What Sam Wants
Let's start with Sam and Amelia, because I find that relationship fascinating. This is a relationship that starts based on solace more than chemistry, but ends up somewhere far more interesting. At first I thought this relationship was doomed because of Sam's past, but then I met Amelia's father and realised just how wrong I was.
That clear-sighted bluntness that had Amelia picking Sam as a serial killer right from the start? That's not the bitterness of a damaged woman, that's a fundamental part of her character, and she got it from her dad.
This relationship, oh man. Sam really lucked out on finding Amelia. She is one in a million. Yes, their chemistry isn't that hot, but you know what Sam associates with super-hot chemistry? 1) Jess, and 2) Dean's one-night stands. What's more important here is that Sam has stumbled into the heart of a family who have combined clear-sightedness, toughness and lack of bullshit with a genuine desire to support each other. These are the people you could actually tell not only about the supernatural, but about being a vet in the war, and as long as you provided cold, hard proof, they'd just take it, not blame the messenger, keep loving you and get on with integrating this new stuff into their lives.
Fuck a duck, Sam. How the hell did you manage that with your solace fling? You have the luck of the freaking devil.
But what's even more interesting about this relationship is what it ends telling us about the shape of Sam's damage once Don enters the mix. It's pretty clear Sam's deeply damaged by his childhood, and in past seasons we've been given some insight into what that damage is and what drives him, but the way this relationship ends is the clearest declaration we've ever had.
Sam can express what he wants when he can own it himself -- he's not ready to give up Amelia and wants to give the relationship a try.
Enter Don, who is exactly the kind of man who could pass the test of Amelia's dad, and appeal to Amelia as well. He's self-determined, acknowledges and respects the agency of others and supports their decisions, clearly acts on his own moral compass without needing validation, and is blunt as hell. He doesn't say, "Let the best man win," he says, "Let Amelia choose what will make her happy."
Basically, he's got all the pluses Sam can offer, plus more besides. And he reframes the situation from "what does Sam want" to "what does Amelia want." Don is a catch. I can see why Amelia married him.
His reframing of the situation is the perfect storm, though; it's terrifying to Sam and makes him run. It's not about not respecting Amelia's agency, although it reads that way at first, and that is an obvious and unpleasant consequence.
Sam's choice to run away reveals the fracture right through the heart of his character -- he cannot risk not being chosen. He cannot face not being wanted. He is terrified he's not good enough and will be the second-choice, the also-ran, the person loved out of duty or opportunity and not for himself. This has everything to do with John, and with Sam's childhood, and with the sacrificial role Dean was thrust into of being mother/brother.
Of course Sam packs up and runs. With that one conversation, Don re-makes Sam's relationship with Amelia from the safety of solace to an active choice that isn't Sam's.
That is such great writing, and such a great character arc for Sam. If he can come to understand why he ran, he will finally have the possibility of healing the damage and moving past it, and actually being able to find a life that makes him content. What a great set up to the main arc of the season, which I expect will now kick off for him, and will be about learning who he is.
What Dean Wants
And in a gorgeous, gorgeous parallel, we see that while Sam's biggest fear is not being chosen for himself, Dean's is being left. This in itself is not surprising, as it's been a common theme throughout the show. But what makes this interesting are the variations on the theme we see taking shape this season.
Dean, we discover, is afraid of being left by particular people, and Purgatory is the crucible which makes it quite clear who is on the list now: Castiel (most urgently) and Sam (long-term).
This is a big deal in itself, but even better is that Dean starts to realise what this means. The shattering of his self-delusion about what really happened in Purgatory when Castiel stayed behind is a turning point. Afterwards, Dean mans up and initiates a chick-flick moment in order to find out why Castiel left instead of just assuming it's because Castiel doesn't care about Dean.
That is enormous character development, and it's clearly offered in direct contrast to Sam, who has not yet had his moment of realisation.
This shift plays out in other relationships too. Dean and Garth, Dean and Benny. Dean is connecting on a different level than he has before. This is obviously going to be the season of Dean making connections with people, and learning how to respect their autonomy, which is a lesson desperately needed in terms of his relationship with Sam, as well as in general if he's to have any hope of making the family he so obviously wants while still being a hunter.
Dean's arc this season is going to be about letting go of his own judgmental expectations, without giving up on people he loves. It's the exact opposite lesson he learned from John.
What Castiel Wants
Castiel has had the least growth so far, which is reasonable, and his arc is still a bit nebulous. He still wants what he's wanted since season 4: for Dean to love him. He still doesn't understand this want very well at all, and I think he's now reconciled to loving Dean, but given up on the hope that Dean will ever love him (not that he'd recognise it if he saw it).
However, he is beginning to understand himself in other respects, beyond being an angel, and beyond his three touchstones: loving Dean, devotion and righteousness. It looks to me like he's heading for a final crunch in rejecting the mandates of Heaven, and coming to really understand both the obvious negatives and potential positives of free will.
I think, maybe, Castiel is going to learn to dream. He's going to learn to want for himself rather than in rebellion against someone else or to please someone else, and he's going to learn what wanting means.
If he manages this, he will surpass both Lucifer and Gabriel in his understanding of free will.
I wonder what the consequences would be if an angel learned to dream entirely for himself? Catastrophic, I would think, but it's going to be one hell of a journey (pun intended) finding out.
Dean and Castiel
Okay, I keep thinking the Dean/Castiel relationship can't get more overt, and then it does.
In my first meta on S8, I talked about the way couples made up of supernatural beings and humans were being developed as an obvious theme, which was commenting on the main characters and their relationships, and on the morality of hunting. Most notable are Benny and Dean, but there have been many other one-off examples amongst the weekly cases.
That theme has grown and progressed and I'm enjoying it a lot. I especially like how it's expanded to include other types of relationships (the open poly relationship in Hunteri Heroici, for instance, and further development of Garth and Dean, and the Trans), but despite how much I'm enjoying it and the way these variations on a theme are clearly speaking to both Sam and Dean's relationship and Dean and Castiel's relationship, that's not what I want to focus on here.
Let's talk about windows and parallels and metaphors.
- Sam stands alone, outside in the darkness, armed and ready for supernatural trouble, and looks in a window at Amelia and Don living the happy suburban dream life he hoped to live but deliberately walked away from, and then he walks away again.
- Dean stands unarmed and semi-clothed, safely inside a warm, dry hotel room he's sharing with Sam and looks out of a window and sees an illusion (he thinks) of the person he tried with all his heart to bring with him from the nightmare of Purgatory into the real world.
- Castiel stands alone in a thunderstorm and darkness, wearing the marks of a long and difficult journey, and looks in at Dean, the person he loves most, semi-clothed and safe inside a warm, dry hotel room, and then temporarily hides when Dean moves towards the window to look back, but ends up going inside to join him and Sam.
Oh my freaking god.
There are many things that can be read into these scenes, but one stands out above all the others.
They are really, actually going to take Dean/Castiel canon.
I... I honestly thought that there was a good chance that S8 was just superior queer-baiting, despite all the meta. But no. No. That's not what this is at all. This is a slow-burn romance. It's a completely deliberate, thoroughly foreshadowed, canonical slow-burn romance.
They are going to take Dean/Castiel canon!
OMG. That's amazing. Holy wow. This entry was originally posted at http://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/411423.html.