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TV Review: Supernatural – “Goodbye Stranger”

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Life got in the way of a quick review of Supernatural’s “Goodbye Stranger,” which, on balance, turned out to be a good thing. I had time to mull the episode over, and with an episode this good, there’s lots to contemplate. I had a few reservations (shocking, I know), but not about the episode itself, which came together beautifully.

I knew we were in for an exciting and emotional journey from the opening scene. It was chilling enough watching Castiel stalk and kill Dean. Realizing Naomi had run this scenario over and over and over to break Castiel’s attachment to Dean set the tone—and the theme—of the episode.

Jensen Ackles and Jared PadaleckiThe phrase “I need your help” runs throughout the story, as different characters try to break through the harsh conditioning preventing them from opening up emotionally. In the beginning of the episode, Dean tries to offer help to a coughing Sam in the Batcave, but Sam cannot admit he needs it. At a basic level, though, he must know he does, because he makes a feeble effort to hide his bloody tissue from his brother.

In a much more disturbing way, Meg looks to Sam, Dean and especially Cas for help escaping Crowley. Sam and Dean remember all too well Meg’s past evil deeds which killed people they love and forced Sam to do awful things, including almost raping Jo. But they have to overcome that conditioning because at this point, they need Meg’s help.

I thought Robbie Thompson did a wonderful job balancing Sam and Dean’s awareness of Meg’s past with their need for her. Meg is upfront with Sam when he questions her willingness to sacrifice humans to aid her chance of escape. With a patented Meg sardonic twitch of her lips, she says, “I am Meg. I am a demon.” Neither Sam nor Dean forget that. Even though Meg helps the boys find Lucifer’s crypt, Dean still gives Meg a cold stare when he hands Sam the demon killing knife. In Dean’s eyes, Sam can use the knife to protect Meg—or protect himself from Meg, whichever ends up being necessary.

Sam shares Dean’s suspicions and fights opening up to Meg when she questions what he was up to while she was being tortured in hell. Perhaps because he can sense Meg would like to leave her demon life behind as much as he wants to leave behind his hunting life, or perhaps because he feels guilty she’s one of the list of characters he didn’t look for, Sam does overcome his conditioned hate for Meg and share his story of his lost love. Far from backfiring, Meg immediately understands meeting someone who reveals a deeper truer part of herself she’d thought lost.

Rachel Miner and Misha CollinsThat someone for her is Castiel. I loved the scene in which Castiel binds Meg’s wounds as she flirts with him. Supernatural has always done a superb job of muddying the waters of good and evil when it comes to people and angels. Demons don’t often get shades of grey, although Crowley’s ambivalent motivations have made him a fascinating character over the seasons. Now that he’s lost any pretensions to goodness, the time is ripe for Meg to search for her own lost soul.

Meg and Castiel have been on opposite sides, but both have fallen from grace due to devotion to a cause. Thompson does a masterful job taking a character we have loved to hate and reminding us she started out human. He does an equally good job showing how even Naomi’s conditioning cannot take away the human sense of love Castiel has learned through his association with Dean. In an incredibly sweet scene, the angel and the demon overcome the conditioning of their species to admit they are sweet on each other.

But beyond the lovely if uncharacteristic sweetness of the scene, the care the two show sets the stage for Castiel’s struggle against Naomi’s conditioning. Naomi is sure she has finally removed Castiel’s human sense of love, so he is back to the celestial soldier he was created. But Samandriel told Dean he thought Castiel had always cared too much. Dean didn’t create the capacity for care in the angel; he just helped it grow. Naomi misses the first sign Castiel’s ruthlessness is slipping when he asks about Meg: “Do I have to kill her?”

Naomi thinks Castiel is being tactical, but in fact he’s being emotional. The conditioning has its first crack. That crack gets a lot wider when Dean and Cas face off over the angel tablet. Dean has had his suspicions about his friend since he mysteriously got out of Purgatory, and the two warily circle each other when the angel asks him to hand over the prize. But it never crosses Dean’s mind Castiel would actually kill him for the tablet. Dean’s loyalty to those he considers family goes to his core, and in a scene strongly reminiscent of “Swan Song,” despite being beaten, he pleads with Castiel to remember who he is—family.

Misha Collins and Amanda TappingNaomi never thought to put those words in her fake Dean’s mouth when she had Castiel practice killing his friend. She was focused on Castiel’s need for forgiveness for his sins. Unfortunately for her, “family” is a powerful word between these two men. Naomi so misreads Castiel’s relationship with Dean that when Castiel fights her command to kill Dean because it doesn’t feel right, she tells him, “Let your vessel do what you know deep down is the right thing.”

This order loses Naomi the fight. She can’t imagine an angel would think saving a human is the right thing, but Castiel made that decision long ago. Cas now has a way to carry out her orders and still save Dean. He can do what he deep down considers the right thing.

The timing is perfect as Dean overcomes his own deep conditioning never to admit vulnerability and tells his friend, “I need you.” The words find their way through the cracks and reach Castiel, who puts down his knife.

Dean’s words may have had a little help. The angel tablet gets dropped in the fight between Dean and Cas, which knocks away the protective layer of clay. When that happened with the demon tablet, the tablet “awoke” enough to transform Kevin into a prophet. Perhaps the angel tablet also had an effect on Castiel as a potential guardian.

In any case, after Castiel drops his weapon, he picks up the tablet, which then definitely shows its power. The angel apologizes to Dean and explains the mind control—but he is not yet finished with deciding how to do the right thing. The tablet appears to need him, and Cas decides he has to put those needs above Dean’s. Breaking the mind control means goodbye stranger, but for the time being, it also means goodbye Dean. And sadly, as it turns out, goodbye Meg forever.

Dean is still sure Castiel is somehow “off the reservation,” but nevertheless, the air has been cleared between the two. He’s still left knowing Sam is hiding his pain and injuries suffered in the first trial, and Dean’s had enough.

In a sign of growth, Dean doesn’t show his feelings through an argument. Instead, he opens up to Sam and tells him he can’t bear any more lies. The brothers have been conditioned all their lives to hide their deepest fears from each other to protect each other—and it’s always hurt rather than helped. Sam hears the pain in Dean’s voice and realizes they need to be there for each other. As Dean says, unblushingly invoking the Rule of the Rudy Hobbit to quote the Lord of the Rings, “I can carry you”—but only if Sam lets him. And Sam does, ending a gorgeous episode of Supernatural. Thank you, Robbie Thompson.

Does that mean I had no concerns this week? No, but for the most part they were more concerns about the future than this particular episode. I did have a couple of nitpicks—why is Crowley’s past being retconned so he’s older than the 1600’s? If this is a deliberate plot point, I’d like it to pay off sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it looks like carelessness, in a script that was not otherwise careless.

Jensen Ackles in "Swan Song"I had a bigger issue with the deliberate way the fight between Cas and Dean resembled the iconic fight between Sam/Lucifer and Dean in “Swan Song.” I think that scene was so important to Sam and Dean’s relationship and the ending of that five year story line, it should not be remade by recasting Sam’s part. Despite all the wonderful acting, the staging of the scene felt wrong.

Removing Sam to accommodate Castiel’s story needs is a danger I think this episode has intensified. Redoing “Swan Song” really puts Dean’n’Cas on the same level as Sam’n’Dean—and that is a significant shift in the show. And it’s a problem because Sam has absolutely no place in Dean’n’Cas.

I was glad the episode allowed Sam to point out it was weird for Dean to pray to Cas when he distrusted him. Sam doesn’t know Dean was asking the angel to watch over Sam, but I expect that would not have felt terribly reassuring to Sam. Castiel may regret damaging the younger Winchester, but Naomi has no need to condition Cas so that he will kill Sam if necessary. Evidently, Castiel has no inner barriers to that. Sam and Castiel are not family.

The writing problem this creates is that whenever the writers want Dean and Cas to have a moment, they have to get rid of Sam. I thought it was ridiculous in this episode that Dean would want Sam to stay outside where he was almost sure to have to fight demons, while Dean and Cas went inside the crypt where they had no reason to suspect they would not be alone. Dean’s reasoning made no sense. But Sam had to be gotten rid of so Dean and Castiel could connect with each other.

As Misha Collins has been made a regular for next year, getting Sam out of Dean and Cas scenes could be a much more regular occurrence. The writers have to develop Sam and Castiel’s relationship—and while they are at it, they need to decide why Sam decided not to return to Amelia.

I didn’t like the Sam and Amelia arc, but I was hoping at this point, the writers had decided to go with Sam realizing he never fit his life with the vet and his hunting/MOL life is his real life. I hoped the MOL legacy gave him a place that felt “right” and that his life with his brother did not feel like something he was forced to do, though his heart was elsewhere.

Sam’s talk with Meg dispelled this hope, as Sam again admitted he wanted a life out of hunting and that Amelia had shown him that life was possible for him. If that’s the case, what exactly was the point of the flashbacks in “Hunteri Heroici”?

I think it’s really dangerous for the show to show Sam moving away from seeing Dean as part of his happiness equation as they show Dean admitting he needs Castiel as part of his family. I like Cas, but Sam and Dean are the core.

However, I will put those fears aside for the moment and enjoy the episode for the well-acted, well-written and well-directed story it was.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Durae

    I want Meg and Cass!!! Megstiel!!!! I LOVE them!!! -Rae

  • Gerry

    Hi Witch22! Thanks for reading. I miss Kripke’s balance between the boys and focus on a central narrative, too.

