"First Born" was written by Robbie Thompson and directed by JOHN FUCKING BADHAM, y'all (Psych! War Games! SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER! RESPECT!). That probably accounts for the excellent intertwining of the two stories, the admirable acting, and the great little comic moments. The latter are brought to you by the consummate ham Mark Sheppard as Crowley. He's just adorable. Or maybe I'm more twisted than I realize. There is never a shot he's in that he's not stealing the scene, even when he's not in focus.
As I've written before, I love episodes where the brothers are separated. They have to react in new ways with other people. In this episode, Sam and Cas get to have some serious bonding time.
THEN: We open in 1863, where terrified soldiers are yawping "He's coming!" And herewith enters Timothy Omundson. And
damn, is he HOT.
It's Cain, from the original band, Cain and Abel. He takes out the soldiers. We see the outside of the cabin, where red light streams out in the patented Supernatural "big effin' lights" manner.
NOW: Dean is drinking in a bar. He's scruffy. Throughout the show it's distracting how perfectly the scruff is angled over his cheekbones and the sides of his mouth. His jaw is so clenched he needs a mouthguard before all of his teeth break.
Crowley appears next to him, flirtatiously twirling a carnation. Dean pulls out the demon knife. Uh, Dean? Yes, Crowley is an evil King of Hell, but he pulled your brother out of the crapper last week, then let you escape when he faced down Abbadon. Crowley wants to find the one thing that will kill Abbadon: the First Blade. The information is in "John's Man Cave," as Crowley calls the storage unit. "How do I know this isn't a trap?" Dean demands. "You don't. That's what makes it fun," says Crowley.
Meanwhile, Castiel discovers that he can no longer enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the way he did when he was human. Now he tastes all of the molecules, and finds it disgusting. "I miss you, PB&J." Immediately I thought of the half-eaten sandwich and glass of milk on the table that Kevin left behind. Cas has been healing Sam. But when Cas gives the finishing touch he discovers that Sam is still "resonating."
In John's storage room, Crowley makes a joke about being "practically family." Dean slams the King of Hell. "We are the furthest thing from family!" In this episode, Dean says a lot of stuff about "family," which kept distracting me. Because Walter White on "Breaking Bad" was always saying "I am doing this for my FAMILY" while shoving someone's head into a meat grinder.
Dean discovers a an 8x10 headshot of a woman, which leads them to "Tara's Pawnshop." She is a retired hunter, and a hot muscular woman over 40. She's also a great character, which means she's toast. Tara went demon-hunting with John Winchester, as well as a frisky weekend. But he never called. So John didn't only suck as a father, he also sucked as a hunter with benefits. When Crowley and Dean enter her shop, Tara splashes holy water on Dean (that never gets old). She has a tracking spell for the First Blade but lacks "essence of Kraken." Crowley has Kraken in a warehouse in Belize. So Tara shoots a hole in the Devils Trap under the rug and Crowley disappears. He reappears and the three of them brew up some disgusting guck that burns a map, leaving Missouri. (Does anyone remember Ruby burning the map and then saying, "Out!" No, neither do I.) Once they leave, a trucker demon comes in. Tara is screwed. No Devils Trap. Wah-wah.
Back at the bunker, Sam and Castiel research what is resonating in Sam's head. Turns out the MOLs were onto how an angel works way before Crowley stuck a pin in Samandriel's head.
Sam is still carrying some of Gadreel's grace inside of him, a holy thumbprint. If Castiel can remove the grace, they can track the angel. It involves an enormous phallic needle. Major fanservice ahoy!
"Come on, Cas, push it in deeper, keep going!"
OH yeah. Originally Jared Padalecki was supposed to play the scene shirtless. Too many fans would have died, so he had to keep his t-shirt on. Nevertheless...as Cas pushes in further, Sam screams (why do these reviews end up sounding porny? I'm looking at you, Supernatural). As Cas removes more grace, Sam's body regresses to the state it was in when Gadreel took over. Sam is ready to die. “My life isn’t worth more than anyone else’s. Not yours, or Dean’s… or Kevin’s.”
Ever since "Sacrifice" Sam has been suicidal. I don't get it...isn't Sam the one who saw the light at the end of the tunnel? Doesn't Sam understand possession? Why is he okay with dying? Isn't that Dean's attitude? Maybe Carver thought the show would benefit from two suicidal brothers, not just one.
