SPN S10: The Road So Far
With the season ten finale just days away and the questionable “The Prisoner” [10.22] soundly in last week, I thought we’d look at the Road So Far” as they say and consider what has and hasn’t changed for the major players this season:
- Metatron is still alive
- Crowley is still alive
- Castiel’s grace is problematic
- Sam is looking for a way to save his brother
- Dean is (semi)demonic
Despite ample cause and a couple of opportunities to do, the Winchesters didn’t kill either Metatron or Crowley. Not killing Metatron was entirely strategic. Metatron knew where Castiel’s grace was, and Sam encouraged the angel to get it back—more on that in a moment. Had Castiel played his cards right that might have turned out all right, but for some mysterious reason, he chose to repeatedly tell the Scribe of God that he was going to kill him once he recovered his grace. That didn’t sit well with Metatron who managed to manipulate Castiel into a situation in which Metatron not only escaped but did so with the demon tablet, but at least Cas got his grace back, right? Not so much.
One of my issues with Castiel’s characterization is that it has been so uneven. Why would Castiel trust Metatron for even half a second after what the other angel has done? How could he continue to be so gullible? And if he could masterfully lie to his friends in season six, why would he be honest with Metatron? The other problem is the condition of Castiel’s grace. He was able to subdue demon Dean in “Soul Survivor” while using stolen grace, but he didn’t stand a chance against Mark of Cain powered Dean in “The Prisoner” with his own damaged grace. Gadreel’s grace was damaged as well in S9, but he managed to resurrect both Castiel and Charlie before serious weakness ensued. Why is Castiel’s grace damaged at all if it was just sitting in a jar all this time? If the writing team has a clear idea of what grace is and how it works, they aren’t conveying it well at all.
So, we’ve got a de-powered Castiel and Metatron running around with the demon tablet. That should play into the coming finale this week. Crowley is another wild card. At the start of the season he was hanging out with demon Dean, playing foosball, engaging in group sex, and enjoying umbrella drinks, but the Winchesters alas have alienated his affections. Dean entrusted the First Blade to Castiel instead of Crowley, and then Sam tried to kill him. Sam has wanted to kill Crowley for a good long time, and he pretty much jumped at the chance when it was Rowena’s payment for decoding the Book of the Damned. Unfortunately, her magic wasn’t strong enough to kill the King of Hell, and now Crowley is back in touch with his demonic nature.
Sam is still a shadow of the kid who saved his brother in “Faith” and fought for him throughout season three. That kid had determination and brilliance and skill. He wouldn’t have been Googling “Mark of Cain.” He made things happen and didn’t rely on others to do the research or legwork for him. Rather than the numerous Monster of the Week episodes and exploration of Castiel’s relationship with Claire, the season ten story arc could have shown Sam and Dean learning from season three’s failure. It could have been about the brothers working together as a team, tracking down clues and doing the real research to find a way to remove the Mark of Cain. There would have been promising leads, dead ends, and yes, monsters along the way as part of the Mark of Cain story.
That kind of story wouldn’t have precluded Metatron and Crowley getting involved to muck up the solution to Dean’s dilemma and create the kind of conflict that the show has always done best – outside forces against the Winchesters. Sam and Dean against all odds, rather than against each other, is the foundation of the series. For whatever reason, that is a fact that appears to evade show runner Jeremy Carver and producer Robert Singer when they developed the past three season arcs. Sure, there was a period there where Sam and Dean appeared to be working together, but it couldn’t last under the Carver Administration.
And Dean…the effects of the Mark of Cain are so vague and variable that it’s hard to say from one episode to the next how it has affected Dean. One moment, he appears to be handling it fine and the next Sam is saying he’s in trouble or Castiel is saying he snapped. Bouncing an uncooperative guy’s head off a table doesn’t indicate Dean is off the rails—not when Sam did the same to a bartender just weeks before. Shooting Cyrus Styne might be such an indicator, however.
I’ll never be happy with the last minute invention of the Frankenstein-descended, Aryan-power, Southern-stereotype Styne mythology. It was lazy writing and insulting to viewers. Cyrus Styne was the focus of that invention and meant to symbolize Sam—the rebellious son who swore never to become like his family. Dean’s decision to kill Cyrus was directly related to Sam becoming exactly what he’d sworn to never become—a hunter. Suddenly, Sam’s odd statement to Charlie that he loved his life made sense. The viewers had to be clear that Sam has in fact become what Dean argued in the pilot: “…one of us.” The suggestion is that Dean is close to going Cain and killing his own brother.
So, where does this leave our intrepid heroes going into the season ten finale? Spoilers tell us that the boys will think they’ve succeeded only to have something unexpected happen that could be far worse. They know that the Book of the Damned demands balance so if they use a spell from it that will come into play. Death will make an appearance, and surely, Metatron having the demon tablet suggests he will also play a part. Castiel will surely be making dubious negotiations with Crowley who’s out to get Rowena. Dean will undoubtedly be willing to sacrifice himself to save the world a ala Sam in “Swan Song.” Everything is pretty much up for grabs in the Jeremy Carver penned “Brother’s Keeper.”