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So, my latest fic, “Saving Sam.” (There are spoilers for the fic in this here post, so if you’re planning on reading it, you’ll probably want to read it first. It's pretty short. Then again, I saw a million spoilers for S8 before I actually saw it, and somehow it didn’t spoil much of anything!) I’ve been having the hardest time writing fic lately, so disappointed am I in season 8, which I am just now watching. I guess I’m glad I waited for the DVDs, or else it might have killed my inspiration sooner. :-( I wrote a spoof of the egregious “Man’s Best Friend ...” episode, but I would never want to write fic just to make fun of the show, so I’ve been trying to find my way into writing serious fic again and really struggling at it.

I guess there are people who can separate one season from another, one episode from another, their feelings for one vs. their feelings for another, but I’m not like that. Every fic keeps in mind everything that has ever happened throughout the whole series, and given that S8 carelessly retcons everything that’s ever happened throughout the entire series (even S8 stuff--even occasionally things that happened in the very same episode!), trying to do that is like trying to hold onto every piece of a big lego tower that’s crumbling.

So I’ve turned my mind to trying to figure out where the writers are going with all this. I have some ideas--personally, if I were one of the writers, with 2014 approaching, I couldn’t see how we could resist going end!verse, and that seems to be where things are headed, with Cas now cut off from the power of heaven and fully human, Sam and Dean estranged to the breaking point, and Dean already the kind of sociopath who will sacrifice his friends and allies if it helps him accomplish his goals, which have become his whole world. An lj friend pointed out that Lucifer DID say they would always end up there, no matter what. The writers did it gracelessly, but they got there. (I love the idea of going end!verse with the show, I just wish they were doing it BETTER.)

I’ve read a lot of people who agree with my not-so-pleased assessments of S8. I’ve also read a lot of meta that’s working very hard to defend the writers’ choices. At a certain point, I think you have to give up on defending the writers and let their work speak for itself ... but that got me to thinking. Leaving aside the question of whether the writers on the show are that good anymore or whether what’s ending up onscreen is exactly what they meant to create, I decided to instead have a good, hard, honest look at what the show itself says, taken exactly as it is.


Dean’s obsession with taking care of Sam used to seem at least to a degree reasonable; now it seems dogged, over the top, especially given Sam’s silent indifference to it, if not passive resistance. Sam hasn’t really articulated where he’s coming from this season, but SOMETHING ain’t right. I almost can’t help but read it as Sam fading away, in every respect: his body is wasting away, but long before that, his personality, his self-expression, his emotions were fading. Dean’s thoughts and feelings about Sam are so loud, Sam is not just drowned out, but has become almost irrelevant to the relationship. Dean has his ideas about Sam, his obsession with protecting him and keeping him alive and giving him a happy ending (stop it, you shippers--I hear you giggling out there--not THAT kind of ‘happy ending’!), and what Sam thinks or feels about this or anything is no longer part of the equation. The relationship is breaking down ... or was there a relationship to begin with, or was that relationship always in Dean’s mind?

Dean seems perpetually to be trying to make Sam be the brother he wants and seems perpetually to be dissatisfied with the results, but aside from reluctantly giving in to duty and loyalty to family, the only things Sam has ever really declared he ‘wants’ HIMSELF were jumping into the pit and doing the trials himself (although he might have simply been making the logical choice there, since he was after all the one who had already killed the hellhound and bathed in its blood) ... which implies some kind of meta-universe where Sam just wants to die (which ties in to the fic, but we won’t go there right now). In the world of the show, Sam frequently seems less an individual and more an imperfect reflection of Dean’s desires and needs, as well as an archetypal metaphor, the ‘hero’ in nearly every arc.

