Thursday, January 23, 2014

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 11: First Born

Time out from eternal angst to have a flash back to Mississippi in 1863 and three demonically possessed soldiers willing to lay down their lives to protect a Knight – right until a man who is probably an angel shows up and starts zapping them (and not caring about gunfire). He also has a nasty looking knife

To the present and Dean in a bar with… Crowley! (every scene is improved by Crowley, it is known); Crowley’s there to recruit Dean to kill Abaddon. Which is awkward because a) Knights of Hell are hard to kill and b) Dean wants to kill Crowley. But apparently there’s a super weapon angels used against the Knights called the First Blade. While Dean prepares his more conventional but still Crowley kill weapon, Crowley expounds that he had a minion who very nearly had the First Blade – until John Winchester (yes, Daddy Winchester) went and killed said minion so Dean may have an insight

Yes, Crowley and Dean hunting together! Do you know what the real problem with these Sam & Dean have fallen out episodes? The side cast interests me so much more than Sam that I’m always sad when they make up (which they inevitably will).

Dean is wonderfully protective of his dad’s journal and Crowley is just perfectly snarky. Of course he is. Y’know, I would sit and watch anything – even gardening programmes – if they could have Crowley sat in a corner snarking away. Go on Dean run with it – yes you’ll regret it and yes Crowley will make your life hell – but it’ll be great fun on the way. Oh and they’re being followed by a demon, of course.

Dean and Crowley arrive at one of John’s storage lockers – and that man must have paid his bills way in advance since he’s been dead for the best part of a decade now. Lots more excellent snark from Crowley because he’s Crowley. They discover that John did hear about the First Blade and he was working with a hunter called Tara.

Off to see Tara (who remarks that Dean grew up pretty, yes yes he did). She’s less thrilled by Crowley being present. But when she hears that they’re going after Abaddon, she’s willing to help (Dean is, after all, very very pretty indeed) and share her research and a location spell – that just needs Crowley to get the last ingredient (giving her time to make Dean really really uncomfortable with the idea that his dad and Tara slept together).

They cast the spell and use a map (of the US – is there a reason why all these ancient Biblical creatures and artefacts end up in the US? They’re not even entertaining the possibility it may not be in America) and learn that the blade is in Missouri. Well, that’s wonderfully vague.

Apparently it was a little more specific than that and they arrive at a small isolated home – and Crowley starts to freak out. The man who barely let leviathan’s worry him is afraid. Who is he afraid of? Well that would be Cain. Yes, the Cain. Biblical Cain. And he doesn’t want Crowley to go anywhere – they’re here to visit, Cain insists.

And yes, Cain does have the mojo to ground the King of Hell. Apparently Cain became a demon after killing his brother – the most lethal demon ever. Until he just disappeared – and apparently became a beekeeper. And he has a delicate china tea service which Crowley can hardly hold he’s shaking so badly – and Cain magically silences Crowley. NOOOOOO! The snark! The precious snark! Having established that no-one else can find him, Cain tries to kick them out – Dean naturally flares up, wanting the First Blade, which leads to some juicy exposition: Cain was the one who created and trained the Knights. And he was the one who slaughtered them – not the Archangels. NOW they can get out.

Crowley’s all for leaving – the country if necessary – but Dean wants to do some housebreaking. Of the home of the First Murderer. Yes yes he does.

They’re still being followed by the demon – who got information from Tara, whether she lived or not is debatable but the demon lost a chunk of his face.

Housebreaking doesn’t find the First Blade but it does find a photo suggesting Cain retired because he fell in love – and of course he catches them. But that’s when the demon following them arrives with a large group of followers looking to hand Dean and Crowley over to Abaddon. Dean barricades the house, Cain shucks corn. What? It’s not his fight – besides what’s with this Dean asking for help? Since when does Dean ask for help – nah, he’s not buying it. Time for some psychoanalysis courtesy of Cain, letting in some demons for Dean to fight and kill while Cain watches and does nothing. Why? I have no idea, but cool fight scene (In the other room, Crowley has an angel blade. And nifty lines, of course “You’re good, but I’m Crowley”) followed by Cain pointing out Dean broke his main rule – abandoning family. Oh and he doesn’t even have the knife

You came all the way here Dean to have Cain analyse your family issues.

