Supernatural: Brother's Keeper
May 21, 2015 2:45 PM - Season 10, Episode 23 - Subscribe

Dean makes a shocking decision regarding the Mark of Cain that would change not only his life, but Sam’s too. Meanwhile, Crowley and Rowena face off, and Castiel gets caught in the middle.
posted by brundlefly (22 comments total)
Well. That was all pretty arbitrary.
posted by brundlefly at 2:46 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreed. I've kept watching out of fondness for the characters, but this season was rough. I'm holding out a little bit of hope that The Darkness might be a cool enough big bad to provide some much-needed focus and an interesting twist or two. I'd love to see a call for all hands on deck, including Bobby. Anything not involving another year of Sam & Dean keeping secrets from each other will be an improvement.
posted by gimli at 3:43 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

It was strange to hear Death have so much dialogue. He seems more interested in the fate of the Winchesters than I would have expected. It was great to have Death back on the show though. He was a little less terrifying than usual and I did not think anticipate his end at all.
posted by cfoxhi at 8:35 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Such an odd season. I feel like they treaded water for most of it then shot through a season's worth of story in three episodes and it all felt out of nowhere. A bunch of unearned plot developments and exposition dumps.

I kind of liked the bait and switch of the "all powerful" Stein family being brutally massacred in a single sequence by one guy. However, they were introduced as Big Bads so late in the season that the whole thing was sort of defanged.
posted by brundlefly at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2015

I thought this was the strongest season in a while, which is not to say it was perfect. As I said in a thread about a previous episode, this season had a bunch of pretty good episodes that didn't seem to be building to any big finish. The last few seasons strained to build a big arc and felt a little aimless at times, while this season seemed like it was focusing on making each episode watchable and that worked out OK.

Even if the big finish was kind of rushed, I thought it worked out well. I was puzzled by Death's death scene, though. What was the deal with Dean killing death? Was he planning to do that, and to what end? He knew he wouldn't lose the mark by doing that, and in fact was possibly giving up his only shot at losing it. Was it that he knew he couldn't back out without Death killing Sam, so Dean had a last-minute change of heart and killed Death instead?

I'll give them some points, because it really seemed like they were building up to Dean being exiled in outer space, or to Dean killing Sam (not forever, presumably), and Dean killing Death was one way I did NOT see it going. I wondered if this meant nobody could die now, but Oscar seemed pretty damn dead after he bled out.

Actually, an arc where NOBODY CAN DIE would be fun. Imagine Sam and Dean trying to cope with monsters who can't die, and monsters dealing with not being able to kill anybody. What happens to a vampire who can't feed, and can't die? As I write this I'm getting a vague sense of deja vu, though. Did Supernatural do something like that already? The show's been on so long, they've gone through a lot of plots by now!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:26 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

This season - are we at ten or eleven? It's like the Simpsons already - parody video made the slog worthwhile. Timothy Onundson's hair blowing in the wind is just glorious. And Osiric - I'll forgive them if they somehow make season twelve ZOMBIES and we get the whole family by choice back. Even Adam. Anyone remember Adam?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:15 PM on May 22, 2015

Actually, an arc where NOBODY CAN DIE would be fun.

This was my first thought when Dean killed Death. I mean, that is one way to stop yourself from killing anybody else, Mark or no Mark! And I do think it'd be a fun arc, and a neat twist on the usual "Winchesters unleash yet another apocalyptic event on earth" if this time it's a nerf apocalypse - all the chaos, none of the bodycount.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

it's a nerf apocalypse - all the chaos, none of the bodycount.

I kept thinking some genre show had done an episode or an arc where nobody could die, but in a quick Googling the only thing that comes up is Family Guy. Maybe that's where I saw it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:40 PM on May 22, 2015

Torchwood had Miracle Day.
posted by squinty at 9:54 PM on May 22, 2015

In Death Takes a Holiday (S04E15) people stop dying in a Wyoming town because Alastair is capturing reapers.
posted by cfoxhi at 11:24 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

That could well be what I was thinking of, Squinty. I haven't seen that yet, but I'd heard about it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:13 AM on May 23, 2015

Caught up on the last three in a bit of a mini-marathon last night. The death of Death definitely came out of no where, and I had the same thought as above, that perhaps Dean wanted a world where he couldn't kill anyone. Or at the least, realized that once he changed his mind, there was no way they could get out of that restaurant without taking down Death.

