By Paula R. Stiles
[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Tagline: Crowley tries to strong-arm Dean into executing a deal for him, while Military Guy uses Sam to track Dean down. This turns out to be a huge mistake on both counts.
Recap: Then recap of last week’s episode, as well as relevant history of Dean’s murder by Metatron, the Mark of Cain, and Castiel’s stolen grace.
Cut to … well, not Now but June 21st, 2003. A kid comes downstairs when he hears noises of two men fighting hard enough to shake the walls and one man begging for his life. He finds his father dead with his throat cut and slips in his blood. As he weeps over his father’s body, a man enters the room. He’s wearing a heavy leather coat and is holding a bloody knife. He’s a young Dean Winchester, pre-show, and he looks very guilty as he stares back at the boy.
Cut to Now as we find Army Guy telling Sam that he was that boy and that’s why he’s going to kill Dean. Sam’s rather weak response is that he’s sorry for Army Guy (whose name is ‘Cole”)’s loss, but that Dean is not really Dean right now. And anyway, Dean must have had a good reason to kill Cole’s father, since Dean would never kill innocents.
Cole, unsurprisingly, is not too impressed by this lousy defense. He tries to “turn” Sam by appealing to his sympathy and saying that Dean gave Sam up. Sam refuses. He tries to explain to Cole about supernatural monsters, telling him about holy water and such. Not believing him, Cole brags about doing two tours in Iraq and having been in the Congo(?), as well as encountering child soldiers on drugs. So, Cole’s a bit of a hypocrite with a few Inigo Montoyas in his past, too, I take it. Also, a child killer. Fun.
Cue title cards.
As Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” plays on the soundtrack, we see Cole beating up Sam, while Dean is in Killdeer, North Dakota at a strip club. It’s a slow night, so he has the one stripper in a slutty Wonder Woman outfit all to himself. That doesn’t exactly make her enthusiastic about his touching her leg (which is against “house rules”), even when he offers her money to flout those rules. That (and her “danger” gesture) attracts the attention of the bouncer, who turns out to be Dean’s real target. Dean beats the crap out of the guy while the stripper flees, though he doesn’t kill him, nor does he pursue the stripper. Instead, after a few punches and a kick, and looking orgasmic, he finishes his drink with a shrug, flips his coat over his shoulder, and strolls out. Nobody even tries to stop him.
Note that the last time we heard “Cherry Pie,” it was during Dean’s fantasy dream of demon and angel strippers at the beginning of “The Song Remains the Same” back in season five. You know, the one where he says, “I take it all back — I love the Devil!” and Anna gatecrashes the dream.
Meanwhile, Sam isn’t giving up Dean. For once. So, Cole decides to try another tack by taking out Sam’s knee with a hammer. But then he gets a call from his wife and son. Or does he? Sam escapes, but was he meant to do that? Cole’s shady look indicates yes.
Outside, Dean gets shoved by some asshole teens, one of whom really tempts fate by calling him “grandpa,” but Dean chooses not to do anything. Crowley shows up behind Dean, commenting on what jerks kids are today. Dean cuts off Crowley’s reminiscing about the good old days and tells him to get to the point. Crowley says they need to “chat” about Dean’s “anger management issues.”
Meanwhile, at a dock somewhere, Castiel is freshening up at an outdoor sink, though that does little for his bloody shirt. He tries to heal himself, but he can’t. Behind him, Hannah gets out of their ancient car and approaches him. She heals him and there’s some brief, boring chitchat in which he tries to tell her she can go on her merry way and she insists on staying to help.
Castiel’s cell phone rings. It’s Sam, who has escaped Cole. Sam tells Castiel that Dean and Crowley are in Beulah, ND, and that Dean is a demon, thanks to the Mark of Cain. Castiel seems more pissed off than concerned about that. Doing a 180 on his previous position, Sam asks for Castiel’s help and Castiel says he will come as soon as he can. Sam then steals an old pickup out of someone’s yard.
Later that night in their car, Hannah whines a bit about going to help Sam with Dean and how the “Winchesters are a bad influence.” Oh, show, I am so over angel self-righteousness concerning the brothers, especially after all the horrible things Heaven has done to them. Move the hell on.
Castiel replies that the brothers are his “friends” and “the best men I have ever known.” Hannah decides to look at the stars while Castiel falls asleep at the wheel. I am right there with him. Not even their crashing after nearly hitting a semi makes this scene exciting.
