My plan had been to write two or three separate “ distinctly separate “ articles; plans change. Paraphrasing something Sera Gamble said in the commentary at the end of "All Hell Breaks Loose I": When we do something to one character we often show it through the reactions/emotions of the other. Im finding these articles to be similarly affected.
In my first article, Daddy Issues, Sam Winchester Style; I kept my focus quite narrow and it worked, mostly. In writing this from Deans perspective Im finding it a lot harder to keep such a narrow focus.
First, Sams and Johns tumultuous times occurred pre-series, the fallout was clear, as shown in the Pilot, Sam had been gone and not in communication for four years. The growth we saw was not Sams coming to recognize himself as an individual but rather in learning to see his fathers point of view as well as finding a way to be himself.
Second, the growth we saw in Sam occurred in part because of Deans role initially as peacemaker but also through some critical interactions with parties outside the family, notably Matt in Bugs and Max in "Nightmare."
Third, while Sams emotional maturation regarding dad was affected because of Deans patient counsel, Deans less mature relationship with dad was similarly affected by Sams rebellious or better yet, mature and independent ways. Before anyone starts climbing through their computer to beat me up thinking Im saying Dean is immature or Sam a rebel; Im saying both. Both had maturity issues and both were rebellious “ and that can be for another article if you tell me you want. The point is that both grew and changed in how they viewed their father and how they viewed themselves interacting with him and much of that growth came from their interactions with each other.
Thus, having argued successfully “ I am writing this so I get to decide if the argument was successful or not “ that both brothers are critical to the development of the other, Ill be adding a broader focus on this article and show how Dean evolved due to Sams influence and also show some of Sams altered role as intermediary between Dean and Dad, albeit posthumously.
In an attempt to provide a framework for this journey the following are the phases of Deans development as I see it:
Thinking for himself
The Impact of Brothers
By the way, if you really liked the short, simplistic view of my previous article, youll be disappointed as I found this one much harder to simplify since I intend to focus a lot on Dean and Dad but also expand with how Sam not only changed Dean but also changed roles.
By all means feedback is welcome because that helps me think about what I wrote and whether it made any sense or not, be gentle though I dont have the same constitution as a 67 Impala and am not likely to come back from all the abuse looking so fine.
Season one doesnt give us much in the way of recognizable growth in how Dean views his dad until the end; it does, however, set the pattern:
this [the journal] is dads single most valuable possessionI think he wants us to pick up where he left off, you know, saving people, hunting things, the family business. [Wendigo]
Who cares, if he wants us there, its good enough for medads telling us to go somewhere, were going. [Asylum]
Dean: Dad doesnt want our help.
Sam: I dont care.
Dean: Hes given us an order.
Sam: I dont care. We dont always have to do what he says. [Scarecrow]
As an underscore to the level of importance Dean placed on strict adherence to dads orders we see something extremely unusual for Dean “ Dean left Sam; in the middle of the night, on the side of a dark road.
Now, some can mention that Dean left Sam in "Long Distance Call" and "Time Is On My Side"; I know I made a fairly big deal of it recently in reviewing "The Monster at the End of This Book." Those speak to a very different issue and while important and perhaps even will be a part of an article I have percolating for the summer hiatus *shudders*, they do not carry the import for this theme here.
Having established Dean as a ˜good son or better yet, as having blind faith in the man as Sam accused, Eric Kripke doesnt stop there and stunt Deans characterization.
To me there are two key moments that stand out in Season 1 that provide insight into why Dean is the way he is and both reference events that happened when he was very young.
1) When I was your age, I saw something real bad happen to my mom and I was scared too. I didnt feel like talkingbut see my mom I know she wanted me to be brave. I think about that every day and I do my best to be brave. [Dead in the Water]
2) John: I told you not to leave this room. I told you not to let him out of your sight.
Dean: He looked at me different, you know, which was worse. Not that I blamed him; he gave me an order and I didnt listen and I almost got you killed. [Something Wicked]
These two critical events focused Dean in a way that Sam never was. Sam grew up willing to ask questions about their fathers motivations likely because of the shelter Dean provided. Dean, likely still lost in his own unresolved grief over the loss of his mom when he was not yet five, ˜lost his father when he was ten “ at least in his own eyes. I suspect he purposed neither to lose Sam nor to let Sam lose what, for a short period of time, Dean had had, love, protection and perhaps a little bit of independence.
It may seem farfetched but I'll offer my own experience, course you cant validate, you can only take me at my words but here it is anyway. When I was ten or eleven my brother [older by two years] was diagnosed with a serious, life-altering and potentially life-shortening disease. It altered our family dynamic immensely. My brother was deeply affected, depression, anger, rebellion. My parents were struggling with how to help him, what the condition meant, would they lose their child all while battling an extremely angry young man.
