Sam has always been an inward person, taking in with little protest all the horrible things that have been dished out at him.  Yet in season seven, it all got borderline ridiculous.  Forget borderline.  The wall in his head came down, and suddenly he had to live with psychosis.  Yet this is Sam Winchester, the teflon hunter.  It all got better with just a little hand grab.  After one psychotic (and oh so gripping) meltdown, Sam was fine for most of the season, until it all caught up with him.  But instead of taking advantage of Sam's breakdown and exposing those dark inner layers, he just sat there and took it, waiting to die.  That angst lasted long enough for Castiel to magically take it away, even if he took on the burden for a small bit.  Do over!  This is exactly why this time last year I was primal screaming over the total wasted opportunity of showing Sam to be something more than a very pretty piece of toast.  

What a difference a year makes.  As I said in my "Deeper Look Season Eight at Dean Winchester," Sam Winchester, much like Dean, in season seven was unrecognizable to me.  My wish was for him to be humanized, and season eight delivered big time!  We finally got to see those inner layers and exposed vulnerabilities, and they were relevant to the Sam we've gotten to know the entire series, not just who he was this season.  It tied together so many things, and suddenly this is the best we've ever known Sam.  He's finally a relatable character.  

Just like with Dean, this is a tale of two seasons.  Sam in the first half was not Sam in the second half.  Sam spent the first half of the season trying to ease back into a life he abandoned a year ago, and it wasn't easy, especially with a big brother that was more supercharged than ever for the job.  But it was more than that.  In Sam's year, he found his identity, something that he hasn't seen most if not all of his life.  It was ground breaking and character defining, and long overdue.  It was also boring as hell.  But, when put together with the second half of the season, it made sense.  

Going through each one of the season's episodes, the progression of Sam's behavior and actions makes a lot more sense when put together.  Sure, there were a few head-scratchers (Amelia?) but it all did lead to something.  Since the first and second halves were so drastically different, I'm breaking down Sam's analysis into parts one and two, just like I did with Dean.  The first half covers Sam from episodes 8.1 - 8.11, and the second part is episodes 8.12 - 8.23.
 
We Need To Talk About Kevin

We find Sam in Kermit, Texas, and he's leaving a woman (and dog) in the middle of the night.  He's sad.  So, what does this all mean?  

He's leaving behind the last year of his life, that part is clear.  But exactly what happened in that year will be told over the next several episodes.  It's implied though that the incident we did see, Sam hitting Riot the dog with the Impala, wasn't long after Dean's disappearance. 

When Sam and Dean reunite, Sam is definitely relived that Dean is alive, and quite stunned that Dean was in Purgatory.  That never even dawned on him.  The debates have been endless as to why Sam didn't look for Dean, but in this analysis, we have to go with what we're given - he didn't.  Sam explains to Dean why, because everyone he knew was dead.  There was no family left.  "Yes, Dean, and as far as I knew, what we do is the thing that got every single member of my family killed. I had no one. No one. And for the first time in my life I was completely alone, and honestly I didn't exactly have a road map. So, yeah, I fixed up the Impala and I just drove."  

SPN 0582

Dean is rather livid that Sam didn't look, and he won't buy into any explanations that Sam gives.  As a matter of fact, he won't stop giving Sam grief about not looking for him the entire season.  However, the fact that they're talking about it in the first episode of the season is encouraging.  Considering how much these brothers didn't talk the last several seasons, this is pretty darned good. 

Dean: Is that, uh, is that how you rationalize taking a year off? People will be okay?
Sam: People were okay, Dean. You're okay.
Dean: Wow.
Sam: Look, I did what we promised we'd do. I moved on, I lived my life.
Dean: Yeah, no I'm gettin' that.
Sam: Look, it wasn't like I was just oblivious. I mean, I read the paper every day, I saw the weird stories, the kind of stuff we used to chase.
Dean: And you just said, what, not my problem?
Sam: Yes. And you know what, the world went on.
Dean: People died, Sam.
Sam: People always die, Dean. And maybe another hunter took care of it, I don't know, but the point is for the first time I realized that it wasn't only up to me to stop it.
Dean: ...So what was it, hmm? What could possibly make you stop just like that? A girl?
Sam: ...
Dean: Was there a girl?
Sam: ...The girl had nothing to do with it.
Dean: There was a girl?
Sam: Yeah, there was. And then there wasn't. Any more questions?

