Vivisecting Supernatural- These Guys Are Psychopaths

‘These guys are psychopaths,’ said Aaron in Everybody Hates Hitler, and it’s not difficult to see why he thought so, given that Sam was warming his hands on a burning corpse at the time. It was hardly the first instance of the Winchesters displaying behaviour that some might think of as psychopathic, however.

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The first scene that springs to mind here is in The Devil You Know, when Sam and Dean are about to kill Brady. They stand in front of a salt line, staring at him.

Brady: What is this?

Dean: All those angels, all those demons, all those sons of bitches. They just don’t get it, do they, Sammy?

Sam: No, they don’t, Dean.

Dean: You see, Brady, we’re the ones you should be afraid of.

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It sounds like something out of a serial killer AU fic.

Then there’s the scene from Inside Man, which I mentioned in my Sastiel meta, which is literally one of my favourite scenes in the entire show. You can watch it here. It’s astonishingly satisfying because by that stage, who didn’t loathe Metatron? But I also get a kick out of how bored Sam and Cas seem as they slit Metatron’s throat, steal his grace, and casually shoot him in the knee. Which really should make me question my own morals, but frankly I love the scene too much to care. And that proves something all by itself.

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Scenes like these- like the scene where Paris Hilton gets decapitated, or Sam cutting off Gordon’s head with razor wire- they are necessary. The main attraction of SPN for a lot of people is the love that Sam and Dean have for each other, and so usually we think of them in these terms. Scenes like Dean telling Sam there’s nothing he’d put before him, or Sam kneeling in Brother’s Keeper, or the brothers dying in one another’s arms, are the first ones that spring to mind when we think of the show. Sometimes we need a reminder that the vehicle of the show is these two men who are essentially born-and-raised killing machines. Often, Sam and Dean try to convince the monster to change, telling them that being a monster is a choice, and that’s all well and good.

But if that happened every time, not only would the boys come across as self-righteous, they’d be dead. When we see the Winchesters behaving with as little compassion as anything they’ve hunted, we know how they’ve survived all these years.

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Obviously there would have to be a degree of detachment- after all, basically all the monsters have looked like people. Many of them have looked like children. Demons possessed innocent people. The only way a human being who was not originally a psychopath would be able to kill these things on a regular basis is by disassociating, so these scenes make total sense.

But what about us? I’ve felt compassion for very few monsters, and only those because I feel that I know them- citing Madison, Amy, Crowley, and occasionally Sam and Dean themselves. (Not that I’d class Soulless Sam as a monster. More… amoral.) It gets to the point where you find yourself watching the death of a djinn that looks like a young boy without a glint of compassion in Pac-Man Fever. As an audience, we’ve disassociated too- even though we aren’t hunters. We don’t need to. (At least, I’m not a hunter. Are you a hunter?)

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We don’t need to dissociate, yet we do so anyway. It’s surprisingly easy to slip into a mindset where you cheer at the death of, say, an angel possessing an innocent human. (Phone call for Metatron. Or Uriel. Or Naomi.) The show doesn’t back away from these issues- the question of vessels was addressed through Cas’s Claire arc in Season Ten, for example. But what does it say about us when we feel triumph at the death of a Pagan god who looks exactly, exactly like Paris Hilton?

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I see the bodyless head of a celebrity and my immediate reaction is ‘Jesus Christ what bad CGI blood that is’

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On the other hand, there’s the occasional scene- like Sam’s torture of the demon at the beginning of Season Ten, or Dean kneeling in a roomful of massacred humans in The Things We Left Behind, or the montage of Sam being scary in Mystery Spot, where their actions are just as ruthless, yet we feel not triumph at a killing but concern.

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And please do note the dead brother burger

Concern for the victim? Nah. For the killer, obviously. We’re scared for them because we sense that they are in a mental pit of their own making, and we don’t know if they’ll ever crawl out. And mostly, they don’t- the other brother forcibly drags them out instead. Usually by returning from the dead.

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I think it’s the underlying desperation in such scenes that make us feel for them- Sam screaming ‘WHERE’S MY BROTHER?’ at the demon in Black, the lost look on Dean’s face even as he sat surrounded by corpses. It says something about the depth of these characters that they can do the most terrible things and our reaction is compassion- yet we rarely feel for monsters who appear as children, to whom equally terrible things are done.

