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TV Review: Supernatural – “Southern Comfort”

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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.

Jensen Ackles and D.J. QuallsI’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.

Jared Padalecki and Liane BalabanSo, 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?

Jensen Ackles and Jared PadaleckiIt’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.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • kelios

    Stating up front this is all my opinion so I don’t have to keep saying it through out :)

    hmm I agree with some of this, but definitely not all.

    It is NOT in Sam’s nature to run when Dean needs him–it never has been. In previous seasons, Sam has always been ready to do what was necessary to save/protect/avenge his brother.

    Hunting is NOT the same as looking for Dean. It would have been very possible for Sam to look for his brother without ever picking up a weapon, but he CHOSE not to. And I don’t buy the whole ‘so sad I couldn’t look’ idea…that makes no sense to me whatsoever. Just none.

    I DO agree with what you said about Benny. Sam should be grateful that someone was there to help Dean get out of Purgatory instead of being angry and resentful. There are no real parallels between Benny and Amy or Ruby; the situations aren’t even close to the same.

    I too hate that Dean finally got to tell Sam how he feels, but only while under the influence of the supernatural and without remembering most of it. Unfortunately it harkens back to Sex and Violence, when Dean had a hard time letting go of what Sam said to him while dosed with siren venom–another example of the strangely unimaginative and repetitive writing so far this season.

    I very much hope that we get a reasonable explanation for why Sam is behaving the way he is, because right now he’s not someone I like or recognize.

  • Gerry

    Hi Kelios, you are most welcome to write your opinions–I love discussion on this show.

    And in fact, I agree with much of what you stated. I don’t think Sam has a history of running when Dean needs him–very much the opposite. My feeling has always been that Dean and Sam may give up on themselves but never each other.

    When I write that Sam has a history of running, I only mean that when he feels upset with his own issues, which to me have always involved who and what he is, his first strategy is to run, to try and be someone else.

    When he was twelve, he ran away for two weeks, and Dean, searching desperately for him, was terrified he was dead. Sam had no intention of causing Dean this pain; he just didn’t realise what the impact on Dean would be. He was only a kid.

    When he was 18, he was determined to go to college, which is a fine goal–but he was also motivated by wanting to be someone other than himself because he was already scared of the anger he felt and how different he felt. The demon power was awakening in him and he was understandably scared. Leaving for school served a number of purposes for him–and of course, John made it almost impossible for him to keep in touch.

    When Sam was aware Amy was killing again, he left in the middle of the night instead of telling Dean how he was involved in letting her go as a child–even though Dean is legitimately scared that Sam’s mental health is fragile and wants to stay close. I think Sam was avoiding an argument involving his mental state because he was scared of his state himself.

    In Slash Fiction, when Sam is hurt not only that Dean killed someone he called friend, but that he also doesn’t trust Sam’s judgement because he’s worried about the hallucinations, he takes off rather than talk it out, even though he has valid points to make to Dean. I think Sam is well aware that Dean fears abandonment by his loved ones most of all. He isn’t actually considering leaving the partnership, he’s having a fight and he now knows leaving hurts Dean more than a punch does.

    There’s a pattern and it seems to be not that dissimilar to the one we just learned Amelia has as well.

    HOWEVER, I am not for a minute suggesting Sam has ever considered leaving instead of helping Dean in trouble–he may not want to confront his own issues, but he is more than willing to take on anything that involves Dean. He’s obsessive about what he cares about and he cares about Dean.

    Which leaves me a bit at sea about his reaction to Dean’s disappearance.

    I completely agree with your second point that hunting is not the same as looking and in order for me to buy Sam not needing to look for his brother, I need more info.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • lil

    I talked to you a bit on twitter about this review, but figured I’d add some of my thoughts on here too.

    I’m a bit impatient about the way the story is being told this season. I don’t know if I will feel differently once the season is over, but for now, I just feel a bit bored and unmoved by the Amelia flashbacks. There’s no real chemistry there and I think it takes up time which could be better spent reflecting on the time period between Dean leaving and Sam hitting the dog. That’s the time period we’re all interested in.

    I get that the writers want to give Sam a ‘human story’ and I support that, but the priority should be to address how Sam reacted to being left in that room all alone that day.

    I talk to a lot of fans online and this seems to be a bone of contention for many of them. Most people are of the opinion that Sam would not give up on Dean so easily.. so if that’s the line the writers are trying to sell, I doubt many people will be buying.

    However, this could be a really clever piece of storytelling as the season unravels. That remains to be seen. I’ll be following your reviews along the way, and look forward to discussions. :)

  • Gerry

    Hi, so great to see you here! I’ve been thinking over why I am uneasy about Sam’s part of this season, as I had no problem with the Dean/Lisa story.

    I’m doing a Blogtalk radio podcast with Barbara Barnett Monday night and one thing we’re discussing is the concept of the wounded hero. I was doing a little reading today and realized Sam has always been the archetype of the Reluctant Hero –not wanting to get involved in the quest because he doesn’t want to give up his “normal” life. Season One Sam to a T.

    What bothers me is that I am having trouble connecting the dots between the Sam who had embraced his hero responsibilities and this Sam who is back to being the Reluctant Hero, especially when he doesn’t need to take on full hunter responsibilities to investigate what happened to his brother. I need a reason that doesn’t seem like pushing a reset button to season one. Sam needs to feel organic to where we are in the story.

    So, like you, I want to see more of Sam’s reaction to losing Dean, not more of Amelia. Learning more about her does not help me fill in the blanks to get to Sam not looking for Dean.

  • Laurie

    Thank you so much for this review! It really helped me to undertstand why I am so conflicted about this season and specifically the attitude of Sam towards Dean.

    It’s refreshing to read a detailed analysis of the internal landscape of the show. I think that’s where this season’s real flaws are. The plot os good this year, with the Trans and Purgatory and Benny.

    But there is a horrid disconnect to the real meat of the show – the brothers relationship – and I worry this can’t be repaired, if Sam’s resting state is this lethal indifference to Dean.

  • muse

    Excellent review. I agree with every word. What bothers me too is that I got the impression that the writers think that Sam is completely justified in his dressing down of Dean and that Dean not telling him immediately about Benny is the equivalent of the many times Sam has betrayed Dean and chosen someone else over him. It’s such a bizarre way to view their relationship, yet these writers seem not to be aware of how one-sided it makes the so-called brotherly bond look.

    Anyway, thanks again for the review. I really enjoyed reading it.

  • http://bangingpatchouli.tumblr.com/ Lia

    “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.” Of course, we have no reason to believe he would. As he told Dean in 8.01 when Dean asked if there was a girl, Sam said, “There was and then there wasn’t.” He may still be concerned about her, but it’s over.

    I think the problem that most of us are having with Sam’s behavior has to do with the way the story is being told. As you say, we finally heard in 8.06 that his it felt like his world imploded and was raining down around him when Dean disappeared, but the writers aren’t showing that to us. We don’t know what happened between 7.23 and the moment he carried Dog into Dr. Angry Lady’s clinic. All we know is that he fixed up the Impala and drove.

    No doubt, Dean has PTSD, but maybe Sam does too. I believe it was Maraceles that pointed out that one type of PTSD is avoidance, and that may be what Sam is suffering from this time. I think it’s important to remember how Sam has reacted in the past to Dean’s death/loss. He’s gone off the rails. Both in Mystery Spot and then when Dean went to hell, Sam became obsessive and desperate. Both times he came very close to losing his humanity. I think it’s possible that in this case, Sam became detached from his feelings in an attempt to survive emotionally.

