Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

“Benny … has never let me down”: Citizen Fang (8.09)

choosing a vampire over a brother

“Just sayin’ — brother chooses a vampire over a brother.”

Whether we agree with Jeremy Carver’s decision to not have Sam look for Dean while he was in Purgatory or not, that’s what we got and what we have to work with. It’s understandable that Dean is hurt by that. It’s completely in character too for Dean to say hurtful things to Sam without ever seeming to recognize the pain he causes. He has a history of calling Sam a ‘freak’ and even a ‘monster.’ However, his behavior in Citizen Fang — from the comment that Benny was more of a brother than Sam ever was to the faked phone call from Amelia — was so ugly that I nearly quit watching the show. I know not a few fans who did.

With the benefit of distance and time from the first half of S8, I’m still having a difficult time understanding the choices that Carver made. In an interview, (sorry, the source is lost to memory) Carver said that he wanted to completely break their relationship down and then bring them back together. But why? Didn’t that happen in S4-5? It seems to me that on an emotional level he took the boys back to S1 with Sam ostensibly wanting a normal life and Dean just wanting his brother back as his hunting partner, and then he forced them through a ramped up emotional roller coaster summary of the previous seven seasons. I felt like Sam was cheated of all that character development. Dean forgot all of Sam’s sacrifices and latched on to grudges that didn’t even make sense — like Sam being soulless. Dean had never held that against him before.

Dean came out looking really petty and cruel to me in S8. His position of trusting Benny so implicitly, but apparently not Sam or Castiel who have both done so much for him, while never admitting that he may have been wrong about Amy, made him look like a hypocrite as well. So he fought alongside Benny for a year — a year! — and Benny never let him down. He never appears to recognize that Benny had an ulterior motive. Dean was his ride out of Purgatory, so yeah, Benny had every reason to keep Dean alive there. Deleted scenes from Taxi Driver reveal that Benny did in fact feed on humans after he came back from Purgatory, so Dean’s faith in him was misguided. Of course, knowing Dean as we do, he’ll blame himself for not being there for Benny, when for all we know he was doing the killing in Citizen Fang.

I don’t know, for a lot of reasons, Season 8 still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, the boys are back together, but Dean didn’t really listen to Sam in Sacrifice. He just told him he was wrong instead of trying to understand why Sam felt the way he did. That’s pure Dean. I’d like to think that they will further hash the issue out, but history doesn’t make me think they will. I’d like to have hope for S9, but Carver has given me no reason to trust him. What do you all think?

Cross-posted at LJ here.

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23 responses

  1. I think you’re absolutely right. That’s the true reason I had such a problem with last season, while everyone was calling it gr-8 and loving Benny I could never quite rap my head around his character and Dean’s ultimate unwavering trust, in a vampire no less. I think Carver did a great disservice to Sam especially, and while many have given Sam some great in canon reasons for not looking for Dean, i.e. a complete and totally mental breakdown, it still didn’t ring true to me. This is the guy who started drinking demon blood to bring his brother back from hell for crying out loud, the thought that he would let him rot with Dick Roman didn’t make sense to him character. But I think Caver just wanted to do what he wanted to do, and no character arc was going to stop him.

    Don’t even get me started on Dean. The way he behaved towards Sam this season was wrong. Mean and hard and cruel. For him to trust Benny over Sam was out of character for Dean too. This is the Dean Winchester who killed his brother’s childhood friend. Amy only saved Sam’s life. I don’t know, I could write a paper about what went wrong with last season.

    September 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

    • “I think Carver just wanted to do what he wanted to do, and no character arc was going to stop him.”

      I agree completely. I’ve said the same many times. Carver had an agenda that he was determined to carry out and he wasn’t about to let seven seasons of canon and character development stand in his way. Yes, I can twist my brain into a pretzel to try to make sense of Sam not looking for Dean, but A. I shouldn’t have to, and B. I still don’t really buy it.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:30 am

  2. I’ll preface this by saying I’m a Dean girl, and that colors my perceptions. I try to understand Sam, but it’s not always easy for me.

    I think that laying all the blame on Dean for the wretchedness of their relationship in S8 isn’t entirely fair. Not even trying to find out what happened to Dean was a horrible thing for Sam to do, made worse by the fact that he didn’t really seem to get why Dean was upset. I think it’s part of the reason Dean ended up clinging to Benny so hard–he had Sam’s complete and continued betrayal of him (talk of leaving Dean and hunting for a normal life again) right in front of him to compare to Benny’s year of steadfast companionship, regardless of why Benny did it. Loyalty is important to Dean, and Sam kinda threw that out the window by not even trying.

    It would have been easy to slap on a pair of rose-colored glasses in regards to Benny, especially since it’s something that people coming out of a situation like purgatory are wont to do anyway. I’m not saying it’s right, just that I find it understandable, particularly given Sam’s seeming lack of sympathy towards Dean in the early eps.

    As for the finale…Dean didn’t exactly have a lot of time to sweet talk Sam. I agree, there’s a pretty good chance he wouldn’t have anyway because Dean, but still. There’s also the fact that Sam was accusing Dean of doing exactly the same things that Sam has been doing for the last 8 seasons, only worse, with seemingly no recognition of the hypocrisy of his statements. It was also glaringly obvious that Sam didn’t verbally return Dean’s sentiments–no mention at all that Sam would put Dean ahead of anyone and anything in the future, which I found a little frustrating and disappointing. I don’t think either of them were thinking clearly at that point–adrenaline, fear, pain, exhaustion were all contributing factors to that conversation and I’m willing to make allowances on both their parts because of it.

    Your comments about Benny feeding on humans bring up an interesting point that I’ve been wondering about since I got my Blu-rays–are deleted scenes canon? For example, I’ve always felt the deleted scene from the Pilot about why Dean came back to save Sam was canon–but that had very little impact on the show beyond oh hey, that’s why he did it.

    But there’s no doubt that knowing Benny had fed on humans would have changed fans’ perceptions for the rest of the season. Just personally, I would have had a lot less sympathy for Benny and a lot more for Sam in regards to his attitude towards him. And it would have destroyed the emotional scene in Taxi Driver, because it wouldn’t have been Dean killing a friend, just another monster. But if fans have no access to that information, how can they hope to understand the story? I would love to be able to ask the writers if they reference deleted material when writing followup eps (I’ve tried on twitter but no response unfortunately), because I think that has a potentially huge impact on the show and how fans view it.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:30 am

    • Let me say first that I think that Sam and Dean were both pretty OOC in S8. You have a good point about Dean’s reaction to Sam’s apparent lack of remorse for not looking for him. That being said, Dean didn’t seem interested in listening to Sam’s reasons after he learned about Amelia. He assumed that Sam just found a girl and a dog and forgot about him. He didn’t want to hear the truth any more than he wanted to hear it when he came back from Hell. Don’t misunderstand me. I love Dean and I’ve always found him to be a sympathetic character despite his faults, but I feel like he crossed a line in S8. I put most of it down to sloppy writing and lack of adherence to canon. For example, Dean never blamed Sam for being soulless, but he brought it up twice in S8. It was irrational, petty, and intentionally cruel. While Dean has been known to hold grudges, he’s never been intentionally cruel before. It was as though he just wanted to hurt Sam as much as he felt hurt by Sam. That’s not the emotional maturity that Carver promised.

