Vivisecting Supernatural- Parallels in Brother’s Keeper, Sacrifice, and Swan Song

It’s a couple of weeks since Brother’s Keeper aired, and this seemed like as good a time as any to address a few things. Namely, the parallels to Swan Song and Sacrifice.
While I considered Brother’s Keeper, on the whole, a strong finale- with a few reservations, but I’m not here to discuss those right now- I think Swan Song was better as a whole. However, when it comes to the devastating climaxes, the two are pretty much neck and neck.
Specifically, the it’s okay, Dean, I’ve got him scene in relation to the close your eyes scene.
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The parallels are pretty obvious. Both scenes involve one brother holding the other’s life- and the fate of the world- in their hand. Both involve that brother being under some kind of malevolent supernatural influence. Yet whereas Swan Song’s scene leads to Sam and Dean saving the world through their bond, Brother’s Keeper shows them damning it. (For the fifth time, but with variation, so that’s okay.)
Ahem.
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Some people have argued that the ending of Brother’s Keeper- Sam and Dean’s bond effectively causing the Darkness to be unleashed- proves that Sam and Dean’s love is destructive and essentially ‘bad’. Which, I mean, come on. Shades of grey, guys. We’ve seen time and time again how it can go both ways- their love can mean salvation or it can mean damnation. It just depends on how they use it.
In a way, the climatic scene of Brother’s Keeper acts as a catharsis to the trauma of Swan Song. With Swan Song, Sam’s fighting to keep Lucifer under control, and he’s barely hanging on- there’s no time for so much as a goodbye, no time for long teary speeches. And Supernatural keeps those to a minimum anyway. Whenever they do break out the OPT you know some serious shit is hitting the fan.
There are no Single Man Tears in Swan Song, though their pain comes through loud and clear. But there is a tear in Brother’s Keeper- and such a tear.
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Jared freaking Padalecki, guys.
In Swan Song there’s sadness, but it’s overshadowed by Sam and Dean’s blind terror. The final scenes of Brother’s Keeper are pure sadness. Up until the whole killing Death thing at least. And then there’s Sam’s speech: ‘You will never, ever hear me say that you- the real you- is anything but good’. And the whole ‘remember what it was to love’ thing. Honestly, on any other show it would feel like gratuitous tear-jerking, but they have earned this. It’s their bloody tenth season– they’re entitled in a way they weren’t with season five.
It’s been said that the show lives and dies with Sam and Dean; the whole thing revolves round their relationship, and both the episodes show them using it as a deadly weapon. If anything, Brother’s Keeper highlights the power of both the boys combined, which has pretty much the effect of a nuclear blast at the end of season ten. Stuff like this is why I’m gradually becoming convinced that the show will only end when both Sam and Dean are dead. It’s also why I get annoyed when I hear tin-hatted Cas fans* being all like ‘they don’t need to tell us again how much Sam and Dean love each other! We already know!’
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I’m sorry- have you seen season nine? More than anything, the Brother’s Keeper scene was a way of rebuilding their relationship, which crumbled after the Gadreel fiasco. It’s not an obvious dovetail, but Sam’s ‘I wouldn’t have done the same for you’ its reminiscent of Dean’s ‘at least he dies human’ after discovering Sam’s addiction- and Swan Song was Sam and Dean’s relationship finally being fixed, but only through its sacrifice.
Obviously this happens again in Sacrifice, the devastating masterpiece of a season eight finale. Major angst throughout that season- Benny, Amelia, hitting dogs, you name it- all culminating in Sam’s complete breakdown at the end. Dean effectively tells the world to go screw itself so that Sam won’t have to sacrifice himself again. This is what Sam does for Dean in the season ten finale, but in a vastly different way- Sam had been physically weakened by the trials, but the Mark of Cain strengthens Dean terrifyingly, and Sam is basically appealing to Dean’s oldest instincts. Big-brother instincts.
We’ve been here before.
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Sacrifice and Brother’s Keeper both have the big brother/little brother dynamics, but whereas Sacrifice shows Sam leaning on Dean- literally and figuratively- they are equals in Brother’s Keeper. Maybe not in physical strength, and maybe Sam’s looking up to Dean, but they’re equally strong- just like in Swan Song, where it’s Dean looking up at Sam through his mashed-up face, and Sam looks like he’s about to shit himself. I mean, you can’t blame him.
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Scenes like these are the Winchesters with everything else stripped away. The three cited here aren’t the only examples, but they’re the most significant. When this happens, the consequences tend to be pretty… interesting.
So many books and films and shows depict love as a cure-all. I can’t believe I’m referencing this right now, but look at Frozen- a relatively recent hit- as an example. Even Harry Potter does it (though Harry Potter gets a pass because, you know, it’s Harry Potter). But Supernatural treats it differently. Love is powerful, sure. It’s also incredibly destructive. And it can to lead to this:
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Or it can lead to this.
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The insane bond of the Winchesters has fuelled Supernatural for ten seasons. May it continue to do so for many more.

