Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Supernatural Season 9 - Play by Play and Review (Part 2)

It's nearly time for Season 10 of Supernatural to start! Maybe you are wondering what happened next season? Needing to decide whether to tune in against or not? Or maybe you just need a refresher on what happened last season. Follow me under the cut for part two of my recap and review of season 9 of Supernatural.
If you are interested, you can also reminisce about seasons 1-5 here.

The next episode of the season focuses on Sam’s relationship with Castiel and Castiel’s understanding of Sam’s position – always feeling like he is the one making terrible mistakes and always looking for forgiveness and repentance. To that end, Castiel and Sam try to painfully extract what grace remains of Gadreel in Sam’s body and use it to track him down. Eventually, Castiel stops the process, healing Sam completely and telling him that nothing is worth Sam’s life. He explains that as a human he learned what making mistakes feels like but he also learned the value of a human life and to cherish those that are close to him. They try the tracking spell but it fails, as there isn’t enough grace.

Meanwhile, Dean has teamed up with Crowley who has tracked him down to enlist his help in getting rid of Abaddon. Crowley described an ancient blade, the only thing that he knows of that can kill a Knight of Hell. Used, he believes, by the Archangels to kill all but Abaddon. Crowley and Dean use John Winchester’s journal to track down an old hunter friend of John’s who might be able to help them find the blade. She’s awesome and unfortunately dies - but who didn’t see that coming? –not before helping Crowley and Dean track the location of the blade.

As it turns out the blade is in the possession of Cain, known in the Bible for killing his own brother Abel when jealous that Abel was talking to God and closer to him. Crowley is terrified of him but the two face a show down of demons to try to convince Cain that they need the blade. 

Eventually Cain explains a different kind of story to the one everyone is used to being told. Cain says that his brother was talking to Lucifer, not to God. He begged Lucifer for his brothers soul to be saved from hell by trading his own. Lucifer granted this but only on the condition that Cain be the one to put Abel in heaven. Hence, Cain kin-slayed to save his brother for all of eternity. Cain was then marked by Lucifer and made his commander, slaughtering millions and slowly descending into darkness. Cain then created the Knights of Hell to aid in his destruction and only stopped when he fell in love with a mortal woman. She taught him to be the man that he was before and so he used his blade to kill the entire platoon of Knight’s of Hell aside from Abaddon. Abaddon had possessed his wife and in trying to kill her, he killed his wife. With her dying breath his wife made Cain promise to end the killing and to be the true good man that he was before Lucifer gave him the Mark. Cain explains that the blade can only he used by one that has the Mark. He reflects that his own story is very similar to Dean’s and says that one who was deemed worthy in this way to bear Lucifer’s Mark could have it transferred to them. Dean agrees to this and once the Mark is transferred Cain asks Dean to come back for him when he finds the blade (at the bottom of the ocean where he hid it) and kill him for what he is about to do. With that, Cain apologises to his dead wife for breaking his promise and slaughters all of the demons that have come for Dean and Crowley.

This plotline is basically the coolest thing in Supernatural for a very long time. The twisting of the traditional story works fantastically and Cain himself is a really interesting character.

As Crowley searches the bottom of the ocean, Dean reflects that he now knows that Crowley was not afraid and knew all along that to use the blade Dean would need to be marked. Crowley does not deny this and takes great pleasure knowing that Dean is now in some ways ready to fall into darkness. Dean, clearly in pain due to the Mark, reflects on his decisions and his need for revenge for Kevin.

This storyline is the first true time that the audience might see the descent of Dean into a chosen darkness in the way that Sam as been subjected to throughout the series. The only times Dean has previously been faced with causing harm have been when he has been broken and manipulated to protect Sam, although most of these have been self-sacrificial and all he has regretted. Dean is often constructed as the hero of the piece with Sam serving the purpose as the broken brother who cannot make good decisions all of the time due to his tendency to darkness. This role reversal, if played out well, could be very interesting indeed.

From this point the season turns back into freak-of-the-week territory and tries to get the audience back into the groove of the brothers hunting monsters, even if it’s separately. 

Old mate Garth turns out to be a recently turned Werewolf but part of a family that coexist peacefully with humans. Although some of the other Werewolves are not so hot on the idea and end up getting killed by the brothers, Dean spares the others, realising (maybe for the 900th time) that not everything that has been turned into a ‘monster’ is necessarily bad. It’s a bit sad that this has to keep coming up season after season, as if Dean as no capacity to learn from all the previous times that he found various creatures to be peaceful. This is especially stark given how much this season seems to stray theme wise from that older subject matter. In the end, Sam agrees to work with Dean again, but he doesn’t completely trust him and prefers to think of the team-up as a work colleague situation rather than him living and working with his brother. It’s difficult for Dean to hear and difficult for the audience to watch, but part of me was really wanting to fist-bump Sam for finally trying something different and for realising and articulating what he needs.