At a bar, Dean and Crowley are talking over two shots (for Dean) and a cute cocktail with a tiny umbrella and red pitchfork (for Crowley). Crowley warns Dean that he is “addicted” to killing and if he doesn’t do it regularly, it’s going to build up and he will explode on innocents. With a sinister warning edge that Crowley unfortunately does not notice, Dean asks him what he has in mind. Crowley offers him Mindy Morris, “caring mother, loving wife, cheating trollop,” who is engaged in a “liaison amoureuse” behind her husband’s back.
We cut to Mindy’s husband Lester returning home to find Mindy doing it on the kitchen counter with their heavily tattooed neighbor (Kudos, show, for picking an actress with a few lines on her face who actually looks the part). And from the pissed-off look on Mindy’s face, there’s some kind of payback going on here along with the great sex. This vengeful subtext, from the uneasy look on the neighbor’s face, wasn’t actually something he’d signed up for.
Turns out Mindy wants a divorce and half of everything. Lester doesn’t want to give up half of his material assets, so he’s done a deal, his soul in exchange for her murder. Back at the bar, Crowley says Mindy is doomed, anyway, so Dean might as well take out his frustrations on her rather than on someone who isn’t doomed. Yes, that is as nasty as it sounds. Crowley is quite the misogynist.
Dean appears to agree, for just the once. As he gets up to leave, Crowley tells him there’s something else. We don’t find out until next week what that something is. Trust me – it will be a doozy.
Cut back to Castiel and Hannah getting their car pulled out of the ditch. I know angels have lost their wings, but isn’t Hannah, at least, still strong enough to lift a car? The female towtruck driver is friendly and offers to let them stay in her house while she goes into town for new tires. Hannah comments on her kindness and doesn’t get it when she jokes about being an “axe murderer,” for all they know. Castiel steps in and thanks the woman, then they go inside. There’s a dog barking outside somewhere.
Inside, Hannah checks out the woman’s Three Bean Surprise casserole and then puts a blanket over an exhausted Castiel, who has fallen asleep on a couch. Oh, and Castiel snores. Lord, this storyline moves slower than molasses in January.
Cut to Mindy at home in a tight, low-cut dress, looking blowsy and bitter as she shuts the refrigerator door. Dean is at her window peering in, which is every bit as creepy as it sounds. Dean then stalks around to the front door, pulling out the First Blade, when a car pulls up with Montana plates. It’s Lester (named, I presume, after the Lester of recent TV show, Fargo). You know … the aggrieved husband.
Lester is watching the house, chewing his nails, when Dean strolls up to the side of the car and gets in. He may or may not have teleported from the door to the back of the car. It’s not clear in this case. Lester is freaked out, wondering who he is, so Dean clears things up by showing him black eyes. Lester then winks at Dean and talks about a mutual “friend,” calling his “contact” a “he.” Hmm. So, the CRD Lester made the deal with is a “he” or is someone else involved?
Dean then asks Lester what he’s doing there, since the last place he should be is at the house while his estranged wife is being killed by the demon he hired. Lester gets offended when Dean appears to brush off why he sold his soul to get her killed, saying that it’s his “life” that she flushed down the toilet.
Dean isn’t impressed, making the observation that he’s not surprised Mindy “stepped out” on Lester, seeing as how she’s “a North Dakota 8” and Lester is “a 4 1/2” (“a loser”), and Lester cheated first. Lester initially sputters a bit denying that one, then asks how Dean knew. Dean says he just had the look of a guy who’s desperate to bang his secretary. Lester claims that it’s different for men, going off into bogus evolutionary theory about how men aren’t programmed for monogamy. Dean doesn’t put up with very much of it before punching Lester in the face.
Now, you’d think that any sensible person would realize at this point that they’re dealing with someone (something, really) very dangerous who won’t take their crap, but Lester does not. I suppose, when it comes right down to it, people who make deals with the devil are either stupid, desperate, or crazy and Lester is neither crazy nor particularly desperate (more pissed off). Instead, Lester gets angry and upset over his bloody nose, and insists that Dean is just “a punk-ass demon” who should be taking his orders.