*So it’s probably unfair to blame the Cas fans, since I’m sure most of them are perfectly reasonable, but as an example.

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34 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- Parallels in Brother’s Keeper, Sacrifice, and Swan Song

  1. Reblogged this on Precious Things and commented:
    I’ll give you your second reblogging! I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. For me- and I try not to have many concrete definitions or ideas about what the show is saying or where is going, but I think the show has always been about choosing love. Even if it can be destructive… choosing love will always be the more powerful thing. And it sucks that sometimes good things (Kevin, Charlie, etc.) get destroyed along the way. I don’t always like it, but I feel like consistently the show has always been about love being the more powerful choice. And while I feel like on one side they’ve shown God staying out of it all, they’ve also shown God to intervene more than once to put that choice in Sam and Dean’s hands. I kind of feel (and hope) that this might once again be a similar situation. I think (especially after Fan Fiction) God is still kind of keeping a close eye on Sam and Dean, and still ultimately giving them that choice to make. And I think it’s the choice he wants them to make. That even though the consequences may be harsh, it’s true to who they are as people and when they are given the choice (as themselves) it’s who he wants them to be. Even their losses are about love. Consider, if you’ve seen Torchwood, COE, do we want either of those characters to make the choice Jack does? Not that I’m critical of that choice, COE is an entirely different story and Jack, an entirely different character. But do any of us actually want to see Sam or Dean make a choice like that? I just don’t think that’s what the show is about. I think it’s ALWAYS ultimately going to be about choosing love. And I agree, I think in the end they’re either fighting together as a team, continuing that mission, or they’re going out together.
    As for next season? I’m kind of hoping this gives them a chance to bring back Chuck and Gabriel, and maybe even Lucifer, because, AWESOME, right? Anyway, I got a bit wordy adding my 2 or 3 cents, but I love what you wrote! (And thanks for checking out my blog, it’s what brought me to yours! )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I’m excited about the possibilities of next season- there’s so much floating out there, what with Cole, Rowena, Metatron, the brothers’ repaired relationship, Cas’s angel juice, and obviously LE DARKNESS. Absolutely agree- Sam and Dean will always choose each other. It’s at the stage where they will literally burn down the world to dig each other out of the ashes. It’s somehow so satisfying to me when they’re all like ‘screw humanity, we just love each other’.
      I’m not usually one for rehashing old plot arcs but I would love to see the return of Chuck, Gabriel, etc. Such fantastic characters. Charlie and Kevin are sorely missed, but I think most of us saw it coming. No-one survives on this show. Even Death.
      Get as wordy as you want. Seriously. I’ll definitely be coming back to your blog anyway (SPN fans together, yay!)