When Sam and Dean do find Kevin, it's clear the poor kid will have to give up everything to pursue this quest to close the gates of Hell.  His dreams of a normal life won't be possible.  Sam believes that eventually Kevin can find this happiness, and tells him so.  This isn't unusual with Sam.  By giving Kevin that hope, he's giving it to himself.  He just has to do this one thing, and then he can go back to that normal life he had the last year.  Now all Sam has to do is convince Dean of that.  Oh, and remember how history never allows that to happen.  

What's Up Tiger Mommy?

I just want to know when in the world Sam, who hasn't been hunting for the last year, learned out to do a reverse exorcism.  That would have so helped before in other circumstances.  

Aside from the fact that Sam's new longer hair made for a great Thor joke, the big take away from Sam in this episode is him seeing Dean's new raw mental state.  How Dean would have killed Mrs. Tran if he could to get to Crowley.  Sam is clearly having some issues adjusting back to the life and his brother's new edge.  That's especially clear judging by his reaction when Dean interrogated the man with the knife to his throat.  

Heartache

Sam clearly wants to enjoy the finer things in life, which is why he and Dean end up at Farmers' market.  

Sam:  What? I had a year off. I took the time to enjoy the good things.
Dean:  While avoiding doing what we actually do.
Sam:  Wow, Dean, does it make you feel that much better every time you say it?

On top of dealing with Dean's constant reminders about the last year, Dean later mentions how well they are working together, but Sam still has it in his mind this is only temporary.  He tries to explain they want different things, and maybe Dean would be better off without him.  "Look, I'm not saying I'm bailing on you. I'm just saying make room for the possibility that we want different things. I mean, I want my time to count for something."  Dean doesn't understand, thinking what they do does count.  The chat stops there for now, but Sam is a little more direct later.  He tells Dean he wants out.  Dean won't accept that, thinking Sam will eventually change his mind.

HA010 
Sam leaves it there, instead choosing to remember a better time instead of fighting with Dean.   Sam's flashback is very interesting here.  For one, it's very sweet and saccharine, glowing with bright colors and white light, as if it's heavenly.  So not Sam.  Two, it reflected Sam's paranoia, he can't find Amelia and he's worried sick.  No wonder he's stunned by the outcome.  Instead of a horrible, bloody end that he's grown accustomed, she's there with a surprise picnic and birthday cake.  He's pleasantly stunned, and he's smiling!  It truly implies no one has ever thrown him a birthday celebration before.  Then he's still smiling, there in the Impala as he remembers it all.  Oh yes, this is a very strange setting for Sam, who's had nothing but tragedy his whole life and a lot of sad birthdays.  No wonder he can't let go of that life. 

Blood Brother

Sam and Dean are at each other's throats for sure.  They are sniping at one another as they continue to be frustrated over the hunt for Kevin.  Sam's frustration doesn't change when Dean just suddenly leaves with no explanation other than he needs to take care of something "personal."  That leaves Sam alone to remember his time with Amelia, and how their relationship got started.  He got a job as the handyman at the local motel, and that's where Amelia, the mean vet lady, was staying.  After their frosty start, they both realize they have something in common.  They both had someone they used to love and that someone is gone.  Good to know.  

That's a total contrast to Dean, especially when Sam finds out Dean's new friend, one that he took off to help with no explanation, is a vampire.  Sam's overreaction to Benny, the angry stare at Dean, reaching for his weapon only to be shook off by Dean, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense until the season finale.  Why would Sam react so harshly to Benny, especially when they had just let Kate go in "Bitten?"  Suddenly, Sam's sins from the last year aren't any worse than Dean's, at least in his mind.  He now has Benny to throw back at Dean.  

Southern Comfort

Oh man, does the s*** hit the fan on this one.  Sam isn't going to stay silent anymore, which is kind of cool because he's standing up for himself so early into the season.  Normally, he has to be provoked for a very long time.  I think Dean kind of counted on that, which is why he'd been throwing all those passive-aggressive digs at his brother.  Ah, families.  

