Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Codependence works both ways

Is it just my perception or are the fans who bemoan the brotherly codependence almost exclusively Dean fans or a few Sam fans? I just don’t think I see it much in the bi-bro fans.

There seems to be a notion that it is Dean who makes the bad decisions that lead to situations like the one they are in now, and that the “codependence” is always a bad thing. Not true.

Dean chose to sell his soul to bring Sam back and that led to breaking the first seal. Sam chose the path of revenge and that led to breaking the last seal. But they were both determined to kill Lilith, so either way, that last seal would have broken.

It was that “codependence” that led to Stull Cemetery. If Dean hadn’t gone — a suicide mission but Dean wouldn’t let Sam do it alone — then Sam wouldn’t have found the strength to overcome Lucifer because ultimately he did it to save Dean even if his original intention was to save the world. Dean risked himself, literally died, to get Death to retrieve Sam’s soul in S6, so he could have his brother back, and Sam risked his own sanity — “I won’t leave my brother out there alone” — to be at Dean’s side when Godstiel appeared.

Sam took on the trials to prevent Dean from going on a suicide mission, but when Dean asked him to stay with him, Sam gave up closing the gates of Hell … for Dean. And in 9.01, he was ready to die, he’d given up, given in, but when Dean offered him a chance, he stayed for Dean.

This season may be a redemption arc for Dean, but ultimately it will be the boys together who will pull everyone’s bacon out of the fire. That’s how it works, and if fans want the codependence to end, things will go very, very badly for the boys and the world.

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9 responses

  1. isleofskye

    Codependency is the heart of this show; always has been. That’s what makes it so appealing, and it goes both ways. Sam, more than once,has vowed that there is nothing he wouldn’t do for Dean, and has demonstrated it by always choosing his brother, ( except when crappy writers make him ‘not-look’, warping his character completely.) Mystery Spot is the first example to come to mind but there are many others.

    Taking away that codependency, which seems to be what Carver is aiming for, according to his harping on about ‘maturity for the brothers is a big mistake imo; one which added to the sit-com atmosphere that he is imposing on the show and the ignoring of pre-established canon, bodes ill for SPN

    December 10, 2013 at 11:51 am

    • Yeah, I hate to inform Carver, but people don’t just mature out of that kind of codependency. That was hardwired into their brains as small children, and it would take years of therapy for them to behave differently. I seriously can’t believe that he thinks that making them “mature” or “healthy” is interesting. And if they weren’t codependent, it would bode ill for them and the world.

      December 10, 2013 at 5:18 pm

  2. auroramere

    That’s the thing. They’re not codependent in order to mutually enable their addictions, they’re codependent to save the world. Shezael and Drezaem, but they’re not a single soul split in two (by a demon’s sword); when they are together, they’re something greater than one soul. Perhaps even greater than two.

    December 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm

  3. ispeaktongue

    Nope. Codependancy ≠ love and devotion. You COULD have a story about two brothers who love each other and would die to save the other’s life (much like a parent would for their child, which no one considers pathological dependance) BUT would not do so at the risk of it resulting in the death of many other innocent people, OR to the detriment of their own personhood. Why is that so hard for people to understand? Dean and Sam chose to save Sam’s life instead of closing the gates of hell, which would have most certainly saved countless lives. If anything their codependency results in tons of people dying. And the bodies just keep piling up.

    Dean and Sam’s love for each other and mutual understanding allows them to work beautifully as a team on hunts, and THAT saves lives, but their codependency is destructive, and puts lives at risk.

    December 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

  4. ispeaktongue

    What I’m saying is that claiming their codependency saves lives is blatantly untrue. The most significant world-saving act they ever did was to actually let go of each other, when Sam jumped into the pit. So to claim that the show, and their heroism is a product of their codependency isn’t correct. The show needs them to be brothers who care deeply about each other, yes. The show doesn’t need to put them in situations where they are constantly forced to chose between their love for each other and their desire to help others.

    There is another very important example of their codependent behaviour resulting in bad things happening. Dean brings Sam back from the dead (not hell, lets remember) in exchange for his soul, and ends up in Hell. While in Hell, he breaks the first seal. Meanwhile, Sam is so dysfunctional without Dean, and so troubled by the fact that he’s in hell, that he teams up with Ruby. The first seal kicked off the apocalypse, and Sam’s relationship with Ruby leads to lucifer being sprung. I think it’s safe to say a lot of people died as a result of the seals being broken and well, lucifer just being lucifer. And it all ties back to Sam and Dean’s unhealthy codependency.

