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Before Dean ever appeared at Sam's apartment in Palo Alto, Sam's destiny was sealed. It had been sealed in that single moment when Azazel dripped blood into his mouth at six months---an act that Dean holds no responsibility for. Dean simply showed up at the same time that Azazel came to claim Sam and awaken his powers. If anything, Dean's appearance at that particular moment is what kept Sam from being forced to lead the so called demon army and raise Lucifer all that much sooner.
It's shocking to find out that Dean harbors guilt going that far back. He has let this single moment fester this long and has now returned to it at Osiris's command like a tongue to a sore tooth. Sam staunchly tells Osiris the truth. He tells him that he is "positive" that he would have been pulled back into the life regardless of Dean's actions. He also does it one further, calling Dean himself to the stand.
Harkening back to the bartender Mia's assertion that if you have to do something, why feel guilty, Sam pointedly asks Dean, "So, Dean. When you came and got me, did you know Jess would die? Or any of it?"
Dean sits a bit stunned, but has to answer, "Of course not."
Calling further on his own history and part in what lead to this trial, Sam steps it up again, trying to defuse Dean's excessive guilt, "Right. How could you? I mean, are you psychic? That's a question."
Sam was the psychic, not Dean. He had no idea anything might happen when he burst into Sam's apartment all that time ago, while Sam had dreamed of Jess's death prior to it actually taking place. Osiris is not really placing the blame on Dean for dragging Sam back into the life as much as he's bringing to light Dean's own guilt at having done so.
He even tells both brothers, "I don't decide anything, Sam. I don't decide Dean's guilt. I just weigh the guilt that's already there. This is solely about how Dean feels, way down deep. Them's the breaks."
This is exactly where Osiris reveals his hand, giving them the lesson that Dean must learn. His guilt is condemning him---rather it be to put to death at Osiris's commands or by a reckless death at the hands of another monster on a different hunt or by deliberate suicide. He is trying to instill in Dean's mind that he must let go of guilt or it will kill him.
Dean has allowed such guilt about bringing Sam back into the life and Jo's death to fester for long enough. It is only a matter of time if he will learn the merit of letting that go from this trial. Unfortunately, his real guilt is not in either of these things, but rather it is in Amy's death and hiding it from Sam.
To keep this secret further, he takes Osiris's offer to not call his final witness. Osiris immediately convicts him and sentences him to death.
Dean's guilt over killing Amy doesn't so much, again, stem from the actual act nearly as much as it does about hiding it from Sam. He is ashamed not only of keeping it secret but of what it makes him become---something he does not want Sam to see. Killing Amy is symbolic of trying to kill a part of himself, something he is excessively guilty about---and it too is an old wound. His time in Hell.
Because Dean sees himself as the monster, as evidenced by his statements in "You Can't Handle the Truth," and "The Girl Next Door," he is trying to sever that part of himself. He is feeling excessive guilt, Catholic Guilt if you will, for what he did while in Hell. It is an issue that he has never addressed, despite confessing his crimes to Sam in "Heaven and Hell."
The fact that we see that flash by in a flash back montage is telling of the truth underlying what Osiris was really digging at with Dean's guilt. The fresh killing of Amy is first and foremost in Dean's mind, but it is clearly his struggles with what he did in Hell that frighten him. He is becoming a monster of his own making and he is aware that it is happening----all without being able to stop it from spiraling out of control.
Part of the reason why this wound, never healed or tended to, is rearing its head now is indirectly because of Sam. Dean is seeing, first hand, what someone looks like after they've been tortured. It makes him think of and remember what he was downstairs, carving into other's souls and what it made him become. Sam is a walking and talking reminder, hallucinating Lucifer and seizing from the effects. It tears at Dean's psyche, thrusting such terrible and dark issues into his face repeatedly. It also gives rise for him to carry excessive guilt because of it.
So far, the cards in Dean's deck for season 7 seem to be his views of himself as the monster and now his guilt at being said monster. He must learn to let go of both issues.
The last person that should be giving Dean the lesson he needs is Jo herself. She, while being forced to kill Dean in the same way she died at Osiris's command, says to him, "You carry all kinds of crap you don't have to, Dean."
Dean's lesson is that he must learn to let go. He doesn't have to forget, as he must learn lessons from mistakes, but he cannot allow these things to fester. The fact that Jo is so reluctant to follow through, to kill him, arguing that he doesn't deserve this is testament to that fact. It's tragic that Osiris has chosen her to be Dean's executioner. She represents his failures and his shortcomings---both to her in life and now again in death. It's touching to see her reach up, after Sam has put Osiris back to sleep, and caress Dean's cheek before flickering out of sight.
