Well, drat. I was on such a high from last week’s Supernatural episode in Ben Edlund’s capable hands, I sailed into this week’s with high expectations of some real communication and movement between the brothers. Instead, the story fell into the huge hole in the foundation of the season—and frankly, it’s getting a little hard to see how the show can dig itself out.
The case itself was a heavy handed excuse to have the brothers fight, with nothing terrible but also nothing interesting in and of itself. It did bring back Garth in his best outing yet, because he’s finally showing some competency as well as quirkiness. D.J. Qualls brings a lot of charm to his roles, so it’s nice to finally be able to visualize Garth as a hunter instead of a writer’s joke.
I’m rather enjoying watching his and Dean’s relationship evolve. It’s a great choice to have such an emotionally open person interact with him. I loved the scene where Dean showed how much it hurt to see Garth taking on Bobby’s role, and Garth showed how much it hurt that Dean didn’t realize many people had loved Bobby and mourned him.
Of course, I didn’t think Garth was right to say Bobby didn’t belong to the boys, because we saw the place Dean and Sam occupied in Bobby’s heart; they were his sons. They do have a unique place to mourn. But Garth is so open in his feelings and so willing to communicate, I really liked seeing Dean acknowledging Bobby touched many people and it’s actually a testament to the older hunter that Garth wants to walk in his shoes.
I wish I felt anything near as positive about Sam and Dean. I’ve been leery about the set up this season for Sam. Sam not feeling the need to look for answers about his brother needs explaining. It’s not that I can’t accept this scenario at all, but I need to see how Sam felt. And that’s “see,” not hear. So far, all Sam’s flashbacks have been centered on why he’s drawn to Amelia, not on his reaction to Dean’s disappearance. I’d like to know why this disappearance was so different to him than Dean’s disappearance in “Time After Time,” when the Winchesters worked with each other across time by never doubting the other was on the case.
To date, Sam has told Dean he didn’t look because he didn’t know where to look and when Dean assumed he also didn’t look because the boys had promised not to disturb the natural order of things, he didn’t deny that interpretation. What he hasn’t done is shown his brother he was devastated at his loss, that he was unable to look due to that emotional devastation. Instead, Sam’s concentrating on feeling angry that Dean doesn’t appreciate his brother found love during his time away and that Sam feels no guilt about not looking or hunting because he’s never wanted to be a hunter anyway.
Dean does have issues with Sam’s attitude and frankly, so do I. I was hoping we’d get a better look into Sam once the hurt feelings were all on the table. I want to know why this obsessive man didn’t need to know what happened to his brother. Writer Adam Glass finally gives us something when he has Sam say to Amelia that his world imploded and he ran. And I can get on board with this scenario. Sam has a history of running when his emotional world gets difficult. Rather than showing his real nature or some kind of maturity, I have always viewed his need to be run away to be anyone other than Sam Winchester as showing issues he needs to confront.
So, he’s running from his loss of Dean and he runs into Amelia, who we learn is running from the loss of her husband. Except, she’s not just running from that. She’s running from the web of relationships in her life people normally lean on to get through grief. After only five months, Amelia leaves town to get away from people’s pity.
I’m not sure exactly how I should interpret this. Is Amelia so damaged she interprets any kind of support as pity? Or is she so damaged the only real relationship she had in her life was her husband and she had no close relationships to lean on? She’s clearly leaning on alcohol in the present as a coping mechanism—is that new or is that part of the reason she had no fulfilling relationships to help her when she lost her husband? Either way, she shares with Sam the need to run when things are difficult, leading to them running into each other.
So, instead of a flashback showing me Sam’s devastation at losing Dean, we get a flashback where Sam mentions Dean, but shows only emotion for Amelia. However, we already know he’s going to run from Amelia, too, so it’s hardly heartwarming to see him refuse to accept this damaged woman’s boundaries and insist on becoming part of her life. I don’t care enough about Amelia to want to see how all this unravelled, and it doesn’t surprise me that it did. What does surprise me is the writers seem to assume I don’t need to understand Sam’s feelings about Dean, only about Amelia.
Unsurprisingly, that’s also Sam’s position to Dean. Dean is very hurt Sam did not feel the need to save him. He’s worried the famous Winchester bond is as one-sided as it’s occasionally seemed over the years. In “Dark Side of the Moon,” Dean’s best memories were of times he managed to meet the needs of the people he loves. Sam’s best memories were when he was able to pretend not to be a Winchester.
I think the most hurtful part of those memories for Dean is that Sam had no appreciation of how his running away hurt Dean. Anyone in a parental role knows the heartache of worrying if their charge is alright, if a broken curfew means a knock on the door from the police with devastating news. As a twelve year old, of course Sam would have no empathy for Dean’s feelings; that’s developmentally appropriate—but as an adult, I expect him to.
