Zach brings Adam back:
Bait to push Dean to say yes.
Dean can’t let Sam down.
Drinking in a bar, Zachariah was commiserating with newly-unemployed businessman Stuart about being fired and unappreciated when the approach of his boss, the archangel Michael, trashed the bar and killed its human occupants. Expecting to be destroyed, Zachariah was instead grateful to be given another chance to bring Dean to heel using a new strategy, and walked out cheerfully singing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
In a motel in Cicero, Indiana, drinking whiskey straight from the bottle, Dean tidied up his affairs, packing his most prized signature possessions – John’s leather jacket, the keys to the Impala, and his 1911 pistol – in a box. He wrote a farewell letter to Bobby and Sam and sealed it in the box as well, addressing the box to Bobby. Pouring another drink, he turned in shocked surprise to see Sam in the doorway of his motel room, lockpicks in hand. When he asked how Sam had found him, Sam observed that since Dean was planning on killing himself, the stops on his farewell tour weren’t hard to predict. Demonstrating that he knew Dean as well as Dean knew him, he asked Dean how Lisa was. When Dean protested that he wasn’t going to kill himself, Sam asked if Michael wasn’t about to make Dean his muppet, and demanded to know how Dean could just walk out. Dean countered that Sam had always run away, and Sam agreed that he’d been wrong every time he’d done it. He tried to persuade Dean that Bobby was working on an alternative, but when Dean was skeptical, Sam noted Dean knew Sam would have to stop him. Dean stepped clear of the furniture, inviting him to try and warning him he wasn’t hopped up on demon blood this time. Sam said he’d brought help, and with a flutter of wings, Castiel appeared behind Dean and touched his forehead to knock him out.
Back at Bobby’s, Dean paced while Bobby and Sam researched and Castiel watched Dean with angry eyes. Dean argued that he was facing reality, that nuclear was the only option they had left and Michael could ice the devil and save a boatload of people. Bobby protested he couldn’t save all of them and they had to think of something else. Dean said the responsibility would be on him if Lucifer burned the world down while he’d been able to prevent it. When Bobby told him he couldn’t give up, calling him “son,” Dean responded very deliberately that Bobby wasn’t his father and wasn’t in his shoes. Losing his temper, Bobby pulled out his revolver and took one bullet from his shirt pocket, saying it was the bullet he thought about killing himself with every day, and the reason he didn’t do it was he had promised Dean (during The Curious Case Of Dean Winchester) he wouldn’t give up.
Castiel gasped in sudden pain, saying something was happening, and abruptly disappeared. Arriving in a forest, he discovered a clearing where the trees had been uprooted and knocked down, a smaller version of the destruction that had surrounded Dean’s grave at his resurrection. As he investigated a small patch of moving earth, he was attacked by two angels and killed them both. When a hand emerged from the ground, he grabbed it and pulled a body from a grave. He took the unconscious man and the angels’ two swords back to Bobby’s, and Sam, shocked, identified Adam, his and Dean’s half-brother, who had died and been cremated in Jump The Shark.
Castiel burned into Adam’s ribs the same Enochian sigils he had used to hide Sam and Dean from the angels, and the pain woke Adam. When Dean told him they were his brothers and Sam introduced himself, Adam said he knew who they were because the angels had warned him about them, and demanded to know where Zachariah was. Cleaned up and wearing some of Dean’s clothes, he described having been in Heaven – making out with a girl at his prom – when the angels appeared and told him he’d been chosen to save the world, that he was the sword or vessel of the archangel Michael and the two of them would kill the devil, with his reward being reunited with his mother in Heaven. Castiel posited the angels might have finally become desperate and given up on persuading Dean, not realizing he was ready to give in, and gone to Adam as an imperfect alternative, since he was of John’s bloodline and Sam’s brother. Sam argued the angels having a plan B after all their talk of destiny just didn’t feel right. Adam stood to leave but Sam blocked him, trying to persuade him the angels were lying and there was another way. Adam asked what, and Dean snarked they were working on the power of love, although it wasn’t going well. Sam begged Adam to trust him and give him time, offering as his reason that they were blood. Adam said bitterly they weren’t his family, that John Winchester wasn’t his dad, but just a man who had taken him to a baseball game once a year, and the only family he had was his mother.
Some time later, alone in the kitchen and seeing Bobby absorbed in his books, Adam headed for the back door, but Sam waylaid him. He told Adam John had been trying to protect him, but Adam noted sourly that the monster that ate him hadn’t gotten the memo. Trying a different tack, Sam proposed Adam’s situation wasn’t that bad, saying the one thing worse than seeing John only once a year was seeing him all year, but Adam, describing his fatherless life, said he’d have taken anything. Sam said if they’d known about Adam, they would have looked for him, and while he couldn’t change the past, intimated they could get to know each other now, but Adam would have none of it. Hearing echoes of his own constant disputes with Dean and John, Sam observed Adam and his attitude would fit right into the family,
Locked into the panic room in the basement, Dean prowled his prison, discovering all the weapons had been removed and the lockers were empty. Sam paid a visit escorted by a silent, still smolderingly angry Cass, whom he sent back upstairs to watch Adam. Dean said he wouldn’t let Adam do it – take a bullet for him – pointing to all the people they’d already gotten killed, from Mom, Dad, and Jess through Ellen, Jo, and more. Dean said he was tired of fighting who he was supposed to be. Sam challenged him to stop trying to sacrifice himself, asking if they could stick together, but Dean said he didn’t think so. When Sam pressed for a reason, Dean admitted he didn’t believe in Sam any more, saying he knew Sam would be turned one way or another, whether through demon blood or something else. He called Sam angry and self-righteous and said Lucifer would wear him to the prom. Stung and hurt, Sam protested that Dean, of all people, couldn’t say that. Dean said he didn’t want to, but maintained that when Satan took Sam over, someone would have to be there to fight him, and it wouldn’t be Adam; it would have to be him. Crushed, Sam walked out and left him locked in. Back upstairs, when Bobby asked him first how Dean was doing and then how he was doing, Sam had no answers.