    The Sam that we’ve seen for the most part this season has been strangely detached. As you point out, he almost doesn’t seem to realize that the things he says hurt Dean, and this doesn’t seem like the naturally empathetic Sam we’ve come to know. I’m guessing it isn’t because I don’t think that Sam is allowing himself to feel much in the first few episodes. The only times he appears to feel anything is in the midst of fights when he thinks that Dean is in danger. If we look at those scenes closely, Sam is aware every moment where Dean is and shows not just concern but fear.

    And I think that might be the crux of the issue with Sam not wanting to hunt. I think he knows subconsciously that he won’t survive losing Dean again; actually being there to experience it again as he has more than a hundred times. In Blood Brothers, we saw just how fearful he was when he found out that Dean’s hunt with an unknown friend in a nest of vampires wasn’t going well. He was frantic to get to Dean only to find him with a ‘monster’ friend. Dean said in 8.06 that he’d never betrayed Sam, but I think that is exactly how Sam felt at that moment. I don’t think there’s anything rational about his animosity toward Benny. It’s entirely emotional. He sees Benny as a threat to Dean, and if there’s one thing that Sam has never hesitated about, it is taking out a threat to his brother, i.e. Emma.

    Sorry, this went way long, but that’s where I imagine Sam’s head is at. Not showing us Sam’s story in a linear way is frustrating, but Carver has said that when everything comes out neither brother will be the kicked dog. Too bad, it’s always Sam who has to be for part of the season; shades of S6 here. When we get the whole story, it’s supposed to all make sense. When what we know is some fans will never forgive Sam just like they haven’t for S4-5.

  • Gerry

    Hi Lia, thanks for the comment! You’ve been very thoughtful about where Sam may be coming from. I can’t quite feel comfortable with it with what we have so far, but if the writers fill in some blanks, I could be convinced.

    However, right now, I don’t feel a line of continuity between Sam in Time After Time and Sam in season 8. He was if anything in worse psychological state and yet he was not disconnected. He worked the case. In my eyes, Sam is naturally wired to be obsessive, so that’s not a choice he makes to be or not be. He is, just like his dad was.

    So, to not have that trait drive him, he’d need to have some kind of breakdown–and that’s fine with me (narratively speaking, not that I wish it on Sam) if he did. But show me. That’s a story point.

    Without being shown that Sam had a breakdown, I can only go with what I’ve got so far and I haven’t been shown that.

    I do really really hope we do get more on Sam’s reaction to losing Dean and if we do, I may well just love this season. I’ve loved lots of parts of it already. Dean, Benny and Purgatory have been wonderful.

    My fear is the writers think we already know all that’s necessary to know about Sam’s decision and the flashbacks are only going to point to his relationship with Amelia.

    I’m not as sure as you are that Amelia’s story is only relevant in flashback. I suspect we’ll see her in present day, too,eventually.

    I hope we are seeing Sam’s story as a breakdown due to Dean’s loss, but it is also possible and at the moment better supported that it’s a story about Sam maturing and reaching out for what he wants in his life rather than hunting.

    If so, it will be hard to hope for him to ride shotgun with Dean. Why hope for something he doesn’t want? I had no problem myself with any of season four or five–I understood Sam’s choices. I’m still at sea in season eight.

  • http://bangingpatchouli.tumblr.com/ Lia

    I think you’re absolutely right, Gerry. We aren’t seeing a line between the Sam we’ve come to know, the one who has grown and changed and accepted himself as a hunter and this Sam we’re seeing. I’m just putting a theory out there that makes sense given the character we’ve come to know over seven seasons because the one we’re seeing who made a decision not to look for his brother on a promise not to look for each other that was never made doesn’t make sense. If that turns out to be the extent of Sam’s decision that’s just piss-poor writing and I’m probably done with the show.

    I’m not saying that the story has to turn out the way I’m theorizing, just that it needs to be more to it than Sam left Dean “to die for a girl” because that’s not Sam Winchester.

    I’m afraid that you could be right about this idea that Sam is “maturing” and reaching out for what he wants; although, I don’t see how regressing to what he wanted when he was a teenager is maturing. Again, to me that’s just bad writing. Sam has been through way to much to be that kid again, and he knows that he can’t have it. He’s the one who told Samuel Colt that there’s no getting out of the life, he saw the djinn and later demons were a threat to Lisa and Ben.

    I don’t know. I just feel like either Sam isn’t behaving rationally because he’s still suffering from PTSD or another unknown reason or they’re trying to completely ignore years of canon and make him into someone he isn’t.

    I’ll give it a few more weeks and see, but they need to give us something soon. I’m really looking forward to Sam’s interactions with Cas. I think those could tell us something important. I’ve wanted their characters have more screetime for a while.

    I dread the idea that you’re right about Amelia — annoying character, terrible actress. I think they set out to give her Dean’s surface attributes — sarcastic, pushy, emotionally shut down, drinker. Of course, we know Dean, know what he’s been through, how much he loves Sam, that he’s a hero. With her, it’s just unlikable. I suppose we’re supposed to understand that those attributes don’t bother Sam because he’s used to it, and as with so many other characters from Max Miller to Castiel, he reaches out to other outsiders, other freaks like him. But that doesn’t make me enjoy her onscreen anymore just because I have some understanding of their relationship. It might help if there were any chemistry between Jared and Lianne.

    Here I’ve gone and rambled again. Sorry.

  • Sara

    Thank you for this. Like you, I’d like to see Sam written as finally confronting his juvenile behavior as regards his brother. I’m tired of Dean getting the “just get over yourself” speeches again and again when Sam needs to hear them just as much, and in fact, probably more than Dean, at this point. And yet, that is exactly what we got in this one, yet again and some more-and worse, as you pointed out, Dean doesn’t even have a memory of what he said! Terrible writing there, IMO.
    I’m with you, at this point, I’d just rather they separate because I’m becoming more convinced with every S8 episode that the writers of this show may not be capable of writing a genuinely mature relationship between these brothers because they refuse to write a Sam who’s willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for his own flaws AS flaws-of his and his alone-within that relationship because change of this type can only come about if one identifies what truly has to be changed-and frankly, Dean needing to “learn” that he has to “let go” of Sam has been done to death on this show. If they plan on keeping them together, then Sam has some learning of his own to do also. The emotional blackmail of threatening to leave every time Dean doesn’t see things as Sam sees them would be a great starting place for these writers to begin Sam’s “lessons”, IMO. Hopefully, Benny will be the catalyst for this. I’m trying so hard to give Carver the season to write the brothers’ relationship in a more balanced way than what we’ve gotten of that since S3(IMO). It’s hard when we get episodes like this one that seem to foretell simply perpetuating the unbalanced and too one-sided relationship in terms of the brothers’ caring for each other that I feel we’ve gotten since again S3, with it being ratcheted up to an intolerable level and degree in S4-7. This season is it for me in that regard. It’s time for these writers to allow Sam to realize that Dean is not in charge of Sam growing up as much as Sam is in charge of that. If he’s so unhappy, he should go, but if he’s going to stay hunting with Dean, then he should stay for the right reasons and stop adding to the dysfunctional relationship by being unable to look beyond his self-centered and self-involved mindset; something we’ve clearly seen Dean trying to do, and even harder than is his usual wont in this regard, since S5.
    Thanks for a great read.

  • sally

    Good review. I have to add though that as much as we need to see how Sam reacted when Dean disappeared, Dean needs to see it more, because right now, all that Sam is telling Dean is that he had the happiest year of his life, and that he decided to move on instead of looking for Dean.

    Dean has no idea how Sam felt when he disappeared and all he sees is anger and resentment from Sam, as well as Sam’s smug threat to Benny as well as his usual threat about leaving if Dean doesn’t see things Sam’s way.

    It’s making Sam a self-righteous, self-gratifying hypocrite.

    My wish is for Dean to call Sam on his threat to leave and drop Sam off to the nearest bus station, telling Sam that when he grows up and if he ever gets serious about hunting, to give him a call, otherwise, happy life and good riddance.

