Synopsis of 10×23: Sam and Dean are determined to destroy the Mark of Cain in the season 10 finale. Each member of Team Free Will will attempt to find a cure, but each solution comes with a life-altering sacrifice… not to mention the apocalyptic ramifications waiting on the other side.

Rating: ???1/2?

Oh, Sam and Dean, what have you done? In an effort to save each other, you’ve pulled the pin on the Apocalypse, version 2.0.

Opening in the wake of Dean’s latest killing spree, the season 10 finale has Dean off on his own while Sam attempts to coerce Rowena into casting the spell that will rid his big brother of the Mark of Cain. Unfortunately, this particular spell calls for the apple from the Garden of Eden, a piece of the Golden Calf, and the only thing Rowena truly loves – a Polish boy named Oscar that lived over 200 years ago.

The word “impossible” barely sums it up.

Luckily, impossible is nothing for Team Free Will. At least not once Cas swallows his pride and begs the King of Hell for help. No, nothing is impossible then.

Cas turns to Crowley for help in "Brother's Keeper" [Diyah Pera/The CW]
Cas turns to Crowley for help in “Brother’s Keeper” [Diyah Pera/The CW]
Dean, meanwhile, is face down on a motel floor. Clutching to alcohol like a baby to a rattle, Dean tries to tell himself he’s a-okay.

Oh, Dean, you’re about as all right as the Black Knight, and the Mark is so much more than just a flesh wound. Stow the alcohol and get it together, man. Or, you know, go take your unstable, volatile self out into the world and work a case.

Dean, of course, goes for option number two. Another hunter named Rudy has hit a snag hunting a gang of fang, and the beleaguered noob decides to drop the estimable Winchesters a line. Unfortunately for Rudy the Rube, he only manages to reach Dean. After pissing off Rudy and getting the deceased’s abusive father to break down into tears, Dean and his icy demeanor are ready to put his machete to use.

Unfortunately, Rudy beat the cold-hearted hunter to the nest, and Dean’s deadly game of chicken with a jumpy vamp lands Rudy a one-way ticket beyond the veil. But, hey, at least he managed to save the bloodsucker’s next victim, so that’s a win, right? Not really. Not at that price.

Luckily, Rudy used his last living hours to place a call to Sam, warning him that his brother is completely off the rails. Sammy arrives just in time to find the cops investigating Dean’s handy work, and it’s safe to say that the faux fed officially has equal parts concern and horrified anger running through his veins.

Dean, too, knows he’s crossed the line. After seeing the reflections of a blooded Cas and lifeless Rudy in his bathroom mirror, Dean goes on to rack up some major property damage, leaving his motel room looking like home of a teenage tornado after a spat of adolescent angst. It’s clearly time for drastic measures. After leaving his car keys and a note behind for Sam, Dean takes off to summon Death.

Dean summons Death in hopes of removing the Mark [Katie Yu/The CW]
Dean summons Death in hopes of removing the Mark [Katie Yu/The CW]
Equipped with taquitos, queso, and enough saturated fats to cause an instant coronary, Dean asks Death to do the unthinkable – kill him, once and for all. The Mark has sent Dean around the bend; he can’t fight it any more, and he wants to ensure that neither he nor the devilish brand will be able to hurt another innocent.

Death, unfortunately, can’t kill the bearer of the Mark, and he won’t remove it either. Why? Well, it’s time for the horseman to drop a knowledge bomb. It seems Cain left a little info out of his get-to-know-me speech, and it goes a little something like this:

Genisis is a lie. There was something that existed before God created Earth, and it was called The Darkness (ominous, I know). Amoral and destructive, this force of evil was eventually defeated by God and the Archangels. To keep The Darkness locked away forever, God created both a lock and a key in the form of the Mark and bestowed it upon Lucifer, his most trusted angel. The Mark turned bad, however, and soon asserted itself as a curse that caused good ‘ol Luci to raise a little heavenly ire. After he was cast out off the pearly gates, the Devil transferred the Mark to Cain, his most loyal subject. To remove the Mark is to unleash The Darkness.

And here Cain thought he got this nifty brand for creating the concept of murder. Sorry, dude, it was just a consolation prize.

So, Dean is left with two options – pass the Mark to another, or allow Death to transport him somewhere he can live out eternity alone. Since the Dean we’ve come to know and love is still kicking around somewhere deep inside that angry body, the hunter immediately refuses to give this burn to another. He chooses exile instead.

But wait! There’s a catch! What is it? Well, let’s just say Sammy’s about to get the surprise of a lifetime.

Sam gets a major shock <a style= when he finally finds Dean [Katie Yu/The CW]” width=”470″ height=”314″ /> Sam gets a major shock when he finally finds Dean [Katie Yu/The CW]
Shortly after finding Dean’s abandoned car, Sam gets a phone call from the cursed man himself. The younger Winchester makes a futile attempt to convince Dean that none of this – not Rudy’s murder, not Cas’ beat down – is the work of the real Dean. No matter what the Mark has done, Dean is still a good man inside. Dean disagrees. He tells his little bro that it is over, it’s time to say goodbye.

When Sam gets to Dean’s hideout, he learns the truth. Death knows Sam will stop at nothing to save his brother. Therefore, in the interest of keeping the Mark intact, Sam must die.

And Dean is the one who will deliver the killing blow…

Meanwhile, leave it to Crowley to interrupt a particularly intense moment. As per Cas’ plea, the King has managed to locate the last of the spell ingredients. Oscar is still alive and kicking, but he now goes by Seth. Alive courtesy of Rowena’s gift of immortality, he just so happens to be the barista Crowley meet in “The Prisoner.” (You can thank the hamster version Olivette for that tip.)

Crowley is pissed. He is beyond enraged, beyond insulted. How could his mother love this random Polish boy, yet not love her own son? To get his revenge, he offers the proverbial lamb up for slaughter. He presents Oscar to his mother.

It looks like the Winchesters won’t be the only family to have a gut wrenching heart-to-heart this episode.

Crowley better watch his back - Rowena is one ticked off witch [Diyah Pera/The CW]
Crowley better watch his back – Rowena is one ticked off witch [Diyah Pera/The CW]
Now, back to our boys. Sam is beyond confused as to why he needs to die. Death and Dean are attempting to sell him on the “Greater Good” concept, but he isn’t buying it. It’s a role reversal – unlike during “Sacrifice,” Dean is now the one who thinks the world will be better without them. He believes they are evil, pure and simple, and he offers up some of Sam’s most painful choices as evidence, throwing Charlie’s death in his face once more.

Inevitably, they come to blows. Dean is more than happy to fight; it makes his job less painful. Soon, however, Sam is curled in a ball on the floor, hands up, calling for a cease-fire. He’s outmatched and he knows it.

Grab the tissues, folks. You’re about to need them, and lots of ’em.

“You will never, ever, hear me say that you – the real you – is anything but good,” Sam warns, still down on the ground.

Dean pulls out his no-chick-flick-moments face, but Sam is on a roll.

“But you’re right. Before you hurt anyone else, you have to be stopped, at any cost. I understand. Do it,” Sam says, giving his own execution order.

Dean takes Death’s scythe. It’s time to put an end to the one thing he devoted his life to protecting. Sam, however, has one last speech left in him. He pulls out Dean’s tiny collection of photos and drops them to the floor. Suddenly, Dean is staring at the past – getting a hug from his mother, smiling next to his father and baby Sammy – and Sam’s next warning echoes like thunder in his ears:

“Take these, and one day, when you find your way back, let these be your guide,” Sam begs, tears in his eyes. “They can help you remember what it was to be good; what it was to love.”

Dean falters. Death warns if Dean doesn’t take Sam’s life, he will. Dean asks for his brother’s forgiveness, raises the scythe, and…

…pivots on his heel to bring the weapon crashing into Death. Looking particularly shocked, the embodiment of mortality turns to ash. Talk about a plot twist.

Oh Death, that scythe will be your undoing [Katie Yu/The CW]
Oh Death, that scythe will be your undoing [Katie Yu/The CW]
Miles away, Rowena hugs her surrogate son, telling him everything will be okay. Then she quickly murders him, draining his blood into a bowl and completing the spell. A bolt of lighting comes for Dean, wiping the Mark from his arm once and for all.

The spell cast and her freedom earned, Rowena’s revenge is swift and terrible. Snagging the Book of the Damned, she incapacitates Crowley and casts the Guard Dog spell on Cas, leaving them to die.

Rowena out.

Meanwhile, Sam and Dean are headed out to the Impala, warily anticipating the oncoming Darkness. They don’t have to wait long. Lightning forks out of the sky, striking the ground in every direction. Black smoke rises from the craters, arcing over the Winchesters and coalescing into a funnel cloud that looks like it could leave even the Fujita scale at a loss.

The boys race for the Impala, looking to peel out of that abandoned parking lot like a bat out of hell. But, alas, the car fails. As her rear tie slides into the Mariana Trench of potholes, the faithful Metallicar leave her precious cargo stranded in harms way. Even Baby has her limitations, after all.

And that’s that. The credits roll and we have the Winchester brothers exactly where we want them – reunited, in the Impala, staring down an unknowable foe.

See you on October 7!

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