Supernatural often tells its story through metaphor. Episodes such as "Heart," "Metamorphosis," Bedtime Stories," and "Houses of the Holy" are great examples of this. The formula works because it allows the monster of the week story on the surface to tell a parallel character story underneath. "Heartache" is no different as it tells Sam and Dean's story through subtle metaphor.  It is a blending of their opposing views on the hunt, the life, and what to do after the gates to Hell are shut. 

The Winchesters are on the trail of gruesome murders. The victims have had their hearts ripped out of their chests, all within six months of each other in various cities throughout the country. It turns out that a famous football player had died, and his organs had ended up dispersed to the now murderers. The football player, Brick, was actually a Mayan warrior that had made a bargain with the god of maize, Cacao. To stay forever young and vibrant, Brick must make a sacrifice each spring and each fall. The sacrifice is to take a victim's heart and consume it. 


Those that have received his organs upon death are now fulfilling his centuries old ritual. 

The case, on the surface, seems black and white. There are strange murders and they must be stopped. As the brothers start to investigate, however, they encounter roadblocks and misdirections. They can't figure out why the attacks are happening---and when they talk to one of the murderers, he is unresponsive, muttering a phrase repeatedly. While it isn't helpful at the time, it is a vital clue. The language is a dead one---Mayan to be exact.

After their suspect Arthur gouges one of his eyes out---one that had been transplanted a year prior---Sam does some research into their first suspect Paul Hughes. It turns out that he, too, had had a transplant. With two suspects committing the same crime in two separate events and locations it can only be deduced that both had received organs from the same individual. 

As they put the pieces together, the Winchesters follow the clues to Boulder, Colorado. There, they encounter Brick's "mother," Eleanor. They question her about her son's accident, what lead up to it, and if he had picked up any new interests previous to his death. She is evasive and aloof, throwing up suspicions that there is much more going on here than meets the eye. 

Sam and Dean wait until she is out of the house and return to investigate Brick's room. There, they make startling discoveries. Hidden behind a false wall in his closet are sports memorabilia, and various private letters to a woman named "Betsy" from a mysterious "Me." It is obvious that Brick has written them to this Betsy. 

The letters touch on the metaphor encapsulated in the episode---particularly of each brother's story. In them, Brick says that he is so tired. It is obvious thus far into the season that Sam is having a difficult time hunting. His heart isn't in it and he has explicitly said that he spent the previous year out of the life. It is much more than being simply tired. Throughout the series, Sam has faced a dire destiny. He resumed hunting after Dean came to get him because he wanted to gain vengeance for Jessica's death. Once Azazel had been killed he remained in the life because he was facing a dark destiny---that of being the remaining special child of Azazel and later the vessel of Lucifer.

Sam's angered comment in "We Need to Talk about Kevin" expresses his frustration with the life explicitly, "So free will, that's only for you?" All his life, Sam has faced down hunting because he has had little choice. He did what he had to in order to survive and to thwart that dark destiny. Sam often used hunting as an outlet to do just that. If he could save as many people as possible, he believed that it would save him, too. He succeeded in defeating Lucifer, placing him back into the Cage. 

But Sam has also seen hunting as not what he wants to do but what he must. It is a responsibility that he carries with him---thrust upon him by first his father and then Dean. Sam has imposed it upon himself, too. All other options are considered closed---and the mere thought of investigating a life outside of hunting is to be shunned. Sam, here, feels his free will is being compromised to an extent. It is possible that, even though he has stated he wants out that he might end up back in the life regardless. What Sam wants here is the chance to make that choice himself. 

He punctuates this point when Dean discovers a response to a college application by stating, "I'm just keeping my options open."

The comment in Brick's letter about being tired also speaks to Sam's deep emotional wounds. He has lost everyone he loves due to hunting, to the life. The list is long and full of heartache. He has lost his mother, before he could even know her. He has lost his father, all without being able to say a proper goodbye. He has lost his girlfriend, Jessica. He has lost Jo and Ellen in a failed attempt to kill the Devil. He has lost his second father, Bobby. He has lost Dean multiple times---over a hundred times in a single day, to Hell, and most recently to Purgatory. 

Dean. It all comes down to Dean for Sam here. In the the last year he has had to learn to live without his brother. When he said, "Nothing says family like the whole family being dead" in "We Need to Talk about Kevin," he meant it. He is tired of seeing those he loves end up dead, missing, or otherwise. To continue hunting is to ensure that he must endure losing his brother again---to watch what he swore he would never do again, as he said in "Mystery Spot, "Twice now I've watched you die, and I can't. I won't do it again, okay?" We see him echo this sentiment further when he begs Dean in "The Slice Girls, "But just don't -- don't get killed."

It is a tragic truth, one that Sam might no longer be able to swallow. 


Back on the case the brothers dig through more items in Brick's room. Oddly, it seems that Eleanor's clothes are also in his closet. The photos in the hidden space yield another important clue. Brick is far older than he appears---and Eleanor isn't what she seems, either. 

Armed with this information, the brothers return to talk with her---this time without beating around the bush. Dean calls her out, saying "Or should we call you Betsy." 

Eleanor relents, letting them into the house where she divulges Brick's true identity and secret. Brick is a Mayan warrior, and until recently leading up to his death, had lived for sport and combat. He had made a deal with the god of maize, Cacao, to remain vital and young. Brick would switch sport every so often, retire, disappear for awhile, and reemerge with a new name. He had fed off the thrill of the sport, reveling in its rush. 

Here, we see Brick's story reflect Dean's. He is consumed by sport, trying out as many as possible. Brick is the ultimate adrenaline junkie, feeding upon it both through his ritual sacrifice and his conquests in sport. Dean, since returning from Purgatory, has shown himself to enjoy the rush of the hunt. He throws himself wholeheartedly into it, and says to Sam, "I know when I am at my best. And that is right here, driving down crazy street, next to you." 

Dean embraces the life fully, trying to make the best of it, finding purpose through it, and feeding upon it. It makes him feel good, feel important, and gives him something to do. It is what he knows he is good at, and so he no longer tries to fight what is his nature. The height of the hunt, for Dean, is a rush. It allows everything else to fade away---everything he has endured, and everything he has lost. Just as Sam is trying to escape it to avoid repeating the losses of the past, Dean is using the life to cope. To fall idle is to leave Dean with no choice but to face both himself and what has happened to him. 

We see all the chinks in the facade. All last season, Sam used hunting in a similar fashion. He was a shark, always on the move, never at rest. Sam was trying to outrun and outgun the hallucinations he carried from the Cage. He became super focused on hunting and the life. Here, we see Dean cope with his time in Purgatory in much the same way. He has become the shark, always looking for the next hunt, the next kill, the next thrill. Dean is trying to fill the void. He has spent a year constantly battling for his life, and the battlefield he left behind is trailing him everywhere he goes. Rather than trying to step away from it---as Sam is doing---Dean tries to find it. He seeks it out deliberately. Dean is afraid that if he should stop moving that he will die---just like a shark. In Purgatory, that was particularly true from what we've seen. Defeat an opponent and a new one emerges to take its place. Now that he is back on earth, he can't shake that mentality. 

Dean has always had abandonment issues, and he has never wanted to hunt alone. In the Pilot he tells Sam, "Yeah, well... I don"™t want to." He has always needed a partner, someone to watch his back, someone that is going through it with him. He says to Sam in "Heartache," "Seeing as I have so many other brothers I can talk to about this stuff." Dean still doesn't want to do this alone---and to him hunting with his brother is what he wants to do. Brick's fear of being left behind by Eleanor comes to play here for Dean's fear of being left behind and alone. He has no desire to do this by himself. It is Dean's way of trying to recapture a simpler time as well. To him, being on the road with Sam is pure. He wants to convince Sam here that facing the world together, fighting side by side, is truly their best option. Brick felt the same about Eleanor and could not imagine facing another sports career without her. Dean can't possibly imagine living the life without his little brother, too. 

"Heartache" blends both of these storylines into a distinct and clear metaphor for each. Brick is as much Sam as he is Dean.

Brick wanted to find the next mountain to climb, the next trophy to win, the next new sport to conquer. He spent nearly 1000 years doing it, again and again and again. Brick was unable to stop. He wanted the taste of victory fresh in his mouth at all times, the fame, the fortune, the idolization. Brick wanted the glory. We see that in Dean's enthusiasm in the hunt. 

And yet, Brick stands in as metaphor for Sam's desire for normal, for more. Eleanor is Betsy, and it is in watching her fade and age that causes Brick to rethink his desire for sport. He loves her, has chosen her to live by his side, and yet she is to wilt and die while he remains young and vital. He realized that Eleanor proved there was more to life than winning another championship. There was more to life than an endless string of victories or records. Eleanor confirms this when she says, "In that time, Brick himself had changed - inside. He wasn't just the warrior who's only reason for living was combat. We were deeply, deeply in love." Eleanor symbolized to Brick what he could have---without sport---a quiet and peaceful life without the rituals and traps of his bargain with Cacoa. Brick realized most of all that Eleanor was going to leave him in death---and so he left her first. 

