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Supernatural 9.16 "Blade Runners" Review: Addiction

    Supernatural, “Blade Runners,” was written by the team of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming and directed by Serge Ladouceur. Buckner and Ross-Leming last brought us the death of Kevin in “Holy Terror,” so I guess we can be glad there were no major deaths at least. Ladouceur, of course, is best known for being the Director of Photography on the show and giving it, its distinctive look and atmosphere. Interestingly, Ladouceur last directed “As Time Goes By,” the episode which introduced the Men of Letters.

    The entire cast and production crew really brought their A-games to support him. Jerry Wanek once more out does himself in creating the Cuthbert Sinclair’s fortress. It had to reflect almost 60 years of Sinclair collecting oddities and objects as well as be a kind of companion piece to the Men of Letters bunker as Sinclair would have styled himself after his former colleagues. The VFX team to a great job, as always, with the magic doorway into the fortress as well as the glowing mark of Cain.

    As the episode opens, we see that as much as Sam (Jared Padalecki) has been saying it’s all business now between the brothers, he’s researching Cain and Abel. He’s also clearly concerned for Dean (Jensen Ackles) when he sees him with the first blade. However, as the episode opens, Sam is more irritated that Dean is continuing his relationship with Crowley (Mark Sheppard). Crowley seems to be sunk completely into his addiction in this episode, and we see the potential for Dean to be just starting to become addicted to the power and feelings of the Blade. The brothers’ co-dependency has also been likened to the sort of driving imperative associated with addiction as well.

     Crowley meanwhile is not taking calls either from Moose or “Not Moose” – his hilarious contact id for Dean on his phone. Crowley has apparently sunk deep into his blood addiction and is relying on Lola (Rebecca Marshall), his demon paramour to supply him with all his vices. She, however, has betrayed him to Abaddon. I had to wonder if this wasn’t almost entirely a set up. Can addiction really be worse than what a demon goes through in Hell? Isn’t addiction itself Hell, and isn’t Crowley the king and master of Hell? Did Crowley actually feed information to Abaddon intentionally through Lola? After all, Abaddon now thinks that Crowley is completely useless, thus lowering both her expectations and guard.

    A quick shout out for Marshall who is not only gorgeous, but does a great job with the character – I loved when she went from seductress, to grovelling, to defiant – to, unfortunately, dead. Sheppard turns in his usual brilliant performance – more about that later.

    One of the vices we see Crowley indulging in is his emotions. To heighten them, he watches sad movies and reads sad books (spoiler alert!). Casablanca, the movie he’s watching is the ultimate hero/doomed romance film. Rick comes through in the end as the hero after denying he’ll really do anything other than look out for his own interests, but he loses the girl by sacrificing himself for her. In Little Women, Beth ultimately dies. The main theme of the book is very Christian, however, and the sisters put a great importance on both family and doing good in the world – at their own sacrifice – such as giving away their own Christmas breakfast to a needy family. Helping that family is ultimately how Beth becomes sick and dies. Are there parallels that we can draw to Crowley? I think there definitely may be. Crowley tells Sam that they share a bond – is it as profound as the one shared by Dean and Castiel (Misha Collins)? Sam certainly doesn’t seem to think so! Crowley does seem to be seeking Sam’s approval when bringing him ingredients for the spell to get back into the fortress. Crowley also repeatedly tells the brothers that the three of them are partners. Will Crowley, then, ultimately seem like he’s double crossing the brothers, only to emerge as the reluctant hero who saves them in the end? Only time will tell.

    The episode also starts to bring into focus what the mark of Cain is doing to Dean. He seems even more angry than normal about not being able to get Crowley on the phone and Ackles delivers a terrific performance throughout the episode. When he finds the Impala has been tossed, he also loses it, but when he finds that she has been keyed, we can see him have to visibly contain and control himself. It would seem that having touched the blade has made it even harder to control his feelings by the end of the episode.

    Ackles has stated in an interview that the mark will act like steroids. Steroids flood the system with testosterone and lead to “roid-rage.” I think that we are seeing the beginnings of that here. When the interview Dr McElroy (Laura Soltis), she can’t keep her eyes off of Dean and is clearly hitting on him. He is clearly both flattered and confused! I loved her offering her card and pulling it away from Sam to clearly insist that Dean take it – all that extra testosterone is apparently hard to resist!

    They are lead to McElroy by the antiquities dealer Andre Devlin (Marco Soriano). I couldn’t help but think this would have been exactly the thing they would have gone to Bela (Lauren Cohen) for. This was mainly a great scene for Mark Sheppard. As the three wait for Devlin to show up, Crowley is stealing candy from a vending machine. Chocolate bars help drug addicts who are going through withdrawal, so it’s a nice shout out to that – but also stealing candy from a baby. Dean remarks that at least when Cas was human he was an ok guy, but he should have known that Crowley would be the douche version. Is the stealing candy from a baby allusion a hint that Crowley is deceiving the brothers?

    Sam is clearly worried that Dean is starting to trust Crowley and insists that once they have the First Blade there is nothing stopping them from killing Crowley with it. Sam presses Dean to agree to kill Crowley. Ackles is chilling as he drains his very expressive face of all emotion to agree that there is nothing stopping him from killing Crowley. This scene is paralleled to the end scene when Sam presses Dean to carry out their plan. Sam himself is simply using Dean as a killing machine, and I can’t help think that this is going to prove to be a bad thing in the long run, encouraging the effects that the Blade is already having on Dean and re-enforcing Dean’s own insecurities about being his father’s dull instrument and good for nothing but a killing machine.

