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This is part two of guest writer Ellaine's thesis from seasons one through five.  Part one can be found here

III. Beyond my control

The doubt about the nature of evil represented by supernatural creatures is followed by the question whether those beings or humans turning into the supernatural are in fact able to make their own choices against fate and nature and how much their human past can influence their preternatural future. Are they able to overcome their dark side or is the fall after the change inevitable? 

Already at the beginning of season two the vampires Lenore proved that there is still place for own choices after the ‘turn’. Even so her choice does not seem too hard when compared with another supernatural being introduced in episode “Heart” from the same season of the series. Madison is a girl turned into a werewolf and she does not even realize it at the beginning, as well as Sam and Dean who do not recognize in this nice and pretty young woman the creature they actually are looking for. Madison’s case is complicated and controversial not only for the brothers – since Sam draws a parallel between the girl’s fate and his own (“So me you won't kill but her you're just gonna blow away?”) as much as he feels erotically and emotionally attracted to her too – but also for the viewer to whom the character has been introduced at first rather as a victim, then as a likable and kind human being who is more scared of her animalistic nature than really nasty. She is more of a victim (made a werewolf against her will) than the aggressor. By creating this bond of sympathy the writers make it a tough choice for both, Sam and the viewers – Sam has to shoot Madison because he is not able to save her and she asks him to do it, the audience does not want the nice girl to get killed, even if she is in fact a dangerous monster. The switched perspective once again raises the question of our ability to judge evil and proves that drawing a clear line between good and bad is impossible and killing what seems to be a monster is not always an easy decision.[25]

Even if it meant to sacrifice her own life, Madison made the right choice. Two seasons later a similar character appears in the episode “Metamorphosis” as Sam and Dean are asked for help by an old hunter friend, Travis, to hunt a rougarou – a human being at first who gradually transforms into a flesh eating monster. But at the first sight the brothers cannot find anything unusual about the man in question. Jack Montgomery seems to be a regular guy – with a normal job, house and a wife, as Dean says “I've seen big weird, little weird, weird with crazy on top. But this guy? Come on, this guy's boring.” The first impression proves to be misleading as Jack is more and more plagued by his second nature and he starts craving for human flesh. Unlike in the two previous cases, this time the character has to make a choice between good and evil before fully turning into one of the dangerous creatures. He is given the options and freedom of choice when Sam insists on making Jack aware of his metamorphosis and holding back for a while. Even if in the end the will loses against the nature, the question remains open – would Jack still act the same if he would not have been pushed in this direction by Travis who in fact made the decision long before Jack was able to make his own? The older hunter is convinced that “It’s pure, base instinct. Everything in nature’s got to eat. You think he can stop himself ‘cause he’s nice?” By threatening Jack’s pregnant wife, however, Travis partially forces the confused and suffering man to give into his dark side and does not allow him to prove that maybe he is able to keep hold on this kind of instinct. 

Creating an evil that is more of biological (inherited genes) and less of spiritual kind, Kripke points to another question – is the choice between good and evil really a matter of free will and conscious decision or more of destiny, a curse someone cannot really live with? Unless they are able to turn the curse into their life philosophy and send it on a mission.

1. Conquer all the beasts

Gordon Walker: This isn't personal. I'm not a killer, Dean. I'm a hunter. And your brother's fair game.” (“Hunted”)

As much as there are controversial cases among the hunted creatures, there are also controversial hunters. Travis from “Metamorphosis” is only a shadow of the character of Gordon Walker, introduced first at the beginning of season two. At the first look Gordon seems to be a hero – he is really good at what he does, he certainly saves people and is truly dedicated to his job. And he honestly believes in his mission, believes that his actions lead towards “a better, safer world.”[26] His back-story is also a tragic one, just like in the case of almost all hunters, Gordon became hunter after a vampire kidnapped and turned his sister. Perhaps this tragedy made him the hunter he is – mercilessly eliminating all supernatural, especially vampires, to fill this hole his sister’s death (and maybe even more that fact that he had to kill her too) left. Thus, there is no place for doubt and shades of grey in Gordon Walker’s one-sided world view. He has become a good hunter, but not really a ‘good guy’, as his moral code is very disputable and pushing ethical limits is not what he would have consider worth thinking about. In spite of all his skills and dedication he is everything what a hunter should and what he should not be. As Ellen says, Gordon is as good hunter as “Hannibal Lecter’s a good psychiatrist.” (“Bloodlust”)

Walker has a particular role to play, not only story-wise, but also on the metaphorical level. At the moment he is introduced, Gordon becomes a point of reference for the brothers as his personality draws even a more visible line between Sam and Dean’s attitudes towards hunting and the supernatural in general and Amy Berner describes him as “the Winchesters’ dark mirror.”[27] While Dean is somewhat in the middle, in “Bloodlust” even closer to Gordon as he is still more enjoying the hunt and not seeing the fine difference between the real evil and hidden potential for good, Sam is the absolute opposite. Hunting as having ‘fun’ scares him and “decapitations aren’t [his] idea of a good time.” (“Bloodlust”) Even later as the story progresses and Sam’s philosophy moves more to the middle and even further, he is still plagued by guilt and never enjoys killing and torturing. Unlike Sam, Gordon “is dealing in absolutes”[28] and is only capable of seeing the world as black and white. Although it is obvious that he is helping people and preventing evil from happening, saving maybe hundreds of girls like his sister and sacrificing people for ‘greater good’ allows him probably to save even more lives, but at the same time his methods are ruthless and a bit sadistic, like poisoning Lenore slowly with dead man’s blood to get from her the information about her companions’ whereabouts or torturing a demon in human host until the host dies. 

