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Sam… Blood or No Blood? That Is The Question…  

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In the beginning, the world of Supernatural was somewhat black and white, more or less –there were things that were good, things that were evil. Human/not human. Plain and simple. But things changed. Our heroes got engulfed in evil circumstances, they, forces of light, did bad deeds, also. Especially Sam has been eyed with a huge amount of criticism for using demon blood over and over again – not only by his brother within the story, but by many fans as well, following his path with trepidation. 

After another discussion on the matter in another thread, Elle2 approached me with the question how I would look at the whole issue, and her idea sent my brain spinning. So, this is dedicated to my writers’ team companion here at the Winchester Family Business with a huge thank you for the inspiration.

Yes, Sam and the Demon Blood. Sounds like an essay, alright. That matter provided us with many apprehensions watching our favourite show, didn’t it? Personally, I loved that storyline. It was mysterious, thrilling and attractive from my point of view. There was a danger about Sammy we had not witnessed before, and I truly fell for that part of the story. Also, it gave Jared Padalecki many moments to stretch his acting muscles. 

Well, Sam… Sam had been fed with the demon blood as a baby, according to Azazel, “better than mother’s milk”. We saw wee Sammy lick off the drops of blood from his tiny lips and he didn’t seem to mind. And why should he? The taste of fresh blood is sweet, a bit coppery (before you ask – I remember the taste well from injuries I sustained in my life).

Then, there was a long pause before Sam came into contact with blood again – through Ruby. Unfortunately we were not shown the first time Ruby spoke to Sam about drinking her blood. I would have loved to see his reaction to the invitation. Judging from what we know of Sam, he probably was grossed out at first, but then – under the influence of his thirst for revenge and his pain because Dean was in hell and Lilith the only game in town – he re-considered it. At that point and in the desperate state of mind the Winchester was in, he would have done anything. If he couldn’t get Dean back, at least heads would roll. One in particular.

If we look at the characters from season one, Dean had been the skeptic, only believing his own eyes, defying faith in general. He didn’t trust God or any deity else for that matter. God had not been there when their mother had met her death on that ceiling. There had been no angels watching over Mary to protect her, no higher power to save her. She died horribly and Dean lost his faith, albeit he probably was too young to notice that. Much later he understood what this experience meant to him, as he explained to Sam in Houses of the Holy

Sam, on the other hand, was a believer. He used to pray every day. He needed that. “I wanted to believe so badly. It’s so damned hard to do this, what we do. All alone, you know. And there’s so much evil out in the world, Dean, I feel like I could drown in it. And when I think about my destiny, when I think about how I could end up (…) I needed to think there was something else watching, too, you know? Some higher power, some greater good. And that maybe I could be saved.” (Houses of the Holy) 

Defilement

He might not have wanted it, but Sam actually believed in destiny at that time. He was certain that his path was mapped out for him in a way he might not be able to change. Several times he implored Dean to kill him before he flipped. He was downright terrified. This was not just a pair of shoes he could exchange for another. The blood he had been fed with as a child was inside him – impossible to be taken away: “I’ve got demon blood in me, Dean. This disease pumping through my veins and I can’t ever rip it out or scrub it clean. I’m a whole new level of freak. And I’m trying to take this…. This curse… and make something good out of it. Because I have to.” (Metamorphosis)

You can’t lift a curse. You get out of its way, as we learned from Dean in Bugs. If Sam believed to be cursed, as he suggested various times throughout the show, he didn’t see a way to get rid of it. Except using it for the greater good – exorcising demons without killing the victim. Slaying Lilith and execute revenge – and stop the apocalypse as a bonus. So he believed. It’s not only that he was made believe by Ruby. To my mind he actually needed to believe this to not feel utterly useless, to not put all the blame on his shoulders. There was more on them anyway. He embraced that chance, perhaps hoping to find some peace in the end. He didn’t know that he would break the final seal (just as Dean didn’t know that the first time he picked up a knife in hell to torture a soul he broke the first one. Alpha and Omega).

After the encounter with the rougarou, Sam stated that he didn’t want to use the powers anymore, to somewhat defy his pending destiny, but I think deep down he didn’t believe he could. And, at that point, perchance he didn’t truly want to, as his mind was still set on killing Lilith, all that wrath inside was eating away at his soul.

