After just finishing a Demon Dean rewatch, I’ve noted several strands of contradictory behavior from Dean in the first three episodes of Season Ten. And as this is a subject on which everyone seems to have a different take, my usual disclaimer: feel free to ignore my interpretation, though I’d like to hear your queries, issues and own takes on the matter.
Anyway, Dean died at the end of Season Nine. After half a season of angst and arguing, Sam and he were reconciled at the literal moment of his death. While Sam was presumably off trying to summon Crowley in a different part of the bunker, Dean opened his shiny black eyes and he left.
He didn’t try to kill Sam, though he obviously could have done- hey, he had the ultimate ambush cover. And the note he left for Sam said, ‘SAMMY LET ME GO.’
There are multiple interpretations of this note. However, I recall Sam, pre-Season Eight, ‘letting Dean go’, because Dean had made him promise to. Of course, it turned out that it wasn’t the sort of promse you were meant to keep- as Bobby says in Taxi Driver, ‘that’s a non-agreement.’
By reinforcing the agreement, Dean is really reinforcing the non-agreement. And look at what Sam says to Dean in Brother’s Keeper, after Dean summons him- ‘You summoned me because you knew I would do anything to protect you. That’s not evil, Dean. That’s not an evil man. That is a good man, crying to be heard, searching for some other way.’
So what do we conclude from this? Was Dean calling out to Sam? If this is true, he can’t have been truly evil, or at least not the kind of evil he presented himself to Cole as.
When Cole kidnaps Sam and rings Dean, Dean tells him to let Sam die. Seconds later, he gives him a set-in-stone promise that he will hunt Cole down and kill him if- and this is implicit- if Cole hurts Sam.
If Dean is so bothered, why not go after Cole himself? Perhaps because demons are expected to be vengeful, but not to want to save people; Dean is following the pattern of how he thinks demons should act.
Cole does not kill Sam. He tortures him instead. By the end of that episode, Cole has been left by Dean to a fate worse than death- that of knowing that he failed his life’s mission. Could Dean have done this as revenge for what Cole did to Sam?
At least, that’s my take on the matter of Dean letting Cole live. Others have said that Dean let Cole live because of a remaining spark of humanity, but if he had the aforesaid remaining spark, surely it would have been directed into killing the person who’d tortured and threatened to kill Sam? This Dean seems to regard death as a mercy that he sees no reason to give Cole. When he says that that was the worst thing he could have done to him, I believe him.
Yet Dean then tries to kill Sam himself. It seems weirdly possessive- like, no way is Cole going to get away with killing Sam, that’s Dean’s job. Demon Dean mocks their father, saying he brainwashed them, but he then tries to carry out the final instruction John gave him- killing Sam. Clearly the instructions that left such a mark on human Dean continue to influence Demon Dean, if only subconsciously.
Then there’s Demon Dean’s attitude towards Mary Winchester. Dean had always held her in a kind of reverence- citing Dead In The Water, What Is And What Should Never Be and Dark Side Of The Moon in particular. And ironically, considering Mary’s demon deal began the whole Winchester mess in the first place, this version of Dean seems to still have some degree of feeling towards her.
‘You killed my mother,’ he says to Sam, and clearly he’s trying to mess with him. After all, Dean doesn’t really think Sam killed her, or at least not consciously (I’ll get to that in a minute). But it’s interesting that, when looking for really vicious things to hit Sam with, he goes for Mary- which I’ve always seen as Dean’s weak spot more than Sam’s, as Sam never knew her. Even as a demon, Dean still thinks of Mary’s loss as one of the most awful things that ever happened to him. And then there’s the use of my, rather than our, mother- does Dean, even when a demon, think of Sam as seperate from the rest of the family? Somehow Other? If so, it would make sense that he’d, even unconsciously, blame Sam for Mary’s death- after all, the strange creatures in SPN generally turn out to be the instigators.
If he did blame Sam for Mary’s death, and thus the cataclysm of events that followed, trying to smash in his younger brother’s skull suddenly makes sense. After all, a hammer is an intensely personal weapon to use. Like I’ve said before to someone- amusawale, was it you?- he’d’ve been able to feel Sam’s skull cave in. Very, very personal. Not the choice of an emotionally disconnected demon.
And his wanting to stay a demon- ‘personally, I like the disease’- makes sense in this light. As a human, he cared about Sam to achieve catharsis through Sam’s murder. But, of course, love and hate are supposedly two sides of one coin. Sam and Dean do seem to have something of a Marmite relationship even when they aren’t literally trying to strangle each other. It makes sense that, when Dean’s soul got twisted by the mark, his feelings for Sam would have dipped into the hate spectrum- given everything Sam’s done and been blamed for.
So if you guys have different takes on the matter, I’d love to hear those too. Also, this essay might make more sense if you’ve read We’ve Done Extraordinary Things To Triplets, so if you haven’t get your asses over there.
And on a side note, can we just have a moment of appreciation for the sheer beauty of Season Ten’s lighting and cinematography? I’m doing a rewatch for these essays, and it’s stunning.