Based on the promo, the thing I was most excited to see in this week’s Supernatural episode was the Dean-Crowley relationship. However, that is hardly the most interesting part of this week’s episode, “First Born.” Honestly, all they do is squabble. The most enjoyable dynamic is the one between Sam and Cas, something strangely absent from previous seasons. The episode also came with a surprise breakout star that I do hope to see back soon.
The episode starts with a historical flashback. We know this because there’s solemn old-timey violin music. I was quite the American history connoisseur back in the day (Liberty’s Kids on PBS is the best show ever made, guys), so I wish I could specify the era from the soldier’s uniforms, but apparently I’ve lost my touch. Pity. The soldiers are in the midst of protecting something when Lassie from Psych (Timothy Omundson) attacks them. At this point I’m thinking, “Oh god, I hope they don’t expect me to take him seriously as a villain.” Look, I’m not saying he’s not a competent actor, because he absolutely is, but c’mon, it’s Lassie from Psych. He has lost all ability to be intimidating in my eyes. Luckily, his role is far more brilliant and complex. Lassie kills the soldiers, who, it turns out, are demons. Surprise, surprise.
Dean is chilling at a bar, officially looking for Gadreel (but actually just creeping on women and getting drunk) when Crowley appears next to him. I knew it! Crowley secretly does love the Winchesters and they’re all going to be best friends. He’s just been released and he’s already crawling back! Crowley explains the episode’s mission: they must find the First Blade, the blade that the archangels execute Knights of Hell with and the one weapon in existence that can kill Abaddon. Why is there always just one weapon in these kinds of shows? Why wouldn’t the archangels make, like, a back-up killer blade? C’mon, people!
Apparently, years early, Crowley had almost caught up with the blade, but then the source he thought could help him get it was killed by John Winchester. Apparently John does actually ruin everything. Crowley suggests that they look through John’s journal for clues that can hopefully lead to the blade and Abaddon’s demise. “You want to hunt with me?” Dean growls incredulously. “I do love a good buddy comedy” replies Crowley. So do I, Crowley, so do I. As they leave to follow a lead in the journal, a camo-clad demon watches them ominously.
Back at the bunker, Cas is eating a sandwich. That really shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it totally is. It has its own quirky soundtrack and everything. “It tastes like…molecules,” he complains, struggling to readjust to angelhood, adding: “I miss you, PB&J.”
Cas starts to work on healing Sam but notices something angelic resonating in the hunter’s head. It’s angel grace that, while harmless, could be used to track Gadreel if extracted. Luckily, the men of letters created a syringe to do just that. Has this show always been this convenient or is it a new thing? I can’t tell.
Regardless of that annoying element, I am loving this part of the episode. Cas has been around since season four and has spent most of that time as the Winchester’s best friend. He’s so close to Dean that a large portion of the fandom thinks they’re in love. So how is it that this is the only episode I can think of where Cas and Sam actually have extended one-on-one time? Their relationship is almost entirely reliant on Dean as a middle man, even though they’ve spent years together. It’s so exciting as fan to see these two actually talk as a pair.
Back with Crowley and Dean, Crowley is being hilarious and Dean cannot take a joke. According to information John left behind in a storage area, he caught the demon in question with another hunter named Tara, so Dean and Crowley track her down. Turns out she’s a badass, intelligent female with a lot of attitude and talent. Read: dead by the end of the season. Her kind don’t last long on Supernatural. She tells them that she has most of the components of a spell to locate the blade. Yah, kay, I’m voting that the show has, in fact, gotten more convenient. Crowley just so happens to have the last ingredient for the spell, so they’re able to track it to Missouri. One of these days, there’s going to be a demonic artifact that is not in the Midwest, and my life will finally be complete.
It’s in Missouri that things get interesting for the pair. As they approach the location, they spot a seemingly harmless beekeeper, and Crowley starts to panic. “We need to leave here now”, he explains. Apparently the bee keeper is none other than Cain, and by Crowley’s reaction, he’s not something to be trifled with.
