In the tenth episode of the tenth season of Supernatural, Castiel and Sam attempt to find a way to remove the Mark of Cain. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
I really do think that this show ended Demon!Dean far too early, especially for a concept as rich and powerful as it could have been. I think that’s precisely why parts of “The Hunter Games” feel so much more alive and refreshing than most of season ten: we’re finally getting a chance to see this show toy with a main character in a way they’ve not done before.
Which is a difficult thing to do in general. Look, I’ve never watched more of any single show for Mark Watches than Supernatural, and unless you count all of the Star Trek canon as one body of work (which I’d be okay with), it’s gonna be a long time before I ever commit to a show as lengthy as this one. I also know that inevitably, a show is gonna run out of ideas. And with a narrative framework like Supernatural has, the show is unfortunately limited. How many variations of the same theme can the show tell? Well, a lot. We’ve already seen them do it.
But what I mean by “limited” might be different than what that last bit conveys. There are certain immutable truths to Supernatural that the show accepts as part of what they can write about. Sam and Dean remain single. Sam and Dean kill monsters and supernatural creatures because no one else can. Dean is hypermasculine, unable to deal with feelings, and is a stereotypical white straight man in America. Sam likes salads and is ~sensitive.~ The Winchesters can die and they’ll always be brought back. You get the idea. And while these aspects define the show, I think they also limit it. Is it as shocking now when Dean or Sam die? No, not as much as was for both of them in earlier seasons. Is it as foreboding or dreadful to know that the world might end? No, that appeal has waned over the years.
So what’s left to do? I don’t think the show has been worthless or aimless beyond season five, though I understand why people feel it should have ended there. I mean, CHARLIE BRADBURY. That’s all I need to say. But what made “The Hunter Games” stand out to me was the willingness to do a couple things that this show has avoided doing for ten years.
Dean has done something that is so bad, it actually warrants him – in the script!!! – criticizing himself. Y’all, Dean was honest about what was going on with him internally. HE WAS HONEST AND UPFRONT ABOUT IT. WITHIN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THIS EPISODE. HAVE WE WITNESSED THE SECOND COMING? Is this Supernatural, the show of unending manly denial, or is it something else? Okay, I’m being facetious, but I still think that this transition is fascinating. If we’re at a point where Dean can readily admit that he’s done something horrific and they all need to work towards fixing it, I think we’re seeing the show attempt something new. I don’t think it’s easy to write a character – one who, while a jerk, is still fundamentally trying to be a good person – taking a path that’s unmistakably bad. Of course, this season aired years after the recent wave of white male criminals on American television, so it’s not like it’s all that risky to have Dean do bad things. That being said? This is happening after ten years of Dean trying to good.
I wish I could say that the other two plots here were as exciting. Claire’s appearance here just felt like the writers tying up a loose end and nothing more. It’s just so boring, y’all, and I really wish Castiel had a plot this season that didn’t feel so stuffy and wooden. What’s his arc here? Trying to be human? Nope. Trying to manage being an angel? Not really. Repairing heaven? I guess? Granted, I’ve got a limited view of the season-long plot, so this could easily be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. But I just want something exciting or thrilling or thought-provoking. It blows my mind to think about how much I don’t care for Claire because by all rights, she should be a character I relate to. She’s been ostracized, she’s had a wildly difficult childhood, and she’s fiercely independent at a young age. Yet I can’t seem to feel much of anything for her at all, and I spent most of her scenes wishing we could go back to other storylines.
I’m still interested in Rowena, though it’s becoming difficult to sustain that when the story feels so artificially held back. Rowena is arguably the most powerful witch on the planet, and she’s using amateur, common magic on her son. Again, limited view here; she’s clearly got some sort of master plan that involves her manipulation of Crowley. And look, it’s not like I possess the ability to feel bad for Crowley. He’s done so many despicable things over the years that my interest in him is purely based on Mark Sheppard’s acting. What I do think will be fun to see is an all-out war between mother and son, especially two beings as powerful as Rowena and Crowley. That is gonna be fun.
So where does Dean Winchester fit into all of this? With the First Blade back in play, he’s a variable everyone has to take into account. I also suspect that Metatron was telling the truth about how to remove the Mark. I think it’s possible, but it involves… stuff? Stuff I don’t know? And apparently, Dean’s going to have to go outside of traditional demon and angel avenues in order to rid himself of it. Clearly, he’s burned a major bridge in Metatron, so I actually would be surprised to see him again. (Which is okay, because Curtis Armstrong is so good at this character, y’all.) So, is there some complicated ritual that Dean needs to complete in order to cleanse himself? And what are the ramifications of that ritual? What’s that whole thing about the source of the river? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The video for “The Hunter Games” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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