The desire for normal, here, is also a mask. Sam may truly want that again, but he knows seeking it out will push Dean away, too. He is using it to hide his real motivations from his brother. It is no different than Dean's mask of cocksure hunter. Despite the final image with Amelia treating Sam to a birthday cake, there is much more to Sam's behavior here. He has seen Dean leave him behind too many times---by dying in the Mystery Spot, by going to Hell, by going to Purgatory---and to insulate himself from that pain, Sam has decided that once his responsibility to close the Hell Gates is finished that he will leave Dean instead. He can't watch his brother die yet again---and he knows if they stay together and continue to hunt, that is precisely what he will witness again. It is the biggest scar Sam carries, the greatest traumatic stress he cannot salve.

Patty McCormack brings the tragic story of Eleanor to us. She shows how secretive and protective she is in the first encounter with the brothers, literally cutting the interview short by telling Sam "There's always one more question." McCormack is stiff in her performance here, holding all the cards to her chest. She doesn't want anyone to discover the truth. After it has come out, however, she shows us a devastated Eleanor. She is subdued, quiet, and grieving. She knows that what Brick did for centuries was wrong---but she loved him anyways. To lose him when she had anticipated being the one to die first is heartbreaking. McCormack shows us just how painful it is in her soft spoken explanation, "Every ten years he would reemerge with a new look, a new name. And me, I was the wife and I was the woman in hiding and then when I got into my 40s I became Brick's mother." It tugs at us, revealing just how much she's lost. McCormack makes us feel sympathy not just for her, but also for the warrior, Brick, whom we never see on screen. 

Kyra Zagorsky gives us a creepy monster in the form of Randa Moreno. Her character inherits Brick's greatest organ, his heart, and becomes as powerful as he once was. She is determined to keep it, and Zagorksy delivers in the fight scene between the brothers and the others that have Brick's transplanted organs. She provides some sass here, making the monster of the week dark. Her delivery of the line, "You can't imagine who I was before, this shy awkward little thing from Georgia with a heart condition" is delicious and creepy. 

Alan Ackles makes his first appearance to his son's show in its eighth season. He plays a no nonsense cop, filling the brothers in on the vague details of the case against their first suspect. He has a strong presence on screen, and his chemistry with both his son Jensen and Jared Padalecki is palpable. It is brief, but a treat to see.

Jensen Ackles gives us an intense Dean. He is exuberant in his desire to hunt, and we see it in his behaviors. Ackles shows us a Dean that is in his element---yet lets us see that it is a mask. He has purpose and is seeking it---in the next case, in the next monster to kill---but with subtle body language and tone of voice we can tell that there is more to Dean's story here. Ackles puts a gruff face on for Dean, particularly in scenes that he confronts Sam about not being enthusiastic about the hunt. He makes sure that they sound harsh---in true Dean fashion---but tucks in a sliver of vulnerability that belies Dean's true fear---of being alone. Directing wise, Ackles proves again here that he has a skilled eye for the complete story---not just Dean. The choices he makes in camera angles adds to the story's impact, particularly that of the death scenes. It keeps the mystery there, all without losing any of the metaphors being woven into its fabric. His choice of close ups on both Sam and Dean's faces, particularly their mouths, as they read the letters gives it an intimate feel. It reflects their contents well, subtly telling this aspect of the story through visual alone.  Ackles also has soft lighting for the vulnerable scenes, such as when Eleanor is telling Sam and Dean about Brick and harsh lighting for the brutal murders that enhance their creepiness. Ackles continues to grow each time he directs, and that is the case here. 

Jared Padalecki presents us with a conflicted Sam. He wants to be with his brother, and yet we see Padalecki add a layer of detachment to his performance as Sam tries to pull away. He is focused on the case, but we can sense that he is only doing it out of a sense of obligation. Padalecki brings a subtle nature to his acting, and it boosts the impact of Sam's story here. He is subdued at times. That doesn't mean that Padalecki doesn't draw upon his comedic skills as well. That, too, is subtle, in little lines dropped throughout the episode---particularly when they discover that Eleanor and Brick are sleeping together and when he tells Dean ""Oh. Thanks Dean. Now that image is permanently etched into my retinas." The brief scene we see with Amelia shows an on edge Sam, always looking over his shoulder and never quite sure he should accept the good things in life---in this case a birthday cake. His most powerful scene comes when he tells Dean that he will walk away once they close Hell. It is heartbreaking in its subtext, the weariness in his words and the sadness apparent on his face. Padalecki sells it here brilliantly, and we can't help but wonder what else is going on in Sam's story---what else might be weighing upon the younger Winchester? 

Best lines:

Dean: Two hearts ripped out six months apart? That's got to be a ritual, man. Or at least some sort of heart-sucking, possessed satanic crack whore bat. 

Dean:  Personally I prefer the Keith Richards version. 

Paul Hayes to his victim: I do a lot of cardio.

Detective in Minneapolis: Thor he ain't. You think he's gonna grab Freddy Fitness here and throw him down and rip out his heart. I don't think so. 

Eleanor: There is always one more question in life, isn't there? 

Sam: One of the greatest QBs to ever play the game is over 900 years old.

Sam: Brick Holmes, heart eater. Who  knew? 

It looks like next week we're going to see a return of werewolves---and handheld cameras. 
 

Comments  

st50
# st50 2012-10-19 21:54
Wow. Far Away Eyes. I really enjoyed reading this. Makes me want to watch the episode again (#4?)
Thank you for your insight. I really have nothing to add, but thank you!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-19 22:03
Thank you for that comment. I'm glad you really liked my take on this one. It was a pleasure to write this review.
KELLY
# KELLY 2012-10-19 22:17
Huh, I hadn't seen it from that POV exactly. At least not that detailed. I liked it. Really nice review. Thanks. I love to read other people's character assessments.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-19 22:23
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you liked my look at this episode. It just seemed to click for me as I thought about it. I really had a lot of fun digging into it, too.
Grace232
# Grace232 2012-10-19 23:52
Thank you so much. I read the other reviews and started reading comments, but nobody else saw the episode as I did, and I felt so raw by it that I did not comment because I was afraid of having everyone tell me I am nuts. You saw a lot of the same metaphors and character and story elements that I did - and several layers more that I did not pick up on with my first viewing. And, you expressed it all so beautifully and eloquently. Thank you again. I need to go watch it a second time now that you have revealed a couple more layers.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 00:14
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you liked my review so much. I kept looking at the episode from both brothers POVs, and how the case applied to them. We had several exchanges between them that showed their direct tension on the surface, but it all fell into place for me when Eleanor finally told the truth about Brick and what had happened. It worked for me because that simple, but elegant monster of the week story connected so completely to the main story of the Winchesters, and I'm glad you feel I captured that here in this review. It was a delight to write.
PENNY JAIME
# PENNY JAIME 2012-10-20 00:37
Wonderful article. Great read. Personally, I can hardly wait to see where the writers take the story. I am enjoying everything about this season. It's like when I first discovered the show.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 01:42
Thanks for the comment.

I am also enjoying the season. We have a purpose (Shut the Gates of Hell, defeat all demons), focus on the brother's story (Sam wanting out/not wanting to watch Dean die again, Dean coping with his time in Purgatory, finding purpose), and a mystery surrounding each brother's year apart that keeps me guessing. I like that.

I can't wait for Wednesdays, either.
Michelle Kinseth
# Michelle Kinseth 2012-10-20 00:45
What a great review! I hadn't seen the episode from Sam's POV, specifically the Dean always dies so Sam thinks he'll leave Dean first, part. That didn't even occur to me, but you tied it all together so well! I was beginning to think my opinion was wacky since so many people seemed not to enjoy this episode. I found it very strong. The MOTW was really interesting, and I loved how it paralleled the guys (though I missed that aforementioned tidbit that you spoke much more eloquently of in your review).

I also feel like there is a lot more going on with Sam, and I'm starting to get nervous about what he's hiding/what he did over the last year. I hope the wait is worth it...for both of the guys!

Now as for next week's episode...well. ..let's just say I'm very nervous about the style. :-\
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 01:48
Thanks for the comment.

I started with Sam's POV first, but as I started to write I realized it went much deeper than that. It talked so much about Dean, too. It's really what worked for me here. I didn't have to see the story told in plain sight or direct. I liked that it was encapsulated within a MOTW. It allows for a casual viewer to enjoy a monster mystery while giving us hardcores a story to dig into underneath.

I'm not sure where they're taking Sam just yet, but I don't think he was as out of the life as he's claiming. His comment about eating organic at the farmer's market indicates to me that he was being very careful about his food sources in this past year, considering what the Leviathans did to food. And his behavior when he couldn't find Amelia in the flashback spoke volumes about how he was still in a hunter mindset. He wanted to turn that switch off, but couldn't.

