We Keep Each Other Human – Supernatural’s ‘Sacrifice’

I will never be able to hear Carry On My Wayward Son as ‘The Road So Far’ comes up on my screen without bursting into tears. That started the Season 8 finale episode off with ALL THE FEELS, and they just kept coming. I felt almost as exhausted as poor Sam looked by the time it was over. And then I had to sleep on it, and most likely process it even in my dreams, and then wake up the next morning and start pondering it all over again. Here’s what I came up with, after all that pondering.

This episode was all about Being Human, which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise considering it was written by Jeremy Carver.

Crowley tells Dean that it’s his humanity, his typically human prioritizing of emotion, that will keep Crowley winning. Yet it’s Crowley himself who regains his humanity in this episode, long-buried emotions overwhelming him as he struggles with guilt and regret, and tearfully confesses his all-too-human need to be loved. Mark Sheppard broke my heart in that moment, as Crowley’s defenses fall away with his bravado and his accent and he reaches out not to ‘Moose’, but Sam. Crowley asks Sam how he could possibly begin to atone for all he’s done. Sam’s simple answer: “How about we start with this?” When Crowley bares his neck willingly for the syringe, the power of that simple gesture gave me goosebumps.

Castiel’s story is about humanity too. He’s been willing to go along with Metatron’s inhuman tactics, killing the Nephilim, threatening to do the same to Cupid until Dean reminds him to “talk first, stab later,” and brushing off Kevin’s very human grief and exhaustion none too gently. And yet, by the end of the episode, Cas too is human, confused and wandering alone, needing to find his place in a world that’s never been his.

And for Sam and Dean, their very human vulnerabilities – their very human emotions – are what drive the story and culminate in an unexpected ending.

This season, it’s been said more than once, was all about perception. We saw the way perception can be twisted by strong emotion: guilt, shame, regret, anger. Dean’s conviction that he let Cas down by leaving him behind in Purgatory, a perception skewed by the guilt that Dean’s carried on his shoulders since childhood. Sam’s conviction that Benny was a monster who needed to be killed, a perception skewed by his sense of inadequacy and the pain of believing Dean trusted a vampire over his brother. Over the course of the season, we saw these perceptions challenged and eventually corrected.

There were times when I was frustrated by the theme, wanting the things I didn’t like very much about the season to be what was skewed by perception – the entire Amelia storyline, Sam not looking for Dean. I wanted those to be intentional misperceptions, not gaps in the plotline or mistakes in characterization or just plain bad writing. I clung to my conviction that surely those would turn out to be what everyone meant by inaccurate perceptions. But in the end, those factual things weren’t what was twisted – it was something much more important. What was twisted were Sam and Dean’s perceptions. Of each other.

I like it when Supernatural surprises me. I know how much Dean loves Sam, and how much Sam loves Dean. I know how important they are to each other. I just didn’t expect them to prove it. The pivotal scene in this episode was, for me, so powerful that I can’t even make light of it and call it the bromance scene to end all bromance scenes. It was, to me, so much more.

Dean bursts into the church, coaxing his brother to stop. “You finish this trial, you’re dead Sam.”

And Sam, exhausted and depleted and half dead, but absolutely determined to finish the job and prove that he can, looks at his big brother and just says, “So?”

You can see Dean’s heart breaking at that moment, and mine along with it. Sam’s insecurities have always been a part of him, leading him to take desperate steps to prove himself which often backfired spectacularly. But he’s also the man who has clung to optimism, who tried only a short time ago to convince Dean that they both could survive and carve out a life after this was all over. To hear Sam view his own survival as so irrelevant is shocking.

Sam gives the usual reason. Other people will die if he doesn’t. It’s something we’ve heard before on Supernatural – Sam sacrificed himself to put Lucifer in the pit and save the world, and Dean let him. But this time, Show surprises me. Dean looks at his little brother, scarred and damaged and so goddamn brave, and doesn’t want him to die. He’s been listening to Sam this whole time, perhaps absorbing some of that hope that they can both survive.

“We have enough knowledge on our side to turn the tide here. But I can’t do it without you.”

And finally, his defenses worn away to nothing, Sam breaks. For a Winchester, that means saying the things that Winchesters never say to each other – but desperately need to hear.

“You can barely do it with me. I mean, you think I screw up everything I try. You think I need a chaperone, remember? You want to know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can’t do that again. What happens when you’ve decided I can’t be trusted again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another — another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother…”

All his life, Sam has been looking up to Dean. Following him around, wanting to be like him. Imagine being the little brother, with a father like John and a brother like Dean. Being the one left behind to do your math homework while they’re out there saving people, hunting things. Knowing your big brother sacrificed his life and went to hell for you, and that you couldn’t – no matter how hard you tried – get him back? Watching him kill Dick Roman and then losing him all over again. How do you ever feel adequate after that? Sam’s convinced that Dean is keeping score, and that Sam’s failing him, again and again.

The way Sam’s voice cracks when he says, “You think I screw up everything I try” was heartbreaking. So much emotion, and Jared made me feel every ounce of it. Sam still wants to make Dean proud. His insecurity might be irrational, but if you feel inadequate, every time someone insists on “helping” you, all you can hear is that you need it. Sam, in this confession of his true feelings, is imperfect and illogical and emotional – and quintessentially human.

Dean has never realized how much impact his words have on Sam. More than once, I’ve cringed at some of the hurtful things the brothers have said to each other. Nobody forgets words like that, not from someone they love. The flip side of the ferocious, all-consuming way that Dean loves is that it puts him in a vulnerable place – he can be devastated by those few people who he loves and needs. Cas is on that list. Sam’s at the top of it. So when Sam lets him down, Dean doesn’t let that hurt and anger go easily. He holds onto it, and then it comes out in equally cruel words, cutting at Sam in retaliation.

It’s no coincidence that the list of sins that Dean suggests for Sam’s confession are mostly the ones that are personal – to Dean. Sam’s choice of Ruby over him, Sam’s deception about not having a soul, Sam insisting on killing Lilith instead of listening to his brother. And the most recent wound, still raw for Dean (as well as for a good portion of fandom) – Sam not looking for Dean in Purgatory. It’s petty and irrational and emotional for Dean to hang onto his anger – but it’s equally human.

It’s only at that moment, when Dean hears Sam’s truth, that he can let go of his own defenses and let Sam hear his truth as well.

“Hold on, hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it – NONE OF IT — is true. Listen, man, I know we’ve had our disagreements, okay? Hell, I know I’ve said some junk that set you back on your heels. But, Sammy…come on. I killed Benny to save you. I’m willing to let this bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed Mom walk because of you. Don’t you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I’m begging you.”

And Sam does. Maybe for the first time, Sam really sees his importance to his brother. And Dean sees the same.

“Let it go, okay? Let it go, brother.”

We’ve seen the Winchesters sacrifice themselves for the ‘needs of the many’ repeatedly. Each time, that sacrifice has taken a horrible toll on the brother left behind. This time, Dean did the human thing – he begged Sam not to go. And Sam did the human thing too – he was fully prepared to die in order to close the gates of hell. But he wasn’t prepared to once again destroy his brother.

I said in a review a while ago, that I was invested so much more in Supernatural because the trials were not just about saving the world – they were personal. Both Sam and Dean needed to come to terms with who they’ve been, what they’ve done, and what they are to each other. The finale brought that full circle. The ending was intimate, powerful – and most of all, personal. The words they said to each other were the ones each needed to hear, the conversation that brought closure to so many years of mistrust and disappointment and misunderstanding and yes, misperception. Finally Dean knows how much Sam needs his approval and faith, as much as his love. Finally Sam knows that Dean believes in him, and how desperately Dean needs him. Perception versus reality: the disconnect between the two is finally erased in that moment. And so is the disconnect between the brothers, dissolved in a desperate hug, Sam’s hand fisted in the back of his brother’s jacket, reflected in the joyous little smile on Dean’s face as he bandages Sam’s hand.

That is a scene written by the Jeremy Carver who brought me to tears with A Very Supernatural Christmas. Lines of dialogue over eight seasons seem to converge at that moment.

“They will always choose each other.”

“We keep each other human.”

And that is exactly what they did.

That scene wouldn’t have worked without the amazing acting of both Padalecki and Ackles, or the chemistry they’ve had together since day one, which is – incredibly – still there, stronger than ever. Jared knocked it out of the park, Sam’s agony – both physical and emotional – so viscerally portrayed that it was literally painful to watch. Jensen matched him moment for moment, Dean’s reactions to Sam’s pain the very definition of empathy.

There were other high points too. Mark Sheppard made me cry over Crowley, something I never thought I’d do. Not to mention Kim Rhodes’ beloved Jody Mills, Amanda Tapping’s never black and white and maybe seeing the light too late Naomi, and totally badass Abbadon, at least two of which survived! Cupid matching up Dwight and the guy constantly warming his bar stool to some unexpectedly retro music (and Dean’s that-was-unexpected expression). Bobby’s junkyard overgrown with weeds. *sobs* Cinematography and special effects and sets that never cease to amaze me. And there were some WTF moments too, like Dean calmly drinking beer with Cas in a bar while Sam is left alone to do the Crowley cure. But honestly, there was so much emotion, I can sort of handwave those.

Dean’s reassuring words to Sam as he helped him out of the church were similar to those he said in the two part season two finale – “I’ve got you, little brother. You’re gonna be just fine.” This time, I’m hoping he’s right.

I’m left with lots of questions for Season 9 – what will Cas be like without his grace? Will he remember what Metatron has done? Is Crowley partly cured, or will his rediscovered humanity fall away again? What have the trials done to Sam, and how much better will he get now that he hasn’t completed them? As the episode ended, with the brilliantly FX-ed spectacle of falling angels flaming to the ground as the Winchesters took refuge against the Impala, I’m content to ponder those for a while. It will take me a month just to stop rewatching the finale. Or at least one scene.

106 thoughts on “We Keep Each Other Human – Supernatural’s ‘Sacrifice’

  • Wow…you hit every single point on the head! I’ve been a fan since the very first episode, but the season 8 finale hit me in a way no other ever has. I can honestly say, it left me reeling, and feeling emotionally exhausted. My two sons watched with me, and they were looking at me at the end, eyes wide, then they looked at each other…and you know, I seriously think that episode made them see each other in a new light as well. My 17yr old is on the Autism Spectrum, and since the very beginning, he has identified strongly with Sam. He has never missed an episode, and the finale left him in a very quiet and thoughtful mood. I later overheard him talking about it with his brother, and it was, to say the least, enlightening. So, while I’m still reeling a bit from it all, my boys actually learned something good and positive about being brothers and how one views the other. I never thought I would say that about a tv show, but because of the truly profound impact it has made on my children…I will forever be a proud and respectful fan.