Castiel went down to the basement, but as he neared the panic room, he heard something smash inside. Calling Dean’s name and looking through the peephole, he saw a fallen chair and a broken lamp, but no sign of Dean. He opened the door and went inside – and Dean stepped out from hiding behind an open metal cabinet door on which he’d drawn the angel-banishing sigil, triggering it with his bloody hand to translocate Castiel away. Leaving the panic room, he grabbed a jacket and went out through the storm cellar doors, avoiding the stairs entirely.
Discovering Dean missing and the sigil as evidence Castiel had been banished, Sam left Bobby to guard the sleeping Adam while he tried to look for Dean, believing he couldn’t have gotten far. In his dream, Adam sat waiting in the park his mother used to take him to on her days off, but Zachariah arrived instead. Noting Adam hadn’t been where he was supposed to be and couldn’t be physically located, Zachariah guessed he was with Sam and Dean. He renewed his pitch for Adam to sign with the angels, arguing that Sam and Dean were too concerned with each other to care about the rest of the world, and wouldn’t care about him, either. He asked if Adam wanted to see his mother again, or not – and on that thought, Adam woke up with resolve.
Meanwhile, Dean found a sidewalk evangelist and remembering what had happened in The End, told the man who he was and that he should tell his angel buddies where he was. The man began to intone the Lord’s Prayer, only to be cut off and put to sleep by Castiel, who complained he prayed too loudly. Enraged, the angel grabbed Dean and flung him into a nearby alley, beating him mercilessly while berating him for deciding to throw away everything Castiel had done and sacrificed for him. Unable even to defend himself and seeing Castiel’s killing anger, Dean told him to go ahead and finish it, but instead of striking one last time, Castiel simply touched his shoulder, and he slumped unconscious.
Back at Bobby’s, Sam returned to find Adam gone. Bobby said he simply vanished right in front of his eyes. Castiel reappeared supporting the unconscious Dean, dropping him unceremoniously onto Bobby’s bed, and said the angels had taken Adam, guessing Adam had given them his location in a dream. Sam asked where they would have taken him, and Castiel realized it would have been the same room where Zachariah had held Dean before in Lucifer Rising.
In the beautiful room, Adam was taking advantage of the waiting burgers and beer when Zachariah appeared, wryly observing Adam shared Dean’s culinary tastes. When Adam said he was ready and asked where Michael was, Zachariah revealed he wasn’t there to join Michael, but only to serve as bait for Dean. Remarking that family was the Winchesters’ one blind spot, Zachariah said Sam and Dean would put aside their differences to try rescuing Adam, and that would put Dean exactly where the angels wanted him. When Adam protested, Zachariah shut him up by the simple expedient of making him vomit blood.
Dean woke up in the panic room chained to the cot. Sam reported Adam’s disappearance and Castiel’s reconnaissance report indicating the room was guarded by many angels. When Dean asked what he was going to do, Sam confounded him by unlocking his cuffs and saying he was taking Dean along because there were too many for him and Castiel to handle alone. Sam admitted Cass and Bobby thought it was a bad idea, but said he wasn’t so sure. Dean said they were right because either it was a trap to get him there to make him say yes or it wasn’t a trap and he was going to say yes anyway, and he gave fair warning that he would, but Sam said he wouldn’t, maintaining that when push came to shove, he would make the right call. Admitting that if the tables were turned, Dean would let Sam rot in the panic room – indeed, that he had let Sam rot there before – he asked why Sam was doing this, and Sam responded simply that Dean was still his big brother.
Castiel shifted them to the location of the angels’ green room, hidden in a vacant muffler factory in Van Nuys, California, and said he would clear out the five angels on guard so they could go in and get Adam. When Dean asked if taking on five angels was suicide, Castiel agreed it might be, but said at least then he wouldn’t have to watch Dean fail. He said he didn’t have the same faith in Dean that Sam did. Taking off his tie and pulling out a box cutter, he entered the empty building, heading toward the cabin-like office at one end. He was jumped by one angel, and killed him. When the rest appeared and surrounded him, he dropped his sword and taunted them to come on. As they rushed him, he ripped open his shirt to reveal the angel-banishing sigil carved into his own chest. When he slapped it with his bloody hand, he and all the others were flung away in one massive burst of light.
Hearing the sound, Dean cautiously entered the warehouse, passing the one dead angel and opening the cabin door to discover the white and gold room. Seeing Adam collapsed on the floor, Dean rushed to him. Surprised that he’d come, Adam warned him it was a trap, and Dean said he’d figured as much. He got Adam to his feet and turned to go, only to confront Zachariah asking if he thought it would be that easy. Seeing Sam coming up behind Zachariah with one of the angel swords Castiel had captured earlier in hand, Dean asked the same question back, but Zachariah deflected Sam’s blow and flung him casually away to crash into a metal screen across the room. Zachariah said he’d learned patience, and with a gesture, made Adam collapse vomiting blood again. Zachariah said he should have had faith in Michael, that everything was coming together as he had said, and flicked a finger to do the same thing to Sam as he’d done to Adam. Seeing both of his brothers in agony and bleeding to death to either side of him, Dean begged Zachariah to stop, and over Sam’s anguished protest, told Zachariah he would do it, he would say yes, and Zachariah should call down Michael. After a moment’s consideration, Zachariah turned away and began to chant.