Thanks again!
FMJemena
# FMJemena 2012-10-21 09:10
Maybe Sam suffered an emotional breakdown after Dean disappeared? Spent time either in a hospital or in Rufus' cabin in order to heal and is still feeling fragile? Thank you for this great article.
Lindab30
# Lindab30 2012-10-20 01:11
Thank you so much for your beautiful review. So much of what you said echoed my thoughts exactly, but I could never ever write it as you have. I too believe Sam was in the life because he had no choice. He was raised in the life, then revenge for Jessica, get Dean out of his deal, manipulated into it by Ruby, "I let Lucifer out, I gotta put him back", Cas brought on the Leviathan. Always one more thing that had to be done or stopped. Then Dean disappeared.... . and there was nothing left to do. Then Dean comes back and points out Kevin was his responsibility. So without giving it a second thought Sam is back in the game, again. But only until the gates of hell are closed. Or so he thinks, or wishes or hopes for, because we all know he will never be out for good.

It never occurred to me that one reason he wants out is so he doesn't have to witness losing Dean yet again. More than 100 times he's watched his brother die, he can't do it again. I have found myself wondering what effect actually reading Mystery Spot would have on Dean. I think that would make an interesting story in itself.

And thank you for so eloquently pointing out the parallels between the MOTW story and the boys story. I did not see it myself but I wasn't bothered by it. Many other posters didn't see it either and they are bothered by it. Yet now it is as plain as the nose on my face. And trust me, it's there! I think I shall give it a re-watch tonight just for the new perspective.

I look forward to learning more about Sam's year, I have my own theories but I think I'll keep them to myself. I never guess right anyway.

I am very excited about next week's episode. We get to see the boys in action from another point of view! I like that! For some reason Wednesday to Wednesday seems to go faster than Friday to Friday did. That's a good thing! :-) I hope a Smiley Face just showed up. I struggle with these fancy things.

I look forward to your next review.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 02:03
Thanks for the comment.

I think Sam sees his life not being his or in his control right now. And I think you're right. He's always had someone or something pushing him into the life. And he's been one of the biggest enforcers of that on himself, too. I think, in some ways, yearning for normal is also Sam's way of trying to recapture a bit of hope. It used to be they'd be done with it all once they got the demon that killed their mother. Azazel's been dead an awful long time now and yet they're still traipsing all over killing monsters and fighting demons. I think he feels if he can dream of a life "after" that his time in it will also become a bit more bearable and that he will have a semblance of control. Sam's never really been in control of his life, and yet he's a massive control freak a lot of the time.

I think the events of the Mystery Spot are hazy at best to Dean. He remembers them going to the diner and running into the Trickster, but he doesn't really remember any of his death scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if Sam dreams of them sometimes or if they weren't used against him in the Cage. I don't know if Sam could ever get Dean to see what he experienced there the same way or to understand how painful that is. Sam has died in front of Dean a few times, but not in such a rapid secession without any real way to stop it.

I've always loved these metaphor episodes best. They have so many layers to them, and this MOTW metaphor episode was no different. It's got a nice, creepy monster on its surface while allowing us to peel it back like an onion to reveal more about the brothers and about humanity itself. I'm glad I could give you fresh perspective on this one.

I'm very curious to see what they'll do in next week's episode, considering it is another handicam style like Ghostfacers. If it's anything close to being as good as that one I know it'll rock.
SPN Fan
# SPN Fan 2012-10-20 01:25
Loved ur review. Gave a whole new perspective to the story and the brothers state of mind. I enjoyed the episode a lot and felt the same way u did abt the parallels in the MOTW. Ur review is so articulate and enlightening that am going to go do a rewatch of this episode right away. Thanks. I'm loving season 8 so far. Jensen's been rocking this season and in this episode Jared joined him in knocking it off the park. He did a fine job of showing his pained and deep side.
I guess at the end of the day both of them are afraid of the same thing... losing the other. Looking for more back story to both the boys. And looking forward to ur reviews as well.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 02:06
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad I could give you a fresh perspective on this episode. I think you're absolutely right. Neither Winchester does well alone. They're a set and to split them is painful on both of them in different ways.

I really enjoyed both Jared and Jensen's acting in this one a lot. There was so much emotion in both here and I think Jensen nailed it in his shots to capture those moments well. It really made for a tight episode, too.

Enjoy your rewatch!
CJ
# CJ 2012-10-20 01:46
Nice review. Thanks for that. Liked ur take on how the brothers feel about each other and their current predicament.
Btw did anyone notice that Dean was not his usual (giddy with glee) self when they were going to a strip club. He's off booze and women. Man purgatory has really changed him :-)
Loved the exchanges between the boys. Though it hurt to seem them on diff pages it was very moving. Am intrigued to see how they move from here to Sam wanting to hunt with Dean.
And I cannot complete this comment without saying just how awesome Mr.Ackles Sr is. Wow he has a really strong screen presence. And that staring contest he had with Dean was superb. Wish he had a bigger (and probably a recurring) role.
Overall me likey this episode and season 8 in general. Feel excited.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 02:11
Thanks for the comment.

I noticed that Dean wasn't really into the scene, too. He did manage to get a funny remark in just to make Sam say "You're gross," though. It was funny.

And yes. Alan Ackles was a treat. I loved just how much onscreen chemistry they all had in the scene together. His character wasn't going to take any funny business, that's for sure.

I'll be curious to see just how they move Sam away from wanting out to wanting to stay. I think it'll be awhile coming, but I think it's how the story will go.

Thanks again.
nick23
# nick23 2012-10-20 01:54
why dean needs sam maybe he can go hunt with his new blood brother benny ,if this is the broblem that dean doesn't want to be alone
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 02:13
Thanks for the comment.

Something tells me that Benny just won't cut it in the long run.
Rick D
# Rick D 2012-10-20 02:02
I know it's difficult seeing Sam yearning for a life without hunting, it hurts me too, but Sam is an adult man, in his thirties now. Despite my wish to see him on the road hunting, I'm glad that he is considering his options, thinking about what he wants to do, and then expressing those thoughts. Sam has been stripped of his voice for so long, I'm glad to hear him speak about what he wants, even if what he wants makes me unhappy.

I truly believe that the end result of Sam truly taking the chance to see what HE WANTS out of life, will return him to a new purpose in hunting, someday. And on that day, we will know that SAM has made that decision free and clear, with no obligations to anyone. That would make me happy again.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 02:17
Thanks for the comment.

I absolutely agree. Sam is not a child that needs to be told what to do. I really like that he is expressing himself here, too. And I think it is absolutely necessary that he makes the choice to hunt or not to hunt on his own. He can't just do it for Dean. He can't do it out of obligation to stop something. He has to do it because he feels it is right for him.

I think we have to see this story in order for Sam to find his way back to being enthusiastic about hunting and saving people again. I think it will show growth on his part if he should sit down and assess if this is truly who he is and what he wants to do. I also think it'll make Sam and Dean as a partnership stronger in the long run. If Sam can make the decision to hunt on his own and does so of his own choice without feeling like it is his responsibility for any reason he will not be resentful of the life.

I will be very curious to see how they get Sam to that stage indeed.
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-20 03:01
I loved your review. It was everything I found when I watched it the second time. I knew there was more there then a MOTW. I even took notes on all the things Eleanor/Betsy was saying so I could mull them over again and relate them to the boys. I saw so much of both in what she was saying. But I didn't think of your angle regarding Sam wanting to get out before he could lose Dean again. He is a tortured soul. Literally. And you have a beautiful way of showing us how much.

I'm loving this season and hope those that are not can see the beauty in it. It just amazes me how brilliant this show can be. It's like nothing I've ever watched before. As a newbie who discovered the show last spring, I've crammed 7+ seasons into 7 months and have watched many episodes 5 and 6 times. I can't get enough. Each time I watch one I see another glimpse into their mindset. Who knew a science fiction show could elicit such a deep conversation.

Thanks for your insight.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 12:27
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad you liked my take on this one. I sat down shortly after the episode ended, mulling it over when it clicked. As much as we were seeing a story about Eleanor and Brick, we were seeing a story about Sam and Dean. I then started to think about Sam and his story here and it just hit me when I thought about Eleanor's remark about Brick not wanting to live without her. I realized then that Sam wants out so he doesn't have to see Dean die again.

I am enjoying this season thus far, too. I don't know where they're taking us just yet, but this early on I like the set up and the steps they've taken. It is beautiful when we look at the layers underneath.

Glad you took something from my insight that you found helpful.
Amy
# Amy 2012-10-20 10:35
Thank you for your review; gave me much to think about.

Sam: Breaks my heart.....wanti ng to leave before he looses Dean again. Its inevitable what with Deans penchant for ending up in AU worlds. lol

But Dean.... that line: “Seeing as I have so many other brothers I can talk to about this stuff.”