Like mentioned, Gordon’s ruthlessness becomes evident especially in a situation when he has to deal with something that is not necessarily evil. In “Bloodlust” the monsters are not really evil as they do not kill anyone and the hunter is not particularly good. But for Gordon vampires are “bloodthirsty animals” (“Bloodlust”), no matters how much they have already proven with their actions how honest their attitude is. But Gordon does not believe in their good intentions as their instincts still lay dormant and they can go back to their old ways any time and kill people again. Therefore they pose danger and should be eliminated, as he says “A nest of vampires suddenly acting nice? Taking a little time out from sucking innocent people? And we're supposed to buy that? Trust me. Doesn't change what they are.” (“Bloodlust”)

Except from not being able to demonstrate mercy or compassion, Gordon Walker does not believe in redemption – those concepts are not a part of his philosophy. He simply does not believe in the possibility to win against nature and instincts and to make choices when you are one of the monsters. To him a killer will always remain a killer, maybe because Gordon is one himself.

Walker keeps this philosophy even when he for a while stops chasing vampires and starts pursuing and eliminating Azazel’s Special Children, who, however, did not cross the line between human and monster yet, even if they have this potential. They are human beings who have a choice and the evil within them may never awake. In this context Gordon’s world view becomes more twisted and arguable until he finally becomes one of the villains, the moment he finds out (by torturing a possessed girl) Sam Winchester being potentially the greatest threat to humanity, and decides to hunt him. 

Ironically, on his mission Gordon becomes a real villain and a part of the supernatural himself, as he falls victim to a desperate vampire who seeks revenge for his exterminated ‘family’, and gets turned into one of the kind he hates the most. Nevertheless, Gordon is still able to consequently follow his code and focus on his mission – it almost seems like a heroic trait. His fanatical belief keeps him convinced that it is his last mission since he recognizes his own death as something inevitable and conditioned automatically by his new, monstrous nature, as he tells Sam:

You got a lot of people fooled, but see, I know the truth. I know what it’s like. We’re the same now, you and me. I know how it is walking around with something evil inside you. It’s just too bad you won’t do the right thing and kill yourself. I’m gonna… as soon as I’m done with you. Two last good deeds. Killing you and killing myself. (“Fresh Blood”)

Gordon’s hunting methods after the turn, however, remain unchanged, just more monstrous. He does not restrain himself from drinking human blood, killing his friend Kubrick (who tries to stop him) and using an innocent girl as bait, and even turning her into a vampire, which is even more horrifying and tragic, considering what happened to Gordon’s sister and what pushed him to become a hunter in the first place. All for the greater good:

Gordon: You have to let me do one last thing first.

Kubrick: What?

Gordon: Kill Sam Winchester.

Kubrick: Gordon...

Gordon: It's the only... it is the one good thing to come out of this nightmare. I’m stronger. I’m faster. I can finish him. (“Fresh Blood”)

As much as Gordon Walker may seem to be an insane fanatic, he might be also partially right.[29] Taking into consideration the scale of potential danger and risk, he has to deal with, his actions become more understandable and less evil – Gordon believes that it is better to prevent evil than to risk so much. It entirely fits into the pattern of his philosophy – he thinks of Sam the same he thought of Lenore, as “psychics are not exactly pure human.” (“Hunted”) When he explains it to Dean he sounds more pragmatic than crazy – “Look, let's say you were cruising around in that car of yours and, uh, you had Little Hitler riding shotgun, right? Back when he was just some goofy, crappy artist. But you knew what he was going to turn into someday. You'd take him out, no questions, am I right?” (“Hunted”) His argumentation seems reliable and logical. And even Dean might actually agree if the monster in question would not be his brother. It is one of the aspects the controversy of Gordon’s actions is built upon – his prey is the main character of certain (positive) characteristics, which the audience already knows as a humanist and a man of high moral standards and thus is more likely to trust him. 

Nevertheless, Gordon’s turning made it easier for the creators of the show to have him killed by his “longtime prey.”[30] Even if Sam considered killing Gordon before he became a vampire. Even so his death is one of the most disturbing and controversial death scenes in Supernatural â€“ he gets decapitated by Sam with only a razor wire and bare hands. It again raises the question about the definition of the monstrous – at this point it is not clear where is the line between monster and human, and who is the good and who the bad guy.

