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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Tue, May. 16th, 2006 11:55 pm
SPN Meta: Sammy's Choice ... Triumph or Failure?


Okay, I'm finally finished. Whew. I think my frakking brain's broke. I have to thank  tsuki_no_bara    for comments made to my previous meta that brought up issues that dragged me heels first into this one. It was kind of a breach birth, and not without its complications, but I think I've wrapped more-or-less around what I wanted to say, so I'm posting the sucker for discussion. Look forward to everyone's comments.


Sammy’s Choice: Triumph or Failure?

I’m sure there are many valid interpretations for why Sam chooses not to kill Demon!John and how that choice is judged within the context of what happens in last 30 seconds of Devil’s Trap. For myself, however, I find three options hold more weight than the others, and how they are judged in the final wash depends a great deal on how you view Sam and Dean’s relationship overall.

First, let me say I have yet to watch a show I love this much without being able to allow for at least three valid ways to interpret the motivations for any given action by any given character. That’s part of what makes a show good: If it tells you what to think about what you’re seeing, you end up needing a double dose of Excedrin just to deal with the headache of being whacked over the head with Captain Obvious’s Intergalactic "You’re too Stupid to Get it on Your Own, So Let Me Tell You" Frying Pan. And for me, as for many, that pretty much defines "not a good show" at its most basic level.

Obviously, Supernatural is a good show. And coincidentally enough, I have three interpretations for why Sam made the choice he did when faced with the choice to kill, or not to kill, that being the question. Two of those interpretations judge Sam’s choice a failure; and they do so, in large part, because I feel to judge it otherwise creates a jarring dissonance between the overall message of the series itself and what Kripke says with the last 30 seconds of Devil’s Trap … something I take to be neither unintentional nor a cheap ratings trick.

The show as a whole seems to be very consistent in taking the stance that good will defeat evil, even if there is a cost – often a prohibitively high cost – to those who fight the fight. I don’t see the doom and gloom of a "no matter what you do, you’re screwed anyway ’cause it’s, like, evil" perspective, which is what I feel those last 30 seconds communicate if they happen in spite of Sam making the right choice rather than as an indicator that we are supposed to take his choice as a failure. So in considering the way the episode ends, unless I’m willing to concede it was just a cheap ratings trick (which I’m not) or that Kripke suddenly went from a show stance of "heroes who make the right choices will prevail" to one of "heroes who make the right choices will get screwed anyway" (which, again, I’m not), there seems little choice but to view Sam's choice a failure, in that there exists a direct cause-and-effect relationship between that choice and the Impala getting t-boned by a semi.

In following that line of reasoning, I feel it becomes clear that Sam's choice is a failure for one of two reasons.

My first, and favorite, interpretation of the choice itself, the motivations behind it, and the consequences of it is that Sam’s choice is a failure because he indulges in his personal fatal flaw, making it all about the Dean. This is the interpretation I chose to front for my circular character motivation meta, and it is expounded upon in great detail here. It is also the choice I find myself most prone to actually believe, in large part because I think it seems to be what the writers intend for us to take from those last 30 seconds, given that I’m of a mind to believe good writers rarely do anything without intending it to speak to the audience at a deeper level than just driving a plot forward, and they often choose to accomplish this by applying classical literary themes to the structure of their work.

I see it a little bit like an Impressionist painting. Most of the masters of Impressionism had the skills to render the world around them in exacting detail that would rival photography in terms of realism. Their choices, however, were to make bolder statements about the content of the world around them and their response to that content by rendering it in broader strokes of atypical color and less realism-bound techniques.

What they accomplish with these choices is to communicate a deeper understanding of the emotional content of their vision, rather than merely showing their audience a representation of what their eyes have seen. Their audience feels the truth of their work, and this is why it still stands today: Because it uses a less specific and strictly representative emotional language to communicate a vision of perceived reality that is as universally relevant now as it was in their own time. In capturing the richness and diversity of individual experience by freeze-framing it with a language more universal to the reality of Human understanding than anything we can comprehend within the limitations of only one sensory input (sight), these artists are able to communicate more emotional detail by using less visual detail, and by translating their own multi-sensory responses into something that sacrifices visual realism to achieve a more deeply realistic representation of the true content of that moment in time, not just what that moment looked like.

