So I’m back for the weekend before going off to the next leg of my holiday. Have an essay with the chef’s compliments.
Having just finished Season Ten, there clearly aren’t going to be that many seasons of SPN left. At a guess I’d say they’ll stop after twelve or fifteen. And with Season Ten I saw them driving towards an endgame, as things began to change between Sam and Dean- over this season they have become once again compatible, even though the season began with Dean as a demon and Sam desperately trying to save him.
As Dean’s death scene was a visual mirror of Sam’s in ABHL- I explain this in more detail here– we’re clearly supposed to link Sam’s transformation in the early seasons, as his psychic powers developed, to Dean’s transformation. Before Dean was the angelic vessel, the good soldier, the righteous man, while Sam was the boy with the demon blood. Now Dean is literally a demon, and Sam- possessed by an angel at the start of Season Nine- is working with Cas, another angel, to save him. And Cas points out the truth- if they can’t save Dean, they must kill him. Remind you of anything?
Many people have also linked Dean saying that if detoxing killed Sam, ‘at least he dies human’ to Sam saying to Demon Dean ‘because you’re my brother, and I’m here to take you home.’ Unflattering as the comparison is to Dean, it does illustrate one thing- Sam still believes that monsters can be saved, and against all odds he cures Dean. ‘I’m past saving’, Dean says in Girls, Girls, Girls, and in The Executioner’s Song the thing that Dean cannot be saved from is given a name- fratricide. Without Sam, Dean would eventually become a demon once again. He would lack someone to pull him back from the edge.
As for Sam, at the very beginning of Black we saw him torturing a demon, and it was pretty clear that Sam had gone into the same state of mind as in I Know What You Did Last Summer- totally off the rails without Dean as compass. In fact, the opener was filmed in such a way to suggest that Dean the demon was doing the torturing, when in fact it was Sam- clearly both brothers are off the deep end of the deep end, and the question is begged- which of them is the real monster?
The difference is that in Black, Reichenbach and Soul Survivor you feel for Sam in a way that you don’t for Dean. In our eyes, it’s Dean who’s the monster and Sam the victim- being chased round by a psycho with a hammer counts as victimization, right?- but objectively speaking, Sam has also done terrible things. And in a way, Dean is a victim too- okay, so taking the mark without reading the fine print was stupid, but not evil. It was the action of a desperate man. If anything, Dean is the victim of Crowley’s manipulations, just as Sam was the victim of Ruby’s in starting the apocalypse.
After becoming human once more, Dean is ashamed. Worse, he’s ’embarrassed’. The man who in Season Eight twice blamed Sam for losing his soul- which only happened because Sam jumped into Hell to save the world, and thus wasn’t Sam’s fault- has had his own experience of ‘waking up to find out [he] burnt the whole city down’. I think it’s safe to assume that neither of them’ll be blaming the other for their stints as amoral/evil beings anymore. If nothing else, the Demon Dean arc will presumably have led to a greater understanding between the two. The divide has been narrowed- they understand each other now, and this could help them live with each other.
Then there was Sam’s single-minded devotion to saving Dean; both worrying, since he clearly wasn’t eating or sleeping properly, and cathartic, given the Season Eight arc about Sam not looking for Dean when Dean was in Purgatory. But it told us that despite everything that happened in Season Nine, Sam is still not willing to give up the commitment they made in Sacrifice.
Sam’s attitude in Season Ten is linked by Crowley to that of Season Eight- ‘thought you’d hit another dog,’ says Crowley, prompting Sam to fume. It highlights how much has changed since then- Sam is no longer able to detach from Dean. Dean, on the other hand, is only able to seek out an independent life after his soul has been twisted beyond recognition. Codependency may be dangerous, but Season Ten seems to be saying that it’s the only way the Winchesters can stay human.
Then there’s the more balanced roles they’ve taken on, which could assist in the formulation of an endgame. One reason that the Winchesters’ relationship was unbalanced in previous seasons was because of Dean’s preoccupation with taking care of Sam- to the point that he didn’t care if he died as long as Sam was the last man standing. In Trial And Error he tells Sam that Dean’s idea of happiness is Sam having a family and normalcy, and that’s all he wants- which is why Dean intended to do the Three Trials alone, no matter whether it killed him.