From the perspective of the season’s five finale[31] Gordon Walker’s fate and story become even more ironic since he was actually right seeing the greatest danger for humanity’s existence in Sam Winchester. But at the same time he did wrong not believing in human potential for redemption and in the fact that there always is a choice.

2. Bleed the freak

Once upon a time a few desperate young women made a deal with the Yellow Eyed Demon to save someone precious to them. The demon did not want their souls in exchange, but instead he only said that “Just in ten years, I’m going to come to you and ask for something. Nothing you’ll miss.” (“In the Beginning”) And the women agreed, unaware they were selling their own children to the devil. And one of them was Mary Campbell – the mother of Sam and Dean Winchester.[32]

This fairy-tale like story of Special Children has been the core of Supernatural’s main plot during the last five years and also the ultimate question revolving around the choice between good and evil. These children are humans who suppose to become demons before they even die like it was the case of other demons. The controversy around their choices is not only due to the demon blood in their veins they were fed by Azazel in their babyhood. It is more a matter of the extraordinary abilities they are given with it and how every one of them is able to handle it. They are just normal humans put in a weird and totally not natural situation, all of a sudden, as they turn twenty three and their talents for telepathy, precognition, telekinesis or anything possible surface. How this new situation changes them is the question of their moral code and choices they make. 

As expected, the reactions caused by such gift or burden, depending on what they use it for, are very varied – from innocent mind playing with other people in case of Andy (but the same ability turns into a murderous instinct by his twin brother) to revenge, murders, and finally self-pointed rage in case of Max Miller’ telekinetic abilities. Sometimes the ‘gift’ appears to be more of a curse – Lily has got a “heart-stopping touch”[33] and Sam witnesses people’s deaths first in nightmares, then in painful visions during the daytime.[34]

Nevertheless, it is finally Azazel’s test, or a little contest as he calls it, that force the Children to side either with good or bad when they are faced with the demon’s rules – only one can survive. This ultimatum decides whether they will turn into killers or not and proves that under certain circumstances even the nicest and most honest people are able to transform into monsters – the cheerful assistant Ava, who can control the Acheri (creepy demons in shape of little girls), reveals herself as the killer of Lily and Andy, while the straightforward and helpful soldier Jake becomes a backstabbing traitor as he cuts Sam’s spine after a lost fight. Since the end of season two even Sam’s demeanor becomes dubious as he cold-heartedly shots Jake in the season’s finale and Azazel asks Dean if he is absolutely sure that what he brought back from the dead is “one hundred percent pure Sam” (“All Hell Breaks Loose Part II”).[35] 

3. I'm standing at the crossroads, believe I'm sinking down

The belief in fate and salvation as a matter of predestination rise from the Puritan tradition, which shaped the American world view. God’s Grace cannot be neither gained nor lost in any way. The absolute predestination stripes human beings of free will and the chance to decide about their destiny. Good deeds are only a proof of God’s Grace, not a way to receive it. They might be as well recognized as evil, if they are a result of wrong motivation like self-satisfaction and egotism. In the center of Puritan philosophy reigned conviction that humans are sinful and flawed from nature and therefore deserves damnation and punishment. Only a small group of people is destined to be saved. But no one could tell for sure, who are those people.

The characters in Supernatural are plagued by the same dilemma. The story of Sam Winchester is marked from the start by the struggle with fate and searching for an answer to the question if destiny can be changed. If evil the dominant part of human nature and therefore do humans deserve salvation?

These good people

As much as “saving people, hunting things” (Dean, “Wendigo”) is the motto of the Winchester family, “saving people” certainly has its place in the centre of Sam’s worldview. It is the younger of the brothers who lectures about the sanctity of human life and does not accept morally controversial solutions – “No, we’re not gonna kill a human being, Dean. We do that, we’re not better than he is.” (“Faith”) – is sensitive to human tragedies found often in the stories of ghosts and monsters they hunt, because “Sammy’s always getting little J. Love Hewitt when it comes to things like this”[36] as Dean says in “Roadkill”. And finally he chooses to die instead of killing another human being (“All Hell Breaks Loose Part I”). People are not really bad, just desperate (“Faith”). This humanistic world perception allows him to perceive all the shades of grey – the world is not black-and-white, as Gordon Walker (and in the beginning Dean, too) wants to see it – the world is full of ambiguous phenomena, which often cannot be judged clearly. Can you condemn a girl who became a werewolf or a vampire not because she chose to be one, and now unconsciously follows her newly awakened instincts?  Can you condemn a man, who against his will slowly turns into a bloodthirsty monster? Can they be made fully responsible for their actions, or rather deserve compassion? Can they be blamed for what they are or maybe given a chance to fight their ‘dark side’? In the symbolism of the show ‘the monsters of the week’ become something more over time than just a colorful piece of decoration – they are merely a part of the leading discussion on fate and the nature of good and evil. Lenore, Madison, Jack and finally Gordon Walker as well are not only separate characters, but also kind of Sam’s alter ego – the mirror, in which he can more and more clearly recognize his own face and his own dilemmas and the struggle with his inner demons, in spite of what seems to be inevitable. Sam wants to believe that salvation is possible and his fate has not been sealed yet, that he can run away from his destiny, because good and evil are consequence of our choices and not the matter of predestination (“Metamorphosis”, “Bloodlust”, “Playthings”, “After School Special”, “I Believe the Children Are Our Future”).

