Significant Mothers of Supernatural, Part One:
One-Hit Wonders
 
We survived again! Officially less than one week to go in this long, long hiatus. My goal during Hellatus was to contribute more than the one measly piece I did, but that clearly didn't happen. The one thing everyone knows about me (and my family) is that we have ridiculously bad luck and thus, as usual life had other plans for me, food poisoning being at the top of the list (seriously, one year we rented a cottage on our first vacation in nearly seven years - and EIGHT tornados touched down where we were staying). So, when the many crises were abated, I sat down to write one article and instead found myself with multiple points of interest, leading one article to become one of three instead. So here we go: Part One of the Mother series.
 
Mother is a word that we use in many contexts. It can mean the woman who birthed us, or Mother Earth, or it can be used as a verb, such as "you're mothering me" or it can be an adjective to describe a relationship other than parent-child. The world of Supernatural has explored many mothers throughout the series, good and bad, both desperate and strong. For the most part, these have been powerful characters with a significant role to play, regardless of their actual screen time. That said, this article trilogy intends to explore the significant maternal figures on the show.
 
First, I'll start with the Honourable Mentions.  These were individuals who were mothers in some senses, but their specific impact on going-ons and/or character development wasn't as strong. Note that none of these are in order of favouritism, but rather appearance:
 
Andrea Bar, Dead in the Water

  
Andrea, mother to Lucas, was a great character in the fledgling episodes of Supernatural. She was a mother in every sense of the word, protective of and unfailingly loving toward her son, but also, in the way she "mothered" her father by bringing him lunch, for example. She didn't make my list because while it's true she's a mom, her character didn't have an impact on the boys that was Lucas as well as her father the Sheriff. Lucas affected Dean and Sam emotionally where the sheriff was at the heart of the case. So while I liked the character, Andrea is not on my list of Significant Moms of Supernatural.
 
*************
 
Mrs. Rouke, Faith
 



 
Mrs. Rouke, a.k.a. Layla's angry mother is the individual who inspired thoughts about the many shapes and sizes of mothers who have come and gone in the Winchester's lives. Mrs. Rouke, as with a few other mothers, posed a problem for me when deciding whether or not she was significant enough. Mrs. Rouke interacted with Dean few times throughout the episode though at one instance she confronted Dean about why he was chosen to be healed instead of Layla, adding to Dean's long list of reasons to feel guilty about his existence. Despite this, after extensive debate, I've decided to leave Mrs. Rouke off the final list, though it was necessary to include her in the honourable mention for the characterization of protective mother.
 
*************
 
Susan Thompson & Grandma Rose, Playthings

  
 
 
This episode is one of my favourite Supernatural episodes for no explicable reason, so I had to include it somewhere. Playthings had two key mother characters: the inn owner Susan and grandmother "poke-her-with-a-stick" Rose. Again, despite physically being mothers and having their own role to play in the plot, these two did not dynamically affect our boys.
 
Of course, there are many other mothers or mother-figures in the day-to-day cases of the Winchester brothers (for example: Hailey Collins of Wendigo), but none beyond the preceding two and subsequent four demanded vital mention, in my opinion.
 
Significant Moms of Supernatural;
 
The four individuals who made the following list not only satisfied the Mother definition in some way, but also had a significant impact on the brother's lives, directly or indirectly (my list, my rules, mwahaha!).
 
Missouri Mosley, Home

 
 
This one, I am sure, makes the list for obvious reasons.  For her part, Missouri set John Winchester on the path to understanding the world of hunting, per his journal entry and some twenty-two years later aided his son's in identifying the spirit of their dead mother in their childhood home. Missouri's individual treatment of the boys throughout the episode provides each with strength they need to get through. For Dean, she uses a tough love approach that allows him to use his age old coping mechanism of wit and sarcasm. With Sam, Missouri has a gentler touch, softly coaxing him and giving him the empathy and warmth he needed at the point in his life -  treatment that a mother would bestow on a hurting child.
 
Alice Miller, Nightmare
 
 
Alice is the one individual who did not directly impact Sam and Dean but who couldn't be left off the list because of the crucial purpose she played in episode fourteen of season one. Recall that Alice is the stepmother to one Max Miller, another of Azazel's psychic children who slayed his father and uncle using his demon-given powers. Alice's role involved standing idly by while her step-son was severely abused by her husband and brother, Max's uncle, it was her inaction that prompted Max, after eliminated the direct threats to his person, to seek revenge on she who failed to save him, Alice. This was the vision that led Sam and Dean to the Miller household for another visit. It was on this visit that Max locks Sam in a closet, during which time Sam has a vision of Max shooting Dean in the forehead. This motivated Sam to, for the first time, use telekinesis to unblock the closet door and get upstairs to save Dean. Thus, Alice's role, though indirect, was as a catalyst for the first time Sam's power manifests itself. It is at the end of this episode, when Sam tells Dean about moving things with his mind, that the first seeds of disturbance are planted. Alice was minute but terribly important in the lives of the Winchester brothers.
 
Tessa, In My Time of Dying & Death Takes a Holiday
 
 
Tessa was not an obvious choice for this list and toyed with whether or not she should be on it. In the end, I was won over by the motherly approach she takes with lost souls as well as the key encounters she has with Dean.
 
A reaper, Tessa collects the dead to take them to whatever or wherever the afterlife exists and it in this capacity that we meet the young woman twice. In the first instance, Dean is the wandering ghost and Tessa is soft and soothing in manner to connect with Dean, convincing him that moving on is the best course of action. Firm, but gentle, Tessa recognizes the fear in Dean over leaving his family to fight YED and talks him through it. I truly believe that if YED hadn't intervened, Dean Winchester would have crossed over with Tessa in a short amount of time.
 
The second encounter with Tessa, she again uses the technique of warm motherly appeal to convince Cole to come with her, eventually succeeded. In this episode, she also restores to Dean his memories of his time as a hospital spook and imparts some wisdom on him about the heaven-hell tug-of-war he and Sam have fallen into. So, for her momesque approach to death and dying in both encounters and the impact of her presence, specifically on Dean, Tessa makes my list. Also, I really enjoyed the character.
 
Lisa Braeden, The Kids Are Alright

 
 
Lisa is perhaps the most significant person on this list because of her effect on Dean or more specifically, the effect of what she represented. Lisa and Ben Braden epitomized the family that Dean dreamt about most of his life. Ben was an awesome kid with a fabulous mother and she offered Dean a chance to pursue that life when she suggested he stay with them. In the end, the significance of Lisa and Ben to Dean earned Lisa Braden the final position on this list.
 
Okay, so that's it for part one of the Significant Mother's series. There are definitely many other characters that I toyed with adding to the list and who, in one way or another, constitute a mother figure on Supernatural but I tried to limit myself. I am curious though: who makes your list of Significant Mother's One-Hit Wonders of Supernatural?

Check out Part Two:  Significant Mothers of Supernatural Part Two - The Surrogate

Comments  

MyMADWorld
# MyMADWorld 2010-01-18 23:11
Great list - how about the most important mother of all in the series? Dean, of course, who acts a mother to Sam as he grows up. I quite often think that theirs is less of a brother relationship than a surrogate mother-son. Why else would Dean not be able to take losing Sam? He was willing to die to save Sam - just like John was willing to die to save Dean & Ellen most certainly died for Jo. I think that Sam feels that Dean is just what he is - his big brother - but I think that Dean feels more like Sam is his son, his responsibility.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-19 05:53
I liked your account of Supernatural’ s maternal figures a lot, Elle, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the other parts (no pressure though). I was touched to hear of your spectacular tendency for bad luck and hope that will turn, soon!

One of my favourite mother characters from your list is undoubtedly Missouri. A wonderful, gutsy and compassionate woman. Even not being their mother, she extended the kind of care and protective banter to the Winchester brothers (and probably the Winchester dad, as well) any mother would.
I am not a mom as of yet (do hope to be one some day), but I feel the urge to protect others close to me, and I guess I can become fiercely ‘mothering’ sometimes, in particular to my friends’ kids. And I found some reactions I sometimes have had with Missouri, as strange as that may sound…

My favourite maternal figures of the show are, however, Ellen and Mama Winchester, Mary. I’m sure you will include those incredible women in another article, won’t you? They are lionesses, showing the deep strength I believe to be rooted in many women, which is one reason why I love being a woman. To know that we are able to overcome almost everything and take blows sometimes a man would have trouble digesting is deeply comforting, as life can be, indeed, horrificly cruel and hard.

I don’t mean this to sound anti-men, certainly not, and those who read my stuff know that – but to my humble observations I found women often to be somewhat more capable of enduring pain than the men I’ve met (with exceptions, of course)… and these characters are of the same gene pool, it seems…
Am I making any sense here?

Gosh, this day has already been terrible enough, I'll stop rambling now.

Thank you, Elle, Jas :-)
Randal
# Randal 2010-01-19 06:57
*Eight* tornadoes? Did you vacation in Oklahoma? Next time, try someplace safer, like San Francisco or an active volcano. :D

Very cool list, especially since you come at the idea of "mother" from so many angles. Missouri is absolutely one of the all-time great one-timers (who shouldn't be, ahem, ahem, Kripke).

Cool catch, MyMadWorld. Who's more protective of Sam than Dean?

Oh Jas, you man-hating maneater. Where's Hall and Oates? :D

You observe this is far more difficult situations than we do, but I'd wager that you're right. Part genetics, part societal expectations? Who knows the magic formula, but I think for (most of) us men (not me, ha ha), once the macho defense mechanisms break down, the fall back is weaker that it could be. I think that's what makes Dean so strong, having, as MMW pointed out, perhaps have taken the nurturing mantle from Mary.

All of the women on this list show a facet of nurturing, most successful, some not, and we see the result of their strength, or lack thereof.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-19 08:02
Oh,Randal, ‘she’ll only come out at night…lean and hungry type…nothing is new…. ‘ Come on! ;-)

I guess it’s a lot of that socialization men go through, you know all that men-don’t-cry nonsense, and it will probably take many generations to change that. Plus testosterone… ah well, but it always moves me when I see a ‘macho’ open up and show who he really is… it gets to me every time…

I believe everyone can learn to be strong. And I believe it helps when you take responsibility for the well being of another person, as Dean did with Sam, you’re right. Cheers, Jas
Karen
# Karen 2010-01-19 09:49
Hi Elle
Great article. Can’t wait for part 2 and more.
I don’t think there is anyone out there that didn’t take to Missouri.She would be on my list too.

I also liked Lisa. She’s the one that I hope Dean visits, when he finally hangs up his arsenal for good.

I agree that Mrs. Rourke deserves a honourable mention, she may have been an unpleasant character, but it was all for her desperate attempt to save her daughter.

To MMW, I always felt Dean was more of a parent than a brother as well, except for when he’s teasing and trying to embarrass him, than he’s being a brother.
For me Dean was the one who raised Sam, so he would definitely have a parents/mothers instinct to protect and to die for him.

Eight tornadoes! Yikes! Two years in a row we had a (one) Tornado go thru the area we were camping at. It’s pretty frightening, I can’t imagine having eight.
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-01-19 11:58
Great insight on Mother figures, elle. I look forward to part 2. Of course, my favorite mother is Ellen, who I am sure will be included in one of your next lists. Of the mothers mentioned, I liked Lisa and would love for her and Dean to finally 'hook up' when the series ends.

I agree with previous statements of how Dean was also a "mother/father" figure to Sam. In a lot of ways, he was more of a parent to Sam than John ever was. Which is why Dean will never be able to completely be an equal partner with Sam - no matter how much Sam wants it.
ElenaM
# ElenaM 2010-01-19 23:38
I was thinking, possibly Lenore... These vampire covens seem to be like family units, and Lenore struck me as a kind of matriarchal figure with regard to hers, providing leadership, guidance and protection. And I think Sam was affected by and responded to that relationship, leading him with Dean to take an unprecedented stand to protect monsters from a human hunter...

Kate Milligan gets an honorable mention from me. She never had any actual interaction with the boys, but looking at those pictures of her with John and Adam, John's "secret family" that they never knew about had to have an effect. And Sam especially seems to relate to Adam's desire for revenge for the death of his mom and the parallel with his own family story. Turns out to be faux-Adam, but still.

Katie's mom from "The Kids Are Alright" gets an honorable mention from me too. She had, if I recall right, no interaction with the boys whatsoever, but she definitely had an effect on me--the breakdown of her loving relationship with her daughter is one of the most horrific things I've seen on Supernatural.

I agree, great point from MMW with regard to Dean taking on the role of both parents as well as being a brother to Sam. It's interesting to think about his character and their relationship from that perspective. Great point from Evelyn too regarding the challenge that presents to the equal relationship Sam wants...

Thanks for your exploration of mother-figure one-timers-- thought it was really interesting and thoughtful! Looking forward to part 2
misty
# misty 2012-08-10 13:46
The only one I didn't like was Missouri. I disagree that what she gave Dean was 'tough love' she was downright nasty to him while doting lovingly on Sam. And no, this is not a knock against Sam, just saying that she was really sweet to him while being mean to Dean for no reason that was ever explained.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-08-10 15:43
I think Missouri ‘doted lovingly’ on Sam because as a psychic she knew what he, as a psychic just coming into his powers, was going through at that time. Having lived through it herself she could undoubtedly relate to his fears, his sense of alienation and prejudices that he was facing and was so trying to empathise and put him at ease while also showing him that being psychic was nothing to be feared.

In relation to Dean, okay she didn’t kiss his ass (thankfully) but she was far from nasty to him. Given that she accepted his help down the steps and asked them both to not be strangers I think she quite liked Dean.
vivian
# vivian 2012-08-10 16:25
misty, I also didn't like Missouri because of how she treated Dean. When she said "he was not the sharpest tool" and when she kind of screamed at Dean to clean up the mess THEY ALL made in the woman's house (and said nothing to Sam), she went to my black list. I don't miss her at all.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-08-11 04:42
I watched Home again last night to try and make out exactly what it was that Missouri had done.

Yes, at Jenny’s house Missouri clipped Dean around the ear with her handbag and then ‘insulted’ him but you really need to consider the context in which that happened. She did that because Dean was trying to push a traumatised woman into letting them (and they were relative strangers to Jenny) into her home. As viewers we know the urgency of the situations the Winchesters find themselves in so we know this forceful behaviour is necessary, but Jenny didn’t. Put yourself in her shoes. If three people you barely knew came knocking on your door and despite your protestations were very insistent about coming in, would you be willing to do what they wanted? Jenny had just taken her child out of a locked fridge; how tense, confused and terrified would she have been when she opened the door to them?

Missouri, given that she was psychic and all, sensed this and knew that if Dean continued pushing then Jenny would never talk to them so she started pulling. She put herself on Jenny’s side by getting Dean to back off and made him less of an aggressor by giving him a clatter and using the ‘not the sharpest tool’ line, and that’s a tactic that both Sam and Dean have used before to get a witness to talk. How many times have we heard one of them say or imply something along the lines of ‘You’ll have to excuse my brother, he’s a little _______’, cue one brother looking chagrined, a grin from the witness, the tension has been lifted and so the talking commences. The same thing happened in the very next episode when Sam (seemingly) stopped Dean from pushing a reluctant witness to talk. He shoved him out of the way and called him a ‘jerk’ for doing what he was doing, the officer appreciated the 'save' and so talked to Sam. Missouri was right too, Jenny was much more willing to listen and do what they wanted and she could also see that Dean, given that he could easily be made to back down by an elderly lady with a handbag, was no longer an aggressor and just an earnest person trying to help.

