Sam and Dean’s Normal Lives
When season 6 opened with Exile on Main Street, Dean was shown in a montage that inter-cut black and white footage of him with Sam in with color footage of his life with Lisa and Ben. We saw him showing both Sam and Ben how to work on an engine. We saw him obviously troubled but comforted by Lisa. They had cook outs. He drank and checked warding around the house. He worked as a carpenter. We later learned that he went out for beers with the neighbor, Sid, and he played golf.
In season 8, Sam’s time when Dean was in Purgatory was shown in a series of dreamlike flashbacks that revealed how he hit and dog and met a woman. They shared deep grief over losing the most important people in their lives. She planned a birthday picnic for Sam. They got a house together. Her father recognized that Sam was seriously messed up like a soldier who has seen horrible things. He questioned the wisdom of their relationship. Sam was shown still pressing on the scar on his hand to ground himself to the memory of Dean.
I’ve outlined the bare bones of how these years of separation were presented on the show because fans tend to characterize quite differently. While most fans seem to agree that Dean cared about Lisa, he wasn’t really “in love” with her. They say he was miserable during that time despite the fact that we see him attempting to live a relatively normal life and having happy moments within it. By contrast, we see Sam having no social outlets outside Amelia, and having very limited positive moments.
I wonder why fans see such a difference between Dean’s time with Lisa and Ben and Sam’s time with Amelia. Why is Sam frequently characterized as being in love and happy with Amelia but Dean isn’t with Lisa?
When Sam first returned, Dean chose to stay with Lisa and Ben. It’s true that he was hurt by Sam not telling him when he first returned, but even after they started hunting together again, Dean tried to maintain a relationship with Lisa and Ben. Jensen has said that he thinks that Dean was more in love with the idea of Lisa (home, family) than he was with Lisa, but I don’t think there is any doubt that he cared about her and Ben.
As for Sam and Amelia, he did say he loved her, but his “she did make me happy” sounded more like he was trying to convince himself than Dean in Torn and Frayed. Let’s look at that motel scene. Amelia showed up at his door, entered without being invited, cut him off and put words in his mouth, and approached him for the kiss. Sam was completely passive in that scene. Contrast that with any other sex scene Sam has been in. And the next morning, could any man have looked less happy about sex than Sam? Sam’s protests of love and happiness come across as unconvincing to me, and let’s face it, “happy” has to be relative to Sam who has done little but suffer the past few seasons. His statement that Amelia made him happy may have been a reflection on the fact that he and Dean weren’t making one another the least bit happy at the time.
I think that Dean and Sam were both grateful for the women who got them through those years apart. In both cases, they needed time off to heal a little and let the trauma go. But I don’t see them as being so different in what those periods of time meant to them or the degree to which they were committed to those normal lives. In both cases, the boys clung to them for a period of time. In Torn and Frayed, Dean was speaking from experience when he told Sam that he had to have both feet in or both feet out. Ironically, it’s almost exactly what Amelia had said at the motel. She told Sam that he couldn’t be running off to that other life. Of course, that isn’t something that Sam could promise any more than Dean could. They will always rush to help the other, abandoning their “normal” life.
I wonder why fans see them so differently. What do you guys think?