Once the case is over and the brothers can finally relax, they stand around the Impala. Dean continues to flounder, wracked with his excessive Catholic Guilt over what was and wasn't brought to light in his trial. He has noticed that Sam seems to be doing well, despite everything that has happened. Dean needs to know how his brother is doing that for his own sanity. He asks, "But...why'd he skip you?"
Sam answers, "Hell."
It stuns Dean that he could find such peace after such a horrible experience, but perhaps this admission is the thing Dean needs to hear more than anything. His guilt over his behavior in Hell is the underlying cause for why he killed Amy and why he harbors such overwhelming guilt at all. Certainly, Sam's struggles are still lurking in the darkness, waiting to claim him again, but it is just the message Dean needs to hear that there can be good brought from such dark bad.
Dean has a lot of guilt to let go of: collecting Sam in the first place, Jo, killing Amy, torturing others in Hell, to name a few. It can only be hoped that he learns what he needs to from this experience: that carrying excessive guilt, to let Catholic Guilt fester and grow in the gut, to place unnecessary blame on the shoulders leads to misery. It also can wreak havoc and explode out in actions that only feed the beast. He must get a handle on these issues not only to continue the job at hand but to resist and survive the Leviathans hunting him and his brother---figures that were only briefly mentioned in the early part of the episode.
We will hopefully see that growth that has been needed in Dean for quite some time come to fruition. Both brothers have their own issues to get a handle on and this is the time to do so. If they do not, they will die---either by reckless behavior on a hunt, direct suicide, or at the Leviathans's hands. The cards are being shuffled and dealt, and now it's a matter of the brothers playing their hands.
Seeing Alona Tal reprise Jo Harvelle was a bittersweet treat. Her character, one that divides fandom, always had potential to be much more involved in the story, even if she was a failed love interest of Dean's. Alona's portrayal of Jo seems to become much more mature each and every time she appears. It might be due to the evolution of the character, but Jo here is a far cry from the one we met in "Everybody Loves a Clown." We can tell by her body language that Jo is in a mix of being at peace and being in pain due to Osiris. Jo is muted and demure but still has that fire. Alona most heartbreaking moment with Dean is when she runs her hand across his cheek, showing us that Jo forgives and still loves him, despite everything that happened---or rather didn't.
Jim Beaver, seen in snippets throughout, was in true Bobby form. It's obvious that he's busy rebuilding and assembling his library, but still there if the boys need a life line. Seeing Sam reach out to him gave the episode an old school feel, which was delightful. I loved how he delivered the line, "No, you idjit. It means you two got to get the hell out of Dodge. This guy hones in on people who feel guilty. Who does that sound like to you?" Something about the way in which he said it just stuck out to me, long after the episode ended. He also got some classic Bobby lines such as, "A way to give him a dirt nap." It's good to see that Bobby is still there with the boys every step of the way, despite the havoc they've brought into his life.
Faran Tahir gave a great performance as Osiris. He brought the Supernatural tongue in cheek flavor to the character, making certain that the role didn't become too overtly serious. I sensed a lot of amusement in his Osiris, at both brothers and their methods. He seemed rather taken with Sam's lawyer skills. I also sensed that he was more there to teach a lesson, probably aware that the brothers would find away to stop him, than he was out to kill Dean. The way Tahir carried the character provided that through diction and body language alone, and that was a fantastic touch. The way he relished the control in the courtroom was delightful and a treat to watch. I found him riveting in the role.
Jensen brought us a continuing to struggle Dean. He keeps giving us tidbits here and there of Dean's unfolding story. I could really feel Dean's weariness in the hotel, when he flopped back and again after Sam said they had to go back out and keep investigating. His scenes with Alona Tal towards the end with Jo were so heartbreaking, mostly with the story at this stage told through the stiff way he held his shoulders and with his eyes. He somehow managed to take what would have been classic Dean lines such as, "I gave up AA for Lent," and with diction alone reveal Dean's weariness and guilt. His most heartbreaking line, however, is when he says to Jo, "You and Sam. I just -- you know, hunters are never kids. I never was. I didn't even stop to think about it." This is another card that is being put on the table for Dean, and this is a line that will linger for a long while after this episode. The resigned way Jensen delivers it breaks the heart, revealing Dean's inner turmoil at being robbed of a childhood and his failures at preserving first Sam's and then Jo's---also perhaps his lingering guilt over almost ruining Ben's as well. Dean's story this season is tragic not because he is an instrument of destiny or tainted by demon's blood as Sam had been in the past. It's tragic because Dean is only now realizing he has never had a chance to pursue anything he wants---that he was thrust into this life without any chance at something else and Jensen keeps bringing that story to life each week.
