Friday, January 24, 2014

Review - Supernatural 9.11 "First Born"

Why, Dean... Why!

Hold me!

I can’t remember being so frightened by the ending of an episode, as I was this week. I mean I probably have been. There have been some terrifying moments after all. I’ve more than likely blocked them out through emotional distress! But sweet lord of the rings…WHAT THE HELL IS GOING TO HAPPEN!

But I’m jumping ahead of myself…


I think “First Born” may be my favourite episode of the season. I say, “I think”, because every time we get a new episode I go, “Oh yeah, new favourite!” The season is just that good. Not one dog. Not even the one where Dean became a dog! Which happens to be one of my favourite episodes of the season…along with the other 10.

Robbie Thompson wrote another gorgeous script, full of pathos and humour and way more kickass than we’re used to from him. He’s officially taken over as my favourite writer on the show from the no longer with us, great and powerful Edlund (damn you Kripke *shakes fist*). He can write humour and he can write angsty angst angst. And he gets the brothers. He wrote an episode where the brothers were apart; totally, with no contact at all, and yet, they were ever present in each other’s minds and almost a shadow in the scenes. You could feel Dean in Sam’s scenes and visa versa. Just as Robbie managed to get the brothers to connect across decades in “Time After Time”, he managed to keep the brothers mentally connected even when they were trying not to be. Demonstrating clearly their love for each other, even when they were fighting against it. Well done, Robbie.

On a side note, this is only the second episode in the series where Sam and Dean have spent a whole episode apart without even a phone conversation. The last time was “Free To Be You And Me” which was the aftermath of Sam saying he was too dangerous to be around and Dean saying I’m not going to stop you. Familiar much? Oh these brothers, if one does something, they both have to. Can anyone say Hell, Purgatory, trying for a ‘normal’ non-hunter life, dying (again and again). These Winchesters and their shared experiences. Bless their damaged, brodependent hearts.

I also have to mention that “First Born” was directed by John Badham. Now, we get our fair share of über talented people working on Supernatural, both in front of and behind the camera…but John Badham! This is the guy who directed such classic movies as Saturday Night Fever, War Games (as quoted in Robbie’s “The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” and “Pac-Man Fever”. Robbie must have been wrapped) and a favourite ‘80’s movie of mine, Short Circuit. He’s directed stars like, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Michael J. Fox. He was one of the most prolific and successful movie directors of the 80’s and 90’s. He then went on to direct a stack of television and now he’s added Supernatural to his belt. I mean, WOW. I bet everyone was so excited to work with him.

“First Born” was split into 2 concurrent, parallel stories, with a mash up of partnerships. Sam was with Castiel, while Dean was with Crowley. It’s like the brother’s have switched up their rolls. Sam with the angel, Dean with the demon. Where is this going? *tiny voice* nowhere good.

With Dean parts unknown, Sam headed back to the bunker with Castiel, to recover from the aftermath of the trials and the Gadreel fiasco. I was beyond excited that Sam went…HOME. I was beyond, beyond excited that it actually looked like he was going to stay there! In the past, Sam has been the one to split. So often, it’s felt like he’s had one foot out the door. Whether through anger or through need, he’s often spoken of leaving the hunter life, or has walked away from Dean. He's vacillated between wanting to hunt and accepting the life and not. I’ll be honest and say I’ve found this frustrating and sometimes infuriating…mainly because I like my Winchesters as a set! But this time around, I find Sam’s willingness to continue and fight, in the place that Dean and he live, a nice bit of character growth…of course, there were things going on that also made me yell his name at the TV…but hey, Supernatural makes me yell plenty of names at the TV and quite often, expletives!

Sam and Castiel together (no, not together together), is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time and I know I’m not alone on that one. I’ve always felt that they’d have a hell of a lot in common. They have both made very dubious decisions with good intent, which have well and truly blown up in their faces. On that level alone they should connect. Cas, over the years, has been resistant because of Sam’s demon blood ties. But Cas, through his own experiences, has changed and this episode had a lovely exploration of this.

Thank goodness for PB&J (in more ways than one, though I prefer honey).

Thank goodness for Castiel’s lingering humanity.