Dean gets this look. It’s very scary. In fact, the last time a demon dealing with stupid humans looked this menacing was the possessed girl in “Swap Meat,” right before she put her fist through the would-be deal-maker’s sternum. Dean asks Lester if he’s planning to watch the hit on his wife and the mother of his children, then suggests, “Watch this!” as he pulls out the First Blade and sticks it in Lester’s chest. A horrified Lester dies, choking on his own blood.
And that right there, kiddies, is why you don’t talk back to demons unless you have a devil’s trap, the Rituale Romanum, and some heavy-duty weaponry.
This scene also reminds me of one from Miami Vice, during Crockett’s “amnesiac hitman” storyline, in which Crockett and an evil former associate have a face-off in a car. In that case, it’s dueling guns, but the results are pretty much the same for the associate as they are for Lester.
Come daylight, Sam interviews the bouncer Dean beat up and gives him his card. As he leaves in the battered old pickup with a growly transmission, Cole follows in a jeep with New York plates. Ooops. Sammy, you should know when you’re being tailed.
Back in the boring angel storyline, Castiel wakes up to a little girl watching Loony Tunes (Wiley Coyote chasing the Road Runner), eating cereal, and enthusiastically talking about snot rockets. She asks Castiel what he dreamed about. He says he doesn’t dream. The tow truck driver and Hannah stand by, watching fondly, the former embarrassing the latter by assuming Hannah and Castiel are an item. I find this a bit annoying. For the same reason I don’t particularly want to see Castiel and Dean’s friendship reduced to two grown men acting like two young teenage girls, I also am not keen on seeing every single male-female interaction of any length eventually turning romantic, just because it’s het. Especially for creatures that are naturally asexual and regard each other as siblings. It’s icky.
I also feel as though this whole sequence ought to be quirky and charming, but as it has no connection to any of the rest of the story, save to be a delaying tactic for Castiel, it’s boring, instead. The kid’s cute, though, and so are Misha Collins’ interactions with the young actress.
Cut to Crowley in a sort of Tiki-themed bar (the same place, it appears, where he and Dean had drinks). He’s being bored to tears by a male demon talking about increasing “demon conversion” by 0.03% and asks the female demon to kill him to escape. Puzzled, she responds that the phone call she just answered says that Sam Winchester is approachéd.
Crowley perks up when Dean walks in. I didn’t notice this the first several times I watched this scene (and I’ve watched it a lot), but the way Dean enters – very slowly and without music like a pacing lion – is pretty scary. You know right away, even if Crowley doesn’t, that bad things are about to go down.
Crowley asks Dean about how the kill went down. Dean is jovial, at first, saying the job is done, Lester is dead, “and you’re right – I feel amazing.”
With a look of disquiet, Crowley clues right in that Dean just said, “he” and not “she.” As in, Lester the Client. “You killed the client.” Which means he doesn’t get the soul (I guess this is because only deal-makers can get dragged off to the Pit by hell hounds and everyone else is stuck in the Veil).
Dean shrugs. “He was a douche. Now, he’s a dead douche.” He turns away, rolling his eyes at what a drama queen Crowley is being.
Here, Crowley makes a terrible mistake. He yells, “Don’t you turn your back on me!” And when Dean turns around? It is a whole other ballgame – and Crowley sucks at bat.
First of all, the veneer of amiable good humor has vanished. Dean’s eyes are ice cold. He doesn’t say anything. He just shoves Crowley. Hard. With a whack of TK for good measure, from the way of the sound cue and some of the heaviest grinding on a double bass from a soundtrack since CBS Mystery Theater went the way of the Buffalo (It’s creepy as hell, I gotta say).
Crowley goes sprawling. Dean? Well, he does chuckle at that, but the laughter doesn’t reach those snake-cold eyes. It’s a mean chuckle. And as his smile fades into a look that would chill an iceberg, Crowley glances up, and sees that his minions are looking down at him and smiling that same smile. They like seeing Crowley knocked down. Crowley calls them on it and they both quickly go deadpan again, but the damage is clearly done.
Crowley gets up and tries to regain control of the situation, which continues to go sideways, despite his best efforts. He asks Dean what the hell (apt word) he thinks he’s doing. Dean just looks at him and says in a Captain Obvious tone, “Oh, whatever I want.” Which … well … yeah. Speaks for itself, that.