    And Jared & Jensen…just brilliant work…and thanks for making a difference in my son’s life.

    • Uh oh, now I need the box of tissues again! In all seriousness, in writing the books that we’ve published on Supernatural and fandom, and the one that comes out in October, we heard so many moving stories of what SPN has meant to our fellow fans. It’s amazing and inspiring to hear, and of course we have our own story too, so it means even more. I love hearing the impact the Show and this episode had on your sons, and so agree with you – I will forever be a proud and respectful fan 🙂

      • SPN has helped me enormously during 3 major losses that occurred during the past 8 years. The fictional relationship btwn Sam and Dean permits me the opportunity to revisit those relationships of loved ones whom I have lost, minus the hunting things, saving people.:-)

    • Rhonda, thank you so much for sharing that. Amazing what art of all kinds can do and so wonderful that it has reached your family in this way xx

  • Wonderful review!

    Last night I went to sleep thinking about Supernatural & I woke up with it still in my head, but particularly that word ‘perception’, which Jeremy Carver mentioned so early in the season. As you’ve so eloquently put it here, “What was twisted were Sam and Dean’s perceptions. Of each other.” This is exactly what I was thinking about this morning.

    That was such a pivotal scene in an episode filled with so many remarkable moments. These brothers; how I love them 🙂

    The other highlight for me was all the scenes between Sam and Crowley. I, too, noticed when Crowley switched from Moose to Sam; incredible line and incredible delivery! Jared and Mark totally knocked it out of the park in those scenes. And I also cried for Crowley; and I can’t believe it, because I truly loathed him last week after that other stellar scene where Sarah died. What a roller-coaster of emotions this show has delivered in these last few weeks.

    Just one more note. This is the first season finale that hasn’t had Bobby Singer in it, so I was incredibly moved by the way they paid tribute to him by having the boys capture Crowley in Bobby’s car yard. It was a way for us to sense his presence, even though he wasn’t physically there. Awesome 🙂

    • Such a good point – when I realized the brothers were in Bobby’s salvage yard, the emotional impact of that scene and the boys’ quest became even greater. Which is really saying something. Good thing the box of tissues was nearby! Rollercoaster of emotions indeed.

      • Damn! Forgot about Booby’s yard as one of the positives in my comment lower down. Loved the shout out too 🙂

  • Beautiful review. Yes the boys have such a human, dysfunctional relationship. And we love to watch it. So what does that say about us? Hmmm

    • I think that says something really important — and healthy — about us. We all need validation of our own flawed and imperfect but essential humanity. When a Show is smart and savvy and powerful enough to give that to us? I’m bloody grateful 🙂

  • Amazing recap of one of the best episodes ever. Jared truly made all of Sam’s exhaustion, pain and insecurity so real that I cried and probably all of the Supernatural family along with me. Jared’s acting this season has just been so great.

    And Jensen-his portrayal of Dean is probably the best acting on tv at this time. He makes Dean so real, whether being funny (the look on his face when Sam told him the 6th grade girl was him) or showing his love and need for Sam. He is an amazing talent.

    Mark Sheppard’s performance as Crowley was so emotional I actually liked him. Wonder what the writers have in store for him (& us) for next season-so hard to wait until October.

    Loved Misha Collins, Amanda Tapping and Curtis Armstrong’s performances-and how the writers made us really think & feel.

    This season has really been season GR8. There should be lots of Emmy nomination for this season. Any idea how to get whoever does the nominating for Emmys to look at this season? It is a shame there aren’t already Emmys on Jensen’s and Jared’s mantles, as well as on Eric Kripke’s, Ben Edlund’s and Jeremy Carver’s.

    Again, thanks for such an insightful write-up. Good to know there are other fans who are so addicted.   Naomi Maggiora   John 3:16-17  “For God so loved the world (me and you) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (me and you) believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world (me and you) to condemn the world (me and you), but that the world (me and you) should be saved.”

    • So agreed about the cast deserving Emmy nominations — it’s ridiculous that SPN and its amazing actors are snubbed because of the network the show happens to be on. I’d stack up this cast and crew against any others, bar none 🙂

    • In the past when J2 have been asked about Emmy awards, they shrug it off and someone says something about Hollywood politics. It may well be that the academy of television arts and sciences is a quagmire and since the ratings are not comparable to other nominated shows, it never goes anywhere. Or it may be that the CW chooses not to enter anyone into the Emmy situation either because of not thinking they have a chance against the Hollywood machine, or not having the guts to put forth a very different kind of drama. Lately, other shows have popped up with supernatural themes-not knocking those attempts- and IMO I am spoiled by SPN so I don’t connect with them strongly, but it will be curious to see if those shows are noticed by the Emmys. Again,the CW has to put the performances into the running and who knows if they bother. Both J’s have said they are satisfied with the acknowledgement of their work with the People’s Choice Awards.I also think the CW might not want to run Jensen v. Jared as they seem to cancel each other out when nominated, but what the heck, the CW should do it anyway. There are performances from many associated with SPN that should be recognized. I know we do and we seem to count for the actors involved, but when an actor can make you emote with one word”so?” and an actor can make you emote with a facial reaction, then isn’t that worth noticing Hollywood A-hats? I so totally agree with you.

  • WOW I really loved your review! You spoke about Sam & Dean’s relationship this season beautifully. Of course the performances of Jared & Jensen in the finale were off the charts! Brilliant! Looking forward to next season!!

  • “wanting things I didn’t like very much about the season to be what was skewed by perception” –oh yes, well said. I was thinking we’d find out more about why Meg mentioned Sam hitting that dog, and where he was going.

    • Me too, Jeanne – I think we, like the brothers, will have to let some things go. Which is never easy! But I do love the way the boys’ skewed perceptions of each other have finally started to be corrected, with all the healing that brings. 🙂

      • I agree. Not easy. A Dean Winchester Hug might help us with the letting go? 😉

  • Amazing finale! My mouth was hanging open from Jody Mills’ date with Crowley (she thought he was hot!) to the end, as Sam, Dean and Castiel watched angels dropping from the sky and Kevin freaked as everything in the Batcave went haywire. I laughed, cried and hung onto the edge of my seat; it was everything I had hoped for and more. I knew Metatron was not to be trusted and was leading Cas down the wrong path. If he’s as Anna Milton was, he won’t have any memory of having been an angel, and will be a simple human. Perhaps he’ll revert back to being Jimmy again? I’m terrified for Sam. God wanted him sacrificed in this endeavor! Why did he react so violently to the falling of the angels? Who can heal him now? What will happen to Crowley now? Is he demon or human? Or de-man? LOL! That bro-hug had me weeping! Then poor Sam thought he was okay, but he wasn’t! He couldn’t breathe! Perhaps he will recover when the last angel falls? Is it October yet???? Love, Robin

    • I know, right?? So many questions, and I can’t wait to find out the answers to ALL of them! Is it Season 9 time yet?? 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this season a lot more than previous ones. Not that I didn’t enjoy those, but this one… just fit me in a way the others had me itching. I had fun with s7, but s8 has kept me smiling and crying in laughing even more.

    The problems with Sam’s perception and Dean’s perception is that both think they see the truth, and so everything the other does is based on that truth. So for Sam, if Dean wants to protect him means that Dean thinks Sam is a failure and can’t even fix his shoes alone – while for Dean, it just means that he doesn’t want Sam to die.
    And for Dean, when Sam goes out to find ways to make it on his own (be it with Ruby or with Amelia) means that Sam doesn’t love him as much as Dean loves Sam.

    Both are wrong in their perceptions of that, and both are wrong with the impact their actions might have on the other.
    I personally have a lot less problem with understanding Dean than Sam – maybe we think a lot alike? It’s just that when Sam said “you always show me how I fail”, I got royally angry (for a short time, since Jared was acting so damn good that I couldn’t NOT feel pity with poor Sammy). But that is ME, because I take what I see as value – and don’t interpret hidden meanings into things.

    And if I’m right, and my line of thought is close to that of Dean, than it explains why we both had so much problems with understanding Sam in s4. because Sam HAD a hidden agenda behind his actions, but what we (Dean and I) saw for ourselves was just the betrayal that one could see on the outside.

    Interesting. But damn, THAT was a great finale!
    I might be the only one, but I still like Metatron. Maybe because by taking revenge, he showed a lot more human emotion than Naomi ever did, and even more than Cas. And his last words to Cas were kind, and for some reasons they touched me. “Go out, marry, have kids (which is cruel, since Jimmy HAD all that already) and then come back and tell me your story”

    Yes. I think I would very much like that story.

    • I think I’d like to hear that story too, and agree with you that Metatron is an intriguing character, definitely not black and white. He seemed to have some genuine affection for Cas, which hopefully will bode well for Castiel’s future. Fingers crossed!

  • As if I wasn’t already emotionally shattered by that finale–that scene (thank you, Jeremy Carver)–now I have this brilliant review to process. Gets right to the heart of the show, the brothers, and the fandom. Think I’ll print it out and re-read it over the summer whenever hellatus gets me down. The more I think about the title of the episode, the more I realize how perfect it was… and the signal question it raised. Whose was ultimately the greatest sacrifice? That is something I will think about for a long time.

    • You and me both! I love how this Show gives us so much to ponder, stimulates so much deep thinking and discussion. And thank you for such a lovely compliment – that you might print this out and re-read. That totally made my day! *hugs*

  • Lovely review! The only place of difference I have is in what the boys really needed to hear from each other. I think Sam heard exactly what he needed to hear from Dean–that he is always the centre of Dean’s emotional life. That nothing he has done or will do will ever change that. Dean is brother, father and mother to Sam all rolled up into one.

    What I didn’t see on the table was what Dean needed to hear from Sam. Sam isn’t the only one with hurts and insecurities. I refuse to acknowledge the silliness of Dean holding Soulless Sam against Sam–Carver isn’t immune to some of the canon-busting poor writing this season has been prone to–but I do think Dean is really hurt at Sam not looking for him and instead embracing what he sees as a “real” life.

    If the life Sam constructed when Dean was gone was “real” in a way hunting with Dean isn’t, what place does Dean hold in Sam’s life? What can Dean feel he offers to Sam other than reassurance of being number one?

    From the conversation in the finale, it’s all about Dean reassuring Sam he is loved, that he is number one. It doesn’t seem to be about Sam reassuring Dean he too is number one, that life with him offers real value, that life without him would leave an open wound. I wish the conversation had been more reciprocal.

    It was still very moving and beautiful and everything we heard was necessary. But I still only know that Sam is hurt Dean is hurt his brother didn’t look for him. I still don’t know why Sam didn’t look and I think it’s important for Dean to know that.

    I was very taken aback when Sam asked Dean if he had any idea how it feels for his brother to look to other relationships–hello, Amelia? Dean had to process his hurt feelings and tell his brother to do what made him happy. I don’t think Sam should be presenting Benny as a betrayal if this talk is supposed to clear things up between the boys.

    • I know what you mean. I didn’t want to bring it up because everyone else, and me too, was feeling so good about that final talk. It’s nice to just bask in it for awhile. But now that the haziness has cleared I hope to see more resolution to the not looking issue. Not that I can’t accept he didn’t look. I’m totally over that. But that Dean needs to hear more from Sammy about why he didn’t look. Because I agree, I do think Dean is deeply hurt by it. But in typical Dean fashion, he has now buried that hurt, for the most part. Or until he is under another spell of sorts!

      And, let me say that I don’t want to minimize that final scene and how beautiful it was. It was Sammy’s POV that many have been begging to hear/see. And Jared knocked the scene out of the park. But when Sam said “Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother…” I will admit to thinking “Really? After you chose Ruby and tried to choke your brother? You weren’t on demon blood overload when you did that! That was Sammy” Luckily the scene was moving so fast the thought didn’t progress.

      From a purely human aspect I can’t help but think any of us who at some point was being choked to death by a sibling, wouldn’t have to have some therapy to get past that. And be able to truly, wholly and totally trust that person again. Forgiveness and forgetting are two very different things. In the heat of emotional moments I would think it would rear it’s ugly head for a long time after.

      Again, loved the episode and the final scene. The boys are so dysfunctional, gotta love em. What family isn’t? And how can they not be? Two boys, left alone for much of their growing years, to fend for themselves, and totally depend on each other for survival, both emotionally and physically. Dean was/is the only mother/father/brother/caretaker that Sam has known. And Dean is willing to ‘smooth’ over a lot to keep his ‘family’ together. He did play the peacemaker for a long time.

      Okay, I better quit now.

      • I think I can get a handle on Dean. Yes he’d been let down over the seasons by Sam (all the things mentioned, most recently knowing Sam didn’t look for him). But the bottom line in Dean’s own words when he was yelling at Zachariah explains his thinking against peace, harmony: “I’ll take the pain, I’ll take Sam as is.”…

    • @jair96
      You summarized my reaction to that scene so well. I loved the scene, and Jared was amazing, but I am still in doubt as to what Sam feels for Dean, or whether Dean will ever be loved the way Dean loves Sam. Even some of Sam’s words implied an accusation, so I think Dean is still waiting to hear what he needs.

    • I interpreted Dean including Sam’s soullessness in his list of ‘sins’ as more about Sam’s deception than about the fact that he ended up soulless. That was so not Sam’s fault (and more horrible for Sam than anyone, including Dean), but it hurt Dean that Sam didn’t come to him and tell him, that Dean suffered thinking Sam was in the pit for a year before Sam reappeared in his life. Of course, that’s not logical – Sam was soulless and so he wasn’t making emotional or even ‘human’ decisions – but Dean’s hurt isn’t based on logic. And that, to me, seems plausible in that way that we humans are often hurt despite logic. Alas 🙂

      I see your point about wanting more reciprocity in the boys’ heart-to-heart, but I think the fact that it was skewed makes sense — the driving force behind the conversation was Dean talking Sam down from the ledge, so his motivation to prove to Sam how much he cares has more emotional urgency. So much so that Dean literally interrupts Sam (and I thought omg, we hardly EVER see that onscreen even tho it happens constantly in ‘real life’ – kudos Show and Ackles!) — anyway, Dean interrupts Sam when he starts asking the rhetorical question “do you know how it feels…” so we never get a chance to hear Dean answer that YES, of course he knows how that feels, to have your brother choose someone else over you! It’s just not where Dean wants — needs — to go at that moment.

      I do think that Dean experienced the depth of Sam’s love and need for him from what Sam said, however. Dean was *shocked* that Sam’s biggest regret and most painful guilt are his feeling that he let Dean down. That, more than closing the gates or saving the world, is what is driving Sam. It’s personal and human – not stereotypically heroic or about ‘the needs of the many’. That’s what gives it so much power. And I do think that, while I agree with you that it would have been so very very nice to actually hear it spelled out by Sam, that Dean heard it. Maybe for the first time, he heard it.

      • The thing about the soul is that once the soulless state was revealed, Dean knew very well Sam was not responsible for Soulless Sam’s actions and his emotional turmoil in season six was whether he had the right to risk Sam’s life to put his soul back in, not why Soulless Sam didn’t act like Sam. He was so aware Soulless Sam was not Sam, he was prepared to put that horribly damaged soul back in.

        This business about Dean resenting Soulless Sam’s actions as if they were Sam’s even after he knew the real score has only popped up in season eight. I didn’t see it in season six or seven. What I saw was Dean resenting Castiel for the decisions he made that hurt Sam so much. When did that slide onto Sam?

        I agree that the emotional urgency of the finale brother scene as constructed was about talking Sam down, not really reaching out to each other.

        What bothers me is that the writers were content to leave the season with Dean’s feelings not on the table, nor what happened with Benny unpacked. There may be some point where the story goes there again, but this examination is now over. And there was no reciprocity.

        And while I think Dean was shocked to realize Sam hears what he says and looks to him for confirmation that he is alright, I don’t think that is the same issue as being hurt that Sam didn’t look for him. Because the trajectory of emotion is still what Sam wants from Dean, rather than what they do for each other.

        To me, the season started with Sam making a decision to remake his life into what he dreamed of as a boy, when he wanted to be anything but a Winchester. As we saw in Dark Side of the Moon, that desire took him away from Dean and sometimes in a hurtful way. Sam sees it as he just sees family differently than Dean. Dean sees it as rejecting him. The first half of the season took another look at this dynamic.

        Sam told Dean he wanted a different life which would not have Dean at the centre, and he wanted Dean to hunt alone, not needing Sam for his happiness.

        In the next episode, Dean did just that, except not alone. He had someone else riding shotgun and he cared about that guy. Sam is furious.

        Why did Sam imagine Dean would ever hunt alone? Dean doesn’t like to be alone and he makes connections with people. I think Sam still has the childlike feeling he needs to be the centre of Dean’s world, even as he insists on making his own life. He can move on, but Dean needs to stay in the same place, holding Sam’s place in his life. It’s like when you break up with someone because you need your space, but then are hurt and furious when your former partner starts dating someone. Understandable, but not fair.

        Sam does that in regard to Benny, but then the writers never require him to unpack those feelings, and notice he doesn’t want Dean to move on. That his vision of his happy life is not so happy if someone else rides around in the Impala with his brother. He was actually murderous in a way we’ve never seen real Sam be with Benny. And that just after he let Kate go because she didn’t kill.

        I question the writers’ decision to end the arc looking only one way at the brothers’ relationship, when both boys were hurt and need something from each other. I don’t think it would have taken much to adjust the conversation to include Sam telling Dean he realizes he didn’t look for Dean because blah blah blah (couldn’t face disappointing him agian, only to then disappoint him because he didn’t look, for example?). And have Sam not throw Benny in Dean’s face as a vampire rather than a person, given he now should realize how many wrong decisions he made in regard to Dean and Benny.

        If I thought this stuff was still to come, I’d be less disappointed, but I think Carver thinks he examined this issue all season thoroughly and now the boys are on the same page.

  • Yeah Sam Dean does know what it feels like. Remember Ruby? Remember turning to her even though Dean told you not to trust the demon? Yet you sided with her long before the demon blood even knowing that demons are pure evil and never to be trusted.

    • I agree, Dean definitely does know what it feels like! See my reply to Jair and Kelios for a take on why Dean interrupted Sam and didn’t go there when he clearly could have.

    • We are all well aware of Ruby however that doesnt mean that Dean didnt do the same or that it didnt have the same impact on Sam . This is about perception and Sam’s perception is so broken that even the angels wouldnt be able to fix him. Emotionally Sam is in pieces , his self worth non -exsistent , This scene was needed in fact long over due . Dean needed to see how damaged Sam is , he needed to see how to heart Sam took the things he said even though he may not of meant them.

      Sam doesnt feel worthy to be Dean’s brother impure , unforgiven despite suffering in that cage , unforgiven from Dean and God , that is why the trials were important to him why he believed they were purifying him and why his ‘so’ was so heartbreaking he thought his life was worth nothing.

      He didnt want to let Dean down again that he sees as his greatest sin and it has been killing him for a long time we and Dean just never saw it until this scene.

      • and Dean just never saw it until this scene.

        … and a lot of people – me included – never saw that either. So in a way, some of us needed to see that just so we could understand all the big “WTF?” in this season.

        Because THIS from Sam finally explains to me why he didn’t look for Dean. It’s weird and twisted in a logical way, but still, it makes sense.
        He didn’t want to let Dean down again, and they promised once to let the other go. So put the two things together and what you get is Sam doing what he believes Dean would want: to have a good, normal life and be happy. It makes sense – Dean often said that’s what he’d want for Sam.

        Yet AGAIN, that was the wrong thing. Poor Sam, if he looks at his life only in the way to not-fail his brother, he will never be happy. Dean has it easier in that – because for him, having Sam alive is worth much more than his own life and happiness. So as I said before somewhere – he’ll always love Sam, and he’ll always have that desperate, unhealthy love for his brother. Sam though … if he thrives for Dean’s approval or for not letting him down, and looking at things only from that perspective, he’ll never accomplish things.
        I think for Dean, approval is one thing, love and family and the things you do for them – that’s on a completely different level.
        Though thinking back on Sam’s life when he grew up, it kinda makes sense that he equates those things as one. I bet that there was so much approval for Dean from their father (from Sam’s POV – I think Dean saw it a bit differently) that “love” will forever be cobbled to “approval”.

  • I loved the end scene. Sam needed to hear what Dean said, and I’m glad he did. But I’m also disappointed that Sam could accuse Dean of putting others ahead of him, when he has done the same thing himself. Bringing up Benny was particularly harsh given that Dean came to trust and rely on him because of Sam’s intentional absence.

    I was also a little disappointed that Sam didn’t return Dean’s sentiments. I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sam loves Dean–that’s not what I need to hear from him. What I need to hear is that Dean is Sam’s world the same way that Sam is Dean’s world. That he will never again put anyone before Dean. That when this is done he’s not going to run off and look for normal again the way he’s been talking about all season. Dean needs and deserves to hear that from Sam, and I need it too.

    One last point–I think Dean was wrong to bring up Sam’s soullessness as something Sam needed to atone for. Sam didn’t deliberately come back without his soul, and he clearly wasn’t able to make good decisions while it was gone. If anyone deserves the blame for that fiasco it’s Casstiel for (imo deliberately) bringing him back that way, and Bobby for encouraging Sam to stay away. I think it was telling that Sam’s first instinct when he returned was to go to Dean, even soulless, and that it was advice from people he trusted that kept him away.