Jared finally got to bring Sam to life as he had been intended before the demon blood woke up: he got to be a lawyer. Alright, so Sam as a lawyer here was most certainly unconventional, but it was clear that he could have been a good one given the chance. Jared really shined in the courtroom scenes, being forceful and arguing quickly on his feet. Jared's also managed to show how the merged Sam blends together, Soulless Sam peeking out in Sam's behavior and enthusiasm for the hunt while his compassion for Warren and Amy is his soulled self. He also sold us a calm and at peace Sam while again giving us that slight niggling worry that it is not all well with the younger Winchester. His struggles with Lucifer may have been brief in the beginning of the episode, but we saw how Sam, through Jared's skill, is far from being okay when he is startled from his building hallucination by Dean upon arrival at the crime scene.
As each card is laid on the table, we learn more about what the brothers will have to face both inner and outer. This episode is no exception to that rule. It'll be curious to see just when Dean lets his guilt overflow and his secret becomes exposed. It'll also be nice to see the old school flavor continue through this still very young season. After all, next week we get witches!
Also, I actually got a little emotional when Dean told Sam before he was leaving, "Do you want me to kill her again?" Sam had to stop and hold back his frustration, the remind Dean he didn't kill her the first time.
There were some really great moments in here, but the overall episode didn't flow well for me. I do wonder how this sets things up for the future.
I felt bad for him most of this episode. It hurt to see him try and shoulder blame for things he didn't do---such as killing Jo. What killed me most was when he said that he had never had a chance to be a kid. We've known that about Dean for a long time now, but it's one of the first times we've seen him actually say it.
As this is a set up episode and such, I always find it hard to judge those until I see how things play out further down the line. It could have had some tighter writing over all, but a lot was thrown in that will hopefully come with big pay off down the road.
Thanks for taking the time to share your views with us.
I got from last week's episodes that, in Dean's mind, he was a monster and Amy was a metaphor for him, but you define his Hell experience much clearer than I've seen it described before. I still think Dean was 100% right in killing Amy. I also hadn't caught the significance of Sam's ending talk to Dean as well as you did. Great insight there.
More importantly, I had been hoping that Dean would be taken 'off the rails' this season -- more playing up how...not crazy -- but more out of the mainstream than any other character on the show has ever been. From your write-up, I am appreciating the more 'personal story' that is being told. I guess if they had taken the Mean Dean route, it would have been what they did in S2. Personally, I like Mean Dean, but I can live with this Depressed Dean if, in the end, Dean gains value for himself and what he is does. I don't think we will ever see the fun side of Dean again, and I mourn that, because that is something that made his character so endearing. TPTB better conclude this Depressed Dean story, though, or I'm going to be ranting.
Anyway, I liked this episode and your write-up made me appreciate it more. I now hope that Jo is dead and gone forever, even though Alona did an excellent job. My favorite scene was the bar scene between Dean and Mia, and I contrast how mature she was (and Jamie in Monster Movie) as compared to Jo, and that is why I have always found Jo lacking as any perceived or implied relationship with Dean. I am glad that they stayed with the Jo crush, instead of love interest, here.
I'll say again that I thought the acting in this episode was top notch. I don't know if Sam will have further Hell issues or not. I hope not, as I don't think that story has a lot of mileage, and I am rather liking this grown-up Sam. Guess we'll see when (and if) that hand ever heals.
Your take on this episode was really well-thought out. Thanks for sharing.
I liked this episode for bringing these issues up about Dean. I think Dean is spiraling down fast and furious and its a matter of when he truly hits rock bottom. I'd like to see Sam have to help him somehow with that in some way when that point is reached---if not before.
I think Dean's story is very personal. Sam may have been hand picked by destiny to be Lucifer's vessel and all that, but Dean has never had a choice in his life, either. He was raised by John to want what John wants, do what John says, like what John likes. I like that he's recognizing the fact that he never had a chance to be a child himself. I'm hoping we see him work through finding his own identity.
I don't think we've seen the last of Dean having fun. He will never be that carefree man we first met in season 1 and hasn't been that man for years. I'd like to see him be able to get a spark in his life to remind him, though, of why it is he does what he does. He's so focused on the bad and not on any of the good that it brings.
As for Jo, I've always liked her. I liked that they largely kept the love interest thing one sided. She was a little sister figure to Dean despite what she wanted, but I think it gave a bit of depth to Dean that he wouldn't have had otherwise. She idolized Dean a lot and it was, I think, much the way Sam might have done in his youth before he started fighting with John a lot.
I don't think Sam's story about his time in the Cage is over or run out of mileage. I'm not sure how else they intend to show what happened down there and how it changed him, but it is a big reason why he's behaving so much more grown up than he ever has before. It'll be fascinating to see how he struggles down the road, too. He has a lot of issues to work through and by working through them he can help Dean work through his own, which is great to see as a potential story line for the season.
All in all I did enjoy this episode, but I don't think it will become a favourite. I went back and watched "Everybody Loves a Clown", and man Dean is not dealing well in that one either. This beautiful man needs a much deserved break.
