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Who is Samuel Campbell, the man we love to hate? Many cheered when he died, some wanted to dance on his grave.  Who is this man who claims to act for family but betrays his kin?  Is there a way to understand what he did?
Let see.

In the Beginning: Who is Samuel Campbell?
We meet Samuel Campbell in the past. Dean has just been transported back to when Mary was “a babe” and living at her parents´ house.  Samuel then is a hunter, a patriarch and a family man. He seems quite settled in this life, a hunter’s life, but still a normal family life – as normal as a hunter’s family life can be.
When Dean turns up, Samuel is initially suspicious of him, but doesn’t turn him away, in the end, he easily gives in to his wife’s insistence they invite their fellow hunter in.  His wife, Deanna, a warm-hearted, open and intelligent woman, appears sincerely fond of him. They struck me as one of those old couples, married for ages, used to each other’s quirks and peculiarities, loving the other all the more for it.
And then there is Mary of course, who suffers from her father’s protectiveness, who wants to be independent, and free of the hunters´ lifestyle.  It’s obvious Samuel loves Mary, but can’t handle setting her free. And he does not want to lose her to another man who is not even a hunter.  Or to another hunter, for that matter.
Poor John, whom Samuel dislikes, he never had a chance, he couldn’t win. His only crime was to have won Mary’s heart, thus luring her away from Samuel’s protection, the only thing that could ensure her safety and well-being, in Samuel’s eyes. 
And Mary? Well, she had issues with her father, the same way any daughter or son trying to free themselves from an overprotective parent would.  Had Azazel not turned up, she would have left with John, set up her own life, things would have been awkward for a while, and then they’d have made peace.
All in all, their family life struck me as bumpy, but close. Those people may not have agreed on everything, but they clearly cared for each other.  And then it was all destroyed in a heart-beat.  Samuel died, and when he came back from the dead, he found what he loved destroyed, and he broke.
Samuel Descending
We still know nothing of Samuel and Sam returning from their respective afterlives, Crowley, Sam, Samuel, they all could have been lying or telling the truth for all we know.  Samuel claims he had been pulled from heaven, maybe that’s true, maybe not.  It doesn’t really matter, because wherever he came from, here, on earth, in this day and age, he is clearly lost.  When we see him again, in "Exile on Main Street," he is again what he was before: a hunter, a patriarch and a family man.  Or he is trying to be and it’s hard.
He is out of his time, for one thing, almost 40 years have passed in a moment for him.  Assuming he doesn’t remember Heaven (according to the angels, people will lose that memory), the last thing he knows is maybe feeling Azazel possessing him, and dying, and now he finds himself stranded in a place and time he knows nothing about.  There was Crowley, I suppose, and then Sam, SoullessSam, not the most empathetic of people, not who’d you want around if you needed support, somebody to help you through difficult times.
And difficult it must have been. He finds out, probably quite fast, how much time has passed and that not only has Deanna died with him, but his daughter, his beloved Mary, is dead and gone as well. Maybe Sam tells him, or Crowley, or he finds out for himself.  Either way, it must have crushed him. Everything is gone, his life, everything he used to have and be just disappeared.
Easy prey for Crowley then, I suppose, and the deal is made.  It probably didn’t seem so bad at first, he would still hunt monsters, no personal price involved, and Mary as the great prize. He did not realize that, ironically, the price was maybe still his soul.  And so he gets working, seeking out his kin first, I imagine, building both a family and a team to hunt with, and he starts to settle in.  It’s a shadow of what he used to have, and his wounds are too deep to heal, but he gets by and he has one thing that keeps him going: 
When all this is done, he’ll get Mary back, he’ll get his true life back.
He spends some time with Sam, getting to know his younger grandson, or thinking he is. He is clearly uncomfortable with the more ruthless things SoullessSam does, he still cares. All the same he goes along with them because he needs him, for his very own greater good, for getting Mary back.
However, letting these things happen and doing nothing about them, I think, helped pave the way for worse things to come: It killed his compassion little by little, made him numb to the suffering he was allowing, and it shed an unforgiving light for him onto Mary’s sons, creating a gap from the start.
Things weren’t all bad. Gwen, who is with him till the very end, her end, unfortunately, seems to like him and think quite highly of him. Why else would she be so shocked at what she hears from Dean? She clearly had a different picture of him.  It’s also clear he cares about her, maybe just to fill a little of the spot that Mary used have, but still.  

