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TV Review: ‘Supernatural’ – ‘The Purge’

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When I first heard about “The Purge,” I cringed: Supernatural doesn’t always have the best track record when dealing with body politics. This episode is surprising, though. Yes, there are a few fat jokes and stereotypes thrown out there, but on the whole, the episode works. If nothing else, the storyline about the “Peruvian fat sucker” mirrors the issues that season nine is grappling with so well that it overshadows any problem points for me.

“The Purge” is about extremes and the difficulty of finding a balance, which are core themes in Supernatural. Written by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder and directed by Phil Sgriccia, the episode engages in the same deflection and narrative misdirection that has distinguished – at times, frustratingly so – much of season nine:  Though brothers Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) reunited at the end of last week’s episode, they’re still not reconciled. I expected standard MOTW fare shoehorned between book-end scenes of the brothers talking, and from one angle, that’s exactly what “The Purge” is. But the episode can be more productively read as completely about Dean and Sam with monsters (or is it “monsters”?) squeezed in. 

The case itself harkens back to the good ol’ days of Supernatural when a random news story would send “the boys” on a monster hunt. An insomnia-driven Dean discovers the case: mysterious deaths where people have had all of the fat sucked from their bodies. Sam agrees to investigate, and off they go. This particular case varies strikingly from early seasons for many reasons, particularly because “the boys” are no longer boys. To drive the point home, the episode even goes so far as to joke about 35-year-old Dean (born Jan. 24, 1979) lying to a waitress about being 29. 

The episode begins with Dean and Sam in opposing corners, so to speak: Dean’s been up all night drinking, watching television (Rudy and Unforgiven, both of which can be mined for their connections to Dean’s storyline), and researching. Sam, ever the more physically health-conscious brother, has gotten a good night’s sleep and comes into the kitchen to eat breakfast. A few sentences of dialogue remind us of Gadreel, Metatron, and Mark of Cain and the heart-splitting closing scene in “Sharp Teeth.”

This week, dialogue entirely neglects Castiel (Misha Collins), even though a single-sentence reference could have easily established continuity. While I suspect that Show is playing off of Dean being in self-punishing mode so he’s denying himself contact and Sam being in punishing mode so he’s denying information, the narrative offers no concrete reasoning. Hopefully the next episode explains the Cas oversight because, otherwise, the gap seems more a narrative fault than not.

The PurgeAs with “Sharp Teeth” and “Dog Dean Afternoon,” among other episodes, “The Purge” employs mirrors to reflect facets of the season’s themes. For example, there are three scenes in the episode where Dean and Sam listen to someone else’s relationship issues: Mol (infidelity and marriage), Sheriff Donna Hanscum (loneliness and divorce), and Maritza (sibling and marriage). As in “Heartache” (8×3), the camerawork establishes parallels for us to note, zooming in on Dean and Sam’s individual reactions, and emphasizing their communication (or lack thereof) with the women and with each other. For example, when the two are speaking with the Sheriff, Dean’s sympathetic look when he hears about her husband leaving her is clear; Sam’s expression appears detached and less empathetic. The juxtaposition is interesting considering Sam’s loss of Amelia in season eight.

After Dean and Sam speak with Maritza, Sam shows his sympathetic side: He expresses sorrow to the woman who’s lost her family, and he defends her to his less-than-sympathetic brother, drawing connections between her monster-status and his possession by Gadreel. (I found this odd, though, as his connection to her seems stronger, in my mind, through his addiction to demon blood.) During her interrogation especially, Maritza functions as a mirror for Sam; she wanted to live where she wouldn’t be a monster. Behind the façade of the spa, she’s able to co-exist with humanity by “just eating enough to get by.” She’s willing to make that sacrifice, unlike her brother Alonzo, who, she says, grew hungrier the more he was deprived.

