Faellie again has sent another one to make us think!  This time, she has a fantastic analysis on what misfortune has done to families in the world of Supernatural.  As usual with guest posts, I request that if sharing, do not repost, but provide a link to this article.   

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One of the starting points for the Supernatural story is the death of Mary Winchester.  The end that this brings to the marriage of John and Mary, and to normal family life for the Winchester family, is the beginning of a long run of marriages which are shown as ending violently, and of families which can't hold themselves together.
 
The death of marriage?
From the start it's clear that if one or both of a couple is a hunter, the outcome is never a happy one: the examples of this are Mary's parents, John and Mary, Ellen Harvelle and her husband, and Isaac and Tamara (the hunter couple in The Magnificent Seven).  Sam and Jessica might be added to this category, as might Bobby and his wife.  Dean and Sam are of course both keenly aware of this sad history in their own lives: Dean through seeing his mother die, and Sam through the death of Jessica.
Adultery in marriage also has invariably fatal consequences.  This is established early on: in the Pilot the husband is unfaithful to his wife and she then commits a murder/suicide of her own children, going on to kill other unfaithful men.  This theme of fatal conse quences reoccurs in Tall Tales (the lecherous professor), Malleus Maleficarum (wife and then adulterous husband killed by a jilted witch) and Sex and Violence (the siren's prey), and possibly also in Long Distance Call (was the husband who had killed a woman in a car crash having an affair with her?) and Death takes a Holiday (the man shot by a mugger "wasn't the best of husbands").
Episodes showing the death of one or both of a couple as a result of wrongdoing other than adultery include Bloody Mary (the father who dies may have murdered his wife, who died of a suspicious overdose), Faith (the wife who dies turned to murderous witchcraft), Route 666 (Cassie's father murdered a white racist), Nightmare (couple killed by their abused son Max) and The Usual Suspects (the lawyer husband was money launderer to a corrupt policeman). 
In other episodes, one or both of a couple dies as a result of random or evil outside events unrelated to the state of the relationship itself: Scarecrow, Provenance, Roa dkill, The Kids Are Alright, Bedtime Stories, Metamorphosis, Monster Movie, It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester and I Know What You Did Last Summer.   
Two attempts to mend a broken family through remarriage fare badly: in both Nightmare and Bedtime Stories a stepmother is the problem, or a part of the problem, rather than a solution. 
Finally. in two cases, Scarecrow and A Very Supernatural Christmas, the couples who come to grief are not the victims but the central antagonists in a joint and murderous enterprise.
In contrast to the many examples of marriages which end in violent and premature death, or at best in life sentences in prison, episodes in which a married couple are shown as surviving at the end are rare.  I've counted only e ight out of a total of 85 episodes - which makes them almost as rare as episodes without the Impala.   Not only are there few surviving couples, in many of these cases the surviving couple is so marginal to the action in the episode as to be barely noticeable.  Here they are-

Bugs (parents of the "bug boy")
Scarecrow (young couple saved by Dean)
Crossroad Blues (husband saved from the deal he did to stop his wife dying of cancer)
Roadkill (the remarried husband of the dead woman haunting the road)
Everybody Loves a Clown (parents of girl followed home by the clown, saved by Sam and Dean)
No Rest for the Wicked (parents of the child taken over by Lilith)
Wishful Thinking (Audrey's parents safely back from Bali)
Family Remains (parents who move into house occupied by feral children)