    I don’t think the boys can have equally strong outside relationships and not change the structure of the show dramatically. Other relationships, yes, but not equally strong. Sam and Dean’s bond is meant to be a unique bond forged from fire and destiny, not a typical family relationship where the kids grow apart as they start separate lives. Sam and Dean’s lives are not separate–or shouldn’t be. They are most interesting in terms of each other, not as single entities. Much like Boyd and Raylon on Justified are most interesting in how they relate to each other.

    Diluting the focus is never a good idea for a show with a strong concept that works.

  • witch22

    Amen to you. Their partiality is showing. Miss u Kripke and miss the brotherly bond.

  • Colin

    Yeah, I totally agree Harley! Sam needs a Cas too and that’s what I meant when I said I wanted the writers to give him a relationship/friendship in s09. Or bring Amelia back. I just don’t want to see him so isolated and miserable :/ And sure, brothers can form equally strong bond with other people, I thought that was for granted? I mean, just because my brother has friends of his own, has a girlfriend etc. doesn’t mean he loves me less.

    Bobby, omg Bobby… I just saw the promo and sneak peek for 8.19 and he’s stuck in Hell o.o I hope the boys rescue him and he can stick around with them again! That way, as you say, there wouldn’t be this Sam vs. Cas uncomfortable atmosphere. But honestly, I don’t think Bobby will return permanently. Pretty sure he’ll go to Heaven at the end of the ep.

  • Harley

    While I agree that Dean and Sam’s brotherly bond is central to the show, I do not agree that Dean and Cas’s relationship has to be made second tier, as it were, to preserve the brotherly bond. I think it’s important for the two lead characters to be multi dimensional, and real brothers do form equally strong bonds with outside people. Or angels. The problem is that Sam hasn’t found his Cas yet thanks to a lack of chemistry with Amelia, and three can seem like a crowd and give the strytelling dynamic an unecessary Sam vs. Cas vibe. This is where keeping Bobby would have made the family dynamic less of a weird love triangle because he also had strong but different bonds with each brother, and was starting to grow fond of Cas.

  • Colin

    Great! It looks like my comment has been eaten again. Is this going to become a pattern? T_T

  • Colin

    Hello Gerry, yeah this issue really needs to be fixed haha.

    Well, first of all, I’m not going to start a debate about whether or not Dean is 100% straight, because many other people more professional and more understanding of LGBT+ issues than me have already done so, so I recommend that you read some of the great meta on that matter that are out there. But even if you still see no evidence, it’s a valid interpretation because as I said before, it’s all subtext. What I do want to point out though is that if Dean ever comes out bi on-screen, it won’t come “out of the blue” because the interpretation that he’s been always a repressed bisexual is also completely valid.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree here in regards to Dean and Cas’ relationship not having as weight as Dean and Sam’s. This season has certainly discarded that assumption and I’m only going to focus on the narrative in itself: starting from Dean being in an emotional bad place from 8.01 to 8.07 because of the guilt of letting Cas “go” after doing everything he could to get him out of Purgatory, to Cas being manipulated for weeks to kill Dean as the only person who could possibly stand in Naomi’s way to Dean doing exactly so by breaking the mind-control due to his and Cas’ emotional connection etc. etc. etc.

    In my honest opinion, Sam and Dean’s codependency (and yes, it’s certainly a textbook emotional codependency due to the way John raised them, and this is NOT up to debate) has become a little healthier and there’s plenty of evidence on that matter, so on “maturing” the boys I do have to congratulate Carver because he’s done a good job so far. However, I do agree with you that Dean needing Cas in his life shouldn’t be considered “growth”. Both relationships need to be healthier but this cannot happen overnight, so I trust Carver that he’ll continue maturing the boys in the future.

    Oh and Gerry, I’m just going to point out that their codependency did stop the apocalypse but it was also what started it in the first place when Dean sold his soul and practically committed suicide just to resurrect Sam. This said codependency should by no means be considered something positive because by doing so you’re actually insulting all the people who struggle with this real issue.

    I do agree though with the Sam not wanting to be hunting thing. The writers really need to come up with realistic motivations for Sam’s character. Sam is my very favourite character ever so if Sam gets alienated from the story I’m afraid I won’t continue watching the show. Bring Amelia back if this is what he wants! Just let him be happy for once, you goddamn show ¬¬

    Oh! and as for Dean/Cas not being endgame, nobody can obviously affirm or deny so until the series is over, but from a narrative POV it does make sense and it definitely sets it up, and if Carver is brave enough they might go there. If he’s not, well, their feelings (be it romantic or platonic) will continue being subtext. Which I don’t personally have a problem with but some others do, because it will indeed be queerbaiting and this is a real, serious issue that needs to stop (but probably won’t, because let’s be honest here, it’s 2013 but there’re still many many homophobic and heterosexist people out there and they won’t just disappear. Sad but true as it is :/).

    So, to sum up (yes I’ve already said so several times before, I just love concluding my statements xD):
    – Dean’s repressed bisexuality remains in the subtext but is still a totally valid interpretation
    – This season, Dean and Cas’ relationship has as much weight as Dean and Sam’s
    – This season, Sam and Dean’s emotional codependency has become (a little) healthier
    – Sam needs to have realistic motivations to be on the show
    – Dean/Cas may or may not be endgame so we’ll have to wait and see until the series is over

    If you guys want me to elaborate more on any of these points just let me know, I usually have nothing better to do lol.

  • Gerry

    Colin, I just lost a long reply to you, sigh. I’m waiting to see if it can be rescued from rejected limbo.

  • Gerry

    Hi Colin! Thanks for the long discussion and sorry about the comment issue. If it helps, I’m being rejected, too (sniffle).

    I think Dean’s role on the show is more than the emotional hero, but it is true that he has been moved to the emotional centre of the show, which is an issue.

    Kripke’s vision was the impact on a family if one son was the agent of hell and the other heaven, and how family bonds were the strongest source of power.

    Dean being moved to the centre of the show takes away from the story centre of the power of family, because his relationship with Sam loses its prominence. While I like Cas, I don’t think his relationship with Dean will have the kind of weight Sam’s has had in the long run. I don’t believe the writers are heading for a Cas/Dean romantic relationship as the end game of the series.

    I don’t think this season has done a good job at portraying the brothers’ relationship “maturing.” I think it’s interesting that Sam and Dean needing each other can be defined as “co-dependent,” but Dean needing Cas is “growth.” For the show to work, Sam has to need his brother, too–there’s no need to class that as unhealthy–Kripke didn’t. It’s what stopped the Apocalypse.

    In my view, moving Sam away from Dean because he doesn’t need him and getting Sam involved in some domestic situation will not fit into the conceit of this show–which will not just damage Sam’s character, it will damage the show as a whole. If Sam truly doesn’t need his brother and truly wants out of hunting, his story on Supernatural is done and I doubt anyone would tune in for a spin off Sam and Amelia show.

    On the Dean/straightness issue, many people who pay very close attention to the show and to subtext think he has been shown as straight. I do myself. I have read the many memes and most in my opinion contort the show to fit a specific desired vision.

    For example, in My Bloody Valentine, Famine causes everyone to give into their repressed desires, which works on everyone but Dean. Dean explains to Cas he is very touch with his body desires, including sex, and satisfies them without guilt, so there’s nothing for Famine to work on. There’s canon evidence Dean is not repressing his sexuality. And that fits with Dean dealing with his supposed last year by indulging his appetites, which also include straight sex.

    I’ve seen posts that look at the succubus being male for Dean as evidence of sexual orientation, but to me that succubus was shown providing what his victims desired, and Dean’s desire was for an uncomplicated brother who looked up to him. So that’s what he got. The succubus represented Sam, and I don’t think the writers were going for Wincest.

    This is getting too long, so will stop here. (-:

  • Colin

    Uhm… another rejected comment lol. I’m getting used to it already xD. I hope you guys can fix this and can post my new comment soon.

  • Colin

    Hello Wendy. I don’t think that Sam was “right”, what I think is that he deserves for once to be right about anything, you know? Because Sam is always, always the one who is wrong while Dean is The Righteous Man lol.

    But I know that Sam not looking for Dean was not ok and he should have. As I’m aware too of Sam’s reasons and I respect them. He simply made his own decisions and moved on. Has he made the wrong ones? Well, in previous seasons he surely would have, but this time, Sam is not apologizing. And what’s more, he has every right not to do so.

    Just like Dean has every right to be friends with Benny. If anyone is to be blamed, it’s both. And this is what I like about this season. For the first time ever, Sam and Dean BOTH have made mistakes and neither is “right” or “wrong” (not to mention that both concepts are subjective). And what’s best, this has strongly influenced the brothers’ relationship making it be a little healthier. Their co-dependency has been very present since day 1, and I like it that they are starting to move on, be their own people without depending on the other and having meaningful relationships with other people but still enjoying each other’s company and loving each other as always.