    • What I need to hear is that Dean is Sam’s world the same way that Sam is Dean’s world. That he will never again put anyone before Dean.

      I know it’s something watchers will want from their characters, but I actually think it’s quite unfair to EXPECT love just because the other loves you, or that someone would act the exact same as you do out of love.
      Dean never expects this, I’m pretty sure he knows that his desperate clinging to Sam is not healthy and not “normal” – but he still does, and he’ll not apologize for it. But even though he is hurt when something shows him that Sam doesn’t seem to return the same things to him, he doesn’t go along and count “wrongs” or “rights”. He just loves, and he loves Sam with everything he has, and despite everything that Sam will do.

      Sam can beat him bloody or try to strangulate him, he can side with demons and he can let Lucifer out. He can save the world and throw himself into eternal torment, he can insult Dean and praise him – it doesn’t matter to Dean. So far, there is NOTHING that Sam can do to break that love (though I really wonder if there would be something one day…)

      Dean loves that way. He loved his father that way – with probably a bit too much hero-worship – and he loves his friends that way. He’d do anything – as long as it doesn’t endanger Sam.

      Even though I agree that Dean didn’t hear “aw, I love you” from Sam, I don’t think he needed that. This episode wasn’t about that! And also, Sam SHOWED him what Dean needed to see. Sam stepped away from saving thousands of souls and people by closing the gates of hell – on his brother’s plea.

      Maybe he will regret it, on some level, but that moment was actually all Dean needed.

      What WE, as the audience need? I don’t think there will ever be that one episode that satisfies all of us 😉

      • I do think Dean notices when Sam doesn’t appear to return the kind of love Dean has. He was hurt in Dark Side of the Moon and he was hurt in the beginning of the season. He was hurt in this episode, he just had to focus on Sam instead of talking about it.

        I think your take on how unhealthy Dean’s feelings for Sam are is something the show leaves available, but I don’t think that’s where Carver intends us to be. He seems to be positing that its healthy for Sam to want to make his own life separate from Dean, but at the same time for the boys’ relationship to be in a good place, Sam needs to be centre of Dean’s life. So Dean’s place in the story is to love Sam, without his own needs being acknowledged.

        To me, if Dean cannot expect that Sam wants to be in his life the way he wants Sam in his, then his love for his brother is actually toxic. He needs to find a program for “Brothers Who Love Too Much.” And I don’t think that is the way Supernatural has built their family tie. They are both screwed up, but their bond is supposed to be a source of power and nourishment–or it was under Kripke. Not sure what the bond means under Carver, but it really changes the show if I shouldn’t be pulling for both boys to realize they need each other.

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment! I see your points here — here’s my reply to Gerry from above –

      I interpreted Dean including Sam’s soullessness in his list of ‘sins’ as more about Sam’s deception than about the fact that he ended up soulless. That was so not Sam’s fault (and more horrible for Sam than anyone, including Dean), but it hurt Dean that Sam didn’t come to him and tell him, that Dean suffered thinking Sam was in the pit for a year before Sam reappeared in his life. Of course, that’s not logical – Sam was soulless and so he wasn’t making emotional or even ‘human’ decisions – but Dean’s hurt isn’t based on logic. And that, to me, seems plausible in that way that we humans are often hurt despite logic. Alas 🙂

      I see your point about wanting more reciprocity in the boys’ heart-to-heart, but I think the fact that it was skewed makes sense — the driving force behind the conversation was Dean talking Sam down from the ledge, so his motivation to prove to Sam how much he cares has more emotional urgency. So much so that Dean literally interrupts Sam (and I thought omg, we hardly EVER see that onscreen even tho it happens constantly in ‘real life’ – kudos Show and Ackles!) — anyway, Dean interrupts Sam when he starts asking the rhetorical question “do you know how it feels…” so we never get a chance to hear Dean answer that YES, of course he knows how that feels, to have your brother choose someone else over you! It’s just not where Dean wants — needs — to go at that moment.

      I do think that Dean experienced the depth of Sam’s love and need for him from what Sam said, however. Dean was *shocked* that Sam’s biggest regret and most painful guilt are his feeling that he let Dean down. That, more than closing the gates or saving the world, is what is driving Sam. It’s personal and human – not stereotypically heroic or about ‘the needs of the many’. That’s what gives it so much power. And I do think that, while I agree with you that it would have been so very very nice to actually hear it spelled out by Sam, that Dean heard it. Maybe for the first time, he heard it.

      • Those are all good points. I agree that Dean was shocked to learn that Sam’s biggest ‘sin’ was letting Dean down–and I think that he took that onto himself, that it was his fault that Sam felt that way. Basically, that by causing Sam to feel that way, he was letting Sam down just as much. I think that’s why it’s so important to me that they clear this up–Dean’s self-esteem issues don’t let him see others’ emotions clearly so it needs to be spelled out.

        I loved Sam’s speech when he begged Dean to let him do the trials for just that reason–he spelled out exactly how he felt and why he felt that way. And the emotional impact on Dean was immediate and pure–no guilt, no disappointment in himself for having hurt Sam–just amazed acceptance of Sam’s love. That’s the kind of scene I need for this situation: one where Sam spells it out clearly with no onus on Dean, just the acknowledgment that Sam needs Dean every bit as much as Dean needs Sam.

    • I think Sam was being a little brother in the final scene. Plain and simple. He was a little brother that desperately needed his big brother to reassure him just how important he is to him.

      I don’t think Sam was being logical here either. It didn’t matter that he chose Ruby over his brother in the past. It didn’t matter that Benny was there for Dean when Sam wasn’t. Sam was running on pure emotion. I have seen many fans fault Sam for having such a hard time with Dean’s relationship with Benny, but I think Sam’s reaction to Benny was very much a honest & real reaction. People do get jealous and feel threatened, even when they know they shouldn’t or don’t deserve to be. But sometimes you just can’t help it. Sam and Dean have always relied on each other first and foremost so I get that Benny would be a hard pill for Sam to swallow.

      I 100% agree with this review – in the moment of Sam’s convo with Dean, all his defenses and walls were down. I think Sam was possibly the most vulnerable we have ever seen him & that vulnerability allowed him to voice an (obviously huge) insecurity that he has locked away for a very long time.

      Even though Sam did not verbally tell Dean that he is number one in Sam’s life as well, I think his confession/tears/heartbreak conveyed to Dean all that he needed know. Sam was so torn up over his perceived place in Dean’s life. Sam was falling apart because he thought Dean didn’t trust him, didn’t have faith in him, was disappointed in him. I think Sam’s emotional breakdown was just as powerful as Dean’s words in affirming where the brothers are in each others life.

      • I agree with you. There is no other place Dean would rather be than driving down crazy street with Sam next to him in the Impala.

      • It does matter that Sam chose Demon Ruby over a brother even Sam said no matter what always had his back. Sam screws up, chooses others over Dean, Jess, Lenore, Ruby, Samuel, Martin no matter how many times Dean proves Sam’s no. 1 in Dean’s book. Dean sends a text to keep Sam from not only going half cocked after a vamp but one that’s 10-20 heavier then Sam and he’s demonized. Why is it if Dean does anything he’s worse then Jack the ripper but Sam is never guilty due to demon blood, soul less, PMS! Sam tries to make Dean out to be just as bad as Sam in Southern but Dean’s right. He lied but he never betrayed Sam, he never left Sam to die. Sam is in Lucifer’s cage and Dean’s still trying to get him back not knowing Sam couldn’t give Dean the decency to let his brother know he was topside even if he did start hunting again rather then let him wallow in grief and blame himself for Sam’s predicament. When Dean died for 4 months Sam refused to burn Dean because he had every intention of getting Dean back but in the 8th season no body, no nothing he just shrugs off Dean and Cas as dead and leaves Kevin in Crowley’s hands?! Dean apologizes even when it should be Sam apologizing and that I feel like I let you down crap speech was not an apology of any sort. Just another way for Sam to manipulate Dean into feeling sorry for Sam.

      • Dean tells Sam at the beginning of season two that Sam is just like Dad, willing to sacrifice himself. In fact Dean tells Sam that Sam is selfish for not thinking about what losing Sam would do to Dean. Maybe it is because there was nobody there to cut the crust off of a PBJ sandwich for Sam and the lack of a parent who is mature and nurturing is not Sam’s experience so he has learned to be independent which causes him to run away to Flagstaff as a boy, and to Stanford, and later to run away towards Ruby. He has made some mighty bad choices for what he thinks are very good reasons. His suffering in the Finale, is a culmination of all the bad choices, but most of all his choices have been hurtful to Dean. No doubt both love each other, but they need to have different approaches, desires, and perceptions based on their lives. Dean gets reamed when he screws up, always did when they were kids too, but Sam suffers from his choices in the end as well. More of a cosmic suffering sometimes, but in Finale it was human suffering

  • Moving review of what was going on with Sam and Dean, I like your breakdown of how that scene flowed from years of both of their issues. Dean’s lack of self-worth means he puts his all into being about looking after others–that’s how he finds a sense of purpose, and in turn he does put others on a pedestal. His perception that he’s just a grunt, the people he loves are worth better, his main worth in protecting them. When they do screw up it sends him into a tailspin and he has said harsh things. Sam’s fully aware of how much Dean has done for him, and is carrying the guilt of his own mistakes and how those have hurt Dean, and I think he’s worried he’s only a burden–we’ve seen him voice before how he wants to be there for Dean, too. With all the weird plot hijinks Sam’s gone through the past couple of seasons–Sam doesn’t get much of a chance. He wants to be there for Dean, and not be consumed by the supernatural wackiness himself. I don’t think for a second Sam truly resents Dean’s surrogate brothers like Castiel and Benny, it’s entirely about Sam’s insecurity. Because Dean would reach out to others either way, that’s how Dean’s wired, and Sam’s issues and insecurity resulted in him seeing things in a skewed way. I’m glad the messing with perceptions turned out to be emotional rather than plot. The Amelia storyline was a necessary part of Sam’s arc, and I’m glad it turned out to be “real” for that reason as well as that I personally enjoyed their scenes.

    I think Dean’s hurt over Sam not looking for him is justified, and I also understand how Sam could get to that point and fall apart, they’ve been so pummelled with losses. It seems that Sam did in the wake of that breakdown was put one foot in front of the other and let go–the way a “healthy” person would. Except in the context of the Winchesters’ lives and the circumstances of Dean’s disappearance, it gets classified as a mistake. The mistake spn itself made IMO was not giving us enough Sam pov of that particular time period, Sam’s headspace there needed more fleshing out. I’m still waiting for Sam to open up to Dean about that.

