Supernatural returned from mid-season hellatus with a melancholy episode laced with a pinch of humour and lots of foreshadowing. “Adventures in Babysitting” was a fitting follow-up to the beautiful but sad “Death’s Door,” as the Winchesters try to figure out how to go on.
This episode really brought the season’s overall arc for the brothers into focus. Sam and Dean are heroes, as Bobby proudly said, but what does that mean in human terms? Myth arcs are great to read, but what about when you live them? Sam and Dean have lost so much over the years; they are far from the two young men we met in the first season. This season, the loss of Castiel and Bobby has left them no one but each other—and we can’t help but wonder: is that enough?
How do our heroes get out of bed every morning? How do they keep on without the human connections we need to stay healthy? We’ve been shown from the beginning of this show the hunting life is short and hard, burning out those few who survive into middle age. Sam and Dean have no expectations of living a long life, but what will fuel their drive to live what life they are allotted?
As usual with the boys, they have different issues to resolve as they deal with their grief. Dean has been wrestling with depression and alcoholism all season, as he goes through the motions of his life, but no longer feels the fire of saving people. Bobby finally put the issue on the table when he told Dean he had to find a reason, any reason, to get back in the game because he couldn’t be anything but a hunter and an apathetic hunter is a dead hunter.
Bobby had no way to know his own death would light a fire under Dean. Both boys spend the first week after his death in shock, united in grief, but unable to talk to each other or make plans. As the shock lifts, Dean wants to spring into any action which leads to revenge for Bobby’s death. He’s obsessed with Bobby’s clue, which allows him to brush off Sam’s attempts to get him to deal with telling people about Bobby. Dean so badly does not want to deal with the reminders of Bobby, he runs himself ragged focusing on revenge.
Revenge as a reason for living has come up on the show before and it’s never been shown to be a healthy focus. With both John Winchester and Sam, their obsessive need for revenge gave them tunnel vision to the point they hurt the people they had left as they tried to avenge those they lost. Dean knows all too well what it was like trying to live up to standards his father had no business asking of a child. Will he be able to recognize and change the Winchester pattern?
He did once before when he told Sam not to come back if he left with Ruby. Bobby shook some sense into him as he told Dean family ties are not supposed to be easy and he is a better man than his father was. But revenge is a powerful goal because it is so easy to justify. I suspect Dean’s arc this season will be recognizing the cost of his revenge. The first step he takes is listening to Frank when the older man tells him he has to take care of himself and focus on his job or quit.
Frank and Dean are often at odds, but they have their similarities. They are both wise cracking, tough survivors, and as Dean learns more about Frank, he realizes the man has some wisdom to impart. But he must also realize Frank is a potential portrait of himself in later years—paranoid and alone. Fortunately, Dean is not yet alone—he has Sam. And Sam is reason enough to know he will never quit the hunting life. He will never abandon his brother. The love between the two brothers is a much healthier reason to go on than revenge. I suspect during the last half of the season, Dean will show the influence of both his fathers, John and Bobby, as he gives into revenge, but eventually realizes he needs to be there for Sam.
Sam this season in some ways has been healthier than Dean, which is amazing considering he’s also been dealing with PTSD, complete with Lucifer hallucinations. But Sam has always had inner demons. Indeed, he has had demon blood since he was six months old, which changed him enough he always felt like a freak and a loner. Sam cultivated the exterior of a grounded well educated man, but his interior life was far different.
Sam’s struggles with his own identity only grew as he ingested more and more demon blood. The blood not only gave him demonic powers, it changed him permanently, as he learned from Ruby. Sam’s worst fear came true—he isn’t entirely human any more. But he also learned in season six the demonic blood does not define who he is—his soul does. And Sam has his soul back, tattered as it may be. What then, is Sam?
Sam is the man who through his own will, bolstered by his brother’s love, refused to turn demonic even though he used demon blood to gain strength. He’s not a demon, but he’s not completely human, either. I don’t find it surprising Sam can survive more trauma than is humanly possible. Sam is unique, which means he is a very alone character. Dean and Bobby were and are the only people to know all his secrets and mistakes and still love him fiercely. With Dean being the one who mostly raised him, the older Winchester is Sam’s rock, his lifeline.
Sam copes with Bobby’s death by immersing himself in work, any work. Despite his own wounds, he still needs to protect others. He’s been holding off his hallucinations by going about his life and he intends to cope with his grief the same way. Sam has a much more pragmatic way of processing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than Dean does. However, we know from Sam’s own lips he is far from OK.
Sam will have to access all his strength again this season to battle the Leviathan and I suspect he will be the wild card the Leviathans have not considered. Unfortunately, Sam’s strength came with a terrible price. I think he will need Dean to ground him in some way. Whether Dean will recognize that is the question.
Both boys have been stripped to their cores, with nothing and nobody but each other to lean on. I hope this means they will find a stable place within them not only to go to battle, but also to be there for each other. If they do, they may be in a different place than most hunters. Perhaps they will break the mould of dysfunction and despair that eventually takes down their kind. If so, the huge losses they and we have suffered through the seasons will be worth it.
With Bobby possibly there in spirit to guide his boys, I still have hope Sam and Dean will find some kind of peace before we leave them.Powered by Sidelines