We Will Always End Up Here – Supernatural’s ‘The Executioner’s Song’
I’m so torn. Do I gush first about the writing of this episode that laid the groundwork for so many powerful scenes? Or the brilliant cinematography and direction and set dec and visual effects? Or do I marvel at the acting performances of ALL of the main players, who collectively blew me away and kept me so sucked in that I was holding my breath for most of the second half of the episode?
Not a bad dilemma to face on a Friday morning. I think I’ll gush about all of the above.
My only quibble was a teeny tiny one. Sam’s indignation about using a 12 year old as bait seemed odd, considering the Winchesters have been doing that since Season One’s ‘Something Wicked’. Sam wasn’t all that happy about it then, either, but he probably hasn’t forgotten. Anyway, that’s tiny. I loved this episode.
Robert Berens’ script was delicious. He says he felt somewhat intimidated when given the task of writing the return of a character like Cain, whose introduction was so powerful and who looms so large in the mytharc of his season. I don’t blame him, but wow, the writing totally did the character justice. In fact, it showcased all the actors, giving each a chance to shine and to show their true colors – each character reveals who they are and what they’re feeling in this episode, some overtly and some quietly, but it’s there. And even better? The reveals make sense. I got a glimpse into each of them, and there wasn’t a moment when I wanted to scratch my head and say “huh. Really?” Instead I kept nodding, most likely mumbling to myself things like “I knew it!” and “That’s my boy!” Good thing I was able to watch without company this week, since the mumbling most likely kept up throughout the episode. I was engaged, what can I say!
The other great thing about the script is that it set up each of the main characters’ stories and then wove all those separate strings together, so that the plot and the mytharc were coherent again. That’s when Supernatural works best for me, when I can see the threads woven together – and that’s where some of the tension comes from. Once threads are tangled, there’s hell to pay when one starts to unravel, after all. Each impacts the other, so I care about all of them. That’s been missing in some seasons, but it’s coming together beautifully in S10.
The episode itself was gorgeous, full of scenes that took my breath away just in how beautifully they were created and filmed. The over-the-front-seat shot of the brothers bickering in the Impala; Cain in shadow walking slowly down the prison hallway; Crowley and Rowena strolling down the imposing corridor of his dark and dingy seat of power; Cas alone in the field of buried bodies, looking for Cain; the perspectives that made the fight between Dean and Cain both realistic and almost graceful. All of these looked like a feature film.
And sounded like a feature film too! Supernatural’s brilliant Jay Gruska and Christopher Lennertz set a new high bar for themselves with this episode – the score gave those scenes their power and gravity. Having just come from an academic conference where there was a fascinating panel on how Supernatural uses music to enhance emotion, I was acutely aware of when they were doing just that. And let me just say that my emotion was very enhanced! The VFX crew always comes through, and this episode was no exception. I never even know exactly what is VFX until Adam Williams kindly lets us know, but I can tell you it all looked fantastic. Cas with his blue eyes going even more blue as he tries to overpower Cain was certainly one of them (I don’t think Cain’s hair dramatically waving in response was VFX, but it was awesome!)
And then there was the acting. There’s always the acting when it comes to SPN, but everyone went above and beyond this week. You broke me, people. Seriously.
On first viewing, the episode started off slowly, building momentum as time went on. Cain’s reappearance gave me chills; the scene wasn’t hurried, and the sense of dread and anticipation got stronger with his every step down that darkening hallway. Tim Omundson, who was so zany and hysterical in Galavant, transforms himself as Cain. That wild mane of hair and beard and those piercing blue eyes – it all comes together to make you absolutely believe that this is the Father of Murder himself. He’s fearsome, but Omundson brings a vulnerability to Cain too. We know he’s capable of love, and there’s sorrow in those blue eyes along with the murderous zeal. It’s a chilling combination.
We got a little brotherly bickering between the Winchesters as they drive to the prison, and another glimpse into Sam’s geek boy side with his fascination with serial killers. I have no idea why Dean is so surprised by this – I mean, what else would Sam develop a bit of obsessiveness about? And hey, his obsession comes in handy too. (Why yes, obsessions can come in very handy, even in real life….no, really…) I enjoyed Dean’s teasing and Sam’s refusal to be bothered by it.
Sam: “It’s called true crime, Dean, it’s a hobby!”
Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, Sam. Remind Dean of his fondness for Dr. Sexy M.D.