Dean and Crowley pull up at a rundown house. A beekeeper tends bees outside. Crowley freaks, saying they should leave. But it's too late. The beekeeper takes off his hood, and it's Cain. The deadliest demon that ever walked the earth. But he seems nice enough.
He invites the lads in for tea, with honey he gathered himself (shades of Crazy!Cas). Crowley is shitting his pants, but Dean gets a whole new level of clenched jaw and gravel voice. Is he in a contest with Crowley? Cain trained the Knights of Hell, but now he's "retired." Basically, he doesn't give a shit, and warns Dean and Crowley that he's going out to do some errands and they better not be there when he gets back.
You're grinding your molars, Dean, loosen up!
So of course Dean and Crowley search the house. When Cain returns, so do dozens of demons, eager to get I'm not sure who. Crowley? Cain? The First Blade? Cain's really amazing entertainment system?
Cain sits at the kitchen table, shucking corn, and lets in a few demons in for a fight-fest with Dean. It's an action-packed scene, one of the best fight scenes in years. Jensen Ackles did all of his own stunts, which gives it that kick from knowing that "Dean" won't be doing that stunt guy thing of averting his face. As the brawl swirls around him, Cain shucks corn and gets himself a beer. In the front room, Crowley offs a young demon, with a great line:
"You're good...but I'm Crowley."
In the end, Cain confesses that he slew the Knights of Hell. All except Abbadon, who possessed his wife Colette. Cain carried the first blade (it's the jawbone of an ass, easy to see why they didn't put that into script), and tried to kill Abbadon, but she smoked out and his wife died instead, first begging him to stop killing.
Cain rolls up his sleeve to show them a large red scar. “From Lucifer himself,” Cain says. The mark and blade work together, one is useless without the other. And then Cain drops a bomb on Dean and Crowley: “Abel wasn’t talking to God. He was talking to Lucifer. Lucifer was going to make my brother into his pet, and I couldn’t bear to watch him be corrupted, so I offered a deal: Abel’s soul in heaven for my soul in hell. Lucifer accepted, as long as I was the one who sent his soul to heaven. So I killed him.” Cain doesn't have the blade--he threw it into the deepest part of the ocean.
Back in the bunker, turns out there was not enough grace to accomplish the spell. Sam is completely healed--what? He went back to "almost dead" while Cas was pulling out his grace. "Sam is damaged in ways that even I can't heal," Cas had said back in Season 8. So why does it work in the blink of an eye? Continuity be damned.
But Sam understands what Cas said to him. He wraps the surprised angel in a bear hug, then says, "now you hug back."
And OH GOD IT'S SO CUTE.
Cain gives the mark to Dean (more SPN armpreg) because he and Dean are "kindred spirits", in other words, killers. Dean doesn't want to know the cost or burden of having the mark. "Let's dance," he rasps out. Oh, Dean, when did you decide to be the toughest guy in the prison yard? Cain tells Dean the story about Collette, and Dean's all, "yeah, yeah, too bad, but enough about you."
He makes Dean promise to come find him when he calls, and kill Cain at that time “for what I’m about to do.” He puts Crowley and Dean outside the cabin with a single touch, then lets all the demons in and wipes out every last one of them. Cue screams and red light pouring out of windows.
It's nighttime by the Impala. "You are worthy, you know," Crowley says. Again, this is that speck of humanity that's been peeking out around Crowley's edges. "Nobody hates you more than you do. Believe me, I've tried." Truer words were never spoken. By now Dean is being driven by despair, self-hatred, and guilt, all turned up to 11.
Dean calls Crowley out for his "trap." Crowley freely admits he knew all about Cain, the First Blade, all of it. When Dean gets upset that Tara was killed, Crowley shrugs, "Omelets, eggs. etc." Dean punches him.
Crowley broadly hints that Dean should contact his brother, but Dean brusquely tells Crowley to go find the Blade.
With Crowley gone, Dean rolls up his sleeve, grimacing in pain as the mark of Cain glows bright.
Two phrases need to be stricken from all further SPN scripts: "I get it" and "I'm/we're done."
In an earlier Kripke season, we were told that Dean and Sam are directly descended from Cain and Abel (correct me if I'm wrong). Even though it's not brought up, the parallels in the stories are well done and not anvilicious.
Could Dean smile or make a joke? Just once? I miss goofy!Dean. While life has stomped the goofiness out of him, he still has a sense of humor. It would be nice to see it once in a while.