March 21st, 2014

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Rewatching 2-20 What Is and What Should Never Be

As the story goes, Kripke knew from the start of the season that he would be directing episode 2-20. When it came time, he had an idea he wanted to go with - Dean, in his dream world, without hunting to ground him, would be a drunk and a loser - looking for fights, living without direction. The other writers however did not think this was a logically sound idea for this particular episode. Why would Dean want to say in such a world where he was a loser? It had to be a happy dream for Dean to want to stay... So, the idea was struck from the board - except for one part. Kripke insisted that Dean and Sam would not get along in this alternative reality. If EVERYTHING was perfect, that would be just lame. There had to be something - and that was going to be it. That is how Kripke describes the episode in his commentary in 2007 (Transcript of Kripke Interview in 2007 by stir_of_echoes HERE).

I think this is one of the most discussed, quoted and mentioned episodes of the series - especially concerning Dean's self-esteem or lack there of. Unfortunately, these discussions often seem to be based on the assumption that Dean IS portrayed as a drunk and a loser... which when we sift through Kripke's long commentary we find is not (supposed to be) true. And the most important aspect of this episode are the choices Dean makes - first between staying to make good on his second chance, or save people - and later, between staying in the imaginary life or going back to his real life. And none of this is about lack of self-esteem. So, let's get started!

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