“The Purge” also uses blatant socio-cultural coding to emphasize Dean and Sam’s differences. It’s most clear in the bunker scenes, where Dean is ensconced in the kitchen and not the research area where Sam is usually seen. In this episode, their interactions with others reinforce this dichotomy, with Sam handling formal situations best while Dean does better with the informal. Show’s association of Dean with blue collar stereotypes and Sam with white collar ones isn’t new, but “The Purge” creates such a contrast that I felt uncomfortable when Sam acts embarrassed by Dean’s behavior, as he does during the powdered donut scene and the job interview. In the first instance, Dean doesn’t seem to pick up on his brother’s discomfort, but he certainly does during the second.  And we might shrug off this coding except that the spa owners also note the difference, offering Sam the job that requires him to work directly with clients and Dean the position in the cafeteria.

It’s significant that Sam isn’t as successful working with the clients as he assumes he’ll be. He can project and sustain the image better than Dean, perhaps, but he misses social cues, a failing that’s successfully mined for laughs during the yoga scene. Though he might not admit it to his brother, Sam knows that just because he can assume a role doesn’t mean he can successfully play it out. This is something that harkens back to issues “the boys” had in season one. And it seems to me now, just as it did then, that Sam places some blame on Dean for his own inability to adapt and fit in; it’s a very child to parent response.

The PurgeIn comparison to Sam, Dean has always been a more fluid character, one that, despite his superficial posturing and overcompensation (“Playthings” 2×11), slips into different roles and crosses boundaries with greater ease. In the director’s commentary for “Everybody Hates Hitler” (8×13), Sgriccia talks about Dean’s “potential for love in all places.” It’s a statement that’s been scrutinized by fandom; I use it to illustrate that Dean isn’t simply the reductive, blinders-on, macho hunter he often postures as. Though he teases Sam for his knowledge of fairy tales in “Bedtime Stories” (3×5), his expression indicates that he well knows who Princess Jasmine is in “The Purge.” He informs Sam and the cop that “all women lie about their weight and age,” and when Sam points out that he lied about his age, Dean simply responds, “Uh-huh.” He doesn’t care that he’s engaged in a “feminine” behavior.

Dean’s a contradiction, though. At times, he embraces ambiguity, but when conversing with Sam, he often resists it. When working the cafeteria job, his complaint to Sam is, “Why do I got to be the lunch lady?” His association of the job with the feminine, his role in the kitchen, and his grammar all code Dean differently than Sam, and he, essentially, doesn’t like it. This makes me question how much of Dean’s image is influenced by his perceptions of Sam and how much of Sam’s identity stems from his perceptions of Dean. And whether intentional or not, I read the salted caramel pudding as another instance of Dean’s duality: Sam is unimpressed by the flavor, while Dean responds enthusiastically, albeit druggedly, “Yeah, man. Best of both worlds. Salty and sweet.” Though Dean sees that there can be a “best of both worlds,” his actions don’t support his words; Dean has to figure out how to balance his life, to hunt yet not be consumed by hunting. 

Until he figures it out, Dean has a lot to work through. The storeroom scene offers yet another clue to how their dynamic became so complicated when Dean identifies roofies by sight and is surprised that Sam doesn’t know what they are. Dean explains his knowledge away by noting he didn’t want “to end up in a hotel bathtub” missing a kidney, and that’s presumably the end of it. What’s left unsaid is that Sam didn’t worry or know about roofies because Dean’s spent his life trying to protect his brother from needing to know things like that. In past seasons, this imbalance forged a strong bond between “the boys.” Now that they’re thirty-something men, they have to find a new way to relate to one another.

There isn’t a simple reading of the brothers’ situation, and the parent/child dynamics are just one part of this tangled web. Dean’s made decisions for Sam all season (and in earlier seasons), often assuming by forced circumstance or by choice a degree of authority that he shouldn’t hold. He’s circumvented Sam’s agency more than once, and part of that comes from his engrained desire to “take care of Sammy.” And in assuming that role, Dean unconsciously ensures the inequality of his and Sam’s relationship. For example, in “Sharp Teeth,” Dean came to terms with Garth and his decisions, and the two parted warmly and respectfully. With Sam, though, his interactions are sarcastic and passive aggressive. (“I was just being honest.”) The two are so mired in this dysfunction that they can’t meet in the middle, listen to one another, and work things out (or so the season’s narrative is telling us). Instead, it’s unfortunately taking something cataclysmic to break the cycle.

