Supernatural 8.14 Review: Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

SupernaturalSupernatural could just be an entertaining drama/comedy hybrid show about two brothers hunting monsters, but it was never really that show because it was always something deeper. The thing that Supernatural excels at is the depiction of familial relationships, both through blood and your own choices. And these relationships have always had the ability to touch the audience. In the beginning, the show was about the relationship between Sam and Dean (with love for their parents thrown in). Over the years the scope has widened to include their love for people like Bobby and Castiel, as well as other close friends, but we always revisit the tale of Sam and Dean’s relationship. There’s been some bumpy times between the boys over the years – God knows, some really bumpy times – but nothing can erase their love for one another.

“Trial and Error” proved, beyond a shadow of any doubt that might have sprung up between tense feelings between the brothers in the first ten episodes of this season, that nothing can ever trump the love that Dean feels for Sam and vice versa. They fight because siblings fight and because, often, their fights can, and do, involve matters of life and death. But none of that really matters when the chips are down.

Herculean Trials

We revisited our friendly neighborhood prophet in this week’s Supernatural, watching as Kevin rose each morning at 5:00 a.m. and subsisted on a diet of hot dogs as he toiled endlessly while trying to decode the Demon Tablet. Then, without much warning, there came a breakthrough!

But before we learned what that was – because Kevin was kind of busy passed out on the floor with a nosebleed – we headed back to the MoL bunker, where Dean was – for the first time since he was four years old – enjoying having his own room, complete with a memory foam mattress. The fun thing about Dean is that he thinks this room with guns on the wall and an old record player is “cool” in the way that a 13 year old thinks that putting up posters of their favorite teeny booper singer is cool. While Dean is emotionally mature beyond his years there’s always a sort of childlike exuberance hiding behind the surface (see, for example, his experience with LARPing). I think this is because Dean never really got to enjoy a real childhood, being forced to give up on the simple pleasures that you experience while growing up because of the hunting life that his family lived in. But it’s always so pleasant to see Dean experiencing these joys. Sam, on the other hand, knows what it’s like to have you own room because he had things like this in college or with Amelia (although not necessarily for long and under slightly different circumstances with her).

Unfortunately, Dean’s self-described “nesting” period was interrupted by a frantic call from Kevin, who summoned the Winchesters to Garth’s houseboat. They were shocked to see Kevin in such a terrible state, but he delivered unto them the good news: closing the Gates of Hell requires a simple Enochian spell. And, oh yeah, three horrific trials. The first task is killing a hellhound. In a customary stroke of genius, Dean suggested they find some poor sucker who made a deal ten years ago who will soon be a victim of hellhounds. While Dean headed off to rustle up some suitable grub for Kevin, Sam remained behind and reminded him that he needed to take it easy. After all, this whole saving the world thing is “a marathon, not a sprint”. What’s interesting about the Winchester brothers is that we know how often they find joy in simple things, and take time to enjoy life despite the circumstances they’re in. Sure, they often find themselves full of woe, but we know from “Swan Song” that they would often drive hundreds of miles to catch a concert of a baseball game. Kevin, however, can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel yet. All he knows is that he must work himself half to death so that he can achieve this task and finally go back to his real life. Maybe Kevin doesn’t understand Sam’s message because he hasn’t lived this life long enough or because, unlike them, he never grew up in it. Kevin’s dedication to the cause is incredibly useful, but it could destroy him.

SupernaturalDeeply Dysfunctional vs. Impossibly Loving

Fortunately for the boys, Sam managed to track down the Cassity family, who had mysteriously struck oil ten years ago despite the sheer impossibility of it in their location, so the brothers were convinced that someone must have made a deal. But they were thwarted during the arrival of the first hellhound, who pursued one half of the couple that they didn’t suspect had sold his soul. Then the widow’s remaining family members arrived at the posh farm and Sam was convinced that more hellhounds were to come.

The details of the multiple deals made by family members and staff aren’t necessarily important to this review, although that family hilariously brought dysfunction to a whole new level and were fun to watch, but what’s really crucial is the debate between the brothers. As Dean instructed Sam to remain with the family members inside a circle of goofer dust (remember that?) he headed outside with some glasses burned with holy fire in order to see a hellhound. While Sam was insistent that Dean needed backup, Dean was insistent that he would do the trials….alone.

“I need you to be safe, Sam, OK? That’s what I need,” Dean explained. “We’ve been down roads like this before, man. With Yellow Eyes, Lucifer, Dick Frigging Roman. We both know where this ends; one of dies. Or worse. I’m a grunt, Sam. You’re not. You’ve always been the brains of this operation. And you told me yourself, you see a light at the end of this ugly ass tunnel. I don’t. But I tell you what I do know, I’m going to die with a gun in my hand. Because that’s what I have waitin’ for me, that’s all I have waitin’ for me. I want you to get out. I want you to have a life, become a Man of Letters, whatever. You with a wife and kids and grandkids, living until you’re fat and bald and chugging Viagara. That is my perfect ending and it’s the only one I’m gonna get. So I’m gonna do these trials and I’m gonna do them alone. End of story.”

What a rousing speech by Dean who, like with the deal he made to save Sam’s life in “All Hell Break’s Loose Part 2”, simply explained that he valued his brother’s life more than his own and was perfectly complacent with sacrificing himself so that Sam could go on. Unfortunately, Dean’s plan was not to be, because Sam saved his life from a hellhound (in a spectacularly awesome kill scene) and then insisted that he be the one to complete the trials with his own emotional declaration. Sam wanted to say the first lines of the spell and commit himself to this quest because, unlike Dean, he had no intention of sacrificing himself here. He wanted to complete the trials and survive.