    As for Dean being the Hero too, I explained before that Dean has always been a Hero too, only that he is the emotional/phsychological Hero while Sam is the adventure/action Hero. Look, it’s like Sam would be Harry Potter, and Dean would be Ron (has his own storylines too but they revolve around Harry’s). You may or may not agree, but this is just the way it has always been and I’m afraid this won’t ever change even if Dean had a myth-arc storyline. But this doesn’t mean that Dean is somehow “degraded”, he is as equal a hero as Sam is. Their genres are what differ here and must be taking into consideration when talking about their roles on the show.

    But if your question is “why” this is like this? Well, to answer that we should ask Kripke, because he’s the one who made Sam the Hero during seasons 1-5. Sam the son who has demon blood and daddy always tried to protect, Sam who Dean thinks is his “job” to look after at all costs, Sam who had mental powers and drank demon blood and trusted a demon and started the apocalypse, and finally, Sam who sacrificed himself to save the world. It has always been about Sam. And Sera Gamble and Carver have just followed this pattern ever since. Soulless Sam, Crazy Sam, and now Sam closing the gates of Hell. It doesn’t bother me much, because I’m a Sam fanboy, but I totally understand your frustration 🙁

    As for you saying that Dean has always been straight, well, casual viewers or people who simply don’t pay attention to the subtext surely see it that way, but there’s actually evidence of Dean’s possible (repressed) bisexuality ever since season 2. You can find tons and tons of meta in regards to this matter on the internet if you’re interested 🙂

    And as for Dean/Cas, if, and only if, Carver has their relationship as endgame, then Dean probably won’t have long-term romantic relationships in future seasons. Maybe one-night-stands, yeah, but this season he’s even rejected the few opportunities he’s had, so… If Dean/Cas is not endgame, then they may introduce a love interest for Dean, but it’s still highly unlikely from a narrative-wise and business-wise POV (I can elaborate on this if you ask me). I can’t say the same for Sam though, because in his case, from a narrative POV it does make sense, but doesn’t from a business-wise POV (as proved with the Amelia storyline).

    So, to sum up, and please keep in mind that this is only my honest opinion (and omg sorry that the comment got so long lol):
    – Sam was not right about the way he treated Dean but neither was Dean. They both made wrong and right decisions this season.
    – Dean and Sam are both Heroes on the show, but their roles are different.
    – Dean’s sexuality and relationship with Cas are up to interpretation (yet)
    – It’s very unlikely that Dean will have a love story (unless it’s with Cas). In Sam’s case it is more likely.

  • wendy

    And as for Amelia, I think she is not good at all for Sam. For one thing, she is MARRIED. But aside from that, Sam’s whole relationsip with her was built on lies and illusions. She never knew a thing about Sam, who he really was, the life he had lived, what he had seen and been through. If Sam is going to have a relationship, it has to be with someone who really knows him and accepts who he truly is, warts and all.
    The same for Dean. Lisa knew him and tried to accept him but in the end, she rightfully had to choose what was best for her son, and at the time, Dean wasn’t it.
    I never saw anything romantic between Dean and Cas, mainly because to me, SPN has always shown Dean to be a straight man who loves women. This is not homophobia on my part, this is just what the show, to me, has always shown.This is another area where I feel SPN has been unfair to Dean; he never gets any real love interests/romance like Sam gets. I don’t count Lisa even though I believe he eventually did love her, because we never saw the romantic side of their relationship and also we never saw them falling in love. He just went there as a promise to Sam. I really want to see Dean have an actual love story, just once.

  • wendy

    Colin, I respectfully disagree that Sam was right about the way he treated Dean in the first half, and that he alone is the main hero. Dean is a hero too, why isn’t he just as equal a hero as Sam is?

  • Colin

    Well, as I said, the Dean/Cas dynamic is up to interpretation at this moment, so yeah I’ll leave it like that.

    What you explained is exactly what the writers have done with the Amelia/Sam storyline. And I totally agree, the writers set up an either-or situation and that’s what I was complaining about. That this doesn’t have to be that way. It’s true that the batcave won’t be a safe place forever, but in the meanwhile it IS a safe place, very few people know about it and Amelia could perfectly live there. Or as I said, she could live at her place and Sam could go visit her.

    And as you said, the problem is that Sam doesn’t want to share his hunting life with Amelia. That’s why I was proposing this solution. The writers can come up with a storyline that leads Sam into thinking that he CAN have both lifestyles. Maybe it’s true and Amelia would be a target for the bad guys if he did so, but well, isn’t life a risk in itself anyway? If this is what Sam wants, then go for it kiddo! xD

    But if the writers don’t go that way, then yes, we’ve got a big problem here, and as the Sam fan I am, I hope the writers fix it in season 9 and Sam starts making his own decisions for his own sake.

    By the way, are you guys concerned about anything other than what I’ve talked about yet? Because I can share my POV if you guys want to (yes I have too much free time T_T).

  • Gerry

    Hi Colin, we’ll agree to disagree on where the Cas and Dean relationship is right now. It is open to interpretation as anything else on the show, so no one “wins” an argument like that. To me, narrative sense is that they are not romantic in nature, but we can leave it at that.

    I’ll also disagree with your assessment of Sam and Amelia. The writing was terribly flawed, but the entire story is also an issue.

    The writers have in fact set up a situation where Sam has to choose between his hunting life and his Amelia type life. Amelia and Dean both told him he can’t have a foot in both lives, and Dean further said it would cost him his life if he did.

    Dean knows what he’s talking about because he found out the hard way a hunter of their experience cannot take a time out and have the bad guys agree. As hunters, Sam and Dean are in danger every minute–the Batcave is a reprieve at the moment, but as more people get to know about it, it will not be a safe haven for long. Jared said in his zaptoit interview the boys can’t have a place to hide out for long because that lessens the tension of the show if they can just hide out until bad guys go away.

    But more than that, Sam’s stated desire is to have a life away from anything supernatural. What he’s mourning is his ordinary life with Amelia. He doesn’t want Amelia to know about his secret hunting life. He doesn’t want to visit her on the sly, hoping he doesn’t get her killed. He doesn’t want the both of them to live in the Batcave. He wants to be out of the supernatural world.

    That’s the biggest story issue with Sam and Amelia.

    And I don’t think the structure of Supernatural will ever accommodate one of the boys having a relationship as an ongoing thing. That doesn’t fit the core story of the show. As an end game, possibly. But having Sam be miserable hunting with Dean for two and 1/4 more seasons isn’t a great set up.

    “Otherwise everyone and their mother are going to eventually wonder why the hell is Sam still hunting when he clearly doesn’t want to.”

    Exactly. On that we do agree!

  • Colin

    Oh nevermind 🙂 Though I don’t agree that I am a shipper. Shippers are the people who ship Wincest or Destiel or whatever because they want (or dream in Wincest shippers’ case lol) two characters to get together for whatever reason, while I simply stated that I see Dean and Cas’ current relationship as romantic in nature (though it may be platonic) because I believe the narrative is writing them as such. It’s just a matter of narrative sense which has nothing to do with wanting them to get together (because I don’t mind either way, I watch the show for the drama and the narrative, not for romance).

    I could write meta after meta as to why I believe this, but I don’t think this is the appropriate place to start a Dean/Cas debate, so I’m just gonna say that their relationship is up to interpretation and therefore, your opinion that they are just friends/family is perfectly valid (at the moment, because we’ll see if, as I believe, the writers take their relationship further in the future).

    Yeah, the Sam/Amelia storyline was poorly done, but the story in itself wasn’t bad. What was terribly done was the writing, which is another completely different issue. I think Supernatural writers just don’t know how to write female characters lol. But I still do think that this is not an either-or situation. It’s not “Sam stays with Amelia and forgets about the hunting forever” or “Sam continues hunting and forgets about having a normal life with Amelia forever”. The writers could perfectly combine both situations as I explained before.

    If only Amelia (or other girl) knew about Sam’s secret hunting life, she could still support him and have a relationship with him, either living at her own place and Sam occasionally visiting her, or living at the batcave herself helping the boys somehow (doing research, healing as she’s a vet etc.). I don’t know, there are many possibilities that could work if done well. Which ok, I’m not holding onto that either lol. If the writers don’t go in that direction though, they need to come up with other motivations for Sam to stay with Dean hunting. Otherwise everyone and their mother are going to eventually wonder why the hell is Sam still hunting when he clearly doesn’t want to.

  • Laurie

    I forgot to mention how much I agreed with you on the fundamental problem of Sam prefering to be with Amelia rather than Dean. Sam needs to choose Dean, of his own free will and to want to be with him. The MOL story gave that opening into hunting with Dean by choice & happily, but Carver keeps sabotaging the brothers by some warped idea of “maturing the brothers”.

  • Laurie

    You are 100% right in your review, Gerry and you captured my problems exactly. The rip off of Swan Song was sad and lazy. Dean & Cas deserved their own unique defining moment, and this will always pale to the end of the 5 year plan.

    I’m a big Dean fan, and I see the huge problem they have going forward with Cas as a regular character in season 9, with the side-lining of Sam. The writers better start fixing it now or they will make a mess of the show. All these shipper fans are so blindsided by their own fanstasies that they can’t see the damage.

    Since Jensen is having a baby, he will probably be working slightly less in S9 at first, and I hope the writers use that time to establish some sort of personal relationship with Cas and Sam, than just Eveybody Loves Dean. [No one loves me more than I do, so let the guy breathe please, and give him a freaking story that isn’t just reacting to Sam & Cas while they’re at it…]

  • Gerry

    Thanks, Christopher!

