Thoughts on Sam, Interrupted
What the last nine weeks have taught me is that I'm deeply dependent on Supernatural to maintain my sanity. During the holidays, it was easier to not notice the Hellatus, what with the food poisoning and last minute shopping to contend with. But as school started up again and I find myself immersed in my last, most stressful semester of university. I've missed Supernatural terribly, the way Sammy missed his fix I'm sure. When the doctor and woman first appeared on screen with the tell-tale faded tones of the Winchester saga my breath caught and by the time the pulsing Supernatural logo bled onto my television set, relief settled over me and it was like coming home after a long, painful journey. And what a homecoming it was. As Supernatural episodes go, this episode was a pretty decent and well-rounded new chapter.
The psychologist at the beginning of the episode dealing with the distraught woman struck me as not soothing enough in tone and in fact, a little mean. It seems to me like he should have taken what she was saying a little more seriously "“ not necessarily believing that there was an actual monster (cause that's just nutty!) but concerned at least that the she admitted to seeing her dead son whom she knew to be dead and then describing the monster as something different. Now, I personally have no firsthand experience with psychologists (well, I suppose a professor or two, but none as a patient) so I can't say how accurate that read is, but it's there nonetheless. (Maybe Jas can share a thought?) The opening scene after the credits is one of my favourites from this episode. Watching Sam telling the I-started-the-apocalypse tale and then watching as it dawns on the good doctor that in fact both brothers have a role in this "delusion" - priceless. It was fresh and snappy and I just thought it played out very well. Some nuggets from the exchange that will stick for a long time include:
- "I don't know. I don't own any elephant books."
- "You mean like an angel on your shoulder?" "No, no, his name's Castiel - he wears a trench coat."
- "There was this other demon Ruby, she got him addicted to demon blood. Near the end he was practically chugging the stuff. My brother's not evil, he was just...high" complete with Dean's hand expressions as Sam nods along earnestly.The doctor's analysis of the brother's relationship as dangerously co-dependent seems more accurate of an earlier time than now. Back when Dean was trading his soul for Sam's life and Sam was single-minded in his determination to save Dean's soul "“ yes, I'd say that was apt. But at this point, while I still wouldn't nominate Sam and Dean for the Healthiest Familial Relationship Ever award, I think they have learned to function apart and do what is best for the most people as opposed to what's best for each other i.e. they're less dependent on one another than they used to be, certainly in the wake of season four.
The issues that played out with Dean were interesting to watch. I suspected the brunette doctor wasn't quite right - she seemed a touch frank with Dean about things. A red flag was her inquiry about Dean's father right off the cuff - because of course I can't imagine he put "issues with daddy" in his fake file from Dr. Barbar. Of course, I thought the she-psychologist was a wraith not an apparition. Either way, the questions she raised as a figment of Dean's mind give us insight into his mind. Back in Asylum, the last time our boys were in an institution, we were left to wonder just what Sam disclosed to the doctor. This time around, we're wondering what Dean said (even if he said it to an illusion).
For me Sam, Interrupted worked on several levels. To begin with, the humour in this episode was spot on. This crazy of Dean's was done better than Yellow Fever (even if I did love that episode). In fact, I enjoyed the funny bits by both boys immensely. In particular was high-Sam. I always loved the drunken exchange between Sam and Dean in Playthings ("you're mean. And short.") and this scene was equally enjoyable. Dean said it best of Sam "“ "you always were a happy drunk." This episode felt fresh in some ways, and the jokes were one of them. I didn't hear the word "douche" or "gank" anywhere and to be quite honest this was very welcome. Additionally, the range of guest characters was especially fun. From Wendy the kissing nut ("he's larger") to the shrink who was a figment of Dean's delightfully twisted psyche to the dilapidated and broken-minded hunter, Martin "“ I enjoyed them all. The touch on the death of Ellen and Jo could have been expanded on but at the same time, it was very characteristic of Dean to avoid the topic like the plague. It was equally characteristic of Sam to point this out to Dean. Even as Dean was saying he was "fine" and would prefer not to talk about it, I couldn't help but think right, because that worked so well when John Winchester died - shall we ask the Impala for some input on this subject?
The last scene between Sam and Dean gave me pause. It has taken me a few views to form an opinion on what took place here. From Sam's side, it's a major break-through that he's acknowledged his internal anger that fuels him to the point where he's single-minded and undeterred in pursuit of personal goals. The way Sam hissed at Dean to "˜back off' suggested early in this episode that his control was slipping and now he's able to at least recognize this in himself. However, Dean's point was not without merit. It is true, they are in the middle of a battleground and a time-out is not an option. For Dean, he has spent his entire life submerging his feelings, whatever they are, and doing what needs to be done. In some ways this makes sense because if we were never able to put aside (not ignore completely that is) some of our problems in the face of larger issues "“ say, the end of the world as we know it - humanity would be quite a mess. Dean's advice to Sam is the modus operandi that, to his mind, has always worked. Now, we the viewers know this truly isn't the case because Dean, for all his hunter expertise, is a severely emotionally dysfunctional individual and when he snaps, boy does he snap. I except as many have suggested that Sam's suppressed anger has a part to play in the final show-down and only time will tell how it will skew the advantage. Logic suggests it will be more in Lucifer's favour, but given that Kripke is at the helm of this ship I wouldn't count anything out.
This week's villain was a little bland, I'll admit. But that's only as a villain; the nurse was great in other areas - such as her inane chipperness and her "thorough" examination of the Winchesters. Like her, I also thought it was a touch sloppy of the boys to come into a hospital where they know something is lurking and then go broadcasting that their hunters. A twist in the story here or there and, you know, not telling everyone that you're hunting might have been a better way to go. Ultimately I don't believe this episode was about the MOTW but instead about character development and setting Sam and Dean on a course that will carry us through the remainder of season five. In that respect, I'd say this episode was successful. Ruby made the comment back in Lucifer Rising that 'it' was in Sam all along and we've been left to wonder at the particulars of that statement. This episode may be the first step on the road to discovering the complex inner-workings of Sam Winchester. Sam has many reasons to be angry - his mother was murdered, his girlfriend was murdered, his brother was murdered, HE was murdered, his surrogate mother was murdered, his father was murdered, etc. So the reasons are there - at least the obvious reasons - but if Sam can't pinpoint the source of his rage, I suspect it runs deeper than even we can speculate.
As far as the Hellatus fast-breaker, it is my opinion that we were given a solid episode in Sam, Interrupted. The elements of a good Supernatural episode were all there (MOTW storyline, some quality lines and delivery) plus, while the apocalypse story line didn't technically advance we did have some seriously significant seeds planted to that end. So, all in all, Sam, Interrupted isn't a bad platform from which to launch the remainder of season five. It's official - we're back! Next week brings us the long-anticipated body-swap episode. I urge everyone who has not yet seen the Con footage of Jensen demonstrating how he would play Sam in a body swap episode - it's hilarious.