Thoughts on "Supernatural" 8.03 - "Heartache"

Well, so far so good. For this viewer at least, season eight is three for three so far. This episode had a different MOTW storyline, good pacing, great writing and some absolutely beautiful filming. Additionally this episode showcased some brother moments that demonstrated character maturity and change without breaking the characters we've come to know and love. What's to say, except that overall I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.


The Mechanics: Writing, Pacing and Atmosphere

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Okay, I'm going to gush for a moment about some of the bits and pieces of the episode. Though the sets are often quite well done as is the writing, etc. it is rare for the visual pieces to catch my breath quite the way they did in this episode. Visually, this was a beautiful episode. The lighting and sets employed were so well crafted and they caught my attention immediately. In particular, the soft dream quality to Sam's flashback which so starkly contrasted against the darker motifs of the episode (and let's be honest, the Winchester lives in general) as well as the black lights in the strip club. Yes, I really enjoyed this episode optically. A companion to the excSeasonEight/Heartachent visuals, the script was good too. I enjoyed the different type of hunt this week turned into, the character development moments that weren't hit-you-in-face obvious and the dichotomy of the baddies and their various/changing motives. The writing this season has been very consistent. Only three episodes in, yes, but never the less they have been three well written and systematically enjoyable episodes.
 

Mayans, Warriors and Deals

The villain this week was something we haven't really seen before and it was nice to introduce a fresh hunt that, as it turned out, wasn't really a supernatural being. This week our villain was actually, more or less, cursed organs that used to belong to a Mayan warrior who'd made a deal to stay young and virile forever. As I often do, I found the human element of these killers far more disturbing than most of the baddies showcased on SPN. This "bad guy" didn't actually start out bad, technically speaking, which presented a different twist. Initially, Brick just wanted to be a super warrior for his tribe and by the end, was tired and wanted to end the deal he'd made. Actually it sounds like he didn't want to live without Betsy.

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Interestingly, the killers this week were borne unintentionally - the Mayan warrior likely intended his body to burn away without any organ transfer. These killers, slaughtering as part of a sacrificial ritual necessary to keep things strong and young and healthy, did not actively seek out this ritual themselves to start with the way a witch might, for example. Rather they had it thrust upon them. That said, all of the organ recipients seemed to understand what was happening and because of the dramatic turnaround in their lives, didn't really mind the occasional killing and sacrifice. In particular the heart recipient, Miranda was just happy to no longer be a weak, sickly girl. If Arthur the cop had enough will power to stop himself by cutting out his own eye, the other organ recipients must've had equal understanding of what was happening, they just didn't struggle with the morality of it the same way amateur eye surgeon Arthur did.

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Similar to debates we've already had this season, these characters were humans and they were killed for the greater good by the Winchesters. Now, in no way do I mean this to pass judgment on the boys for the killings, personally I don't find it that different than killing the demonic hosts. Sometimes things need to be done for the sake of a larger purpose. What do you guys think on this point?

Let's talk for a moment about the seeming message in this episode about the heart. There are so many ways this could be interpreted I suppose and while I'm not going to get into all of them there are two key things I'd like to mention. First, last week Dean and Samandriel had a whole conversation about Castiel and his heart. It was said that "too much heart" is often the cause of Castiel's problems. Now I'm not certain exactly how this week could fit with that but it seems awfully coincidental to have this mention like that does it not? Perhaps the key to resurrecting and/or pulling Cas back from purgatory has something to do with this concept of heart. The second speculation here is that Sam's heart really isn't in hunting anymore, not the way Dean's very much is. Now, I'll talk about these things more in detail later but it may be worth mentioning.

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The Betsy/Eleanor character served to really drive home a few points and even vocalize some of the thoughts of our boys. Setting those things aside for the moment, this was a character that I enjoyed in and of herself. It was made very clear that Brick and Betsy were of the soulmate variety, given Brick/Inyo himself couldn't live with the idea of Betsy dying and leaving him all alone, though this was inevitable and instead he thought he'd destroy himself, end the curse/spell and die first. It couldn't have been a one-sided love either, Betsy choosing to alter her life entirely and overlook that sacrificial human killing thing. Played wonderfully by Patty McCormack, Eleanor was a character struggling with the life she'd chosen for herself, particularly in the wake of her lover's death. She identifies to the boys at the end, after helping them when she really didn't need to, that now she can finally have some peace to her life.
 