So what the hell does that have to do with Sam and Dean? A lot, actually, especially when speaking to why I find an interpretation predicated on universal literary themes (like fatal flaws) more intensely realistic to the content who these guys are at the core than I do one that adheres to a more strictly realistic analysis of what would drive a non-literary character to act in similar ways.

Cause I mean, come on, admit it: Have you ever met anyone even remotely as charming as Dean? Or as noble as Sam? Or as obsessed as John? Of course you haven’t, because they’re characters, not real people. And in writing characters, writers have the luxury of manipulating their actions and dialog to a communicative end rather than just rolling a camera and hoping what real people do actually lines up with what the writer wants to communicate. Compared to reality, even the most realistically rendered characters are more noble, more self serving, more intelligent, luckier, stupider, braver, more profound, more savage, wittier, more apt to find themselves in a position of having to kill their father to save the world, sexier … the list goes on, quite literally, forever. Because if it didn’t, why the hell would we bother to watch them?

Reality is the stuff of everyday life. Art is what we say about who we are as the soul by the choices we make when we get our whack at playing God by pulling the strings of fictional people who look and act more-or-less like ourselves. And as an audience, the more we recognize the puppets on the stage, the more likely we are to accept what the puppeteer has to say as a truth relevant to who we are. That’s why heroes are always more noble than flawed … because we all want to think that of ourselves, so we are more vulnerable to messages brought by people who would run at danger rather than away from it, thinking we recognize in them, ourselves; when what we really recognize is who we would like to be.

All that being said, back to the notion that Sammy’s choice is a failure because he indulges in his own personal fatal flaw by making it all about Dean. Although I’ve already expounded on this in detail in my previous meta, I'll kind of encapsulate the gist of the concept here by saying that, if Sam’s incapacity to put the needs of anything or anyone (including himself, his father, the world in general …) before the needs of his brother is indeed his fatal flaw, then indulging it must, by definition, lead to tragedy. And because Sam has always been (or at least, seemed to be) the one who doesn't indulge his fatal flaw in that he could put Dean first but isn’t so obsessively driven to do so that it dooms him to lead a tragic life the ilk of the life lived by both his father and brother (neither of whom can resist their respective fatal flaws), it seems logical to conclude that the tragic consequence of his choice at this critical junction is intended to define the choice as a failure of the fatal flaw variety.

An interesting ancillary note to this notion is the implication that, in making a choice based on Dean’s needs rather than the right or wrong of it, Sam has actually failed his brother in a far more dramatic way than it might seem at first glance. The balance between these brothers is clearly delineated: Sam is the intellect; Dean is the emotion. Sam is the merciful compassion; Dean is the avenging warrior. Sam is the protected; Dean is the protector. Sam is the insider; Dean is the outsider. Sam is the domestic one; Dean is the wild child. Sam is the truth; Dean is the lie. Sam is the one who shows; Dean is the one who hides. Sam is the one who obeys; Dean is the one who rebels … except when it comes to their father, in which case the roles reverse in equal ratio to an equal-but-opposite balance in that Sam is the one who rebels; Dean is the one who obeys.

In short: Sam is his father before the Demon, Dean is his father after the Demon. It is why together, they succeed. Because where one fails, the other doesn’t. And visa versa. They balance one another: the yin and the yang.

And herein lies Sam’s greatest failure: Because Dean is the one who can’t make the choice to sacrifice his father to stop the Demon; Sam is the one who can.

There is no part of me willing to believe that, for any reason up to and including the end of the world, Sam would even consider killing Dean to kill the Demon. Sam is, on the other hand, exactly the right one to be charged with killing John to that end. He is, in fact, the only one to be charged with the eventuality of that task.

Why?

