In between the mass insanity known as my family's holiday rituals, the hubby and I managed to filter through some Supernatural DVDs to help our withdrawal symptoms over this long hiatus. During that process, my warped brain threw together an arbitrary and subjective list of the top ten Winchester brother moments. In generating this list, rules had to be made. There was no other way to narrow the one hundred moments on my initial list to ten.
Rule 1. The scenes must involve both brothers either making me laugh or cry. Dean breakdown scenes in “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” “Wishful Thinking,” and “Heaven and Hell” are awesome, but a glassy-eyed Sam playing pretty wallpaper behind Dean’s speeches of woe doesn’t give strength to a “brotherly” moment. The reverse holds true for Sam pouring his heart out in “Houses of the Holy” or crying like a girl at the end of “Heart”.
Rule 2. The scene has to involve a conscious and alive Sam and Dean. While the exorcism scene in “Born Under a Bad Sign” is all kinds of awesome, it's Meg, not Sam, so it's disqualified. Same with Dean’s meltdown in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” since Sam is a corpse. Ditto with Sam crying over Dean’s corpse in “No Rest For The Wicked”. I could go on, but hopefully everyone gets the gist.
Rule 3. This is the strongest scenes, not the strongest episodes. “Hell House” has a fantastic string of brotherly moments, but not one prank scene trumps the other.
Finally, sorry, season one fans, but nothing from that season made the list. While there are many great moments in that season, the ones from the other three end up outdoing all those.
I know, get on with it.
10. Mystical Talking Board – “In My Time of Dying”
This scene gets me every time, and it’s all because of the way it’s edited. In some shots Dean is there with Sam, showing his point of view, and in the others it’s only Sam, showing his point of view. The subtle movements back and forth between these viewpoints are incredible, for we believe they’re carrying on a seamless conversation even though Sam can’t see or hear Dean.
Both Sam and Dean’s reactions to this grim situation are perfect. At first they’re both amazed that they can actually communicate, and then Dean has the perfect response to every one of Sam’s statements. After Dean spells out “REAP” on the board, Sam is crushed as the reality hits him. “If it’s here naturally, there’s no way to stop it.” Dean responds, “Yeah, you can’t kill death.” Sam then replies, “Man, you’re, um,” and Dean easily finishes his sentence. “I’m screwed, Sam.” Awesome.
In season one their chemistry is perfect, but in season two scenes like this take their relationship to the intuitive. No longer are they the brothers at odds and their loyalty to each other reaches a new level. It's a perfect setup for the trials to come in which that loyalty is constantly tested.
9. Clinic Scene – “Croatoan”
Sam is infected and is waiting to turn into a monster. Dean persistently sends everyone away, and we know he’s more than ready to die with Sam because he gives the others the keys to the Impala! A teary Sam begs his brother to save himself and leave, for he’s ready to put a bullet in his brain. Dean adamantly refuses. Normally slamming a fist against the table in frustration is cliché, but when Sam does it over Dean's stubborn act, it so works. Dean’s ready to give it all up, for he’s tired, and finally hints of a burden he’s been carrying since John died.
Of course it’s all interrupted because the crisis is over and it turns out Sam’s immune, but man, did we get some great drama out of that. This scene is so brilliantly acted, and the chemistry between Jensen and Jared reaches a pinnacle that sets a new standard for episodes to come. Luckily, we haven’t been disappointed yet.
8. Wrestling for Money Clip on Bed – “Tall Tales”
I have three siblings and, trust me, that’s the way brothers and sisters settle things. “He touched my stuff” is a very legitimate reason for a fight. Knowing that, there’s no better way to address family conflicts than to tackle your sibling on the bed and wrestle.
Everything about their argument over the money clip is classic sibling rivalry, thus making it that more hysterical. Immature, irrational, and flying off the handle over something trivial all without listening to what the other has to say — I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of that from Sam and Dean, especially with the close quarters they keep. I was pounding on my brother after one day in a motel.
It’s even a bigger riot watching Jensen and Jared do that. I’m still squealing in between my fits of laughter. It makes me want to fight my brother all over again. Oh, and take on a pair of Winchester brothers myself.
7. The Motel Confrontation – “Metamorphosis”
How could this not be explosive? This is the best setup ever. Dean, tipped off by Castiel, has caught Sam using his demon powers. What’s worse, he finds out Ruby is alive and helping Sam. Dean takes off and a bothered Sam waits for him back at the motel. Dean storms in and starts packing, Sam gingerly approaches and Dean punches him! Not once, but twice! Sure, it wasn’t the first time Dean punched Sam, but he’s never been this angry at him before.