Normal

Eleanor seemed to represent something of Sam, something that he couldn't quite make clear to Dean for whatever reason.  By the end of this episode after several attempts at hinting how much he missed the normal life he'd had the last year, Sam's feelings finally get words when they leave Betsy's mouth: "I am so tired"¦you can't imagine the burden of it all"¦I'd finally be at peace."

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The first time Dean died and went to Hell, Sam still had Bobby, among others, and Ruby was there as well. In short, he still had a community around him and because it was a community immersed in the hunting lifestyle so too did he remain in that stream. Additionally, he was trying to save Dean at this point - before the brothers fully understand that when they try and save each other it largely blows up in their faces.

This time when Dean was lost it was a much different picture of Sam's life. Like Eleanor, when Dean died and with Bobby and Cas and pretty much everyone else gone, Sam was well and truly alone in the world. This meant two things. First if he continued life as a hunter he'd have to carry on all by himself. Yes, Sam likely has hunter contacts but he's without his hunter family. The second thing it meant was that having walked the path of the hunter for so long now, he has not been able to carve out any life for himself to live when his hunting days come to end. Having realized that fully and truly once Dean slipped into purgatory he was able to find this so-called normal existence and have some peace in his own life.

Sam does not want this life anymore, even more strongly than ever before and I totally empathize. Further, and I'm sure I'm starting to sound a bit like a broken record here, but there is such demonstrable character growth and maturity in the very matter of fact way he lays this out (or tries to) for Dean. All of this I can be on board with for Sam.  The one thing here that I have an issue with is when he says this is the first chance at a normal life he's had - not technically true. Didn't Sam have four normal years (more or less) at school with Jessica? Okay, yes, he still had ties to the hunter community back then, etc. however, hadn't he more or less axed those? This is a minor thing in the grand scheme but it's niggled at me since I heard that line in the promo two week ago.
 

A Warrior's Heart

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Unlike Sam who is struggling and somewhat apathetic about the hunter thing at this juncture, Dean is at his happiest. On the road in the Impala, brother by his side, hunting things and saving people. For Dean, who seems to be coming back into his own now that he isn't in purgatory, he can't really understand where Sam is coming from. Dean, we know tried the normal life hat and found it didn't fit all that well for him. Like Sam, Dean again demonstrates character maturity in this episode. When he discovers the university emails that Sam has sent he doesn't freak out. Certainly Dean is not happy and maybe even a bit hurt, but he doesn't lose his temper. He even lets Sam change the subject. Just as Betsy's words at the end rang true for Sam, I think they finally communicated something to Dean about where Sam is at. Though he may be in denial, it doesn't mean Dean doesn't understand Sam's stance on things. I anticipate this will come to a head before the season's out and I look forward to the outcome.
 

Normal Life

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We haven't seen a whole lot of Sam's life during the year without Dean. From what we have seen though it appears to have been very Norman Rockwell. The flashback to the park where Amelia presented a surprise birthday picnic to Sam was very sweet, certainly, but I have a few issues with the information it presents and what it seems to indicate. Alright, first and foremost, the more we see of this Amelia chick the more suspicious I get - she seems a bit too perfect. Yes, this is Sam's memory which could be askew I suppose, but I get the impression this is a more or less accurate picture of Ms. Amelia. The second issue, which ties in with the whole Jessica thing I mentioned above, is that the nature of this flashback, short though it was, suggests Sam never experienced any normal, happy things in his life. I'm sorry, but I can't imagine that growing up Dean didn't do his best to give Sammy a happy birthday experience and/or that Jessica, she of the cookies and loving note, didn't bake a cake once or twice too. We certainly don't have enough information to make an accurate opinion on Amelia, but at this point I'm waiting to see that other shoe.
 