      I agree that Dean didn’t have a lot of time to sweet talk Sam in the finale. What bothers me is that he didn’t seem to hear what Sam was saying to him, which doesn’t bode well for the future. If one good thing came from that mess, it’s that fans should now see that Sam has the same kind of self-worth issues that they’ve long known Dean has. I never realized the extent to which Dean played the John Winchester role in Sam’s life. Sam’s self-worth is all wrapped up in Dean and how he’s let Dean down over the years. So when you say, “It was also glaringly obvious that Sam didn’t verbally return Dean’s sentiments–no mention at all that Sam would put Dean ahead of anyone and anything in the future,” it should have been clear from Sam’s actions, his willingness to die to make up for all the times that he’s let Dean down, that he puts Dean ahead of anyone or anything — even himself — just as he did in Swan Song.

      Dean pretty much wears his heart on his sleeve; Sam doesn’t. Sam keeps his emotions hidden and tends to show the world what he thinks it expects or wants to see. I think that’s a defense mechanism he developed as a kid being dragged from school to school. As I’ve said before, he’s a chameleon. Even Dean doesn’t really understand him, and since we see the show mostly from Dean’s point of view, it’s hard for a lot of fans to understand Sam too. Carver made it even more difficult than usual by having him behave in an out of character manner by not looking for Dean. That is not the Sam we know. I can only explain it be thinking that he had a real meltdown — as he said, his world imploded and rained down around him. I think he knew what he becomes when Dean is gone and he avoided becoming that by running and then by hooking up with Amelia. He convince himself that Dean was dead. His little speech to Frank in Hunteri Heroici is telling. He says that living in a dreamworld is nice but the real world always comes back and destroys it. Sam was acknowledging that his life with Amelia wasn’t real life, but I don’t think he realized it completely until Dean returned. He felt even then a lot of the guilt that we saw at the end of the season, but tried to retreat from it by insisting that he didn’t want to hunt. He was still holding onto that safety and denial. It wasn’t until Hunteri Heroici that he began to crack. I think that he would have committed to hunting again much sooner, but he didn’t think that Dean wanted him back at that point.

      I would love to know why the scene with Benny’s admission was deleted from Taxi Driver. You’re absolutely right, unlike the deleted scene in the pilot, it has an impact on the series going forward. It has a bearing on whether Dean was justified in killing Amy, and it calls into question whether the boys made a mistake in letting Kate the werewolf go.

      Dean hiding Benny’s existence from Sam was the worst thing he could have done. The scene where Sam steals the car and races to help Dean in Blood Brothers reminds me so strongly of Scarecrow, but with such different results. Dean had been acting shady before he left. He told Sam on the phone that he was with a friend. Sam points out that Dean doesn’t have any friends. When he arrives, he finds Dean with a vampire. Now, the important thing is that Sam didn’t know that the “hunt” was Benny’s doing, not Dean’s. For all Sam knows, Dean called on Benny for help initially because he didn’t trust Sam to be his back up. That is significant. It sets in motion Sam’s issues for the rest of the season. It explains in part why Sam feels the way he does about Benny. Along with the fact that Sam had acknowledged that Dean was right to kill Amy, but now insists that Benny can be trusted. Either Dean is a hypocrite or, as Sam was with Amy, he’s too close to Benny to make a sound judgment. Dean, however, refuses to admit that he might be wrong about Benny.

      Anyway, I’ve rambled too long for a reply as it is. I don’t mean to lay all the blame on Dean for the wretchedness of their relationship in S8. I’ve just heard a whole lot more criticism of Sam, and I found it much more difficult to sympathize with Dean than I have in the past. I really blame Carver for trashing seven seasons of canon and character development.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

  3. I’m really glad you pointed out that Benny was apparently feeding on humans. That definitely changes their dynamic a little.

    EVERYTHING about Purgatory seemed forced to me. Like the whole year didn’t make sense. Why didn’t Dean’s hair grow? What did he eat? Were they … fighting… souls? Does that mean that Even AND Dick were in Purgatory? Then Post-Purgatory, all the conflict was contrived. Sam went on sabbatical, which was weirdly out of character.

    Dean’s behavior actually makes sense to me in season 8 through the lens that he was dealing with survivor’s guilt. He wasn’t mad at Sam for abandoning him, he was mad at himself for abandoning Cas.

    My only possible explanation for Sam’s giving up is just 7 seasons burn out. His girlfriend’s dad was all like, “You got the thousand yard stare, boy,” and he was like, “Uh… I’ve repaired A LOT of air conditioners.”

    September 17, 2013 at 9:13 am

    • You bring up a good point about survivor’s guilt. Sam is just a scapegoat for Dean’s own guilt at failing Castiel, you think? That may be part of it, but not all of it, I think, because even after Dean comes to see that Castiel chose to stay, Dean continues to beat up on Sam. In fact, it just gets worse.

      “Uh… I’ve repaired A LOT of air conditioners.” LOL Yes, exactly. I can understand Sam having a meltdown after all he’d been through — something like five centuries in the cage, soullessness, the wall in his head being destroyed, Hallucifer riding shotgun, nearly losing his mind — then just when he’s getting himself back together, he loses the one thing that has kept him grounded. He lost Dean. I think it’s really telling in those flashbacks with Amelia’s dad, there’s a scene where Sam is washing dishes and he presses his thumb into his palm like he did when he had Hallucifer in his head. He’s still trying to use Dean’s “I’m real, this is real” to keep himself together. I’ve always wondered if that was scripted or if Jared improvised that.

      I know a lot of fans loved Purgatory, and it’s pretty cool looking. The fight scenes are well done, but you’re right. If you think about it, a lot of things don’t make sense.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

      • Season 8 makes it worse too with the introduction of the Trials, where Dean’s all like, “NUH-UH I’M GOING TO DIE, YOU LIVE A NORMAL LIFE SAMMY, IT’S MY ONLY DREAM.”

        And I’m all like, “Wat.”

        September 17, 2013 at 10:28 am

        • Yes, exactly. Dean did this bizarre flip-flop mid-season.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

  4. Sarah

    @Kelios [deleted content]

    September 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

    • FYI:Respectful disagreement is fine, but replies to other commenters containing personal attacks or name calling will not be approved. I want this to be a place where readers can exchange ideas without being bullied.

      September 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

  5. emmau

    It seems odd to me that Sam does seem to get more of a pass here with a “Well, he was written OOC”, but Dean is just terrible and responsible for everything he said. If we’re going to excuse one brother through bad writing, it seems unfair to hold bad writing against the other–and yes, I think that goes both ways. Both Sam and Dean were written against what they’d said/done before for the sake of DRAMAZ, and I can’t see holding it against one but not the other. Just my opinion.

    September 18, 2013 at 7:27 am

    • I can twist my brain into a pretzel to try to explain why Sam didn’t look for Dean, but fans shouldn’t have to do that. Carver should have shown it because otherwise it does come across as OOC.

      Unfortunately, I don’t see the way Dean treated Sam in Citizen Fang as completely out of character. It’s meaner spirited Dean — maybe due to PTSD from purgatory? — but he’s had a history of treating Sam insensitively. Part of that is kind of Sam’s fault. In the early seasons, Sam would have come back at Dean harder to defend himself, but since breaking the seal etc., Sam has come to just take whatever Dean dishes out as though he deserves it. We see now that he feels he does.

