'Supernatural' Review: "King of the Damned"

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Supernatural’ season 9 summons its 21st episode of the year in “King of the Damned,” as Abaddon presses Crowley into luring the Winchesters toward a trap, while Castiel attempts to recruit Gadreel (Tahmoh Penikett) away from Metatron.

Previous ‘Supernatural’ installment “Bloodlines” saw Sam and Dean spinning off to Chicago to partner with Ennis (Lucien Laviscount), discovering that the city is secretly run by five monster families, who themselves are headed for war. So, what does the 21st 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 21, antepenultimate installment “King of the Damned”!

In 1723 Scotland, a young man sees a light outside his door from which the modern Abaddon enters, killing his friend and speaking a cryptic incantation. Meanwhile in the present, a boastful angel named Ezra interrupts several patrons at a bar table to espouse the glory of Metatron, before the nearby angels corner him in an alley and take Ezra into custody. Awhile later, an angel chastises Ezra for revealing Metatron’s privileged information before Castiel approaches from outside.

Sam and Dean arrive to a warehouse buzzing with angel activity, as they’re brought to the “commander,” Castiel, and updated on his intent to find a diplomatic solution to the war with Metatron, before Castiel asks the brothers to help interrogate Ezra. Meanwhile at a Cleveland hotel, Crowley finds that his council betrayed him to Abaddon, who knows all about the First Blade and Mark of Cain, but would rather make a deal to eliminate the Winchesters first. To win Crowleys’ cooperation, Abaddon presents his 1723 son, Gavin, torturing him until the increasingly human side of Crowley acquiesces.

Back at Castiel’s base, Sam and Dean con Ezra into admitting his low-level status among Metatron’s inner circle, and that Metatron keeps a portable portal back into Heaven for those worthy enough. Meanwhile, Crowley explains to his erstwhile son the history of how he became the King of Hell, leading up into the 21st century. After Sam and Dean finish interrogating Ezra, another angel finds him murdered in the interrogation room.

Castiel wonders if anyone within his organization might secretly report to Metatron, or have killed Ezra, though Dean admits he doesn’t trust any angel. Taking a moment alone, Castiel questions Sam on what he felt of Gadreel during their time occupying the same body, to which Sam reveals that Gadreel wanted little more than to redeem himself for his past actions. Back at the hotel, Crowley grants his illiterate son the ability to read, to which Gavin accepts his place as the “Prince” of Hell, even as Crowley advises against returning to 1723 and taking a voyage to the new world.

Castiel meets with Gadreel in an isolated area, though Gadreel remains conflicted about changing his loyalties, given his reputation in the past. Angel assassins suddenly attack the party, leaving only Castiel standing by the end, as Gadreel flees. Later, Dean finds himself lost in thought about the First Blade, before Crowley calls to reveal its location, as well as a line on Abaddon. The brothers follow Crowley’s instruction to a buried corpse containing the blade, though briefly find themselves sidetracked by one of Crowley’s Hellhounds guarding the site.

Crowley continually argues with Gavin about boarding the ship in his own time, before directing Sam and Dean to his hotel, simultaneously invoking the “Poughkeepsie” codeword the brothers use to covertly warn one another of danger. Dean recognizes the warning but declines to report it to Sam, while Abaddon betrays Crowley by shooting him with a Devil’s Trap-inscribed bullet. Meanwhile, Gadreel assures Castiel that he had no idea of the lurking assassins before Castiel recruits him to spy on Metatron, just as Metatron must have spies in Castiel’s employ.

Dean sends Sam to the basement of Crowley’s hotel, going it alone to find Crowley trapped and Abaddon waiting to enact her vengeance. Abaddon pins him against the wall, though Dean’s Cain-abled rage surprisingly manages to overcome her powers, forcing his way through to stab her with the blade, even as Sam arrives to provide backup. Dean stabs Abaddon’s dead body repeatedly in a violent rage before Sam finally shakes him free. In the aftermath, Sam and Dean opt to spare Crowley for the time being, but insist that changing Gavin’s future from a boat destined to sink will ripple across the continuum. Crowley agrees, but disappears with Gavin in an opportune moment, and ultimately sets his son free in the 21s century with a second chance.

On the road again, Dean admits that he knew he’d have a better chance of slaying Abaddon if he kept Crowley’s warning from Sam, to which Sam counters that the blade seems to have affected Dean more than he realizes. Sam proposes they dispose of the blade for the time being, but Dean flatly refuses.

OUR REVIEW:

Given the lukewarm reception of last weeks’ “Bloodlines,” we weren’t altogether surprised to see “King of the Damned” more or less ignoring the previous week’s story in favor of returning to the various angel-demon conflicts that set up the final three episodes of the season. And to that end, season 9 ended up creating something of a fundamental incongruity between the ongoing angel war and Crowley’s conflict with Abaddon, so it was good to see at least one of the threads given an effective wrap up as we head into the season 9 endgame.

In particular, Mark Sheppard once again proved his innate value to the cast with a strong showing for the human side of Crowley, bringing his time-displaced son into the mix. We shudder to think of a world where the friendship between Sam, Dean and the deposed Hell King is truly set aside for some kind of ultimate series conflict, but for now, the bond between the three remains fresh as ever. Particularly effective was Crowley’s surprising use of “Poughkeepsie,” which paved the way for Dean’s visually impressive and climactic showdown with Abaddon

Of course, the side effect of wrapping up the demon side of the story remains that we don’t know how Dean’s burgeoning rage or the First Blade will play into Metatron’s ultimate endgame, but thankfully Castiel’s inclusion in the story introduced a number of plot points for the writers to play around with in the last two episodes or even next season. We don’t yet know the veracity of the portal into Heaven, or if Gadreel’s loyalties have truly been split, but it makes for a strong idea to have Castiel in command of a genuine angel faction that ups the stakes in the war on Metatron.

For now, at least, “King of the Damned” made for an exceptionally strong character outing with a few moments of genuine surprise and a truly memorable exit for one of the stronger villains of recent seasons. The back two episodes may end up feeling a bit cramped for ‘Bloodlines'’ seemingly irrelevant diversion, but better to have more on your plate than go hungry.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of scary ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about the "King of the Damned"? Give us your take in the comments, and join us again next Tuesday for an all-new recap of ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 22, penultimate installment “Stairway to Heaven” on The CW!

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