They work well, he is obviously a good and extremely knowledgeable hunter, and he has built a good team, and they seem pleasant enough as well.  Sam is with him, too, strangely mirroring Samuel’s own hollowness. And something is not quite right. - The family is there, but the heart is missing.
Then Dean arrives and he senses it immediately: Something is off.  And things go downhill from there.  Dean’s refusal to accept the façade as the real thing causes the first cracks, until it all finally crumbles.  It ends with Samuel’s betrayal of his grandsons, open war, and finally Sam killing Samuel in self-defence.
What would Mary say?
When Sam feels guilty for shooting Samuel, Dean tries to comfort him: “You know what I think Mom would say? She'd say just 'cause you're blood doesn't make you family. You got to earn that.“

Would she really say that?  She may think that way, yes. Blood doesn’t make you family, it’s what you do that counts.  And she would hate Samuel’s betrayal of her sons. 
Would he cease to be her father to her, though?  After all, he is true family, he has earned it with her.   We saw it “in the beginning”: They had a bond, quite obviously, and it was loving. They had issues, but she knew herself loved by him, and she knew that he meant well. And I daresay she loved him as well, not as desperately, not as protectively but love him she did, I think.
And even if he lost that love because of what he did, the love, the connection was once present.   It is my belief that when someone is close to another person, they never lose that again, not completely, no matter what happens and even when it seems that it has disappeared. A small part, a trace of that bond will remain.
So even if she hated what he did, even if she hated him for what he did, would she want him executed in cold anger? Would she want him to die such a miserable death and then say: “Good riddance?”  And would she want her own sons to do the deed? She was a hunter, remember, she knows how heavily killing weighs upon the soul.  How could she want that for her sons?
She may never talk to him again, and she may not forgive him, but she wouldn’t have him put down like a rabid dog either, and she certainly wouldn’t applaud her sons for ending his life, if not for his sake, then for theirs.
Like grandfather, like grandson?
Sam to Dean, in Two and a Half Men, on Samuel: “He is actually a lot like you.”  He sold out his grandsons. How can he be like Dean?  Well, let’s have a look.
Dean is a family man, protective of those he loves.  Samuel, as well, is a family man, and protective. We saw that “In the Beginning.” 
We also saw how he was wary at first, slow to trust, but willing to change his mind and work together.  Dean would have acted pretty much the same way, I think.
We know Dean’s sarcasm, and his rough and tough exterior hiding a soft core and a compassionate heart. We have seen bits and pieces of Samuel’s sarcasm and wry humour as well:
“Come right on in,” when they barge into his room in "Family Matters"
“Well, bring marshmallows. Already on the pyre,” when Dean wants to “pay his last respects” to the presumably dead Alpha vampire.