“I see light at the end of this tunnel and I’m sorry you don’t. I am. But it’s there,” Sam countered. “And if you come with me, I can take you to it. You’re not a grunt, Dean, you’re a genius. When it comes to lore…you’re the best damn hunter I’ve ever seen. Better than me, better than dad. I believe in you, Dean, so please, please, believe in me too.”

Concluded on next page…

  • Destiny

    What a horrible episode, although completely predictable. In then end it really is all about Sam.

    Of course, they couldn’t just have Sam get there first. They had to have Dean fail and SuperSam rush in to save the day. Dean survives a 24/7 combat zone with barely a scratch and he can’t take out one hell hound. Not buying it.

    Of course, Sam had to turn it around and make it all about him and how Dean has to trust him. Maybe the fact that Sam didn’t lift a finger to help him, then acted like he wished Dean was still in purgatory, and then left his brother handcuffed to a radiator to track and kill the person who was responsible for Dean being topside. Maybe Dean would trust if Sam stopped putting everyone before Dean.

    We have yet another chosen one story arc for Sam and Dean is just his support system (until Sam decide he doesn’t want it). Dean is a grunt. He’s Sam’s chef, his chauffeur and his cheerleader.

    What friends and family does Dean have? Cas is MIA and Dean gave up Benny after Sam’s temper tantrum.

    The only thing left is for Dean to make his “Sam your a big boy speech.”

    So this is the end of the line for me.

    • Emma


    • Hannah

      See ya.

      Phenomenal episode. I adore Sam and their rship is so great right now. Brilliant, best of the season.

    • cassandra

      i could’nt agree more, everything you said is right to the point, dean who? once again. let’s face it it’s the sam show & it will continue to be even if it goes on for another 100 seasons

    • Lucy

      Wow what a negative response. Obviously not a true fan of the show. I love both brothers.

      • cassandra

        oh don’t start with the whole brothers deal the producers keep selling, the show was never about the brothers, it’s always about sam poor sammy once again. dean had a variety of possible story arcs this season, purgatory arc droped,pstd droped, his friends droped, his feelings droped, mol droped, amazing hunter droped with last episode. he survived purgatory & could’nt kill a hell bound? give me a break + the whole throwing hints about his sexuality over & over again? one more trick of the writers to boost sam’s ego pressenting him as the straight one (which started when gable took over, not surprised since she was a sam girl). whatever it takes to diminish dean’s character & push sam’s up. & we end up with dean, once again, without a damn story arc & turned in to a damn desperate housewive. oh yeah the show is so much about the brothers, i bet also that the cliffahnger will be on sam & will not be surprised if they send him to purgatory (once again stealing dean’s story arc) which will explain why they rap up in no time dean’s story arc there, when last summer both carver & edlund said they would stay on it a lot. yeah cause a few minutes spread in 4 episodes was alot.

  • Thomas

    Another great episode. I didn’t see the preview for the next weeks, but
    i just hope we finally get to deal with the situation in Heaven.

  • tens1822

    Altho I adore BOTH brothers, I do favor Dean (it’s an eldest sibling thing). I thought this episode was outstanding. They both expressed feelings to each other that needed to be expressed and were long overdue. Dean needed to confirm to Sam,that he’s still the most important person in his life. Sam needed to make Dean see that he is loved and his life is important. They’re on the road to healing their strained bond, and that’s a beautiful thing.

    As for the trials, even tho I do favor Dean, I was hoping it would be Sam who’d take on the trials. For me, it makes perfect sense. Sam has been a target for the legions of hell, since the moment of his conception. He was chosen to be the vessel of luci by both demons and some angels. He was tainted with demon blood when he was an infant. He was manipulated by Lilith’s pet Ruby to learn and grow in his powers,after losing Dean in S3. He unknowingly broke the final seal,setting luci free. He sacrificed himself to the cage, taking luci and Michael with him to save his brother and the world. He was tormented by hellucinations and lost his brother,again.He was to lead the forces of darkness. It’s only fitting that he be the one to close the gates on the place that tried to claim him. I thought his saving Dean from the hellhound was a sort of self vindication for him for not being able to save Dean from the hellhound in S3. His words to Dean, I thought, were from his heart. He loves his brother. He knows Dean wasn’t planning on surviving the trials. Dean was going to give his life to close those gates and give Sam a chance at his normal. Sam didn’t want that. He WANTED Dean with him. He wanted his brother to survive and have a chance at that same normal. He wanted Dean to realize that he is loved and that his life does mean something (particularly to Sam). He wanted Dean to realize and accept that he IS every bit as intelligent as Sam. That he is the greatest hunter the world has ever seen. What Sam said was full of love for his big brother.

    I don’t believe for one iota of a second, that Sam stole a storyline from Dean. I think the demon tablet trials were always meant to be Sam’s task. I do think that the angel tablet storyline WILL ultimately be Dean’s task. Just as Sam was sought after by the legions of hell, Dean was sought after by the armies of Heaven. God ordered Dean saved from the pit. The angels decreed that he would be Michael’s vessel, meant to meet in a final confrontation with luci (Sam). He was bullied, coerced and played by many angels (just as Sam was by the demons). He was assigned a guardian angel to keep watch (and tabs) on him.As with Sam, he was sought after from the moment he was conceived. Just as Sam’s storyline revolved around hell, Dean’s revolved around Heaven That’s why I think he will ultimatley be the one to take the angel tablet to task. It could be that the demon tablet storyline plays out the rest of this season and the angel tablet storyline extends into next season. Either way, I think that storyline rests with Dean.

    • Lisa

      To: tens1822

      I agree with you 1,000%.

