Supernatural 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.
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.
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…