Usually I don’t read spoilers about Supernatural. But I have been seeing reactions from some of my fellow Sam fans that piqued my curiosity and broke my resolve to remain unspoiled. So I looked at a couple of reliable spoiler sources, and I have to say that I am not that upset based on what I am reading.
Just in case it’s not clear, I am a big fan of Sam Winchester. He is not the only reason I watch the show, but he is the character I identify most with, and the one I feel is the most sympathetic, while having the most dramatic potential. He’s not the point-of-view character – that is Dean – but he is most definitely not a paper figure in the background, nor a sidekick.
I like character development, and Sam has developed over the 8+ years of the show. He has matured and changed, while still remaining true to his personality as it has been shaped by the writers. I guess I like what they have done with him, making him a good person who is rather desperately flawed, both in very normal, human ways, and also by supernatural things done to him through no fault of his own. They have struck a balance with Sam that is very difficult – made a character who is introverted and isolated, damaged in ways that go far beyond any person we might know in real life, but who exhibits courage, and heroism, perseverance and love. They have taken Sam right up to the edge of being inhuman, and somehow kept him relatable. He fascinates me.
The relationship of the brothers has been, at times, infuriating. But so are sibling relationships in real life. Over the past seasons of the show, I have often railed against the unfairness of the sibling power struggle between Sam and Dean, and the fact that the show sometimes gives Dean a break for behavior for which Sam was castigated. But all in all, it rings true. Life is tough on both Winchester brothers, and it’s not fair. Dean is the viewpoint character, so we are usually privy to his thoughts and feelings, and it sometimes seems that show is trying to make Dean the character to love, while Sam gets pounded relentlessly for his failures. I’ve come to grips with that. It’s how they tell the stories.
So we come to season 9, and Dean has done a very bad thing for a very good reason. And make no mistake, considering what Sam has been through with regard to possession by demons and angels, this is a violation of epic proportions. Plus, Sam has always had a problem with feeling his life was not in his control. What Dean has done, if we want to look at it in the harshest light (or most realistic, if you will) is substitute his need for Sam’s. After telling Sam that there is nothing that Dean would ever put in front of him, Dean immediately put himself – his own desire to live in a world that has Sam in it – before Sam’s right of self-determination. I’m not saying I don’t understand why Dean did it. Dean still sees his job #1 as taking care of his brother. And he has not accepted that sometimes taking care of someone is giving them the thing they need most – the freedom of self-determination. He’s sure he knows best, and often he does. Sam has made some colossally bad judgements. Also, Dean is no fan of the afterlife. He wasn’t impressed with Heaven when he went there, and he doesn’t trust the whole “natural order” thing. For Dean, things may not be great in this life, but as long as he and Sam are in it together, they can deal. So he made the choice for Sam. It’s really, really wrong, but I can understand why he did it. And, of course, why he continues to lie about it.
Now, understanding why Dean did what he did does not mean I will be okay with brushing aside the consequences. It was very clearly explained why Sam did what he did in season 4. His intentions were good, AND he was deprived of very important information and manipulated by both Ruby and the angels in order to get him to make the mistakes he made. But he suffered for his choices. Dean’s disapproval almost broke him. His redemption journey to gain back Dean’s trust continues 4 years later. The fact that Dean still carries a bit of hurt and mistrust after all this time is very true to life. The fact that Sam is never completely absolved of his mistakes, and that they still come up occasionally, and have become a part of who he is – that is how life is.
So, I think when Sam finds out what Dean has done, the fallout has to be cataclysmic. Sam has a right to be furious, and to feel betrayed. It needs to be bigger than a blow-up and a punch in the face and a storming off, immediately followed by, “Oh, there’s a case? Well, let’s go.”
SPOILERS START HERE:
There is going to be a separation. Already fans are crying that the writers should not separate the brothers. I disagree. I don’t see how they can do Sam’s emotions justice if they have him stay with Dean after this. It makes “story sense” for Dean, too. You do the ultimate bad thing to keep the one you love safe and with you, and you end up losing him, because he doesn’t see that you did what you did for love.
The spoilers say that Sam finds out about his possession in 9:09, the episode right before the winter hiatus. There is a cliffhanger. Sam cries. There is a separation, not a willful one, but one caused by other circumstances. Spoilers say that the brothers are too busy dealing with things in 9:09 to really deal with the fallout of Sam learning what Dean did. The dramatic intensity of the separation, and the cliffhanger has been compared to that of the end of season 3 or season 5. (gulp) (Let me say here that I have seen the season finale of season 3 exactly one time, and I have never watched it again; it was that heartbreaking.) The actual brother-to-brother dealing with Dean’s actions and lies happens in 9:10, after the winter hiatus. One unconfirmed spoiler claims that Sam does take off on his own at that point, but the separation is short. I don’t have as much confidence in this spoiler as the others.
Speculating here, but I think that if the separation is not willful, it happens because Zeke takes off with Sam to fight the angel army. Dean will be rightly distraught, because the angels aren’t that careful with their human vessels, and Sam could come to great harm.
As a fan, I can see that this could be really well done if they handle it in the way they handled Sam’s possession by Lucifer, and let us see what Sam is thinking and feeling. Hard to do, but doable. If they put Sam in the background like they did when Sam was soulless – the real Sam just wasn’t around – I will be unhappy. But it all happens in one episode, so it’s not like Sam would be MIA for half a season like in season 7.
The true test for me will be what happens when Sam is Sam and he and Dean have to deal face to face with what Dean did. In my opinion, Dean doesn’t get to be outraged or defensive. He doesn’t get to turn the guilt around on Sam. This is Dean’s demon blood. And the consequences should be severe and long-lasting.
I am not advocating a long separation or rift. I do want Sam to have a realistic reaction to what Dean did, and considering Sam’s previous tendency to take off, I think that is what should happen.
I thought the writers did a bad job handling the fallout from Sam’s soullessness. Sam looked stunned when he found out Castiel had brought him back without his soul. He obviously thought what we all did, “Did you do it on purpose?” Then Castiel was all, “How could you think that?” and then – nothing. Moving right along.
Likewise, Sam’s reaction to Castiel breaking his hell-wall was pretty underwhelming. But I could buy Sam not being too angry about that. He was crazy and messed up and he really didn’t have time to worry about who did what to him. He was trying to survive. He did stab Castiel, but that was more because Castiel was threatening Dean and Bobby, not for revenge.
I thought the ultimate resolution of everything that was done to Sam in seasons 7 and 8 was pretty weak, and I am hoping for better this time. They need to focus on letting Sam be the great character they have created over the years. Let him be hurt. Let him be angry. Let him take off, and come back of his own accord and not because he’s forced to. I’m not of the opinion that the brothers have to be together all the time to tell the story and to show how much the depend on each other. I think real people sometimes need space from the people they love the most in order to be who they are.
I can’t wait to see how this plays out.