Let me begin by apologizing to anyone who read this little essay in the comments section of Alice’s fabulous recap of In My Time of Dying. I asked Alice to post it as a separate piece, because I was really curious to know if anyone else was seeing what I saw.
The episode Appointment in Samarra was fresh in my mind because I’d just watched a repeat of it on the Space Channel here in Canada. But it wasn’t until I read Alice’s wonderfully fun, and thorough recap of In My Time of Dying, and enjoyed all those scrumptious pictures, that I got hit by the velvet sledgehammer of inspiration. I think there is a direct line connecting IMTOD to AIS. And since it aired yet again last night (Wed Feb 2) in most markets, I thought I’d offer up my argument.
First, there is the continuing chemistry of Dean and Tessa. And really, if she was human, they’d make a great pair! They’re very similar. They’re both dedicated to their jobs, in part because they believe they are doing work that, although unpleasant at times (okay, many times) needs to be done. They’re both feisty, smart and strong, full of sarcastic quips, but also full of compassion and empathy. And I think Tessa really likes Dean, for all he keeps messing up the natural order. That’s why she alternates between being so gentle with him, and so frustrated by him. He’s The One That Gets/Got Away. That’s a phrase we often use to describe the romantic loves we should have kept in our lives.
Both episodes also have as part of the storyline, the idea of trying to repair something that is battered and broken. In AIS the battered and broken things are Sam, Sam’s soul and Robo!Sam. In IMTOD, it’s Dean and Dean’s body,and the Impala. Interesting, in both cases the goal is to reunite soul to body. In IMTOD, without his soul, Dean will die. In AIS, restoring Sam’s soul could kill him.
Also, both episodes look at the issue of love and sacrifice. In AIS, Dean is willing to wear Death’s ring for a day in order to get Sam’s soul back. He’s not sure what the cost will be to him personally, but he’s willing to pay it, whatever it is. In IMTOD, John sacrifices his soul to save Dean, although I don’t think that’s what he originally had in mind, when he originally summoned the Yellow-Eyed Demon.
I have also always thought it intriguing that the writers chose to make Dean’s line to his Dad, “You haven’t called a soul for help”. Dean could have said “you haven’t called anyone” but it doesn’t carry the same weight. He meant something very definite when he talked about calling a soul for help. Perhaps foreshadowing the power of souls?
In fact IMTOD really highlights the soul and how it defines us, and acts our moral compass. It’s Dean’s soul that is walking around while his body lies in a coma. And Dean’s soul is very much HIM. He still wants to protect his family; still acts as a mediator between his Dad and Sam; still continues to hunt and fight in every way he can; and is still heartbreakingly funny and snarky, tragic and vulnerable.
There’s also something niggling in my mind about the parallels between Tessa reminding Dean several times in IMTOD that he’s living on borrowed time, while in AIS she’s teaching him what happens when you screw around the natural order.
But I don’t think it’s really Dean’s fault that he threw such a wrench in the works. In both Faith, and IMTOD he was saved by the agency of others. In Faith, it was Sam, Roy LeGrange and the spell binding the Reaper. In IMTOD, it was John’s deal with the Yellow-Eyed Demon. I think it’s significant (although I’m not sure why yet) that in both cases, Dean was willing to die naturally, but that option was taken away from him.
So, I’m musing, as I’m wont to do, could there be another Dean Winchester soul sacrifice coming this season? We know souls are powerful. We know the natural order is out of whack. We know Death has told Dean to take living, and dying more seriously. We know Sam’s soul served to stave off the Apocalypse. Perhaps Dean’s soul will be necessary to re-set the natural order, and to wipe out his debt of borrowed time.
Probably not, but fun to ponder.