OMG You Shot Your Brother! Supernatural 1.10 Asylum

Asylum is a pivotal episode – I feel like I’m saying this about every Season 1 episode as we do this rewatch, but it’s true! It’s also the perfect time to post this rewatch review, because I just finished posting an interview with the episode’s director, Guy Norman Bee. This is his favorite episode of all the many Supernatural episodes he’s directed, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s beautifully directed, gorgeous to look at, and deft in its exploration of the growing tension between the Winchesters.

It’s also one of the scary episodes, which Season 1 had a lot of. Just the idea of a deserted dark asylum with a disturbing history is scary enough, but Serge Ladouceur’s brilliant cinematography and Jerry Wanek’s set design make it even creepier. The episode starts out with the Asylum’s Keep Out sign and cops realizing that some local teenagers have ignored it. The place is apparently haunted with the ghosts of the abused patients, and if you spend the night, the spirits will drive you insane.

Of course, that has never stopped adolescents.

The cops explore by flashlight.

Cop #1: Let’s split up.

All of us watching: MISTAKE!

The first cop ends up in the boiler room because of course he does, and finds the kids – the requisite horror movie false alarm. Meanwhile, cop #2’s flashlight goes out and that is never a good sign.

Then a door opens by itself – also not a good sign.

Sure enough, cop #2 goes home to his wife and blows her away.

Meanwhile, the Winchesters. Sam calls around – and we hear names that will become familiar, like Caleb and Pastor Jim – but no one has heard from their Dad.

Sam: Maybe we should call the Feds…

Dean says no, Dad would be pissed if they did.  Sam is angry, though, saying he could be dead for all they know. Dean insists he isn’t, but that leaves Sam even more frustrated.

Sam: So, he’s what? Hiding? Busy?

Touche, Sam.

Dean’s phone rings at that moment, and he smiles – it’s a text message with coordinates, which means John Winchester is alive. In fact, the place he’s sending them, the Roosevelt Asylum, has an entry in John’s journal.

Sam: This is a job. Dad wants us to work a job.

He’s bitter, resentful that their father is ignoring them and staying away, but makes contact just to send them on a mission. He seems more drill sergeant than dad, and Sam isn’t willing to gloss over it like Dean is.

Dean: Maybe he’s there…

Sam: Maybe he’s not…

This episode is written by someone who I think was a one time writer, Richard Hatem. He gets the complicated dynamic that’s already there between Dean and Sam though, as Dean retorts that their Dad wants them there, and “that’s good enough for me.”

It is not, however, good enough for Sam. And that’s becoming increasingly obvious. Sam goes along, but not all that willingly.

The Winchesters pull a rather brilliant good cop/bad cop thing on the actual cop whose partner died, which works like a charm. It involves Sam giving the asshole reporter (Dean) from the Chicago Tribune a shove and telling him “hey buddy, why don’t you show the guy a little respect”.

After they leave, Dean turns to Sam.

Dean: Shoved me kinda hard in there, Buddy Boy.

Sam: Had it sell it. Method acting.

Dean doesn’t really buy that and neither do we. There are resentments brewing between the brothers that are about to come to a head, and that too-hard shove was just the beginning.

Oh, and there’s another location that I’ve been to in Vancouver – the Terminal Pub! Which I think is not there anymore, like so many locations of fifteen years ago. They returned to this location for “The Magnificent Seven” too. I’m so glad I visited when I could.

Back to the episode. But first, we get a badass fence flip.

I think this is it? Mesmerizing, isn’t it?

The Winchesters find out from Dad’s journal that the South Wing of the Roosevelt Asylum is where bad things are happening over the years. Apparently the place has been chained up for a while so the deaths stopped, but recently – as in all good horror movies – someone broke the chain. As the Winchesters and their flashlights explore the dark Asylum, Dean tries to break the growing tension between him and Sam (and his discomfort with Sam’s ESP) with joking.

Dean: Hey Sam, who’s a hotter psychic? Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Love Hewitt – or you?

Sam whacks him on the head from behind.

Dean: Let me know if you see dead people, Haley Joel. Ghosts are attracted to that whole ESP thing.

He finally gives that up with a muttered, “Yeah, whatever, don’t ask don’t tell” which is how he’s feeling about Sam’s visions. He wants to know, but he doesn’t.

Dean tries humor again once they’re inside to smooth things over, doing his best Jack Nicholson Cuckoo’s Nest impression, but it again falls flat with Sam. There’s a flash of hurt on Dean’s face before he covers it up, and Ackles makes it hurt to see it.

Sam finally snaps.

Sam: Dean, when are we gonna talk about it? About the fact that Dad’s not here.

Dean says never, that Dad’s given them an order.

Sam: So what, we have to always follow it?

Dean: Of course we do!

He adds, “that attitude right there? That’s why I always get the extra cookie.”

I feel bad for Dean, because he’s trying so hard. But Sam is also right. Dean’s perhaps initially secure attachment to his parents was destroyed when his mother died violently, and further impacted when his father was too overwhelmed to care for him, putting too many expectations on his firstborn way too young and not shielding him for very long from the monsters out there. Dean ended up with an insecure attachment and all the anxiety about relationships that come with that. Sam, on the other hand, had Dean. He had someone whose priority was to protect him and make him feel safe, so Sam grew up with a more secure attachment – and that means he’s not afraid to question his dad or his brother or anyone else. He knows he can count on Dean’s love and protection, and that allows him the space to be independent – to be a young twenty-something doing what’s developmentally appropriate for young twenty-somethings.

The gap between the two of them, and the way they see the world, at this point is striking. Also? That asylum set is super creepy. No clue why they’d have a dismembered doll lying around but it sure adds to the scary!

The Winchesters find an old nameplate of Sanford Ellicott MD before they leave, and more research ensues – Sam makes an appointment to see Ellicott’s son, also a psychiatrist. He tries to get Dr. Ellicott Jr. to talk about the incident in the South Wing, but the doc insists they’re there to talk about Sam. What has he been doing?

Sam: I’ve been on a road trip…with my brother… we’ve met a lot of…interesting people…done a lot of…interesting things…

I laughed out loud. I mean, that’s true, technically.

Eventually, after more questions about the Asylum riot, the doc gets serious.

Doc: Cut the bull. You’re avoiding the subject. You tell me something honest about yourself first – this brother you’re roadtripping with, how do you really feel about him?