I can name two: Castiel (its obvious he'll turn up again) and Benny. And they are both PROFOUND bonds. So I honestly dont get why Dean seems to need or want Sam so much.
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-10-20 11:41
And, yes, he's totally unreachable, but poor used and thrown away by the angels, Adam. Admittedly Dean doesn't have a profound bond with him, but Sam could potentially after sharing the cage with him for 100+ years.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 12:30
Thanks for the comment.

Absolutely. Sam knows it'll be a matter of time before Dean ends up zapped to points unknown or killed. It is sad.

As for Dean? I think he does have profound bonds with both Castiel and Benny (although I'm waiting to see what happens with Benny to truly judge that relationship), but I don't think anyone else besides Sam could ever understand the way Dean does about things. Neither Castiel or Benny are human. And I think when we think of Dean's comment in "Free to Be You and Me," we see Dean sum it well: We keep each other human. I think he needs that from Sam and he can't possibly get that from anyone else.

I also think Dean wants his family back, and Sam is the only family he truly has left. I think he needs that simpler time he remembers from when their Dad was alive and when they just started out together in season 1. He needs Sam for those reasons to me.

Thanks again!
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-10-20 11:19
I think you just nailed what a lot of reviewers have overlooked. A lot to ponder over.

Our show has always had many layers. One reason why it is so very riveting and can be watched again and again and find new meanings every time.

Thanks for this. :-)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-20 12:32
Thanks for the comment.

I absolutely adore the layers this show provides. It can be simple entertainment on the surface, fun escapism as we watch the brothers kill the latest beast, but it can also make us feel deeply and think about hard questions if we let ourselves delve into it.

I'm glad you thought I brought something to this episode in my review. It was a lot of fun to write this one up.
justarealisticdream
# justarealisticdream 2012-10-20 20:32
Lovely review.

I'd seen some of the parallels, but certainly not as many as you picked up :)

I'm finding it hard to understand how Sam is thinking this season, but the whole "unable to deal with Dean dying again" thing makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for enlightening me x)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-23 12:51
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you really took something from my review. It's been a fun one to write, and it seems to have created a lot of discussion. Glad you saw something different in it after reading this.
katta
# katta 2012-10-21 16:45
I was so relieved reading your review that I finally decided to throw in my two cents for the first time. I read so many comments of people who were highly disappointed of that episode, and I guess it was because they were waiting so impatiently to see flashbacks enlightening us about Sam's off-behavior that they totally missed that this one FB did exactly that. A lot of people focused on him obviously completely forgetting that Jess certainly had celebrated his birthday with him, and in their anger they lost sight on what this FB was really showing us; the deeply rooted fear to lose another loved one. His panic was palpable (kudos, Jared!), and his utter shock when he found his new family not only safe and sound, but just giving him a birthday surprise was heartbreaking.
I already thought that Sam's detachement might be a sign of his fear to lose Dean all over again (mind you, not because I'm that smart, but because someone else was; I read it somewhere, but it seemed pretty fitting to me and a very good explanation for his behavior), that this is the reason for keeping him at arm's length. So when I heard Eleanor's story, it all fell in place, and the FB only cemented it.
I don't feel like it's a re-writing of earlier seasons either, and you explained why I think so much better than I could.
I too was somewhat focused on Sam's story (I know why I always try to avoid spoilers, I hate that!), so I totally missed the parallels to Dean in the MOTW storyline; thank you for pointing that out. (I still wonder how the heck I could miss that, it's SO obvious...)
I have one thing I disagree (slightly) though. Of course you're right that Sam always hunted because he felt forced to. Except that we saw him once making his very own decision to lead that life, initiated with banging a poke on his computer and the words "I quit!". I'm speaking of 'It's A Terrible Life' of course. He had no memories of his real life; he just felt that hunting was what he was supposed to do, not because of all the crap that had happened, but because it was what he really wanted, what he felt in his gut was him. Thinking of this gives me hope that he will come back one day of his own free will.
I loved this episode as much as the others, and I'm loving this season so far. And I was absolutely delighted about Jensen's fantastic direction; he learnt from the best, and that shows! (I guess his talent doesn't hurt either...)
Thank you for your great review!
LEAH D
# LEAH D 2012-10-21 18:39
Hi katta, nice comment, some good points especially about It's a Terrible Life. I think many of the unhappy people are feeling that Sam has gotten the short end of the stick for several seasons now. When I look at it from their point of view, it's hard to argue. I am a little more brother neutral as a rule. They were led to believe that Sam's story was going to get some play this episode and a few seconds was not enough. I also wished for more explanation. My feeling is that it will come, they are worried it won't come.
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2012-10-22 02:53
Quote:
they are worried it won't come.
This is my worry.Thank you for understanding.
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-21 19:03
Hi Katta,

I'm someone who didn't love this episode. My reaction might be a little different than others in that I went in with very low expectations on the extent of Sam's flashbacks. I had heard there's little Sam in at least the first five episodes, so I didn't expect much more than we saw in the previews.

For me, I got the message - Sam doesn't want to hunt anymore, Dean is afraid to lose him, I saw Sam's fear when he thought Amelia was missing and realized this was about Dean. It's just that we've known for a long time - since Mystery Spot - that Sam is as scared of losing Dean as Dean is of losing Sam. All of this felt like old news, and I'm anxious for something new regarding Sam. I also don't see how all this explains why this time Sam's response was completely different than all of the other times Dean has died. He tried to save Dean, what, 100 or 150 times when Dean died in Mystery Spot and then for real at the end of season 3? Why is Sam acting so different this time around? And he's "never had normal before" doesn't cut it, because he did have normal with Jess. I want more answers. I don't want to wait until the storylines of Dean, Cas, Benny and Crowley are pretty well fleshed out before we start getting crumbs about Sam. I want Sam to have a storyline that is more complex than PTSD, since everyone else on the show seems to be getting an interesting storyline this year. I haven't given up hope yet - we're only at episode 3 - but I want signs that there's more to come than what we've known about Sam for the past several years.
st50
# st50 2012-10-21 19:15
Quote:

I don't want to wait until the storylines of Dean, Cas, Benny and Crowley are pretty well fleshed out before we start getting crumbs about Sam. I want Sam to have a storyline that is more complex than PTSD, since everyone else on the show seems to be getting an interesting storyline this year. I haven't given up hope yet - we're only at episode 3 - but I want signs that there's more to come than what we've known about Sam for the past several years.
Nicely stated.
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-10-21 19:44
Quote:
I don't want to wait until the storylines of Dean, Cas, Benny and Crowley are pretty well fleshed out before we start getting crumbs about Sam. I want Sam to have a storyline that is more complex than PTSD, since everyone else on the show seems to be getting an interesting storyline this year. I haven't given up hope yet - we're only at episode 3 - but I want signs that there's more to come than what we've known about Sam for the past several years.
Exactly!
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2012-10-22 02:55
I agree with your whole post cd28.I too went with lowered expectations and the scene they showed us was even lower then my expectations
Jo1027
# Jo1027 2012-10-22 09:13
Quote:
Hi Katta,

I'm someone who didn't love this episode. My reaction might be a little different than others in that I went in with very low expectations on the extent of Sam's flashbacks. I had heard there's little Sam in at least the first five episodes, so I didn't expect much more than we saw in the previews.

For me, I got the message - Sam doesn't want to hunt anymore, Dean is afraid to lose him, I saw Sam's fear when he thought Amelia was missing and realized this was about Dean. It's just that we've known for a long time - since Mystery Spot - that Sam is as scared of losing Dean as Dean is of losing Sam. All of this felt like old news, and I'm anxious for something new regarding Sam. I also don't see how all this explains why this time Sam's response was completely different than all of the other times Dean has died. He tried to save Dean, what, 100 or 150 times when Dean died in Mystery Spot and then for real at the end of season 3? Why is Sam acting so different this time around? And he's "never had normal before" doesn't cut it, because he did have normal with Jess. I want more answers. I don't want to wait until the storylines of Dean, Cas, Benny and Crowley are pretty well fleshed out before we start getting crumbs about Sam. I want Sam to have a storyline that is more complex than PTSD, since everyone else on the show seems to be getting an interesting storyline this year. I haven't given up hope yet - we're only at episode 3 - but I want signs that there's more to come than what we've known about Sam for the past several years.
You expressed my feelings exactly. Every time we've had to wait in the past seasons, the writers have dropped the ball and jammed everything into one episode. That no longer cuts it for me. I want more Sam pov.
E
# E 2012-10-22 21:04
Hi Katta, I like your post, but I have one slight difference of opinion regarding It's a Terrible Life. I saw the entire episode as a manipulation by Zachariah, used to in turn manipulate Dean into saying 'yes'. I didn't think of that as the real Sam or as showing us anything Sam was really feeling. I took it to be a made up Sam whose sole purpose was to manipulate Dean to get him to say 'yes' to Michael. So I can't look at that episode as one that showed us Sam's dedication to hunting. I think that there are other good examples of Sam being dedicated to the hunt though, just not this one. Not for me anyway. I loved that episode though. :D
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-23 12:57
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad you liked my take on this. And it seems a huge, wonderful discussion has erupted in my absence.

