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TV Review: ‘Supernatural’ – ‘Blade Runners’

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Blade RunnersIf Supernatural’s “Blade Runners” does nothing else, it whets fans’ appetites for the Mark of Cain storyline.

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.

Blade RunnersWhen 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…”

Blade RunnersDean 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.)

Blade RunnersWhat did you think of “Blade Runners”? Favorite moments? Least favorite? Speculation on how the mythology unfolds from here? Share in the comments below.

See the preview for “Mother’s Little Helper,” next week’s episode and Misha Collins’s directorial debut, hereSupernatural airs Tuesdays at 9 pm EST on the CW network.

Other notes:

  • 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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About Lyda Scott

Lyda Scott is a freelance writer and editor, among other things. A good day is one spent over-analyzing film, television, and literature. Follow her on Twitter @Lyda_Scott.
  • percysowner

    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

    Considering Sam started out using Ruby as a means to an end, I totally understand his concern about Dean and Crowley.

    Yes, the boys should be able to read the Enochian, they were able to read the spell used to complete the trial after Sam killed the Hell Hound. Someone on Live Journal has actually been working on Enochian and she said that Crowley did translate what was on the Impala correctly, except for the fact that it was Be Afriad, because demons aren’t great at spelling words.

    • Lyda Scott

      That’s a good point re: Ruby – I guess I’ve been thinking of Ruby’s obvious (later) influence on Sam vs. how it was early on. Hmmm… now I’m really looking forward to seeing how Crowley “tests” Dean in 9×18 (if the ep synopsis I read online is accurate).

      Canon oversights like the translation issue are so frustrating. I do love that someone translated the Enochian! (Poor demons and their dictionary lack.)

  • Ginger

    What I found in the episode, and I’m not sure the writers intended it, is that Crowley, Cuthbert, AND Sam were all trying to manipulate Dean — Sam by insisting Dean kill Crowley. If Sam wanted Crowley dead, why not just kill him? He had plenty of opportunity to do that with Ruby’s demon blade.
    I find that interesting, because the only way Dean can be manipulated is by brute force or by threatening Sam. Dean loves Sam and always will, but what I keep coming back to, although I don’t think the writers’ realize it, is that the storyline with the brothers’ spat has set up the scenario that Sam has lost his influence rights with Dean by declaring him not a brother. That could be an interesting point in the MoC story, if the writers use it.
    I just can’t buy into Crowley getting in touch with his humanity, so until the MoL was introduced, I found myself completely confused as to how the brothers were working with each other as if nothing had come before in the season. I did like Lola’s character and the actress did a good job. Snooki wasn’t awful, as I thought she would be — and you’re right about how tall the Js looked in that scene. I also found Sam to be really weird in this episode, and I have no speculation as to why that was or if it was even was supposed to be.
    Crowley definitely wants to use Dean as a super-weapon, but I don’t know if access to the bunker is in his plans. He’s up to no-good, that’s for sure and, by all rights, the brothers should have killed him years ago. Abaddon is dead meat now — how dare she mar Baby.
    I am happy to get into the MoC story and, hopefully, that will go forward now. Plotting and pacing remains a big problem with this season and work needs to be done there.

    • percysowner

      I took what Sam did as looking for permission, or at least Dean agreeing that Crowley should die. I didn’t see him manipulating Dean at all. He did the same thing in Bitten, saying to Dean the should kill Kat and being relieved that Dean said no. Heck, even though he had Martin check up on Benny, Sam didn’t move on him even after it looked like Benny had been killing, he gave Dean the chance to talk to him. Sam has pretty much deferred to Dean’s judgements since Ruby.

      • Ginger

        All of that was before Sam disowned Dean as a brother. However, I am speaking to what has been narratively set up, but that doesn’t take away the fact that Dean will always love Sam and Sam will, IMO, be Dean’s Colette when all is said and done.

        I do think we are to infer that Dean is developing a relationship with Crowley, and I didn’t take Dean’s dark look at Crowley as wanting to kill him; rather, it looked to me like a ‘wanting to be on your side’ look. I will add that I think Crowley was trying to be friends with Sam; get Sam on his side, because he knows that the only hindrance to his plans for Dean will be Sam. I am thinking now that that did not work, Crowley will either try to separate the brothers or Dean will go to him under his own volition.

