Vivisecting Supernatural- Make Me A Real Boy

Soulless Sam is an enigma, and never more so than when he’s doing the right thing.

On the one hand, the character is cool, collected, amoral. He doesn’t have the capacity to love. Crowley reckons he’d sell Dean for a dollar ‘if he really needed a soda’. He comes after Bobby with an axe to prevent his soul getting back in his body.

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On the other hand, he throws Dean a knife to escape Veritas despite Dean making noises about killing him in his sleep. The entire season begins because Sam came back to rescue Dean from the djinn. When Dean beat the crap out of him at the end of You Can’t Handle The Truth, he didn’t even try to defend himself. Oh, and let’s not forget the time he bit into his own wrist, drew a devil’s trap on the ceiling in blood, and ripped a pipe off the wall to bash two ghouls’ heads in because they were trying to eat Dean. (Not that that was an entirely unreasonable thing to attempt. I know plenty of people who would be happy to eat Dean.)

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But why would Soulless Sam defend Dean? He’s got no empathic connection to Dean. He can’t love him. Can’t even care about him.

Perhaps you could say he wanted someone watching his back on hunts, wanted the extra muscle, but let’s be real here. Dean had been out of hunting for a year. He was out of practice, and often obstructed Sam’s tactics with all his Jiminy Cricketing, plus Sam was a better hunter at that point than ever before.

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Love how increased sass is apparently a symptom of killing-machine-itus… phone call for Demon Dean, anyone?

So maybe Sam knew, intellectually if not emotionally, that he was out of line, and that he needed Dean to help him figure out how to get back to his former self. Before Cas’s soulectomy he probably just put down his emotionlessness to Hell trauma, but it would have grown on him that his new state wasn’t going away overnight. By the time he went back for Dean, no wonder he thought ‘things are just better when you’re around’. But this begs the question- what exactly is a soul? What did Sam leave behind in the Cage?

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He’d left behind all emotional instinct, so it wouldn’t have been a matter of him gravitating instinctively towards Dean. Obviously, the soulmates explanation is a no-go, since, you know, you can’t be soulmates when one of you doesn’t have a soul. Life’s tricky like that.

And it’s over-sentimental, and would defeat the entire point of the arc, to theorise that their soul-bond transcends Hell. (Though I guess it does, or else Sam would still be in there.)

So maybe doing these things was Sam’s effort to feel love again. He said there were things he missed about being human, and who’s to say that his bond with Dean wasn’t one of them? And after all, it was Pinnochio’s moral struggle that allowed him to become a real boy in the end.

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Yet if Soulless Sam was trying to be moral, doesn’t that make him a good person, at least in that respect? After all, it’s no huge effort for the average person with a soul to not go round killing people at random, et cetera- but for someone with no instinctive sense of right and wrong, and a past life of already muddled morals, with a dash of Hell inbetween- well. Remember the soulless townspeople in Mother’s Little Helper? They were practically feral, violent at will. By comparison, Sam’s actions when soulless suggest a huge effort to step back into his old skin, even with no starting place.

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But of course that’s not quite true. His starting place is always Dean.

There’s a message here, one of hope for mankind in general. (I feel like I should work in the word ‘degenerate’.) If it’s possible to be a good person even without a soul- and I’m not saying Sam was, only that he showed hints of trying- then anyone can change for the better.

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Author’s Note: I’ve just realised that I’ve shamefully neglected to include the famous shirtless scene in my assessment. Oh, well, maybe next time.

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44 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- Make Me A Real Boy

  1. That scene was a stark contrast in comparison to the SamJess Sam or SamRuby Sam we’d seen. He’d paid a girl to have sex with him. Dean has a no cash for ass rule & it would be a valid assumption for Sam to do the same. But Shirtless Sam in that scene was miles away from the broken boy we’d known. It was very dangerous and interesting and uncharted territory. When it comes to being soulless, what that means in my opinion is that the barrier that allows you to think before you act or having a conscience vanished. Sam felt SOME emotion- lust, hunger but not things like love, regret, guilt. Things that come with a conscience. To him, he couldn’t see the difference between sleeping with a married woman while on a case and calling a woman a sniffer/ drug addict or even pretending to act normal with Dean. Everything was on the same level, no differentiation