I like that this episode was really rooted in the brothers. I think, personally, that's why it worked for me. I can understand why it did not for others.

As for Sam and hunting? I'd like to see him find his reason for doing it---and not just because it's all he knows or because he was raised doing it or because of Jess or Dean or anyone else. I want him to find a reason that is solely about him.

I agree wholeheartedly with you on Jensen. He gets better and better on directing and I love how he tells story through that aspect, not just as Dean on screen.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on my review!
katta
# katta 2012-10-22 17:10
Hey cd28,

I understand your feelings. I also hope there is something else going on with Sam (because of course the fear of losing Dean all over again doesn't explain his behavior satisfying), and if it turns out that it's not, I'll be disappointed too. Maybe my view on things is just a little different because I'm more 'brother neutral' too, I really don't care which story arc is fleshed out first or even more; so I never felt like one of them has gotten the short end of the stick. I want to see exciting story arcs, that's it. (And I REALLY don't want it to be only PTSD for Sam either!) I was completely content with that first glimpse we've been given of Sam's state of mind, because I trust JC that it really WAS just a first glimpse. And I expect them to show us more of Sam's year and hopefully a real good explanation alternating with Dean's story arc.
Maybe I can not really understand all those complaints about waiting so long and then seeing the ball dropped because I'm new to SPN, I jammed all seven seasons into my head within a few weeks (um, and then over and over again...), so I never really had to wait...
Still, having seen an episode that I loved and then reading all those rants (not on this site) about how disappointing it was and how mad people got over it - I was just relieved to read this review of someone else who loved it. And I didn't want my comment to come across like a lecture, I was just trying to understand the anger (and I obviously failed miserably...)
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-22 22:47
Hi Katta, I did the same thing - started watching in February this year, caught up in time for The Born Again identity and then just watched it over and over and over. It really makes a difference talking to people and reading what they say after every episode and guessing than being able to just move on and find out. It is more fun than not though - especially on here with everyone so passionate.
True it's easy to misjudge the mood (as I discovered the other day when I was being sympathetic to someone's view because they were new and hadn't had any response in a day or so and I ended up coming across as patronising, oh well) but I don't think you said anything too out of place.
I hope you and winmomwannabe keep coming back though - I would feel like less of a newbie if I thought I wasn't the only one :D
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-23 12:41
I am not going anywhere. Don't worry. Except to Vegas baby! Yes, been a fan less than a year and I'm going to Vegas in March. Me and a girlfriend, who has been a fan since the start. My husband of 33 years just rolls his eyes. He's never been the sci-fi buff that I am so he will just have to deal with this. I was a trekkie follower forever and he knew that when he married me. Ha! Social media has totally changed my opportunity to delve into a show I love. Had this been available way back when, I probably would have been to several Star Trek conventions by now. Sorry, I digress. (age!)
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 14:22
Oh I am jealous! Am not really a Trekkie (though I like Voyager) and certainly not a Trekker but, like you, if there had been X-files conventions available to me way back when I would have been there too :D At the moment I am a poor, about to graduate (hopefully), student and can't afford either time or money to go to these cons, but they look like a lot of fun!

Maybe I will get to go to the New Jersey one at some point
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-23 14:43
I hope you do too!
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-22 23:35
Hi Katta,

Everyone's coming to this from a different place, so I understand what you're saying. I think what you said about the difference between watching it real time and watching it as a marathon is true. I started watching SPN in season 5, got hooked with the finale and couldn't wait to come back to learn more about Sam's experience as Lucifer's vessel and his time in Hell. When Sam (RoboSam was we would later learn) said a couple of episodes in that he didn't want to talk about about Hell, I was thinking "ok, they're going to make us wait for a few weeks." When we learned that his soul was still in the cage, and we wouldn't be getting Sam's perspective until his soul came back, I was thinking "grrrrrrrr, I don't want to wait until near the end of the season, but OK, I'm enjoying the season so far. I can wait." When it looked like Sam would get his soul back midseason, I was excited to spend the the second half learning about Sam's hell experience. But then we found out about the wall. I figured the wall would start cracking as the second half went on, and his hell memories would start seeping through, but pretty soon we were approaching the finale, and it was clear the wall wasn't breaking until the finale. Sam's wall broke and the episode was good, but it really didn't tell us much about his experience that we didn't already know, so I was very disappointed that the storyline I had been waiting all season for wasn't going to be told until season 7. So I grudgingly waited out the summer. But when Sam's hell was dropped about a couple of episodes into the season, and we went through episode after episode of monsters of the week with little reference to Sam's hell storyline, I gave up. At this point I've moved on. I just want something new and interesting for Sam.

When I first started watching in season 6, I didn't know if I liked Sam or Dean better, but all of the Sam teases, without payoff, have caused me to dig my heels where Sam is concerned. Some people say that Sam has the more interesting storylines, but my opinion is that there's no story with with the character development that comes with point of view. Supernatural things happening to Sam feels pretty empty if we don't see how they affect his character.

As I said, I watched most of the first five seasons marathon style (while the first half of season 6 was airing) and I don't have the same complaints about season 4 that other people have, so I can see how the experience is very different.

I hope you don't let out issues get you down. Dean fans and Cas fans seem pretty happy right now, so if they can do something for Sam fans too, the mood should pick up a little - although Supernatural fans will always nitpick, and we fans tend to get a little overattached (ok, scary overattached) to the characters.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 00:19
I have to say I just loved what Jared did with Soulless Sam. It was great, both creepy and funny - and oh, was the hug earned mid season! I go back and watch it on a regular basis :D

While I agree with you that too often we don't get insight into Sam's POV, it seemed pretty clear to me that when the Lucifer-in-Sam' s-head started saying things like: "the rapier wit, the wittier rape" that there weren't going to be hell flashbacks ... though in the end we got more of them than for Dean.

Perhaps if they hadn't decided to go with that route so early on then they might have been able to give Sam a recountable or showable story of psychological torture and mindgames, but to be honest even then I can't see how it could have been done much better than the way it was in (most of) season 6 - I DO think they wrote themselves into a corner they couldn't get out of easily though and here we are 2 seasons later still trying to put the pieces back together.

A few comparing-notes hell stories between Sam and Dean would have been illuminating maybe!

It's interesting though, this sort of thing doesn't happen on most other TV shows.
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-23 09:24
I am very happy that Jared got an opportunity to play Soulless Sam, but as a fan of Sam, I didn't find that period very fulfilling. RoboSam made my skin crawl and I couldn't take more than a few episodes of that.

My opinion here is probably very different than that of a lot of Sam fans because I know the Sam/Lucifer connection was controversial, but what I needed to see in season 6 or 7 was not a long drawn-out series of hallucinations caused from a mental break, but some continuity in Sam's storyline from season 5. The Michael/Lucifer storyline was set up so that we were to believe that they didn't just need warm bodies to occupy from Sam and Dean. Sam and Dean needed to almost become them. Sam struggled with cravings for demon blood/power/evi l, and to let Lucifer in he needed to drink gallons of demon blood/power/evi l that Cas warned would change him forever. In Swan Song, Lucifer encouraged Sam's rage and set up a situation to allow Sam to massacre a room full of demons, and we could see Sam losing himself. That's a huge development for a character!

I needed some followup from that - some continuity between Sam in Swan Song and Sam when he returned from Hell. Instead the demon powers, Sam's anger, Sam's cravings for power, Sam's connection to Lucifer were never addressed again. And we never saw any personality shift that could be attributed to this significant event. This current reset back to season 1 Sam seems like a further departure from the continuity with seasons 4 & 5 Sam.

As for the hell trauma, I wasn't happy that the writers chose to go in the direction of portraying Sam's hell as so bad that it would turn him into a drooling mess. I felt they were writing themselves in a corner for a short-term gain - to add further conflict between Dean and Cas - and there was no way they could do justice to what they started without ruining Sam's character.