Sam has more flashbacks about Amelia, and they're in bed together.  She talks about her dead husband Don, and then feels weird about it.  Sam later opens up about Dean, they drink, they talk, they hold hands in support of one another.  You know, I'd honestly find that moment endearing, and lord knows I'm thrilled that Sammy found some emotional support because no one on earth deserves it more, but chemistry was never right between these two.  It always seemed off.  Oh well, it gave Sammy a fresh perspective and new lease on life, so that's what matters.  

That's where Sam's contentment ends, because this whole Dean and Benny thing has really got him hot.  Sam at the beginning spells out his displeasure about Benny, but Dean defends his pal, saying he isn't hurting anyone.  Sam doesn't understand how Dean can believe the vampire.  They carry on though, until the contrived yet always effective curse gets Dean in a mind controlled tizzy and he's ready to kill Sam for all his transgressions the last few years.  He's not just angry about the last year, but he brings up Ruby, the demon blood, being soulless, etc.  Sam isn't apologetic, and actually fights back anger during that moment (being physically hurt probably contributed), but luckily Garth is able to talk Dean down.  

SPN 1280

Garth however doesn't have that same chat with Sam, and he's still fuming after the incident.  Sam tells Dean he didn't need a cursed penny to say those things.  "Own up to your crap, Dean. I told you from the jump where I was coming from, why I didn't look for you. But you? You had secrets. You had Benny. And you got on your high and mighty, and you've been kicking me ever since you got back. But that's over. So move on, or I will."   Dean is okay with that, but Sam is still too angry.  So he threatens Benny next.  Oh Sammy, just don't go there.  This can't go well for you, pushing your brother into a corner like that.  

A Little Slice of Kevin 

Now Sam and Dean are supporting one another again.  I like how Sam tried to be there for his brother and listen as visions of Castiel were haunting Dean (even if it really turned out to be Castiel).  Supportive brother is good.  Plus, how cool was it that Sam got to blow those demons away with demons bombs?  It was well deserved payback.  

Hunteri Heroici

More flashbacks, and I have to admit by this episode flashback fatigue had set in.  This time we meet Amelia's Dad, Stan.  He can tell from just looking at Sam how damaged he is.  Although in fairness, when he finds out a guy living with his daughter went to Stanford and now he's a maintenance man at a motel, no dad would be impressed by that.  Stan digs on, especially when Sam mentions his dad was a marine.  Stan's surprised Sam has never served, because he's got the look.  "The one a lot of guys get after they've been through the meat grinder "“ the one that lets you know they've seen a lot of crap they can't forget. The second their feet hit solid ground, they start running, and they don't stop "“ not till they find something to hold on to."  

The perspective in this flashback seems a bit skewed, and I think Sam especially was remembering this time with Amelia in relation to Fred Jones and his life in a dream world of cartoons.  "Look, it can be nice living in a dream world. It can be great. I know that. And you can hide, and you can pretend all the crap out there doesn't exist, but you can't do it  forever because...eventually, whatever it is you're running from "“ it'll find you.  It'll come along, and it'll punch you in the gut. And then... then you got to wake up, because if you don't, then trying to keep that dream alive will destroy you! It'll destroy everything!"

SamSadCap

Sam misses Amelia, he misses his real life, but he left for a reason and needed to remember what that reason was.  Amelia's dad triggered all the doubts that Sam had about their relationship, and maybe heightened feelings he had deep inside over why he wasn't good enough for her.  Since it was discovered at the end that Amelia's husband Don was really alive, it was those doubts that played in Sam's eventual decision to leave.  Ultimately, he was trying to assure himself he did the right thing.  It's the things that minds to do carry on.  

Citizen Fang

Remember that brotherly camaraderie and support from the last couple of episodes?  Gone.  Sam still has that bug up his ass about Benny, and when crazy Martin from "Sam, Interrupted" came to him looking for work, how harmless could he be?  Just have him look after Benny and report back to him.  Except people started turning up dead from vampire wounds where Benny just happened to be, and Martin didn't have to see Benny caught in the act.  Vampires after all are evil.  So Sam agreed.  Huh?  Sam took Martin's side over Dean?  They even knocked out Dean and chained him to a radiator?  It didn't make a lot of sense at the time, but in retrospect it's understandable. 