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Then we have Season Seven’s episode Slash Fiction, which really was like a serial killer AU. I mean, I don’t want to think about the amount of selfcest fic it must have spawned (probably more than The End, but not as much as The Man Who Knew Too Much). In it, two leviathan masquerade as Sam and Dean, going about America in a mirror of Sam and Dean’s journey, committing mass shootings wherever they go.

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The episode equates Sam and Dean to couples in Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction, and also the fact that it’s called Slash Fiction at all is, uh… but I’ll put that aside for if I ever do another Wincest meta.

The point is that we see an episode crammed with ideas of how Sam and Dean could have turned out if they’d been just a little different. On my first viewing my overwhelming reaction was anger on behalf of the real Winchesters- it is one of a few episodes, I think, where we are truly invested in the Leviathan plot. (Plus the scene with the leviathan in the diner bitching about the brothers is just so ridiculous and so good.)

All this is why moments like the one in Everybody Hates Hitler- when we step back and look at Sam and Dean and say, ‘Wow, these guys really aren’t normal,’ are so important. In the early seasons the Winchesters were occasionally able to look at their lives and say, as in Salvation, ‘Our lives are weird, man,’ or, my favourite bit from Route 666-

‘So this killer truck-‘

‘I miss conversations that didn’t start with ‘this killer truck’.’

It seems to start about Season Three that the boys are in it too deep to be able to look at themselves like this. Now, there’s no way they’d be able to. ‘These guys are psychopaths’ let a little air into the belljar of Sam and Dean’s world.

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I feel like if I had to sum up the show in one screencap this would be it

It was also very funny. Which helps.

This’ll be my last meta for a week- I’m going on holiday with no WiFi, unfortunately.

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29 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- These Guys Are Psychopaths

  1. As I re-watched a bit of Season Five and others recently I also noted the conversation:
    “Do you remember a time where it was just Ghosts and Wendigos?”
    “No, me neither.”
    I do believe they are aware of how much they strayed from their original path and with all the self-sacrifice going on they probably think that it’s time someone stopped them for good.

    But yeah, you have to be a psychopath to endure such a lifestyle…and both of them twisted a lot since the beginning, especially Sam I’d say, as Dean seems to be bothered by his doing more often them him.

    Though I don’t think being able to disassociate from something in a TV show has anything to do with us being psychopaths as well, we are just too used to the shows narration and our media and have a pretty distant view on such things anyway. If you ever did get into a situation like that in real life – someone murdering a seemingly innocent or evil child – I’d be worried, if you also didn’t care. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, I forgot about that conversation. It’s in Two Minutes To Midnight, right? Good catch. And they must be aware of it, I agree, I just don’t think they can really afford to think about it. Like, Sam has even given up on college.
      I don’t think Sam and Dean are necessarily psychopaths, just that they occasionally display that sort of behaviour- in their own way they are, I suppose.
      And as for Sam being more psychopathic than Dean, I’d say when Dean’s dead, certainly that’s true, but remember that early on it was Sam who was stopping Dean from killing humans.
      I don’t think we’re psychopaths either, but we are able to adopt that mindset fairly easily.
      I’d be worried too… πŸ™‚

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      • That doesn’t surprise me.
        As I said: I think Sam has a higher tendency towards this kind of behaviour than Dean if they aren’t manipulated by anything.
        Like when he just killed all those Croatoan infected people in Season 5 without batting an eye. Dean wasn’t in “danger”, like when he was torturing Demons to get to him, Sam had his Soul and he was still free of Lucifers influence, granted he had some remains of the Demon’s blood inside of him, but still.
        Interesting in this case is also that Bobby later in that episode commented this to be a good thing…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmm, I do think Sam is faster to believe that monsters can change (generally speaking). Madison, Molly from Roadkill, Jack the rugaru, that shapeshifter recently… even Demon Dean, I guess. But when he goes into psycho mode he REALLY goes there, so I get what you’re saying.
          I believe what Bobby said was ‘Sam’s got a darkness about him, I’m not saying he ain’t. But he’s got a hell of a lot of good in him too.’
          Probably the most accurate description ever given of Sam Winchester.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Ah, I miss Bobby.
              Though Garth’s summary was pretty good. What was it now? Something like ‘Dean likes to act tough, but he’s just a big old teddy bear… and Sam can be a little insecure at times, but with good reason.’
              I hope Garth returns. And the Ghostfacers.

              Like

              • I miss him too…
                I’m afraid that if Garth returns again he will have gone dark side to show that you can’t escape pre-determined things (Werwolf=evil). They’ve done well with accepting his change, but that is still one of the few times they ever let a monster live out of sympathy…

                Liked by 1 person

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