We catch up with the other major players too. We find out that Crowley, thank god, has been on to his mum’s manipulations all along – though I still think that he’s been simultaneously craving her approval anyway, despite his intellectual awareness that she’s using him. I feel for Crowley right now. His past (or lingering) humanity and all the hurt he experienced as a child are making him vulnerable to Rowena, even as he struggles not to be. Sheppard shows us that vulnerability with just a subtle facial expression, a fleeting look in Crowley’s eyes.
I’m glad he’s still the smart king of hell we all fell for, though. I’m sad to see Rowena pushing a wedge between Crowley and the Winchesters for her own purposes, but at the same time, I think it had to happen. Crowley can’t be a bad guy and also their “bitch”, as Rowena so delicately puts it. Dean’s rejection (“There is no us”) and admission that he lied to and manipulated Crowley seems to actually sting him. There’s enough of Crowley that still cares about Dean that the sting hits home – and will probably motivate his slide back to the truly dark. I both dread and anticipate that – and I can’t wait to see where it takes us!
Ruthie Connell’s absolute mastery of the character, and her inspired ad libs, made every scene with her and Mark Sheppard sizzle.
Rowena: “Well, you were a very chunky child, darling. A bit of a bloater.”
I simultaneously muttered “ouch” while laughing anyway.
This episode also saw the return of a Castiel who was both caring and badass. Once again, it seemed like a glimpse into the character I recognize. Misha Collins managed to convey a sense of just how worried Cas is about Dean with every expression, and his interrogation of the captured demon let us see just how determined Cas is to find answers. (I still don’t really understand why nobody tries exorcising a demon who’s already trapped instead of angel-blading it and its host to death, but I loved seeing Cas be a badass angel again.)
The confrontation between Cas and Cain was beautifully shot, and both actors made it a powerful and emotional moment. The dialogue was concise in this episode, and it really worked to let the visuals and the music tell their part of the story without too much exposition getting in the way. Cas and Cain didn’t say a lot, but their every word carried a wealth of meaning, and the actor’s expressions were as full of meaning as their words.
Same goes for the scenes between Sam and Dean. They didn’t say a lot, but that fits perfectly with my ten-season understanding of who these brothers are. They don’t use a lot of words, but they convey whole novels in the few they exchange and the looks on their faces when they do. Ackles and Padalecki are masters of the nonverbal communication at this point, saying more with their eyes than most actors can say in pages of dialogue.
This is the Dean I fell madly in love with, full of self doubt and self criticism, but determined to ‘do the right thing’ no matter what. Brave and tough and at the same time, frightened and vulnerable. For once, he shows this side to Sam instead of lying or covering with false bravado.
Dean: “Sam, I’m scared.”
He doesn’t want to lose himself to the blade; he doesn’t want to face Cain. But he will. It’s not the first time he’s “pulled a Dean Winchester” and we all know it won’t be the last. But he realizes he doesn’t have to do it alone. He may be the one who has to walk in there by himself, but he looks to Sam for reassurance before he does. He takes his brother’s belief in him – and Sam’s strength – with him when he walks into that barn.
That little smile he exchanges with Sam as he goes up the stairs says it all. They’re looking at each other with tears in their eyes, knowing it could be goodbye, both of them accepting that it has to happen anyway. How many times have they been at this place and still had the guts to make that impossible decision?
It was Dean’s faith in Sam that let him tumble Lucifer into the pit. Now it’s Sam’s faith in Dean that lets him walk in there and take on Cain.
The fight scene between Cain and Dean was magnificent, so seamlessly choreographed that you could feel Dean’s initial reluctance to give in to the blade’s lust for power and go all out, and Cain’s playing with him like a cat with a mouse, urging him to give in. Again, there wasn’t too much dialogue – and what there was hit as hard as the punches. I might have held my breath through the entire scene, I was so on pins and needles waiting to see what would happen.
And those last few moments, when we were suddenly in a Star Wars moment and Cain was calling Dean ‘son’ and Dean was cutting off his hand! I gasped out loud, sat there mouth open while Cain bowed his head and Dean struggled with the decision. Ohgod, Dean’s pleading with him, begging him to tell him that he can do it, that he can stop. Begging with Cain to tell him that he, Dean, can stop too. And Cain can’t.
Cain: “There is no cure. There’s only remission….and relapse.”
Dean’s absolute agony at that moment, when he fears that it’s the truth. That Cain is right about Dean’s story ending where Cain’s began – killing Crowley, killing Cas, killing his brother. Cain knows. Knows that killing Castiel would hurt him terribly, knows that killing Sam would be the last straw, the thing Dean couldn’t survive with his humanity intact.
