Sam and Dean are currently estranged. After what has happened with Dean's choice to let in Gadreel and to keep that secret, the brothers have gone their separate ways. Dean chose to banish himself for what he's done while Sam chose to let him go. It will be difficult for them to repair this rift---but not all hope is lost.
Each companion---Crowley and Castiel---that accompanied a Winchester in this episode continued to push them to reach out to the other. Crowley waited until the very end to suggest to Dean that they will “need all the help they can get,” while Castiel prodded Sam several times. And as we watched the brothers react to these hints, we saw them remain the “pig-headed” Winchesters we know and love. Yet, there was obvious pain in both of them at the separation. We could tell that they missed the other---not unlike a phantom limb.
Sam and Dean are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the serpent invading the Garden of their brotherhood, but it is also an opportunity for them to do something Cain and Abel simply couldn't: fix things.
In many ways, they were meant to stop Michael and Lucifer's prize fight. Both of them were archangels---absolute and unwavering in their point of view. Michael saw it as his duty to kill Lucifer for his crime of invading the Garden of Eden and Lucifer saw it as his right to rebel against their Father. Neither would change no matter what was said or done.
But Cain and Abel were human. They were men. They understood, in the aftermath of the expulsion from the Garden, what good and evil were. They could experience everything that humanity had to offer. It meant that they could adapt. Most of all, as humans, they knew what it was to love freely.
It is this that Sam and Dean are meant to reclaim. They weren't born to be Michael and Lucifer's vessels. They weren't born to be puppets in the scheme of the Apocalypse. Sam and Dean were born to reclaim the brotherhood that Cain and Abel had stolen away from them by Lucifer.
They are to do what the first brothers couldn't: take back what it means to be brothers.
Timothy Omundson is best known for his role as Detective Lassiter on Psych. Here, as the fabled Cain, Omundson is an intimidating figure. Even before we're told that's who he is, the opening sequence as he moves through the demons is a terrifying sight to behold. When we first encounter him, he seems rather friendly---except for the deadly tone to his voice and the piercing gaze. There's a deadly grace in the way Omundson carries himself, making Cain a very powerful presence in every scene he appears. While we can tell that he's dangerous---even when he's doing something innocuous like drinking tea or talking about bees---there's sorrow and an odd gentle nature under the surface. Confronted with Dean and Crowley in his home---and with their problem with Abaddon---we can tell that Cain is tired. There's a nonchalant beauty in the way Cain sits as a still figure amidst the carnage being wrought in his home as Dean dispatches the demons. He's unflappable in the face of this violence, and Omundson adds a wry humor to Cain when he delivers the line, “Oh don't mind me. Enjoy yourself.” This may be the Father of Murder, but Omundson makes us feel a deep sympathy for Cain as we learn his story. Not only did he have to choose between two losing choices---either watch your brother become Lucifer's “pet” or kill your brother and take his place---he has had to endure the tragic loss of the only woman he's ever loved. Omundson makes us feel that loss best when we see him at his wife's grave, telling her, “I've tried. I've tried, Colette, to see myself as you did. But I know who I am -- Seen what I am. I know you watch over me still. But I need you to look away now.” The timbre of his voice conveys everything we need to know. As he reenters his home, we can tell that Cain has changed into The Father of Murder once more just by the look on his face. Omundson makes Cain his most frightening here, even if we don't get to see the actual killings beyond the bright red flashes from inside his home. Hopefully we'll see him again---before he calls Dean back to end his life. Omundson was an excellent addition to this week's episode---and to the Supernatural Family.
