Article Index

Death Takes A Holiday
Dean is still holding onto the feelings of betrayal, but Sam won't discuss his actions. He's still on the siren spell excuse. His powers are really amping up, so much so he can now do the TK toss! We see it in his eyes, he likes having that power. He likes dishing it out to baddies like Alastair after all the harm they've done. He's transforming, but still keeping Dean in the dark.
However, this is also where we start seeing signs of Sam losing control. He's still lying to himself, and sees nothing wrong with his actions until a dying Pamela tells him to think again. She felt that evil inside him. She knows. Sam is obviously alarmed by this, but not enough to stop now. He's gone too far.
On The Head Of A Pin
This is where Sam starts seeking personal justification for his actions, especially after Pamela's jarring words. He goes to Ruby for help after Dean is taken by the angels, acknowledging what he's doing is wrong, but justifies everything because Dean isn't strong enough and needs him. Now the big reveal, he's drinking demon blood! Ew, yuck, so wrong. That boy's gonna crash hard.
Still, he becomes powerful enough now to zap Alastair's soul into dust, saving Castiel in the process. We see how much Sam is hooked on that power now, but Castiel's unsettled expression is enough to tell us something isn't right.  

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The Monster At The End Of This Book
Sam's in too deep now. Thanks to Chuck The Prophet, who has seen everything Sam is doing, Sam finally finds someone to share his burdens and his fears with. Chuck won't put Sam's demon blood drinking in the books, for he doesn't want Sam to look unsympathetic. "You have to know what you're doing is wrong." Sam knows, but he can't stop. He justifies that he must kill Lilith and stop the apocalypse. Chuck points out that's Dean's job, but Sam is now more convinced Dean isn't strong enough. He wants to finally look out for Dean the way Dean has for him his whole life. That's the sure fire sign he's completely lost control.
Sam is itching to confront Lilith, and their little encounter only makes him more eager for revenge at the end. We can speculate that's why Lilith came to see him, to rile him up enough where he'll continue with the demon blood. No matter what her reason's, Sam is in a bad place.

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Jump The Shark
The Sam scariness continues, this time as he morphs into the carbon copy of John Winchester. When that development even chills Dean, you know its not good.
So, when the notion of a third Winchester brother came along, was it shocking that Sam took the cold militaristic stance and decided to treat Adam as more of a soldier than a brother? Yes and no. It's shocking in a sense that Sam resented his dad for treating him that way most of his life, but does the same here. It's also not shocking because Sam's new found "practicality" has pushed him into being that cold and harsh. It's all about survival, they are at war. 
In the end, Sam's behavior is just plain unsettling. His single minded focus for revenge blinds him to the truth, that Adam isn't who he said he is. That also becomes perfect foreshadowing for Sam's outcomes in the final few episodes. Luckily Dean is able to get past the brother thing enough to work the case and ultimately save Sam.
The Rapture
Uh oh, we've got a strung out junkie on our hands. His intense bleeding from "Jump The Shark" no doubt left Sam a little dry and his "dealer" is MIA. Sam can't even exorcise stunt demon #3. Dean is worried, but Sam is outright disturbed. I smell a fall coming.
Uh, yeah, cutting and sucking blood from a demon during a fight in which your brother and his angel pal are watching is not a wise move. Cat's out of the bag now. Sam still thinks though that all Dean will do is yell at him and it'll all be better. Dean doesn't yell though, yet Sam still lulls himself into a false sense of security. Word of advice to all junkies out there, don't walk into a panic room first when your brother is quietly upset with you. It's intervention time!