    The Dean and Cas bar scene was great, I was so happy to get more quiet, emotionally honest moments between the two, that was very necessary and poignant. It didn’t seem WTF plot-wise or coolly ignoring what was going on meanwhile with Sam and Crowley. Dean was helping Cas with an urgent mission, which involved getting Cupid’s bow, and they were in the bar, waiting. So while they’re waiting–the Dean and Cas conversation happened.

    I loved the finale, and it left us with a really interesting setup for season 9.

    • Very good point – I also developed my own explanations for why Sam didn’t look for Dean, and those made sense and were, in keeping with this review, also quintessentially human. I think you’re entirely right, the mistake was that Show didn’t give us that. We all had to come to our our conclusions, and that’s never as satisfying as hearing them in canon. Not having Sam eventually talk about it — or having it shown to the audience at least — was an error that probably won’t be corrected.

      And I was also happy to see some real conversation between Dean and Cas, also in keeping with the theme here. I just have trouble buying that Dean could be anything but pacing and a bit frantic, knowing what was going down with Crowley and Sam at the same time. Maybe that’s me projecting my own inability to concentrate on anything else while I know someone I love is in danger! 🙂

      • It’s odd, because I’ve also seen fans saying they thought Dean didn’t seem worried enough about Castiel, and after Taxi Driver, that Dean didn’t seem worried enough about Sam while he was in Hell. Yet to me Dean’s seemed very worried about Sam and Cas all season (at different times, and sometimes at the same time…) and I wonder if this is in fact something to do with the world the Winchesters inhabit vs. how we see it as viewers. Sam and Dean, while not 24/7 intense combat like Purgatory was, are in effect living in a warzone. They get time down from it, but it’s always there. They’re used to putting themselves in jeopardy, they’re used to splitting up strategically, they respect each other’s abilities as hunters. Dean compartmentalizes, and he’ll also freak out and display all his fear and worry. So I didn’t find the quietness of the bar scene at all out of place–that Dean’s worried about Sam is a given, and the scene had an underlying thread of melancholy given the subject matter and the overall context.

        Jeremy Carver’s script even lampshades this — Castiel says are you sure drinking on the job is a good idea and Dean says “what show have you been watching?” Castiel way more than Dean adheres to strict rules of soldier behavior, his background is ordered military–Sam and Dean are more, hm, from the vigilante end of things. Castiel doesn’t have Dean’s instinct for grabbing the good in the moment while you have it.

        So I didn’t take it at all out of character for Dean or plot jiggering so that the quiet moment could happen–but I know not everything will come across the same way to everyone.

  • Amazing review with all the perception thing… I agree with almost everything, I love all the season 8 but the whole Amelia thing no to good for me… With the finale ep I want to say that I knew it that metraton isn’t can be trust, and also for the first time I hate Castiel when he asked to Dean for help I mean Cas we have a business here but the I remember that it is Cass and also thought that the all close heaven thing will be for season 9, but no.

    Love all the acting of each character, Mark gave us a Crowley that I never thought that we can be able to watch for the first time I felt sorry for him, also Castiel I mean he is like Sam trying to make the things good this time and fix his home because he felt and is responsible (not all) of the madness in heaven.

    Now the “broment” I was surprised when Sam told Dean his sins, but I finally think that all the mistakes or sins of Sam can be resume in one “fail to Dean”, I forgot long time ago (after season 1-2) that Sam was a little brother and like he said once he always is watching his big brother and see him trust in an angel and a vampire was hurt I mean you hope that people you love trust you and I don’t saying that Dean doesn’t trust Sam, but That was a natural feeling of a little brother, now Dean explained to Sam all that he did for him and that he trust, need and love his little brother was marvelous….. All that scene was unique thanks to Jared and Jensen their gave us everything!

    • It’s true, Jared and Jensen’s acting — and Mark’s and Misha’s too — sold the emotional scenes and gave them tremendous power. It’s funny how being a little brother or a big brother (or sister) is a part of your identity that never leaves you, no matter how grown up any of us becomes. Another fundamental thing about being human 🙂

  • Fabulous review you expressed my feelings exactly, it was a superb ending to a brilliant season. I too was so moved by Crowley, his desperate words to `Sam` not `Moose` and the offering of his neck for the injection. I read one review saying that The Scene was the most touching ever between Sam and Dean, when you consider the competition, that is quite a statement but I really do think it might be true. Jeremy Carver really does `get` this show and I for one am delighted he is back. Cannot wait for S9

    • I loved this episode for reassuring me that Carver does, in fact, “get” this Show and these brothers. That leaves me much less anxious and much more excited in anticipation of S9!

  • Thank you for a great review!!! I loved most of the scenes from the finale, and am head over heels for that long-over-due brotherly scene (that for the last 6 years or so has only happened in fanfiction and now that it’s cannon it’s just making me jump for joy!!!).

    But I’m glad you mentioned that there were WTF moments too. It was very OOC for Dean to leave Sam behind during such a pivotal moment. In my mind, I think Dean would have NEVER done that – not for Cas, or to shut down heaven, or anything. I also think Naomi’s “repentance” (for lack of a better word) took place too fast and unrealistically. (Anyone noticed how she died with blood and no wing prints? I wonder if that’s an oversight or intentional). And I’m not sure the angels falling at the end does it for me as a cliff hanger. I mean, really? When have we cared about angels in this world? They’ve been nothing but a pain in the a$$, so now they’re humans? Great! One less force of opposition to deal with. Doesn’t shake my world.

    Overall, I’m left conflicted. Soooo many wonderful things to love, and then there were a few things that just didn’t seem right. At all.

    • So agreed about that long overdue brotherly scene – it played out like the very best fanfiction, which is one of my highest compliments 🙂

      I do think that Dean and Cas scene was a bit OOC in that Dean would certainly not be able to relax knowing Sam was left alone with Crowley, and yes, Naomi did such an abrupt about face that it made my head spin. Excellent point about her dying (?) with no wingprints.

      The power of the last scene, for me, was not so much about the angels falling, because that wasn’t personal or emotional to me — it was more about the image of Cas stumbling through the woods alone and the Winchesters huddled together in the protection of the Impala, Sam in Dean’s arms and Dean telling him he’d be okay with such a beautifully rendered backdrop. It looked like a movie, not a television show, and that added to the intensity of the scene. Not perfect, of course, but maybe that fits right in with the theme of this review 🙂

      • How do you find the time to reply to each and all of us?? Don’t you have to, oh, I don’t know, grade finals or something at this time of year??? 🙂 I know I’m facing crunch time with all the last-minute end of semester stuff at the college and I imagine you’d have the same. I appreciate you taking the time to give us a review and reply to comments. Have fun with finals!

  • Wouah. Alright, I’m getting a bit emotional here. This episode was so powerful. You know this review made it, I’ve read great reviews but this one is my favorite right now. Yes, you got it all. .

    Right at the end of the episode, I felt something really strong that I couldn’t indentify at first. I was in awe but mostly I think I was grateful. We’ve all taken the journey with the brothers. We’ve all chosen one side or another at some point then went back to other because we’ve all seen the mistakes hidden behind the good intentions and the mistakes created by – yes you’ve said it perfectly – misperceptions. Being Human.

    This show is called Supernatural. We are constantly bombarded by supernatural creatures and the apocalypse, Gods, the angel mythology… Yet this season finale showed it all, it is about humanity and the emotions it creates in everyone – not just the humans. [ We’ve known it but now it’s palpable ]

    I guess we can all wonder about the true sacrifice here. Sam willing to die for the trials and to prove himself once again ? Cas desperatly trying to save his family, no matter what he’d have to do ? those were what we were expecting, right ? Before the finale, we were all thinking about those. Yet, the true sacrifice was : Sam and Dean sacrificing their quest to be with each other.

    How long did we wait for this ? We’ve witnessed John sacrifice himself to save Dean, Dean to save Sam, Sam to bring down Lucifer.But now finally, they’ve sacrificed the mission, both, to be there for each other.

    There is more to it of course, but at the end that’s what I keep in mind. I can’t wait for season 9. It’s raining Angels from the sky. Will Cas remember ? Will Sam recover ? Will Crowley change ? Will the Fandom survive all those emotions ?

    I love this show so much.

    • You just made me reach for my seriously depleted box of tissues again: “Yet the true sacrifice was Sam and Dean sacrificing their quest to be with each other.” YES. *sniffles*

      And I’m really not sure your last question is a rhetorical one 🙂

    • It occurs to me how human the angels and demons became in the finale–Castiel literally, Crowley partially, and Metatron behaved like a vengeful human being! Love, Robin

    • “Yet, the true sacrifice was : Sam and Dean sacrificing their quest to be with each other.

      How long did we wait for this ? We’ve witnessed John sacrifice himself to save Dean, Dean to save Sam, Sam to bring down Lucifer.But now finally, they’ve sacrificed the mission, both, to be there for each other. ”

      EXACTLY! Such a brilliant point, LilismilemeXD 🙂

  • Hmmm…looks like I’ll have to read peoples reviews of the show too understand what the writers are trying to say. I like your interpretation…not sure its what Carver intended. Maybe it is.

    We didn’t see Dean put anything on the table because he was too busy playing meditor or something. This would have been a good time for Dean to say what HE needed. Maybe season 9. Maybe I’ll finally understand why Dean needs Sam. Sam i get. Dean his is larger then life everything. Brother. Mother. Father. mentor. He’s been trying to live up too Deans expectations since he was little. I think Sam has been trying to live up to his entire family…all who have been larger then life for him..who he’s always felt he’s disappointed.

    • I love reading reviews, to hear everyone’s take on an episode – none of us knows what Carver intended, but sometimes the so-called “authorial intent” isn’t even the most interesting one 🙂

      I think Sam is Dean’s reason for living in the same way that parents feel about their children. Just the child’s existence is so important, so satisfying, so fulfilling – and something to be protected above all else. Dean has been mother and father to Sam as much as he’s been big brother, so those feelings are ingrained in him and motivate so much of Dean’s life. We rarely get to hear either Winchester actually *say* what they need, and I’m not sure Dean could articulate it better than he tried to here even if he wanted to. But I do agree with you, I love hearing it — from both of them!

  • Reblogged this on A Beautiful Mess… and commented:
    They say it all. Supernatural has great stories to tell, but the story of two brothers that while willing to devote themselves to protect us all from evil monsters and psychopath celestal beings, are also ready to sacrifice everything for family. Supernatural is called Supernatural but if you read under the layers, if you go through all the magical, the mystical, the celestial and the mythological, what you see is truly beautiful.

    • Well said — it’s sort of ironic that a Show called “Supernatural” is really all about being human. But that’s what brings all of us back to it again and again and again — and it is, as you say, truly beautiful 🙂

      Thanks so very much for the reblog!

