Episode 10×14 or “The Return of Cain’s Angry Beard”
So far this season: Dean’s been cured from demonism; Crowley was his BFF; Cas was losing his grace until Crowley saved him; and Sam has done his best to reign in Dean’s homicidal tendencies. Claire Novak has also reappeared and swears she doesn’t need a father figure. And Crowley has a mother?
*Spoilers ahead, darling*
This is the episode I’ve been waiting for since Timothy Omundson announced Cain’s return at BurCon last November. The introduction of Cain in season nine was (hopefully) the beginning of the myth arc that we’ve all been longing for, and this episode seems to confirm it. We first see Cain in “The Executioner’s Song,” stalking down the long corridor of Death Row in a Texas prison. He breaks into the cell of convicted serial killer Tommy Tolliver, stabs him, and disappears with the body.
Sounds like a case for the Winchesters.
After several phone calls to Castiel (who is too busy interrogating low-level demons to come to the phone), the Winchesters head to Texas. The warden’s ominous “Welcome to Death Row” sounds more like a prediction than a greeting, and Dean quickly discovers that the perp is Cain. Meanwhile Castiel discovers Cain’s burial grounds, and the Father of Murder shows up to reveal that he is, indeed, committing genocide–he is slowly but surely wiping out everyone who is his descendant.
The only way to stop Cain is with the First Blade, so Team Free Will reluctantly calls upon Crowley for help. Together the hunters, angel, and demon concoct a plan to trap and kill Cain–a plan that, unfortunately, may leave Dean less human than when they started. Some sleight of hand allows them to trap Cain in a devil’s trap–and thereby save a twelve year old boy–and Dean is able to face down with the First Born again. This is not the Cain who brokenheartedly told his story of Collette, however. This is the Father of Murder, and only one of them will leave alive. After a fitting display of badassery, it’s Dean who leaves the ring still breathing, but the things Cain told him probably make him wish that he weren’t.
What This Episode Reveals About Team Free Will
Oh, Dean, where do we begin with you? Although Cain describers Dean’s bravery as his “greatest weakness,” the truth we discover about Dean in this episode is that the Winchester is afraid. No, he’s terrified. Before he heads into the death match with Cain, he admits to Sam that he’s not as comfortable with the possibility of death as he once was. Quite rightly. He’s seen both ends of the scale; he’s seen Heaven and Hell and Purgatory, and he’s right to be scared because he truly doesn’t know where he’ll end up. We’ve discussed the Mark of Cain being a symbol of addiction, and there is no cure for addiction. As Cain says it, “There is only remission and relapse.”
Cain also tells Dean that the Winchester is living his life in reverse. For Cain, this life began when he killed his brother. For Dean, it will end when he kills his. This revelation leaves Dean visibly despondent at the end of the episode. This is not the typical Winchester angst that can be fix with a bottle of Jack. This? This is what heartbreak on a Winchester looks like.
We learn two things about Sam. (1) he memorizes serial killer trivia. It makes me giggle to think that he and I have probably both read Devil in the White City and The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence. We should start a book club, Sam. (2) In this Bible rewrite, Sam is Abel. Way back in the beginning of season 2, John Winchester warned Dean that he might have to kill his brother. Later, when we discovered that Sam was Lucifer’s vessel, it seemed like John’s prediction might actually happen. In “First Born,” Cain describes his murder of Abel as saving his brother from Lucifer. Sam and Dean were chosen by the Archangels because of their bloodlines–in “The Executioner’s Song” Cain all but spells out that Dean and Sam are his descendants, meaning that perhaps we will be revisiting some familiar apocalyptic themes from season 5. (fingers crossed, everyone).
Castiel’s Grace did not affect the Father of Murder. This could mean that Cain is either impervious to the Heavenly Host or that Cas’s stolen Grace is beginning to fail again. His concern for Dean’s well being is bordering on the obsessive as of late, but it is no surprise to any of us that he’s willing to go the extra mile (or ten) for the Winchesters. His choice to leave Heaven behind, again, rings similarities to season 5. In Cain’s discussion of Dean’s eventual downfall, he predicts Castiel as the second most-painful murder Dean would commit, second only to Sam. If that doesn’t affirm Castiel’s importance in Dean’s life, nothing will.
The Big Picture
The two biggest tensions of the season were in the forefront of this episode: Rowena and the Mark. Rowena revealed herself to be the manipulating power mongerer we suspected. Turns out her son, Crowley, knows that too. At the end of “The Executioner’s Song,” she manipulates the King of Hell into abandoning his fondness for the Winchesters and to join her in her quest against the Grand Coven. The Grand Coven that we have yet to see hide or hair of.
Let’s talk about the biblical myth arc for a second. So, we know that Cain murdered Abel to protect him from Lucifer. Thousands of years later, Dean accepts the Mark from Cain to protect his brother by defeating Abaddon. The Mark has been described by the boys as being purely evil, but here’s a reminder in the words of Genesis 4:14-16:
“Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
If God (Chuck) gave Cain the Mark, then it stands to reason that He could take it away. The quest for a cure then becomes the story of a man searching for God.
Supernatural returns to Winchester Wednesdays on March 18.
P.S. Anyone who writes me a fic about Cain’s Angry Beard will get my undying gratitude (and possibly a rec on FF Wed). Bonus points if the beard appears as its own character.