Gasp! There’s Something Wrong With Sam: A Theory in Six Parts
Just about every season of Supernatural had shown us a problem with Sam and how Dean had to help his little brother with that problem. We’re in sixth season now; isn’t it about time that Sam helped himself? Isn’t it about time that Sam took responsibility for his actions and actually suffered the consequences of those actions? Sam’s been getting a free ride for years while Dean’s been yelled at, beaten up and chastised for doing the exact same thing. Season five was an excellent example of this, but let’s start at the beginning: season one.
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #1: Sam had psychic visions and occasional telekinesis
The boys spent the first two seasons hunting for the Yellow Eyed Demon (YED) and trying to find out why Sam had premonitions. Both brothers were understandably concerned, as they had dealt with supernatural things all the time, but never with one of their “own”. Sam’s visions came in handy to save a few people and led the boys and their father to the YED, but the fact that a hunter had special powers was something the boys kept to themselves.
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #2: Sam may go dark side
Midway through second season, we learned that Papa Winchester had warned Dean to watch out for Sam, ordering him to kill Sam if he couldn’t save him. Sam worried that he was about to go “dark side”, and wondered what their dad meant by “saving” him. Sam feared the worst and he made Dean promise to kill him if he couldn’t save him in “Playthings”.
In season two we found out that Sam wasn’t the only special kid – the YED had an army of them all ready to battle each other. Sam ended up getting killed due to his own stupidity – NEVER EVER turn your back on your enemy – and Dean stupidly sold his soul to get Sam back. To be fair to Dean, he’d been shown to be heavily dependent on his family, and since Papa Winchester sold his soul to save Dean’s life, it seemed logical to perpetuate the sacrifice. I don’t think anyone denies that this was an incredibly selfish act by Dean, because we don’t know where Sam “was” (those who had watched Buffy’s sixth season, saw the similarities here and cringed). Dean knew the consequences of straddling the line between good and evil and accepted them. He got chewed out by Bobby for his selfishness and berated by Sam for sacrificing his soul. You’re welcome!
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #3: Sam may have come back wrong
After Sam’s resurrection and Dean’s deal with a crossroads demon, the boys had to stop a gate to Hell from being opened. Jake, the guy who killed Sam, was there as the YED’s Number One. Sam shot Jake in the back after he opened the Devil’s Gate, and then proceeded to unload five bullets into Jake’s chest. Sam had such a cold look on his face as he shot another human to death. Granted, Jake was using his mind powers for evil, and he had killed Sam. I guess Jake got what he deserved.
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #4: Sam is evil
Dean returned from Hell in fourth season to discover his brother in bed with a demon. Not quite literally, but apparently while Dean was in Hell, Ruby, the demon who would be Sam’s bestest friend ever, pumped Sam full of demon blood, presumably to bulk him up to exorcise demons with the power of his mind. Neat trick, as Sam could kill the demon while saving the person who was possessed. With this newly discovered talent came some serious ego, and there’s no way to sugarcoat that.
Even with Dean returned from Hell, with a fresh angel handprint burned into his skin, Sam trusted Ruby. Even after angels told Sam that using his powers would lead to the ‘dark side’, the same path that Sam had been so terrified of going down a season ago, Sam continued to listen to a demon. Despite Dean’s constant warnings to Sam that the angels had warned that Ruby’s exorcism would turn Sam from being human to being…not…Sam blithely ignored Dean’s words. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and despite Sam’s protests that everything he was doing was the right thing, it didn’t negate the fact that he ignored the one person he should have trusted (his brother) and didn’t trust in his belief in God (the angels) that they were in the right, and that Ruby was in the wrong.
Sam stated time and again that he was invincible and that Dean was weakened by his time in Hell. His insistence led to the fight of the century, brother against brother, ending with Sam choking Dean and Dean threatening that if Sam walked out the door, never to return. It was reminiscent of the fight Sam recalled with John about the night he left the family for Stanford. Sam turned his back on family once again and teamed with Ruby until the end.
