I couldn’t let May 2nd go by without wishing one of my favorite fictional characters of all time a happy birthday. Yes, I’m aware that Supernatural wrapped at the end of 2020. Yes, I’m aware that it’s mid 2022. But in my heart, Sam and Dean are still very much alive (probably driving Baby down the most scenic roads in Heaven). They’re also alive in my brain, which continues to devote significant amounts of time to thinking about the Winchesters and friends and just how much Supernatural will always mean to me.
The things I love most about Sam Winchester are the things that, for me, make him so memorable. So I thought I’d share five of those here.
Before I do that, though, I’d have to be utterly oblivious not to include the fact that Sam is ridiculously good looking. Blame Jared Padalecki. Whoever made this graphic of Sam’s Hair Evolution understood that too – yes, I love Sam’s hair, guilty as charged!
And Sam without a soul may have lost his empathy, but he certainly didn’t lose his ability to be incendiary.
You’re welcome for the eye candy. But now, five things I love about Sam Winchester.
Number 1. His personality. His optimism, his determination. His wide eyed enthusiasm for life, that floppy haired boy who left the family business and struck out to make a different life for himself. Who dared to go to college when it was seen as a betrayal, even when it was clearly also painful for him to leave his family.
And the grown up Sam, forged in trauma, tested so often and so cruelly, still capable of hope and moving forward despite the odds. Sam often was the one encouraging Dean when it felt hopeless; the brothers did that for each other throughout the series, each taking their turn to keep them both going. And through it all, Sam never lost his capacity to feel.
Number 2. His great big brain. Sam’s a researcher. He’s inquisitive, curious, needs to know how things work and why things happen. I can so relate, since so much of being a psychologist is also needing to know how things work – those things being people in my case. I love the continuity in Sam’s love of research, that he’s not afraid to be the “geek boy” throughout the entire series – and how that helped save the world a time or two!
Number 3. His empathy and compassion. Sam, who for so much of his life felt like a freak who didn’t belong, was never afraid to reach out to others who might have felt the same way. He instinctively put himself in others’ shoes, and often knew just how to relate to someone else who was struggling and needed reassurance. His candid conversation with Rowena about their shared Lucifer trauma. His gentleness when he reassured Magda.
Number 4. The flip side of Sam Winchester’s empathy – his fierceness. He personified the word ‘badass’, so much so that I still exclaim “Sam Fucking Winchester” when I rewatch lots of episodes. His rage-fueled taking out of Gordon when Dean’s life was threatened. His cold and confident announcement that there would be no new King of Hell, bearded and still grieving his missing brother. Don’t threaten a Winchester if you don’t want the other one coming at you just like this, just saying.
Sam showed every kind of bravery throughout the series – striking out on his own to go to school, fighting through the psychological struggles of feeling like a freak to embracing his destiny of saving people, hunting things. Sacrificing himself to save the world, and standing up to Lucifer himself!
And perhaps most powerfully of all, somehow finding the strength and courage to let his brother go, and to go on even when his worst nightmare of losing Dean came true. The embodiment of Always Keep Fighting.
Number 5. Sam Winchester’s capacity for love. His heart is so big – similar to the man who portrays him – and when he loves, he loves fiercely.
From his love for Jessica, in every universe…
To the longing he felt for his mother that was so formative from childhood all the way to adulthood – and his deeply felt sense of completeness when he belatedly got at least some of the maternal affection her so deserved…
To his affection and loyalty for those he calls his friends, who he allowed to see some of his vulnerability while also being there for them with all his considerable strength…
And, of course, the all-encompassing love that he has for his brother, that made me fall head over heels in love with this unique, powerfully emotional show in the first place. Sometimes the love that Dean has for Sam and the lengths he’s willing to go to for his brother gets more spotlight, but Sam’s love for Dean is equally off the charts. And damn, I love him for that.
It’s all those moments when his Dean drove Sam absolutely up the wall, and yet his affectionate eye rolls just make it crystal clear how much he loves his big brother anyway.
Some things never change – and I am so very glad.
It’s about the way they have each other’s backs, no matter what, and the way they hold each other at the end of the world or when they’re reunited or when one of them is dying. From the earliest seasons to the very last episode.
I can’t post Happy Birthday to Sam without thanking the person who brought him to life so brilliantly. Nobody could have played Sam Winchester like Jared Padalecki – nobody could have made him so complex and so compelling, or someone who inspired so many people. Sure, Jared also made Sam extremely good looking, but that is the smallest tip of the iceberg. The nuances he brought to the character – sometimes adding in the small nonverbal touches that made Sam so real – are the reason I’ll never forget Sam Winchester. Jared never forgot the trauma Sam had been through, or his strength, or his hard-fought determination to keep fighting. He showed us that even when the script occasionally forgot, making sure that the character continued to feel like Sam – because he knew we cared, and we hadn’t forgotten either.
Jared wrote about what Sam will always mean to him in his chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, and what it has meant to Jared to portray him, in Family Don’t End With Blood. I’m so grateful that Sam Winchester is beloved, not just by all of us, but by the person who made him so real.
So thank you Jared, for Sam. Thank you Eric Kripke for creating him, and for all the writers who contributed to crafting him. Thank you Jensen Ackles for portraying Dean the way you did, and making Sam and Dean’s relationship something that made Supernatural the unique and powerful piece of media that it will always be. We got so lucky, in so many ways, with this show and these characters.
Happy Birthday, Sam Winchester. I miss you.
You can read Jared Padalecki’s thoughts on
Sam Winchester and his own personal story
in Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll
Be Peace When You Are Done – links here
on the home page or at: