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Supernatural – Do You Believe in Miracles – Review : “Ain’t It a Bitch”

This one needed to be processed for a bit. My first impression was that the episode itself was a little lackluster for a finale. It was nicely filled in with a lot of callbacks to previous seasons, such as locking Dean up in the panic room/dungeon and Metatron walking around healing the injured as a new God, like Cas did in season 7. And we had some standout scenes - Crowley's soliloquy over Dean's body, Sam and Dean's goodbye, and watching Sam grieve his brother alone in the bunker. But it had its flaws. There was too much angel jabber (the uninteresting Metatron kind). Dean turning into a demon wasn’t much of a surprise to a lot of people who participate in online discussions. It’s hard to take a Winchester dying seriously at this point. There was Sam’s last-minute turnaround (summoning Crowley to make a deal), invalidating everything he has said this season. And finally there was Carver’s confirmation that Cas only cares about one Winchester. Thanks for that.

It took a third watch and a few days before I realized I needed to rewrite a lot of the thoughts I had previously jotted down, and I actually started to become a little excited about potential that the set-up left us with.

Dean as a Demon

Yes, it happened. Dean became a demon. It’s something that’s been foreshadowed for years. He’s always had trouble looking at himself in the mirror because his mirror image shows him a darker view of himself.  This has been true metaphorically, in his habit of deflection whenever prompted (mostly by Sam) to face his own emotions, and symbolically as he faced down his nightmare vision of himself as a demon in Dream a Little Dream of Me. There have been a number of camera shots throughout the series of Dean staring back at his own reflection in mirrors, always in connection to darkness: In Lazarus Rising as he stared into a bathroom mirror and remembered Hell, in Meta Fiction as he was starting to feel the effects of the Mark of Cain, and again in this episode as Dean looked at himself in the mirror and saw the effects of his own illness caused by the blade.

Ruby said in season 3 that souls become demons after being tortured in Hell for centuries and forgetting what it’s like to be human. Along with the physical torture in Hell, Dean’s presence on the show has been marked by one long exercise in emotional self-torture – so I’ll give him time served in that area.

For Dean, being human has always been about family, mostly Sam, and that relationship had been strained over the past two seasons.  When Dean isn’t close to Sam, he’s very much alone. But their relationship is always going to be strained until he can finally accepts Sam as an equal, rather than his little brother who needs to be protected. And he’s always struggled to truly trust in Sam.  It’s not a coincidence that Dean’s downfall was proceeded by Dean’s robbing Sam the right to control his own body, Dean’s dictatorship speech, and finally his rejection of Sam’s suggestion that the two face Metatron together. It's an arrogance of thinking he's stronger than Sam that mirror's Sam's own thoughts in season 4.  “It’s not your fight,” Dean said to an unconscious Sam after he knocked him out.  But there was a lesson to be learned with the apocalypse, and that is that they are only strong when they are working as equal partners.

Now Dean’s following in the footsteps of a powerful demon who it appears also fell because he couldn’t trust his brother.  It's interesting that Cain seemed very curious about why Dean didn't kill Sam.  Could it be that Cain judged Dean worthy of bearing the mark because Dean had trusted Sam once, and Cain saw potential to break the pattern?

So now we’re left with Dean – unsuccessful in killing Metatron and unsuccessful in avoiding turning into a very powerful weapon. He’s likely lost much of his humanity, and he’s ripe for manipulation by one of their biggest enemies – Crowley. What will Demon Dean look like? He could be funny like Soulless Sam was in season 6. He could be a good, soulful monster like Benny was in season 8. But when Crowley was monologuing, I got the sense that this was just as much Carver using Crowley as narrator as it was Crowley speaking. Crowley gave Dean an invitation to let go of all of the monotony of their lives and join him in howling at the moon. Dean’s always been a pressure-cooker of angst and suffering, ready to blow. Dean’s apparent acceptance of Crowley’s invitation by reawaking as a demon seemed to indicate that we’re going to see him, at least initially, turn off the emotions and do some howling.