  • http://redskyie.tumblr.com/ redsky

    I think Lia makes a very important point re: Sam having his own PTSD. Dean’s PTSD is of a type we recognise instantly, since it is so similar to other representations of this condition in popular culture and since we see him in Purgatory as a war zone.
    But just think about Sam’s life over the last eight years. He lost his girlfriend, his father, Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, basically everyone who meant anything to him. He was left with only Dean and a very damaged Cas. Not to mention the life they’ve been living – dangerous and hard – especially in the last year with Leviathans everywhere. And of course there’s the roughly 180 years he spent in Lucifer’s cage being tortured. He and Dean have been fighting for their lives for so long.
    Sam’s PTSD is evident in the scene where Amelia surprises him with the birthday cake. It’s a sunny day in the park and he can’t find her. His reaction – genuine panic – is not normal. Sam has already stated (in “Jump The Shark”) that he finds it difficult to think of “normal” life as being real. He can’t help but see the threat everywhere, the dangers that “normal” people don’t even know about.

    ” I’d like to know why this disappearance was so different to him than Dean’s disappearance in “Time After Time,” ”
    As I see it, the difference is that in “Time After Time” is that Sam saw Dean and Chronos vanish into thin air, rather than actually die. The last thing he saw in 7.23 was Dean using a weapon about which they knew very little, to kill a monster they didn’t know much more about. Dick Roman didn’t just disappear into thin air, he literally exploded in Sam’s face. If this weapon destroyed a Leviathan, Sam’s got no reason to believe that it didn’t also destroy Dean, obliterate his body completely, since Leviathans are so much stronger than humans.
    And it’s not as if Sam hasn’t learned his lesson about messing with the “natural order.” When Sam died the first time, Dean sold his soul to a demon to get him back, and look how that turned out – Dean ended up playing into the grand plan for the Apocalypse by breaking the first seal. When Dean went to hell, Sam almost destroyed himself with alcohol and a kamikaze attempt on Lillith’s life. If Ruby hadn’t needed him to break the final seal, she wouldn’t have intervened and Sam probably wouldn’t have lasted a year.

    “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.”
    Although Sam’s time in Flagstaff can legitimately be called “running away” (and as you say, he was only 12) his decision to go to college is only “running away” or “ditching us” if you take everything that Dean says at face value. A bright young man wanting to go to college – wanting, essentially, to decide for himself what his future will be – is not the same as running away from who he is. If he ran away from anything, it was from the person his family told him he had to be. It doesn’t make him selfish, as many fans seem to assume. The reason why these events appear in Sam’s Heaven is not because he was pretending not to be a Winchester, but because these times represent times in his life when he made decisions for himself rather than being told what to do by his father. Sam never saw his decision to go to college as a repudiation of his family, only of their plans for him. In Season 1 we saw that he was genuinely shocked and hurt when John told him that if he went to college he couldn’t ever come back, making being part of the Winchester family conditional on staying put and doing what he was told to do with his life and effectively forcing Sam to choose between college and his family. That’s why the writers had Dean repeat those exact words “if you walk out that door, don’t ever come back”, because Dean was doing the same thing – forcing Sam to make a binary choice where Sam didn’t see the situation as an either/or deal. Family membership, familial love, is not supposed to be conditional. Sam recognises that and expresses in “Bugs” how early on life he felt unloved by his father because he wanted to make his own choices, even small ones like wanting to play soccer instead of bow hunting.

    And there have been numerous times when Dean has shown flagging interest in hunting. All the way back in Season 2 he said he was tired of the life; he idolises the concept of “family” and secretly wanted a home and family of his own, but had difficulty admitting his desires even to himself because he was brought up to believe that wanting things for himself was bad. Just because Sam is able to form, articulate and act on his own desires does not make him selfish.

    “I hope we are seeing Sam’s story as a breakdown due to Dean’s loss, but it is also possible and at the moment better supported that it’s a story about Sam maturing and reaching out for what he wants in his life rather than hunting.” I think we are seeing both. Sam without Dean, as we’ve seen both in “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and in “Mystery Spot” is not a healthy individual. I can’t fathom why some fans think that Sam loves or needs Dean any less than Dean loves Sam; although Dean feels Sam’s alliance with Ruby as a betrayal, Sam never “chose Ruby over Dean.” Sam was working towards the same goal as Dean in S4 – killing Lillith. The issue was that the brothers disagreed over the method. Right up to “When The Levee Breaks” Sam was begging Dean to join him and Ruby and trust that Sam was the only one who could stop Lillith. It was Dean who made Sam choose, and Sam believed he was going to kill Lillith and hoped that afterward Dean would see that he had been right.

    Because a lot of what happens in SPN is shown to use through Dean’s eyes, I think there is a widespread tendency to accept Dean’s view of events, even though Dean’s view is obviously coloured by his own issues. For example in your article you state that Dean doesn’t remember what he said while under the influence of the vengeful Confederate spirit, and criticise Sam for holding him accountable. But the only evidence that Dean doesn’t remember is his own half-hearted claim. The storyline of the episode clearly established that the spirit didn’t manufacture feeling of betrayal, only amplified what its hosts already felt. Dean holds grudges and finds it difficult to forgive perceived betrayals, especially when they set off his abandonment issues. In the normal course of events, of course he wouldn’t dream of trying to harm Sam, but he does believe the things he said. And his claim not to remember them fits with his general behaviour of avoiding his feelings, and his refusal to tell Sam about Benny or how he got out of Purgatory. Frankly, it’s about time that Sam demanded honesty from Dean. The Winchester tendency to keep secrets from each other has never led to anything good, so Sam has tried to be honest with Dean about his state of mind after Dean disappeared, about what he experienced with Amelia and about his desire to return to civilian life after the whole tablet mission.

    “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 see that Sam is stepping over Amelia’s boundaries; it’s not as if she told him to get out of her room and he refused. He reached out to her when he recognised his own loneliness in her and she responded.
    “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 don’t see any evidence that Sam doesn’t know that. He deduces quickly that Amelia is lonely and disconnected from life, lost, and understands that because it’s how he feels. He wants both to comfort her and find solace with her. It’s not a fairytale, but it’s certainly no unhealthier than Sam and Dean’s overly codependent relationship.
    As Jared Padalecki has pointed out, their relationship is realistic in the sense that it’s not all cake in the park, it’s about two people who’ve got painful pasts trying to find some happiness together. JP has also said that the reason Sam leaves her is very valid, and that she will show up in the “present” (as opposed to flashbacks) later in the season. By the way, Amelia is a war widow, all I’m saying is, have you seen Casablanca? We still don’t know who that shadowy figure watching Sam drive away was.

    “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.” I think that, after all they’ve been through, Sam doesn’t understand why Dean doesn’t know how much Sam loves him and how he felt his loss.
    “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 has no reason to think that Dean doesn’t know his loss devastated him. He loves Dean fiercely and it’s not clear to him that Dean doesn’t believe that. These brothers – like any family – understand certain things about each other, but their closeness blinds them to certain things too, the way that looking at something too close can distort it. they may think they know each other well, but two siblings growing up in the same house can experience things and be affected by them in hugely different ways. Now that they are adults Sam and Dean interpret and react to things differently, but they don’t always recognise the differences. Dean doesn’t realise until “Dark Side Of the Moon” that the concept of “family” means something different to him, “I never got the crusts cut off my PB&J”. Sam never had those happy first four years that Dean had, so he never felt its loss, and doesn’t idolise it the way Dean does; this is why he doesn’t share Dean’s abandonment issues, but also why it doesn’t always occur to him how those issues are still affecting Dean to this day. His “threat” of leaving Dean at the end of “Southern Comfort” isn’t supposed to be a way of hitting Dean where it hurts. He’s simply making it clear that he’s not going to let Dean take the lead and make all the decisions while keeping important information or emotional problems from him. It’s a perfectly reasonable stance given that both these men are now in their thirties; if Dean still can’t treat Sam like an adult and an equal partner then Sam just can’t continue to hunt with him. I’ve seen a lot of viewers express a desire for the brothers to go back to the way things were in Seasons 1-2, driving around, saving people, hunting things, and supposedly having no conflict with each other. Not only is this inaccurate – there’s always been a certain level of conflict between them – it’s pretty silly to expect a show with such consistent and realistic characterisation to have its characters revert to their early twenties and ignore all the maturing and character development they’ve gone through.

