Supernatural 9×21 Review: King of the Damned

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I enjoyed the majority of this episode, but there were a few moments that made me extremely conflicted and occasionally downright upset. It’s Supernatural, after all, so upsetting us is par for the course, but it’s sad when an episode that could have easily been one of my favorites gets knocked down a few pegs by a couple of plot developments.  Overall I like where it’s going, but I’m just not happy with some of the choices they are taking to get there.  The ongoing themes of torture, female character death, and Winchester discord is enough to put a damper on the many incredible scenes from the episode.  And there were many incredible scenes that had me smiling, cheering, and clapping like the excited fangirl that I occasionally (often?) am.

SPN1As I said, there was a lot to be happy about here.  We got Castiel back and a hug with both Dean and Sam.  His moment alone with Sam was particularly touching as the two of them don’t get nearly enough screen time together (most likely due to Jared and Misha’s propensity for pranking each other on set).  The two of them have such an interesting dynamic that doesn’t get explored to the extent that I want.

Cas is once again a reluctant leader and there’s definitely some problems within his crew (a possible double agent, maybe?), but he seems to be a lot more level headed than he was during the end of season 6.  We only got a taste of the angel plot, though, as this episode primarily focused on the ongoing demon war between Crowley and Abaddon.  That’s perfectly understandable, because both of these massive plots need to be tied up or at least prepared to head into the hiatus, so in all likelihood the next two episodes will be heavily angel focused.  My prediction is that this plot won’t be wrapped up neatly before the season is out and could very well carry on over into season 10.  While we don’t have official word on Misha’s return yet, I have very high hopes.  Fans have made their voices loud and clear with over 3,000 postcards, ties, and a ton of Twitter trending events, so the message that people want him back has most likely been heard.

One aspect of this plot that bothered me was Castiel asking Sam and Dean to interrogate the angel.  I’m pretty frustrated with torture being a constant theme on this show, especially after Dean’s particularly volatile history with it.  Thankfully this particular angel gave information up easily and we weren’t subjected to even more graphic scenes of torture.  We’re blessed that this angel wasn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box and caved easily to the Winchester’s psychological push for information.  Dean was close to stabbing him, but Sam managed to pull him back before he finished the deed.  With how the Abaddon scene plays out later, I hope Sam doesn’t get separated from Dean while he’s under the influence of the Mark.  It makes him incredibly brutal and I can imagine terrible things happening.  I think we’ve all been considering this option, but none of us really want to think to hard on what those terrible things will be.  We know it’s going to hurt.

SPN5The demon plot caused a massive amount of frustration for me.  On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the interactions between Crowley and his son.  Crowley is having feelings because of that pesky bit of human blood inside of him, which means he cares a lot more about the fate of his son this time around.  A part of me wishes they could rule hell together as father and son, but then I realize hell is, you know, a bad place that I shouldn’t really be viewing as a happy setting for a family reunion.  This show and fandom does weird things to me.  I find myself rooting for certain demons over angels, liking Lucifer’s cruel snark, laughing at one of my favorite characters being killed hundreds of times in a single episode, and calling God a jerk on a regular basis.  It’s a weird show, man, so I guess hoping that an innocent kid gets to become the Prince of Hell and rule the underworld with his demon father isn’t terribly bizarre all things considered.

On the other hand, this plot also did the one thing I was hoping it would not do.   It resulted in Abaddon’s death.   I loved both her and Crowley.  I ultimately fell on the side of Team Crowley, but I didn’t want her to lose by dying.  I was hoping for some sort of solution that locked her away, but kept her alive.  Michael and Lucifer being locked in the cage was a great way to accomplish that task without killing either of them.  Besides the fact that I love her as a character, it’s also one less recurring woman on a show that already has so few.  We’ve been knocked down to three, two of which may or may not return.  First off we have Jody Mills, who will hopefully be back plenty next season.  But then we have Mrs. Tran, who has very little reason to come back now that her son is gone.  The last time we saw Charlie she was skipping off into Oz with Dorothy, so I’m not sure where her plot is going to go from there.  Meanwhile we have a ton of recurring male characters including our main duo, Castiel, Crowley, Gadreel, Metatron, Cain, Death, Harry, Ed, and Garth. Without spoiling anything, I do hear that there may be another female character coming back before the season is out, but I strive to make my reviews as spoiler free as possible, so I’ll leave that unexplained for the time being.

SPN6The darker side of Dean is also causing me an enormous amount of conflict.  As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I have an odd sort of appreciation for dark Dean.  I think it’s interesting character development and, well, he looks really good when he’s being all dark and badass (hey, honesty is a good policy, so I’m just telling it how it is).  Lying to his brother again, though, is just not good.  How much of that lying can be blamed on the mark?  They’ve been fighting since before he got it, but this time the lie was tied directly to keeping Sam out of the room while he went all Mark of Cain on Abaddon.  You can argue that he just doesn’t want his brother hurt, but I feel like being honest about that reasoning is much better than furthering the divide in their relationship.  Sure, Sam would argue, they’d fight a bit, and Sam would probably put himself in danger to have Dean’s back, but at least they’d be upfront about it all.  It could also very well be the Mark’s influence on him wanting to keep the person who pulls him back from the edge as far away from him as possible.  Either way, the tension between them is exhausting and I’m looking forward to some resolution.