Literally, the end, as Sam spiraled down the dark side and ended up torturing a demon (Lilith’s ‘chef’) to get the information he needed to find Lilith. He had a moment of conscience when Ruby ordered him to drain the demon, effectively killing the human that he ordinarily would have been able to save with his brain mojo, but he needed the demon blood to build his strength to kill Lilith, thereby stopping the Apocalypse.
Too bad that Lilith was the last Seal, and her death released the locks on Lucifer’s cage.
Fourth season ended as Dean broke down the church door to join his brother in killing Ruby. The brothers stared into the white abyss of Lucifer rising, and Sam looked to Dean and apologized. For not listening to him, for finishing what Dean started with the breaking of the Seals in Hell, I’m not entirely sure, but apologize he did, even as he stared in awe at Lucifer’s coming.
Fifth season. Time for Dean to be yelled at some more, beaten up some more and chastised some more. But first, Sam’s version of the same.
Bobby angrily told Sam to ‘lose his number’ after Sam tried to apologize to Bobby (I assume for not listening to him? For releasing Lucifer?), but we found out later that it wasn’t really Bobby, but a demon-possessed Bobby. Dean didn’t really yell at Sam, because Dean’s the one who released the first Seal in Hell. But Sam’s sorry, so that made everything okay as far as I could tell.
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #5a: Sam is Lucifer’s vessel.
Yep, we had older brothers Dean & archangel Michael in this corner, and younger brothers Sam & Lucifer in that corner. They’d set the stage for the ultimate Cain v. Abel showdown, with Earth as the prize. Take your sides, folks!
The first few episodes of season five were all about how Sam wanted to make up for releasing Lucifer and wanted to stay away from Dean. Dean agreed to that plan, even after Sam revealed that he was the vessel for Lucifer. Dean went so far as to offer the Impala to Sam, which was as much of home as he’d ever known, and for Dean, that may as well have been his soul on offer. Sam refused, but we saw that he understood what the offer meant, so we had hope for our brothers to reconcile.
Before the reunion, “The End” showed us an alternate future where Lucifer was wearing Sam to prom and Dean had lost all his humanity and compassion. Castiel was about as human as he could get, complete with orgies and drugs, Bobby was dead and Chuck had become Radar from M*A*S*H. All because Dean cut Sam loose, after they got back together after Sam had decided he would be better on his own, to atone for his letting Lucifer out of the cage. Got all that? Ugh. It wasn’t until the awful “maybe” future where Samifer (Lucifer in Sam’s body) snapped future Dean’s neck like a twig under his foot, that Dean saw that being apart from his brother wasn’t any better than them being together. At least together, they had a chance against destiny and all the other crap the angels and Lucifer kept spouting.
Sam wanted to kill the Devil, despite Castiel and Dean’s objections that it couldn’t be done (Anyone sense a theme?). Now, there’s something that was brought up about the Devil early on this season: Lucifer needed permission to take a vessel, just like Castiel and other angels did, because Lucifer was a fallen angel. Sam’s plan to kill the Devil involved the Colt that killed the YED. The Colt could kill just about anything supernatural; there were only five things in all of creation that it couldn’t kill.
“Abandon All Hope” was the very aptly named episode that saw the first major confrontation between Sam, Dean and Lucifer. Dean, Sam, Ellen, Jo and Castiel joined in the search in Carthage, MO, where Lucifer was implementing some evil plan of nefarious purposes. The boys succeeded in surprising Lucifer long enough for Dean to get within a foot of the Devil, cock the Colt and fire into his noggin.
Did you remember that there were only five things in all of creation that the Colt couldn’t kill? Guess what one of them was? Yep, it couldn’t kill the Devil because he’s not a demon; he’s a (disgraced) angel. Lucifer got back up, shook it off, then whammied Dean against a tree, knocking him out. Sam blustered at how he would rip the Devil apart, and Lucifer welcomed the hate, because hate led to the dark side.
Then the 100th episode happened, and was supposed to be huge. It was supposed to be about Dean and the archangel Michael, who had used a few nasty tricks to try to get Dean to accept his fate/destiny and just let Michael ride him, already. If Lucifer was allowed to go unchecked, there would be no world left for Dean and Sam to save, and what would the point have been? Free will would lead to the destruction of the planet, which is what the angels and Lucifer wanted in the first place. Say ‘yes’ to Michael, and Dean could stop Lucifer.
Despite Michael’s assurance that he wouldn’t leave Dean a drooling vegetable after possessing his body, Dean still had grave misgivings about saying ‘yes’. He opted to do it anyway, because who else but Dean would toss himself on the sacrificial pyre? What’s one man’s life compared to the billions of the world? The good of the many outweigh the good of the few, or the one, if I may quote Star Trek. Only, Dean’s denied because…why? Bobby, Castiel and Sam don’t think it’s a good idea? They think Michael won’t be able to kill Lucifer? They think the battle will result in most of the planet being roasted? Half a planet was better than none, and with Dean’s misguided conscience, if he had the capacity to do something and did nothing, he’d never be able to live with himself.
When Dean got tired of watching people die, while he knew he was the key that could stop it, he went off to find Zachariah to say ‘yes’. Castiel interceded and beat the snot out of Dean, brought his unconscious body back to Bobby’s, and handcuffed Dean to a bed in the panic room.
Dean’s plan didn’t matter in the end, because even though Dean did say yes, he reneged on the deal after he saw Sam’s disbelief. Their convenient half-brother, Adam, took Dean’s place as Michael’s vessel, so both Michael and Lucifer were in their Number Twos and the planet was still toast.
But wait! A new plan emerged literally at the eleventh hour. Toss Lucifer back into his cage. Sounded simple enough, only how do you trick Lucifer into stepping inside a vortex back into his prison? Sam had a plan! He’d let Lucifer ride him, wrest control back of his body and jump into the vortex himself.
The same Sam who got possessed by Meg, a low-level demon, in season three. An interesting aside: of the family, only Dean and Mary have never been possessed by a demon. Sam thought he was stronger than the Devil. Okay, setting aside the huge disbelief I had at this, how was this plan better than Dean’s?
I’ll mention here what I felt was hypocrisy that everyone, and I do mean everyone, was adamant that Dean not say ‘yes’ to Michael, but no one was really against Sam saying ‘yes’ to Lucifer. Castiel expressed doubt in the plan succeeding, but he stated that the Winchesters always managed to exceed his expectations and surprise him, and Dean sure as hell protested, but it just sort of…became the default plan without much protest. Why was saying ‘yes’ to one better than the other? Or are both choices so bad, now that the world’s a little closer to destruction, the boys figured they have nothing to lose, except Sam? Dean wanted to say ‘yes’ out of defeat, and Sam wanted to say ‘yes’ because they didn’t have any other choice. Instead of having 0% chance of success in stopping Lucifer, they had 1% with the help of Gabriel and the Horsemen rings.
Dean strenuously objected, and Sam agreed not to do it. Problem solved…only, not. It took two episodes for Dean to accept that Sam’s plan was the way to go. It was stressed that Dean didn’t “allow” Sam to do it; Sam was his own man and could make his own decisions. That’s great – Dean showed some growth as a character! He wasn’t taking charge like he’d done nearly the entire series! Could the brothers actually become equal and take a giant leap forward in their characterization?
Sadly, no. Sam developed huge self-esteem issues in, ‘Two Minutes to Midnight,” saying he was the weakest of them all and he knew his plan was a long shot. What? Sam had been confident throughout the series, and all of a sudden, poof, it’s gone? Not exactly the encouragement one would want from someone who few episodes ago, was so sure of himself.