I happened to pick up on it the second go round, actually. Osiris didn't seem intent on killing Dean as much as trying to get him to see how his guilt was crushing him. He said that it wasn't his decision if Dean should be found guilty or not, either. That was the major tip off for me, but it made me think about why that is and this is what came out. Dean carries guilt needlessly and he most certainly has to take a long hard look at that guilt and why he carries it around the way he does. I'm hoping that we see that evolution as we go through the season.
My thoughts exactly. This is what I've been thinking about most in terms of Dean's guilt. Sam's Hell issues are just a gamut of guilt issues for Dean. He's always seen his life's most important mission as protecting his brother, yet he gave Sam the OK to jump into the Pit to stop Lucifer. Obviously that's been eating at him for a long time. Now he has guilt because he can't help Sam with his memories. And Sam's a representation of the horrors Dean inflicted on others in Hell--his little brother who he loves more than anything.
And that is the exact reason these boys need to have some kind of talk about Hell. Sam has to be the one to pull Dean out of his spiral of guilt--he's at the center of so much of it, after all. I'm going to be very interested to see what Sam does going forward, now that he's aware of just how deep Dean's guilt wounds are.
I realized that Sam's struggling with his Hell memories had to be a reminder for Dean about what he did while in Hell himself. Sam seems to have been only a victim while in the Cage at this stage, but I'll wager that they had him inflict pain on someone in some manner be it a conjured Dean to abuse or Jess or someone else. I think it'd be interesting to see if that happened or if he was simply the victim. Dean still hates himself so much for that and it's really wearing on him here.
I also hope that now Sam knows the guilt hanging over Dean that he can get through to him and get him to see past it. Hell, Sam wouldn't even be whole right now if it hadn't been FOR Dean and that says something about all the bad.
The biggest tip off that I had about this is their conversation about pain being different in Hell than it is on Earth. Sure, it was his method to get Sam to see he wasn't in Hell any longer, but it had to have made him think about his own trip downstairs and the pain he both endured and inflicted.
A little thing though â€“ I think you'd like to be a tad more careful with the term Catholic Guilt. Being a Catholic myself (and a very critical one when it comes to the dealings of the Catholic church), I came into contact with the design of guilt (of course), respectively sin and atonementâ€¦I fear you could get a lot of flak from highly evangelical or strict Catholics (should they ever find their way here ).
Even though one might find Dean's guilt quite Old Testamentarian, I think he takes it to a more extreme level than even the Catholic Church does...Because, according to the catechism, a Catholic can find redemption and atone for his sins - while Dean probably believes none of that is in store for him.
But he needs help with his guilt issues, oh dear (a seat on my couch is on constant stand-by for him)! I stated that often before, so forgive me please for not being redundant in repeating it, and it seems it has only become worse.
Though his guilt reaches the heights of an extreme level, I believe its seed was the idea Papa Winchester planted in young Deanâ€™s soul â€“ Deanâ€™s conviction of how he needs to be in order for John to love him, in order to be â€˜alrightâ€™. To be the man worthy of daddyâ€™s love (and, in the wake of that, of his brotherâ€™s love) and, to take it to another extreme, to gain a right to exist.
We know that feelings of guilt are born from the (conscious or unconscious) notion that we did something wrong, often accompanied by humiliation and disgrace and fear, and those emotions often blur into one another.
I believe Dean probably canâ€™t truly differentiate anymore which of those emotions is the one causing the most pain. Itâ€™s become a conglomerate within his soul, producing the described guilt-driven reactions on an almost every-minute-ba sis. Which probably also means that he canâ€™t trust his own reasons as to why he does certain things. It may well be that Dean, in the silence of a nightly motel room, doesnâ€™t sleep but assesses his deeds instead: Approving of them (or seeking approval from his inner harsh judge), regretting them, seeking alternativesâ€¦ To me Dean looks like a man captured on an internal, existential battlefield.
Personally, Iâ€™d like to see more of how he deals with it in future episodes. There isnâ€™t much light left in his soul, is there? He is spent. Among other scenes, it became heart-breakingl y evident when he feared Bobby might be dead (after finding his barbecued house) or the moment he fished Castielâ€™s coat out of the lake. And now, here, in his face in almost every scene. Oh, Jensen, I salute you â€“ again I have nothing but praise for this splendid, gifted and unbelievably handsome actor.
Essentially, Dean is alone. He is incapable at present to let anyone in, it seems, to establish a real connection to those closest to him. Like a man on a deserted island who sees the coast somewhere out there, but has no idea how to build a boat to reach salvation. Instead he finds reminders all around him, reminders of everything he did wrong.