Why is Dean the most vivid character when every major arc is about Sam? Indeed, why on earth does Dean never have a freakin’ arc?? He had going to/returning from hell S3-4, and that was it. It’s always about Sam, which frustrates fans greatly, but on a meta level ... maybe there never really was a Dean, maybe it’s always been Sam. I mean, do you know two brothers who are that close? Why on earth would they forego any relationship with any other human being, no matter how fulfilling, to go back to the life Sam never wanted (and which Dean, at least in S5, also said he didn’t want)? Why was it Sam who wanted the apple-pie life, and then suddenly in S5 when Sam was about to go in the pit forever it was Dean who wanted it, who supposedly had always wanted it? Careless choices on the part of the writers, or something deeper? These brothers are tied together by fate, circumstance, duty, and (reluctant) choice to such an extreme everyone knows they come as a pair, “the Winchesters,” as if they are less two individual people and more simply two aspects of the same person.

Meanwhile, the stories have become cliched and obvious. The sets, too. (An lj friend recently referred to the hell set in “Taxi Driver” as “chintzy”--I’ll add to that “hilariously stereotypical.”) Dean and Sam all too often seem less like human beings now than caricatures of the human beings they used to be. It’s like that moment in a “Beautiful Mind”--SPOILERS FOR “A BEAUTIFUL MIND” AHEAD--where you’ve been with John Nash for the whole movie, believing everything he believes, and you suddenly realize you, and he, were fooled all along by his hallucinations, which is a brilliant feat of filmmaking, and could be applied to Supernatural, as well. There were a few times in S5 when I was like, “Hmm ...” when EVERY monster and demon and angel knew Sam and Dean, when they ended up being the two main characters in the whole story of humanity, for heaven’s sake, the major players of the apocalypse ... and thence the only two who could stop it and save the world ... which they’ve done many times now, all of which is spectacularly implausible, and yet they had me suspending my disbelief right along with them ... until this season, when the cracks in the story started becoming too obvious not to notice. Does it not watch, on a certain level, like an 8-year-long fever dream?

I’m rewatching S1 now, the aesthetic of which is, above all, strikingly REAL. The interactions between the brothers and the people they meet are more realistic than any you ever see on t.v., little details about the way they live and dress, how they act, how people really talk, how people really feel, mostly shot on location, all of which is so much of what drew me into the show in the first place. Granted, that’s a really difficult way to make a show; it’s much easier to just build a few sets you can redress to look like different places (as they do now) and do a single take rather than obsessing over a shot until it feels true to life. But it was really cool. That has fallen by the wayside over the years. Even after they dropped the sepia-look filters of S1, it was still reliably dark in its visual style ... then by S7, it’s this bright, colorful show that, well, looks like pretty much any other t.v. show--It looks (on a purely visual level) like a much happier show than it has ever been, which is kind of weird ... or is Dean’s hallucinated world changing over the years, becoming less and less plausible as his subconscious whispers to him, “None of this is real”? (Or maybe it’s the showmakers, whispering that to us obsessed fans ...?)

And, okay, I love my badass Sam and Dean as much as the next fan, but ... really? They can battle anything--ANYTHING--and come out on top? They have the King of Hell on speed-dial (and they foil him every time)? God is writing THEIR story, and theirs alone? They’ve died and come back to life HOW many times? They are the earthly manifestation of Free Will?? That many concussions and they wouldn’t be able to speak comprehensibly, much less continue doling out one-liners from their pretty, unmarred faces. They can pick any lock, get out of any bond, kick down any door, best any monster, decipher any code, avert any apocalypse; I mean, they take competence to a whole new level, even while being teased for being not too bright by their adversaries, who are kind of right about that. Dean and Sam don’t plan much, they don’t learn new techniques, they just kind of kick down a door and kill what’s on the other side. Still, they always come out on top. If all you had was a neverending dream ... in which you could die and go to heaven, purgatory, or hell BUT WOULD ALWAYS COME BACK TO LIFE ... wouldn’t you cast yourself as the indestructible hero around whom the world revolved? (So I enjoyed putting it in the fic that real-life Dean/Sam not only can’t easily escape from shackles, but that he doesn’t even know how to pick a lock in real life.)

