Supernatural – Season 10 Episode 18
“Book of the Damned”
Supernatural returns to another plot heavy episode with some strong focus on the Mark of Cain narrative. It’s been a strong influence throughout this season and manages to remain a strong story for the most part.
Ever since the revelation that the mark is basically a curse albeit a very tricky one it’s given the show a new angle to explore. It’s something that never occurred to Sam and Dean before so it wasn’t an avenue they were pursuing.
Some hope comes their way in the form of the “Book of the Damned”. It’s something that was mentioned a while ago when Charlie went on the hunt for it. Now she’s found it so it’s onto that possibility but this book is not without its consequences.
It seems that the book acts like a beacon to anyone who is cursed. Dean is cursed more than most so the book is practically screaming at him. I really liked the scene where he became so totally absorbed in the pages that he shut out the rest of the world and it felt as if something really sinister was going on. Dean quite rightly makes sure that he doesn’t touch the book as he doesn’t trust himself. I always like Jensen Ackles’ performance when he plays Dean struggling with his darker nature. He always tows the line nicely while remaining a strong and likeable character. It’s a really hard performance to pull off believably but Ackles does a fantastic job at all times.
We also got to see a little of the happy go lucky optimistic Dean as he drove his car and listened to his music powered by a renewed sense of hope that the mark might be coming off. I imagine the doubt was in the back of his mind but hey, let him have his moment.
Dean’s fight in the convenience store was nothing short of awesome. It was so well shot and nicely tense. Dean is always great when in very physical confrontations like this so it’s great to see him do this now and again. Apparently multiple opponents are no match for him.
The antagonist this week takes the form of some sort of secret group who can track the book somehow. Their only advantage seemed to be that there was a lot of them as they were no match for Dean. They could give Charlie something of a run for her money but her experience level is relatively low so that makes sense. I imagine they’ll be back in subsequent episodes.
It’s always good to have Charlie back as Felicia Day can’t help but be charming in the role. It was good to see her getting involved in combat and she provides some fun scenes with the Winchesters. In all of her appearances she manages to lighten the mood somewhat and help Sam and Dean sort out their never ending list of issues.
In this case she spent much of her time helping Sam translate the book as well as giving Sam an outlet for some feelings he’s had pent up for a while. The scene where they had a proper heart to heart was really well done. Sam managed to sum up the last 10 seasons for him in a few lines of dialogue and it helps remind the audience just how far the show has come and how much Sam has developed since then. The transition from helping Dean out one last time to seeing out his vendetta against Azazel before returning to his normal life and finally accepting that being a hunter is his life has been an intriguing journey to watch throughout the run of the show. It was a refreshing moment of vulnerability for Sam and I really get the impression that he’s probably the most desperate he’s ever been. I almost foresee a sacrifice coming from him in the season finale.
It was good to see Sam given a little more to do this episode. Even though his story is very much powered by Dean and the Mark of Cain he has finally been given some wiggle room to approach this his own way. Unfortunately this translates to more lies and an inevitable argument about the value of honesty in this brotherly relationship.
I did like that Sam refused Dean’s order to destroy the book and kept it hidden from him. That makes sense given the level of desperation at this point but going to Rowena for help makes no sense whatsoever. He has no reason to trust her and -to my knowledge- doesn’t know that Crowley and Rowena have fallen out. It would have made far more sense for him to go to Crowley simply because he has resources and they have a prior relationship. Sam has no reason to trust him but he has more reason than he does to trust Rowena. I’m not sure what informed this but it seems like a desperate attempt to simply move the plot along rather than have anything play out organically.
Castiel’s scenes with Metatron were very hit and miss. I think I’m about as fed up of Metatron’s crap as Castiel is so there was a certain catharsis to seeing Castiel hitting him a number of times. Metatron was far more effective as a voice from behind bars with nothing to lose but now he seems to be back to the annoying hanger on with no real purpose. Having him be on the loose is something I currently have little patience for.
All isn’t bad though, Cas has his own grace again and is back to full power so that’s something. All I can say is that it’s about damn time. This story was dragging on endlessly so it was good to see a resolution to that. Cas is a good character to have around and I loved how Charlie interacted with him. She seemed impressed but never awed by his presence which was really cool.
In terms of the overall story of the Mark of Cain I’m a little confused at how inconsistently it’s being played between the brothers. One week they are determined that it can be removed and the next it seems to be accepted that it can’t. I wish there was some kind of consensus on Sam and Dean’s stance on the issue as it feels a bit like plot lengthening in a lot of ways. At least we’re at a point where Dean is willing to be more or less honest and Sam isn’t so that creates some interesting contrast between the points of view. Having Castiel siding with Sam on this one makes things a little fresher as well.
A reasonably strong episode that manages to accomplish quite a bit of legwork in furthering the Mark of Cain story.
Charlie’s return with the “Book of the Damned” brings new hope to the situation as it seems to present the solution they’ve been looking for. If only it could be decoded and the knowledge made use of.
I liked that Dean was almost instantly risking corruption when touching it and concludes that his direct interaction with the book is not a good idea. Jensen Ackles does a great job of showing the temptation and potential addiction within Dean as he held the book.
Sam having his own agenda works pretty well. I like how desperate he seems and the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to save Dean makes a lot of sense but it doesn’t fit that he would seek out Rowena given that he has no reason to trust her. Going to Crowley would have made more sense given that they have a prior relationship. It’s a fractured and confrontational one but there is some backscratching going on so I would have bought Sam seeking him out.
It’s interesting that Dean is pretty much at the stage of being more or less honest in stark contrast to Sam’s lies and secrecy. It’s going to create another brotherly argument in future but in general it’s a good idea to have their relationship play out in this way as long as it doesn’t get too melodramatic.
Cas having his grace back is a good move as him being without it was getting a little tiresome. Hanging around with Metatron was something I could have done without though. He’s definitely back to his annoying habits and basically drags the episode to a halt with all of his nonsense. I do hope he is eventually killed.