Can’t you just feel the tension ramping up as we head into these last episodes? The Werther Project written by the always awesome Robert Berens just flew by! Supernatural is always the fastest hour on TV but this episode was especially stunning in how quickly it got to the point and then drove it home – with a hammer! They used a real sledge hammer in this ep a couple times. There’s meaning there. We’re about to be collectively clobbered!
Werther is a reference to Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, a troubled young man who eventually commits suicide. In Supernatural, the Werther box impels all who attempt to open it to kill themselves as a means to protect what’s inside. And that is the object of Sam Winchester’s quest: the codex that will unravel the Book of the Damned and provide the cure for the Mark of Cain.
The show opens with almost an entire family committing suicide because the Werther box was activated by a young, unsuspecting Suzie, played by Erika-Shaye Gair – the young version and Brenda Bakke – the tormented, adult Suzie. I really enjoyed both performances. I felt horrible for them, for the young girl who in a fit of teenage angst, inadvertently unleashed a terrible curse on her family and the older woman, through her self-imposed isolation stood guard on a thing she didn’t understand by herself for years. It was a mistake by the original Men of Letters, who left that lethal box in the house and their hubris in thinking they’d always be around to protect it, that led to the slaughter of innocents and then … there’s Sam, Man of Letters, who ended up causing the death of another innocent. He should have known better and he’ll have more guilt piled on top of what he already caries around to contend with. Oh Sam.
He is neck deep in the lie.
I get it. I do. I understand why he’s going behind Dean’s back. Dean would certainly stop him, or try really hard to, especially when the cost of using the Book of the Damned is purportedly biblically bad. Just as Sam didn’t want to be responsible for the death of innocents if he didn’t close the gates of Hell, Dean doesn’t want the same thing. He doesn’t want other people to die because of him. It’s intriguing and heartbreaking to have Sam go through so much of what Dean went through in S8 and S9 when it was Dean trying to save him. Pretty sure Sam gets it. I think he always did. One of the things I’m loving to death about Season 10, is seeing Sam go to such lengths to save Dean. THIS is the Season 3 we were denied because of the writer’s strike. Sam was supposed to save Dean from going to hell, and he’s making up for that failure now. He’s saving Dean from becoming the worst kind of monster – a Knight of Hell. I get you Sam Winchester, and I love you to death for what you are doing for your brother, but damn, I’m so worried!
Cain’s reverse prophecy was thrown in again as a dreadful reminder. Crowley, Cas, Sam. And Sam still doesn’t know about those words, the terrible weight they are putting on Dean, but even if he did, I don’t think that would stop him from the path he’s chosen.
Dean has said it a few times this season; we’re better together. He wants to fight the good fight with his brother by his side – except when he goes off and kills a nest of vamps on his own – to take the edge off.
I’m guessing that situation was a combination of Dean not being able to wait to satiate the Mark and not wanting Sam to see the burst of violence killing all those vamps surely must have been. We only got a thumbnail.
The last vamp getting his head chopped off was the clean graphic, but the number of bodies and the amount of blood involved left no doubt. Dean is two steps shy of losing himself.
Everything about him is a heightened version of Dean Winchester, played with incredible nuance by Jensen Ackles. (Where are the Emmy’s?) When he laughs it’s with over the top joy, with or without food in his mouth. When he playfully punches Cas and this week, Sam on the shoulder – twice – he does so with enough force to make them wince. And when he kills six SIX vampires by himself, it’s terrifying, because we know that the real Dean, the normal not-almost-a-monster-Dean wouldn’t be able to do that with such ease and come out of it completely unscathed. He’s walking right up to the edge of being uncontrollable and it is so compelling to watch this dance play out.
Still Dean is doing his best – and his best is way the hell up there – to hang on. A couple of episodes back, he confessed he wanted to do things differently and that’s come out in a welcome development; he’s being honest with Sam. He told Sam he was going to kill a bunch of Vamps. Last week, he told Sam about Rowena (which is turning out to be not such a good thing, considering) and he’s even apologizing for those times when he strays off the path.