Quote:
there weren't going to be hell flashbacks ... though in the end we got more of them than for Dean
Not to start a "which brother gets better storytelling" debate, but I don't see this. Dean's flashbacks were brief glimpses of the rack. Sam's flashbacks were brief glimpses of fire. The Lucifer visions were not memories, they were hallucinations, but they gave us a better idea of how Sam's cell mate related to him. The counterpart in the Dean story is that we met Alistair, Dean's torturer and mentor, and they recreated a Dean-as-torture r scene when Alistair was captured. The bigger difference between the way the two stories was told was that Dean got to speak about his experience. We learned Dean's perception of what had happened and how he felt about it. We never got that from Sam. The other big difference is Dean's Hell experience tied into the bigger storyline. By becoming a torturer, he broke the first seal and became the righteous man in the Apocalyspe that the angels were so interested in. Sam's Hell storyline was completely separate from everything else going on. The only connection was that Sam served as a plot device to draw a wedge between Dean and Cas, and maybe a symbolic purpose in that the season 6 theme was souls.
etheldred
# etheldred 2012-10-23 09:45
Like a Virgin, in particular, I think, suffered from an extremely serious failure of the imagination. For Sam, when he woke up resouled in the panic room, Swan Song was yesterday. His last memories would be of envesseling Lucifer, Cas and Bobby's death, Lucifer nearly beating Dean to death before Sam took control. He had JUST found out the extent to which his entire life had been manipulated by demons. Drinking gallons of blood was a few days ago. Those issues would be what would be vivid to his headspace; he should have been crucially out of step with Bobby, Dean, and the audience, who were all processing the soulless Sam stuff that Sam didn't remember.

Instead, the episode dealt with Sam finding out about and starting to process the soullessness he didn't remember. I get that yet another experience of dissociation from his selfhood, and being again responsible for bad stuff, this time with no memory of doing it, would be important to Sam and would legitimately freak him out, but reducing his response to and the audience's awareness of what his mental experience must have been like -- jumping from Swan Song to 6.12 -- to having him be pleased that Bobby and Cas were still alive was a damagingly careless piece of writing.
st50
# st50 2012-10-23 16:05
I agree with this post, etheldred. I really think 'Like a Virgin' missed on a bunch of opportunities. While I agree it would be totally in character for Sam to be worried about what he had done while soulless and to want to fix it, I would've expected his first concern on awakening to be processing the hours/days prior to the pit-jump, rather than 'oh, I saw myself kill you' and then concentrating on a sandwich!
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 10:57
CD28, ok, I see! Well that sort of detail makes way more sense to me. I am on board with that. My argument was just that a small budget show (or basically anything outside of Hieronymus Bosch) couldn't depict hell and that leaving it up to the imagination was a valid alternative.
But your other storyline alternatives make sense as do etheldred's.
I wasn't making a Dean v Sam argument at all though, just saying that they did make some attempt to depict the concept with both of them. "there are no words" apply more to Sam than they even did to Dean. Dean may have made the wrong decisions in hell but he did have the option to make them (that is just a storyline point, not a judgement) - giving him issues he could talk about.
I wonder are they intending to tie back to what happened with Sam towards the end of Season 6? It isn't too late yet timeline-wise. And it would tidy up a lot of the holes in season 7 too.
I don't feel that the complexity of what caused what at the end of season 5 was ever really cleared up. As I understand it Sam had powers that DIDN'T require demon blood though he didn't know that, and these allowed him to kill demons. He also was a vessel for a fallen angel because the Winchester bloodline matched the Archangel bloodline, which required lots of blood though whether that was either to fight Lucifer or to contain him I am not sure. It would be interesting to know if the other 'children' were also angel/archangel vessels-in-wait ing and that was why they were picked in the first place.

EDIT: actually I think that his demon killing powers may have been from allowing the 'bad' side of himself to take over (the demon on his shoulder) and the blood was just Ruby's way of luring him into doing that. When he realized what he had done and repented then went to hell and was reborn (feeling that he had paid his dues) the powers went away because they require him to tap into this part he now knows he needs to defend against.
Sadly this argument is undermined somewhat by Sam's soulless year but I am sure that there is some McGuffin that could be used to wallpaper over that minor crack :D maybe it is souls that have the ability to be good or evil not bodies...
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-23 11:10
I think Sam developing a close relationship with someone outside the hunting world could be a tool for examining the Lucifer issues and how that all has affected Sam. If JC puts makes a good effort in tying in the Lucifer storyline to the changes we see in Sam now, that will impress the heck out of me. But to do that, we need to see some real storytelling - at least several episodes devoted to telling Sam's story - and not simplistic explanations like Sam's motivations can be attributed to never having normal before, or making all of Sam's story about a rift with Dean.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 11:13
It would be great, wouldn't it? Especially if it could be wrapped up and we could move on :D
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2012-10-23 11:15
Perfectly said CD28 in your comments in this dialogue.I started watching from season 1..I think a year late than American viewers but i knew about online fandom in S04.and the difference between Binge :) watching and one episode per week watching i too have observed
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-23 12:45
Quote:
actually I think that his demon killing powers may have been from allowing the 'bad' side of himself to take over (the demon on his shoulder) and the blood was just Ruby's way of luring him into doing that. When he realized what he had done and repented then went to hell and was reborn (feeling that he had paid his dues) the powers went away because they require him to tap into this part he now knows he needs to defend against.
My interpretation of this is the source of the powers was evil that YED put in Sam. To tap into that evil would mean admitting he was a monster, so Sam developed a crutch (drinking the demon blood) that allowed Sam to rationalize to himself using the powers and tapping into the evil as something he's doing, rather than something he is. In other words, he's a human using evil rather than a monster who is evil.

Sam became addicted to power, which is why he couldn't tap into this power source without losing himself to evil. The thing is, the Winchesters use evil all of the time now. They routinely work with demons, monsters, they torture, etc. Dean has a parallel vice - torture. He once was at a place where he would lose himself if he started to torture, but that seems to have been swept under the rug. Dean tortures all of the time now without losing himself. So the question I have is whether Sam is still addicted to power, or whether he was humbled enough by letting Lucifer out of the cage, that he could tap into evil for the greater good without becoming evil.
E
# E 2012-10-23 19:11
I like this theory of the demon blood, it's the same one I had. I saw Sam drinking the demon blood in Swan Song as a way for him to grow stronger within himself, making him capable of fighting Lucifer's hold on him. It's like he said in Metamorphosis; "I'm trying to take this curse, and make something good out of it." He essentially turned all of the demons tools for him to become Lucifer's vessel back on him to take control of him. And it worked too.

I also agree that the powers in and of themselves are not inherently evil; the demon blood made them pull toward the evil side of Sam that he is always fighting, but the powers were there naturally, and exploited by Azazel. We never got much clarification on this though, which is too bad. Of all Sam's dropped story lines, this dropped one bugs me the most.
E
# E 2012-10-23 19:25
Let me clarify, cause I just realized that my above post doesn't make much sense. My theory is that the powers were Sam's naturally which is why Azazel wanted him and all the other children like him in the first place and it was only Azazel's blood that corrupted the powers toward evil. If you watch the pilot again, right before Azazel steps into the room they show Baby Sam looking up at the mobile over his crib, and it begins to spin as though Sam was making it spin from his crib. Then Azazel shows up. I am not sure that this is how the scene was intended at all, but that's how I took it. This would also explain why some of the Special Children could fight the tendency for evil more successfully than others (most notably Sam and Andy, and even Jake to a certain degree except for right at the end). So I guess I disagree that Sam got the powers themselves from Azazel, I think he had them all along which is why Ruby said "You didn't need the feather to fly Dumbo, you had the power all along," but this is pure speculation on my part, with no real way to back up my assumption, cause this story got dropped like a hot potato aaaaalll the way back in season 2 because Kripke thought it was too "Luke Skywalkerlike" Huh??? yeah, whatever.
kaj
# kaj 2012-10-24 02:09
Quote:
Let me clarify, cause I just realized that my above post doesn't make much sense. My theory is that the powers were Sam's naturally which is why Azazel wanted him and all the other children like him in the first place and it was only Azazel's blood that corrupted the powers toward evil. If you watch the pilot again, right before Azazel steps into the room they show Baby Sam looking up at the mobile over his crib, and it begins to spin as though Sam was making it spin from his crib. Then Azazel shows up. I am not sure that this is how the scene was intended at all, but that's how I took it. This would also explain why some of the Special Children could fight the tendency for evil more successfully than others (most notably Sam and Andy, and even Jake to a certain degree except for right at the end). So I guess I disagree that Sam got the powers themselves from Azazel, I think he had them all along which is why Ruby said "You didn't need the feather to fly Dumbo, you had the power all along," but this is pure speculation on my part, with no real way to back up my assumption, cause this story got dropped like a hot potato aaaaalll the way back in season 2 because Kripke thought it was too "Luke Skywalkerlike" Huh??? yeah, whatever.
I agree with your theory on the demon blood here because this is my theory too. Sam and also all the special children have this innate power within themselves (like Pamela and Missouri). Their power is their own and can be developed naturally. We also know that few of the special children did not fit the pattern of "mother burned on the ceiling". Ansem and Andy were twins but their birth mother did not die on a ceiling and Ansem was a loose card.

IMO what Azazel did by giving his blood on these babies were :
1. To mark them up so he can have connection with them later on (like in dreams, etc)
2. Because he was looking for the perfect Lucifer's vessel. I believe even Azazel cannot communicate with Lucifer easily. He needed a certain ritual in a certain place to listen to Lucifer's whispers. Lucifer knows exactly who is his perfect vessel (from the bloodline) but the demons including Azazel did not know. So he was trying to find a needle in a buckets of needles. That's why he made tests like the Croatoan viruses, in which Sam was proven immune from. I believe in other parts of the world, the other special children were being tested too. We just don't get to see it.
3. Descendants of Cain and Abel has spread around the world and to find the perfect one is diffecult. It will not surprise me if they dig deeper, all the Azazels's special children all came from Can and Abel.

