Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Sam Winchester’s Shaky Relationship With Normal

In an earlier post, I talked about Sam’s relationship with women. What I’m wondering is how his lack of having had a mother figure in his life has affected his relationship with women and his idea of “normal” life. The excerpt from that post below looks at the significant women in his life:

Jessica Moore – (Pilot) Jess represented everything that Sam had ever wanted for himself – safety, security, stability. She embodied an idealized way of life that Sam had never experienced and gave him companionship, affection, support, without any of the obligation of family. They chose each other. For a boy who didn’t remember his mother, she was his first female relationship. She will always loom large in his heart and memory for that, but he never told her the truth about himself, and it is questionable whether they could have made it as a couple in the long run if she had lived.

Lori Sorensen (Hookman 1.7) – Just seven eps after Jess’ death, Sam is feeling some pretty strong attraction to another girl, but he won’t let himself act on it. Part of the reason is that he’s mourning Jess, but there’s something else to it. Lori mentions that people around her keep dying, and Sam says that he thinks he knows how she feels. Despite not yet knowing the truth about Jess’ death, he feels responsible and is avoiding a relationship because of it. At the end of the ep Dean suggests that they hang around so Sam can spend time with her, but Sam shakes off the suggestion.

Meg (Scarecrow 1.11) – Does Meg count since she was a demon dressed as a cute blonde hitchhiker? Sam was attracted to her certainly, but he didn’t hesitate to walk away from her, despite her pleas to join her on her trip to California, the moment he thought Dean was in danger. Without a backward glance, he hotwired a car and went to save his brother.

Sarah Blake (Provenance 1.19) – Throughout Season 1, Dean encourages Sam to hook up with girls, but Sam doesn’t consider it until he meets Sarah. She’s smart and funny and doesn’t freak out about the Truth. She insists on being a part of the hunt and does okay for a civilian first encountering the supernatural. My feeling is that she would have actually been a better choice for Sam than Jess. Dean was all proud “That’s my boy” when Sam kissed her at the end. Still, Sam’s on a mission to find John and what killed Jess, and he leaves. Crowley killing her in S8 is one of the things that really broke Sam and made him willing to die in order to close the gates of hell.

Madison (Heart 2.17) – Sera Gamble wrote this one, and holy shit do I miss her sometimes. She got Sam, and this was a nice piece of exploration. S2 deals a lot with the idea of monsters and whether they can be anything but evil, and it is a crucial exploration because Sam’s slow slide to becoming a monster has begun. He falls hard for Madison, and part of his desperation to save her is a belief in her humanity, but also the need himself to hold onto his humanity when he isn’t sure he can. Dean stopped encouraging Sam to hook up with girls after Madison. Perhaps their lives just got too hairy, or maybe Dean realized that Sam was incapable of casual hook ups. He gave his heart, and Dean couldn’t bear to see Sam hurt that way again.

Bela Talbot (Dream a Little Dream 3.10) – Sam dreams of Bela showing up in a trench coat with lingerie beneath. This little scene is played for laughs when Sam awakes and Dean teases him about what he was dreaming of and because Sam is jumpy when Bela actually arrives, but it’s interesting in that we actually see Sam as a sexual individual when he is normally portrayed as touchy feely, only associating sexual attraction with emotional intimacy. Sam and Dean don’t even like Bela, certainly don’t trust her, she shot Sam, but his libido still responds to her. It is interesting seeing Sam portrayed as a just a guy with random sexual urges. Gamble was involved with the story on this one as well.

Ruby (season 4) – Ruby gave Sam what he needed when Dean went to hell – a cause, revenge. She twisted things around to make his cause fit her cause. In her evil way, she loved him. She gave him something else, something he’d always needed: Someone who believed in him, and that is what came between him and Dean. While Dean doubted him, Ruby believed in him, and that is what Dean couldn’t understand no matter how many times Sam begged him to. (Interestingly enough, that is coming into play in S8 with Sam asking Dean to believe in him. Wonder if Carver will have it play out differently or whether Dean will fall back into the same old trap of doubting and alienating Sam.)

Dr. Cara Roberts (Sex and Violence 4.14 was written by Cathryn Humphries who wrote so many great eps. She’s missed.) – While Dean was off getting seduced by a siren that patterned itself on Sam, Sam was getting a quickie on the doctor’s desk. This is I think the only time we see Sam have a casual sexual encounter. Sam is pretty screwed up at this point. He’s been conspiring with Ruby, drinking her blood and having sex with her, and I’d think that the hook up is Sam attempting to make a connection with a human and his own humanity.

Season 6: Annie and the other women that Soulless!Sam hooked up with hardly seem to count, except to say that it shows that Sam does have a healthy libido. I think that we can see Soulless!Sam as representative of Sam’s id. He’s what Sam would be without all the self-control, self-doubt and repressed impulses. Sam is a victim of his own desire for ‘normal’ in many ways. He’s obsessed with it. Growing up he accepted sitcom families and the families of classmates as representative of a normal life, and that idealistic kid inside believes that normal people follow the rules.

Amy Pond (The Girl Next Door 7.03) – The first girl Sam ever loved, his first kiss, she saved his life by killing her own mother, and she turned out to be a monster. This ep is really more about Dean and Sam than it is about Sam and a woman. Dean kills Amy despite telling Sam that he trusts him. He clearly doesn’t, still. Maybe it’s about Sam’s head being broken or all the times his heart’s been broken; maybe it’s just the same old thing with Dean. Whatever. In the end, Sam agrees that Dean did the right thing, and if he hadn’t been so close to her, he probably would have done the same. Dean admits that lying to Sam felt wrong. We think maybe they are making progress. We’re wrong; welcome to S8.