Spn 9x13-5So what’s more dire than multiple apocalypses? Sam telling Dean that, were their situations reversed in 9×1, he wouldn’t have saved his brother.

The final scene of “The Purge” doesn’t mince words. Since Sam didn’t look for Dean when the latter was trapped in Purgatory, the truth Sam drops isn’t exactly revelatory for some, but it certainly seems to be for Dean. The elder Winchester has held onto his perception of “little brother Sammy” so tightly that he supposedly can’t imagine life without him and assumes the reverse is true as well. This is, however, simply Dean’s perception, and while valid, it’s subjective. As is Sam’s. 

Supernatural has always played with perceptions and realities. There are a multitude of episodes whose scenarios fit into this category, including Dean’s djinn-dreamworld in “What Is and What Should Never Be” (2×20), the Winchesters as Dean Smith and Sam Wesson in “It’s a Terrible Life” (4×17), and Dean’s altered memory of leaving Cas in Purgatory in “A Little Slice of Kevin.” Season nine has taken this to an entirely new level, and in writing this review, I’ve found myself re-evaluating the past twelve episodes. In how many has the dialogue told us one thing while characters’ actions have told us something else? In “the real world,” how often do words obfuscate and misdirect while actions reveal truth? I think we’re seeing this here, and if I’m right, it explains, in part, the perceived unevenness of the season. Not only is Dean, our usual point-of-view lens, off-kilter, but so is the narrative as a whole.

Let’s look at “The Purge” for an example: Sam reiterates to Dean at the beginning of the episode his intention that they just work together, without brotherhood or friendship. Sam’s words are heartbreaking for Dean (and for many in the audience). But are Sam’s actions in the episode those of someone who’s just helping a co-worker? Once he knows Dean’s in trouble, he searches the spa until he finds his drugged brother. Then, he flings a chef against the wall, threatening him until he learns the ingredients of the pudding that Dean had consumed.

So what Sam says isn’t necessarily in line with what he believes, proving that he is, after all, more like Dean than he knows. How many times have Dean’s words and actions not matched? I’ve personally lost count, but to use an example from this episode, when Dean says he would make the same decision that he did 9×1, is that true? After all, Dean is prepared to “end” Sam in “Road Trip” (9×10) and actively gathering the tools to do so; it’s Cas’s strategizing that offers him another way, and he happily takes it.

“The Purge” is a catharsis, stripping away a lot of the Winchester bull that shrouds Dean and Sam’s lives. There’s still truth to be revealed and progress to be made for both brothers. For instance, Sam points to Dean’s fear of being alone as his motivation for saving him, but what’s left unsaid is that for Sam to believe that, then he must also underestimate his value to Dean, which is yet another callback to the scene in “Sacrifice” (8×23). However, this week’s conversation is a solid step forward towards a more balanced relationship (and one that will ensure fresher storylines rather than the same retread of self-righteous and protective Dean vs. tempted and often-mentally-altered Sam). And after this week’s episode, I’m more confident that Carver & Co are delivering. 

That belief makes it a little easier to watch the final scene of “The Purge,” which is damn near unbearable otherwise. Between Padalecki conveying Sam’s sad frustration and Ackles emoting Dean’s grieved disappointment — well, it’s a heart-clenching moment. Charmelo, one of the episode’s writers, responded to a fan comment with, “Break down to rebuild.” That buoys my hope that we’ll soon see a reconstruction of the relationship that’s central to Supernatural’s premise. 

spn9x13 screenshot3

I’m looking forward to seeing how the next episode portrays the brothers’ relationship. Since voicing his desire for emotional distance from Dean in “Sharp Teeth,” Sam already behaves more independently, making decisions and even giving Dean orders occasionally. The narrative seems to be resetting him to pre-Lucifer, pre-Hallucifer, pre-Souless, pre-Gadreel Sam, which is a relief. Dean’s situation, however, isn’t reassuring in the slightest, and he remains on the brink. He’s drinking too much (notice the very large and nearly empty bottle of Hunter’s Helper in his first scene), and we’ve seen him engage in other regressive behaviors all season. I’m fairly certain that we’ll bear witness to more pain as Dean’s spiraling worsens.

Supernatural returns Feb. 25 with a brand new episode, “Captives.” (And Cas finally returns from wherever he’s been!) See the most recent promo here.

Other notes:

The Purge

  • I would like to request that Dean keep his scruff forever. I get that it’s symbolic, etc., but… maybe he just trims it instead of shaving it off entirely? Hmm?
  • Also, has Dean’s voice permanently dropped even deeper?  Someone get Ackles a hot lemon tea, stat. 
  • I would also like to thank everyone involved in Supernatural for *not* rendering Sam unconscious this episode (even if Dean still had to save him).
  • The song playing as Carol works out in the gym scene – “Up Where We Belong” – is yet another musical iteration of this season’s emphasis on “love…and love” (9×2).
  • Okay, the gym scene: Someone knocks Carol down, and then something crawls under her shirt before latching on and killing her – but the angle’s weird, and it doesn’t look like something’s detached. When Dean cuts off Alonzo’s fat sucker, it’s not that long…Are we supposed to assume it elongated and slipped under Carol’s clothes like a snake?  Huh?
  • “The Purge” garnered solid ratings for the CW.
  • It was a quieter week for Supernatural Twitter trending, though Cas fans should check out the hashtag #WheresTheAngel. (If I missed any trending terms, please share them in the comments below.)
  • Supernatural was #4 on the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings.
  • Eric Charmelo, Robert Berens, Robbie Thompson, Adam Glass, and Osric Chau (#KevinLives) tweeted before and/or during the episode (mostly during the West Coast airing). Jared Padalecki chimed in a few times too before facetiously blaming the director (Misha Collins) of the currently-filming 9×17 for his inability to live-tweet the entire episode. 
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About L. Scott

L. Scott is a freelance writer and editor, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Lyda_Scott.
  • dottweets

    “In past seasons, this imbalance forged a strong bond between “the boys.” Now that they’re thirty-something men, they have to find a new way to relate to one another.”

    Well put. Also that because they couldn’t find a way to meet in the middle–due to the very issues that have created this conflict–a more drastic addressment is happening. I feel sad for both of them, but it’s actually making me feel more hopeful than I have in a long while that the brother relationship can strengthen and the boys stand shoulder to shoulder more often rather than being at odds.

    I didn’t take Sam’s worry for roofied Dean as a contradiction, so much as it’s different kinds of things. Being unwilling to cross certain lines doesn’t mean Sam won’t go far to save Dean. The question is more how far is too far.

    • Lyda Scott

      I am *so* looking forward to them being shoulder to shoulder again, and I’m relieved that the season does seem to be delivering on working through the conflicts once and for all. And that’s such a good point about “the question is more how far is too far.” I’m anxious to find out the answer, especially with the Mark of Cain/etc. in play…

      Btw, I’ve been catching up on the reviews/meta since submitting mine, and I really enjoyed reading your post about the brother bond in 9×13 – so many good insights! Here’s the link for any who missed it: http://dotramblings.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/my-brother-the-hero-sam-and-dean-in-supernatural-9-13/

  • Kate

    Thank you so much for taking the time to craft such a thoughtful and balanced review. This kind of progress is what I’ve been holding out for in the brothers’ relationship for a long time, both for their sakes in this narrative and for my sake, as a viewer who has become increasingly bored of the way the dynamic is written, and of the way it has propped up what is essentially the same old-same old storyline for the past three or four seasons of the show. Even so I found myself really saddened by the “reality” of it. What lovely performances in that scene from both Js – I ached for these characters: Dean so hurt and shocked, and Sam telling it like it is so as not to prolong the agony.

    I really hope now to see this bond rebuilt in a healthier way that ensures some self-worth for Dean and some agency for Sam, and mutual respect for each other as brothers and hunting partners. I know they love each other, but I want to see that they *like* each other, as opposed to coming across as if they merely tolerate each other. This development has raised my confidence that will happen, and has reinvested me in this dynamic in a way I haven’t been since season 5 of the show. I really hope we’ll continue to see progression and not regression, and that the days of sacrificing their found-family and friends on the altar of codependency are over.

