by Mieke Trudeau
There was a lot of momentum going into the third installment of Supernatural Season 10; Demon Dean quite literally came into it with a roar, but I am afraid I feel he left it with a whimper.
We find the Winchesters at the Men of Letters bunker. Demon Dean is trapped and tied up in its warded dungeon, primed for Sam to administer the cure we learned about in season 8. Apparently anyone’s blood will do now, to cure a demon, as long as a blessing is said in the room where it is stored. Hopefully no serial killers decided to donate blood that day. Demon Dean is not so willing to be cured and he throws some hateful words at Sam, to try to derail the process. Sam won’t be swayed however and even though some of what Dean spits at him is true, he is determined to bring his brother back. Through a flashback and exposition we learn what the terrible thing is that Sam did in his quest to find his brother. Remember Lester from last week’s episode? Turns out that it was Sam who steered him to his deal with a crossroads demon. Sam was having trouble summoning one on his own, so he used Lester as bait. He intended to stop him from actually making a deal mind you, but he was too late. Now I know Sam Winchester can carry guilt like no other, but in the scheme of all things Supernatural, I say that this particular deed ranks quite low. If I were Sam I would still have sleepless nights over abandoning Kevin to Crowley or the countless innocent meatsuits I ganked, before I would break a sweat over lecherous Lester, who of his own free will decided to have his wife killed.
As Dean starts to respond to the treatments, his increasing humanity allows him to escape and a cat and mouse chase ensues through the bunker. All along Sam has shown great concern that a failed cure would mean he may have to kill his brother, and the demon in Dean is counting on that. He feels no such hesitation and goes after Sam with a hammer, which seems like an odd choice considering the plethora of weapons the bunker holds. Sam manages to trap Dean with the demon knife but even as Dean taunts him to just “Do it”, Sam cannot bring himself to follow through. Luckily Cas shows up just in time to restrain Dean with his newly acquired grace. Sam is able to give one more shot of blood and with a few blinks it seems that demon Dean is gone. Not sure where the last part of the ritual went; I remember a cut hand to the face and a lot of chanting. I also remember a superb scene between Sam and Crowley in that church in Sacrifice, where Crowley’s humanity was screaming and crying its way to the surface with Sam responding at great personal cost. I do of course realize that this was only the first step in the healing of Dean, since he still bears the Mark of Cain, so I anticipate more to come, but as far as what should have been a pivotal moment in the Demon Dean storyline and also in the brothers’ relationship, this, in my opinion, failed to deliver.
We get taken out of the action at the bunker periodically, when we check up on Castiel and Crowley. Cas is still on the road in his crappy car, with Hannah in the passenger seat still fretting over his ever-failing health, and Cas defending his choice to come to the Winchesters’ aid. Seems like our favorite angel has doubts that Sam will be able to put Dean down should the demon cure fail and he is rushing to the bunker to step up to that plate. Rushing may not be an entirely accurate description since there is an issue with angel map reading and a stop at a gas station where Cas admonishes Hannah at length against detours and delays in a strangely stretched out scene. The action picks up when the rebellious angel they let escape in a previous episode catches up with them and brutally attacks. I’m not sure why Hannah does not have her super healing powers this week, but of course Cas is far worse for wear and only is saved when Crowley steps in to give him a dose of grace from the quickly dispatched of angel. I suspect that Crowley’s interference, which allows Cas to go to Sam’s side, has something to do with his long-term plans for the Winchesters and not so much with concern over the well-being of his angel nemesis.
The other scenes with Crowley make far less sense in the scheme of things. We find the king of hell on his throne, bored and pining for Dean Winchester, complete with a montage of bromance scenes we just saw last week. He executes some demons for their betrayal with Abaddon and one sets himself on fire for no real reason. Other than allowing for nice cameos by Mark Sheppard’s son and Gino Graul, Jensen Ackles’ brother in law; I feet that this scene perfectly illustrates some of the dangers of running several storylines at the same time, separate and parallel to each other. I understand the reasoning for this new approach to storytelling in the Supernatural universe and I am on board with examining the personal paths promised for all the characters, but the main storyline of this episode, the curing of Demon Dean suffered by being rushed as a consequence. The connections presented were tenuous at best and the pacing resulting from cutting between all three separate stories is jarring. We jump from intense action between Sam and Dean to painfully tedious and slow angel scenes and, dare I say, boring ones with Crowley.
I watched the superbly crafted and executed The Man Who Would be King (Supernatural season 6 episode 20) today in its rerun on the TNT network, and it struck me how well it worked to have an entire episode focused through the point of view of one character, Castiel. This was his story, and all the other scenes supported it. We were never taken out of this narrative even though we were clearly shown outside perspectives and side stories were advanced. Perhaps this would be a better approach to telling an A, B and C storyline; focus on one at a time, instead of scattering attention and not serving any of them well.
The episode, even though shown as the third, was filmed first after hiatus, in order to accommodate Jensen Ackles taking his fourth turn in the director’s chair. Mr. Ackles delivered some beautiful shots and great tracking and camera work, especially in the chase scenes through the bunker. The references to The Shining’s Jack Torrance were a little less subtle in this episode than they had been in Reichenbach; all that was really missing was the “Here’s Johnny!”, but overall the director’s choices greatly enhanced the uneven script. Perhaps some of the issues with the episode resulted from placing such an important event in the mytharc so close to the opening of the season, and perhaps it also consequently suffered because none of the actors and writers had quite yet found their footing in the current season. For all the hyping by the show of the “Year of the Deanmon”, his departure felt sadly anti-climactic. I think I expected much more emotion and some kind of aftermath, and was left feeling strangely detached. I always love Cas’ outside perspective on the brothers and his talk with Dean was long overdue, but leaving us without some kind of brotherly interaction at the end didn’t help.
After last week’s stellar Reichenbach, this week’s episode did not quite measure up to my somewhat high expectations. I have to admit that the writers of Soul Survivor are among my least favorite in the Supernatural line-up, Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming. Their work sometimes plays fast and loose with the prior canon and established lore of the show, as it did again here. This time their script felt scattered and detached where emotional depth and personal connection were sorely needed. I give much credit to Jensen Ackles who as both director and actor performed admirably and also to Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard who as always gave all to their roles. Even though it failed to deliver a decisive save by Sam, it was certainly great to see him in action with such concern for his brother and to have Cas, with some powers restored, be able to help and have a nice moment with Dean. I also never tire of seeing Crowley on my screen even if he is just sitting there being bored.
I am looking forward to what comes next and hopefully having the Winchesters back in action together, where they belong, will restore some of the lost momentum. As always I would love to hear your thoughts, please comment below