  • Hi Colin,

    Unfortunately the spam protection is a bit wonky at the moment but, because you flagged the issue, I was able to rescue your perfectly valid comment from the spam trap.

    Sorry for the inconvenience and please carry on as normal.

    Christopher Rose
    Blogcritics Comments Editor

  • Gerry

    Sorry Colin, that should “acting up.”

  • Gerry

    Hi Colin, the comment section has been acting, so I’m sure there was no problem with what you wrote. My comments keep getting rejected too! Hopefully, another try will work.

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful comment. I do have to point out if you see Cas and Dean as having a romantic relationship, you are a shipper–that’s the definition (-:.

    I don’t see Dean and Cas as having a romantic connection, but I do think the show has shown they see each other as family. I like Cas and have loved many of his and Dean’s story lines, so I have no innate objection, except in wanting the show to keep the core of the show to the brothers.

    I don’t think any imbalance in story lines will be solved by giving Sam someone like Amelia. The Amelia arc was terrible for a lot of reasons, but one is that the show does not accommodate a domestic relationship outside of hunting. When Sam and Dean’s story of supporting each other in a hunting world is done, the show is done.

  • Colin

    Sorry, but what’s wrong with my comment? I wrote it down but then it said it was rejected? I’m the same guy as before, Colin. And I didn’t use bad language or attacked anyone.

  • Colin

    Wendy, although I don’t agree with you regarding Sam being always absolved from his mistakes while Dean is to be blamed (because throughout the whole series Sam has always been the one who is always wrong and Dean the one who is always right, so I’m glad that this time it has been the other way around), you’re right about it being unfair that Sam always gets all myth-arc storylines. He is the Hero, we all are aware of it, but this doesn’t mean Dean can’t get a myth-arc storyline as well. This is what I and many other fans actually want for him.

    However, not having a myth-arc storyline of his own doesn’t mean Dean has no storyline at all. It’s just that he is the emotional/psychological Hero and therefore his storylines are emotional, such as his character development, his POV and emotional reactions towards Sam’s and Cas’ storylines, and his relationships with Sam (trust issues, Benny and Amelia straining their relationship, Dean taking care of Sam) and with Cas (trust issues, Dean holding on vs. Cas letting go, Dean taking care of Cas).

    Sam, though? He has no emotional storylines at all. He only has to close the gates of Hell and maybe become a MOL. He has no friends. His POV is never shown. We don’t know why he does what he does, how he feels, what his motivations are…

    As for Cas, I think he is well balanced because he has both, a myth-arc storyline (Naomi’s mind-crontrol and now protecting the angel tablet) and an emotional one (learning to redeem and forgive himself from what he did as Godstiel and regaining his Free Will).

    So, to sum up, what I think we need for season 9 is:
    – A myth-arc storyline for Dean
    – An emotional storyline for Sam
    – A relationship/friendship for Sam
    – A Sam/Cas friendship

  • wendy

    I’d gladly let Sam have ALL of any outside friendships if it meant Dean could actually have some importance on the show and to the mytharc. I believe to give Sam the friendships in addition to ALL the important stories, and any true love stories/romances would be the thing that would be unfair. Outside friendships are just about the ONLY thing Dean gets. Please don’t take THAT away from him too.

  • wendy

    And it unfortunately confirms what Dean believed, that Sam ‘left him to die’ because of a woman. He shouldn’t have left him to die for any reason.
    I still want to love Sam. I certainly used to until this season.
    They made Dean apologize for his text which admittedly was a douchbag move, but why hasn’t Sam had to apologize for: Not bothering to look for Dean,2- siccing a clearly mentally unstable hunter (Martin) on Benny behind Dean;s back for spite, 3- allowing said unstable man to knock his brother out cold, and leave him bleeding and unconscious handcuffed to a radiator? To me, all these things are far worse than that text.
    I really want Sam and Dean to be a close, loving, united front again but it can’t happen if Dean is the only one who has to own up to his mistakes. SPN seems to blame Dean for everything while absolving Sam of any wrong doing.

  • Colin

    I agree with you, Gerry. I don’t even know what Sam is doing on the show anymore. He has to close the gates of Hell, well ok, and then what? He wants to go to Amelia, he wants to have a normal life outside of hunting and Dean. And I understand and respect that, I do. And it’s actually in character for Sam, because this is what he’s always wanted.

    But Sam must be on the show too, so I think we need some balance. Maybe Sam can decide to continue hunting with Dean and still have Amelia (or other girl) by his side, who knows about his hunting life and could even live in the batcave. A combination of both lives, that would be great I think, because Sam would be happy and he would still be totally involved on the show.

    As for Cas and Dean, I think their dynamic is great and not only Cas gives Dean emotional support but the other way around as well. Dean is Cas’ catalyst, the only one who could break the Cas-Naomi connection.
    And I think that at this point, Cas is as important and necessary in Dean’s life as Sam is, but I don’t think Cas is a brother for Dean or more of a brother than Sam is. Sam will always be Dean’s little brother, and no one will ever replace that position or Sam and Dean’s brotherly love for each other.
    I’m not a shipper, but I don’t need to be one to notice that Dean and Cas love each other on a romantic level. Maybe it’s just platonic, like best friends, but in any case, Cas is another type of “family” that won’t ever replace Sam, so there’s no need to worry about Cas becoming Dean’s new brother.

    Regarding Dean and Sam’s relationship, I hope that Carver “fixs” it because I really, really want them to be OK for once, I want them to have the deep love they had for each other in previous seasons, but unfortunately I don’t see it anymore. I know there must be some drama, but come on, do they always have to be at odds? I just don’t understand why can’t Sam, Dean and Cas be ok with one another and fight against outside forces instead of always be fighting between them.

    Oh and please, please Carver, I want Sam to have friends of his own for once! Dean has Cas, Charlie, Benny, Krissy, even Garth and Kevin talk more with him. But Sam? He has no one outside of Dean and that’s not fair. And of course, Sam and Cas need to at least have a friendship, this is essential if Carver is planning on taking Cas and Dean’s relationship further. And I am still hoping for Dean to have a storyline of his own other than being Sam’s caretaker. Though I’m not holding onto that.

    Apart from these few points, I’m enjoying this season a great deal 🙂

  • wendy

    While we’re so worried about Cas replacing Sam in Dean’s life, did anybody stop to remember that Sam completely replaced Dean with Amelia? When you fall in love with somebody, it doesn’t mean that you stop loving the people, family, that you’ve loved and cared about your whole life. You just expand the circle of people you love and who matter to you to include this new person. But Sam’s case, this is what exactly seems to have happened. Amelia is now the ONLY thing he cares about. Dean, the big brother who sacrificed everything, including his own life, for him, no longer seems to matter much to him, Amelia is the only thing that matters to Sam now. When Dean was with Lisa, it was clear he loved her, but that didn’t stop him from loving Sam or grieving for him. Or looking for him. And when he discovered Sam was alive, he was overjoyed. Unlike Sam’s rather lukewarm response to discovering Dean alive this season after thinking he was dead for a year.

  • Gerry

    Hi Jena, I totally agree we all have our own ways to view the show, including having Dean and Cas have the same weight as Dean and Sam. It’s all valid.

    It does seem to me that from your description, you don’t see Sam as having a lot to offer on the show. And that’s the part that concerns me when I think of the long term health of the show. If Sam doesn’t want to be a hunter, doesn’t offer Dean something he needs in his life and doesn’t have a relationship with Castiel, what exactly is he doing on Supernatural?

    The way I view the show, I like Cas and Dean and appreciate what they draw out of each other, but it’s not the central relationship.

    I guess we’ll see where the show and audience go! (-:

  • Jena

    I don’t see Dean as being a black and white thinker anymore. Benny is proof positive of this, IMO. Maybe Sam helped Dean with this once upon a time, but *I* haven’t seen Sam helping Dean through prolonged emotional support for some time now. I’d like to see it, but the writers don’t seem interested in showing it by writing actual sls and dialogues for and between the brothers that would endorse that, so we as viewers can only go with what they’re willing to give us or change the channel.

    As I said, I’m happy to see Dean finally getting some genuine and long term emotional support of his own. And I like Cas very much and like how he fills that void for Dean even better than how they write Sam trying to fill it. IDK, maybe it’s the difference in the actors for me, but Cas’ better support of Dean seems more real(and realistic) to me in that within the present (and on-going since Day One, IMO) brothers’ dynamic, Cas is better able to support Dean emotionally than Sam. It would take a huge change in their dynamic for Sam to truly fulfill that role, IMO-and one that to me would seem unrealistic because this is the way it’s been for 8 seasons of the show.
    Still, I personally, WOULD welcome that change-more than welcome it. I even thought with the new showrunner that we might get it this season. But with this second half of the season, I now just don’t see it happening ever; and I want to continue watching the show. And I love Dean and Cas as much as I love Dean and Sam. So it’s not too hard for *me*.

  • Gerry

    Jena, if Dean does not get emotional support from Sam and only gives it, and Sam does not want to be in hunting, what reason is there for Sam to stay in this story?

    I do think Sam has a younger brother dynamic, but I don’t agree he doesn’t offer emotional support to Dean. To me, Dean’s biggest issue with being the person he wants to be is a tendency to black and white thinking, which is a problem because he is a natural leader. People follow him because they love him. He therefore has to see shades of grey, so he can make the best decisions. And Sam has always been the person to push him out of his comfort zone in that regard.

