no matter what the consequences? Sam, how is that not evil? I have this thing on my arm, and you’re willing to let the Darkness into the world.
Sam: “You were also willing to summon Death to make sure you could never do any more harm. You summoned me because you knew I would do anything to protect you. That’s not evil, Dean. That’s not an evil man. That is a good man crying to be heard, searching for … some other way.”
When it becomes clear that Dean is committed to this course, killing his brother, Sam stops fighting it. He agrees that Mark-infused Dean needs to be stopped from hurting anyone else. Sam gives Dean pictures of their family to help guide Dean back when he’s ready to help “remember what it was to be good … what it was to love.” Death tells Dean if he doesn’t kill Sam, that he will. Dean says to Sam, “Forgive me.” Sam closes his eyes and Dean swings Death’s scythe. Dean is an expert with guns, angel blades, and various knives, but has little experience swinging a scythe. He misses Sam and the scythe swings back into Death who crumbles into a pile of ash.
Oskar gives his Auntie Rowena a hug. She tells him everything is fine, and punctures his artery. With Oskar’s blood she has the final ingredient and casts her spell. The light cast from the spell heads towards the roadhouse where Sam and Dean are recovering. Dean says, “I think I just killed Death.” A bolt of light enters the roadhouse, and the spell removes the Mark from Dean’s arm.
At the factory prison, Rowena frees herself from her chains and immobilizes Castiel and Crowley with a spell. She casts her aggression spell on Castiel and sics him on Crowley. Looks like Crowley’s vengeance on his mother, making her kill Oskar, was short-lived. She leaves Crowley to his fate, taking the Book of the Damned and the Codex with her. She’s like a Bond villain, leaving her victim to be finished off by someone else.
Sam and Dean are quickly learning just what “The Darkness” is. The Darkness appears to be an oncoming storm. It all feels very Doctor Who. “Brother’s Keeper” ends with the Winchesters, in the Impala, encompassed by a huge grey cloud.
“Brother’s Keeper” Review
The Season 10 finale of Supernatural, “Brother’s Keeper,” was written by Jeremy Carver and directed by Philip Sgriccia. They took the Cain and Abel parallel in a direction we didn’t expect. It was much harder to see Dean want to kill Sam out of good intentions than it would have been if it came out of a Mark-driven thirst for blood. Sam agreeing to let Dean kill him was something we weren’t expecting, but perhaps a part of Sam didn’t want to live without his brother.
We’ve loved the ways the writers and directors have used family pictures all season long, starting in “Soul Survivor.” Our favorite use of a picture this season wasn’t one of John and Mary Winchester or Uncle Bobby, but of besties Dean and Crowley in “Reichenbach.” As Sam was pleading for Dean to remember the good and his family’s love we only saw pictures of their mother Mary and the kids, probably because their father John had told Dean back in at the start of Season 2 that he might have to kill Sam someday to save the world. Instead the focus was on their mother, who probably wouldn’t have approved of Dean killing Sam.
Both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were excellent in “Brother’s Keeper.” Their acting made the somewhat outlandish storyline work. Mark Sheppard knows how to show us that Crowley is scary again without going over the top. Ruth Connell brings a lot of humor to her role as Rowena, and it was fun to see her interact with Crowley again. She is definitely the worst mother ever. We wondered if she was going to go through with killing Oskar. Connell managed to make Rowena appear loving for a moment, then linking that moment to her cruelty and cold desire for power. Though we thought Rowena would only be a short-lived character, it’s great to know she will be in Season 11. Not only do do we love that Rowena refers to Sam as “Samuel,” but the nickname “Feathers” for Cas is pretty good. It was fantastic to have Julian Richings return as Death, as he is one of our favorite characters. Why you gotta keep killing off our favorites, Supernatural? Well, we don’t really know if Death is dead, but the Magic 8 Ball says “All signs point to yes.”
Having Castiel (Misha Collins), Rowena (Ruth Connell), and Crowley together in the second storyline made the narrative more cohesive. Castiel’s protests about using the Book of the Damned were pretty weak, and he seemed quick to do Sam’s bidding despite his reservations. We can’t help but think that Crowley will be able to escape from the spellbound Castiel by the time Season 11 starts.
Will Sam and Dean need to talk about the fact that Dean tried to kill his brother? What effect will that have on their relationship? Let’s hope they can work together to deal with the coming Darkness. Season 10 of Supernatural has been a great ride, and the season finale gave us with the kind of exciting but moving episode we look forward to on Supernatural. “Brother’s Keeper” provided us with closure on the Mark of Cain story, left us wondering what baddie Rowena will be up to, and left an apocalyptic mess for Sam and Dean to clean up in Season 11.
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Dean making sure to have junk-food offerings when summoning Death is still funny to me every time. “Is that queso?”
If Dean really killed Death, it seems like that could be an even bigger problem than the Darkness. But I find it hard to imagine that Death can be destroyed, even with his own scythe. Maybe it was just that particular anthropomorphic personification that was killed, and Death will now appear in a different form—perhaps one without a craving for greasy American food. Looking forward to Season 11!
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