We know Sam's bias against Benny wasn't just a mere hatred for vampires.  It had to be something more, because remember Sam's defense of Lenore in "Bloodlust?"  He learned back then vampires could be good.  He never sent anyone out to tail Lenore.  I believe part of Sam's overreaction was in a way to protect Dean, because vampires don't help you out of Purgatory out of the goodness of their hearts.  He didn't trust and has that fear of his loved ones dying.  There's also jealousy too.  Dean has chosen a vampire over him.  Dean relies on this vampire more than he does him.  Even though Sam really doesn't want to be hunting.  Yeah, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, until the season finale.   

On the plus side, this Amelia thing is starting to finish up.  In the flashback Sam wants to stay with Amelia and is willing to fight for her, but his one conversation with Don changes his mind.  He does what he thinks is best for Amelia and leaves.  I'm not exactly sure why he didn't wait for Amelia to make her choice, but I figured he was making it easy for her.  He loves her, but perhaps part of him knows them being together isn't right.  Those he loves usually end up dead.   

But then he gets the text message that Amelia is in trouble during the hunt, and suddenly letting go of her goes out the window.  He bails the second he sees it, leaving Martin out in the woods alone.  He's frantic, he's worried, he's scared, and suddenly all those memories of tragically losing people he loves comes back to him.  At first he's relieved to find that she's okay, although very disappointed to find out she's carried on her life with Don.  That all ends with anger toward Dean when he figures out Dean sent that message and Benny killed Martin.  He won't even speak to him.  It doesn't help after finding that out that he runs into Amelia in the bar!  Awkward.  

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Torn and Frayed

Poor Sammy.  We know it wasn't Dean's intent wasn't harmful when he sent that text message, but it really hurt Sam in a way Dean never would have guessed.  Sam is clean with him over the reason why, which is quite refreshing to see.  He's being more open and honest with Dean, more than he's been in a while (if ever).  This isn't about Benny.  "You needed me to what? To tear ass to Texas? To be afraid that what happened to Jessica, what happened to... everybody that we care about might have happened to her?"  

The brothers part angrily, so enter Castiel!  But first, Sam rekindles the lost romance with Amelia.  She arrives in the motel room, they cave into their passions, and they both realize it's wrong.  She issues the ultimatum, he can stay with her, but he has to be all in.  No more of his other life.  Sam needs time to think about it, but there's nothing like Castiel coming along and dragging him into his quest to find Samandriel, even though Dean is helping.  When Castiel says to stow their crap, they listen!  

The case is all Sam needs.  For one, he realizes how much he and Dean need each other during the rescue attempt.  Only they know how to cover each other's backs against the bad guy.  Two, something is wrong with Castiel, and this whole tablet thing has gotten more complicated.  They're needed.  Still, Dean gives Sam the option to leave it all behind.  Sam, with heavy heart, decides to stay with Dean.  He's sad, maybe borderline devastated, but he knows it's the right thing.  The Amelia thing is over, unless that fit of passion results sometime later in a baby.  I know, bite my tongue!  

LARP and The Real Girl

Sam is still really smarting over the whole Amelia thing.  Dean wants them to try and have some fun, but Sam is all business.  But something happens at the end.  He sees everyone having all that fun at LARPing, including Dean.  Why should they have all the fun?  

811CHARLIESAMLARP

Coming up in part two, Sam's life profoundly changes.  He takes the hero's journey and it's brutal.  




Comments  

Dot
# Dot 2013-06-27 20:24
After the Sam storylines of the past few seasons, it was definitely refreshing to see SPN take a more thoughtful, emotion-based human story for Sam. The loss of sense of self is a compelling theme, but after soulless Sam, and hallucinations Sam, and a lot of the drive of the Sam stories being from weird supernatural hijinks altering his behavior, I feel like his character--who Sam is when he's just being himself--got a bit lost. It didn't help that S7 bunted. It didn't just bunt with Sam, but with the Dean story and Castiel's story as well.

The first half of season 8, which gave us a lot of in-close Sam pov in small moments, not just grand plot things--as you said, his adjustment to going back to the hunting life, his memories of Amelia, how he was pulled between those two worlds, the tensions with Dean...rather than burying it and avoiding it seemed like the brothers were actually airing things more and were more vocal and honest with each other than we've seen in a while. Sam in S8 really pinged for me.