    “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.” Sam’s reaction is entirely in character and makes sense given the brothers’ conflict over Amy and Emma in the previous season. Dean was not only adamant that Amy had to be killed, he was furious with Sam for keeping her a secret, though he didn’t balk at hiding his actions from Sam when he killed her.
    “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.” No. This is not about jealousy. Sam has been wrong about monsters and their behaviour before, specifically in Amy’s case, and he admitted he was wrong about Amy. She had no right to kill humans, and Sam’s judgement was clouded by his previous experiences with her.
    Dean was right to kill her. Benny is not entirely analogous to Amy in that we haven’t seen him kill any humans *lately*, but Sam’s anger is entirely understandable given that he worked though his thinking about Amy and eventually admitted that Dean had been justified in killing her. The parallel comes in when we see that Dean himself doesn’t trust Benny not to start feeding on humans, despite what Benny claims. When Benny calls him in “Blood Brothers” and says that he’s screwed up, Dean immediately assumes he means he’s killed someone. In “Southern Comfort” Dean doesn’t tell Sam “I know he’s not going to kill any humans.” He shrugs and tells Sam that yeah, maybe Benny will fall off the wagon and if some other hunter kills him, so be it (but Dean can’t bring himself to kill him). That reluctance is what Sam felt with Amy, and what Dean lambasted him for, so naturally when Sam sees Dean in the same position he’s going to challenge what he perceives as Dean’s hypocrisy. Sam didn’t “skip over” the fact that Benny saved Dean. Amy saved Sam, that didn’t mean she didn’t forfeit her right to live when she started killing humans.

    “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.” I disagree. Dean never got over the whole demon blood issue, he showed up at Stull cemetery because despite his issues and hurt feelings he loves Sam and wasn’t prepared to let him die alone.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love both Sam and Dean equally, but I think that Sam gets judged unfairly both by Dean and a large portion of the audience, while many of Dean’s flaws are glossed over. In addition, Dean’s issues are often exposed clearly by other characters. The bad guys are forever taunting Dean with his fear of abandonment and his feelings of low self-worth, etc. Sam is more complex and his issues are not spelled out for us, so I think that many viewers rely on Dean for an explanation of Sam, rather than trying to understand him through his actions and words. What I’m saying is, Dean is not the reliable narrator some people are looking for. Just because Dean thinks or says something is right or wrong doesn’t make it so. Dean thinks of Sam’s actions while he was in Purgatory as a betrayal because of his own issues; we should not simply accept Dean’s interpretation of events without considering Sam’s motivations carefully.

    Wow sorry this is so long but I feel like Sam gets too much bashing and not enough support!

  • Sara

    “Wow sorry this is so long but I feel like Sam gets too much bashing and not enough support!”

    I feel as if the fandom feels the need to support Dean more because the actual writing within the storyboard of the show, so rarely does-not at the end of the day-and that feeling is so there yet again, after this episode, IMO.

  • lil

    That was long redsky, but I really enjoyed reading it, so thanks for posting it. :)

  • skepticalinquirer

    My problem with the whole “Sam has PTSD too” is that it basically lets Sam off the hook for a lot of horrible behavior and reciprocating the loyalty that his brother has shown him over the past years. It just feels like another way to give an excuse for Sam not to fulfill his half of the relationship. I also find the POV argument to be utterly unconvincing as well.

    The POV argument is one I feel that often we do know what Sam feels, it’s just that his opinions aren’t the ones his fans LIKE. When he expresses contempt or arrogance, people want to blame it on external factors but refuse to acknowledge that a lot of the negative feelings existed from since he was a child like in Afterschool Special and in Dark Side of the Moon where his favorite memories are not with Dean.

    And as Ruby pointed out, he was making the choices. Sure, she made them enticing but she wouldn’t have been able to push the buttons if he didn’t have them. And he doesn’t have the demon blood excuse for his behavior regarding Amy and threatening to kill Benny.

    For ages, I feel Dean has been forced to become the ‘caretaker’ of Sam not only by John, Bobby but also by Sam himself. I always notice that when it’s Dean’s turn to be taken care of, suddenly Sam is somehow left off the hook. The time Sam should’ve taken care of Dean was during S4 and he failed miserably. S8 was another opportunity for him to show he could step up to the plate and he’s totally AWOL in terms of emotional support or compassion. This to me is an indication that Sam is incapable of having Dean’s back.

    I think that the repetition of Sam breaking down and Dean either being blamed or having to fix it has utterly gutted any desire to see Dean remain in a relationship where his pains are unacknowledged and his needs unmet. I don’t care why Sam is acting this way because every year, he has some new problem where Dean has to push aside his self-value and tend to him again. It’s a writing trope that I was tired of seasons ago and brings nothing new or entertaining to the table.

    Even if they do have an external factor “excusing” Sam, I will still hate the fact that Dean again goes without again and that nothing in the actual relationship changes. The external factor excuse only lets Sam do less and Dean forced to go with less so no, I don’t want to see this year’s “soulessness” or “demon blood” or whatever they got whipped up to bring things back to a toxic status quo.

    It’s sad but I really prefer the relative lightness and ease of Dean working with Benny in the Edlund episode be something that Dean gets every single episode and not just occasionally.

  • redsky

    Thanks lil! :)
    Lia – another good point there about how Amelia shares traits with Dean. I think the perceived lack of chemistry in the Sam/Amelia relationship is down to two things- one, we haven’t seen any actual sex or even kissing and two, it’s just the nature of their relationship. It’s not two young people enjoying each other without any angst, like Sam and Madison, and it’s not steamy and desperate and conflicted like Sam and Ruby (not to mention the fact that JP and Genevieve Cortese were attracted to each other IRL.
    Sam and Amelia’s vibe is more about finding comfort, solace and connection with each other, it’s kind of softer, and doesn’t necessarily resemble the kind of romantic relationships we usually see on the screen. It strikes me as a more realistic interaction for two adults who are each dealing with their own losses and pain.
    Something I really appreciate about Amelia is that she forms a sensible first impression of Sam – this guy is a bit off, he’s a drifter, he thinks complimenting her on her stitches, of which he has seen a lot, is a good icebreaker – anyone with a healthy sense of self-preservation would regard this guy with suspicion. I would have been very disappointed if she had just seen his pretty face and fallen in love at first sight.

  • redsky

    Skepticalenquirer I don’t really understand your comment.
    “My problem with the whole “Sam has PTSD too” is that it basically lets Sam off the hook for a lot of horrible behavior and reciprocating the loyalty that his brother has shown him over the past years. It just feels like another way to give an excuse for Sam not to fulfill his half of the relationship. I also find the POV argument to be utterly unconvincing as well.”
    Fair enough, but both brothers have taken actions and said things that hurt each other over the years. I don’t see how Sam has behaved any worse than Dean.