    • Saísse

      Is exactly what I’ve been telling to my friends in our discussions about the series, and it’s been time to say and it was obvious that it would be the Sam the main promo released the spoiler. The episode was great and I agree with you on 1,000%.

    • Lucy

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. I completely agree. Awesome response!!

  • Mar

    I was moved by Dean’s speach, and I know Dean loves Sam and I’m so happy he is trusting Sam. But to be honest, after the way Sam is written this year, I did not buy Sam’s speach to Dean, or that he loves Dean as much. It was pretty much a rehash of everything said in that speach from Point of No Return.

    And I really don’t want to see the third version of Sam’s sacrifice. I really want to love the brothers again, but after them writing Sam as a jealous guy who runs away and gives ultimatums, I feel some whiplash right now.

    I’ll suspend my problems, so I can enjoy the rest of the season, but my heart isn’t believing – they just did too much damage to the bond for this to be healed for me.

    • Dee

      Yes, the first half of the season did way too much damage for me too. The way I’m moving forward is by basically ignoring the episodes before the hiatus. I expect to see Benny again, and Cas, and I’m cautiously looking forward to it. But the conflict that came with Sam not looking for Dean(!) and settling down with Amelia for a stab at some normal living and chemistry-free romance? NFW. I hope we find out that he really did look (or are shown a damn good reason why he didn’t), and that she is gone for good.

  • Jessica

    Hi Clarissa. Great review. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. I read a few spoilers before the episode, so I knew that Sam was going to end up taking on the trials. I must admit, at first, I was kind of bummed. It’s not that that I don’t love Sam. I do. But the poor guy has been through so much recently, I feel like he could use a break. Also, I figured this would be an excellent opportunity for Jensen Ackles to stretch his considerable acting chops. So I was really hoping Dean would get chosen for the trials. However, after having watched the episode, I think this worked out exactly the way it needed to. Dean is in desperate need of saving. He’s always had low self-esteem and the only way that he’s ever found any self-worth was in his ability to save people. He’s never asked anyone to save him, probably because he made up his mind a long time ago that he was going to die bloody. But Sam has always been able to see when Dean needs help. Even though he would never ask for it, Dean needs Sam’s help now. But even more than that, Sam carries around a great deal of guilt about being unable to save Dean from Hell in S3. That’s why Ruby was able to manipulate him so easily in S4. Sam couldn’t save Dean then, but he can save him now. If Dean will let him. Besides, there’s still the angel tablet. I have a feeling Dean is going to have to take on those trials. And just as Dean is here to help Sam make it through the demon trials, Sam will be there to help Dean make it through the angel trials.

  • Mar

    It disturbs me that Sam asks Dean to trust him, and Dean does. But Sam never returns the trust when Dean asks for it, like with Benny. I think the wounds from what they wrote for the S8 brother conflict has made it impossible for me to enjoy this moment, when before I would have loved it all. :(

  • Dee

    I liked your recap/review, and I agree: Supernatural feels like Supernatural again! I couldn’t be happier. I loved this episode, from Dean’s room to his cooking, from their different approaches to Kevin to the speeches they made to each other. For me, it was good start to finish. I’ve been smiling at every post-“Torn and Frayed” episode. I’d love it if the other commenters’ feelings were right and (maybe next season?) Dean gets the trials for the angel tablet.

    Excuse the whine, but why did we have to wade through the mire of the first half of the season to get here? They gained nothing but boredom with Amelia, and confusion/incredulity/frustration with Sam’s not looking for Dean. Ah well, if/when I buy the BluRay, I won’t be watching those earlier episodes.

    • Jessica

      I don’t think it’s a whine. The first half of the season was difficult. The Boys were in completely different places in their lives and they weren’t communicating at all. That’s difficult for people who we know love each other as much as Dean and Sam love each other. That being said, I think the first half of the season was necessary for them to get to this point. They needed to fight. They needed to get some of their grievances out in the open. Because of all of that fighting at the beginning of the season, they were able to openly and honestly communicate their thoughts/feelings in this episode. That’s progress.

      • Dee

        Thank you so much for the reply – it helped me clarify my thoughts. You’re right about them needing to fight, and that this episode showed progress. I think the reason it feels like I’m whining is because I don’t like how they did it, and that feels unfair because it’s their story to tell… Still, having Sam not look at all? Having Amelia be so unappealing that when he left her, his pain was difficult to feel? I’m left deeply dissatisfied.

        Imagine, instead, a scenario where Sam is in a library researching where Dean might have gone. Enter attractive librarian. Put in conversation similar to Amelia’s, with Sam saying he “lost” his brother. Cover story: It was to a cult and he’s researching to understand what happened. Like original story line, she could relate, yada yada. He doesn’t find anything there, stops searching, settles down with librarian… Dean still gets pissed off because Sam stopped looking in favor of this chick (because in Dean’s view, could Same have searched more or in other places or whatever? Sure!). After Sam leaves her, and they stumble across the bat cave, he (and we) could really mourn because he’d think about how much she’d love the place… and again, it would reinforce that Sam made a choice and he’s sticking with it because he loves Dean, wants to close the gates of hell, etc.

        A scenario like this feels more in keeping with the characters as we’ve come to know them. It would still have gotten us to this same place, and would have felt less like a train wreck. It bugs me that, given the story they chose, I don’t feel sympathy towards Sam’s “choice” to not look for Dean, or to choose/leave, Amelia.

        So anyway, end whine. Thanks again for the reply because, as I said, it made me stop and sort out what was bugging me (even if what was bugging me isn’t really fair to the writers).

