Vivisecting Supernatural- ‘We’ve Done Extraordinary Things To Triplets’

Dean is often perceived as the more masculine of the brothers Winchester. He drinks, drives and flirts his way through life, his attitude accentuated by tough-guy talk and the occasional Dirty Harry moment.

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Many people have taken Dean’s particular brand of masculinity as sexism- his dismission of Sam’s mannerisms as ‘girly’, his promiscuous lifestyle, etc. I’ve always thought of these things as pretty harmless- the sexist language he most likely picked up from John, and would probably be totally shocked if called out on it, and as for the promiscuity, he seems to enter relationships with a mutual understanding of the terms.

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Dean is violent, yes, but only to those deserving of violence- his moral compass is generally pretty straight, despite occasionally needing Sam to help guide it. He’s charismatic without being an attention hog. He is what keeps Sam’s heart in the right place, and vice versa. Overall, it’s not a bad kind of masculinity.

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Of course, all this changes when he gets the Mark Of Cain.

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There are two variations on Dean when the Mark is involved- MoC Dean and Demon Dean. MoC Dean comes before Demon Dean, and he is high on the angst- his libido is gone, as is his appetite, and he takes a dark satisfaction in violence- see Annie Alex Alexis Ann. Sam is bleeding out on one side of the room, and yet Dean turns his back and draws out the death of a vampire, shouting, ‘look at me, bitch’. It’s ugly.

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Sam, however, can still get through to MoC Dean. It’s eloquent that Dean has to turn his back on Sam in the ‘look at me, bitch’ scene- as if he knows that if he meets Sam’s eyes he will cave. This, of course, is what happens in Brother’s Keeper, with the puppy-eyes moment to end all moments. Seriously, all that drama and in the end all Sam needed to do was look at Dean beseechingly.

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MoC Dean is basically a bundle of angst and self-loathing. But the potential for him to become a Knight Of Hell is there, if only in the violence. It’s clear that that potential terrifies Dean- the look on his face as he repeatedly stabbed Josie Sands’s corpse in King Of The Damned, and that same look surrounded by the bodies at the end of The Things We Left Behind- not to mention the end of The Executioner’s Song.

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In a way, MoC Dean is the chrysalis from which Demon Dean emerges. Demon Dean is almost an archetype of obnoxious masculinity- he hogs the mic at kareoke, looks for fights, calls the very nice woman in his bed a ‘skank’ to her face, and, horror of horrors, plays table football. Yet he seems totally content in his skin in a way that Dean rarely does.

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He is also seemingly impervious to Sam. In Reichenbach, after being tortured by Cole and escaping, Sam finally staggers into the bar where Dean is sitting alone. The contrast between them is awful; Sam looks exhausted and ravaged, his arm in a sling, and is looking at Dean like he’s the centre of the universe. Dean is sleek and predatory, with his hair slicked back, moving like a big cat. Dean asks if Sam is here to kill him. Sam says no. Dean says he might have it coming. Sam’s response- ‘I don’t care. Because you are my brother. And I’m here to take you home.’

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It’s a raw moment. I’m pretty sure thousands of hearts collectively broke. Dean’s response was to laugh.

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The stereotype of masculinity, which does not allow for men to have emotions per se, and certainly not to express them, seemed to have prevailed in Demon Dean- he is unaffected by Sam’s pleas/loving gaze/vulnerability in that moment. Yet he is not wholly indifferent to Sam. At some point I’m going to write an entire meta on the note Demon Dean left Sam- ‘Sammy let me go’- and Dean’s attack on Sam in Soul Survivor is intensely personal. When choosing a weapon to go after Sam with, Dean rejects an axe and instead picks up a hammer. He would have been able to feel Sam’s skull caving in. He really, really wanted to make little brother bleed- suggesting that Sam has got under Demon Dean’s skin in some way, punctured what he thought was his impenetratable masculinity. The hammer Dean brandished was positively phallic, a symbol of stereotypical masculinity in itself. It makes sense that he would use his newfound ‘masculinity’ to crush his last link to humanity.

