Thursday, February 19, 2015

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 14: The Executioner's Song

Opening scene is in prison and a man, an apparent serial killer called Tommy, crying in bed then deciding to taunt a prison guard. He doesn’t rise to the bait – picking a fight with someone due to be executed in 2 weeks is somewhat pointless.

The guards go for coffee and it’s time for woo-woo monster du jour to stalk the halls, turning off lights as he goes. (It’s the spirit of Environmental Energy Conservation!). the guards notice something is up when the lights and cameras flick off – and when they come on again our Ecological crusader vanishes. And reappears in Tommy’s cell. It’s Cain who dramatically introduces himself as the father of murderers to the serial killer. He adds that he’s there to both save him and punish him, then stabs him before they both vanish

I feel being cryptic before you stab someone is just rubbing salt into the wounds.

Off to the Winchesters where Dean is pretty freaked out that Sam’s hobby is “true crime” and memorising the stats of serial killers. I have to say that I’m duly sceptical about Sam having a hobby that has consumed no small amount of reading yet for the last 10 seasons we haven’t heard of it, but I’ll let it pass with minimal snark.

As usual, they fake their way into the prison with false IDs (awww c’mon; ok I’m going to pretend that small town cops across America will happily let complete strangers in suits who say “FBI” crawl all over their crime scenes and files – but prisons? Aren’t prisons supposed to be secure? Is that not the actual point of prisons? It does kind of make the whole “escaped from a lock cell” seem less mysterious – what with the prison letting any guy through the gates).

They talk to the Governor and even he is leaning towards magic being behind the escape (or, y’know, letting random strangers without proper accreditation into a maximum security prison). He shows them the CCTV and even though they only have a silhouette, Dean recognises Cain (or the mark does). They also learn that Tommy’s father has also vanished.

Castiel is also looking for Cain, capturing, torturing and killing demons (oh don’t try to shock me with Dark Castiel, we’ve seen him do worse. Besides killing demons is hardly shocking for an angel) for clues on Cain’s location. He follows the clues and finds a huge body burial site apparently created by Cain who has been on a bit of a killing spree. He reports it to the Winchesters and Cain shows up to exposition: fighting off Abaddon’s soldiers has made him want to kill again (he mentions the Mark he no longer has so it seems to still affect him). He’s killing his children – murderers, killers, thieves (there’s some fuzziness about whether he means literal descendants or spiritual/moral as it were). He estimates the eventual death toll to be about a tenth of humanity. He also points out that this is pretty much proof that the Mark can’t be cured –and Dean is on the death list. Castiel isn’t.

Instead he joins the Winchesters in the Winchester cave with the bad news – which they pass over quickly. Sam’s research points to Cain destroying entire families so it looks like Cain meant literal descendants. And Tommy Tolliver, the serial killer, has an estranged 12 year old son called Austin who is still alive. So far. Dean wants to ride to the rescue and kill Cain. This also links in to the fact Cain said Dean would have to bring him down – and Dean’s endless guilt weasels. He blames himself for setting Cain off on a killing spree by demanding the Mark.

Of course the only weapon Dean thinks can kill Cain is the First Blade. Which is a Bad Idea.

Over to Crowley who is still immensely bored by being King of Hell and Rowena is now part of his councils. She’s not-even-slightly-subtly advising/manipulating Crowley. Though her advice is much harsher (and kind of more awesome) than Crowley’s own decision (who just seems to not care). She’s even openly admits her manipulation (she’s trying to get Crowley to help her take down Olivette, a representative from the witches’ Grand Coven who is hunting her) but is quite honest about it – does it matter if she’s manipulative if they have fun?

All of this plotting is interrupted by Dean calling for the First Blade, telling Crowley that Cain is after him as well. Rowena is not impressed with Crowley consorting with hunters and mocks him for considering them friends.

Castiel, Dean and Sam head to where Austin is – and Dean and Castiel want to use the kid as Cain bait. Sam isn’t impressed. Crowley interrupts the judgement and insists he joins them (despite Dean’s hostility) because he wants to hold on to the blade to the last second. The interruption allows Sam and Dean to forget about the whole child as hostage thing and have Dean admit to Sam that this will probably kill him – and he’s actually scared.

