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Supernatural: “First Born”

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That wasn’t so bad, was it? Last week, I was pretty worried about the Winchester separation episode, but “First Born” made a compelling case for the Dean/Crowley and Sam/Cas pairings that animate it. Sam and Dean together had been getting pretty stale, considering that they had fallen almost immediately back into the trap of lying about things and being angsty, which has just gotten painfully old. So even though the actual Winchester solo stories are happening for a dumb reason, they’re still a huge breath of fresh air. And tonight’s episode shows that Supernatural is certainly capable of juggling distinct Winchester plots, so it might not be the worst idea to keep them apart for a while.

Start with the main Dean and Crowley story. Dean’s obvious guilt over all of the dumb stuff he’s been doing this season is nicely leavened by Crowley’s smarminess and relatively easy rapport with Dean (yes, comfortable—they’ve been pushing each other’s buttons for years!). And when Crowley shows up at a bar and quickly persuades Dean to help him kill Abaddon, the efficiency with which the show says, “Hey, we’re doing a Dean/Crowley team-up episode!” (Crowley: “Are you going to play hard to get? Do we have time for a montage”) is delightful. Even though Dean acquiesces, he’s still pretty skeptical of Crowley. His antagonism toward the demon is justified theoretically (he is the King Of Hell, after all), but Crowley has basically been a Winchester ally for so long that his hostility is a bit of a drag. It’d be a fun change of pace if the Winchesters basically accepted Crowley and forced him to deal with their love, bringing him along on adventures because he has nothing better to do. (Side note: Crowley spends a lot of time just hanging out with the Winchesters running errands without any help from his lackey demons, huh? Maybe he gets kinda lonely.)

I wish that we’d had a little bit more of Dean and Crowley hunting together (which is what I thought this episode would be), but I can pretty much forgive that because after a brief stop with Tara, a former colleague of John’s, they come across Cain! (Cain!) Played with appropriate gravitas and chiseled badassery by Psych’s Timothy Omundson Cain has retired to keep bees (shades of Sherlock Holmes) after he fell in love with a woman named Collette. Omundson emits the appropriate levels of world-weary rage, and puts Cain close to Death in the pantheon of characters that come close to actually embodying biblical levels of power in Supernatural’s generally low-rent universe. The show also changes Cain’s story up quite a bit, turning it into something thick, pulpy, and awesome: It turns out Cain made the original (?) deal with the devil, selling himself to Lucifer in exchange for protecting Abel, who was close to being turned to Lucifer’s servant. So Cain trained the Knights Of Hell himself, and killed them himself after he fell in love with a human woman.

Hopefully, Omundson sticks around for a while. Dean’s relationship with Cain could be fertile material—Cain, at least, recognizes the thematic parallels of their fraternal rage and willingness to sacrifice their selves, and eventually claims Dean as his own mortal champion. Cain transfers the Mark Of Cain (which is mentioned briefly in Genesis, if I remember right, but has a decent amount of literature surrounding it) to Dean, which will enable him to use the weapon to kill Abaddon. Cain’s big catch—that Dean use the weapon to kill him after—should be emotional to watch, and promises that Cain will become an essential part of the show for at least this season. Sorry Kevin—I’ll take immortal retired demon over prophet for Adjunct Winchester if that’s the choice we’re being given.

And the Cas and Sam B-plot manages to play into the main season arc without crowding out Dean and Crowley. The two are hanging out at the Men Of Letters bunker, where Cas discovers that Sam has some of Gadreel’s grace inside him, which they could use to track the angel down. Other than Sam’s weird mention of wanting to close the Gates Of Hell (when did that become the goal again?), not much really happens in this story other than a slight, but powerful meditation on the Winchesters’ impulse to self-sacrifice and Cas’ newfound perspective on humanity after his stint without grace. Much as Cas’ stories of self-discovery have threatened to become repetitive, his new perspective on eating (he rightly doesn’t love jam, at least immediately) is indicative of something that might have a lasting effect on the character while leaving room for him to stay Cas.

At this point, it’s hard for me to believe we’re just about halfway through the season. So much has already happened, and seems likely to happen, that it’s tough to guess how stuff will play out, which is exciting. In the last couple of seasons of the show, there have been maybe six or seven episodes’ worth of real plot, but there are already that many (if not more) in this season. We have Cain and Dean’s ongoing mentorship thing, Sam and Cas, the hunt for Gadreel, and the war in Hell (among other ongoing plots). It turns out Crowley let Abaddon’s demons follow him and Dean so that they would attack, demonstrating Dean’s battle prowess in the process and allowing Cain to mark him (and letting Tara die in the process). So Dean has new reason to be angry at Crowley, who in turn seems to be a little closer to a straight heel. That’s too bad, since Crowley is really at his best as a not-so-reluctant Winchester ally. But with everything paced so quickly, at this rate Crowley will be fully human and working as a priest by the end of the season.


Stray observations:

  • My biggest problem with the episode: Cain’s wife Collette is a pretty miserably written, one-dimensional female character who gets fridged like crazy. Just saying.
  • “You’re good. But I’m Crowley.”
  • So next week, we get DJ Qualls back! But he’s a werewolf?