YAY Season 8!!! This season is so challenging and I am going to enjoy it so much :D Season 8 is the first season I watched right after it aired and got to participate in online discussions and experience various reactions to it first hand. The thing about watching an ep every week is that it's harder to see the big picture because week to week you sort of forget. And you can't help but react to each episode as it comes. The pain and disbelief I felt in the conflict between Sam and Dean was incredible and there was so much I didn't understand. After Season 8 ended, I went back and rewatched just that Season several times to try to figure out all these answers. And I think I gleaned a lot from that. But it was only after First Born in Season 9 that I realized that the issues that made Sam act that way in Season 8 were what made him seem resentful of Dean in Season 9, and even the reason for Sam doing all he could to save Dean in Season 10. And I think that this rewatch of Season 7 has helped me understand even further.
The monster theme this season is the Demon tablet and closing the gates of hell forever. A secondary theme being the angels, angel programming on Cas and Cas again being taken in by a baddy and closing the gates of heaven without meaning to. There is also the introduction to our next monster Metatron who is the only baddy on Supernatural I truly hate from the bottom of my heart. There is something about him I physically cannot handle. Those being the story arc, we also have an emotional arc - not only Sam's messed up head, but also Dean's, which unfortunately makes him act like a dick to Sam in the first part of Season 8.
So let's start.
"Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull(plays during "The Road So Far" recap of events)
"Man in the Wilderness" by Styx(plays over the montage of Dean post-Purgatory)
The first scene is a favorite of mine with it's parallel to Lazarus Rising. What is different of course, is that he doesn’t immediately go to the cabin but goes to Benny’s grave, digs up his bones and pours his soul on top of them, which resurrects Benny.
Here, I always wonder who buried Benny’s bones and put him in what looks like his family’s lot. I can’t remember exactly what killed him, although I know it had something to do with this girlfriend and the vampirates finding out about her… and we know she is now a vamp so, maybe she buried him. Maybe we find out later. I really can’t remember. On first watch, it must have been shocking to see Dean hug this unknown vampire from purgatory, and also shocking to find Dean hiding Benny from Sam. I hope I can go into the why of that later.
The music here is beautiful and meaningful as well, which reminds me of the Season 6 opening.
Man in the Wilderness
Another year has passed me by
Still I look a myself and cry
What kind of man have I become?
All of the years I've spent in search of myself
And I'm still in the dark
'Cause I can't seem to find the light alone
Sometimes I feel like a man in the wilderness
I'm a lonely soldier off to war
Sent away to die, never quite knowing why
Sometimes it makes no sense at all
Ten Thousand people look my way
But they can't see the way that I feel
Nobody even cares to try
I spend my life and sell my soul on the road
And I'm still in the dark
'Cause I can't seem to find the light alone
Sometimes I feel like a man in the wilderness
I'm a lonely soldier lost at sea
Drifting with the tide
Never quite knowing why
Sometimes it makes no sense at all
I'd suggest that this fits Sam's situation just as much as Dean's - left on his own without his brother, lost, finding no meaning in the hunting life. I like that bit especially "I can't seem to find the light alone."
After Dean hugs his friend and says goodbye, admonishing him to keep his nose clean, Dean is on his way to Rufus's cabin.
Sam also is preparing to leave his nice cozy home with Amelia and dog. Now, everytime I watch this I wonder... did Sam actually listen to one of Dean's messages on his phone and come to the cabin? Or did he just happen to come and find Dean there? Both seem equally possible and it bugs me to high heaven.
Sam would have used the cabin as a place to regroup before moving on to whatever he wanted to do - possibly going to college - so it is not surprising that he'd be there even without having heard the message. And his admission that he had ditched the phones seems to point to him ditching them all and therefore did not get any of the messages. Also Sam seems to imply later that the reason he left Amelia is the awkwardness with the husband and not because Dean was back.
On the other hand, Sam actually doesn't seem that surprised at first to see Dean there and he tells Dean that it is not necessary to do all the monster tests because he knows who Dean is and he is not questioning that he's real.
That is a reaction I have a hard time imagining if Sam had just happened to find Dean there without warning. Thinking Dean was dead, wouldn't he have freaked out like he did in Season 4? At least greeted Dean at the start with a disbelieving, you've got to be kidding me "DEAN???!!!" Or just looked at him with disbelief as Dean went through the tests? I don’t know. As I said, it drives me bananas.
Also the fact that Sam doesn’t think the tests are necessary and reacting as if Dean is being paranoid is a bit weird. That is pretty normal behavior as seen in Season 4 - not just the boys but Bobby did every test in the book before he believed that it was really Dean. And we see Kevin later in this ep doing exactly the same thing. So… maybe from his year away from monsters Sam has been numbed to the dangers and stopped worrying about monsters, like quitting hunting will stop monsters from killing him as well. There is a marked difference from how Dean tried normal life in Season 6, in that sense as well. Dean was still very much aware of the dangers, had a devil’s trap by the door and holy water and knife under the bed. He knew in his heart that this wasn’t going to last. And that difference is very important in understanding that Sam is lying to himself, creating a dream world for himself in which he can pretend there are no monsters.
After their hug, Sam has his “Dude, you are alive,” moment, which shows that Sam did think Dean was dead. Dean tells him he was in Purgatory and Sam is shocked and feels bad that Dean had been alive and he’d left him there, thinking he was dead. Dean also is shocked and dismayed that Sam had not looked for him - even if he HAD thought he was dead - because he had expected Sam to at least try to get him back (from the dead), because that is what Dean would have done, what they had both done in the past. Important distinction here, I think is that Dean is not upset that Sam thought he was dead. He’s not saying you should have known better. He’s saying, you should have looked for me regardless.
We, as fans, tend to feel that Sam should have known. He’s a smart guy and was the first to figure out about Purgatory when the Vamp Alpha hinted what Crowley was looking for. Why did he immediately think Dean was dead? Why didn’t he even make sure? I noted the similarities in how Dean disappeared in the Time After Time review as well, and how Sam didn’t rest until he figured out where Dean was and how to get him back at that time. The only thing that can be seen to be different about Sam between Time After Time and the end of the season is that Lucifer took over Sam’s brain soon after Time After Time. Sam mentioned in Party on Garth that he still wasn’t completely healed, which leaves the possibility that in his sensitive state, Dean disappearing again with the Leviathan may have affected him differently. And believing that Dean was dead, maybe he blamed himself for what happened and it was just too much. It made him think that he wasn’t any better than any other hunter, possibly even that he wasn’t any good at all. What if he’d hit that dog while he was driving aimlessly in the Impala right after what happened and equated that with his inability to save Dean? That is why he was in a panic when he rushed that dog to the doctor, telling her, “I DID THIS” as if he was saying that he had allowed Dean to die. It was all his fault. In that state, he would have taken the doctor’s words to heart and taken care of that dog like nothing else.
I think I mentioned in Season 7 how Cas’ dreamworld there was similar to how Sam reacts in Season 8 and I want to suggest that maybe Sam being left all alone there at the end, was as shocking to him as Cas remembering what he had done in and to process and deal with that shock, he needed to retreat into that dreamworld of just taking care of that dog, just like Cas leveled down to “watching the bees.” He was no good at hunting, he was going to let everyone else deal with that stuff - just as Cas renounced the use of ‘violence’ to help others and threw that responsibility at Sam and Dean. This is one thing he could do. Take care of the dog. And so he does.
The important point is, Cas needed this dreamworld to deal, and in the same way, Sam needed his as well. We will see confirmation of this in Hunteri Heroici as well as the necessity to snap out of it and face reality.
The problem is, Sam can't tell Dean "I had a breakdown man. I couldn't handle reality so I flipped." All he can say is how shocking it was to find himself all alone thinking Dean was dead (BUT I WASN'T! Dean says angrily), so he just drove, hit a dog, met a girl and now that's all over. (But he's still in his dreamworld, thinking of going back to University, living a normal life away from hunting, because he's not good enough.)
And Dean can't understand, maybe because his marbles are in a led freak'n box, maybe because he himself is feeling so bad for leaving Cas in Purgatory and he cannot help but be hard on Sam as well... that's very likely it.
DEAN:Yeah, Cas didn't make it.
SAM:What exactly does that mean?