In many ways, Sam actually reacted like a victim of rape would: after finding out about all the details of his being blood-fed etc, he felt dirty, violated by demons when he was just a helpless baby, incapable of resisting. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam had felt the need to stand in a shower for hours and to wash himself clean, knowing however that it wasn’t possible – much like a rape victim can’t wash off the invisible fingerprints burned into her skin by the attacker.

Because of that knowledge (and the experience of the blood drinking as an adult and thereby continuing to pollute himself probably made him feel unworthy and bad) he felt detached from the ones closest to him. He saw himself as a freak. And though he spent a lot of time with Dean, he tried to avoid his company, too, as it reminded him of what he was doing with Ruby in the dark – the secret he kept from his brother.

Getting to know what had been done to him as a baby and what he was able to do when he followed Ruby’s advice disrupted what he knew to be his world and home. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, like rape, the victim often feels numb, unable to express what they feel, but feel dirty beyond description. They feel detached from others and often have a sense of a foreshortened future. 

Sam reacted similarly. He was also quiet certain that he, in all probability, would not live long. He didn’t tell Dean right away when he learned the truth from Azazel in All Hell Breaks Loose. He kept this secret, just like the odd rape victim would do – as he felt unclean, ashamed, abused, humiliated, petrified. The amount of embarrassment might have been too much to even let his brother, the person nearest to his heart, in – possibly for fear of losing him. Under this pressure he showed irritability and outbursts of anger, hyper vigilance and felt guilty. My God.

The confidence Sam used to have, even under the impression that his father preferred Dean, the kind of self-esteem that enabled him to leave his family in pursuit of a life of his own, began to crumble after he had been informed of those demonic plans that placed him at the head of an army supposed to bring about the downfall of the world as we know it. The boy king. What Sam had taken for granted up to that moment was taken away from him. In a sense that was a turning point for Sam Winchester.

It didn’t really help to find out that Dean had sold his soul for him. So – not only did Sam feel responsible for the deaths of his mother (who stumbled in on them as Azazel did his blood feeding) and Jessica (who got in the way of the demons’ plans), later for instance for the death of Madison whom he couldn’t save and for Brady’s doom (who had been one of his best friends and who was used by demons because of that fact). People close to him were moving targets, always had been apparently, and he had not noticed that. How could he have known?

But his sense of integrity and honour made him feel guilty about it and helpless – after all he became more and more afraid of his destiny, as it seemed that nothing he ever did changed it. On the contrary – Sam realized how methodically the plan for his future had been thought through. It burst out of him in a drunken state in that hotel when he made Dean promise to kill him, should the day of change come. It made him cling to the idea that drinking blood would somehow help him defy at least a part of it and eventually save his brother, it made him decide to take on Lucifer and use what was foretold (that he was Satan’s vessel) against evil. 

Finding out that his fate had been decided for him long before he was born must have served as a knife to his guts. To that were added those unpleasant truths like the role of Brady in his life and those others that died along the way. That blade was even more twisted in his flesh as Sam understood how much force the evil side was able to muster up only to claim him. No price seemed too high, even they would sacrifice themselves, like Ruby did – for instance undergoing substantial torture at Alistair’s hand for remaining loyal to Lilith… 

But before his eyes opened to those terrible facts, he came to use demon blood, offered to Sam in a state when he was at his lowest. After experiencing the loss of Dean countless times in Mystery Spot he had to face truly losing him. He had agreed – desperate and too late – to Ruby to show him how to save Dean in No Rest For The Wicked. That was another breaking point – he was incapable of protecting Dean, later he was unable to make a deal that would set his brother free. All there was left to him was to enroll on that kamikaze trip of his: get the demons to kill him eventually, since he couldn’t bear the pain (which he tried to drown in booze, anger and sex), but – that was the plan – to take Lilith with him. Win-win.

Sam was highly suicidal at that point. And had he not had the idea of finding Lilith and making her pay, he might have killed himself. However, that is not the classic Winchester way, but suicide rarely is. It serves only one purpose: to end a kind of pain that appears unbearable (it can also be an aggressive act to inflict pain, of course, but that was not the case here). Ruby offered him a way to achieve exactly that. All he needed, according to her, was a significant amount of blood.