“Can I help you?” when he finds them searching his desk in “Caged Heat”
“Congrats. It’s a boy, sometimes,” while handing Christian the shapeshifter-baby
“A softball team? I got no clue,” on what he thinks the Alpha shapeshifter is planning for the babies.
“Would’ve asked him to stick around for a beer,” upon “scrawny” Castiel leaving them in "Family Matters."
We can only guess at the soft core and the compassionate heart, but there are hints “In the Beginning” and in “Unforgiven.”  I also think that his offer to raise the shapeshifter baby in their family came without an afterthought.
We further know Dean’s penchant for bravado, under pressure, his refusal to bow in adverse situations, and his stubborn pride.  There was a lot of that too, in Samuel, especially when confronted with his deal and their repercussions, and last not least in his ill-advised attitude in “And Then There Were None,” where he reminded me more of a petulant and sassy teen than a grown man. 
And, most importantly of all, there’s family and what it means.  From what I have seen I would venture to say that it means precisely the same for both of them; someone to love and care for, to protect, someone who needs to be around, taking precedence over just about everything and everybody.
Dean, above all had and has Sam. Samuel, above all, had Mary.  And when they lost their loved one, as Samuel correctly pointed out, and as Dean did not deny, they both did basically the same thing to get them back - They turned to a demon and were willing to deal. And damn the consequences.
When Dean brought Sam back, he had refused to help Bobby, with Sam gone, he was ok with the world ending, he didn’t care.  We all remember Dean’s incredulous  ”More important than Sam?!” in Weekend at Bobby’s.  That pretty much says it all. Sam is not everything, but nothing and no one comes before him.  Dean may no longer pay any price for Sam’s sake, he has learned that lesson, but Sam’s well-being is still central in his world.
And Samuel? Well he had Deanna, and he had Mary, and Mary is the one he can’t and won’t live without. She is his reason for doing things.  He hadn’t intended to sell out his grandsons, but when they went after Crowley, they became a threat to his big prize, to his light in the dark, in the distance, that he thought he was walking towards: Mary.
And last not least, ironically, there is a similarity even in their conflict.  At the very core of this issue, they did precisely the same thing, rejecting their own kin, claiming the other had not earned the right to be considered family, thus ignoring and hurting the true family bond the other had created with Mary.


# purplehairedwonder 2011-03-26 23:23
I've been struggling with Samuel's character all season, figuring his and Gwen's deaths in ATTWN were season 6's version of burning the Roadhouse. But this was a great look into the man that Samuel became upon his resurrection; I hadn't really considered just how lonely he must be, especially when his closest kin, his grandson, was soulless (though he didn't know it).

I also liked the comparisons between Dean and Samuel, which makes Dean's desire to kill the man that much more tragic. It always, always, always comes back to family in this show and this was no exception.

The comments about trust being essential for Sam and Dean were right on; that scene in SFTD stands out to me every time I watch it as Dean's inability to trust is what makes Sam's face crumble. The nuances of their relationship endlessly fascinate me and this was a great tie-in to Samuel's story as well.

In the end, I still don't *like* Samuel but I can appreciate the arc he went through before his death a bit more. Thanks for the character exploration!
# Laine 2011-03-27 13:05
I thought that was very thought provoking and showing the reasoning behind Samuels behaviour explains a lot about the man and his actions. Still can't help but dislike him.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2011-03-27 17:51
I find Samuel to be quite a sympathetic character. He was unceremoniously dumped into circumstances beyond his control in order to be, (as seems to be the Winchester/Camp bell tradition) a puppet for a demon. I also find it difficult to look at / think about Samuel and not think that we have already seen traces of him in Sam and Dean (and John). Samuel late season 6 is how the Winchesters might have been had they not had each other to ground them.

As with Sam and Dean, Samuel didn’t ask to be bought back. He didn’t ask to be part of some angel/demon war. However, unlike Sam and Dean, he came back to nothing.

Yume, you already mentioned in Two and A Half Men how Sam commented on how alike Samuel and Dean were and you’re spot on; they are. Family is the motivation for damn near everything for them. I think Samuel wanted/needed Dean and Sam with him at that stage because they are the last remaining physical link he has to Mary. Imagine then his disappointment when Dean shunned him and when he realised that the Sam he was working with was a cold-hearted, cynical killer. He hadn’t known Sam prior to that. I don’t recall Dean talking that much about Sam during In The Beginning. It must have torn Samuel apart to think that his beloved daughter could bear someone so cold and heartless (though undeniably hot...).

I don’t think Samuel was, at this early stage, looking for a reason to disassociate himself from Sam, but Sam made it damn easy for him to do it. Same applies to Dean. I don’t recall Dean even trying to extend the hand of acceptance to Samuel. So while it’s hard to stomach the fact that Samuel sold them out, I’m not aghast that he did. Like he said ‘What exactly are you to me?’

