Sibling Rivalry Pt. 1: ‘Supernatural’ – Thoughts on Winchesters in Distress

My sister has been visiting this week. She’s never watched Supernatural and I have been determined to get her hooked on it while she is here. We have been skipping around a lot, watching episodes from all of the seasons. I keep wondering if she is waiting for a big romantic story line or if she will be satisfied with the entire premise being all about the love between two brothers. I would hope that she would be. Her and I have always been very close. We have always had our differences as well. Neither one of us is happier than on the road, traveling to a new place. Together.

The Winchester brothers have always had issues, too. Starting even before season one. This week’s episode did a great job of pulling almost everything the brothers have ever fought about into one place. And we are all sitting around holding the pieces. Some of us are trying to keep score while others are doing their best to keep from falling apart.

There is something that people who are only children and people who are not close to their siblings need to know: we will say anything, ANYTHING to hurt the ones we love most, when we ourselves are hurting. Not because it’s true. Only because WE CAN. We do it to each other all the time. When we are in pain, the only thing that feels better sometimes is inflicting that same pain on the person we love, that person who gets us more than anyone else does. It’s wrong and it’s unfair but it is the way it is.

Sam and Dean are masters at it. Especially this week. They are finding every excuse to bicker and be snarky toward one another. They make faces and snide remarks in place of actual conversation. Of course, this has been going on since the beginning of season 8. And, if we want to look further, in many ways it has been going on forever. Newsflash: Sam and Dean are fundamentally different.

We know for a fact that Dean has always seen family differently. For him it is tied into his own circulatory system. He remembers losing his mother. He remembers rushing Sam from the burning fire of his nursery. He lived every day of his life trying to protect and take care of Sam. This is all that he knows. He was also raised under the tutelage of the John Winchester school of everything that isn’t human is bad. In most cases, that is true. And even though the Dean we know sees only black and white, he has seen the gray on occasion (Lenore) and the Dean of now sees gray better than ever before. John Winchester was cruel to tell Dean that he may have to kill Sam at some point. No one should have to carry that burden. But, in “Croatoan,” we learn, not for the fist time,  that Dean would never live without his brother.

Family is a different feeling for Dean. It’s the only thing that he has always clung to. The only thing that has kept him going at times. It was incredibly hard for him to accept Cas into his family and once he did, he was terribly burned by that. But he found a way to forgive. He always does. Dean holds his family to a higher standard than he does anyone else. Nothing in the world is more important to him. And even while playing golf and buying beers for buddies in season 6, he asked for Cas and tried to get Sam back. He would have traded anything to have his brother walking the earth again. He would have traded his own life. We know that, because he did it once before.

Dean has every right to be angry about Ruby. Sam got high and chose a demon over his own brother. Nothing could have devastated Dean more. Never before is Dean’s sense of family more apparent than in “Dark Side of the Moon.” Dean has been to hell, he has seen some GOD AWFUL SHIT. And still, one of his worst memories is Sam leaving him to go to college. The first thing he wants to know after getting into heaven: Where is Sam? So why is it any surprise that Dean would be upset when he learns that Sam didn’t look for him after he was zapped into Purgatory? Why is it a surprise that Dean would find family there? Not just any guy, but a guy that helped him AND Cas. A guy that saved both of their lives. Dean has never taken family lightly. Why would he with Benny?

Sam has always been different, too. and I don’t just mean in the demon blood kind of way. Sam does not remember his mother. Sam only remembers a father that was difficult at best, a tyrant at worst. Sam only remembers wanting a normal life. The exact opposite of the life he was born into. He is allowed to want that. Who wouldn’t? Sam has been dealt every wrong card in the deck and he has done the best he could with every single one. Being told at the ripe old age of 23 that something is wrong with you, cannot set well with any soul. And yet, he always did his best. To fight not just with his brother, but for his brother.

Sam made a terrible mistake with Ruby. He knows that. And he more than covered his recompense. He sacrificed himself into the pits of hell in order to save the world. And mostly, to save Dean. We all know that Sam cannot be held accountable for what happened while he was sans soul. It hurt Dean while it was happening but the real Sam never meant to do harm. He only wanted to save people and to make the world a better place. His intentions were always good.He dealt with Lucifer hallucinations time and again because he would never leave his brother out there alone.

I can only imagine what Sam went through after Dean disappeared. He must have been destroyed. Disparaged. Reduced.  I am beginning to understand why he didn’t look for him. Life has always held a different meaning for Sam. Dean has always lead the way. And when he didn’t have Dean, he had Cas or Bobby. When all of those options are gone, where do you go? Sam fled. To distances unknown. He met a girl, he found a life, he tried to live outside of everything he was born into. Just as he had always hoped to do. I don’t think that it means that he doesn’t love his brother. I don’t think that it means that he was able to live easily without him. I think that he was lost. And broken. And devastated. He did what he has always done. He tried to build a life outside of his family. Outside of the life he was destined for.