Introducing Cain as character is a refreshing change from the hordes of either made-up or lesser-known angels and demons that have populated the series for most of its run. He’s a figure everyone will recognize, and making Crowley fear him immediately makes him a intimidating character, considering that the King of Hell laughed in the face of Abaddon just last week. Even the reveal that, under the veil, he’s Lassie doesn’t completely strip him of that power.
Apparently after killing Abel, Cain turned into a fearsome demon but then disappeared with no explanation. However, instead of dying, he killed the Knights of Hell, framed the archangels, and retired to the midwest to start beekeeping and drinking tea. When Cain heads out of town, the boys sneak back into the house to look for the knife. There they find a picture of Cain’s wife. Apparently he disappeared to get married. The villains (and characters in general) on this show can get terribly one-sided and predictable. The twists in Cain’s character are a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, before we can learn anything about her, the camo-clad demon shows up with his friends to capture Crowley and Dean for Abaddon, taunting Dean with the fact that he killed Tara. Oh dear. Apparently, I drastically overshot with my “dead by the end of the season” prediction.
In the bunker, Cas has a needle in Sam’s neck to extract the grace for the summoning spell. Sam insists they keep going even though it’s returning his body to his pre-Gadreel near-death state. “Why must the Winchesters run toward death?” Cas wonders. I’m pretty sure that could be the official question of this show. They could use it as a tagline or something. They extract as much grace as they can, but eventually Cas draws a line, explaining that being human made him identify with Sam and that nothing is worth losing him. Awwww, they’ve bonded! “The only person who has screwed things up more consistently than you is me,” Cas admits, which is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. The eye-opening experience of being human has finally convinced him that the ends usually don’t justify the means. Also, the PB&J sandwich somehow becomes a metaphor, but we’ll just ignore that.
Alas, the grace is not enough, but Sam acknowledges that Cas did the right thing. They hug and it’s adorable.
Dean and Crowley fight off the horde of demons while Cain shucks corn and offers sassy commentary in an almost bored voice. I’m really liking this character. When Dean succeeds, Cain tells him that they’re kindred spirits, though Dean denies this because Cain killed his brother and “you never give up on family.” “Where’s your brother now then?” he snaps back, to which Dean has no decent response. Burrrrrrn. Cain confesses that he doesn’t have the blade. He has the mark of Cain on his arm, which the spell picked up on, but the knife is useless when separated from the mark.
He then explains the true story of what happened all those years ago, and it’s one of my favorite twists Supernatural has pulled in a long while. Abel was being corrupted by Lucifer, and Cain, unable to watch his brother fall, offered to go to hell for his brother if Abel’s soul could go to heaven. Sound like anyone else we know? Lucifer forced him to create the Knights of Hell. Eventually, he met Collette, his wife, who loved him despite who he was, and he left the business for her. When the Knights found out, they kidnapped Collette to draw him back, which resulted in the blood bath from the opening scene. Abaddon possess her and breaks her neck, but instead of seeking revenge, he walks away from that life, alone, as his dying wife requests. It’s a heartbreaking story told surprisingly well in just a couple of minutes.
In order to help him kill Abaddon and unwilling to do so himself, Cain agrees to transfer the mark to Dean, allowing him to use the knife, which is hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Despite my frustrated screams, Dean accepts. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? That is going nowhere good. Cain makes Dean promise one thing: if he finds the knife, he will come back and kill Cain. Then he transfers the infamous mark onto the elder Winchester. I’m rolling my eyes. Self-loathing and desperation or not, Dean is not that stupid.
Out in the car, Dean confronts Crowley, getting him to admit that he orchestrated the whole “buddy comedy” to get Cain to give the mark to Dean. I’m rather impressed, but Dean is totally not and slugs him. Crowley, unfazed, heads off to find the knife in the ocean, leaving Dean to stare at the ominous mark on his arm. That’s right, mister. You think about what you’ve done here.
In hindsight, the general story of “First Born” was rather weak and went nowhere. Cas and Sam’s story was literally pointless from a plot viewpoint. However, the development to Sam and Castiel’s relationship as well as the addition of the fascinating Cain made “First Born” a winner on a character level. Props to Timothy Omundson for stealing the show.