Recently I had started an article looking for clues in “Time After Time” to support a couple of theories started by Bookdal and Pragmatic Dreamer that all these time references and other clues throughout season seven were leading to an “everything is not what it seems” situation.
Something weird happened during that exercise. My silly mind (which loves doing this in times of Hellatus) took the clues amassed and started playing connect the dots. The idea was to connect the dots all the way through the starting point of these theories, which was last season’s finale, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” The trouble is, the line kept going. And going. Suddenly I’m all the way back to “Exile On Main Street.”
There’s something I can’t buy about Sam being in a coma since “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” There’s little payoff to that story line. What happens when Sam wakes up? He and Dean leave the panic room, they’re thrilled Bobby is alive and his house is okay, and they ride off into the sunset in the Impala. That’s a lot of strife for nothing. There has to be more.
I hear the groans out there. I agree, our tin foils hats these days are tearing a bit in certain places. For pure entertainment and speculation purposes though, hear me out. What else do you have to do until the next new episode?
Reality vs Delusion
Season six was not one of my favorites to say the least. It was too disjointed, there were too many dropped plots, there was a disconnect between the brothers, and a lot of strange things happened I just chalked up to bad writing and lazy plotting. Turns out, most of season seven is following the same pattern. What if it all means something?
Back in 1990 an awesome film, Jacob’s Ladder, came out about an ex-Vietnam veteran who was having a horrible time bridging reality with delusions. He kept seeing some pretty weird shit. Creatures with horns, cars blowing up, being haunted by his dead son, all sorts of creepy things that eventually added up to something huge (yeah, I don’t want to spoil it. I highly recommend the film).
On top of that film, I recently saw Inception for the first time. That film as well was loaded with references about the thin line between reality and dreams. By the end, there was no line. While there are many different interpretations to that ending, my take was if it was real to the character, that’s all that mattered.
So why am I bringing up these two films? Because, they have stretched the concept of perception to the point where I'm looking at it sideways. I’m firmly in the camp now that questions what we are seeing in seasons six and seven is real. Or it’s one person’s reality, aka Sam’s. If that is possible, then what state of flux is Sam in? There are two possible theories I’ve come up with:
1. He’s still in Hell.
Remember what Lucifer told him in “Hello Cruel World?” Here, I have for you in case you forgot.
Lucifer: You not knowing what’s real, the paint slowly peeling off of your walls, come on man this is the sweet spot, why would I end it? Not like we’ve got HBO in the pit. All I got is you, floating over the coals with half a hope that you’re gonna figure it all out. There’s only one way to figure it out Sam. It’s up to you. It ends when you can’t take it anymore.2. He’s in Purgatory.
Not the Purgatory that the show has depicted the last two seasons. Any Catholic knows that Purgatory is a place where the soul goes to be purified before moving on to it’s final destination. Here’s what the wikipedia entry says about Purgatory:
Purgatory is a cleansing that involves painful temporal punishment, associated with the idea of fire such as is associated with the idea of the eternal punishment of hell. Several Church Fathers regarded 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. Fire was the Bible-inspired image ("We went through fire and through water") that Christians used for the notion of after-life purification. St. Augustine described the fires of cleansing as more painful than anything a man can suffer in this life, and Pope Gregory I wrote that there must be a cleansing fire for some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Origen wrote about the fire that needs to purify the soul St. Gregory of Nyssa also wrote about the purging fire.I’m still not really sure if it’s one or the other (or even either) but too much keeps nagging at me to ignore it. Many have doubted that Castiel was powerful enough to pull Sam from Lucifer’s cage, with or without a soul. Only Death had that kind of power, or did he? Bookdal raised the question in her essay that Death producing an eclipse was deus ex machina. Couldn’t the same be true for just waltzing down to Hell and easily retrieving Sam’s soul from Hell without a fuss? How convenient it was to put up a wall to block the horrible memories? Could it have been Sam’s subconscious that put up the wall?
You got to admit, the whether it be in Hell or Purgatory, there was a lot of symbols of burning happening in season six. Sure, there’s always been the salting and burning of bones, but that’s not what I’m talking about. There was Dean’s dream in “Exile on Main Street” of Lisa burning on the ceiling. In “The Third Man,” when the kid is put through Castiel’s cavity search, he’s burning inside. In “Weekend at Bobby’s” it was suddenly revealed that demons can be killed by burning the bones of their original body (a fact unknown before) and the Crossroads Demon was burned to death by Bobby. Then in Family Matters, when Castiel does the soul cavity search on Sam, he is shown burning inside and screaming in agony. Sam gets burned by Crowley in “All Dogs Go To Heaven.” Crowley gets burned away in “Caged Heat.” In “Like A Virgin”, the burning hand of the dragon traps the virgins in a...wait for it...underground cage. Mother of All emerges from a burning pit on fire. Sam and Dean both burn but are quickly pulled from the fire by Castiel in “My Heart Will Go On.”
