(This was originally posted on Blogcritics.org in 2010 but is no longer there. I’m reposting here so I’ll have a proper archive of all my SPN reviews.)
On my website, thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com, I’ve been going back and doing mini reviews of Supernatural season one as the episodes air in syndication on TNT. The idea is that since I didn’t find this show or start writing reviews until season three, I’d go back and cover those episodes I missed. An interesting result has happened from this experiment. Suddenly, season five looks different.
Sure it’s different. The brothers are older, worse for wear, and they’ve got this apocalypse thing going. That’s not what I mean though. When seeing the issues the brothers experience in “Sam Interrupted,” those same problems have surfaced in season one and two episodes. The difference in season five is they’re manifesting and it’s not pretty.
As with most MOTW episodes, the time is divided between the ghost story and the surfacing of some personal problem involving one or both of the brothers. This time it’s both. The brothers, being easily spotted as hunters since their story about the apocalypse might be crazy for psychologists but not supernatural beings, are poisoned in a way that fuels that crazy long burning in them. It didn’t take much.
I’ll just get the monster thing out of the way first because it’s easily the weak part of the story and one that exists to raise brotherly issues. The nurse is a decent foe. Her “so-spunky-its-creepy” attitude, as well as her “Silkwood shower” thoroughness make her interesting, but her being the evil Wraith is also predictable. She meets one very anticlimactic end which is a waste of a potentially good villain.
So, let’s just go to the crazy. In a nutshell (pardon the pun), Sam and Dean lose their marbles. They’re there because of a call from another one of “Dad’s” friends who let the hunting life get to him. I’d love to know what older hunters aren’t dead or crazy (I still say Bobby and Rufus are borderline happy home). Martin turns out to be an interesting and likeable character. He’s just lost his nerve. He does his part though so Dean can save Sam just in time, so he’s not so far gone after all.
Dean’s end of the story is pretty darned interesting, especially since we already got a scary look into Sam’s head during last season’s “When The Levee Breaks.” He imagines a beautiful brunette psychologist to take his case, asking him basic questions like “How many hours do you sleep a night?” and “How many drinks do you have in a week?” Dean’s matter-of-fact responses again show his warped perception of normal, like when he was a teenager in “After School Special.” He really doesn’t want to know that’s like. When the issues turn to why he has to save everyone, why he has to be the hero, he defends he has little choice because no one else will. It’s interesting that his delusion tells him, “That’s a crushing weight to have on your shoulders. To feel like six billion lives depend on you. God, how do you get up in the morning?” Dean doesn’t have an answer for that. Now we wonder how often he asks himself that.
Dean’s tipping point is being told he can’t save anyone. That’s he’s done enough damage by getting Ellen and Jo killed, not being able to kill Lucifer, not stopping Sam from killing Lilith and breaking the first seal. He’ll never be able to beat The Devil. “The world is going to burn and there’s nothing you can do about it.” There’s the guilt! The guilt he’s been carrying for a while, the same guilt we saw way back in episodes like “Faith” and “Something Wicked.” It hasn’t gotten better.
Then there’s poor Sam. After all the crap this guy’s been through, his turn in the mental institution actually results in a breakthrough. Sam’s worst fear not surprisingly is Dean knowing his secret about the demon blood. He doesn’t go crazy over the doctor telling him he’s violent and dangerous. If anything, the doctor scares the crap out of him, confirming what he already suspected about himself. “The look in your eyes when you came after me, it’s like you were barely even human. Like a man possessed.” He then hallucinates Dean telling him, “It’s not the demon blood Sam. It never was. The problem was you. It was always you. The lies, your arrogance, the black spot on your soul.” Once other imaginary patients join in on the fun, that’s all the trigger needed to send Sam into that uncontrollable fit of rage. Can we assume from this that Sam hasn’t told Dean that he didn’t need to drink demon blood to use his powers? That the power was within him all along? Is this him being very afraid that Dean will find out or is this just more guilt over what he did? I’m sure that’s a big TBD for later episodes.
Sam’s had some good opportunities this season to do some soul searching. After repressing much of his anger, disappointment, frustration throughout the years in the name of the greater good, he finally sees what it’s doing to him. It’s ripping him apart. It’s interesting going back as far as “Asylum” that the anger was there but it’s taken him this long to finally say, “I’m mad all the time and I don’t know why.” His fear and guilt over killing innocents is definitely lingering too. He’s mortified when apologizing to the doctor.
So that brings up to the unsettling final scene. This one left me pretty raw. Sam and Dean make their escape and Dean is ready to go on like nothing happen. Sam though has learned something from his reality check. I’ve read some reviews where people have wondered if Sam thought about going back. Put me in the “yes” column. Poor Sam has been hurting for so long, has made some horrible mistakes, and he’s really scared. For Dean to tell him to take those feelings of doubt and fear over his anger issues and “bury them,” that’s a really tragic outcome for both. Sam knows he needs help and can’t get it, and Dean can’t accept help or they’ll “end up like Martin.” Except I think Martin’s doing way better than these two. He’s been living a safe life in a quiet home. I think this is less about Martin and more about Dean’s overwhelming fear of losing control.
In the meantime, I can’t help but think that the sad ending a big fat setup for what eventually drives Sam to say yes to Lucifer. Dean telling him to deny his issues is the absolute worst thing he could have said. We haven’t heard the last of this. At least I think not. Lord knows TPTB exist just to keep me guessing. ☺
The Moments of Pure Joy
There’s something to be said when all two guys need to do to get into a mental institution is talk about their real lives. Especially if it involves the apocalypse. I also love how the doctor caught the Babar reference, but not the obvious Van Halen one.
Drugged up Sam. “Boop!” We haven’t seen him act that loopy since “Playthings.” Interesting though that under such mind altering substances Sam speculates that Dean has finally gone crazy. “I mean you’ve been at least half crazy for a long time, since you got back from Hell or since before that.” Was that the drug or him really talking? Ah well, it was fun anyway.
Nothing like sneaking into the morgue for a quick brain autopsy before bedtime. Oh and thanks to that scene I’ll never look at “pudding” the same way again.
My overall grade for “Sam Interrupted,” a B+. I’m enjoying this season, but I’m still kind of waiting for the apocalypse to get here. I know I’ll be waiting at least a couple more weeks.