  • sali

    great episode really it is the best episode for me this season so far
    thanks for the great review

  • Lia

    “I see light at the end of this tunnel and I’m sorry you don’t. I am. But it’s there,” Sam countered. “And if you come with me, I can take you to it. You’re not a grunt, Dean, you’re a genius. When it comes to lore…you’re the best damn hunter I’ve ever seen. Better than me, better than dad. I believe in you, Dean, so please, please, believe in me too.”

    There is a lot of fatalism in Dean’s more realistic point of view, and it’s warranted IMO. They have both sacrificed and died trying to save others/the world. At this point it seems to be a foregone conclusion, especially to Dean. So I understand why he felt that this would again be the outcome… one of them would die and he did not want that to be Sam.

    The problem isn’t that Dean doesn’t believe in Sam. The problem is that Dean doesn’t believe in DEAN. He doesn’t believe that he is worthy all on his own, just for who he is. And now, the writers have taken away Dean’s choice to live for himself. They have taken away his ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel from within himself. He shouldn’t need Sam to show him the light, Dean should be able to discover the light all by himself, just as Sam has.

    I am extremely disappointed in the writers for not allowing Dean the choice to do the trials *and* also fight to live because HE was finally able to find that light at the end of the tunnel. Because now we’re right back to Dean’s worthiness being tied into his ability to protect Sam. And I thought the show had moved past that. I guess not.

    • Clarissa

      Lia – you are right about Dean’s lack of faith in himself as opposed to Sam, which is a very tragic part of his personality. But I disagree about your last paragraph. I think the problem is that, had Dean done these trials, nothing would have changed his determination to do it even at the cost of his own life. However, if Sam can do it and prove that, for once, one of them need not die in order to achieve a goal like this, that could be the kick that Dean needs in order to start believing that *for himself*. Dean was always going to treat it as a suicide mission and he wasn’t ever going to summon the determination on his own to survive it. BUT, Sam wants to make up for his past mistakes and manipulation by Hell by doing this and I actually think that his success could benefit Dean.

      It’s my hope that Sam proves this can be done so that when the trials regarding the Angel Tablet arises – which I believe Dean will handle – then Dean can accomplish *those* trials knowing that it doesn’t have to be a kamikaze mission and that he can live through it.

      • Lia

        “Dean was always going to treat it as a suicide mission and he wasn’t ever going to summon the determination on his own to survive it.”

        But why was it necessary for the writers to approach the situation like this in the first place? What a slap in the face for Dean that after all he’s been through, after being in Purgatory for a year, surviving under the most horrible conditions, and finally fighting his way out, that Dean just cannot seem to “summon the determination ON HIS OWN” to survive.

        What was the point of sending Dean to Purgatory then? So that they could show that Dean is just not strong enough to be able to summon the determination to fight to survive? To show that Dean hasn’t changed or grown at all in the years since Point of No Return?

        I mean, wow. IMO the writers are trying to make Dean look like he hasn’t grown at all in 3 years because he is STILL not able to find the strength within himself to fight for his own life.

        • Clarissa

          Because Purgatory didn’t actually bolser Dean’s self-esteem. What it did was modify his feelings about hunting and make him feel good about hunting again. When he was fighting to survive he was doing it to help both Castiel and to get back to Sam. That’s always why Dean fights to survive: not for himself, but for others. It doesn’t make him weak, it just makes him value himself less. It makes him incredibly selfless, but tragic at the same time.

          You saw his fatalistic feelings when he said that Henry’s death showed him that his family tree was just filled with a whole lot of “Dead”. The writers aren’t getting rid of character growth. Dean is undoubtably a hugely strong character and always has been, but his experiences have never made him feel inherently better with *himself*. I’m hoping that one of them surviving a quest like this one can finally show him that they need not die in order to win. What happens after that is up to Dean.

          • Lia

            It’s up to the *writers* of Dean, and that’s the problem. They want to keep him wrapped up in this box of fatalistic despair regarding his future. And they won’t allow him the inner strength to break out of that box and overcome his low self-worth issues. They seem to want to keep Dean’s self-worth tied to how effective he is at supporting and protecting Sam. It’s a pattern that needs to be broken IMO.

        • Clarissa

          Lia – I can’t hit reply to your comment below, but I wanted to respond about the angel tablet. Yes, Castiel is clearly connected to it. But there are no independent stories in this show. Even when a story seems focused on one character, it affects all characters.

          I believe that particular story will give Cas a chance to shine, but it would make sense that both Winchesters are affected by it and get involved. Given the fact that the brothers – and Dean in particular – are friends of Castiel, I have no doubt that the stories will be intertwined. No one lives in a vacuum on Supernatural. Given Dean’s “connection” to Heaven, I think we’ll see him play a big role alongside Castiel.

        • Clarissa

          Lia – re: your comment about Dean’s self-worth being tied to Sam…OF COURSE it is. Dean spent his life being raised a man who clearly loved him, but put saving strangers above spending time with him. And then he also spent his life loving his little brother. Dean was essentially Sam’s parent and, like many parents, feels like Sam is one of his greatest accomplishments. He derives worth from protecting and loving Sam. It’s all right there in his speech and it’s evident in every discussion the show has ever had about Dean *needing* his family. He said that for *him* the best possible outcome is not that *he* lives, but that Sam has a better life.

          Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying this type of dependence and Dean’s lack of self-worth is actually *good*. I’m simply saying that given what we know of their childhoods and their relationships, it’s *understandable*. There is a foundation for this that stretches back to the time that Dean was four years old. You can’t just get rid of that easily. I WANT Dean to work on it, but I realize it’s going to take time. And you might say that they’ve had 8 years of time for him to get over that, but I would dispute that because everything that’s happened to them has mostly reinforced Dean’s fatalistic view. If Sam surviving this can help Dean, then I really hope it does. I want Dean to benefit from it so that next time he doesn’t feel the need to sacrifice himself because he thinks it’s the only way.