Likewise, I don’t think that Samuel, upon resurrection, was intent on selling out Sam and Dean to Crowley. You bring up a good point about Samuel in that he does seem to care about Sam (to a certain extent). Who knows what Crowley was whispering into his ear to have him betray them. Thing is, it wasn’t even necessary. Crowley could have taken Sam and Dean at any stage, he didn’t need Samuel to sell them out. It was just another case of divide and conquer. The angels did it; why not let the demons try it?

Obviously, given what Samuel did, it’s difficult to like him. However, I do think I understand him. I might not approve of what he did but if I were put in the same position would I be sure I’d say no? (Obviously, not wanting people on here to think I should be behind bars means I'm going to say no...)

Look at it another way. Sam and Dean were handing over Alphas to Crowley left, right and centre at this stage. We can’t assume the Alphas were all ‘bad’. What if there were a few Madisons or Jesses in there, ‘innocent’ creatures who had no idea what they are, or what they can do? Does that make Sam and Deans actions equatable to Samuels? Yes, they had their reasons to deliver these Alphas into Crowleys hands but it doesn't change the fact that Sam and Dean are killers. We accept that (and for some reason its part of their appeal). It doesn’t matter that their intentions are honourable; their actions could be argued wrong. However, because we believe in their intentions, we excuse their actions.

Could the same not be applied to Samuel? Samuels actions (delivering Sam and Dean to Crowley) were also undeniably wrong but his intentions, to him, are pure. His daughter is dead. I dare say Crowley fed Samuel a truckload of crap as to where Mary was and what was happening to her (tortured in hell etc), thereby playing with Samuels reasoning ability. Exact same circumstances with the Winchester and look how they reacted; Sam (Ruby), Dean (deal), Mary (deal) and John (deal and turning his kids into hunters). Samuel didn’t know Mary was in hell but he couldn’t be sure she wasn’t. Could you imagine what was going through his head at the thought that his daughter was there. After all, Sam went bloody mental after 4 months of thinking about Dean in hell (and he also ‘killed’ a family member). Imagine what he would have done had it been 27 years! (I wonder if we knew for a fact that Mary was in hell, would we be more sympathetic to Samuels actions then?)

I gotta say, I find Samuel to be one of the more tragic characters in SPN. Hair loss aside, he was yanked out of heaven (we think) and dumped into a different world into circumstances that he didn’t have the knowledge or the capacity to deal with. Samuel seemed pretty clueless about demons in In the Beginning and now he’s knee deep in a world of them! I can definitely see a lot of Sam and Dean in Samuel; same choices, same actions, same motivation yet we revile one while revering the other. Strange world!

Thanks Yume, thanks for this. That was fun.
# MisterGlass 2011-03-27 20:41
Yume, I think you did a masterful job of pulling the scattered bits of Samuel's life that we have seen together, and your conclusions are convincing. Your article makes me appreciate the unnatural awkwardness of his character that much more.
# rmoats8621 2011-03-28 02:18
Wonderful article. Samuel was a complex character just like his grandsons.
# Junkerin 2011-03-28 07:32
Hi Jume,
when Samuel came back in EOMS I thought oh they give the boys a bigger familiy. What was I wrong :-).
It was a great articel to complex charater.
# Jas 2011-03-28 07:57
Hi Heide, interesting topic you picked here.
Samuel is, no doubt, one of the most controversial characters of our beloved show. And a man I didn’t like. There were moments where I thought – he might grow on me, but eventually, after all was said and done, I didn’t like Samuel.

But I think I understood him in various ways. And not liking someone and yet understanding one’s motives is not exclusive.

It’s a shame we never heard why exactly Samuel was resurrected. Or who did it. That might have shed more light on the character. Was he without compassion? No. Was he inhuman? No. Was he a man to trust? Only if you belonged to his in-group.

Was he linear in his behaviour? No. He was erratic, easily frustrated, fond of violence and quick with judgement. A Winchester, indeed.