    Thanks again! I’m really happy to have found your reviews. 🙂

    • Lyda Scott

      They *do* need to like each other again – that’s a good way to put it. In 9×13 (for me, at least) it’s blatant that they don’t… I really did cringe every time Sam pulled a “bitchface” or Dean made a passive-aggressive comment. Like you, I don’t question their love for each other, and their reactions to each other make sense in the context of the episode, but I really want to see them work past their issues and, as you say, be “rebuilt in a healthier way.” I’m finding myself more invested in this with each week, so I’m hoping we’ll get pay-off soon. Otherwise, I don’t know how I’ll survive the summer hellatus!

      Thank you for reading! I’m so glad you’re enjoying them! 🙂

  • xmidnightsonata

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve read in a long time. You really dug
    into your analysis and went beyond what I normally see in other
    websites which are more like summaries than actual insightful
    commentary. Thank you for bringing up Dean’s fluidity and a million
    bonus points for including a reference to Ben Edlund’s commentary, which
    was huge – and yet has been almost universally ignored by most media. I
    love how you used it to illustrate points on Dean’s perspective on
    gender and the roles he takes on; he does tend to have a chameleon like
    aspect to him (or what I’d label “survivalist” learned behavior). The
    way you summed up this episode was perfect and I feel I could have
    written this statement myself because it’s 100% the way I feel, “This
    week’s conversation is a solid step forward towards a more
    balanced relationship (and one that will ensure fresher storylines
    rather than the same retread of self-righteous and protective Dean vs.
    tempted and often-mentally-altered Sam). And after this week’s episode,
    I’m more confident that Carver & Co are delivering.” Well said! Now,
    if only they would be as clear on their road map for Dean and Castiel
    which is still so ambiguous!

    • Lyda Scott

      There’s always so much in the show to dissect that I sometimes worry I’ve gotten carried away, so I’m very glad that you enjoy the analysis! I love writing and talking about the show. I’ve been surprised (yet not) that the 8×13 commentary hasn’t been talked about more – Edlund and Sgriccia opened up so many avenues for discussion! I always think of it when analyzing Dean; he’s such a complex, interesting character.

      I think SPN delights in taking the long way home – but I hope to Chuck that we’ll at least get some Profound Bond screentime in 9×14 and/or 9×15!

  • H.m.

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself. The conversation between the brothers is a needed steppingstone to a healthier bond. And thank you for addressing the lack of a Cas mention, unless it’s discussed in the next episode it just seems like sloppy story telling. I’m also thrilled to read an article that mentions the possibilities for Dean’s character, specifically Edlund’s comment about finding love. You are my new favorite reviewer.

    • Lyda Scott

      I am anxiously waiting to see how Cas’s absence is addressed because you’re right, if it’s not, then it’s just “sloppy.” (good word for it!) And I hope the next steppingstone for the brothers is a significant one and that we’ll get some kind of resolution before season’s end – Otherwise, can you imagine the pain? [Insert painful sigh here] And isn’t the 8×13 director’s commentary awesome? I love it.

      So glad you enjoyed the article – thank you!

  • Ginger

    I must say that you certainly gave meaning to the episode and much of what you saw in the scenes, I missed. I now better understand what the writers were doing, credit I did not give them at episode’s end. Here’s the thing, though. It does not make me like this storyline any better.

    The co-dependency thing has always been a part of the brothers’ relationship, and I think most fans liked that because it gave the brothers both strength and it was a weakness that could be used against them, but it ran in the background against an actual supernatural story. It did not DEFINE who the brothers were as characters. I really do not like watching a weekly show about the emotional trauma of two supposedly tough men working their way towards emotional manhood.