Dean has always had a problem with keeping secrets. He knows that it’s bad and he he does it anyways. Sam will always try to rebel against Dean. It’s in is very makeup to do so. We must also remember that we’re not allowed to tell someone that they cannot FEEL the way that they feel, no matter how wrong we think their feelings are. If Dean FEELS betrayed by Sam, we have to deal with that. If Sam FEELS misunderstood by Dean, we need to deal with that, too.

These favorite brothers of ours must be able to communicate. To empathize. To understand each other. Sam cannot possibly understand the horror that was Purgatory. Dean cannot possibly understand what it must have been like to be left all alone. We have to understand that they never set out with the intention of hurting each other. But, if they do not meet eye to eye, there is little hope that they will be able to do what needs to be done. They are always stronger when they work together with understanding. Can we hope that they will find the common ground in time to save the world, yet again?



Filed under Reviews, Television

13 responses to “Sibling Rivalry Pt. 1: ‘Supernatural’ – Thoughts on Winchesters in Distress

  1. loretta

    All of this is what I want to say every time I read a tweet where someone is bashing Dean for being mad at Sam or saying that Sam didn’t love Dean because he didn’t look for him…I want to ask them, do you even watch the show? because if you do then you are an idiot who doesn’t get the brothers at all! Of course I only have 140 characters and I am nowhere near eloquent enough to explain it all the way you did. So I usually just scroll on past it muttering under my breath and shaking my head while feeling like some one is bad mouthing my family! Now I can paste a link to this and tell them to read it, so thank you for explaining it all so perfectly! 🙂

    • Loretta you have humbled me!! I too needed more than 140 characters to explain myself. I even needed more than my full Televixen Recap to explain myself. There is a lot to be said about this episode and about these brothers as they are now. So much history and so much hurt. I am looking forward to seeing them through to the other side.

    • I agree Loretta… I almost stopped reading reviews because, so far, I love this season. The negative comments, whether they are about Sam, Dean or Jeremy Carver, were starting to take away from the great love of this show that I have.

      I’m really enjoying the slow reveal of both Sam and Dean’s year apart via the flashbacks… and, in this latest episode, I was glad to see that Sam didn’t even meet Amelia until a few months after Dean disappeared. I believe he was a broken man after everything that happened. People seem to have forgotten that he almost gave up in episode 17 when he was suffering from the Lucifer-visions. Just because he is no longer having the visions, doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. He looked tired and pale right to the end of season 7 & it’s not a stretch to think that he would’ve been broken and completely lost when Dean disappeared.

      The creative team at Supernatural have given us 7+ awesome seasons. We all have our favourite season (mine is season 4) and, yes, there has been the occasional dud episode (for example, mannequins in season 6). But there have also been some classic episodes because they’ve taken risks that other shows don’t – and, in my opinion, that is what makes this show brilliant. So I trust that the writers are taking us on another roller coaster this year, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

  2. kelios

    Sorry, but I disagree. There is nothing intuitive about Sam refusing to look for Dean. There is nothing about it that makes sense. He had the tools to try and find his brother, and he had allies had he been willing to turn to them. He CHOSE to simply turn his back and walk away, leaving his brother behind. It was wrong, in every sense of the word, and Sam needs to admit that and give his brother the heartfelt, genuine apology he deserves rather than telling him to just get over it and move on.

    In my mind, Dean currently has nothing to apologize or feel bad about, and Sam needs to get over himself and admit he was wrong.

  3. Mickey

    No matter how destroyed or reduced Sam was, he would’ve looked for Dean. He has been extremely devastated by the loss of Dean in the past, and it only made him more determined to get Dean back, after the Trickster killed him, when Dean went to Hell. Sam was in such horrible shape after Cas destroyed his wall he could barely stand, but he still went after Dean. “You know me, you know why, I’m not leaving my brother alone out there.”

    Let’s just say that this time he was even more destroyed, this time it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That still doesn’t explain it, because Sam had A WHOLE YEAR to get over his devastation and look for Dean, and he never looked. In the (awful) flashbacks with Amelia, it’s two months after Dean vanished and Sam is functional. A year later, he’s completely able to hunt. So obviously at some point during that year, Sam was capable of looking, and he didn’t.