Now there’s a loaded question – and the theme of the episode, neatly packaged.

Dean waits impatiently outside, perhaps wondering the same thing, and tries to get Sam to tell him what happened in the session.

Sam doesn’t give him (or us) any personal information about what he admitted to the doctor, but they now know that the patients rioted and took over the Asylum, killing Dr. Ellicott. His body and others were never recovered for some odd reason. Horror movie trope strikes again.

Sam and Dean head back to the Asylum that night to salt and burn the bodies, but they’re not the only ones. A guy and girl break in – going on the world’s worst date. Gavin is kind of a jerk, eager to explore and ignoring his date’s reluctance. When they separate, a girl who he thinks is his girlfriend walks in and grabs him for a kiss, but then he hears his girlfriend outside the room calling for him and realizes – that is not her!

Sam and Dean, armed with flashlights and EMF meter and salt guns, look for those unrecovered bodies to burn them. As the boys walk through the dark, we see a truly creepy ghost flickering under a table. The sense of danger is palpable as Sam and Dean keep walking, Sam looking for ghosts through a camera.

He turns around and there’s a ghost in the video right on top of him.

Sam: Dean! Saltgun!

Dean: Sam, get down!

Big brother to the rescue! He blasts her away, but Sam is confused – she didn’t attack him or try to hurt him, and he wonders what she wanted. They hear something hidden behind an overturned bed, and horror movie fake out again, it’s Kathryn, who has had it with Gavin.

Kathryn: My boyfriend thought it would be fun trying to see some ghosts. I thought it was all pretend, but I’ve seen things… I heard Gavin scream…

She still refuses to leave without him though, so they split up, Dean with Kathryn.

Dean: Seen a lot of horror movies? Next time you see one, pay attention. When someone says the place is haunted, don’t go in!

Hehehe

Guy Bee’s direction is wonderful throughout, the scary scenes full of tension and truly creepy, and the little bits of humor perfectly rendered.

Sam finds Gavin, who says that he saw a ghost girl who kissed him.

Sam: But she didn’t hurt you physically?

Gavin: Dude she kissed me, I’m scarred for life. She whispered something in my ear and I ran like hell.

Understandable, honestly.

As Dean and Kathryn keep looking for Gavin, Dean’s flashlight suddenly goes out (uh oh) so he lights his lighter. Kathryn gets grabbed and pulled into a room, the door slammed shut. Dean tries to pry it open but can’t manage it, when Sam shows up — and tells her to calm down and listen to it, that it’s not gonna hurt her.

Sam: You’ve gotta face it.

Kathryn (who I kinda love): YOU face it!

She does, though, and then the door unlocks and opens. She tells them that it whispered in her ear: 137

Sam and Dean in unison: Room number.

All of us in unison: Winsync!

Dean goes to find Room 137 while Sam takes Gavin and Kathryn outside.

Kathryn: Why would you do a job like this?

Sam: I had a crappy guidance counselor…

Unfortunately the ghosts don’t want them to leave, as Sam finds out when all the doors are locked.

Dean searches Room 137, finding a panel loose in the wall and reaching in (EWWWW) to find a satchel.

Dean: This is why I get paid the big bucks…

It’s an old journal, splattered with blood.

Dean: All work and no play makes Dr. Ellicott a very dull boy…

Shout out to Guy Bee’s direction and Serge Ladouceur’s gorgeous lighting throughout these darkly lit scenes. I love the look of the first season, so dark and moody and creepy. I miss it in the later ones.

Sam picks up his phone and it’s Dean asking him to come down to the boiler room, which sounded suspicious even before I knew it was indeed suspicious. Sam asks if either of the teenagers can handle a shotgun (of rocksalt) and Gavin looks incredulous.

Kathryn: I can.

He leaves them with Kathryn armed and goes down to the boiler room, looking for his brother. The door opens on its own and Sam walks in anyway, because he’s Sam Effing Winchester. We see a shadowy figure moving behind him, behind a curtain. Sam throws it back, but there’s nothing there. Horror movie fake out again!

He turns around and is grabbed by the very creepy ghost of Dr. Ellicott, who says “don’t be afraid, I’m gonna make you all better…”

This seems….unlikely.

Meanwhile Kathryn to Gavin: If we make it outta here alive, we are so breaking up.

Dean finds them and she almost shoots him. They tell him that Sam went to the basement after Dean called him.

Dean: I didn’t call him.

Uh oh.

Dean, alarmed, goes to the boiler room, calling “Sammy? Sam?”

Sam appears out of nowhere, insisting he’s all right and lying, saying he hasn’t seen Dr. Ellicott.

All of us: Yeah, this is not good.

Dean says Ellicott was experimenting on patients, working some extreme rage therapy thinking if patients vent their anger, they’d be cured. So his spirit is doing the same thing, making them so angry they become homicidal (with the implication that some anger was there already, as with the cop and his wife who had been having an argument earlier).  Dean says they need to find Ellicott’s bones and burn them, and starts searching for the hidden procedure room where he worked on patients. Sam stays oddly still, not really helping, and that, again, is not good.

Dean: You feel that? (a draft) There’s a door here.

Sam: (ominously) Dean. Step back from the door.

His nose is bleeding.

Uh oh.

Dean: Sam, put the gun down.

Sam: Is that an order? Because I’m getting pretty tired of taking your orders. For once in your life, just shut your mouth.

Sam is scary, practically spitting with rage. Dean points out that the saltgun that’s pointed at him won’t kill him, still trying for cocky although Sam’s words have clearly cut him. Sam fires, and Dean collapses to the floor.

Sam (standing over him): No, but it’ll hurt like hell.

Me the first time I saw this episode: OMG HE SHOT HIS BROTHER!!!

Dean’s not giving up, still trying to get through to Sam, saying they have to burn the bones and get back to normal as he tries to catch his breath, but Sam’s not having it.

Sam: I am normal, I’m just telling the truth for first time. ‘Cause you follow dad’s orders like a good little soldier.

The contempt in Sam’s voice is absolutely chilling. It hurts me to hear it, thinking what it must be doing to Dean.

Dean: This isn’t you talking, Sam.

It’s what Dean desperately needs to believe – it’s too painful to think that’s how Sam really feels about him.

Sam: I’m not pathetic like you. I’m sick of doing what you’re telling me to do. We’re no closer to finding Dad.