DEAN:Something happened to him down there. Things got pretty hairy towards the end, and he... just let go.
SAM:So Cas is dead? You saw him die?
DEAN:I saw enough.
SAM:So, then what, you're not sure?
DEAN:I said I saw enough, Sam.
SAM:Right. Dean, I'm sorry.
We are going to see later how messed up Dean is about Cas and the situation with Kevin here - Sam throwing away his responsibility to take care of Kevin, is maybe how Dean feels, thinking he let Cas down as well. He didn't try hard enough to get Cas out. He killed Cas.
These boys are both really messed up.
Should I go on with the story? LOL
OK, going back a bit, Sam is going down a guilt trip as he eats some supper, which Dean refuses, then decides that yeah, I guess now that Dean is back they could go and do something to help Kevin at least (before he goes back to normal life). This season really reminds me of Season 1 in the way Sam is clinging to the idea of going back to normal life - but for different reasons - and also has the idea that this "hunting" has an end, or the light at the end of the tunnel, and once they get Kevin back... then once they close the Gates of Hell... then it will be over.
He figures out that Kevin was at a bus terminal and on a bus going to his girlfriend's school and tells Dean that they will find Kevin together.
We have a funny little scene reminiscent of Season 4 Lazarus Rising here :D
DEAN:Well... no visible signs of douchery – I'll give you that.
DEAN: Smell like dog to you?
SAM:In the car?
DEAN:You tell me.
On the way they stop at a motel. First thing Dean does is try to get a snack at a vendor by the motel. There he hears kids playing cops and robbers or war or something with toy guns. This takes him back to Purgatory, searching for Cas -
And ends with Benny saving his life.
Inside the motel, they have another talk about why Sam quit hunting while Dean was gone.
DEAN: Is that, uh, that how you rationalized taking a year off? People will be okay?
SAM:People were okay, Dean. You're okay.
SAM:Look, I did what we promised we'd do. I moved on. I lived my life.
DEAN:Yeah, no, I'm getting that.
SAM:Look, it wasn't like I was... just oblivious. I mean, I read the paper every day. I saw the weird stories… the kind of stuff we used to chase.
DEAN:And you said what? "Not my problem"?
SAM:Yes. And you know what? The world went on.
DEAN:People died, Sam.
SAM:People will always die, Dean. Or maybe another hunter took care of it. I don't know, but the point is, for the first time, I realized that it wasn't only up to me to stop it.
This to me sounds like Cas in Season 7 as I said before. Sam doesn't actually say I break everything but he is saying that he felt he could let other people take over the responsibility of saving people, which also means he doesn't think very much of himself.
Dean is sure Sam quit because he met a girl.
(love Dean's face here <3 and look at Sam/Jared's eyes!! Love his hair as well <3)
Again Sam can't explain it properly and everyone is frustrated. During their talk, Sam also points out that Dean is tense and angry and not himself, that he is obviously going through some trauma from Purgatory. He asks what that was like.
DEAN:It was bloody. Messy. 31 flavors of bottom-dwelling nasties. Hell, most days felt like 360-degree combat. But there was something about being there. It felt pure.
We have a scene from Purgatory in which Dean is looking for Cas and we get an idea of badass Dean running like he is part of the scenery, stealthy and dangerous, but also the constant running and fighting for his life. The memory ends with Dean meeting Benny and Benny telling him about the portal and hopping for a ride if he helps. Dean insists they find Cas first.
DEAN:Well, hey. Either you're in or you're out.
There are two parts to this experience in Purgatory - the part where he was no longer responsible for people's lives - he could just do what he was best at, which was being a warrior. Killing monsters. And then there is the stress that goes with that, constantly having to be listening, and on the watch for monsters trying to kill him, and part of the trauma of that is in trying to get used to the peaceful, normal-ish (hunter) life on Earth. So we have Sam on one end of the spectrum, sluggish from having had a normal life, totally cut off from everything monster related (except for mention of it in the newspapers) and Dean on the other, totally tense and watching his back for anyone that might attack at any second. He can't even sleep, and asks Sam if they can just get going instead of staying the night at the motel along the way.
Yes, yes... the story.