    Dean can be pigheaded about a lot of things, but knowing Sam is grey in nature and knowing he loves Sam in all his complexity has always kept him from turning into the Dean of the future. Dean never wants to be that guy and his relationship with Sam grounds him in who he does want to be.

    Cas of course does have his place in Dean’s life and he does offer support in his own way. But it’s not either/or and I don’t think it should have equal weight, either.

  • Gerry

    Hi Armitage! I did point out in my first nitpick the change in Crowley’s past and hoped it would be a story point, not a mistake.

    Your idea is intriguing, but it seems a bit of a stretch to say Crowley would know what would happen in 400 years and could start from the bottom to work his way up to second in command to Lilith. He’d be a pretty young demon and one I assume hell would know started out as an angel.

    I’m not even sure an angel who falls and rips out his/her grace has a soul. Angels don’t have souls, and it hasn’t been covered on the show whether Anna got one because she ripped out her grace.

    It’s a pretty convoluted story line to have to shoe in at this stage, I think. I suspect it was simply a continuity error, but I hope to be proved wrong-whether by your scenario or another. (-:

  • Gerry

    Hi Kivina! The problem is, though, that the Amelia arc did happen and is in fact referred to in this episode. Sam did choose not to look for Dean. He did settle into a life with Amelia and was able to walk away from what happened to Dean (and Kevin). So I think the show has already shown that if Sam settles into his ordinary life with relationships based in that world, Dean will not be his top priority. He really can’t be, because if Sam tries to keep a foot in each world, he endangers everyone in his ordinary world, as we learned in the Lisa/Ben arc.

    And Dean’s part of the Sam/Amelia arc was to say he could let Sam go, knowing that was taking Sam out of his world. Carver seems to view Sam and Dean needing each other as immature, something they need to let go, rather than something that grounds in each in being the best they can be, as Dean said after “The End.”

    I don’t think the show is setting up Dean having to pick between Sam and Cas. It’s setting up Cas and Dean showing they need each other in their lives, while Sam chooses a life without Dean because he wants out of hunting. There’s opposite story movement going on between Cas and Sam in regard to Dean.

  • Armitage

    Great review, but…. you missed a spot, potentially a big one.

    What about the Crowley line about Mesopotamia with Naomi? This is either a HUGE mistake, or a HUGE charcter twist. Crowley was born a human in Scotland (Or so we are told), long after Mesopotamia was a distant memory. How could he have had coitus with an angel as he puts it, “A dark age” ago?

    Is Crowley a fallen angel turned demon? If you think about it, it could happen. Angel guts out their grace, lives life as a human, sells their soul for 3 inches (Really? 3 inches? Don’t know any man that would stop at 3, that’s always bugged me as a writers quirk, makes sense now), does his 10 years, goes to hell, becomes a demon, rises up the ranks. It especially makes sense when you think about the timing. He knew what was going to happen 400 years after his life in Scotland. Maybe thats how long it would take to become second to Lilith. Also explains his red smoke and fluency in Enochian.

    Something to mull over for a bit eh?

  • Kivina

    Sam will always be Dean’s top priority just like Dean will always be Sam’s top priority (that’s why I didn’t like the whole ‘Sam not looking for Dean’ part). Dean is not just a brother to Sam. He’s his parent. He’s the one who raised him, the one who clothed and fed him. You can’t replace that. If Dean ever had to choose between Cas and Sam, he would without a doubt pick Sam. I don’t want this to change but that doesn’t mean he (or Sam) can’t have other meaningful, fulfilling loving relationships that are actaully shown in the show.

  • Peter

    I wish we could take a survey of SPN viewers and ask them if they feel like Cas is Dean’s brother, that he’s replaced Sam in Dean’s life. I think many appreciate his relationship with Cas on a different level.

    I feel like the show has made mistakes in the relationship between Sam and Dean, they’ve taken away too much of the fun and the heart. I just don’t think it’s because of Cas. I’d love to see more of Sam and Cas, but I think there’s a way to have Sam and a friend, Dean and Cas, and this strengthening the show. I just don’t think Amelia was the answer. I’d love to see Sarah Blake again, the art girl from season 1. Or Jody Mills.

  • Jena

    I feel that Dean can care about Cas, in a similar way to how he can care about Sam, but Cas can offer Dean the emotional support that Sam can’t because of his younger/little brother placement in the family unit. And I feel that the writers don’t want to change that, but they recognize the need for Dean to have that same type of strong emotional support from someone. IMO, Cas(and Benny) are to Dean, what Dean is to Sam in that regard. IMO, they could change this within the brothers’s dynamic if they wanted to by placing Dean, and Dean alone, as the center of a myth-arc sl, while Sam serves as predominantly his support system, but after giving the trials solely to Sam, I’m pretty convinced that they will never change this up. So I welcome the addition of characters like Cas and Benny because I want to see Dean emotionally supported in the same manner that he supports Sam.

  • Peter

    Gerry, I don’t believe anything with Dean and Cas can ever take Swan Song away, because Swan Song was about Sam’s strength. Sam believed he could save the world. With the help of his friends and family, he did. Dean was a major part, but the story was Sam and Sam’s journey.

    At the end of season 1, Sam also suggested stopping after they killed YED. Ever since then there’s always been a reason to keep going, but I think Sam is saying, when there isn’t a reason, he wants out. I also think they’re saying he’s not going to leave hunting entirely, I think they’re saying he wants to take a role like Bobby, which is about guiding and advising.

  • Gerry

    Anna, the issue is not that Castiel is a relationship, but that he is relationship put on the same level as Sam and one that does not include Sam. If Castiel is going to be a bigger presence on the show, then he needs to develop a relationship with Sam, or Sam will end up odd man out far too often.

    If Sam develops his own relationship on a par–or actually more important–than Dean, then the show is splitting the main relationship in half, which will impact the story. Sam and Dean will not be the core if they have separate equally important relationships.

    Cas is a great character, but since the Apocalypse ended, he’s also been a problematic one.

  • Tina

    With all due respect but who does Sam have then? outside of some dusty books. Thats the point the one sideness of the situation .Its no good people saying the brothers need friends outside of each other when they know full well Sam doesnt have that.
    To make Castiel similar in relation to Dean as Sam will naturally cause concern IMHO.

  • Anna

    I don’t understand why people are so scared of Cas and his relationship with Dean. Sam will always be the most important person in Dean’s life and Cas won’t change that.
    I think what Carver has been trying to do is let the characters grow. Sam and Dean have only had each other for most of their lives, but they are in their 30s now and this is season 8. No character can grow if they spend all of their time with just one other character. Do they always have to be alone and miserable? And what is the point of saving the world if they’re not even really living in it?
    Sam and Dean deserve to have relationships and issues or plotlines that don’t necessarily revolve around the other brother , it can (and should in my opinion) be done and it won’t take away from their relationship, it will make them more complex and intriguing characters and it will be good for the show.

  • Tina

    If Jeremy and the writers are not factoring in Sam’s story for the last 7 years , the changing,s in himself and his journey to take Sam back to a point in his life he has already been at then Sam is in trouble as a character .

  • Gerry

    Nice to see you back, Kivina!

    To me, the Sam presented in the pilot should not be taken at face value. He did indeed fight with his dad because he wanted to go to university and I do believe Sam loves learning.

    However, he was also running from a feeling he didn’t fit in his family–and we were ultimately shown he was running from a fear of himself and what he might be. Even before he had any facts about demon blood, Sam feared his own capacity for anger, which he didn’t understand.

    He was being shaped by demons, who wanted Sam to feel like a misfit and that he didn’t belong in his family.

    All of that was important in his decision to leave for Stanford, too. In Skin, Sam has to face how much he was hiding in his relationship with Jess, and he admits to Dean he never fit in at Stanford, either.

    I think the story showed that Sam was never going to be happy at Stanford, whether or not Dean showed up, because he was running from himself. His journey on the road with Dean was also a journey to facing everything about himself, dark and light.

    So I don`t see pilot Sam as summing up Sam. I think that Sam was just starting on his road to figuring out who he is. I think Sam`s issues with knowing who he is have been the backbone of his story. If he no longer has those issues, really, his story is over, especially if he has decided he does not want to be a hunter or a Man of Letters,either of which will be dangerous and keep him in the Supernatural world.

  • Kivina

    Sam never wanted be a hunter. Since season 1 (at the beginning he wanted revenge but then out again). That was always his story. Begrudgingly hunting but always hoping for a life with family.
    I hope they’ll grant him this at the end of the show. Maybe he’ll become MOL.

  • Gerry

    Hi Peter, thanks for the discussion. I love talking about this show.

    I think you are right that the show is saying Cas is as important to Dean as Sam. Which I see as a problem. I don’t think the show was predicated on Sam and Dean just being a relationship, not the central relationship. I think it devalues Swan Song to think Cas can fit that scenario just as easily as Sam did. And that is not because I feel Cas is not interesting–I feel he is interesting, and I always have. But he is interesting as a supporting character, just as Benny is interesting as a supporting character. I love both their interactions, but not to the point I think those interactions can carry the show.

    I also think that the writers portraying Sam as not needing his brother in a significant way in his life and not feeling a need to save people does devalue Sam, because this show is based on Sam and Dean feeling those feelings.