THAT SAID, if Death was truly dead, then Rowena could not have sacrificed Oscar. I kept waiting for Oscar to pop back up to his feet and everyone being shocked...but he died and the spell operated as expected. Also, why did Rowena sacrifice Oscar? Was it because she saw the power she would receive from casting the spell would give her the edge to kill Crowley?

The Darkness. I'm not too super happy with this development. I would have liked something that wasn't another escalation of DOOOOM. This season was a better start, focusing the Mark of Cain as essentially the major problem for the Winchesters to overcome with also minor challenges for our other main characters. It's as if the writers were sitting around, bored and asking, "Well, we had the Yellow Eyed Demon...and then we had the Devil...and uh...Angry angels?...The guys from about an even older Genesis old school threat? The biggest bad!?"

For the Darkness to even be a logical opponent/obstacle for Sam and Dean to overcome, it's already going to have to be depowered to a more manageable scale. Thus, the threat is already underwhelming.

I wouldn't have minded if they continued with the Steins (who are supposed to be all around the world) and focused more on monster of the week episodes, carrying the theme along with them, similar to the earlier seasons. Lord forbid, but it could turn into a race to find Rowena and the curse book between them. The only way I can appreciate the Darkness would be if Season 11 was the last season and it was a setup for the return of God.

I thought there were signs of improvement this season, so I'll come back for the next, but there's a lot of probs, not the least killing off Charlie.
posted by Atreides at 7:39 AM on May 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

is there any point in catching up with this season? i stopped watching regularly after they killed off mY MOST PRECIOUS BELOVED KEVIN TRAN and the eps i've seen here and there since then have not impressed. but it's been 10 long years and i feel like i owe this dysfunctional relationship a chance to redeem itself.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:13 AM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know what will make me quit Supernatural at this point. The closest I came was during that intensely boring stretch of season 8(?), when Sam was angsting over the veterinarian and Castiel was nowhere to be found. I'm pretty sure that if I watched a first season that premiered this year with the level of misogyny that Supernatural maintains, I would not be back for season 2. But I've been watching Supernatural since the pilot, so, there's some kind of sunk cost fallacy at work, or that thing where people can tolerate crappy behavior in an old friend or elderly relative with just a sigh/eye-roll "oh, well, that so-and-so, what can you do?".

poffin boffin -- I don't know. I really loved the musical episode "Fan Fiction" and the great Sheriff Jody Mills + Donna "Hibbing 911". But I don't think there's any hope that the show will stop killing off every interesting not-Sam-Dean-Castiel-or-Crawley character that they come up with, or stop with the queer-baiting and with Dean's persistent slut-shaming, so, no redemption is at hand as far as I can see.
posted by oh yeah! at 10:44 AM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's definitely a few decent episodes from this season, but a lot of this season probably could be summarized and not really crucial to watch. I've been doing this for years now, but gosh, surely, next season will be an improvement.
posted by Atreides at 3:25 PM on May 24, 2015

I question some of your criticisms, oh yeah. As one random for-instance, is Dean slut-shaming really a thing? He said some slut-shame-y stuff about the dead girl in the season finale, but clearly he was way off the rails at that point. (I mean, he kicked Castiel's ass and damn near shiv'ed him.) Or did you mean the show slut-shames Dean? Because Sam used to razz him about sleeping around, but that seems to have faded as the seasons went on.

The show gets accused of misogyny a lot, but while I think there's some merit to the charge I also think it has something to do with it having a fandom that's extra sensitive to these things. In other words, Supernatural is an occasionally misogynistic show with a very vocal, feminist fanbase. It makes for a volatile mix. If the show brings in another evil femme fetale and Dean calls her a bitch, that's problematic but it's also going out to a fanbase that's primed to look for and critique that stuff.

Whether you find the show misogynistic or not, an argument could definitely be made that over the seasons they've given us plenty of worthwhile female characters. With stuff like the musical episode and Sheriff Jody and Charlie, I feel like the creators are trying to respond to the fans. Here we are critiquing ourselves! Here are some complex, interesting women who aren't evil! But this is a show where everybody dies, so the more interesting women they bring on, the more women are going to die.

At this point I think the show's worst sin is an occasional lack of focus, combined with a tendency to repeat tropes. But they still throw in shit like a musical episode and the Oz stuff, so it's hard to say they're coasting!