Time for the confrontation! Cain appears and Castiel’s angel mojo lightly ruffles his hair. Castiel is an angelic hairdryer. This is not a step up. Actually it might be, since angels weren’t especially known for their ranged attacks before. Maybe Castiel should try actual angel powers next time? Next it’s Sam’s turn to hold a wooden door closed – yes they did see him teleport into a prison cell earlier, no I have no idea why Sam thought a barn door would even make Cain pause. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work and Cain appears next to Austin. The kid… begs? I think he’s begging? I mean he’s saying “please don’t” but it’s in such a complete monotone that calling it begging seems wrong. Thankfully it isn’t awful acting – the kid’s an illusion and disappears into purple smoke when Cain stabs it.

Crowley and Sam have lured Cain into a demon trap. Cain is still cocky.

Now it’s Dean’s turn to step in – alone. And for good reason – he doesn’t want to worry about hurting them and he needs them ready to take him down if he goes all dark side. Crowley gives him the blade.

Dean goes in and Cain, in addition to making it clear how far gone he is, explains his whole bloodline murder: not all killers are his descendants and not all of his descendants are killers. But his bloodline are disproportionately likely to be killers and he feels he has a duty to exterminate them. Of course, the 12 year old kid being murdered kind of skewers his whole duty idea.

They fight and, naturally, Cain is much much much better than Dean, even unarmed. He easily evades Dean’s attacks and throws him to the floor several times. Cain taunts Dean for holding back – trying to resist the Mark and the Blade – in his words, you can’t resist. There is only remission and relapse. And he has a master plan – he wanted the Blade back and now Dean has brought it to him. Of course now he’s a villain he has to keep talking – he tells Dean he’s saving him and throws in a nifty idea that Dean is living Cain’s life in reverse: that Dean’s story will end with him killing his brother (after killing Crowley and Castiel). He goes for the kill, but all the exposition gave Dean chance to draw Cain’s own knife – and cut off Cain’s hand

No amount of supernatural power or skill will save you if you decide to exposition in a fight scene. It is known. Now Dean has both blades – and he begs Cain to say he will stop, that he can stop. Cain says he will never stop and bows his head and Dean, almost tearful, executes him.

He returns to the three waiting for him. There’s a very tense moment while they wait to see if the heavy breathing Dean is about to stab someone (Crowley would be a good idea) and Dean gives the Blade to Castiel. Dean also tells Crowley that he lied not just when he said he’d give the Blade back – but also about Cain gunning for him. Crowley is still maintaining this odd idea that the Winchesters are friends. Crowley vanishes and Dean collapses into Sam’s arms.

Back at the Winchester Bunker, Sam tries to be all hopeful about Dean managing to give up the blade and Dean avoids the conversation and goes to bed. Leaving Sam and Castiel to deal with the very ugly truth “Dean’s in trouble.”

Crowley strops back to his lair where his mother resumes her manipulations who is ready to storm off because Crowley’s not a real king for siding with the Winchesters. She leaves with the parting blow “you’re their bitch”. Because she hadn’t already made her point without that word?

Ok some shaky ground here. Even with Cain’s clarifications that not all murderers are his blood nor are all of his blood murderers, I’m not a big fan of the idea of murdering (or any crime) being genetically inherent especially considering the vast social pressures that go into criminality

I’m not a fan of Dean having even more guilt weasels. We already have the Mark Guilt Weasels, blaming himself for Cain’s actions just shovels more on and is unnecessary. It’s also making the other characters extraneous – Sam and Castiel have pretty much been orbiting sources of comfort and reassurance for Dean all season and it’s getting tiresome.

However, putting that aside and the problem with Castiel and Sam not having much role, Dean’s storyline, his presentation, the guilt and, more than that, the actual fear is really well presented. Of course, after 10 seasons we know Supernatural can always bring epicly acted emotional torment, Manpain is what Supernatural does – but that doesn’t make it any less epic or even contain different elements this time round. I also quite like NOT having an epic big bad for a season – let Supernatural reset for a bit rather than the constant power creep of evil.

Crowley needs some development, badly. Yes he’s being manipulated by Rowena and I wouldn’t mind that – she’s crafty and kind of nifty. But what is Crowley doing? He seems so bored with… everything. Which is fine – but work with that. Develop this ennui, tell me more about the man who fought to get everything he ever dreamed of and then found out he didn’t actually want it! Work with this, don’t have him just slouching around and occasionally begging Dean to be his friend.