For my part I became the helper, the quiet one who worked extra hard around the house to keep as much peace as possible. By no means was I perfect but I worked very hard to cause little to no trouble. I can assure you that while I was praised for being the ˜good girl and I did enjoy being good “ less negative consequences to be dealt with “ it caused immense internal pain for me. I resented my brother, resented my parents for their shortcomings as parents [as perceived by me with all my vast parental experience [*sarcasm dripping here*]
My point is that even one as young as Dean, at ten years of age, can recognize and determine a course of action to protect some semblance of happy family. Dean had had happy family memories from when his mom was alive, not many, very likely nothing more than shadows but they were there and he longed for their return. So, he became as close to a perfect son as possible. Thats not normal, he didnt disobey orders, he didnt question ordershe learned quickly there was no room for such.
Sam, however, was sheltered from that and his independence flourished far healthier than Dean's I'll add. Also, Sam had four critical years at Stanford to add to and strengthen his independent personality. When Sam angrily challenged his father in Dead Mans Blood you were just angry that you couldnt control me anymore, he summed up much about their relationship prior to Pilot; Sam had become his own person, something Dean had not done with respect to his father.
Another example of that is this exchange:
Sam: That makes no sense, why doesnt he just call us and tell us what he wants.
Dean: I dont know but the way I see it dads given us a job to do and I intend to follow it. [Wendigo]
Sam questioned motives and, when not given answers, he rebelled. Dean, not only good son but ˜awesome brother, sought to provide answers when he felt he could and it didnt violate orders.
Heres a great example:
Sam, dad was never disappointed in you, never. He was scaredeven when you two werent talking he used to swing by Stanford whenever he could, keep an eye on you, make sure you were safe. [Bugs]
By the time Sam was discovering a new appreciation and respect for his father Dean was beginning to discover some independence, a new maturity in his interactions with dad. When Sam questions whether Dean is really okay with just falling into line and following dads orders in Dead Mans Blood, Dean is unconvincing in his response of, If thats what it takes. Before this episode ends Deans new outlook on his relationship with his father is clearly redefined, not once, not twice but three times.
Dad, all due respect but thats a bunch of crap.
When dad challenges that, Dean backs up his stance and does not back down. When John orders them to leave after cleaning out the nest, Dean does not agree and we quickly learn why; Dean ignores the order and he and Sam assist their father in his confrontation with the vampires.
At the end of the episode were further shown that Dean has matured by his response to his dads statement that he and Sam ignored his order.
We saved your ass.
Sam is clearly stunned and likely looking for cover; Dean stares resolutely and unapologetically straight into his fathers eyes.
Dean has moved squarely from foot soldier and peace maker to independent and it gets better from here as he squarely shows that hes his own person. He backs this up when dad attempts to imply “ directly “ that somehow Dean has not been doing his job watching over Sam.
John: All right. When were you going to tell me about this?... Something like this starts happening with your brother you pick up the phone and you call me.
Dean: Call you, are you kidding me? Dad, I called you from Lawrence. Sam called you when I was dying, I mean, getting you on the phone I got a better chance of winning the lottery. [Salvation]
Both brothers discovered new territory in their relationship with their father; then he was cruelly taken away. I posit that both were similarly grief stricken. An argument can be made that Sams grief was not given appropriate importance but I contend that the loss continues to impact him in the now but it is shown in the change in Sams actions and views life rather than verbalization.
Deans grief was given a great deal of exploration in Season 2 and similar to Sam he continues to deal with the ramifications of his upbringing and relationship with his father, his struggle is more verbal. Both brothers while having similar issues have differing ways of dealing with it, and it is to the writers credit that they show that in different ways. This not only allows both characters to be their own individual, but it also allows for more depth in the storytelling “ and gives yet another reason to have to watch the episodes from all seasons again and again and again “ and then one more time.
Season 2 treats us to a new Sam and a shaken Dean. Sam takes on the role of helping his brother, not only helping Dean through his grief but also helping Dean see their father in the new light that Sam now sees him in. Weve likely heard of these stages, many of us have likely experienced them or are experiencing them. I
I love Bloodlust for many reasons [Back in Black, AC/DC; the introduction of Gordon, Amber Benson] but there are excellent character moments that catapult this episode high on my list of favorites.
Sam: You dont think I can see what this ishes a substitute for dad isnt he, a poor one. You slap on this big fake smile but I can see right through it ˜cause I know how you feel, Dean. Dads dead and he left a hole and it hurts so bad you cant take it but you cant just fill up that hole with whoever you want to. Its an insult to his memory.
Ouch. But it beautifully parallels this conversation Dean had with Gordon just before and it teaches Dean something he doesnt want to face “ but we all know “ Sam knows him.