Notice here I didn’t mention when Sam was really burning in his Hell flashbacks in “Unforgiven,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and “Meet The New Boss.” Perhaps because those weren’t symbols. Maybe that’s his true current reality seeping through. The rest are clues that Sam is choosing to ignore. It makes sense. If he followed the trail of fire he’d be back to hell fire.
So, if Sam since the very beginning of season six has been caught in some sort of dream state, trying to escape his true agonizing reality, then is what Lucifer said true? Is this him stringing Sam along in a slow torture, making him think this is his life before revealing he’s still in Hell? Or is this Sam going through some sort of soul cleansing before his soul moves on? There have been three different phases in Sam’s mental state ever since he supposedly broke free from Hell.
Phase 1 was the soulless Sam phase. I can easily see if in a dream state of some sort why Sam would imagine himself soulless. The soullessness would be a defense mechanism from whatever peril he was suffering. New family, new life, no emotional attachments. Tons of sex without getting emotionally involved. He wouldn’t have to worry or care about Dean. Perhaps it’s a subconscious mind overwhelmed by the suffering from Hell? Turning off the emotion makes it bearable?
It would also make sense that he would latch onto a new family connection, aka the Campbells. That way he could continue to hunt knowing family had his back. It’s the only way of life he’s ever known. He probably had a mental picture about his grandfather from Dean’s description. Yet we know that the Samuel Campbell in season six was not the Samuel Campbell that we saw in “In The Beginning.” His true character was never really defined in season six. If Samuel was really all in Sam’s mind, that would make sense that we never saw the real Samuel since Sam never knew him. Why would Samuel betray his grandsons? He was a Campbell, all about hunting with family. Why bring Samuel back at all? That question was never truly answered.
Sam didn’t have an emotional attachment to this family. Is it shocking then that he built up this new family just to lose them one by one? Isn’t that what happened with his real family? This time it can happen without the pain. Just like Dean, everyone they’ve ever loved has left them. Even when Sam killed Samuel in “And Then There Were None,” his concern was over what would Mary think, not “Oh my God, I killed my grandfather!” Come to think of it, why would Dean want to kill Samuel? Betrayal is one thing, but Dean has always taken blood very seriously. (You psychologists step in here any second now. Is this a possible Freud thing?)
Phase 2 - Sam’s soul is pushed back into him. This was Dean’s doing and done against Sam’s will. That’s exactly what happened to him with “When The Levee Breaks.” Was this a sign of his mental defenses breaking down or is Lucifer controlling the dream? Who knows. The thing is, the soullessness unraveled, probably because he couldn’t hold back his emotional responses, so Sam has build up a new defense, the wall.
The wall before the season six finale was only breached once. That was at the end of “Unforgiven” when Sam remembered being burned alive. If this was reality seeping through, some sort of reboot happened. I think Sam pushed himself back into dream state, resisting the reality. Isn’t it interesting how everything was suddenly fine after that?
Enough reminders were sent Sam’s way of what would happen if he breached the wall. There was the warning from Castiel in “Caged Heat” and Death in “Appointment In Samarra.” There was Dean sending warnings in both “Like A Virgin” and again in “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning.” Was that perhaps his subconscious sending those signals? After that, they suddenly had a new foe to fight, Mother of All. Everything was all good as he was back hunting with his brother. A tactic perhaps to lull Sam into a sense of security?
Phase 3 - The wall is down, but somehow Sam is managing okay. He had a little rough time adjusting but everything is manageable. As he said in “Defending Your Life,” he’s good. Except, look at “Meet The New Boss” when Sam collapses after remembering burning. Is that reality again? He collapsed, he was out for a little while, and suddenly he woke up functional again. Exactly like “Mannequin 3” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Alright, semi okay. As Lucifer eluded to in “Hello Cruel World,” if there wasn’t some fallout from the wall breaking, would Sam believe it was real? Yet all it took was one intense conversation with Dean and everything was stable.
It’s interesting that ever since the beginning of “Meet The New Boss” Sam has not been seen experiencing any memories of Hell. So is the wall truly down? Or is Sam now using hallucinations to protect himself from those memories? Is there still a wall there, blocking what he doesn’t want to remember? What is it he’s trying to avoid? Or is he fighting something?
Is That All You Got?