    If Sam leaves hunting for a domestic life, he is effectively leaving Dean behind, because as Lisa and Ben showed, a hunter cannot take himself off the playing board–there is no time out. Dean will always be in danger every minute he’s a hunter and he will always have the possibility of involving Sam if he visits him. And that not only risks involving Sam, it risks involving Sam’s family, whoever that might be. There’s a reason Dean did not call Sam for the 3 1/2 years he was away at Stanford until he needed Sam back on the road.

    And if Sam really does think he can walk away from hunting because other people can do it, he is no longer pushing the central conceit of the show, which is there is no one like Winchesters. No one else has been to heaven and hell. No one else deals with angels and demons and Death on a regular basis and has the allies Sam and Dean do. Sam and Dean are not interchangeable with any other hunters–or shouldn’t be.

    So I’m not sure where the writers are going with Sam, except perhaps that his story is done, because his personal journey has turned away from needing his brother to ground him and being a hero. A lot depends on how this current arc turns out.

    I know I don’t enjoy watching a Sam who doesn’t want to be in the Impala and is only there because he feels he has to be. I also know it will feel very problematic if that Sam share the Impala with a human Castiel in season 9.

  • Peter

    I think Men of Letters is as much about Dean as it is about Sam. Being a good hunter isn’t necessarily about the hellhound. Hunters almost never face hellhounds. They killed Dean before, they killed Jo. That’s why it was such a huge task. If Sam had been the one who was attacked first, Dean probably would have killed it. They killed it because it was distracted.

  • wendy

    I hate that Carver worked so hard to hard to destroy the relationship between Sam and Dean in the first half. It’s much better now but it still feels off. Dean seems back to loving Sam like he always but although Sam is starting to be better to Dean he still doesn’t seem like the old Sam just yet. Although I liked alot of this episode, what I didn’t like was that it seems now that the only reason Sam is here with Dean and doing these trials is for Amelia, not to save the world or because he loves brother and wants to fight alongside him. And that bothers me.

  • wendy

    Not to mention that Carver and Singer always have boatloads to say about Sam’s storylines and hardly anything at all about Dean.
    I certainly do not want Cas to ever be as important to Dean as Sam is. An I don’t want everything to shift to Dean being the center of everything. But he is NEVER the center of anything. I just want both brothers to have equal importance and focus, be a loving, strong united front. So far, Caver and Singer have clearly shown me that they only see Sam as the important one.

  • wendy

    Ari, I respectfully disagree with you. We have indeed seen Sam
    s emotional parts, with Amelia, and yes, in his insistence to do the trials after Dean failed. My point of view in no way means that I don’t love Sam. I do. I just don’t believe that Dean having an emotional reaction to everyone else’s more important storylines is much of a story for him.
    We got only a handful of Purgatory flashbacks, and that whole story wasn’t even about Dean. It was quickly dropped, but almost every episode of the first half we had numerous Sam/Amelia flashbacks. The MOLs story clearly involves Sam more than Dean, and now,despite Sam calling Dean the best hunter he knew, Dean wasn’t good enough to kill the Hellhound. But Sam was. And now he not only gets the trials but the chronic illness storyline that goes with it. What importance does Dean have, except to worry about Sam and Cas and hold their hands? Does he matter at all?

  • Peter

    I forgot to say that I think the conditioning from Naomi was in part about Dean’s threat to Heaven (he basically tore up Heaven in season 5 and they have said they blame him for everything Cas has done ever since), as well as about Dean’s connection to the tablet.

  • Peter

    I think the writing has had Sam say he wants a life of his own, and Dean has said he wants that for Sam. Sam has said he wants a life for Dean. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I think that’s what they want. They’ll always be close. I think there’s ways of writing them living their own lives while still being very close. It would also give the actors a little break. They could be close in just about every episode, with only one or two a season showing them on their own. Amelia was a bad story because she was completely isolated and she had no voice. Other relationships work better because the characters have more definition. I think both characters thrive with more interaction. I don’t believe this has ever been designed to ruin any brotherly dynamic. I think the dynamic is harmed by too much angst, more than anything else.

  • Peter

    I think Dean sees Cas as family, but not brother. Sam and Dean will always have a different relationship than anything else on the show. Family is something different to Dean, it’s a much broader term. It’s not replacing Sam. I don’t believe the show is saying Cas is more important to Dean than Sam. I think the show is saying they are becoming equally important, that Dean is simply not happy unless he’s in a good place with both of them. I think the show is sort of trying to define how Dean sees Cas in his life, which I think is an interesting source of drama, without taking away from Sam.

  • Gerry

    Hi Peter, we all can view the show in different ways. I think Dean does view Cas as family, which is the centrepoint of this show.

    I don’t believe the writers have committed to Sam needing a separate life from Dean, though they certainly have raised the possibility. I also don’t believe that they have committed to Dean looking to Castiel as his most important relationship, though they’ve certainly given it more weight.

    I guess we’ll see what next season brings. (-: If Sam and Dean do start living more separate lives, in my opinion the show will lose what makes it special. I disliked the Amelia arc and don’t wish to watch anything more of it. But everyone will make up their own mind about that, as it should be.

  • Peter

    I don’t see Cas as being similar to Sam. I never have. Dean has not in a long time, if ever. Did you notice that Dean did not call him brother, and hasn’t in years (if ever)? The relationship between Dean and Cas has been written in a strikingly different way from Dean and Sam this season. I don’t think most viewers at home will look at Cas and say he’s replacing Sam. Sam always has his own role in Dean’s life, his own role on the show. He always will. Sam has always wanted a separate life from Dean. He wants Dean to have a separate life too. He wants Dean to have his own voice. And this episode was a vital part of what Sam wants. Sam doesn’t want Dean hovering over him. Dean will always hover, but he can also respect Sam’s wishes, not only to trust Sam, but also to trust himself, to trust his own needs for a friend, a companion, a partner who goes beyond his brother.

  • Peter

    I never looked at this scene and said, “Wow, it’s Swan Song!” The key differences for me: 1. Dean knew that Sam would never intentionally hurt him. 2. Dean had spent his entire life trying to protect Sam. 3.Dean had very reluctantly gone along with the plan to let Lucifer possess Sam. 4. Swan Song was about Dean counting on a lifetime of trust and love and being the best big brother he could be ; it was about letting Sam go, trusting Sam to stop himself.

    None of this episode took that away, in my eyes. This episode was about: 1. Dean having no idea what was wrong with Cas. 2. Dean having a history with Cas which, at that point, meant he still wasn’t entirely sure whether he could trust Cas. 3. Dean having enough trust in himself to break whatever was binding Cas. Dean had to see himself as important enough and worthwhile enough to break Cas free. It wasn’t about counting on Sam, AKA Cas, to be strong enough. It was about counting on himself.

    This is what Sam was talking about in “Trial and Error.” This actually built on Sam’s hopes for Dean. Sam told Dean he wanted Dean to have more self-worth instead of just waiting for the right time to die. And that’s what Dean did. He had enough self-worth to fight for his life. He could have easily given up. He didn’t.

  • Gerry

    Hi Helen. I want to enjoy the show currently and for me, that means it should be driven by Sam and Dean’s relationship. That’s the relationship that has powered the show thus far and I think it’s necessary to power the show in the future.

    I am fine with other relationships, but I don’t expect them to have the weight Sam and Dean’s does. I think that’s a fair expectation of this show.

  • Helen

    Frankly, if you want to see nothing but a Sam and Dean relationship, you have eight years of DVDs to choose from. I for one am excited at the prospect of the two of them having relationships outside of each other because as an adult with a grown up sibling myself, I can’t imagine them being the only person in my life.

  • Gerry

    Hi Marcela, your English is fine! Welcome.

    I agree with you that Dean is offering something slightly different in the scenes, though the overall theme of him invoking the power of family against the power of greater forces is the same.

    However, by remaking the scene at all so closely to Swan Song and putting Cas in Sam’s place, the writers have made Sam and Dean’s relationship just one relationship on the show, not the core one. That’s a shift and one that allows other shifts.

    When you combine that shift in weight of Cas and Dean with Sam’s thoughts this year that he doesn’t need Dean in his life and that he walk away from hunting because he really wants the life he had with Amelia, the show has already changed a great deal.

    Ironically, it does very much recall the pilot, but Sam in the pilot was just starting on his journey of realizing who he is, and he changed a great deal from the young man lying not only to all his friends but also to himself about how well he fit into Stanford. I’m really unsure how pilot Sam became the gold standard of the character.

    AbstractSilver, I don’t have a problem with the boys having relationships. I loved Ellen and Jo, Bobby (of course!), Lisa and Ben, and I currently enjoy Charlie (Garth I’m fairly neutral on).

    I do have a problem with this show moving away from Sam and Dean being the core. I have an issue with it being seen as immaturity for Sam to need Dean in his life, but maturity for Dean to need Cas.

    That said, I am still onboard and willing to see where all this goes. (-:

    Hi Lil! I do think it’s a shame that convo didn’t give us more information on Sam’s state of mind about Dean. I don’t really care about Amelia. I think that ship has sailed, though. We have what we have.

  • lil

    Great Review Gerry!

