I knew there was a reason I needed to go back and watch “The Executioner’s Song” to better understand “The Werther Project.” Both were written by Robert Berens. Both were superb (and both make up for “Alex Annie Alexis Ann”).
When an intricately woven plot stands up to scrutiny, that’s a great episode. When it adds a good-size chunk of personal drama, that’s grand.
The most interesting aspect of “The Werther Project” is that it gives us clear insight into the psyche of both Winchester brothers. After 10 years, we have a decent understanding of the inner workings of Sam’s and Dean’s minds. Getting to see those workings in action is still marvelous, and it’s usually much worse than we imagined.
The last few episodes have shown Dean to be the better adjusted brother. His swagger is back. He’s been honest with Sam and himself, non-judgemental, and surprisingly calm. Sam, on the other hand, has been secretive and obsessive to the point of recklessness in his desire to “fix” his brother.
The machinations of trying to remove Dean’s Mark of Cain are complex and convoluted. If you drew a schematic trying to connect all the moving parts, you’d still likely miss one or two key elements. I know, because I’ve tried.
After decoding part of the Book of Damned, Sam approached Rowena for help with the rest of it. She can’t break it, but knows the location of a “codex” that can. The codex is so dangerous, it’s contained within a hex box that’s protected by a spell so powerful, it’s “98% lethal.” It’s a bit of a double whammy. The spell itself causes hallucinations that result in suicide, and neutralizing the spell causes a person (specifically, a Man of Letters) to bleed to death.
The effect these spells have on the brothers is fascinating. Dean finds himself in purgatory with Benny. Even though Dean knows Benny is a hallucination, he still listens. We learn of Dean’s plan to have Sam and Castiel kill him if he loses control. But what truly upsets Dean is not dying, but rather knowing the toll the act will take on Sam and Cass. Benny’s recommended solution is for Dean to kill himself and stay in purgatory. Knowing the Mark of Cain won’t let Dean die (and knowing this isn’t the real Benny), Dean snaps back to reality.
Sam’s hallucination is more complex. We’ve known for a while that Sam is going down a dangerous path. Sam knows it too. The recently deceased Susie (victim to the suicidal hallucination) tells him he’s the loose cannon. Sam knows he’s hallucinating, but Susie’s argument is strong. So much so, it’s only when Rowena shows up does Sam snap out of it. (Or does he?)
Rowena helps Sam decipher the Werther box’s spell. Opening the box requires “legacy” blood, i.e., Men of Letters blood. Sam willingly provides the blood, but the box needs more. In fact, it needs enough to kill a man. Sam is again willing to provide it, while Rowena looking on.
Thankfully, having shaken his hallucination, Dean saves Sam just before he bleeds out. Dean provides rest of the needed blood, since the spell never said it had to come from one source. Oh those clever Supernatural wriiters! The box opens, the codex is retrieved, and Rowena vanishes. Turns out she too was part of Sam’s suicidal hallucination. Damn, these Supernatural writers are really clever!
The question becomes: How much of the Werther box’s spell did Rowena know? All of it, most likely. The disenchantment spell she gave Sam was bogus. Could she have predicted Sam would include her in his hallucination. Or did it really matter, given she knew he’d bleed out while trying to open the box? After all, she is trying to eliminate the Men of Letters. All two of them.
Dean concludes with the evening’s events with the patented Winchester speech that the brothers are better together. Sam agrees, yet remains secretive. Even with Rowena now shackled in some unknown location, you know this isn’t going to end well.