Dean looks anguished, lying on the floor with the breath knocked out of him by Sam’s saltgun blast and even more, by his words. He looks up at his brother.

Dean: Well then, here, I’ll make it easier for you.

He holds out his actual gun, and the first time I watched this episode, I was SCREAMING. Is Dean so hurt by what Sam said that he’s suicidal? Not wanting to live if that’s how his brother really sees him?

Dean: Take it. Real bullets will work a helluva lot better than rock salt.

Sam raises the pistol, holds it on Dean.

Dean: (anguished) You hate me that much. You can kill your own brother? Then go ahead, pull the trigger.

Looking at the hurt on his face, I can believe that if Dean thought Sam really hated him, he might not be able to stand it.

Sam hesitates.

Me the first time I watched this episode: He won’t do it, no way will he do it.

Dean: Do it!

Sam fires, and I still gasp, even though I know what’s going to happen.

There are no bullets in the gun, and the distraction gives Dean time to tackle Sam and overpower him because Dean Winchester in Season 1 is smart like that.

Dean: I’m not gonna give you a loaded pistol.

He punches Sam in the face and knocks him out.

Dean: Sorry, Sammy.

I was so upset by this scene when I first saw it, and even now, knowing that Sam and Dean ultimately stick together and always end up working things out, it hits hard and makes me sad. Maybe even moreso now that we know how much Dean doubted that Sam really wanted him around, that he half expected that Sam would tell him “to get lost…or get dead.”  This scene was so close to what he feared back then, and Sam pulling that trigger must have reinforced all Dean’s doubts and fears. He desperately needed Sam to stay and search for Dad with him, and it hurts so much to see the times when that fear and desperation weren’t based on nothing.

Dean Winchester is seriously such a badass, though, because he takes that in stride (at least outwardly) and goes right back to searching for Ellicott’s body, while the doc’s ghost keeps walking by behind him, scary as hell.

He finally notices some hair sticking out of an old cabinet (which apparently incompetent police didn’t find when this all went down) and opens it to find Ellicott’s decomposing body crammed into it.

Dean: Oh, that’s just gross….

He salts it, and his flashlight goes out. Uh oh.

He pours lighter fluid on it, gagging (an Ackles adlib perhaps?)  Ellicott attacks him from behind, grabbing his head like he did Sam’s and telling him the same creepy “Don’t be afraid, I’m going to help you, make you all better…”

Dean reaches for his lighter, finally manages to grab it and light it up, torching the body. It goes up in flames and Ellicott’s ghost disintegrates.

Sam comes to, rubbing his chin.

Dean: You’re not gonna try and kill me, are you?

Sam: No.

Dean: Good, because that would be awkward. No more asylums, okay?

Dean again tries to make light of what just happened, but that’s not Sam’s way of dealing.

Sam: Hey Dean, I’m sorry, man. I said some awful things back there. It’s like I couldn’t control it, but I didn’t mean it.

Dean looks skeptical: You didn’t, huh?

Sam: No, of course not. Do we need to talk about this?

This time it’s Dean who shuts the conversation down. He’s more hurt than he’s letting on, clearly.

Dean: No, I’m not really in the sharing caring kinda mood. I just wanna get some sleep.

Avoidance at its best; it’s something Dean is good at a lot of the time. Not always, he’s way too multifaceted for that and he cares too much. But sometimes. I think this time he was genuinely shocked and hurt by what Sam said to him, and that Sam actually pulled that trigger. I remember feeling shocked too, and hurt on Dean’s behalf. I was already invested in the brothers’ relationship and I hated that Sam was able to actually shoot him – with what he thought was a real loaded gun! I get that was the point of the episode, that the crazy doc compelled them to do that, but I like to think that the Winchesters will always be the exception, like they eventually were with Chuck’s plan to get them to do something like that.

Not this time.

The brothers crash at a motel, getting some much needed sleep, when Dean’s phone rings. A sleepy Sam picks it up, opens the phone…

… and sits up, suddenly wide awake.

Sam: Dad?

What a flipping great ending!

Also, why does Dean never sleep shirtless ever again??

This was an amazing episode. I always end the rewatches in awe of just how good this little show is, and unspeakably grateful that we got fifteen seasons of it.

Be sure to check out our chat with director Guy Bee here on the blog, and stay tuned for more episode reviews, interviews, photo essays and news as we keep on celebrating Supernatural Spring Break!

— Lynn

You can read the actors’ thoughts on the

show and Supernatural’s legacy in their

chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood

and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done.

Links on the home page or at

peacewhenyouaredone.com

 

 

59 thoughts on “OMG You Shot Your Brother! Supernatural 1.10 Asylum

  • Ah good old Riverview (it had a lot of nicknames when I was growing up) such a great (not for Jared & Jensen) location. It made such a creepy set.
    The first time I watched this episode-quite a few years ago- I was struck by all the differences in Sam and Dean. In later seasons, it was the opposite.
    Dean was very much the no hugs, no close talks, no caring or sharing type (because of John) and it’s interesting how much he changed in later seasons.
    Sam clearly didn’t hero worship dad like Dean and as he said (very cruelly) he had a mind of his own. At this time-as you said- he didn’t appreciate his brother (and others) who allowed that. Sam also wasn’t strong enough to block the Dr. from shooting Dean, which I know, would also change in later seasons.

    It reminds me of a movie called Session 9 which was filmed at Danvers State Hospital. Creepy location, asylum, and the effects on people there.

    • On a related (sort of) note. Lynn would probably know this. Do you think that Sam’s inner anger is related to anger at his dad because he never got a “normal ” life? It seems that Dean took John’s side and he’s there-John isn’t.

      • I think Sam absolutely resents that, and all the many ways their childhoods were both ‘different’ and stressful. Dean was perceived as in league with John, and a replacement parental figure himself, so without John there to be angry at, Dean gets the brunt of it. Ouch.

    • I’m loving doing this rewatch because it is so interesting to see where the boys started from now that we know where they’ll end up – and who they’ll end up

  • Great recap/analysis. Yes, the differences and the tensions between the boys were always there. And I, too, wonder at the relative paucity of shirtless Dean throughout the series.

    • Right? I mean, you gave it to us right from the start and then, what? Dean decided he had to sleep with more on? lol

      • On a practical filming level , possibly the tattoo was an issue?
        From a story point if view, my head canon is the clothes were additional layers of protection to hide inside as things got worse for them. Dean felt the need to armour himself emotionally against anyone daring to climb inside his walls, so I saw the layers of clothing as an extension of that armour.

      • I like your inside-the-box explanation. Here is a possible outside-the-box explanation; starting around Season Six, I believe, the actor was a married man IRL and perhaps preferred to be less exposed for that reason?

      • That occurred to me as well, if so , good for Jensen for asserting his wishes.
        I kinda like my “box inside the box” theory because if you go back over the entirety of the show clothing is a very good barometer for Dean’s mental wellness, the leather jacket that was rarely off his back when he was worrying about John or acting in John’s place ( like in After School Special)
        Post Hell he’d sleep fully clothed, sometimes with Dad’s jacket over him for comfort, on the top of the bed ready to roll. When he was happy you’d get one layer, like the Henley or his pyjamas or the Men of letters robe.
        The there’s his nesting apron, which is one of my personal favourites, he’s taking pride in his appearance by protecting his clothes. Subtle queues that tell you so much ( some of which most likely were from Jensen’s understanding of Dean)

  • I loved your anaylsis of the why Dean has such a fear of people leaving him. it makes so much sense. This is a great episode but Sam shooting Dean will always be hard tow watch. I don’t know how they came back from that one. I know the show couldn’t dwell on it and needed to move things along. I dont believe Sam ever hated Dean and it was probably the ghost fueling most the rage, but it still hurts to watch.

    Maybe this was desgined for us to see some of Sam’s dark side?

    • It’s hard for me to watch that too, partly because Ackles just lets you see Dean’s hurt SO clearly and it amps up all my empathy to a thousand percent. I think we’re supposed to believe that it’s the monster making it happen, but knowing there were real feelings of resentment and anger underneath (which Dean clearly knows also) make it painful. And I guess they are anticipating Sam going “dark side” in the narrative too.

      • I recently re-watched Season Eight’s “Southern Comfort” (interesting to me as I thought they portrayed non-urban Missouri, where I once lived, quite accurately) and Dean comes very close to shooting Sam due to the magic coin’s amplifying Dean’s immense hurt that Sam did not redeem him from Purgatory. So I would call this the counterpart to Sam’s almost shooting Dean in Season One’s Asylum. To me, both incidents ground the characters and the show in reality. No matter how much you love/need/depend on someone, there are always disagreements and resentments.

      • Exactly so. Quite often because of their disparate communication styles one would be talking, but the other would not hear the desperate message because they were on different levels. I equate their communication styles to Plate Tectonics, desperate to meet somewhere in the middle but always bumping against each other, each getting under the others core. Sometimes it took supernatural intervention to free them up to be able to communicate.

        It was a slow process, but they got better with time, realigning after each clash until they were able to meet on the middle ground they sought, each able to give a little, each able to allow emotional availability. Sam got better at observing the non verbal queues Dean used habitually, even subconsciously like the beautiful moment in Mint Condition where he gently stirs Dean from his post possession misery without going straight for the raw spot by trying to get him to talk about it,as he might have done in the past and in response to the care Sam provides, Dean used his actual words to talk about his feelings honestly and openly. They came a long long way through these clashes and I think that both benefitted so much from them in the long run, it was definitely a part of them being able to find peace.

        John and the mission kept Dean too firmly tied by the apron strings to the point he was negligent of himself, Sam taught Dean the art of self care and did make a big contribution towards him recognising he needed to make boundaries about what was and was not acceptable to him, Dean found a personal line with support from his brother so that he stood up for his own needs better,even when others didn’t like it. The clashes and arguements were a necessary but painful part of the growth they were both sorely in need of.

  • Oh my goodness, growing pains in this episode…but before I go to that, the beauty of this episode, Serge is an artist with his lighting, Jerry and the team do the most incredible job with the set, it’s absolutely stunning. It is a classic movie set in every sense, gothic horror at its very, very best. The direction was sublime (thank you Guy)
    Did I ever say how very lucky we are? Yes? Well excuse me while I say it again, we are blessed to have had all this.

    On to the story, it was tight, well written and scary and not just because of the haunting, but also due to the fractures in the Winchester Boys resultant from their upbringing and deprivation which are brought into sharp focus as Sam’s issues come to the fore. That is the most scary and edge of the seat stuff this episode. We also got so much smart Dean which always works for me.

    On the surface, no one would doubt Dean is a little damaged and does have some issues, he’s a little feral and on occasion socially inept, he can be a little annoying in failing recognise when a joke is no longer funny . Sam passes for the more healthy emotionally , socially and appears pretty well balanced. In a way, that is, until he’s forced to face the fact that he is not Joe College.
    There was an overdue lack of acknowledgement Sam had his own daddy issues that remained unresolved until much further down the line in the series and he’s in denial that he is just as scared as Dean is by his new powers. Sam’s deflecting, finding other things to focus on, focused on his ( not unreasonable) annoyance at John leading them a dance. Dean( also reasonably) is just relieved that Dad makes contact. Dean is more able to deal with John being John, so he moves past his own irritation quickly in order to get on and work the job, which rankles with Sam who would rather be hot on Dad’s trail.

    When it comes to John , Dean seemed to develope a greater capacity to absorb the blows and move along. Its a thing Dean actually admits to seasons down the line, whatever the losses that they may face, he was going to deal with it, he had to, because Saving People mattered profoundly to Dean. In the early days Dean very much valued what he did and got a profound sense of peace and wellness from it that helped him manage his darker moods, he did it to honour Mary, not for vengeance or because Dad told him to. Dean helped people because he had an innately protective personality, he took away some small measure of self esteem from every life saved that kept the books balanced against the bad things.

    Sam’s outburst and it’s violence shocked Dean , he probsbly didn’t realise that he was mostly the unfortunate recipient of the issues Sam had with John, amped up by a thousand courtesy of Dr Ellicott.
    Perhaps without even realising he was doing it, Sam was projecting his own issues onto his brother. At any given point Sam could have gone his own way, there was nothing actually stopping him (other than perhaps a bit of a codependency, an issue Sam doesn’t own at this point and something which crops up again in later seasons)
    Dean tolerated Sam’s bad mood to a point, which it struck me as repeat pattern behaviour from Dean, trying humour to diffuse and soften Sam, to get around him, like this wasn’t his first rodeo. Dean had a very strong understanding he couldn’t change John or control anything other than the job they were working. In the end, Dean couldn’t even control that and got a chest full of rocksalt for his efforts.