It was reiterated and the anvil dropped so many times on the viewer that this was Sam’s plan, Sam’s idea, that it made me pause, because how often in the series had the plan been Dean’s? Surely Dean had followed Sam’s lead before? The more I thought about it, the more I believed the anviling was because of Dean’s broken trust in Sam from fourth season. The mess with Ruby and the demon blood tore at the brothers’ relationship and almost ripped them apart. Dean hadn’t trusted Sam most of fifth season, and his placing his trust and faith in Sam now, when it counted the most, said a lot about the brother’s relationship. It was Dean’s olive branch; his peace offering. If Sam was going to die, he would go to his death knowing his brother forgave him. My main problem was that we had to sit through different variations of Dean telling Sam he would go along with whatever Sam’s plan was, and that Dean wasn’t “allowing” him to do anything. We got it, move the plot along, please!
Plot moving on. Then there’s the God-awful speech that Bobby gave to Dean about how Sam rescued a bunch of civilians. Yeah, so? Wasn’t that what the boys had been doing most of their lives? Why did Bobby sound awed? Did Sam do something that wasn’t in his nature? No. Did Sam do something miraculous? No. Sam saved some people, the same as Dean, Bobby and every other hunter on the show had done. So why was it made out to be a big deal? Why did Dean need to be “reminded” that his brother was a hunter?
We’ve seen Sam save people before. We’ve seen Dean save people before. Shoot, we’ve seen Bobby save people before! Why was this so special? Was this speech supposed to leave us in awe of Sam? To make us believe that he risked his life saving those people to show that his plan to say yes to Lucifer, then fight him over control of his body and jump into the pit was brilliant? Why? How? This was an inane section of writing, and I lay the blame fully at the feet of the writers. One hunter didn’t tell another hunter about how awesome a third hunter was, especially if those two hunters are brothers and have fought the last five years at each other’s sides (minus half a season in the fourth, but you get the gist). Dean, as far as I could remember, had never questioned Sam’s ability as a hunter. He’d questioned Sam’s loyalty, with darn good reason, but never his skill as a hunter. We’d seen a few hunters who believed the ends justified the means, even if those means included civilian casualties, but we’ve seen both Dean and Sam broken up at not being able to save everyone.
The horrible dressing-down continued with Bobby’s idiotic addition about how he and Dean have been “unjustly hard,” on Sam, even though, through all the criticism, Sam had been fighting hard since he was twelve years old. Really? WHEN? Please, show me when Sam had gotten chastised for his actions. Show me where Sam had taken responsibility for his actions. Show me where Sam had gotten half the lip that Dean had about some choice that he made.
I call major writing BS. I have no idea what we were supposed to get from that speech. The only part that made sense was when Bobby asked Dean if he was afraid of losing the war or losing Sam, because that was tearing Dean apart. No matter what happened, Dean would lose the brother he went to Hell for. Either Sam stopped the Devil by locking himself in the cage, or Lucifer wore Sam to prom.
Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #5b: Sam is Lucifer’s vessel.
The Final Countdown: Sam loaded up on demon blood, strolled up to Lucifer’s lair in Detroit, and within…roughly a minute, succumbed to Lucifer. The devil had control of Sam, just as Dean feared.
At the end, Samifer started whaling on Dean, instead of just snapping his neck or exploding him like Bobby and Castiel, when lo and behold, the sunlight struck the Impala at the right angle, caught Samifer’s eye and highlighted the toy soldier that Sam had stuck in the ashtray when he was a child. This set off a Sam’n’Dean memory flash of up to a minute, using clips from every episode with a few new ones tossed in, which allowed Sam to regain control of his body…for the remaining five minutes of dialog.
This was unbelievable to me. The power of the Impala, memories, brotherly love, whatever, allowed Sam not only to take back control of his body, but to hold on long enough to assure Dean that he was okay, long enough to open the hole, long enough for Michael to return from the ether, to allow Sam to set himself up in the ultimate ‘self-sacrifice’ pose, to allow Michael to grab his arm and the two of them to be pulled down into the pit. That’s some damn powerful memories/car/brotherly love.