Final Thoughts

Obvious I'm sure, but I liked this one over all. From opening scene to closing credits this episode actually packed quite a bit in there. In terms of Sam we got a lot to think about and for that matter so did Dean. It was a nice return to a standard-formula episode without purgatory flashbacks (not to say I don't like those or anything of that sort) but still incorporated overall plot advances or reveals too. Next week's promo looks action packed and very, very good. Can't wait for Wednesday!
What are your thoughts on this one, fellow SPNers?

 

Comments  

sweetondean
# sweetondean 2012-10-22 06:54
Thank you Elle for a lovely review. We seem to be on the same page as far as season 8 goes!

My thoughts on Sam saying he's never had anything like he had with Amelia is really about, he's never had a relationship like that as an adult. At least that's how I read it. I was the same at first, with a big, huh? But then I thought, the relationship he would've had with Amelia, in the real world outside of college was probably quite different to his college love with Jess. I know that Jess and him probably would have stayed together if she hadn't been flambéed on ceiling, but I just feel that the relationship with Amelia, with no other ties, with no family somewhere in the background, and as a grown man would have been very different to what he had with Jess. I don't think that's belittling the earlier relationship, but Sam really has never had a grown up, out there working (I assume he was doing something), relationship... .that's how I read it anyway.

I also think he's romanticising the relationship and his year...I mean, it appears they're no longer together right, so..... It's all very mysterious!

Lovely review. Thanks!
elle
# elle 2012-10-22 16:45
Thanks sweetondean! You and I have very similar thoughts on this episode. You make a good point about this being Sam's first adult relationship. I don't believe that it's nearly as sunshine-and-ra inbows as we've been led to believe so far, I'm sure that's the embellishment of memory. Curious........

Thanks for commenting!
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-10-22 07:44
I'm glad you mentioned the production aspects first in your review. The picture of you showed was really a visual treat. I liked how that was done after she ate the heart, but overall, the production team (and the director) did a wonderful job.

My only nitpick about the episode was, and I've mentioned this before, was that the difference in Dean's characterizatio n was really jarring, going from a seriously PTSD Dean to a normal Dean with his mojo back without any transition shown (and I agree with others that this was probably because of filming out of sequence).

Then there was the lack of any explanation of Sam's year off, which I had expected from spoilers put out.

Overall, I really liked it, but it took a second watching to appreciate it.
elle
# elle 2012-10-22 16:48
I agree that the entire team did a very good job with the visuals of this episode (and everything else too).

In terms of Dean's characterizatio n, I don't think he necessarily suffered PTSD from his purgatory stint but he was certainly affected. I think what we are seeing is him relaxing back into the real world where he doesn't have to fight for every meal, he can sleep soundly and safely and his life isn't in danger with every breath. He was a happier, laid back Dean as compared to last week, though I didn't find it quite as shocking or out of line as some I suppose. Different perspectives I suppose :-)
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-10-22 22:56
You may be correct in that Dean is just settling in and not experiencing PTSD, but that is not the way I interpreted the interrogation scene in the previous episode, or Dean antsy and sitting on the floor in the premiere.

There is room for interpretation of the interrogation scene, but I saw Dean pacing, becoming increasingly antsy, and then having a flashback of Purgatory, not a memory. I say that because the flashback scene was an entire background scene played against current time. That, and hearing Sam's voice call to him as if the audience was Dean hearing Sam calling to him while he was reliving that flashback. Who didn't have the thought, "Will Dean stab this guy," after we saw him brutally stab the Purgatory monster.

What that scene did, I thought, was show Dean's instability now, as him struggling with the past and the present. That's what actual PTSD is, in my mind.

As I say, that may not be where the show is going, since in the most recent episode, Dean was just fine. If that's the way it's going to be played out, I will be very disappointed and consider the whole thing yet another introduced plot that would have been interesting, but was simply dropped.