    The angry/ murderous outburst was definitely not typical of Sam’s usual conduct towards Dean, some of it was obviously what the Doctor had done, but the sentiment behind it was emanating from the deeper damage in Sam’s psyche caused by the life they lead, their sad childhood and the residual difficulties of the child / parent relationship he had with his brother and we get to see this play out over the next few episodes.

    At this point Sam’s actions come as very left field for Dean, considering he’d willingly followed Sam’s lead on more that one occasion, Dean didn’t understand what he’d done wrong, going home to Lawrence, he’d faced his very worst nightmare for Sam. He followed Sam’s lead helping Becky and her brother ( in Skin), giving up his honour and good name, plus his anonimity gaining a criminal record as a murderer, making what they do harder, all in order to help Sam out. Even in Phantom Traveller when Sam takes charge Dean does everything he asks, so whilst Dean did habitually take charge and could be bossy, he’d always been willing to listen and in his mind , he’d let Sam take charge, so the accusations thrown in his direction definitely were deeply hurtful, and in many ways, undeserved.
    It’s understandable with this in mind, that Dean was not in a caring sharing mood, all he wanted to do was go (home) and lick his emotional wounds because his brother had just said terrible things to his face, some of which probably put into words the doubts and insecurities he already harboured about himself and he had no idea what to do with that, maybe a part of him believed he deserved what Sam did to him?

    It was a brilliant complex well written episode with so much depth and gives a rare glimpse of what’s going on with Sam, because let’s be honest, Sam is the master of sublimation. It was a nice opportunity to hear what he was thinking, through the series we don’t get enough of that, but here it was very sad , knowing how deeply vulnerable and damaged he was, seeing an angry spirit manipulate him against the person who meant the most to him, a real foreshadowing for how Ruby will take Sam’s vulnerability, weaknesses and hurt to manoeuvre him to do unthinkable things and turn him against his brother.

    • Yes, so agreed. I love that in these early episodes we get so much of BOTH brothers’ perspectives, so we begin to understand where both of them are coming from and how their past shaped them to be who they are. Dean’s big brother almost-parental status with Sam put him in the ideal position to be projected on for all the actual daddy issues that Sam was having, but I think that must have been mystifying for Dean, who had in some ways sacrificed for Sam quite a bit. He’s in the parent role here, because it’s always a little hard for parents to understand that (very developmentally appropriate) rebellion and anger that allows individuation. The Winchesters’ situation is even more complicated!

    • I never understood how people would always say that we didn’t get enough of what Sam was thinking throughout the show when I always found it to be fairly clear. Jared conveyed without Sam having to verbalize.

      • Maybe it’s more the mindset of the person viewing rather than the acting. How we interpret what we’re seeing and how we relate to the motivations ? Perhaps it’s also a bit in the balance of writing too, so a particular story may make one or other Brother the focal point to the detriment of understanding the others pov. That definitely became prevalent in later seasons.

  • I love when you point out things from early seasons that make more sense now or give the scenes more perspective now that we had an ending. A comment on Richard Hatem, he did 2 episodes in Season 1. His first was episode 4 Phantom Traveler but those were the only two. Also in your 9th picture Ii think it was, did you notice Stunt Coordinator Lou Bollo in the background after Sam pushed Dean away from the Sheriff?

    I am enjoying your reviews of all these episodes that you never got to do so before.

    • I’m so enjoying watching with this different perspective – glad you are too! I wonder why the writer didn’t stick around, both those episodes are excellent and he seemed to have a deep grasp of the characters that I would have relished continuing. I didn’t see Lou, good catch! (Also I will forever love how this fandom grew so fond of not just the cast but the crew and writers and directors over the years)

  • “He finally notices some hair sticking out of an old cabinet (which apparently incompetent police didn’t find when this all went down) and opens it to find Ellicott’s decomposing body crammed into it.”

    Weell.. it was also inside a secret laboratory hidden behind a false wall?? 😀

    • I just cracked up reading this because I totally lost sight of that part!!! I just like giving Dean ALL the credit lol

  • I have to admit that this is one of the very few episodes that I sometimes skip during rewatches. Sometimes I feel it is a bit too hurtful to watch the episode. I`m aware that it is great for the plot, but I`m having a hard time watching Sam being willing to shoot or even kill his brother. I know that it has not really been Sam and that he consciously never would do such a thing. But imo the rage was true, that were his real thoughts at that moment. And that is hurtful for me to watch, because it had to be hurtful for Dean. I feel for the characters, in season 1 a lot for Dean and now probably even more after I have seen the finale.

  • Dean got to live the life he wanted by his brothers side, never truly alone for long, he made every second stand for something, did so much good in the world, leaving a huge legacy, he signed off with few regrets, Dean’s needs were simple he got a dog and he was happy, just plodding along, having some fun, feeling safe, Sam was safe, he could stand down , there were times it must have seemed impossible , but Dean never quit , he made that happen

    After the finale, it’s hard not to have sympathy for poor Sam. He not only lost his brother and best friend, he had an awfully long time to reflect on his regrets, the things he could have done differently. It must have been extra hard for Sam that he was unable to properly make good on his promises to take Dean to the light, that Dean remained entrenched in hunting until the end, that they didn’t die together. One can only hope the good memories outweighed the bad and that he was sustained by the time they had together, in the sure and certain knowledge Dean’s love for him was utterly unconditional and without boundaries.
    Sam didn’t know his Mom very well and had an uneasy relationship with his Dad, but he was blessed to have his big brother who was always there for him through the good and the bad, even when he didn’t like it.

    • Marion, I agree with you. Now, I literally cried for three straight hours after the series finale and had to take a sleeping pill to get to sleep (which I hate to do and hardly ever do). I still cry about it sometimes, even now.

      But I, like you, think that Dean “signed off with few regrets.”

      His exact words as part of his dying speech were, “I did not think that it would be today.” He did NOT say that he couldn’t believe it, or that it was unfair, or that he was totally unready. I think Dean had known since Season One (when he “should” have died not once but twice) that he was not destined to live into old age, and he accepted it. Surely he would have liked more time, and probably he would have liked to have died in a bigger, more dramatic sacrificial way. But he died helping save two little boys (like little Sam and Dean), and he did it with Sam by his side.

