You want to know how freaking impossible it is to critique season six Sam Winchester?  I mean, how in the world to you characterize a character that wasn't a character for an entire half a season?  It just blows the mind. 

Nah, there's certainly something more to soulless Sam than meets the eye.  After all, it's an intriguing notion.  What exactly is a soulless man?  Still, I hit the wall of soulless fatigue right around episode 8.  Considering Dean's fatigue came much sooner, I shouldn't complain.  

(Read A Deeper Look At Season Six Dean Winchester)

 

After getting his soul forcefully shoved back into him, the real Sam wasn't really there either.  He was a guy with this wall in his head, keeping back the trauma, the pain that defines who he is.  He also didn't remember that other side of him that he often doesn't like, the dark, strategic thinker that doesn't let the human element into the equation.  He becomes this doughy-eyed, "I've got your back", obedient (for the most part) little brother, the part of Sam that Dean needs the most.  Not that I'm complaining, for there are some really great brotherly moments that come out of it, but it wasn't until the finale, when soulless Sam and Sam merged, that the real Sam appeared.  However he's got another part of himself now too, the brutally damaged Hell Sam.  It's just not looking pretty.  

Let's dig into this completely bi-polar season for Sam Winchester, shall we?  The only pretty in it is the hair. 

Exile on Main Street

I spent a good portion of this episode yelling, "WTF???"  Sam is so vacant.  He just pops out of nowhere to save Dean from an hallucination, gives Dean a wooden hug after proving to Dean he was alive and well in a very cavalier fashion, and then tells Dean as if there's no problem that he's been alive for a year and hunting with relatives they didn't know about previously.  Then, after they thwart the bad guy, Sam with a very cold "It's really good to see you again Dean," takes off (in a Charger nonetheless!) as if he just said goodbye to a casual acquaintance?

 

Yeah, yeah, it all makes sense now.  This is, as the term is coined later by Dean, RoboSam.  He's a walking, talking, killing shell.  The only spark of personality comes in his mocking of Dean's new golf skills.  You did have to wonder, what was burned away in Hell?  Is it really Sam?  It makes for a good mystery but in the meantime, it's very uncomfortable to see Sam like this.  One thing's for sure, whatever is there, this ain't Sam Winchester.  At least all of him.  

Two and A Half Men

RoboSam can be pretty fun.  Thank heavens.  Soulless or not, it's clear Sam has no clue what to do with a baby.  His pleasant surprise over seeing that Dean does know mirrors our own.  It's the Dr. Huxtable vibe!  It's still obvious though this Sam isn't right.  He vocalizes objections now, something he was very skilled at keeping to himself before.  His ill tolerance of a crying baby proves that.  Plus, he doesn't think twice about plugging a bad guy in a room where a baby is.  He's able to convince Dean to help him though, and that's enough to get Dean back on the road with him.  Sam clearly doesn't know what he's getting into.  

This episode also shows Sam is a pure strategic thinker that's willing to risk anything to achieve his means as a hunter.  Like an innocent baby.  Dean picks up on this rather easily, but if there's one thing that Sam, soulless or not, is very skilled at, it's lying.  He denies.  Let the moral ambiguity begin!  



The Third Man

Sam once again let's his irritation surface into a new level of jerkiness.  Granted, Castiel's actions warranted such behavior, but it's another clue that this Sam isn't normal.  Granted "not normal" got no objections from us when he was doing his oh so very hot morning workout shirtless with those low riding jeans (still drooling) but Sam spent the night with a hooker?  Really?  Oh yeah, something isn't right.  Then there's the massive, hit you in the face clue.  Castiel needs to hurt a young boy to get to the truth about who owns his soul.  Dean objects, Sam has no problem with it.  Uh oh.  Red flag waving.  

Sam does learn one thing.  Castiel has no clue what pulled him out.  He seems genuinely bothered by this.  He's also bothered about the destruction of his car.  So, somehow, having no soul means getting disappointed and mad can still happen.  However, when it comes to Dean, he's stone cold.  When asked if he's alright, if he wants to talk about Hell, Sam gives a very chilling, "It tortured you.  I think it still does.  But Dean, I'm okay."  I really don't want to know his definition of okay. 



Live Free and Twihard

Sam stood by and watched his brother get turned into a vampire on purpose, and smirked about it!  Enough said.  Sam ain't right.  


