Open Couch to Exile on Main Street
It runs in the family!
This seems to be what a passionate relationship with a tv-show must be like – you wait and you wait for the new season to come around, and then you sit there, spellbound, hardly breathing.
I’ve had my heart broken before. In real life by twists of fate, by bad choices I made or by falling for the wrong guy. In the fantasy world of literature and movies it happened, too. I cried my eyes out over Imitation of Life and Legends of the Fall, and hardly survived Anna Karenina. But usually it doesn’t happen too often. I have a tight grip on reality. Or, I try to have!
This show, however, is an exception that proves me wrong. Repeatedly. I felt the familiar cracking inside my chest several times since I began watching this show, and this new episode demonstrated to me – again – that Supernatural will continue to do so. So, it will remain a love-hate relationship of loving the characters, the story, the exploits, hating the pain that barely ever ceases to torture these guys we have enclosed in our souls. Five years and counting. I love my life.
There is no The Road So Far montage this time – just a few glimpses of Swan Song, perhaps to say: “don’t enter if you haven’t watched the show so far” or to invite newbies and not confuse them with too much information. But we get a fabulous new title card – shattering glass (to me it looked like ice or a mirror and I love the idea of hell being a cold place, very Dante and Milton). Yes, this is a whole new show. And yet it is exactly what we have loved since it first graced our screens: two brothers in a relationship that is filled with pain, angst, loss, in short: glorious drama.
Sam’s words before he disappeared in the deep pit of hell echo in Dean’s dreams – perhaps almost every night, and as he wakes up (shortly before the alarm clock hits off) his eyes speak of his troubled mind. A year has passed, but it doesn’t appear as if Dean’s wounds have healed. Not by far. Perhaps he’s found a little peace, living his “normal, apple pie life” – cooking breakfast, working, showing little Ben the ropes of fixing a car, finding tenderness with Lisa, barbecuing – we see the similarities of Dean using a saw on wood and on vampires, cracking open some wall or a coffin (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dean experienced those montaged pictures himself, memories sneaking up every time he closes the trunk, goes through his tools, opens a beer bottle, perhaps we were given a glimpse of Dean’s mind in that sequence).
And the “practically respectable” Dean is unable to relax. Looking cozy on the outside in his sweatpants and t-shirt, he still drinks a tad too much and keeps checking the house. He certainly is not a Beautiful Loser, as the Bob Seger song we get indicates, but he is without doubt beautiful and lost. Like a fish stranded on land. The old instincts are hard to shed, aren’t they, Dean? He still is a protector. Holy water and gun under the bed. Devil’s trap beneath the front door carpet. Lisa could have given him peace of mind, had he been able to let that happen, but he probably wasn’t capable of that – we learn later that he assembled a mountain of books trying to find a way to free Sam. His mind was never entirely free. For moments perchance, when he played with Ben, found understanding with Lisa, got money for work. But his past was his present, too.
His smile hardly ever reaches his eyes. Sitting in a bar with nice Sid, he’s acting. Dean is playing the role of the “husband”, the inconspicuous neighbour, the guy who used to work in pest control. Telling the truth without actually telling it. Masterly, Dean. And so lonely.
As the waitress passes him the bill with her phone number on it, he is not aware that he was just touched and poisoned by a Djinn (later, as we meet the Djinns I noticed I’ve seen that girl before, but only as I re-watched the episode I recognized her in this early scene) Chicks might dig the unavailable guys but this Dean isn’t interested. He is monogamous. The flirty guy from the early seasons is gone indeed. He’s tired, on his way home when a scream attracts his attention and leads him to a hotel in renovation (DJ Sam? Nice one, Sera Gamble!). He follows scratches and blood, quite nervous (and why not, he hasn’t had much training lately but still enough experience to impersonate successfully a police officer when checking with police later on). And is led by scratches to a shed the following day and almost shoots a Yorkie (I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been the one from Yellow Fever – this episode already (after ten minutes) feels like a surreal journey. Like a mirror in which I find What Is And What Should Never Be in more ways than just the Djinn. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Yes, Dean, possums kill. Clowns, too. This is as awkward as it gets. Sulphur at the door? Don’t hold your breath, dear Winchester. It will get worse.
