Drama, Drama, Drama! Let’s take a look at two very different perspectives on a very intriguing episode from the season six trick bag – Unforgiven.


Up first, a critical eye and deft analysis of Sam’s journey. Let’s see what Elle2 has to say about it all:

Thoughts on Unforgiven, by Elle2

(Originally Published February 13, 2011)

Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin penned this episode and they did a good job with it.  It’s no Weekend at Bobby’s and certainly no Dark Side of the Moon but it’s no I Believe the Children Are Our Future either.

I’ll advise you now, readers, my critic’s hat is firmly in place this week, there’s no fan girl to be found here.  If you loved or even mostly liked this episode and don’t wish to read my critique - for I neither loved, mostly liked or even liked this episode - then read no further.  However, if you’re willing to read my thoughts, know that I’ll be brief; I’ll lay out my reasons quickly and without emotions as to why it’s not an episode I’ll be watching again and then spend a few brief moments on some thoughts on Sam and his ‘quest to make things right.’

Critic’s Issues:

In a synopsis my issues cover four broad areas:  RoboSam appears again, no new information was gleaned here, questions that were answered were less important than the ones that were not, the set up is weak.  
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I didn’t need an episode that was largely filled with the energy sucking appearance of RoboSam, didn’t.  Jared is magnificent as RoboSam for I believe the intent is to dislike this manifestation - it is rapidly becoming apparent that Sam intensely dislikes this aspect of himself - and Jared delivers.  However, since RoboSam is completely unrelatable and frankly irredeemable to me, I have no wish to visit with him at any length or ever again.  

Didn’t need to see RoboSam being promiscuous yet again since this aspect of the character has been shown already.  Also, since the fact that RoboSam will do whatever it takes to expedite the hunt has already been shown -- feed Dean to a vampire -- the fact that he did it to the sheriff -- albeit this was the first time -- is simply retreading old information.

What I would have liked to have learned in this episode is how Sam and Samuel began working together, not that they were working together.  

I don’t condemn RoboSam for the execution of the five victims, he’s only culpable for the sheriff being a victim; however, the set up is weak.  It’s been shown that Samuel has a wealth of obscure knowledge, antidote to Djinn poison, cure to undo the vampire’s blood, and we know that Bobby can find how to kill Lamias and Okamis so it’s a bit of a stretch to say that between those two they were unable to figure out how to properly kill the Arachne, add to that the knowledge that Sam already knew the victims were beyond saving simply piles on here.  In short, Sam and Samuel should have known that bullets and fire wouldn’t do the job.

So what do I walk away with?

In short, a few things: Dean worries about Sam and this has already become a source of conflict, albeit light, between the two.  Sam is his usual stubborn self and plunges ahead despite the risks that he acknowledges, another obscure monster is loose and breeding and oh, yes, the wall has come down - at least a large chunk of it.

This is where my comment from last week’s review shows just how fine a line it will be to walk in the exploration of Sam’s inner conflict.  Dean doesn’t want Sam scratching at the wall, Sam feels the need to make amends; boy, where do I start?

BrothersTalk

I appreciate Dean’s concern as much as I appreciate Sam’s need for exploration; however, when to stop and move on is the tough question to answer.  Sam has always been one to question things, why they don’t have a mom, what does dad do, why do they always move, why does Dean sleep with a gun under his pillow and on and on and on.  He questioned John’s motives, his actions, his directions; none of that is a bad thing.  There does come a time though when Sam needs to acknowledge that perhaps there is a time to step back, slow down and let things breathe; not sure he knows that.

Perhaps the fact that a major crack occurred in the wall will help Sam to differentiate between the Sam that was walking topside and the Sam that was trapped in the cage; I hope so.  Dean has had to come to grips with the reality that his body was in a pine box while his soul - his essence, his moral compass - was in hell being tortured and ultimately becoming the torturer.  Dean did awful things and it was the essence of Dean that did those terrible things, not his doppelganger or perhaps better put, his shell.