    The episode introduces the rogue Man of Letters, Cuthbert Sinclair (Kavan Smith). Many may know Smith from Stargate: Atlantis, The 4400, or Eureka, but he was also in Supernatural before in “Time Is on My Side” as the gym club victim. I’m really glad they brought him back for such a juicy role because he’s simply fantastic as Sinclair. I loved how he played him and couldn’t help but think of the classic Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos” and William Campbell’s performance as Trelane, the alien holding them captive. I loved Smith’s earnest delivery and bow tie!

    It’s clear pretty quickly why the Men of Letters filed him as “Dishonored and Forgotten.” He has spent almost 70 years in hiding as Albert Magnus in his invisible fortress building a zoo of monsters and collecting all manner of things including the First Blade. Dean and Sam rightly surmise that telling Sinclair that they are legacies and showing him their key will be enough for him to invite them in. It turns out that he was mentor to Henry Winchester, their grandfather. He tells him that he had remained friendly with Henry and that Henry had visited him in secret at the fortress. I have to wonder if that will be significant and if we will see Sinclair again in the next episode.

    I do wonder why once the Men of Letters were wiped out that Sinclair didn’t either move into the Bunker or at least strip it of all its treasures. Plot hole? Alternatively, will the brothers be able to get back into the fortress to take things from it, and how did they get out?

    At face value, Sinclair could be an ally. He broke with the Men of Letters primarily because he wanted more action. He wanted to rid the world of monsters once and for all. He has nothing but disdain for the Men of Letters who said it wasn’t their place, that they were only meant to study and catalogue. Sinclair tells them the blade is useless unless... and Dean shows him the mark of Cain. Sinclair is clearly impressed. Dean gives Sinclair the opportunity to act by giving them the blade, but Sinclair opts to separate the ordinary (Sam) from the extraordinary (Dean) and make Dean a part of his collection. This is certainly an interesting reversal of all the times that Sam was the special kid or vessel and Dean the ordinary one. Some things never change, however, and Sinclair quickly sees that the way to control Dean is to threaten Sam.

    I loved the scene between Ackles and Smith as Sinclair tries to convince Dean to join him willingly. He offers him power and eternal youth. Ackles is once again terrific as you see the will drain out of him when Sinclair casts the spell. We also see numerous emotions pass across his face when Sinclair forces him to hold the Blade for the first time. It’s obviously having a terrible effect on him, and no doubt dredging up the emotions he experienced in Hell when he was forced to torture others.

    Crowley watches closely for the effects when he releases Dean to allow him to take Sinclair’s head off. We see Sam’s concern for his brother front and center as Dean is clearly being consumed by the feelings he’s experiencing with having actually killed with the blade. Padalecki is also outstanding in this scene – and it was so nice to see that bond again between the brothers. It’s Sam’s voice that brings Dean back, and it’s Sam’s voice that Dean responds to in dropping the Blade. Dean will always do what Sam asks of him. It’s also a nice parallel to the end of Swan Song, when it’s Dean’s sacrifice that allows Sam to best Lucifer.

    The final scene shows that Abaddon is getting more brazen in tossing the Impala and keying the threat to Crowley on her. I can’t help but think that this is part of Crowley’s major plan. He is not so blinded by his addiction that he doesn’t realize that he’s also at the top of the brothers’ to do list. He pins them against the Impala and takes the Blade. I couldn’t quite tell who had the Blade – I’m pretty sure it was Sam, which is another indication that he’s looking after Dean – preventing him from being further affected by it – at least until it’s time to use his brother as a killing machine – which is exactly what Crowley calls him. I did love Crowley’s comment that their plan had been brilliant with “muscle from squirrel and bleeding from Moose.” However, this playful Crowley is gone as he tells the brothers that he’ll be holding on to the Blade until they find Abaddon. He tells them that they can’t trust him, but sadly, he can’t trust them either. I had to wonder if this seeming return to the Crowley we have known is a result of his continuing drying out from the blood addiction or whether this was the end result of his plan all along.

    I’ve saved most of my criticisms for the end. First – Snookie? Really? Wow, she’s tiny next to them – and she looks great – which made a nice sight gag on top of the “that explains a lot” of her being a crossroads demon, but she can not act. I’ve already mentioned one plot hole, but if Sinclair is the master of warding, how does Crowley get into the fortress at all? Perhaps, it’s the human blood still in him, but really, neither he nor Cas should even be able to get in the Bunker either. How did Crowley and Sam get out of the alcove where they were hiding? Did Crowley bamf them out? Maybe. Those were just the ones that particularly bothered me.

    All in all, this was a good episode that helped move the story along. I loved the direction in this and it certainly highlighted Ladouceur’s talents. There is a great shot of Dean and Sam across from Sinclair in front of the fireplace, with the unicorn skull in the foreground which particularly stood out for me. My apologies for the late review – I’ve been travelling for work. What did you think of the episode? What did you think of the effect the mark is having on Dean? Do you think Sam is a lot more worried than he’s letting on? Do you think Crowley is double crossing them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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