Nah not, entirely – the spell tracked the blade’s power, which was never the blade, but Cain himself. Specifically, the Mark of Cain (which causes Crowley to cross himself, yes, Crowley). Without the mark, the blade is just a chunk of bone. We also get some exposition: Cain didn’t just murder his brother, he killed Abel to stop him making a deal with Lucifer, therefore sending Abel’s soul to heaven and dooming his own to hell (and showing that in Supernatural god and his gatekeepers have a really shitty selection process). And, of course, Cain was redeemed by the love of a good (absent and murdered) woman. Because even Cain has to have an occupied fridge – and his loved one’s dying wish was to give up killing – hence the reason why Abaddon lived.

An army of demons arrive, Dean tries to wrestle with Cain for the knife (despite already being told it’s useless) and Cain has an angst moment because there’s no way the first murderer is letting the Winchesters have the Most Manpain in his episode, damn it!

And Cain gives Dean the Mark of Cain. Apparently it’s transferrable to someone who is “worthy”; but has big dark side effects. Of course it does – Dean doesn’t care and we don’t even learn what it is (that’s a storyline for later). The First Blade was thrown in the ocean so they’re going to have to go fishing – and when they find it Cain wants them to use it on him for breaking his promise to be peaceful to Collette

When did he break it? Oh he’s about to; he sends Dean and Crowley out of the house and confronts the demon army while oozing badass awesomeness all round. The demon army is trapped in the house, with him – and doesn’t last long.

Crowley and Dean leave and Crowley is even comforting about Dean’s eternal self-hate; obviously Crowley is going to be the one searching the oceans for the blade. But not so simple – Dean noticed that Crowley didn’t exactly do much in the way of fighting for the King of Hell. Yes, Crowley knew everything and knew Cain wouldn’t give him the blade – it’s all been Crowley’s little plan from the beginning. Dean punches him for getting Tara killed (more angsty fridging), but this is the King of Hell, what do you expect?

You’re good, but he’s Crowley.

Meanwhile at the Winchester cave, Castiel is exploring eating- and how now he’s an angel again he can taste everything but not experience it like he did as a human; alas, he misses peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sandwiches aside – it’s back to healing Sam… but something’s up. Castiel tries to hide it but, as Sam points out, he’s a terrible liar (Castiel protests  - he did manage to betray Dean and Sam before! Totally can lie. Awwww Castiel, only he can be ridiculously cute while talking about abject betrayal). Apparently something angelic is resonating inside Sam – which sounds way kinkier than it is.

It seems whenever an angel possesses someone, they leave a bit of Grace behind – all very harmless but, in theory, if you extract it with the big-ass needle of OW you can then use said Grace to track down the angel (and then be promptly immolated most of the time because Angels are powerful arseholes). This plan involves Sam being stabbed with a big-ass needle. I’m fine with this.

Castiel tries to build some bridges between Sam and Dean, but Sam won’t hear it. Bring on the big needle. Lots of poking and pain and apparently Sam reverting to his pre-Gadreel state (which was dying). This whole masochistic suicidal thing is all classic Winchester guilt over Kevin. Castiel’s not playing to that martyr complex, makes do with the Grace they have and heals Sam; he draws upon his own sense of guilt (informed by his time as a human, which has also banished his old idea of “end justifies the means” a very angelic ideal) to empathise with Sam.

Castiel being unwilling to sacrifice Sam means the tracking spell doesn’t work.

Sam and Dean are all sad and separate and look at the pathos and the… yeah call me when they’re friends again? It’s not that it’s badly done – it’s not even that the storyline isn’t needed – it’s that it has been done so many times before with the same resolution – the brothers affirm they are too loyal and connected to ever, truly party and reunite without ever analysing or dealing with the issues that drove them apart – leading to the inevitable split happening yet again. No matter how well you do the loop, it’s still a loop

I’ve complained about demon power level before – I know a lot can be put down to lesser and greater demons and even the Winchesters getting better – but there was a time when demons could regularly lift several times their own weight and use telekinesis and were generally dangerous and not something you could fight 3:1. (I’m going to give the huge benefit of the doubt and assume Cain is still dampening Crowley because, awesome as the line was, the King of Hell should not be resorting to sucker punches).

Crowley is awesome. Castiel is awesome, it is known (and I like his little humanity monologues).

Cain is an interesting concept (his fridged ex less so. Especially since we also had another dead female hunter who was unnecessarily sexual as well. I’ve said it before – how come all male hunters except for Sam and Dean are grizzled bears like Bobby while female hunters tend to be attractive – at least Tara was a little grizzled but still) but why would the mark of Cain be transferrable?