Or, rather, what he perceives to have been wrong. Itâ€™s primarily his interpretation that needs to change. The largest part of Deanâ€™s guilt complex is self-made. Itâ€™s what he believes to be guilty of. And I can only hope that Sam and Bobby (and perhaps Castiel â€“ though we donâ€™t know how he will be back) can help him see himself in another way. Because if he doesnâ€™t find helpâ€¦ I fear we could eventually witness a highly suicidal Dean.
So sorry for my long-winded rambling! Cheers, Jas
As for the Catholic thing, I'm Catholic myself. I know that it could really offend some that are very staunch about their faith, but I also know it's tended to be a generic description more or less, too. I just noticed that Dean made that "Lent" comment and Sam snapped back, "We're not Catholic" and it clicked for me that Dean's guilt was excessive in what people would term "Catholic Guilt."
I think you found the root cause of Dean's issues---someth ing I think they couldn't truly delve into as easily as they couldn't get JDM for whatever reason to reprise John. John's orders to Dean were always ALWAYS about Sam. Sam was number one son, the most important figure in both John and Dean's lives. Dean was always left to be a second class citizen more or less in his own family and I think his behavior concerning his guilt is reflection of that. He's drinking himself to death to punish himself. He is not far from practically beating himself silly if you ask me. He feels he deserves it because he failed Sam in so many ways---in his own mind. And I think he can hear John berating him in his mind for just that thing.
I think now that his guilt has largely been exposed, I'm hoping we'll see them move forward to him getting past it and how. Sam is key, I think. He is the center for a lot of Dean's guilt, which is not his fault by any means, but he can and should help him through it. If they would only talk about Hell!
I also think Castiel weighs heavily on Dean, as John's death did. Instead of dying for him in a deal the way their father did, Dean feels like he failed Cas by not stopping him and his "death" is dragging on him as yet another failure to go up with letting Sam jump in the pit or Lisa and Ben be used a chess pieces.
Dean will end up doing something extreme, and I think Sam has to be there to stop him. He's already suicidal if you ask me. It's just a matter of when he tries to pull the trigger and who's there to stop him.
Dean totally believes John loved Sam more, but I never saw that. John and Dean were more closely bonded. John rejected Sam's dreams and who Sam was for much of his life. He believed Sam would become an evil that had to be put down.
I know that Sam was one of the most important figures in Dean's life and Dean was one of the most important figures in Sam's life. I honestly believe that the only important figure in John's life after Mary died was the YED. Both of his children were less important than his revenge. Dean's sense of responsibility led to his devotion to Sam and it was encouraged by John and used by John, but I believe that this was because it was convenient for John that Dean be responsible, not because he had any real focus on Sam.
I have to believe that John loved his sons deeply, he just have a god awful way of showing it.
I agree with you that YED was John's top priority. It's reflected in the way that he ditches the brothers through season 1 especially in order to chase him down---even in Faith when they're pleading for him to come to them and help. I think he loved his sons at some level, but he was so obsessed and driven to kill Mary's killer that he just didn't see his sons for who they could become, but as weapons to train and unleash later on.
I too am a Catholic and I only took this reference to mean that Dean acted outside of what he has always believed is right or what he personally believes to be right. Dean hasn't gotten to the atonement part yet (let's hope that is where he is headed this season). The three deaths, I believe, showed that even though the victims had atoned for their errant ways, they had not given up the guilt. It could be said that Dean's atonement has been all the people he saved, but he doesn't see that.
In that respect, Dean believes he is a failure because his Dad died for him by giving up his life-long search, Sam died despite his efforts, he couldn't save Jo, he endangers the two unmentionables, and on and on. Mostly, he is horrified that he turned into a torturer and liked it. As you said, his guilt is self-made, as is his belief that he is everyone's protector (because that is the role John gave up to him). So, in this respect, I rather liked the Catholic Guilt analogy.
I might add that growing up, I saw a lot of Catholic Guilt in friends and family members. One has to accept that guilt, and I never did, but lots of Catholics do, despite the atonement of confession and penitence and the promise of love and grace.
No arguing...just expanding a bit.
Our dear Dean has, most unfortunately, accepted his guilt... I do hope, just as you, that he will be ready for atonement. And the consolation it is able to provide...
We're quite on the same page... ,Jas
I'm Catholic and can't see myself being anything else, but that most certainly does not mean I have to agree with the Church on everything, either.
Back to the episode, yeah, I think Dean has accepted his guilt. Now it's destroying him from the inside out. I do hope we see him reach that stage where he can forgive himself. He's a bit black and white on things in a lot of ways and especially himself.
I find myself often worrying over my actions & inactions at the end of a long day, & even have caught myself joking about "being Catholic, so I'm supposed to feel guilty about this or that". I'm not even sure where all that came from, for I certainly do believe in redemption & forgiveness.
Dean definitely needs to find a way to believe in those things if he is ever going to stop idling in this lack of self-worth. And he's got to start with forgiving himself.
