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After a few extra weeks of hiatus for me, I caught up in time to watch this episode the day after it aired.  Robbie Thompson wrote this one and it was a bit of a relief after the absolute angst of the previous ones but more than awkward with the Bunker Gang.  I'm so relieved that we didn't have to watch the demon torture Tara.  The episode was directed by John Badham.  It was his first SPN episode but his directing career includes the movies Saturday Night Fever and WarGames so he's been at this awhile.  Like always, the episode left me wondering a lot of things and kind of confused about a couple more.

We caught up with Cas in the bunker with a close-up of PB&J.  It's the grown-up version with crusts included.



Where is the glass of milk though?  It's going to get stuck to the roof of his mouth.



This is pretty much my reaction to PB&J too.  Hetho, Samth.  Milk, I tell ya.



Sam looks pretty good for all that he's been through in the last couple of years months.



I'm glad that we got to see some friendship between Cas and Sam and that Sam wasn't left entirely alone at the bunker given his current state of mind.  I'm also glad they didn't spend the whole time with Cas as the comic relief.



I'm confused about a couple of things.  Cas brings Dean up a couple of times and I couldn't tell if Sam's reaction was directed as anger at the whole non-con possession and lying or upset by the fact that Dean left.  Maybe it's a bit of all of it.  I'm really having a hard time getting a read on Sam and it doesn't help that he hasn't really been Sam for the first half of the season.

CASTIEL
Maybe we should call Dean.
SAM
No. He wanted to go, and he's gone. We'll handle this.

CASTIEL
Sam, the trials. You chose not to go through with them for a reason, didn't you? You chose to live rather than to sacrifice yourself. You and Dean... You chose each other.
SAM
Yeah, I did. We did. And then... Dean made a choice for me.
CASTIEL
What Dean did --
SAM
it doesn't matter what Dean did. Look, I could have put a stop to all this, Cas. I could have closed the gates of hell.
CASTIEL
Oh, Sam.
SAM
Dean's gone, okay? This is on me now, and if I can find Gadreel... I can fix this.

What good does finding Gadreel do?  Just revenge or is there more to it than that?



Did Cas remove all of Gad's grace?  How did he manage to heal Sam, particularly if Sam's body regressed to his pre-Gadreel condition?  Cas had said last season that Sam was damaged in ways beyond his ability to repair.  Now that I'm thinking about it, I can't really figure out how we got from "light at the end of the tunnel, let me take you to it" to Sam in such a fatalistic place.  Is the chance to lock the gates of hell gone for good now or because Sam got as far as he did, can he go back and repeat the third trial?  Not that I want him to, mind you.  I think it might be important to the story in the long run.  In the meantime, we get a nearly naked Sam in his purple v-neck.



Jared did a good job going showing Sam's body going through all the changes brought on by the grace extraction.



Which turned out to amount to a tempest in a teapot.



At least the Sassy shippers got a (most awkward fan service) hug.  It felt a bit like it was a Cas-you're-so-naive-but-thanks-for-trying hug.



While Cas was eating his peanut butter sandwich, the traditional food of kids everywhere, we started the episode with a close-up of beer.  Dean's at a bar drinking, a nice nod to the Dean/alcohol shippers.



Interesting place that you could sit at the bar with a demon-killing knife out in the open and nobody seems to care.



I think Dean will find out that he should have followed his original instincts when it came to Crowley.  I like the touches of red behind Dean.



What I really want to know is why the red carnations?  Crowley has them here and in the original promo poster, he's holding one.  In the changed promo, the flower is on fire.  If this were season 7, I'd say it was a warning.  The victorian flower language has it meaning several things.  A carnation in general is for fascination and divine love, a red one is for admiration or my heart aches for you and a solid one means yes.  I don't know what a flaming one means.



I like that we don't know Crowley's agenda.  He's such a sneaky, crafty bit of nastiness.



As they leave the bar, Dean flicks the flower away.



In season 7, flowers, especially orange and red ones, showed up any time there was imminent danger.  They dropped it during S8 and I haven't noticed them much up to now this season.  Cain's house was covered with flowers.  In the original story of Cain and Abel in the Bible, Cain was a tiller of the earth while Abel was a shepherd so it makes some sense that he would have a lot of plants around.

Flowers and veggies in the kitchen.



Flowered wallpaper and mismatched flowers, particularly roses, on the tea set.



Colette is a lovely lady holding a flower.  The other woman associated with roses that was killed by a demon was Mary Winchester.



Red and yellow roses for Crowley along with a bit of nasty green.



Nasty.



Since we're there, we might as well finish up with Cain's house.  Although they aren't flowers, there were bright red and yellow patches on the floor of the kitchen.



The dog is a prop that has been used before.



The upholstery is covered with flowers.  The picture on the wall behind Dean gets around too.



The last time I saw it was in Dean's room in the bunker in 9.04.



I really liked the beehive windows.  There's not a lot of blue in these scenes.  It shows up here a bit.



Bees are an interesting choice.  Necessary for life on earth, they make honey and will sting in defense of themselves and their hive.  The act of stinging results in the death of the bee.  I'm sure there's enough symbolism there to write a grad thesis on.



I liked Cain as a character.  They took an interesting twist on the original story of Cain and Abel.  I'm guessing from the title of the episode, First Born, that it's probably worth noting that Cain and Dean are both first borns.  Cain's story was originally a biblical one and being a first born in the Bible was pretty important.  The first born son traditionally got the birthright and a double share of the inheritance.  He was also the one that would take over the role of head of the family upon the father's death.  There are quite a few stories in the Bible where the first born is passed over for various reasons - he sold the birthright, his sins were too great and God picked another son in the family, the Angel of Death killed them all in Egypt before Moses took his people off to the desert.  Even Cain was passed over in favor of Abel because God approved of his offering of the first borns among his flock.  We'll come back to Cain in a little bit.