      • Sasha

        I really don`t know where this notion of the angel tablet turning into a story, along with trials comes from. Not seeing that at all, the thing was just mentioned once.

        I believe closing the gates of hell will be the only story of that kind and as Sam has been chosen for it, it will not help Dean`s self esteem in any way. Because it can`t. The latest episode determined that he wasn`t good enough or strong enough to get the hellhound and therefore it wouldn`t be him, he would have to sit this one out while Sam saved the world. We had that already and Dean`s self worth is at the same low it`s always been.

        Which, really, makes sense. A sense of self worth growths out of one`s OWN accomplishment, not those of others. If anything, sitting on the sidelines and just wringing his hands over Sam suffering heroically should crush Dean`s self worth more into the dust that it currently is.

        Being “saved” might induce a fuzzy feeling for a bit but it also implies a feeling of weakness on the part of the saved person. That is completely natural because if you weren`t too weak (for whatever reason), you didn`t need to be saved in the first place.

        This episode was called “Trial and Error” and Dean got the “error” part and the storyline is set now. Hence, I see his sense of failure and inferiority growing worse. That is the only natural reaction to this turn of events.

        • Clarissa

          “Just mentioned once”? Yeah, but why mention it *at all* unless it was going to turn into a story? Maybe there’s no trials associated with the Angel Tablet, but it’s going to become something *big*, even if it’s the season 9 story. Robert Singer said that they have no plans to introduce a fourth tablet (with the Leviathan one being the first one and already being out of the picture at this point), which means that now the boys have two tablets to contend with. Yes, they don’t yet know about the Angel Tablet, but Naomi does and it’s clearly important to *her* and you can bet it’s going to become important to Crowley going forward.

          Even if there’s no trials, it makes sense that Dean’s destiny will be closely connected to the Angel Tablet because that sort of makes sense give both boys’ connections in the apocalypse.

          • Lia

            According to Robert Singer, the angel tablet storyline is Castiel’s arc. He said it’s a very personal and important storyline for Castiel. As far as I know, no one has ever mentioned Dean’s involvement in the Angel tablet storyline. Unless I have missed it?

          • adder574

            I think we’ve seen Dean get his part in the tablet story when dealt with the leviathan one. There is a good chance the the angel tablet is going to be Cas. We’ve had confirmation from Singer that Cas is crucial to the tablet story. What’ not to say its the angel one. There is no guarantee its Dean. Give this shows history there is a higher chance Garth will deal with it than Dean.

            All the talk involving Dean centered around him decorating his room. Guess now that is finished so is his storyline.

            I have to agree. Dean sat on the sidelines when Sam played hero and threw himself into hell and yet his self-esteem is as low as ever. How is Dean going to see that he matters if he’s constantly put in a position where he judges his success/failure on his ability to help Sam. He needs to learn to help himself and I thought that was the point of purgatory. He did that all himself. If he’d waited on Sam he’d still be there. When he got back all he found was Sam acting like he wished Dean never came back. What damage did that do to Dean’s self worth that the one person who is supposed to have his back didn’t lift a finger to help him. As for Sam using the trials to atone for that it rings hallow because we’ve seen no remorse, regret or guilt from Sam over that.

            Dean believes in Sam, what he needs is for Sam to believe in him (to which Sam left Dean cuffed to a radiator when he asked for that) and for Dean to believe in himself. I’m not seeing how sitting on the sidelines is really going to help that.

            The writers could have made Dean coming to realize his value through his ability to complete the trials, and see that he’s stronger than he realizes. It could have been Dean’s hero journey.

            Instead we’re stuck with the very same thing. John’s protect Sam order was the very thing that caused Dean to see himself as a grunt. Being forced back into that role isn’t going to change Dean’s outook, especially if the trials really are a suicide mission, which we don’t know they aren’t. Since the show can’t get enough of what’s wrong with Sam, I fully expect the last trial to result in more Sam suffering.

            If Sam someone doesn’t come out unscathed then Dean’s right back to thinking he failed everyone.

          • Sasha

            The angel tablet is IMO counting very unhatched chickens at this point. Sam has his hero storyline now. Dean might or might not get one in the future – I`m thinking he won`t – but in the meantime, by necessity of the set-up, he has to sit out the trials of hell.

            And feel like a useless failure doing so, more and more everyday. This will only gonna get worse once Sam`s consumption symptoms creep up.

            In the end, even if Sam heroically manages the task with no particularly lasting ill effects, that will be Sam`s accomplishment and his alone. Dean will have sat it out on the sidelines, maybe doing little helper work or cooking and cleaning like in the episode. What would give him a better sense of self worth about that? He already perceives Sam as the special, more important one and himself as the insignificant grunt. If Sam saves the day, it just reinforces that notion big time, nothing else.

            In fact, I thought the episode had a deeply troubled message at the end. “You are not a grunt, Dean, you are a great hunter”. Right after a huge failure in hunting and being relegated to grunt work in a big heroic task. I don`t believe the character is so childish as to believe in such silly consolation talk.

          • adder574

            Kind of like when they mentioned Dean was the righteous man once and then dropped it. Dean was supposed to be Michael’s only vessel but that got dropped to true vessel and that was dropped to anybody with Winchester blood.

            They can and have dropped significant things after mentioning. Most of them all apply to Dean.

            The angel stuff belongs to Cas so far. We’ve seen no evidence that Dean has any part in that. Not even hints. If it has to do with one of the brothers I’m sure it will be Sam because he was the one being watched in the premier.