Ironically, Sam is the one of the brothers who believes in a positive influence of a higher power on people and  on what happens in the world, as he says “If you know evil’s out there, how can you not believe good’s out there too?” (“Faith”) At the beginning this conviction allows him to have hope and believe that there is someone or something out there granting help:[37]

Sam: I don’t know, Dean, I just, uh, I wanted to believe so badly. It’s so damned hard to do this, what we do. All alone, you know. And…there’s so much evil out in the world, Dean, I feel like I could drown in it. And when I think about my destiny, when I think about how I could end up…
Dean: Yeah, well, don’t worry about that, all right? I’m watching out for you.
Sam: Yeah, I know you are. But you’re just one person, Dean. And I needed to think that there was something else watching too, you know? Some higher power, some greater good. And that maybe I…
Dean: Maybe what?
Sam: Maybe I could be saved. (“Houses of the Holy”)

His faith and innocence, however, undergo a gradual deconstruction: the wonder-working pastor turns out to be an unaware tool of witchcraft; the punishing angel gets exposed as a wandering and confused soul of a murdered catholic priest, and the true angels emerge as arrogant and ruthless bureaucrats, far from showing mercy and not holding back from using manipulation and lies. Sam’s hope changes into disappointment as he asks his brother and himself, if “this is God and Heaven? And this is what I’ve been praying to?” (“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”)

Good and evil become relative concepts – the representatives of Heaven are not always a personification of good, a demon wears sheep’s clothing, pretending to have human feelings. The classic archetypes become deconstructed and blurred in this universe. 

Dark side of the Moon

Brady: You’re the one who trusted us. You’re the one who let us into your life, let us whisper in your ear over and over and over again. Ever wonder why that is, Sammy? Ever wonder why we were so in your blind spot? Maybe it’s because we’ve got the same stuff in our veins and deep down you know you’re just like us. Maybe you hate us so much because you hate what you see every time you look in the mirror – you ever think of that? Maybe the only difference between you and a demon is: your hell is right here. (“The Devil You Know”)

Calling into question the clear-cut moral judgment of everything paranormal and potentially dangerous is undoubtedly a nice and right gesture, even so it entails certain risks. Acceptance of some phenomena and a try to justify them may blur the boundary between what is good and what is bad, relativise those ideas and finally lead to a situation, in which good intentions cause a bad outcome. 

Sam: The more people I save, the more I can change.

Dean: Change what?

Sam: My destiny, Dean! (“Playthings”)

From the moment San crosses the boundary between what is human and what is supernatural and learns about his potential fall, this idea seems to prevail over his motivation. In this desperate attempt to fight for Grace and to save everyone around including his brother, Sam imperceptibly loses himself – psychically and morally by accepting “things that go against that gentle nature of yours” (Ruby, “Sin City”). But you cannot beat evil in its own game without becoming at least a part of it. Being an intelligent man, sensitive to the moral nuances, Sam has to be aware of it when he starts his ‘affair’ with Ruby (who being a demon is ironically also the only one being able to understand his dual nature). 

Sam’s devolution processes gradually starting from season three, and is parallel to Dean’s evolution. Both Winchesters influence each other and change each other’s world view. “I gotta be more like you” – as he tells his brother (“Malleus Maleficarum”). The final tragedy of Azazel’s long-term planned rivalry among the Special Children, the sense of responsibility for his brother’s life (indebtedness impossible to be repaid) and the more and more merciless war with the demons prove to Sam that his humanistic attitude brings only failures and does not serve as raison d'etre anymore – survival and the will to win something more than single human lives leave no space for sentiments and moral dilemmas. It eventually leads Sam to the point where he is ready to give in to the law of war and sacrifice humans in the name of preventing the greater evil (“Jus in Bello”, “Malleus Maleficarum”, “Lucifer Rising”).

But finally the lost battle for his brother’s life causes the feeling of powerlessness and loss of control over the situation and makes Sam seek radical solutions, because “powerlessness is one of the less welcomed feelings. We associate it with weakness, and we do not like to feel weak. Most often we cover it with anger. And anger gives us the feeling of power.”[38] Strengthen with the demonic blood he drinks, his powers give him not only overhand in the battle but also the possibility to save the possessed people without killing them – the moral code of Sam Winchester can be restored, even if it is partially only a justification and a compromise.

