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When you canâ€™t make them see the light, make them feel the heat
In a heavily guarded mansion Castiel makes his final step to becoming Heavenâ€™s alpha male. Heaven has never been a democratic place, and Cas is not going to make it one. He rids himself of Balthazar first, the angel who had the audacity to betray him and act it down. I am still hoping that Balthazar isnâ€™t entirely dead. I liked the fellow. I wouldnâ€™t mind to meet him again come season seven.
With Bobby and Dean arriving shortly after the huge blast of light that indicated an angelâ€™s death, I assume they might have seen it. A welcome committee of T-Rex-proportions awaits them, not really paying attention to them, though, but thrashing the Impala about as if it was nothing but a toy. Oh, babyâ€¦ I only hope Dean will not have to spend half of season seven repairing her. She deserves better, this old beloved lady.
I have no words to describe how relieved I am to see both alive, Dean and Bobby. A dark part of my mind has been afraid to lose Bobby along the way.
The demons are only interested in getting their part of the deal that Castiel planned to change. Crowley just wants to re-renegotiate their terms, and he brought support: the archangel Rafael. And here Rafael voices for the first time what it is really about â€“ itâ€™s about becoming the new God. Itâ€™s â€˜Lâ€™Ã©tat câ€™est moiâ€™ all over again. The epitome of absolutism fought for by creatures that were originally designed to follow.
Now, there was a time that Castiel was trapped in a permanent state of infancy, an innocent, really, in the world of scheming and plotting that is very much human and should not be divine. I used to think that Castiel stumbled into the whole thing unaware how quickly he would be corrupted by this immense power in his reach.
Castielâ€™s story reflects Season Four Samâ€™s like a painful echo. His betrayal of loyalty, trust and friendship cuts deeper, though, because he willingly bought into fundamentalist dogma. Youâ€™re either with me or against me. There are no subtle shades, no shades of grey. It very much reflects the way Castielâ€™s whole existence was coloured â€“ there was only black and white. Obey or fall. He never made the experiences a human child makes on his way to adulthood, questioning their parents, deciding what rules to follow and what rules to dismiss. He never knew what it means to make your own decisions until he met the Winchesters and became their ally.
Castiel has been motivated by what he believed to be of utmost importance and the highest ideal, much like those who kill in the name of religion. This path he embarked upon was shut off from the process of thinking it all over. He has fallen victim to a lust for power.
The freedom he gained with his human allies was not safe in his hands. He wasnâ€™t capable of handling it well, as this season of Supernatural shows.
The freedom of free will they fought for is now in danger of being perverted into heavenly fascism by their angelic former partner. It saddens me beyond words.
As Dean and Bobby find a way into the house they donâ€™t prove a threat to the ritual Crowley and Rafael have begun. Even Sam has managed to somehow gather enough strength to get there. Heâ€™s barely able to walk, tormented by yet another flashback from hell. It isnâ€™t the first on his trip here. And it wonâ€™t be the last for a long time, if the show will follow some kind of psychological continuity in regard to Samâ€™s heavy trauma.
â€˜Gate of purgatory closed to us, your light is kept from our eyes. But now we stand at this threshold of the great and lowered gate, reliably bringing you honour, we prepare to open it. Terrible creatures, whose teeth never touched human flesh, open now her gorge to our world. Great door be now opened!â€™ (and I hope my Latin didnâ€™t leave me entirelyâ€¦)
Butâ€¦ nothing happens, and how could it â€“ Castiel exchanged the blood cocktail for useless dog blood. As ineffective as the trick was worthy of the King of Hell, actually. And since neither Crowley nor Rafael made any attempt to listen to Castiel and see the light of his plan, he makes them feel the heat. Only a taste of the power he now calls his own.
Undoubtedly a good pupil to absolute power, he remembers the way Lucifer divested himself of the liability of one rebel angel a while ago and uses the same gory trick to kill Rafael. He will get after Crowley soon enough.
I donâ€™t know who this Cas is anymore. His bearing, even is face is different. We see the quiet tranquillity of a creature completely convinced of his power and his right to that muscle.
â€˜So you see, I saved you.â€™
â€˜Sure did, Cas. Thank you.â€™ Deanâ€™s innate sense of danger commands him to treat lightly here. Their lives depend on it.