A suction-style Peruvian parasitic monster and some soul searching later, Dean tries to reconnect with Sam and explain why he did what he had done in order to save Sam. Sam tackles this head on, which is awesome, and tells Dean that actually, Dean isn’t admitting to himself that part of the reason he saved Sam was so that he wouldn’t be alone. When Dean tries to contend that Sam would have done the same for him, Sam tells him in no uncertain terms that he would not. It’s a really shattering moment for Dean and I certainly felt like something between them was irreconcilably changed. I think the point Sam is making is that relationships change; his relationship with Dean will never be the same again, but it doesn’t have to be over, it’s just not going to be the way it was. It’s still gut wrenching to hear but long over due. The relationship between the brothers has been on and off on the rocks for some time, this finally names the issues that are going on.

In episode 14 Kevin’s ghost returns to ask Sam and Dean to help save his mother, who he has discovered is still alive. Kevin cannot cross over as whatever happened with Metatron’s spell has affected all the souls who passed after it occurred. Once free, Kevin’s mother takes his spirit home with her while Kevin implores the brothers to reunite. He’s heard all of the fighting; he’s been listening the whole time. Although they promise to do so, the second he leaves they begin to ignore each other again.

Meanwhile, Castiel finds himself with a whole host of followers after he kills Bartholomew in self-defence. This always seemed like it was going to happen, so it lacks punch when it finally does – kind of like the reveal that Ruby was always working in aid of Lucifer, except of course with smaller stakes.

Sam and Dean run into the Ghostfacers while investigating killings linked to an Internet monster known as Thinman. Although the real perpetrators of the killings associated with Thinman end up human in nature, the story is revealed to have originally been created by Ed in order to keep Harry interested in being part of the team and part of his life rather than moving on, marrying and getting a better job. Harry is completely gutted when he finds out about Ed’s deception and tells Ed that he is leaving for good. Sam sympathises, agreeing that there are some things that one just cannot forgive, and clearly echoing his sentiments around what Dean has done.

It turns out that Crowley, following the events of last season, has become addicted to human blood and the addiction is losing him major points in his battle against Abaddon. More desperate than ever, he enlists Sam and Dean to retrieve the First Blade, which is in the possession of a rogue Man of Letters named Magnus. Dean is imprisoned by Magnus, a collector of all things occult, after he discovers that Dean has the Mark of Cain and can actually whiled the blade. He says that Dean is a valuable collectible himself. Dean manages to kill Magnus with Crowley’s help, and uses the First Blade to do so. The change is instant and Sam realises that killing with the blade is likely to affect Dean permanently. Crowley takes the blade with him when he leaves, saying that once the brothers have tracked down Abaddon, he will return with it.

Episode 17 is a little all over the place, but gives us a really good look at Abaddon’s backstory and how she came to infiltrate the Men of Letters. As apprentices to become Men of Letters, Henry Winchester (I still think this is a jumping the shark plotline) and Josie Sands are sent to investigate a convent where demons are removing people’s souls. Abaddon is behind the killings and when she discovers the apprentices, she is keen to learn more about the Men of Letters and the secrets to power that they might have. She is about to possess Henry when Josie bravely offers herself in his place. Once Abaddon has possessed Josie, she returns with Henry to the Men of Letters headquarters to begin her destruction.

Meanwhile, Castiel does not want to accept the role as the leader of the angelic fight against Metatron, but reluctantly does after another encounter with Metatron. Metatron wants Castiel to play the evil villain in his grand story, leading the rebellious angels against him. This episode, as with many that I have previously disliked, broke the fourth wall and really made the whole threat seem completely pathetic. I thought that evil Castiel was the worst big bad that Supernatural ever had and I was angry about that. With this latest turn, Metatron is by far and away a worse villain. The plot is so stupid and unbelievable that it makes it really difficult and jarring to watch the characters try to deal with it so seriously.

In amongst all the murkiness though, we get a real gem at episode 19 which takes me back to the way that Supernatural felt in the first 3 seasons. Sam and Dean get a call from Sheriff Jody Mills with an interesting case; a girl called Alex, who was kidnapped by a family of vampires eight years ago, has been attacked because she ran away from them and Jody wants to help her. When Sam and Dean confront one of the vampires, he divulges that Alex used to be their lure, convincing various humans to follow her or come with her before leading them to be fed to her vampire family. The family of vampires captures Sam, Dean, Jody and Alex and the mother of the family, Celia, turns Alex into a vampire. She laments not having done it sooner, but wanted to keep Alex human for as long as possible. Jody deduces that Celia kidnapped Alex to replace her own daughter, whom she lost long ago, which sends Celia into a rage. Jody admits that her own need to protect Alex comes from the loss of her own family and says that she understands. She is saved by Alex and kills Celia. Sam and Dean cure Alex, as she has not fed, and Jody takes her into her care. Meanwhile, Sam is worried that Dean enjoyed killing the vampire family too much.

We then get the in-season back-door pilot for Supernatural: Bloodlines, which is truly awful. Really. I can see why it didn’t get picked up. The general premise centres on waring monster families running the underbelly of Chicago. It’s a different ‘family business’ and it’s nothing that I am interested in. 

