Torn and Frayed – that’s how many fans felt after this week’s episode of Supernatural! Jenny Klein’s first solo script was an emotional rollercoaster that left me exhausted. There were moments of OMG, and moments of WTF, but ultimately I ended up – well, not exactly happy, because the Winchesters’ world is a pretty bleak place right now – but a little bit hopeful. Here’s why.
Fandom has been frustrated with the rift between Sam and Dean this season. Many of us fell for Show largely because of the close relationship between the brothers, and every time one hurts the other, we wince right along with them. Maybe that’s why the ending scene of Torn and Frayed felt right. Things aren’t perfect, nobody is actually happy (that would be pretty weird with the world hanging in the balance and too many people the Winchesters care about hurting – Cas, Amelia, Benny, and Kevin among them). But there’s a quiet solidity to the scene that makes it feel like a foundation for the rest of the season. I found myself physically relieved to see it – to see the brothers back on the same page, on the same couch, back together.
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not they “chose each other”, and ultimately, it’s not that simple. It can’t be. They chose the mission and the quest – the family business. But they also chose to pursue it together, with both feet in. Neither of their decisions was made easily, and that felt real. The fact that they actually talked to each other, and – even more miraculously – listened, was a big part of the process. Dean listened to Sam, dropped his own defensiveness and tried to understand Sam’s feelings. He seemed to make the break with Benny because he knew he had to, but it was painful to watch, as it should have been.
Sam listened to Dean too, but more than that, he took the time to listen to himself, free to do that because both Dean and Amelia had given him the psychological space to figure out what he really wanted. That was pretty damn big of both of them, and the first time I actually believed that Amelia really cared about Sam and wasn’t just clinging to him in a time when she was (understandably) broken. The scene in the cabin was preceded by the boys expressing their concern about Cas, and this seemed to be the thing that brought both of them to a place where they could get their priorities clear. Something’s very wrong with Cas, and Dean and Sam both care. Their motivation now, unlike most of the season so far, seems to be more than ‘save the world’– it’s personal. It’s save Cas, who has earned their friendship. I get that. It feels real. They care about Cas; I do too.
The ending nearly brought me to tears. It’s sad. Heartbreaking. The boys are alone, facing yet another near impossible fight. But it also feels hopeful, and to a fan who’s been here from the beginning, it feels familiar. They’re alone, but they’re shoulder to shoulder again, side by side (literally). The scene recalls the ending shot of A Very Supernatural Christmas, the brothers alone, facing an impossible fight, but together.
Ackles and Padalecki, after all this time as Sam and Dean, can convey more with a look or a gesture than most actors can with a page of dialogue. Dean opens Sam’s beer; Sam cooks Dean dinner. Dean looks at him sideways, questioning. Are you with me? Sam nods, pushes the plate across the table to his brother. It seems like trust, commitment, the beginning of forgiveness. To fans who’ve been waiting a long time to see that, it’s not utopia – but it feels like a start. I’ll take it.