I liked watching everyone do research.  We had the Men of Letters with their library and their case files.  The Angelicos Bellatorum is on the shelf along with several books the Winchesters should probably read - Principles and Practices of Antibiotic Therapy, Thinking and Psychotherapy: An Inquiry into the Processes of Communication and Ackerman's The Psychodynamics of Family Life. I'm not sure I'd classify and shelve those things together but maybe the Bellatorum has a chapter on the psychology of angels.



We've all been trying to figure that out for at least five seasons now.



A file compiled by the always amused James Haggerty.





We got to see the way John kept some of his research.  In another life, he might have enjoyed being a Man of Letters.  He kept a journal and case files.





This whole section was marked with warning signs and red and yellow.



As they leave the storage locker, the warning surrounds Dean.



Now just spend some time with the thought of John Winchester on a motorcycle.



We get some shots of both Dean and Crowley separated by a cage and the shadows fall nicely on Dean's face.







Our first shot of the inside of Tara's has us looking out through another cage.



She's just cool but she makes a crack about Dean being pretty.  Does he appear threatening or cocky enough that other hunters want to knock him down a peg immediately?  Maybe she's still pissed off at John.  Join the not so exclusive club.



She keeps files too.



A little Cthulhu for those tentacle fans out there.



I like the angles for some of the next bunch of shots.









I should have been thinking that Tara was much too cool to be allowed to live.  Why didn't she just rattle off an exorcism?  Someone in the business this long must know it cold.



Plus these demons aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer.  Why didn't they block the Impala in?



Dean and Crowley wonder the same thing.



There were some more interesting angles during Crowley's fight.  Everything is tilted.





I like how Cain just calmly shucks corn while a raging battle is going on around him.



I particularly like this exchange.  Jensen rocked the fight scene.







I'm not sure what Dean had to do to be worthy of the Mark of Cain.  Be willing to murder?  Sacrifice for his brother (without his brother's permission)?  Be the oldest son?  Be a liar?  After Cain killed Abel, God asked him where Abel was and he was all, "I dunno."  Or if you prefer:

"And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

That's the big question, isn't it?  Pretty much SPN in a nutshell.

Then Dean, on his guilt and grief bender, does something incredibly dumb.  No, not hanging out with Crowley, although that ranks right up there.  He takes on the Mark of Cain, in the SPN 'verse the mark of Lucifer himself, without reading the fine print.  Yeah, there's no hidden agenda in there.  I hope it means Mark Pelligrino is going to be back.



Maybe this will just finish the job that Alastair started and Purgatory polished.



Whatever it does, it won't be good.  He's racking up promises he'll need to keep, too.  He has to go back when Cain calls and kill him.  Kill Abaddon.  Get revenge for Kevin.



Then he promises to kill Crowley when he finds out he's been played.  The thing is, Dean usually follows through on those kinds of promises.  Ask Zachariah.



In the Bible version of the story, God cursed Cain and told him he would no longer gain strength from the land. Cain would be a fugitive and a vagabond and cut off from God.  Cain told God that the punishment was too much to bear and that anyone who found him would kill him.  So God marked Cain and promised that whoever kills Cain will have seven times the vengeance taken on him.  Lot of good that does Cain if he's still dead.  What would that do to Dean if he kills Cain?  After eight and a half seasons, I would have hoped Dean would have gotten burned enough times to stay out of the fire.



SPN and Dean seem to have taken such a dark turn.  I hope they are redeemable.



Then again, maybe it's always this dark when you go off to make a deal with a demon (AHBL).



All caps from homeofthenutty

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
hugemind
Feb. 4th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)
I'm really having a hard time getting a read on Sam and it doesn't help that he hasn't really been Sam for the first half of the season.

It's like soulless!Sam in S6. The whole emotional aspect of the brothers' relationship is halted and angst is piled on Dean to keep the momentum going. And now we're finally starting to peel off the layers and seeing what the trials and stopping them did to Sam, not to mention all of the S9 stuff. The trials and closing the Hell gates were in a way pretty fatalistic goal, so I can see that Sam would still be feeling some of that. But it would be really good to have a Sam-cntric episode that explores his motivation and where his head's currently at.

I can't believe Cain served the King of Hell tea from wee flowery cups. :D
galwithglasses
Feb. 5th, 2014 04:41 am (UTC)
I wonder if it was Earl Gray or Darjeeling? Hee...
caranfindel
Feb. 18th, 2014 08:48 pm (UTC)
How did I miss this when you first published it? I love your reviews! This one is full of insight as always. I'm fascinated by the carnations. And very curious - what *would* a Victorian lady think upon being presented with a flaming carnation?
galwithglasses
Feb. 19th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC)
Probably something along the lines of, "Flaming carnations….oooh, smells yucky." I'm sure 'yucky' was a word used often by the Victorians. ;-)
tabby333
Feb. 19th, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
I missed this when you posted it. Thought provoking and I do like the caps.

I very much enjoyed the time with Sam and Cas. It didn't advance the story much, but they were able to bond and I like how Cas kept trying to get Sam to call Dean.</p>

I find the reappearance of bees interesting given that Cas spent some time following them around. He found peace and a bit of God in their patterns and order.

As for the brothers? Dean is in a dark place. I couldn't believe he took the mark before learning about the downsides. I guess it is a sign how little he is valuing his life.

galwithglasses
Feb. 19th, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
That's a cool observation about Cas and the bee connection with Cain. It seems like they both needed the patterns and order after a long run with violence.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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