Recently I had started an article looking for clues in â€œTime After Timeâ€ to support a couple of theories started by Bookdal and Pragmatic Dreamer that all these time references and other clues throughout season seven were leading to an â€œeverything is not what it seemsâ€ situation.
Something weird happened during that exercise. My silly mind (which loves doing this in times of Hellatus) took the clues amassed and started playing connect the dots. The idea was to connect the dots all the way through the starting point of these theories, which was last seasonâ€™s finale, â€œThe Man Who Knew Too Much.â€ The trouble is, the line kept going. And going. Suddenly Iâ€™m all the way back to â€œExile On Main Street.â€
Thereâ€™s something I canâ€™t buy about Sam being in a coma since â€œThe Man Who Knew Too Much.â€ Thereâ€™s little payoff to that story line. What happens when Sam wakes up? He and Dean leave the panic room, theyâ€™re thrilled Bobby is alive and his house is okay, and they ride off into the sunset in the Impala. Thatâ€™s a lot of strife for nothing. There has to be more.
I hear the groans out there. I agree, our tin foils hats these days are tearing a bit in certain places. For pure entertainment and speculation purposes though, hear me out. What else do you have to do until the next new episode?
Reality vs Delusion
Season six was not one of my favorites to say the least. It was too disjointed, there were too many dropped plots, there was a disconnect between the brothers, and a lot of strange things happened I just chalked up to bad writing and lazy plotting. Turns out, most of season seven is following the same pattern. What if it all means something?
Back in 1990 an awesome film, Jacobâ€™s Ladder, came out about an ex-Vietnam veteran who was having a horrible time bridging reality with delusions. He kept seeing some pretty weird shit. Creatures with horns, cars blowing up, being haunted by his dead son, all sorts of creepy things that eventually added up to something huge (yeah, I donâ€™t want to spoil it. I highly recommend the film).
On top of that film, I recently saw Inception for the first time. That film as well was loaded with references about the thin line between reality and dreams. By the end, there was no line. While there are many different interpretations to that ending, my take was if it was real to the character, thatâ€™s all that mattered.
So why am I bringing up these two films? Because, they have stretched the concept of perception to the point where I’m looking at it sideways. Iâ€™m firmly in the camp now that questions what we are seeing in seasons six and seven is real. Or itâ€™s one personâ€™s reality, aka Samâ€™s. If that is possible, then what state of flux is Sam in? There are two possible theories Iâ€™ve come up with:
1. Heâ€™s still in Hell.
Remember what Lucifer told him in â€œHello Cruel World?â€ Here, I have for you in case you forgot.
2. Heâ€™s in Purgatory.
Not the Purgatory that the show has depicted the last two seasons. Any Catholic knows that Purgatory is a place where the soul goes to be purified before moving on to itâ€™s final destination. Hereâ€™s what the wikipedia entry says about Purgatory:
Iâ€™m still not really sure if itâ€™s one or the other (or even either) but too much keeps nagging at me to ignore it. Many have doubted that Castiel was powerful enough to pull Sam from Luciferâ€™s cage, with or without a soul. Only Death had that kind of power, or did he? Bookdal raised the question in her essay that Death producing an eclipse was deus ex machina. Couldnâ€™t the same be true for just waltzing down to Hell and easily retrieving Samâ€™s soul from Hell without a fuss? How convenient it was to put up a wall to block the horrible memories? Could it have been Samâ€™s subconscious that put up the wall?
You got to admit, the whether it be in Hell or Purgatory, there was a lot of symbols of burning happening in season six. Sure, thereâ€™s always been the salting and burning of bones, but thatâ€™s not what Iâ€™m talking about. There was Deanâ€™s dream in â€œExile on Main Streetâ€ of Lisa burning on the ceiling. In â€œThe Third Man,â€ when the kid is put through Castielâ€™s cavity search, heâ€™s burning inside. In â€œWeekend at Bobbyâ€™sâ€ it was suddenly revealed that demons can be killed by burning the bones of their original body (a fact unknown before) and the Crossroads Demon was burned to death by Bobby. Then in Family Matters, when Castiel does the soul cavity search on Sam, he is shown burning inside and screaming in agony. Sam gets burned by Crowley in â€œAll Dogs Go To Heaven.â€ Crowley gets burned away in â€œCaged Heat.â€ In â€œLike A Virginâ€, the burning hand of the dragon traps the virgins in a…wait for it…underground cage. Mother of All emerges from a burning pit on fire. Sam and Dean both burn but are quickly pulled from the fire by Castiel in â€œMy Heart Will Go On.â€
Notice here I didnâ€™t mention when Sam was really burning in his Hell flashbacks in â€œUnforgiven,â€ â€œThe Man Who Knew Too Much,â€ and â€œMeet The New Boss.â€ Perhaps because those werenâ€™t symbols. Maybe thatâ€™s his true current reality seeping through. The rest are clues that Sam is choosing to ignore. It makes sense. If he followed the trail of fire heâ€™d be back to hell fire.