Of course it has its price – with time it “gets darker and darker” (Dean, “Metamorphosis”) and although Sam for a long time tires to convince his brother and himself that he is capable of controlling his ‘dark side’, soon it becomes obvious that it is not possible. For Sam, however, it means something different than for his brother – the younger of the Winchesters not only tries to turn this curse into a gift – “I've got demon blood in me, Dean! This disease pumping through my veins, and I can't ever rip it out or scrub it clean! I'm a whole new level of freak! And I'm just trying to take this – this curse... and make something good out of it. Because I have to.” (“Metamorphosis”) – but instead he starts to see himself as the sacrifice to be made in the name of the higher purpose – “Even if it kills me.” (“When the Levee Breaks”)

One of the last visions Sam has in “When the Levee Breaks”, while he is tormented by the feeling of self-betrayal (the fourteen years old version of himself) and his demonic side (Alastair), is Mary – the first victim of the apocalyptic plan and the mother, whose death he feels partially responsible for, symbolizing the unconditional love. It is her, who confirms her son in the belief that his martyr-like mission is right. However, being only a creation of Sam’s drugged sub-consciousness, she is a projection of his fears and his need to confirm his own choices – understanding and support denied him by his older brother (because Sam does not remember his mother, his consciousness can only give her his own traits, just like in case of all other hallucinations being a materialization of his own fears and dilemmas).

Sam’s martyr-like inclinations are being additionally underlined by the visual side of the episode.[39] Although today the inverted cross is mostly associated with Satanism-related rituals and the Antichrist figure, the symbol really has got much older and totally different sources and connotations. The first of which is the figure of Apostle Peter, who feeling unworthy to die the same way as Christ, asked to be crucified upside down (and what is worth noticing, the last words Dean hears from his brother in the last scene in “When the Levee Breaks” is “You don’t know me, you never did. And you never will.”). The other connotation is the 12th Tarot card of the Major Arcana – The Hanged Man – showing a man handing upside down from a tree and symbolizing sacrifice and this part of the life journey,[40] in which the wanderer has to take the risk and throw away all worldly values and start a journey inside the unconsciousness. Just like Alfred Douglas states after Jung’s interpretation, the wanderer cannot go back and claim the independence of his youth back, and at the same time he is not allowed to give in to his shadow.[41] Just like every one of Tarot cards, The Hanged Man has also a negative aspect – other-worldly idealism and an inner struggle ending in defeat.

Sam’s motivation is of course more complex and not utterly positive – revenge and the feeling of power and control play an important part and they cannot be completely separated from his will to save people and sacrifice himself (which is also partially an act of self-righteousness) – not without a reason in “Magnificent Seven” he meets with the personified Pride – the source of all sins. Sam’s smug attitude shows off from the start of the series as he is often getting irritated with or making fun of his brother’s ignorance when it comes to certain topics concerning general knowledge and erudition, especially evident in the exaggerated portrayal of both Winchesters in the episode “Tall Tales”.

Becoming more and more self-confident and observing Dean, broken by the time spent in Hell, Sam comes to the conclusion that only he can win this battle and that he finally can make his own decisions on his terms, not in the shadow of his brother anymore: “Dean is not… he’s not Dean lately. Since he got out of Hell. He needs help.” (“The Monster at the End of this Book”) Belief in own sacrifice goes along with pride, both trying to overcome guilt and the feeling of rejection coming from his brother:

Sam: You wanna know why I’ve been lying to you, Dean? Because of crap like this!

Dean: What?

Sam: The way you talk to me, the way you look at me, like I’m a freak!

Dean: I do not.

Sam: You know or even worse, like I’m an idiot, like I don’t know the difference between right and wrong!

Dean: Do you know the difference, Sam? I mean you’ve been kinda strolling a dark road lately.

Sam: You have no idea what I’m going through.

Dean: None. Then enlighten me! 

Sam: I’ve got demon blood in me, Dean! (“Metamorphosis”)

It is partially this feeling, which follows the younger Winchester since he can remember (first because of the weird family business, then because of the psychic powers caused by Azazel’s blood), pushes him to make those particular choices. Ruby and Lucifer as well as Castiel and Zachariah are all aware of it, manipulating Sam for their own purposes. Being “the whole new level of freak”, Sam Winchester cannot find the right place for himself neither among humans nor demons, practically not being any of them, even if the latest try to convince him of the other. While the demons try to tempt Dean into the sin of despair, they at the same time try to tempt Sam into the sin of pride, because they always “saw the boys as chumps, Dean as sloppy and emotional, Sam as self-righteous and over-confident.”[42] The demon posing as Father Gil in “Sin City” sees Sam as the leader “in front of the pack” while the Crossroad Demon in “Bedtime Stories” tries to convince him that he would be better off without his family:

Crossroad Demon: Aren’t you tired of cleaning up Dean’s messes? Of dealing with that broken psyche of his? Aren’t you tired of being bossed around like a snot-nosed little brother? You’re stronger than Dean. You’re better than him.
Sam: Watch your mouth.
Crossroad Demon: Admit it. You’re here, going through the motions, but truth is, you’ll be a tiny bit relieved when he’s gone.
Sam: Shut up.
Crossroad Demon: No more desperate, sloppy, needy Dean. You can finally be free.