To that end, family love did win out. Dean was there for Sam, even when Sam wasn’t in control of himself. Dean was willing to be killed (permanently, we assume) just to be there with his brother when he dove into the cage, whether Sam was aware or not. Was that Sam’s atonement for releasing Lucifer from his cage? Yes. Was it epic? Yes. The shot of Dean kneeling at the closed vortex with everyone around him gone or dead was powerful, and I wish that had been the final shot. Imagine not knowing for the entire summer that Sam was hanging around outside Lisa and Ben’s to check up on his brother.
SPOILERS FROM HERE TO THE END OF THE ARTICLE FOR SEASON SIX. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SEASON SIX AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER.
Sixth season started out somewhat promising. Despite misgivings about Dean being able to quit hunting and live a normal life, it seemed he was adjusting. I definitely did not buy Dean playing golf-that’s overkill-but I did believe that Dean could have a simple life without hunting and his brother, yet not be miserable.
Happiness (or not miserableness) never lasted long for the Winchesters. A djinn found Dean and wanted revenge for Dean killing its father. Just as Dean was about to pass out, we saw Sam blur into focus then fade. Sam was the first thing we saw as Dean regained consciousness, and Sam pulled out the silver and holy water to prove he was Sam. It took Dean a bit, but the reunited brotherly hug was experienced. Then Dean asked the fatal question: how long have you been out? Sam bluntly stated a year, implying he spent very little, if any, time in Lucifer’s cage. Dean was enraged, as he should have been. Sam checked up on Dean, but Dean seemed to be enjoying life so Sam left him alone.
What? Are those two not brothers? Did Dean not sell his soul to bring Sam back from the dead? Did Sam not do everything he could think of to stop Dean from going to Hell for him? And now Sam casually mentioned that he’d been back a year, no telling Dean or dropping a note, but he’d visited Bobby and even hooked up with the Campbells, including Grandpa freshly back from the dead? No matter how happy Dean looked, how could knowing his brother was alive not be good news? How could that possibly change Dean’s life? Other than relieve the guilt and grief that Dean suffered, I saw no real reason to keep Dean in the dark. It’s an excuse and a poor one. “You were happy” – and seeing his brother alive wouldn’t have made Dean happier? Perhaps Dean felt guilty trying to live a life while his brother was rotting in the cage, did they think of that? Dean was a damn good liar when he had to be, and he was the best when he was lying to himself. Yeah, he was making the life work, but how much happier would he have been if he lost the guilt and grief?
Dean opted to stay with Lisa and Ben rather than go with Sam, and Sam seemed cool with that, except for the ragging about Dean’s golf clubs, sniggering at the family pictures on the tables, and other little things that made you go ‘huh?’ Did Sam want Dean to live a life outside of the hunt, or did Sam want Dean back in the hunt?
Dean’s skeptical about resurrected Grandpa Campbell, rescued Sam, and the entire Campbell clan, and I don’t blame him. The Campbells don’t seem too thrilled having a “rusty” hunter like Dean in their midst. Wow, a whole year and Dean’s rusty? What on earth was Sam, then, when he was in college and out of the hunt for over four years? Ancient? A dinosaur?
I don’t want to get into it all, I’ll just jump to…Gasp! There’s something wrong with Sam #6: Sam doesn’t have his soul
Dean questioned why Sam would have brought the shifter baby to the Campbells, knowing that Grandpa was after the alpha shifter. “Did you use that baby as bait?” Dean questioned. “Of course not,” Sam replied, but it just didn’t ring true. The look on Dean’s face said the same thing.
An angel was bargaining for human souls. In order to find out the angel’s name, Castiel had to ‘scan’ the boy who sold his soul, something very unpleasant. Dean objected, stating that they don’t torture kids, but Sam asked about the severity of the damage. Minimal permanent damage was acceptable to Sam, who had to hold Dean back from advancing on Castiel. Castiel replied he couldn’t have the luxury of choice, and proceeded with the ‘scan’. Dean called Sam on his lack of objections, but Sam brushed it aside, playing the, “We needed the info,” card.
This next episode, “Live Free or Twihard,” nearly made me stop watching the show. “You Can’t Handle the Truth” was the nail in the coffin.