Unable to take his eyes from Sam, Dean saw Sam in more pain from his betrayal than from what Zachariah had done to him, and something shifted. As Zachariah said in satisfaction that Michael was coming, Dean gave the tiniest of smiles and winked at Sam, and then told Zachariah that he had a few conditions. He said there were a few people whose safety the angels would have to guarantee first, and when Zachariah expansively told him to make a list, Dean added that most of all, before Michael could wear him, the angel would have to disintegrate Zachariah. Zachariah started uneasily to laugh it off, but Dean asked who was more important to Michael, himself or Zachariah, and the angel lost his temper and grabbed the front of his shirt, calling him a maggot. Zachariah said Michael wouldn’t kill him, but Dean, slipping the second of the captured angel-killing blades from under his jacket, said he would, and drove the blade up under the chin into Zachariah’s head. He didn’t look away from the brilliance as Zachariah died, the silver-white light glowing in his own eyes, and then he was flung away as Zachariah fell, the ash-shadows of his wings spread across the floor and walls. With the room shaking and the sound and glow of Michael’s approach intensifying, Dean got Adam on his feet and then went to pick up Sam, supporting Sam on the way out the door and calling to Adam to hurry. Dean and Sam made it out, but the door slammed to trap Adam in the room, and Dean couldn’t get the door open. Inside, Adam cried out to Dean for help, then turned to face the light. When the light and sound died away, Dean opened the door, but the heaven room was gone, leaving only a derelict office behind.
Driving a stolen pickup truck back toward Bobby’s, Dean doubted that either Adam or Cass were okay, but said they’d get them. Sam observed that he’d seen Dean’s eyes back in the room and he’d totally been rocking the yes; he asked what changed his mind. Dean said it was the damnedest thing, but with the world ending he looked at Sam and all he could think was, this stupid son of a bitch brought me here – and he just didn’t want to let Sam down. Sam smiled that he didn’t – he almost did, but he didn’t. Dean said he owed Sam an apology, and insisted on giving it over Sam’s protest, saying he’d always considered Sam the snot-nosed kid he had to keep on the straight and narrow, but they both knew Sam wasn’t that kid any more. He said that if Sam had grown up enough to find faith in him, the least he could do was return the favor. Dean said to screw destiny right in the face; they should take the fight to them and do it their way, and Sam, smiling, agreed that sounded good.
Commentary and Meta Analysis
If you heard an operatic shriek of “YES!” the moment Dean’s wink aired live on the East Coast, well – that was me and I apologize to your eardrums. This episode paid off on things long building, and satisfied on every level. In this discussion I look at Dean, Sam, Castiel, and faith, with sidebars on Winchester brotherhood and what it takes to kill an angel.
Over the course of the past few seasons, both of the brothers gradually lost the faith they once always had in each other. They both had plenty of rational reasons based on obvious changes in each others’ behavior over the years to support that loss of trust and belief. The amazing thing, the miraculous thing, is that they’ve now gotten it back, and that’s precisely because faith isn’t rational. In this discussion, I’m going to look at both of the brothers to trace both their loss and their rediscovery of faith both in each other and in themselves. I’ll take them in order of age and start with Dean. Please don’t get upset and start throwing things before you’ve read the whole; this isn’t meant to be a blame game, but simply to present each brother’s perspective. Remember that when it comes to what we feel, it’s not the truth of a matter that counts, but our perception of it, and since we aren’t God, we don’t perceive the totality of what is, as it is. And we don’t just fail to see it in others; we don’t see it in ourselves, either.
‘Cause I Just … I Don’t Believe. In You
Dean’s loss of faith in Sam was a long time coming, but well earned. And while Sam did a lot this season trying to mend it – most notably by going out of his way to tell the truth at all times, even when it shamed or hurt him as in admitting his lack of trust in himself at the end of Good God, Y’All, acknowledging his vulnerability to anger in Sam, Interrupted, and asking to be confined to prevent his takeover by the demon blood craving in My Bloody Valentine – the loss was so profound that it took concrete positive action, not just words, to restore it. And the key lay not in restoring Dean’s faith in Sam, but demonstrating to Dean that Sam had faith in him and still was the brother he had always loved.
Dean’s automatic trust in Sam was part of the bedrock of their relationship on view right from the pilot. Even though they’d been apart, and not happily, when the series started, Dean clearly believed Sam wouldn’t refuse a personal plea for help, and he was right even though it took a bit of persuading. For all the prickliness of their reunion and their occasional missteps (Scarecrow comes to mind), they fell back into step because each always expected and trusted the other to be where and what he needed to be.
Nothing demonstrated Dean’s implicit faith in Sam better than his reaction when he found out about Sam’s psychic abilities. Dean had been raised to hate and distrust the supernatural, but he refused to doubt the essential goodness of his little brother even though the thought of his visions freaked Dean out. He followed Sam’s dreams and lead in Home, Nightmare, and Salvation, and staunchly refused despite his own niggling rational fears about Sam’s abilities to acknowledge there being any truth to Sam’s terror in such episodes as Simon Said, Playthings, Houses Of The Holy, and Born Under A Bad Sign, among others, that he was doomed to turn into something evil. During the first two seasons, Dean’s faith in Sam was so automatic that he often accepted Sam as his own moral compass, for example yielding to Sam’s arguments about not killing people in Faith and Nightmare, and even protecting Lenore’s vampire family in Bloodlust. He defended Sam to Gordon with honest passion in Hunted. He refused to believe in the immutability of the destiny touted by Azazel, maintaining instead his conviction that Sam could choose and because of his innate goodness would make the right choice, and he did his best to reinforce Sam’s belief in himself by reminding him of that at every turn.
That trust began to take a beating in season three when the changes in Sam – the ruthlessness he displayed in Sin City, the lies and secrecy surrounding his killing of the crossroads demon in Bedtime Stories, the sheer brutality of his killing of Gordon in Fresh Blood, his willingness to kill humans in Malleus Maleficarum and to sacrifice an innocent in Jus In Bello – had Dean wondering about Azazel’s sly taunt in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2 concerning whether the Sam who came back from the dead was 100% Sam. Learning in Malleus Maleficarum that Sam was trying to become more like his perception of Dean – tough, decisive, and ruthless at need, better able in Sam’s mind to survive a war alone – was heartbreaking, but I think also a relief to Dean both because it made sense of changes he hadn’t been able to understand and because it said Sam still found things to look up to in him. Keeping Sam true to himself as the brother he knew was, I think, an even more potent motive to Dean than just his distrust of the supernatural in his constant efforts to block Sam’s desire to use the powers Ruby assured him he still had to try to save Dean from Hell.