          • Clarissa

            Adder – I can’t reply to your specific comment about Dean no longer being Michael’s vessel, but I don’t know why this issue is still being debated. You could not have had Sam AND Dean both fulfilling their roles as vessels. You know why? Because they would have had to kill each other (or one of them killed the other). And then what would have happened? They both end up in Hell? One of them dies forever? And if one did kill the other imagine the tremendous amount of guilt that he would feel. How would they overcome that? I’m sorry that you feel like this is a sticking point, but given the fact that Hell had essentially ear-marked Sam since birth, I thought it made sense that he had to fulfill his destiny in that role and that everything that happened made sense with what we know of the characters and their history and I don’t see any other way it could have played out without one or both of them destroying the other.

            But, but all means, if you have another suggestion as to how the vessel story should have played out (an actual proposed storyline and not just a criticism about how it was done), then please share it because I would be happy to see some alternatives that I might not have considered and am happy to admit if you propose a better outcome.

          • adder574

            When I mentioned Michael I was refering to your point that they wouldn’t mention something and then dropped it, they can and have.

            But yes in my opinion there is a way both could have said yes. I can even think of a way for the show to do the whole domestic Dean/Souless Sam thing. The dialogue in Swan Song felt like it was written for Sam and Dean more than Sam and Adam. Both could have said yes and ended up in cemetary circling each other and bringing to light a lot of the issues the boys have had over the years.

            Bobby could have figured out where the fight was taking place and driven the Impala to the cemetery along with Cas. The boys tell them to get lost, Bobby dies (Lucifer breaks his neck) Cas explodes (by Michael) Just as the boys are about to start to fight they see the Impala and the memories it involves. No made up toy soliders, just the Impala sitting there is all its glory. They have joint flashbacks and memories and then throw themselves into hell together.

            Whoever resurrected Cas, for whatever reason does so. Instead of the talk with Dean in the car we find out that Cas went to hell in an attempt to rescue both Sam and Dean. But its too taxing on his powers and all doesnt go as planned. You have a couple of options. Dean ends up in Siberia and Sam in the Sahara (or whereever) and they have to fight to get back to each other. Which for me would have been an interesting senario, kind of like Time after Time but on a larger scale. Or Cas doesn’t get all of Sam, and h soul and Dean ends up somehow forgetting all this supernatural experiences and runs into Lisa and they go on a date. We pick up one year later, Dean gets into an accident and bangs his head and remembers or he hears (cliche but an option) and goes looking for Sam, or they run into each other by accident, or any one of bunch of scenarios.

            I didn’t always dislike Sam. I was quite fine with how the show was going until Fallen Idols when they insta-fixed all the problems by blaming Dean. I even like that Sam had faith in PONR, and I liked that he admitted he was wrong to run away. I loved the Zacheriah kill, it was my favourite of the series but I didn’t like that they resurrected Adam because it felt like he took Dean’s place. I just think the Dean character has grown way beyond the take care of Sammy role, and it feels forced to stick him back into that narrow box.

          • Clarissa

            Adder – first off, I really appreciate that you rose to my challenge and that you did it so quickly! With regards to Michael, I’m sorry I misunderstood your original point, but I still don’t agree that they dropped the whole Michael storyline. I mean, he was still involved, obviously, but they did make modifications to it, obviously. I don’t believe the Angel Tablet is going to be dropped. I don’t know if we’ll deal with it for a while given the current preoccupations with the demons, but I have no doubt it will be addressed quite soon. In fact, at least half of Naomi’s story seems to deal with it. I think she’s both preoccupied with stopping the demons AND keeping the Angel Tablet safe. We might not tackle that tablet fully until season 9, but I have no doubt it will become important for all of the major players.

            As for your alternative, I’ll admit that I enjoyed parts of it. Although, I don’t necessarily think it was the Impala itself that allowed Sam to break through. I agree that he saw the toy solider and that triggered the memories, but I feel like things would have gone differently if Dean hadn’t actually been himself and present, telling Sam he refused to leave him. Your “fighting their way” back to each other suggestion is interesting, although it’s probably not possibly logistically with the show. The cliche option is a bit of a cliche and I’m not sure I would have preferred it, but I want you to know that I *do* applaud your initiative here.

            So many fans will simply complain without proposing an alternative. Even if I don’t necessarily think your alternative would have been better, I appreciate you thinking it through and putting it to paper.

      • Dee

        This would be a fantastic series of shows to watch. It would show real character growth in both of them, and I could see it leading to a really satisfying end to the series (’round S10, maybe…now that Supernatural feels like Supernatural again, I want it to keep going! :) ): “…if Sam can do it and prove that, for once, one of them need not die in order to achieve a goal like this, that could be the kick that Dean needs in order to start believing that *for himself*…It’s my hope that Sam proves this can be done so that when the trials regarding the Angel Tablet arises – which I believe Dean will handle – then Dean can accomplish *those* trials knowing that it doesn’t have to be a kamikaze mission and that he can live through it.”

        Clarissa, thank you – I love reading your thoughts and reviews because it’s obvious that you really think about things, and I love that sort of conversation.

        • Clarissa

          Dee, thanks so much for your kind words. I really like interacting with readers in the comment section because they often bring up additional points I didn’t mention in my recaps or get me thinking, even if we don’t necessarily agree. I think it will definitely be interesting to see what happens now that the show feels back on track!

          • Dee

            Yes, it will be interesting to see. I love it that, after hanging in through the first ten episodes just out of hope it would improve, I am actually looking forward to it airing!!!