I like how you always look for the positive in an episode. I do too, especially in my favorite show, or I wouldn't want to keep watching it! Like others have mentioned, I was disappointed to not see Castiel in Dean's flashbacks during the trial or to hear him mentioned, but it makes sense that the guys are deliberately not mentioning him. The grief is yet too near, & we know how Dean bottles that up anyway.
At this point in the season, I just want to take Dean's face in my hands, look him straight in those gorgeous green eyes, and tell him that he is a GOOD man. I know he wouldn't believe me yet, but a girl can hope for the future!
I do like to focus on the positive. I think if I were to sit down and nit pick what I didn't like I'd end up disappointing myself and I'd not want to watch anymore. I feel that I did that to other shows I've liked in the past and so I'm trying to pull the good here and let the rest be.
I don't think they're ready to bring Cas in---either the brothers or the writers. I get the sense that the writers are really trying to get back to the boys being the absolute center of the show and so really no room to bring up Cas nearly as much as they might have in the past.
And yes, I really wanna shake Dean, tell him he's a great guy and that it's because of him that Lucas from so long ago is alive, that it's because of him that Danny from Family Remains is alive, that he saved so many lives through out oh so many hunts, that because he was brave enough to fly Crowley was forced to return Bobby's soul. There's so much good Dean's done and yet he's so focused on the bad. We gotta get someone to point that out to him!
I like to look at what was offered and explore it and I do think they are intending on getting to those Hell stories. They certainly bring it up a lot from week to week, and that makes me happy. Sure this episode lacked in some places (and I leave that for others to really speak about) but I find set up episodes without the pay off tend to annoy, too. I'm glad I could bring something out of it that you liked.
I read a lot of hype about this episode and expected Dean to maybe have a real cathartic moment.I really enjoyed seeing Jo again and I think her actions and Sam's pointed comment about not being able to see the future might have opened a tiny wedge in that fortress of guilt.
How sad that Dean's self-esteem is so low that he feels he is 90% crap, but at least now he realizes he was never allowed to be a kid.
I agree with everyone that Dean and Sam need to sit down together and talk Hell. (Remember, not only did Dean go from victim to torturer, but in so doing he also broke the first seal that lead to the Apocalypse.)
Again, thank you for helping me to see the many positive things about this episode. I am Catholic, too, and had no problem with the Catholic guilt remark.
Jasminka, glad to read your comments again. You always have a unique and insightful perspective.
I don't think Osiris was supposed to be as frightening, which is why I described him as being rather tongue in cheek. He only ended up condemning Dean after he refused to let go of the guilt if you ask me.
And you know that they had to have Osiris put back to sleep, sooo hence the guilty verdict, too.
If anything, I hope the set up of seeing Sam and Dean explore their now shared Hell experiences is the pay off. Back in season 4, Dean told Sam that couldn't understand since he hadn't lived it and shut his brother down. Now that Sam has gone through his own version, they need to hash it out and that's what made me happy with this episode most---that they will do that at some point within the season.
I think you nailed it. If Gabriel was still alive, I could see him doing this role in weighing Dean's conscience. But it wasn't meant to be, I guess.
Thanks very much for your review of Defending Your Life.
I have to say I really liked this episode. Were there some problems? Maybe. But I was too caught up in the wonderfully nuanced acting to notice. That, and the fact my imagination has a tendency to fill in the blanks the writers, editors or network might leave behingd.
Like I wrote in "The Limits of the Lead Friggin' Box", I think much of Dean's guilt goes back to his childhood, mainly because he didn't have one. It ended the moment Sam was placed in his arms after the fire. He became responsible for his brother, and that made Dean, in Dean's mind, responsible for anything that happened after that.
Also, although John loved his sons, but he didn't exactly nurture them. I think BDW judged Dean on a regular (daily?) basis and so that's how Dean learned to view himself too. I love Jasminka's analogy of Dean lying in bed each night, looking at the mistakes he made each day and condemning himself for them. The man should have been a monk with a hairshirt and a cat'o'9 tails!
I confess that watching my kids run around and play and be goofy, while having Dean's sad admission that "Hunters are never kids. I never was" rattle around my brain certainly has my muse working overtime! (I'm drafting an article about that now.)
For me, the whole point of the courtroom scene was to show Dean the amount of guilt he's carrying, and get him to question whether or not he really is responsible for all the bad stuff that happened to the people he loves. Like we've all said before, the key person Dean needs forgiveness from is himself. And right now he is threatening to be his own judge, jury and executioner.
I think he is looking to die, either actively by his own hand, or passively at the hand of a monster. I don't think he really wants to die. He just wants a break from the burden he's been carrying for nearly 30 years. Like he said in Croatan "I'm tired of this life, this weight on my shoulders."