      September 18, 2013 at 8:38 am

      • emmau

        I would agree that both Dean and Sam have treated each other insensitively at times, in between their times of loving and saving and sacrificing each other. ?I think they were pretty even on the dickishness in this episode. Sam went behind Dean’s back–something he despises when it’s done to him–to find evidence that Dean’s friend was a killer so he could shove it in his face and either kill Benny or have Dean do it. Dean stood by his friend and threw his trust issues in Sam’s face. When Martin knocked Dean out, Sam barely reprimanded him and even was complicit in locking his brother up so he could kill his friend (Imagine if Dean had shrugged in 2.3 after Gordon cut Sam’s arm and killed Lenore anyway–I doubt it would be handwaved away). Dean sent a text message to throw Sam off the trail, not considering the fear it might provoke in his friend. Slate’s pretty much even to me–both Dean and Sam were stubborn and determined to prove they were right, and they treated each other badly to do so. But if we are going to go with the idea that Dean was affected by PSTD and not OOC, as Sam is being excused with, it’s a little sad that he doesn’t get any leeway for that. Dean has to work through that himself, no question , but Sam could have been a little bit more supportive of a brother who’s clearly struggling, couldn’t he?

        As for hypocrisy, Sam refused to give Benny the benefit of the doubt, despite letting a werewolf walk only episodes earlier and letting Amy go despite knowing she was a serial killer. Dean defended his friend despite circumstantial evidence that he was a killer, despite his usual once a monster, always a monster mentality. So to me, that is clearly a sign that show flipped the boys’ attitudes for DRAMAZ. Again, if one gets a pass for being OOC, I don’t see how the other doesn’t

        We’ll have to agree to disagree about Sam just taking whatever Dean dishes out–he made it plenty clear in SC he wasn’t going to take it anymore and threw down an ultimatum. He did the same in Torn and Frayed, but this time Dean didn’t give into it. Sam was very clear on what he would and would not take–what he couldn’t do (and wasn’t willing to work to do, from what I saw) was work to change Dean’s mind or make things better between them. Then again, that’s not only on Sam because show didn’t really have either brother work to fix things as much as they slapped a Band-Aid on it and forgot the conflict–until the finale, of course, when it was time for the big, emotional drama. I have to admit though that I do have a problem with the finale’s sudden onset of guilt/suicide, as I saw no evidence that Sam really thought he’d let Dean down or done anything wrong until the big climax. The finale to me was a quick fix to a problem they let fester for 22 episodes, and as such it didn’t seem adequate or satisfying. I know it worked for others, which is great. But it didn’t work for me. At this point, I’d love all of the mess of last season in the past, but we’ll see.

        September 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm

        • In The Mentalists, Sam admitted that Dean had probably done the right thing by killing Amy because he (Sam) was too close to her. That’s the standard that Sam was using in regard to Benny. He felt Dean was too close to have good judgment. Unlike Dean with Amy, Sam never lied about his intention to kill Benny. He could have been like Dean, lied about it, and killed Benny in secret. I’m not saying he was right about Benny. I still don’t feel comfortable about Dean killing Amy, but it would be a double standard to say one is right and the other wrong. The main reason I’m uncomfortable with the Amy killing and the fallout from it is because of what was established in Bloodlust with Gordon and Lenore. Sam seemed puzzled given Dean’s attitude about Amy but went along with letting Kate go in Bitten, and I think he figured it out when he discovered in a rather unpleasant surprise that Dean came back from Purgatory with a vampire friend.

          I didn’t like Sam’s lukewarm response to Martin knocking Dean out either, but I wonder if Sam had knocked Dean out himself, would fans feel differently? After all, Dean has thrown the first punch on a number of occasions and Sam at least once. I’m not saying any of it is justified, just that they aren’t averse to violence even against one another. Sam was certainly angry at Martin. That Sam took advantage of Dean being unconscious directly in the aftermath of Dean saying that ugly conversation doesn’t surprise me.

          i can see why you think that they were pretty much even in that ep. It just didn’t come across that way for me. I completely understand Sam’s position — and even Martin’s. Had it been anyone else, given the evidence, Dean would have been on board with killing the “monster” too.

          I agree that the finale tried to wrap things up in a neat package too quickly. They wasted some time during the season on throw away eps, when they could have used that time to work these issues out better. I did buy Sam’s guilt though. He’s felt like a burden to Dean since he got his soul back, and then he had the remorse of not looking for Dean on top of that. Just as Dean has felt that he always let down the people he loves, Sam has that as well. Sam had felt that he’d paid his dues back in S7, but I think that Dean bringing up all the ways Sam had let him down in Southern Comfort, which was based on his true feelings even if heightened, brought back all that guilt for Sam. He may have let it go, but he believed, rightly or wrongly, that Dean hadn’t. I think that Sam planned to take on the trials not just to prevent Dean from getting himself killed, which Sam couldn’t live with (I noticed early on in the season that Sam seemed really frightened of something happening to Dean when they were in fights with demons, etc., and then of course his panic when Dean called from the vampire nest), but to make everything up to Dean.

          I agree that they let the !conflict! for !conflict!’s sake of S8 go. I’ve been waiting since Swan Song for the boys to both be healthy and on the same page again for awhile. The spoilers I’ve seen both worry and give me hope. So, yeah, we’ll see.

          September 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm

  6. emmau

    The problem with citing Amy is that in SC Sam apparently did a complete 180. Through the magic retconning, it seemed that he no longer believed that Dean was right to kill Amy in SC when he was throwing her in Dean’s face—not because Dean was being inconsistent, but because Amy had been Sam’s (sort-of) friend and Dean had killed her, and that wasn’t fair! Sam didn’t talk about how he’d trusted Amy but Dean had made the right choice then—he didn’t sound as if he was concerned about Dean at all. He was mad because Dean was adopting the exact attitude Sam had always wanted him to adopt—seeing shades of gray and not treating all monsters as inevitably evil. So Sam was being just as inconsistent as Dean was there. Also, equating Amy and Benny has always been a false equivalency for me, because at the time Sam did not know or have reason to believe that Benny had killed anyone and wanted him dead, while he knew Amy had killed and still wanted her to survive. I really see no equivalence between Amy and Lenore—Lenore worked very hard not to kill people, to the point of begging for death when the MoA compelled her to do so. Amy had no problem judging humans as worthy of dying and killing them to suit her own needs.

    Sam and Dean are different people—Dean killed Amy behind Sam’s back because he thought she was dangerous, but he didn’t want Sam to know. That was wrong. Sam definitely wanted Dean to know that he was going to kill Benny. He announced it up front and very clearly wanted to be the one to kill Benny and for Dean to be part of it, so he could tell Dean “I told you so.” That’s not really that much more noble, in my estimation. You could see him spoiling for a fight at the beginning of Citizen Fang so he could call Dean on letting go a monster that had killed, but Dean didn’t give it to him then and took the wind out of his sails.