We know it too.
Dean’s broken, gasped “No. Never.”
It broke my heart. Pretty sure it was right there on the floor next to me, shattered. Thanks Robert Berens and Jensen Ackles.
There have been so many times poor Dean Winchester has been told that he’ll have to kill his little brother. And each time, he’s refused. Each time, he’s found a way, preferring to sacrifice himself instead. And even now, ten seasons in, there is nothing that gets to me more than making Dean face the horrifying possibility once again. It invests the mytharc with the kind of emotional power that makes me a fan of this show, harkening way back to Michael telling the brothers that it’s in their blood, their family’s blood, stretching all the way back to Cain and Abel. This is where we’ve been headed, and I effing love that ten seasons in, this is the epic place we’re at.
The last scenes, unbelievably, were even more emotional. Dean rejecting Crowley and giving the blade to Castiel – Crowley’s betrayed look, and the look on Castiel’s face when he takes the blade. We remember instantly the promise that Dean extracted from Cas – the same thing that John so devastatingly said to Dean himself. “If you can’t save him, you’ll have to kill him.” Cas knows it too; dreads it. You can see Castiel’s emotional struggle, how much he cares about Dean. Dean has just handed over the power to destroy him, and they both know it.
And then the last of Dean’s strength falls away. He looks at Sam, and Sam instantly moves forward, anticipating Dean’s collapse. He’s there to catch his brother, and it looks too much like that scene in AHBL that gutted me, and that scene in Sacrifice when Sam fell into Dean’s arms, and the way Dean died in Sam’s arms at the end of last season. All those past scenes made this one even more emotional, as Dean looks agonized and Sam murmurs all the reassurances that he knows Dean needs to hear. “You did it, Dean. You did it.”
Sam doesn’t know that Dean has just been told that his destiny is to destroy the brother who’s the only thing holding him up.
Shit, I’m crying again.
But Show is not done with me. Not yet. Sam continues his reassurance back at the bunker, along with Cas. Dean puts on a brave face; they all do. He claps Cas on the shoulder as he leaves, trying for some reassurance of his own. And then we see Dean’s face when Cas and Sam no longer can – the utterly hollow, blank look of terror that falls over his features. In a two second shot, we see everything that Dean is really feeling and trying desperately to cover up. Oh god.
Cas looks as worried as I feel.
Cas: “Sam, how is he?”
And then Sam lets his own mask fall. We see all the terror that Sam is feeling for his brother, as Padalecki lays it all bare, and ohgod, it hurts.
A few notes of ‘Americana’ play in the background, and I’m done. I’m done.
Sam: “Cas, Dean’s in trouble.”
We’re all in trouble! And I mean that in the very best way possible. There’s nothing better than coming to the end of the episode and absolutely DYING to know what’s going to happen next. I might have made an inhuman sound when I realized we have to wait a month to find out. WHAT????
This episode would have worked well as a mid season finale – it had that feel to it. As it is, it worked very well for an unwelcome mini-hiatus, which I will reluctantly persevere through (since I have no choice).
In the meantime, my awesome twitter feed gave me a few laughs to cheer me up.
Cain: I care about you, Dean. I truly do.
My feed: Even Cain is a Dean Girl.
Dean cuts off Cain’s hand.
My feed: Awesome performances. Let’s give @Omundson a hand. Too soon?
RuthieConnell: Not so handy anymore…
Rowena ruthlessly manipulates Crowley into being a bigger badder King of Hell.
My feed: So Rowena is like the demon version of the stage mother for Toddlers and Tiaras.
William Shatner live tweets.
RobertBerens: @WilliamShatner is live tweeting my episode. DIES.
I totally didn’t blame him. Love that the Shat watches along with us, especially when Misha graces his screen.
There was also a surprise appearance by Guanaco Truck, which makes the best food – if you’ve never tried it, make sure you do when you can. I love when Show pays homage to its own cast and crew.
So now we wait….In the meantime, some of you lucky people are at Phoenix Con. Those of who aren’t are (im)patiently waiting for some pictures and vids, especially of Jensen and Jared’s first time joining in the Saturday Night Special. Don’t let us down, fandom!
Stay tuned for some giveaways and interviews to help get us through mini-hellatus. Happy Friday, SPNFamily!
Read more about Supernatural in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls,
Fan Phenomena Supernatural and Fandom At The Crossroads –
info at the links at the top of the page!
Caps by screencapped.net