    Season 8-9 are kind of regressive for Sam and Dean in that sense. Swan Song taught them to let go of that codependency, and acknowledge that there were more important things in the world than keeping the two of them together forever. And Kripke even managed to do that while still acknowledging that their love was important and wasn’t the problem. It was their attachment that was the problem. Now I feel like they are having to learn that all over again.

    Let’s be honest. Set-up wise, how different was the scene where Sam’s on the verge of closing the gates of hell from the graveyard scene in Swan Song? We are basically seeing Sam and Dean faced with the exact same dilemma, except this time, both of them are emotional train-wrecks and chose each other instead of the world. Personally, I feel like it would have been better if they hadn’t regressed in this way, and we could have just seen them to continue to grow as individuals while still remaining loyal to each other, but as it is, I am glad that what they decided to do, and the choice they made which was fuelled by codependency seems to be biting them in the ass. Now, in season 9, we are seeing the fallout. As it stood, I hated the season 8 finale, because I was worried it was romanticizing codependency in the worst possible way and it made me kind of ill. But now I can see that’s not the case, and I’m damn glad of it.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    • “to claim that the show, and their heroism is a product of their codependency isn’t correct”

      Okay, so you are making a distinction between the intent behind Sam accepting Lucifer to end the apocalypse, letting go of the codependency, and Sam only finding the strength to overpower Lucifer to save Dean, which I guess you see as love not codependence. And you’re right. There is a distinction between codependency and love, devotion and loyalty.

      “I feel like it would have been better if they hadn’t regressed in this way, and we could have just seen them to continue to grow as individuals while still remaining loyal to each other”

      Well yeah, obviously. For whatever reason, Carver, Singer, whoever is in charge felt the need to erase, specifically, seasons 6 and 7, but even as you point out, character development from the Kripke years. The decisions made and especially the way Sam has become little more than a chew toy for the writers is a mystery to me. I’ve been watching season 1 again, and what Sam has become is just heartbreaking. He was so smart and rebellious and funny. None of that is left. It’s like the life has been drained from — and most of his smarts too. He’s been replaced by Charlie and until 9.09 by Kevin. Even the anger of mid-S8 was gone by the end of the season. When Tracy attacked him, he didn’t protest and Dean didn’t defend him. .

      For me the troubling aspect of their codependency isn’t the deaths of faceless multitudes (because this is fiction and it’s Sam and Dean’s story, so unless the theoretical multitudes affect the boys, meh) but that Dean no longer makes decisions on what Sam wants or needs. What is important to him is having Sam physically present at the cost of Sam’s emotional and psychological well-being. We see of course where that’s gotten Dean, and I’m glad. I’ve seen his behavior as a reflection of his father who was also concerned with keeping his sons alive with little regard for the inner life. We saw how Dean became a jailer with Lisa and Ben. He learned to father from his father, no doubt about it. The horrible thing is that that Sam has slowly begun to bend to Dean’s will over the years — more and more by increments. The trials left him too broken to resist.

      My point in writing this piece wasn’t so much the conclusion that they need to be codepencent, as opposed to devoted and loving. My point was that I hear fans constantly bemoan the fact that it hurts Dean. The fact is that the codependence does go both ways and it’s probably hurt Sam more over the years. Certainly, we’re seeing an ugly example of that now. But would I have wanted Dean to let Sam go? Of course not. I just wish the writers had made other choices. As fate would have it, the boys will apparently always be put into positions where they have to make choices just like that. I can only hope that they choose to go down fighting together at the end. Oh wait … is that unhealthy?

      December 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm

  5. lkeke35

    Like you I see the codependence as unhealthy. The love and devotion is just fine and if that was the only impetus behind Dean’s decisions I wouldn’t have such a problem with it. But Dean’s decision this and last season was based entirely on selfishness. And that’s understandable but its good to see that there has been fallout.

    I can acknowledge their deep love and devotion and still admit that the codependency isn’t healthy. And above all else I want them to be mentally and emotionally healthy and choosing to be with each other out of love, not a selfish need to be together. Their addiction seems to be each other and the codependency is enabling in that matter.

    Yes, the writers do seem to have regressed them. I thought there would be some maturity and change after season five but the writers have chosen to not let Sam be himself for nearly two seasons. It would just be nice to see Sam again without him being sick or possessed or something. With Sam out of crisis then and only then can we see their relationship start to mature.

    December 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm

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