Time to Buy More Tissues – Supernatural 8.16
When it comes to Supernatural episode reactions, it’s all relative. That gave “Remember The Titans” a big advantage, so it’s no surprise that I liked it. The fact that Dean was wandering around in his boxer briefs and tee shirt probably contributed to my affection for the episode as well, also to the surprise of no one. (Yeah, he had the dead guy robe on, but it was OPEN, guys. I mean, that’s what gifs and screencaps are made for!) Add to that the fact that the brothers were back to being smart and competent and that Sam is confiding in Dean a little, and I’m a happy fangirl.
While there were some odd things that threw me out of the moment (questionable parenting decisions, the Batcave holding an open house, a few more unlikely gaps in Dean’s knowledge base), for the most part the plot and dialogue and Steve Boyum’s well-paced direction kept me engaged. Loved seeing the boys calling the shots again – Dean’s badass “Let’s roll” command when Zeus wouldn’t play ball gave me shivers. Sam’s smarts do the same thing to me every time. Smart!Sam talking Artemis out of killing them, and Dean being an adorable mix of perplexed and impressed, pushed all my Sam buttons.
Show has gotten very good at consistently drawing parallels from the MotW to the brothers, investing the Show with meaning without too much exposition or falling anvils, and that worked well this week. The conversation between Prometheus and Sam about duty and sacrifice rang true without being heavy-handed. Eventually Prometheus gave his life to save Oliver, just as John gave his life for Dean, and Dean gave his life for Sam, and Sam gave his life to save all of humanity – and his brother. As Prometheus says, it’s all meaningless if you can’t save your own family.
Sam’s empathic offer to take little Oliver out for ice cream to get him away from the grief and violence was quietly touching, and full of meaning. Sam got a chance to be the big brother for once, to demonstrate the protective role that he learned from watching his own big brother do that for him. It was almost like watching a role reversal, since Oliver also mirrored Dean in his elective muteness after a trauma. Sam got a chance to comfort Oliver, as he was never able to comfort young Dean. And Oliver’s decision to stay instead echoes Sam’s own decision to stay and fight, even when it leaves you in the midst of pain and loss.
Boyum’s direction allowed for fast-paced action sequences, but he also excelled at the quiet scenes, allowing the dialogue to unfold slowly, lending them an understated power. Sam and Oliver’s conversation felt that way, and so did Sam and Dean’s talk in the Impala. I might have squealed when Sam confided to Dean that his earlier bravado about being certain he could survive the trials had been shaken. While I think fandom (myself included) loved Sam’s speech about hope and taking Dean with him to the light, I also think it’s realistic that Sam would waver in that conviction sometimes. He still has hope, and he’s still including Dean in that hopeful vision of the future, but he’s also scared – how could he not be? And confiding that fear to his big brother is so much better than pretending he doesn’t feel it. Any time the boys are genuine with each other, I find myself reaching for the tissues; this time was no exception. It felt like an important step forward for them, evidence of the trust Sam is once again placing in Dean.
And miracle of miracles, Show allowed Dean to give it back. He hears Sam. He hears his fear, and he sees his pain. He shores Sam up in the time-honored big brother tradition of saying shut up and eat your burger, Dean-speak for “You’re not dying on my watch and I’m gonna take care of you whether you like it or not!” Sam hears it for the comfort it is (as Dean often expresses his caretaking with food, something he’s been doing for Sam all their lives – something he can do when he can’t do much else). Sam eats his burger with a soft smile. They understand each other in that moment, and watching from my vantage point of eight years of history with these brothers, I understand too.
Sam trusted Dean enough to let himself be vulnerable instead of keeping a stiff upper lip like I was afraid the writers would do. He may not be saying hey, I’m bleeding every time I brush my teeth, but he’s not pretending to be invulnerable either. Dean trusts him in return; instead of ranting and railing and accusing Sam of hiding something, he sends a heartfelt plea to Cas to keep his little brother safe. This is a big step for Dean, allowing Sam to keep some things to himself instead of badgering him to spill. Allowing Sam the space to process his own fears, trusting that he’ll lean on Dean when he needs to. He understands why Sam is trying to be brave; so do we.
If the bro moments up until that point hadn’t made me reach for the tissues, Dean’s prayer to Cas did the trick. Dean, who would never ask for anything for himself, will do anything when it comes to Sam. Dean calling Sam his little brother, putting aside his pride and doing what he considers begging for Sam’s safety….that would have been enough. Ackles’ quiet desperation and the fear in his eyes as he looks around hoping for help was heartbreaking. It’s clear Dean will still feel like it’s his fault if Sam does die doing the trials – that it should have been on him.
To break up all that intense angsty tissue-grabbing stuff, there were humorous moments too. Dean’s face when Sam is winding up Artemis was priceless. And I’m not sure why Dean’s vision of Sam having a future seems oddly focused on prostate exams, colonoscopies and Viagra, but it amuses me nevertheless. Also I’ll never get tired of Dean coming down to breakfast in his robe sipping a cup of coffee and wondering what Sam’s up to – it screams “home” and it makes me smile every single time. Add to that Dean’s boyish pride as he confides that “we’re legacies,” and Sam’s wondering expression in return, and my grin was probably verging on ridiculous.
We’ve got a break for a mini-hellatus now, during which time we’ll head to Vegas Con and try not to follow the rule of ‘what happens in Vegas…’. And stock up on tissues. So keep it up, Show!