      The episode is called “Carry On” because that IMHO is the theme of the entire show. Sam had to carry on for decades having lost the person he loved the most in the world — and so likely must we all if we live to be Sam’s age or older. It’s the lesson that the show blessed us with — to always keep fighting and to carry on no matter what.

      • I totally agree with your beautiful summary Mazal HaMidbar I’m certain everything you say is true about Dean’s wishes also.

        Dean accepted the reality and practicality of his chosen profession, like a fire fighter or first responder, there would be inherent dangers , but it was a price he had always been willing to pay. Dean also remained very conscious of the fact his reprieve in “Faith” came at the ultimate price of an innocent unwitting victim, so felt honour bound to use what time he was gifted wisely. I’m not sure, even if he thought it, we ever heard Dean say it’s not fair, he took the good with the bad and made it into something better, he had such capacity to make the most of the smallest things.
        The real world would not get by without people of courage and altruism, like Dean , who earned his place in Heaven the hard way (like pretty much everything in his life)

        Jensen crafted a magnificent, three dimensional uniquely quirky character, with a real lust for life. Jensen succeed in making Dean feel like a real person and he’s certainly the only fictional character ever that I’ve taken to so very quickly ( it was the pilot where he grabbed my attention) and grieved for. The loss is tangible and I think everyone here will agree, we are all having a hard time accepting and coming to terms with the Dean size hole in our hearts, he left such a big gap . However Dean also left behind so much joy, love and laughter, he’d tell us, as he told Sam to “Quit being a freaking Eeyore” and that’s what I tell myself when I’m sad.

      • Absolutely. And it’s a beautiful, powerful, much needed message. I’ve seen the take that Dean somehow “gave up” and wanted to die, and that’s the antithesis of how I see the finale. The entire point is to “carry on”, and that’s what Sam does. And that’s what Dean’s love and his final words allow Sam to do. Dean dies content with his life – not wanting to go but satisfied with what he’s accomplished and incredibly happy that Sam gets to carry on. It still makes me cry four months later, but it’s an inspiring message in a show that was always very dark, but ended in some bright sense of hope.

    • Annnnnnnd…. now I need tissues! I loved the finale, but I am so very grateful that we got to see Sam’s pure joy in Heaven before Bob Singer called “And cut” that final time.

  • This episode cemented my preference for the character of Dean, I felt so bad for him, it really was such a hurtful episode. I remained and still am a Dean “girl” I struggled with the character of Sam much more than I did with the character of Dean and actively disliked him (or should I say the way he was written!) at times although of course there were also times when I disliked Dean (throwing the amulet away for one!) but I always routed for the brothers and over all that was a stronger pull for me than being drawn more to one character over the other.

    • You raise a very interesting point Icarus. The key to how we relate is the way the writers present Sam and Dean, often as diametrically opposed, yin and yang, which made for fascinating dynamics that sparked and drove the story.
      However an unfortunate side effect of the resultant development on occasion made Dean’s motivations and actions, both the good and the bad, clearer and easier to understand, even if you didn’t like it. Everything was clearly the end result of a very difficult, childhood , what you saw was what you got, take or leave it. They pulled off (perhaps unknowingly?) an amazingly realistic portrayal of what grief, trauma, parentification and hardship done to a child at a very young age can look like.

      Sam remained somewhat enigmatic and sometimes rather closed off, I loved him because Dean did, but found his behaviour and actions difficult to relate to on occasion. I now get how difficult things were for both of them, yet full understanding for me only came, knowing the whole story. Despite how it appears on the surface, Sam’s equally damaged, but his damage is of a very different, more hidden sort. Not that there aren’t people who handle trauma exactly like Sam, but it takes longer to get to know and understand people in Sam’s situation.

      The brothers were the heart and soul of the show and without each others complimentary strengths and weaknesses, neither brother would have survived or had any chance of turning out a well as they did, a unique symbiosis kept them both going and stable. They kept each other sustained in the hard times. They are among the all time greatest brothers and characters on TV…. Probably the best IMHO

      • Marion, you’re right. They were and are the best. We were so lucky to have all that. There will never be another show like our little show.

    • I struggled with how both of them were written at times, for sure – I think it’s hard when there were so many writers and showrunners over the course of the show, and they all saw the characters a bit differently. Some lined up with my head canon alot better than others. This was a really well written episode, but it is a painful one. I think we were supposed to feel Dean’s hurt and betrayal, and from his perspective (and how acutely Ackles portrayed Dean’s pain) it’s hard not to be hurt by Sam’s actions a bit too. But I also really appreciate how much of Sam’s perspective we got, so that I understood where he was coming from too at this point. Still, ouch.

  • Marion, I particularly liked your mention of the term “parentification” because of course that’s exactly what happened to Dean and of course profoundly affected his entire life from the age of 4 3/4 on. In case anyone is interested, here are two articles about that phenomenon — one written by Laura Kiesel based on her own lived experience and one quoting her at length. FWIW, Laura is the same age that Dean would be if he were real and alive, and I know her IRL.

    https://www.thefix.com/my-brothers-keeper

    https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2017/10/when-kids-have-to-parent-their-siblings-it-affects-them-for-life/543975/

    It is interesting to me that, like Dean, the older siblings described in these articles were often responsible for the very food that they and the other children ate. And, I think part of the reason (aside from his being somewhat of a sensualist/hedonist) that Dean eats so often, so quickly, and so often junk food is (in a phrase I’ve mentioned before in relation to his other habits) for the heart-breakingly simple reason that he went hungry so often as a child.

    • Thanks for the article link! The subject of the Winchesters’ childhood will endlessly fascinate the psychologist part of me.

    • Wow, this is incredible, Laura us so brave to share her experience. A very remarkable person in her own right. It actually helps so much to make sense of Dean’s behaviour and Sam’s reactions.
      Dean’s hedonistic relationship with food and TV/ films also make sense in this context too, they became not just tools for survival, but they were also a very small way he was able to self care and show himself some love, because their must have been times he did feel invisible or at the very least unimportant beside his tiny brother and unable to quantify enough whom he could trust to make friends. It’s likely the only reason why Dean’s only major outburst of frustration on behalf of himself was when he actually was invisible during his out of body experience as he lay dying.