Amelia Richardson (Season 8) – On the surface, Amelia is supposed to harken back to Jess. She represents a normal life of security and stability, but she’s nothing like Jess. She doesn’t build Sam up. Her first words cut him down. She’s manipulative and bullying, far more like Ruby than Jess. It’s only Sam’s belief in “the rules” that caused him to do the honorable thing and leave her to her husband. And as with the Ruby situation, it was Dean’s lack of faith in him, putting Benny above Sam, that had Sam considering going back to her. Meg’s use of the term ‘unicorn’ to describe Amelia and Castiel in Goodbye Stranger  (8.17) indicates to me that she recognized them in that context as mythological creatures, something idealized and unattainable. Sam has failed to recognize that. It isn’t just his life as a hunter or his devotion to Dean that prevents him from having a normal life with Amelia. It is that she isn’t what he’s imagining her to be. (end excerpt)

My question is how does Sam appear to have such apparently solid, intimate relationships with women given that there were pretty much none in his life prior to Jess? In fact, how is Sam not incredibly anti-social given his lack of sustained relationships other than Dean and an often absent, verbally abusive father? Dean had four years, the most important years, of normal childhood development in a relatively stable home with a loving, nurturing mother and caring, attentive father. Sam had six months.  After that, he was raised by a loving, but fearful child and an erratic, obsessed father.  He couldn’t remember a stable home life. How would that color his relationships with women and his idea of “normal”?

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8 responses

  1. Oh man, how did I miss this?! I was thinking about doing almost exactly the same thing, systematically going through the women of Supernatural. And there are so many I forgot!

    Also, it’s interesting that you mentioned the writers of some episodes. Was there a purge after a certain season that would explain some of the radical changes in the show.

    As for Sam, he is, as you’ve mentioned I believe, a chameleon. Sam is obsessed with blending. Combine that with his innately empathetic nature, his charisma, and his intelligence, and I think he can replicate it really hard. It does call into question whether or not him and lasted.

    And I can’t believe I overlooked that Amelia was a bad fit for Sam. I guess I was suckered by the lighting.

    I like your point that Soulless Sam is Id Sam. I was trying to figure out ways to describe him. It makes sense because Soulless Sam reminded me most of John Winchester, and Sam during the TV Land Episode. It sounds like a harsh comparison for John, but John did have a ruthlessly pragmatic side that his sons rarely got to see beyond.

    September 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    • I should probably do one of these on Dean as well because he does remember his mother, and she played a huge role in shaping how he relates to women I think — as did his perception of his dad who he initially idolized.

      The change in writers over the seasons has had a big impact on the show. As well as being creator/producer, Kripke was a writer, and I think his last episode was the S6 finale. A lot of fans didn’t like her as showrunner, but Sera Gamble was a solid writer, and I think her absence was felt in S8. Now, Ben Edlund has left to join Kripke on Revolution. Some of the weakness in S8 came from weak writing that ignored established canon or character development. I hope that Carver runs a tighter ship in S9.

      The thing about Amelia was that she struck me as an unprofessional veterinarian right off the bat. I just never warmed up to her after that. The wa those flashback scenes were filmed, I thought, made it look as though Sam was sort of seeming them through rose colored glasses. Also, the outdoor scenes at the park and their house made Kermit, Texas look so verdant, and it isn’t. It’s a desert — sort of a dry, depressed, ugly little town.

      John did come across as ruthlessly pragmatic. There’s that scene in Devil’s Trap where Sam is rushing them to the hospital, and John is surprised that Sam didn’t shoot him to kill Azazel. He says, “Why didn’t you kill it? I thought we saw eye-to-eye on this? Killing this demon comes first – before me, before everything.” Of course, Sam looks back at his injured brother and says, “No, sir. Not before everything.” That ep does such a good job of showing the stronger bond between the boys than they have with their father, but that’s another post. There is a part of Sam that’s like his dad. In Mystery Spot when he was willing to kill someone to get Dean back, for example. Sam can be ruthless that way too. It’s one of the reasons why Sam not looking for Dean pre-S8 didn’t set well with an awful lot of fans.

      September 29, 2013 at 8:28 am

      • You did leave out the incredibly inappropriate Becky, I realized. Admittedly, Becky is far from normal by the later seasons…

        I find Becky kind of indicative of the show overall, which seems to be about the violation of Sam’s boundaries. He’s possessed by a demon, possessed by a witch, possessed by Lucifer, stripped of his soul, had a soul forced back into him, had his mind broken, had his mind invaded by HalLucifer, and then was drugged repeatedly by Becky.

        October 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

        • Yes! Becky! How could I have forgotten?! And you are absolutely right that a major issue in Sam’s story arc is the violation of his agency. Sam’s struggle from running away as a teen and going to Stanford right up to jumping in the Pit and taking on the trials has been his attempts to take control of his life. Really the only thing he’s been allowed to follow through on has been jumping into the Pit. We’ll see what the fall out from not completing the trials will be. Poor Sammy.

          October 2, 2013 at 10:20 am

      • Becky knows Sam’s life story! I just realized how much more of a monster that makes her. She knows everything about everything he’s suffered and STILL goes through with her insanely selfish scheme.

        October 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm

        • Indeed. I find it kind of creepy that Charlie has now read the books too and was invasive when Sam and Dean were trying to have an argument.

          October 2, 2013 at 8:03 pm

  2. Reblogged this on blogjake and commented:
    A good analysis of the women in Sam’s life. #supernatural

    September 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm

  3. Pingback: Sam Winchester: Lack of stability and motherlessness | they chose family

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