    “The POV argument is one I feel that often we do know what Sam feels, it’s just that his opinions aren’t the ones his fans LIKE. When he expresses contempt or arrogance, people want to blame it on external factors but refuse to acknowledge that a lot of the negative feelings existed from since he was a child like in Afterschool Special and in Dark Side of the Moon where his favorite memories are not with Dean.”
    This is the very draw of the show for me – both Sam and Dean are realistically drawn characters. Just like real people, neither one is all good or all bad. Yes, Sam can be arrogant. And it’s  acknowledged by everyone, including Sam himself, that he has a certain darkness to him, particularly anger management issues. But Dean has flaws too, and can act selfishly and be juvenile; it’s completely unfair and overly simplistic to paint him as being the poor, put – upon martyr to his brother’s selfishness. These brothers are both flawed individuals, capable of both evil and good. They’re both heroes, but they’re not perfect. If they were perfect and never disagreed the show would be deathly boring. 

    “And as Ruby pointed out, he was making the choices. Sure, she made them enticing but she wouldn’t have been able to push the buttons if he didn’t have them.” 
    All true. Sam has acknowledged that he was wrong and spent all of S5 punishing himself for starting the Apocalypse. But everyone seemed to conveniently forget that Dean was the one who broke the first seal. And Cas let Sam out of the panic room. Nevertheless it’s Sam’s nature to heap more guilt on himself than he rightly deserves (see his drunken bender in Playthings) and it was Sam who volunteered to jump into the pit, knowing he was signing up for torture for eternity.

    “For ages, I feel Dean has been forced to become the ‘caretaker’ of Sam not only by John, Bobby but also by Sam himself.” 
    I don’t get what you mean. John certainly forced Dean to take care of Sam when they were chdren; Dean internalised this and because of his own low self-worth made it his raison d’etre, his main job in life. That’s hardly Sam’s fault though. 
    “I always notice that when it’s Dean’s turn to be taken care of, suddenly Sam is somehow left off the hook. The time Sam should’ve taken care of Dean was during S4 and he failed miserably.” 
    Why should he have taken care of Dean in S4, specifically? Was this a time when Dean had problems and Sam didn’t? And how did he fail? The only time anyone actually bothered to talk to Sam like an adult and let him explain his motivation for drinking the demon blood was when Chuck came to see him in “The Monster at the End of this Book” and Sam made it clear that he was trying to take some of the burden off Dean’s shoulders, to help him avert the apocalypse. I’m not denyin that there were other factors; Sam spent his life being the little brother and being treated like someone who needed to be protected, which robbed him of any real agency, so he enjoyed feeling powerful instead of powerless and relished the chance to play an equal part in the fight rather than have Dean treat him like the weaker half of the team. But he made his choices with good intentions. He didn’t betray Dean. He made his own choices and these contradicted Dean’s wishes. Dean interprets this as a betrayal because he believes it’s his right to tell Sam what to do. Sam’s an adult, why should he just take orders from Dean?
    “S8 was another opportunity for him to show he could step up to the plate and he’s totally AWOL in terms of emotional support or compassion. This to me is an indication that Sam is incapable of having Dean’s back.”
    This is totally unfair. Since 8×01, Sam’s been trying to get Dean to open up to him, just like he’s always done. Sam’s always the one trying to get Dean to talk about his feelings. Dean deals with things by repressing them, preferring fighting and drinking rather than “caring and sharing”. 

    “I think that the repetition of Sam breaking down and Dean either being blamed or having to fix it has utterly gutted any desire to see Dean remain in a relationship where his pains are unacknowledged and his needs unmet.” 
    I see no evidence of Sam refusing to acknowledge Dean’s pain or meet his needs, do you have any specific examples in mind?
    “I don’t care why Sam is acting this way because every year, he has some new problem where Dean has to push aside his self-value and tend to him again. It’s a writing trope that I was tired of seasons ago and brings nothing new or entertaining to the table.”
    Dean doesn’t have to push aside his self – value. He has a problem expressing his feelings, needs and desires, and he is driven to ignore them in favour of “looking out for Sammy”, because of his own lack of self – worth. Again, this is not Sam’s fault. Sam has in the past expressed frustration at Dean’s tendency to bottle things up and his insistence on ignoring his own needs. 

    “Even if they do have an external factor “excusing” Sam, I will still hate the fact that Dean again goes without again and that nothing in the actual relationship changes.” 
    The relationship has been changing since Season 1, have you seen Dean smacking Sam across the back of the head lately, like he did in the pilot? Or putting itching powder in his clothes? I certainly haven’t noticed Sam gluing Dean’s beer to his hand this season.

     “The external factor excuse only lets Sam do less and Dean forced to go with less so no, I don’t want to see this year’s “soulessness” or “demon blood” or whatever they got whipped up to bring things back to a toxic status quo.”
    I don’t see how Dean goes with less. What specifically has Sam failed to do for Dean? I agree that the relationship between Sam and Dean is unhealthy and overly co-dependent, but that’s only to be expected given their upbringing and lifestyle; I don’t see how it is worse for Dean than it is for Sam.

    I think that whenever there is conflict between Sam and Dean, the tendency to think that one brother must be “right” and the other “wrong”, or the desire to see one brother as the “victim” of the other is unrealistic and oversimplifying things. It’s not a question of one person being right and the other wrong, just like nobody is all good or all bad. To insist that it’s some kind of war in which the viewer must take sides is to do an injustice to the writers’ skill in crafting realistic characters.

  • redsky

    Ps on the question of Sam not looking for Dean while he was in Purgatory, Zimshan on Livejournal has a very interesting essay connecting these choices with what we know of Sam’s character, I would recommend it to anyone who feels his actions in Season 8 are out of character.

  • skepticalinquirer

    @18 I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that Sam has to change his behavior and attitude. And the idea that his current behavior isn’t unusually hurtful baffles me.

    I just don’t think the continual hiding the writing does using ‘parallels’ and ‘false equivalences’ to keep Sam from doing change that sticks helps the story or the character.

    In any case, I don’t see any point in keeping them together when if anything staying together reinforces the sickness that is their relationship. I don’t find anything realistic about the fact they’re in the same car, yet their relationship radiates the same amount of toxicity as Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

  • redsky

    “@18 I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that Sam has to change his behavior and attitude. And the idea that his current behavior isn’t unusually hurtful baffles me.”
    There’s certainly nothing wrong with not agreeing with Sam’s choices and of course we’re all entitled to our own opinions, but i asked questions because i want to understand your viewpoint. But you’re being very vague about it, can you point to any specific action or piece of dialogue to show why exactly you think Sam is more “hurtful” than Dean? I dunno you haven’t actually answered any of the questions I asked or adressed any of the points I made, so you’re not really convincing me.

    “I just don’t think the continual hiding the writing does using ‘parallels’ and ‘false equivalences’ to keep Sam from doing change that sticks helps the story or the character.”
    I don’t get your meaning. The brothers’ core personalities aren’t going to change; they have changed some of their behaviours both in general and towards  each other over the years, but Sam is hardly the only one who needs to change. What is wrong with literary symmetry or having one brother put into a position the other’s been in so that they can understand each other better? 

    “In any case, I don’t see any point in keeping them together when if anything staying together reinforces the sickness that is their relationship. I don’t find anything realistic about the fact they’re in the same car, yet their relationship radiates the same amount of toxicity as Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.”
    I don’t know I live in a country where divorce was illegal less than twenty years ago so I’ve seen a hell of a lot of marriages like this ;)
    Sam and Dean have a lot of issues, but they both love each other fiercely. Loving someone doesn’t mean never having conflict with them, that’s unrealistic. Especially when they spend 24 hours a day together. On the other hand they won’t necessarily improve their relationship or overcome their issues by splitting up, that’s just avoiding their problems.
    They have a shared mission – get the tablet, close the gates of hell – and they’ll work together to achieve it despite their conflict. And because they love each other they’ve got each other’s backs. That’s basically Supernatural in a nutshell.  Why would that change?

  • Sara

    “I see no evidence of Sam refusing to acknowledge Dean’s pain or meet his needs, do you have any specific examples in mind?”

    “Move on, or I will” in this very episode-and Sam has pulled this out in some form or another, series-long, as a way to get Dean to back down and sublimate feelings that Dean has, but that Sam just can’t handle hearing or dealing with.

    “I don’t see how Dean goes with less. What specifically has Sam failed to do for Dean? I agree that the relationship between Sam and Dean is unhealthy and overly co-dependent, but that’s only to be expected given their upbringing and lifestyle; I don’t see how it is worse for Dean than it is for Sam”

    And the above is exactly how Dean has been forced to go with “less” for most of his life-first by John, and then by Bobby, and yes, even by Sam-and so far, in the opinion of no few, the writers have not addressed this strongly enough, in the text of the show as a problem in the relationship, that Sam’s actions and words play a large part in and of, but that has clearly been shown to us as being that way-the writers might not even see it-and that is just mind-boggling to me if true, but the fandom, has-and no matter who they use for a mouthpiece to tell us that this is all Dean’s problem, and his alone, and Sam has nothing whatsoever to do with it, it won’t and can’t be accepted or believed if they’re going to just continue showing Sam take advantage of it in this way and as he did with that threat in this episode.

    Everything that Dean has ever done, the good and the bad, the wrong and the right, has been shown by the writing to have huge repercussions and ramifications for Sam; and yet when it comes to showing the effects of Sam’s less than stellar choices and decisions on Dean-this episode and others like it are what we get-a glossing over that’s forgotten as soon as the ink is dry on the page.
    This aspect of the writing of the relationship has to be addressed, in some way, IMO, or nothing will have really changed for Dean since John began the dismantling of Dean as an individual and as an individual who is deserving of and entitled to feelings of his own about himself and about how he feels he’s been treated by those who’ve purported to love him so much; we have not seen Dean allowed this through the writing as much as we have seen Sam gifted with it, IMO-so yeah, IA the whole we never get Sam’s POV does not hold true, insofar as the brother’s relationship has been depicted, up to this point. IMO, we see plenty of Sam’s POV of Dean, the writers have just not done anything different about it or followed up on it better, in forever.

  • Sara

    “they love each other they’ve got each other’s backs. That’s basically Supernatural in a nutshell. Why would that change?”
    Because Dean has not felt that Sam has truly had his back for a very long time as I think they were attempting to show us in this episode-and it’s not just because Dean is a “bad” brother for not being able to believe this about Sam, at this point. It’s because of a pattern of behaviors that Sam should consider changing, if he ever comes to the conclusion that he’d like to continue hunting with his brother. I must confess that *I* personally do not much care if Sam wants that or not, again at this point, in the story. Indeed, at this point, they are too far apart on this even now to be hunting together and it shows and again for me and no few others I know, it’s no fun whatsoever to even watch them try any longer. And I DO hope Carver fixes this, above all things, and in as balanced and satisfying a manner as he’s claimed he wanted to, by season’s end, or the show will be lost as a television program of any worth-at least to me, anyway.

  • redsky

    Some people seem to be interpreting Sam’s “Move on, or I will” as some kind of emotional blackmail intended to take advantage of Dean’s abandonment issues. Maybe we should look at the conversation verbatim:

    Sam: For the record, the girl? Her name’s Amelia. Amelia Richardson. And she and I had a place together in Kermit, Texas.
    Dean: Look man, I don’t even remember what I said but…
    Sam: But what? But you didn’t mean it? Oh, please. You and I both know you didn’t need that penny to say those things.
    Dean: Come on, Sam..
    Sam: Own up to your crap, Dean. I told you from the jump where I was coming from, why I didn’t look for you. But you? You had secrets. You had Benny. And you got on your high and mighty and you’ve been kicking me ever since you got back. But that’s over. So move on, or I will.
    Dean: Okay. I hear you.
    Sam: Good.

    The phrase “Move on, or I will” isn’t ‘emotional blackmail’. Sam is not playing on Dean’s abandonment issues in order to get him to do something Sam wants. He is expressing his frustration that although he has been honest with Dean, and made it clear to him that he is ready to listen if Dean wants to talk, Dean refuses to take ownership of his own feelings. He is a grown man, and grown up people take responsibility for their feelings. That’s what Sam means when he tells Dean to “Own your crap” instead of pretending not to remember what he said and trying to avoid dealing with it. Sam is frustrated that Dean is holding this grudge against him, refusing to listen to Sam’s explanation or take his feelings and wishes into consideration, and picking at him about “taking a year off”. By saying “Move on, or I will” Sam is saying that he can’t continue to “shut up and ride shotgun and act like nothing happened”. He’s establishing a boundary, he’s making it clear that he won’t allow Dean to keep on holding this grudge and punishing him indefinitely. That’s a healthy, adult thing to do. He talks about Dean getting “on [his] high and mighty” but since the revelation about Benny he feels that Dean has no claim to the moral high ground.And, as I said above:
    He’s simply making it clear that he’s not going to let Dean take the lead and make all the decisions while keeping important information or emotional problems from him. It’s a perfectly reasonable stance given that both these men are now in their thirties; if Dean still can’t treat Sam like an adult and an equal partner then Sam just can’t continue to hunt with him.
    By the way, Sam reminding Dean that “the girl”‘s name was Amelia highlights his irritation with Dean’s refusal to say her name, even though he asked Sam her name in 8×01. He’s refusing to use her name because “a girl” or “some girl” is a way of depersonalising her, as if she were someone Sam met once rather than someone he was living with and serious about. It’s a way for him to be dismissive of Sam’s feelings, which he does quite often.

    Note that Garth has basically just said the exact same thing to Dean as he bids him goodbye, telling him to let it go, stop holding on to old resentments. Dean didn’t pretend to Garth that he didn’t remember what he’d said. He told Sam he didn’t remember because he didn’t want to discuss his feelings, which is entirely Dean’s M.O.
    If Dean refuses to express his needs then how can he expect others to fulfil them?

    That’s one example you’ve given of Sam allegedly refusing to acknowledge Dean’s pain or meet his needs. In 7 1/2 seasons aren’t there any more?

    “”I don’t see how Dean goes with less. What specifically has Sam failed to do for Dean? I agree that the relationship between Sam and Dean is unhealthy and overly co-dependent, but that’s only to be expected given their upbringing and lifestyle; I don’t see how it is worse for Dean than it is for Sam”

    And the above is exactly how Dean has been forced to go with “less” for most of his life-first by John, and then by Bobby, and yes, even by Sam-and so far, in the opinion of no few, the writers have not addressed this strongly enough, in the text of the show as a problem in the relationship, that Sam’s actions and words play a large part in and of, but that has clearly been shown to us as being that way-the writers might not even see it-and that is just mind-boggling to me if true, but the fandom, has-and no matter who they use for a mouthpiece to tell us that this is all Dean’s problem, and his alone, and Sam has nothing whatsoever to do with it, it won’t and can’t be accepted or believed if they’re going to just continue showing Sam take advantage of it in this way and as he did with that threat in this episode. ”

    I don’t actually understand this sentence. How does Dean “go with less”? Specifically what has Sam failed to do for Dean? When has Dean expressed a need that Sam could have met, but chose not to?

    “Everything that Dean has ever done, the good and the bad, the wrong and the right, has been shown by the writing to have huge repercussions and ramifications for Sam; and yet when it comes to showing the effects of Sam’s less than stellar choices and decisions on Dean-this episode and others like it are what we get-a glossing over that’s forgotten as soon as the ink is dry on the page”
    Are there any examples of this you can point to? How is Dean’s mental state, and the effects on it of Sam’s actions, glossed over?
    You mention “Dean as an individual and as an individual who is deserving of and entitled to feelings of his own about himself and about how he feels he’s been treated by those who’ve purported to love him so much”. Certainly as a revenge-obsessed alcoholic John’s parenting has had disastrous effects on Dean (though I do believe that John genuinely loved Dean in his own way), but that’s hardly Sam’s fault. What evidence do you have that Sam only “purports” to love Dean?