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wasn’t surprised so much by Kevin’s death- I pretty much expect everyone to be at risk on this show… but somehow I really hoped Charlie (and still hope Jodie) would be exempt. Partly because of fan complaints about not having enough women on the show and partly because she just added such an awesome dynamic everytime she appeared (also, big Felicia Day Fan). So that is the one that hit me really hard. And the worst was that I got spoiled for it too so I knew the whole episode it was coming. (I have to watch on hulu.) I REALLY don’t like to complain about the show because i have a lot of trust in the writers, and frankly, feel like this is their story to tell so I should let them, but man, it’s hard not to feel like that was one character death that was a mistake. 😦 Show will go on and so will I. I will love this show into the ground no matter what πŸ™‚ Love to have a SPN fan visit my blog… I write about a lot of different stuff, but would love to write more about SPN as well. YAY!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Honestly, I’m pretty okay with Charlie dying. I loved and will miss her terribly, but it wasn’t purposeless. Supernatural does have a fluctuating shortage of female characters, but I don’t think that’s necessarily either good or bad- all the female characters that are on there are truly great. As long as they’re not killing them BECAUSE they’re female, honestly I have no problem.
          I know a lot of people didn’t like it though. You have an awesome blog, you should absolutely do some more SPN stuff πŸ™‚ looks like mine is going to be 90% SPN the way I’m headed.
          What did you think of the Stynes?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I mostly started my blog to work out my feelings about my health and assault. I’d thought I’d throw more Fandom in, mostly because watching the shows and fanvids are a huge thing I use to cope with, but I’m not sure most of my readers connect with it. Which is OK, my blog is for me. So I still try to squeeze in a bunch of fanvids or references whenever I can, but I’ve only had one other person before you comment on the SPN references. So it’s nice to connect!
            I thought the Stynes were an interesting twist, but they didn’t really flesh that story out enough for me to get really interested. I’m curious if they will bring them back next season. But otherwise I hate their stupid faces because, Charlie! πŸ˜‰

            Liked by 1 person

            • I hope it’s helping you recover. As soon as I joined WP I searched the SPN tag- for me it’s just a relief to not be the bookworm with the crazy hair for once! πŸ™‚ I love hearing the stories of how other people came to the fandom.
              The Stynes were a cool idea- I imagine they’ll crop up again, if not in person. I felt sorry for the Cyrus kid- I was seeing some rather disturbing Winchester family parallels in there- but all the others- well.
              At least Charlie is avenged.
              And that montage! With the Patty Griffin song and the flashbacks and just… Chaaaarlieee.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Oh yeah… that Montage! It really is a big part of my therapy… and Jared starting his #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign? Came at a time I really needed it. That has actually been a real support to me lately. This Fandom, when they’re not fighting, really is awesome.
                (Hey I have crazy hair too! Yay for SPN AND crazy fun hair! )

                Liked by 1 person

                • I know SPN can be a very triggery show, so it’s great that you’re getting that out of it- it’s so easy to relate to it on a personal level, despite the scale of what happens.
                  The #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign is brilliant. I was wary of entering fandoms for a long time- I’d watched too many ship-wars from safe distances- but now I’m in I’ve met some really great people and had a lot of support for my stuff. From you, for example!
                  Ship wars. Very sad. As a mild shipper of Destiel, Megstiel, Scrowley, Drowley, Sastiel and Calthazar, you see how I might be conflicted.
                  Yay for crazy hair! I’m fluffy, blonde and English. How about you?