I also think the comment "I'm 90% crap. If I let go of that, what else is there?" is incredibly poignant, and telling. We're all used to seeing ourselves in one way -- usually tilted more towards the negative. It's scary and disorienting and feels downright strange to actually try and look at our more positive qualities.
I think, while growing up, Dean somehow let Sam know that Sam was smart and capable and had a good heart. Even though Dean is also clever and compassionate, I don't think he ever received any praise or recognition of those traits, so I truly don't think he believes he has them.
What I think is really scaring him is that he knows he puts up the jerk and loudmouth ass facade. If he lets go of the 90% crap he's carrying, what if he discovers that he really IS a jerk underneath it all? I think Dean is absolutely terrified of finding out who he really is, and that's another reason he's drinking, depressed and looking for death.
Speaking of Death -- can you imagine how pissed off he'd be if Dean successfully killed himself and somehow needed to be resurrected again? (Wait. Perhaps I've stumbled on a plot line!)
Other quick thoughts (because I haven't been quick so far) is that I'm intrigued by your comment that Dean sees all the souls he tortured in Hell in Sam's current suffering. I'm mulling over how different their torture and abuse experiences were, and whether Sam's was really worse, just because it was longer. A bit heretical, I know.
And I don't think Sam is as fine as he says he is. How could he be? But at least he's finding ways to deal and cope, and he seems to have hope. And what I find encouraging is that Dean still has enough hope to be curious about how Sam deals with his experiences. It's a good sign that he's still asking questions.
Whew! That was long. Sorry.
I do think that Dean's comment that he was never a child is really the true root of his problem. Hell is another one of those problems he carries. I think you're absolutely right. We see Dean tease Sam a lot, but he also makes sure that Sam knows that he's smart, caring, kind, has a good heart, ect. We never really get to see Dean receive that from anyone in return. John's words were always ALWAYS about Sam. Keep Sam safe. Watch out for Sammy. Dean, at four, became a father more or less and he never got the chance to be that little boy we briefly saw in Sam's bedroom before the fire. It's so sad.
I also think you're right, he is hiding from himself more and more. He uses the jerk facade to keep people at a distance, but we know he's got the big heart. I wish Sam would bring up the "And Then There Were None" confession that Dean had. He absolved everyone at Rufus's grave---all but himself. I think it's another reason why Sam is handling things better, too. He might have been incomplete, still with the Wall at that time, but I can see him remembering that, too.
I feel for Dean. I really do. He struggles and scrapes for everything he has from his car to his brother to simply exist. I think he cares much more for Baby than he does himself, really. We know he values Sam more than he does himself---hence his deal.
I don't think Sam's time in Hell is worse or Dean's time is worse. I hate when people try to make one or the other seem like they endured more. Sure, Sam was with Lucifer, but I think it's just different. They only reason I bring up Sam's experience here besides the vague hallucination hint we saw is because I can't help but think Dean's thinking "I did something like this to someone. I could have done that to Sam." It's not necessarily the right thing for him to judge himself that way, but he does.
I think Sam, as I said in my review, is in the eye of his own hurricane. It's calm right now, but that's a misnomer. The winds will pick up and start to rip him apart again. It's only a matter of time. I just hope that along the way before it starts to ramp up for him again that Dean will get some help from Sam on his own issues. More than ever before both brothers have to rely on each other and they must heal together. To me, that's a great story waiting to be told.
As for Dean succeeding in killing himself, I think Death might have some words to say to him that wouldn't be very pretty. He's chosen Dean to do this for a reason, and I don't think you can cheat Death. He'll make you do this or else. He's Death. He could make Dean immortal if he chose, really. I do hope that Death will factor some more in Dean's story, too. He likes Dean and I think he could impart some wonderful wisdom to him.
Never fear being long winded. I like discussing things. It makes the show that much more fun!
First, I, like many others, really embraced the feel of the "old SPN" in this episode. On that same note, I am so sentimental about this show, that I loved the flashbacks and couldn't seem to help myself saying "Aww," outloud several times, so much so that my husband was laughing at me! I do think they could have added a quick flashback with Castiel, it would have made the Cass fans happy. I know there is the argument between fans about whether or not Dean feels any guilt about that, but in an interview Jensen did say that Dean feels responsible for not getting to Cass soon enough to help him.
Second, though I thought alot of important issues were brought up in the trial, for me, the execution was lacking a bit. Specifically, I thought the conversation between Sam and Dean regarding Dean coming to get Sam from school could have been a lot more powerful and dramatic, but maybe the writers weren't going for that during this scene. It would have just been my personal preference!
Finally, regarding Dean's line of "I'm 90 percent crap," It sounds like alot of people are interpreting that to mean Dean thinks he is 90 percent crap as a person. Even though we all know Dean has extremely little self-worth, I interpreted that a bit differently, based on the line directly after that... "I get rid of that, what then?" To me, Dean is saying he is 90 percent about carrying around all that crap, so who would he even be without it all? Then, Jo seems to challenge him to find out by stating "You really want to die not knowing?"
