Abandonment and other parallels in SPN S8
Supernatural began Season 8 with Dean having been abandoned by both Sam and Castiel. The big conflict of the season was due to Sam not having looked for Dean when he disappeared from the lab a Sucracorp, and I’ll get to that.
First, let’s look at Castiel taking off and leaving Dean to fight alone in Purgatory. When they are reunited there, Castiel tells Dean that he was hunted and he didn’t want to endanger Dean by being with him, but this isn’t a satisfactory answer. In must have gotten around pretty quickly that Dean Winchester – The Dean Winchester – was in Purgatory, and he had to have been hunted with as much furor as Castiel was. Dean accepted Castiel’s answer though, and Cas went on to fight alongside Dean and Benny despite the initial antagonism between the angel and the vampire. However, Castiel doesn’t make it out of Purgatory, and Dean is left with survivor’s guilt.
When Castiel mysteriously shows up topside, Dean is happy to see him and shows remorse for letting Cas down. Cas corrects him and says that Dean didn’t fail. Cas tells Dean he chose to stay in Purgatory as penance. I think that may be the real reason he abandoned Dean in Purgatory initially. After all the mistakes he’d made, he was afraid that he’d let Dean down again in Purgatory. Going off alone, perhaps to fall victim to a monster, was his way of paying penance not only for letting the Winchesters down but for all the mistakes he’d made.
Dean reacts very differently to Sam abandoning him than he did Cas. I think that’s largely due to the fact that he knew first hand what Cas went through in Purgatory. He was there and understood the fear and stress. He could only imagine what life was like for Sam, and the moment he found out that there was a woman, he imagined that Sam had simply hooked up with her and forgotten about Dean. In his defense, Sam didn’t try very hard to disabuse him of the notion. We can speculate about the reasons why, but I’d suggest that survivor’s guilt is probably chief among them.
As Dean felt guilt for getting out of Purgatory and leaving Cas behind, Sam must have suffered similar guilt in the wake of Castiel and Dean’s disappearance at Sucracorp, and it had to have been heightened upon Dean’s return when Sam realized that his brother had not in fact been dead. One might think that Dean would know Sam well enough to see that there was something seriously off with Sam’s behavior as he did with Castiel, but he didn’t. He accepted that Sam simply didn’t look. So while Dean’s survivor guilt caused him to reach out to Castiel, his extreme hurt over Sam abandoning him prevented him from doing so.
I’m not saying this explains everything or excuses anything necessarily. A number of parallels were set up in S8, but the lines weren’t drawn clearly enough for viewers to follow them. Jared has said, for example, that his time with Amelia was Sam’s Purgatory, and a lot fans were just, huh? I’m just setting this up for discussion.
Does this abandonment issue call into question why Cas was given a pass for abandoning Dean in Purgatory while Sam has been raked over the coals for not looking for Dean? What do you all think of the issue of survivor’s guilt? Does it help us better understand Sam’s mental and emotional state in Sacrifice?
Edit: As others have pointed out, Benny did refer to Castiel as a monster magnet. bittersweettwit wrote: “I do not think he left because he considered himself more important to their enemies than Dean. It is more to do with the fact that Castiel is easier to track. If you’ll remember to Dean he says “I’m an angel in a land of abominations” which I took as meaning that due to his angelic grace Castiel could be sensed from all over purgatory.” I’d forgotten Benny said that. Thanks, guys!
That kind of leaves us with the idea of survivor’s guilt. Did the writers just drop the ball on making the connections on that idea with Sam?