    You say that “Dean has not felt that Sam has truly had his back for a very long time as I think they were attempting to show us in this episode” but it’s been made clear as far back as Season 4 that Dean does not have the same trust and faith in Sam that Sam has in Dean. But the fact remains that Sam does have Dean’s back and vice versa. The fact also remains that the show is about Sam and Dean, not Dean and Benny or Dean and Cas or whatever.

    You also said “and it’s not just because Dean is a “bad” brother for not being able to believe this about Sam”.
    Nobody here is calling Dean a bad brother. A lot of people are saying Sam is a bad brother. Have some examples:
    Muse @6 says ” the many times Sam has betrayed Dean and chosen someone else over him.” Like when?

    You said @10 ” I’d like to see Sam written as finally confronting his juvenile behavior as regards his brother” (What juvenile behaviour did you mean?) and mentioned him “adding to the dysfunctional relationship by being unable to look beyond his self-centered and self-involved mindset;” Sam’s not self-centered. He’s constantly watching Dean, always knows when something’s bothering him, and is forever trying to encourage Dean to talk about his feelings.

    Sally @11 seems particularly anti-Sam “Sam’s smug threat to Benny as well as his usual threat about leaving if Dean doesn’t see things Sam’s way.” Usual threat? Smug? She says “It’s making Sam a self-righteous, self-gratifying hypocrite.” She wants Dean to ditch Sam unless he grows up and gets serious about hunting. Which is basically the same threat she’s blaming Sam for making? “Do things my way, see them my way, or we’re splitting up”? That’s breathtakingly hypocritical.

    skepticalinquirer @15 accuses Sam of not fulfilling his half of the relationship, saying that ” The time Sam should’ve taken care of Dean was during S4 and he failed miserably. S8 was another opportunity for him to show he could step up to the plate and he’s totally AWOL in terms of emotional support or compassion. This to me is an indication that Sam is incapable of having Dean’s back.” Where is the evidence of any of this? I asked for examples but SE hasn’t provided a single one. Se also says “Even if they do have an external factor “excusing” Sam, I will still hate the fact that Dean again goes without again and that nothing in the actual relationship changes. The external factor excuse only lets Sam do less and Dean forced to go with less”. I still don’t know how exactly Dean’s “going with less”.
    “Sam has to change his behavior and attitude. And the idea that his current behavior isn’t unusually hurtful baffles me.” but has yet to actually explain their reasoning or why anyone else should agree with them.

    The point that I’ve been repeatedly making is that despite the obvious contingent of people who think that Sam is the “bad” brother and poor put-upon Dean is the “good” brother, there *is* no “bad” or “good” brother. They are two adults who love each other but have conflict and issues just like real people do. They are trying to negotiate their relationship and figure out how they relate to each other as adults and as hunting partners. Trying to take sides between them or to lionise one and vilify the other is to miss the point and does a disservice to the writing.

    Now seems like as good a time as any to throw in the standard disclaimer that we’re not even halfway through the seaon, so we still don’t know the full story and there are likely several surprises on the way. That said, if you “and no few others I know” aren’t interested in watching a show whose focus is and will always be on two brothers who hunt monsters, you’re going to be disappointed.

  • Moe

    Thanks so much for the review! I agree with you on many points, least of all that at this point, I think the brothers should just split up. It’s clear that Sam has no desire to be with Dean or to hunt, going by his repeated nasty remarks on both. He’s never had a problem just leaving, so I wish he would. And I wish the show would allow Dean to leave him, instead of giving him some “suck it up, princess, your brother is awesome and you should let him walk all over you and forgive it” speech by someone, and then Dean taking it.

    My biggest problems are twofold: that Sam didn’t look, and that Sam is treating Dean like he resents him for coming back from Purgatory.

    There is NO excuse for me for the fact that Sam didn’t look, period. There was no body, there was no blood, there was nothing. There was no reason for him to just shrug his shoulders, assume that meant Dean was dead, and walk away. That’s discounting everything that has happened to them, every experience that Sam has had in seven seasons, and any ties of love and loyalty that Sam had for Dean. Is that what they do now? They just walk away when the other is in trouble and disappears? If they did, this show would have ended in season one, period. Because both brothers would be dead.

    Sam wasn’t alone. He had Garth, he had Jody, he had all of the hunters that Dean called, looking for help when Sam was in the mental institution. He had himself, considering he is supposed to be so smart and research brilliant. He had ZERO proof that Dean was dead. He just decided it was easier for him to go along with that.

    Now if he had looked and reached dead ends, or found out Dean was in Purgatory and he had no way to save him, fine. But to not look at all is unforgivable to me.

    And Dean is right, he never left him to die like this. When Sam was trapped with Lucifer, Dean did everything he could to save him. He researched for a year, all while trying to honor Sam’s dying wish that he try for a normal life with Lisa and Ben. And when he found out what had happened to Sam’s soul, he did everything he could to rescue it. From making deals he found abhorrent with Crowley, to literally killing himself so he could meet Death and try and bargain with him.

    Yet when it came time when Dean needed the same thing from Sam, Sam wasn’t there for him. Sam cared more about saving a dog than saving Dean. How could that not hurt?

    But instead of hearing all of the pain that Dean has bottled up over the things that Sam has failed him on, and acknowledging it, apologizing for it. Sam throws things in Dean’s face. Sam’s not sorry he abandoned Dean. Instead, he seems pissed that Dean is back in the first place. He’s not at all happy to hear that Dean had someone who had his back and helped him. Instead, he’s pissed that Dean has a friend who is a vampire. There is NO WAY that Dean not telling Sam about Benny, equals the things that Sam has done. It in no way evens out that Sam abandoned Dean and left him to die. At all.

    And as to the whole “Benny is a vampire, therefore he must be evil” thing that both some people and Sam are espousing, I have one word: Lenore. Lenore, whom Sam took her word for the fact that she and her people were no longer killing. Lenore, whom Sam convinced Dean was legit and whom the brothers both let go. Lenore, whom was a vampire who had killed but had moved on to a non killing way of life and was let go. But I guess Sam and the show can’t remember Lenore, because then it wouldn’t give Sam anything to bash Dean for. Instead, they bring up Amy. Who LITERALLY had blood and brains on her hands when she and Sam met again. Whom Sam even admitted (eventually) needed to be put down. Not even close to the appropriate analogy, but yet, Sam is allowed to get away with it because it supports his “you’re really the bad one, Dean, not me” argument.

    Just incredibly frustrating. At this point, there is nothing left between the brothers. No love, no liking, no respect. They need to just separate. Sam can go back to Amelia, and Dean can go hunt with someone who actually likes him and values him and wants to hunt with him. Because it’s clear that that person is no longer Sam.

  • Gerry

    Hi everyone, I’m so pleased to see you all here and discussing my favourite show! I’d like to get a tiny piece of bloghousekeeping out of the way, as I’d like to keep our discussions enjoyable, where everyone feels safe to post.

    I’d like us all to follow the basic guideline of discuss the show, not the posters. This show invites passionate discussion because Sam and Dean are loved characters, so it helps if we all self-monitor on keeping our discussions show-related.

    So much good discussion on this episode!

    Redsky, as you’ve engaged with some of my points, I’d like to continue with the discussion.

    You wrote: “As I see it, the difference is that in “Time After Time” is that Sam saw Dean and Chronos vanish into thin air, rather than actually die. The last thing he saw in 7.23 was Dean using a weapon about which they knew very little, to kill a monster they didn’t know much more about.”