Crowley goes for the psychological dig, saying he’s pretty sure Dean doesn’t know what he wants, that he can’t decide if he’s a demon or a human and why did he spare Mindy Morris’ life, anyway? This is probably true and Crowley does score a hit, if Dean’s rueful smile at the mention of his sparing Mindy is any indication. But then Crowley makes the mistake of raising his voice again and yelling, “Why don’t you do us all a solid and pick a bloody side!”
Dean then turns it right back on Crowley, stalking up to him in a way that makes Crowley swallow in fear, and says, “Or what? Hmm? Go ahead. Make a move. See how it ends.”
Dean then lays it out for him – “I ain’t your friggin’ bestie and I ain’t takin’ orders from you. When I need to kill, I’ll call. Until then, stay out of my way.”
And that’s the point right there. Dean is not a chessboard piece. He’s not a living weapon (well … not just a living weapon). He is a very dangerous person who is quite able to guard and wield his own free will. Dean might not know yet what he wants, but if Crowley gets in his way, Crowley will lose his crown – and the head it sits on – nevertheless. Crowley has made yet another monster and he may not be able to control or unseat this one.
Unfortunately, the scene goes on a bit too long with Crowley drawing out and trying to hide his retreat by whining about breaking up with “the crazy ones.” Dean even asks, “Are you done?” as Crowley swans his way out the door in true wounded diva style, claiming, “It’s not me. It’s you.” But the point has been well and truly made. In front of demonic witnesses, too. Yeah, this is gonna get around.
Back to the boring Castiel and Hannah. They are finally leaving, Castiel’s cherry ride more-or-less fixed up. Hannah suggests she drive and Castiel, looking like fifty miles of bad road, lets her.
Meanwhile, Crowley is finding Sam outside a motel and betraying Dean to him. Well, that was predictable. Sam, not to his credit, agrees to this and to give up something to Crowley for Crowley’s “finder’s fee,” even though Crowley, if anything, is even more desperate to hand Dean back over to Sam than Sam is to find Dean. Oh, Sam, you suck at negotiation.
Yeah, everybody’s screwing over Dean this week.
Back to Castiel, who wakes up in the car alone. They are parked at the playground that has the gate to Heaven. Another angel in an older woman’s body tells him Hannah went up there.
In Heaven, predictably, Hannah is in the still-battered dungeon, where Metatron now resides – in a straitjacket, no less (appropriate, gotta say). Metatron is his usual twatty self, trying unsuccessfully to flirt with her (which Hannah totally ignores). He’s unhappy when she says she’s there to get what little of Castiel’s original grace remained from the spell he cast. He demands she let him go in exchange, claiming in his usual cringing style that he’ll just run off to some other planet and leave Earth alone. He also makes some nasty sexual insinuations about Hannah’s angelic tendency to want a strong leader (which makes you wonder who that Nephilim in season eight’s daddy was and how Metatron knew where to find her).
Despite her disgust (as she smacks his head against the bars at the insult), naive Hannah is giving his idiotic proposal serious consideration when Castiel enters and emphatically orders her not to do it. Calling Metatron a lying liar who lies a whole lot, Castiel mentions previous “deals born of desperation” that “always end badly” (kinda like the one Sam and Crowley are making right now, I bet). Angry and upset, Hannah backs down and leaves.
After she’s gone, Metatron admits he’s a liar, but claims some of Castiel’s old grace remains, enough to jumpstart him. Castiel tells him to “keep it” and then says that Metatron’s being locked in a cage is Castiel’s “happy place.” Metatron finally shows his true colors, claiming he will get out and then, “everybody dies.”
Well, yeah, except that I’m pretty sure that’s why the Mark of Cain isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.
Speaking of which, Dean is sitting in the bar, drinking, playing the piano, and idly slicing his hand with the Blade. It immediately heals. Note that self-healing is not in the usual demon repertoire. As he watches the cut close, Dean’s eyes go black and he remembers Crowley’s “Pick a bloody side!” speech with a subterranean rumble.
At that moment, Sam enters the bar. Dean is totally unsurprised, greeting him as tribal drums bang on the soundtrack. Dean “suggests” the bartender, Harve, “go grab a smoke,” which the man (or demon) immediately does.
Dean asks Sam how he hurt his arm. Sam asks him if it really matters. Dean shrugs and says no. He also points out that he told Sam to let him go. Sam says that Dean knows he couldn’t do that, which is pretty hilarious when you consider that Sam had no problem with ditching Dean in Purgatory for a year. Dean knows no such thing, Sam.