I know, it all sounds like a lot of speculative nothing. Here’s a couple more clues to toss around. In “Let It Bleed,” when Sam was knocked out by the demons at the warehouse, he was literally dragged into a cage by demons and locked in. Then he was seen from an overhead shot lying in there unconscious. Perhaps a symbol for his current state? He’s in limbo in the cage in Hell? Here’s something else. When they do lock him in that “cage” so to speak, there’s a number 28 tacked onto the door frame. That’s Sam’s age. Happy accident, or does it mean something?
In Bookdal's essay, she listed several elements that were present in season seven. One was “redundancies and replacements.” There are plenty of these in season six as well. Castiel betraying Dean, which is a parallel for when Sam betrayed Dean. Ditto for Samuel betraying Sam and Dean. The Djinn coming back and attacking Dean. Lisa burning on the ceiling. Sam not coming clean with Dean until he’s forced in “You Can’t Handle The Truth” and “Family Matters,” much like “When The Levee Breaks.” Meg on the torture table in “Caged Heat.” The two orphaned boys in “Mommy Dearest.” In “The French Mistake” Misha’s throat is slashed by the angel who needed to make a call, much like Meg in season one and in “Croatoan” in season two. Also in the episode, Castiel’s black wings appear just like in “Lazarus Rising.” There also have been a few more episodes taking place at Biggersons than before. There’s also replacements like Sam’s Dodge Charger for the Impala and the Campbell family for Dean.
Bookdal also raised the problem of skewed Time. Season six definitely had that. When Sam collapsed in “Unforgiven” it felt like to him he was out for a week. Dean confirmed it was only a few minutes. In “Frontierland” there was a time clock running at Bobby’s and the clock in the town square, emphasizing that impact of time. There’s time disappearing during Dean’s abduction in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe.” The obvious time lapse though is when Sam and Dean first reunite in “Exile On Main Street.” It had been a year since Sam fell into the cage. However, come “You Can’t Handle The Truth,” the calendar on the wall shows it’s real time again, October 2010.
Then there’s the clues that Sam is a state of flux. He was in a coma for ten days in “Like A Virgin.” He collapses and is unconscious in “Unforgiven” and the beginning of “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning.” Then there’s the coma in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” There’s his period of unconsciousness in after collapsing in “Meet The New Boss.” There’s his long sleep in “Hello Cruel World.” Add that to him disappearing for ten days between “Slash Fiction” and “The Mentalists” and four days in “Season 7: Time For A Wedding.”
Sam’s been in some alternate realties too, like “The French Mistake” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Interesting too that in “My Heart Will Go On” they’re up against Fate. They try to figure out a way to stop Fate, but Castiel intervenes. Was that Sam’s mind telling him to escape Fate?
There’s Dean declaring a clean slate at the end of “And Then There Were None.” Wouldn’t that help someone who’s trying to reconcile or let go of his transgressions on earth? Someone who was trying to purge his sins? Forgiveness from the one person who was most damaged by your actions helps. Again that happens in “Defending Your Life” when Sam no longer feels guilty about what he’s done. He feels like he paid his dues in Hell.
What about the whole Mother of All plot? It turned out to be nothing. Easily disposed of. Same with the whole Alpha storyline and Heaven’s weapons from Balthazar. Is it poor plotting, or a dream state that lacks fluidity? A dream state using those plots as a distraction from the real problem?
Time After Time
Then there are those clues from “Time After Time.” The standout is the line from Jody Mills after finding the bottle of whiskey from Rufus. “It’s weird, huh? It’s like their life’s a big puzzle. Just keep finding pieces of it scattered all over the place.”
What do you suppose that line meant? That Sam needs to be looking at the pieces being left behind and put them all together? Until he does he cannot move on? Are they pieces of his life, or the people he knew that are now gone? Couple that with Lucifer waiting for him to put it all together and there’s some good evidence that Sam needs to be figuring out something.
There’s also the carving of Sam’s name on the wall. What a sign! Just the nature in which it’s carved, like someone desperately scratching on a wall. When Sam spotted that, the camera moved in closer in four jagged movements. It wasn’t just a normal fade in. That’s Sam’s subconscious screaming at him. Perhaps.
Yeah, that’s quite a lot to absorb, isn’t it? So, is it all fun teasing by the writers or does it mean something? If it is all a dream, how long do you think the writers would play it out?
With all that in mind, I end with my favorite line from Jacob’s Ladder. It’s something I keep as food for thought as more clues are revealed. Chances are this isn’t exactly want’s happening, but it’s an intriguing notion nonetheless.
The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.If anything, this proves to be nothing more than a fun exercise of pondering to kill the time until the next new episode.
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