    Oh, I think the same thing would have happened if Dean had knocked out Sam—Sam fans would have condemned him while Dean fans would have tried to reason it out or would have handwaved it. Sam and Dean are hypocrites, and so are their fans. That’s just the way it is. But since I’ve seen many a post condemning Dean’s throwing punches or being violent towards Sam, I think it’s interesting that a Sam fan wouldn’t find Sam’s lack of response to Marin hurting his brother more problematic. Sam’s moment of anger was perfunctory at best. I also think excusing Sam’s refusal to help his brother while unconscious, instead using that time to ignore his words, lock him up, and kill his friend, because Dean said Benny didn’t let him down pretty sad. Sam’s feelings were hurt, so he’s justified in tacitly endorsing someone assaulting his brother and locking him up? That’s interesting—so if the situation was reversed, would you feel Dean was justified?

    I understand Sam’s position—I just don’t think it’s any more valid than Dean’s position was in the episode. Had it been a monster that Sam identified with, he would have been against killing the monster without hard evidence—we’ve seen this before in episodes a la 4.4 and 2.18. So yes, Dean wasn’t consistent, but Sam wasn’t, either. I understood why both felt the way they did (partly through narrative and partly through show’s desire for DRAMAZ), but they were both acting against pattern here, and they both were guilty of some bad behavior.

    When the finale pulled the guilt card, all I could hear was Sam happily declaring his slate clean in 7.4. So I didn’t really see that Sam felt he was a burden to Dean after getting his soul back. He wanted to make for what soulless Sam had done to others, but he never expressed that he felt that he had to work to make amends to Dean the same way, and by 7.4 that was over. I didn’t see any remorse for not looking for Dean at any point before the finale. I didn’t see Sam being affected or believing what Dean said under the influence in SC, which was a real missed opportunity. Instead of being hurt or mortified, Sam was just pissed and demanded Dean get over it or else he’d leave. That doesn’t say remorse to me, or that he cared to do anything to help Dean get past it. That said to me that he felt this was Dean’s problem and Dean needed to deal with it—Sam didn’t show any sign that he felt any responsibility to make things better with Dean to me. Show didn’t build a foundation for Sam’s sudden guilt/suicidal remorse, so it just didn’t work for me. I don’t see how taking on the trials would have made anything up to Dean, honestly, though I can see how Sam might have decided it would. Sam has always gone for the big gesture over fixing the small stuff. I can see how he would equivocate doing the trials with fixing things with Dean, but it’s moments like that that make you wonder if like he knows Dean at all. Dean doesn’t need Sam to prove that he can follow through with a job or save the world—he needs Sam to be there for him. I’d like Sam to actually realize that in S9, because it seems he still hasn’t figured it out.

    I don’t have a lot of hope from the spoilers at the moment, because it seems like a retread—something’s going to be wrong with Sam and Dean’s going to keep a secret. I’m honestly hoping for both of those things to disappear quickly, despite Jared’s enthusiasm for it, and for show to just give us and season of Dean and Sam being a united front against the big bad of the season. But we’ll see.

    September 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    • DEAN: I highly doubt you get anything about Purgatory.
      SAM: But you’re out now, and Benny’s still breathing. Why?
      DEAN: He’s my friend, Sam.
      SAM: And what about my friend, Amy? She was what? ‘Cause you sure as hell didn’t have a problem ganking her.
      DEAN: Well, I guess people change, don’t they? We let that werewolf Kate go, didn’t we?
      SAM: She was different. She – you think Benny’s different? He tell you he’s not drinking live blood, or something? And you believe him. Wow. Okay. You know, you’re right. People do change.
      DEAN:Yeah. I got a vampire buddy, and you turn your phone off for a year.
      SAM: Don’t turn this on me.

      I don’t think we’re reading Sam’s line about Amy the same way here. Sam isn’t saying that Dean was wrong to kill Amy. The way it reads to me, he’s accusing Dean of having a double standard for his own friend that he didn’t have for Amy. Interesting though, because Dean here almost seems to be admitting that he might have been wrong about killing Amy. (Dean has such a hard time admitting he’s wrong or apologizing.) What bothers me reading this passage is that Sam doesn’t for whatever reason see Benny like he did Kate. That’s where to me the inconsistency in Sam’s thinking is. As for Amy judging whether humans should live or die — that’s not too far off what the boys do all the time. Especially in S8, we saw them kill demon vessels just to get the demon like they did with Linda Tran’s friend. Lord knows the boys wouldn’t hesitate to kill a human if it were to save each others necks. I have a hard time condemning Amy for killing low-lifes to save her son. That’s my personal feeling though.

      If Dean would have been the one to barely blink an eye if someone had knocked Sam out and then taken advantage of the situation? It would have surprised me less tbh because I have never been more surprised or disappointed in Dean than I was in the long aftermath of Castiel’s breaking the wall in Sam’s head. I was shocked at Dean’s lack of rage for more than a hot second. I mean, this was Sammy, and Dean was what? Torn, because it was his angel bud who did it? eh.

      A couple of times you say that you didn’t “see” things with Sam, and I think that was a huge problem with S8 — not just with Sam but with Dean too. One of the things that made S4-5 bearable given how at odds the boys were is that through the camera shots on their faces we were shown how much the conflict hurt them. I was frustrated in S8 that we didn’t get those kinds of reactions from either of them, which called into question whether that love was still there. The other thing in regards to not seeing things with Sam is that Sam is really good at not showing how he feels. Dean — in the past at least — wore his heart on his sleeve even with Sam, but Sam is kind of a chameleon. He appears to be what he thinks others expect him to be or what he should be. I think it’s a defense mechanism from being dragged from school to school as a kid. We saw how he tried to hide how bad off he was when his wall was crumbling, when Hallucifer was riding shotgun, and when he got sick during the trials because he doesn’t want to be a burden on Dean. So, I guess, because of that, I wasn’t surprised when the guilt he’d been feeling wasn’t obvious.

      September 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      • emmau

        You’re right; we’re not reading Sam’s line about Amy the same way. To me, Sam is very much saying that Amy was his friend and Dean killed her, and that wasn’t fair because Benny’s still alive. Then again, it’s hard for me to accept Sam being mad at Dean for adopting the exact same attitude Sam had always wanted him to, i.e., treating monsters as individuals. At this point, it is a false equivalency for Sam to say Benny is more like Amy than Kate, because he has no evidence that Benny is any more dangerous than Kate. Dean did admit he was changing, and that’s a negative thing to Sam, which makes little sense to me. He’s behaving the way Sam had even as recently as 8.4 wanted him to behave. So it’s okay to let a werewolf they didn’t know go, but not someone Dean can vouch for? So yes, I agree that Sam was just as inconsistent as Dean was here.

        I think show has always been pretty clear on their lines regarding humans and monsters–humans, particularly hunters, are allowed to make calls about who lives and dies and monsters are not. 4.4 stands out as an example–while Jack was, to my eyes, very much justified in killing the hunter who was planning to kill him and his wife, at that point it was also clear he was irredeemable. Lenore, who was compelled beyond her control to kill, similarly was condemned due to her actions. So Amy deciding who lived and died was never going to be acceptable, based on universe rules. Also, to me there’s quite a bit of difference between accepting collateral damage in killing murderous demons and simply deciding others don’t deserve to live and murdering them based on surface impressions alone. I think back to Sam in TBAI–if Amy had found Sam passed out in a car, she could have easily decided he didn’t deserve to live as much as her son, and she would have been wrong. So I personally understood why Amy made the decision she did, the callousness at which she decided others weren’t worthy to live and her lack of remorse for those murders, especially compared to a character like Lenore, made it clear to me that she needed to be condemned. That’s just my take.

