My Supernatural loving soul, that is. The fandom designated it #SamWinchesterWeek, which meant my timelines have been filled with all kinds of posts about all our favorite things about Sam Winchester – leading up to today, Sam’s 40th birthday!
The fandom started with favorite Sam-centric episodes, which included some of the classics and some you might not expect – Just My Imagination, After School Special, Sacrifice, When the Levee Breaks, Soul Survivor, Mystery Spot, and two of my personal favorites, Red Meat and Born Under A Bad Sign.
Just looking through the episode caps on the timeline makes clear what an incredible, nuanced character Sam Winchester is, and how brilliantly Jared Padalecki portrayed him.
Next the fandom moved on to a cascade of Sam’s funniest moments that showcased Padalecki’s incredible comedic chops. He has sometimes said he finds comedy hard and doesn’t think he’s that good at it – clearly we all beg to differ!
My personal favorite is the lock and key bad acting scene from The French Mistake, which I literally cannot watch without laughing out loud, even now when I’ve seen it so many times.
But there are so many others.
One of the things that made Supernatural the amazing show it was is that Jared, Jensen, Misha and the rest of the cast were capable of such a range in their acting. They could break your hearts, but they could also make you laugh with just a look, just an expression.
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!
I wasn’t sure I’d do a happy birthday post for my favorite characters this year. Supernatural ended nearly six months ago, and that means the Winchesters haven’t been on my TV screen. But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been in my heart, where I’m fairly sure Sam and Dean will live forever. So even though I can’t watch new episodes, in my heart Sam Winchester is having a birthday, and I want to celebrate!
Over the course of fifteen years, Sam became a beloved character to so many of us, thanks to Eric Kripke who created him and Jared Padalecki, who brought him to life. I was fascinated by Sam and Dean from almost the beginning, and over time, through good times and bad times, that fascination only grew. So here’s a post full of reasons of what I love about Sam Winchester, from the start to the finish (at least temporarily, because I’ll hang onto the hope that we’ll see the Winchesters again in time…) Instead of not doing a post at all, I got entirely carried away and took a trip down memory lane, reminding me of all the reasons Sam is special to me.
One of the reasons Sam Winchester is so inspiring as a character is because he’s been through the kind of trauma and loss that would have most of us flat on our backs and unable to put one foot in front of the other. The first losses come when he’s just a baby – his mother, his home, and his father too – still there but no longer the same man or the same father to his young sons.
Twenty years later, Sam’s at school, with goals and aspirations, kicking ass on the LSATs and planning his future with Jessica. And disaster finds him again, Jessica burning on the ceiling just like his mother did.
The boys hit the road. So young and pretty, so many challenges yet to come.
We experience Sam’s empathy and his strength early on. We’ve followed him on quite a journey in just one year, from the boy who struck out on his own to the boy almost as bent on revenge as his father, and finally to this – the young man who understands that there are things more important than revenge, including his love for his family. Sam goes against his father in a completely different way here, with Sam and Dean on the same page about family and reconnected with each other.
In celebration of one of our favorite Winchester’s birthday, we’re looking back over Season 14 and how far Sam has come – and at the incredible acting of Jared Padalecki that has brought Sam to life so vividly and made us all fall in love with him. Every guest star who has ever been on Supernatural has talked about their surprise to find that the leads of the show, even after all this time, are not just “phoning it in”. That they care so much about this show and these characters that they “bring it” every single time – even when it’s someone else’s coverage.
At this point, they’ve talked about how it’s not exactly like acting anymore – they know these characters so well, they can just become them. And it shows.
So on Sam Winchester’s birthday, here’s a look back at Season 14 entirely in screencaps – which tell the story of Sam’s emotional journey and of Jared’s incredible acting talent.
Early Season 14 found Sam grieving the loss of his brother, possessed by the archangel Michael and lost to Sam. Hence what the fandom lovingly dubbed the ‘beard of brotherly grief’. On a totally shallow level, Jared looked hot like FIRE – but on an emotional level, he made it achingly clear that Sam was in incredible pain. It shows in his every expression, in the look in his eyes, in the way he carries himself. My heart broke for him.
