'Supernatural' Review: "First Born"

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Supernatural’ season 9 summons its 11th episode of the year in “First Born,” as Dean and Crowley find the biblical Cain ('Psych' star Timothy Omundson) in possession of a weapon that can kill Abaddon, while San and Castiel attempt a dangerous spell that can help track the angel Gadreel.

Last week’s ‘Supernatural’ premiere, “Road Trip,” saw Dean and Castiel reluctantly partnering with Crowley for a desperate attempt to free Sam from the angel Gadreel’s control. So, what does the 11th season 9 episode bring? What strange and unexpected challenges will the Winchesters face next?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 11, “First Born”!

In 1863 Missouri, a group of demon-possessed Confederate soldiers vow to defend a “knight” from a mysterious man’s attack, before the man appears, and slaughters them all. Meanwhile in the present, Crowley appears to Dean at a bar, waving off his threats to propose they team up to find “the first blade,” a weapon that can kill a Knight of Hell like Abaddon, one whose trail has led back to one of John Winchester’s past hunts. Dean reluctantly agrees, finding references to a storage locker in John’s journal, unaware that another demon is watching the pair’s movements.

Back at the Men of Letters base, Castiel laments that he can’t appreciate a PB&J as an angel the way he could as a human, before noticing that Sam’s body has some leftover “grace” from Gadreel, which research reveals they might be able to use to track the angel. Elsewhere, Dean and Crowley visit John’s old storage locker, finding only that the case John worked was shared by another female hunter named Tara.

Dean and Crowley track the retired Tara to a pawn shop, though a pain in her knee quickly identifies Crowley as a demon, even as Dean reveals his own identity and urges her to help the two of them for the greater good. Tara reveals that she searched the world for the blade after hers and John’s case, finding only a locator spell that never worked without an extremely rare ingredient. Crowley quickly retrieves the component from one of his stores, before the trio find that the weapon has been located at a point in Missouri, though Tara refuses to join their mission.

Upon arriving to a beekeeping farm in Missouri, Crowley feels a surge of terror that they should leave, before the man from the flashback appears and identifies himself as Cain, preventing either’s escape. A cowering Crowley explains that Cain became the original demon upon slaughtering his brother Abel, mysteriously retiring from killing at some point in the past, though Cain himself offers little information to Dean when he asks about the blade. Meanwhile, Tara finds herself confronted by the demon following Dean and Crowley from earlier, and vainly tries to kill him.

Cain reveals that he created and trained the Knights of Hell that Abaddon belongs to, ultimately slaughtering most of them himself, though he demands Dean and Crowley leave, and never return. Dean suggests to Crowley that they break in to search for the weapon after Cain leaves, while back at the Men of Letters Base, Sam convinces Castiel to perform the painful procedure to remove his grace, given all who have suffered for Sam and Dean’s recent mistakes. Later that night, Crowley and Dean enter Cain’s house, while their pursuant demon realizes what he's found, and calls in for backup.

Castiel begins the painful syringe extraction of Sam’s grace, taking a serious toll on Sam’s body, thought Sam insists on continuing regardless of the cost. Meanwhile, Dean shows Crowley a curious photo of a woman named Colette, wearing a similar ring he’d earlier noticed on Cain, before the man himself arrives. A cadre of Abaddon’s demons soon announce their presence as well, though Cain refuses to take part in the fight, and wishes the pair well. Cain allows three demons to enter the property, forcing Dean to brawl with all three while Crowley does his meager part, though Dean ultimately triumphs in the brutal fight. Cain admires Dean’s regard for family, though he reveals the blade has been lost.

Castiel continues the painful grace procedure to the point of Sam’s near-death, relenting at the last moment given that his experience as a human taught him the value of human life, particularly the Winchesters. Meanwhile, Cain explains that the spell brought Dean to the source of the blade’s power, a mark on Cain’s arm. Dean realizes that the blade itself was the animal bone Cain used to kill Abel, thought Cain counters that his brother had inadvertently been communicating with Lucifer, not God, and that Cain had made a deal with Lucifer to send his brother’s soul to Heaven, while his would go to Hell.