        So, again, Dean is being castigated for following Sam’s lead? As I remember S7, Dean was the one ready to write Castiel off, and Sam was the one who believed he could still be redeemed. Sam forgave Cas, called out to him, and was ultimately the one who brought him back to the Winchester fold. So Sam being forgiving is a good thing, but Dean doing likewise means he’s uncaring? That’s a bit of a double standard, isn’t it? Then again, Sam was willing to work with Ruby after she beat up his brother and crowed about the chance to hear him screaming in hell, so I suppose it’s in character for Sam to work with Martin after he attacked Dean. None of this answers my original question, though–if the roles had been reversed in Citizen Fang, would you have found Dean’s actions justified?

        I agree that the lack of showing what Sam felt was going through was part of the problem, but it is not the whole problem. Sam did show us how he felt about Dean’s attitude, Amelia, his year off, etc–he just never showed the guilt and remorse that suddenly popped up in the finale. I think part of that can be traced back to Carver, who up until the very end was insisting Sam had made the right and mature choice. But in the end, it seems he changed his mind and decided to go with, “No, for real he felt bad the whole time; you just didn’t see it!” But even if not, the fact that Sam would rather let Dean think he didn’t care about his feelings in order avoid appearing weak, or to appear how he thinks others expect him to be, as you put it, is sad. This was the opposite of not burdening Dean–this was burdening him with the belief that Dean’s life/feelings just didn’t mean as much to Sam as Sam’s does to Dean. Neither of these explanations are satisfying to me as a viewer, so for me the last minute reveal in the finale fell flat.

        September 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm

        • “At this point, it is a false equivalency for Sam to say Benny is more like Amy than Kate, because he has no evidence that Benny is any more dangerous than Kate.”

          As I said, this is what bothers me about Sam’s thinking here. It doesn’t make sense and Sam is rarely anything but logical. As for Dean saying he’s changing — yeah, no. It doesn’t come across in print, but with the way Jensen delivered that line it was flippant and dismissive a kind of “yeah, people change, whatever.” The fact is Dean was uncomfortable with his own position on Benny. If he hadn’t been he wouldn’t have tried to distance himself from Benny when they first got back or kept Benny a secret from Sam. I think that Dean did see the discrepancy in his thinking between Amy and Benny, and he didn’t know how to handle it or justify it. It just was.

          “there’s quite a bit of difference between accepting collateral damage in killing murderous demons and simply deciding others don’t deserve to live and murdering them based on surface impressions alone”

          Sure, but in some cases they aren’t even trying to exorcise demons to save hosts anymore. I get that sometimes they don’t have time or there’s extenuating circumstances, but not always. Sometimes, like the one with Linda Tran’s friend, they just go ahead a kill the host along with the demon. That is a change in attitude that I find kind of disturbing.

          As far as Sam forgiving Cas, repeatedly, I would think him a saint or deluded, but Sam knows exactly where good intentions lead. He is able to forgive Cas because he’s been there. He’s let his pride and good intentions lead him to do some horrible things. (Although, unlike Cas I can’t recall Sam ever intentionally trying to destroy a friend for such a pointless reason. I still have huge issues with Cas breaking Sam’s wall because if he knew Dean at all he would have known that wouldn’t stop Dean.) So, yeah, I completely get why Sam forgives Cas the way he does even though it annoys me at times because I think that he’s been a much better friend to Cas than Cas has to him. As for Dean, he was angry and not ready to forgive Cas when Sam brought him back into the fold, but then half the reason for bringing him back was to try to get him to fix things, right? But then, oh Cas apologized to Dean, to Dean, seriously … I could go on forever about why I got pissed off with the way they handled Castiel in S7. Maybe it isn’t that Dean forgave him too soon or too easily, it’s that the writers let him off the hook for it by making him disappear into the lake. Oh sure, he was racked with guilt when he returned, but it was more about what he did in Heaven and on Earth than what he’d done to his “friend” to the most important person in Dean’s life. Dean never got a real confrontation with Castiel about what he’d done to Sam either, and instead of rushing to help Sam in The Born-Again Identity, Dean had to cajole him into it. I’ve always wondered if Dean was sincere in that scene or if he was suppressing his anger in manipulating Cas into complying with his plan. We see Dean having to suppress his frustration with “crazy” Cas and then “nature-boy” Cas throughout S7. I felt Dean’s frustration so strongly in the scene with the Sorry game. I thought Dean actually did well to just sweep the game onto the floor. I’m probably completely wrong, but I never fully was on board with the idea that Cas was “crazy” during that time. It felt as though there was an intent there to simply hide from his responsibilities and guilt. So, more than Dean not being angry, I guess I’m unsatisfied by the way the writers handled the resolution of Castiel’s storyline in S7. He seemed to be let off the hook as far as suffering consequences to his friendships. Carver continued that in S8, but I’ll quit now because it’s too early in the morning and I haven’t had enough coffee and I’m thinking out loud. Sorry.

          “I think part of that can be traced back to Carver, who up until the very end was insisting Sam had made the right and mature choice. But in the end, it seems he changed his mind and decided to go with, ‘No, for real he felt bad the whole time; you just didn’t see it!'”

          I do agree with this. It was frustrating because I kept thinking that there was something not right with Sam. Some fans thought there was going to be some big reveal that it was all a dream or Sam wasn’t Sam — like Souless!Sam in S6. It was that OOC to them. That Carver didn’t get that or that he thought he was being super clever and fans were going to love what they’d found so unpleasant in retrospect just bewilders me. If the writers had played up the PTSD angle better instead of letting it slide, I think I would have handled Dean’s behavior better, but you don’t come back from Purgatory as super-hunter and then let the monsters and even humans on earth kick your ass repeatedly. There was just so much inconsistent writing within the season as well as from a series stand point. Let’s just agree that it was a disappointment from all angles and hope that Carver learned his lesson from it.

          September 20, 2013 at 6:48 am

  7. emmau

    So, we’re in agreement that Sam’s thinking wasn’t any more consistent than Dean’s here. Whether Dean said he was changing in a flippant way isn’t germane to me at that particular moment—he was changing. He was willing to let Kate go, and he did let Benny go and defend him when in the past he would have done neither of these things. Now, did he trust Benny? Nope. But Dean didn’t trust anyone—he said it point-blank. It would be foolhardy to behave as if there wasn’t a danger of him slipping off the wagon. Honestly, though, I still don’t see the discrepancy between Amy and Benny. Amy was a proven remorseless murderer, and Benny wasn’t. I do think Dean knew how to justify his change—he fought side by side with a monster for a year and felt that he was worth the risk. Amy wasn’t.

    Whether Sam and Dean try to exorcise anymore isn’t the point I was making re: Amy—the fact is show has been very consistent in portraying hunters/humans like Dean and Sam as being able to make life or death decisions while monsters are irredeemable if they take human life. That’s why Amy had to die while the boys can kill hosts for the greater good without a blink. Now, as a completely different subject, I agree that show’s laziness in just having the boys kill all demon hosts without even trying to save the hosts disturbing. I did think it was hilarious that I was supposed to be horrified by Dean trying to kill Linda Tran to kill the king of hell, but reverse exorcisms and the decimation of entire neighborhoods by Dean and Sam to get to her is totally copasetic. Show is very bizarre about picking when we’re supposed to value hosts and when we’re not.