The Amelia story I know didn't work for many, but I enjoyed it, and know others did as well. Either way, I agree Sam/Amelia was a crucial part of Sam's character arc, even if it didn't work for everyone. Sam's scenes with Amelia showed us different facets of Sam we needed to see, it helped ground the character. Sam's year living a life beyond hunting, seeing another way to live, gave Sam a perspective that was key to his overall season arc.

The end of Torn and Frayed I thought was a down-note but well done. Sam and Dean chose each other, but we felt the weight of what they were putting aside as well, and I think S8 questioned whether that isolation is always the best decision. There seemed to be a heavy insistence on either/or, despite the motions towards compromise and growth -- but the second half of the season opened things up again with the MoL and other characters in play and confirmed my feeling at the time, that Torn and Frayed wasn't the ultimate end-point goal, but the mid-way point of the journey.

I guess I should save my other thoughts for part 2 of your Sam post, but I will say I was worried that Sam was being chucked back into the plot grinder of supernatural wackiness in the second half, however I think ultimately it was used to reveal and grow the character (and I did very much like how the MoL was used).
arefe
# arefe 2013-06-27 21:28
I love this kind of articles
amazing
I was thinking if we made video of their scenes of this season that would be good & boom this article!
every time I read something here I wish spn writers use of these analyses for their own good
nappi815
# nappi815 2013-06-28 07:15
alice, good stuff. i do agree with most of what you said, but i think i saw things a little different. it's always been blatantly obvious to me that dean's death had broken sam. i thought his fbs represented just how broken he was. sam did admit to dean more than once that he thought he died. he did explain how utterly alone he was. i thought sam's reaction to hitting the dog was prime example of how bad off sam was. he fell into normal quite by accident and he seemed to have sought amelia out specifically because he recognized how broken she was. the only bittersweet moment was the bday cake scene, but i thought the importance of that scene was to illustrate how bad off sam still was, even with her. it was clear to me that sam needed to save someone so he chose amelia because she needed saving, even if it was just from loss and sadness. i admit he did enjoy the safety and normalcy that came with being with her and he rediscovered that a life like that is possible and it renewed in him hope. but i think sam deserved and got a much needed vacation from the horror of his real life. his time with her gave him the chance to regain his strength. he never forgot, he didn't truly move on, but he had the time to regain his emotional strength back. when he was ready, he left on his own. but he got to have what he never had.. some semblance of what he deemed to be.normalcy and the weight of the world not on his shoulder. i was happy that he got to experience that, even if for a little while, even though he knew it was temporary.

i also think heartache was more about sam feeling like he was a disappointment to dean yet again. dean does keep digging at him giving him reason to believe that. so i perceived sam's comment about dean being better off on his own and that he wanted his life to account for something as sam not feeling he counts at hunting. he keeps letting dean down. leaving hunting, doing normal, he may do something for someone without feeling like he let them down.

as for citizen fang, it was about benny. in torn and frayed sam also told dean that this is what it comes to. that he would do that to him, send him that text, to protect a vampire. that dean was willing to hurt sam in such a way...that he put a vampire first. that's why in the finale sam lists himself as coming in third place behind an angel and a vampire. the way sam saw the text, imo, was dean hurting sam to protect benny. benny came first in sam's eyes.
not saying that's true, just that's the way i think sam saw it.
just so glad that this finale allowed sam to finally express how he sees things for the last four years, especially given that what he thought and the way dean feels are two different ways. :lol:
Thisoldbag
# Thisoldbag 2013-06-28 11:59
I agree with all you said as that is the way I interpreted the first half. I also feel that Sam saying things like "you'd be better off without me" as attempting to allow Dean to be free of his burden (Sam) so that he can go off and get what he (Dean) wants without having to take care of his little brother. Sam would never just leave his brother alone, but if he felt Dean were ok with it, he'd want him to be free to make that choice. This is where the emotional issues can come up in that Dean then decides it's ok for him to die doing the trials thus leaving Sam alone again. Sadly, they each think the other would be better off without them. Gosh I love this show.
Amyh
# Amyh 2013-06-28 11:47
Alice,

This is an interesting first half. I still...well after S8 is over wished that after Dean went on about how Benny is better and never let him down...I still wish Sam had taken a page out of Johns book from the season 2 premier. "can we just not fight anymore?" And Sam tell Dean that if he really feels like that then maybe Dean should hunt with benny since he is so awesome sauce and trustworthy.