So, yes, I think Sam's power is his own. But he was manipulated to think of it as Evil.
st50
# st50 2012-10-23 14:04
Quote:

As for the hell trauma, I wasn't happy that the writers chose to go in the direction of portraying Sam's hell as so bad that it would turn him into a drooling mess.
...

The bigger difference between the way the two stories was told was that Dean got to speak about his experience. We learned Dean's perception of what had happened and how he felt about it. We never got that from Sam. The other big difference is Dean's Hell experience tied into the bigger storyline. By becoming a torturer, he broke the first seal and became the righteous man in the Apocalyspe that the angels were so interested in. Sam's Hell storyline was completely separate from everything else going on.
Hi cd28,

Re the first paragraph above - There is a difference: Unlike Dean, Sam went to hell as Lucifers vessel, so I don't think the writers had much choice except to show Sam would become "a drooling mess".
They had already "gone there" with Raphael's vessel - They'd already made the point that being a vessel for an archangel was devastating to the mind of that vessel - so they had to do it for Sam, otherwise he'd be portrayed as "a freak" again.

As to your second paragraph quoted above, I 100% agree that Sam NEEDS to discuss his experiences (it's not too late to bring them up), AND they need to be tied into the overall arc for them - at this point, at least in as much as they inform how his character reacts - to have any meaning.
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-23 14:57
Quote:

Re the first paragraph above - There is a difference: Unlike Dean, Sam went to hell as Lucifers vessel, so I don't think the writers had much choice except to show Sam would become "a drooling mess". They had already "gone there" with Raphael's vessel - They'd already made the point that being a vessel for an archangel was devastating to the mind of that vessel - so they had to do it for Sam, otherwise he'd be portrayed as "a freak" again.
I think they could have written around it if they had wanted to. Sam was still Sam when he jumped into the pit. Up to that point, Lucifer seemed to have been playing nice with him.

I had a few theories back in season 6 that would have avoided Sam being tortured for 180 years. One was that the cage was built to contain angels, not humans, and Sam's soul just walked out as soon as he got there. That's why he was split from his body. Another was that Sam's soul, when his body started falling into the pit, broke free and like a ghost attached itself to an object - either the Impala or the amulet which Sam had stashed in the Impala. With the Impala theory, the reason Dean hadn't figured it out sooner was because he had the car tarped in the garage for a year. It was why RoboSam was so reluctant to ride in the Impala. With the amulet theory, I envisioned Dean finding it one day in the Impala and Cas putting Sam back together again. A third theory was that Cas pulled out Sam's soul when he pulled out his body and was lying to Dean for some reason that had to do with his deal with Crowley.
st50
# st50 2012-10-23 15:25
cd28,
Whether "Sam was still Sam when he jumped into the pit", and "Lucifer seemed to have been playing nice with him" are entirely true or not is a moot point that could also be argued into tomorrow ;-) .....
I think the SPN writers have been very creative in finding ways to 'write around' all kinds of issues. Talented writers! :-) In this case, though, I personally would've found it rather unsatisfying. Sorry. I've had enough of Sam is the "special freak".
Whether or not they could've avoided having Sam tortured for 180yrs or so, as you've theorized, Sam should still have been unbalanced by being the vessel.
cd28
# cd28 2012-10-23 15:41
I agree that the vessel experience should have affected him. I think it has been portrayed that the extent of the damage to a vessel is within the angel's control (Michael promised Dean that he wouldn't leave him like Raphael's vessel, and Cas hadn't damaged Jimmy too much in season 4), but Lucifer was pretty scary. It would have been much more realistic to see Sam walking around and functioning after just the Lucifer possession rather than what we ended up with.
st50
# st50 2012-10-23 15:53
Quote:
I agree that the vessel experience should have affected him. I think it has been portrayed that the extent of the damage to a vessel is within the angel's control (Michael promised Dean that he wouldn't leave him like Raphael's vessel, and Cas hadn't damaged Jimmy too much in season 4), but Lucifer was pretty scary. It would have been much more realistic to see Sam walking around and functioning after just the Lucifer possession rather than what we ended up with.
I agree with everything except your last sentence. Even if Lucifer had been playing nice at the start, he was denied his ultimate goal of fighting Michael - by Sam. An Archangel with a record for some serious temper tantrums! I can't believe he'd have let go of the vessel without some serious scars. So I disagree that it'd be more realistic to see Sam walking around and functioning.

I guess we have to agree to disagree on this one. :)
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2012-10-22 23:19
Hi Faraway Eyes,

I always enjoy commenting on your reviews. Please forgive me because this is mostly a repeat of what I said over at Elle (but RL only allows for so much commenting time!)

I enjoyed the mystery and surprise of this episode. It was fun seeing 2 generations of Ackles interACKTing (couldn't resist that pun!) And I really, really loved how the green tie brought out the green in Dean/Jensen's eyes. Sigh. I liked all the smart boys moments from both brothers and I liked how they worked together, even if they're not together on Hunting as a career option.

My analysis, for what it's worth:

1. The cake scene... I never took it to mean no one has ever made given a Sam a birthday cake before. Of course Dean or Jess or John or Bobby would have made sure he had a birthday cake (birthday pie likely in Dean's case). I took that scene to mean that Sam was overwhelmed because for the first time in a long time - maybe 8 years - someone who wasn't a brother, father, surrogate father, angel or demon did a really, really nice thing for him. She surprised him with a genuine display of affection and thoughtfulness. It's been years since either brother had a "normal" person do that. Perhaps Lisa made Dean a birthday cake but we didn't see it so we don't know.

I also think Amelia's character is written to be snippy, snappy and sarcastic - a little Dean-like in some ways. Her line about "never seen a birthday cake before" could also be seen as a way to deflect attention from herself. Maybe she was surprised that Sam was so upset he couldn't find her and then so pleased with her simple gesture and it kind of embarassed her (again rather like Dean).

Years ago, I had a friend, who is a nationally-reno wned carver & sculptor, make me an original carving for my birthday. It was a complete surprise. It was so beautiful I started to cry. He was so embarassed he told me if I didn't stop he'd take my present and give it to a museum. It was his way of handling my emotion.

My thoughts on that scene though are that Sam was far too concerned about Amelia's safety to suggest he had completely adapted to the "normal" life.

As for the parallels between Sam and Dean and Brick and Eleanor, I think both brothers shared traits with both those characters.

Last year it was Dean who was like Brock - exhausted by the fighting and the sacrifice. He was watching his Eleanor, aka Sam, not age but disintegrate. Sam was slowly being destroyed by the Lucifer Hellucinations.

In this episode Dean is back to his warrior ways and Sam is now like Brick. In the past year he had lost his Eleanor, aka Dean, and the pain of that battle and that sacrifice was too much.

Both brothers have huge abandonment issues. Sam fears losing Dean to death, because he's seen that over and over again. That's been his experience. Dean fears being left behind by Sam and he's experienced that over and over again too.

Neither brother wants to be the one who has to stand there and watch the other one walk away. Maybe that's why Sam would suggest it's a good idea Dean hunt alone. It's as if he's pushing Dean away so that Sam himself doesn't get hurt. He doesn't really believe Dean is better on his own. But Sam believes it might be less painful for him. He wouldn't have to worry about Dean, fear his death, fear for his safety. And maybe he thinks if the two of them aren't together than the forces of Evil in the universe can't attack them the same way - kind of like Dean rethought the wisdom of their togetherness in The End. Maybe Sam's reasoning is that "If we stop meaning so much to each other, maybe we'll stop being each others weak spots and maybe the bad guys will leave us alone and we can both be safer and happier, or at least more content".

I have this bizarre theory, which I know can't be true. We know Dean and his body (sigh.. that body) are back. We've seen him bleed. We see his reflections in mirrors. But there is part of me that sometimes wonders if Sam sees him like a ghost, like Molly in RoadKill. He can't quite convince himself that Dean is really back. And it's like he's sadly biding his time until he has to salt & burn the bones of his brother and truly say goodbye for ever. Kind of an echo of how the boys had to say goodbye to Bobby all over again when they had to burn the flask.

I know that can't be the situation. But there is still a vibe of sadness and grief and mourning and wistfulness about Sam. I don't think it can be just about wanting to get out of The Life.

I'm curious to see how they will eventually bring Sam back to Life in the Impala. Because if it's not both brothers, in the car, hunting it's not really Supernatural. But it's not far to the character of Sam to coerce him into rejoining Dean. And killing Amelia to motivate him would just be cheesy. Maybe they could write him as doing his PhD in urban legends & the supernatural and he goes with Dean for research & a co-op work term. (That's incredibly lame which means I need to shut up now.)