Sam’s shell was topside doing terrible things while Sam -- his essence, his moral compass -- was in the cage enduring horrible things; a glimpse of which was seen in last night’s episode.

I wonder if that’s how the writers intend to enable Sam to work through this inner conflict of Which I is I?  Don’t know, it will be interesting.  

As it is I do wish Sam would ‘move past’ this seeming need to ignore the warning signs in front of him, signs that in the past he’s ignored (Ruby) but should now see clearly.  Since last night’s episode occurs only just after Sam has been rejoined, body and soul, I don’t hold it against him and this is not me being critical of him; just noting my hope for the future.

As for Dean, there seems to be some small nod being given to the ‘lesson’ bestowed by Death that echoes a comment Bobby made in Episode 6 (Why is it every time you clean something you get dirty?) to Death saying that Dean and Sam disrupt things on a global scale - here Dean gets to show a small illumination to this as he tells Sam that they have a habit of leaving messes in their wake; yep, and there’s a doozy left here.  However, again, the massiveness of that mess has less to do with what Sam did or did not do and more about how the monster was set up and the construct of the story.

So, was last night’s episode awful?  No.  Do I intend to watch it again?  No.  With only ten episodes, now nine, left this season to tell what needs to be told it seems a bit wasteful to spend one that mostly covers old ground, Sam is a gigolo and he uses people as bait if it’s expeditious to the hunt.  We see Samuel disturbed but are no closer to understanding the hows and whys of his return much less any closer to understanding the whys of Sam’s return (at least his shell).  Why Crowley popped those two back still makes little sense.  He wanted Purgatory whether that was to raise mother or to keep her pinned in there is unknown but since he already had Bobby on the hook, why didn’t he just use Bobby as leverage to get Dean back into the game.  Still don’t believe the self-proclaimed king of hell had the juice to pop Sam’s shell out of the cage nor Samuel out of heaven.

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Sam spent the episode showing little to know appreciation for the danger he’s putting himself in nor the concern that Dean has over him rather choosing to double down on his stubborn side and ‘make amends and damn the cost’ and Dean is shown reiterating his concerns, wanting to make a run for it when the danger starts to show and then, thankfully, willingly helping Sam without making a big fuss over it but still for plot development or character development this episode offers none.

I wonder if this particular episode didn’t fall victim to some issues that last season’s Swap Meat fell victim to.  Jared had dropped hints that this episode would show Sam watching but avoiding Dean, none of which appeared and I thought I read that it would speak to the origins of Sam and Samuel joining forces; I wonder if in the scale of the story to be told it quickly became apparent that there was an overreach occurring and thus the story was scaled back.  Perhaps the questions I was hoping to have answered here will be answered in other episodes, time will tell.

Next week is supposed to bring Lisa and Ben back into the picture, I’m betting it’s for the final time and while I don’t expect them to be around often, it would be great that they be left alive and safe like others have been, Sarah comes to mind.

As always, thanks for reading, Elle2

Comments  

Bevie
# Bevie 2015-03-12 16:10
Hi Elle2 - Your review hit my reaction right on the head. Honestly, I can count on the fingers of one hand how many episodes leave me with a distaste in my mouth and an ache in my gut, and this is one of those. That's a great plus in my opinion considering it's almost now been ten years of episodes!

Soulless Sam was absolutely an awful and unsympathetic creature in this one, as he was in "Live Free or Die Hard". Scarey and cold as RoboSam, and
scarey and stubborn as our Sam. Not much redeemable in either and not pleasant to witness.

Leaving us with no more insight into Samuel or why or how they came together as partners. We never did find out, did we?

Anyway, these kinds of episodes were thankfully so few and so far between that they could be forgotten in the whole of the saga.

Just an unpleasant episode.:p:(
Bevie
# Bevie 2015-03-12 16:28
Yes, I still feel the same today as I did when it first aired. In my round robin viewing I'm always arguing with myself whether I should just skip this one or
suffer through it in order to complete the season. ("And Then There Were None" is another of the same ilk in this season as well Another real downer!)