It’s a problem that we don’t get to know all sides of a person under catastrophic circumstances. The situation these men were thrown in was outside of the ordinary. People do what they believe necessary to survive. What Samuel did to survive – or to ensure the survival of his tribe – didn’t make him likeable. He wanted to bring Mary back, the one person that seemed to be at the centre of his universe. The man didn't learn to live with his grief. it's like he was frozen in it, not healing. And, much like a wounded animal, he was lashing out.

Desperate people use desperate measures. I’m not prepared to judge this man.

His motives were pretty clear, his methods questionable, though. As much as I do understand what might have been the driving force behind his actions, I am not fond of his dismissal of those traits that would have made him a more likeable character.

He must have had those facets, too. It’s very sad that neither we as viewers, nor his grandsons ever got to see the loving, caring side of Samuel Campbell. Because, as you point out, those must have been a part of this man’s personality, too.

Thank you for this piece that comes as a tribute to amisunderstood and divisive figure. Love, Jas
# faye 2011-03-28 13:42
It's obvious, from what you've written and everyone's comments on you article, that a lot of effort and thought was put into Samuel's part in this season's story line.

I don't think Samuel's story is over. We still have purgatory to deal with, and he's probably there...
# Yirabah 2011-03-28 14:03
This was very interesting Heide. You brought up points I hadn't thought about yet. Thanks for bringing up this topic.

I can think of two reasons why Samuel didn't want to bring his wife back.

One: He was the one who killed Deanna. Even though he was possed at that time and not responsible for his actions. But maybe he was afraid to look into her eyes and see that she is blaming him for killing her or maybe that she couldn't trust him anymore because of that.

The other reason is that Deanna wanted to kill him. She didn't want to help him get rid of the deamon - no she wanted to kill him. Maybe that is a reason why he couldn't trust her anymore.

Just like Jas I was kind of happy, that they gave the boys some more family when Samuel came back but quickly that hope was distroyed and I wasn't able to warm up to that character. Nonetheless after reading your article I kind of felt sad that the three of them were never able to bond.
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2011-03-29 21:27
Hi Yume,

Really interesting article, and some great insights.

I always thought that part of the reason Dean didn't like or trust Samuel was because he wasn't sure Samuel was real, was human.

I think Dean was so confused and disoriented by Sam's reappearance, and by his distinctively different personality, that he wondered if something was also wrong with Samuel. I think Dean kind of wondered if Samuel was a monster too.

But, you're right. There were opportunities for the two of them to have bridged the distance, but they were missed. However, I'm still not sure Dean would have killed him. I don't think Dean is quite that cold-hearted. I think he would have shot over Samuel's head.

On final point, I wonder if there was part of Samuel that wanted to die, to be killed, and to end this second life of suffering. There is a form of suicide called "Suicide by Police". It's when a person acts so threatening he forces police to kill him, but investigations afterward show he was suicidal all along. He provoked the police into killing him. Maybe there was some part of Samuel, which hoped if he could just die again, maybe then he'd be reunited with Mary.
# BagginsDVM 2011-03-29 23:12
I really wanted to like Samuel & for him to be a true grandfather & ally for the guys, but that would have made for much less drama in this family saga.
I can sympathize with his confusion in being suddenly returned to a time so different from the decade in which he died & his desire to have his family back & to make some sense of why he is alive again ( I too still want to know the specifics of who & why he was returned). The parallels between Samuel's & Dean's attitudes towards family & trust are well-displayed. We certainly saw Samuel in the worst of circumstances, & while I can't condone his actions, I can understand them.
I don't want to think Dean could have killed him in cold blood either. Dean saw how warped Samuel's sense of right & wrong had become when he left his grandsons to be eaten by ghouls; I don't think Dean would have let himself fall to that same level no matter have badly he wanted vengeance.
The ever-hopeful part of me would like to see Samuel get a chance at redemption too. He'd been a pawn of demons for too long, & should have had a chance to join Team Free-Will!