What does it mean to be broken?
I’ve heard the word used to describe the Winchesters more times than I can count- the popularity no doubt due to the trauma both characters have endured. The word’s probably thrown around a little too much, but I’m hardly one to talk- I use it too.
Interestingly, so does the show. The first use I can think of was pertaining to Dean- in On The Head Of A Pin, when Alastair’s taunting him. ‘Daddy’s little girl, he broke- he broke in thirty.’ For Dean, to ‘break’ was to give in to torture and start torturing other souls- to turn dark, in other words. Once Dean has lost his morality, lost the idea of himself ‘saving people, hunting things’, he considers himself broken.
For Sam, it’s a little different. Despite Death saying that ‘the soul can be bludgeoned, tortured, but never broken’, Sam’s subconscious is inclined to disagree- Hallucifer, of course. ‘His soul is broken, doc. Can you give him a pill?’
As Sam’s condition in The Born-Again Identity, from which that quote is from, was induced by his acceptance of Hallucifer in order to save Dean, it’s possible to infer that brokenness for Sam is surrender to his own inner darkness, even if it’s to save his brother.
But for both Sam and Dean, there are other examples. At the end of My Bloody Valentine, Dean is ready to say ‘yes’ to Michael; what broke him in that case was what he considered to be Sam’s indifference toward him in Dark Side Of The Moon, when he found out that in their shared Heaven Sam leaving for Stanford was a good memory. Dean couldn’t function thinking that he wasn’t important to Sam in the same way as Sam was to him.
And a pretty decent parallel to this can be found in Sacrifice, where Sam has abandoned his dreams of seeing light at the end of the tunnel and is willing to give up and die if it will prove to Dean that he can do this one thing right- shutting the gates of Hell.
Then there is, correspondingly, All Hell Breaks Loose Part Two, in which Dean cannot live knowing that he couldn’t save Sam, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, in which Sam cannot live knowing that he couldn’t save Dean. Both try to bargain away their souls to save the other. Both seem absolutely and utterly broken. And both do not care if they damn themselves as long as they can save the other brother.
In SPN, the idea of being past saving is almost synonymous with the idea of being broken. And yet, in episodes such as The Born-Again Identity and Point Of No Return, the Winchesters always recover their hope and are repaired- so the question is, at what point is somebody past saving?
By Season Ten’s Girls, Girls, Girls, shortly after he’s cured of demonhood, Dean’s pretty sure of his own condition.
He’s convinced that all the evil he did as a demon- or maybe going further back, as he did say that he’d burn for Kevin’s death- is what finally damned him.
Sam must believe that there is no point beyond which salvation is impossible, because if there was, he’d’ve passed it. He must believe that he and Dean can be saved.
But maybe Dean wants to believe, too, that they are fixable. If not, would he have summoned Sam in Brother’s Keeper? He certainly wouldn’t have killed Death if he didn’t, even if just for a split second, see some kind of hope for himself, even just in the form of Sam. Whose salvation comes from overturning the world order? Yet destiny, which ruled that the Winchesters must be seperated, must indeed be overturned if the Winchesters are to be together. According to destiny, Sam and Dean would be like Cain and Abel- both past saving. So it makes sense that to save themselves they’d have to totally destroy destiny by killing Death, its agent.
Yet by destroying destiny they’ve also, in a way, confirmed it, by starting another apocalypse. ‘You’re willing to let the Darkness into the world- how is that not evil, Sam?’ Have the Winchesters indeed confirmed that they’ve given in to their own darkness, since both of them were complicit in the Darkness’s release? Have they ‘turned dark’ by action, if not by will?
The way I can see it, the only way they can now be saved is if they manage to lock the Darkness back up. They will be saved only through saving others, but it’s a fine line- since so many times saving others is what’s also sent them to Hell.