Sam, Sam, Sam. The tragedy of Sam always feeling like he needs to atone is never, ever not going to be heartbreaking. He’s tried over the years to put it all behind him and sometimes, for a brief shining moment, it seems like he has…but here we are, back onboard the guilt train with a full set of baggage. It makes me so sad for him. Obviously Sam’s going to be deeply disturbed by what happened when he was possessed by Gadreel. All those horrible images, the most horrible of which being the death of Kevin, are burnt onto the back of his eyeballs. When Sam pleaded to Cas, ”Please help me do the right thing”, I may have groaned for him... So sad. He’s always done the right thing, or at least tried to. I wish like crazy he could see that.

Sam is a stubborn S.O.B. Both the Winchesters are, but I’ve always felt like Sam can make stubborn an art form when motivated. Both these brothers are so full of self-hate and self-doubt. Why can they not see how freakin’ awesome they are! I want to cuff them both around the ear.


Like I said before, thank goodness for human Cas. The scene where Cas was trying to extract the Grace from Sam was as painful for us to watch as it was for Sam to have it done to him (and I was so disturbed I couldn’t even enjoy Sam all sprawled out, long bodied with a v-neck t-shirt on). Cas was obviously in as much distress as we were. He was right, why do the Winchesters always chase death? They run at it headlong. I know that Sam feels like crap right about now and yes, he feels his life isn’t worth more than anyone else’s (with all the lives he saves, I think I may disagree a bit, but then I’m bias), but why must he always want to die.

I admit this is where I started yelling Sam’s name (and maybe the odd expletive) at the TV because, hey I’m just going to say it, I was upset that he was lying there going, yep, take the Grace, if it kills me so be it, I deserve it, yes yes yes. All I could think of was, you do not deserve it, no Sam you don't! But also... HEY wait a minute here, Sammy, your bro who loves you more than anything is out there, somewhere, parts unknown and you’re just going to up and die without even speaking to him, without even saying goodbye. You’re going to leave him…when you know he feels like the biggest piece of crap on the face of the earth right now…you’re going to check out. Please don't do that to him or you! I’ll admit it, I was a bit mad.

Look, I understand Sam’s in terrible pain as well, I feel for him so much, but whatever happened to “I’m not going to leave my brother alone out there”. Dean is about as alone as he’s ever been right about now and Sam was willing to die in that moment. If that happened, Dean would simple break. If he found out that Sam had sacrificed himself because of the guilt he still feels over everything, but more profoundly, the guilt he feels over the actions of his body whilst possessed…something his brother is responsible for. OH MY GOD. I couldn’t even. The whole thing haunted me for days. Those boys.

I saw Sam wanting to die, or at least, accepting of death in this moment as a very different thing to the conversation Sam had with THE Death. This was all about guilt and hurt and most likely anger and not in any way about being in a good place and ready to move on. Sammy, you don’t have to be happy with what your brother did, you have every right in the world to be angry. But… Oh man, leaving him like that. It made my stomach tie into knots. (Don’t worry; I still love you Sam…always will).

I know I’m probably pissing off some of my readers, but I’m being honest in how I felt in the moment. I was mad at Sam even considering leaving his brother out in the cold, alone, unknowing, and completely unaware that his brother is gone with everything unresolved. I just kept thinking…could you imagine the moment Dean found out? It hurt so much to see Sam even considering it. It hurt so much for both for Sam and for Dean.

Thank goodness for PB&J and thank goodness Sam is a thoughtful man who, even when you’re not sure he’s taking something in, does and then thinks it through. It’s one of my favourite things about Sam. How thoughtful he is and how level headed he can be. He got there in the end thank goodness, with a little help from Castiel, someone who now understands Sam because of his own experiences as a human. It was Cas’ empathy and gentle words that got Sam to see that there were other choices. I’m so glad Cas still has the remnants of his humanity. Praise be to Chuck!

And then they hugged and it was funny and it was awkward and I really liked it. I like this Cas. I like angel Cas, but angel Cas who seems to have learnt something. Like he said, if an angel can change, maybe a Winchester can. Maybe a Winchester can even learn something.

But stubbornness is always going to be a primary Winchester personality trait. Cas tried several times to get Sam to reach out to Dean. He told him they chose each other, he told him they’re going to need all the help they could get, he was trying all the angles…but, yeah…Winchesters, man. You could see Sam was processing it, thinking about Dean, at one point he looked like he was even hesitating, but he came back to Dean’s the one who left (ack Sam…not like you’ve never done the same thing). He’ll get there. I have a lot of faith in Sam. I’m hoping he lives up to my belief in him. I’m sure he will.

