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Samâ€¦ Blood or No Blood? That Is The Questionâ€¦
In the beginning, the world of Supernatural was somewhat black and white, more or less â€“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 â€“ 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 writersâ€™ 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, didnâ€™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, Samâ€¦ Sam had been fed with the demon blood as a baby, according to Azazel, â€œbetter than motherâ€™s milkâ€. We saw wee Sammy lick off the drops of blood from his tiny lips and he didnâ€™t seem to mind. And why should he? The taste of fresh blood is sweet, a bit coppery (before you ask â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ under the influence of his thirst for revenge and his pain because Dean was in hell and Lilith the only game in town â€“ 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 couldnâ€™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 didnâ€™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. â€œI wanted to believe so badly. Itâ€™s so damned hard to do this, what we do. All alone, you know. And thereâ€™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 (â€¦) 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.â€ (Houses of the Holy)
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 â€“ impossible to be taken away: â€œIâ€™ve got demon blood in me, Dean. This disease pumping through my veins and I canâ€™t ever rip it out or scrub it clean. Iâ€™m a whole new level of freak. And Iâ€™m trying to take thisâ€¦. This curseâ€¦ and make something good out of it. Because I have to.â€ (Metamorphosis)
You canâ€™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 didnâ€™t see a way to get rid of it. Except using it for the greater good â€“ exorcising demons without killing the victim. Slaying Lilith and execute revenge â€“ and stop the apocalypse as a bonus. So he believed. Itâ€™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 didnâ€™t know that he would break the final seal (just as Dean didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t want to use the powers anymore, to somewhat defy his pending destiny, but I think deep down he didnâ€™t believe he could. And, at that point, perchance he didnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t possible â€“ much like a rape victim canâ€™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 â€“ 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 Rubyâ€™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 didnâ€™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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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 didnâ€™t really help to find out that Dean had sold his soul for him. So â€“ 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 demonsâ€™ plans), later for instance for the death of Madison whom he couldnâ€™t save and for Bradyâ€™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 â€“ after all he became more and more afraid of his destiny, as it seemed that nothing he ever did changed it. On the contrary â€“ 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 Satanâ€™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 â€“ for instance undergoing substantial torture at Alistairâ€™s hand for remaining loyal to Lilithâ€¦
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 â€“ desperate and too late â€“ to Ruby to show him how to save Dean in No Rest For The Wicked. That was another breaking point â€“ 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 couldnâ€™t bear the pain (which he tried to drown in booze, anger and sex), but â€“ that was the plan â€“ 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, thatâ€™s as symbolic as it gets, probably the most powerful human symbol of them all.