Trust was virtually erased in season four when Dean returned from death to learn not only that Sam was using his powers, but was lying about it, sneaking around behind Dean’s back to meet with Ruby and even after that secret came out, hiding the full depth of his depravity, his demon blood addiction. To make matters far worse, Dean learned in Sex And Violence something he had already feared: that Sam had lost faith in him, believing him weak. That seemed the logical extension of things Sam had said as far back as Houses Of The Holy when Sam said he needed to believe in something bigger than Dean, that given what they were up against, Dean wasn’t enough to protect him and give him confidence as he had when Sam was a boy. The fight between the brothers at the end of When The Levee Breaks was almost the killing blow, when Sam chose Ruby over Dean and told Dean he had never really known Sam and never would. However much they had fought and mocked each other before, Dean had always believed and taken strength from believing that Sam trusted and believed in him, and that was suddenly, shockingly, totally gone.
I believe Sam’s evident loss of faith in Dean deprived Dean of an essential piece of his emotional support structure at his weakest and most critical moment, vastly contributing to the depth of his depression. Dean lost faith in himself when he remembered having broken in Hell, and what he perceived as Sam’s dismissal and pitying scorn just exacerbated that loss. Dean no longer believed in his own strength, as he’d never believed in his own worth, and to hear and see Sam throughout season four initially being uncertain of him and worried about his ability to recover from Hell and then outright dismissing him as weak, afraid, and flawed did nothing to rebuild his self-image. Once he learned how he and Sam had been manipulated by both angels and demons, Dean fought his own way back in Lucifer Rising through his determination to stop and save his brother, to not let his brother down, but in his eyes he failed in that too. He was reunited with Sam, but Lucifer had risen, and he saw no real hope of defeating him. The negatives took over and from that moment on, put their own spin on events. Dean laid it on the line in Sympathy For The Devil, when he told Sam, I know how sorry you are, I do. But man, you were the one I depended on the most, and you let me down in ways that I can’t even … I’m just, I’m having a hard time forgiving and forgetting here, you know? … I just don’t think I can trust you.
Despite Sam’s rigorous new truth-telling policy in season five, I think Dean’s trust issues remained unresolved for four main reasons. First and foremost, his own depression limited what he was observing, filtering out the positive and reinforcing the negative. Second, Sam repeatedly expressed his own fear that he wouldn’t be able to resist demon blood temptation, Lucifer’s seduction, or even his own inner rage, indicating he didn’t even trust himself (Good God, Y’All, The End, and Sam, Interrupted, among others). Third, when pressured by extreme temptation, Sam did in fact yield to the demon blood addiction again (My Bloody Valentine). And fourth, while they worked together and backed each other up, Sam remained emotionally hesitant and reserved, too cautious of a rebuff even to begin to express the trust and faith he’d once invested in his brother as automatically as breathing. Particularly early on in the season, during the worst throes of his guilt for having been so wrong, Sam behaved like a beaten dog expecting a blow from any raised hand, especially if that hand belonged to Dean. His flinch away from Dean at their reunion in The End when Dean drew the knife to return it to him spoke volumes about the fear that lived where trust used to be, and I think that hurt Dean as much or more than it hurt Sam.
I think the first point, concerning Dean’s depression tampering with his interpretation of events, made him overlook that Sam’s new fears of falling to Lucifer or demon blood were actually no different than his long-ago fears of being doomed by destiny to become something he wasn’t – fears and self-doubt that had never affected Dean’s belief in him back then – and similarly made him discount the limitations Sam himself put on his use of the demon blood against Famine and his evident willingness to volunteer for cold-turkey withdrawal again despite knowing the agony he would experience. By the time season five had rolled around, Dean’s loss of trust and growing despair predisposed him to see only the continued threats and minimize their real remediation, and he couldn’t get out of that rut. On the occasions when Sam reached out, as at the end of Fallen Idols, Dean reached back, but they were both too afraid of being hurt and wrong again to rebuild easily the trust they’d broken on both sides, and didn’t know how to reach a new balance.
I also think the brothers’ trip to Heaven in Dark Side Of The Moon made things much worse not just because Joshua put into plain words Dean’s utter loss of hope, but because what little he saw of Sam’s Heaven so clearly had no place for him, reinforcing his depressed belief that no matter what Sam said in his attempts to make things better, the hidden truth of Sam’s heart revealed by his design of Heaven was that Dean really didn’t matter to him and never truly had. I emphatically do not believe that was true, but since that was all he was given to see, it left an almost indelible impression behind. That absolute loss of faith, hope, and belief in anything was what I saw in his act of discarding the amulet.
Because. You’re Still My Big Brother
I think Sam’s faith issues with Dean were always more complex and layered than Dean’s with Sam, largely because Dean was in many ways parent as well as brother. From the glimpses we’ve been shown of the distant past in Something Wicked, A Very Supernatural Christmas, and even Dean’s memories of a joyous night in Dark Side Of The Moon, I think little Sammy’s faith in Dean was nearly absolute for years growing up, and while Dean may often have resented having the responsibility, I believe he basked in the warmth of his little brother’s admiration and affection.
I think Sam’s unalloyed faith in Dean probably started to change in character once Sam hit his teens, as demonstrated in After School Special, colored by his growing disaffection with John and their warped life and shaded with resentment for Dean’s seeming lack of independent thought and ambition to match Sam’s own. I expect that observant, adolescent Sam was keenly aware of Dean’s shortcomings with regard to personal relationships and interest in intellectual pursuits, and enjoyed the moments when he could feel superior despite being smaller and younger. I can only imagine his delight when he finally grew taller than Dean! I suspect his faith in Dean always having his back and being there for him took a major hit when Sam and John had the fight about Stanford, since it’s been strongly suggested Dean didn’t take Sam’s side. I think Sam confused respect, faith, and love then with his own resentment and sense of betrayal, and slammed the door harder than he intended. Despite that, I also think Sam knew, deep down, that Dean would always have been there for him if he’d called and needed help. That much of his faith in Dean never failed, I think.