    I did enjoy this episode, but I’m not sure if I love or hate the ‘swan song’ scene. I loved the original one in S5, but I don’t know how I feel about them re-doing it. :/

    I also wonder how much influence the Destiel fanbase has on the writers. Are they trying to please everyone? Because that won’t happen.

    The Sam/Meg conversation outside the warehouse was interesting. I was hoping for a ‘Why didn’t you look for Dean?’ Q&A … but sadly that still hasn’t been addressed and I fear it never will.

  • Monica

    Great review!

    I can’t agree, though, with the posters who think that this problem can be solved by simply getting Sam a friend of his own. He had one — Dean. And that’s the show I’ve been attached to for many years. Making a show about Dean and Castiel, and Sam and his special friend, well, quite frankly I wouldn’t watch it. And I don’t think it would work — most of the Castiel presence is the result of fan pressure, and any show where at least equal time was given to Sam and a special friend would not hold the interest of those fans. Since TPTB seem only interested at the moment in listening to D/C fans, I don’t see any chance of the show achieving balance in Sam and Dean’s storylines.

  • Marcela

    Oh, I forgot! I really think the Sam-not-looking-for-Dean OOC and I truly believe it’s a plot point! I don’t know how to put it into words but I think it has something about a “dream” reality or something.

  • Marcela

    First, I’m sorry for any mistake as english isn’t my native language.
    About Swan Song and Goodbye, Strangers beat up Dean scenes: Are they structurally alike? Yes. Are they saying the same things? No.
    In Swan Song, Dean is telling he’s not leaving Sam, because Sam needs him, because he’s Sammy, his little brother and he will always love and care for him. But in Goodbye Stranger, Dean is saying HE needs Cas to be there for Dean, which is quite different.
    On the topic of Cas replacing Sam, IMO I don’t believe it to be true, they actually using Dean and Cas friendship to strengthen Sam and Dean relationship and that’s clearly on the last scene on the Impala, with Dean feed up with lies and secrets (Sam’s and Cas’) it makes Sam come clean to him about the trials consequences and maybe in the future about a lot of other things, something they’ve been missing since Dean learned that Sam was drinking demon bood from Ruby and something that’s the base of almost all arguments between them for a very long time. Also, I’ve read somewhere that Castiel’s storyline next season will be diferent than Sam and Dean, like on season 5, so it may put to rest some of people’s concerns.
    Of course that’s just my opinion and how I interpreted the episode, be free to think differently!

  • abstractsilver

    I agree with everything except the idea that Cas is somehow replacing Sam. This perpetuates the unhealthy idea that Dean isn’t allowed to have relationships outside of Sam. Both boys need loving relationships outside of one another to grow, and Dean admitting Cas is like family to him does not mean he cares about Sam less.

  • Laura

    With Misha Collins becoming a regular next season, and the DeanCas-heavy narrative this season, I think it’s a valid concern that Dean’s relationship with Cas will upstage his relationship with Sam.

    I adore Castiel and love every moment Jensen & Misha are on screen together, but I have found myself missing Sam this season. His characterization seems off–I hope that turns out to be a plot point, I really do. Because I still don’t buy Sam not looking for Dean at ALL. (And just who was the mysterious figure watching Sam in 8×01?)

    I am so, so happy that we’re going to see more of Cas next year, but the writers are going to have to pull off a balancing act for sure. I’d love some scenes of Sam & Cas hanging out–though from what I’ve read, those scenes are difficult to shoot due to sheer silliness on the actors’ parts. 🙂

    This is getting too long, so I’ll just say–I love Dean & Cas and hope their relationship isn’t put on the backburner, but I don’t want the Dean & Cas Show. I am perfectly ok with the Dean & Cas & Sam Show though–balance is a good thing.

  • Kyra

    Agree completely with this review.
    The probles is even worse because Sam and Cas seem to be..distant. I don’t get why, but it makes the show titled and a bit strange.

    And you know, Sam and Dean used to be the heroes of the show. Not so much anymore.

  • Gerry

    Hi Anna! Putting Cas and Dean’s relationship at the same weight as Dean and Sam’s relationship is a shift in the show–and one that I think devalues Swan Song. The brothers’ unbreakable bond was supposed to be something neither heaven nor hell had anticipated or could counter. Sam and Dean’s life was hard and painful, but it did forge them into something unique.

    This year has changed a lot of those underpinnings. Sam prefers his life with Amelia and while he loves Dean, does not need him. This has been presented as maturity and growth. On the other hand, Dean wants Cas in his life and needs him, which is presented as maturity and growth.

    I am curious to see how it all plays out, but I do think it’s possible there will be negative story repercussions from this year. However, I am giving the story time to play out and certainly I enjoyed this episode, whatever reservations about the long term I have.

  • Anna

    I think the crypt scene was reminiscent of Swan Song but at the same time completely different in tone. When talking to Sam in Swan Song, Dean was trying to be strong and protective, always a rock for his little brother, whereas with Cas he was vulnerable and open. This scene confirmed that Dean’s need for Cas is desperate and honest.
    I don’t think anyone needs to worry about Cas replacing Sam, it’s quite obvious Dean needs them both and in very different ways.

  • Gerry

    Oops! I meant to type “Replacing Sam with Castiel . . . ”

  • Gerry

    Hi Kivina! Different strokes for different folks. I don’t think there is any guarantee that a story line will always remain the same. The story is what the writers make it. They can take it where they will.

    Remaking an iconic scene will always carry thematic associations. Replacing Sam with Dean in the scene defining the depth of the brothers’ love puts Cas’N’Dean at the same weight as Sam’N’Dean.

    The difference for me about this episode’s scenes as opposed to John and Bobby’s scenes with Dean is the way the Cas and Dean scene deliberately echoed the structure of the Swan Song scene.

    The John scene and Bobby’s scenes had similar themes, but the specific circumstances were unique to the characters. I don’t watch them and immediately think: Swan Song!

    With this episode, I did, because the set up and dialogue is so similar. The make up is almost identical on Dean. It’s not just a thematic similarity; the actual scene is similar.

    Giving Sam a friend as close as Castiel is to Dean will continue to change the focus of the show. I’d love the boys to have friends, but not to the point Sam and Dean become just one relationship among others.

  • Tina

    Judging from how they did Amelia . I wouldn,t be too confident in them writing a friend for Sam that actually engage,s the audience. The Dean and Cas relationship as been established over a fairly long period of time and strong scenes like the one in this episode gives even more credence to the relationship. At this point I am not sure who they could give Sam and establish the friendship ?.
    And you would also need a showrunner and writers who want to do it .

  • David

    The problem here is that every seen scene that Cas and Dean have alone is very intimate and personal, so it looks like that relationship is out staging the brothers. Still, I’m a firm believer in that they need close relationships apart from each other. The brothers-only show just isn’t going to work after 8 seasons. Sam needs someone to open up to outside of Dean. He needs a friend and a relationship similar to what Cas and Dean are working towards.

  • Kivina

    I was rolling my eyes a few times during this review. This false fear of Cas sidelining Sam is ridiculous. It will always be show about Sam and Dean. I personally love Team Free Will and I just hope they will give Sam some friend or someone for him to connect, too.
    I actually really liked the crypt scene because it’s not the second but the 4th (John, Bobby, Sam and now Cas) time someone Dean loved overcame possesion/mind-control for him. It shows just how loved Dean is even ifhe thinks he doesn’t deserve it.

  • Deano

    Agree ! perfect review !

  • Gerry

    Vikki, thanks so much. I have always loved both brothers and feel their relationship is the backbone of the show. I like other ones, too, but Dean’n’Sam has to be central. I’ve had issues with Sam’s story line all season.

  • Gerry

    Jen, the way I viewed Naomi’s plan is that she intended Castiel to be able to neutralize the Winchesters should it be necessary when Castiel found the tablet.

    As she had no way to see the future, she had no idea whether the Winchesters would be there at all if/when Castiel found the tablet or if they were, whether Sam or Dean would actually be the one to have the tablet in hand.

    So she needed to know Castiel would obey her when she ordered him to kill whomever had that tablet. Yet the only Winchester she felt she had to make Castiel practice killing was Dean. She evidently didn’t feel he needed to practice killing Sam in order to break his attachment to Sam. She must have felt Castiel had no inner barrier to killing Sam the way he had for Dean.

    Given that Castiel’s initial view of Sam is that he was an abomination and that he was willing to take down his hell wall to slow Dean down, Sam has always occupied a very place for Castiel than Dean does. I believe he genuinely repents hurting Sam, but this episode showed he can conceive of hurting Sam in a way he cannot for Dean.

  • Vikki

    Gerry, this was a wonderful article. Thank you for writing it. It’s so nice to finally read something by someone that obviously cares about Sam’s part in all of this. Too many people that write articles like this are Dean biased and Castiel biased and usually push Sam to the side like the show is trying to do. So it’s refreshing to read something like this. 🙂

  • Ari

    Wendy–You say Sam’s got storyline this season, but so far it’s felt like yet another season where 90% of Sam’s storyline is them showing Dean’s emotional reaction to it. The writers’ eternal lack of ability to achieve plot and emotional balance between only two main characters will never not baffle me.