You Can't Handle The Truth

Now this version of Sam is starting to piss me off.  "Hey Sammy, your jerkiness is showing!"  He's super rude to the witness they're questioning and makes her cry, he finds remnants of a dead cat and can only joke about it, and he flat out lies to Dean about the vampire thing even when he's supposed to be under a truth spell.  



FINALLY though, we get some clues.  What episode number is this?  Sam and Dean have been captured by Veritas, the Goddess of Truth.  Dean is forced to tell the truth because of her power and its heart crushing.  Sam gives a line of bullshit about how the job is hard and they look out for one another.  The shocked face of Veritas is the kicker.  "How are you doing that?  That's not possible.  You're lying to me!  What are you?"  Exactly what we all want to know.  Sam denies, but she knows better.  "You're not human."  No, Dean doesn't take this well. 

I find it interesting that only when threatened with harm will Sam come clean.  He's had a good charade going for a while now.  Funny how a large knife waving in front of him jogs the memory.  He admits, something's wrong with him, has been for a while.  He let Dean get turned by the vamp because he wanted into the nest, knew about the cure and knew Dean could handle it.  He didn't think of the consequences (aka harm to Ben or death to Dean) because he can't feel anything.  "Ever since I came back, I am a better hunter than I've ever been.  Nothing scares me anymore because I can't feel it.  I don't know what's wrong with me.  I think...I need help."  He turns on the fake puppy dog eyes and tries to convince Dean he's being sincere.  Dean thinks about it and that's enough for Sam to let his guard down.  He never sees his vicious beating coming.  I'm not entirely certain souled Sam would have missed that.  Of course if it was the souled Sam puppy dog eyes, that would have been enough to calm Dean down.  At least soulless Sam still feels physical pain, cause he got plenty of it.  



Family Matters

FINALLY, an answer!  Sure, Dean has to tie Sam to a chair and enlist help from his angel BFF, but that works.  Sam's soul is missing.  It's probably back in the cage with Lucifer?  Really?  That's not good.  That means part of Sam, the touchy feely part, has been enduring the worst possible torture ever for a year and a half.  That's like 150 Hell years (please tell me if my math is wrong).  Yeah, not a lot of fairness, is there?    

Soulless Sam is learning though.  He tries to deceive Dean again, not telling him about how he and Samuel have been catching alphas.  He gets caught in another lie after Dean sees covertly him and Samuel catch the alpha vamp.  Sam wisely decides to play it Dean's way, especially when Dean can tell that Samuel is hiding something.  Sam's instincts are a little off, given that he can't read human signals (although he could  with that lady in "You Can't Handle The Truth" so there's some inconsistency there).  It's nice that Sam wants to stay in his brother's corner, but given his unpredictable state, who knows how long that will last?  



All Dogs Go To Heaven

This is the episode that I wish sniper Dean would have taken out soulless Sam.  What an insufferable bastard!  Sam is characterized as the biggest jerk in the world, and I still don't know why.  At this point, I've had enough soullessness.  We get it.  At the end Sam tells Dean he's willing to get his soul back, and then immediately changes his mind the next two episodes.  Whatever.  I want off this ride, I'm getting ill.  



Clap Your Hands If You Believe

So what is soulless Sam going to do this week?  Aside from have sex with a hippie chick while Dean has been abducted by aliens?  (Okay, that was funny)  Being over the shock of his abduction within a half hour?  (My guess it was more like two minutes).  This is after telling Dean he survived on his own for a year just fine?  I'm with Dean, I don't want to know his definition of "fine."  I do forgive him though for jumping on fairy lady and her "wackadoo."  I would have loved if while they were having tea there were cats climbing everywhere (sorry, veering off topic).  

Sam is given an opportunity.  Evil fairy leprechaun (that still gets me every time I say it) claims he can get Sam's soul back.  They have ways of getting in back doors.  Sam responds to the offer by shooting the leprechaun (not a deal breaker), pulling out the grains of salt (best way to thwart a villain ever) and eventually sends him back to the fairy world (can you imagine what this sounds like to someone who doesn't watch the show?).  Dean has a right to be curious as to why Sam would do that.  Sam's answer is perfect.  "When has a deal ever been a good thing?"  Yet his expression gives an entirely different answer.  He doesn't want his soul back.  Goodie, we're back to lying.  Oh, and soulless Sam, HAVE A FREAKING BEER WITH YOUR BROTHER, okay? 