I believe Sam’s faith in Dean began to develop more layers and shades as he started to realize consciously for the very first time, beginning shortly after they reconnected, just how emotionally damaged Dean was. Those early discoveries along the way in Dead In The Water, Skin, Home, Shadow, and Something Wicked, just to name a few, gave Sam the chance to look at Dean with grown-up eyes and gain a new appreciation of what his brother had been through and had always done for him both despite and because of that. I think that deepened his faith in Dean and gave him a fuller, more adult understanding of both his strengths and his weaknesses.
At the same time, however, I think Sam’s developing powers and his growing fear of becoming something evil also chipped away at his trust and belief in Dean precisely because, knowing Dean’s aversion to the supernatural, Sam feared Dean might not be able to accept a tainted Sam as still being the brother he unreservedly loved. In that, I believe Sam wronged Dean badly. We saw Sam’s sensitivity to and fear of Dean’s response multiply with Dean’s knowledge: just compare his amused, accepting reaction to Dean affectionately calling him a freak in Skin – before Dean knew about Sam’s precognitive dreams – with his affronted So now I’m a freak? response to Dean using the same term with full knowledge in Simon Said when trying to express his reservations about Sam revealing his psychic abilities in a bar full of hunters. Dean meant nothing different by the word in either instance, but to Sam it carried a whole new loaded connotation of negative judgment that he’d created in his own mind.
I think Sam imposed his own fears on Dean – believing Dean would grow to fear and reject him for his unnatural abilities just as Sam feared himself – and convinced himself because of that he could no longer trust unreservedly in Dean’s love and acceptance. With that fear at the forefront of his mind, Sam in seasons three and particularly four began more and more to try to hide from Dean the things he knew Dean would disapprove of, but Dean’s suspicion of each thing he lied about and hid ate away at Dean’s trust of him. Sam convinced himself he was protecting Dean, shielding his brother from things he was too fragile to deal with after Hell, when what he was really protecting was his justification for not telling Dean truths he knew Dean would argue were wrong and might not be able to forgive. In effect, Sam lost Dean’s faith precisely because of what he did in his attempt not to lose it, which is ironic in the extreme. I believe we saw in both brothers the corrosive effects of negative emotions on the perception of reality. Sam’s fear and his resentment of Dean’s affronted anger blinded him to the truth of Dean’s continued love much the same way Dean’s later depression blocked his ability to see how truly Sam had changed in his attempt to make up for his failures.
I do believe much of Sam’s concern for Dean’s ability to cope with life after Hell was genuine. Through the first half of season five, Sam was troubled by Dean’s nightmares and drinking, and by his refusal to share the burden of the experiences in Hell that led to them. After Dean had confessed the ugly truth of his breaking at Alastair’s hands, however, I think Sam, in his inability to find any effective way to deal with Dean’s depression and in his own growing preoccupation – adroitly fueled by Ruby – with becoming the powerful agent who would save the world himself, began to use Dean’s worsening condition more and more in part as a justification and an excuse. He concluded he couldn’t trust Dean to be strong enough to do what he could see the need to do, so he felt justified in doing whatever it took to spare his brother the effort and pain of trying and failing. Ruby fed Sam’s arrogance in the guise of praising him for carrying the load instead of burdening Dean with it, and encouraged Sam in thinking he couldn’t believe in Dean.
I Just Didn’t Want To Let You Down
I think Sam began to recover his faith in Dean in Lucifer Rising when he heard Dean shouting his name and pounding on the door as he started to kill Lilith. The realization that Dean had come for him despite everything was almost enough to stop him. When he learned too late that he’d been duped by Ruby and taunted into destruction by Lilith, he didn’t hesitate to immobilize Ruby for Dean’s kill. And in the aftermath, all he could think to do was try to apologize and ask how he could make things right again. The worst blow to land on Sam in Sympathy For The Devil was hearing Dean say he didn’t think they could ever be what they were, because he didn’t think he could trust Sam.
From that moment, Sam did everything I think he could imagine to try restoring that trust, starting with that difficult policy of absolute honesty. At the same time, however, he couldn’t see them fitting back into their unworkable former childhood template of big brother/little brother, “you lead I follow.” Trying to re-establish themselves in a new relationship as equals wasn’t going to work as long as mutual trust didn’t exist. Dean didn’t trust Sam to choose wisely after his disastrous track record of decisions throughout season four; Sam very humanly resented being distrusted even while admitting how badly he’d screwed up, and felt he couldn’t trust Dean in turn precisely because Dean didn’t trust him. Stalemate.
I think all the events from Abandon All Hope on began to make inroads on restoring Sam’s trust in Dean below the conscious level. As he had done so many times in the past, Dean came through again and again despite his depression, his emotional repression, his fear, and his failures: he persevered and shot Lucifer in Abandon All Hope, even though the gun didn’t work; he fought through hallucinatory fear and suicidal depression to kill the wraith in Sam, Interrupted; he managed to engage Gary and get him to switch sides in Swap Meat; he faced off with Michael in The Song Remains The Same. Dean also demonstrated some subtle healing in his own trust relationship with Sam: he accepted Sam removing himself from the fight in My Bloody Valentine; he ceded protection of the rest of the town to Sam while undertaking himself to guard Bobby in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.
Dark Side Of The Moon was a game-changer in many ways. I think the trip to Heaven did a lot to restore Sam’s faith in many things, including himself and his hope of a future. I believe being admitted to Heaven when he’d had no expectation of salvation, and learning from Ash that he’d been there more than once, gave Sam hope he’d lost long before, and that hope stayed with him despite Joshua’s message not to expect God to stop the apocalypse or save the world. I remain convinced that the glimpses Dean got of Sam’s Heaven were engineered to give Sam the insight he needed into Dean’s heart and mind to be able to save him.