So, if Sam since the very beginning of season six has been caught in some sort of dream state, trying to escape his true agonizing reality, then is what Lucifer said true? Is this him stringing Sam along in a slow torture, making him think this is his life before revealing heâ€™s still in Hell? Or is this Sam going through some sort of soul cleansing before his soul moves on? There have been three different phases in Samâ€™s mental state ever since he supposedly broke free from Hell.
Phase 1 was the soulless Sam phase. I can easily see if in a dream state of some sort why Sam would imagine himself soulless. The soullessness would be a defense mechanism from whatever peril he was suffering. New family, new life, no emotional attachments. Tons of sex without getting emotionally involved. He wouldnâ€™t have to worry or care about Dean. Perhaps itâ€™s a subconscious mind overwhelmed by the suffering from Hell? Turning off the emotion makes it bearable?
It would also make sense that he would latch onto a new family connection, aka the Campbells. That way he could continue to hunt knowing family had his back. Itâ€™s the only way of life heâ€™s ever known. He probably had a mental picture about his grandfather from Deanâ€™s description. Yet we know that the Samuel Campbell in season six was not the Samuel Campbell that we saw in â€œIn The Beginning.â€ His true character was never really defined in season six. If Samuel was really all in Samâ€™s mind, that would make sense that we never saw the real Samuel since Sam never knew him. Why would Samuel betray his grandsons? He was a Campbell, all about hunting with family. Why bring Samuel back at all? That question was never truly answered.
Sam didnâ€™t have an emotional attachment to this family. Is it shocking then that he built up this new family just to lose them one by one? Isnâ€™t that what happened with his real family? This time it can happen without the pain. Just like Dean, everyone theyâ€™ve ever loved has left them. Even when Sam killed Samuel in â€œAnd Then There Were None,â€ his concern was over what would Mary think, not â€œOh my God, I killed my grandfather!â€ Come to think of it, why would Dean want to kill Samuel? Betrayal is one thing, but Dean has always taken blood very seriously. (You psychologists step in here any second now. Is this a possible Freud thing?)
Phase 2 – Samâ€™s soul is pushed back into him. This was Deanâ€™s doing and done against Samâ€™s will. Thatâ€™s exactly what happened to him with â€œWhen The Levee Breaks.â€ Was this a sign of his mental defenses breaking down or is Lucifer controlling the dream? Who knows. The thing is, the soullessness unraveled, probably because he couldnâ€™t hold back his emotional responses, so Sam has build up a new defense, the wall.
The wall before the season six finale was only breached once. That was at the end of â€œUnforgivenâ€ when Sam remembered being burned alive. If this was reality seeping through, some sort of reboot happened. I think Sam pushed himself back into dream state, resisting the reality. Isnâ€™t it interesting how everything was suddenly fine after that?
Enough reminders were sent Samâ€™s way of what would happen if he breached the wall. There was the warning from Castiel in â€œCaged Heatâ€ and Death in â€œAppointment In Samarra.â€ There was Dean sending warnings in both â€œLike A Virginâ€ and again in â€œMannequin 3: The Reckoning.â€ Was that perhaps his subconscious sending those signals? After that, they suddenly had a new foe to fight, Mother of All. Everything was all good as he was back hunting with his brother. A tactic perhaps to lull Sam into a sense of security?
Phase 3 – The wall is down, but somehow Sam is managing okay. He had a little rough time adjusting but everything is manageable. As he said in â€œDefending Your Life,â€ heâ€™s good. Except, look at â€œMeet The New Bossâ€ when Sam collapses after remembering burning. Is that reality again? He collapsed, he was out for a little while, and suddenly he woke up functional again. Exactly like â€œMannequin 3â€ and â€œThe Man Who Knew Too Much.â€ Alright, semi okay. As Lucifer eluded to in â€œHello Cruel World,â€ if there wasnâ€™t some fallout from the wall breaking, would Sam believe it was real? Yet all it took was one intense conversation with Dean and everything was stable.
Itâ€™s interesting that ever since the beginning of â€œMeet The New Bossâ€ Sam has not been seen experiencing any memories of Hell. So is the wall truly down? Or is Sam now using hallucinations to protect himself from those memories? Is there still a wall there, blocking what he doesnâ€™t want to remember? What is it heâ€™s trying to avoid? Or is he fighting something?
Is That All You Got?
I know, it all sounds like a lot of speculative nothing. Hereâ€™s a couple more clues to toss around. In â€œLet It Bleed,â€ when Sam was knocked out by the demons at the warehouse, he was literally dragged into a cage by demons and locked in. Then he was seen from an overhead shot lying in there unconscious. Perhaps a symbol for his current state? Heâ€™s in limbo in the cage in Hell? Hereâ€™s something else. When they do lock him in that â€œcageâ€ so to speak, thereâ€™s a number 28 tacked onto the door frame. Thatâ€™s Samâ€™s age. Happy accident, or does it mean something?