If you set aside the continued brother fighting, the torture scene, and the death of Abaddon, I’d call this episode pretty damn good.  I’m loving Crowley, intrigued by the angel plot, and oddly invested in having more dark Dean.  This episode has set a lot of things in motion to close off this season in a well structured way and I hope they follow through.  No Supernatural finale will ever really be ‘happy,’ so that’s asking for way too much, but we can keep our fingers crossed that it’s well written, consistent, and provides a great launching point for next season.  Will we all be crying, yelling at our televisions, and drowning ourselves in our respective vices?  Most likely.  It’s Supernatural.  But hopefully we won’t be smashing our TV screens and making any demon deals in an effort to right the show’s wrongs.  There’s different levels of feels, here, so I’m hoping for the less destructive option.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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9 thoughts on “Supernatural 9×21 Review: King of the Damned

  1. Hey hey! Great review. I’m with ya on most of it. I loved the episode a LOT, but I’m also the most obnoxious Crowley stan in the universe, so. 😉 The hellhound stuff made my day. The rest of the episode could have sucked worse than…well, name your least favorite episode and it could have sucked THAT BADLY and I still would have loved it because Crowley has a hellhound named Juliet. No regrets.

    I am very disappointed that Abaddon died so quickly and (I hate to say it this way) easily? I mean, I know Dean struggled and everything but it just seemed rushed. She hasn’t been around much at all this season and then we get her back for one episode and she’s dead by the end of it. Eh.

    I have to say that I don’t trust Cas right now. I feel like there is something very fishy going on with the whole angel plot right now, but I can’t really put my finger on it. This is REALLY out there, but what if the lack of a tie signifies a Cas that is not really/fully Cas? Like, did he know that Sam and Dean were planning on the psychological torture and not the blood and guts torture or was he just going to let Dean go all dark side again? I don’t think Sam and Dean really trust him either.

    I think that both Cas and Crowley need to watch their backs because Mark of Cain!Dean is not messin’ around. I think that if he loses it and feels like someone’s a threat, he’s gonna rip them apart with that donkey jaw sword blade first and ask questions later. And that worries me because if he hurts Cas he’s going to regret it. Crowley, probably not so much. But they do have a tentative, something? And I think that Dean would regret killing him in a blind rage. (Please see previous comment about me being the most obnoxious Crowley stan ever. ha)

    I really hope that we get some kind of resolution between Sam and Dean in the finale because like you, the angst is killing me. I just hate how divided they are right now. I honestly have NO idea what to expect from the next couple of episodes but I have a feeling I’ll be crying either way. 😉

    1. lol interesting theory about Cas’s tie! Fans have been sending the network ties since he’s clearly missing his. I’m not sure if him asking Dean and Sam to torture that angel is a sign that something is “off” with Cas or a negligent writing decision. It doesn’t make much sense to me and I’m really disappointed with him. I’m really protective of Castiel and what they did to him at the end of season 6 made me give up the show for a time. I’m hoping he rights himself in the next few eps and this was just a one off mistake. Are there other Cas things you’ve noticed that have been “off?”

      1. I can’t really put my finger on it? (heh) He seems really detached. Which is sort of just a part of Cas, but with the character development that we’ve seen this season is feels a little OOC. I just have this weird feeling that he’s either being influenced against his will (oh yay, THAT again) or…something. I just miss him, a lot like I miss Sam and Dean. I’m all for new stories and new themes and stuff, but at the root of it, you gotta keep the characters real. And I guess I’m just uncomfortable with some of the decisions that ALL of them have been making lately. I guess we’ll see how it pans out! I really miss the tie too. 😉

        1. I feel like all the characters have been a little off this season too. Dean obviously has the Mark so that explains that. But Sam and Cas? I don’t get it. And is it intentional or inconsistent writing? Hard to say…

  2. Totally agree with your review, except that I have no qualms whatsoever about rooting for demons (I’m another big Crowley stan) and thinking SPN’s god is a jerk. Love that you’re optimistic about Cas in season 10! So am I!

  3. I really liked this episode but it’s been a few weeks I’m wondering about something : don’t you think the dialogues are a bit “off” ?
    I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, as I’ve juste noticed it recently, but I feel like a lot of scene begins with one character saying to the other “hey, we need to talk about this.” It doesn’t seem natural nor spontaneous, like it’s just a way to give the viewers some information. And as much as I love the plot, because of that, the story seems very “cold” to me. Like it’s not really the characters talking (they all speak the same way in these moments) but the writers, and they want us to know something.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just because the two main characters are not in the best terms and it’s intentional. But if it’s not, I don’t know for how long it’s been like this. Maybe I’ve just noticed it because as I usually watch a season all at once, I didn’t have time to wondering about this kind of thing like I have now…
    So, are the writers getting lazy with the dialogues ? Is it intentional ? Am I imagining things ?

    (sorry for my bad english !)

    1. I feel like the entire season has been a little “off.” I haven’t taken particular note of the dialogue, but I will on rewatch and for the next couple of episodes. I feel like all three leads have been a little “not themselves” and the only person who has an excuse for that is Dean (and even then, only since the Mark of Cain). I’m really not sure why it feels that way. It’s not like we have a ton of new writers or anything. Most of them have been around for a really long time or are even better than some of the old timers (lookin at you Robert Berens). Can’t blame Carver, either, since last season was so damn good. So why is everything off this season? What the heck happened? Maybe there will be a canon reason. Maybe there won’t be.

      1. Cas was mostly on his own, away from the brothers, Sam was dying/possessed and Dean was lying to him, then Sam was pissed and Dean couldn’t understand why… The whole season, the three of them didn’t interact as they usually do, there was always something between them, so I really hope that’s what explain everything… But well, we’ll see.

        1. That’s also a really good point and could explain why everything feels “off.”

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