The Super Sleepy Dispatch
Recap and Review of Supernatural 10:19 “The Werther Project”
By P.S. Griffin
Oh my me! Robert Berens delivered another tour de force in his script of Supernatural’s nineteenth episode this season, “The Werther Project”. Not only was the episode the perfect marriage of a monster of the week plotline with the season’s main mytharc (what constitutes a monster); it also developed the character arcs for both Dean and Sam that will carry them through the season and gave us a fantastic twist.
Finally, the episode succinctly illustrates the division between the brothers. Dean thinks they are working a cold case from the MOL files. Sam knows that he’s pursuing the Werther Box for its contents, a codex to help Rowena read the horrible Book of the Damned. The fact that he nearly dies as a result of his solo mission should tell us the endgame if Sam continues to work against Dean in secret. Likewise Dean’s ability to persevere against magic and fight against the odds is indicative of two things. Magic is not the answer no matter how powerful the grimoire and Dean Winchester’s will is a power to be reckoned with, Mark or no Mark.
The teaser introduces a Brady Bunch family settling into a Victorian house assaulted by the seventies. The daughter is sent to the basement to do laundry. Instead she picks up a sledge hammer and destroys a wall where “X” marks the spot. Behind the wall is a fancy metal box which emits a green vapor when the girl tries to open it. She’s knocked unconscious in her attempt and the vapor passes over her as it wafts upstairs.
She comes to and heads upstairs without starting the laundry. Dinner is burning and no one answers her calls. She finds daddy dead in his study by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Her brother hangs himself in the stairwell as she runs by. She finds mommy in the kitchen with a big knife which she draws across her own throat as her daughter clings to her crying.
We leave this truly macabre opening sequence behind and enter the desperate world of Sam Winchester who is meeting with the evil witch Rowena to secure her help in using the Book of the Damned to cure Dean. Rowena knows she has Sam by the short and curlies. She tells him that she needs the special codex of a witch named Nadja to translate the Damned BotD and her price is Crowley’s head on a platter, more or less. It’s obvious that she’s playing Sam to regain coven magic.
Let’s pause now to review Sam’s game. The aftermath of The Inside Man garnered Sam nothing, although Castiel recovered his grace. Metatron is free with the demon tablet. Bobby is in trouble. Sam most likely killed an innocent angel. Not a brilliant plan overall by any stretch of the imagination.
Now he’s making a deal with a known wicked witch and killer. She tried to kill Dean because she was jealous of his relationship with Crowley. She tried to kill both Winchesters to escape. She uses innocents to get her way willy nilly using killing magic. Sam knows all of this. Now he’s planning to give her access to two powerful black grimoires. Dumdumdumdum (Chorus of music in South Park episode “All About Mormons”).
Thankfully, this ill-advised meeting is cut short because Sam receives a text from Dean which he rudely reads whilst conversing with Rowena. Apparently Dean has gone to Tulsa to clean out a vampire nest. This lights a fire under Sam’s behind to get thee to Tulsa forthwith.
Yeehaw! Dean is having a right fine time decapitating vamps. Unfortunately we only are treated to Dean’s last kill. I want more.
Afterwards, Dean washes up in a barrel of water in a, scene reminiscent of Benny performing ablutions in “Citizen Fang”, although Benny made sure that all of the blood was cleaned off of his hands. In contrast, Dean leaves himself and his weapon bloodied, a strong statement on his current comfort level with violence, bloodshed and, killing.
Then in a move that defies expectation, Dean happily steals a beer from the dead vamps. Oh what a glorious day to be alive. He’s practically whistling as he works. Dean is manic, macabre, forthright and joyous.
When Sam shows up to harsh his chill Dean calls him out on his unsupportive attitude, Dean readily admits that killing vamps “takes the edge off”, and he’s pretty much over Sam looking at him like “a killer diseased puppy”. The latter is an obvious “Old Yeller” reference; in other words Dean thinks Sam looks at him like a rabid dog that needs to be put down. In other words, Sam is behaving exactly the way he should if he wants Dean to become a monster, exactly the opposite of unconditional love and acceptance. Remember even Cain was tamed by the unconditional love and acceptance of Colette (“First Born”).