Sam mentions that Crowley sold Dean out. Dean is unimpressed, figuring Crowley was going to do that, anyway. As Dean gets up, Sam starts to sweat, talking fast to try to keep Dean from killing him. Dean just strolls from the piano to the bar, Blade in hand, to pour himself another drink. As Sam reminds him that there’s a cure, Dean calmly says, “Little Latin, lotta blood – it rings a bell.” But then he points out that he “bailed” in the first place because he didn’t want to be cured. When Sam tries to blame this attitude on Crowley (which is even funnier, considering Sam just made a deal with Crowley to sell Dean out), Dean says nope, not really. Sam claims that regardless, they can “fix it.” Dean’s uninterested. In fact, “right now, I’m doing all I can not to come over there and rip your throat out – with my teeth.”
Dean then says he won’t be coming back with Sam, no matter what, so is Sam here to kill him? After all, “You don’t know what I’ve done. I might have it coming.”
Sam tries to steer things back to friendlier channels by saying that he has no interest in that. “You’re my brother. And I’m here to take you home.”
Dean laughs really hard at that. Nor is he especially concerned when Sam pulls out the demonic handcuffs. He suggests Sam doesn’t even know if those will work.
This standoff is interrupted by a smoke grenade through the window. Sam falls down choking. Dean is unaffected. As Sam busts out the back door, eyes watering, Cole (oh, such a surprise) appears out of the smoke and cold-cocks him.
Dean then teleports out nearby. Cole pulls a gun, but even this doesn’t faze Dean. Cole reminds him that they “talked on the phone,” admitting he did let Sam escape so that he could track Dean using Sam. And Sam wonders why Dean ditched him. Yeesh.
“Oh, right!” Dean cheerfully replies. “You’re the guy’s supposed to put a bullet in Sammy’s brain – did you miss?”
Cole seems a little nonplussed by Dean’s airy reaction and gets downright angry when he gives the time and place of Dean’s offense (his father’s murder) – and Dean professes to have no clue what he’s talking about, saying he’s killed a lot of people and it all gets blurry. Dean doesn’t bother to add that those “people” were all monsters, including the humans. Dean even calls Cole a “groupie.”
Cole starts bragging that he knows everything about Dean (ha) and “you’re goooood. You’re real good. But you see, I’m better.”
Dean just smirks and says, “Prove it. Take a shot.”
At this point, Cole figures shooting Dean wouldn’t be sporting and holsters his gun to take out his knife. Oh, Cole, you are so about to get a beat-down.
What follows is a really kick-ass fight. The whole first two-thirds or so consist of Dean using purely defensive moves against an increasingly enraged and frustrated Cole, while disarming him of both his gun and his knife, removing the bullets and setting the gun on the ground. Dean then throws Cole down to the pavement with one such move and circles him, taunting him that confronting your Big Bad nemesis is not as simple in real life as the Inigo Montoya speech from The Princess Bride. When he gets too close, Cole pulls out another knife and slashes him in the face, but Dean easily disarms him and then gets him in a face-to-face hold. To Cole’s horror, Dean’s wound heals right before his eyes. When Cole asks, “What are?” Dean calmly replies, “I’m a demon.” He flashes black eyes, head-butts Cole, and proceeds to beat him to a pulp.
Note that not one of the things Dean does, aside from heal, is something he couldn’t do as an “ordinary” human. He really is just that good and makes no effort to use his demon skills against Cole, with the possible exception of demon strength in the last part when punching him. It makes Cole seem that more out-matched, that it wouldn’t make any difference whether Dean were demon or human, with or without the MoC. He’d still kick Cole’s ass.
Finally, Dean slams Cole into a car, pins him, and pulls out the Blade, placing it against his throat. But when Cole yells at him to kill him, Dean changes his mind, letting him go. Cole faints from pain and exhaustion.
But as Dean backs away, Sam, who has revived in the background and gone back into the bar, douses his brother with holy water (which burns Dean) and puts the cuffs on Dean while he’s distracted, yelling at him that “it’s over.” Apparently, the cuffs work. Dean is pissed.