Because Dean can’t do it. It is something that is beyond his capacity to accomplish. And while I tend to believe John could kill either of his boys and self-justify it as killing one to save the other (even though I still believe it would actually be putting the need to destroy the Demon above all else), he can't really be expected to overcome the Demon's influence on himself to self immolate without it coming off as the "yeah, right!" kind of schtick that would destroy the credibility of the Demon as the indomitable foe it has, to this point in time, been played to be.

This leaves only Sam to do what has to be done. It leaves him to sacrifice his father to accomplish what his father needs. And because he’s suffered the same loss his father has; he, unlike Dean, is uniquely qualified to wreak their collective vengeance. Sam is the dagger to John’s sacrificial lamb, spilling the blood required to wash the evil clean.

And I think that’s the point: Sam's must choose to make this sacrifice of his own volition. It is the only right choice available: anything else is failure. Making this choice correctly is, in a very real sense, Sam’s destiny. A destiny his father begs him to fulfill even as Dean begs him not to. But when Sam fails to make the sacrifice required of him to fulfill his destiny, to avenge his mother’s murder in the name of his father, to avenge his fiancé’s murder in the name of himself, to protect Dean and the rest of the world from the evil this Demon is, it can only be judged a catastrophic failure by every yardstick of measure.

And beyond that, it is the ultimate betrayal to Dean to betray the balance between them upon which everything, including Dean, depends. They are what the other needs. They do what the other cannot. But in this case, Sam fails in being what Dean really needs, as compared to what Dean thinks he needs, what Dean desperately wants to need. Sam’s role is to do what Dean cannot. To be what Dean cannot. To balance Dean, whether Dean wants that balance or not.

And in that, he fails.

And in failing, he fails not only the rest of the world, but Dean as well. By making it all about the Dean, he fails the Dean. Which is the ultimate irony; and, IMO, a classic literary statement about how it is in trying to be what we are not that we fail ourselves.

This dynamic also plays very strongly into what I consider the second viable interpretation of Sam’s choice. Keeping the above ancillary dynamic in mind, even if it isn’t actually all about the Dean, even if Sam is acting for his own benefit rather than for any other, his choice is still a failure. Why? Because it is still the wrong choice … something I continue to contend is the message conveyed by the consequences of that choice.

So in direct conflict with the idea that Sam fails by putting Dean’s needs first, I can also accommodate the interpretation that Sam’s failure is in putting his own needs first. His need not to fail Dean when Dean so desperately needs him. His need not to kill his father. His need not to be the hand of destruction to every bond of love that exists in his family.

Because I have no doubt that, if Sam had killed John, Dean would never have forgiven him. It would have broken the relationship between them, destroyed their bond in a way that could never be repaired. Even if Dean could eventually accept it, he would never be able to forgive it, never be able to forgive Sam.

In killing John, Sam would have sacrificed what must be sacrificed to destroy the Demon: Family. His family. The love of his father and his brother sacrificed: one by murder, one by betrayal. This is the price of victory: a price Sammy couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay. And in my mind, that price was not his father’s life as much as it was his brother’s faith. His brother’s trust. His brother’s love.

Which, of course, brings even this interpretation back around to the full circle that, for Sammy, it’s all about the Dean, even when he’s putting his own needs first. So a failure either way, all about Dean either way, but one interpretation putting Dean’s needs first to reap the tragic consequences of failure sewn, and the other interpretation putting Sam’s needs first to reap the tragic consequences of failure sewn.

What can I say? The concept of fatal flaws is one I can’t avoid even when I’m trying.

There is, however, a third interpretation of Sam’s choice I see as viable, even though it isn’t one that appeals to me, nor one I consider particularly interesting in terms of what it says about the characters or their motivations. While it does allow Sam’s choice to be viewed as a success rather than a failure, that’s really the only thing it brings to the party, and even that’s a little warm and a lot flat. Predicating itself on the notion that Sam’s choice is a personal evolution from an overwhelming need for vengeance to putting family first – and thus, arguably, a success – my third interpretation is simply this: Shit happens.