And there she is – the Impala, hidden, but well taken care of, her trunk still a weapons store. Dean is in panic. Something has come, he is sure of it. He has to be ready. He has to protect Lisa and Ben. Lisa, though, knows her man. She knows something is going on, and I wonder how much exactly Dean told her about his life. I assume, she knows a lot. But not the gory details.
The moment she’s out of the door, he continues his preparations, not prepared, though, for Yellow Eyes, the ultimate fiend of his young life. Fredric Lehne is back! One of my all-time favourite baddies of this show. He does a great job. Mean as ever. And scary as hell. I do believe -for now- that he was mysteriously resurrected, indeed shaken loose in the apocalypse. Everything is possible with this show. So, right now I’m joining Dean’s hallucinations.
“You had to know we were coming for you sometime.’
“you can’t outrun your past’ – yes, true. Dean must be so shaken up by meeting the demon who was responsible for his parents’ deaths, that of Jessica, of Sam becoming Lucifer’s champion is a bit much. He is unable to really fight back. His worst nightmares are coming true, it seems. Lisa and “the hell of a kid’ will suffer because of him. I’m quite sure that some of this must be racing through Dean’s mind. Again the guilt re-surfacing. Dean bringing bad news.
Zorro-Sam appears and drives that needle with the antidote deep into his chest thereby making the illusion of Azazel vanish. But Dean collapses. He almost died and the serum knocked him out. Before he knows what happened he wakes up with Sam sitting across from him.
Sam smiles. But that smile, gorgeous as it may be, also doesn’t reach his eyes. “I was expecting, I don’t know, a hug? Some holy water in the face…’ Come on Sam, give the guy a minute. He just woke up to another hallucination of his dead brother- Who could stomach that?! Seeing things that were not real? Poisoned? You are throwing too much into your brother’s disturbed face.
So, Sam proves that it’s him – silver knife into his flesh, salted holy water- it is really him. What follows is one of the most heart wrenching scenes of this episode. “Sammy-?’ “yeah, it’s me’ And there is the hug. Dean desperately embracing his brother. We don’t see whether Sam hugs him back, but it feels to me as if he doesn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam just stood there, detached, arms at his sides. But that’s just me.
What hurts me the most, apart from Dean’s moving quiet happiness to see his brother, is the smile Sam shows in that moment. The kind of smile we’ve seen on Lucifer’s face. It feels wrong. While I’m still inclined to think that this is indeed Sam here, his demeanour feels bizarre, and it tears at my inner peace violently. For me, this is a face of a man in pain, carrying a smooth mask to hide the cruelty of that emotion, holding it all in. A mechanism Sam has been known for.
Sam has been back about a year. My God. You’re really getting it rubbed in, Dean- and Sam gives him some kind of explanation why he had not turned up during that time. There is a lot of truth to it, I believe, but not the whole truth. He might have thought that letting Dean go and build a new life with Lisa and Ben was the right thing. My guts, however, are screaming like on fire right now. There is more. A terrible “more’. A “more’ we will learn about later in the show (great job, folks, torturing not only the brothers, but us viewers, too. Personally, I didn’t expect anything less).
Whatever made Sam decide not to make himself known to Dean were good reasons, I am sure. Sam hasn’t changed that much while in hell. The driving force of both brothers has always been love. Sometimes misguided, sometimes selfish, sometimes pain-driven, but always love. A fact so deeply rooted in their being doesn’t disappear, not even after hell. The time Dean spent in hell didn’t change that, though he needed some time to be reminded of it. And -even though Sam has been Lucifer’s toy – it is still in Sam. I believe that. But it’s driving a blade into my soul to see him like this.
The younger Winchester has no idea how he came back. Doesn’t know who pulled him up. Or so he says (something tells me that’s also not entirely true, but perhaps too terrible to tell right now).
Still, after Sam had given the ultimate sacrifice in Swan Song, why shouldn’t it have been God himself (hello Chuck?!) to bring him back. We learned in the final episodes of last season that God encouraged the liberty to make decisions. In the end “they chose family’. They, the Winchesters, did the choosing, defying all temptations and obstacles that were thrown onto their path and did what they considered right. And God seemed quite satisfied with that. He gave Man free will. And Man enforced it, saving the world along the way. Sacrificed himself. There is no greater love, the Bible tells us (I bet even the one Supernatural uses). I would love to see some reward for that. Well, for now, there is none, for Sam is just as disturbed as Dean, just in another colour.
“My god, you have delicate features for a hunter.”
Which might be a reason why he has been hunting with the Campbell clan. Three cousins and Grand-pa. Okay. How did Samuel get back? Oh, my mind is racing. What kind of deal has been made to bring him back from the dead? They are introduced in a manner that makes us mistrust them, and it hits home with me. I don’t trust them. Especially not the girl and not Samuel. They, in particular, seem wrong.
Dean panics. Of course. He has Sam take him back to their house, but no one is there. Only the pictures that tear at Dean’s sanity. He’s freaked out. He needs to get them away instantly. Not just away – he delivers them into the hands of the one person he trusts the most, Bobby.
However, that trust suffers a serious blow a moment later as Dean discovers that Bobby knew about Sam and didn’t tell him. Has Bobby ever looked better? Whatever he has been doing, it made him look a bit more at ease, healthier. But not less stubborn.
Dean: “You knew? You knew Sam was alive.’
Dean: “How long?’
Dean: “How long!’
Bobby: “All year’
Oh no- the pain in Dean’s face is horrific to watch. Disappointment, disbelief,fear, loneliness. How can you keep breathing, dear?
Dean: “You gotta be kidding me’
Bobby: “And I’d do it again’
Bobby: “because you got out, Dean! You walked away from the life (note hunting gets a new name, “the life’) And I was so damn grateful-you got no idea’
Dean: “Do you have any clue what walking away meant for me?’
Bobby: “yeah , a woman and a kid and not getting your guts ripped out at age thirty, that’s what it meant.’
Dean: “that woman and that kid, I went to them, because you (Sam) asked me to’
Dean: “good for who? I showed up on their doorstep half out of my head with grief. Who knows why they even let me in. I drank too much, had nightmares. I looked everywhere. I collected hundreds of books trying to find anything to bust you out!’
Sam: “You promised you’d leave it alone’
Dean: “of course I didn’t leave it alone! Sue me! (turning to Bobby) A damn year? You couldn’t put me out of my misery?’ (Suddenly Ellen comes to my mind, how she slapped Dean in Good God, Y’all, because he had not called her to let know that he was alive.
Bobby: “I get it wasn’t easy. But that’s life. And it’s as close to happiness as I’ve ever seen a hunter get. It’s not like I wanted to lie to you, son. But you were out.’
Dean: “Do I look out to you?’
It is a typical Winchester tradition of one brother making decisions that might not sit well with the other; when Dean sold his soul to resurrect Sam he did it because he could not bear the fact that Sam was dead, not taking into account (and perhaps not caring) how Sam would feel about it. When Sam did his demon-blood training with Ruby and eventually decided to go on his kamikaze trip to kill Lilith he also did not allow Dean’s protests to change his mind (demonic manipulation included). And this time, Sam probably wasn’t able to bear the thought of Dean losing the home he had found.
When Sam asked Dean to go to Lisa, he did it to give Dean peace of mind (if possible), but also to be able to die in peace, knowing that his brother would have a shot at a normal life, the kind he had hoped to find a long time ago with Jessica. It seems natural to me that Sam wanted to protect Dean from running off with him and leaving Lisa and Ben. Again, I believe there is more to the story.