Caged Heat

What soulless Sam shall it be this week?  Why the confident, dealing with demons, fighting leader Sam.  Even Meg is spooked the whole episode because she can't quite put a finger on what's different about Sam, until she finds out his soul is missing (love her line, "I here I just thought you grew some balls Sam.").  One bonus did come out of this.  I sincerely doubt souled Sam would have used his own blood to make a devil's trap so creepily.  Wow!  



Sam hears from three different sources, Castiel, Crowley, and Meg, that getting his soul back might not be the best idea.  He chooses to confront Dean at the end when Dean assures him they'll get his soul back.  "You know what, when angels and demons agree on something, call me nuts, I pay attention."  This is clearly Sam thinking strategically.  How can he be a strong hunter when a weak and damaged soul will "smash him to bits"?  He can't have that, no matter what Dean wants.  

Appointment in Samarra

Oh goodie, this week we get homicidal maniac soulless Sam.  Dean is risking all with Death so Bobby gets to play babysitter.  Good thing Bobby is a paranoid bastard because every instinct he had about soulless Sam proves to be correct.  Sam hates the wall idea.  It's too risky to him.  He sneaks off to summon Balthazar (I'd love to know how he figured out how to do that).  He needs to know how to prevent his soul from entering his body.  His act is every bit as desperate as Dean's, especially when the answer is acceptable to him.  Patricide?  All he needs is a father figure, not a blood dad?  What a setup!

Sam and Bobby play this game of cat and mouse for half an episode.  Sam tries to do the unthinkable and kill Bobby.  If Dean succeeds he'll become a drooling mess and his survival is more important right now than anyone else's, including Bobby.  Just by acting this way, Sam has surrendered his rights as a human being.  Dean comes to Bobby's rescue and Sam's strapped down to the cot.  He no longer has a say in his future.  His soul is forcefully put back in by Death.  It's interesting to see soulless Sam plead desperately for his life before this happens.  It's out of character from what we've seen from soulless Sam, but then again his characterization hasn't exactly been even.  This side of him isn't ready to give up control and as we find out later, never really goes away.  

Comments  

alysha
# alysha 2011-09-05 04:00
Resouled Sam was off to me, there was something missing. He was bland and wussy. I look forward to the integrations of all parts Sam.
Hayley G
# Hayley G 2011-09-05 07:13
God I love Sam, every single form of him and i am so impressed with the writers giving him all these nuances to play, Jared has really stepped up and owned them all.

I am really intrigued to see where he goes in Season 7 and am excited for the fallout. I too think Sam's stronger than people give him credit for but 150 years in hell is going to wreck anybody. I can't wait to see how it all goes down.

Lovely article on Sam, thank you.
Sharon
# Sharon 2011-09-05 07:15
m being seen has strong and he will be alright is the problem that has bugged Sams storytelling . Dean is all ''how much more can he take'' Sam is strong and will get over it. I do not want to see that again . I want a genuine showing over exactly what this has done to Sam from Sams pov .

I know we need a Sam functiong but no reducing or hand waving away of the real impact on Sam physically, emotionally, mentially . Dealing with this on Sams level has been along time coming .Lets for once let people see Sam is not unbreakable that he cant just get up and dust himself off .

I enjoyed Souless Sam but the integration had to happen now lets see the consquences.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-09-05 09:11
Brilliantly done, Alice.

Sam was put through a lot this season and you captured all of it.

Jared's acting was amazing this season, and he sold us each character--Soul less Sam, Reinsouled but not whole Sam, Hell!Sam, Whole Sam, all while only really given his body movements and facial expressions as tools to do it. It's really amazing to see how well he pulled that off in retrospect. Having finally gone to a Con and met him, I still can't figure out how he turned his eyes off to that dead, cold look for Soulless Sam. It's amazing work, really.

As for the upcoming season, I think Hell!Sam said to Sam that he didn't think he was strong enough to take it because he knew it'd be a button. Push that button and you'll ignite the Sam Winchester Stubbornness. What's the worst thing anyone, including Dean, can ever tell Sam? "You can't." It makes Sam say "Oh YEAH? I'll show you!" and then proceed to do it.