Like many suggest, I can see where Sam succeeds in failing to become what his dad is by making this choice. Certainly, he has been running down Must-Be-Daddy road at full speed since Jess’s murder, a self-professed need for vengeance driving many of his choices (especially in earlier days) since joining Dean in the family biz.

But where John seems to have spiraled out of control into a dark world all his own very quickly, and where he seems to have only fallen deeper into that hole as the years wore by; Sam has already shown a number of signs (at least to my mind) that his thirst for vengeance is more a coping mechanism than the kind of dark obsession that drives his father. A great deal of that is because of Dean; but much of it is simply because John and Sam’s experiences, while seemingly similar on the surface, are actually very different.

Unlike John, Sam is not alone in his grief nor his experience. Unlike John, Sam hasn’t been stripped of his every belief and thrown from a world of light into a here-to-for unknown world of horror and darkness. Unlike John, Sam is not unprepared for what befalls him as much as unprepared for the time at which it befalls him. Unlike John, Sam doesn’t have to figure out what happened on his own, doesn’t have to find a new way to view the world that matches events he had never before considered possible. Unlike John, Sam doesn’t have the added pressure of a traumatized five-year-old and a babe in arms to protect and raise in this new world of horror populated by evil and demons and lacking every rule by which he has here-to-fore defined reality. And unlike John, Sam does has Dean.

There are so many differences between what John experienced and what Sam experiences, as well as between their relative psychological preparedness for those experiences, that I find it difficult to mount any reasonable expectation that Sam was ever in any real danger of walking his father’s path into the darkest heart of obsessive vengeance. That being said, however, I can see where Sam did run the risk of turning down a much darker road than the one he walked prior to Jess’s murder – particularly before Dean’s nudge-nudge manipulations to the end result of pushing him into the arms of emotional rehabilitation in Provenance – and where that risk is all but eliminated by his choice to put family before his need to seek vengeance.

So in that respect, I can see an element of success to his choice: an evolution of sorts, a growing from a state of damage to a state of impending, if not imminent, wellness. And if that judgement of success is made, I can see those last 30 seconds of Devil’s Trap being viewed less as a cause-and-effect retribution for the failure of a choice made than as a "shit happens" kind of statement the ilk of which goes something like even though you do the right thing, bad things still happen to good people. Not has to happen, mind you; but sometimes does.

And perhaps that’s where my dissatisfaction with this last interpretation truly lies. Not in that it judges Sam’s choice a success rather than a failure, but rather in that it seems to make a more comprehensive statement about the universe of Supernatural in general. A statement that, even in a world where every event is plotted beforehand and every response and motivation is written by those with the power to play God with puppets and stages and the opportunity to speak as art rather than reality, in universal truths capable of capturing the true content of an individual or a moment in time rather than just taking a photograph of what we can see with a little light and 20/20 vision, the writers still choose to say, "Shit happens."

Well, duh. I already knew that. I’d like to think there’s something more here. Something more profound. Something deeper. Something that at least strives to speak to who we are in our souls rather than who the world sometimes forces us to be.

So I choose to think it’s there. Maybe it isn’t, but I’m sticking with the idea that it is. Because that’s what Supernatural does to me: It speaks. And what it says, I love hearing, even when the language it uses included consonants that strike the ear like the tortured shrieks of metal on metal as the Impala dies a horrible death and vowels that fall from battered lips like blood dripping from the motionless bodies of characters we love while we wait to find out if they live or die.

Cause that’s art. And be it Impressionism or Supernatural, art beats reality, hands down, every time.

-finis-

 



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19CommentReply

adelheide
adelheide
Queen of the Monkey People
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC)

Which makes me wonder about secondary effects. Yes, Sam did not pull the trigger, killing John (and therefore, The Demon) at Dean’s request. Succumbing to his fatal flaw. But I think it has the secondary effect of not destroying the family. As you noted, had Sam killed John, Dean would not have forgiven him. Dean has expressed that killing The Demon is not worth their lives. Dean has also expressed that his family is all he has and to lose that would have catastrophic ramifications. And while John’s blind vengeance made him willing to sacrifice himself to destroy The Demon, Sam’s vengeance is relatively new. He has experienced the same loss as John but in a completely different context. And he hasn’t had it stewing for over 20 years.