Later, as Dean both rolls his eyes and glares at them from inside the Impala, Sam hands off the First Blade to Crowley, who promises to send it somewhere creative and obscure, like the Moon or a volcano. Now, I can sort of see Sam buying this kind of insurance, since he never saw Dean “call” the Blade to him, but didn’t Crowley see Dean do that in his fight with Abaddon? Or was Abaddon’s TK wind blowing too hard at that point? Either way, I think if Dean wants that Blade back, he will find a way to get it. And Sam is stupid to give it to Crowley.
Sam tries to threaten Crowley, but Crowley just shrugs him off. He’s a bit more impressed by the cold look Dean is giving him from the back seat of the car. He should be. He’s already admitted that being on Dean’s hit list is a bad thing to be, so one wonders why he put himself on it.
Cut to a library where Cole is bleeding all over some books and demanding that the middle-aged librarian stereotype give him everything she’s got on demons. I take it the writers have not been inside a library, recently. They’ve got these things called “computers,” guys.
Cut back to the Tiki-themed bar, where Crowley’s henchdemons wait impatiently while Crowley mopes over the Blade, and a pic on his phone of him and Dean in cowboy hats. While “Hey, There, Lonely Girl” by The Stylistics plays on the jukebox. Crowley sighs and lets the male henchdemon put his coat on. He walks out, still with the Blade. Betcha he tries to use that thing to worm his way back into Dean’s affections down the road.
In the Impala, Sam driving and Dean in the backseat, Sam whines that the car is filthy. Dean says, “It’s just a car, Sammy.”
Shocked, Sam says, “You really have gone dark!”
“You have no idea,” Dean replies.
Sam tries to “reach” Dean by saying that he “showed mercy” toward Cole, so there must be some humanity left in him. Dean coolly replies that humiliating Cole and Cole’s lifelong quest for revenge wasn’t mercy, but the cruellest thing Dean could have done to him. Sam looks properly alarmed when Dean adds, “And what I’m gonna do to you, Sammy? Well, that ain’t gonna be mercy, either.”
Review: Ahh, it’s my birthday today, as we review the second of 12 catch-up episodes. Doing “Reichenbach” today seems appropriate (even if the title makes little sense). Of the episodes we’ve had so far this season (We’re up to nine), I’d say this one is my favorite. It’s not perfect by any means (ugh, the angel plot), but it has a lot of the old Supernatural spirit in it, from the rock music to kickass fights to dark and nasty morality, to Dean just plain being badass. Once again, we’re in the old atmosphere of bars and the road. We even have the theme of Dean being hunted by somebody who thinks he’s a bad guy, this time a guy with a rather dodgy backstory who claims Dean killed his daddy. But more on that later.
First, let’s talk about Demon!Dean. It’s interesting to note that the very question of whether Dean is fully demon or human, or whatever he is, is raised, lampshaded, and left hanging in the air by Crowley himself, not just last week but this week, too. Dean always shrugs and cuts him off by pointing out that he has black eyes and powers (as well as, we soon find out, demonic vulnerabilities), therefore he must be a demon, but it could be the boy protests too much. And that Crowley still knows somewhat more than he’s telling. But there are holes in Crowley’s knowledge set, too, as well as a hefty portion of hubris filling in the gaps.
Crowley cites it as both a personality and a morality issue. If Dean is a demon, why does he feel sorry for Mindy and kill Lester, instead? If he’s human, why does he have black eyes? Dean’s response is to reiterate that since he has black eyes, he must already be a demon, but Crowley doesn’t seem so sure. And there are two things that identify him as Dean and not “just” a demon introducing discontinuity into Dean’s personality – first, he is unwilling to murder innocents, even to feed his need to kill. In fact, he is quite willing to hitch the Mark’s bloodlust to his own dark brand of justice and not the other way round.
Second, he will brook no attempts to control him. There are a lot of people trying to control him in this episode alone, not to mention since he took on the Mark, and we will see that even his willing bondage to Sam has weakened considerably. Dean is becoming about his own free choice, his own free will, and his liberty to do, as he tells Crowley, “whatever I want.” Even so, the audience still roots for him because of his still-un-rusted internal moral code.
What we have here is a lone wolf version of Dean who is basically a Man with No Name. The term comes from the Dollars trilogy by Sergio Leone, in which Clint Eastwood plays a cold-hearted drifter who still operates under a strong personal moral code that kicks into gear at odd and disconcerting times. The harshest and most extreme Eastwood role of this type was in High Plains Drifter, when the title character visits a town with a dark secret to exact revenge, retribution, or justice, depending on who or what you might think he is. The story hints, particularly in the end, but never says outright.