  • Man, just when I thought the end Sam-Dean scene in Sacrifice was perhaps the best in the entire series, I read this…and now I KNOW, it’s the best scene in the entire series. Thank you for dissecting the scene and the relationship so cleary and so simply. These brothers are like nothing else on TV and when an 8 year old show can STILL bring that kind of power and emotion after 150+ episodes…it truly is something special.

    I am still overwhemled with the performances of Jensen, Jared and Mark S in this episode. All 3 of them laid it out there for all us to enjoy. The dedication and respect they each have to these charactes shown through bright as day in Sacrifice. And the continued chemistry between Jared and Jensen after so many years…they’ll be locked forever together in TV history. Jensen is the master of subtle emotion. A drop of the eyes here, a slight change in posture there and he can go from angry and angsted to surprised and heartbroken. And Jared…over the years he’s shined best when playing that ‘other than normal Sam.’ But his amazingly powerful performance in those 2 and a half minutes of that last scene…just…wow. There’s no other way to describe it. Kudos to the make up team as well. Transforming Jared into what he became in the last 4-5 eps of the season was as convincing as his on screen performance.

    I applaud Carver for the writing in this ep and for allowing these guys to flex those emotional muscles in a much needed moment of realization for the both of them. This show, it’s complex and convoluted and impossible…but at it’s core, it’s very simple. Two flawed brothers and their love for each other.

    I love this show! Can’t wait for S9!

    • Well said – the performances of Jared, Jensen and Mark in this episode were Emmy worthy. I’d stack them up against any actors anywhere, bar none. And the combination of Carver’s writing and the amazing acting brought an emotional power to this episode that’s rarely seen in television. At its core, what you say here is so true – the show may be complex and convoluted and impossible, but it’s really about something that gets to all of us: two flawed brothers and their love for each other 🙂

  • This EP was so well written, acted, executed and produced that it has become my most favorite season ending. Now, we wait for S9. Where do Sam & Dean go from here? What will happen to them now? A thousand questions remain about our beloved boys, but honestly…. isn’t that the point?

  • I really enjoyed reading your review – really enjoyed all reviews I’ve read by you so far 🙂
    I think you make such intelligent, thoughtful, nuanced analyses, at the same time as being warm and tender. (Does that make sense?) I also like that you show such respect to both the show and your fellow fans.
    Carry on!

    • Thank you so much, your comment totally made my day! I really do feel warm and tender toward this Show and it’s awesome fandom, and respect the talent and creativity in *both*. I feel lucky to be a part of it all! 🙂

  • This is an excellent review! You perfectly captured my thoughts about this outstanding season finale. I had to watch this episode a couple of times before I could work out how I felt about it. The first time I watched it I was entirely too emotional to think clearly. The second time I watched it, I was able to process it much better. Ultimately, this episode helped me get rid of much of my frustration with Sam this season.

    I wasn’t as bothered as some members of the fandom by the fact that Sam didn’t look for Dean in Purgatory. Sam has always been a runner when things get too much for him. After everything Sam had gone through in S7 (hellucinations, losing Bobby, etc.) he was barely holding on, and when Dean disappeared the ground shifted from beneath his feet and there was no one there to help him find it again. So, he did what he always does. He ran. He didn’t explicitly say that to dean in the S8 premiere, but he did say that he was lost and had nothing and no one. I was ok (not totally satisfied, but ok) with that explanation.

    My primary frustration with Sam this season was how gung-ho he was to kill Benny. This may open up a can of worms, but I don’t know any other way to illustrate my point so here goes. It did not make any sense to me that Sam wanted to watch/hunt down Benny (who hadn’t killed or hurt anyone) while he was willing to let Amy (who had killed 4 people) go last season. I struggled for most of this season trying to understand why Sam was behaving like that toward Benny because I truly did not understand. Even when Sam was making horrible decisions in the past (Ruby, demon blood, etc.) I at least understood why he was doing those things. This season though, I was at a loss.

    It wasn’t until Sam broke in this episode that I understood why he was so hostile and blood-thirsty when it came to Benny. Benny was a physical manifestation of the absolute worst thing that Sam feels like he’s ever done. Every time Sam saw Benny, or saw how much Dean trusted Benny, or heard Dean say that Benny had never let him down, it was a slap in the face and a reminder of just how monumentally he has failed Dean. It’s like someone standing in front of you constantly reminding you of the worst thing you’ve ever done. If you’re human, you’d get pretty hostile toward that person. I don’t think Dean necessarily meant for his comments about Benny to cut Sam as deeply as they did, but Dean didn’t realize just how much Sam needs his approval. Nor did he realize that Sam has been trying to make it up to him all this time. It goes all the way back to the S5 premiere. Dean told Sam that he’d let him down in ways he couldn’t even verbalize, and Sam wanted to know what he could do to fix it. He’s been trying to fix it ever since. It’s just that his desperation to fix it leads him to make more missteps. But now I see where Sam was coming from about Benny, and looking back over the season, it makes sense now. It wasn’t so much that Sam hated Benny. He hated what Benny represented.

    Everyone involved did a fantastic job with this episode. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki continue to amaze me with their depth and range. It has been such a treat watching them mature as actors. Mark Sheppard really just gets all the cookies for Crowley. I really wanted to continue to hate him for what he did last week, but dang it, I just can’t. He was just that good. Special kudos must be given to the FX and music departments for that falling angels sequence. It was simultaneously beautiful, heartbreaking, and terrifying. It was seriously like watching something out of a big budget movie. Stellar job. Just stellar. There are so many possibilities for next season and I am so excited to see what Carver and Co. have in store for us.

    • I definitely agree with your analysis of why Sam had such a vehement reaction to Benny, and to Dean’s relationship with him. Nothing gets to you more than a reminder of your failings, it’s so true. And I really think Jared sold those complicated, not always pretty, but very human, emotions so well. Here’s to S9!

    • Love your take on the Sam-Benny situation, Jessica. And we really never got a true sense of just how inadequate Sam has thought himself as until the final scenes of Sacrifice (we know how these boys love to bottle things up). Sam’s always wandered in the muttled and confused area, (where as Dean is of course the more black & white type personality), and no where was what more evident than this season. If we never understood completely how flawed, unsure and confused Sam was prior to S8…we sure know now.

      I always enjoy re-watching the entire season a couple weeks after the finale each year (thanks goodness for DVRs!) so I’ll be interesting to go back and watch from the beginning to see how things progressed exactly to this point of confession in Sacrifice. I know Carver said S8 was all about perception…and I dont know if he had this particular scene planned out way back in the beginning of the year, but it almost seems like he did, because thinking back on the year, things appeared to have been building to it in one way or another. I’m just glad we got to see it on screen.

      On a side note, I loved the change in Dean this year as opposed to the last 2 years when he was spiraling downward. It was almost as if he needed something such as Purgatory to snap him out of that fall. Perhaps Purgatory did more good than bad in the end. Clearing his mind even to the true reality of what he was and what his life was. When Dean becomes the more positive of the two brothers, you know the world is upside down. LOL! His impromtu hug (the man was a hugging machine this year!) at the end of Pac Man Fever – rather than sparring verbally with Sam as they tend to do – was most unexpected to the fans as it was to Sam, I think, but that tiny little scene seemed to sum up the state Dean had come to be in towards the end of the year.

      • Oh yes, the surprise!hug – the fact that it was so unexpected made it even more powerful — for us and for Sam 🙂

      • I agree with you about Dean. I didn’t mention it in my original comment, but I absolutely LOVED his character arc this season. Some members of the fandom complained that Dean was put on the back burner during the latter half of the season, but I disagree with that assessment. I don’t see Dean as having been sidelined or lacking in an arc this season at all. He’s absolutely necessary to the overall story, and after the lack of emotional growth and maturity in his character in seasons 6 and 7, it was time for him to be able to move forward. It was nice to see him embrace his warrior side again thanks to his stint in Purgatory. It was also nice to see him open his heart again in his relationships with Sam, Cas, Benny, Charlie, and Kevin. After how lacking in focus he was during seasons 6 and especially 7, this was a welcome change for him.

        Also, I think some people underestimate the importance of support systems and how crucial they are to a mission’s success. Without proper support, everything crumbles. Dean is the one that constantly holds the center. Each character had a personal arc, but Dean was really carrying all of those arcs (in addition to his own) on his shoulders. When you consider that to Dean’s right, he’s got Sam’s physical and emotional health deteriorating due to the trials. To his left, he’s got Castiel being either absent or manipulated by other powerful forces. In front of him, he’s got Crowley going for broke in trying to stop the Boys from closing up Hell. Behind him, he’s got Metatron and Naomi with their own personal agendas that may or may not line up with his quest. Not to mention that he’s constantly trying to keep Kevin from running away from his destiny. All of that crap swirling around him and he’s the one who grabs, pushes, pulls and/or carries everyone forward while also keeping the negative forces at bay. Needless to say, Dean has a lot on his plate.

        And anyone who thinks that Sam was going through those trials alone is naive. Dean was suffering through all of that too. He’s always cared more deeply for Sam than he’s cared for himself, and it would’ve been incredibly difficult for me to buy him NOT being Sam’s caretaker as the trials’ side effects worsened. Dean has, for all intents and purposes, been Sam’s father just as much as he’s been his brother. That blurred line between father and brother roles has created an overly nurturing and protective aspect of Dean’s personality where Sam is concerned. We’ve seen Dean struggle with that blurred line before (S4 and S5) and I think that’s something that he will continue to struggle with simply because it’s such a part of who Dean is at his core.

        One last thing, Jeremy Carver seems to understand the importance of regular supporting characters and he isn’t killing them all just for “shock value” or emotional manipulation. The Winchester world had become very desolate during S6 and S7 and it was in desperate need of repopulating. I’m glad we have Charlie, Garth, and Kevin to start that process. Hopefully we can even keep Sheriff Mills around too. There are so many ways the show could go in S9, and for the first time in a while I can honestly say that I am very excited for the next season and what it has in store for us.

  • Thank you for a brilliant review! Being human.. and perceptions…One of the many reasons why I love this show is that it attracts such interesting, bright people as an audience, who then react to the stories and analyse them in ways that make me see so many things that I otherwise would miss 🙂

    I’ve rewatched once. Both viewings coloured by a grumbling migraine and on a laptop without earphones. Again. (There must be a Borrower somewhere collecting them). Definitely liked it more the second time…but I wasn’t blown away. And am annoyed at myself for not being so! Might grow on me, tho. Like 6.02 (2 ½ Men). Did not like on first watch, but fell in love with it on rewatch.