A vampire tossed Dean like a tissue. Dean was groggy and definitely hurting when the vamp picked him up, smacked him around a bit, and then bled into his mouth. What we never wanted to see was Sam rounding the corner, seeing the vamp holding his cut arm above Dean’s mouth, and…watching. Head tilted curiously, then with a smirk that would make Hannibal Lecter proud, he watched as his brother was turned.
The next shot we got was of Dean adjusting to the new assaulting sensations; sound and light were in overdrive. Then he focused on Sam’s heartbeat, which was as regular as you please. Even after Dean called him on it, Sam flustered with, “staying calm for you” BS, but his heartbeat never changed. Dean left to see Lisa and Ben (bad idea), and when he got back to the hotel, Grandpa Samuel was there, and Dean asked him to kill him. Samuel asked if he’d rather have the cure. Both Dean and Sam say “What?” though I noticed that where they were usually in synch, this time Sam was a beat behind.
Samuel gave Dean the rundown on what they needed to complete the reversal, and once Dean left, Samuel called Sam out on knowing about the cure. Sam denied all knowledge, but Samuel definitely smelled BS, but let it go. Dean returned with what he needed, downed the elixir of real life, and flashed to everything that happened to him, up to the moment when he was turned. He saw Sam, clearly saw the smirk, and Dean knew that Sam set him up.
Why on earth Dean didn’t punch Sam as soon as he regains consciousness, I’ll never know. How Dean got into the car with Sam, knowing what Sam allowed to happen to him, and potentially what Sam allowed to happen to the shifter baby, I don’t know. Brother or not, angel or not, possessed or not, I wouldn’t trust my back, front or pinkie toe to the man who let that happen. And still Dean dug in with the, “you have my back, right Sam?” like Sam was going to magically deny it and declare himself soulless.
It took the Goddess of Truth to show us what was wrong with Sam. The question is, do I really care anymore? There may always be something wrong with Sam, and Dean will, out of family obligation, find a way to help him.
But not before Dean got to punch Sam unconscious, unleashing his anger, fear, frustration and whatever else Dean was feeling after learning that Sam had no emotions and let Dean be turned into a vampire. Knowing there was a cure, but not giving Dean the choice whether he wanted to be an experiment in ‘monster’, didn’t excuse Sam.
Can Sam redeem himself again, and what spectacular feat would he have to do to redeem allowing his brother to be turned into a monster? There isn’t a hallmark card for that sort of thing, and neither is there a lot of forgiveness to go around. Do you think Dean’s forgiven Sam for not telling him he was out of the cage, or that he wasn’t in the cage for maybe more than a week or two, by Sam’s own admission? That Bobby, a father figure, knew that Sam was back and didn’t tell Dean? Or was Bobby protecting Dean because Bobby knew that Sam wasn’t right? If Bobby did know, it makes it doubly worse that Bobby would have kept it from Dean. I don’t see Bobby out there, trying to figure out what’s wrong with Sam. I don’t see Grandpa Campbell doing it, either, but maybe now that he has proof that Sam lied to his face about the vampire cure, that will change. That leaves Dean, who only ever wanted his family, no matter how tattered and broken it was, dealing with a not-brother who for all intents and purposes, allowed him to die.
Supernatural is about family. Yes, it’s a show about monsters and demons and angels, but at its core, it’s a show about the bond between two brothers, Dean and Sam. The formula of “something’s wrong with Sam and Dean must help fix it,” is tired and way overdone. It was time for something different, and I didn’t get it as a viewer. With this latest curveball thrown between the boys, it’s just too much for me. They’ve been moving further apart as each season progressed, until I didn’t think they could be more opposite in fourth season. Apparently, the writers have more up their sleeves, but I’m afraid I just can’t stomach it any more. This is, after all, just a TV show, and I have a choice in what I watch. I’m sorry to say goodbye to the boys, because I enjoy Jensen’s and Jim’s acting immensely. But say goodbye I must. Thanks for a good run, guys.
Episode source: Supernatural Wiki