Have I missed any?  Some of these couples are so "blink and you miss them", I wouldn't be surprised.   But whatever the number of survivor couples, two messages are sent.  The first is that the chances of a married couple surviving to happy old age together are greatly outweighed by the chances of their coming to grief.  The second is that none of the couples who survived did so through their own efforts, or because of the strength of their relationship: all the couples who survived danger did so through the efforts of the Winchesters.  (Although it's too soon to tell at the moment, there is one p ossible exception to this second rule: in The Rapture Jimmy sacrifices himself to Castiel's needs, thus keeping his wife and daughter safe.  Demons and apocalypse permitting, there is just a chance that this marriage might survive to be resurrected at some point in the future.)  (Of course, if this marriage is resurrected, it might mean no more Misha.  Hmm.)
All this looks as though it may have had a considerable effect on Sam and Dean.  Mary's death was not enough by itself to stop either of them looking for a long-term relationship, Sam with Jessica and Dean with Cassie.  But events since the two went on the road as hunters will have sent them the message that, in the world they are living in, a marriage is unlikely to be strong and lasting.
The family you make: brothers in arms
If married life is such=2 0a bad bet in Supernatural, what about the alternative ways in which a family can be formed?  Early in Season 1 Sam and Dean get to see two examples of successful families made up only of siblings.  In both Wendigo and Skin the example is of brothers and sisters surviving as a family through loyalty, and knowledge of and belief in each other.   This is the start of the period during which Sam and Dean, in the absence of John Winchester, begin to make themselves into a family of two brothers.  Despite the difficulties they face, the unit Sam and Dean form is strong enough to save themselves, and others, many times over.   But the early positive message which is presented by the other sibling relationships that they see is subverted as time goes on.  Firstly Gordon is revealed to have killed his sister when she became a vampire, then in Season 4 the brother and sister in Family Remains are feral and murderous.  Finally, most heartbreakingly, in Jump The Shark there is a chance of Adam being brought into the family as the third brother, but it is then revealed that Adam had been killed by ghouls before Sam and Dean had even heard of his existence.  Perhaps it is not surprising that it is so soon after this that there is the breakdown of the sibling relationship between Sam and Dean which ends with the terrible consequences of Lucifer Rising.
The family you find
As Bobby Singer says in No Rest for the Wicked, "family don't end with blood".  The alternative families created by vampires are seen as strong and positive in Season 1's Dead Man's Blood and Season 2's Bloodlust, but this has gone by Season 3's Fresh Blood.  The family of hunters at the Roadhouse is found but then lost within the space of Season 2.  The family of three elderly magicians in Criss Angel is a Douchebag is broken apart from within.  Dean's potential new friend/brother, the FBI agent in Season 4's Sex and Violence, turns out to be a siren.  By On the Head of a Pin, Dean says about Pamela's death "I'm tired of burying friends," and who can blame him?  Even the Impala, such a constant presence throughout Seasons 1, 2 and 3, was missing in action in three episodes in the second half of Season 4, more than in all the other episodes put together.
There is one bright spot left.  Bobby has clearly become a part of the Winchester family: as Dean says in Lazarus Rising, "the nearest thing I have to a father".  He is endlessly knowledgeable, steadfast, has a strong moral sense and excellent judgement.  If Sam and Dean are to mend their broken relationship, as that clasp of arms at the end of Lucifer Rising suggests, and successfully see off the threatened apocalypse, Bobby is the one they can rely on for information and support, the one who, when the Winchesters need help, will always be there for them, the one who is "family".  No wonder fans expressed such horror when it was rumoured that Bobby too might be lost to the Winchesters at the end of Season 4.

Comments  

elle2
# elle2 2009-07-17 11:14
Faellie,

Another insightful piece from you. Wonderful. This show does have a strong theme of family and in the realm of Supernatural the strongest family tie we have is Sam and Dean...with a touch of Bobby thrown in as evidenced in not only DaLDoM, NRFTW, Lazarus Rising as well as his heartbreaking pleas in not only WTLB but Lucifer Rising (two LR episodes cause me to spell out both -- hee)

We are left with the impression that the family in Family Remains will be better eventually so I, like you suggest here, believe Sam and Dean will be better as well. Hard times come, sorrows, regrets, tragedies, deep sins etc but that love -- be it marital or fraternal -- that love that is strong will endure.

We saw that while Mary and John were torn apart by death they had, ten years after the events of ITB (and sooner as by then they had been married and Dean was 4 1/2 years old and Sam was six months) found happiness.

Ah, only seven weeks and six days...whee!
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-07-18 15:03
elle2, thank you for your kind comments.

I agree with what you say about the strong and enduring nature of Mary and John's marriage. As a young widower with two young children, it would have been natural for John to marry again, even given his obsession about the YED, but it doesn't seem to have crossed his mind - just as well, of course, given the show's attitude to step-mothers.
Anahera
# Anahera 2009-08-01 02:46
If I remember right, one other couple that survived were the baby girl's parents in Salvation.
Faellie
# Faellie 2009-08-01 09:21
Wow, well remembered.

Yes, one couple with baby, saved from the Yellow Eyed Demon by Sam and Dean near the end of Season 1.

Thanks!