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What was and what could have been
 
Dean and Samuel aren’t so different after all, their focus in life is similar, they are kin and they both hold family dear. They even love the same person.  How did they end up as mortal enemies? How did it come to this?
 
I think the main issue here was trust.  Hunters don´t trust easily. Their world is full of nasty surprises and their survival depends on their ability to know who to trust.
 
Family – for those that still have one - is their haven, here they are safe, here they have each other’s back. They can trust, and they are trusted.  When Dean found himself unable to forgive Sam in “Sympathy for the Devil,” Sam accepted that. What crushed him, as we saw, was to hear Dean say that he no longer trusted him.  This came as close to cutting him out as Dean would ever get. Love was a given, but withdrawing his trust was what really hurt.  

puppysam
 
And when the turning point in their relationship came in “Point of No Return,” it was about trust as well, Sam trusting Dean to do the right thing, and Dean needing to live up to that trust, and then trusting in return.  Love may be the foundation of their relationship, but trust is the wall to keep them safe.
 
When Samuel was brought back to earth, he was traumatized, he had been ripped from his family, he had been robbed of his haven, he had no one to trust, and no one who trusted him.  One of the first things he did, it seems was to try and make new connections, surround himself with kin, people of his own blood that may have grown into family.  He desperately needed people, I think, and his desire to have them close was genuine.
 
Why didn’t it work out then?  Because it was built on a lie. His desire for family may have been sincere, but his ultimate goal was to bring Mary back, and that took precedence over everything else, it seems.  The fact that there was a demon and a man without a soul among his family members wasn’t helping either, I’m sure.

So while some of it may have been genuine, like his concern for Gwen and her acceptance of him, some of it resembled a Potemkin village.  It lacked heart. There may have been affection, but there couldn’t really be trust, because they were living a lie, Samuel’s lie, and they must have sensed it.
 
When Dean entered the picture, he immediately picked up on it, and rejected Samuel quite vehemently, from the start – with some of the vehemence probably coming from his unease about Sam.  His instincts were kicking in, he felt that Samuel could not be trusted, and he was right.  Samuel wasn’t all scheming though. He was also a lonely man, still traumatized, still longing for connection, but unable to obtain it since he was still living his lie, working for Crowley.  That didn’t make him long any less though. He wanted Dean to trust him, not just to get him to cooperate, I think he truly wanted to be accepted by him, and it hurt him to have Dean reject him so vehemently.  
 
Dean was acting on his instincts, but that didn’t make the rejection any less painful for Samuel.  Have you ever witnessed a liar being hurt in his feelings because no one believes them? It makes no sense that they would expect to be believed, but they are genuinely and truly hurt when they experience that rejection. I think that the same thing happened here.
 
Samuel knew he had no right to expect trust since he was deceiving everybody, but a part of him still wished for that trust and was hurt when it was refused.
 
“Why can´t you give me an inch of trust, Dean?” ("Two and A Half Men")

 
He made repeated attempts to win Dean over, but Dean isn’t easily convinced, especially when things are clearly not right. He’s being a hunter through and through here, no leap of faith until he knows exactly where he’ll land.
 
While Dean cannot be blamed for not trusting Samuel, at all, I still think that it is in part what led to Samuel becoming more antagonistic towards them.  The breaking point came first in “Family Matters,” when his scheme is discovered, and Dean just barely keeps Sam from killing Samuel then and there.
 
If this gave Samuel hope that Dean would understand, it was crushed in “Caged Heat.”  I think that part of the reason why Samuel fought so hard for Dean’s acceptance was not only the fact that he was Mary’s son, but also that if anyone could understand and maybe even share his desire to bring Mary back, it would be Dean (Sam didn’t count, for obvious reasons).
 
When Samuel confesses to Dean, showing him Mary’s picture, it’s clearly in the hope that Dean will understand. He is appealing to Dean here, trying to get him on his side, baring his heart to him.  Dean is very sincere, very open in his reaction. This is the closest they ever get to each other, they could have made a true connection there, and they almost do.
 
In the end, it’s Samuel who turns away, this time it is he who refuses to trust, his desire for what could be stronger than his wish to embrace what is there. If Dean could have Sam back from the dead, why should he not have Mary?
 