Dean doesn’t want to be questioned or thrown endless bitchfaces; he just wants to go home, chill, drink, and pass out watching “Speed 2: Cruise Control”. And no… bad taste in movies has nothing to do with the Mark. Obviously he doesn’t want to think or feel!
Now, engaging in some righteous kills kept Dean from going off the reservation as a demonic bad boy, so hunting vampires is the smart way to go. Hunting is killing after all. However Sam clearly thinks that this is terrible. Judging by Dean’s manic edge he really needed these kills. He doesn’t need Sam looking at him as if he were a monster.
Sam checks on Dean who’s dead asleep and still wearing his head phones… no nightmares thanks to a joyous killing spree… whoopee! Sam sneaks away to research the codex.
He listens to a taped recording of Cuthbert (Magnus) Sinclair’s 1956 dismissal hearing. We see a flashback in which Magnus isn’t sorry two MOL fellows “in good standing” died because of his powerful enchantments on the Werther Box, enchantments with a 98 percent lethality.
Sam gets the address of the St. Louis chapter house where the box is situated. Poor Sam is so sure of himself that he completely misses the point of the Werther Box itself. Magnus thought the codex was so powerful and so dangerous that he created a powerful hex to prevent the witches from getting the book back. And now Sam is planning to waltz in, get the book and hand it over to the most wicked witch that he knows. This is not smart. This is so not smart.
He concludes his research by calling Rowena and disrupting her beauty sleep to ask for a good spell to break enchantments. She provides one but warns him it’s unreliable in inexperienced hands. Sam hangs up on heron and her offer to help. Sam is carrying himself as if he’s the smartest guy in the room and he has it all under control. Sadly he doesn’t and it’s patently obvious. Lord I feel like a card carrying member of the Greek Chorus these days.
Oh it’s important to note that Magnus made the Werther Box in secret and without talking to his peers because he didn’t want their small-mindedness to shut his project down. And as a result people died. Magnus is our dark mirror to Sam in this episode. Berens’ writing is screaming at us that Sam is wrong for pursuing the codex, the BotD, and a deal with Rowena. There will be blood. There will be death. All because of Sam and his unchecked hubris… and of course his blind desperation. If only he had some faith in Dean.
Sam heads to St. Louis right away. When he attempts to break into the house he’s met with the barrel of a gun aimed at little Moose. He heads back to the car in a hurry where he’s surprised by Dean who pops in for a chat in a scene strongly reminiscent of the Dean meets Lester car scene in “Soul Survivor”.
Luckily for Sam, Dean doesn’t have ulterior motives. He saw the impression of the address on Sam’s notepad and figured Sam was hunting solo to prove a point. Dean has come to help and make peace, telling Sam that he realizes that he was wrong to go after a vamp nest alone.
Dean is actually the Winchester treating the case as an actual hunt. He’s googled the “St. Louis Suicide House” and knows it’s basic history per the teaser sequence. It’s obvious that Sam hasn’t bothered with the basics because he knows what he’s after. If he had done the minimal research he would have known that the house was occupied by the surviving family member. Let’s call her Pandora. Sam’s sloppiness here is a sign that he really isn’t in control at all.
Anyhow, Dean is curious as to why Sam is pursuing a cold case. Sam tells Dean that the Werther Box is dangerous and their responsibility as MOL legacies. I can’t help but think that Sam looks guilty and is a terrible liar.
Dean knocks on the door playing a good guy from the neighborhood watch. He manages to talk his way in on the pretext of investigating neighborhood break-ins. He distracts Pandora so Sam can break in. We learnt that her aunt also died in the house. According to Pandora it’s because she went into the basement; “I told her not to go in the basement; no one goes in the basement.” She’s nervous and unstable and the house appears as if she’s a shut-in.
Sam gets into the basement and proceeds to make noise alerting Pandora to his presence. She starts to freak, scream and wave her gun. She is adamant that Sam, “The tall one with pretty hair” leave the basement before he disturbs the box.
Sam ignores Dean’s cries and casts the spell to break the enchantment. As Rowena predicted he fails. The green vapor emerges when he tries to open the box.
Pandora is screaming for Dean to get out of the house before it’s too late and cursing as the green vapor wafts upstairs. It attacks Pandora and Dean and affects her immediately. She begins to hallucinate her dead family. They lay on a guilt trip and ask her to join them. They make suicide sound appealing. She argues for a while and moves through the house to escape the visions. She locks herself in her father’s study only to be confronted by him. She quickly succumbs and we hear the screaming stop as the gunshot rings out.
Meanwhile Sam has come upstairs to mayhem. Pandora is coping poorly with her returned family and Dean is chewing him out about being so unprepared for the case, “What are you doing, huh? You don’t have a plan. You don’t have a defense.” This dialogue strikes me as a pointed and very heavy anvil that Sammy’s plans are going to blow up in his face.
The Winchesters succumb to the spell after Pandora dies. Dean finds himself in Purgatory and Sam is hounded by Pandora herself who blames him for her death, “Boo. Survived 40 years in this house, keeping that thing on lockdown, and one visit from a putz like you….” Sam tries to apologize however the Pandora hallucination isn’t letting him off that easily, “Lot of good “sorry” does me. Look at me. Look….at….me… The first casualty of your misguided mission. But what’s another human life to you? Anything’s worth it, as long as you two make it out alive.” Oh Sammy. This dialogue has got to hurt because the Pandora apparition is so on point. Let’s call this another heavy anvil abd a nasty indictment against Sammy.
She continues with the unvarnished truth, “You think Dean’s the wild card, the loose cannon. But don’t you see? Making deals with witches, opening Pandora’s box down there? You’re the reckless one. You’ll do anything to keep clinging to that doomed brother of yours. How many more will die, Sammy? You know it. You have to be stopped.” She continues to berate him and suggests that he use the gun before anyone else dies.
Sammy really isn’t one to ruminate about guilt or culpability because he isn’t biting. Suddenly Rowena shows up and magically dissipates Pandora. She’s really lovely this wee bewitching lass. She smiles as she tells him I told you so.
Sam is immediately worried that Dean will see her, however Rowena points out that he’s lost in his own world. She suggests that they tie him up, delightfully bopping him on the nose, so that they can focus on shutting down the box and obtaining the codex. Sam consents to her help after she notes, “Fine, take this all on by yourself. But the odds are totally stacked against you.” Oh such beautiful anvils Mr. Berens.
Meanwhile Dean has been saved from a Leviathan attack by Saint Benny who is extremely affable about being told that he isn’t real. Dean calls him a “figment” and “subconscious junk my brain’s throwing up to distract me from getting back to reality.” They walk and talk in circles about the purity of Purgatory. Finally Benny tells him that “This is where you wanna be… you’re happy place. And you don’t really wanna leave.” Purgatory with Team Purgatory was certainly my happy place.
Back at the house, Sam and Rowena discover a Latin inscription on the box which Sam translates to Rowena’s delight. The box will only open when it’s fed the blood of a Man of Letters. That explains the MOL member who bled out trying to stop the box in 1956… oh… wait… Sam cuts his arm with Rowena’s sexy encouragement. Bleed beautifully big boy!
Benny is still talking, trying to convince Dean to stay, “This place… you don’t have to go looking for a fight. All you have to do is be still for one moment, and that fight will come to you. That’s why you’re here, Dean. That’s the purity you crave… killing with no consequence.”
Dean replies that he’s tired of killing, prompting Benny to remind him that the Mark still wants him to kill, “The Mark ain’t. So, can’t leave, don’t wanna stay, bit of a bind ain’t it? Good thing there’s always a third way out. You can’t say you haven’t been thinking about it.”
Dean says that they’re is no honor in suicide. Benny asks if there’s honor in killing Cas and Sam and innocent humans. Then he points out a problem in Dean’s back-up plan of Cas taking him out. It’s a horrible burden to place on one’s loved ones. More importantly I think, as far as we know only another Mark bearer with the First Blade can kill him, so Cas is, the fool’s option. Dean is in a bind.