Without his brother, however, Sam loses the right path and runs into his dark side. Without Dean, he loses his moral compass and cannot clearly see the boundary between good and evil, but without Sam, Dean also loses his emotional compass and becomes cold and ruthless, because they “keep each other human” (Dean, “The End”). Consequently their fail at the end of season four partially results from Dean’s inability to accept his brother’s ‘dark side’ – it is Dean’s phone message (intentionally altered by Zachariah), which pushes him to make the final choice in the last moment of hesitation, as ‘Dean’ calls him a “bloodsucking freak”, a monster[43] and a vampire. 

And what Sam is the most afraid of, is being named a monster, because in his sub-consciousness he really feels like one, no matter how much he tries to deny it. 

Here, in my head

Chuck: I’m sorry, Sam. I know it’s a terrible burden. Feeling that it all rests on your shoulders.

Sam: Does it? All rest on my shoulders?

Chuck: That seems to be where the story’s headed. (“The Monster at the End of this Book”)

By creating demons Lucifer tries to deny mankind’s right to take the highest place in creation, to uncover their true nature. If Ruby is to be trusted, every demon was once human. They have sold their souls to Hell, no matter what was the true reason behind it, or deserved Hell in some other way. People dominated by their sins and weaknesses, who chose evil. Blinded by the conviction that his decisions are right, Sam chooses the seemingly lesser evil to protect the world from the bigger evil, but by trying to avoid his destiny he unwillingly fulfills it, bringing on the Apocalypse. Freed from his prison fallen angel promises to the younger Winchester that he will never lie to him. And in fact he keeps his word – he does not try to tempt Sam with peace in the world, neither does he promise Paradise on earth, but he appeals to the same instincts and desires and weaknesses that led astray many people before Sam – anger, revenge vented on the demons from “Azazel’s gang” (Lucifer, “Swan Song”), who ruined his life; power and self-confidence or the desire to bring back the beloved ones. The same basic motives drive people who make deals with the Crossroad Demon. “Look what six billion of you have done to this thing. And how many of you blame me for it?” – Lucifer asks Dean in “The End”, showing that humans essentially have destruction and evil imprinted in their nature and supernatural assistance is in fact not necessary.[44]

Even though, paradoxically, Lucifer needs a human host to put his private revenge into effect. In his arrogance he does not even presume that his vessel could act differently than expected, especially one such tainted from the start. As he tells Sam during the mirror scene in “Swan Song”: 

Because we’re two halves made a whole. M.F.E.O., literally. I see it all – how out you always felt, how out of place in that family of yours. And why shouldn’t you have? They were foster care at best. I’m your real family. (...) All the time you were running away from them, you were running towards me.

Feeding on the negative emotions inside Sam’s consciousness, Lucifer goes beyond being only one more character on the show and becomes more of a symbol – the apocalyptic conflict is being reduced to the micro scale to end in a metaphoric and almost soundless duel of light and darkness, every of which is being a part of  human nature. This is why the mankind hating angel, who values homo sapiens as blood-thirsty kind, full of flaws and corrupted, deserving only extermination instead of God’s love, cannot be defeated by another angel (Michael perhaps) with a bright sword, but a human being and especially the one who made some mistakes in his life and has got as much vices as virtues. Even so this human has also very strong arguments to his defense – love and the ability to sacrifice himself. According to this humanistic and optimistic idea Sam is able to prove to the Devil that humanity is worth something after all and not all people can be easily turned into demons.

Samuel Winchester comes from a long line of literature and film characters, which become entrapped by evil to later deserve the redemption with a sacrifice, most often paying the highest price for their mistakes.[45] He is one of those not always sympathetic heroes, who at the same time are very human and real in their imperfection and serve as metaphors of our everyday inner struggle with evil, even if the stake in our battles is not really world’s fate. Because “real heroes are just selfish, emo bitches like the rest of us. They’re people on a journey, doing the best they can to overcome their own flaws and failings, trying to survive their losses and mitigate the damage done by events beyond their control (…).”[46]

All in your hands

Even though Chuck put on paper the last words of the Winchester Gospel, this is still not the end of the story, since season six has been announced. What future can be there for Sam Winchester? What role will he play this time? According to Joseph Campbell’s myth theory[47] the journey of the hero, starting as the naïve and innocent Fool walking through trials and tests until he becomes the Hero, ready to carry the weight of responsibility, self-conscious and aware of world’s complexity, and who in the final battle overcomes his weaknesses, is finished, and with it the structural frame containing all the past five seasons of the series. The structure of the mythos does not definitely close all paths for a continuation – the mythical hero “receives the prize to – changed with his experience – come back to his world, bringing the Good with him.”[48] What future – yet outside of Campbell’s mythos – will the creators write for Sam? This is, however, another story. 