                  Liked by 1 person

                    • Ok. I just tried to figure out where that conversation left off, but I got lost! Yeah, I got really frustrated with comments left on any article I’d read so I just kind of kept my distance. Hate the ship wars, though I was sad about the end of Megstiel. Was hopefully Bobby and Jodi. And I was one of the few who didn’t mind the Dean/Lisa thing- I kind of would have liked to see that flesh out maybe a bit more? And who didn’t cry watching Heart? SO I guess I’ve shipped a few times, but I’ve learned not to get too attached.
                      I DO get where some of the shippers are coming from though. I don’t know if you checked out MarkWatches.net yet, but some of the issues and complaints that folks have been discussed (very politely and friendly though) and I can see where folks feel like the writers are teasing or implying things that they don’t intend to follow through with. I didn’t really used to understand the “queerbaiting” complaint, but rewatching and reading the discussions there has really opened me up to a lot of different view points, even if I don’t always share them.
                      But, yeah, I’ve been choosy about which sites I follow so i can avoid the fighting. Loving your blog, love Fangasm and love Mark’s site. Then I pretty much just stick to fanvids πŸ™‚
                      Anyway, crazy hair? Well I recently went from short, spiky, peacock (green, blue, purple patches) to trying to grow it out and using kind of a dark violet natural-ish color with big pieces of bright blue. Probably gonna stick with this for a while. Love my hair right now!
                      Ok, reading back so I can reply to both conversations in one post… Oh, I live in the Western US in the middle of nowhere. Won’t say exactly where because of my “other stuff” but you get the idea.
                      And yeah, agree with what you said in the OTHER thread… you have to go with what you believe in. Otherwise, the person you lose faith in is yourself. And that’s never a good place to work from. My opinion.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Ha, I ship too many things for me to get into ship wars. I’d have to be on all the sides at once. I liked Lisa- it annoyed me how that arc ended. I’m planning out a post comparing Samelia and DeanLisa, actually!
                      I’ll check out that site. I see where people are coming from about the queerbaiting thing, but I don’t personally agree with it- I think they know exactly what they’re doing and how they’re playing it, sure, but I don’t think queerbaiting was the intention and, honestly, it’s never come off that way to me. Maybe I’ve just seen The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes too many times, but I love all the *desperately unspoken* vibes. I also think if Destiel became canon that would cause a lot of non-shippers to reshape their views according to that- and by seeing it ONLY romantically I think a lot of the nuances of their relationship are missed. The beauty of it is that everyone can have a different take on it- that it’s open to interpretation- and that way it doesn’t take the focus off the central relationship, Sam and Dean’s.
                      That said, I also have a small affection for Sastiel. I loved s9’s First Born.
                      Fangasm is great. Have you read their book? Misha Collins wrote a chapter. It’s hysterical.
                      Your hair sounds fantastic.
                      And yes, I absolutely agree!

                      Like

      • Yes! Totally agree, the “screw the world, I’m gonna save you” thing is satisfying. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain but I constantly feel pressure in my life to be someone I’m not because it’s who my family is and my community and I feel so strongly that God would rather I follow what’s honestly in my heart than follow any other belief dishonestly and compromise my self in the process. So to see that depicted on screen so well, it speaks to me when they refuse to compromise that one thing they hold true, consequences be damned!
        I actually did NOT expect Charlie to go yet. It just hurt my poor heart too much. I want ready 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes! I’m fifteen, swamped in exams, and my family are rather orthodox Christians- and Supernatural has taught me a lot. I’ve always had my own ideas but I’m starting to accept them as okay, if you know what I mean.
          And yes, Charlie. I know we needed something to tip Dean over the edge, but that hurt- and out of the blue, though in retrospect there was foreshadowing.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yah I know, just still in denial! I come from a super LDS background. Bishop’s kid growing up… only a few in my family have left the church, but most are still pretty conservative, which I am not. If you’re starting to accept your own ideas as ok at 15 then good on you! It’s taken me 38 years and it’s still a struggle sometimes!

            Liked by 1 person

            • We seem to be carrying on two simultaneous conversations, but hey, that’s what the internet is for, right? Half of my family- the half I happen to live with- are very conservative too. Impossible to argue with. I think if there’s one thing that the show’s taught me it’s the importance of making the choices that YOU think are right, though, based on what you know of good and evil- not what other people have drilled into you.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. It was devastating watching Sam be reduced back to childhood in that scene.
    Great argument for and against the brother’s relationship and I agree, the show can only end with the deaths of both of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love how it’s basically made us complicit in wanting this insane, twisted, codependent fuck-up of a relationship to just last forever. And yeah- either they’ll both be dead or they’ll be driving off into the sunset at the end, and honestly the way it’s looking I’m inclined towards the former.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Wren’s Top Five Episodes Of Season Five | A Blog devoted to "SUPERNATURAL"

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