            I found Supernatural really late. This is the first season I’ve watched as it airs. Given that, could you tell me what you think of my longer comment, above, about how I felt in the first half of this season? Given that you’ve been thinking about the show so much longer than I have, I’m curious whether I’m out of step.

      • tia

        trial and error was going to be my last episode. I was going to stop watching because I am tired of the “whats wrong with sammy” and Dean having to take care of his little brother thing. But this episode was such a throw back to s1-s3 -and the hellhounds were unbelievable -and the heartfelt speeches -that were so reminiscent of s1-s3 that I will be sticking around for at least 1 or 2 more episodes-benny episode for sure.

        As for Dean getting the closing the gates of heaven thing. Sorry people it’s not going to happen. That is going to be Cass’s thing not Deans. Dean had his tablet story so to speak-the leviathin tablet. Now Dean may help Cass do his trials but it won’t be strictly a Dean thing. These writers just don’t seem to want to utilize Jensens talents. Dean had the leviathin tablet which had an after effect of throwing the “killer” of the leader of the leviathins into purgatory. Sam gets the Hell tablet which includes having to do trials, and then you get the Heaven tablet-which is cass’s trial to do. whatever that will be. As for story arc-Dean gets nothing-again. The con next month should be interesting because Jared will be able to go on and on and on about his arc-and Misha will be able to go on and on about his arc and Jensen-well maybe someone could finally ask him if he thinks Dean and Cass will finally kiss and be boyfriends since that is about all Dean has anymore. He can’t talk about his role on spn or his arc-because he has none. Other than Sammy’s keeper and Cass’s love interest.
        Disappointing-very disappointing.

    • Jessica

      I agree with Clarissa. I would also add that it’s ok for Sam to help Dean find the light. That’s what family does. They believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. That’s how Sam helped Dean change his mind about saying yes to Michael back in S5, and I believe that’s how he’s going to help Dean begin to believe that there is life after hunting now.

  • erin

    I am not sure what happened. I was extremely disappointed in the first half of the season, but ever since the break I have gotten my SPN love back ten fold. These feel like the characters I loved for the first seven seasons and I couldn’t be happier.

  • Mary

    Here’s my take: Sam is going to do the trials. Did you see at the end when those little balls of light went up his arm, like INTO him? I think that’s part of Hell’s gate. So at the end of the season, he’s going to have the entire Hell’s gate INSIDE him and Crowley and the crew are going to try and capture him into Season 9. That’s just my guess though.

    GREAT, GREAT episode – best one this season I think!

  • Dot

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis! I’m with you regarding season 8. After feeling disaffected for a few seasons (S7 being a real low point for me with the show) season 8 has gotten me fully engaged with the show again, and for me not just the last few eps, but starting with 8.01. The way S8 has been taking a head-on emotionally honest approach to Sam and Dean’s issues, and the way it’s been handling themes like isolation and codependency and the value of other relationships and the strength of Sam and Dean’s relationship is making me very happy.

    Dean’s speech in this ep I felt was the ripping the lid off of something Dean tries to keep buried that here he finally vocalized in a very direct way. It *hurt* to watch that scene but it was necessary. While it does speak to his love for Sam that he wants Sam to be happy, it’s also deeply heartbreaking that Dean’s totally given up on anything for himself–his only happy ending he believes is Sam having a happy ending. But they showed us Dean in his own room, and attention to Dean as a person. Sam may show him the light exists, but Dean’s got to want it for himself too and I think S8 is bringing him there.

    Sam’s speech was the response to the hurt and damage of Dean’s and it’s good to see Sam, who seemed to surrender to hunting and give up on maybe it doesn’t end blood or sad for a while, find his own sense of hope again and to have him vocalize to Dean how Dean looks through Sam’s eyes. It was a really powerful scene and Jensen and Jared knocked it out of the park in this episode.

    Also I loved that Sam referenced friends and family. To me it’s not affirming of the brother bond if they have no one else, and tragedy keeps forcing them together in isolation. Sam didn’t say “you have me” he wanted Dean to see the bigger picture, to see how many lives he touches.

    • Clarissa

      Dot – thanks so much for the thoughtful comment! I enjoyeding reading it. And I particularly liked your point about Dean’s feelings being kept under control most of the time. I think that sometimes we forget that he’s full of these insecurities because he’s so adept at being a strong hero. But I feel like it’s always there under the surface and he’s tried so hard to keep it hidden all of these years.

      You’re right about Dean needing to want it for himself, but I think there’s something to the fact that Sam can help show it to him so that Dean can truly *believe* it going forward. Actually, I think it’s a wonderful piece of symmetry because Dean spent so much of his childhood teaching Sam things and essentially raising and guiding him and now Sam can help return the favor as an adult.

      It was also wonderful that Sam wanted so much to live and that his desire to get back into hunting fully isn’t because he feels trapped but because he feels confident in the both of them that they can do this. Sure, he has to carry the burden of the trials, but we’ve seen time and again that neither of the brothers would have survived a particularly terrible situation without the assistance of the other.

      And season 8 has been wonderful. As tough as the first ten episodes were to watch, I also feel like it was necessary to get them to this point. They needed to hit rock bottom before they could claw their way back up.

      I’ll look forward to hearing more thoughts from you as the season progresses! Please come back and comment again in the future :)

      • Dot

        Thanks, Clarissa!

        “it’s a wonderful piece of symmetry because Dean spent so much of his childhood teaching Sam things and essentially raising and guiding him and now Sam can help return the favor as an adult.”