  • I know I’ve talked a lot this week but had another thought I needed to jot down about why the Winchesters are the way they are.

    John “lost” his father Henry at a young age leaving his Mom as he sole strong attachment that he had for at least a time. Did John experience some form of insecure attachment issues himself, have his own deep rooted fear of being abandoned and accidentally imprinted these experiences onto a very emotionally raw impressionable Dean, heightening Dean’s difficulty in managing his emotions and building secure attachments so he could form stable relationships? Perhaps if this were so, Dean cannot see what Sam see’s because John is his model for normal?

    Were we, through the lense of Dean, witnessing echos of John’s personal struggles to manage his own behaviour without a strong female presence in his life once Mary was gone? Perhaps John and Dean were not as far apart as Dean thought? Is John more deserving of some compassion than he sometimes gets?

    • OK, replying to you again Marion, lol!

      I have always thought that John deserves WAY more compassion than he gets. Imagine a young father who adores his wife having to go through a trauma like that, with two babies to care for (4 is barely beyond toddler stage, Dean was a baby himself!). He couldn’t have known everything about parenting. Being a good parent comes naturally to some but not all. And John’s father disappeared when HE was four. He didn’t have any example of how to be a dad. But he did love those boys dearly, and keeping his sons safe from evil was all he knew to focus on. And he was ex-military, which for some people makes for a hard adjustment to civilian life. No wonder he acted like a “drill sergeant” at times. He definitely could have, and should have, gotten in trouble for neglect leaving Dean alone with Sam so much. But he wasn’t beating them every day either, which seems to be the opinion of many online. I am not excusing the things he did wrong, but there is a perspective.

      I think I read somewhere that JDM didn’t do cons for a while because of fan hate. Also he has said in interviews that he didn’t play or think of John in the way the lore later portrayed him. The comments about John’s physical abuse of the boys came up after John died in season 2, if I am remembering correctly, when other writers put them in. JDM seemed saddened by that, imo.

      • Good point (about writers after season 2 changing John’s legacy) but-ignoring Dean’s heartfelt call in Home and Sam’s (barely) reassuring call in Faith are sore points for me. That’s a personal thing though and I’ve never thought he was abusive-just more negligent.

      • Definitely agree about those phone calls in season 1. I think the writers really fell down there in not giving a damned good reason for John not answering them! I remember the first time I watched the show, thinking that was the one plot point that just didn’t work for me.

      • I think you have a very good point Kelly about the abscence of response from John to his son’s on those occasions and there were certainly times when John needed the kind of wake up calls both Missouri and Bobby weren’t afraid to administer.
        Initially maybe it was due to the lack of follow through in the writing that sometimes occurs in new shows. Some threads get put aside or forgotten. Here because our show ran so long as we acquired different writers along the way, new show runners etc, perhaps John’s character just took on a whole different direction and people were left to interpret his actions their own way , which were different to what was originally intended.

      • Hi Shelq, yes I saw JDM’s comments and it is sad .
        I’m sympathetic and willing to keep an open mind on John for all the reasons you say. Parenting is hard in normal circumstances, never mind your family being the victims of something Demonic that is actually stalking you.
        I do think John fell down on occasion, sometimes it was understandable, on the other occasions I’ve been actively trying to understand the why, even if it it can’t be excused . There were so many factors, maybe the lack of support, his own lack of role models, his own personal struggles all of which got in the way, but I’m mindful John was not given much if a voice on the show and the perspectives we see are skewed by Dean and Sam’s memories and experience of their upbringing, which show an incomplete picture. Henry’s abscence is another piece of the jigsaw that is John who I suspect is every bit as layered and complicated as the Brothers themselves.

      • Agreed! I wish they had had more of John in the show, and explored his character more deeply. I am sure the writers would have done a good job. But I imagine JDM wasn’t very available later on with his other acting gigs.

      • Me too, that’s what I’m filling my empty SPN space with now, trying to pull together all my thoughts. JDM being unavailable probably was a big factor.

      • In addition to more of John, I so wish we had seen more of Missouri; I’ve read that the actress (like JDM) was also relatively unavailable. My personal headcanon is that she helped out quite a bit soon after Mary’s death, but the boys were so young and so traumatized that they did not remember her. For my own sanity, I HAVE to believe that someone besides John was there when they were so little, what with John working full time AND self-training to be a hunter.

      • It makes sense Sam has little memory of that time, we know Dean withdrew from much of the world as a four year old, not talking after the fire for a while , subsequent to that we know they moved around a lot and that there were people like the Harvelles in their lives who cared about them but whom neither brother remember, yet Ellen knew them. I guess the trauma of the fire, the lack of a fixed home, the lack of consistency made it hard for Dean to remember the good things and good people in their lives to be able to share with Sam, his anxiety and fear of loss in the early years made it difficult for him to attach to anyone so his early memories will be unreliable. We also know Dean was aware of the martial difficulties Mary and John had, Mary took comfort in him, but appeared not to return the comfort in “Dark Side of the Moon”
        Perhaps Dean was already learning distrust of adult promises before the fire, so never talked about the past with Sam because it was just too painful, so tjat eventually all his memories of that time dimmed, shutting out the bad, but also shutting out the good. Preferring instead to believe the fantasy Mary John gave him of a perfect , apple pie making Mom, was real as a way to cope.

      • I have probably been a bit too influenced by fan fiction, which I have and continue to read enormous amounts of, but I don’t handwave John’s treatment of Dean or Sam. I think that is a dangerous road to go down, if you have children you are responsible for them whatever your own story was and if you are not able to at least “do your very best” then you should not be allowed to be in charge of them. I don’t believe that John did his very best at all. There are millions of people worldwide who can’t feed their children or keep them healthy because of circumstances totally outside their control but they struggle every moment to try. So from what we were shown on the show John was an abusive father in my opinion – again that is down to the writers but it is what we were given. Then Mary – she made a demon deal concerning her son – how can that be ok? I found the whole return of Mary to be a waste of time, again, IMO she was shown to be a shallow, uncaring and hard person and I wish they had never brought her back

      • Mary’s return was a disappointment and definitely a huge misstep for me, her presence could have been use so much more effectively to bolster the story and the brothers.