But, as it has been about free will and the right to make your own decisions, it doesn’t seem right to take that decision away from Dean. However, I do understand. There were times in my life when I went through some kind of hell and didn’t tell my parents. They could not have helped me, not really. All I would have given them would have been worry and sadness. Had I asked them whether they wanted to know, they -of course- would have said yes, but I decided to protect them. I made the decision for them. It might not have been the bravest move to do so, but to me it felt the right thing. I assume Sam acted out of similar reasons.
I love the following scene between Lisa and Dean on the stairs. Anyone out there who didn’t like Lisa before must have fallen in love with her finally. That woman is great. She is gutsy. She believes in Dean. She understands as far as she is capable. She tried to give the guy who “basically just saved the world’ and showed up with “a few issues’ a home. “It was the best year of my life.’ Despite everything. I could imagine Dean waking up from nightmares, screaming, and Lisa being there, trying to comfort him. It takes a lot of soul to put up with a traumatized veteran, no matter the fields of war he fought.
“See, it’s almost like I’m a professional.’
Sam has a Batmobile. I’ve been searching the internet for that black car, and it seems to be a new Dodge Charger SXT (feel free to correct me, should I be wrong), damn expensive car, where did you steal that, Sammy? It’s a cool, devilish, modern car (with an i-pod inside, I bet), but it doesn’t beat the beauty of the Impala- but, it suits this Sam – his emotional detachment fits perfectly with this modern, cold metal. An armour. He needs it.
So, the brothers return to the Campbell lair (if they can afford cars like this, why not a decent place to stay where you don’t have to be expecting cockroaches to share the shower with you?). Dean guesses there is no plan – he doesn’t know that the Campbells are running their own agenda. They have a plan, but they’re not letting him in. Instead they dismiss him as non-professional. But, don’t you just love Dean for his feisty retort?
So, Dean will play bait, and they get to their home where Gwen disses Lisa’s magazine and others touch the pictures. I am surely not the only one who felt protective about that stuff, just as Dean does. And the “golf scene” is nice.
Sam: Golf? Really?
Dean: it’s a sport.
Nice dig at the sport Jensen Ackles loves. Are we witnessing a little inside joke here? It might have been funny in another context. Here, in the heavy atmosphere of this episode, any kind of mirth gets stuck in my throat. A lot is going on on this planet. Aœber-monsters raging around. Nightwalkers being around during daytime, enough to scare the living daylights out of regular hunters, eh? He might be of proud hunters’ ancestry, going back all to the Mayflower, but does that really mean something to Dean right now? I doubt it.
Both brothers are bait. Okay. Waiting for the Djinn to make their move. Which gives them a moment to talk. Or not.
Sam: “You okay?’
Dean: “Oh, yeah. This is crazy. You, grandpa? Whoever brought you back-’
Sam: “They don’t wanna be found.’
Dean: “But who are they, what do they want? Why?’
Sam: “ That’s a good question.’
Dean: “Do you remember it?’
Sam looks at Dean, knowing exactly what his brother is asking about, but buyingtime with “What?’
Dean: “The cage.’
Dean: “You wanna-”
Dean: “If anybody can relate-”
Sam: “Dean, I don’t wanna talk about it. I’m back. I get to breathe fresh air, have a beer, hunt with my family, see you again. So why exactly would I wanna think about hell?’
No kidding, Sam. He is freaked out. There is one little moment, a flicker in his eyes that indicates that the thought alone might be able to bring him down, before he pulls his armour back up. The not-working smile to hide it. This is no emotionally dead Sam. He perfected his ability to put away his emotions even more. To protect himself. And probably Dean, too. Being in hell, getting tortured, as Dean experienced it, was horrific enough. I assume that being ridden by Lucifer might not have been a piece of cake, either.
For the time being, with what we’ve seen in this episode, what I find in Sam and his way of dealing with his life is a deeply traumatized person, detached, disturbed, dreading any memories. He most likely needed to go on like this, putting away his emotions, controlling them, because, if he gave in to the pain that’s obviously there, he would lose it.
I’ve seen that so often in my field of work. The holding on to any kind of control possible to be able to function somehow. If they let go of that hardly kept up control, everything can break down. I fear if Sammy let go at this moment, he would drown in whatever is going on beneath that calm exterior we have never encountered in this manner. It breaks my heart to see him like this.
He has been doing what he’s good at – hunting. A job where no emotion whatsoever may be required. Make out the target, find out its weaknesses, act. All you need is your brain, your logic. You can leave the painful emotions outside. Well, or inside.
If Sam had gone to Dean early on, I doubt he would have been able to survive, just as Dean was not capable of letting Sam in for quite a while after coming back from hell. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t see me. He needed some time perhaps almost this whole year, to come to terms with his existence. There probably is a storm going on inside. But all we see is the eye of the hurricane. And that is absolutely still.
“This is happening because of me!’
There is no time to get deeper into this, as Sid and his wife are being killed by Djinn next door. So, Dean gets there as fast as he can, reacting on instinct and driven by guilt. Because of him, he feels, these people die. Again.
Oh, these Djinn are really sophisticated. Their tattoos grow on their arms like chameleon war paint. And they are enemies to be reckoned. Oh, hello, waitress! “That’s for our father, you son of a bitch.’ It is a problem that there is no back up for this moment. Dean fighting the two, Sam being driven into a corner by the other, who gets back up after the girl finishes Dean.
The Winchesters’ fighting skills as a team are diminished. Their goals are not exactly the same. And Sam in the end uses brute force to bash the Djinn’s head in. With the golf club. Nice touch.
Dean is caught in his worst nightmare, indeed. Azazel showing up, pinning Lisa to the wall, feeding little Ben with blood. Lisa keeps telling him that “It’s not your fault’, but this is exactly what Dean is thinking. Because of him, Lisa will burn on the star spangled ceiling. Because of him Ben might become another Sam, haunted by the kind of evil curse demon blood brings in its wake. As the hallucination reaches its crescendo, Dean is near death.
The Campbells really took their time to come to the rescue, getting rid of Sam (by sending him over to get Dean) so they can kidnap the female Djinn – before the boys get back. One of my hypotheses here is that they need a Djinn to extract their toxin to produce the antiserum. Like milking a snake. Or there might be another agenda altogether. I think there is more. The venom thing would be too obvious for our show. It usually is a more complicated background.
A background we, as fans, will have to wait for. They love putting us on the rack, don’t they?
The house is a mess. Eventually, Sam suggests Dean should come with him, however, Dean decides to stay.
Dean: “I did this to them (Lisa and Ben). I made them vulnerable the moment I knocked on their door. I can’t undo that. But what I can do, is go with the best option.’
Sam: “I hear ya. I guess I just -wish you were coming, that’s all.’
Sam: “Don’t be stupid.’
Dean: “No, I mean it. You know plenty of good hunters. I’m rusty. I did something seriously stupid going out there. I almost got us both killed.’
Sam: “that’s exactly why I want you.’
Dean: “What are you talking about?’
Sam: “You just went. You didn’t hesitate. Because you care. That’s who you are. Me? I wouldn’t even think to try.’
Dean: “Yes, you would.’
Sam: “No, Dean. I’m telling ya, it’s just better with you around. That’s all.’
Dean doesn’t argue anymore. He knows that he won’t bring Sam around. And he must be as confused as it gets. So, he has to let him go. Again. But Sam is indeed gone already. He declines Dean’s generous offer of taking the Impala, because he has his car set up just as he likes her to be.
There is no hug, not even a handshake as they say their good-byes. The way Dean looks at his brother makes me think that he just wants to hold him close and never let go, as if he could undo it all- But Sam’s attitude would not allow that. He’s guarded. There is not room for closeness.
Dean lets Sam go. This time he needs to do that. Again, actually. He did so when he agreed with Sam’s plan to trap Lucifer.