        Yes, I love that! Because even while Dean needs to see certain things for himself, how will he get there all alone? People don’t. They need someone to turn the light on. They need others to get them there. Earlier this season we had Cas saying not everything is your responsibility, and now we have Sam’s speech here. People who love and care for Dean–the protector needs looking after as well (and I hope SPN will explore further Dean’s self beyond protector/hunter).

        It’s really interesting that a way out of hunting is what’s gotten Sam focused on a hunting quest again.

  • Jule

    Hey, you forgot to mention Deans perfect burgers and fascination for all those different kinds of tomatoes! :D So loved that! It reminded me of the scene in Jensens episode, where Sam enjoyed the farmers market while Dean first didn’t even realize where they were and then had no understanding at all for his brother enjoying organic food. And now he even tells Kevin to eat a salad! :D

    • Clarissa

      I did, I did! You know what my favorite part about the burger was? That it was just a burger on a plate. Nothing else was there. Not fries or chips or a salad or anything that people usually have when they eat a burger. I don’t know why that struck me, but it did. Of course, Dean has probably eaten 1 million burgers throughout his life, so if there’s anyone in the world who knows how to make a good burger, it’s Dean Winchester! :)

      I also loved that both of the boys are sort of taking on a big brother role towards Kevin, but it’s almost like Dean is taking Sam’s place in terms of the whole “eat your veggies” thing and Sam is taking Dean’s place of the whole “buck up, it gets better” speeches. I thought they delivered on some great moments.

      • Jule

        Yup, pure burger goodness, nothing else needed, and Sam even took it with him when they left the bunker. ^^ If Dean should ever retire from hunting, he could perfectly become a tester for burger guides oder write his own book about burgers. ;D

        Yeah, they’ve so much grown up – the Wise Winchesters now know how to deal with the marathon. ;) And it shows what a great team they are. Not only do they each have their special skills and complement one another, but now they have grown up to be able to fill every part (in their own way) if they feel that it’s needed or are on their own, and if one misses out on something that’s normally his part, the other one can jump in. It’s a nice dynamic balance.

  • cassandra

    agree 100%,dean who? let’s see how many oportunity’s they had to cover dean with a story arc this season only: purgatory arc droped, pstd droped,all his friends droped, mol droped, best hunter droped, & we stay with housewife dean, nice. as for carver, after the continuity mess of the 1rst half of the season & the 180 degrees u-turn in the 2nd part + singer’s comment ”we make this up as we go on” which come to contrast with what carver said about a 3 year plan (more tablets), i don’t think carver runs a damn thing, the producers run the show cause that’s how always the shows end up when the creator is out. prove the fact that the show started to go downhill when kripke left & gable took over, it was the sam show from the get go & the sam show will remain till the end

  • kelios

    I loved this episode! Sam and Dean focused, beautiful brother talks, no angels anywhere in sight–I literally couldn’t ask for more!

    While I disagree with you about the Sam not looking for Dean issue (I still think it’s very important and badly needs to be addressed), I agree with most of your other points. I’m okay with Sam taking the trials, I love their differing roles and enthusiasm for their new home, and I can’t wait to see Dean being protective and worried about Sam. My one huge hope is that they will also use the Heaven tablet to close off Heaven and the angels the same way, with all the angels safely locked on the other side. For that, I might even be persuaded to forgive Carter his other sins ;)

  • Juno

    I enjoyed the episode and the brother moments a lot. But it breaks my heart that Dean’s once again excluded from season’s big mytharc . I hear a lot of people say that he’ll get the angel tablet arc but there’s absolutely no proof of that, especially since Cas is around. It makes more sense that Cas take care of Naomi with both brothers’ help than Dean be the stand out hero of that storyline.

    Why couldn’t both brothers have shared in the trials and in closing the gate? Why single out just Sam again? He already had that huge 5 year mytharc and 2 years of his big soul storyline. Does he really need another big mytharc to add to his collection while Dean gets nothing?

    I’m feeling so down right now. I’d heard it said that SPN is really about Sam but I didn’t believe it until now. Now I’m thinking maybe the writers really do see Dean as the sidekick and Sam as the lead character.

    I’ve decided to quit watching, at least for now. It’s just making me miserable. If I hear anything reassuring about Dean’s role on the show, I’ll definitely come back but based on the show’s history, I’m not holding my breath. I think Carver’s going down the same path as Kripke and giving Sam a whole new, multi season mytharc while Dean just worries about Sam.

    • cassandra

      ”I’m feeling so down right now”exactly that. agree with everything you said. + dean is such a great character, does’nt deserve to be treated like this (again) & i find it insulting for jensen too who is such an amazing actor

  • Maya

    It so true about Dean: there are no guarantees that he’ll get the angel tablet arc which would be a shame. Still, if you read the reviews, blogs, polls, etc., there seems to be a heck of a lot more Dean/Jensen fans than there are Sam/Jared fans. The writers should pay attention to that and start writing in that direction. That is not to say that folks don’t love Sam/Jared but Dean is just so straight-up badass amazing that even if you give him the role of supporting Sam and/or cleaning up Sam’s hot messes, he still shines. Nobody puts Dean in a corner. I have insane fangirl love for Dean/Jensen (that man is CRAZY talented and HOT!) and I really wish the writers would give him a storyline that puts him front and center for more than 1-2 episodes…try the ENTIRE 9th and 10th seasons, Mr. Carver!!!!

  • jennie jerome

    Nothing’s wrong with Sam. He was just fine. It’s Dean who always has something wrong with him. Depressed again? Same old same old.

  • Dee

    It is interesting to see the Sam vs. Dean comments, especially as a relatively new fan who has not formed a strong opinion about this topic. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite nerds that said, you can’t hope to please everyone, so you should perhaps aim to anger everyone equally. :)

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