I also think that Sam is suffering his own form of PTSD, and I want a satisfactory resolution to that, too. I certainly hope that Sam's story is more than a hunter striving for a white picket fence.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-22 23:14
I agree with Ginger on this. I think that he does have PTSD - there is little doubt. But it isn't necessarily so out of character that a person with PTSD when finding themself in a rut that is totally familiar would become calm and seem almost normal is it? I am asking, because I don't know too much about this subject.
I think that the glassy brittle cheerfulness of the 'this is where I / we should be' in the car when Sam tried to convince him that things are not the same is a sign of the problem. I can see Dean totally losing it at some point in the middle of some discussion with Sam that he (Dean) doesn't like. It isn't like that hasn't happened before... S2: ELaC, Bloodlust S6: YCHtT
percysowner
# percysowner 2012-10-22 23:29
I really believe that the disconnect of Dean's behavior from the last 2 episodes and this one is due to the shooting order. I think it is possible that Carver had not yet communicated to the writing staff that Dean was twitchy and suffering from severe PTSD. With no Dean flashbacks, it is possible that the writers simply hadn't had a lot of time to get together and discuss a coherent view of Dean after Purgatory. That the writers had gotten the message that Dean has rediscovered his purpose in hunting, that he is afraid to lose Sam but did not have the details of Dean's mindset. Certainly they were going on the information given at Comic Con on Sam. That he will quit after they find Kevin and the Word of God. That he had a relationship with a woman named Amelia. I honestly don't know if the script called for Sam to be panicked in the flashback or if the script gave the description that Sam's flashback was to be hyperreal and very bright, almost dreamlike, or if Jensen talked with Carver or made those decisions on his own. The whole emotional context for Dean was so different and I hope that this was a lack of continuity, not that Dean's story is getting dropped. I do think the fact that Benny is out there and the Castiel story has not been fully explored makes it likely that Dean will return to the earlier version.

Sam has me more worried. Three episodes in and we have almost no context for Sam or his decisions. The writers may have decided that Sam has reverted to season one only with less care about Dean. The writers may be planning on showing Sam suffering from PTSD, but they have not gone out of their way to show what the average viewer thinks PTSD looks like. Most presentations go with the way Dean is behaving, because it is flashy, easier to present and an obvious breakdown. Depression and avoidance can just make a traumatized character look like an unfeeling jerk. I hope there is more to Sam's story, but honestly, I'm not holding my breath. Sam's trauma over losing Dean in season four was relegated to IKWYDLS and giving us Ruby the good. Sam hallucinating in season seven became Sam squeezing his hand and getting an insta-cure. Until I see some real exploration other than Sam didn't care enough to even look for Dean and now is acting like Dean being alive is no big deal, I'm going with the writers have decided that Sam is once again a bad brother and an irresponsible person who doesn't care about anyone but himself and poor Dean should learn to rely and Benny and Cas the good and loving.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-23 00:47
Hi percysowner, I have been reading your posts over the past few weeks and I can see that this is really getting to you. Don't really have a solution except that whatever we have seen over the past three weeks is exactly what the writers have wanted to portray because all these episodes were completely finished by the time the season started. And they all keep saying there's a mystery to be solved.

I don't think they came into the season saying 'well we will leave Sam's development until later', you may not like what they do with the storyline but I think it IS there (I have come round to being able to deal with anything except Sam making a demon deal or Sam becoming the new Bobby/settling down both of which would annoy me a lot). I am actually liking the amount of present day Sam POV we are getting though I also think it isn't all to be taken at face value (which is giving me cognitive dissonance, i.e. completely wreaking my head)

*Minor spoiler* (I think - I will delete it if it gives too much away, let me know, I saw it online somewhere today):

It seems like Sam is going to become buddies with Cas and they are both going to be very suspicious of Benny which I think would be a really great dynamic!

Wouldn't it be fun if Sam were to meet Benny and go 'hey I know you!' (it could happen since Dean only met Eli as the bartender and not as the vampire - he might not have recognized him).
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-10-23 06:34
According to Jim Michaels last radio pod cast, the production crew works with several scripts ahead so that production costs can be maximized. If I remember, he said 6 or 7 scripts ahead. While I can see very small things being noticeable, I can't see something as severe as Dean's PTSD that was shown and how he was in this episode being due to out of order filming. (For instance, I think it would have made more sense for Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid to be shown before My Bloody Valentine and then gone into Dark Side of the Moon to show Dean's spiral into hopelessness.) Ben Edlund also said at Comic Con that he had finished and submitted his first script on time, and his is 8.05 (Blood Brother).