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The fact that Sam could provoke him that much in the first place suggests that Dean’s new idea of manliness was more fragile than he thought. In the end it was his original, self-hating but relatively (relatively) harmless state that Sam managed to pull him back to, before the Mark Of Cain turned him into MoC Dean again. It’ll be interesting to see what changes for Dean next season now that he’s ridded of the MoC after having it for a season and a half.

In a way, the Mark Of Cain’s type of masculinity was a direct contrast to John Winchester’s teachings regarding that. John taught Dean to be the good little soldier where the Mark let him rebel against Crowley; John drilled it into Dean’s head to look after Sam, but the very nature of the MoC means that it will compel Dean to kill Sam.

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Except that that is where the JW philosophy and the MoC philosophy cross over, crossing paths also with the angel vessels plotline. John said Dean might have to kill Sam, and it seems that this was the one quirk of fate the Winchesters could not bypass- even as different as John’s teachings were to those of the Mark Of Cain, they share this one identical point. Sam is what ties Dean to humanity, to childhood in a way, and so the idea of killing him is almost like a rite of passage for Dean- severing his last tie on the way to his legacy as one with the blood of Cain. Only when Sam is dead can Dean conform to the idea of masculinity that is enforced on him by the public gaze and by the Mark- perhaps on some level this is why he couldn’t hack it when Sam died in AHBL, even though it wasn’t Dean’s fault. After all, Dean still ended up with Sam’s blood literally on his hands.

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Perhaps the Season Ten finale will finally have laid the spectre of fratricide to rest. Chaos is encroaching, with Death’s death and the Darkness. Destiny’s rules could be fully eradicated without a framework to hold them up- which means that Dean will not have to kill Sam.

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In the end of course it was Sam who broke the Mark’s hold over Dean, broke the pull of that male ideal. Sam’s always seemed comfortable in his own maleness- in Frontierland, for example, while Dean is fussing around buying period clothes and trying too hard to fit in with manly 1850s society, Sam goes in his modern clothes and fits in just fine. He wears his hair as long as he damn well likes, drinks girly drinks, eats nothing but salad, and his hookups are so few and far between that the last one was early Season Eight, but his masculinity is only ever called into question by Dean, and it never seems to bother him. But when the shoe is on the other foot Dean is nonplussed. A prime example is in Playthings, when Dean is wondering why everyone thinks they’re gay and Sam replies easily that ‘you’re kind of butch, they probably think you’re overcompensating’. It’s barely even a tease, but Dean looks taken aback.

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Sam seems comfortable in his sexuality and masculinity (if not in his sanity). Clearly he would have to be the one to save Dean from the literally demonising influence of the MoC.

And perhaps next season will see Dean settling into a less destructive brand of maleness, to go alongside a new less destructive version of his and Sam’s relationship. I’m sure we’ll all cry many tears of pure angst before then, but hey, hopefully they’ll get there.

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113 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- ‘We’ve Done Extraordinary Things To Triplets’

  1. This is perfect!!! One of the MoC moments I remember the most is when they are in that invisible house with ‘Magnus’ the old men of letters member, and Sam has to keep telling Dean to drop the first blade. Then you can tell that the MoC is bad news…

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  2. I think the note with those words is a remnant of the hurt that Sam caused him in season 9; when Sam said he told Dean to let him go and he didn’t and he said roles reversed, I’d let you go. So Dean told him to let him go because he thought he would.But then he didn’t so plan B; bash his head in? When he was playing the piano and Sam came in and he said ‘Heya Sammy’, that was one of my most favourite scenes in season 10; whatever they do with lighting so you can’t tell if his eyes were green or black…and he’s looking at Sam from beneath his lashes….the feels.
    And he’d just been battling with himself to pick a side, and here is Sam the ‘human’ side of him, and there’s Crowley who wants the ‘devil’ part. And he wants to reject them both; he wants to choose not to choose. Probably because he can.