All that played well for Sam, who thought he’d been caught red-handed after nearly getting his bits blown off. Dean thought he’d gone off on his own as payback for the solo vamp kill and Sam skillfully played right along, telling Dean just enough about the case to get him to come with and more importantly for Sam, to keep him from being suspicious.
I’m not so sure Dean isn’t cluing in on it all. There was a look he cast Sam at the end, and it seemed he might be wondering why Sam would be willing to give his life to get that box open, but the hallucination aspect of it all helped cover Sam’s true intention – get the codex to the Book of the Damned at all costs.
That was the most telling part of the entire episode: taking a journey through the subconscious of both Sam and Dean. Wow. This show can go so deep and dark, and this one was just that on both counts.
Dean’s happy place is Purgatory ffs! Where he can kill without consideration or consequence. Ack! And having fauxBenny (it was so awesome to see Ty Olsen back again as our favorite friendly vampire!) /Dean’s subconscious question the backup plan – if Dean can’t resist the Mark, he goes down fighting and he’s got Sam and Cas there to put him down if they have to, when the reality is so much more horrible, the line delivered to perfection: Do you think they’ll ever recover from that?
No Show. It will ruin us all.
And Sam’s subconscious mind was no better on the darkness factor, if not a little harder to tell what parts were his and what parts were the green box monster toying with his mind. Sam knows that what he’s doing could cost people their lives and did in fact cause Suzie’s death. His frustration and desperation got the better of him when he pulled on the lever when he knew the spell had failed and so let that monster out. Suzie paid for that mistake with her life. He’s charging forward in this quest to save his brother and as he said himself, they’ll deal with the consequences later. I think he’ll be paying for this death for some time to come.
Rowena not being Rowena came as a complete shock to me, but it wasn’t until the second watch that I realized that she wasn’t Sam’s subconscious hallucination either. She was the green monster! The Werther box spell was sentient! And she played Sam like a fiddle, tapping into his most desperate wish and nearly tapping him dry. (Ruth Connell‘s tweets about how difficult a job it was to have to squeeze Jared’s arm all that time were a hoot! A tough job indeed!) Sam was more than willing to die right then and there for his brother. Again, I’ve never doubted that he would. I know he will do whatever it takes to get Dean back. I’m still Team Sam.
And then Smart Sam made a most excellent and brilliant return when he slapped those cuffs on the real Rowena, codex in hand. He held up the key with a smirk, he’d outsmarted her, got the codex without any additional help from her and then with one last glance to convey the warning – do not screw with me. Jared Padalecki brought it all right there, with one look in mere seconds. Sam Winchester is a bad ass on a mission. Do not underestimate him.
One last thought on the big question everyone is asking right now: who is going to die? Cain’s prophecy again is getting punched up to the maximum. Crowley is definitely a death candidate, as much as we’d hate to see him go. (I find it incredible that after season 8, I don’t want Crowley to die) Sam has wanted him dead all season long. He blames Crowley for Dean’s current predicament and he’s not at all wrong to do so. And now Mommie dearest wants her son dead too. Cain, Sam and Rowena. That’s three strikes.
But if Crowley dies and especially if he dies at Dean’s hands…
Of course, the King of Hell won’t go quietly, or easily.
I loved the depiction of the Werther box green smoke. Just wow! We are so lucky to have such talented and dedicated artists working to make each and every episode so amazing to behold. We really are. I especially loved the music this episode, the scene of Sam researching in the MOL was haunting and ramped up the tension, perfectly underscoring the fact that he had to do all this without Dean finding out. The set decoration on the house in the 70s didn’t need the date tag. I recognized everything, from the high-wasted bell-bottoms to the wallpaper, the record player! and that glorious couch! Child of the 70s here. Perfect.
Just four more episodes to go! Next up: 10.20 Angel Heart. Cas returns. Claire’s in trouble. Sam and Dean to the rescue, but it’ll be oh so much more than that. Hang on Fandom! Trouble is coming our way!