We all knew that Dean wasn’t stupid; we all knew that Dean had to be thinking that his Dad’s death, matched against his own miraculous recovery, added up to something ugly and unreal. Now it’s finally out in the open – but no one can make it all right. And it was eerily disturbing that Dean, in describing the zombie revenant Angela brought back to unnatural life, described something that sounds a lot like what Dean himself has been so far this season: “These things are vicious, they’re violent, they’re so nasty they rot the ground around them.” And they beat the crap out of the things and people they love, too.
Raelle Tucker, who together with Sera Gamble was the writer of the first season episodes Dead In The Water, Faith, Nightmare, and Salvation, has always displayed a fine touch at opening Dean’s heart, and she did it again in Dead Things (sorry, but I just can’t keep repeating a title that long …), aided and abetted by the emotional direction of Kim Manners. This story, ostensibly about a college girl brought back to unnatural life as a revenant, wasn’t particularly subtle in setting up its parallels with Dean’s own situation, but it worked marvelously for me nonetheless.
Dean, deliberately avoiding visiting his own mother’s grave with Sam (and, in a particularly nice touch, backing off from a gravestone bearing the corrosively accusing legend “Loving father, at rest”), stumbled upon a new grave that cried out for investigation, since everything in a perfect circle around it was dead. Sam initially dismissed it as another example of Dean’s need to hunt in order to distance himself from his emotions, but eventually even Sam couldn’t deny that the evidence of malevolent supernatural forces was real, and Dean proved himself still a gifted hunter in coming up with the plan that ultimately worked to put the spirit back where it belonged. If only he could do the same for himself.
Twice in this episode, Dean said emphatically, “What’s dead should stay dead.” By the second repetition – especially after his additional declaration that “When someone’s gone, they should stay gone. You don’t mess with that kind of stuff.” – it had to be clear to everyone that he wasn’t speaking just about the vengeful Angela. It all finally came down to Dean in the coda coming clean about this one piece of the weight that Sam correctly diagnosed was killing him.
Dean: “I’m sorry.”
Sam: “You …? For what?”
“The way I’ve been acting. [long beat] And for Dad. [long beat] Well, he was your dad, too. And it’s my fault he’s gone.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I know you’ve been thinking it. So have
“You can’t tell me there’s not a connection there. I don’t know how the demon was involved, I don’t know how the whole thing went down exactly, but Dad’s dead because of me. And that much I do know.”
“We don’t know that. Not for sure.”
“Sam. You and Dad – you’re the most important people in my life. And now – I never should have come back, Sam. It wasn’t natural, and now look what’s come of it. I was dead. And I should have stayed dead. You wanted to know how I was feeling. Well, that’s it. So tell me: what could you possibly say to make that all right?”
Dean finally cries, but Sam can’t help except by silently being there. And on top of this ultimate survivor guilt and the sense that his existence now is as wrong and warped as Angela’s was (and the unspoken fear of what kind of thing that might make him), is still the crushing silent weight of whatever secret John burdened Dean with before he died. Sharing this one grief and guilt with Sam doesn’t seem to have lightened Dean’s burdens at all. But with Dean having shared this much of his pain, I wonder whether Sam may believe mistakenly that he now comprehends it all. Will Sam keep probing to learn the rest, especially if the darkness within Dean still keeps erupting in bursts of violence, or will he, at least for a while, be satisfied by having gotten through to one genuine response, even if it’s one he can’t heal?
Sam’s very evident and finally openly expressed fear for Dean was a mirror of Dean’s desperation in season one to penetrate Sam’s nightmares and defenses concerning Jessica’s death, right down to Sam echoing the “You’re scaring me” and “It’s killing you” lines we heard from Dean in such episodes as Wendigo and Bloody Mary. How long will Dean keep hiding the rest of the things that are tormenting him? Well, Sam didn’t crack until episode nine, Home, when he finally confessed to Dean about his prescient dreams, and things kept building through his telekinetic break in episode fourteen, Nightmare. Dean has a lot more cracking to do before he finally comes clean, I think.
I’ve focused on the pain, but there was plenty of the trademark Supernatural humor on display as well. “Silver bullets?” “Enough to make her rattle like a change purse.” “Damn, that dead chick can run.” “I mean, haven’t you seen Pet Semetery?” I’m sure others will quote more. And Sammy watching the motel’s on-demand porn channel? Oh, yes – “Awkward.” Laugh out loud.
Next week, it looks like Sammy’s turn, confronting the spectre of the Demon’s plans for him and more horrors from meeting others like him. And it appears that Dean’s reassurance (“You’re not a murderer, Sam.”) won’t be any more successful than Sam’s attempts to toss his brother a life preserver here in Dead Things. But so long as the boys keep trying and stay together (and I loved Dean’s refusal to be parted from Sam, even if it meant having to visit the cemetery with their mother’s grave), they’ll keep each other afloat somehow.