I don’t think Sam had realized prior to that crushing trip to Heaven just how vital Dean’s belief in Sam’s love and trust was to Dean. What shattered Dean in Heaven even before they met Joshua was seeing memories suggesting he had been wrong to think he ever mattered to Sam; that while Dean had always defined happiness and the worth of his life in terms of his love and care for his brother, Sam had never reciprocated, and was actually happier without him. Again, I don’t for a moment believe that was true, but it’s what Dean took from what he saw, and Sam saw the full effect that conclusion had on Dean, crumbling the foundation of his existence.
Sam’s decision in Point Of No Return not only to trust Dean to make the right choice but to openly demonstrate that faith in a very concrete way, was the only thing that saved Dean. Not letting Sam down, living up to Sam’s belief and faith in him, tipped the balance against Dean giving in to Michael and Zachariah. And it wasn’t just Sam having brought Dean to the party against the advice of Bobby and Castiel: it was Dean seeing in Sam’s eyes the depth of his betrayal, loss, and pain at hearing Dean say yes, at seeing him surrender in violation of Sam’s hopes and expectations. Sam was right when he said Dean had totally been rocking the yes; it was Sam’s genuine, utterly devastated reaction that proved the truth of his faith, and it was Dean’s knowledge that Sam did believe in him that restored his will to fight, to live, and to take back and negate that “yes” with the conditions he placed upon it.
Dean wasn’t quite right at the end when he commented about Sam having grown up enough to find faith in him; Sam’s faith had been just as true when he’d been much younger. But to find that faith again despite all reason, to trust in it despite fear, self-righteousness, and anger, to believe despite knowing the full picture as he never could have done as a child – that was the maturity in Sam prompting Dean to apologize and pledge his trust in return.
Dean and Sam still have a long way to go, but this? This was the first sure, strong step on the road to recovery, and with this behind them, they have a much better chance of facing and surviving the trials that are sure to follow.
But Then I Won’t Have To Watch You Fail
Castiel’s fury at Dean’s surrender had many components, but I think it also blinded him to something very important. In his constant, simmering rage over Dean seemingly discarding without any thought or consideration all Castiel had sacrificed for him, Castiel failed ever to wonder why and how he was alerted to Adam’s resurrection in time to arrive before Zachariah’s henchmen angels, even though they knew what their mission was and he didn’t have a clue.
While it might have been part of the trap orchestrated by Michael – deliberately alerting Castiel to allow Sam and Dean to renew the feeling of having a bond with Adam by letting them interact with him – I don’t believe that was the case. When Zachariah met Adam in his dream, Zachariah said, You weren’t where you were supposed to be, kid. I don’t believe that having Adam slip his leash to run with the Winchesters and be made invisible to angel radar was any part of Zachariah’s or Michael’s plan, because it was too risky. While I wouldn’t put it past them to sacrifice other angel underlings at the grave site to sell the rescue concept, to make Castiel think he was doing something against Zachariah’s wishes when he was actually acting according to plan, I don’t believe that’s what happened. There were other safer, cheaper ways for Zachariah to have spread the word of Michael’s purported plan to use Adam in Dean’s place. Letting Adam physically connect with the Winchesters opened up the possibility for Sam and Dean to have been able to persuade Adam not to trust Zachariah, particularly since they had their own angel to help illustrate that angels weren’t what Adam’s upbringing and limited experience in Heaven had led him to expect. Alternatively, being exposed to Adam’s total rejection of any family link with his half-brothers might have led them to choose not to react as family, the way Zachariah wanted them to do. I think Zachariah never meant to let them take him.
While then-human, angelically overlooked Anna seemed to pick up random channels on angel radio beginning when apocalyptic fervor kicked into high gear with the broadcast word of Dean’s salvation back in Lazarus Rising, as she described in I Know What You Did Last Summer, Castiel has clearly not been privy to speech among angels still in Zachariah’s heavenly host since his rebellion in Lucifer Rising. Castiel has been cut off from Heaven. With that in mind, there’s no reason to think he would coincidentally overhear a communication involving Adam. And while he sensed something going on, he didn’t immediately know who Adam was; he seemed as surprised as Bobby when Sam identified him. So whatever information he was provided didn’t include specifics, as overhearing Zachariah’s orders to his underlings would have.
If alerting Castiel wasn’t part of Zachariah’s byzantine plot and wasn’t an accidental overhearing like Anna’s, it would seem it had to have been intentional on the part of a third party. My personal bet is God is more active than He indicated through the message Joshua passed on, that He or others among His loyal servants are still providing subtle help. I think the message that He was finished was meant to force the Winchesters and Castiel to help themselves and grow in the process rather than simply relying on being rescued by God, but I don’t think it precluded Him – or someone like Joshua – from delicately interceding from time to time to tweak events in their favor.
I think Castiel’s perceptions have been dulled and warped by his rage and loss of faith the same way Dean’s view was darkened by despair and depression and Sam’s was twisted by fear and pride. I think Castiel’s loss of faith in God and in himself is preventing him from perceiving the still, small voice of God. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and none so deaf as those who will not listen.
Castiel making of himself a tool to banish angels will doubtless have repercussions we can’t foresee. At a minimum, I think it will have triggered another severe reduction in his angelic power – and if it doesn’t, I will have to believe that once again, God intervened.
Attitude Like That, You’d Fit Right In Around Here
The real Adam – armed with the knowledge of his death and Heaven and displaying a very different personality than the disarmingly naïve construct of him the ghoul had presented to lull the Winchesters in Jump The Shark – was an interesting blend of personality traits reflecting both Sam and Dean. On the surface, he was very like Dean, from his make-out version of Heaven, sarcastic one-liner humor, taste for burgers and beer, and fierce dedication to his mother. In his angry independence and critical and dismissive attitude toward John, however, he sounded the same notes as Sam always had.