This long exchange is a treat for those who waited four seasons for the brothers to finally openly address Sam’s struggle with his abilities. While Dean goes off, Sam tearfully does his best to defend his actions. Dean scares him though, a lot, not just by his anger (like smacking a lamp across the room) but when Dean reveals the angels told him to stop him. By the end Sam’s a wreck, and Dean’s look of betrayal is devastating.
This scene has everything: physical, verbal, and emotional conflict, with both brothers running through a wide spectrum of emotions, complemented by incredible dialogue that in no uncertain terms showcases how heated things are between them. Other scenes like the argument outside the Impala complement this one perfectly, but this scene easily stands out as a defining moment in terms of their relationship.
6. Sam Hugs Dean – “Mystery Spot”
There are three brotherly hugs in the series. The first is when Dean hugs Sam after he’s resurrected in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II”. “Mystery Spot” is the second, and the third is the mutual hug while reunited after Dean is sprung from Hell in “Lazarus Rising”. All three are great, but the second one delivers the most impact.
A very broken Sam rushes across the room and overtakes an unsuspecting Dean with one giant bear hug. It’s the big conclusion to Sam’s almost year-long personal hell that he cannot describe nor Dean is aware of, and his entire ordeal is summed up in that one hug. Both facial expressions are pitch perfect. Sam is exhausted and lost, Dean is perplexed.
The greatest emotional impact comes from the one simple question: “How many Tuesdays did you have?” “Enough,” a weary Sam replies. In season three, Sam grew especially distant and reserved so for him to do that, it proves how much Dean really means to him. This is especially important after all their fights in previous episodes. What doesn’t seem like much on paper turns out to be pure gold on the screen.
5. Fixing the Impala – “Fresh Blood”
Let’s face it, Sam and Dean aren’t the type of brothers that'll grab some poles and lures and go fishing together. Sure, they relax with a beer every now and then, but given the horror of their everyday lives, they don’t partake in normal family bonding. Except here.
After Sam’s heartfelt plea for Dean to be his brother again — in other words, stop acting like a jerk and a martyr — Dean goes all out in a way that even surprises Sam. He shows him how to fix the Impala. You know, the sort of thing a normal big brother does. Given how much the car means to Dean, there is not one greater personal gesture that Dean could do for Sam than this.
The way Sam’s eyes light up when Dean hands him the wrench, it’s a side of their brotherly relationship we rarely see — little brother looking up to big brother, wanting to be just like him. Too often they’re mired in life or death situations and trying to save one other to enjoy simple moments like this. We enjoyed it too, and yes, that was millions of women collectively going “Awww.”
4. Sam and Dean’s Christmas, Past and Present – “A Very Supernatural Christmas”
Eric Kripke claimed that they set out to do the most violent, horrific, anti-holiday holiday special on record. While he succeeded in spades for most of the episode, the sentimental side won out in the end. We see two Winchester family Christmases, one past, one present, yet both are the same. It’s just Sam and Dean alone in the world, having nothing but each other. Both times Sam sucks up all that pain and does something incredible for Dean, leaving us all misty.
While I certainly love the flashback, finding out that Dean’s cherished amulet was given to him by an eight-year-old Sam at Christmas, the grown-up version puts that glaring lump in my throat. After Dean gets the amulet in the past, the scene cuts to the present and with the camera focused on said amulet still around his neck, all with Rosemary Clooney crooning “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” What a perfect touch. A nervous Sam awaits, and he’s managed to find a tree, lights, a "Merry Christmas" sign, and even fishing lures and pine tree air fresheners as ornaments. The best part though is he even remembers the Christmas cocktail, spiking the rum with a little egg nog. Dean’s reaction to the drink and everything else is priceless.
How many of us wished after this episode we got motor oil and a candy bar wrapped in newspaper for Christmas? Or skin mags and shaving cream? Sure one message is it’s the thought that counts, but for these guys, it’s knowing that all that matters is sitting right next to you. It’s a bittersweet moment too, since it’s Dean’s last year, but for at least one evening, all that is put aside. They didn’t succumb to a chick flick moment either, as their love for each other is declared appropriately by turning on the game.
Throw in the postcard perfect image of brothers watching the game through the window, complete with Christmas lights reflecting off the snowy Impala in the foreground, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better holiday ending for any TV show or movie.
