Written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming and directed by Serge Ladouceur, “Blade Runners” reunites Crowley (Mark Sheppard) with Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) and his younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki). The Winchesters discover that Crowley’s (still) addicted to human blood, and one Moose & Squirrel-style intervention later, he’s de-toxing in the bunker. Meanwhile, the Winchesters continue their investigation regarding the First Blade. They locate Cuthbert Sinclair (Kavan Smith), a dishonored Man of Letters who now goes by the name of Magnus. A collector of “supernatural oddities and antiquities,” he has the First Blade among his acquisitions and, after learning that Dean bears the Mark of Cain, wants him too.
Magnus’s introduction marks, for me, the moment when the episode becomes really interesting, but it takes nearly 20 minutes to get there. On first watch, I can’t say that I appreciated the delay, but on rewatch, I (think that I) can better see intention behind the slow build.
The episode’s early scenes offer insight into Crowley’s state of mind, offering what some might see as a sympathetic rendering of the fallen King of Hell. He’s hiding from his throne, indulging in “sex, pizza, and human blood.” Crowley even cries over Casablanca and reads Little Women. And at his lowest point, when he phones Dean asking for help, it seems that he’s even a bit teary. So are we to view Crowley sympathetically? If so, just as with Gadreel in “Road Trip” (9×10), it doesn’t quite work for me.
Though Sheppard, as always, portrays Crowley with aplomb and infuses his delivery with his special brand of Crowleyan snark, I can never quite forget that the King of Hell is “always the problem” (7×21). And “Blade Runners” has several moments that set my alarm bells ringing.
When Crowley realizes that Lola is double-crossing him, he confronts and kills her without reservation; he’s also killed at least two humans to procure the human blood he craves. He retains his demonic powers, suggesting that he allows the Winchesters to accost him in the hotel room and take him back to the bunker. Once there, he coerces the Winchesters into letting him into the bunker’s library, and his interjections into their conversation about Cuthbert Sinclair seem pointed: “Did my damnedest to find him – thought he might be my way inside this joint.” Am I the only one who immediately thought that while Cuthbert may not have given him access, Dean and Sam have?
The slower first-half of “Blade Runners” also uses Crowley to reiterate, through his conversation with Sam, that demons can possess envesseled angels. The Winchesters’ meeting with Andre Develin gives Crowley the opportunity to demonstrate again that demons can possess without permission or subject’s knowledge. (These reminders set my speculative gears spinning, too!)
As in “Captives,” there’s a weird tension between Dean and Sam where Crowley’s concerned. Sam delivers barbs about how Dean’s handling Crowley that I don’t quite understand: I haven’t read Dean’s partnership with Crowley as anything but a means to an end, though there is a pregnant pause before Dean agrees with Sam’s suggestion that they kill the King of Hell. Are we supposed to infer a comradeship is developing between the King and Dean? Even though it’s Sam whom Crowley appears sentimental about? After all, Crowley only lists Dean in his cell phone’s contacts as “Not Moose.” (So is Sam listed as “Moose” or as “Not Squirrel”?) Or is it just that Sam, who’s not seeing his brother in quite the same light these days, is reading the partnership suspiciously?
The most telling moment that makes me suspect Crowley’s intentions occurs in Magnus’s fortress, though – and that brings us to the expanding mythology about the Mark of Cain and the First Blade.
Magnus is a fascinating new character, a disgraced Man of Letters who possesses the “greatest collection of supernatural rarities and antiquities on the planet.” He’s a master spellcaster, telling the Winchesters, “There’s a spell for damn near everything.” (Is that foreshadowing, Show?) And he takes a distinct interest in Dean, whom he describes as “extraordinary.” After ejecting Sam from the fortress, Magnus asks Dean to join his collection, “Let me teach you my secrets. Be my companion…”
Dean declines the invitation, and Magnus restrains him by force. After chaining Dean up, Magnus then experiments with the First Blade’s effects. Ackles clearly portrays Dean’s shock at its first flush of power. Magnus assures him, “Next time, it’ll be easier. You’ll get used to the feelings – even welcome them.” Magnus also uses a spell to drain Dean’s will away, though it seems like one that must be repeated to have a lasting effect. (And that created yet another “Is that foreshadowing?” moment for me.)