    Whether Sam identified with Castiel doesn’t really change the fact that he forgave Castiel, which is fine, but Dean following his lead is somehow supposed to be a sign of Dean not caring about Sam. Now, I do agree that the handling of Castiel’s redemption arc was poor, but it does seem to be explained by the fact that show had demoted Misha and seemed as if they didn’t intend on bringing him back. When they did, they just wanted it to go away, so Castiel was sad and that was good enough. As for focusing on breaking the world rather than Sam, this is pretty much the basic philosophy Sam follows. In S5, he was much more focused on unleashing Lucifer than the damage to his personal relationships. In S6, he focused more making up for what robo!Sam had inflicted on others than on Bobby and Dean. I think for Sam (and Castiel) I think it’s easier to focus on the big picture than the havoc wreaked on your family and friends. Of course, we could also see that as a show issue, because they have a proven track record of breaking relationships but not willing to put forth the work to really fix them to fans’ satisfaction.

    I think the crazy Cas arc was meant to be genuine—it just didn’t make any sense. Show wanted to fix Sam once and for all, and they wanted Castiel to face some consequences (and gain some sympathy). It never made sense for Castiel to somehow absorb Sam’s delusions or whatnot. S7 was a bit of a mess when you think about it too hard.

    Agreed—Carver’s apparent belief that we were all just going to love the new “mature” Dean and Sam was mind-boggling. They both regressed here, when they were in character at all. Having Sam act the way he did with no explanation except the Hail Mary “Totally was eaten up by guilt the whole time” finale made no sense. Dropping the PSTD made no sense, though is pretty typical of show. They like introducing depression/alcoholism/PSTD arcs for Dean and then having them go nowhere because they’re too hard to deal with. Sam gets this treatment, too—in S7 Sam was wracked by delusions unless he wasn’t. This is something you see from show—they twist the characterization to fit the stories they want to tell, rather than having the stories fit the characterization.

    We can definitely agree that there was a lot of disappointing writing to be had in S8, though some of their inconsistencies with characterization or twisting things for the “cool moment” are not new to Carver. I’d love to think show is going to learn their lessons this season, but we’ll see.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    • It still really bothers me that they moved Dean away from that gray area he began to accept with Lenore back in Bloodlust. For me, that was Kripke setting up a canon experience that changed Sam and Dean’s relationship and Dean’s perspective on monsters. Even when they had to kill Lenore in S6, it was because of Eve’s influence over all her children, not because Lenore was “bad.” She asked them to kill her. So for me, killing Amy was a judgment call that he admitted he made from a gut feeling, not a thought out rationale. Dean’s feelings on monsters haven’t been cut and dry since S2. I always got the feeling — remembering that Dean was pretty screwed up at that point in S7 — that he was like 90% sure that killing Amy was the right thing to do, and he was 100% sure that lying to Sam about it was wrong. He has guilt over the situation, and he should. Likewise, I think that Sam was 90% sure that Benny was or was going to feed, and like Dean, that’s good enough for a hunter. Remember, that Sam didn’t know about Benny’s backstory, at least we don’t know that Dean ever told him. So Sam doesn’t know about Andrea or that Benny had stopped killing before he went to Purgatory. That, I think, is really important in Dean trusting Benny not to kill in the future. He warms up even more to Benny after learning those things. But I also think that Sam’s experience with Ruby plays into his feelings about Benny. He knows what it is to become “friends” with a monster when the other brother isn’t there to keep him grounded. Sam and Dean do keep each other in check, and when they are alone, they tend to get into trouble. Sam knows what a slippery slope it can be to trust a monster. He paid a huge price for that, and I think it’s only logical, considering what he sees as OOC behavior from Dean — this isn’t about what he’s always wanted to Dean to do, it’s about Dean suddenly, inexplicably from his POV — making a 180 from behavior that he’d shown before going to Purgatory i.e. Amy. I don’t think that Sam’s feelings about Benny were entirely rational. They were the result of his past experiences, his protective instinct toward his brother, and the heightened tension between them.

      “Show is very bizarre about picking when we’re supposed to value hosts and when we’re not.” Yes, absolutely.

      “Whether Sam identified with Castiel doesn’t really change the fact that he forgave Castiel, which is fine, but Dean following his lead is somehow supposed to be a sign of Dean not caring about Sam.” I’m not looking at this as a goose and gander situation. Sam forgiving Castiel is completely in character for Sam. Dean, on the other hand, had in the past been basically murderous at those who hurt Sam, so the dissipation of his rage was disappointing, but after thinking it over, maybe what bothers me is that I feel the writers cheated Dean of a satisfactory confrontation with Castiel. While Dean has been allowed to vent his rage at Sam, he hasn’t with Cas. They’ve allowed him little more than annoyance or snark.

      “Of course, we could also see that as a show issue, because they have a proven track record of breaking relationships but not willing to put forth the work to really fix them to fans’ satisfaction.”

      Maybe that’s because the show is predominantly written, directed, etc. by men who gloss over these things. There’s the famous scene with Dean and Castiel that Jensen and Misha refused to do as written by Sera Gamble because it wasn’t how men talk to each other.

      “S7 was a bit of a mess when you think about it too hard.”

      I don’t even have to think about it. S7 is easily the weakest season — although for me, S8 is a close second. S7 had some high points — James Patrick Stuart was great as Dick Roman, as was Kevin McNally as Frank Devereax. There were a few stand out eps like Slash Fiction, and Death’s Door was just about perfect.

      “Having Sam act the way he did with no explanation except the Hail Mary “Totally was eaten up by guilt the whole time” finale made no sense.”

      See it did work for me. That Sam would still harbor guilt over every mistake he’s made was completely in character. I never bought that Sam felt he’d paid his dues as he stated back in S7. That’s the kind of crap that Sam says to make people believe that he’s “okay,” but he hasn’t been okay since he got his soul back — hell, since he got addicted to demon blood, or even before when Gabriel broke him in Mystery Spot — and maybe Carver expected everyone to remember that. Maybe he thought we’d all remember that he (Carver/Gabriel) broke something really essential in Sam when he made him suffer Dean dying day after day and then that long period of him being robo!Sam. Anyway, that Sam who still clung to all his failures also had to face the guilt of not looking for Dean — for whatever reason. Considering the mental and physical condition he was in from the trials, I wasn’t surprised at all.

      “They like introducing depression/alcoholism/PSTD arcs for Dean and then having them go nowhere because they’re too hard to deal with. Sam gets this treatment, too—in S7 Sam was wracked by delusions unless he wasn’t. This is something you see from show—they twist the characterization to fit the stories they want to tell, rather than having the stories fit the characterization.”

      Yes, I agree. That may be why Sam’s guilt confession came as a surprise to many. He appeared nothing more than angry and resentful through much of the season, but then as Bobby said, “You always were one deep little son of a bitch.” Sam hides his true feelings while Dean wears his on his sleeve, and that’s why a lot of fans relate better to Dean. He is easier to understand when written with any consistency.

      “I’d love to think show is going to learn their lessons this season, but we’ll see.” Yep.