I think it's safe to say that both Dean and Sam's story were fully worked out by the time filming started and that a general direction was decided upon. Speaking for myself, I have been pleased that everyone who talks about the show seems to know the plan and that everything we have heard from everyone (granted it hasn't been that much) has been consistent. I also do not believe for one second that Carver would not give Sam, one of the leads, a story.

What I am more inclined to believe is that this episode was written from Sam's POV -- something Sam fans have been very focal about wanting. IMO, the Amelia scene was clearly an idealized viewpoint of his relationship and why Dean was acting completely different from the Dean the audience has been seeing. Sam, because he has his own PTSD he is dealing with, is not seeing that there is something seriously wrong with Dean -- that he is teetering on the verge of mental instability.

I also believe the two PTSD's are going to collide and that Sam's story will be revealed more slowly than Dean's was. It just makes sense in a storytelling way. Until I'm proven wrong, I'm very interested in seeing how everything unfolds. There's just too many questions and mysteries out there and too much that has only been hinted at and not addressed yet.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-10-22 12:54
Thanks for the review Elle. This is what I love about this site. Reading differing points of view from every reviewer gives me a chance to pick up some things I may have missed on first or even second viewing.

I will agree with you about Sam & Dean both having matured so far this season. Although, this whole Amelia situation seems a little too perfect for me. What if Crowley put her on Sam's path knowing full well that Sam has always wanted a normal life? Seeing as Sam had lost everyone he loved in the hunting community, this woman coming into his life at a most vulnerable moment would keep him out of Crowley's hair. I don't know, just speculating. This is what this site does to me! Like Hercule Poirot says, the little grey cells are working overtime.
elle
# elle 2012-10-22 16:50
Hi Sylvie,

I am totally on board with suspecting Amelia - though it'd be a shame if another lady-love of Sam's turned out to be a plant somehow. Either way I'm certain she isn't quite the angelic vision that has been shown so far - I'm looking forward to delving into this deeper. Though right now I'm really enjoying be given a piece here and there as it keeps things moving along at a nice pace and for the time being having that memory at the end, with Sam's soft smile, was so poignant.
Debbie Harb
# Debbie Harb 2012-10-22 18:47
Although, this whole Amelia situation seems a little too perfect for me. What if Crowley put her on Sam's path knowing full well that Sam has always wanted a normal life? Seeing as Sam had lost everyone he loved in the hunting community, this woman coming into his life at a most vulnerable moment would keep him out of Crowley's hair. quote]
This is what I was wondering also. Besides how many times have both Sam and Dean stated that once a Hunter always a Hunter. Both of them have experienced the fallout from relationships outside the life. Surely Sam doesn't think he can just walk away without any demons, ghosts or gods wrecking his normal life.
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-22 14:02
Loved your review. I feel the same about the boys' relationship being so much more mature. They can disagree or be surprised at the other's comment or actions, but aren't freaking out about it. I noticed that right away in previous episodes too. Especially Dean! And one new thing you mentioned I didn't catch before was the biting into the big red apple symbolizing the heart storyline of the show. The writers continue to amaze me how they can throw those tidbits in and I miss them even though I feel like I am watching for every clue while I watch the 2nd and 3rd times. Thanks again.
elle
# elle 2012-10-22 16:56
Glad you enjoyed it! The heart thing will probably turn out to be totally irrelevant, as we fans can overanalyze to death - but that's what is so fun about this show, isn't it?? ;-)
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2012-10-23 12:32
For sure! Love trying to guess what the writers are up to and probably read a lot into things that aren't there. But it doesn't disappoint me if I'm wrong. Just too much fun.

Like I just re-watched HCW and Lucifer tempting Sam to commit suicide brings me back to what I said on another post earlier. Did Sam try to do it after he 'lost' Dean. Also Dean/Lucifer hinting at getting him some professional help. I think there are some big surprises to come. Can't wait to find out.
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-10-22 16:13
Thanks for your upbeat review Elle. I'm loving this season so far. Such a relief from blood drinking, soulless, hallucinating Sam and drinking and depressed Dean!