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s also interesting that we’ve not seen a single display of sexuality since- I mean, with Amelia he was wearing a t-shirt IN BED with her. As many rape victims do, he sleeps in his clothes in the latest seasons… it makes sense. After all, quite aside from the whole Hell-rape thing, he’s constantly being possessed and raped in metaphor.
      Not a happy arc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wasn’t surprised that Soulless Sam was watching out for Dean (as much as he could, never mind that Twilight fiasco, which I believe would have never happened had Soulless Sam not trusted that Dean could be cured) and wanted to be around him.
    I understood the character as Sam’s physical envelope with Sam’s memories without the emotional part of Sam. Even without the heart, Soulless Sam would be drawn to Dean. Dean is everywhere in Sam’s memories. Sam’s envelope is basically used to functioning with Dean within a close radius. Sam’s envelope is also used to trusting Dean as Dean’s protected, saved and rescued it since it was 4. Finally, Sam’s envelope remembers watching Dean’s back, living with him, being comfortable around him, and being close to him, therefore, even without the emotion, Soulless Sam was pretty much wired to seek Dean out and try to work with him.

    In a deeper layer of that memory lives the ‘imprint’ of the emotions related to Dean, I’m sure, Soulless being the envelope of a very smart man, knew something was wrong with what he was. Again, getting close to Dean was an instinctual way to look for a solution in a ‘safe’ place (or so he thought) and ask for some help. It then becomes the interesting battle in which Soulless realizes that achieving his goal, getting Dean to diagnose what’s wrong with him and find the way fix it becomes a threat to Soulless’ very life. He probably expected to ‘cured’, not killed and replaced (by the Real Sam, who he’d been fighting to bring back all along, unbeknownst to himself).

    Now, the thing about Soulless Sam being so poised when all the others imploded immediately… I believe that contrary to those regular civilians who lost their ever-loving minds when they lost their souls, the Real Sam had a lifetime of practice and experience in the arts of wearing a mask, covering the fact that he felt like a freak, controlling his anger and presenting the face of a man who’s holding in together, even when it was War (I capitalized to reference the Horseman, who called Sam his poster boy) inside. Finely honed skills Soulless replicated with great success, seeing as he could have been ten times more dangerous than he ended up being.

    “Dean doesn’t care about me. He just cares about his little brother, Sammy, burning in hell. He’ll kill me to get that other guy back.”

    That’s when Soulless started to feel again. I believe it in my bones. I sensed his frustration, his feeling defeated, a little bit of jealousy, a little bit of “why can’t you let him go.”
    Soulless tried to be the best Sam he could, for Dean. He fell in line, tried to be a good (real) boy and it never earned him Dean’s acceptance. No matter how hard he tried, Soulless would always be upstaged by the genuine article. His tragedy is that not even a clone trying to behave could make an acceptable Sam because as Appointment in Samarra showed, when Dean has to “pick one”? It’s Sam.

    Farewell Soulless. I wanted you gone from the moment you gave Dean that strange hug in Exile and I celebrated your departure in my living-room but I will shed a single tear for you if Dean won’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, it didn’t really seem to OCCUR to SS that Dean wouldn’t be able to be cured.
      And absolutely. He’s like a baby duckling imprinting on the mama duckling. Can’t help feeling kinda bad for Soulless now. I mean, he wasn’t evil, just amoral… ‘Can’t I do all that AND have sex with the hippie chick?’
      ‘No, because you would be suffering!’
      ‘It would be in the dark..’

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading through comments, there’s not much I would add, it’s all pretty much been said. I wasn’t keen on soulless Sam, at all. I think that’s the same thing we see as the audience, in Dean. Even though SS was trying to be just Sam, he wasn’t. Dean knew it. It would explain the fight that he had within when it came to getting Sams soul back. Sammy didn’t exist even if there was a Sam.
    Also, for what it’s worth, I really wasn’t fond of Sam senior! I think the whole addition of the family was crap but it did emphasise how little they knew about Sam. Had they been a family from the off, yet would have know that Sam was different and instead of talking about how good a hunter he was, they’d be more inclined to help Dean find a way to get soul back. Instead, especially Sam Snr thought Sam was better off without his soul which, rightfully, upset Dean, adding to the tension between Dean and Sam snr

    Liked by 2 people

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