So gloriously wilful Winchester number 1… Now onto gloriously wilful Winchester number 2!

Meanwhile, somewhere in a bar in America, Dean Winchester LOOKS HOT.

OMG, let’s get this out of the way shall we. Dean is a little more shaggy than usual. I’m in love with his ranga beard (that’s a ginger beard in Aussie lingo). I loved him openly checking out the waitress. Hot damn. Dark Dean is smokin’!

Okay…I just had to get that out of my system.

I’ve been frightened for Dean before. Hell, Purgatory…but I’ve always felt like I had a fair idea what we were getting ourselves into. Not this time. I’m scared shitless.

Crowley and Dean. I knew they’d be an awesome duo. Crowley is just as smart mouthed as Dean and also a cheeky flirty, which both annoys Dean and throws him for a loop!

There was so much wonderful stuff in the Crowley and Dean scenes. I loved the talk about John and that the search for the first blade tied to the boy’s father. I always get excited when John’s Journal makes a showing and I loved getting to see another storage unit. I adore that these throwbacks to the original mythology of the show still happen. That the boys still know John’s codes, that they have storage units all over the country with John’s stuff (and some of theirs) in them. They should probably bring some of those files and artefacts into the MoL bunker actually…good home for John’s collection…also save some money on storage rental!

John’s old hunter companion/other kind of companion, Tara was wonderful. A ballsy female character who knew what was what. I’m always a little overjoyed when someone says something about how pretty Dean is. Not that I think he should be only judged on his looks, but because he’s so damn pretty I find it hard to believe everyone doesn’t start their sentences with OMG YOUR FACE! Okay, that’d probably be weird and a tad rude! But really, he is pretty; let’s not pretend he’s just an average looking guy! So I loved that Tara said he’d grown up pretty and that he was handsome like John (John was very handsome), okay she also said he was as dumb as John…probably true too. I’m bummed that Tara was a one-episode wonder, because I love the idea of other hunters being out there and Tara was really kind of cool. Pretty sure she was hitting on Dean…who the hell can blame her.

Then we got to meet Cain and how magnificent was he? Timothy Omundson was fabulous (so was his beard). Glad he didn’t die…well, I guess he can’t. Glad it sounds like he’ll be back, even if it’s just for Dean to kill him. Maybe he can be helpful in the battle against Abaddon; he does have a bone to pick with her…and a jaw bone blade to stab her with! He was so much more than he could have been, with his tragic love story and trying to retire and live a quiet life tending bees. Like so many characters in Supernatural, he had a sad story of loss involving family, love and sacrifice.

Cain and Dean standing toe to toe was a sight to behold. And Dean fighting. Wowsers and hubba! You sometimes forget how totally bad-assed Dean Winchester is. That battle royale between Dean and the demons as Cain watched on and shucked corn was a tour de force. Then to hear that it was Jensen in every shot! Well, it made the whole thing even more deliciously awesome. It was so beautifully staged and choreographed in such a small space. Kudos to all involved in putting that together. I wonder how long Jensen had to rehearse that scene? That might have to be a question for Vegascon! (I have about 5 now!)

I thought the twist on the Cain and Abel story was marvellous. Cain saved his brother’s eternal soul and sacrificed his own in the process. Gosh, who the hell does that sound like?

We’ve known for a long time that the brother’s linage goes back to Cain and Abel. Now looking at the change up in mythology, the ties seem even closer. Of course, Dean has already sold his soul once to resurrect Sam. But Dean has also, on more than one occasion, grappled with the possibility that he may one day have to kill his brother to save him. Whether it was because Sam was one of the YED’s chosen children and might go dark side, or because Sam had no soul and consequently no concept of right or wrong, or because an angel had taken over Sam’s body, Dean has faced this possibility again and again and always found a way to save Sam that involved Sam continuing to live.