  • Jen

    The ‘Cas willing to kill Sam’ thing just isn’t true(when he isn’t god-crazy and willing to kill anybody). He’s refused to do it several times before, even when it was dangerous for him. Sam comes right after Dean. But he does come after. And it’s pretty painfully clear to even the angels who comes first-of course Naomi would use Dean. That would be like if Naomi dragged Dean up to that room and there were 1000 Sams laid out on the floor and no Castiels and you said ‘yes, definitive proof that Dean has no problem killing Castiel’. No, but Sam comes FIRST, and when you want to break something, you don’t use a stick when you have a hammer.

  • kelios

    Great review. It really seems as tho the writers are edging closer and closer to sidelining Sam altogether in favor of Dean and Castiel interaction and I don’t understand it at all. It’s clear to me where the show’s heart lies–Sam and Dean. This push to make Castiel ‘family’, despite all evidence to the contrary, and to once again remove Sam from hunting and from Dean’s life, is baffling. I hope the writers and showrunners understand that many longtime viewers are completely turned off by this and won’t stick around to watch the Dean and Castiel show if Sam doesn’t have a central emotional role to play.

  • Ally

    Bravo! Great review!

  • Eva

    Good discussions. Thank you all.

    I’m also in a ‘wait and see’ mode, last episodes have been fantastic but I’m afraid the return of Cas and he being a regular on S9 will change everything. The core is Sam and Dean and their relationship, if they transform that, they will lose fans, fans who have been with the show from the start.

    My hope is that they give Castiel his own storyline sepatated from the brothers although interacting with them too. I also hope they develop more the Men Of Letters plot with both Winchesters not only Sam. It’s an very interesting and intriguing storyline.

  • wendy

    Gerry, I agree with You here. The Sam and Dean bond is what has always been essential to SPN.
    I Like Cas but as a supporting player. I really want Sam and Dean to have the close, loving bond they used to have.

  • albo

    Gear change,
    Was that Jim Beaver in the bus reading a news paper during the last scene?

  • AnonymousZ

    “Meg is upfront with Sam when he questions her willingness to sacrifice humans to aid her chance of escape. With a patented Meg sardonic twitch of her lips, she says, “I am Meg. I am a demon.”
    I really don’t like when authors and reviewers forgets that it’s Cass who kills all that people not Meg. You all blame Meg when real murderer is Cass.

  • Gerry

    Hi all, thanks so much commenting!

    I don’t myself believe there is a clear agenda to remove Sam from the centre of the show. I do think some of the decisions this year have deconstructed Sam and Dean’s relationship in a way I don’t find believable and that I think damages what so many have loved about Supernatural. I’m still on the fence, though, because the season is not yet done and some episodes have been very good.

    Wendy, giving Sam the role in the myth arc does give him plot. But I don’t think most people watch mainly for plot. They watch because they believe in the relationship between the brothers–Sam’n’Dean I think powers the show.

    If the relationship between Sam and Dean becomes just one relationship on the show, and one that Sam ultimately finds unfulfilling, I think it will be less and less easy to find powerful moments to give him with Dean.

    I don’t love that Dean doesn’t have a place in the mytharc. I think it would be a better choice to have him as active as Sam, or at least have them alternate. But in terms of making the audience care, Dean’s ability to form relationships does that very well. He’s the centre of so many relationships–Sam, Cas, Benny, Krissy. I worry more about Sam’s ability to make the audience care if he truly wishes he were not with Dean and was with Amelia. Eventually, the audience may join him in wishing that–off screen. The Amelia did a poor job of selling that story line.

  • Jesse

    Being a fan of Supernatural since its inception I’ve had my doubts on occasion. As much as I like Castiel I felt his involvement should have ended with the end of the Apocalypse storyline. I was disappointed with Seasons 6 & 7, but Carver’s return has settled my unease. He’s working with what he was left with. I’m at the point I don’t mind having Castiel around, but I am exhausted with the constant infighting between the fans. Castiel is not the problem, but rather the fact the show has been supported on the shoulders of two characters for so long that the inclusion of another full time character can seem forced if not done right. I prefer a “watch and see” attitude when it comes to where Carver is trying to lead the show. For now though I’m feeling far happier about S8 than I did about the previous two under Gamble’s watch.

  • wendy

    Torrance, to me it’s hard to believe that you think it’s Dean that Carver favors when all evidence points to the opposite, that it’s Sam that both Carver and Singer favor. I love Sam but he’s practically the only character that Caver and Singer have discussed in interviews, Sam is given ALL of the main stoylines, gets a true love story, everything. What did Dean get? A story about Purgatory that turned out to be about Cas instead and was very quickly dropped within a few episodes while we got flashback after flashback with Sam and Amelia. So I have to very strongy disagree here, it’s Sam who is the only one that the producers and showrunner give a damn about.

  • Torrance

    Amy – thank you, you took the words right out of my mouth. Carver has stated countless times that Sam’s background was just ‘too hard for him’ and that’s why he hasn’t really bothered to play Sam in the way that Kripke created. It’s a damn shame when you get a producer that only gives a damn about one of the main characters and some side character that lost it’s relevance in season 5. I know a lot of people that plan on not bothering with next season if Carver doesn’t get any better. I am one of them. I love Dean and Sam, I love the brother relationship. Too me there are three characters that are important in this show and that’s Dean, Sam and DeanNSam. Their relationship is what matters to me and I don’t want to see the Dean/Cas show.

  • wendy

    I don’t see how anybody could see that Sam is being moved out of the main storyline, when he has gotten all of the ,main storylines so far this season. I don’t want his relationship with Dean replaced by Cas either, but at least Sam gets storyline focus. Dean is the one who is constantly pushed to the sidelines.

  • Amy

    Jeremy Carver has an agenda. Its to destroy the charector of Sam with what appears to be lazy and careless writing. He introduced Ameila and decided to explore Sam not looking for Dean…it wasn’t to show maturity or growth as he as has Sam changing on the whim of an episode. jeremy Carver did this so he could eradicate support for Sam and the Sam and Dean relationship and create the foundation of Dean and Castiel as the maiin relationship for season 9.

    IMO the first ten episodes is the empiraical evidence. IMO the writing for sam wasn’t careless or lazy but methodical and meticulously crafted to make these changes.

    Carver made his intent known at the very beginning when he said in an interview that there was no bigger fan of Dean and Castiel then he.

    – No matter how paranoid you are…your not paranoid enough. Susanne Modeski. The X-Files.

  • Tina

    The problem is that Jeremy and et al have now intentionally or not created the situation in which Castiel is seen as central to Dean has Sam is. I am not sure wether it is a case of wanting it both ways or having their cake and eat it ?.

    So in that very nature Sam is not unique for Dean neither is the supposed central brother relationship and add Benny into the mix and it does leave the question of why the writers feel Dean needs other brothers if they truly believed in the one he already had.

    On a different note I was sorry to see Meg go she was outside of the boys a link to the and IMO better earlier seasons.Thank you for the review Gerry .

  • Gerry

    Hi Eva, thanks for reading! I know what you are saying. I don’t for a minute think the writers have a deliberate plot to ease Sam out as a lead character. I’m sure they adore Jared. But I am less sure they have the same vision of the core story of Supernatural that I have–and that I believe Kripke had.

  • Eva

    Bravo! Excellent review. You put perfectly well my exact problem with this episode. I loved it but didn’t like the “Swam Song” revisited.

    Call me paranoid but I fear the writers are trying to push Sam aside to give more center stage to Cas and Dean. I love the brothers, watch for them. I like supporting characters but I don’t like when they try to insert one between them, in this case, Castiel. As you say, it’d be fair if the relationship between the angel and Sam was developed more, I’m of the opinion they have lots of things in common so it’d make interesting storytelling.

    Thank you for expressing what some of us think. I’m really worried about Sam and his future in the show. I’m probably being dramatic but the equating of Sam’n’Dean with Dean’n’Cas left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • anonymousN

    “I did like the acting in the Swan Song scene. I think both Jensen and Misha hit all the emotional notes. But I will say I found the deliberate restaging jarring and that jarring kept me from fully enjoying the scene the first time through.”I will have to rewatch the episode maybe this was the reason why it fell flat to me

  • Gerry

    Hi AnonymousN, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I always welcome different takes on the show.

    I did like the acting in the Swan Song scene. I think both Jensen and Misha hit all the emotional notes. But I will say I found the deliberate restaging jarring and that jarring kept me from fully enjoying the scene the first time through.

    Fortunately, when I watched it again, I could enjoy what the actors and director brought to the scene.

    I am concerned about Sam moving out of the centre of the story line. But to me, the issue is Sam’s world including the one he built with Amelia. It’s not that he has no one; it’s that apparently he would be happier in a world with Amelia and without his brother, than vice versa.

    The show seems to be saying Sam loves Dean but does not need him, because I guess it’s supposed to be immature and dysfunctional to need him. Yet Dean admitting he needs Castiel is supposed to be mature and a sign of growth.

    I have never had an issue with the Winchester brothers needing each other. Their shared past, in which Dean was for the most part father and mother to Sam as well as brother, believably makes them important in each other’s emotional lives. I don’t like the downplaying of that importance.

  • anonymousN

    Whereas you found the Dean and cas scene well acted I had some problem with the acting in the scene.I found it to be flat,trying to imitate Swan song and failing miserably.As far as your concerns about sidelining Sam for the sake of Dean and Cas i am in agreement ,I have the same concerns as Sam’s world other than Dean has a population of zero