Love this site as all the reviews on it, with the exception of one, so far have been positive. (Can't say the same for all the posts, though :eek: , different strokes for different folks though)

So far this is shaping up to be one of my favourite seasons, along with 1, 2 and 3. Not to say I haven't loved every season. I could count my least favourite episodes on ten fingers.

This show literally helps me to stay positive, as I am practically housebound with severe arthritis and living alone as my family has all passed. Watching Dean and Sam persevere through heartache and difficulties and keep on keeping on, no matter what, gives me strength to do the same. It means that much to me, even though it is merely a tv show. I thank Kripke for creating it and the CW for keeping it on the air. He made me love the brothers and their family as if they were my own.

As much as I love the brothers, I have grown to love the actors who portray them. What admirable young men they both are. So non Hollywood and narcissistic as so many of the popular stars are now. Their feet seem to be firmly on the ground. Jensen is becoming an excellent director and Kim Manners would be so proud. Miss Kim!

I'm so happy Jeremy Carver is the show runner as he has written some wonderful episodes and I have faith he will not fail this season. The relationship is the thing that keeps this show together. Everything else is icing on the cake. Now, if only Bobby could come back to life? and Gabriel? and Rufus? and so many other memorable characters that have been killed off?

Sorry for boring with personal crap, but just wanted to express why this show means the world to me right now. :-)
elle
# elle 2012-10-22 16:42
Thanks Bevie!
I'm glad the show helps you and keeps you smiling! It did the same to me during some very nasty living and health situations last year. I too am finding this season to be one of my favourites so far - with luck this pattern holds through the finale.
BeccaB
# BeccaB 2012-10-22 16:43
I really liked your review. I too enjoyed this episode, especially on second viewing-without commercials. (Those d**n things just stifle the story flow.)

I'm usually a lurker here, but do enjoy reading everyone's comments. Just saying.
judyann
# judyann 2012-10-22 17:21
Elle,
Loved your review. I like how everyone brings something different to the site. I was not as impressed with this eposide as the first two. After reading some reviews (i.e. sweatondean) I rewatched the eposide and got more out of it. I think initially I was looking for more of Sam's flash backs and not taking in the whole picture. Reading the different review help give different insites to the show. Thanks!
Teresa Pezzino
# Teresa Pezzino 2012-10-22 18:14
"The one thing here that I have an issue with is when he says this is the first chance at a normal life he’s had – not technically true. Didn’t Sam have four normal years (more or less) at school with Jessica?"
Love your review! This question also bothered me at first. Here is what I believe the answer is: At that time, Sam thought what he had with Jessica was normal. However, those memories are now tainted because of what he found out since about that time - that demons were manipulating everything in his life. His line in 8.02 to Kevin about "there being a time when demons will no longer be chasing him" was very telling. When sam says 'normal life', he means that no one and nothing is trying to manipulate him anymore. His decisions are fully his own.
E
# E 2012-10-22 22:36
Elle, thanks for your insight; just when I think I've sussed out all there is to know about an episode, I get another good take on things!

Here's my two cents on some of the questions you posited: About the Jess vs. Amelia normal thing. I don't think that Sam regrets what he had with Jess by any means, but I don't think he can look back on it as normal either, especially not after learning that Azazel manipulated the whole thing. The knowledge he's gained since has tainted his experience of what he thought he had. Even if that bit hadn't come to light, Sam spent his time at Stamford worrying about his family hunting, wondering if the hunt might come to him, and lying to everyone he knew about his entire life. He even said "I never fit in." That life wasn't the normal he had been wishing for. I think that he is applying his concept of normal to Amelia now, because he had peace of mind, nothing to worry about outside what was going on right around him, and no one left to loose. I think, unfortunately, that we will find that this time around things aren't any more normal than they were when he was with Jess, but that's where I feel his head is right now.

