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Thoughts on the Supernatural evolution...

My brother
This post contains spoilers for Season 4.

Okay, the daylight savings time change messed with my baby's internal clock and she's been getting up WAAAYYY early. So, this morning, I sat down to jot down some musings, and realized the only place to share it might be here.

A little disclaimer so that I don't ruffle any feathers: this is my own personal conjecture, based on imaginings and speculations. *grin* And as per usual, it rambles.

Read at your own risk.

I'm no longer a spoiler-phobe, but I don't watch/read anything ahead of what the next episode is -- just because I enjoy the element of surprise. But that doesn't stop me from speculating the hell out of things.

That said, I've been thinking a lot about Uriel's comment about Dean's memories of Hell, and you all know I'm about to chew off my bloody tongue in wonder about that. As are all of you, I'm sure. But, as the song says, my thoughts were soon wandering, the way they always do, and I started to think about this show as a whole.

Once upon a time I was part of a writing team called the Supernatural Virtual Seasons. While in reality the relationships didn't work out -- which can happen when you gather groups of people with strong opinions on a subject -- in concept, the team was a fascinating idea. That's what drew me to say "yes" to joining in the first place. Take a group of creatives, writers by trade, offer them a singular purpose, with milestones and benchmarks along the way, then turn them loose to hone their craft.

Kripke's five-year plan is beginning to crystallize this season. He has taken these characters through a three-year journey so subtle that they got under our skin before we were truly aware what was happening, and now, roughly 3 million people literally can't imagine their lives without the Winchesters.

Going back to the first season, we were watching a show about monster hunts. We had two brothers, one angsty, in pain, and guilt-ridden, one sarcastic, witty, and walled. We had a bit of their past, their purpose, and their place in the world, but mostly, we watched them bounce from hunt to hunt, searching for Dad, sure, but basically, killing bad guys. Every once in awhile we got a sneak peek into a bigger picture, but the shades were pulled again so quickly that we had to jerk our heads back or risk getting our noses caught.

Until the triumvirate of Dead Man's Blood, Salvation, and Devil's Trap. Then, suddenly, we were allowed to see a bigger picture, an arc, a plan. As the plan unfolded, the characters got deeper, more layered, and we were allowed to begin peeling them back.

Sam, who had always been the sensitive one, the feeler, the soft voice in a moment of grief, the reason in chaos, was shifted through desperation and loss into a position of strength. For a time there, he was the one thing his brother couldn't fight, the only thing between Dean and darkness.

And then, he shifted again. He began to sink into the quagmire of the unknown. His powers increased, his world turned sideways, and he lost everything, everything that mattered to him. No other person in the Winchester family has had that happen.

He was abandoned and alone and he began to harden in a way that we, the audience, perceive as "unlike himself." But I'm starting to think that's not really the case. I think that's very much like himself. I think he has always been strong, stubborn, driven. I think that's what Kripke's been trying to show us with different tiny things—Sam leaving Dean in Scarecrow, Sam pushing Dean to share in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Sam turning into a scary version of John in Mystery Spot. We have seen signs as to Sam's evolution along the way and now we're starting to see yet another rotation of that change.

Dean, on the other hand, was very much out there with what he wanted people to see. When you looked at the brothers side-by-side at the beginning, you saw Sam pulled in close to himself with Dean spread out and bold, deflecting and attracting any attention at the same time. Until The Plan started to kick in.

Dean's world turn on its side much sooner than Sam's, and since the end of the first season, we've been watching him work to recover. His bold brashness was still there for the most part, but it was starting to tarnish and turn into show. The real Dean was the quiet guy standing by the funeral pyre with one lone tear slipping down his cheek, his entire being wound so tight you could pluck him for sound.

Sacrificing himself for his brother was both his only perceived choice -- and the only path this character could see as right -- and also his only perceived escape. Even when reality hit, and he feared death and Hell, he didn't regret his decision.

How could he? He would be spared ever truly experiencing the loss of Sam and therefore his loss of sanity. Any parent would want to go before their children. That's probably the only reason John could smile at the boys when the end came for him.

So, now what? The evolution hasn't completed. We don't have the full picture. We won't until Spring of 2009, I’m thinking. But we have the sensitive (in many various ways) brother filled with a strange power and struggling to keep control. We have angels threatening him, and him standing up for himself. We have him defeating demons alone.

And we're worried that he's going down a dark path that we won't get him back from. We're worried that The Plan is to turn our Sam into a merchant of death, delivering it without mercy, without remorse, and without care of consequences. Even to his own brother.

But, Uriel's words tripped me up. The angels see value in this hero. Rather than smiting, they warn saying if he got to be more trouble than he was worth… meaning, he was worth something. And then… then Uriel insinuates that there is a dark memory Dean possesses from his time in Hell, a secret, if you will, that levels out the playing field a bit.

In Yellow Fever, Dean was infected when Sam was not. I had been thinking that was due to the previous groundwork laid that Sam was immune to many demonic viruses' and powers. But… now I'm thinking about who the ghost sickness infected. People who used fear as a weapon. People like the sheriff and the former bully. People like Dean.