Of course, after everything that Sam and Dean have been through (I see fans talking continually about PTSD), for the show to be even a little realistic, they’d have to have at least two seasons of Sam and Dean recovering in a safe spot, getting therapy, etc. (I think that could be a good show! Emotionally satisfying in a way watching them continue battling monsters long past any human’s endurance isn’t. I’m sure the showmakers would think it wouldn’t make for good t.v., but regardless, I’d like to see the fic. ;-) )

Then, in my fic, Dean sees that he is really Sam, only not so tall, and not so cute. This is probably my favorite part of the fic, because really, how likely is it that two guys of this caliber of hotness also happen to be at the center of all the world’s most important stories? Sam is mythically tall (Dean is also remarkably tall, just not taller than EVERYONE ELSE like Sam) and smart and strong, Dean a close second, but with the added bonus qualities of charisma and inhumanly good looks. If, as in my fic, Dean is a shadow of Sam, chasing this ever-more-mythical, smarter, stronger, taller, nicer, deeper, BETTER (in Dean’s view) ‘brother’ who slips from his grasp over and over, his psyche would want to give him some small consolations ... and if real-life Sam/Dean is in fact an average kid who’s not that cute or smart or talented, would he not want, between the two halves of himself, to have it all?

Finally, it’s not every dad who would set one son up as the shepherd and protector of the other, where Dean’s only sense of self-worth is in Sam. This was especially true in the early seasons, but it popped up again in S8, when Dean said his only idea of a happy ending was Sam getting old and fat and happy, with the only future Dean able to see for himself being death. Is it simply terminally low self-esteem ... or is it the reality he senses underneath the surface? It’s not like I think the show would ever go there explicitly (there would be a riot, for starters), but it’s an interesting way to consider the show, one that, at least in my case, made watching the next episode I saw (just last night--very nearly done with S8!) WAY more enjoyable. As the episode started, I couldn’t help seeing in it the metaphor I came up with in my fic, which made it all make sense to me, and made me able to find my way into this season, which I guess, ultimately, is one reason to write fic: to find our way into understanding our stories, and our lives, and maybe even ourselves. Sometimes, anyway.

There must be a thousand different metaphorical interpretations of SPN. Do you have any you’re partial to?

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
indiachick
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
*I am kind of off-kilter and very thrown and somehow DEEPLY affected by this interpretation, especially fresh from the S9 episode that is going to TOTALLY blow you away from the view point of this meta, because, damn lady, SHIT HAPPENS.*

I don't even think I can say anything coherent. Dean is a shadow of Sam, chasing this ever-more-mythical, smarter, stronger, taller, nicer, deeper, BETTER (in Dean’s view) ‘brother’ who slips from his grasp over and over, his psyche would want to give him some small consolations ...

This kind of hurts my soul, really, and somehow I started thinking of Sam, how he is the archetypal 'hero' in the arc who is not only set up to have that arc by external forces most of the time but also comes a little short somehow of actually coming through the trials unscathed and heroic. The basic foundation of the show, I think, is in this that Sam is the one that pulls away from the strange and the supernatural, Sam is the one that tries to be his own person and build up his own life, Sam is the one who constantly fails. Dean is the one who worries, the one who carries, the one who is there for the fallout of all of Sam's 'hero' arcs. I think that's one reason why Sam always gets the heroic arcs: we see Sam through Dean. What Dean wants him to be versus what he is, what Sam wants to do versus what he does for/because of his brother. After 8 years of this, imagine Dean having a supernatural arc. It would pull away from convention and will require Sam's intimate perspective, and what Sam's intimate perspective is something that's not really ever been given to us. Without the 'hero' arc in every season, Sam is more likely to fade out, become this quiet kind of ghost in the background, because most of what we know of Sam comes from Dean. Do we know what music he likes or what stuff he'll put in his own room if he even has one in the bunker? Is it ever stressed what he feels about the whole Dean/Purgatory thing, or how he feels post Cas healing him in S7?