    • Dean leaving Sam. Dean. In big brother mode. Left Sam. So ill. Alone. With the King of Hell. After losing Abbadon. To go off with Cas. Who he no longer trusts. For a vague hope. And sit in a bar with him. And have a beer. In Texas. With no sense of urgency. Really. REALLY?
    • The 3 people who (probably) died were the 3 female characters – Naomi, Jody Mills and Abbadon. Again: really? Come on, show. They’re 3 wonderful actresses +complicated characters and could’ve added so much depth (and oestrogen!) to Season 9. Not OK.
    • Disagree with JC’s choice (that always makes me think of Jesus Christ rather than Jeremy Carver, because of this http://www.pagetutor.com/jokebreak/061.html !) of including Soulless Sam in the list of Sam’s ‘sins’. Was it a mistake? Did he mean the things Soulless Sam did in the year Sam was still in the Cage – for which Sam FEELS responsible (but is NOT)?

    I do hate it when I snap out of a story…it’s reminds me of one of my favourite books growing up, Dune. In the first chapter, a boy is shown to be able to sense truth when it is spoken. At one point, someone lies to him and it says: “The old woman’s words abruptly lost their special sharpness…” It’s kind of like that…without the truth-sensing! But art is subjective anyway (tho the amount of blood a human mouth could collect from a bite possibly not!), and what is wrong from a storytelling point of view for me, was obviously right for Jeremy Carver…plus I do like your POV: “…it was something much more important. What was twisted were Sam and Dean’s perceptions. Of each other.” So, I managed to ‘handwave’ mostly 🙂

    There were bits in Sacrifice that were pure genius, though.

    • Jared’s acting in that final brother face-off was RIDICULOUSLY good. I’m a DeanGirl, but JP out-acted The Ackles this time – which (in my view) takes some doing! Brilliant, brilliant work Mr Padalecki. You broke my heart.
    • Am not normally a Crowley fan, but I was impressed with MS here. I find Crowley rather one-note, but this was fascinating. Am interested in the implications of that final shot of him, though. It looked more evil than the previous scenes had been.
    • The Megatron as Villain reveal was not completely unexpected (nor was the Cas becoming human), but Curtis Armstrong played it really well. Cool that the Big Bad is a ‘secretary’ who was driven insane by his experience as the Scribe and then loneliness.
    • Final reveal of the angels falling. Superb visual effects – kudos to that team. And to JC for that twist. I so love this show for still being able to surprise me!

    “Finally Dean knows how much Sam needs his approval and faith, as much as his love. Finally Sam knows that Dean believes in him, and how desperately Dean needs him. Perception versus reality: the disconnect between the two is finally erased in that moment.”

    Happy sigh 🙂 Wake me up, when September ends…

    • I do agree that there were issues (especially Dean leaving Sam alone to do the trials, which pulled me out of the moment to scream at my tv…), but there absolutely were many moments of pure genius, from the acting to the plot twists to the amazing visuals.

      Pretty sure you’ll hear the anticipatory squee when S9 is about to begin – but check back here for interviews and articles to keep us all amused until September! 🙂

      • My only thought on the Dean leaving Sam alone to do the Crowley trial is that as we saw the week before, Dean admitted to the Priest that he had the utmost faith the Sam would be able to do this and that he’d seem Sam do things recently that he never thought possible, so perhaps it was just as simple as having faith in his brother. Needing an explanation, that’s the one I’ve floated back to.

        There had to be some type of catalyst to pull Dean away, so that the Sam-Crowley scenes could be that one-on-one that they needed to be…and then all leading up to Dean’s angsty and intensly emotional return to save his brother.

      • I didn’t really have a problem with Dean leaving Sam and calming drinking a beer because of the circumstances under which he left. First, he thought Cas was completing the trials to close heaven off too. We all know how much Dean detests the angels, so of course he’d want to go help with that. Second, Sam asked him to go. Sam wanted (read: needed) to prove to Dean, and even to a certain extent himself, that he could complete these trials. Dean wanted to show Sam that he had faith in him, so he went. Finally, and most importantly for me, Dean felt like Crowley was locked down so tightly that he couldn’t possibly hurt/get to Sam. They had him chained up with the Super Special Demon Chains and since the process was supposed to cure Crowley, I gathered that Dean felt fairly secure leaving Sam there with Crowley. I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t really have a problem with that part of the story.

  • I do think Dean notices when Sam doesn’t appear to return the kind of love Dean has.

    Of course he does! All those things hurt him really bad. It’s one of the reasons he lashes out now and again and that makes people say “Dean was being unfair to say that” – like for example the soulless-thing.
    He HURTS. And as a human, when you’re hurt you bury it and try to forget it, go on with your life and try to overcome the wrongs you got done – be it on purpose or be it as an accident.
    But you cannot bury that kind of thing all the time – now and again, it will rear up and throw the pain at you, and you lash out and FORCE IT DOWN THE THROAT of your brother. You don’t want to really hurt them, but damn, yes, right then, you want to make them feel exactly like you did.
    I don’t know if that’s “normal” for people – it’s normal in my eyes, and I’m human (as far as I know 😉 ) and I tend to be that way.
    I don’t carry a grudge – but I don’t forget those things. And sometimes, they come back and kick me, and I kick back.

    But even though he always gets hurt again and again by those things (and Sam can cut him like a pro with his words), he knows that Sam’s not like him. He’s always known that Sam chooses differently – he always did, all through his life, and it never diminished Dean’s love.
    Someone above said that’s a parent-thing, and I think that’s a pretty good summary of his feelings.
    And if Dean’s the parent, Sam’s the child. And as hard as that thing is for parents, children grow up, make different choices. And the parent lets them (I’m thinking ideal parent here, I know there are bad examples) and still loves them. Even if their choices hurt the parent, or make them feel inadequate or unloved. The still love their child.

    Most parents would still love their child if he/she murdered someone. they might cut ties (understandable!) but I’m not sure if you can stop loving your child. Really stop. Not sit at home and cry for the child you watched grow up, not remember the things that were, the good times. Not wondering what the hell they did wrong to let it end as it did.
    I’m really not sure if that’s possible. I’m not a parent, so maybe someone who is could answer that.

    As for the rest you said, I don’t know what Carver and co want the brothers to be like. I think that it IS healthy for Sam to want something different. As it would be for Dean. I just don’t think it’s possible, and that Sam’s reaching for stars out of his reach. After all he’s seen and done – can you really go back to being “Normal”? Dean clearly decided that he can’t, he tried and failed. Sam… he tried, but he didn’t exactly fail. He chose something else – for the moment. Leaving Dean clear that he’ll probably or maybe one day decide to again cut ties.
    And Dean? He’ll take as long as he can, if that means having Sam around. He cuts his ties with Benny – not Cas, because Sam thinks of Cas as a friend (Why? Cas nearly killed him? It’s one of the great mysteries…) and also (that will sound unkind, but still:) he thinks Cas is useful on their side.
    Or maybe because Cas is so much like Sam – always trying to make things right, and always failing. Failing the goal and failing his friends. Yeah… I think that might be the main reason, though so far, we didn’t get any confirmation for my theory.

    As I said, not sure what Carver wants the boys to be like. But I’m sure that their bond still IS a well of nourishment and power. You saw that this episode – Sam decided against shutting the gates, because Dean begged him to do it. Not out of duty did Sam decide – out of love. And Dean begged him not out of right/wrong – just because he loves him.

    And yeah… maybe Dean’s love IS a little toxic. At least for him, I think it is. I don’t doubt that Sam loves his brother, but if he always equated love with accomplishment and acknowledgement of his virtues (as I wrote above in a response), he won’t get that there is no “only if” in Dean’s love. I hope he gets that now.
    Dean loves Sam.
    And even if he does stupid things, Dean will continue to love him. He might be pissed and angry and snarky and throw those things back at Sam – but he will still love him.
    I fear that all this time, Sam thought that this love is based on what he does, what he accomplishes, if he lets someone (Dean) down. Probably has to do with their upbringing, probably ties in with “it’s why I always got the extra cookie” 😉

    So,… sorry for the ramble. 😉

    What I wanted to say basically is that: all those things we saw this season and this show are human traits. They aren’t divine, they don’t forgive everything, they might hold grudges and fight and hit each other.
    But they do love the other, and all of those things make them human and truer and more real than any character I’ve found on TV yet.

    • It’s a lovely response! I love discussion on this. My take on Dean having to accept that Sam will never offer him the kind of acknowledgement of the place in his life that Dean offers him, and that Dean needs to just be grateful for what Sam does give, while making sure to satisfy all Sam’s emotional needs, is that for Dean, the relationship is not a place of power and nourishment. It’s something he needs to re-evaluate, because while parents don’t ever stop loving their kids, the relationship does change as the children grow older. If it doesn’t, there’s a problem. Sam’s now thirty, and though their relationship definitely carries the effects of Dean helping to raise Sam, they are brothers and hopefully friends, and Dean is allowed to have needs.

      The issue I have is not that I don’t recognise these traits and relationship ills; it’s that I do. A relationship where one party will go against his core values and cut off his other friends to prove to the other party he is always number one, while not expecting his own needs to be important is not one that makes me think that relationship is in good shape.

      And I doubt that Carver meant this to be the takeway message. So it matters to me half of the necessary discussion between the two didn’t take place, especially since Dean’s hurt opened the season. Maybe there will be more next season, but I’ve not been impressed with the way this writing team handles past canon.

      However, so much of the finale did work for me, I will wait and see where everything goes. Love both these boys and looking forward to next season. (-:

    • I think that was me about Dean and Sam’s relationship being sometimes more parental than brother, because of how much caretaking Dean did when they lost their mother so young (and essentially lost their father to revenge as well). It may not be healthy in the stereotypical sense, but it’s compelling – in fact, I like my fictional characters flawed enough to be that compelling, but I also like them to make sense. Dean and Sam made sense to me the way Carver wrote them in this episode, and that leaves me pretty damny happy 🙂

      • Yup, I think we both agree Dean’s feelings about Sam have parental overtones and that’s always been important in their relationship. I guess where we disagree is on the impact Sam’s desire for what he sees as a real life has on the relationship.

        Sam is no longer a child, which is a position Sam pushed for very hard this season, He told Dean he had to envision a life where Sam is not number one, as that is what he was able to do about Dean. If Sam’s desire for a real life is still where he is emotionally, then I can’t feel warm and fuzzy about Dean telling Sam he will always put Sam number one. It’s too one way a relationship and unhealthy in a way that goes against the core of Supernatural in my opinion. And even mother/child relationships do have to evolve in adulthood past the mother putting all her own needs aside to meet her child’s needs, for the good of everyone concerned.