I'm thinking Sam will more than likely struggle. He'll have issues and times where he can't handle it, but over all I think Sam will prove his Hell self wrong. He CAN and WILL be stronger than those memories.

I also hope that both brothers open up a little about this, both of them have now experienced and remember Hell, not to mention other things they've swept under the rug Winchester style. I hope they learn that doing that is how the bad guys really win---not using their love for one another against them. If they are truly as equal as Dean implied with that gun and note, then Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory help whomever is foolish enough to stand in their way.
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-09-05 16:32
An excellent look at S6 Sam, Alice. I didn't catch the subtle distinctions between Soulless Sam/WholeSam/Ha lfSam/RoboSam while watching the season. It just seemed the character was all over the place, so now I have a better understanding of what was going on.

In reading through your review, it dawned on me why I did not like the Soulless Sam/RoboSam story. I just never bought into it for some of the reasons you mention (going on too long for one, and Sam's actions being so despicable for another, and no clear definition for what a soul means to a person).

I know I am probably a lone voice in not liking Sam's storyline this season. Your article made me realize that I didn't like it because it screamed to me that Sam is a passive victim whose life circumstance is solely dependent on the actions of others; be that the YED, Dean, the angels, Lucifer, and now Cas. Of course, what's going on then drives what actions Dean takes, and in a circle they go.

I don't think there is any question that Sam will put himself back together again, but my hope is that both brothers are a little more proactive this season than they have been the last couple of years.
Mamiya39
# Mamiya39 2011-09-06 06:28
Great analysis of Sam Winchester, Alice!

Season 6 Sam wasn't easy to capture and required multiple viewings and a deeper look.  You beautifull y summarized the character of the last season and I've enjoyed reading the article.  Thank you!

I'm really intrigued by Hell Sam, who seemed to have something  more than meets the eye. Having been tortured, broken and suffered horribly in Hell, he stil l showed a genuine sympathy and understanding to Sam.  That means Hell Sam maintained his humanity even after 150 years in Hell.  Hell Sam had such strength without really noticing.

I believe the strength is an integral part of Real Sam.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2011-09-06 12:41
Once again, great essay on season 6 Sam.

I did like the way the character was drawn up this past season, though I do agree it was a little bit too long. By the time "Appointment in Samarra" came along, I was more than ready to say farethewell and good riddance to Soulless Sam. But man, oh man, did Jared ever play him well. The guy deserves some sort of award for that. If was so full of subtlety and nuance, I could rhapsodize on his performance for hours, except you're the only people you'll listen!!

Now that Dean has given everyone "carte blanche" over any wrong committed (wonder if that'll include Castiel) I hope that he and Sam will finally stop keeping freaking secrets from each other.
airbat
# airbat 2011-09-06 18:09
I enjoyed your essay very much, Alice and agree to it in almost every part.

I may be one of the few people who actually enjoyed soulless Sam. I was more irritated with Cas this season (even more so in retrospect-but that's a discussion for another forum). Why did I enjoy it? Well, for once Sam was snarky - sure a jerk to no end, but funny: "Go to hell!" - "Been there, didn't agree with me!"- Bwah!!! Also after five seasons of seeing Sam devastated, guilty and torn it was like a fresh wave. Of course I cringed when he told Dean that he doesn’t care about him but at least he wasn’t lying this one time. It was nice to see Sam not doubting himself but doing what needs to be done. Of course without a soul that went completely overboard. Like Dean put it so correctly: Sam was the T1000. Purely living for self-preservati on and doing the job he was “programmed† for from his childhood.
And here’s where our opinion slightly part. I still believe at that moment RoboSam truly wanted his soul back. Maybe because he saw that without it he made errors in judgment or because he thought that with a soul – and his return of his “instincts” – he would be an even better hunter. This changed two episodes later, but why? In “clap your hands” Dean tells him that to have a soul means to suffer. Not the best sales argument for someone who thinks that emotions hinder you, makes you a weaker hunter. So everything Dean tells him about a soul in this episode is from a negative point. You suffer, you can’t have sex with a hippie chick…so RoboSam wavers. He’s completely turned down the idea, when angel and demons agree that getting that soul back into him will cripple him, maybe even kill him. Sam clearly told Dean he doesn’t want it back. Of course Dean wouldn’t leave it at that – and we the audience who knew Sammy, know why – but RoboSam’s self-preservati on instinct kicked in and he did everything he could to prevent Dean from going through with his plan. Poor Bobby is the fallout of that. But for me RoboSam’s action made sense. Did I like them? Nope! Killing Bobby is just a no-go. But I thought the continuity was preserved.
The only time I thought it was broken, was when Sam showed emotions that I couldn’t count as played (over his car, over getting his soul shoved back in).