So maybe this challenge will bring about some introspection on the part of Dean, and he will try and let go of some of the guilt while he asks himself, who am I, if not this guilt-ridden guy who's purpose is to protect my little brother? That's just where I think this might be headed, but who knows?
I, too, liked the old school feel of the episode. I liked that it started out so simple with a regular looking case that became a bit symbolic for me of how complex the story has become over the years.
I think it'll be interesting to see how they make Dean move forward. I feel that he's idling here, stuck in one gear and unable to shift into drive more or less. He has no true direction. Sure, he needs to protect Sammy, but from what exactly? His memories from Hell? The Leviathan? Demons? Himself? Dean? He doesn't know what could be threatening Sam and without a clear directive on keeping him safe he's floundering. He's kinda a man without a purpose. Sam's pretty much grown up now, more than ever.
I really hope this week's hunt starts getting Dean's blood boiling and him shifting into finding out how valuable a hunter he really is----more than killing and slashing throats---someo ne who saves others from being killed. He needs to revive that "Saving People. Hunting Things. Family Business" motto somewhat and remember that he DOES save people---and not just Sam.
And while I know we have witches, I know really little about them for this week, so no hype to make me build things up. I look forward to it. Besides, Dean absolutely HATES witches. Might be his kick in the pants, you know?
I so hope you are right and taking on a "skeevy" witch brings the hunter out in Dean and reminds him of the simpler "saving people, hunting things" days.
Something has got to give or I am afraid Dean is just going to blow up.I am pretty sure there is a point at which a human being can't carry any more guilt or anger inside. At least it looks like Sam is in a better place to pick up the pieces.
And yeah, Sam can help Dean so much here. I know he can and it's time that they let him be the rock for Dean.
Being myself a Catholic, usually what was told to me was that I had to confess my wrong deeds, feeling truly contrite for them and asking God's forgiveness through confession sacrament, and surely he would forgive me, giving to me a "new heart and a new spirit". With that, I would have to right my wrongs, if possible, or to do something for others if not possible, but that's it. It never should become a guilt to carry like a cross. Moreso, if I still should feel crushed by the guilt, it would be and insult to God's mercy and goodness: if God forgave me, who am I for not forgiving myself?
In fact, what I usually heard against catholics from anti-catholics or atheists and such, is quite the opposite than the "catholic guilt": i.e. that for catholics "it is enough to tell their sins to the priest and they think to be good with God and with what they did, they think they have a clear conscience".
So the idea that for someone there can be something so crushing like the "catholic guilt" of which you are talking is quite new for me, and I wasa asking yself if it's just a matter of me being lucky enough to be raised by parents and priests and religion teachers not so obsessed with the "sin and guilt" thing, or if it's a matter of living in Italy, where maybe the Catholicism is more "relaxed" (or just more human) in its views and takes on people...
I know that it's typical considered an excessive guilt that is usually unnecessary. Yes, the other side of the sword is that Catholics confess before they die and are absolved. Usually, I've seen people who adhere to the guilt version as using the "you'll go to Hell for that" card---mostly to make one feel guilty for something that really isn't worth that type of guilt.
In the case of this episode, the victims had done their penitence and genuinely changed their ways, they continued to carry great guilt in their hearts for their wrong doings. They weren't thinking about offending God by not accepting forgiveness; they were still trying to atone.
Heh, anyways- good spin on an episode that could have been so much more. The baddie- the Egyptian god- le sigh- that could have been half the season, on top of the Leviathans. One of my favorite trilogies is Masquerade of the Read Death and the books go into detail about Egyptian gods and early civilization. Anyways- that ship has sailed.
Catholic guilt... does this mean if Dean says a few Hail Mary's and Our Father's his guilt is forgiven? I think it is up to Dean to be able to forgive himself. What he has to find forgiveness for is beyond me. Dean has been to hell. Dean's seen stuff, he's saved the world several times... basically the guy's paid his dues, IMHO there is nothing to be guilty about.
I dunno, we all experience stuff, go through hardships, ups and downs, those experiences are what shapes us and defines our character. Folks that deal with the hardships have depth to themselves. Folks that don't handle it so well, cart it along with them for the rest of their lives- baggage. Dean needs to get rid of his baggage by knowing he did what he had to do and he did his best. That is all anyone can ask.
As for this episode pointing that out- yes, its a start. Lets see where it goes now.
And no, Catholic Guilt doesn't work with a few Hail Marys, really. Mostly, Dean needs to learn to let his guilt go and realize that he's not that "90% crap" he thinks he is.
I do hope that Dean can find a way to unload his baggage, too.