Dean will cling to the one constant in his life that never faltered – being the protector of his family. With Sam refusing to be protected (and after stepping out of his brother’s shadow by the end of the last season) and capable of doing that on his own (and Dean knowing that he had to let his brother grow up), Lisa and Ben are his responsibility now. Would we ask Lisa, I guess she would not concur. But Dean considers them his family now. His responsibility since evil came to their house because he was there. Of that he is convinced.
And Dean is so familiar by now with being in desolation, that he might have forgotten how to be happy. Deep down, in the subcutaneous levels of his psyche, his misery is another factor that he can count on. He knows his pain – the kind that “makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of’ (to quote Shakespeare once again). Long ago, Dean lost hope of ever living a peaceful life. Or of finding peace of mind. I doubt that he will ever be capable of letting go of his ever present melancholy that he had accepted for a long time now.
Exit on Main Street reminded me a lot of What Is And What Should Never Be. Not only because of the Djinn storyline that is clearly connected to it, but because of the relationship of the brothers. In the second season’s episode’s parallel universe they are not close, not at all. Sam is ashamed ofhis brother, the beautiful loser (forgive me) who even forgets his mom’s birthday. The only thing that connects them there (as well as in reality) is the hunt. Without that, they have nothing and even the moments they hunt the Djinn together are short.
The Sam we meet in that episode is also emotionally restrained, at least in regard to Dean. He’s doing his own thing, just as in the sixth season’s opener. He’s holding on to what he thinks is right, his independence. I believe, even in the Campbell clan he keeps to himself. It’s the protection he needs. Beneath that detached facade Sam still loves his brother. Why else would he ask him to come with him? He doesn’t pop the question with the passion we’ve seen him show in the past. It actually is an awkward moment. And the most of expressing his feelings as we can expect from Sam at this point. We saw some of this back in Mystery Spot. A Sam who had a perfectly set up trunk for his weaponry. A man who kept away from his loved ones, like Bobby.
This time Sam had gone to Bobby after he came back, though. It might be that Bobby saw more of Sam’s confusion than he lets on, and perhaps he even helped him find the cousins and Grandpa. Or they found them.
“It wasn’t greeting card perfect, but we were in it together.”
This episode leaves me with many questions. Some I already mentioned above. I also wonder if we’re going to find out what effect all that demon blood Sam had to swallow had on him in hell. Are other hunters still gunning for him – and that’s another reason why he kept away from Dean? Did Castiel, who doesn’t answer his prayers, have his hands in the whole scenario? And how much do the Campbells know?
If Grandpa made it out, what about Papa Winchester? Personally, I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan simply wasn’t available or too expensive to be hired for this show- even if they wanted to bring John back. I would have loved his reaction to his sons, though. To see them so changed, so in pain and so strong- I guess it would be a healing experience for all of them.
Most of all: what happened to you, Sammy? What did you experience down there? My couch is always open- ah, well, dream on, crazy shrink.
I can imagine that Sam didn’t want to destroy the normal life Dean was slowly settling into by showing up. There will be a lot of ranting within the fandom, I’m sure, about that and how Dean can decide to stay with Lisa in the end and choose her over Sam. To my opinion, we should not judge before we know more of the picture.
I need to praise the performances here. Jensen Ackles again displays so much acting skills I need to get a grip. And Jared Padalecki doesn’t seem afraid of allowing Sam to appear unappealing or even appalling. He walked that fine line before, but here in this season I think we’re going to see more of that. I’m very curious. Plus, on a personal shallow note, both actors are older and it suits them wonderfully. There is a knowledge and maturity in their faces and eyes that will enrich their performances and add the kind of nobility we don’t often find in Hollywood, yet alone on a TV screen.
This was a promising first episode to an already intriguing sixth season. The theme of family is still there, but with a twist we can’t fathom as of yet. For me, it will fuel my brain and continue to inspire me. I love this show. Did I mention that?
(I found the screencaps at home of the nutty.)