      September 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

      • emmau

        I agree with the idea that Amy was a judgment call—I just don’t killing her is really a sign that Dean had completely gone back on starting to see shades of gray in monsters. Now, show may have given Dean a speech about how she was going to revert because that’s what monsters do, but again, show loves to throw away character development for the sake of a cool moment or a speech. Since that speech was written as a metaphor for how he felt his belief in Castiel as a supernatural being had ultimately ended with the supernatural being trying to destroy the world, I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to really think it was about Amy either way. After that, show basically reverted back to form with Dean, so this was pretty much another aberration meant to have contrived tension mini-arc between the boys.

        As for Amy, I think Dean was right about her, and I don’t think he ever thought that he wasn’t, even this season. Lying to Sam was what he felt guilty about, and I agree what he should have felt guilty about. To me, though, Amy was more than willing to kill based on surface impressions, so there was little reason to think she wouldn’t do so again without remorse if the need arose again. She was a danger to humans because of that. Her danger to humans was much more in evidence than Benny’s, and Sam’s vouching for someone he spent an afternoon with 15 years before to me is not the same as Dean vouching for someone he had just spent a year fighting beside to me. So again, I find the equivalency to be false.

        Sam’s experience with Ruby would have made sense—if show had ever drawn that parallel. I actually kept waiting for them to bring it up, but they never did. Instead, Sam just seemed unwilling to accept that his brother had changed (in exactly the same way Sam had always wanted him to) and he also seemed fairly blinded by his own issues. I think Sam showing protective instincts towards his brother would have made sense—if show had shown that. There was never any dialogue that made me think Sam was doing this because he was afraid that Dean was going to get hurt. He was mad that Dean had kept a secret (Winchesters being mad at each other for keeping secrets will never not be funny and hypocritical, no matter which Winchester is the one mad) and mad that he seemingly trusted a monster when he didn’t trust Sam (of course, the truth being Dean didn’t trust anyone). The whole Benny storyline could have really worked as good character development for Sam if they’d really explored it through his issues about Ruby and his wanting to protect Dean after he couldn’t protect him from purgatory or being hurt by Castiel or any number of reasons. After Citizen Fang, I really wanted them to do this, but instead they shuffled Sam’s actions under the rug and kicked Benny out of the plot in Torn and Frayed and then killed Benny off in the end. So Sam didn’t grow at all, and Dean’s character development re: Benny was similarly dispatched, and the whole thing pretty much went nowhere. Purgatory was such a sad waste this season.

        See, to me this is very much a goose and gander situation. Sam is generally praised for being forgiving or seeing shades of gray in monsters, but Dean doing the same is viewed as him not caring about Sam enough. I also think behaving as if Castiel was just anyone who had hurt Sam is far too simplistic. Castiel wasn’t Gordon, a casual acquaintance Dean felt a connection with—this is his closest friend outside of Sam and the one who saved Dean from Hell. It’s only sensible to see that his reaction isn’t going to be the same. I think I’d disagree that Dean hasn’t shown his anger with Castiel as well. I think there is a point to saying that Castiel has spent most of his time altered since the end of S6, which doesn’t allow Dean to fully address what Castiel has done, but since show has pretty much run away from that like a scalded dog I’m not sure why Dean gets the blame here. Again, it seems unfair if issues with Sam are explained as bad writing while issues with Dean are Dean not being a disappointing brother.

        See, I’m not sure I can blame the fact that the show is written, directed, etc. by men as an excuse. There are other show written by men that actually deal with the storylines set up, and Sera Gamble was prominent with the show for years. The Castiel fall-out was on her watch as show-runner. I do think that there’s a way to write emotional scenes that are true to men—show seems to have gotten worse at this, because in the first seasons I think they did a much better job addressing emotional issues than they do now. I think it’s more a reflection of show’s tendency to either avoid emotional storylines, to use them for a big moment and then not want to deal with the fall-out, or to write their scenes with lines that are worthy of a soap opera (spoiler—the sneak preview’s upcoming “Without you, there is no me” is a cringe-worthy example). I don’t think this is a solely a male issue, and by deeming it that I think it implies men can’t write/direct/etc good emotional drama, which isn’t true, at least in my opinion.

        Agreed—S7 had some high points, but as a whole it was a mess.

        I agree that Sam’s guilt-free line in 7.4 seemed to come out of nowhere, but that’s why I don’t think it came as a result of Sam trying to show he was okay. He had no reason to lie to Dean in that episode to try to make him think he was okay, or to even put on a big show for Dean to say he was okay. By mid-7.3, show had pretty much declared Sam fine already until about 7.15 when they needed the drama again. The hallucinations were pretty much gone, and all Sam needed was a little hand-pressing and he was good. I don’t think it was any deeper than Dean is eaten up by guilt and Sam wasn’t. To me, Sam eaten up by guilt for every mistake he’s made is pretty much as transient as Dean’s view of monsters being black and white—it’s there when the writers want it, and the rest of the time it’s MIA. Because it’s not consistent, I have to fanwank whether it’s present, and I didn’t see enough reason to fanwank that this season. If Sam can say he doesn’t even know where to start in confessing, then I don’t perceive him as being eaten up by any guilt. He’d know exactly where to start if that were the case, at least to me. That attitude did pretty much fit with the Sam I saw this season, who refused to admit to any of the people that talked to him about not looking for Dean that he felt any remorse and instead offered rationalizations, but it didn’t fit with the Sam in the big emotional climax. It doesn’t impress me to pull it out at the last minute to try to manipulate a certain response from the viewer, and that’s exactly what it felt like—manipulation.

        See, Bobby’s “You’re one deep sonovabitch” line never impressed me. Sam’s not that mysterious when you think about it, and neither is Dean. They’re both layered characters, certainly, and despite the no-chick-flicks moments Dean is more emotionally open than Sam. But being closed-off emotionally doesn’t make someone deep, nor does making someone emotionally open somehow less complex. Sam being reserved is just part of who he is. Sam does hide his feelings, but that doesn’t really make him less easy to understand to me. In this season, his insistence on hiding weakness to the point of making think Dean he didn’t care and not giving an inch to try to fix things with Dean is what made Dean more relatable, in my opinion. It wasn’t that Sam’s angry and resentful reactions weren’t understandable—they just weren’t that likeable. We’ve seen Sam hide his feelings before, a la S4, but show was much better at showing Sam’s uncertainty and worry about his brother there, showing how he was torn between what he felt he had to do and his unhappiness of how it was affecting his brother. There was none of that complexity there, leaving fans trying to fanwank more for Sam here until show threw those fans a bone in the finale. I just don’t think the writing represented Sam as a deep sonovabitch here—I think it was pretty much what we saw until the finale, and then we were expected to retroactively apply it to the whole season. That, to me, is not satisfactory writing.

        If nothing else, we can agree on hoping that show learns from their mistakes this year.

        September 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

        • “Sam’s vouching for someone he spent an afternoon with 15 years before”

          You may very well be right about Amy, but to be fair, she was someone who killed her own mother to save his very human ass. That isn’t the kind of thing one just brushes off. The fact that she didn’t just let her mother kill Sam suggests that she did have some regard for human life — or at least for Sam.

