WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS
The penultimate episode of a Supernatural season is often just as painful as the season finale. ‘The Prisoner’ was no exception. As we still haven’t recovered from Charlie’s death, we see Dean giving into the Mark while Sam and Castiel keep struggling to help him (and isn’t that the summary for the last 4-5 episodes?).
‘The Prisoner’ starts with a scene that we’re getting too used to: Sam and Dean burning the body of a friend. Last time it was Kevin, this time it was Charlie. Last time it was Dean’s fault, this time it’s Sam’s. Has anything really changed? Sam admits his guilt but defends himself saying “you’re all I’ve got”, which is not exactly true: he also has Castiel, Jody… and he had Charlie. Dean shows how angry he is since this very first scene saying things like “you got her killed, you don’t get to apologise” or “you should be the one in there, not her”. Dean reveals that he’s going after the Steins for vengeance, something that I thought was left behind seasons ago.
Sam struggles to keep his part of the deal
Castiel is unaware of Charlie’s death as he continues to be locked with Rowena. This scene is used to remind the audience of Castiel’s inner struggle with his identity. “I’m a lot like people’, says Castiel. “Keep telling yourself that, dear”, replies Rowena. Sam arrives to tell Castiel the bad news. After that, Sam receives the email that Charlie had sent him in which she had cracked the code, meaning that they do have a cure for the Mark. They give it to Rowena but she reminds him that he’s got to keep his part of the deal too. Sam sends Castiel after Dean after trying to convince him, himself, and the audience that he owes this to Dean.
We later see Crowley having breakfast at a diner (seriously?) when he receives a call and a message from Dean to meet up. It later turns out to be Sam, who’s set a trap for him using a devil’s trap bullet (so glad they brought that back!). Sam has also brought a hex bag from Rowena. As he was taking his sweet time to die, Crowley tried to convince Sam that he’s been good lately. Thankfully, Sam isn’t buying it and reminds him of all the evil he’s done (am I the only one who thought of Jo and Ellen?). However, that doesn’t turn out well for Sam. As Crowley’s eyes turn red for the first time, he thanks Sam for reminding him who he really is and is able to release himself from the bullet and the hex bag. Crowley lets Sam live to send a warning message to Rowena.
“I want you to know that the only reason you are alive is because I allowed it”
And this is why you can’t take the King of Hell lightly. I guess it was a big “f*ck you” to everyone who thought Crowley had gone soft (myself included). However, I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t do that during the S8 finale (before he was injected with human blood, of course).
Dean gets his revenge
As Dean makes his way to the Stynes residence to get his vengeance, a couple of officers make him pullover (something we’ve never seen before) and they start torturing Baby, which pisses Dean off even more. Even though Dean is kept arrested for having several fake IDs and a trunk full of guns, knives and “ninja stars”, he is able to escape easily using his fighting skills and his complete disregard of the law. From that scene only, we could already see that Dean was out of his mind and we were left with a question that Sam had already asked in the beginning of the episode: was that him or the Mark?
I’d like to say some things about the Stynes. They’re an enemy that, in my opinion, came a bit too late in the season and also disappeared too soon. It seems like they were given too much importance compared to the impact they had, especially now that we know that they won’t take part in next week’s season finale. They sort of reminded me of a smaller version of the Leviathans. During this episode they were used as an object of revenge for Dean. They also seemed like a dark parallel for the Winchesters and the Men of Letters with the usage of words like “legacy” and “family”. In the beginning of the episode, we are introduced to this younger boy, Cyrus, who doesn’t approve of his family’s methods. I couldn’t help but feel like that young boy looked like a younger Sam Winchester who didn’t want to engage with John and Dean’s hunting life. I just hope that doesn’t mean that Sam will have the same fate as this kid because we’ve gone down that road SO MANY TIMES.
Dean ends up finding the Stynes house, where he’s chained to the operation table. Dean makes it a point that he can’t die because of the Mark because if he dies, he’ll come back with black eyes and kill them all. However, that wasn’t necessary because Dean was able to escape and slaughter them all anyway. Cyrus, Eldon and Eli find the batcave at the same time that Castiel calls Sam to tell him that Dean is “going home” as we approach the end of the episode. Shit’s about to go down.
As the Stynes make a mess in the Batcave and prepare to burn Dean’s possessions, Dean arrives looking very similar to demon!Dean. Dean kills all of them effortlessly, including Cyrus, who was innocent. But Dean isn’t listening to reasoning anymore, he’s just seeing in black and white.
Dean vs Castiel: So many flashbacks!
Castiel arrives and sees the mess (how many times have we seen Sam or Castiel arriving and seeing Dean’s slaughter lately?). They start arguing. Castiel wants to save him because, even though with time Sam and all the people he loves will be gone, both of them are going to live forever, meaning that Castiel will have to watch him “murder the world”. Meaning, as it’s reinforced later, that Castiel wouldn’t be able to kill Dean. Dean repeats that he isn’t asking for help and that he doesn’t trust the cure because that magic will have bloody consequences, like it always does (and he has a point).
They start fighting. Well, let me rephrase that- Dean starts fighting Castiel, as the angel doesn’t move a single finger to hurt him, only to restrain him. Many people talk about ‘reverse-crypt scene’, but this fight was so brutal that it also reminded me of Sam and Dean’s fight in ‘When the levee breaks‘. Or at least I found myself having a similar reaction. It hurt so much because they weren’t just fighting, Sam actually intended to kill Dean and now Dean actually intended to kill Cas. And it was also like the crypt scene in ‘Goodybe Stranger’ because Dean had the power to kill Castiel but ended up stopping at the last moment. Only it wasn’t quite exactly the same. In ‘Goodbye Stranger’ we had a touching moment in which Castiel broke Naomi’s connection and healed Dean by gently caressing his face. However, in ‘The Prisoner’, we got a shocking moment in which the director tricked us into believing Dean had actually stabbed Cas. But he didn’t. He had stabbed a book, but he still left with the promise that “next time, I won’t miss”.
Like I said in the beginning, the two last episodes are always gonna hurt. No matter how wacky the writing has been this season, the writers will always hold the power of playing with our feelings. No, I don’t believe the Steynes were that relevant. No, I can’t care about the brothers drama anymore. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not excited about Crowley’s comeback or Rowena’s character in general. As per Dean, it seems like we’re at the same place we were last season: the Mark of Cain. This is why I want to believe that the writers still have an ace up their sleeves. Even though meta writers are usually correct on many of their predictions when it comes to this show, last week during Asylum14 it seemed like Jared was pretty sure that we wouldn’t see next week’s ending coming. I say bring it!