Mark Sheppard makes Crowley as charming as ever. There's still the lingering near-cure---and perhaps what Kevin's blood did to the demon---evident in the King of Hell in this episode. Sheppard has great chemistry with Ackles throughout, both in comedic and dramatic moments. Part of what makes Crowley such a great character is his expert use of wit, and it's in full force here from his line about “Hunters Hogwarts,” to “You're good, but I'm Crowley.” Crowley isn't just about the tinge of humanity still affecting him---rather we see the King of Hell return to his manipulative form---all hidden under a suave charm. He knows just how to push Dean to do what he wants, and we see Sheppard portray this beautifully---as we watch him taunt Dean at the bar, as he tells Dean about Cain, and as he watches Dean fight the demons. It's so subtle, but we can tell that Crowley knows what makes Dean tick and he uses it to his advantage completely. Sheppard also shows Crowley's fear and reverence for Cain wonderfully. It takes a lot to truly frighten the King of Hell, and here's an intimidating figure that does that. He takes this fear and shows it best, however, when Cain silences Crowley. Sheppard gets a giggle out of us as he makes a gasping expression, almost as if he's afraid he may never speak again. This shines again when we see Crowley cross himself upon seeing Cain's Mark, labeling him the Father of Murder. Sheppard does this gesture with great reverence, setting up Ackles for the punchline. Sheppard has a subtlety that shows well here, too. While Crowley never actually comes out to say that he cares about Dean, Sheppard makes this clear best when we see him address Dean at the end of the episode. The sincerity in his delivery of the line, “Your problem is that nobody hates you more than you do---believe me I've tried,” sums up everything that the King of Hell feels about his current hunting partner. Sheppard's Crowley, much like Collins's Castiel did opposite Padalecki, stands in for the fans when he pushes Dean on “needing all the help we can get,” a not-so-subtle hint that perhaps the elder Winchester ought to reach out to his brother and solve their problems.
Misha Collins shows us that while Castiel may have returned to his angelic form, that taste of humanity is still lingering somewhat. Usually opposite Dean on screen, here we see the angel with Padalecki's Sam. As they determine the next step in finding Gadreel, they are setting up their base in the Bunker---allowing them to interact without interference. The typical endearing awkwardness we've come to expect is front and center once more---particularly when we watch the angel try to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich only to taste just its “molecules.” We see this best, however, when we see Castiel ask, “Sam, may I ask you a question?” only to be told he has and to ask, “Can I ask you another question?” But Collins makes Castiel connect with Sam---and us---emotionally when we see him try to extract Gadreel's grace. Unlike in the past, we can tell that this bothers Castiel greatly. Collins shows us that Castiel is having a hard time seeing Sam in pain here. It's written all over his face and in the hesitant actions he takes while using the syringe. There's also a new compassion in Castiel conveyed best in soft looks and the gentle voice the angel uses in these scenes. As Sam insists they keep going---even as his body regresses back to its state during the Trials---we see Collins give Castiel's frustration voice. He puts it all into the line, “Why must the Winchesters run towards death?” As he looks away and sees the sandwich from earlier, it triggers the humanity he's experienced, and we see a beautiful moment unfold. Collins makes Castiel gentle and benevolent here---and understanding of why Sam wants to push so far. We can tell this in how he delivers his lines or in how he carries himself. And even though they've failed to extract enough grace, Castiel tells Sam what he needs to hear about finding Gadreel another way. As Sam hugs Castiel, Collins shows the angel's befuddlement and awkward nature best in the hesitant returning of the hug. What's so funny about a lot of their exchanges is how they've made Collins, much like Sheppard, the voice for the fans. He tries again and again to convince Sam to reach out to his brother---but he does so in a way that makes it gentle, as if he's planting the seed into Sam's mind rather than commanding him. Collins and Padalecki shared great chemistry in this episode and both built that chemistry between their characters well. Perhaps we'll see more of Collins opposite Padalecki going forward!