Sam and Dean get to the University and go talk to the girlfriend, who has not seen Kevin and has no interest in him after he derailed.
Then they go to eat lunch as they try to figure out what happened to Kevin and why he had come here if not to see his girlfriend. While they do, the girlfriend is cutting her friend's throat to let Crowley know that Sam and Dean were there - most importantly that Dean Winchester was back. I wasn't sure last ep whether Crowley knew that Dean was in Purgatory or not, but later on we find out that he did and that he was keeping this information from Sam on purpose, possibly knowing how Sam would react, and at least thinking that he could handle one Winchester if Sam tried to do anything to save Kevin.
Sam's sitting at the cafe waiting for Dean who is asking around, and he sees a dog, which reminds him of how he got to have a dog.
SAM:I did this.
This scene, again, to me seems very important just because Sam seems very overwrought about hitting the dog. Yeah, yeah, he likes dogs and if he hit one he would do all he could to save it I'm sure, but I think there is meaning to this that explains how his mental state was at that point, and hitting the dog to him was just the last straw after letting Dean down, and letting him get killed.
I love this next scene of Dean with his burger. Sam ordering Dean his favorite food, Dean looking at Sam like, I love you, and then at his burger with the same eyes LOL
SAM:Dude. It's a burger.
DEAN:It's a treasure.
Just thinking of that year when he not only couldn't eat a burger but couldn't eat anything... Sam is a bit callous with his "It's just a burger" and Dean is over appreciative with his "It's a treasure," which actually just shows the two extremes I was just talking about.
Y'all know food is one of my passions, so I totally appreciate Dean's delight in this burger. Plus, look, he's keeping his food in his mouth. See, Dean, you can appreciate food without eating like a slob AND actually make me drool in the process.
Sam then talks internet gibberish about how Kevin is using the school's router to scramble his whereabouts, and how Sam was able to crack which city he was actually in. And, again they are on their way to Iowa.
They find themselves at a church on the outskirts of the town where Kevin has been seen frequenting.
Sam announces them, then Dean picks the lock and they go inside. The first thing they experience is a shot of Borax by Kevin. And here's proof that Dean is not as paranoid as Sam thought he was at the start of the ep. Whoever is still in the game and not in their little dreamworld is careful to the point of paranoia when it comes to people suddenly appearing at their door, huh?
They have their little talk where Kevin tells them what he's been up to while Dean was in Purgatory and Sam hit a dog. Crowley had somehow found the Demon Tablet on his own and brought it to Kevin to translate. Kevin had lied to Crowley about a spell to open a hell gate and instead destroyed a couple of demons so he could make his escape. He had the tablet hidden in a "safe" place, but this tablet contained the way to close the gates of hell forever.
DEAN: Yeah, that could be important.
Sam and Dean go outside to talk and Dean's like we've got to do this and get revenge on every single demon who destroyed our lives. Sam's like, I'm not so sure. Poor Kevin. He could lead a normal life. Why are we dragging him into this. Dean's like, he dragged himself into this and there's no way he can live a normal life now that he has Crowley after him.
DEAN:Well, he's doing pretty well for himself so far.
SAM:Yeah, he got out.
DEAN:And now he's in it... whether he likes it or not.
SAM:So...free will, that's only for you?
DEAN:I can't believe what I'm hearing. Sam, we have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. We take Kevin to the tablet, he tells us the spell, we send every demon back to hell – forever. Every single bastard that destroyed our lives, killed our mother, killed Jess. And you're not sure?
First of all, I think we all know that this was not something they should have tried to do. It was all one big mistake, sticking their necks out when they had no idea of the consequences. But it's only later that Dean realizes that this road to revenge doesn't go anywhere but down and doing something without knowing the consequences is a bad idea. Sam can't disagree either, maybe because he is especially feeling the injustice of having grown up in the hunter life because of these demons. He also thinks, once they can close the gates of hell, he can live a normal life because their revenge will be finished for good. There is an end, a goal in sight, like he thought they had in Season 1.
Sam goes back inside to talk to Kevin about this and get his agreement to help them close the gates.
KEVIN:Ever since I realized I was a prophet... It's just hard to believe this is actually my life.