Later in that episode Dean finds himself in a familiar position- pinned by a hellhound- and Sam takes it upon himself to protect Dean for once, attacking and killing the hellhound himself. Sam then refuses to let Dean do the trials as a way of protecting Dean, since he knows that Dean’s going on a suicide mission. The horrible irony is that the very nature of the trials will not allow Sam to survive them, but Trial And Error showed a shift in the relationship- Sam protects Dean by taking on the trials, and then Dean takes care of Sam during the onset of Trial sickness. The Winchesters began to learn to look after each other, rather than Dean being the sole carer.
Season Ten continued on that trajectory. This time it was Dean who was in trouble, and Sam repeatedly comforted him- citing The Executioner’s Song- and even tried to sacrifice himself for him in The Werther Project. In Inside Man, Sam caused a full-scale revolt in Heaven because Dean had a nightmare. In Brother’s Keeper, they saved each other- Sam got through to Dean, and Dean took action against Death. The Winchesters have been finding ways to care for each other this time, and that balance could allow them to, one day, have some sort of stability.
This advancement suggests to me that the endgame will involve Sam and Dean together, learning to live with each other, rather than off having normal lives- which, let’s face it, they’re probably way too traumatised for at this point- or dead.
Then there’s the suggestion that their attachment has grown to the point where Sam is just as desperate not to let Dean go as Dean is with Sam. At the end of Season Two, when Sam died, Dean sold his soul to bring him back- eventually leading to the apocalypse. Sam’s death in AHBL and Dean’s death in Do You Believe In Miracles were, I believe, visual mirrors of each other, suggesting that the effects of one could foreshadow the effects of the other. And indeed, in Paper Moon it’s revealed that Sam sold a soul to get Dean back- not his soul, granted, but the symbolism’s there- and having Dean back eventually led to the unleashing of the Darkness. All this suggests that Season Eleven will be as apocalyptic as Season Five.
But more interestingly, there’s the clear turnaround in Sam’s views. If Dean had been the one to die in Season Two, Sam would clearly have been devastated. But would he have sold his soul to bring him back? I rather doubt it. Obviously this changes by I Know What You Did Last Summer, as shown during a flashback to the months where Dean was in Hell and Sam tried to trade places with him- but even that was less based on them being unable to part, and more about relieving Dean’s suffering. (Also, that scene kills me. Kills. Me.)
And then of course there’s that time Sam, ahem, hit a dog. Dean felt betrayed, and it nearly drove them apart. There would definitely have been no soul-selling going on on Sam’s part then. But over the Demon Dean arc, Sam sacrifices his morality and, according to the demon he tortures, his humanity- he symbolically sells his soul, and then there’s the actual soul-selling going on with Lester.
It seems that Dean’s death also helped Sam understand why Dean let Gadreel possess him- they have been more forgiving of each other of late, now that they both know how that desperation feels. And when Dean tries, fumblingly, to thank Sam for curing him, Sam responds with, ‘You don’t ever have to say that. Not to me.’ That’s the level of understanding they reached in this season.
Sam and Dean seem to have been learning to understand each other recently- the kind of grounded understanding that sets up long-term commitments. This points to the Winchesters-driving-into-the-sunset ending rather than any kind of separation. More Fan Fiction than Swan Song. In Season Five, the Winchesters’ fractured relationship was only really mended during Swan Song- it was fixed by Sam’s death, which was the tragedy of it. In Season Ten, the whole thing has been carefully rebuilt from scratch, starting from Paper Moon. They’re learning a new way of doing things that might help them last as a pair.
Like marriage rehab. And there we go with the romance tropes again.
The built-to-last nature of the Season Ten relationship suggests that the endgame will be Sam and Dean together in the long-term- probably in life, possibly in death, as they share a Heaven, after all. But I like the driving into the sunset thing. They seem to have moved past tragedy by now.