While this is the twisted-up thing that's at the heart of the show, it is a little dogged and over-the-top, but as of today, I'm convinced that in S8 it gets dogged and over-the-top on purpose. (As I said, SHIT HAPPENS!)I think the relationship is there, but it's becoming more and more toxically co-dependent, and Sam's becoming muter and faded as a result of pulling away and then being pulled back. *and I love it because it is all so psychologically haunting but also it is saaaad*

I'm sorry you didn't like S8! Maybe the last few episodes might work a little. I did like the last few episodes a lot more than the rest of S8 combined. It's true about the cliches and the loss of SPN's early season aesthetic, and sometimes I wonder why I still watch, but then when I think I'm done there's brightness, there's a spark, there's the Sam and Dean I know again, and I can't quit.

*I swear Show and I are co-dependent*

Also, I read this before I read the fic, and now I'm going to go read the fic. Also, shipper giggles :D
brightly_lit
Oct. 10th, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
ARRGHHHH, GIRL, I could trade comments on this post with you about all this stuff forever!

I'm honored that this deeply affected you--it deeply affected me, as well, completely flipped over my whole view of the show, in a GOOD way. I feel like I was watching from the outside looking in, and after writing and posting this and the fic, I'm back inside the flow and really experiencing it like these guys are myself, which is how I love Show to be and how it was before I started watching S8.

S9 DID BLOW ME AWAY BECAUSE HOLY CRAP, IT'S LIKE A MIRROR OF ALL THIS, and that's also partly why I feel so much better about where Show is going, because I GET IT now. And I LIKE it! I love where they're going with it. I feel like there are so many issues that were hinted at in earlier seasons (particularly about Sam and what he really wants) that Carver has picked up and is now following up on, and they happen to all be issues I was really into and wanted desperately to see more about, so I COULD NOT BE MORE DELIGHTED.

Glad I posted this post before the ep aired so I can say, "Yes, I really did come up with all this before 9.01, I'm not just parroting back what I saw in the ep!"

(Oy, and you know what else was really nice about 9.01 is that Sam finally gets some damn kudos for all he's sacrificed and accomplished!! Dean's all "you screw everything up," but Death says, "Well done," and Bobby says it too, and FINALLY!!)

I LOVE everything you say about "Do we know what music he likes, do we know what he puts in his room" because YES, Dean is loyal and devoted, but does he even know the person he thinks he's so devoted to?? I love this especially because I've lived this (that's why I so love Princess Tutu, too--those themes and archetypes are a rare but real life experience I've had, which is partly why it bewilders me when people describe Tutu as "silly," because damn, that show goes DEEP into SERIOUS BIZNESS), I've struggled with people who were loyal and devoted and dedicated to an IDEA of me but left the real me and what I really wanted behind.

I agree with you that it's dogged and OTT on purpose, and in fact, I want to say that writing this meta and the related fic actually brought me to a point where I love S8! Well ... to a degree. I'm not gonna go back and watch "Torn and Frayed" ever again as long as I live any time soon, and I do think they could have done things a little more ... subtly or realistically or something, but then again, now the OTT-ness seems to work for what they're going for, somehow. I guess I just had to get all this stuff off my chest and really dig deep into the issues and explore it all before I could figure out where they're going with everything S8 and beyond.

Sam is the one that pulls away from the strange and the supernatural, Sam is the one that tries to be his own person and build up his own life, Sam is the one who constantly fails.

I love this, and it's making me want to write another meta post about the question of Sam's failure, because I never thought of him as failing, though the show does and Dean does and you do and most people seem to, and I guess I need to explore it for myself.

hee, shipper giggles. :-D No sense pretending it ain't part of the show's rich tapestry ....
cuddyclothes
Oct. 9th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
I occasionally think about meta arcs, but mostly I think along writers' lines: story construction, continuity, etc. I found Jared's "Girl On Guy" podcast amazing. To hear him talk as himself (and slightly drunk), being so open about the show, was affirming to me in terms of canon, etc. Jared said he and Jensen have a voice for the shit they get, using an example of a glass being in one shot and then they forget the glass was on the table in the next take. He put on a high, squeaky voice: "Dear Supernatural, there was no glass on the table and I'm never watching the show again." He also talked freely about the intention being to go through Kripke's arc and stop. But then the show was picked up, and everyone was gobsmacked about what to do next. Jared admitted that he was very uncomfortable during Seasons 6 and 7, and 8 had felt like they were getting their feet back under them. (This is ALL PARAPHRASING, for those nit-pickers out there.) He also talked about how there are times when it's fun and times when it is just a routine.

