I played with the idea over the winter hiatus of doing a sort of mid-season review, but tabled it because I felt I didn’t have enough information yet on what I was seeing. When it appeared Sam’s Amelia story wrapped up this past Wednesday, I drafted out a review of his storyline and had my long list of complaints mapped out. But then a funny thing happened. I rewatched “Torn and Frayed” last night and liked it.
Like a lot of fans, I’ve been critical of the OOC choices Sam has been making this season – apparently not searching much for Dean, dropping Kevin, retreating to normal. I’ve also been critical of Dean – his attitude toward Sam, his hypocrisy with the Amy/Benny situation. And then watching the episode last night, I realized that none of this mattered. Sam and Dean had both in their own way retreated temporarily into a fantasy world. But it was all just a fantasy – not a reflection on who they really were or an indication that their characters were being dramatically rewritten by a new showrunner.
Sam having a fantasy about a life without hunting didn’t mean that he had really forgotten who he was. Deep down he knew where he belonged – hunting with his brother – and he seemed to remember that as he joined Dean on the couch. The fact that he temporarily fantasized about a different life doesn’t change the fact that he’s known he has a different purpose since season 2. This life with Amelia mirrored the fantasy life Sam had at another, simpler time – before he knew about the demon blood and Lucifer’s plans for him – when Sam believed he could really attain a Stanford education and a normal life as an attorney. But his life with Amelia was never a real choice because Amelia never came even close to knowing who the real Sam was.
Dean also was engaged in his own fantasy – a pure world where he had a “brother” who would never disappoint him. Dean’s fantasy was pulled from a similar one in Season 4’s “Sex and Violence.” The fact that this new brother was an apparently reformed monster, who in all likelihood had an extensive body count and was very dangerous when he was off the wagon, and that this brother was teetering dangerously on the edge of killing again, didn’t seem to phase Dean because he was lost in his fantasy. Dean’s fantasy also couldn’t be real because people aren’t perfect. And to quote Bobby, family isn’t supposed to make you feel good.
In all fairness, Carver did warn us that they would be playing with perceptions this season.
Sam and Dean were pulled out of that fantasy this past week. Like in most real-world fantasies, real life intervened. They discovered a real friend (Cas) was in real trouble, and that snapped them back to reality.
Enter the Supernatural
Benny has been hinting to Dean for a while that he’s dangerously close to falling off the wagon, and Dean at some point will realize that a dangerous vampire falling off the wagon means that he’s looking forward to facing a long line of victims’ families.
Sam will remember that when someone in your circle mysteriously comes back from the dead, and you’re Sam Winchester, you need to get out your silver knife and holy water.
It was comforting last night to watch the scene of Sam and Dean on the couch and realize that this is still the same show. Sam and Dean weren’t full of the youthful enthusiasm of the earlier seasons, but they were refocusing on the hunt. It’s a scene we’ve seen before – in the Pilot, and then again in AHBL2, when Sam, and then Dean, said “We’ve got work to do.” The change is that Sam and Dean look a lot older and more worn this time around, but the family business has reopened again.