Jared can portray pain like nobody else – physical pain, the way he did so authentically in Red Meat, and emotional pain, as he’s had to do for much of this season.
In the midst of his own grief, Jared also showed us the empathic side of Sam. Sam Winchester has a tremendous ability to put himself in other people’s shoes, no matter who they are. He’s done it with Rowena, and thus has developed a sort of bond with her. He’s done it with Jack, creating a closeness and making Sam a father figure to Jack.
In one early episode of this season, he even reached out in empathy to Nick, understanding all too well what it means to have been possessed by Lucifer.
It clearly cost Sam so much to do that — Nick was wearing Lucifer’s face, bringing back all of Sam’s own trauma and PTSD — and Jared shows us every bit of that, without a word needed. A flinch, a fleeting expression, and we know.
Sam having to confront his brother, knowing it was Michael and Dean was trapped inside, was clearly painful for him too. There wasn’t even any dialogue about it, but just one look – and you knew.
There’s an article over on ScreenRant provocatively titled “20 Things Wrong with Sam and Dean Everyone Chooses to Ignore” which has a lot of people talking today. I rarely weigh in on other people’s articles because everyone has a right to their own opinion when it comes to this fictional show and these fictional characters – your interpretation, my interpretation, YMMV. And considering its provocative title, the controversy is probably exactly what the author was going for. A number of people have weighed in in the comments and made some very good points, so I also don’t want to belabor those points, but I will admit that when I got to the No. 1 thing I started shaking my head so fast I nearly gave myself whiplash. Then a few people asked me to weigh in with my psychologist hat on, so I thought, why not. However, my fangirl hat is definitely on as well, so I look sort of funny right now balancing two hats at once.
Anyway, let’s touch on these one at a time. I don’t disagree with everything in the article, but I do have a different viewpoint on some of the assertions.
20. They always come back to life. More a criticism of the writers than Sam and Dean, who even if they were real and had any agency, most likely wouldn’t be the ones to blame for this. Yes, it dilutes the emotional power of death scenes somewhat, but it also keeps a show on the air for 14 seasons. (Also I still sobbed like a baby when Sam died in the tunnels last season and Dean couldn’t save him, both while I watched it be filmed and when I saw it onscreen. I as a viewer may know that Sam will be back, but Dean the character does not know any such thing, and it was in empathy for him that I sobbed. Like a lot.)
19. Dean’s history with women. Is it problematic? Sure. Not in all the ways asserted here, I don’t think. But what I quibble with here most is the assertion that “it’s an aspect of Dean that fans try to ignore.” Not in my fannish circles, that’s for sure! I have a new book coming out all about the evolution of female characters on Supernatural, so my perspective may be a bit skewed, but we’ve all been talking about this since Season 1, way back on Live Journal meta commentary communities.
18. Sam always gets knocked out. Okay, I kinda agree with this one. My reviews often contain rants about Sam or Dean not being the smart and capable hunters we know they are. It’s a contrivance that keeps the story going, but it can create some head scratching.
17. Dean idolizes their abusive father. I think that was true at one time, but not any more. That’s been part of Dean’s evolution as a character, coming to terms with his idolization of both John and Mary. The thing is, it’s not unrealistic. I’ve worked with many children whose parents were a lot more overtly abusive than John, but the children still love the parents. We’re wired that way; we’ll do whatever mental gymnastics we have to do in order to maintain our view of our parents as people who love us and will take care of us. The alternative is just too terrifying. The way Dean was raised, he had to step up early on and push things like anger and disappointment and longing for love out of the way in order to survive, and to ensure that Sam survived. A defensive blanket acceptance of everything John Winchester told him was the perfect way to do that. However, Dean hasn’t been frozen there; he sees both his parents now more as flawed humans whose motives and behavior can be questioned instead of blindly accepted.