Dean: Cant talk about this to Sammy [the loss of dad], gotta keep my game face on but the truth is Im not handling it very well. I feel like I have this”
Gordon: Hole inside you and it just gets bigger and bigger and darker and darker?
I remember reading fan comments about this very exchange, some were resentful that Dean opened up to Gordon; they felt that conversation should have been had with Sam. Ill say it straight out: Those fans missed the whole point. The point wasnt to give us, the fans, a ˜bro moment, rather it was to clearly show Dean how much his brave face isnt fooling Sam and that for all his belief hes still the big brother and can protect Sam the truth is that Sam is just as capable of taking care of Dean as Dean is in taking care of Sam.
Their exchange in "Children Shouldnt Play With Dead Things" cemented that fact when Sam challenged Dean for the third time at least “ that he didnt have to carry his grief alone and that he [Dean] was the only one who thought he had to do it alone. Might I suggest that Deans self-imposed punishment from "Something Wicked" was still a shadow in his life; course it didnt help that dad whispered a terrible secret that added a new and heavier burden.
"Bloodlust" also showed a shift in Sam, he has a new understanding regarding dad and Dean and hes willing to take on the role of teaching Dean some things about their father, something Dean did most of Season 1.
Dean: Wish we never took this job; jacked everything upthink about all the hunts we went on, Sammy, our whole lives, what if we killed things that didnt deserve killing. The way dad raised us
Sam: Dean, after what happened to mom dad did the best he could.
Dean: I know he did but the man wasnt perfect.
Amazing what a little time, a little maturity from life [college] and some genuine openness from dad [Dead Mans Blood] can do to ones outlook. Sam showed his significant growth by defending their father, formerly Deans job.
"Children Shouldnt Play With Dead Things" clearly showed Sam in caretaker role. The opening scene establishes that Sam is burying his past resentment and he does it quite maturely. Dean is in the process of moving from denial to anger and it isnt pretty. Good thing Sam is 23 with some life experience behind him as he assumes his new role as caretaker to Dean because Dean is a handful here.
Dean is angry at Angela Masons father for what he perceives to be an unnatural act which results in a zombie; his real target is his own father because hes begun to put the pieces together regarding his miraculous recovery and his fathers sudden death.
Oftentimes when writers want to make a point, be it in a book, textbook or in this case a television script theyll repeat a word or a phrase. Whats dead should stay dead, is a phrase Dean angrily confronts Angela Masons father with but he is really talking to John. When he repeats it at the end of the episode after staking Angela in her own grave, he is in essence trying to bury that anger at his father and the realization that he is alive because of something his father did. Hes unsuccessful at both.
The exchange with Sam at the end of the episode should assuage anyones frustration from "Bloodlust" and is well worth repeat viewings.
This episode has multiple reasons to be called fabulous: The mytharc expansion, the excellent script by Sera Gamble, the introduction of Steve Boyum as director [who now has helmed, Dream a Little Dream of Me, In The Beginning and Death Takes a Holiday] but it is also wonderfully ˜on the nose as it shows us Dean is in the bargaining stage of grief, literally. I love Crossroad Blues.
This episode is crucial for many reasons that, if I went into here, this article would never get finished so I suggest going back and rewatching it, and then go right to AHBL I&II to see where much of the tone and words and emotions utilized here were repeated. This episode is crucial for the purpose of this article because it moves Dean through the bargaining stage right to depression. It also emphasizes again the role change of Sam in regards to their father as noted in the following exchange at the end:
Dean: How could he do it?
Sam: He did it for you.
Dean: How am I supposed to live with thathe should have gone out fighting that was supposed to be his legacy, you know, not bargaining with the damn thing, not this.
Sam: How many people do you think dad saved, total, Evan Hudson is safe because of what Dad taught us thats his legacy, Dean.
Im tired, Sam. Im tired of this job, this life, this weight on my shoulders, man, Im tired of it. [Croatoan]
Depression can take a long time to overcome. Im not sure Dean has ever overcome this stage fully. I suggest Dean is still very much dealing in varying degrees and stages of grief over his father. While much of Season 1 showed Dean fairly carefree embracing the life of a hunter Season 2 suggested weariness, brought on in large part due to the death of dad. However, that death came with the burden of Sams unknown destiny and raced towards Deans fatal move. Season 3 offered Dean a one-year clock to death, one that ran out and Season 4 has him dealing with the fallout of death, resurrection and his own destiny. We have clear indications that Dean is not over dad, either his fathers death or his own relationship with dad.
Dad is clearly a pressure point for Dean, much like the idea of being different, a freak, is for Sam. I dont know if Alastair was telling the truth about John being on ˜the rack for 100 years and not breaking; we may never know. We do know that demons lie but they also tell the truth especially if it will mess with ones mind. Was Alastair telling the truth? Not sure. So far Dean believes it and that adds to his burdens.