In trying to persuade Adam to his cause, Sam found himself playing Dean’s usual big-brother role of advocating the importance of family and asking for faith and belief. He got a taste of what it was like to argue with himself as Adam gave back the same skepticism and dismissal Sam used to toss back at Dean.
Adam’s surprise when Dean and Sam actually did show up to rescue him marked a moment when I think Adam’s definition of “family” began to change. He had been completely disillusioned by Zachariah, but in this one respect, discovered the angel had been right: the Winchesters’ belief in and concept of family forced them to respond not just to eliminate the threat that Adam might have been able to serve in Dean’s place as the sword of the apocalypse, but to save Adam for himself. It’s clear that Dean’s attention was much more on Sam than on Adam when Zachariah turned up the pressure, but he had no real relationship with Adam to ground him as he did with Sam. In the aftermath, Dean helped Adam first, and I don’t think that escaped Adam’s notice.
Although Adam remained trapped in the room as Michael arrived, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion either that Adam gave his consent and allowed Michael in or that Michael destroyed him. Adam wasn’t cringing in pain and his eyes weren’t flaming out of his head, so he was evidently able to tolerate Michael’s presence whether because Michael was approaching him as a potential vessel or because, having been resurrected from Heaven, Adam retained some essence more than merely human. After his complete disillusionment by Zachariah, I think it unlikely that Adam would agree to host Michael – he has the Winchester stubbornness and rebellious streak in full measure – unless Michael managed some major fence-mending, but all we can do is wait and see.
Maybe Not ... But I Will
Dean killing Zachariah was a richly satisfying moment, but Dean actually accomplishing the kill and looking Zachariah in the eyes without flinching as the brilliance of the dying angel’s true form poured out of the body raised questions. We’ve known since Lazarus Rising that with the exception of certain special people, humans can’t tolerate the sight of an angel’s true form without damage – witness Pamela’s eyes being burned out of her head and Castiel’s remote regret for that consequence – or understand an angel’s true voice. To Castiel’s surprise, Dean hadn’t been able to handle Castiel’s voice, so seeing him unharmed and unfazed by looking on Zachariah’s brilliance as he died was a surprise.
Dean being able to kill Zachariah with the angel sword was less of a shock. Although Uriel told Castiel in On The Head Of A Pin that only an angel could kill another angel, I always had my doubts about the truth of that statement. Earlier in Heaven And Hell, after Anna had remembered her true nature but before she recovered her grace and became a true angel again, Sam had asked if she knew of any weapons that worked against angels, to kill them. Anna’s response wasn’t to deny the existence of effective weapons outside of angelic hands, but to say there wasn’t anything they could get to right then.
I suspect the angel swords we’ve always seen only in angels’ hands until now could kill an angel no matter who held one, and demons just never had the opportunity to see them used (angels not having been in the habit of killing each other until very recently, when Uriel began offing his garrison mates last season) and make a concerted effort to obtain some. Castiel scavenged the swords from the two angels he killed at Adam’s resurrection site, but giving them to Sam and Dean to carry on their foray into the beautiful room wouldn’t have made sense unless he had some reason to believe they might be effective. He could have been mistaken about that the same way he was mistaken in thinking the Colt might kill Lucifer, but the thought they might work must have been there.
Dean staring into the burning light of Zachariah’s death is what really made an impression on me. It could be simply that since Zachariah died still within his host body rather than fully bursting out of and destroying it as happened with Anna when she got her grace back in Heaven And Hell, the fullness of his angelic aspect wasn’t enough on display to have hurt a human as Michael’s approach did the men in the bar. It could also be that Dean, Sam, and Adam all are now something more than purely human simply by virtue of having been resurrected and brought back from Heaven, and that they have a tolerance for Heavenly aspects now they didn’t possess before they themselves had been in Heaven. Since all of them are also potential vessels for beings of archangelic power, their bloodline might have afforded them physical protection. Sam and Dean might also have had unwitting protection from another source: we saw in My Bloody Valentine that Dean was still carrying War’s ring, and I’m wondering if Sam has Famine’s, and what power such artifacts might have.
What I flatly don’t believe is that Dean is an angel, or that his conditional “yes” to Michael let anything of Michael in. The whole point of this show has been and is that the Winchesters are human – tweaked and engineered a bit by both angels and demons, perhaps, and changed by their experiences, but human at their core.
I devoutly hope this isn’t the last script we’ll ever see written by Jeremy Carver for Supernatural as he becomes embroiled in his new series project for Syfy; he rocketed to the top as one of my favorite writers right from his advent with Sin City in season three, and his second outing on A Very Supernatural Christmas proved that first reaction wasn’t a fluke. He’s always done beautifully with the realization that the most important things said between the brothers often don’t involve words at all. And in this episode where important words also needed to be said, it was perfect that the words themselves were so stripped down, spare, and direct.
I loved nearly every moment in his script for this episode. My only irritations were with his slash fan service bits (especially Zachariah’s reference to the brothers being “erotically co-dependent” and Dean commenting to Castiel that the last time someone stared at him so intensely, he got laid) precisely because they were so obviously inserted to be funny fan service and went sideways from the main thrust of the story, but that’s a really minor quibble when laid against the beauty of a story that finally brought the Winchester brothers truly back together through the power of faith in each other.
Speaking of words and Winchesters, I really hope we (someday soon!) get to see the full text of Dean’s farewell letter. From what I made out, I think it was only to Bobby and Sam, with Dean leaving the care of the Impala to Bobby and acknowledging that all Bobby had given had made him a Winchester in Dean’s book, and asking Sam, assuming he still prayed, to give prayer one more try, but I could well be wrong. The “her” may have been Lisa, and part of the message may have been for Castiel, but without seeing the whole, I’m shooting in the dark. Or in the mostly covered-up, at any rate.
