In the nineteenth episode of the tenth season of Supernatural, THIS WAS SO GODDAMN GOOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For talk of suicide.
This was just so satisfying, y’all. You should all know by now that I’m a huge fan of thrillers and well-executed suspense, so I imagine that plenty of you were eager to see me watch this episode. It’s a tight, vicious, and genuinely thrilling hour of the show, made all the more effective by the BRILLIANT con that Robert Berens’s script pulls on the audience.
LET US DISCUSS.
In order for us to truly believe that Rowena is a serious risk within this episode, the story in “The Werther Project” has to present her as a legitimate threat. From the opening scenes of this episode right through to the end, we know that Sam’s continued deception is at risk because he’s now involved Rowena. Rowena almost functions like a trickster within “The Werther Project” because she can never be trusted. She’s a constantly shifting variable, so when she shows up at the St. Louis house, we instantly accept that it’s entirely possible that she wanted to toy with Sam Winchester.
Like, it’s not as if she doesn’t know that Dean is unaware of what’s going on. The first scene establishes that! Rowena is acutely aware that Sam is incredibly desperate. He wouldn’t have turned to her unless that were the case. At the same time, it’s also obvious that Rowena is endlessly amused by this recent turn of events. She’s got her most-hated enemy before her, begging for her help, and she knows that he has no other resource.
And then, every time she’s on screen once she “arrives” at the house? Oh god, it’s her. That’s what kills me about this. Even in hindsight, I don’t see anything out of character about the Rowena illusion. IT’S ABSOLUTELY HER. Which means that Sam’s subconscious mind was able to construct a terrifying accurate version of the real Rowena.
I’ll talk more about the Rowena reveal when I get to Sam, but we also have to talk about another brilliant aspect of this episode. Once we accept that Magnus’s spell compels those affected by it to kill themselves, this story adds another mystery to the table. How is it that a spell could actually do that? What does it exploit? Why does it seem to manifest so differently for each person?
Suzie was tormented by the vision of her family, who died dued to her curiosity. (Which still perplexes me. Was Suzie compelled to smash down that wall in the basement, or did she do that out of rebellion? I’m not clear on that at all, and I think it’s the one serious flaw in this episode.) Sam sees Suzie, who immediately rips into him for his complicity in her death and his recent behavior. That made sense, and it’s also why I was so unwilling to look upon Rowena with suspicion. Sam had already conquered the spell, so I didn’t think that there was anything left for him to face. What could be worse than a manifestation of his own guilt? That’s what Suzie represented here, and I appreciated that Berens’s script was so resoundingly brutal towards Sam. Sam needed to hear that his behavior was risky and that he was continuing to view other people as mere pawns to serve his own needs.
So, what was Dean’s torment going to be? When he appeared in Purgatory, I was confused. How the hell would that place compel him to end his life? If anything, hadn’t he felt a certain resonance there that he’d never been able to achieve elsewhere? I know that I spent time last season and this season wondering why the show hadn’t invoked Dean’s time in Purgatory when discussing the Mark, and I’m so terribly pleased to see that happen here. It fits so perfectly because that place is the perfect spot for Dean to consider his worth and his burden. Alongside Benny (WHO I MISS, NOT FAIR), Dean questions whether he can ever live a normal life. What better locale to reflect on that than Purgatory? And that’s where the con is hidden: Magnus’s spell gets Dean to consider suicide solely by exploiting his sense of responsibility. Look, Dean has not been in denial about his state post-Mark of Cain in a while, so he’s never been more willing to address the implications of who he is. So I think the spell – which can gain access to a person’s subconscious thoughts – used this against Dean, at least up to the point that it reaches the point of futility. Dean actually believed for a moment that he would no longer be a burden on those who cared about him.
Except that damn Mark of Cain has an expressed interest in keeping him alive, so the spell can’t work. It never could from the start. We don’t know that, of course, and we assume that Magnus’s power is so significant that it would overrule pretty much everything else. BUT NOPE. I mean, all we know about the curse or the magic of the Mark of Cain is that it’s old as time and that it’s disgustingly powerful. In hindsight, Magnus could have never truly found a way to overpower it.
THAT DOESN’T MAKE THIS LESS UPSETTING.
But the true heartbreak here for me is Sam’s continued descent into this horrible lie. And it’s really horrible, y’all. I want to criticize this as much as I criticized Dean’s actions last season. Sam can say he has Dean’s best interests in mind as long as he wants, but that doesn’t make it so. That’s the bulk of the terror that we feel while watching this. We’re waiting for the shoe to drop, for the fuse to burn, for the bomb to go off. Once Sam got Rowena involved? Oh, I fully expected this all to go to hell within this episode. How the fuck you gonna bring her into this nightmare and expect her to behave? I totally caught that bit of lingering on the notepad as foreshadowing, so I knew Dean would eventually show up.
And it still didn’t prepare me for this ROLLER COASTER OF EMOTIONS. Look, I get that in hindsight, Rowena really does come out of nowhere, and that should have been a sign that Sam was still under the control of this spell. I also can’t believe that I actually vocalized the connection between the Martinez that Magnus said WITHOUT REALIZING THAT I’D JUST FIGURED OUT THAT SAM WAS IMAGINING ROWENA. Oh my god, I hope that moment made all of you laugh FOREVER.
But let’s get serious for a moment, because how fucked up and terribly appropriate is it that the Werther box required blood to open? It’s a stunning and upsetting commentary on the relationship between Sam and Dean, particularly when you consider how much this current predicament involves harm and violence. But I couldn’t help but think about how Sam’s willingness to help Dean was now in direct opposition to his own well-being, too. Who was going to win in this situation? That’s how reckless Sam’s gotten this season, that his gambles could reasonably harm EVERYONE instead of being an act of sacrifice.
Everything is just so awful, y’all. But goddamn, I was so floored by “The Werther Project.” Bravo, Supernatural. Thank you for showing me you can still surprise me.
The video for “The Werther Project” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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