In Bookdal’s essay, she listed several elements that were present in season seven. One was â€œredundancies and replacements.â€ There are plenty of these in season six as well. Castiel betraying Dean, which is a parallel for when Sam betrayed Dean. Ditto for Samuel betraying Sam and Dean. The Djinn coming back and attacking Dean. Lisa burning on the ceiling. Sam not coming clean with Dean until heâ€™s forced in â€œYou Canâ€™t Handle The Truthâ€ and â€œFamily Matters,â€ much like â€œWhen The Levee Breaks.â€ Meg on the torture table in â€œCaged Heat.â€ The two orphaned boys in â€œMommy Dearest.â€ In â€œThe French Mistakeâ€ Mishaâ€™s throat is slashed by the angel who needed to make a call, much like Meg in season one and in â€œCroatoanâ€ in season two. Also in the episode, Castielâ€™s black wings appear just like in â€œLazarus Rising.â€ There also have been a few more episodes taking place at Biggersons than before. Thereâ€™s also replacements like Samâ€™s Dodge Charger for the Impala and the Campbell family for Dean.
Bookdal also raised the problem of skewed Time. Season six definitely had that. When Sam collapsed in â€œUnforgivenâ€ it felt like to him he was out for a week. Dean confirmed it was only a few minutes. In â€œFrontierlandâ€ there was a time clock running at Bobbyâ€™s and the clock in the town square, emphasizing that impact of time. Thereâ€™s time disappearing during Deanâ€™s abduction in â€œClap Your Hands If You Believe.â€ The obvious time lapse though is when Sam and Dean first reunite in â€œExile On Main Street.â€ It had been a year since Sam fell into the cage. However, come â€œYou Canâ€™t Handle The Truth,â€ the calendar on the wall shows itâ€™s real time again, October 2010.
Then thereâ€™s the clues that Sam is a state of flux. He was in a coma for ten days in â€œLike A Virgin.â€ He collapses and is unconscious in â€œUnforgivenâ€ and the beginning of â€œMannequin 3: The Reckoning.â€ Then thereâ€™s the coma in â€œThe Man Who Knew Too Much.â€ Thereâ€™s his period of unconsciousness in after collapsing in â€œMeet The New Boss.â€ Thereâ€™s his long sleep in â€œHello Cruel World.â€ Add that to him disappearing for ten days between â€œSlash Fictionâ€ and â€œThe Mentalistsâ€ and four days in â€œSeason 7: Time For A Wedding.â€
Samâ€™s been in some alternate realties too, like â€œThe French Mistakeâ€ and â€œMy Heart Will Go On.â€ Interesting too that in â€œMy Heart Will Go Onâ€ theyâ€™re up against Fate. They try to figure out a way to stop Fate, but Castiel intervenes. Was that Samâ€™s mind telling him to escape Fate?
Thereâ€™s Dean declaring a clean slate at the end of â€œAnd Then There Were None.â€ Wouldnâ€™t that help someone whoâ€™s trying to reconcile or let go of his transgressions on earth? Someone who was trying to purge his sins? Forgiveness from the one person who was most damaged by your actions helps. Again that happens in â€œDefending Your Lifeâ€ when Sam no longer feels guilty about what heâ€™s done. He feels like he paid his dues in Hell.
What about the whole Mother of All plot? It turned out to be nothing. Easily disposed of. Same with the whole Alpha storyline and Heavenâ€™s weapons from Balthazar. Is it poor plotting, or a dream state that lacks fluidity? A dream state using those plots as a distraction from the real problem?
Time After Time
Then there are those clues from â€œTime After Time.â€ The standout is the line from Jody Mills after finding the bottle of whiskey from Rufus. â€œItâ€™s weird, huh? Itâ€™s like their lifeâ€™s a big puzzle. Just keep finding pieces of it scattered all over the place.â€
What do you suppose that line meant? That Sam needs to be looking at the pieces being left behind and put them all together? Until he does he cannot move on? Are they pieces of his life, or the people he knew that are now gone? Couple that with Lucifer waiting for him to put it all together and thereâ€™s some good evidence that Sam needs to be figuring out something.
Thereâ€™s also the carving of Samâ€™s name on the wall. What a sign! Just the nature in which itâ€™s carved, like someone desperately scratching on a wall. When Sam spotted that, the camera moved in closer in four jagged movements. It wasnâ€™t just a normal fade in. Thatâ€™s Samâ€™s subconscious screaming at him. Perhaps.
Yeah, thatâ€™s quite a lot to absorb, isnâ€™t it? So, is it all fun teasing by the writers or does it mean something? If it is all a dream, how long do you think the writers would play it out?
With all that in mind, I end with my favorite line from Jacobâ€™s Ladder. Itâ€™s something I keep as food for thought as more clues are revealed. Chances are this isnâ€™t exactly wantâ€™s happening, but itâ€™s an intriguing notion nonetheless.
If anything, this proves to be nothing more than a fun exercise of pondering to kill the time until the next new episode.