Cain became the first Knight of Hell, creating all the others, though Cain fell in love with a woman named Colette and vowed to give up killing, for which the other Knights turned on him and held Colette hostage in 1863. Cain found that Abaddon had possessed and mutilated Colette’s body, for which he accidentally stabbed his wife with the first blade in Abaddon’s escape. Per his promise to Colette, Cain refused to kill again, and disposed of the blade itself in the deepest ocean.

When more demons arrive, Cain agrees to transfer the mark on his arm to Dean despite the terrible burden it might carry, on the condition that Dean kill him after they take down Abaddon. Cain teleports Dean and Crowley outside the house, before annihilating all the demons within. Meanwhile, Sam and Castiel attempt the spell to locate Gadreel, though the grace Castiel took from Sam proves insufficient. Castiel thanks Sam for his effort, reminding him that they could use Dean’s help, though Sam still refuses.

Out on the road, Crowley assures Dean that he was worthy of Cain’s mark, though Dean points out that Crowley had known all along what Cain intended, and simply used Dean to obtain the power to kill Abaddon. Crowley acknowledges the deceit, even as Dean promises to kill him for Tara’s needless death in his master plan, before Crowley disappears to search the oceans for the blade.

OUR REVIEW:

Last week's installment took us leaps and bounds head of the excessively one-off and holding patterns that proceeded it, even if said plot developments came with the the detrimental effect of once again parting the Winchester brothers on bad terms, a device that becomes less and less effective with each use over the nine (and counting) seasons. Pairing Dean with Crowley and Sam with Castiel nicely covers for the repetition by exploring the character dynamics in fresh, yet relatable means, though it walks the line a bit precariously at times.

On the hunting side, Dean and Crowley's bantery buddy comedy could easily have carried an entire episode, though it certainly helps when a seasoned character veteran like 'Psych''s Timothy Omundson lends some actual gravity to such a storied character as Cain. Nine seasons only leave so many existing deities and religious figures to plumb, lest we forget that the previous season cast and dispatched motherf$%king Zeus in the course of a solitary episode, though it seems as if the writing staff has a tighter grasp this season on when, and how to call in the big guns.

Cain also makes for a strong parallel with Dean's sacrificial relationship to his brother, amid an overly familial episode that even calls back to John Winchester as it refreshes dynamics amid the core cast. That said, we're deducting major points for the immediate dispatch of yet another intriguing female, even Sarah Connor-esque character in Tara, who supposedly fell victim to the same fate 'Buffy's Willow inflicted on others in revenge for her own Tara. Granted, 'Supernatural's rendition destroyed her carefully-prepared Devil's Trap to momentarily free Crowley, not bothering to repair it thereafter, but still. 'Supernatural' never holds on to strong women for very long.

In any case, Sam and Castiel's side of the story proved equally ambitious, but a bit less successful in Castiel's heavy-handed metaphors for his own character growth, amid a few weighted moments that even spelled out how Castiel had deceived and betrayed them in the past. We don't often get to see Sam and Castiel in extended interaction, and it was nice to see Sam offering a fairly coherent emotional through-line for his own guilt in failing to close the gates of Hell, causing Kevin Tran's death, and thus wanting to track Gadreel through any sacrificial means possible.

Still where the story seemed to lead that Castiel might contribute some of his own newly-returned grace to their tracking spell, the message seemed to fizzle along with the spell itself, at least apart from the clunky exposition of either's evolution. As always, 'tis better to show than tell, and most of what we saw from Sam and his angel pal owed to a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Storytelling too works as a sum of its parts, but not when you can taste each individual molecule of the message.

An ambitious installment, to be sure, with plenty of intriguing mythology and character to chew on as we lean toward another one-off with Garth next week, thought tonight still felt a bit clumsy in the end.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of scary ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about “First Born”? Give us your take in the comments, and join us again next Tuesday for an all-new recap of ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 12, “Sharp Teeth,” on The CW!

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