    I don’t get to pick the storylines, but I have always liked the brothers and their relationship, but the last two seasons of this soapish CW viewer angst theme has led me to not care about the mythical ‘brother bond.’ I would prefer it if the show would permanently separate them. I do not like the look at Sam we are getting; the person who throws emotional bombs at a brother, yet who has repeatedly chosen to return to Dean every time he has ran away from his problems. Sam is now irredeemable to me as a character.
    I do not agree with the writers’ view of Dean; that he is so needy he cannot live without Sam in his life. That is not an idea that I think is supported by past seasons. Yeah, Dean has issues, but unable to live without Sam in his life is not one of them. Prefers to have Sam in his life; yes, protect Sam at all cost to himself; yes, both of those I can agree with that.
    I said Sam is irredeemable as a character to me, and what I mean by that is there is nothing that he can do this season that will make me trust him. Even if he saves Dean from some dire circumstance and the power of love conquers all, I will be left thinking he will use it as credit earned towards a future emotional bullet to be used against Dean. From past experience with this show, whatever path the writers take to grow Sam up, it will mean something (or probably many things, like driving the Impala and the Dean/Cas profound bond) will be taken away from Dean.
    I am at the point of waiting to see what Carver’s idea of a grown-up Dean is before making a decision whether to continue with the show, and I am a pioneer viewer since the Pilot who has never missed a live airing. If Carver’s idea of Supernatural is to continue on this path of typical CW soapish emotional drama, I know I will not.

    • Lyda Scott

      I’m curious to see Carver’s outcome too because you’re right that how he handles the storyline will be very telling.

      I like how you state that the codependency “didn’t define” Dean and Sam early on in-Show. I think that points to the apparent problem – it’s as if the Show became dependent on what we’re identifying as codependency, and that has warped the brothers’ bond and fostered the recycled back-and-forth drama.

      I’m hopeful that by breaking the brothers, Carver & Co will put them back together in a way that re-forges that brotherly bond minus the constant recycling of the toxic angle. It makes sense to me, too, that Dean and Sam carry trauma and baggage that they can’t be magically cured of (how could they, after all? Short of divine intervention, but then that make SPN an entirely different show).

      I am hoping to see them get to a place where they respect one another and still fight the good fight, be loyal to “family,” and “raise a little hell.” And while the portrayals of the brothers have been difficult to watch, if it’s handled well, I think (emphasis on “think”!) that the storyline can get us to a good place of resolution where the brothers (and fandom) can work past things.

      Thank you for reading! This episode, like 9×5, etc., is a tricky one, and it seems risky to have a season narrative that requires so much de-coding on all of our parts. On the other hand, though, it’s genius marketing!

      • Ginger

        Yeah, I suppose manipulating fans and keeping the fan wars alive is a way to market — not a very nice way to fans who have been exceedingly loyal to a show, but a method nonetheless.
        On the other hand, I have four friends who, like myself, have watched since the Pilot. Two of them have decided to quit the show until the last two episodes this season. I am supposed to let them know if there is a Mark of Cain episode in between that time. The other two are going to read reviews before deciding to download anything else. I don’t suppose there are enough like them that to affect the ratings, though.

        • Lyda Scott

          I can see both sides of the marketing issue: On the one hand, the Show has to keep its ratings up (and we know it has this season), but on the other, changes can risk alienating fans. I’ve watched since the Pilot myself, so I empathize with your investment. I can’t say that I feel manipulated… yet. However, if we go through all of this angst and pain for no resolution (again, when the narrative has made every suggestion that it *will* resolve these issues), then I very well may. Right now, I’m giving Show the benefit of the doubt.

          I hope that your friends are able to find something to like in the season. I think there’s a lot of good still there; it’s just in slightly different packaging. The Mark of Cain alone still has *so* much potential – Here’s hoping Show delivers!

    • Peter J4

      I do not agree with the writers’ view of Dean; that he is so needy he cannot live without Sam in his life. That is not an idea that I think is supported by past seasons.

      Dean was going to kill himself in Croatan because he could not imagine living without Sam.

      I feel like the show has almost ruthlessly defined Dean and Sam by their bond, at least since season 2. They have made sure nothing else can exist for Dean and Sam but Dean and Sam. Sam has never been allowed any long-term relationship with anyone who isn’t using him (Ruby), and Dean has had every relationship or friendship sacrificed at one time or another because he has to remember that Sam comes first. I felt like season 6 had little other purpose but reinforcing this again and again. The show has fetishized and romanticized this bond in so many offputting ways for me.