Sam and Dean are then called in by Castiel to help interrogate one of Metatron’s followers and discover where the secret portal to heaven is (yes, I really just typed that). Castiel tries to convince Gadreel that his alliance with Metatron is a bad idea (oh silly, silly Gadreel) and Crowley is getting blackmailed by Abaddon who has brought his son Gavin back from 1723, before he can die on the Titanic. This episode is pretty hard going, there’s just too much going on and none of it is particularly good. Crowley makes a pact with Dean, double-crossing Abaddon, and Dean kills her using the First Blade. Crowley then teleports Gavin away so he won’t die in his own timeline. Yawn. Are you serious? That’s the episode in which Abaddon dies? A let down doesn’t really cut it when it comes to describing that departure. What’s important is that from this point on it seems that Dean cannot leave the First Blade out of his sight. He says he needs it and he seems to think he can control its hold over him.

Keeping up with the trend of disappointment in the back end of this season, we find out that suicide bombers have been blowing themselves up and killing other angels in Castiel’s name. This is making his followers edgy and making them question their commitment. As Dean tries to find out why and who might really be behind this, he encounters the next suicide bomber; Tessa the Reaper. Upon questioning, Tessa says that she can hear the torment of all the souls trapped between worlds since Heaven shut its gates and declares that she is willing to die for Castiel’s cause. Dean has promised the angels on Team Castiel that he will not take weapons into the room when questioning Tessa; they are already sceptical of his torturous approach and of Castiel’s faith in him. Unfortunately for everyone, he reveals that he has the First Blade in his possession. Tessa manages to kill herself using the First Blade and makes it seem like Dean has committed the murder. Castiel reveals that he is only an angel through stolen grace, although it took cajoling, and only cares about winning the war against Metatron before the grace burns out and he dies. The angels are furious and ask Castiel to kill Dean as a sign of loyalty and leadership and Castiel obviously refuses. His follower’s leave to join Metatron and it seems like the battle is lost before it has begun.

Before I move on, I just want to say one thing about Tessa; what an absolute waste. In recent years, the show has made a habit of bringing back awesome and well loved old guest characters and killing them off within the episode for no reason at all. In this case, we don’t get to see Tessa developed; there is no reason for her to be in the episode other than to die. What is worse is that Gadreel discovers that Metatron has brainwashed these angels and reapers into believing they were killing for Castiel. Even in her last moments, Tessa was not fighting for what she believed in, she was merely a pawn.

Gadreel’s discovery of Metatron’s deceit finally makes him start to question what Metatron is peddling. He approaches Castiel and the Winchesters and tells them he will tell them everything he knows. Dean, juiced up from his connection to the First Blade, attacks Gadreel in a fit of rage and cuts him. Castiel and Sam lock him in the dungeon and heal Gadreel. In a surprise to no one (except apparently Gadreel and to some extent Sam and Castiel), Gadreel reveals that Metatron’s end game is to get humanity to worship and believe in him rather than God, effectively replacing God. This apparently, is not cool with Gadreel so he’s going to help Castiel infiltrate Heaven (through the magical portal) and destroy him by destroying the Angel Tablet and the source of his power. Sam in the meantime is going to go after Metatron himself, hoping that the triple threat will pay off, and he can kill Metatron once he is merely an angel again.

While this is all going down, Dean summons Crowley to bust him out. He’s going to go make his play on Metatron when Sam convinces him that the two of them should go together instead. This doesn’t go so well for Dean who is fatally wounded by Metatron upon confrontation, as Gadreel and Castiel have been unable to destroy the Angel Tablet and Dean as simply no match for Metatron – even with the Mark of Cain. Gadreel and Castiel find themselves in Heaven’s dungeon where Gadreel sacrifices himself to give Castiel a chance at escaping and destroying the tablet. Thankfully, Castiel finds the Angel Tablet and shatters it, making Metatron a simple angel again, which forces him to leave his battle with Sam before it turns sour.

Metatron confronts Castiel and says that he will, no matter what, have both the angels and humanity bowing before him, and that there is nothing Castiel or anyone can do to stop it. He’s not too smart after all, as Castiel has been broadcasting his whole rant on angel radio to the entire congregation. The angels overpower Metatron and Castiel mercifully grants him a spell in the Heaven dungeon to scheme (and annoy viewers) for another day. Looks like Castiel is the natural choice for leader in Heaven all of a sudden and all the angels are back on his side, but he wants to be a regular angel and realises that unless his grace situation is sorted soon, he will die regardless.

In the end, Dean dies and Sam tries to summon Crowley to cut a deal for his life. I can’t tell if this is great or really sad, because Sam’s claim that he would not save Dean at any cost ever again is completely overturned by this action. The growth is gone, although there is something appealing about that bond still being intact. He’s unsuccessful, but that doesn’t stop Crowley from visiting his favourite Winchester. He reveals that the Mark of Cain was never going to let go of Dean’s mortal soul; Crowley presumably knew this when Dean took the Mark. He tells Dean to open his eyes, that they will go and howl at the moon together. Dean opens his eyes and is revealed to be a demon.

Although everything else about the finale was predictable and uninspiring, the final seconds, the bond between Crowley and Dean and his new demonic state was incredibly satisfying and makes me wonder what will happen in season 10! Goddamn my need to know about the better plot points!

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