Also, the curing of Crowley story seems to imply that while demons can attach to and love an individual, they're not capable of the full gamut of human emotions and are evil by nature.  It's a physical thing, not a choice, so the likelihood is that Dean will become a very dangerous demon before we're done.

So where does Dean go from here? The demon part can likely be cured through the conveniently inserted demon cure spell the Winchesters stumbled upon last season. But the rub is that Dean, as we’re told by Crowley, will only be strong enough to have control over the mark if he’s a demon. Making him human turns him back into an out-of-control weapon.

Sam – “I Lied” 

I’m not going to lie and say I had kind words to say about this part of the story after my first watch, but what happened deserves more examination. This is the first time since Mystery Spot that we’ve seen Sam in the immediate aftermath after losing his brother. We saw pieces in season 4 through flashbacks, and we were told vague and suspicious statements about what Sam did in season 8 that frankly never really added up. He’s insisted to Dean this season that under the same circumstances, he wouldn’t have done “anything” to bring Dean back. But when Dean said to Sam in this episode, “What happened with you being ok with this?,” and Sam responded, “I lied,” I took that as a hint and unconfirmed admission that Sam that had lied about not looking for Dean while Dean was in Purgatory too. Crowley's statement that Sam summoning him was predictable also implies that Sam always follows this pattern.

Why would Sam lie? Although Dean seems to have made peace with their dysfunctional relationship and the damage it does to others, such as the collateral damage caused by the apocalypse, which was caused by Sam and Dean refusing to let each other die, Sam seems to be in the position of seeing it all, not being OK with it.  But as we saw in this episode, he's not being able to break free either. We didn’t actually see Sam try to make a deal with Crowley, but as I mentioned earlier, I think Crowley was acting as part narrator when he had his soliloquy over Dean’s dead body, and that he was speaking correctly when he said Sam was summoning him to make a deal.

Cas and “The Mission”

This was the part that I struggled most with interpreting, because Cas has been through so many changes over the seasons. Frankly, I’ve lost track with keeping up. But what was said here between Cas and Gadreel might be the most unexpected and interesting development to come from this episode. Cas has struggled for a long time with coming to terms with his own individuality post season 5, understanding what the role of angels should be post God’s desertion, learning what leadership and power feels like, and balancing the conflict between between his attachment to Dean and his duty as an angel. Gadreel, before he died, gained clarity about the angel mission, and his speech to Cas is important in understanding where Cas ended the episode.

Gadreel tells Cas that he thought of nothing other than his own cause – redemption – but since has come to realize that the only thing that matters now is the mission: “protecting those who would not or could not protect themselves – the humans.”

The key point here is that the mission is more important than any one individual. It’s more important than killing Metatron. It’s more important than Gadreel’s redemption arc. It’s more important that Cas’s redemption arc. And it’s more important than saving Dean. As long as Dean bears the mark, he is weapon. This puts curing him without a plan to remove the mark in direct conflict with the angel mission.  Also, in the past couple of episodes, we've seen other angels imply that Cas's attachment to Dean compromises him as an angel. Of course Cas's grace is said to be burning out, so he might end up a human in the end, but in this episode Cas stated that he wants to be an angel.

So where does this leave us? As far as we know, the only way to get rid of the mark seems to be to transfer it to someone else, or to kill the demon that bears it if possible. In the inevitable discussions about transfering the mark I'm sure will follow (because we know Dean’s not being written off the show), I’m betting Crowley will be first in line to volunteer to take on the “burden,” and the power. But to say Crowley is untrustworthy, and transferring the mark would create an extremely dangerous monster, is a huge understatement. If they knew someone who was sort of a human-demon hybrid, and had been conditioned since he was an infant to be able to contain great evil, and who has also to shown that he can handle it, that might work too. But that would involve placing trust in that person.

What did you think of the episode? As always, sound off in the comments.

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