    What I find difficult to accept about this interpretation is Sam had as much reason to assume Dean was dead in Time After Time or as much reason to assume Dean was alive at the end of last year’s finale. Last year, he kept digging until he found out what happened. This time ’round, he assumes Dean is dead even though he doesn’t know what happened and he knows Dean has Cas with him. I’d like a bit more info on why. Sam is obsessive.

    “Although Sam’s time in Flagstaff can legitimately be called “running away” (and as you say, he was only 12) his decision to go to college is only “running away” or “ditching us” if you take everything that Dean says at face value.

    I think we’ve gotten a lot over the years from Sam on how he was feeling when he left for Stanford. He was already afraid of the anger he felt and he felt like he didn’t fit in anywhere. He told Dean in season one when Dean apologized in I believe “Skin” for taking him out of school, that he had never felt he fit in at Stanford. Sam has never been an ordinary young man–he’s always had demon blood and a fate to fight. One of his strategies has been to try and be someone else. In Dark Side of the Moon, he joined a family for Thanksgiving that he didn’t even like; he just liked that they celebrated a picture perfect holiday. I don’t see that as a healthy strategy and I believe we saw Sam stop running from himself over season five and really face himself, dark side and all. I think that’s where he got the strength to decide to sacrifice himself. Mileage may vary, of course.

    “I can’t fathom why some fans think that Sam loves or needs Dean any less than Dean loves Sam; although Dean feels Sam’s alliance with Ruby as a betrayal, Sam never “chose Ruby over Dean.”

    We’ll agree to disagree over the season four storyline, as I think Sam did indeed end up choosing Ruby over Dean and that started the Apocalypse. Both Sam and Dean had the same goal, but they did not end up working together, because Sam decided he was stronger with Ruby–and he was addicted to demon blood.

    This season, so far in the story, Sam is the one saying he does not need Dean in his life the way Dean needs him. He wants to change his life and have Dean hunt alone. To me, that means he does not view a close relationship with Dean as necessary to him–which is a surprise to me as I thought the story so far showed both brothers they need each other to ground each other. But for that to be true for Sam, he would have to think there are reasons it’s tough for him to stay grounded–but he’s decided he can just be a normal joe. I find that an odd headspace for him and would like more info so I can follow that transition from hero back to reluctant hero.

    “For example in your article you state that Dean doesn’t remember what he said while under the influence of the vengeful Confederate spirit, and criticise Sam for holding him accountable. But the only evidence that Dean doesn’t remember is his own half-hearted claim. The storyline of the episode clearly established that the spirit didn’t manufacture feeling of betrayal, only amplified what its hosts already felt.”

    But Adam Glass clearly set out that the spectre’s victims could not remember what they said or did while possessed. The first victim explicitly said she could only remember bits and pieces like colour and mostly she just remembered the furious anger. The other victims also could not remember what they did. So, I have more to go on than Dean’s word he cannot remember what he said. The canon of the show said that. That does make Sam holding Dean accountable for words he cannot remember saying, which I think is a weak choice, dramatically. It doesn’t allow any real discussion of the issues between the boys, as Dean cannot tell Sam what the spirit amplified beyond all recognition (which I assume the man who killed the baseball ump for a bad call would feel) and what are real festering feelings.

    “Sam has no reason to think that Dean doesn’t know his loss devastated him.”

    The way I see the show, Sam has every reason to believe Dean doesn’t know his loss devastated him–Dean’s been clearly showing his hurt at Sam not looking for him since the premiere. He was pretty clear on that when he was so sarcastic about their “deep and abiding bond” Sam did not act upon.

    “This is not about jealousy. Sam has been wrong about monsters and their behaviour before, specifically in Amy’s case, and he admitted he was wrong about Amy. She had no right to kill humans, and Sam’s judgement was clouded by his previous experiences with her.
    Dean was right to kill her. Benny is not entirely analogous to Amy in that we haven’t seen him kill any humans *lately*, but Sam’s anger is entirely understandable given that he worked though his thinking about Amy and eventually admitted that Dean had been justified in killing her. The parallel comes in when we see that Dean himself doesn’t trust Benny not to start feeding on humans, despite what Benny claims.”

    I think the closest parallel is with Kate, whom the brothers have just let go because she has not killed anyone and they don’t kill monsters unless they do–including Dean, who let Amy’s son go. Both Sam and Dean agreed Kate should go until she killed someone, so Sam’s stance on Benny is a change from his usual position (since season 2) that monsters are only evil by their acts, not their birth.

    I think it is legitimate for Sam to say if Benny does start killing, he will have to do something about it, but I am surprised that is his focus, rather than feeling relief Dean was saved. It doesn’t help to hear Sam throw killing Benny in Dean’s face, like it’s some sort of tit for tat about Amy. There are ways Sam could have raised the Benny issue without it sounding that way–but the writers didn’t choose those ways. So I’m left with very mixed feelings about Sam’s very mixed message.

    “I disagree. Dean never got over the whole demon blood issue, he showed up at Stull cemetery because despite his issues and hurt feelings he loves Sam and wasn’t prepared to let him die alone.”

    We’ll agree to disagree, because I think if Dean had not been able to process his feelings about Sam, as Bobby urged him to do, he would not have been able to get past Lucifier to reach Sam. Lucifer set the events in motion to deliberately stir up those feelings of resentment and betrayal in order to separate the brothers. If they had been strongly felt by Dean at the cemetary, Lucifer would have been able to manipulate him as he did Sam. I think Eric Kripke’s story was that Dean’s ability to forgive and love his brother unconditionally was the wild card neither demon nor angel anticipated or had a defense against. Again, mileage may vary (-:

    Thanks again to everyone for such a lively discussion. Hope to see you all again at another review!

  • http://bangingpatchouli.tumblr.com/ Lia

    Can we agree that the biggest problem with Sam this season is that the writers have chosen to not show us what happened between 7.23 and the moment that Sam carried Dog into the animal hospital? All we know is what he’s said to Dean, that he fixed up the Impala and drove, and to Amelia, he felt like his world imploded and rained down around him. I have to think that the writers know how significant that information is and are withholding it for dramatic affect.

    For me one of the most important lines in Southern Comfort was “I just might be that hunter that runs into Benny one day and ices him.” Now most people are focusing on the fact that Sam is threatening to kill Benny, but to me it’s significant that Sam is calling himself a hunter. Here he’s been protesting that he wants to quit hunting and have a normal life, but Sam knows what he is. When push comes to shove, he’s a hunter. That isn’t going to change despite what he may think he wants out of life.

    At the beginning of S6, Dean chose to stay with Lisa and Ben and let Sam go off hunting on his own. Everyone seems to forget that too. But the djinn come after him and endangered his new family. I’ve found it weird that Sam seems to have forgotten that too. He’s always seemed like a pretty pragmatic guy to me. He said after all to Samuel Colt that there’s no getting out of the life. I can only conclude that either we aren’t getting all of Sam’s story or the writers have chosen to reset Sam back to do just the opposite of what Carver has claimed: Making the Winchesters mature during their time apart. Because if we take Sam’s story at face value, he’s forgotten everything he’s learned over the past seven seasons, all the character development has been erased.

  • Gerry

    Lia, I agree with so much of your comment. Getting more on what led Sam to walk away instead of search will satisfy many of my questions–and I haven’t given up hope at all.

    I also wonder why Sam doesn’t remember what happened to Dean and Lisa, because to me the pressures on Dean were not specific to his character, they were Winchester pressures. Dean’s reactions were specific to him, but I don’t understand why Sam thinks he can take himself off the playing board and everyone and everything he’s engaged over the years will respect that.