        We had so much on the table this season about how Sam’s decisions impacted Dean, in regard to not looking for him, seeing Amelia or a life like that as more real than hunting with Dean, and forcing Dean to go against his core values in cutting off Benny. It doesn’t make sense to me to end the season without getting any real exploration. Still love the Sam POV, but why not allow his POV to include his recognition his insecurities have impacted Dean in a way he didn’t intend as much as vice versa?

    • “I fear that all this time, Sam thought that this love is based on what he does, what he accomplishes, if he lets someone (Dean) down. Probably has to do with their upbringing, probably ties in with “it’s why I always got the extra cookie” ;-)”

      Don’t you think that at the heart of things, Sam’s understanding of love is rather like Dean’s. Dean doesn’t see any value in himself, only in his care of Sam, and of the others he’s saved. Sam apparently sees himself in a very similar way despite being so very different in his overt outlook. His yardstick appears to be Dean’s opinion of him as he sees it, and he sees it through his own definitely not rose colored glasses. At the bottom of things, what we are dealing with is two hopelessly scarred individuals, who have such poor self esteem that they can only measure their worth by the way someone else sees them.

      And if they are no longer together, they both will fall.

      • What you say here is so true. Sam and Dean are probably TOO co-dependent on each other, but, given how they have lived their lives, what else can we expect? Who said they were even erotically co-dependent? One of their angel enemies? Sam and Dean have needed and depended upon each other since the day John thrust baby Sam into Dean’s arms as their mother burned to death on the ceiling! Sam escaped the life, very briefly, when he attended college, but Azazel made sure he returned by murdering Jessica, forcing Sam back into hunting and back with Dean.

        Let’s face it, Dean was Sam’s mother, father, bother–EVERYTHING!–his entire life, and the very thought that he might have disappointed him even once would have devastated him! But more than once? Unthinkable! Punishable by death! Certainly Sam would sacrifice his own measly life for that of the many and make Dean proud!

        But Dean loves his baby brother above all others, always has, always will! There is no one on earth more important to him than his Sammy, his beautiful brother! Sure, he’s made mistakes–Ruby, not telling him he had returned from hell for a year, freeing Lucifer–but screw all that–I love my brother without reservation, no matter what! I will hug him tightly and assure him of that until he believes me, damn it!

        I am not a fan of Wincest, but I completely understand the roots of that fan fiction. Two über-handsome brothers, alone much of the time, battling creepy monsters, traveling around a lot. . .I get it. Love, Robin

      • No Dean wasn’t everything to Sam and no the way Sam is is not due to upbringing. I don’t know how many serial killers were raised by loving, compassionate parents and still turned out to be monsters. Before Sam fans freak I’m not calling Sam either a monster or serial killer just making a point. Manson, Bundy, Gacy. I don’t know how many times a neighbor interviewed after a serial killer is caught is astounded by the news. They lived next door to these guys, etc. and if they’re to be believed the guy never did anything to set off the persons fight or flight mode. These people raised in decent homes and yet look what they did. If Sam had been raised in a normal happy home by his parents it’s very likely he would end up just as he is.

  • Perfect Review!

    I have watery eyes just remembering each of the lines of the brothers, and the great performance that Jensen, Jared and Crowley did, … Obviously, I agree with you in every aspect, … Needless to say, obviously i’m going to view the episode again (or entire season)…

    Obviously,… I really cant wait for season 9,…

  • Thank you so much for your review! What you have written is so insightful and tender. Your love of this Show and its characters beams through every word. You really should consider writing as a career! : ))
    I have read your comments several times, because they are helping me look at that spectacular story from many different angles. Do you really think the boys will take to heart what they said to each other? Do you really think they will learn and grow from their confessions? Can they really let all that hurt go? To do so would take many more conversations that I would LOVE to see in s9! Do you really think the early-season storylines are done, with no more ramifications? I’m not convinced of any of these things. I guess I am willing to let go of some of my hopes for explanations, but it would be easier to do so if I was blatanly told “move on, forget about it!” by the writers. Am I being hopeful or entrenched? For now, it doesn’t matter to me. I loved everything about this episode….and your wonderful review.

  • Sally-going by on air Dean didn’t do it and just because that’s how Sam sees it doesn’t mean that it makes what Sam did/said right or ok in any way.
    Fritz it doesn’t explain why Sam didn’t look. After Dean died Sam did everything to bring him back. Yet without a body he shrugs and moves on?!
    Kelios Sam didn’t hear when Dean told him the same thing for the last 7 years yet he finally hears him in S8 finale?!
    Fool- Dean didn’t leave Sam behind. Sam told him to go. The guys had gone different ways to work on a job. They in the past haven’t needed to be in the same room at the same time 24/7 to get a job done so why would they in S8 finale?

    Regardless of how Sam felt about himself that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to indulge himself in the behavior he did this past season. Smacks too much of Days where nobody is responsible for anything they do except the villian Stefano Dimera. They dismiss everything up to and including murder is it’s not their fault it’s Stefano’s fault. No Stefano may have tweaked them but they chose like Sam chose to do what they did.

  • Beautiful review. I might add the the viewers’ perception of Sam and Dean has been played with beautifully by the show runner for most of the episodes as well. Many folks commented that Sam seems out of character this season. It seems to all fit for me now. better. Even before Sam knew Dean was back, he left Amelia for the cabin. Amelia made him take responsibility for the dog and thus started the I gotta take responsibility and do the right thing thinking for Sam. When he goes to the cabin in 8.1, I would like to believe it is because after the shock of losing Dean again, and finally being able to assess his life, he goes to the cabin to sort things out. Voila, Dean is there and he makes the choice to temporarily go back into the family business and help shut the gates of Hell-to make up for the disapointments he thinks he has created. In other episodes, he is asked what he wants such as children, and he has not sorted it all out yet, but is looking for that balance. Every tough set him back on his heels line delivered by Dean to Sam this season helped to add to Sam’s perception that he always disappoints Dean. When Dean returns from Purgatory, he talks about the purity of the hunt there and therefore we should have perceived better how many shades of grey there are for humans, but we were distracted by so much other material in our line of sight. The acting performances that last few episodes culminating in the finale top notch…again both delivering lines and reacting to them. The line”so?” by Sam summed up what he thought was OOC for Sam. He has been carrying around a heavy emotional load.The art direction,script, camera angels, music. Of course they had me with Carry on- and what a beautiful montage of”Then”. Dean even says “Carry ON” to Sam before the confessional. At the end, I just sat and had to breathe; sleep did not come easy. I had to wait a day and then 2 days after that to watch for details I may have missed and to watch the beauty of SPN. The show is about the sibling relationship. Always has been, always will be. I’ve been with the show from the pilot, so (yes I know it is fictional) the Winchesters are family. The show has so many ways to go now.

    • Well said. And yes, we do know the show is fictional, but that doesn’t blunt its real life power in all our lives. They — and all of us — are family 🙂

  • I’m coming a little late to comment in here, but I have to say, I just read your review and all the comments and replies and I’m taken aback at how you take my own thoughts and feelings and put them into words in a way I myself couldn’t do it. I guess this is why we all love this show so much, because it doesn’t end after the 42 minutes or so that the episode lasts. It keeps us thinking, feeling, discovering, understanding and learning over and over. Sam and Dean and the people around them bring to our lives so much more than just entertainment. They help us understand and appreciate things and people in our own lives. That’s one of the reasons we love them so much, because no matter how sci-fi the show is, they are so real, so believable and so close-to-home that we can’t help it but to care about them as our own. I am also happy and proud and consider myself fortunate to be a part of this. I’ve been following you ever since I found out about you and I surely hope to keep coming back for more in S9. Cheers!

    • Yes. It does hit close to home.Just like when someone in your own family disappoints you, because we are all flawed and make decisions that sometimes have unforeseen consequences, or say something with good intent but with resulting bad impact, we still come back to family. We say things that might set loved ones back on their heels sometimes, but the love is there even if sometimes the like is not. This little engine we call SPN has always been about family relationships and how they can dysfunction or be really tender: Dean and Sam, Cas and his angelic brothers, Lucifer and Michael, Lilith and her children, Vamps protecting their nests, Bobby and many connections,against a backdrop of saving people, hunting things. The story may be sci fi but the emotions are believable. We almost always come back to family.

  • Just reading the conversation between the brothers made me cry. You know it’s good when the writing alone can do that…. and the acting just blew my mind. I thought it was on par with the scene of Dean first talking about hell to Sam. Mark Sheppard also knocked it out of the park, absolutely perfect.

  • Even thinking about that final scene brings tears to my eyes. Their relationship with each other – though fictional – is envious in itself. I’ll never forget the final episode of season 3 when Dead is in hell and the final word he screams out in agony is his own brother’s name. Oh great. I’m tearing up again. FYI, I’m a girl and I’m emotional.
    Anyway, your blog is fantastic, and I love the interviews with the cast. Brilliant.

    • Then the show/actors are doing great by getting us to emote. Hear the name Sam or Dean and get that behavioral response? It is part of the addiction to the show whose ratings grew this year after 8 seasons-someone must be watching it? Even my male friends have a reaction when they hear certain anthems played. Some do a Sam shoulder roll or take a breathe, others adjust a body part or cast a whimsical Dean look- although they tend to not react verbally or acknowledge the why. If SPN talks to some part of you, then you automatically have a reaction. It is part of what I call being possessed/addicted/appreciative of the body of work know as Supernatural. Carry On!

      • The show changed my music preferences (I now listen to ACDC and Kansas religiously) and I’m comparing guys to Sam and Dean. You’re completely right, it has had such an influence on the fans. I hope they carry on for a very long time!

      • I think if we are to compare guys to Sam and Dean, it’s gonna be very difficult for anyone to live up to any of them. They are just so awesome!

      • Back in my youth I did listen to AC/DC and Kansas, but left the harder rock to my brother. Glad I am getting another chance to experience this era-lovely sense memory. What music does Sam like to listen to? Air Supply’s All out of Love? Bon Jovi?Asia, ? Driver picks the tunes, shot gun shuts his cake hole. But if Sam could choose. hmmm?

      • You’re right. We know what Sam likes to eat instead of cheeseburgers, but not so much what music he likes. What was playing on the Impala when Dean came back from hell? Sam had attached an ipod jack to it and Dean just got rid of it on the spot. That was full on Sam’s music, but I wasn’t able to identify the song.

  • I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to find this site. I just happened to stumble across it while linking from other SPN pages and sites! I have been reading all night. I absolutely love this page. Everyone seems so sincere and truly fans of the show. This is my first ever post as a fan of a tv show, especially one I just obsessed with! I’m looking forward to continuing catching up with previous articles, comments and posts. But I am really looking forward to having a place that I can come to during Season 9 and discuss with new folks.

    I’m looking forward to Season 9 sending sharing thoughts and input, and also your book coming out soon. I guess I’m officially a SPN fangirl out and proud!

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