Daddy issues, Sam Winchester style
With April 23rd fast approaching [no, really, it is fast] and the much anticipated, somewhat maligned and completely unknown Jump The Shark episode I thought Iâ€™d take a look at the changing attitudes of Sam and Dean regarding their father.
Today weâ€™ll focus on Sam; the following episodes, to me, show Samâ€™s progression in thought and attitude towards Dad:
Dead Manâ€™s Blood
In My Time of Dying
Everyone Loves a Clown
Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things
[yeah, I know, I put Bugs in there, really folks, there are some great brotherly moments and revealsâ€¦just fast forward through the rest and youâ€™ll get all you need out of this episode]
â€œSo heâ€™s working overtime on the Miller time shift, heâ€™ll stumble back in sooner or later.â€
Samâ€™s been gone for four years when Dean arrives and informs him their father is missing. With his â€œwhole future on a plateâ€ on Monday Sam picks up and leaves; why? [beside the obvious, this is the first episode of the series] there is the opening shot of his and Jessâ€™ bedroom in which prominently displayed is the very photograph we saw moments earlier in Mary and Johnâ€™s bedroom 22 years earlier. Despite his estrangement, Sam has an attachment to family.
Thereâ€™s plenty of other reasons to watch this episode but thatâ€™s for another article, for now weâ€™re introduced to the conflict Sam carries regarding his father; itâ€™s family and you canâ€™t choose them but you sure wish you could.
â€œThe way we were raised was jack.â€
Samâ€™s disdain for hustling pool and credit cards scams is on full display while at the same time he scopes out their next job; yeah, heâ€™s conflicted.
This episode gives Sam insight into his father while allowing him to purge some of his private pain. Iâ€™ll tease you with a couple moments, check the rest out yourself â€“ finger on the fast forward button â€“ there are some gems hidden in this lump of sh--something.
Sam immediately connects with Matthew, the son; recognizing his estrangement from his own father. Dean doesnâ€™t see it, however, and itâ€™s interesting to note that here Sam sees Dean as the favored son whereas later we learn and continue to see that Dean clearly sees himself as the lesser, at least in the eyes of his fatherâ€¦ah, the angst â€“ and thatâ€™s a topic for a different article.
In Bugs we hear for the first time the word â€œfreakâ€ â€“ itâ€™s used a lot by the way over the seasons, is that a plan or do the writers just not have a good thesaurus? Freak â€“ yeah, my computer offered no alternatives either -- Matt applies it to himself; later Sam reveals thatâ€™s how he sees his own role in the family. Sam counsels Matt that college is just around the corner and escape is near which emboldens Dean to counter that a kid should stick with his family.
My favorite scene occurs, complete with gruesome prop, when Sam and Dean take a box of human remains to a nearby university. As they walk towards the building they have a wonderful sharing moment where Sam reveals his pain and insecurity.
â€œNo matter what I did it was never good enough.â€
Like I said, go check it out, itâ€™s worth watching to sooth the pain of season fourâ€™s brotherly strife, as well as to watch in wonder as Sam processes his brotherâ€™s words and glimpses behind the faÃ§ade his father wore for so many years.
Stinker this episode may have been in many ways, itâ€™s undeniable that at the end of it Sam has made a course correction in how he thinks about his father.
â€œI want to find dadâ€¦I want to apologize to him.â€
â€œIâ€™ll tell you one thing, weâ€™re lucky we had dad.â€
A glimpse into what life could have been: â€œA little more tequila, a little less demon hunting.â€
This built upon what Sam learned in Bugs and was critical for what comes nextâ€¦Dead Manâ€™s Blood. The crux of this episode is myth arc based and critical for understanding how and why Sam is who he is today -- all points for another article, not this one.
Some cool â€œthings you noticeâ€: When Max is telling Sam how his mother died, the music playing in the background is the same music from the Pilot in Samâ€™s nursery as the mobile stopped playing â€“ Iâ€™m sure you already knew that.
Dead Manâ€™s Blood:
â€œThis is why I left in the first place.â€
Samâ€™s processed information and altered his perceptions regarding dad but old habits die hard. The Winchester men are together again and John asserts his drill sergeant persona, something Dean unconvincingly asserts heâ€™s willing to accept but Sam clearly chafes at. It does not take long for the fireworks to begin.
