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 I’d take a look at the changing attitudes of Sam and Dean regarding their father.
 
Today we’ll focus on Sam; the following episodes, to me, show Sam’s progression in thought and attitude towards Dad: 
 
Pilot
Bugs
Nightmare
Dead Man’s Blood
In My Time of Dying
Everyone Loves a Clown
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
 
[yeah, I know, I put Bugs in there, really folks, there are some great brotherly moments and reveals…just fast forward through the rest and you’ll get all you need out of this episode]
 
Pilot
 
“So he’s working overtime on the Miller time shift, he’ll stumble back in sooner or later.”
 
Sam’s been gone for four years when Dean arrives and informs him their father is missing. With his “whole future on a plate” 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 Jess’ bedroom in which prominently displayed is the very photograph we saw moments earlier in Mary and John’s bedroom 22 years earlier. Despite his estrangement, Sam has an attachment to family.
 


There’s plenty of other reasons to watch this episode but that’s for another article, for now we’re introduced to the conflict Sam carries regarding his father; it’s family and you can’t choose them but you sure wish you could.
 
Bugs:
 
“The way we were raised was jack.”
 
Sam’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, he’s conflicted.
 
This episode gives Sam insight into his father while allowing him to purge some of his private pain. I’ll tease you with a couple moments, check the rest out yourself – finger on the fast forward button – 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 doesn’t see it, however, and it’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 father…ah, the angst – and that’s a topic for a different article.
 
In Bugs we hear for the first time the word “freak” – it’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 – yeah, my computer offered no alternatives either -- Matt applies it to himself; later Sam reveals that’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.
 
“No matter what I did it was never good enough.”
 

 
Like I said, go check it out, it’s worth watching to sooth the pain of season four’s brotherly strife, as well as to watch in wonder as Sam processes his brother’s words and glimpses behind the façade his father wore for so many years.
 
Stinker this episode may have been in many ways, it’s undeniable that at the end of it Sam has made a course correction in how he thinks about his father.
 
“I want to find dad…I want to apologize to him.”
 
 
Nightmare:  
 
“I’ll tell you one thing, we’re lucky we had dad.”
 
A glimpse into what life could have been:  â€œA little more tequila, a little less demon hunting.”
 
This built upon what Sam learned in Bugs and was critical for what comes next…Dead Man’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 “things you notice”: When Max is telling Sam how his mother died, the music playing in the background is the same music from the Pilot in Sam’s nursery as the mobile stopped playing – I’m sure you already knew that.
 
 
Dead Man’s Blood: 
 
“This is why I left in the first place.”
 
Sam’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 he’s willing to accept but Sam clearly chafes at. It does not take long for the fireworks to begin.
 
Sam’s smoldering frustration bursts into flame drawing ire from John but showing Dean’s ability to back both his brother and his father away from the fight; hefty burdens. Sam’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 it’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 ‘dad’ 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 sons’ 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:
 
“Sammy…don’t think I ever told you this but the day you were born you know what I did…I put 100 bucks in a savings account for you…it was a college fund…My point is, Sam, this is never the life I wanted for you.”
 
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 he’d done regarding the savings account but he explains his actions for the years afterwards. 
 
Sam for his part is drawn in by what he’s hearing; he stops pacing and starts to listen, Jared is excellent here as he shows Sam’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 he’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 couldn’t accept the fact that you and me, we’re just different.”
Sam: â€œWe’re not different, not anymore.”
 
This is a highly satisfying episode, I strongly suggest going back and rewatching, while you’re at it, take note that this is Cathryn Humphris’ first episode with Supernatural, her next six are just as amazing.
 
In My Time of Dying:  
 
“You’re planning on bringing the demon here aren’t you; having some stupid, macho showdown!”

 
After the epiphany comes disillusion; Sam, having finally gained insight into his father now rages at what he sees to be his father’s obsession with revenge. Sam never once considers the possibility that John is doing anything to help Dean and John for his part doesn’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 John’s motivations and it haunts him and changes the way he views his father. For the record, I don’t believe for a moment John would have told Sam his plans; I don’t believe John knew the price would be his own life but I don’t believe he would ever wanted Sam anywhere near Azazel. 
 
 
Everyone Loves a Clown: 
 
“For all I know he died thinking that I hate him…what I’m doing right now is too little too late. I miss him, man, and I feel guilty as hell.”

 
All right, that’s about all the dialogue that we get here on this but Sam’s actions throughout this episode are indicators that he’s now willing to follow in his father’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 Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
 
“I think dad would have wanted you to have these.”
 
This is Sam burying the past literally and figuratively. Dog tags, symbols of the drill sergeant that was Sam’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 he’s charted a new course. 
 
It’s sentimental, it’s private, it’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 Dean’s broken illusions of their father; a role Dean played throughout the first season.

 
******
 
So, that’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. I’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.
 

Comments  

vana naine
# vana naine 2009-04-10 03:38
I'm also that type of watcher - skipping some parts I don't like and finding moving parts in otherwise not-so-great episodes.
And I also like some parts of the Bugs and Everyone Loves a Clown.

But I still have impression that something is missing in this post, some episode maybe, that seemed to me very important to get Sam's father-issues totally. Maybe this one with shadows? Or...
(I won't rewatch season 1 now, just for this comment, but there IS something around you did not touch. Maybe the role of Dean as also-like-paren t and the differences of Sam's feelings toward his 2 fatherly figures?)

But nice to see someone liking Bug's brotherly moments too, and this theme (Sam's problems) is the most welcome!
elle2
# elle2 2009-04-10 13:48
Hi, Vana Naine,

Thanks for the comments.

This article is one of at least two (as I'm developing the second though there is a possibility for a third).

The second article will explore Dean's perspective and his changing viewpoint and I'm looking at a third to sort of view how the brothers shifted through the seasons.

I thought hard about Shadows (I love that eppie) and to me, while the overall idea of family was critical as well as some great reveals between the two brothers, it wasn't a pivot point in Sam's journey regarding his father, but that's my POV. ;-)

It was funny (the idea of skipping some parts) I went through the entire 1st season last night in about two hours b/c I was looking for specific things for my next article. I watched quick parts of about 12 episodes and mentally reviewed the other 10...perhaps I watch too much? Nah, couldn't be possible.

Thanks for the comments. I love both brothers and enjoy exploring both their journeys and I don't think for a minute it's possible to get the FULL PICTURE until this awesome journey is over...too much builds upon the past, but that's great writing by Kripke and CO.

:D
elle2
# elle2 2009-04-10 14:02
BTW, Vana Naine,

When you figure out what is prompting at your thoughts about Sam and dad, by all means please share it with me. I'm open to other thought and dialogues regarding this fabulous show. If by some really weird (and highly flattering chance) you ever want my take on a particular storyline, part of storyline, thread, journey, role or whatever please, please let me know. I love when other people talk/write about something that moves them about the show and then I go back and look for it and usually I say: Wow, I soooo missed that, how cool.

:-)