Lucifer: Whatever you do, you will always end up... here. No matter what choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up... here. (“The End”)

Although rooted deep in the American folklore and heavily influenced by Puritan philosophy, Supernatural maintains to avoid the Puritan pessimism concerning human nature. In his show Eric Kripke created a world made of shades of gray, where nothing is either good or evil. There are friendly ghosts and vegetarian vampires, angels who are even less religious and believing than demons (who have faith in their creator, Lucifer) and sometimes they make a worse impression than the hordes of Hell. Some hunters appear as more scary and evil than a lot of the monsters, and an Antichrist figure can save the world. The discussion on predestination is the leitmotif of the whole series, stressed even more in the last two seasons as the angels – especially Michael and Zachariah – try to persuade the Winchester brothers to play their destined roles. But Team Free Will (as Dean calls himself, Sam and Castiel) and most of the creatures Sam and Dean encounter during their journey, prove that actually something like fate does not exist. Because God gave free will to all His creation. Even the monsters that have the potential of  evil in their nature can decide to fight it. When Lucifer tells his brother Michael that “Dad made everything, which means He made me who I am. God wanted the devil.” („Swan Song”), sounds like a bad excuse for his own choices. Exactly those choices are the substance, good and evil is made of. The show is called Supernatural, but a lot of those creatures were once human (even Wendigo, before he started to feed on his neighbors) or they rely on human decisions. Therefore the Evil is a result of human choice in general and demons in this universe are “metaphors of the human potential for evil.”[49]

This potential may be very strong, but equally there is also a lot of potential for good. The most evil is caused by humans, but it is also humanity that saves the world when Dean decides to stay at the side of his brother for good and bad and support him even when he becomes Lucifer. Sam’s presence and his sense of mercy and compassion prevented Dean from becoming another Gordon Walker, and in the end Dean’s presence and acceptance allowed Sam to get the grip of his consciousness and remember all the positive emotions, unknown to the Devil. Because „we keep each other human” as Dean recognizes in „The End”, which gives him and his brother the chance to change Zachariah’s post-apocalyptic vision and prevent the seemingly inevitable. 

“Humanity’s ability to make the wrong choices is balanced by our ability to make the right choices. Humans can choose to do good, to act courageously, to fight when fighting is necessary (…). Supernatural, like other forms of pop culture that deal with themes of good and evil, offers its viewers the hope that evil can be defeated by humans taking responsibility for their own actions and working together for good.”[50]

Lucifer was in a way right believing that deep down there is a demon in every human being. Mankind is certainly not unblemished and everyone carries demonic traits, however, as Gabriel says to his rebel brother, “damn right, they are flawed. But a lot of them try to be better, to forgive.” (“Hammer of the Gods”)


1.     Arest, Darek. “Jezus Forever.” FILM 12(2009): 30 – 34.

2.     Campbell, Joseph. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” London: Fontana Press, 1993.

3.     Di Nola, Alfonso M. “DiabeÅ‚.” Kraków: Universitas, 2004.

4.     Douglas, Alfred. „Tarot.” Milanówek: Wydawnictwo Warsztat Specjalny, 1992.

5.     DrwiÄ™ga, Marek. „CzÅ‚owiek miÄ™dzy dobrem a zÅ‚em: studia z etyki współczesnej.” KsiÄ™garnia Akademicka, 2009.

6.     Irvine, Alex. „Supernatural. Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls.” HarperCollins, 2007.

7.     Knight, Nicholas. “Supernatural. The Official Companion. Season 1.” London: Titan Books, 2007.

8.     Knight, Nicholas. “Supernatural. The Official Companion. Season 2.” London: Titan Books, 2008.

9.     Knight, Nicholas. “Supernatural. The Official Companion. Season 3.” London: Titan Books, 2009.

10.  Muchembled, Robert. „Dzieje diabÅ‚a.” Warszawa: Oficyna Naukowa, 2009.

11.  Paczkowska, Agnieszka. “Uwolnij moc. Jak pokonać bezsilność.” Ja, my, oni 4(2010): 33 – 36.

12.  Riddell, B. Smith and P. G. Riddell. “Angels and Demons. Perspectives and practice in diverse religious traditions.” Nottingham: Inter-Varsity, 2007.

13.  Rudwin, Maximilian. “Devil in Legend and Literature.” Open Court Publishing Co, 1977.

14.  StawiÅ„ski, Piotr. „Demonizm i czary w życiu spoÅ‚ecznym Purytanów amerykaÅ„skich okresu kolonialnego.” CzÄ™stochowa: Wydawnictwo WSP, 1997.

15.  Supernatural.TV. In the Hunt. Unauthorized Essays on Supernatural. Dallas: Benbella Books, 2009.

16., accessed on September 4, 2010

17., 2005 – 2010, accessed on September 19, 2010

18., accessed on August 29, 2010

[25] At this point of the story it is also Dean’s choice to be made – according to his father’s words, he has to kill his brother if it will not be possible to save him from becoming a threat.

[26] Berner, Amy. “The Evils of hating…um, Evil.”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 226.

[27] Berner, Amy. “The Evils of hating…um, Evil.”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 227.

[28] Berner, Amy. “The Evils of hating…um, Evil.”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 227.

[29] Other hunters later followed in Gordon’s footsteps – in “Free to Be You and Me” two desperate hunters force-feed Sam demon blood and try to make him get revenge for their killed friend, which ends in a fight; at the very beginning of “Dark Side of the Moon” Sam gets brutally shot by other two hunters who blame him for the Apocalypse.

[30] Berner, Amy. “The Evils of hating…um, Evil.”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 233.

[31] Season five supposed to be the last one and the closure of the whole story.

[32] Which again raises a curious question about how much Mary is in fact responsible for starting the disaster. Unfortunately this theory is later on replaced with another one with destiny and heavenly forces playing the most part in bringing Mary and John together, so the future vessels could be born.

[33] Knight, Nicholas. “Supernatural. The Official Companion. Season 2.” London: Titan Books, 2008. 124

[34] At this point of the series (seasons one and two) Sam’s abilities are limited to precognition and only once used telekinesis. Those abilities, however, disappear with Azazel’s death at the end of season two and emerge in season four as Sam learns that he can exorcise and kill demons with sheer will-power.

[35] The question what exactly happened to Sam when he was dead was never really answered in the show. 

[36] Jennifer Love Hewitt is an actress, who played the character of Melinda Gordon in the series Ghost Whisperer. As she received the gift of being able to communicate with ghosts, she helps them and their living relatives to find peace and move on. 

[37] From the point of view of the show’s philosophy this assumption is wrong – Sam cannot be saved by the higher power, but only by himself since God gave people free will.

[38] Paczkowska, Agnieszka. “Uwolnij moc. Jak pokonać bezsilność.” Ja, my, oni 4(2010): 33.

[39] Similar visualization appears before in “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Jump the Shark”

[40] The circle of the 22 Major Arcana shows a symbolic journey of human being through life – from the unconsciousness (The Fool), through various trials, until he is able to reach for the ultimate knowledge and harmony (The World). 

[41] Douglas, Alfred. „Tarot.” Milanówek: Wydawnictwo Warsztat Specjalny, 1992. 87

[42] Hannah-Jones, Avril. “Good and Evil in the World of Supernatural”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 58.

[43] Which Dean already did in the previous episode (“When the Levee Breaks”) as both, Sam’s hallucination and the real him. And even as a kid Sam used to overreact while being called a freak (“After School Special”).

[44] Casey from “Sin City” has the same opinion on humans: “I barely lifted a finger. All you gotta do is nudge humans in the right direction.”

[45] Even taking the last scene from “Swan Song”, Sam’s sacrifice is still the highest price since he is aware there is no turning back and believes in this choice being ultimate one. 

[46] Winslow, Dodger. “The Burden Of Being Sammy”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 25.

[47] Eric Kripke does not deny his fascination with Joseph Campbell’s theories and admits that just like George Lucas, he got inspired, while creating the story in Supernaturtal, with Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

[48] Arest, Darek. “Jezus Forever.” FILM 12(2009): 34.

[49] Stevenson, Gregory. “Horror, Humanity, and the Demon in the Mirror”, In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, ed. (Dallas: Benbella, 2009) 44.

[50] Hannah-Jones, Avril: Good And Evil In The World Of Supernatural, w: In The Hunt. Unauthorized essays on Supernatural, Dallas 2009


Manzanita C
# Manzanita C 2013-08-10 04:41
Great choice of pic. This total Sam-girl would run forever to get away from Samifer with THAT expression!

Can't help wondering if the main reason young Sam was so determined to be safe and normal was because he knew how dark he might become under the stresses of hunting.

I never saw his decision to leave for Stanford as 'selfish'; just as a realistic acceptance that he couldn't handle the hunting lifestyle. And if he'd been allowed to stay safe then he would never have gone so dark. Shame Azazel had other plans.
# mary9930 2013-08-10 08:50
Well done. It should have been a depressing article but I actual felt uplifted by it. Go team human!

Manzanita C made a very interesting point speculating why Sam wanted a normal life. If Sam were aware of the evil inside himself and wanted to work against it, he would have joined the Peace Core or become a missionary or lived a life of good deeds. Perhaps he didn't want to fight against it (fearing he's lose?), merely ignore it and hope it died of neglect.
Manzanita C
# Manzanita C 2013-08-10 10:09
Hmmm, interesting Mary. But my guess is that Sam wasn't aware of 'evil' inside him. Anger, vengefulness and the propensity for violence perhaps but not 'evil'. It was probably only when he found out about the YED's plans that he connected those dots.

I suspect that, at the time of going to Stanford, Sam just felt these flaws could lead him astray under the strain of hunting. Since he hadn't actually DONE anything wrong I guess he thought a nice safe life as a lawyer was a perfectly reasonable alternative.