(Spoilers for the Supernatural episode “Brother’s Keeper” are below.)
Yes, I know: Lovecraft and “Old Ones” have already been referenced on the show, way back in season 6. But… let’s just say it could have been done much better:
I don’t even know where to start with that clip. But to my point:
Sam and Dean (and Castiel) have faced many evils on the show: vampires, werewolves, Satan, demons, and on and on. But one theme Supernatural hasn’t tackled is Lovecraftian horror, and the season 10 finale created a beautiful opportunity to do just that.
When many people think of Lovecraft’s work, they think of ancient gods like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and so forth. But to stop there is to miss the true theme of Lovecraftian fiction: cosmic horror. In many Lovecraftian and/or cosmic horror stories, ancient forces existed long before humans ever evolved. For one reason or another (depending on the story) they left or were forced away. I’m simplifying here, but the terror lies in the realization that these forces are coming back at some point, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. At best, we can only delay it. And compared to these forces or gods, we are insects.
In Supernatural season 10, Dean and Sam are looking for a way to rid Dean of the “Mark of Cain”. (In this quest, they find the “Book of the Damned”, a supernatural grimoire that cannot be destroyed — Necronomicon, anyone?) The Mark is causing Dean to become more and more erratic and dangerous. In the finale, Dean summons Death and asks Death to kill him to keep the world safe. Death explains that he can’t; nothing can kill Dean as long as he has the Mark, not even him. So Dean asks him to remove the Mark, and Death refuses again, explaining that the Mark is much more than Sam and Dean think:
DEATH: Creatio ex nihilo — God created the earth out of nothing — or so your Sunday-school teacher would have you believe.
DEAN:What, so Genesis is a lie, eh? Shocker.
DEATH: Before there was light, before there was God and the archangels, there wasn’t nothing. There was the Darkness, a horribly destructive, amoral force that was beaten back by God and his archangels in a terrible war. God locked the Darkness away where it could do no harm, and he created a Mark that would serve as both lock and key, which he entrusted to his most valued Lieutenant, Lucifer. But the Mark began to assert its own will, revealed itself as a curse, and began to corrupt. Lucifer became jealous of man. God banished Lucifer to Hell. Lucifer passed the Mark to Cain, who passed the Mark to you, the proverbial finger in the dike.
DEAN: Well, that is just fan-friggin-tastic, isn’t it?
DEATH: So I could remove the Mark, but only if you will share it with another to ensure that the lock remains unbroken and the Darkness remains banned.
DEAN: I’m not doing that… not to anyone.
ABOVE: Dean summons Death, after which Death explains that removing the Mark is bad. (Important safety tip.)
Is there room for God in a Lovecraftian universe? Not if H.P. Lovecraft wrote the story. But as I’ve said many times, Lovecraft isn’t a set of rules, it’s a foundation. In other words, how cosmic horror works depends on the writer.
And I really like what Death is implying: That the being the Supernatural universe knows as “God” may be a powerful force — and is in fact the being who created the universe — but there were forces around even before him, that were just as powerful as he is. (Author Brett J. Talley does something very similar in his Lovecraftian novel That Which Should Not Be and its sequel He Who Walks in Shadow.)
Also, Death does not describe the Darkness as evil — he calls it “amoral”. This fits in perfectly with the themes of cosmic horror.
UPDATE: Lovecraft eZine reader Matt Wiseman points out that Dean kills Death in this episode: “That is not dead which can eternal lie,
and with strange aeons even death may die.” Another clue as to the direction the Supernatural writers may be taking in season 11?
If you’ve seen this episode, you know that Castiel, Crowley, and Rowena find a way to remove the Mark, and at the end of the episode, we see the result:
So this is a great setup for a truly Lovecraftian season 11. I hope they go that route, and if so, I hope they do it right.
This is also a wonderful way to bring back Chuck, aka God. Bringing Chuck back before now to solve any problem would have amounted to deus ex machina, but now we have a foe that not even God might be able to beat. I’d love to see Chuck frequently in season 11, and I’m sure many other Supernatural fans feel the same way.
What do you think about the possibility of a Lovecraftian Supernatural season 11? Comment below!