What is it about this matter that grosses people out in the way it does sometimes? Blood, well, that’s as symbolic as it gets, probably the most powerful human symbol of them all.

Comments  

Randal
# Randal 2010-09-08 11:03
Typical Jas, always trying to find excuses for your beloved Sam. ;-)

Great stuff as usual (stop making us look bad!) and I think people often overlook just how profound the idea of demon blood as infection really is. Sure, Sam espouses his anger directly in Metamorphosis, but to have that *constantly* drumming in your head, day in and day out, his anger is understandable, and this anger fueling what he thought was right is as well.

Yes, the road to hell is paved yadda yadda yadda, but the psychological impact of that infection, physical *and* mental, is beyond even something like the plague. That'll kill you; this keeps you alive.
Yvonne
# Yvonne 2010-09-08 14:22
Facinating stuff.
I would also love to see that initial conversation between Ruby and Sam. What a great flashback for S6, if possible. I'm deathly curious to see what Sams relationship to blood is after his time in hell. Does he still desire it? Since downing so much to take in Lucifer, can he control it as a tool without the need? I'm reminded of 'My Bloody Valentine' when we saw Sam, creature like, scenting out demons to feed on. Gross, but what a fearful power.
For that matter, how will demons now feel about Sam? Hate enough to hunt, or so much fear of this vampire that they flee? So many questions! And few comments on what you wrote. Brilliant, interesting and got my noggin to running. I apriciate you likening his experiance to a rape victim. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't some rapees also become rather promiscuous after? "I'm already defiled, lost control, so I will control this area by CHOOSING to involve myself." It could be Sam followed this line of feeling.
One last eager question for the future season. I'm wondering if Sam's romantic life may not be influenced by it being a trigger for wanting blood.
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-09-08 14:24
A great essay, as usual from you Jas.

I have to admit I do not like Sam drinking blood, draining innocent nurses of their lifeforce, or continuing on with it after Ruby said he did not really need it. That is the one thing in the past two seasons that I have not been happy about. And that is part of the reason (aside from the brotherly relationship rift) that season 4 and 5 are my least favourite seasons. Don't get me wrong. Seasons 4 and 5 of Supernatural are worlds better than any other tv show!

The other psychic kids did not need to drink human blood to kick start their powers. Ava said the switches just start to turn on with a little practice. Look at what Ava could do, and Jake and the others. I would not have been upset if Sam had gone in that direction with his powers, but that's not how the writers wanted it, so I certainly can live with it. Just wish they hadn't gone that way. But that's just me, don't forget. Only one opinion among many.

Always love your essays Jas. ;-)
elle2
# elle2 2010-09-08 16:58
Jas,

As usual a well-thought out and researched article. I'm so glad you took on this idea.

I'm of the opinion that the idea of Sam and the blood grew beyond what the writers' ultimately were able to handle clearly, however, that does not detract, for me at least, from my enjoyment of the growth of the idea from I guess AHBL I when we realized demons blood had been dripped into baby Sammy's mouth.

Despite all it's twists and turns it was integral to the story even as it got confusing. The joy in the storyline was watching Sam, especially in Season 4 and the beginning parts of Season 5, as he struggled with do I or don't I, do I tell Dean, how do I hide it and now, how do I overcome it. It was a difficult line to tread for the character, the actor and the writers.

It will be very interesting to see where Season 6 goes with this idea. Is Sam 'cured'? Does he still have visions? Are all of Azazel's machinations and Lucifer's designs now kaput since Lucifer is back in the cage and in essence the 'curse' has been brought to a close? Don't know. We'll get an inkling as the season unfolds. I for one am very much looking forward to the unfolding of the mystery (actually, all of the mysteries it seems) in Season 6.

Thanks for putting in this effort, I know you've been working on it for quite some time.

:-)
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-09-08 19:29
I enjoyed reading this insightful article. :-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-09-09 09:32
Hello Randal, Yvonne, Bevie, Elle2 and CitizenKane2 ! Thank you for your comments!

Well, Randal, what can I say? Guilty as charged? I often feel the need to defend the folks I love, real or fictional… You are so right, it is a very profound idea – the infection with demon blood. It’s guaranteed to chill your blood.

