Dean Winchester, Responsibility, and Consequences
I’ve been thinking about where Dean might be emotionally and mentally after Gadreel told him that there is no more Sam and then walked off in his brother’s body in Holy Terror.
We know how responsible Dean has always felt for Sam. From the moment that John put infant Sam into Dean’s arms and told him to get his brother out of the burning house, Sam has been Dean’s responsibility. John never took that burden off of Dean, and that is the kind of thing that a small child will retain.
Dean confirmed in Dream a Little Dream (3.10) that’s how he felt when he said that John never protected Sam; he did. In the confrontation with his dream-self, he said of John:
All that crap he dumped on me, about protecting Sam! That was his crap. He’s the one who couldn’t protect his family. He- He’s the one who let Mom die. – who wasn’t there for Sam. I always was! He wasn’t fair! I didn’t deserve what he put on me.
He felt that way despite what happened with the shtriga in Something Wicked (1.18). I suspect that is because by season 3, he knew in his heart that John had used Sam as bait and let Dean take the fall for Sam nearly dying.
Dean’s sense of responsibility for his brother was so strong that in All Hell Breaks Loose, he sold his soul to bring Sam back from the dead. That decision had far-reaching consequences – from Dean himself breaking the first seal in Hell and leaving a grieving Sam alone to be manipulated by a demon and the last seal being broken to Dean eventually losing Sam when he jumped in the pit. It was Dean’s decision to sell his soul that nearly led to the apocalypse. But it has always been Sam who has borne the weight of blame for releasing Lucifer – not Dean or Cas or the angels.
Seven seasons later, Dean makes a decision to trick Sam into allowing himself to be possessed by an angel. It isn’t surprising after the scene in the church in Sacrifice, that Dean would feel responsible for Sam making a deal with Death in I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here (9.01). Just hours before, Sam had been willing to die rather than let Dean down again. Sam believed that Dean had so little faith in him that death was an easy option.
Dean: Metatron lied. You finish this trial, you’re dead, Sam.
I think it’s important that they cut the scene here because that “So?” is really bleak. There was such despondency in way that one word dropped between them. It speaks to how little Sam thought of his own life at that moment. When the scene picks up:
Sam: Look at him. Look at him! Look how close we are! Other people will die if I don’t finish this!
Dean: Think about it. Think about what we know, huh? Pulling souls from hell, curing demons, hell, ganking a Hellhound! We have enough knowledge on our side to turn the tide here. But I can’t do it without you.
Sam: You can barely do it with me. I mean, you think I screw up everything I try. You think I need a chaperone, remember?
Dean: Come on, man. That’s not what I meant.
Sam: No, it’s exactly what you meant. You want to know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can’t do that again.
The scene doesn’t end there, but it’s a good place to look at what the angel posing as Dean says to Sam in 9.01 – “There ain’t no me if there ain’t no you.” That is a fine bit of manipulation there because even for a man who we later learn is metaphorically held together with duct tape and safety pins, the last thing he can do is let his brother down again. So he agrees to go with Dean. Except of course, it isn’t Dean.
So once again, Dean has made a devil’s deal but this time with an angel, and it has gone horrifically wrong. The angel has killed a friend and hijacked Sam’s body. For Dean, whose one job has always been protecting his little brother, he has failed in the worst possible way. In All Hell Breaks Loose, he failed to protect Sam from an outside force. In 9.01, he conspired with a supernatural being, an angel who he was fooled into believing was more trustworthy than the YED, and in this case, Dean was an active agent in what’s happened to Sam.
No doubt, the decision that Dean made will have far-reaching consequences this time around as well. The prophet is already dead, and it looks as though Dean will have to make a deal with Crowley. At the moment, an angel of dubious character is walking around in Sam’s body and conspiring with Metatron. It’s hard to say what impact those things will have in the future.
I’m wondering right now what Dean is thinking and feeling and how the events that are playing out might change him in the future. In Devil May Care (9.02), Dean didn’t take any responsibility for the part he played in releasing Lucifer – not in his conversation with Tracy and not with Sam himself. I’m not saying Dean doesn’t know it or feel guilty for it, but by not acknowledging the part he played, he allows Sam to take all the responsibility. That is part of what led them to that “So?” in the church. I’m wondering, when this storyline plays out, if Dean will take responsibility. Will he see the direct line between the agreement he made with Ezekiel/Gadreel and the events that follow – Kevin’s death, losing Sam, and whatever else will happen – and openly acknowledge it.
I wonder too if Dean will feel differently about Sam’s decision to stop hunting and not look for him while he was in Purgatory. Without a doubt, part of that decision on Sam’s part was because of the way he went off the rails while Dean was in hell, but also because he thought Dean was dead. While I don’t buy the idea that they had an agreement not to look for each other, they did acknowledge that what is dead should stay dead. Dean might not admit what his decision to sell his soul led to, but Sam would be more than aware of it.
And will he see that in holding on too tight to Sam, he loses him each time? And if he does, what will that lead the next time?
- SPN 9.09: Holy Terror review (spnmonster.wordpress.com)