3. Dean Watches Sam Exorcise Samhain – “It’s The Great Pumpkin Sam Winchester”
This scene is the equivalent of the freaking Academy Award of nonverbal acting. How a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, totally mesmerizing struggle could be depicted just by glances, Sam’s raised hand, and some serious face twisting still has me in total awe.
We saw it coming. The setup is pretty contrived. Sam would have to use his powers to exorcise the higher level demon Samhain. What we didn’t expect is Dean walking in on it, freezing at the end of the corridor and watching with stunning results. His troubled stare contains a swirl of terror, concern, heartbreak, and just plain sadness. He hates watching his brother being forced to do this, and couldn’t do much except watch.
On the other end, Sam is fighting hard, pushing his abilities to the limits while Samhain inches closer, not easily caving. He notices Dean but doesn’t back off his fight or ask for help. He carries on, even when he’s hit with a spiking migraine and a bloody nose. Eventually Samhain does succumb, and we are left with both Sam and Dean maintaining their positions on each end of the chamber, both glaring at each other horrified, both realizing that turning off Sam’s switch is no longer going to be easy. The result, deep sorrow for both. For us, we’re picking our jaws up from the floor and wondering how they managed that incredible scene without saying a word.
2. Dean’s Words of Wisdom Before Midnight – “No Rest For The Wicked”
We had all of season three to visualize the last moments, how the brothers would say goodbye when Dean’s deal came due. Nope, I didn’t call this one. Only one minute to midnight and Lilith has disappeared. Sam turns to Ruby and is ready to go against Dean’s wishes, to use his powers to save his brother. A vehement Dean stops him. “I’m not letting you go to Hell!” “Yes you are!” Dean declares, and that’s when the reality strikes. Dean is going to die.
Oh man, did they knock it out of the park on this one. Dean faces up to his actions and apologizes, accepting this is all his fault and what Sam wants to do won’t save him. A teary Sam asks what he’s supposed to do, and Dean comes up with the perfect set of words that aren’t lengthy, cheesy or sappy. “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what dad taught you, okay?” A weepy and devastated Sam nods. “Remember what I taught you.” Now Dean has tears in his eyes. Those aren’t sappy words? Why am I bawling then?
Just then the clock strikes midnight and while the chimes ring in the background, a ready for his punishment Dean turns to his teary brother and gives him a brave smile. Those heartbreaking glances are Sam and Dean’s way of saying goodbye. How does this show keep doing this? How do Jensen and Jared come up with these fresh, incredible, utterly amazing ways each week to leave us sloppy messes by night’s end?
To think, this wasn’t even the death scene! We are already pouring through the Kleenexes when Dean meets his demise and Sam has to cry again. Dammit show, way to leave us completely wrecked and then force us to live with that all summer. No wonder I keep coming back for more.
1. Sam Dies in Dean’s Arms – “All Hell Breaks Loose Part I”
Remember, this was a time before Winchester deaths were cliché. We weren’t exactly hanging on the edge of our seats with the setup. Only one psychic kid would survive. We knew it had to be Sam. We sat there for an hour watching them get picked off one by one, wondering how Jake would bite it and Sam would walk away. After all, they wouldn’t kill off one of the two leads. They wouldn’t leave Dean to carry on without Sam.
Holy crap! They did kill him! The knife goes through Sam’s spinal cord and is twisted by Jake, all while Dean watches in horror. He runs to his mortally wounded brother, who for all practical purposes is dead before he hits the ground. The lights slowly fade in Sam while Dean examines the fatal gash and gives desperate assurances, more for himself than his deteriorating brother. Then Sam quiet slips away, unable to utter a single word of goodbye, leaving Dean to grasp tightly onto his fallen sibling in the mud. The somber score plays while the camera pans overhead for the epic snapshot of the two locked in a final embrace. Then it goes back to Dean, who cries out “Sam!” before letting his tears fall.
Watching Sam quietly die and Dean’s devastated reaction over losing his baby brother trumps anything these two have experienced. The death is shocking, unexpected, and so damned emotional fans were left immobile from shock in front of the TV for hours after it aired. Some were able to hit the rewind button several times afterward only to be more crushed with each viewing. More importantly, this one moment set off a turbulent chain of events, defining everything Sam and Dean have been through since then.
That’s it! Feel free to share your favorite moments, or just tell me how full of crap I am. What would your list be?