The first film in the Dollars trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars, is heavily influenced by/loosely based on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, a tale about a masterless ronin, and Kurosawa said his film was “inspired” by Dashiell Hammett’s early hard-boiled classic, Red Harvest. In all of these stories, the plot is essentially the same – a man arrives in a town run by rival gangs. He starts coldly playing them against each other as they vie for his loyalty. But he is no upright marshal and eventually, he destroys them both, seeing each side as too corrupt to be allowed to prevail and survive.
There is also an element from Raymond Chandler’s “The Man Who Liked Dogs” (and that later appears in his novel, Farewell, My Lovely) that will appear next week in which the protagonist is temporarily taken out of action by being locked up in a mental hospital and forcibly drugged.
Red Harvest is one of the most important stories involving what is probably the earliest of the great private detective characters – The Continental Op. He is the original Man with No Name and it’s perhaps instructive to include this quote from The Dain Curse, in which a young woman whom the Op has helped beat an addiction describes him:
“You came in just now, and then I saw -”
“A monster. A nice one, an especially nice one to have around when you’re in trouble, but a monster just the same, without any human foolishness like love in him, and – What’s the matter? Have I said something I shouldn’t?”
This sounds remarkably like how Ann Marie describes Dean in the previous episode.
Such a character becomes extremely dangerous to others in the story due to being an agent of chaos and change. So, if that person is the protagonist, he (or she) is in considerable danger, even from loved ones. And so Dean is. Crowley wants him to be his BFF/hitman. Sam wants him to come home and be his doormat again. Castiel wants to cure or kill him. Hannah thinks he’s an abomination.
Dean’s brutal honesty – and canny ability to take and best all comers, both physically and verbally – is cast as “our” Dean but on some kind of high. Others around him (with the possible exception of Cole, who treats him like a psychopathic serial killer) perceive him as insane. The imagery invoked in Sam and Castiel’s conversations, both with each other and with Dean, in particular, is definitely about them believing that Dean has gone off on a psychotic rampage and needs to be restrained, locked up, drugged back to “humanity.” Interesting that the person who murdered Dean and triggered his change, Metatron, is in a straitjacket in Heaven.
I’ve seen some complaints that Demon!Dean is too “good,” not “evil” enough, but I don’t think “evil” is the point of this storyline. It’s more about how he upsets everyone else’s apple cart in true Big Bad fashion while still being a protagonist, if not the only protagonist.
One big point, of course, is the sense of chickens coming home to roost for those characters chasing Dean, including Cole. Sam wants to “save” Dean, but the fact he didn’t give a rat’s ass about Dean’s welfare for a very long time, including when he abandoned Dean in Purgatory for a year, is now coming back to bite him in the ass. We don’t yet see all of Castiel’s chickens with Dean, since he and Dean haven’t connected just yet this season, but those foul fowl are prefigured in his difficult conversation with Metatron. As annoying as I find Metatron, including in that particular bit of dialogue, the anvils in that conversation are pretty heavy about Dean’s importance to the story.
Another point – or perhaps problem – for the writers and for Jensen Ackles is that Ackles has already played previous psychotic and psychopathic versions of Dean and DeanAdjacent, which means he can’t play those versions again. He has to play someone/thing distinct and new. The shapeshifter in “Skin” was violently misogynistic, so that’s already been done. So, too, has the spree killer Dean in Lev!Dean. The cold-blooded and ruthless leader who will sacrifice everyone for a single-minded goal we got in 2014!Dean. The closest we might have to Demon!Dean is Dream!Dean from “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” who turned into a demon after Dean “killed” him. But generally, what we have here is a Dean who appears to be on some kind of extended narcotic high after the huge bipolar swings he engaged in last season.
If anything, Demon!Dean is more stable than human MoC!Dean (albeit, his anger boils unexpectedly to the surface when he’s pushed too hard) and that, I think, is what really makes the audience wonder why the hell Sam and Castiel are so anxious to cure him. Surely, the world is safer with a bored, but somewhat passive, Demon!Dean who has control over his rage for the most part, than the barking mad human who was barely this side of rabid. Granted, Dean’s more altruistic emotions are muted, as is his enormous drive to save everyone, but so are his self-hatred, his pain (though not completely gone, as we see when he cuts himself). Why is Dean’s family so hot to cure him? Just because he’s telling them uncomfortable truths? And what kind of lengths are they willing to go to in order to force him into such a cure?