Jensen Ackles builds on his performance from “Road Trip” beautifully in “First Born.” We can tell, just by how Ackles sits at the bar, that Dean is nearing total rock bottom. It's apparent, in how Dean is indulging in all his vices, that he's about to hit the self-destruct button soon. It doesn't help when Crowley encroaches---but it will give Dean something to do other than wallow. Ackles and Sheppard have great chemistry and it bears both great comedic and dramatic fruit. The humor is dry between them, especially when they're at the lock up or breaking into Cain's house. Ackles really shines best comedically against Sheppard when we see Cain take away Crowley's voice or when Crowley expresses his religious devotion upon seeing the Mark of Cain. Ackles makes Dean boyish when he tells Cain, “Oh, you gotta teach me how to do that. ” We can't help but giggle when he expresses his disbelief at Crowley crossing himself, either. Dramatically, we can sense a lot of tension between the hunter and demon---and Ackles shows us through sheer body language and facial expressions how uncomfortable Dean is with the situation. This shows best in the scenes where they're talking to Tara at her pawn shop----and we can tell that her line, “If your daddy could see you now,” really hits hard just by the crushed facial expression that crosses Dean's face. Ackles puts it all in that expression and he doesn't have to say a single word to convey that pain. We can tell that he wants nothing more than to either stab Crowley in the heart or ditch him in a Devil's Trap---and that shows best when Dean shoves Crowley against the fence and declares, “We are the furthest thing from family. You got that, dickbag?”
But Ackles shines best when Dean's fighting the demons in front of Cain----it's no wonder Crowley sat back and watched! Knowing that Ackles performed his own stunts makes this scene all the more powerful. It's an elegant dance of death as Dean twists and turns using everything and anything at his disposal to kill the demons attacking. He makes Dean a whirlwind, showing off the hunter's skill and making it seem effortless in the sequence. Even when Dean gets knocked aside or pinned, Ackles shows us the hunter's focus and fury all by action and facial expression. The way Dean shoves the last body onto the floor is the punctuation mark to the deadly dance. Ackles made this violent scene beautiful---all by how he executed the stunts that put it together.
Jared Padalecki presented us with an emotionally drained Sam. Fresh off the reveal that Dean had lied to him---and consequently had an angel possess him---we see Sam struggle to cope with his brother leaving. Padalecki shows us Sam's hurt well---especially in how he tenses up whenever Castiel suggests that they call Dean. There's an exasperated patience in Sam, too, when he's faced with some of the angel's quirks without his brother as buffer. It sets up for great subtle comedy between Padalecki and Collins---particularly in how Sam gently tells Castiel, “Me, Cas. I'm the guinea pig,” or “You just did,”or “Well, technically, you -- yeah, go ahead. What's up ” but it hits us with both laughter and tears when Sam tells Castiel, “Now's the part where you hug back. ” Padalecki shreds our hearts, however, when we see him push himself---and Castiel---in order to extract the grace for the location spell. There's deep sorrow and pain in his voice as he delivers the lines, “My life's not worth any more than anyone else's -- not yours or Dean's...or Kevin's. Please. Please, help me do one thing right. Keep going.” Padalecki takes Sam to a dark place here, and as he endures the physical pain of the needle and the extraction, we can see it etched all over his face. There's almost a form of ecstasy in that expression, and Padalecki conveys that Sam feels he is paying his debt here and now by enduring this. We see such hope in Sam's expression when they cast the locator spell only for it to crumble when it fails. Padalecki also makes his whole frame sag, as if defeat is suddenly crushing down upon his broad shoulders---showing us without having to say anything how devastating it is to have not gone far enough. Yet, as we see Castiel tell Sam “you're not worth losing,” Padalecki makes sure to let us see the flicker of hope illuminate his expression, making us hope with him. As he embraces Castiel, we can feel Sam not only taking the forgiveness that the angel is offering---but offer some of his own in return. We haven't seen Padalecki and Collins on screen as a duo very often, but here it worked beautifully, giving Sam and Castiel a chance to build their own friendship. Hopefully we'll get to see more of that going forward.
Best Lines of the Week:
Dean: Oh, you gotta teach me how to do that!
Dean: Really? Now?
Castiel: I miss you, PB&J.
Castiel: You have a guinea pig? Where?
Crowley: This is by far the dumbest idea you've ever had.
Sam: Being human, it means settling your debts.
Crowley: You're good---but I'm Crowley.
Crowley: Your problem is that nobody hates you more than you do.” Check quote
Cain: Since when does the great Dean Winchester ask for help? That doesn’t sound like the man I’ve read about on demon bathroom walls.
Sam: Now's the part where you hug back.
Crowley: Didn't they teach note-taking at Hunters Hogwarts?
Next week we get to welcome back a familiar face: Garth!