      • Yes, Mary and John were deeply flawed . . . as are we all, or, at least, most of us. IMHO, the show gave a gift to the boys, and to us, in portraying parents realistically over time, from 21-year-olds madly in love, to living an apple-pie life, to facing abject heartbreak and overall tough times, and trying/failing to cope with these. I think that definitely Sam, and to a lesser extent Dean, eventually came to see this . . . as must we all, or, at least, most of us. (FWIW, the show has truly helped me to see my own beloved late parents as the complex, difficult, troubled people they were.)

        OTOH, all that Sam and Dean did, lost and suffered ended up making them, as Sam said, “who we are” (the title of one of my favorite episodes) AND made them (as I think Sam says at least twice through the run of the show) “the guys who save the world,” defeating paranormal baddies up to and including Chuck himself and raising his replacement, Jack, who restored Earth and remade Heaven “as it always should have been.”

    • I think the lens of attachment is hugely relevant for Supernatural. I often forget about John’s early loss/trauma because we didn’t see it happen, but of course it makes sense that had a big impact, and intergenerational transmission of attachment is a known thing. Mary too, raised as a hunter, had to have big issues with felt sense of security and thus some attachment challenges as well. Sam and Dean really were born into a complicated family!

    • I agree with everything here. This is true intergenerational trauma, though I’m hardly the first to mention it. And, yes, Mary and John deserve at least some measure of understanding/compassion based on what we learn about them through the entire run of the show. Partly because of Dean’s caretaking/protection, Sam was able to get away just long enough to be around more educated people and to develop awareness of more normative behaviors/resources; this began long before Stanford, when he started going to classmates’ homes starting when he was about 11 or so. Sam tried to share these more evolved perspectives — even about such basic things as eating healthy food and not over-indulging in alcohol — with Dean. Some of this rubbed off. Moreover, if not for Bobby, Missouri, Pastor Jim and a few others, both boys probably would have turned out to be feral and felons.

      • The nice thing was that in the long term Sam could take away all the lessons learned from others and he fully understood all the Dean did , all that Dean sacrificed for him and used what he’d learned to become a good leader and caring father. Perhaps Dean’s greatest personal achievement was to free Sam from odds that were heavily stacked against them of ever having some normality by having the strength to accept it was his time, thus breaking the Winchester family curse and the cycle of trauma. It seemed Sam took that gift and made something better with it ,always carrying Dean in his heart.

  • In reply to Icarus, I certainly would not “hand wave” John’s neglect of the boys by leaving them alone, as I said in my comment, he should have paid for that. I just feel that the later writers adding in the stuff about the beatings felt like a ret-con to me. JMO.

    Also, I do believe John did his best with the emotional capacity he had. As an ex Marine, who knows what mental and emotional traumas he suffered during that time, then to go through the horror of watching his wife killed–maybe that affected his parenting a little bit?! It’s not that these things are an excuse, but they could’ve been a factor.

    My favorite quote from Maya Angelou is about having regrets, and it’s basically “You did the best you could with what you had at the time. And when you knew better, you did better.” I don’t imagine you liked John returning for Lebanon, but I’m glad the boys got to make peace with their father. Again, JMO.

    I also feel that John has truly been demonized in a lot of fan fiction (I once saw a synopsis of a story where he sold Dean as a sex slave!) and that has contributed greatly to the John hate.

    • Could someone possibly help out a relatively new fan here? I discovered the show only 13 months ago and continue to watch the re-runs that usually air Monday-Thursday where I currently live. I’m not being a John apologist here; I sincerely want to know something. I do not recall anything about John beating the boys. Is that “canon canon” i.e., is that something that is shown or that we otherwise know for sure — and, if so, could someone state which episodes? I am asking that because, for instance, Sam frequently talks about John being a heavy drinker — but I don’t remember actually witnessing that at any point . . . whereas we clearly see both Bobby and especially Dean drinking to excess.

      • It is mentioned a couple of times that John got physical with the boys, in conversations between Sam and Dean, so I would say it is canon. I only remember a few times it was mentioned. The only one I can remember atm is Toni Bevell, one of the “women of letters” saying that John went into “drunken rages.” And I think maybe Dean said that John hit him when he was mad, maybe over the shtriga incident, but I’m not sure. I know John got really angry over that though.

      • There were implications of being punished, we never saw it. The thing to remember is when you are making up your own mind on John is to measure what is going on in relation to the world at the time he was raised. John was raised in the late fifties, through the sixties, parents disciplined their kids differently and on occasion, physical chastisement did happen, that left imprints to carry over in parenting styles. Perhaps John experienced that? John was also ex military, he had no father figure to compare against that we know of, Henry as we find out , died on mission, saving John’s boys, the military became a surrogate family and I’m sure discipline there was hard, again this may have transferred over into his parenting . John was also on active service, Mary talks about what he was like after coming home saying despite what he’d seen he was still good, the implications where he witnessed some unpleasant stuff that could have been a contributing factor for him being overly strict.
        One final thing to consider, is Dean and Sam experienced their childhoods differently from their own perspectives, so we do not get an entirely balanced picture from them. They are two entirely different personalities, Dean despite everything tends toward John being heroic because he wanted to always find the silver linings, Sam tended towards seeing the negatives with John, holding John accountable and to very high standards. I suspect neither to be the case, John probably lies somewhere in between.
        That’s not to say he didn’t make mistakes or that he was perfect, but that makes him human.

      • Agreed to your all points Marion. I was thinking some of those similarly in my comments!
        I also keep meaning to buy the JW journal myself lol! Thanks for the reminder!

      • If you get chance Shelq, John’s Journal has some little gems and some unexpected things, I’m sure you’ll find it a worthwhile read. I really want to tell you about some stuff in it, but I’ll refrain, as I don’t want to spoil your voyage of discovery.
        I believe we are on the same wavelength regards John and I like that we can have discussion and explore his character a little together. There still so much we don’t know that if we get any further new episodes, I hope they can touch on John’s earlier life , perhaps find out a little more about his Mom Millie who barely gets a passing mention in the show. Or what about Grandma Deanna? It would be great to know a bit about her. Underused characters are still out there , available for future stories.

      • Oh gosh yes! I’d love more with the Winchester family history, especially the ladies!

      • There’s a book published a while back by Alex Irvine called John Winchesters Journal that you may find useful if you’ve never seen it that may enlighten you further on John’s pov. It was authorized by the show so I suppose all of it’s contents can be viewed as canon, if that helps you?

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