Cause honestly, while iI know this thought probably goes more in a Dean article it fits in Sams because it speaks to "You can barely do it (hunting)with me. WHY does Dean want to hunt with Sam? Dean thinks Sam needs protecting 24\7 when he's not claiming Sam is betraying him or intentionally trying to decieve him. Why would dean want to hunt with Sam if Dean beleives Sam needs to be protected? or he can't trust Sam at all. Maybe its the little brother/little brother thing. So...why doesn't Dean hunt with his BROTHER, benny or Castiel instead of his LITTLE brother? Why does Dean need that qualifier when he calls Sam brother? Little brother is not an equal. But BROTHER IS.

Also....Sams view of Benny...i had a thought. Show never addressed the changed voicemail from Season 4 when Sam thought Dean called him a blood sucking vampire who should be killed. That voice mail is still canon. And now Dean is protecting a vampire. (Did carver choose to have benny be a vampire spefically as a callback to the voicemaiil?) Calling it not only Brother, but a better brother then Sam has ever been.

Anyway, I look foreward to your part 2
paloma
# paloma 2013-06-28 14:59
In my opinion, Sam attitude all this season make much sense if it will develop correctly in the next season. Because for now it is difficult to me believe him. If not, for the case they could kill him and make less hurt to his character.
castiels cat
# castiels cat 2013-07-01 12:17
I think the point of this season for Sam was to give hin a decidedly human story with human foibles followed by a human redemption arc. Hence he makes some mistakes, lashes out at Dean out of pride and self loathing, and hates Benny out of jealousy (if it was about concern for Dean he would have listened to him without emotion, wouldn't have left him chained/bloody/ unconscious to a radiator with Benny still out there, would have seen Martin had serious issues that could get them killed, and absolutely would not have considered Dean never seeing Benny again an acceptable outcome).

Sam in the first part of the season was emotional and making mistakes; this is understandably human and we know Sam is at his worst when he is overly emotional. In the second part he came out the other end; he was physically and spiritually purified by the trials. He slowly began to feel remorse for his actions even if he could not say this out loud. He accuses Dean of not trusting anyone which is not true because the show both showed and told us that Dean implicitly trusted Benny. He wanted to do the trials for Dean both to make things up to him and prove that Sam himself was trustworthy and capable; however he is not able to articulate this until Sacrifice. I think for Dean, all he wanted was an a acknowledgement of how Sam's actions hurt him and an apology. After all Dean apologized to Sam for a text. Sam has trouble admitting fault so he attones by the grand gesture. I guess this is thinga typical guy thing.

Dean' s purification happened during his year in purgatory. He came back accepting all facets of his personality including his dark torturous side and his tendency to feel responsible for everyone and everything. He is so in touch with himself that he became the great communicator ("talk to me"me). He recognized his strenths as leader, tactician and mentor, and found pleasure and self worth in exercising these skills. He also remembered his bliss: saving people, hunting things, the FAMILY business; hence his incredulity at Sam abandoning it all. Yes he was hard on Sam, but these things needed to be said because the relationship could not evolve and trust could not be rebuilt without frank discourse. Things were so bad that he felt that he had no family per his response to Benny in Citizen Fang, he walked away from Sam and his ultimatum in Torn and Frayed, and he seemed unhappy and/or annoyed to be stuck with Sam in TaF and Larp and the real girl. The silent demon hunting scene beautifully reminded us and them of the connection and once they blew off steam in Larp things were better.

They love each other. I hope this upcoming year leads to them developing a mature relationship. It seems that they've set Sam up to be the lead research guy via MOL, and Dean is the lead fieldwork guy. This makes sense since it plays to their strengths and interests I have always felt that JP plays Sam as looking uncomfortable, even awkward whilst hunting, especially in consideration of his soulless Sam sojourn. This observation is not a dismissal of his skills since I think it reflects self- awareness of who he sees himself as. Hands on hunting isn't his thang. He can hunt well, but unlike Dean his bliss comes more from using his mind. Their legacy is a great way to keep Sam in character, have him find fulfillment, and keep him in the game. Dean knows this too ("Good") which means that a major source of brotherly angst is solved. By this I am referring more to acceptance of one another despite their differences, as much as Sam' s longtime desire to do something other than hunt.
eilf
# eilf 2013-07-01 14:18
You know Castiel's Cat I want to thank you for putting into one post the difference between the required behavior for Sam and that for Dean.