    And people are saying, well, he didn’t know where to look, he didn’t have a way to save him. He still would’ve tried. Purgatory would’ve been a good place to start, seeing as it was the blowback of a weapon that sent Dick to Purgatory that swept Dean and Cas away as well. If he had researched Purgatory, he might’ve found out about the portal that lets humans out. Even if he didn’t, he would’ve tried. Both Sam and Dean have always tried, even if they didn’t succeed.

    The way Carver is writing Sam is very out of character and nothing short of character assassination.

  4. rGo

    You know it funny that you came to the same conclusion as I did about Sam and the “not looking”. Back on 11/01 I wrote on the blog ( the following:

    I think your final assessment of “Sam may feel comfortable with a bossy person who doesn’t think he quite measures up.” says a lot.

    And I think, in some way, it kind of explains why Sam didn’t look for Dean — because there was no one to tell him to, or how.

    Sam has never been the leader– of the hunt, or of himself, his entire life has been following orders or rebelling from them.

    John, then Dean lead the hunt. John lead Sam by way of rebellion (in that Sam went opposite John, not as a choice, but as a reflex). Then Dean lead Sam, by circumstance, by love and in some ways by fear.

    Though it seems staggering to believe, Sam really DIDN’T know what to do to look for Dean. There was no one to give orders, no one to validate his ideas. It was his “Hurt Locker” moment, so many options, no ability to choose. The realization that he’s lost and doesn’t know what to do. That he’s not his Dad and he’s not Dean.

    So he fled. I love Sammy, but that’s not new.

    So… I’m glad that someone else sees it too.
    And your comments about brothers saying terrible things. Yeah, we do. The most horrible heinous regretful things. And we do it with and ease and regularity. And it’s all forgotten. Except not really.

    Great article. Thanks so much.

  5. Julia

    The problem is the set up for this entire season. It’s really an ugly, ugly set up, it’s anti-Sam in the worst way possible, just like Season 4 was. It’s embarrassing that the show is pulling this crap on Sam YET AGAIN. There was absolutely NO reason to put Sam in this negative position with the audience, none. And then, to top it off, there are no indications yet that we are getting anything more than what we’ve already gotten.

    Notice how they are making Benny and Dean more understandable and sympathetic than Sam and Amelia. It’s just grating. Just like Season 4, Dean bashes Sam all season long, because Sam is always wrong and Dean is always right, and traipses off with his “new” brother while accusing Sam of being the betrayer. Wrong. The disloyal betrayer, the anti-family brother has been Dean ALL along on this show. I can’t think of a single character that bashes his family as much as I see Dean do on SPN. I literally can’t. Dark Side of the Moon was horrific, and it’s the one episode of SPN where I simply can’t abide Dean at all. It shows how he has no capacity for empathy with Sam in any way, and never has. Dean never lets anything go with Sam, not ever, yet Castiel can commit mass murder and even try to kill Sam, and HE gets a hug from Dean. Just, NO. No, no, no, no. It’s not right, and it never has been. Whatever Dean thinks is family, I can’t say I believe it’s anything good. Not anymore, not since Season 4 certainly. The Big Brother Dean that wanted to love and protect Sam, he died in Season 3 and he never came back. That was the Dean that I loved. I haven’t seen him in a long, long time. And it really makes me sad.

    Dean runs off with some monster brother, then bitches Sam out for being with a woman. Again. Seriously.

    • Anonymous

      Julia…everything you said mirrors my opinion of Dean exactly. Season 3 ruined my image of Dean because he turned out to be a hypocrite. Season 4…well, what you said. I don’t really know what to make of the writing for Sam right now, but hope that Carver, et al, have a good storyline for him. I’m hoping for the best but expecting the worst, just like Season 4.

  6. Tmateotb

    Wow Erin. This was fantastic. I’m still working back and forth about last weeks episode, but everything you say is spot on. Your words about sibling’s fighting made me think of my brothers and how they can make me angrier than anyone in the entire world, and so quickly too, despite all of us supposedly being mature adults. But I would also do anything for them, and when they are sick my heart is in my throat for every second. I am angry at both brothers, and also want to hug them both and pat their hair and tell them it will be alright. They are in such pain, it is so difficult to watch. Thank you for your very discerning words.

  7. Victoria

    “Can we hope that they will find the common ground in time to save the world, yet again?” I just hope they find their brotherly love and Winchester bond in time to save each other!! It hurts me to see them like this. The writers could find enough drama to throw at them without making them “hate” each other. I am hoping against hope that they reconnect on every level soon!

  8. Nikki

    What an excellent expression of the love/conflict between our boys! Your writing brings me back to each and every episode that has caused me to cry with the pain that Sam and Dean are going through or the sheer love and relief when they have somehow made it through another mountain of death and destruction! Thank you for summarizing why the show has lasted as long as it has and why its fan base is so committed.

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