After last week’s major league revelations and shifts in the story arc, “The Scorpion and the Frog” narrows the focus for the Winchesters as they’re presented with an offer by a demon they cannot refuse. And boy, do the boys really, really want to.
Viewers are introduced to a new crossroads demon named Barthamus (David Cubitt), who is for all intents and purposes the Dollar Store version of Fergus Crowley. This isn’t a slight on Cubitt’s performance or the dark cheekiness of Meredith Glynn’s script… It’s simply apparent Barthamus was a pale reflection of the late King of Hell and rightfully wasn’t taken seriously by either Winchester. Nevertheless, the demon talked a good game and knew what carrot to dangle in front of the boys – in this case a nephilim tracking spell. Bart was as prepared as one could be for the Winchesters but he damn sure wasn’t ready to go toe-to-toe with them. If he did follow the brothers’ exploits as he claimed, Bart should have known any double-cross he attempted wasn’t going to be overwhelming like the “curveballs” Sam and Dean could see coming a mile away.
Essentially, Barthamus dangled a nephilim tracking spell in front of the Winchesters and agreed to give them the pages if they recovered a chest from a very, very paranoid collector of the arcane. Accompanying Dean and Sam in their little heist were Smash aka Alice (Christie Burke) and Grab (Matthew Kevin Anderson), reluctant partners of Bart’s that provided skills necessary for a successful mission.
The most intriguing character of the episode was Luther Shrike (Richard Brake), a collector and connoisseur of all things occult and arcane. Apparently this man has friends in low places because at least one agent of Hell from Asmodeus’ camp tipped Shrike off about Bart’s big plan (the alternate title for this episode) and the Winchesters’ involvement. Despite the warning from the demon, Luther is his own man and doesn’t need a damn thing from anyone. Well, except for the exceptionally creepy items he occasionally pays for in person, which became Sam’s only way inside the homestead. Though it’s likely Shrike bought most of his collection on eBay given his
In any case, Luther could have been an interesting character to keep around for a future episode or two considering the knowledge he must have accumulated for decades… but no. Not long after viewers received a hint of a shadow of a backstory for our mysterious purveyor of cursed relics and supernatural items, Bart had to go and decapitate his one true nemesis. Barthamus did want the contents of the chest – his human remains which were vulnerable to immolation. Yet the bonus underlying scheme to lure Shrike out of his comfort zone was orchestrated perfectly. The demon was finally able to waste the one person who bested him without fear of reprisal.
Thankfully Dean and Alice had spent enough time together to understand each other’s body language and the safecracker formerly known as Smash burned Barthamus’ bones, effectively killing the demon and freeing her from their contract. All’s well that ends well: a weaksauce demon was dusted, a potential threat/ally had been neutralized and a seemingly cool human was given a second chance. Sure, they took a small L for losing the nephilim tracking spell but in the big picture, the Winchesters rid the world of a few bad apples and that’s always a win in their book.
The only real issue lingering in the episode is what happened to Luther’s collection? If the man was as intimidating and renown among demons as stated, surely Sam and Dean would go back off camera and snag all his gear before any baddies could? In any case, the boys are feeling good about their luck lately and as their history goes, they’ll certainly discover another option – one far more costly and infinitely perilous – to find Jack and bring him back home.