# Lisa 2009-08-13 12:32
I for one loved the progression of Sam's character during season 4 so thank you very much for this very insightful article.
# Cathy 2009-08-13 13:01
I agree, extremely insightful. My heart was broken at the end of When The Levee Breaks, so I was gladdened (look at me, channeling Bobby Singer!) to see Sam expressing remorse. I was dreading that it would be the opposite and that the brother relationship was done for. I'm really looking forward to Dean, in-depth...
# elle2 2009-08-13 15:16

A great read. I love these inn-depth looks at the boys. While it is possible to see elements of this coming as the season progresses it is best to wait until it is all aired and then dive much changes the focus and direction as the pieces slowly but surely fall or slide into place. Sam had a great arc this season and all along throughout the series. Season 5 is going to be fab...all the other have been so I have no doubts.

Great job.
# Ash 2009-08-13 17:54
Among all the lovely articles on your site (and there are many), your character metas are still the most awesome! You basically put everything I *think* into words... and so well too!
# trina 2009-08-14 14:19
While I find Dean to be a very heroic character, I think Sam is one of the more tragic characters that I can remember seeing on TV. Just watching an early season one episode and hearing him talk about his desire to have a normal life kills me. Not only is that not possible now, it never was for him. His fate was written 10 years before he was born.

Also, I loved when Chuck brought up that the demon blood makes him feel more in control. Sam has control issues. Other people's decisions keep making his life a living hell. Of course, now his own decisions have released hell on earth, so what now?
# elle2 2009-08-14 15:20
Trina, I only hope neither brother is a 'true tragic hero' as someone once reminded me that tragic heroes die in the end -- gasp, no!!!!!!

I remember Kripke once referring to Dean as a tragic hero, this on the commentary for WIAWSNB when Dean makes the decision to 'go back' and undo the spell the Djihn had on him. I cringed then at the fear of Dean dying...I think I can let that fear go though for both brothers, at least since Kripke says he's open to another season depending on how well this one fares.

Still, both boys are heroes but you are quite correct, Sam has been forced from the very beginning into this position and that makes him not only very heroic as he struggles to overcome but also deeply sympathetic, despite Season 4 decisions, he's still extremely sympathetic to me.

# Brian 2009-08-15 06:51
I still think we were gypped out of what could have been a really awesome storyline if only they had taken the time to tell it, instead of pushing 90% of it behind a curtain. We only "finally got to know what happens in Sam's mind" in the second to last episode of the season.
# Brian 2009-08-18 01:37
Another view:
Manzanita Crow
# Manzanita Crow 2013-07-11 08:40
I know I'm horribly late to the party since I only started watching SPN this spring. But maybe that means the whole story is fresh in my mind.

I think there is a very important line that hasn't been mentioned. In Criss Angel Jay says "Charlie was like my brother. And now he's dead... because I did 'the right thing.'" I believe that drove Sam towards doing 'the wrong thing' and drinking demon blood again.

Why? Because doing 'the right thing' in the last three seasons resulted in both John and Dean dead and in Hell:
- Sam didn't kill his possessed Dad at the end of Season 1 (I'd say that was the right thing) but it resulted in John dying anyway and going to hell.
- Sam didn't kill Jake at the end of Season 2 (again the right thing) and gets killed. With the result that Dean makes a deal to go to Hell.
- In Season 3 Sam's starting to waver morally, but eventually does 'the right thing' and doesn't listen to Ruby. The result? Dean goes to Hell and Sam goes completely nuts.

Early in Season 4 Sam stops drinking the demon blood because he knows it's wrong. He tries to stop using his psychic powers too, but has to use them on Samhain to save Dean and other people. The powers simply won't go back in the box now.

When his powers aren't powerful enough to stop Alastair at first, and then the demon-killing knife doesn't work, Dean could easily have died. So when Sam hears that line from Jay, it's no wonder he cracks and does 'the wrong thing' by drinking demon blood to increase his powers. He's willing to do anything to save Dean, even go darkside. OK, it's a crazy risk, but Sam's mental health is in tatters already.

I can totally understand why he did what he did. Obviously it was a terrible idea. But it was understandable given his mental state and the Winchester credo of sacrificing yourself for others.

I was pleased when I found this meta cos it goes along the same lines: