Editor's Note: Gail Z. Martin, a Supernatural fan and member of The WFB Family, recognized a very interesting theme ("thread" to those of you who follow my "Threads" review series) within the season 12 stories. As she considered her idea, a pattern for the entire Supernatural series emerged. Please join me in welcoming her and enjoy reading the persuasive case she presents for a strategy that has been used by every Winchester, Castiel and many of our favorite Supernatural characters! - Nightsky
I’m a big fan of Nightsky’s ‘Threads’ feature. As she and I were tweeting about the show, I brought up a ‘thread’ of my own that she hadn’t mentioned, so she invited me to write about it.
The theme is ‘erasure’, as in wiping something out completely - in some cases, as if it never existed. Erasure seems to be a big undercurrent in Season 12, although when I started to think about it, I see examples throughout the series. Whenever erasure happens or is attempted, it never goes well.
In the first episode of season 12, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, Mary has been erased from thirty-three years of her sons’ lives, leaving her a stranger to them and them to her—which creates problems that play out across the whole season. In 12.02 ‘Mamma Mia’, we find out that the BMOL want to erase American hunters. In 12.04, ‘American Nightmare’, the fanatic mother attempted to erase her daughter’s existence rather than deal with how it frightened her and threatened her worldview.
We also saw that Mr. Ketch was comfortable using wet ops tactics to achieve his version of erasure when he killed Magda.
In 12.05 ‘The One You’ve Been Waiting For’, the attempt to erase Ellie’s family connection to Hitler was unsuccessful. In the next episode, 12.06, Asa Fox tried to erase any knowledge of his children’s existence, and we begin to see how much Mary is erasing everything we (and the brothers) thought we knew about her as a mother. In ‘Rock Never Dies’, 12.07, Lucifer erases the apology and understanding he and God worked out in ‘We Happy Few’. In 12.09 ‘First Blood’, we see Sam and Dean being taken to a black site government facility whose official existence has been erased, for the purpose of effectively erasing them.
Cass then erases the deal with Billie the Reaper by killing her, under the threat of cosmic consequences for doing so.
Lily Sunder is slowly being erased by the deal she made for vengeance in 12.10.
Of course, the erasure theme is clearest in ‘Regarding Dean’ 12.11. As Dean’s memories are lost, he loses aspects of his personality and his relationships are also affected. Ultimately, his erasure will kill him if it can’t be stopped.
Rowena discloses that she has erased her own past by retconning a better version.
In ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’, 12.12 and ‘The Raid’, 12.14, we worry that Mary is trying to erase the impact of what the BMOL did to Sam by deciding to work with them in spite of it. And in ‘Family Feud,’ 12.13, Gavin is erased from our time period and his history is changed, while we find out that Rowena’s vengeance stems from what she lost helping to erase the Mark of Cain.
The conversation between Sam and Dean at the end of ‘Regarding Dean’ really hit me as a key point of the season, when Sam wonders whether they would be better off forgetting all the bad things that have happened to them, and Dean refuses to give up the good along with the bad. Despite the Winchester habit of denial, Dean’s finally discovered the value in owning his past.
Sam and Dean’s discussion reminded me poignantly of a conversation I’d had several years ago with a good friend who is a bestselling science fiction author and a combat veteran. A mutual friend brought up a controversial new drug treatment that can erase specific selected memories and is being explored as a way to help victims of trauma and PTSD. Although he has struggled with depression as a result of his combat experiences, my author friend said something along the lines of ‘You can’t take those memories from me. They make me, me—even with the pain.” Certainly the same is true of Sam and Dean.
Thinking back, erasure has either never worked or has created serious ripple effects for the Winchesters. Sam tried to erase his past by going to Stanford, but it caught up with him. The faith healer erased the damage to Dean’s heart, with tragic side effects. John’s deal erased Dean’s death, as Mary’s deal long ago had erased his own—both times, with major consequences. Sam tried to erase Dean’s deal, making him vulnerable to Ruby. The angels tried to erase Sam’s existence by keeping him from being born in order to avert the Apocalypse. Death’s wall tried to erase Sam’s memories of the Cage, with serious side effects. Erasing the wall caused even worse problems. Drinking demon blood erased Sam’s inhibitions much as the MOC erased Dean’s. Soulless Sam and Demon Dean both lived out the erasure of their consciences. Erasing the MOC unleashed the Darkness.
Whenever erasure has been attempted, it goes badly, or backfires spectacularly. It may solve one problem, but it creates problems of equal or greater consequence. Time and time again, the only way out is through.
What do you think? Are there examples of erasure I’ve missed? Any bets on where this theme might be taking us?
About the author:
Gail Z. Martin is the author of 15 epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk novels, including: The Shadowed Path (Chronicles of the Necromancer universe); Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel (urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC); Shadow and Flame (Ascendant Kingdoms Saga); and Iron and Blood (Steampunk). Scourge: A Darkhurst novel debuts from Solaris Books in 2017. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook at @GailZMartin. Her website is GailZMartin.com