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    • Sorry, just saw this comment!
      I don’t know. I’m kinda on the fence about that note. They previously agreed that they’d let each other go, but it was a non-agreement. So was Dean baiting Sam or was he sincere? I seriously have no clue.
      I think there is some subconscious leaning toward Sam when he’s a demon. And the whole phallic symbol thing with the hammer. Eek.
      I agree about Sam being the human side and Crowley the demon side, but I love how muddied the waters are there. Like, Crowley has human blood and Sam gets demon blood. No-one’s pure any more. They’re all just muddling along the best they can.
      I like your interpretation there.
      Is it just me or was the Cole/Sam torture scene in Reichenbach really traumatic? Like, nothing all that horrible even happened, but I find it hard to watch.

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      • “You don’t care that he’s a demon. We’ve all been demons” #favelinesofalltime
        I really do think Dean believed him this time, and that’s why he was so depressed; even with Sam’s actions not matching his words. The DEan with the mark episodes were indeed something special. Maybe because its the first time Dean had been given a ‘new’ character to play. Its the first time I seriously have heard him say ‘No’ to Sam (when he asked him to stow the blade).
        the torture scene with Sam’s hand being squeezed was hard to watch, but what made my heart shift was Dean just saying ‘fuck im, I told the bugger to let me go’. I kept waiting for him to say ‘syke!’

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        • ‘We’ve all been demons’, the way Crowley just kinda tosses that out there, like, yo, we’ve all been demons, no biggie.
          Both actors played the hell out of those three episodes as well.
          And oh my God, I know! But then Dean was all like ‘I will hunt you down and kill you’ and it’s like DEAN PLEASE RESOLVE YOUR INTERNAL CONFLICTS BEFORE SAM’S KNEE GETS SMASHED.
          I am having a hard time forgiving Cole tbh. I liked The Things They Carried and I think I’ll come to like Cole, but right now… no. Nuh-uh. He needs to apologise.

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          • I think he tries too hard…or rather the actor that plays Cole. I like how Cole is always kinda out of step, still on yesterday’s noon, hasn’t got the memo yet…its like, how many times dude?
            Yeah that whole ‘I will hunt you down thing’ was hot in so many ways. And I tell myself its coz he knew Cole was human and assumed Sam could get himself out of that by himself.

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            • I liked the guy who played him in The Things They Carried. And in Reichenbach.
              I do think he’s got a lot of potential as a character.
              I have a theory that Dean picked a side and his love for Sam got twisted into hatred.

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                    • Transforming souls into demons twists the soul, right? And it’s said that love and hate are two sides of the same coin. My theory is that Dean’s still kinda in the formative stages until the end of Reichenbach. Hence, his love for Sam gets twisted into hatred gradually.

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                    • Okay but that would imply that he gave in to being a demon…which he didn’t quite. He was still firmly on the fence when Sam came and fetched him home…(I’m awwing inside just thinking about it)

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                    • Well the fact that he was sitting at the piano, mulling Crowley’s words over; which were saying PICK A SIDE!
                      Also the fact that he chose to kill Lester rather than his wife. He never really lost himself until…wait, is Soul Survivor the episode where he killed the Styne kid? because that’s the one thing DEAN WINCHESTER wouldn’t have done like ever…

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                    • The Prisoner was the one where Dean killed the Styne kid, but I think he started losing himself at the end of Black- the real Dean would have gone to rescue Sam whether he thought Sam needed it or not.
                      And then there’s Soul Survivor, of course…

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                    • Okay point. and he was a demon then…still; I don’t know about hatred. Even with the whole using the hammer thing which is a major point, it seemed more expedience that he kill Sam rather than hate. He needed to kill Sam because Sam would turn him back and he didn’t want that. But if he really wanted Sam dead, he could have attacked him many times instead of running and hiding from him.

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                    • It’s pretty interesting that Dean was at least halfway human when he tried to kill Sam with the hammer. Thoughts?
                      Hmmm. I don’t think Dean is actually capable of not feeling strongly about Sam, one way or another.
                      And yeah, agreed- at first he seemed fine with letting Sam live, when he could obviously have killed him. And could Sam have captured him at the end of Reichenbach if Dean hadn’t at least subconsciously wanted to be captured? After all, Sam was in pretty bad shape.

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                    • Yes, exactly; it was like he was complicit in his capture to some extent. I think the anger Dean might have been feeling was probably residual from EVERYTHING that Sam has pulled over the years. After all he forgives but he doesn’t exactly forget.
                      As for Sam being in bad shape, I had an awful thought just now (I’m watching the Bobby episode in sn10); what if Jared really IS ill? I mean, have you seen the video he posted from set? He still looks a bit unwell. too thin definitely about the face. But let me not put that out there in the universe.

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                    • Yeah maybe. I mean, he was probably still pissy over what Sam said in s9 (which I think was totally justified, but I realise not everyone agrees).
                      And I hope not. Maybe just working too hard? Would he be allowed to do SPN if something were badly wrong? It’s pretty intense.

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                    • Dexter continued working throughout his chemo so…
                      I think that he said what he did in season 9 because he knew it would cut Dean like a knife, not because he meant it; so…nope. disagree with you there about it being justified.

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                    • I really hope there isn’t anything wrong… whatever it is, he seems to have really supportive people round him, at least.
                      Hmm. Obviously we’ve all got different takes on that, and I’m not trying to argue. I interpreted it as Sam having realised how unhealthy their relationship was and trying to pull back a bit. It was harsh, but I think Dean probably needed a wake-up call after the Gadreel thing. I mean, all that and he still thought he was in the right.
                      Of course it then backfired horribly, so y’know, so much for wakeup calls.

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                    • I’m not arguing with the need to like…check Dean for what he did. Obviously Sam was entitled to his anger. But it was just vicious, him telling Dean that. And not because he meant it but just to hurt him…
                      When I contrast that to them at the beginning of sn5 when Dean was so mad at Sam but still trying not to hurt him…I smh.

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                    • Yeah, I do think Sam was trying to make it hurt there. But I am sympathetic. I spent most of the second half of s9 wanting to slap Dean, whereas I felt terrible for him in the first half.
                      Hm. Yeah, I suppose Dean was well-behaved at the start of s5, all things considered. Though on the other hand, look at the end of Season Eight- in Sacrifice Dean up and blamed Sam for being soulless, which was in no way Sam’s fault. Of course he tried to rectify it later in that ep, though.
                      Evidently they have some issues…

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                    • Dean might totally be my blind spot because I was just heart broken for him in the latter half of sn.9. He was heart broken at what Sam said; I could feel him questioning their entire life which isn’t something that had happened even when Sam chose Ruby over him. I think I got used to Dean being the one who doesn’t mess up; the one who always forgives – and he always does forgive whatever people do to him; Cas, Sam, his dad…name it. I think I’ve always been envious of them having a guy like that in their lives. So for me, I AM personally offended at Sam for not extending the same courtesy. He owes Dean big time and that was just unnecessary. Emotionally. Intellectually I know it was necessary to move the story forward; what else would drive him to get the mark than the fact that his anchor, his one thing that keeps him ‘human’ has told him that he can basically go fuck himself.
                      As for Sacrifice; that’s how you knew he was infected by the ghost. unreasonable accusations.

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                    • Yeah, I’m the other way round- Sam is my blind spot, I don’t even know why. I am on the ‘it wasn’t Sam’s fault the apocalypse started’ team. See, I felt bad for Dean in the first half of s9, because it was so sad with him wanting to tell Sam, and you could just see his pain over the choice between losing Sam/Sam being possessed in I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, and just ugh ugh ugh.
                      In the second half, though, it’s Sam I feel for. I think it was First Born that did it. Those scenes with Cas sticking the needle into his neck were just painful.
                      I think even Sam felt bad about what he said to Dean in the end, tbh. I mean, look at how driven he is in s10.
                      And that’s a great point. I bet it increased the effects of the Mark, thinking Sam had given up on him- certainly that tracks, given that when he had Sam’s full support in s10 he held out far longer against it.
                      And Dean wasn’t ghost-infected in Sacrifice; it was Southern Comfort when that happened. He was entirely in his right mind when he said one of Sam’s greatest sins was losing his soul. And just, ick. No, Dean. Just no.

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                    • oh yeah, okay. πŸ™‚ I’m not too good with the programme titles. Did he say that? I remember he mentioned Ruby and lying to him. don’t remember the soul bit; but that was def. Cas’s fault, not Sam’s. And comparing soulless Sam to the soulless people in that sn. 9 episode, well I guess he did pretty good.

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                    • Yeah, I just rewatched the episode. It’s probably the cruellest thing Dean says throughout the whole series, discounting when he’s possessed/a demon. It’s just like, no Dean, your bother is ill dammit, he does not need to deal with your regurgitated issues from like two seasons ago.

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                    • Its a lot like I imagine marriage is; you did this to me; I hate it, I hurt, but I can’t live without you so I have to forgive you; but don’t blame me if I bring it up every 12 years or so. like that angry chick in the ghost possesssion series who killed her hubby over something he did 30 years ago?

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                    • This comment thread is getting sillier as it goes along. I’m also writing that Wincest meta right now, which could account for it.
                      (Also, to help with the aforementioned meta, are there any particular incidents where you thought the Sam/Dean subtext was really shouting at you? I’ve already got the whole Siren thing in Sex & Violence).

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                    • when dean and sam ‘made up’ in season 9 and they were talking again and then Sam said, there is no reason why we can’t kill Crowley too right? then he looked at Dean like, I dare you to say no because he’s your new bromance now. I DARE YOU.
                      And then of course there is the whole ‘Are you done with Benny’ thing. the fact that Sam equated their relationship to that of those witches who were fighting over miscommunications? the ones in sn 7.

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                    • I love that moment. And Dean is like ‘yeah Sam I see what you’re doing and I’m not falling for your tricks, let’s go kill him, totally’ and then five minutes later he’s stopping that guy killing Crowley and it’s like ‘yeah Dean, you just keep telling yourself you’re totally fine’.
                      And Sam with the whole jealousy thing at the start of S10! When Crowley was all like ‘you just can’t stand that he’s mine’ and ‘Dean Winchester completes me’ and Sam is practically frothing at the mouth with fury.
                      And Benny! Yes! The thing is, Sam had zero reason to be suspicious of Benny- he was willing to trust Lenore in S2, right?
                      And Dean was doing it too, getting all jealous over Amelia. And before that, Ruby.
                      They often equate the relationship to married-couple ones. That actually happens in Sex & Violence- with the doctor lady, about two minutes before her and Sam’s sex scene. And it happens with Jody. And a few other times, I think.

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                    • Yes! And we’d never seen his demon eyes before (except when he possessed Mrs Tran). So I was basically hyperventilating at the screen. And yeah, he just wants a piece of Winchester… or to be a Winchester… or to screw a Winchester, I don’t even know anymore.

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                    • I also don’t think the apocalypse was Sam’s fault because he was tricked and he was an addict and Ruby had us all fooled at some point. I blame Zach and Ruby. And I think the blood definitely changed Sam’s personality some. It just was what it was.

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                    • And yeah, he was totally manipulated. He had no idea about Lilith being the last seal. And the whole voicemail thing is still causing me pain.
                      On the other hand, I don’t blame Dean either. He was under a lot of duress in Hell and he couldn’t know he was breaking the first Seal.
                      Sam did seem darker after that. I think a lot of the change came from enduring Dean’s death and the guilt of it. Weirdly enough, when he gets his soul back in Season Six he also seems to get a lot of his innocence back. And that’s something that doesn’t go away again even when the Wall breaks. Have you ever noticed that?

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                    • Actually I do! It was Season Ten, in Girls, Girls, Girls, when he found Dean’s internet dating app and started sniggering at it. But you’re right- before that he hadn’t laughed properly since, what, Hell House? And that was Season One.
                      We got a laugh out of Dean in s7, though. And in s10.
                      S10 kinda ricocheted between awful, dark, angsty heartbreak, and pink fluffy rainbow-flavoured shmoop. I love Jeremy Carver.

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                    • Yeah but even his snigger in girls girls girls was nothing like his laughter…oh wait I remember; the episode Dean was infected with ghost sickness; I think that was the last honest to goodness belly laugh out of Sam.

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                    • Oh yeah, at the end of Yellow Fever then. That’s really sad.
                      It’s surreal watching the gag reels- they laugh so much, and it’s like, no, Sam and Dean need to look that happy.

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                    • I have no idea. I remember watching what must have been the original a long time ago when I was maybe five? I don’t know. It wasn’t shitty. I don’t think. Its just not on my must watch list.

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                    • Though actually- I do think Sam meant what he said, even if it was too harsh… or at least he wanted to mean it.
                      I think he realised just how unhealthy their relationship had become- you recall Jodie saying ‘you and Dean, that’s something special, don’t you think’ and Sam giving her this weird look, like, ‘wtf lady, are you saying that the most meaningful relationship I will ever have is with my brother?’
                      I love how the show did it though. Especially that bit where Kevin’s ghost tells them to stow their crap and you think there’s going to be a big catharsis and then Sam simply walks off into his room and hesitates just a second before closing the door.

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                    • Yeah, that broke my heart just a little bit more. I think Sam was taking his chance to at last be the wronged one rather than the one who fucked up. I can empathise with that; if it was directed at anyone but Dean…

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                    • Hmm, it’s interesting. Sam is both the one who screws up (or at least the one who gets the blame when screwy things happen, I mean the apocalypse was Dean’s fault too) but at the same time, when in Hell he takes on the role of the tortured, where Dean is the torturer. It makes you wonder if there’s some kind of atonement thing trying to happen.

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                    • could be. He definitely did feel that he had atoned; yet the guilt is still apparently still there. Remember in sn.9 when Dean had to tell him what’s past is past? I really find it cute that Dean is the only one who has to forgive him for him to forgive himself. Its okay if Dean says it is.

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                    • Also, I just read this thread back and it’s a little scary that Dean lost himself more when he was just a human with the MoC (at the end of s10, when he killed the Styne kid) than when he was a demon (not killing Lester’s wife). Definitely food for thought.

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                    • I know. It’s kind of terrifying.
                      And this is random, but oh my God, do you remember that scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer when Sam tried to switch places with Dean in Hell? Fucking electric scene. I’m still trying to figure out whether he was being selfish or not.

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                    • well if I put myself in his shoes; his brother is basically in hell because he sold his soul for him. So there is guilt, pain, guilt, pain, plus loneliness, he’s been left alone, he was the one who was supposed to die…so I guess you could look at it as him being selfish, or him wanting to make amends. The fact that every other time that he was going/almost/did die, he was always like ‘make sure I can’t come back’, ‘make sure my life can’t be bargained’ it tells you that Dean selling his soul for him REALLY traumatised him.

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                    • Maybe it was both?
                      And yeah- it probably traumatised them both. They were certainly never quite the same after Sam died and came back. You can feel the emotional shift, and even more so in s4, after Dean comes back from Hell.

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                    • Holy hell. What a mindfuck. That’s totally true. Demon Dean really reminds me of Dean in Tall Tales, actually- the first Gabriel episode, where you see Dean through Sam’s little brother eyes (plus the Wincest game is strong, it contains the famous shot of them wrestling on a bed).

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