Episode 10×09 or “Actually Nothing Was Left Behind”
So far this season Sam has cured Demon!Dean, Crowley has cured Cas, and Supernatural is now a musical. Dean still has the Mark, Sam is playing babysitter to his brother, and Hannah left Cas behind because humanity. The rogue angels are taken care of, Cole has made peace with Dean, and Crowley has a mother. Specific enough?
*Spoilers ahead, darling*
The last time we saw Castiel, he was looking up Jimmy Novak on the internet. This episode, he’s found Jimmy’s daughter, Claire. Claire is now a teenager and is described as a “troubled child” and lives in a group home after having been abandoned by her mother. Castiel confirms what SPN fans have long suspected: Jimmy Novak is indeed dead. Claire handles the news in the way that we might expect: she manipulates Cas into helping her escape from the group home. After swiping his wallet, she leaves Castiel to reunite with her “family”–who consists of Oliver Twist and Fagin wannabes.
Castiel, now more remorseful than ever after the departure of Hannah, wants to help Claire. He calls on the Winchesters for help–who give him a bit of grief since it isn’t an “emergency”–and after some digging they discover Claire as she’s about to rob a convenience store. She confronts Castiel about the death of her father, and oh didn’t that tug on the heartstrings a little bit? She runs off on Castiel again, and after some real Winchester bonding over shots of whiskey, they decide to go after Claire again.
Claire comes back to
Fagin’s Randy’s empty-handed, since Castiel prevented her from pulling the quick stop-and-rob. He owes money to some bad people, but his claims of Claire being his “family” are quickly forgotten when Mr. Mob Boss agrees to take Claire in lieu of the money. When Cas and the Winchesters arrive at Randy’s, Cas morphs into that bad ass angel and bamfs his way into saving Claire from the sick fuckers. He and Sam pull a trembling Claire outside and into the car, leaving Dean behind to deal with the bad guys. And by “deal” I mean he slices and dices them.
Oh, hey, look, that Mark of Cain is still affecting Dean after all.
Meanwhile Crowley and his mother are getting in some quality bonding time. He’s running Hell, she’s being tortured. It’s all very sweet, except for the part where Crowley reveals that his mother once almost traded him for three pigs (he was worth five damn it). Rowena’s not about to let her son rule Hell without her, and throughout the course of the episode she plants a seed of doubt in Crowley’s mind about his second-in-command, Gerald, and in the end, Crowley sticks Gerald with an angel blade and Rowena gleefully leaves her prison cell behind, presumably to cause new kinds of havoc in Hell.
What This Episode Reveals About Team Free Will
This episode was noticeably light on the Sam side. But Jared Padalecki’s hair looked fab, as usual, and the moments we did get with Sam were important. This episode brought back the tried-and-true Supernatural reliance on the importance of family. In the bar scene, when Dean shares the memory of John Winchester “saving him,” it is Sam who suggests that memory as a good one of their father. This episode revolved around the bonds between parents and children: Claire and Castiel, Rowena and Crowley, and the boys and John Winchester. The story about John Winchester wasn’t particularly a happy one, but let’s think about how the Winchesters identify who counts as family. For the Winchesters, family is about sticking together, about protecting each other. It’s them-versus-the-universe, so if you have to choose between family and anything else? You choose family. The New York memory of John Winchester isn’t a particularly happy one, but it demonstrates that prized Winchester family trait: saving each other. And perhaps, when it comes to John Winchester, that’s the happiest memory Sam ever had, because it involved saving Dean.
Dean’s narrative arc this season hurts. I love it. Give me more.
The protagonists of Supernatural are not perfect. They fuck up. They make mistakes. They’re incredibly human. And that’s why we love them. Dean knows now what the Mark of Cain does to him: it makes him hungry. In “The Things We Left Behind” we saw Dean eating in almost every scene, except the last one, when he fed the Mark instead.
The nightmares Dean has, the dreams of him covered in blood and regret, may not just be dreams after all. The “nightmare” becomes reality at the end of the episode. If I were Jung, I’d say that Dean’s subconscious was manifesting his Shadow archetype–his dark side that he tries desperately to repress. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Dean’s capability to embrace the Shadow. Remember that time when he spent forty years in hell? One of the most powerful moments in the entire show is in the episode “Heaven and Hell” when Dean describes hell to Sam. See following vid if you need a reminder of that single-man-tear angst.
That was a Dean who struggled to come to terms with the things he did in Hell, the souls he tortured so he could stay off the rack. This was the Dean who didn’t believe that he deserved to be saved by God (or Castiel). Now, six seasons later, Dean’s back to struggling against the Shadow, and, again, he doesn’t want to be saved. Seems like the more the Winchesters’ world changed, the more it remains the same.
I saw a post on Tumblr the other day (which you can find here) that mentioned that the only time Dean was without a coat or an “outer layer” was in the scene pictured above. This could, of course, be a coincidence, because who, besides Cas, wears their coats indoors? Oh wait, the Winchesters do.
Let’s say that Dean is indeed shedding his outer layer, his mask (Jung would call it the Persona), and letting Castiel see what’s underneath. Why Castiel and not Sam? The first time Castiel sees Dean, Dean is in Hell, stripped of any and all personas. He is the living embodiment of his Shadow, because Hell is, perhaps, an extension of the subconscious realm where Dark!Dean lives. The point being: Castiel has seen the worst of Dean. He has seen the Dean that tortured souls so he himself wouldn’t be tortured, and Castiel saved him anyway. Dean sheds the outer layers, the masks, the personas, because Castiel can see through them anyway.
It is also in this scene that Dean asks Castiel to make sure he doesn’t go back to the Dark Side, no matter what. He asks Castiel to end it, to end him, and to not let Sammy get in the way. Cas of course agrees to this before he knows what Dean is asking. Castiel is no longer under orders to save Dean from the Shadow; there is no Higher Power at work any longer. Castiel’s Father is M.I.A., and now Castiel faces the most human challenge: a choice. He’s seen Dean’s Shadow, he’s saved him before, but will he do it again now that Dean has asked him not to?
The Big Picture
This episode paralleled the similarities between Dean and Claire. Both consider themselves ‘unsaveable’ and have a skewed sense of loyalty to a dysfunctional family. Castiel’s desire to save Claire is stemming from the same definition of family that the Winchesters live by: protect/save your family at all costs. Castiel’s human journey has made him practically unrecognizable to the young Novak girl. Will Castiel’s quest to save Jimmy’s daughter out of a sense of familial obligation be a foreshadowing to his quest to save Dean? I hope so. Last night’s episode was the most-watched in four seasons, and if that doesn’t prove that people want to see Team Free Will work together, I don’t know what does.
Demon!Dean may be gone, but the threat of his potential return is not forgotten. Now, from a writer’s standpoint, I think that the writers of Supernatural could have kept around a demonic Winchester for a while longer (Soulless!Sam stuck around for most of season 6), but, as I think about why I love this show, I find that I am (begrudgingly) agreeing with Dean’s character arc. My favourite season of Supernatural is season four, because that’s when the show just became so much bigger with the introduction of Castiel and angels and potential Apocalypses. Since season five, I’ve trudged along with the show’s less compelling narratives (Leviathan…really?) but with the introduction of Cain last season, I grew excited for the show’s possibilities for the first time in years. A Cain and Abel parallel with the Winchesters? Yes, please. A Winchester fighting against their inner darkness? Yes, please. Team Free Will reuniting and working together to save one of their own? Yes, please.
For now, the Hellatus is upon us. Happy holidays, SPN Family.
Until January 20,