They could have turned things around, then and there, but Samuel, it seems, couldn’t find the strength to build a new true family in this current life, to have trust in Dean. Instead, he chooses to hang onto the picture of the family that had been.
 
He can’t give up Mary, he can’t muster the strength, and now her sons are forcing him to choose.  They are threatening to take her away forever by going after Crowley.  He can’t have that, and there is only one solution that he sees.  How does he justify it?   The same way that Dean later did when trying to kill him, by telling himself that they may be blood but not family.  If they were family, he reasons, they would care about Mary and would want to bring her back as well.  I think he has really convinced himself this is the truth.
 
He even comes to Dean after he has betrayed them, in a last effort to make him see. Does he want forgiveness? Not really. He wants to hear that he is right, so he can go on believing it. He does not want to see how warped his sense of family has become. Dean, understandably, does not give his blessing, and cuts the last remaining connection by threatening Samuel.  They are now mortal enemies, on opposite sides of the same conviction.  They see the other as a traitor to true family, and a threat.
 
When they unexpectedly meet again in “And Then There Were None,” things quickly go from very bad to worse.
 
Dean is all set on killing Samuel, grandfather or not. We know how angry Dean can get, but this goes far beyond anything we have ever seen from him.  Was it because, even though he couldn’t trust him – yet – he still considered Samuel potential family, so his betrayal went deeper than someone else’s would have?
 
Was there also some lingering anger at himself for his own choices, his own deal, now mirrored in Samuel’s actions to a certain extent, and at the same time the need to emphasize the difference between them, the things he would not have done, even to get Sam back?  Was part of it fear, the need to eliminate a potential danger to himself and, more importantly, to Sam?
 
And would he really have killed him? Or was there still a way out?  I believe things would have taken another turn if Samuel’s attitude had been different.  From the start he is both belligerent and cocky.
 
He has not been well, I’m sure. Crowley is gone, and with him his last hope of seeing Mary again.  He has betrayed his grandsons, fed Mary’s sons to ghouls – and as much as he is lying to himself, deep down he does know he did wrong.  The rest of his family is dead and gone, only Gwen is left. He seems to care about her, but it’s not enough.  When confronted with the brothers´ hostile attitude, he closes himself off completely, all bravado, stubborn pride and pure show.  Had he appealed to them, had he been open, it might have made a difference. I think it would have.  It could not have repaired things, far from it. It could still have re-established some sort of connection, not family, but a mutual understanding that they were still blood, and still had Mary, and go from there.
 
Had they had a little more time, maybe he would have relented, maybe they would have found a way out.  Or not.  We will never find out.  Gwen dies, and the rest of Samuel’s life with her. Shortly afterwards he is possessed, becomes more hostile during possession and ultimately pushes his own grandson into killing him.  An abrupt and shocking ending to a tragic family story.
 
The episode ends with Dean offering absolution to the members of his family at Rufus´ grave.  He talks about how life is too short to bear grudges. His focus is on the grudge weighing a person down, tainting their own lives.  With this, he touches upon a very basic aspect of forgiveness - It not only frees the offender from their guilt, just as importantly, it also relieves the injured from their resentment, thus lightening their lives.
 
They had just buried or were about to bury Gwen and Samuel as well.  Did what Dean said refer to Samuel, too? Was he included in Dean’s absolution?  I think not, not yet.
 
I thought I heard a hint of regret over what had happened, an admission that things should and could have gone differently.  They are not ready to forgive Samuel yet, but they will be.  What Dean says about forgiveness not only works for family, it applies to everybody and all offences, and they seem just one step away from understanding that.  

 
Lingering anger taints the soul, always.  Forgiving Samuel will free them, and help them grow again.  I’m hoping for them, at some point, to look with compassion upon the broken shell their grandfather had become, and with love upon the man who loved Mary.

Comments  

purplehairedwonder
# 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
# 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
# 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
# rmoats8621 2011-03-28 02:18
Wonderful article. Samuel was a complex character just like his grandsons.
Junkerin
# 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
# 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
# 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
# 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
# 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!