SAM:Yeah. It sucks right now. I know that. Um, it might suck for a lot longer, but... trust me on this – it gets better.
KEVIN: You know I'm not gay, right?
SAM:If we can do this, get the tablet, get you everything you need to close the gates of Hell, there's a world out there where nobody – not Crowley, no demon – is chasing you anymore.
KEVIN:I guess I just don't see how I get from here to there.
SAM:I used to not be able to see it, either. But there is a way.
Dean comes back inside to see how it's going and Kevin's like, well let me think about it a little.
We have another flashback of Sam's. :
VET:Don't you think you're responsible?
SAM:Why do you think I brought him here?
VET:Roberta, could you hand this man his trophy on his way out, please? Well, maybe if you were such an upstanding guy, you wouldn't have hit him in the first place?
SAM:Fine. I'll take him.
VET:There's my hero.
The key here is "responsible" I think. Here Sam was, running from his responsibilities as a hunter - because maybe he thought that he was no better than any other hunter and worse for having not been able to save his brother. The doctor kind of pokes Sam where it hurts... and suddenly it's like Cas bringing sandwhiches to Sam and Dean. At least he can take care of the dog - THAT he can do.
Kevin has just come back when the lights start to flicker and there's an earthquake and the devil's trap on the floor is broken with the floorboards. Dean gives the demon knife to Sam and he takes his ax from Purgatory. Kevin has holy water and together they kill both of the demons
DEMON:Dean Winchester. Back from Purgatory.
DEAN:Spanky the demon. Yeah, I heard about you. You’re the one who uses too much teeth, right?
Here we finally find out that Crowley DID know exactly where Dean was.
Cool scene here of Sam getting the demon knife to Dean - but it doesn't matter because Crowley is there and he is too strong for them and he has Kevin's girlfriend possessed by a demon. When Dean tells Kevin that she's not his girlfriend anymore, Crowley's like, sure she is and proceeds to let her talk to Kevin for a bit.
Kevin wants to save her so he says he agrees to go with Crowley if Crowley will let her go.
KEVIN:Okay. I'll do it.
KEVIN:Myself for the girl. But this ends. All right? No fighting, no nothing. It ends.
DEAN:Can't let you do that, buddy.
KEVIN:Or what? You'll kill me?
This is harsh for Dean with Cas on his mind and Crowley knows it. He's going to be using it to mess with Dean further later.
They have no choice but to let Kevin go and Kevin goes to get his stuff. I'm not quite sure if Kevin was planning to actually go or not. He wanted to save his girlfriend, I'm sure, and must have realized that if he refused that she might be killed in retribution. What he has, though, is another devil's trap and some holy water over the door. Dean tries to stop Crowley from going to Kevin but the demon knife goes hot in his hand and he can't hold it. When Crowley goes to see what's taking Kevin, he traps them and runs, calling to Sam and Dean to run too.
They all run out and get into the car as Crowley and demon come out. Crowley tells the demon to find a new meatsuit and then breaks her neck just as the impala passes him so that Kevin can see his girlfriend die.
The next scene, they've stopped for some gas and Kevin is still in shock over his girlfriend. Dean is pretty harsh and Sam looks at him like, could you be more blunt?
SAM:Kevin? How you holding up?
KEVIN:Awesome. The king of Hell just snapped my girlfriend's neck. How about you?
DEAN:All right, listen to me. I'm sorry about your girlfriend, okay? I am. But the sooner you get this, the better. You're in it now, whether you like it or not. That means you do what you got to do.
Then Dean gets a phone call from Benny (I was about to write, his boyfriend LOL, seriously O.o) Dean pretends it's a sales call but he then proceeds to go behind a corner of the building to call Benny back. Benny is at a funeral... maybe he's got a job as a driver?
And he tells Dean that there are just too many choices up top and he realizes that Purgatory was not as bad as he thought it was. Dean was right. It was pure. Dean tells him that he can't call unless he's in deep trouble because Dean has problems of his own, and they say goodbye.
Dean looks troubled… and that’s the end of this ep. I wonder what he is thinking here... maybe the same thing that Benny said. Too many choices to make up top and how everything was so simple back in Purgatory. The grass is always greener?