This convinces Dean to consider suicide. Benny hands him his weapon saying, “You make the right choice in here, you’ll sleep forever, and you won’t ever hurt anyone ever again. No one needs to know, Dean. What happens in Purgatory stays in Purgatory.” The real Dean breaks his binds and breaks a glass bottle to use on his throat presumably. He tells Benny that “I always did love it here. It’s as good a place as any to call it a day, huh?”
Sam is bleeding out in the basement. He has to make a second cut in his arm as Rowena massages his bicep. It’s a startling intimate scene. She is worried because the box wants all if his blood. Sam is happy to give it every last drop.
Luckily Dean starts to rouse. He realizes that even as he would gladly kill himself to save Cas and Sam, the real Benny would never let him kill himself. He notes that the Mark won’t let him kill himself either, “For better or worse, the Mark… it wants me alive.” He embraces Benny and stabs him with the weapon, which causes the hallucination to vanish.
Dean has beaten the Werther Box, and for the second time in as many weeks he has acknowledged that the effects of the Mark aren’t all bad. Of course this is yet another example of powerful magic only having a temporary effect on Dean and ultimately not working as it was intended.
Dean makes it to the basement just in time to stop Sam from bleeding out. He calms, Sam by telling him, “If it needs more blood, it can have mine.” He cuts himself and the box opens when it gets enough blood. Rowena disappears when the box is opened because she was also an hallucination.
Sigh. It bothers me that Sam didn’t feel enough guilt for the dead Pandora hallucination to last very long, and that the Rowena hallucination overpowered him by giving him exactly what he wanted.
In contrast, Dean’s hallucination of his friend Benny helped him to process his situation. Despite being influenced by the Mark, Dean is very concerned about Sam and Cas’ well being, and Dean wants to find a solution to living with the Mark without hurting innocents or succumbing to mindless killing as a result of its bloodlust. His current desire to deal with his life honestly helped him negotiate the hallucination.
And the choice of Benny as an hallucination for Dean is perfect because he embodies everything that Dean is. Benny is the perfect mirror for Dean.
Benny wanted to control his bloodlust and he did, as long as he had human anchors to remind him why he was fighting the urges and what he would lose. Benny lost his connection to humanity as a direct result of Sam’s actions. He lost Elizabeth when Sam’s vendetta against Benny threatened her life and we’ll being, and he lost Dean because of Sam’s jealousy. Benny chose to die and return to Purgatory because Sam’s actions left him no other choice if he was going to continue to protect humanity.
Dean retrieves the book and destroys the box as Sam recuperates. Dean is talkative. Apologizing again for going rogue. Sam looks uncomfortable as he tells Dean that they’re even. We are treated to a final anvil. Dean notes that the box separated them and in short order they nearly died. He notes that “The universe is trying to tell us something that we should already know. We’re stronger together than apart.” Their near deaths taught him that they need each other.
Sadly not so much Sam. He doesn’t get that working as a team us the best way to solve their problems and show Dean how much he cares. Dean wants nothing more than to hunt with Sam as a, team. Ironically they’ve never been farther apart, a point illustrated by Sam’s continued lies.
Dean wonders why the codex was given such powerful protection. Sam listened to the 1956 tape. He knows that Magnus created the Werther box to prevent the Coven’s witches from gaining access to such a powerful magical tool. Instead he gives the book to Rowena.
Sam replies, “Whatever it is, we’ll keep it safe.” Lies all lies.
Sam meets Rowena at a warded abandoned warehouse. She is very excited to see the books and oh so happy until Sam chains her up with heavy manacles. She screams in fury, totally a woman scorned, “What in the hell is this? We had an agreement, giant.”
Sam replies that their agreement stands. However she is staying in the warehouse until the job is done. Oh Sam. Hell has no fury… Dumdumdumdumdum.
Additional Note: The scene where Dean suddenly climbs into Sam’s car strongly implies that Dean teleported because he arrives at the St. Louis Suicide House so quickly. However, Sam is shown waiting for Dean in the Impala at the end of the episode. Sadly, it looks as if Dean is just a very fast driver, unless he is able to teleport with his car… like Cain teleported with his victims… Hmmm.