      I care about Sam and Dean as brothers but I feel like I would have cared more if they had been allowed to keep the relationship they had in season 1.

      As it is now, I don’t know if anything will be taken from Dean, because I feel like most of what’s been taken from him has been to build him back up, not Sam. Sam barely feels like he’s involved in this story, for me, even though he’s one of the main characters. I feel like most of this is about Dean, his past, his choices, and, hopefully, a more positive future for him.

      • Ginger

        I feel the brother bond is the biggest myth the show propagates; that it was something made up in fandom and has now been canonized. I do not think this is a co-dependency issue, but rather a dependency issue on Sam’s part. I will explain why I think that in just a minute, but I think the fans should stop and think that if Dean was so wrong in his choice between two bad options and had not allowed Sam’s possession, Sam would have been held captive in Heaven by Metatron to be used as he pleased or in Hell with Abaddon to do as she pleases. But back to the point at hand just to offer a different perspective.

        In S1, after having been separated (and on his own) during Sam’s college years, Dean came to get Sam to help him find their dad. Dean hears and lets go of Sam’s poisonous words about family throughout the season, because Dean thinks he is keeping his promise to John to take care of Sam and Sam is in need of it now with the loss of Jessica in the same manner as they lost their mother. Dean does state that he wants his family back, but it is not because he cannot live without Sam — he has already.

        In S2, Dean sees and pretty much ignores Sam’s sniping, because he is reeling from his father’s death and he is drowning in guilt because of John’s sacrifice.

        In S3, Dean pretty much dismisses all of Sam’s whining. He feels that he has kept Sam safe, thus fulfilling his promise to John and his concern is to make Sam see that he has a future without Dean.

        When Dean is resurrected in S4, he sees that all of his sacrifices for Sam have been worthless. Sam is headed down a bad path. Dean’s efforts turn to trying to save Sam from that bad path, not selfishly try to get him to stay close in Dean’s pocket.

        In S5, Sam choosing a demon, something that had ruined both of their lives, over him. Dean walks away and is determined to stay away until Zach tries to manipulate the brothers’ love for each other and use it against them. In the end, it is that love that saved the world, and it was a consistent story for Dean in having a willingness to let go of Sam.

        In S6, Sam is the one who shows up after a year. Dean went about trying to figure out what Sam’s problem was and solve it. he had tried to find a way to save Sam from an eternity of torture, but he also saw his obligation to Lisa and Ben to keep evil away from them. And, once again, once Dean found out what Sam’s latest problem was, he went about saving Sam’s soul so that he would not be a monster. He was also willing to kill Sam if he could not, because a skilled hunter like Sam who has lost all of his humanity is a monster and an endangerment to humans.

        I think the brother bond was picked up as a theme in the show in S7. Neither of the brothers really did anything, but Dean wallowed in alcohol, drugs, and depression because he felt his whole life had meant nothing. He obviously was thinking that both Sam and Cas had let him down, but the season was full of fanfic stories and I think this is where the idea that Dean could not live without Sam came from. Gamble just picked up on that idea from fanfic stories.

        And then in S8, Carver played forward this idea of co-dependency that had long been established in fandom (not in canon) even more extreme than Gamble had. I feel the reason he did this is because he had not kept track of the series’ stories and because he does not know the characters. More than that, I feel like he is changing the show and the characters into his vision of them, not what both were built on. He is defining Dean’s character down to one point: that he is needy. He is definining Sam down to one point: that he is seeking equality within the brotherhood.

        With this season, that ‘brother bond’ is set in concrete and framed as co-dependency; one point only and nothing more.
        Personally, I wished they would have chosen the route of Dean letting Sam go and then we would have a story about something supernatural and not about two grown men reaching emotional maturity.

  • SEpeum

    Now, reading this excellent review, I understand for the first time why the MOTW were fat-suckers. ‘“The Purge” is a catharsis, stripping away a lot of the Winchester bull’. It’s a joy to read a reviewer who gets and respects the unusual way Supernatural tells stories. The only thing I don’t agree with you about is Dean’s beard. I want it gone. :)

    • Ginger

      I want to gone, too. I forgot to mention that in my post. I am hoping that it is just being used to show Dean’s downward spiral. I also do not mind Dean’s drinking. I am tired of viewer insensitivity issues with the show. I think Dean’s drinking is a realistic characteristic for a dedicated, dark, violent hunter living in the violent, dark, thankless shadows of society, and I do not like the idea of a fictional show setting crossing lines with real-life society’s social issues.

