Editor's Note: I moved this post here from the spoiler discussion page so these ideas could be freely discussed. Thank you Ehiblin for sharing these views.
I am putting this here so as not to derail the conversation on Alice's post.
Here's the thing, Sam is scared to death, and needs support. I see lots of people talking about how Dean is shutting down Sam at every point because Dean is hurting, and afraid and will suffer if Sam goes to the cage. Does nobody see the flaw in this argument?
It would be nice if people could take a step back and look at the relative suffering that is about to occur. Mention occasionally that Sam is the one in the Garden of Gethsemane at the moment (like Dean was end of season 3). When Sam was THERE for him in every way he could be, trying to solve the problem, both then and after Dean went to hell. Sam didn't go find a family and make scrambled eggs for breakfast and go to the pub, he spiraled and tried to exchange his soul for Dean's in hell. There weren't even hints of comfort in Sam's life the way there were in Dean's, he just wanted to die or get revenge.
Now Sam believes he knows what awaits him - the show is showing what awaits him - and he has to chose to do it. The show is pointing this out with flashbacks and in the intro - fire, hooks, blood, screaming. Dean could at least give him something in support. Has Dean ever even asked about Sam's time in the cage. The way Sam was there to listen when Dean was ready to open up about hell?
The conversation with Sully is Sam asking is there any other way? With Sam believing that there isn't but hoping anyway. So yes Dean is going to suffer if Sam goes to the cage but it isn't the same thing. And yes his unwillingness to listen is adding to Sam's burden. He could be more supportive, and so could the viewers. The important thing here is NOT that Sam gets to go to hell and be tortured if Dean says it is ok because 'Sam has finally made the right decision'. Empathy people!
Let's remember that Sam is not a possession of Dean's, like the Impala. He is a person. If the Impala got completely destroyed into a mangled wreck Dean would be devastated, but the car in the end is a piece of metal and gears. The car itself wouldn't suffer as it was destroyed.
The show has yet again rewritten history so that all the issue is Sam 'saying the spell that released the darkness' (ref Dean (we remember that happening don't we? Sam saying a spell that released the Darkness? It is in the 11.1 transcript, check it out)), and since before that point everything was PERFECTLY FINE therefore it is 'all Sam's fault' (ref Sam) and so Sam has to fix it.
I have to say at this stage Sam does look like he is 'dying to atone for the sins of mankind' because like with the original release of Lucifer, this disaster is NOT all on Sam, the Mark was doing perfectly fine on the person who knew how to control it until SOMEONE demanded it be given to them. Sam is just the one who gets to be the sacrifice. I am sorry for using this allegory because it looks like hyperbole and raising Sam to a Christlike figure, and more than anything Sam wants to be a normal ordinary person. But in a Christianity based show the link is hardly difficult to find. So here we are, Sam believes he is about to be crucified and, yes, ok, Dean will have to watch. One of these things is actually worse than the other. But hey, if Dean says it is ok for Sam to go back to the cage then we can all breathe a sigh of relief, right? Sam will have finally made the right decision (ignoring all the other no-win decisions he had to make). And how Dean will suffer knowing Sam is in the cage. Being tortured. Poor Dean.
I have a lot of sympathy for Dean, I don't have sympathy for those viewers (and some of the writers) who can't see that Sam is suffering, and is also atoning for things that almost invariably others instigated. I would have more sympathy for Dean if he SHOWED that his closing down Sam when Sam needs to talk was out of any empathy for Sam and not simply because he is himself afraid of being hurt. Because after 3 or more seasons of really skewed perspective I think the viewers need reminding that Sam is a person.