For a while, the show’s solution to dealing with this ugly situation was to pretend it never existed. When Sam returned from Hell in season 6, there was no mention of whether Sam still felt any effects from the demon blood. This lasted for so long that many fans began to assume that the demon blood had been completely burnt out his system in Hell, or that it was no longer a factor since Lucifer was neatly tucked away in his cage.
That was until The Great Escapist. While the episode in part focused on Sam’s feelings of low self-worth, tied to the blood, it also established that Sam does still feel the presence of the blood – enough so that he felt a difference when the trials started purifying him.
Now we’re at a place where Sam has been almost completely cleaned of the blood and his insides have turned to mush. He’s being supported by an outside source – an angel’s grace – but it’s looking like an angel grace may be the wrong medicine to permanently treat the underlying cause and can only temporarily address the symptoms. While there’s been little examination on the part of the show into why Sam’s body started to fall apart with the trials, there’s an obvious explanation – the demon blood is part of who Sam is and has been since he was six months old, and that he’s not Sam without it.
Blood & FamilyWhat do we know about what Sam feels about this blood? Mostly we know that Sam never felt normal. He instinctively sensed its presence since he was very young, and this made him feel unworthy. When Sam was hallucinating under withdrawal in season 4, the Mary part of Sam’s subconscious insisted that he had “evil” inside of him. Most of all, the presence of the blood made Sam feel that that he wasn’t quite human – he wasn’t like his father and Dean who lived to hunt monsters. Instead, Sam felt he was part monster.
From this, several questions remain. Among them is the question, is the blood really “evil,” or is this all Sam’s perception? Look at the conditions in which Sam had grown up. His mother had been killed by a demon, and he was too young to have ever known her. His father had become obsessed with hatred toward demons and monsters, and the older brother Sam idolized followed suit – to the point where any life other than one spent killing monsters was considered unworthy in their family. Meanwhile Sam had always felt an instinctive tie to the demon that killed his mother and was the source of hatred in his family. Sam too may have hated the demon, but the demon’s blood ran through his own veins.
Sam’s biggest fear was that he would turn into one of the monsters his family had hunted and hated, and that his family would eventually kill him as well. This fear became reality when he learned that his father had told Dean that Dean might have to kill Sam. In season 4, when Sam had stopped resisting the demon-blood side of himself and was at a crossroads as to which path to chose, the trigger that sent him to Ruby’s side was hearing Dean call him a monster. That was the one thing Sam couldn’t bear – that the person he loved and respected most thought he was a monster. This was at a time when Sam had started turning into a type of vampire – a creature who was drinking blood of demon-possessed people.
Which brings us to season 8. Dean, who had always joined their father in hating monsters, had now brought back a vampire from Purgatory as a new brother and had told Sam that unlike Sam, Benny had never let him down. If Sam’s ultimate betrayal to Dean was Sam choosing a demon (like the one who had killed their mother) over Dean, Dean’s ultimate betrayal to Sam would be Dean choosing a monster (coincidently the same type that Sam had resembled when he was drinking demon blood) over Sam, after Dean had refused to accept Sam’s demon-blood side. To add insult to injury, Dean had killed Sam’s friend Amy after Sam had confided to Dean that he considered Amy like himself.
Control IssuesAnother trigger for Sam has been a feeling of a lack of control. What happened to a Sam as an infant resembled child rape. Something had been done to his body against his will that made him feel dirty and unworthy. He responded with an obsessive resolve to carve a way out of the hunting life and his family situation by applying extreme discipline to get grades that were good enough to win him a scholarship to Stanford. This sense of control over his life was again washed away when Jess was killed, Sam was swept up into YED’s plans, and Dean was killed in season 3. Ruby played on Sam’s emotional needs to lead him toward a path that would get him addicted to power, in the form of wielding the demon blood.
Sam finally regained some of that control in a healthy way by besting Lucifer in season 5, but we’re now back in a situation in which Sam has had a string of incidents happen to him over which Sam has had very little control. First there was his soullessness and the things that Sam was left to feel guilty over when he regained his memories. Then there was the Lucifer hallucinations which implied rape conditions in Hell. Sam tried to be proactive in season 8 with the trials to close the gates of Hell, but in the end accomplished nothing other than to unwittingly make himself an angel vessel, to keep alive a body that Dean refuses to let die. To top it off, Sam will soon learn that Dean tricked him into consenting to the angel, which is sure to strain the relationship that may be the one thing that has been holding Sam back from accepting the demon blood.
What Now?To move forward, something needs to change in the story so that Sam becomes an active participant again in what is supposed to be Sam and Dean’s story. Sam’s story has almost become a joke in that every other character seems to have more control over Sam than Sam has. Sam needs to regain some agency over his own life. So the question remains – is demon blood the answer?
This goes back to another question – is the demon blood really evil, or was the source of the problem all along the psychological pressure from an unhealthy situation of Sam’s family rejecting a fundamental part of who Sam is? Is Sam’s answer as simple as learning to accept himself? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.