Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Separate, But Not Happy

I think there are two camps of people who see Sam and Dean in two essentially different ways. There are those who see them as damaged but healable. I think that Carver and Singer are in that camp. Hence, Carver’s agenda to have the boys learn during their time apart that they can survive without each other. He’s effectively removed their co-dependence, but even he sees that they belong together at least for the near future.

Still, this camp believes that given the right circumstances, the boys could live apart happily in normal lives if they so choose. Those in this camp often imagine Sam settling down with a woman in an apple pie life and Dean continuing hunting – often with Castiel. Of course, given the right circumstances – one where hunting is no longer necessary – there’s no reason to believe that Dean wouldn’t settle down with a woman as well. He dreamed of a family life with Lisa long before he promised Sam that he’d go to her. Ignoring that is more of a shipping issue without a canonical basis. Anyway, this camp seems to see the boys’ happy endings as inevitably separate. I think there is a romantic impulse behind this – that in order for them to be truly happy they must have a sexual/romantic partner. Again, there’s a notion of them healing and becoming whole people by separating.

The other camp of which I am admittedly a part, sees them as essentially broken individuals incapable of never living truly normal lives. This camp can’t let go of the image of these brothers who haven’t had a stable home in 30 years, who have seen nearly everyone they love or care about die at least once, most forever. Their friends are few and truly committing to anyone is an enormous risk because they will likely lose them. The two of them are the closest thing they’ve ever had to a constant. They are the only ones who can truly understand what the other has been through – the loss and pain and sacrifice and even the triumphs.

(Some might say Castiel, but I disagree because despite the fact that he knows much of what they’ve been through and the things they’ve done both good and bad, he is still an angel not a human and cannot empathize with them. He simply doesn’t experience the universe in the way they do. Because of his nature and history, I would say that he never would. Even if he fell from grace, unless his memory of being an angel were erased, he would never really experience the world as a human because he’d have that comparison.)

So, I don’t see the boys as capable of being truly happy apart, and I don’t imagine that a normal life would actually make either of them ‘happy’ in the sense that many think. Could Sam live a normal life? Maybe, but as I’ve argued before, I don’t think that the Sam who lived with Jess or the Sam who lived with Amelia was really Sam. Dean was Dean with Lisa because Lisa knew who and what he was. She knew that he was broken and grieving and why. Sam never told Jess or Amelia and there’s no reason to believe he would have. In the pilot Dean asked Sam if Jess knew about what he was and the things he’d done. He said, “No, and she never will.” Dean replied, “Well that’s healthy.” I would argue that Sam had no intention of telling Amelia because this ‘normal’ life that Sam thinks he wants is predicated on him being normal in the eyes of those around him. Sam is a chameleon. He is a reflection of what other people expect and want. It’s an outgrowth of a childhood being dragged from town to town and feeling like a freak. It’s a defense mechanism. The only people that Sam can come close to being his true self around are Dean and Castiel, and he hides as much of the ugliness as he can even from his brother. (Fans talk about Dean’s self-loathing, but Sam is just as guilty of it. He hates his weakness and violent impulses and fearfulness. One of the reasons that Sam is drawn to a friendship with Castiel is that Cas has made many of the same mistakes despite being an angel, and that means that Sam may not be the monster he has sometimes thought of himself as.) Anyway, Sam with Amelia wasn’t – as Dean would have pointed out – healthy. Fans need to quit thinking of it as so.

But I think it is Aaron’s statement that the boys are psychopaths that gets to the crux of the boys not being able to have a normal happy ending – because they are at the very least borderline psychopaths. A quick definition is: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse [X]. Now we could argue that they do have empathy and remorse, and certainly in the early seasons, they were characterized by these traits when an innocent human, the vessel of a demon for example, was killed, but we’ve seen an erosion of that over the past couple of season in particular. A good example of how that has changed was the lack of compunction they had in killing Linda Tran’s friend. Another definition includes “shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy, and stress tolerance), cold-heartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle.” [X] I think it’s clear how each of these attributes apply to some extent to both boys.

Here’s the thing about them being psychopaths – that won’t change if they stop being hunters. The fact is this lifestyle suits them. It is an appropriate and beneficial lifestyle for them. It is what they are. Take that from them and what do you have? Serial killers? Like I said, Sam could go off and pretend to be a normal guy, but I don’t think he’d actually be ‘happy.’ I think too that we have to remember Dean’s statement that they keep each other human because when they are separated, they do tend to become even more borderline. I think that Carver was trying to mitigate that by showing that they can survive without one another, but to what end? Sam’s hiding from hunter!Sam, first by running and then by hiding out in a normal world with Amelia, may have prevented him from going off the rails as he did in Mystery Spot and when Dean went to Hell, but again I’d argue against true happiness there. He says it, but we sure didn’t see it. And the Dean that returned from Purgatory was also more borderline. In what ways has he been pulled back from that by Sam’s presence, by the little things like buying him a burger, sharing a joke or LARPing together. I think that last image in Everybody Hates Hitler speaks volumes about where they belong, and it isn’t separated. Because their love is absolute, it reminds them of their humanity and helps pull them back from their worst impulses.

The idea that the boys together are inevitably unhealthy is a false one. What was unhealthy was how they related to each other, their communication skills. It isn’t being together that makes them unhealthy or unhappy. The fact is they are unhealthy individuals whose brokenness is a result of but also a benefit to their lifestyle. They are both hunters, not just Dean. (I want to smack Robert Singer for his statement that he “likes” the idea of Sam being able to dream of a different life as though dreaming of something that he isn’t and thinking that will make him happy is a good thing.)

So how do I see a happy ending for them? They’ve closed the gates and of Heaven and Hell. The biggest threats are gone, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t monsters still roaming earth. They’re sitting in the bunker drinking bourbon with a couple friends – maybe Garth and Charlie or Kevin or Jody, maybe Cas – and planning an ordinary hunt. They are together and safe and doing what they were meant to do. This is their destiny under their own terms.

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