In my two most recent reviews, I’ve touched upon how in season ten Sam’s quest to save Dean has gotten so focused, he’s thrown out the notion of saving others and playing the hero. None of that seems to matter, leaving us to ask, what happened to the heroes in the story? Has it just become a raw quest for survival? Is there no such thing anymore as being the hero?
I just read this most fascinating review of “The Werther Project” from MaryAnn Sleasman over at TV.com, and her exploration of this very topic is perfectly articulated. It’s kind of mind blowing. Here’s an excerpt:
Rowena's sudden appearance, the raging ghost of Susie berating Sam for justifying her death with Dean's survival, and the knowledge that the box drove intruders to suicide should've all pointed Sam in the right direction, but I guess we can attribute this gaping oversight to the incredible stress that comes with saving your brother from damnation... again. Sam is desperate for a solution, and while his slide to the dark side in Season 4 was motivated by similarly good and just intentions, his descent here in Season 10 has managed to avoid rehashing those old issues by avoiding the overt displays of eeeeevil that characterized demon blood junkie Sam.
Sam didn't set out to get Susie killed, and he is guilty for his role in her death—he's just not that guilty. He isn't teaming up with Rowena so much as using her for his own devices. This Sam isn't as naive as the one who tumbled headfirst into doing hell's bidding because of some shady promises about Dean's salvation. This Sam knows he's playing with some bad mojo.
He just doesn't care.
The starkness of Sam's mission became clearer in "The Werther Project," where there was no big heroic image to hide behind. There's no saving the world or locking up hell; the episode was literally about saving Dean, and when the most direct way to save Dean was "just kill yourself" Sam was there. He didn't even bother to think about the consequences: Dean would be devastated, there was no guarantee that Rowena would actually use the codex to decode the Book of the Damned without Sam around to force her hand, the anarchy is heaven is far from over, and Metatron is still on the run.
"The Werther Project" took that self-sacrificing trope that Supernatural has built around the Winchesters and stripped it down to its most alarming core. When do Dean and Sam finally look at themselves and the mess of their lives and realize how screwed up they've become? When does this cycle stop? For a veteran series like Supernatural, these are all the right questions to be asking.
How does Sam come out of this with any sanity? It does seem scarier that the potential damage he’s doing this time as opposed to season four is because he’s making conscious choices on his own, without any kind of manipulation. When his hallucination of Suzie berated him for causing another innocent death for the sake of his quest, Sam’s mind ended up erasing all that by bringing Rowena into the mix. That’s a fascinating parallel to the season four episode, “When the Levee Breaks.” In that one, coming off the demon blood, Sam managed through his hallucinations to justify his actions and why he had to embrace his inner evil powers to kill Lilith. The end justified the means and it led to his escape. “The Werther Project” seemed to be the antithesis of that. His mind had fake!Rowena come along and blow all that guilt away so he could carry on the mission. That’s not justification or addressing the problem. That’s sweeping it under the rug and dealing with the consequences later.
Is just the idea of losing Dean again the only thing driving Sam this time to ignore all the obvious warning signs? What has to happen for him to see the light, or is he too far gone now? The fact that he chained up Rowena means that he learned his lessons from Ruby, but in a screwed up way. He’s still making deals with the devil so to speak rather than avoiding them, but now he’s taking better pre-cautions. He isn’t as dumb or naïve, but as far as risks go he seems to be more reckless than ever. What he’s doing will hurt others and have gross negative impacts. He isn’t thinking through the worst that can happen, just that he’ll deal with it should that come to be. No doubt about it, desperate Sam is very dangerous.
Sam spent all of season five in damage control mode. Yes, his actions still resulted in an extraordinary loss of life, but in the end he took responsibility and jumped into the cage to save the world. Will this inevitably become Sam in season 11? Will he be as remorseful, more vigilant in his task to save the world if he manages to save his brother? What has to happen to make him care?
Are Sam and Dean even capable of knowing anymore what “screwed up” is? I think they’ve grown that dysfunctional where they don’t know normal and rational behavior. They’re so consumed by the darkness, evil, and horrific things they’ve had happen in their lives that perhaps those lines of right and wrong aren’t recognizable anymore. Or, maybe it’s just Sam.
In “Book of the Damned” Dean saw that using the book was too much of a risk, knowing that it’s mere existence will release some very negative things (like biblical) into the world. Sam couldn’t let it go though and was willing to take that risk. I’m wondering if this implies that Sam’s “psychosis” so to speak is far more progressed as Dean’s. Or did Dean already learn his lesson in season nine and is still suffering the consequences because of it? If the situations were reversed, would Dean be using the book to make a deal with Rowena like Sam? After the events of season nine, I’m not convinced he would.
I have to admit, I’m far more frightened by Sam in season ten than season four. He’s losing his sense of being, his sense of right and wrong, and he seems to have no stopping point. Plus, we still aren’t sure what his real purpose is. Why is he still hunting? Because he doesn’t know what else to do with his life? Because he says he loves it? (I don’t’ believe him BTW.) Sam believed he was saving the world in season four and did it all for the right reasons. All that logic seems to have escaped him now. I do wonder if Cain’s prophecy of Dean killing Sam comes down to this very issue. Maybe death is the only way Sam can be stopped from risking others.
So, what do you think? Is this notion right on, couldn’t be more off base, or somewhere in between? What is your hope for Sam’s character after all this? What sort of life lies before him? One of hunting forever with his brother? How do both Sam and Dean stop the cycle of self-sacrifice or worse to save each other, or can they?