â€˜You doubted me. Fought against me. But I was right all along.â€™
â€˜Okay, Cas, you are. Weâ€™re sorry. (you have never been a good liar, sweet hunter) Letâ€™s just defuse you, okay?â€™
â€˜What do you mean?â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re full of nuke. Itâ€™s not safe. So, before the eclipse ends, letâ€™s get those souls back to where they belong.â€™
â€˜Oh, no, they belong with me.â€™
â€˜No, Cas, itâ€™s scrambling your brain (I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a good idea to tell the crazy one that he is crazyâ€¦)â€™
â€˜Oh, Iâ€™m not finished yet. Rafael had many followers and I mustâ€¦ punish them all severely.â€™
â€˜Listen to me: It wasnâ€™tâ€¦ I know thereâ€™s a lot of bad water under the bridge, but we were family once. Iâ€™d have died for you. Almost did a few times. So, if that means anything to youâ€¦ please. Iâ€™ve lost Lisa, Iâ€™ve lost Ben, now Iâ€™ve lost Sam. Donâ€™t make me lose you, too. You donâ€™t need this kind of juice anymore, Cas! Get rid of it before it kills us all!â€™
His words donâ€™t even reach Castiel. â€˜Youâ€™re just saying that because I wantâ€¦ Because youâ€™re afraid.â€™ Actually, Cas, he is saying that to buy Sam more time to stab you with an angel blade. â€˜Youâ€™re not my family. I have no family.â€™
No, Cas. You did have a family. Not the one that comes from a connection via blood, but one established through mutual love, suffering, fight and survival. The kind of family that canâ€™t be bought. Itâ€™s given. Itâ€™s earned. Now, Castiel, you throw it all back into the faces of those that truly loved you.
Unfortunately, Samâ€™s weak attempt to kill Castiel bears no fruit. He is not an angel anymore. He canâ€™t be killed. Not by that blade, that is.
â€˜Iâ€™m your new God. A better one. So you will bow down and profess your love onto me, your Lord. Or I shall destroy you.â€™
A better one? Pleaseâ€¦ How can a vengeful, absolute, cruel, selfish, belligerent, jealous God be a better one? Itâ€™s barbaric bronze age, Castiel, dear. I doubt that our Winchester clan will bow down. They havenâ€™t done so in the past, and I canâ€™t imagine them doing it now when the story is far more personal than it used to be.
The angel we fell in love with over the last seasons is gone. But for me, there is still hope. I wonâ€™t be among the followers of this â€˜Godâ€™. But I will be among those trying to safe him from the power that corrupted him.
The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation
Is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.
I have no idea where they will go with this still unfinished story in the upcoming season. The wait is already killing meâ€¦
But I expect the actors to continue their amazing performances. This episode, again, was a joy to watch. Jared Padalecki excels in those scenes when he is given the opportunity to give Sam more shades and obviously revels in doing so, and Jensen Ackles with his moving, understated style in his reactions to his co-stars took my breath away once more. This episode, much as the ones before, was a promise of acting quality that will â€“ undoubtedly â€“ be fulfilled in the upcoming season. I expect nothing less of this kind of talent.
What happened to Sam - built on his experiences in hell - was something very much alike to what people who suffer from multiple personality disorder describe (today named dissociative identity disorder). The human psyche is an economically working entity. It establishes defence mechanisms against traumatic events. The classic and most popular mechanism is simple avoidance - trying to stay away from potentially threatening surroundings or people. That is a conscious decision mostly, though.
Other mechanisms include non-conscious elements like dissociation which is characterized by a disruption of a personâ€™s cognizant functioning. This allows the mind to distance itself from experiences too terrible to bear at a certain time. This symptom is part of an instinctive survival strategy, creating states of arousal or numbing. Dissociative moments occur unexpectedly (triggered by an element connected to or as an echo of dealing with the trauma) and patients describe that as disturbing. They lose control, much like they lost control during their traumatic experiences, and need time to understand that dissociation serves as a shield against the most horrific memories at times.
This was/is happening to Sam, it seems.
Now, how can someone lucky enough never to experience something so dreadful understand what this is like? Most of us have had their rather harmless encounter with that occurrence. People get into situations of extreme character - the sudden snap of anger that makes you break something, driving home in a kind of autopilot-state without remembering that you actually did the driving, excessive sexual experience, a crying fitâ€¦ These are moments you might wonder â€˜Who is this person, acting like this? Is this really me? No, I couldnâ€™t do that!â€™, but you also might not remember any of those moments at all.