As for queer-baiting, I think they've always been a little squeamish about anything gay but they've gotten much better. Dean getting squirmy about gay stuff isn't a go-to gag the way it used to be. Crowley is the evil sexually ambiguous guy, but Crowley is practically one of the gang at this point.

None of which is to say I think your criticism of the show is invalid! I see something in each of the points you raise, but I'd say it's a question of degree.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:08 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

As one random for-instance, is Dean slut-shaming really a thing? He said some slut-shame-y stuff about the dead girl in the season finale, but clearly he was way off the rails at that point.

Dean has been calling women 'skanks' and other gendered slurs for many seasons. Sure, the stuff in the finale about the dead girl was meant to be shocking/over the top because of how the sign was turning him bad; and yet the show still had him be proven right in his assessment, so really he was just saying out loud in the meanest and most callous way possible what normal-Dean would have been thinking. Much like demon-Dean with the waitress in the beginning of the season.

The show gets accused of misogyny a lot, but while I think there's some merit to the charge I also think it has something to do with it having a fandom that's extra sensitive to these things. In other words, Supernatural is an occasionally misogynistic show with a very vocal, feminist fanbase. It makes for a volatile mix. If the show brings in another evil femme fetale and Dean calls her a bitch, that's problematic but it's also going out to a fanbase that's primed to look for and critique that stuff.

Are you really putting the blame on the fandom for being too sensitive? The blame belongs squarely on the heads of the writers, and partly on the heads of the leads since after 10 years I think they have the clout to raise an objection if they cared to. I don't think Supernatural is occasionally misogynistic, I think it's a consistently misogynistic show with occasional lapses into non-misogyny.

As for queer-baiting, I think they've always been a little squeamish about anything gay but they've gotten much better.

The queer-baiting I'm referring to is Castiel/Dean. I don't think there is a chance in hell that they will ever make that ship canon (and it's not a ship I'm invested in), but the way they keep teasing it along is pretty textbook baiting.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you really putting the blame on the fandom for being too sensitive?

To some extent, yes. It's a real if occasional problem on the show, but it's also going to be a bigger problem to this show's particular fandom. As I said, it's a show with some misogynist tendencies, going out to a vocally feminist fandom. Thus, endless conflict between the show's creators and fans. The problems are real, but the audience is primed to get upset about those problems and (I'd argue) sometimes get too offended over minor things or to see misogyny even when it's not there. They are bringing expectations to this stuff, and seeing things other audiences wouldn't see, or wouldn't see the same way. I think it's kind of a macho show. It's not bro-y exactly, but it has those tendencies. Its audience sure doesn't.

I'll confess that I misunderstood queer-baiting. I was under the impression that was a term implying homophobia, but apparently it means deliberately putting in a LGBT subtext in order to lure in a LGBT audience. Frankly, if fans are seeing that, I think it IS on them and not the show. If anything I think the show's creators are somewhat homophobic, although as I said they've been getting better about it. I'd be really surprised if the people writing the show consciously intended there to be sexual tension between Dean and Cas. Now, Dean and Crowley? Maybe.

(Also, do fans really want Dean and Cas to fall into bed together, or for Sam and Dean to do it? Would that feel even slightly true to these characters? These characters have strong feelings about each other, but that's not the same as them all wanting to hop into bed!)

The way you phrase your post suggests you feel very strongly about this and you are convinced there is only way to see this stuff. I don't see it the same way, but I'm not looking for a big debate about it and I'm not going to say you're just wrong. This is all subjective. We seem to be watching different shows, but that's OK.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:29 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

I've complained about the "power leveling" of this show, but post-Leviathan reset, the acceleration was pretty low - and now we get a hockey stick graph of power leveling again.

The "Darkness" (capital D) is juvenile. If I had to issue an apologia, I'd say something-something Death understand the limits of human understanding and is using Judeo-Christian framework to describe something humans can't comprehend.

But, Cas is. right. there. The Darkness is just Leviathan(/ Kissi) all over again.

By this point, I'm just morbidly curious about what goes on between here and the series finale (which I saw, where apparently the power level gets reset).

Like, it could be interesting if the writers had even a basic understanding of cosmology and were scholars of pan-human creation mythology - and were clever. But all signs indicate a very strong negative on all points.

The misogyny, homophobia, etc. - I felt a lot of it as the writers are actually regressive and tried to lampshade a lot of that with (vocal - loud doesn't necessarily mean numerous, and loud doesn't need to be absolute in degree/ amplitude, but in the nature of the voice; so certain LGBTQ+ voices, in context with the regressiveness is amplified) audience responses throughout all the media that the audience expressed themselves through.