About the cake thing. I didn't feel we were supposed to take away from that scene the idea that Sam had never had a birthday cake before, I think we were supposed to focus more on his absolute panic when Riot and Amelia were out of his sight for 30 seconds. His reaction was way beyond a normal reaction and his relief at finding them again was heartbreaking. This is the second time we have seen a flashback where his reaction to things are out of whack. And we never see Amelia until we see the dog first. I am not sure that there is anything in that, but since we are speculating and all... heh.

I love your take on the heart theme. I'll be on the lookout for that in future episodes to see if it comes up again. I was also wondering about the fact the Brick made a deal and then grew tired... realizing he couldn't live without his soulmate so took himself out of life. Metaphor for where Sam was or is at the moment? I think we were supposed to connect early Brick, the warrior full of life with Dean and the tired beaten down Brick with Sam. I am curious and eager to find out more.
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2012-10-22 23:10
Hi Elle,

Thanks for the thoughtful review.

I quite enjoyed this episode. It had me guessing about what was going on. I liked the brother scenes. 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.

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 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.

Thanks for listening!

Pragmatic Dreamer
Adina
# Adina 2012-10-23 10:34
I'm so glad you addressed the birthday thing. I'm completely certain Sam's had birthday celebrations before; it was just the last few years that sucked. (Dying, Dean dying, Lucifer rising, jumping into Hell, etc.) But yes, I'm completely sure Dean celebrated Sam's birthday growing up and even John when the boys were little did the best he could. Maybe it was the idea of the surprise picnic? And Jessica, yes! I have no doubts that every time Sam had a birthday (or some other accomplishment) , she was right there celebrating with him.

Maybe it wasn't that he never had one before, but that he hadn't had one in years? And I agree that Sam did have a taste of a "normal life" - although maybe it's that this is an adult relationship as opposed to a hopeful college boy? I'm not sure. But I'm with you.
etheldred
# etheldred 2012-10-23 10:45
I don't really get where the issue about the birthday cake is coming from. Sam never says he hasn't had a birthday cake before. Amelia says it, because he looks so surprised (which reaction, from Sam's end, seems to come of having people disappear on him and then discovering that they're OK, still there, that it's something good). And the way she phrased it "You've never seen a birthday cake before?" doesn't even suggest that she literally believed that Sam hadn't had a birthday celebration -- "You've never seen X before?" in that joking tone is what people say when someone seems bemused by something common and familiar, not when we think someone is genuinely unfamiliar with something. Nothing in Heartache suggests that it's canon that Sam never had a birthday celebration.
elle
# elle 2012-10-23 12:08
Hi etheldred:

I think it's being commented on so much because the show gives the impression, which to me is reinforced by Sam's comments about Amelia being his first chance at a normal life, that his time with her was beautiful and, for lack of a better word, nearly perfect in it's normalcy such that it eclipses all attempts at celebrating that came before. Sam is likely idealizing, as many have suggested, his time with Amelia.

For me this is the issue, not so much with the cake itself, but rather with how it seems to be elevated in Sam's mind - it's very sad all around for everyone involved I think.
eilf
# eilf 2012-10-24 20:24
deleted - apologies
DeDe
# DeDe 2012-10-24 08:19
SPN sends me back to high school literature class! The allegories drive me nuts because the writers are better students than I. Remember the Crucible, folks? Subjecting all the characters of the play to high heat to burn off all the fluff. Dean's travels to purgatory was much more effective at burning him down to his essence than hell. In hell, things (bad bad things) happened to him. Dean's only choice was to make the bad things stop hurting him, only to discover in that one choice worse realities play out. Scarring, devastating. Waking in Purgatory, Dean has choices. He has free will from the beginning, and his skills and life experiences will save him from all the baddies in the woods. High heat indeed but he gets to make choices.
Sam on the other hand, has always felt that someone else has been in control. On his own, his choices were to explore a demon free zone. The scene where Lucifer has all the demons that have shepherded Sam from grade school was chilling to me. I know that Sam must have felt so manipulated to discover his course, where he thought he had made choices, to be so controlled by unknown forces. All those unrecognized demons! Makes my skin crawl.

Love the connections mentioning heart, Elle. Lots to ponder.