          “The whole Benny storyline could have really worked as good character development for Sam if they’d really explored it through his issues about Ruby and his wanting to protect Dean after he couldn’t protect him from purgatory or being hurt by Castiel or any number of reasons.”

          I agree. They did a terrible job of drawing parallels and then not actually carrying through on anything. The idea of Dean having survivor’s guilt when he got back without Cas could have been been connected with how Sam felt when Dean and Cas disappeared, but it never happened.

          “in the first seasons I think they did a much better job addressing emotional issues than they do now.”

          Agreed. In many ways, the show seems to have lost it’s way since Kim Manners died and especially since Kripke’s been gone. It is a mystery why when they had a winning formula, they changed it — from set direction to cinematography to character dynamics. I like Castiel, but somtimes I wish that he’d been written out after S5 or kept him a minor character. I feel like trying to make him such a major player through off the dynamic. It’s like they’re trying to do too much by giving him his own storyline.

          “I don’t think it was any deeper than Dean is eaten up by guilt and Sam wasn’t.”

          We’ll have to agree to disagree on this point. To me, Sam’s guilt and self-worth issues are a persistent aspect of his personality just as Dean’s are, but Sam has always been more likely to hide his real feelings. I don’t have to see it with Sam because I know it’s there. If he says it isn’t, he’s lying.

          “In this season, his insistence on hiding weakness to the point of making think Dean he didn’t care and not giving an inch to try to fix things with Dean is what made Dean more relatable, in my opinion. It wasn’t that Sam’s angry and resentful reactions weren’t understandable—they just weren’t that likeable.”

          Dean didn’t do much but fan the flames either though. I didn’t find either of them very likable much of the time, and that made watching the show pretty unpleasant. Even S4 was easier to watch because at least we got reaction shots that showed that it pained them to be at each other’s throats. We didn’t get this from either of them in S8.

          “I just don’t think the writing represented Sam as a deep sonovabitch here”

          No, it didn’t. I’m not sure what happened with the writing in general in S8. I don’t know if they are just getting lazy and relying on the idea that the fans “know” the characters so they don’t have to put in much effort or if it was just a matter of Carver wanting !conflict! for the sake of !conflict! Whatever the reason, it was a very weak season. I think we can agree on that.

          September 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

          • emmau

            True, but let’s be real—Amy didn’t just kill her mother for Sam. Show was pretty clear to show that Amy’s mother was abusive, so I don’t think she was only acting out of a belief of the sanctity of human life. Even if she were, though, that was 15 years ago. We can easily see how Sam and Dean have changed over the course of the series, let alone from their childhoods. It’s pretty clear to see whatever regard Amy had for human life had as a child had, by the time Sam encountered her again, become pretty situational. So should saving Sam 15 years ago give her a pass on deciding it was all right to murder others if she deemed them unworthy?

            If I may digress, I always have problems with the entire Amy arc because it also felt extremely manipulative. Here’s a monster killing people, admittedly and unremorsefully. But we’ll have her played by Jewel Straite, the darling of a cult sci-fi series and never show looking like/acting like a monster. Her kills were all off-screen, and she didn’t get deformed face or scary claws or anything that would detract from her likeability. She even had the perfect rationalization—saving her sick child. (I even saw people justifying her murders by saying they’d kill people if it meant saving their child, too, and I was like o.O . . . ) It was just all designed so clearly for the audience to sympathize with her and want us to be conflicted about the idea of letting a monster killing strangers and mutilating their corpses live that it made me roll my eyes hard. So to me the entire Amy arc, from beginning to end, is hard to take seriously and just another example of why S7 was problematic.

            Yes, we agree—the Benny arc missed so many opportunity, as did the purgatory arc. Connecting Dean’s survival guilt to Sam’s would have been a very intelligent and interesting thing to explore, and it would have, you know, shown some sign that Sam felt guilty before the big emotional finale climax. Alas.

            Again, we agree—Kim Manners’s loss really did change a lot of dynamics for this show. Of course, Kripke’s loss did as well, but I do think Manners’s loss is sometimes understated. For me, the change really began there. By the end of S5, Kripke just seemed disengaged, and then he was gone. Everything really did change then. Honestly, I don’t think Castiel is really the biggest problem they have, but I do agree that giving him a storyline that often doesn’t intersect with the Winchesters’ is very much a problem. I figure they do that because it allows them to park Misha off-screen, as befitting the recurring role, without leaving holes in the Winchesters’ stories, but it does make the various storylines disconnected at times. But he’s not the only example—Dean and Sam have many times been reduced to the Greek chorus in their own show while the guest characters take the stage, and that’s not a good thing in my opinion. Dean and Sam are often given the same recycled “Dean is Sam’s care-taker/Something’s wrong with Sam/Someone’s keeping a secret” storylines, and that keeps the character development stagnant.

            We can agree to disagree re: Sam having persistent guilt and self-worth issues. I see them as recurring, but by no means consistent. But the good thing about show is that it does allow for varying perspectives, and that’s fine.

            I think Dean not doing much to fan the flames makes sense—he was hurt and lashing out. In some ways, I think he was trying to get a rise out of Sam in order to get him to react and engage, but a lot of it was just hurt and anger. It’s not always pretty, but it’s pretty easy to identify with (and in some ways, I think it’s a lot to ask for Dean to be the one that fans the flames. At the time, he was the one hurt and the one suffering from purgatory PSTD, even if it did conveniently by mid-season). Sam’s refusal to engage or do anything to make the situation better wasn’t as easy to identify with, because when most people hurt family, they want to do something to make it better. Sam seemed unable/unwilling to do anything to fix things between them, and that’s harder to sympathize with. Thinking back to what you said about fan reaction, I think it’s that imbalance of reaction that often leads viewers to annoyance. Take LARP—Dean comes across as more sympathetic because he does acknowledge his wrong-doing with Sam with Charlie and he clearly is trying to be solicitous and conscious Sam’s pain at losing Amelia. We really didn’t see that from Sam, who at most said, “We both need fun.” He never acknowledged his own faults that led to their break in Citizen Fang/Torn and Frayed or that Dean had lost his friend at the same time. Because the reactions weren’t equal, it makes it appear as if Dean is more invested in the bond than Sam, which makes him more relatable, and for some fans it makes it look like Dean is being held responsible for his actions by the writers while Sam isn’t, which is irritating. It may be that no one can punish Sam more than he punishes himself with guilt and whatnot, but that doesn’t end up being very sympathetic to the audience, when he’s more invested in keeping his guilt inside than addressing his wrongs to his brother.

            Maybe it’s a point we can agree on to say that the writing for Sam didn’t do him any favors. Carver wanted DRAMAZ and CONFLICT, but at the same time he never really seemed to realize until the very end that his choices weren’t really going to be accepted/swept under the rug by fans. I think Carver really did think that Sam’s decision was mature, but he did very little to support his case, and the boys were acting anything but maturely towards each other. I think they realized that the CONFLICT of the first half was turning fans off, but instead of really fixing it they tried to sweep it all under the rug and go back to the S1 well for more “Something’s wrong with Sam/Dean takes care of Sam.” When that still didn’t quiet all the dissatisfaction, they went for the unearned emotional DRAMAZ of the finale. WE definitely agree that the season was weak when taken as a whole. So I think we have more common ground than not, which is always a nice thing to find in a discussion.

            September 21, 2013 at 11:14 pm

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