    • Lyda Scott

      Interesting points! And that’s a very good one re: Sam’s influence. I thought it was telling that Sam had to keep calling Dean to get him to drop the blade and wondered if it’s foreshadowing… so if Sam can’t pull Dean back from ‘the dark side,” will Cas? There aren’t too many (if any) other options.

      I’m so curious to see where Crowley goes from here. I can’t trust his character, and I’ve wondered how his arc will go – will we see more the humanity-searching or more evil Crowley?

      And oh, that scene with Baby! Poor Dean, trying to rub out the scratches with spit.

      I’m super excited about the MoC plotline, and I hope we’ll all have LOTS to talk about in the coming weeks. Hopefully now that we’re in the last third (9×20 aside since I’m assuming it’ll be a bit off arc-pacing-wise bc it’s the backdoor pilot) things will go more smoothly. Here’s hoping we all love this week’s episode!

  • Kate

    Hey bb: yes to your continuing issue with the disjointedness with regard to Cas… when you want to find a first blade, it might make sense to call on someone who searched the entire planet for Gabriel’s horn in a fraction of a second. There might be structural reasons why they don’t want Cas there (I assume the plot doesn’t want him finding out about the Mark of Cain and Dean’s deal with Cain this soon), but it emphasizes how the characters are being made to fit the plot in a similar way to what happened (imo) in S6, and how it’s leading to character decisions that aren’t organic.

    Overall, I thought the appetizer to the main course of this episode was rather tedious, though I’m interested in your theory about it being intended to give us clues about Crowley’s motive/intentions ongoing. I kinda wish it was more subtle… with Ruby it really came as an OMG!!11!! moment to me, but even so it made sense. This seems very obviously set up to show us that Crowley is Dean’s Ruby, and that more might be going on between him and Abaddon (or possibly Metatron?) than we know. After all, 6×22 made it pretty clear that Crowley was conspiring with Raphael behind Cas’s back, and likely would have doublecrossed Cas had Cas kept their side of the deal.

    I felt this episode accelerated into a whole new league in the scene where Dean held the blade. I’m interested that Sam managed to talk Dean down on this occasion, but it was clearly a struggle. I’m just wondering what they might possibly have foreshadowed there… the fact they’ve essentially played that hand well before the finale has me wondering if it was foreshadowing Sam *not* being able to break through to Dean when things really get serious. And that has me worried about the Cain-Abel/Dean-Sam parallel. If that parallel is actually a Cain-Abel-Colette parallel, as a lot of fans speculate, will Cas play the Colette role?

    With Jensen recently indicating that this will only start to heat up from 9×21 onwards, I’m also wondering if we might be set up with evol!Dean as S10’s Big Bad… outside of the narrative, I’m so excited that Jensen has something different to do after so many years of retreading old ground. Deanfans really deserve to see him front and center of the mytharc after hanging on for that for so long, and it also might provide the Sam POV the show has been lacking.

    :-)

    • Peter J4

      Hey bb: yes to your continuing issue with the disjointedness with regard to Cas… when you want to find a first blade, it might make sense to call on someone who searched the entire planet for Gabriel’s horn in a fraction of a second.

      Cas can’t do that anymore. His wings are gone. He drives a car now.

      • Lyda Scott

        I forgot about the Casmobile!

    • Lyda Scott

      I hadn’t thought about Crowley perhaps working with Metatron – that would be a twist, yet would also make sense! We’ve all talked before about the pacing/etc of the season feeling off at times, and with this episode and the MoC details we’re getting now, it feels like we’ve had (or were supposed to have) a very slow build to something BIG. What that is will be seriously exciting if even a fraction of fan speculations are on target!

      I’ve wondered about the parallels between Cain and Dean too — just as Dean (unlike Cain) let his brother live, if Cas is Colette, then I think Dean will save him (or Cas will save Dean) before permanent non-spn-reversible harm will come to either. I’m excited for this week’s ep!

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