I loved his honesty, since we mostly see the tightly wrapped "everything is great" public personas of Jared and Jensen. They're obviously nice guy, and Jared sounds like a lot of fun to hang out with. Also, given the constraints of the show, I ADORED listening to Jared swearing like a sailor! Boy, do I wish "Supernatural" was on cable!

In an interview with missyjack (I think) one of the writers mentioned that the Grand Canyon lines were a screw-up, and Crowley's Mesopotamia crack was just a joke and they didn't consider the canon consequences.

Anyway, that tends to be why my overall feeling about the show is grounded in the reality of the actual creation of the show. That doesn't mean I don't think about the things you write about or that I didn't spend the S9 premiere choked up (and saying THANK YOU for shirtless!Cas).

I hope this all makes sense.
brightly_lit
Oct. 10th, 2013 05:36 am (UTC)
I am eager to hear that podcast--in large part because it does sound like he's unusually candid (and yet still adorable)! (Plus, I love Aisha Tyler--I've got her latest memoir on my dresser as I write.)

I loved that post of missyjack's, too--and how Glass and Thompson ship themselves with each other! I've lately heard more about what the writers (particularly Carver) say that reassured me that they had a plan, but I had to come to it in my own way before I could find my way back into the heart of the show, which I'm happy to say getting all this off my chest seems to have accomplished! I too hate the nitpicking I sometimes see, but yet I also understand it now, because when you're this passionate about something, sometimes it's the only way to work through something you have doubts about. I just hope the creators cleave to their vision and don't listen too closely to the complaining and naysaying (including mine), because it's the only way to make the show good.

SHIRTLESS CAS ... *drool* Yes, the SPN gods smiled on us tonight.
reggie11
Apr. 4th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
I ADORE your interpretation of where you think this is going and I would be excited as hell if it actually turned out this way. I know many fans would be disappointed if we were to find out that it was a case of MPD or schizophrenia but damn it would explain everything beautifully. Even now, coming up toward the end of season 9, this still fits. Dean is getting darker by the day and Sam, even though he is still there for Dean whenever it counts, is pulling away from him. It's like one part of a dual mind that is desperately hanging on and will stop at nothing to achieve it, while the other is breaking away/ready to die off. But if it does turn out that way, which personality will win out? Would we have a final merging where the person finds out it wasn't real, or would one personality win out over the other and 'kill off' the other leaving that person as either Sam OR Dean with a totally cracked psyche locked forever in a loony bin? You have to remember, in the bible, Cain kills Abel so he can go to heaven. Will 'Dean' kill 'Sam' in his ultimate goal to save him?

I love your mind, I want its babies!!!

Edited at 2014-04-04 03:50 am (UTC)
brightly_lit
Apr. 9th, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
You have no idea how hard this comment made me grin!!

YES, fandom would flip out (more than it usually does, even ;-) ), but

damn it would explain everything beautifully.

YES. I would find it deeply satisfying, personally.

while the other is breaking away/ready to die off.

YES. I feel like if a person were trapped in an inescapable cycle like that, one part of it probably WOULD want to die just to bring it to an end, like Sam does, while some other part of itself (Dean, who indeed explicitly represents 'on the side of staying alive' in 9.01!) would be holding on harder than ever to life.

And WOW, I love your idea of one of them finally having to kill the other off!! Down to an epic battle between Sam (the better hunter, in Bobby's opinion, but softer hearted) and Dean (more ruthless, but who would do anything for Sam), how would it go?? That would be FASCINATING. (Now I want the fic!! I'll blame you if I write this thing! :-D)

... Should we share custody, then? ;->
reggie11
Apr. 4th, 2014 03:52 am (UTC)
PS: I've recced both the fic and this meta on my Delicious as a must read xx
brightly_lit
Apr. 9th, 2014 02:23 am (UTC)
:-D Aww, thank you! <3
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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