One thing I shouldn't forget. Jared did a magnificent job of acting in this episode, and Jensen too as Dean tried his best to warn his brother of what
could happen if he continued his stubborn ways in order to atone for his soulless self.
samandean10
# samandean10 2015-03-12 17:06
I agree much more with Alice's review. For many of the reason's in Alice's review I thought it was a riveting episode, and I think there were reasons to have one last look at Soulless Sam. I think it set up the final episode of the season in which Sam had to confront what SS had done and make his peace with it. This was the first really extended look at just how bad SS had been. But unlike Alice, I don't think SS was indicative of the inner darkness Sam has been fighting his whole life, but rather the opposite- his inherent goodness. Even without his soul, which is the very essence of a person's humanity, SS never did evil things for the sheer joy of it (maybe this is with the benefit of hindsight from having seen Mother's Little Helper). He was still hunting and fighting evil, and he would cold-bloodedly sacrifice an innocent as collateral damage, but he wasn't running amuck and unleashing violent rage on anyone in his path. When Dean asked in MLH why SS had not behaved as the soulless victims in that episode, Sam said that maybe everyone reacted differently. So maybe SS did not suffer from the lack of control and extremes of violence of the other victims because on the most fundamental level that is simply not Sam. Well, that's the explanation I like, anyway. Bottom line, I loved the episode.
Alice
# Alice 2015-03-12 23:34
Thanks samanddean10. I'll agree with you about the hindsight! The Man Who Knew Too Much did change my opinion of Soulless Sam quite a bit. I don't agree with the soulless issue raised in Mother's Little Helper though. I think they got it wrong in that one!
samandean10
# samandean10 2015-03-13 07:11
Hi Alice. If you have the time and inclination to respond, I'm curious to hear how you thought they got it wrong in MLH.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2015-03-12 23:08
I really loved this episode. It was probably one of my favorites of the season. I was really surprised that it got such mixed reactions back then. I thought that this was some important development considering how the season ended up with the wall coming down. Plus it was so in character for Sam to want to put things right. That has been his MO for the whole series. Trying to right all the wrongs that happened (starting form Jessica and his mothers death) because of him. Regardless of the personal cost. And of course Dean trying to protect him every step of the way. I wasn't into reading spoilers or interviews at the time so I wasn't aware that story lines had been teased that never happened. I had no expectations other than watching the next chapter of the story (ah my innocent days). So I loved it.
I love the picture of Sam and Dean in the abandoned? house. Dean's bed is a disaster and Sam's is neat as a pin. Very funny.
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2015-03-13 07:57
I liked this episode a lot; thought the flashbacks were very well done and we got to see Sam's struggle/guilt in dealing with the time he was soulless. However, I do agree with Elle that the entire Samuel Campbell part of the story was never sufficiently developed/flesh ed out to make a lot of sense.
ThisOldBag
# ThisOldBag 2015-03-13 11:50
This (IMO) was the worst episode of season 6. I did love the brother interactions but the story was blah. The monster was meant to show how bad Sam was, but it failed to deliver. There was some hint that Samuel was "bad" in prior (and upcoming episodes) but this did not deliver, it only made Samuel out to be weak. However, there were some great scenes and dialog and I actually enjoy watching it now during the season rewatches.

I have to agree, MLH did not define Soullessness, at least not Sam's, and it was odd how he associated it without connecting the dots for us (how did he get to that conclusion). But I also have always thought that soulless Sam was not too awful because he carried real Sam's memories. He knew right from wrong and tried to Stay within those boundaries. Not because it was the right thing or the easy thing to do, but it was what was expected of him and in order to survive he needed to at least try to control it.

This is what I had hoped an episode like this would give me. That moment when Sam is first topside, angry at Dean for walking away, no sympathy, empathy, what did he do before he regained control and was able to work with grandpa? That would have been an interesting "unforgiven". These Spidermen were a disappointment.