Just because a voice is/ purports to be LGBTQ+ doesn't necessarily make that particular voice is automatically honest or well meaning or even valid. I am of course absolutely NOT referring to anyone in this thread/ series thread. Just <waves> all around the internets and stuff. Just because someone is _____ doesn't automatically make them correct when they say 2+2=kittens or that 9 people can make a baby in 1 month.
posted by porpoise at 9:27 PM on December 14, 2021

Everything aside, Dean is such a wrinkled ballsack for killing Death.

Death (partially) put up with Dean because he thought that they might be friends!

That was such a jerk move by Dean.
posted by porpoise at 9:42 PM on December 14, 2021


Crowley: Who summons anymore? Couldn't you call?
Castiel: You're not in my contacts list.

Sheriff: You worked some pretty dark stuff in your day, haven't you, agent? Must've left some kind of mark.
Dean: Oh, you have no idea.

Dean: You okay?
Sam: I'll live. You?
Dean: Fantastic. I think I just killed Death.

Rowena MacLeod: The third ingredient, it's impossible.
Castiel: What is it?
Rowena MacLeod: Loosely translated, "My heart."
Castiel: It's not impossible at all.
Rowena MacLeod: Not my literal heart, feathers.

Rowena MacLeod: Bring me something I love, I'll kill it. I want my freedom too much to make a fuss over that. The problem is, I don't love anything.
Castiel: What about Crowley?
Rowena MacLeod: Happy to kill him. Let's not call it love.

Crowley: Fancy a story? A long, long time ago, there once lived an evil bitch, sorry, witch -- who was forced to flee her home and her only son because she was, well, horrible.

Crowley: You're not powerful enough.
Rowena MacLeod: To what? Control the likes of a bored king and a wayward angel? I'm afraid, Fergus, that in all your long life, you've never seen what a real witch can do with real magic. I'm terrifically pleased it's the last thing you'll ever see.

Crowley: Why the long faces? Oh. Let me guess. Mother showed you her "mustn't touch it" again.

Crowley: The Quince cost me a major I.O.U. with a Palestinian warlock. The gold from the calf... well, let's just say I'll be hanged under certain sexual-deviancy laws if I ever show my face in Jordan again.

Death: Your brother cannot be killed, and the Mark cannot be destroyed, not without inciting a far greater evil than any of us have ever known.
Sam: What evil?
Dean: The Darkness.
Sam: What the hell is that?
Dean: Well, what does it sound like? Does it sound like a good thing?

Seth: How do you know all this?
Crowley: A hamster told me.

Rowena MacLeod: Hello, boys. Just in time for tea... unless, something on your mind?
Sam: Five things, actually. [cocks gun] Hollow tips filled with witch-killing brew.
Rowena MacLeod: How exciting for you. Your NRA will be beside themselves with pride.

Crowley: All my long life, I wondered what I'd done to deserve a mother who refused to show love. I pained over it. I built my bloody kingdom on top of it. Then one day, epiphany struck. My mother was incapable of loving anything. For the first time in hundreds of years, I felt free. And then you showed up in my dungeon, we communed, and I began to realize you weren't incapable of love. You're incapable of loving *me*.
Rowena MacLeod: Goodness, Fergus, save it for the stage, why don't you? I mean, fabulous speech, but you put yourself on far too high a pedestal.

Death: God created the earth out of nothing. Or so your Sunday-school teacher would have you believe.
Dean: What, so Genesis is a lie, eh? Shocker.

Crowley: [reading through the list of ingredients needed for the spell to remove the Mark] "Forbidden fruit." Well, for starters, it's a quince, you dummy, not an apple. No problem. "Golden Calf"... Or what's left of it; check. "Something Rowena loves"?
Castiel: I would've thought it would've been you, but...
Crowley: Spare me. I've lived it.


As of this episode, Supernatural became the longest running American science fiction television series with 218 episodes. This surpasses the previous record holder, Smallville, which has 217 episodes. Supernatural would go on to have 327 episodes overall.

Crowley mentions that the Forbidden Fruit from the Garden of Eden was not an apple but a quince. The quince is one of the fruits that ancient sources have theorized to be the Fruit, since it is never actually identified specifically in Genesis.