Not, perhaps, because he is a hunter. Sam is a hunter. He uses fear. Perhaps it's more because of something that happened to Dean -- or because of Dean -- in Hell. Something caught the attention of the angels. I can't believe with all the pain and suffering here on earth they're also keeping track of those lost souls burning for eternity as well. That is supposed to be punishment for not taking advantage of the chances we're given here on earth, right? I mean, there's no possibility of redemption in Hell.

But Dean… he was rescued. Perhaps not fully redeemed. Perhaps there is a high price for his salvation that we haven't seen yet. With Kripke's plan churning forward, I'm thinking that's a definite maybe.

And Dean's character has evolved just a thoroughly as Sam's. He has held onto his personality, just as Sam has, but the substance behind the roguish grin is deep with experience, pain, regret, satisfaction, confusion, and now, for the first time in a long time, hope. Dean actually believes in something. Something that has the power to do good. This is a first. Of course, as per usual, he had to first be shown proof, but hey, we can't all have the same level of faith.

My mind is aflutter with possible scenarios of what Dean could have done in Hell that not only caught the attention of the angels, but possibly put him on a path to using fear as a weapon to… what? Torture demons? Torture other lost souls? Keep different levels of Hell in submission? I mean… something big enough to make him a target for the ghost sickness, right? Isn't that fascinating?

We watched our hero quake in fear because while he was in Hell -- the worst possible place you can ever imagine, terror riding the coattails of hysteria -- he may have used fear as a weapon.

Dean is, in my mind, as sensitive as his brother, he just has a selective, back-to-the-wall, no-other-way-around-it way of showing it. We've all seen him kick ass and take names. We've all see him harden his eyes and tighten his jaw and plow through a mess because the mess needed to be dealt with. We've seen him be harsh and demanding. But always with purpose: protection or saving. It's hard to imagine a situation so dire, or time spent in that horrible place so long, that he would become the Dean of his nightmares from Dream A Little Dream Of Me.

Thank goodness he was saved from it. It breaks my heart to see him remembering Hell. Even as I want to see it more.

A group of writers -- the people changing up on occasion -- came together and listened. Listened to one little man's plan for two brothers' journey through monsters and demons, family strife and sacrifice, unity and separation, literally to Hell and back. Then they took that and wove random stories around that central core, always subtly bringing us back to the journey. Always showing us just a little bit more. Until we're so flippin' hooked we can't sleep for pondering about the next phase of the plan.

All I know is, through the talent of the writers, the talent of the actors, and the vision of the show's creator, we have two characters that have been able to hold on to what makes them recognizable as Sam (soft smiles and dimples, earnestness and confidence in good, research and logic, fact to prove fiction, soldier, believer, warrior) and Dean (classic cars and classic rock, sexy smile to hide the truth, soulful eyes that expose cracks in the wall, shoot-first ask questions later, guardian, soldier, caretaker), and yet change enough that we honestly have no idea what's going to happen with them next, or what they're going to do about it.

That, to my way of thinking, is some fantastic storytelling.

 

Comments

gaelicspirit
Sep. 12th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Re: What was your take on where Dean's head is emotionally?
Hi there!

I hope you're doing well -- it's been awhile. :) Thanks for reaching out.

At first when I saw your comment, I thought it was to my Stream of Consciousness post, so I was confused when you said,

What was your take on Thursdays season opener?

Here's the link to the review about the entire episode if you want to read that:

http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/59197.html

Since it's you, though, I'm going to ramble a bit specifically about your subject line. This is just my opinion/POV, though, so take it with a grain of rock salt. :)

Last Season, Dean not only had to deal with returning to life/earth after suffering a horrible, pain-filled death, thirty years of unimaginable torture, and ten years of soul-searing, shameful behavior, he had to accept the fact that he started the world on the path to armegeddon when he broke under Hells torment.

That's big.

Add to that the fact that he was being forced to absorb the fact that Sam was systematically pulling away from him, trusting a demon--not just another hunter, not another guy, not another friend, but a demon--over him. Not just trusting her, but having sex with her. Not just having sex with her but drinking her blood...

That's bigger.

So, when last season ended, Dean, who had defined his life by how well he protected his brother, how well he did his one job, had been forced to lock his brother away to fight his own demons and had to listen to that self-torture (which was torture for him as well), had physically fought his brother--twice--to an almost-death ending, had used the same phrase on Sam that John had used on him when he left for Stanford, had found himself standing alone over and over again with his hand extended and empty as Sam repeatedly went his own way--a way that Dean knew in his gut to be wrong, and was told that Sam was going to bring about Lucifer and that they'd been collectively deceived all along by the beings they were supposed to be able to trust.

(whew, that was a run-on sentence if I ever wrote one)

With that headspace, we start this season.

We start with Dean getting a contrite brother back next to him, nursing a broken heart, no idea who to trust--if anyone--and finding out that not only do they have to clean up their mess (did you notice he said that to Sam? That it was their mess, and not Sam's mess?) but that he's supposed to be some unique vessel for heaven's ultimate warrior.

Holy shit.

...okay, I had to break this into two posts because it was too long...

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