Meanwhile, Sam searches for a spell to regain entrance into Magnus’s fortress; Crowley helps and even convinces Sam to let him come along. Sam’s persistence is yet another demonstration that, no matter how angry he may be at Dean, when push comes to shove, he’s going to help his brother. Of course, Magnus realizes immediately how he can use Sam to manipulate Dean. What Magnus doesn’t realize is that Crowley has also gained access, and while the former is threatening Sam with torture, the latter unchains Dean.
There’s been a lot of speculation about the Mark’s effects on Dean but no narrative confirmation. Recent interviews with Ackles have confirmed that Dean’s increasing aggression, particularly killing Roger in “#THINMAN,” is an effect. “Blade Runners” goes even further, clarifying that with the First Blade in hand, Dean is scarier than usual. In one swift motion, Dean beheads Magnus, and afterwards, the hunter’s clearly in thrall to the combined effects of the Mark and the Blade. My suspicion about Crowley escalates here, as he carefully watches Dean’s reaction to using the Blade and observes Sam yelling at his brother repeatedly to snap him out of it.
Back at the desecrated Impala (and oh, poor Dean – that’s one more blow for him to bear), Sam not-so-subtly broaches the subject of killing Crowley with the King of Hell not twenty feet away. Of course, Crowley hears and flings the conspiring Winchesters against the Impala. He also takes possession of the First Blade, saying he’ll let Dean use it when they go after Abaddon. And that’s the show.
So what happens next? Is Crowley plotting nefariously? How is continued exposure to the First Blade going to affect Dean? How is Sam going to respond to the changes in his brother? And what’s next for Sam? I’m extremely excited to see how the Mark of Cain storyline develops, and I’m anxious to see how far the plot progresses before the season finale. I’m also looking forward to the various plots converging soon; according to one interview, Castiel (Misha Collins) and the Winchesters reunite in episode 21. Though Cas does get a mention in “Blade Runners,” the disjointedness between the narratives remains, and I find it distracting. (Plus, I want to see Cas’s reaction to Dean carrying the Mark of Cain; I doubt that the angel’s going to be okay with it.)
See the preview for “Mother’s Little Helper,” next week’s episode and Misha Collins’s directorial debut, here. Supernatural airs Tuesdays at 9 pm EST on the CW network.
- It’s interesting to compare Lola’s selling of information with Cecily’s (9×10) and Crowley’s response to each.
- Nicole Polizzi’s cameo as the crossroads demon Snooki actually works fairly well, though I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Ackles and Padalecki look quite so tall.
- If the bunker’s so difficult to access, how are angels (Gadreel and Cas) and demons (Crowley) able to be in there? Are they able to enter because they’ve been invited?
- So Cas is Captain Sexy (9×10) and Crowley is Captain Evil?
- Kavan Smith also played a victim of Doc Benton in “Time Is On My Side” (3×15).
- Is it wrong to giggle when Crowley possesses Andre Develin (devil-in)?
- Doesn’t Sam read Enochian? And Dean knows enough to recognize the language… so why did Crowley have to translate it? And did anyone other than me suspect his translation? I think Abaddon has better style than resorting to the keying (or ordering the keying) of Dean’s car.
- Mark Sheppard live-tweeted the West Coast airing of “Blade Runners” and “NotMoose” trended. (If there were other tweeters and/or trending terms, please share in the comments.)
- There were several fun one-liners in this episode. Below are some of my favorites – what were yours?
“He wants me to power it up and kill the ginger” – Dean to Sam
“Are you just going to let hell go to hell?” – Dean to Crowley
“Image. You’re the king of rotten. Act like it.” – Dean to Crowley
“Seriously, boys. How’d you ever function without me?” – Crowley to Dean and Sam
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