And Dean would never kill Sam right? Right… Though… I was thinking. After everything that happened with Gadreel and how Dean’s love filled good intentions went south. How Dean blames himself for all the deaths, including Kevin’s that have happened since he convinced Sam not to close the gates of Hell. How Sam’s so angry with Dean for once again making choices on his behalf. In Dean’s current emotional state, if he was once again faced with this kind of choice… that the brothers could save the world, but Sam would have to be sacrificed and that Sam was cool with it… Obviously never going to happen (unless that is some coda the show is working towards in which case I will hunt each and every one of them down!) But all of this trauma and how destroyed and devastated Dean currently is, made me a little twitchy when I realised that the whole Cain mythology was coming into play for Dean. I know that Dean would never kill Sam under normal circumstances, but with Sam a little hell bent on dying anyway…if they were faced with another save the world kind of situation, if Sam was cool with taking one for team humanity and with the backlash of stopping the trials still very much on their minds… ACK. I’ma just gonna shut the hell up. I just made my stomach hurt.

Bottom line, the brothers will not kill each other. There. I’ve decided. (Of course they won't).

When Dean took on the Mark of Cain I was screaming at my TV “ASK WHAT THE BURDEN IS!” Oh my gosh. What the hell! Dean cares so little about himself, even more so right now, he couldn’t give a damn enough to even ask what the burden Cain spoke of was. In fact he probably thinks he deserves that damn burden. Dean Winchester, you break my heart into a thousand tiny pieces.

What will it mean? *tiny voice: help* There are so many different interpretations of what the Mark of Cain means. From the curse of immortality, to having people steer clear of you for fear of retribution sevenfold, to wandering the earth alone for eternity as a nomad estranged forever from family, to not being able to grow crops…um…that one probably isn’t relevant! Some passages talk about ties to Purgatory. Of course there are ties to Lucifer and Hell. With Gadreel in the picture who also has ties to Lucifer, is that something that might be relevant?


I do not know but I’m so very, very, very, very, very to infinity and beyond, scared for him.

The final scene of the episode with Dean alone looking at the Mark on his arm… So tragic. My poor baby. That boy can devastate your heart. He needs his brother STAT! Sam is going to freak the hell out when he finds out what Dean has done! Not that Dean will tell him, OF COURSE NOT! Bet it’s Crowley that spills the beans! Oh Crowley.

One thing that I’ve found super interesting about this season is how a lot of the characters are reflecting the brothers back at them. It seems to be a theme. Remember Jody telling Sam that he and Dean have something special, something that most people search for. In “First Born” we had Castiel telling Sam that Sam and Dean chose each other, commenting on how the brother’s always seek out death and how he understands Sam and his guilt because like Sam, he’s tried to do the right thing and failed. We had Crowley actually telling Dean he was worthy (aww, Crowley you softy) and that no one hates Dean as much as Dean hates Dean…and Crowley knows this, because he’s tried. Both Crowley and Cas were encouraging the brothers to contact each other (call your brother, moron!), if for no other reason than they’re going to need all the help they can get (and as we know, they’re stronger together, we also know there was another reason). Crowley also said, “It’s always something with you boys.” Amen Crowley! Wait. Is that appropriate? There has been so much insightful dialogue coming from the outside. I love it! Because the Winchesters are so close to everything that goes on between them that they can’t see the forest for the trees. I have this sneaking suspicion Garth will be continuing this trend next week! He’s never shy!

But while both brothers rejected contacting the other (stubborn bastards) both were very much in each other’s thoughts. That you could see. It was the episode you have when they’re not together, but are very much together, in their hearts and minds and emotions.

“First Born” was a magnificent hour of television for a show that seems to be hitting extraordinary week in week out…and in it’s 9th season! Inconceivable! Every single character was portrayed wonderfully, both through the writing and the performances. Castiel and Crowley’s parallel is fascinating as they both continue to operate with lessons of their recent brush with humanity still resonating in their interactions. Tara was great, Cain was simply a revelation and Sam and Dean…well they were infuriating and heart wrenching and beautiful and all the things I love and oh my gosh…please, please realise how much you need each other.

Dean is in such a bad place, probably the worst we’ve ever seen him. How far will he go and how far down will the Mark of Cain take him? Right now, I only see one way Dean can be saved from himself and what is about to befall him…Sam. Like Colette’s love saved Cain from who he became, Sam Winchester’s love can save his brother.

It’s time for Sam to save Dean. It’s all I can see. It’s all I want. I want this more than I can express (though I’ve managed to express close to 4000 words!)

Hey Sammy… your brother needs you.

As much as this whole storyline is super scary from every angle, it’s also super exciting! I feel like the show just notched it up to eleven! This mythology feels like something that can carry us into season 10 (and dare I say, beyond).

Terrifying and yet epically awesome…just how Supernatural should be.