So, in a non-pathological way each of us possesses the ability to become a multiple personality and be capable of dissociating - our psyche enables us to separate emotions and/or behaviour from our conscious knowledge. We sometimes repress or split them off and donâ€™t remember (and that happens unconsciously).
But we are not a so-called multiple personality, though we often know about our various roles: family persona, work persona, circle-of-friends persona â€“ a phenomenon psychologists call a patchwork identity. For most of us, the different parts are linked; we know that all these parts are a part of our self, activated in their respective environments. Very rarely a person is the very same person at home and at work. There are differences, sometimes only slight, sometimes big, between these two personas. But we know about it.
A multiple personality, though, is not aware of these links, the patches are, indeed, split off, with one part taking charge over the behaviour of the affected person - in Samâ€™s case the battle for dominance was fought out inside his mind, much like it can happen in a multiple personalityâ€™s mind, and Soulless Sam felt entitled to supremacy.
Caused by Samâ€™s horrific experiences in hell (the moment his subconscious had access to them when Cas brought the wall down), his soul split up. He became Soulless Sam, a powerful, dissocial, sharp, remorseless creature, Samâ€™s Mr Hyde.
Another part was Innocent Sam (as I like to call him), the one roaming about in a state of amnesia, unaware of what had happened to him and the agony he has been through.
And the third part was Tormented Sam who lost all innocence in the fires of hell. This one had to be repressed at all costs, because he hell experience was probably more than Sam would have been able to handle. Therefore he was the last part to be re-integrated into the whole that is Sam Winchester.
In terms of this seasonâ€™s storyline, we learned that every part of Sam was able to function as a separate individual â€“ without his soul, Sam was the epitome of a cunning, fast, reckless hunter. With his soul returned to him, he was an even better hunter because animal instinct is not all he needed. Without empathy he was only half as effective. But still he was not whole. To be the Sam we love and the Sam loved and respected by his close circle, he needed to be re-united with the part that suffered. Only then he is able to be stronger (and not abandon his brother) â€“ if he survives the echoes of the pain that will lash at him in dreadful flashbacks.
Now - as a trauma therapist I face a problem here: one of the criteria of diagnosing a multiple personality is: the disorder begins in childhood (as any other personality disorder does), on the grounds of heavy, mostly severe physical abuse, as a child. In regard to Sam, this is not the case.
This is where Supernatural takes creative license, but within psychological possibilities. The show combines elements of a multiple personality with symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. And, boy, they do it well!
People that have been exposed to a long time of repeated heavy traumatisation (as in war, genocide, repeated torture, repeated natural desasters, long-term child abuse, etc) often appear to be different. Almost a different person reacting in utter contrast to what they are known to be. Even changing in a way that you could easily believe their personality was split in more than one. And yet itâ€™s not a multiple personality. But changing is a part of the process when the experienced atrocities are to be integrated into the personâ€™s life and understanding.
Itâ€™s too early to say at this point what will happen to Sam after all three entities of him were reunited. I trust (and hope) that season seven will deal with this, and then I surely will delve into Samâ€™s psyche another time with another article based on Supernaturalâ€™s â€˜factsâ€™. It is safe to say, though, that Sam will not emerge from this ordeal unscathed.
Dean is still suffering from symptoms of PTSD, and he has had some time to adjust and less time in hell to digest. Still he is not his old self, he has changed â€“ and I salute the writers for keeping the psychological continuity here. Dean still shows the scars his soul has taken down there.
With Sam it canâ€™t be different. I could imagine him becoming someone else, within his emotional range, perhaps indeed split into different personalities - even though in real life, according to research, that wouldnâ€™t be possible.
The time that comes now for the Winchesters and their friends will be a dark one. In many ways I have thought it canâ€™t get any darkerâ€¦ but I also believe the writers will dig extra deep into jet black colour.
Sam will be trapped in the darkness of the horrors he faced, and Dean will be enveloped in the kind of darkness that takes possession of you when a loved one suffers and you canâ€™t help him.
But I am also absolutely certain (and full of hope) that they will find the light needed to lead them out of the mazeâ€¦ It happened in this episode, too. Deanâ€™s flashlight reached Sam in his dissociative state, helped him find his way. As Sam took in the identity of the Soulless Sam and Tormented Sam, it was done with blazing light, not scarring darkness. In the end, family was all that mattered. Love was all that mattered. Love with the faces of sacrifice, loss, endurance, reaching lost ones even in their darkest hour, because somehow stillâ€¦ there was light.