I always love what director Phil Sgriccia gets from his cast, how he shoots action sequences, and the way he plays up mood. The opening bit with Zachariah commiserating in a bar with a laid-off businessman was a lovely example of comedy gold, especially Zachariah’s irritation with Kay Starr’s cover of “The Man Upstairs” playing on the jukebox (how perfectly on the nose for an angel who no longer believes in God!), Stuart’s belated reaction to Zachariah’s comment about filthy humans, and the delightful touch of having Zachariah pluck a piece of fallen glass out of his drink, finish his whiskey, and then drop the broken shard back into his empty glass before leaving. Score! I also really loved the way he blocked and shot the scenes between the brothers in the panic room because the visual storytelling emphasized and clarified the emotion. Physically, aside from the one brief moment Sam when unlocked Dean’s cuffs, Sgriccia had them almost as far apart as the room would allow and almost directly facing each other. That reinforced both their emotional distance from each other and the reality that they were finally confronting their issues head-on, but the physical distance, keeping them carefully and deliberately out of each other’s personal space, also emphasized that their confrontation wasn’t at all argumentative. When these two fight in anger, they get right up in each other’s faces; but there was no anger here, just hurt and sadness and resignation and careful distance, and it killed.
The crane shot in the forest that showed us the uprooted trees surrounding Adam’s resurrection was a lovely callback to Kim Manners’ similar shot in Lazarus Rising. The walking handheld shot giving us the woods from Castiel’s perspective was a good use of handheld, letting us walk in the angel’s (and the cameraman’s) shoes. One Sgriccia shot you don’t usually see elsewhere was the sequence in Bobby’s house just after Sam announced the man Castiel had brought was their brother – watch the camera track abruptly from Jake to Bobby to Dean to the angel swords being slammed onto the desk to Castiel’s face; that was all one move, not cuts, and its whiplash motion brought across all the startlement and urgency of the moment. Speaking of cuts, I was impressed with the way editor Nicole Baer assembled the climactic scene in the beautiful room, building on all the little looks and moments.
My absolute only disappointment with the way the episode was presented was the absence of a classic rock intro. I had high hopes the 100th episode would get a rocking tune, but I’m guessing that between the budget issues and the need to have a fair amount of dialogue in the Then segment, the rock music didn’t make the cut. But that’s all right: I heard Kansas’ “Point Of Know Return” in my head anyway.
Jay Gruska’s original underscore perfectly captured the mood throughout, but the piano and strings piece behind Dean packing up his life to leave it behind was especially beautiful – and I adored the way the sound crew worked into the music the echo of the sound of Dean checking the gun’s load and working the slide before laying it in the box, and then ripping the tape to seal the box shut. That was brilliant.
The set designers and dressers get special points for Dean’s room being number 100, given that this was the 100th episode of the show, and Dean staying at “Mike’s Travel Inn” when he was on his way to surrender to Michael was a fun touch. The show’s trademark beer signs in the window behind the preacher made me laugh after just having mentioned them in connection with last week’s episode. I think the street and Dean’s beat-down by Castiel in the alley were shot on the back lot, and I think the exterior warehouse area in Van Nuys was actually part of Boundary Bay Airport, with digital palm trees added. The ash-shadows of dead Zachariah’s wings across the wall and floor of the beautiful room were magnificent.
And now to the meat of it all: the performances. In terms of subtlety, I think this episode had some of the best work by both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. This wasn’t a histrionically big episode for them, but instead a quiet and intense one where everything rode on the most delicate shifts of expression. Watching Jared as Sam keeping reins on his temper, talking and reasoning instead of yelling, registering every painful hit by words that wounded, was wonderful. Jensen’s Dean finally hit bottom – and against all expectation, bounced. The moment he gave up was as shocking for me as it was for Sam, but everything that crossed his face when he saw Sam’s reaction and changed was a marvel. The wink put paid to it perfectly.
I will miss Kurt Fuller as Zachariah! He was so perfectly the petty bureaucrat you love to hate, and his comedic sense of timing and flawless delivery were spot-on. I never tired of the way he could flip from levity to deadly menace in a heartbeat. Having met him at the L.A. con, I can also say he’s even funnier in person than on screen. Jake Abel got to play a whole new take on Adam. In a way, he’s played three characters on this show: the naïve construct of Adam created by the ghoul as a trap, the Adam-ghoul just being his ghoulish self, and now the real Adam. I liked what he did with all three, and I can’t wait to find out what happened to Adam when Michael showed up.
Jim Beaver and Misha Collins both had meaty roles to play and delivered in spades. Jim’s Bobby trying to be supportive but then venting his frustrated anger at Dean giving up when Bobby had promised he wouldn’t was riveting. Misha rocked Castiel’s unaccustomed, inescapable rage; the way his eyes always tracked Dean throughout the episode with an unremitting gunsight glare was uncomfortable to watch and tricky to sustain. And Castiel in combat was magnificent! As Dean said, word to the wise: don’t piss off the nerd angel.
This show has always been all about faith. Remember this exchange from Faith, way back in season one?
Dean: It must be rough. To believe in something so much, and have it disappoint you like that.
Layla: You want to hear something weird? I’m okay, really. I guess if you’re gonna have faith, you can’t just have it when the miracles happen; you have to have it when they don’t.
Layla: You want to hear something weird? I’m okay, really. I guess if you’re gonna have faith, you can’t just have it when the miracles happen; you have to have it when they don’t.
The thing about faith is that it isn’t rational. It isn’t logical. It doesn’t make sense. It may fly in the face of reason and expectation. Faith is belief without proof. And yet, and yet – that in which we have faith, that in which we believe heart and soul – the human as well as the divine – can, against all odds, prove itself true in the end in ways we could never predict, precisely because our belief in it makes it true.
What happened in that room with Sam and Dean? Well, as Layla put it, there’s a miracle right there. Faith.
The icon on this is by hellybongo . Thanks!