While in Croatoan and Hunted it was fairly obvious Dean was moving into depression I believe that was over several things, dads death, Sams fate and his own future especially with regards to Sam.
I believe Dean journeyed into acceptance but never stayed “ too much happened to quickly to allow full healing; instead Dean has regressed at times into depression, bargaining, anger “ and not without reason for as much as Jared may flinch when he sees Sera Gambles name on a script [naked and crying and maybe even dead] Jensen similarly fairs poorly [tears, having brother die in his arms, dislocated shoulder to name just a few “ hmm, maybe an article on which writers have been the cruelest over the years??? *shakes self, jots note for future brainstorming session and gets back to this article*]
Im not sure Im able to fully capture this stage but Ill give it a try. I suggest Dean reached this point in What is and What Should Never Be, but he didnt stay there. The pivotal scene where Dean talked to dads grave is not only moving but it marks the first time weve ever see Dean question his life and question his father. Sam was the one who asked questions about why they didnt have a mom or why they followed orders; Dean followed orders. Here Dean fully embraces that independence that Sam had shown which led him to leave for to school in the first place; for Dean the result is that he gives up his imaginary happiness and returns to what and who he is.
Course I know what youd say “ well, not the you that played softballyour happiness for all those peoples lives, no contestbut why? Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero? What about us? Moms not supposed to live her life? Sammys not supposed to get married? Why do we have to sacrifice everything, dad?
Its a beautiful and tragic moment for Dean.
The Impact of Brothers:
While Dean taught Sam a few things about their father, Sam has had a tremendous impact on Dean. We saw him take over the role of defending John to Dean in how they were raised [Bloodlust] and again for sacrificing himself to save Dean [Crossroad Blues] but there have been two pivotal moments in which Sam has pushed Dean to a new understanding of not only his father but himself: Playthings and Dream a Little Dream of Me.
I wonder if its truly a coincidence that in both these cases its a drunken Sam that is the instrument to jumpstart Dean in a new manner of thinking on his father and how he should respond to his upbringing? Is it that Sams vulnerability and open pain has always been something Dean cannot tolerate? [Bloody Mary and Bugs], is it that because Sam is drunk and not fully engaged that Dean is able to absorb the words because he does not have to so immediately put up his defenses? I dont believe there are coincidences in this world, Supernatural, so I think there may be something here.
Sam: Dad told you to do it, you have to.
Dean: Yeah, well dads an ass. He never should have said anything, I mean, you dont do that; you dont lay that kind of crap on your kids.
Sam: He was right to say it.
Wow. Sam pulling the ˜dad gave you an order card and then saying their father was ˜right, two very unusual events even with Sams new understanding of dad. Deans immediate, angry and honest answer shows the first real spark that hes beginning to remove those rose colored glasses hes been wearing with regards to dad.
It culminates about a year later in Dream a Little Dream of MeIll let the clip give you the words and the impact.
Here, facing eternity in hell and more importantly, sparked by the honest vulnerability of Sam Dean stops hiding from himself and faces up to the fact that he does have value and that he can think for himself and just because he made a deal doesnt mean he has to just lie down, like George Darrow in Crossroad Blues, and accept it. At the very least he admits to himself that he is worth saving, a fact hed refused to accept since weve first met him. He gave up in Faith, Sam didnt and up until now hed given up that he had a choice.
In both the above scenes Dean finally is honest with himself, Dad wasnt always right and he [Dean] does have value beyond being a good soldier. In both instances it was Sam who got him to see that.
So where is Dean now? Confused? Angry? Depressed? Likely all of those and this coming episode whether its a trick or its real is going to stir up a lot of issues for both Sam and Dean. For Dean it perhaps is a chance to really settle some things about dad. It could just complicate things.
Im definitely looking forward to Jump the Shark. The idea of a third brother [even though I suspect hes not around for long] does bother me a bit. I dont mind if ultimately its a trick, be it a demon, the Trickster, the angels or some other creature. Should Adam truly be the third Winchester brother I admit, it will bother me, however, Im only a passenger on this Supernatural journey and Ive signed on knowing that this is Eric Kripkes ride which hes graciously shared. So, having accepted the invitation to ride along, I must recognize that I have very little say in the final destination or any stopping points along the way [that doesnt stop me from hoping that Ruby meets her final demise this season though].
I firmly believe that this episode is going to be an opportunity for Dean to continue his exploration into his thoughts, emotions, hang-ups (positive and negative) and more about dad. Similarly I believe Sam will have a lot to think about regarding not only dad but also by having the opportunity to be a big brother, that insight could be very interesting as well.
So how many hours until Jump the Shark? (Note from Alice - Too many!)