In relation to telling Dean to clean up, that was after Sam said they would pay for the (sizeable) damage and Dean made a face as if to say ‘We’ll do what now??’ Given that Sam had already made gestures to help with the damage, Missouri made sure that Dean would also help.
vivian
# vivian 2012-08-11 10:41
I understand your reading of the situation. But I think it's quite different banter between brothers that obviously love each other, or a rehearsed situation, and an 'insult' comming from an older adult, they had just met, and that was supposedly a mother figure. That can really hurt.

And Missouri knew both boys were in a very emotional situation, investigating a ghost in their old house, where all that happened. Just remember Dean's phone call to his father. So her difference in treatment, all kind and understanding with Sam an harsh with Dean was inexcusable for me. Mothers are supposed to put you up, not down. So much different than Ellen, who was firm but kind to both of them.
Leesa
# Leesa 2012-08-11 11:21
I disagree with that assessment. I think Missouri was very appropriate with her character. I mean I've seen fans vilify her because she tells Dean to not put his feet on her table. When Dean tries to touch Ash's computer in ELAC Ash gives him a stern warning and challenges him with a "what's up man". Both scenes are very funny but some fans seem to treat Missouri like she is mortally wounded Dean for warning him not to put his feet up.

And yes Ellen has been extremely stern with Dean also. In ELAC when Dean tells Ellen it's none of her business she snaps back "mind your tone with me boy". He even admits to Jo he's scared of Ellen in a later episode. It's very cute and I've never seen Ellen vilified for it. I recall her turning off Dean's music in his own car. So to say that Missouri treated Dean so much different that Ellen is not really true.

And about the sharpest tool comment. Bobby has also said to "aim lower" to Cas when he tried to explain a concept to them.

Missouri was in one episode. Ellen was in multiple episodes so her character was explored more. I hope we see Misouri back. She was a pleasure to watch interact with Sam and Dean.
LEAH D
# LEAH D 2012-08-11 12:51
If I recall, Ellen even slapped Dean in an episode. Dean has never seemed particularly sensitive to tough talk. His feelings do not get hurt that easily, probably due to how he was raised. I feel that Missouri meant no offense she just "sensed" which tact would be best for each of them. Almost everybody they know/knew takes a gentler approach with Sam decause he is just not the more hardheaded of the two. I think Dean ends up respecting people who take no guff.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2012-08-11 13:01
Missouri wasn’t their mother (no bad thing considering what their mother actually did), she’s not obligated to deal with them in exactly the same manner; few people on SPN do deal with them exactly the same. Missouri did, however, deal with them in a manner that best suited their personalities. At that time Sam was shy, quiet and withdrawn whereas Dean was quite brash and in your face, so Missouri responded to them both in kind. When they came to her, Sam was just after telling Dean about the visions so given how confused, scared and overwhelmed he had to have been at that time, it’s no wonder she treated him with kid gloves on because if she acted the same way with him as she did with Dean he’d either go further into his shell or maybe start crying!

Add to that, people generally treat others as they have been treated by them. It’s quite possible that Dean got Missouri’s back up (given that he initially acted like she was a circus act in relation to her abilities, was thinking about putting his feet on her table, was overly assertive when trying to talk to Jenny and also cursed at her), so she merely responded to him accordingly.

On an aside, I'm sure Elle will be thrilled that her article is still provoking comment over 2 ½ years later!
LEAH D
# LEAH D 2012-08-11 13:50
This hiatis seems ENDLESS. Kind of nice to still have some issues to kick around even if 2 and a half years later!
Leesa
# Leesa 2012-08-11 12:43
I don't consider either boy so emotionally dysfunctional that they can't handle a little ribbing. I thought the scenes between Missouri and Dean were funny. If people want to see someone intentionally wounding Dean's psyche watch the wraith in Sam, Interrupted. Picking apart someone who warned him about feet on a coffee table is something I don't understand.,