Speaking of agents of chaos and change, we get a bit more on Cole. I like Travis Aaron Wade (He’s definitely up to the physical challenges of the part), and I get he’s supposed to be playing an antagonist, but I found Cole a bit of a hypocrite, almost a psychopath. Also, his timeline makes zero sense in the classic sense of twenty-somethings with a billion PhDs in CSI-type shows.
Then again, that made his smackdown a bit more satisfying. I loved the fight, which was very kinetic. There were a few parts where I didn’t get why they showed Ackles’ (admittedly very skilled and capable) stuntman’s face so clearly, especially since Ackles probably could have done those moves, instead. But that mostly had to do with interrupting all the complex emotions Ackles was showing in the scene. Dean is deliberately provoking everyone in the story out of sheer boredom and a desire for a true challenge (and in that respect, he is no different at all from the “normal” Dean) throughout the episode, so when he finally gets one, he’s downright perky. He draws things out quite deliberately, savoring the violent moves of the fight without actually doing much damage to Cole, at first. And then, once Dean decides to stop playing with the mouse, Cole finds out just how horribly outmatched he is.
Similarly, we see Dean easily beat down Crowley when Crowley tries to take advantage of their “friendship” to turn Dean into his personal henchdemon. Crowley must have been spending too much time with his hell hounds if he thought that would ever work. I was disappointed by the way the scene fizzled out into Crowley sputtering about their “break-up,” but I have to say that the acting was great, not only from Ackles and Mark Sheppard, but from Sean Hewlett and Aidan Dee as Crowley’s nameless henchdemons. We’ll probably never see those two again and it’s kind of a shame. I wanted to see how that brief rebellious moment played out in their future.
Again, in the other scene that really works, Sam confronts Dean in the Tiki bar and Dean proves totally immune to Sam’s appeal to the much-vaunted, seriously battered Brotherly Bond. It’s funny to watch Sam be nonplused at the way Dean no longer responds to the usual shop-worn triggers, even miffed that Dean will no longer come to heel and choosing to see that as “evil” or (somewhat more charitably) “mad.”
In all of these scenes, Dean is not only brutal and impervious to attacks that previously worked on him (which really throws everybody else off their game), but wickedly funny. One of his best lines is his “Did you miss?” crack to Cole when he finds out Cole didn’t shoot Sam as he’d threatened to do.
I know it’s cruel, but Demon!Dean is off the chain and a lot of fun to watch, which is more than I can say about the tedious road trip they’ve got poor Castiel on. And what the hell are they doing with Hannah? The only part where she’s interesting is when she’s smacking Metatron into his cell’s bars. The actress deserves better.
Finally, there is, of course, Dean’s killing of Lester. I find it very interesting that the episode begins with Dean being a bit of a pig to the stripper in Wonder Woman costume, but that his main target is the bouncer (and even then, he stop short of killing the guy). And this progresses to his taking the contract on Mindy (perhaps already with a mind to change her fate?) and then choosing to kill her scumbag husband, instead. Dean’s sympathy for the downtrodden, particularly women and minorities, may not be conscious, but it appears to be as strong as ever. He’s got a moral code. It’s just a very pitiless one. I hope the writers take that somewhere.
Dean [to Lester]: Listen … and this is Murder 101 … you don’t want to be in the vicinity when the deal goes down. It’s called an “alibi.”
Lester: Yeah, I know what an alibi is. I watch Franklin and Bash.
Sam: Because you are my brother and I’m here to take you home.
Dean [laughs mockingly]: Ahh! “I’m your brother and I’m here to take ya home!” Yeah, what is this, a Lifetime movie? With your puppy dog eyes? Thanks, Sammy, I needed that.
Dean [to Cole]: You know – and I’m just spitballin’ here – but maybe you are not as good as you think you are.
Dean [to Cole]: What did you think was gonna happen, huh? You just stroll up here, say, “My name is Inigo Montoya. Prepare to die,” and I’d just roll over? Well, that’s just … that makes me sad.
Next: Soul Survivor: In the latest episode directed by Jensen Ackles, Sam puts Dean through an extremely brutal form of shock therapy to make him human again. It has unforeseen consequences.
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