Thanks for giving me much to think about.

Pragmatic Dreamer
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-10-23 12:47
Hey,

I must say I always look forward to your comments, too.

I think both brothers are so afraid of losing the other, too. I like your thoughts that Sam isn't quite sure that Dean is really there. I can see him looking at his brother like he is Molly, like that ghost just trapped and waiting to be put down. I like that comparison very much.

I think there is an awful lot of grief going on on both sides here, too. They have a history of just going through things, pushing them aside to face the new thing, and not getting past the other things.

I don't think Sam truly wants out of the Life. He just doesn't want to lose Dean again---and Dean doesn't want him to leave.

I think something, other than Amelia, other than even Dean, will bring Sam back on board to hunting. I just think he needs to find his own reason. I like the prospect of learning that, absolutely.

Thanks again for the wonderful comment.
Beth
# Beth 2012-10-23 13:58
First of all, Far Away Eyes, I love your review. Best one I've read so far. And I'm in total, 100% agreement.

I noticed something the second time I watched this episode, and haven't seen it mentioned anywhere....it was such a small thing, and probably insignificant, but....in one scene, Sam was alone in the hotel room, and Dean walked in. Dean had one cup of coffee and some doughnuts. Now, if I recall correctly, Dean has ALWAYS brought Sam at least a cup of coffee when Dean returns to their room; or, even at Bobby's house, Dean fixes a drink for Sam as well as himself. I just thought that was interesting.
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-23 14:12
I noticed, but brushed it off. Hmm, maybe the theory this is ALL a hallucination or that Dean is could have some merit. Very interesting.... . Deep down I hope not. I was a big St. Elsewhere fan back in the 80's. When they ended that show with the snow globe I kind of felt cheated. Like nothing had really counted during all the seasons. But not my call I guess. And with this show's history, they could probably use it in a much better way. Will have to wait and see.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 14:36
There are all sorts of things that seem to suggest this is a hallucination but I am not sure if they are meant to be that way! Sam's lack of surprise at seeing Dean, the dream sequence, the policeman at the desk(where you look at him and just go 'Aaahh demon! without remembering why straight off) the reuse of Eli as Benny (yes I know Sam hasn't met him yet but still), the coffee cup (I noticed that too), Dean not knowing he was at a farmers market, Dean's fluctuating behavior, Sam referring to the dog he hit as Amelia's when it wasn't, the sheer number of 'Amelias' this show has had over the years, and not least the fact that Sam can wield Thor's hammer (which I understand he shouldn't be able to do?), and the fact that it was referenced in 2 separate episodes.
But it's probably nothing.
But you know the number of cues in the episode where Sam was hallucinating at the end of Season 6 was really amazing so maybe there is something there. The story Sam tells in the bar to the barmaid (who is someone he knew in the past) about waking up in the park is The Borne Identity, there is the sign from his fathers lockup on the wall outside, the sign from the hotel he is staying in is the same one from (I think) Live free or Twihard and the book is by Poe. And that's just the easy cues. When the show does a good job it does a REALLY good job.
elle
# elle 2012-10-23 14:08
Great look at a great episode. I love how you delve so much into the metaphors of Supernatural, because particularly in this episode, it was what made it so enjoyable. Thanks for the deep review. I so love all the analysis of SPN on this site!
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-23 14:47
Just a quick comment for all those discussing the 'normal' life. Whether or not his relationship with Jessica was or should have been considered normal. I don't have strong feelings either way about whether it is being dismissed or different because he is more mature. But I just watched the pilot I DVR'd on TNT and in it Dean accuses Sam of trying to live the 'normal apple pie life' with Jessica. Sam says, "not normal, safe". Interesting. Love going back and watching the pilot. Still jumped when the woman in white suddenly appeared in front of the car while Sam was on the phone.
E
# E 2012-10-23 19:48
Oh WOW! winmomwannabe, eilf, elle, beth, far away eyes et al. Your theory has just pushed me into more than half believing that Sam is hallucinating everything in his life right now; Amelia, Riot and even Dean himself, and his fear is that he will have to leave his hallucination and face reality. Why else would it not matter that he leaves Amelia in the middle of the night without explanation; she only needs to be there when he needs her with no context at all other than the focus of his current hallucination. All the little clues that you guys have listed above make me wonder. And there is a casting spoiler (I won't mention them here) that lends credence to this idea. Maybe Dean never went to Purgatory at all and is trying to get through to Sam in some mental hospital somewhere. Maybe when Dick exploded it sent Sam somewhere inside his head. This would be awesome, although I think the backlash on not having the Purgatory story be real would cause some fans to want to tar and feather JC, so this probably isn't it. It won't stop me from looking for clues to support this idea though. Ha.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 20:07
Glad you enjoyed it E - I missed one example earlier though - Dean with the fingers digging into his chest looks an awful lot like the same thing happening to Sam in episode 1 -T-shirt and all ...just sayin :D

*I wish they would wear more t-shirts and less flannel, she said, shallowly* Or the photo that Jared just posted on twitter - that would do too...

I don't believe it is hallucinations TBH, or not all of it anyway.
E
# E 2012-10-23 20:24
Yeah, me either really, but I like the idea of it, and will probably continue to make the idea work by finding examples in the episodes. There really does seem to be a deliberate calling out to various episodes; the fingers digging into Dean's chest the way Constance dug her fingers into Sam's in the pilot; Amelia's picnic for Sam looking ALOT like Lisa's picnic for Dean etc...
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-10-24 00:17
I honestly don't think they will ever erase Dean's Purgatory memories. They have been more detailed than Sam's. But what if we are looking at this the wrong way round. What if DEAN is hallucinating everything since he came back from Purgatory?

Dean was taken to a supernatural world twice, Hell and Fairy land. When he came back from Hell Sam was working with Ruby and ended up "choosing" her over Dean, something I don't think Dean ever forgave. When he was taken by the fairies, Sam was soulless and although he worked somewhat to get Dean back, he didn't care that much and Dean had to fight his way out. Plus Dean always felt that Sam going to college was abandoning Dean. So Dean spends time in Purgatory under tremendous stress. He also meets up with Benny who needs to hitch a ride with Dean to escape Purgatory. Benny has also contacted Dean once, even though they agreed to leave each other alone.

Is carrying the soul of a supernatural creature harmless? Could Benny have established some contact with Dean's mind? If Benny wants to continue to be with Dean, is he capable of pushing Dean into seeing things that aren't there? Right now Sam isn't acting the way I expected him to behave. His actions embody all of Dean's fears and doubts about Sam. Sam didn't try to find him. Sam tried normal and doesn't want or need Dean anymore. Sam is with Dean out of obligation, not love. Sam is thinking the way he did after Jess died when he didn't care about saving people. Sam is being irresponsible about Kevin, the same way he was uninterested in taking the cases John gave them and only wanted to find what killed Jess. Sam has found a new way to control demons, the reverse exorcism. Sam is using power he shouldn't be able to like Thor's hammer. Sam disappears when Dean is attacked by the god of maize in fact Sam does not participate in the fight except to get the proper tools to Dean to stop the god. And suddenly we have TWO gods in two consecutive episodes? We had the Scarecrow, the Christmas gods and the goddess of Truth plus the big convo in HOTG. Why are gods suddenly coming out of the wood work?

We've talked about the call backs and the possible hallucinatory aspects of them. We have also seen very little of Sam's memories. Could that be because Dean is seeing what he expected/was afraid he would find when he came back? It could be Benny. It could be that Dean was infected by a Djinn before he escaped Purgatory and that is affecting is mind. Castiel could have inadvertently or purposefully infected Dean with some the madness he took on from Sam.

Sam is acting oddly, but he is acting out all of Dean's fears of abandonment and not being loved by Sam. We keep asking what is wrong with Sam, but maybe the question should be what is wrong with Dean that we haven't discovered.

This theory will be blown out of the water if we see some in depth memories of Amelia. Right now, since we have seen much more of Dean's perspective than Sam's it may be just possible that Dean is the one who is not seeing reality.
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-24 01:22
Hmmm, another great theory. Nice work. Either way, if it's Sam or Dean, it doesn't mean everything isn't real. Reality could be interspersed with a hallucination. If any show could do it SPN could.

There definitely seems to be a lot of references to previous seasons and episodes in many subtle and not so subtle ways. The suspense is killing me. But reading all the theories each week makes it pass so much more quickly. Tomorrow is Wednesday!! Yeah!
Samantha
# Samantha 2012-11-11 09:06
Very nice review Far Away Eyes

The part where Sam said, he wanted out after this was over reminded me of Shadow where he said the same thing.
Also, I think it was Scarecrow when he was annoyed with Dean for taking a detour from hunting the YED.

I agree Dean's in denial that Sam wants out, cause it would hurt him to believe it was true. It would hurt me to hear it