Until the advent of Destiel, Wincest- the pairing of Sam and Dean Winchester- was the most common ship in Supernatural by miles. It’s obvious why. Sam and Dean’s relationship has been the only real constant of the show’s decade run, and one of its many, many facets is some pretty screwy subtext.
Personally? I don’t ship it. I do, however, think that the interpretation is totally valid- they’ve pushed the subtext as far as they can without forcing the issue. It simply isn’t the way I choose to see it. I’d rather interpret any romantic tropes or undertones as meaning that Sam and Dean’s relationship carries the same weight of trust and devotion as a romantic relationship, rather than interpret it as meaning that they’re banging. Though honestly I think it comes down to whether your squick about the incest factor outweighs your subtext reading/opinion of J2’s hotness. Hey, if they weren’t brothers I’d probably ship it myself. It isn’t like they could get each other pregnant.
(No, Omegaverse writers, that was not a challenge.)
But I certainly can’t blame anyone for seeing their relationship that way. I’m a listener of commentary tracks, and Kripke has openly acknowledged Sam and Dean’s subtext- ‘after all, two guys living so close together, how does your mind not eventually turn to that?’ Sera Gamble has actually referred to the show as ‘the epic love story of Sam and Dean’. Oh, Sera. Fanfics have been named for that quote. I could totally link you but I’d rather no-one get traumatised.
Then there’s the individual moments scattered throughout. There are literally dozens of examples, but a stand-out one was in Season Two’s Hunted: Dean thinks Sam’s dead, Sam and Gordon beat the everliving shit out of each other, and once Sam’s won he staggers over to where Dean’s tied to a chair. As soon as he gets loose, Dean takes Sam’s face in his hands and pulls him up. It’s almost like the buildup scene to a kiss.
Then we have the last few frames of A Very Supernatural Christmas, an episode which totally should have been sentimental and gushy and turned out a poignant, grisly, hilarious masterpiece. It’s Christmas, and Sam and Dean are sitting in a motel, and the camera pans out through the window and, well…
The image is romantic as hell. (Lol, they’d know. (Okay, that really wasn’t funny.))
The patented Winchester face-grab is repeated throughout the series, but the other example I’ll cite is this recent one, in Season Ten’s The Things We Left Behind.
Dean has just killed, what, six people? He’s surrounded by mutilated corpses. So what does Sam do? He grabs his face. Yeah, Sam, that’s a great idea.
Except that for the Winchesters, it is. This is what I mean about these romantic tropes; they would not think of what they’re doing as romantic. To them, face-grabbing and looking at each other like that and walking so close together they’re practically tripping over each other’s feet is totally normal and brotherly. It’s just that their definition of brotherly includes things that other people might- though not necessarily- think of as romantic.
But Sex And Violence really broke the mould. The subtext is impossible to ignore. I’d say it’s even louder than that of Sherlock Season Three’s The Sign Of Three.
It’s Season Four; the angst over Dean’s stint in Hell and Sam’s entanglement with Ruby is slowly building, and the boys are hunting a siren, which is able to make itself into the perfect partner for any one victim.
With Dean, the siren becomes a younger brother figure. With Sam, the siren stays the same- a brother figure, and as the actor is both younger than JA and older than JP, it’s possible that the siren presented as an older brother to Sam. And the siren is supposed to represent the perfect partner for the victim in every way- as one victim says, ‘she was perfect. Everything I ever wanted’. As we see in a sex scene between the siren and one man, the sirens present as sexual partners each time. There are about a thousand and one ways the writers could have got the boys to vent their anger without making these sorts of parallels.
Draw your own conclusions if you dare.
Coupled together with gems like Sam doing the dirty with a doctor-shaped red herring, throwing his phone across the room after Dean gets a little too bossy, and shots like this:
I really don’t need to go on, do I?
Then there’s the soulmates issue. In Dark Side Of The Moon, Sam and Dean do not share the same good memories, but these memories are re-enacted in the same place in Heaven. Implication: they share a Heaven. And as Ash says: ‘some people share. Special cases, you know. Like soulmates.’ Cue awkward moment of silence. You can practically see Sam and Dean processing it. Like, oh. OH.
And then there came the end of Season Eight, where Sam was horribly ill, his body breaking down, and Dean refused to let him die to save the world. He basically vowed always to be there for Sam. ‘If you honestly think that there is anything I would put in front of you… it’s never been that way, man. Never.’ The fact that Sam is actually ill invokes the words ‘in sickness and in heath’- and then there’s the bandana that he wraps round Sam’s bleeding hand (an action that’s repeated in The Werther Project). And get this: the whole thing takes place in a church.
You see what I mean about this whole subtext thing? And people thought Johnlock was bad.
There are episodes that I really should have cited here. Playthings is a major one, along with Reichenbach and Soul Survivor. Sequel material, perhaps? Oh well. It’s a meaty subject.