You say that Sam needs ‘a human redemption arc.’, he ‘lashes out at Dean out of pride and self loathing’ is ‘at his worst when he is overly emotional.’ And ‘He wanted to do the trials for Dean both to make things up to him and prove that Sam himself was trustworthy and capable;’ Dean on the other had had no part in anything except wanting ‘an acknowledgement of how Sam's actions hurt him and an apology’.

What was Dean looking for an apology for? For Sam believing Dean was dead and not trying to bring him back? Yes that was a mistake on Sam’s part and he will spend the rest of eternity with it hanging over him most likely (thanks writers – on this point you suck, because this is not Canon!Sam behavior and you KNOW IT).

But what was in Dean’s list on top of that? EVERYTHING else he listed in his totally non-passive/agg ressive driving-your-br other-to-near-s uicide list (because heaven knows Dean never does anything that harms Sam) happened before Sam went to hell. Oh and there was one thing HE himself did (good lad, get it all off your chest).

Here is what gets me – you then go on to sayQuote:
Dean's purification happened during his year in purgatory. He came back accepting all facets of his personality including his dark torturous side and his tendency to feel responsible for everyone and everything.
Being in a supernatural world of endless suffering allows you to atone for your wrongs.

Really?

Oh wait, isn’t that exactly the situation Sam found himself in between end of Season 5 and middle of season 7? The difference between the two is of course that Sam hasn’t come to a realization (as you put it) that it is ok to incorporate your skills learned as a torturer in hell into your everyday dealings with real people. Because, you know what, being comfortable with torturing people is not a skill-set you want to develop. Sorry. Sam of course didn’t discover, while he was in hell, that he enjoyed torturing, as Dean said he himself did. Maybe that’s why it is ok for Dean?

Sam told Dean that he believed he had atoned for his wrongs. And he has, if Dean doesn't want to accept that doesn't that show Dean to have an unforgiving nature? Not that Sam never felt he had anything to atone for - there is plenty of evidence that Sam has always wanted to atone for what he knew he did wrong.

I like Dean, I don’t want to be in these ‘well Dean did it as well why is it worse for Sam to do it?’ conversations but it would be nice if they were held to the same standard once in a while.

I don't think that Dean likes his past as a torturer and I don't think that he is really unforgiving just somewhat dense when it comes to Sam.

With regard to all your points about Benny, I have been involved in many and extensive conversations on this site about Benny and Citizen Fang so I won't go into it all again, it is pointless. I have my personal take on all that which is as borne out by the events in that episode and the guys’ history (which of them usually does the hitting for example) as yours is. You will not agree with my opinion, I completely disagree with you on this, sorry.
percysowner
# percysowner 2013-07-01 17:21
Thank you. This totally sums up how I feel. You expressed it perfectly.
eilf
# eilf 2013-07-01 17:39
thanks Percy :-)
Sharon
# Sharon 2013-07-01 17:50
You know Castiels cat I really do not enjoy a brothers relationship that evolves in where Sam can only define himself by how many times he thinks he has let Dean down and that simply wanting normal is some sort of reflection of how he feels about Dean.
I am all for fair and frank discourse but not just on Dean's terms and Dean reading off a list of a who's who of Sam's mistakes .
just saying
# just saying 2013-07-01 22:36
There’s middle ground to me between Castiel’s Cat and Elif’s perspectives. I think Sam’s human arc, as well as his “redemption† could have been done much better than they were this season. Show really set Sam up when they had him say he didn’t know whether Dean was dead or at a taco stand somewhere, so he didn’t try to find out. From that point on, show never let Sam really show any sign that he felt he had any responsibility in the trouble between them (some of this was for the sake of conflict, but it still didn’t do Sam any favors) until the very last episode, when he was suddenly ready to kill himself because he just couldn’t handle his guilt any further. I can’t say I found that as satisfying as it could have been if show had really taken the time to develop this emotional storyline of Sam’s over the season, rather than throwing it in at the last minute for drama’s sake. At the same time, I also believe that Sam should not be totally defined through Dean any more than Dean should be totally defined through Sam, and his storyline should never center around what he can for do for Dean any more than Dean’s should center around what he can do for Sam (Show, I’m looking at you). As for Dean’s return to grudges past, this is an example of how the writing failed him, flying in the face of his blanket forgiveness in S6, just as the writing failed Sam with the “I didn’t try to find out what happened to you. What?” storyline. I know in some ways Sam and Dean both showed some maturity, but both of these were pretty much regressions.