OH GOD, this got so much longer than I intended and I apologize for boring you! I’ll try to keep it short next time. This said: I am looking forward to Season 7 like no one’s business :D.
Lindab30
# Lindab30 2011-09-06 20:18
Hey airbat, thank you so much for voicing what I have been thinking and feeling for so long. I too am one of the few who actually enjoyed soulless Sam. The flashbacks are terrifying though. I truly believe that in the beginning Sam wanted his soul back. It irritated me that the writers had Dean continuously questioning him, perhaps that is what planted the seeds of doubt. And his remarks in Clap Your Hands didn't help things either. At the end of All Dogs go to Heaven Sam said there were things he remembered about being that "other Sam" and it would be best if he went back to being him. I believed him there and I hope we get to know what those things are. I think it may have a lot to do with his memories of being a brother to Dean and what they had together. At the end of Clap Your Hands Sam turned down the offer from the leprachan to get his soul back because it was a deal, "since when has a deal ever been good". Sam was soulless, not stupid, so once again I believed him there, but it is very obvious he was having second thoughts. Every time he said he wanted his soul back I believed him, even as his doubts grew stronger. If the opportunity presented itself sooner and he was faced with actually making the choice for himself perhaps he wouldn't have gone thru with it. Of course we will never know, fortunately all of that is in the past and we now have Sammy with his soul. I am so looking forward to the brothers being together as one, taking care of each other. Sept 23rd cannot get here soon enough. Thanks for letting me ramble. None of the people I see on a regular basis watch the show so I have no one to talk with about it.
airbat
# airbat 2011-09-06 20:35
Hey Lindab30,
I have the same problem with my friends and Supernatural. I suspect by now, they think I'm crazy. But thank god, there are great, sensible (mostly brother war free) sites like this one which wonderful articles about everything Supernatural. Also found a lot of new people to chat to on twitter and facebook. Try it out. New Supernatural fans are always welcomed.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2011-09-07 08:26
Don't get me wrong, I totally enjoyed Soulless Sam for his "badassness" and yes, his sick sense of humour. But I'm looking forward to the next season to see how Sam will do having all parts of his soul restored to him, won't be easy I'm thinking.

And I definitely agree with both of you about having a place to discuss our favourite obsession without people rolling their eyes. I don't dare talk about it anymore with my friend, she just thinks "Oh, dear God, there she goes again".
Sweet
# Sweet 2011-09-13 03:21
I was actually more sympathetic to Soulless Sam than Dean in the first half of this season. I never bought that Lisa/Ben thing as a real relationship but more as a fantasy family that symbolized something Dean felt he wanted to complete his life. Or something. I felt the Soulless Sam arc was more emotionally honest by comparison.

I think the main problem was not revealing Soulless Sam's lack of soul sooner. As soon as they were open about what kind of Sam we were dealing with, it was better, and we got more from RoboSam's point of view, too. This show destroys more potential for drama and sympathy by hiding things for some stupid reveal down the line than any other show I've watched. I do love SPN, but never have the writing for the series as a whole.

I think the real tragedy of Soulless Sam and Hell Sam both is that neither one had to exist that long. Castiel should have said something by the 3rd episode of the season. Or done his own checking on Sam if he didn't want to admit he'd brought him up from hell wrong. What's even sadder is that Cas didn't even stick around long enough to see how Sam was doing after he brought him up from hell, not even to say hello and glad you're back. Nothing. Castiel didn't admit to bringing Sam up until he thought it might get him out of that fire ring. And then Castiel tore Sam's Wall down on purpose. As much as Castiel's betrayal hurt Dean, it's truly Sam he hurt the most here. Sam is going to have dual memories, and both of them are horrifying.

I'm very excited to see how Sam's integration will be handled in the new season. How will they deal with something this devastating? I hope it is personal and I hope it is about how this makes Sam feel rather than only getting it from Dean's POV. I have waited so long to hear from Sam on this show. To have his reactions matter in a big, central way.