      • Lyda Scott

        I don’t think the media/reality mirror can be avoided (even when a show overlooks a subject, for example, in that omission a statement about the subject is being made). But I absolutely think that Dean’s drinking is realistic — I just don’t want to see him go down the S7, alcoholic!Dean path, especially since there lies (more) self-loathing which adds to the imbalance in how he values himself and Sam (and then affects Sam’s perceptions).

        As for scruffy Dean… okay, if we get *real* resolution, I’ll find a way to deal with the scruff’s loss! 🙂

    • Lyda Scott

      Thank you for reading! I do love to dissect Supernatural’s narrative process – there’s just so much there to talk about. And this week’s ep used the MOTW so cleverly!

      As much as I love the scruff, it can go if we get real, for sure, no-go-backs-given resolution! I might sigh a little sadly, but I’ll deal 🙂

  • Guest

    I’m really happy that you pointed out Dean’s “fluidity” and mentioned the commentary on Dean’s possible bisexuality. This needs to be represented more often, thanks for doing that. 🙂

    • Lyda Scott

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Dean’s such a wonderfully complex character to analyze, and I love that Edlund and Sgriccia’s commentary gives us insight into how the character develops behind-the-scenes.

      • Lyda Scott

        p.s. And let me add that I hope that fandom can eventually discuss Dean’s potential (and the various avenues that can take) more freely – it seems convos often get mired into he is/he isn’t instead of celebrating that SPN has created a character so richly complex that he encourages multiple readings. Maybe then more people will talk about E&S’s commentary, etc. – we can hope, anyway!

  • shanna

    What an informed and well-written review! I’ll be back for more!

    • Lyda Scott

      Thank you!

  • Laura

    An amazing review!

    • Lyda Scott


  • zw

    this review was better written and thought out than many supernatural episodes- and thats coming from a hardcore-anti-possession-tattoo-having-fan! i agree with absolutely everything you said, and you put into words so eloquently what i could not. i’m stunned, please keep reviewing.

    • Lyda Scott

      That’s so kind of you – thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews!

  • April Trotter

    This is such a great review!! 😀

    • Lyda Scott

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Unknown

    Okay this is a really stupid question (I know) but somewhere along the way of watching the past few episodes, I have missed the symbolism in regards to Dean’s scruff. I mean I was definitely wondering why the sudden scruff? But I was, and still am, unable to connect it to anything–symbolic or otherwise. So if someone doesn’t mind sharing what it’s symbolizing I’d really appreciate it!!

    • Lyda Scott

      That’s *not* a stupid question! Since Dean’s scruff becomes more pronounced with each episode (especially since Kevin’s death), I see it as symbolizing his spiral – he’s not taking his usual care with himself, out of despair and (subconsciously) self-punishment. By “The Purge,” he’s not sleeping or eating well or even indulging in a real shower (the “whore’s bath” line). I think that Dean shaving the scruff will signify another transformation… hopefully to a happier/healthier mental state.

      Of course, this is just my reading. How are others reading the scruff?

      • Ginger

        I agree. The scruff is a symbol that Dean is in a very dark place right now. TV and movies use things like this to tell you more about the character. For instance, the upturned collar on the leather coat at the beginning of the show was used to help illustrate the ‘bad boy’ image Dean was supposed to have.

        • Unkmown

          Yeah, that does make a lot of sense. Thank you!

          • momo

            I couldn’t help but notice that Cain had quite a beard, wonder if Dean’s scruff will morph into that.

      • Unknown

        Thank you!! I really appreciate it. And I thought your review was eloquent and excellent!

        • Lyda Scott

          You’re welcome, and thank you for reading – I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

  • Max Paige

    You’re so GOOD at this!! I’m inspired. Love, Maxey P.