Samâ€™s smoldering frustration bursts into flame drawing ire from John but showing Deanâ€™s ability to back both his brother and his father away from the fight; hefty burdens. Samâ€™s message hits home and we see not one but three major concessions from Dad. John gives up the information concerning the Colt, has a major heart to heart with Sam and agrees itâ€™s time the three Winchester men fight the fight together. While the first and the last moments are excellent, the emotional punch is the scene between Sam and Dad.
Here John shows Sam his â€˜dadâ€™ side, something Sam really needs even at 22 years of age. Sam is stubborn, perhaps willful but the truth is Sam needs his dad, not his drill sergeant father. We all need fathers, the one who sets boundaries, protects us in our ignorance and provides for our needs and sometimes even our wants. Fathers, however, are not enough; dads are critical. Dad is who you go to baseball games with or just toss the ball, dads teach you to ride a bike and later drive a car. Dads help with homework and show you how to break in a baseball glove, they even give advice on girls; especially how they wooed and won their sonsâ€™ mother.
John Winchester, big, strong, tough, stubborn, gun in one hand, machete in the other became Daddy Winchester and shared a 22-year old memory with Sam:
â€œSammyâ€¦donâ€™t think I ever told you this but the day you were born you know what I didâ€¦I put 100 bucks in a savings account for youâ€¦it was a college fundâ€¦My point is, Sam, this is never the life I wanted for you.â€
Go back and watch that scene, Sam pacing to and fro, fretting about Dean, trapped in the room with his father. John watches and battles his own emotional conflicts before giving in and giving Sam what he needs, insight. He not only asks Sam if Sam knew what heâ€™d done regarding the savings account but he explains his actions for the years afterwards.
Sam for his part is drawn in by what heâ€™s hearing; he stops pacing and starts to listen, Jared is excellent here as he shows Samâ€™s inner turmoil with the raising and lowering of his shoulders as he breathes in deep the words of his dad and attempts to calm his own emotions, the shifting from foot to foot in discomfort until finally heâ€™s drawn in and walks towards his father and takes a seat directly across from him and then shares his own thoughts.
John: â€œI just couldnâ€™t accept the fact that you and me, weâ€™re just different.â€
Sam: â€œWeâ€™re not different, not anymore.â€
This is a highly satisfying episode, I strongly suggest going back and rewatching, while youâ€™re at it, take note that this is Cathryn Humphrisâ€™ first episode with Supernatural, her next six are just as amazing.
In My Time of Dying:
â€œYouâ€™re planning on bringing the demon here arenâ€™t you; having some stupid, macho showdown!â€
After the epiphany comes disillusion; Sam, having finally gained insight into his father now rages at what he sees to be his fatherâ€™s obsession with revenge. Sam never once considers the possibility that John is doing anything to help Dean and John for his part doesnâ€™t give Sam much reason to trust his motives. Old habits die hard, father and son are alike, stubborn, strong-willed and used to keeping their own counsel.
In the end Sam misses the opportunity to understand Johnâ€™s motivations and it haunts him and changes the way he views his father. For the record, I donâ€™t believe for a moment John would have told Sam his plans; I donâ€™t believe John knew the price would be his own life but I donâ€™t believe he would ever wanted Sam anywhere near Azazel.
Everyone Loves a Clown:
â€œFor all I know he died thinking that I hate himâ€¦what Iâ€™m doing right now is too little too late. I miss him, man, and I feel guilty as hell.â€
All right, thatâ€™s about all the dialogue that we get here on this but Samâ€™s actions throughout this episode are indicators that heâ€™s now willing to follow in his fatherâ€™s path.
What I love about this episode is the sharp turn it makes for Sam and how he remembers his dad. Here Sam shows, not only in his actions but ultimately in his words, that he has made a serious and permanent course correction in his life.
Children Shouldnâ€™t Play with Dead Things:
â€œI think dad would have wanted you to have these.â€
This is Sam burying the past literally and figuratively. Dog tags, symbols of the drill sergeant that was Samâ€™s father for much of his life are buried. Sam buried the part of his father he liked the least at the headstone of a mother he never knew and in so doing clearly stated in his actions that heâ€™s charted a new course.
Itâ€™s sentimental, itâ€™s private, itâ€™s closure; Sam has closed the door on the past anger and resentment surrounding his father; his next step in this journey is to become the fence mender to Deanâ€™s broken illusions of their father; a role Dean played throughout the first season.
So, thatâ€™s it, a glimpse into some great episodes and some less than stellar ones and the thread of Sam and John I plucked along the way. Iâ€™ll be gathering my thoughts on Dean and John and sending those your way soon.
Hope you enjoyed this journey into the past.
Thanks for reading.