Yvonne, you’ve read my mind with your questions concerning Sam and his relationship to demon blood after his stint in hell. Personally, I wouldn’t mind that storyline to re-surface. Let’s hope for some great flashbacks. And for some romance (but that’s just me… even if it brings triggering the trauma, ah, well, don’t we always fall for the suffering Winchester, we sado-masochists , we!)

You’re right, the phenomenon of rape victims becoming promiscuous after the event occurs at times. In my line of work, I’ve encountered it mostly with people who have been raped or abused as very young people (boys or girls, actually) which resulted so very often in a personality disorder. It’s not really frequent with grown up ‘rapees’. But it might be, that Sam also took control because of what you mention here. To at least take some control.

Bevie, hey, you are entitled to your opinion, dear, of course! I have to admit, I didn’t like the idea of Sam doing what he did, but I loved the storyline a lot. It provided a lot of the stuff I love about a good story. I’m sorry that you were disappointed in some aspects of the storyline, and I think you’re in good company, as many fans responded to it with sceptisism. It’ so okay, Bevie! Hopefully the writers will go into a direction now you will be able to thoroughly love.

Elle2, I am equally curious about the upcoming twists of the story! I would love to see powers in Sam, and perhaps – should the writers go through with it – they will learn from the difficulties they had following that storyline and make it more coherent.
I owe you one for the idea! Thanks.

CitizenKane2, always happy when you like what I come up with.

Thank you all so much! Cheers, Jas
Karen
# Karen 2010-09-09 09:33
Hi Jasminka
I love the title!
Oh the fiendish Demon Blood and the trouble and controversy it has caused.
In season 4, I was intrigued by its story line. Even though I hated what it was doing to Sammy, I understood its purpose. And when they revealed that the blood was never needed, that it was basically a placebo to help Sam accept his powers. It really took me by surprise and I was very excited. I thought for sure we were going to finally see Sam use his powers without the blood.
But in Season 5 they didn’t go that route. Only in My Bloody Valentine and Swan Song did his powers resurface and of course it was only after he drank the blood. So the story line kind of lost its appeal for me.
Thanks for the wonderful article Jas it was very insightful.
BagginsDVM
# BagginsDVM 2010-09-12 22:51
I've been on holiday (including in Vancouver for the con!) then busy with work, so I'm just now catching up with reading the articles here.
I have to admit I never liked my Sammy drinking blood, but you are right, Jas, it does make for a fascinating story line. I too am curious to see if Sam will still have powers this season, & would love to know exactly once & for all if he truly needed blood for his powers or not.
Suze
# Suze 2010-09-13 05:21
Always a sucker for a bit of vampire action I loved the blood-addiction story line, but I see the stuff as a bit of a smokescreen for our Sam's inner self ... He doesn't actually need it to give him the powers but he needs to think that he does because then the scary mojo comes from the demon-juice and not from him. His subconcious won't let him use them without the blood as an excuse. Or something.

Anyway, it could have been so much worse ... Imagine Sam hooked on shoes and chocolate instead! FAT BLOKE AVERTS END OF WORLD WHILST OBSESSING ABOUT SLING-BACKS ... Can't see it catching on, somehow. ;-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-09-13 13:47
Karen, BagginsDVM and Suze, so sorry for responding a bit late to your comments!

Karen, thank you for appreciating what I did here even though you were not really taken with that story line in the end! I was also hoping to see more of Sam's powers without any blood influence... well, we don't always get what we like...

Dawn,you were in Vancouver?! Wow, lucky girl! I hope you had some fantastic moments there!
I am not sure if the writers plan on working in Sam's powers some more. Personally, I'd love that.

Suze, a sucker for vampire action? Pun intended,eh? You know I thought about that thought, too, that Sam needed the blood to relieve himself of the responsibility -but then I thought, I don't believe that Sam would do that. not even subconciously. So, I disagree at this point, so sorry, dear.

And - yes: The fat bloke- idea sounds terrifying! ah, I see a parody coming up...

Thanks so much, folks, cheers, Jas
BagginsDVM
# BagginsDVM 2010-09-14 13:01
Yes, I was in Vancouver, & it was awesome to be in the city where the show is filmed. I even spent the money to get photo ops so I could actually meet the guys for a few seconds & it was worth it. I hardly even remember the actual experience - it was like a dream! total fangirl moment- but the pics prove that I was there!
Dawn