At the same time, I think Sharon might have it right when she says she is all for fair and frank discourse, and to me that really never happened this season. It was Dean’s turn to give a speech, then Sam’s turn, then Dean’s, then Sam’s, and so on and so forth. There really wasn’t enough back and forth discussion where they actually came to understandingsâ €”often after the speeches the other brother was silent or compliant instead of a real dialogue. I think what I want most from S9 right now is for the finale not to be seen as some cure-all panacea that “fixed” things between Sam and Dean, because to me, it certainly shouldn’t have. Big gestures clearly haven’t fixed anything between Sam and Dean in the past, and I’d like Sam to move past that habit (I saw someone proclaim this a guy trait, which seems silly to me because this is not how we see Dean operate, and he’s clearly a guy, so) and really take some steps to repair his relationship with Dean. At the same time, Dean has to step back again from his overprotective regression and not lash out with past grudges when he’s hurt so that he can do his part to repair their relationship. They both fell back into some bad habits concerning their big/little brother archetypes this season. No, they’ll never be able to truly escape them, and I don’t think most fans want them to. But I feel like this season drew more attention to the bad aspects of that (Sam’s refusal to see how his actions might have hurt Dean vs. Dean’s “Mad Dad” reactions that didn’t help fix anything, Sam’s sudden-onset suicidal desperation for approval vs. Dean’s mother henning [which after the S5 culminating message for Dean was suddenly a good thing]) than the good for a good chunk of the season. That’s what I’d like to see change, or at least improve. This time let the boys really mature and actually square some of these issues away. It’s not like the writers aren’t creative enough to give them new issues to deal with, but at least in S9 they might feel more organic to the characters than Amelia/Dean’s grudges of Christmas past. That's what I'd like for both Sam and Dean at this point.
paladinteacher
# paladinteacher 2013-07-04 21:13
Thanks for this article. I have been looking forward to this one. From the minute I started watching Supernatural, the character of Sam has been the one that I identified the most (not that I don’t love Dean, too). At the start of season 8, I was expecting more of an explanation as to why Sam did not look for Dean. If Sam wasn’t looking for Dean, there had to be a reason, right? Because I didn’t see the explanation that I was expecting, I focused on the first two episodes when they were re-aired. And having seen the entire season does add a little perspective that helps.
As I rewatched We Need To Talk About Kevin, one thing that resonated with me was Sam’s reaction to finding Dean in the cabin. First off, he was happy to see his brother. He was surprised to hear that Dean had been in Purgatory. I just don’t think that Sam ever considered that his brother was in Purgatory. I think that Sam was doing the best he could to go on, even though he missed his brother terribly and grieved for him. He tried to pursue that normal life that he had made Dean promise to go after in season 5. Sam brings that up to Bobby in Taxi Driver. “We had an agreement,” is really all Sam says to defend himself to Bobby. Another thing that I focused on during a re-watch, is how Dean and Sam are barely reunited before Dean asks the question, “Did you look for me?” Dean’s anger is soon apparent, and as he storms away, Sam utters a desolate, “Welcome back.”
As Sam’s flashbacks continued until they reached the point where Sam leaves Amelia, he wants to stay with her, but ultimately decides to leave, telling her, “I’m just trying to do the right thing.” He leaves her and goes to the cabin, where, coincidentally, he finds Dean. (Very large coincidence, by the way.) It may be wishful thinking on my part, but what if Sam’s comment about trying to do the right thing was about him re-assessing looking for Dean, not just his relationship with Amelia. (I agree with you about how his comment to Fred Jones in Hunteri Heroici are as much about himself as about Fred Jones.)
Eagerly awaiting diving into part two!