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Supernatural University: Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose
(Warning, a few spoilers about season 8)
As always in the anticipation of a new season, many fans are bouncing off the walls reacting to spoilery tidbits about the upcoming storyline. I'm going to say up front I've never understood the fannish tendency to jump off cliffs making judgments about things we haven't even seen yet, especially leaping to angry, bitter conclusions about the writers throwing one character under a bus while obviously favoring the other purely on the basis of short, deliberately vague interviews and attention-getting, tiny clips. Prejudging on the basis of incomplete information strikes me as short-sighted on so many levels, and can ruin the viewing experience not only for the judger, but for others who simply want to see where the story will go. My advice to fans (including me!) is always the same: don't assume things in advance, be aware of your own biases before accusing others, and give the writers time in which to build and develop their story – don't expect all the answers in the first five minutes, or even the first five episodes. If there were no mystery, where would the story have room to grow?
Anyway, the issue I wanted to address here is why I personally am not disturbed about the spoilers indicating Sam abandoned the hunter life entirely and did not look for Dean or try to get him back. I know many fans think that would be uncharacteristic behavior or would cast Sam as someone uncaring and disloyal, especially in comparison with Dean, but I respectfully but firmly disagree. Let me explain.
If Sam indeed did not look for Dean, I see a combination of extremely practical reasons that could come together to explain that, including:
- having absolutely no trail to follow;
- lacking any useful information that could have led to a recovery, even if Sam had been able to figure out a direction;
- being totally isolated from the rest of the hunting community and having no reasonable expectation of any knowledgeable help;
- knowing from all their prior experience that bringing people back never came without a price that probably shouldn't be paid, always leading to more loss and pain; and
- hitting his personal psychological and emotional limit, losing Dean, Bobby, and Castiel virtually together, on top of all he suffered in Hell and afterward.
Where's Dean? Where Are They, Crowley?
Dean's disappearance really left Sam nothing to go on in terms of knowing what happened to him. In every other instance – save one – when we saw people translocated, they were in direct physical contact with whatever transported them, making it very clear both how they were traveling and likely where they were going. Demons, angels, and the god Chronos (from Time After Time) have all been depicted as needing to be touching whomever they took with them, so a witness to their disappearance at least knew who was responsible and could deduce a location from that agent. However, we never saw the Leviathan display any ability to transport others, or even to transport themselves by any extraordinary means once they adopted bodies, so there was no precedent for Sam to expect Dick to take anyone with him.
The singular exception to this translocation agency occurred in Sympathy For The Devil, when the Winchesters were adroitly whisked from the convent where Lucifer's gate was opening and neatly deposited – a couple of minutes earlier, no less! – on board an airplane approaching the convent. We were given to understand by both Castiel in Sympathy and by Joshua in Dark Side Of The Moon that Supernatural's ineffable, invisible God had been the agent of the brothers' rescue. To my knowledge, that makes God the only character who had shown the ability to transport people without revealing himself visibly in the process. And before you say, “But Joshua didn't touch them in Dark Side Of The Moon!”, I will point out that the brothers weren't physically in Heaven; they were present there only in soul, so physical touch wouldn't have been necessary.
The energy pulses expanding outward from Dick as the Leviathan died definitely suggested something far removed from the ordinary going on, but then again, the brothers were involved in doing something that by all accounts had never been done before, so there was no frame of reference for what happened. The burst of power that accompanied Dick seemingly exploding prompted Sam to duck and cover his eyes, and when he reopened them, Dick, Dean, and Castiel were all totally gone, save for the black goo left behind by a wounded Leviathan. Under those circumstances, Sam had no way to know whether Dean had been transported somewhere alive or physically destroyed.
I would argue that, from Sam's perspective, Dean and Castiel both disappearing along with Dick – and not reappearing somewhere else soon thereafter, which probably would have happened had God stepped in – suggested most strongly that they had both been physically destroyed along with the Leviathan by the power of the weapon they'd used on Dick – something Crowley hinted at with his comment about god-weapons possessing a kick that should be warned about on a label. And if Dean was dead, his body simply unmade by the power of the weapon, Sam had ample reason to believe his soul was most likely in Heaven, given that he knew God had already arranged for him to be there before in Dark Side Of The Moon. We've been given no clue about the fate of slain angels, so whether Castiel was in Heaven or simply gone would have seemed to Sam more a topic for philosophical and theological theorizing than anything else.
If Dean was dead and in Heaven, bringing him back to pain on Earth would have been anathema to Sam, especially after what they'd both just experienced with Bobby. “And when it's your time – go.” That had to be ringing in Sam's mind after watching Bobby burn with the haunted flask in Survival Of The Fittest.
Purgatory really wasn't a likely destination for Dean according to everything Sam knew. From all we were told through the entire history of the show, humans had only three possible destinations: Heaven, Hell, or the stunted, doomed, and time-limited existence of a ghost remaining on Earth. From our introduction to Purgatory in Family Matters through Death's explanation of it in Meet The New Boss, our understanding has been that God created Purgatory to be the exclusive repository of monsters, beginning with Leviathan and continuing through all of Eve's children. Admittedly, Eve started by warping humans to resemble Leviathan in their taste for eating humans, but only her monster creations wound up in Purgatory. Humans who were simply evil rather than ravenous monsters went to Hell.
Dean had qualified as a monster for the very brief time when he became one of the Alpha vampire's “children” in Live Free Or Twi-Hard, so perhaps an entry into Purgatory wasn't entirely beyond the pale for him, but he'd never fed and therefore never fully became a vampire, enabling him to take the cure and purge the vampire infection to fully restore his humanity. On that basis, Purgatory should not have been in the cards as a potential destination for him. And unless Castiel's temporary position as the container for all the monster and Leviathan souls from Purgatory had contaminated him, Sam had no reason to think an angel would have gone to Purgatory, either.
Even if Sam had theorized that perhaps Dean and Castiel had been sucked into Purgatory with the slain Leviathan because of their proximity to Dick when he died or as a consequence of having been the ones physically in contact with him when the weapon was used, Sam would have had no trail to follow and no spell to use to get them back. And that's what I explore in the next section.
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