The title refers to the passage in the book of Genesis when God questions Cain after he has killed his younger brother Abel. "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' 'I don't know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"

The Latin incantation that Dean uses to summon Death is: "TE NUNC INVOCO, MORTEM. TE IN MEA POTESTATE DEFIXI. NUNC ET IN AETERNUM." Which loose translated means: "I invoke you now Death. You are in my control, now and forever."

The Latin phrase Death says, "CREATIO EX NIHILO", translates to "creation from nothing".

Dean mentions "Tuscaloosa". There is only one city named Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa is located in west Alabama.

The term fangbanger is used in True Blood. The term is used to describe a man or woman having relations with a vampire. It is also a derogatory term.

Oskar, the Polish boy that Rowena loves, took the name "Seth", which is the name of Adam and Eve's third son. Their first and second sons were, of course, Cain and Abel.

Death says, "Dean Winchester has tipped over his king." This is a chess metaphor. In a game of chess, if you resign the game to a better opponent, you knock over your own King symbolically.

The Latin incantation from the Book of the Damned, "MANETE! IMPETUS BESTIARUM. DELE MALUM HOC" that Rowena uses to force Castiel to attack and kill Crowley loosely translates to, "Stay! Become an attack beast and destroy this evil!"

First episode where Castiel is called "Feathers", by Rowena. Later the nickname will also be used frequently by Crowley, making it something of a family joke.

The Latin incantation that Rowena uses to remove the Mark of Cain from Dean, "AB MANU DEI, AB MANU HOMINIS. AB CRUORE CORDIS MEI ADFUSURO IN AETERNUM. TOLLE MALEDICTIONEM TUAM AB HOC VIRO", roughly translates to, "By your hand, from this man's hand, by the blood of my heart, my eternal love, take your maledictions from this man."
posted by orange swan at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2021

Dean's killing of Death was senseless, but let's remember that Death just tried to get Dean to kill Sam, and Dean was not himself due to the Mark. The combination of the two factors made him basically hulk out.

Why would Rowena have been willing to kill Oskar for the sake of the spell? It's not like she wouldn't have chosen him over helping Dean, and while she wanted her freedom, she would surely have decided there must be other ways to get away from the Winchesters and Castiel.

I'd never known what a quince was, but it turns out it's similar to a pear.

Rudy has been mentioned before now, but wasn't seen, and I was getting curious about him. I guess now we've seen him. Sorry Rudy, we barely knew ya.

I know we've seen Crowley summoned before, but it doesn't make much sense that the King of Hell would be subject to anyone who wanted to draw a pentagram, burn some incense, and say a few magic words.

The whole Mark of Cain plot wasn't handled at all well. Dean got it to kill Abbadon, but the thing was Sam and Dean had *already* killed Abbadon, before they VERY STUPIDLY reassembled her in order to have a demon to experiment on instead of, say, nabbing some far less powerful crossroads demon instead. So they could have killed her by more ordinary means. Dean also should have, and would have, asked more questions about the consequences of having the Mark of Cain before he got it, so he would have known that it would turn him into a monster and that he couldn't both kill Cain and remove his own mark without unleashing the Darkness, and he would have decided it was too high a price to pay. I also think Sam and Dean would have consulted Death before now given that they spent months desperately exploring every possible avenue looking for a way to remove the Mark.

Not a bad cliffhanger ending to a season though.

I see there's discussion of the show's homophobia above, so this seems like as good a thread as any to post my own thoughts on that, as well as link to an article I've been sitting on for a bit. I've never thought Dean himself was homophobic. Whenever a guy hits on him, he's awkward but never disrespectful about it -- and let's remember, Dean always acts like a deer in headlights whenever a woman propositions him, so the awkwardness is equal opportunity. Charlie being gay was never an issue with Sam or Dean.

But the actors and writers, and some of the characters/plotting, are another story. I've known for some time that Jensen Ackles gets visibly uncomfortable when he's asked about Dean's possible bisexuality. I was willing to cut him some slack on that because I thought it was at least partly due to his being tired of speculation that Dean might be bi when nothing in the text indicates that he is, and I wouldn't blame him at all for not wanting to hear about the Wincest shit. However, this article from The Mary Sue compiles and examines the evidence of the show's creators' homophobia, and it's a pretty damning case. Ackles is definitely homophobic, and other members of the cast are too.
posted by orange swan at 8:00 AM on December 15, 2021

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