I don’t understand why Sam doesn’t want to show Dean how devastated he was at losing him, other than if he does, he feels pulled back into the hunting life. He wants Dean to understand how much he loved having a “normal” relationship and that gaining Amelia was more than a balance to losing Dean. It gave him what he’s always wanted—a normal life.
The problem with that is nothing we’ve seen about Sam and Amelia is normal or seems healthy. Right now, I’m wondering if Sam will get pulled into Amelia’s alcoholism. I like that “real life” is not being shown as apple pie, but not happy Sam still doesn’t seem to know that. I’d like to feel Dean coming back into Sam’s life had its positives, rather than Sam viewing it as an unwanted complication to what he wants. I find it really off putting when Sam’s response to finding out Benny saved Dean is to focus on Benny’s vampire nature rather than Dean’s escape.
Dean’s finding it very hard to communicate to Sam about Purgatory. He feels that if you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine what it was like—which is pretty standard for people coming back from war. Dean’s not a great communicator at the best of times, but this is a genuinely difficult situation about which to communicate. When Dean tells Sam Benny saved him and he considers the vampire a friend, he’s trying to let Sam in and Sam’s having none of it. If Dean was saved by a vampire, that’s wrong and the vampire needs to go. I don’t recognize this Sam.
My question to the show is: should I recognize this Sam or are we seeing a Sam still in a breakdown over his devastating losses? Sam has always been able to see monsters are monsters through behaviour, not birth. His reaction to Benny seems more grounded in jealousy than morality. So I have a hard time seeing Sam claiming the high road because Dean didn’t immediately tell him about Benny. Dean did share about Benny eventually and there was no terrible secret at the core. He and Benny care about each other. Benny has long been able to control his urge to hunt and doesn’t kill humans for food. And he saved Dean. It’s odd seeing Sam skip over that last part to concentrate on the vampire issue.
With all this in mind, I found the brothers’ eventual fight to be troubling in all the wrong ways. I know Dean has forgiven his brother for his season four mistakes because I watched him show that. Bobby is the father figure who had the most influence in the end and Dean didn’t show up at Stall’s cemetery in “Swan Song” filled with resentment. I can accept that because Dean’s current relevant issue is his hurt at being abandoned and that fear of abandonment goes back a very long way, there’s emotional leakage onto those older events. But the core issue is Sam not feeling the need to look for him, not the demon blood.
That muddying of the core issue isn’t my only beef with that scene. I also don’t like that Dean’s part of the airing of grievances was under the influence of possession, and he has little memory of anything he said. Yet Sam holds him accountable. Obviously, Dean has an issue and it needs to be aired, but it would be more satisfying if he actually did that, especially since Sam’s ending speech takes everything Dean said as gospel. How is Dean supposed to communicate what he feels to Sam about Sam’s final speech when he doesn’t know what he did or didn’t say?
It’s a huge issue because Sam’s final speech is a doozy. He correctly notes that Dean sees Amelia as an obstacle, not a person, which is not fair to her. That’s a valid point. But he doesn’t figure out what Dean needs from him is to SEE Sam was devastated by his loss and that he’s not an inconvenience now that he’s survived Purgatory. Sam wants Dean to see that not wanting to hunt is not the same thing as not loving him—but he’s not sharing the love.
What he is sharing is pretty off putting. Dean telling Sam Benny’s been more of a brother to him in one year than Sam’s ever been is very hurtful—but Sam needs to hear what Dean needs in his life as much as Dean needs to hear what Sam needs. In this case, the fact that Benny is a real friend who’s been there for Dean should fit into what Sam wants for Dean as much as what Dean wants for Dean. Sam wants Dean to find a way to hunt without him, to establish a new life not emotionally centered on Sam. His barely veiled threat to kill Benny doesn’t show me a Sam who has emotionally matured or who has successfully vented old feelings that can now be let go.
Instead, the Winchesters seem as far apart as they’ve ever been at the end of “Southern Comfort.” For the first time ever in this show, I would have no problem with Sam walking away from Dean to his screwed up life with Amelia, where he can get to grips with his tendency to run and to addiction as he grapples with her similar issues. Dean can drive away from Sam, looking to the relationships he has with people who want him in their life. Castiel and Benny are both there as meaningful relationships for Dean. I no longer feel that Sam’s status as brother has any automatic right to closeness. I want to feel closeness. At this point in their lives, Sam and Dean need to choose who makes up their families. Grandpa Samuel already showed them blood does not mean family.