Now, The Demon possessed John, which is so many kinds of ironic I can’t even count them. Tormenting his pursuer in such an intimate, personal way shows the depths of evil The Demon is capable of. By tormenting John’s sons using John’s body, it furthers the pain The Demon inflicts. Was it that pain or John’s love that broke the hold of The Demon, if only for a few seconds? And after Sam was free and had the Colt, The Demon took over again quickly enough. It would have been no trouble to telekinetically grip Sam again, making him incapable of moving. But The Demon didn’t do that. Instead, it taunted Sam and left him free. Knowing that Sam was sharing John’s willingness to sacrifice himself if it meant the death of The Demon, this seems like a foolhardy move on The Demon’s part. Or was it calculated? Was The Demon hoping to taunt Sam into shooting John, thus finishing the destruction of the Winchester family? A final coup?

Or, perhaps, Sam’s latent TK abilities manifested themselves in a passive form, allowing Sam to break and stay free?

In the car, after John lambastes Sam for not destroying The Demon when Sam had the chance, John perfectly expresses how much his need for revenge has twisted and stunted him. “Killing this demon comes first. Before me, before everything.” (Had I been in the car, this would have been the point where I would have smacked John upside the head.) Sam looks in the rearview mirror and sees Dean, bloody and hurt, slumped in the backseat, and says, “No sir. Not before everything.” Which to me spoke not just of Sam’s concern for Dean but the fact that perhaps Sam had an epiphany while sighting John with the Colt. Killing The Demon isn’t worth it if the action ends up destroying their family. Which speaks to your last point (the one you didn’t like as well). Sam has spent his life trying to separate himself from his family and family history. In fact, he was estranged from his father and brother for 4 years. But when Dean gave Sam a moment of emotional truth—that their family was all he had—perhaps this started the gears turning in Sam’s head. Yes, this makes him succumb to his fatal flaw to appease Dean. But it also shows him that the destruction of The Demon at the expense of his family would mean an ultimate victory for The Demon.

And it also says that Sam is willing to put aside his own vengeance to protect his family. In DMB, Sam would not have hesitated to shoot. But after the revelation in “Salvation” and the events of DT, he has a change of heart. A pretty rapid one, but I also think it’s been building over the course of the season. It just took the final push of John’s life on the life for Sam to make his choice.

And I’m not nearly caffeinated enough to be thinking this deeply, so I need to go sit down in a quiet corner with more coffee and let all of this digest.


ReplyThread
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
pt one: Demon!John

Now, The Demon possessed John, which is so many kinds of ironic I can’t even count them.

I think it would have been a more unpredictable and better choice to possess Dean instead. It would have forced John to really choose between vengeance and his child ... especially the child who worships at his feet. I would have loved to see their answer to this.

But like you, I totally loved what they did with Demon!John, too. How much pain he could inflict in John's meat suit was impressively impressive. And fun to watch, too.

Was it that pain or John’s love that broke the hold of The Demon, if only for a few seconds?

I have this crack theory that John could have broken the hold earlier, but didn't because he needed Sam to be willing to kill the Demon, which he would be if the Demon had offed (or appeared to off, or appeared to be in imminent danger of offing) Dean. But I think that's mostly just me being a pessimist.

I tend to go with the notion that, given the way the terminal damage fractured out from the point of impact when John whacked hip!vampire, I tend to think, while the mystical bullet in his leg did only minimal biological damage to John, it likely did far more significant paranormal damage to the Demon, that damage fracturingg out from the point of impact enough that it 1) compromised its ability to maintain control over the Winchesters, especially with all 3 of them fighting him, and Sam assumably doing it telekinetically and 2) required that he vacate the meat suit in order to regroup and regenerate.


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

Yes, this makes him succumb to his fatal flaw to appease Dean. But it also shows him that the destruction of The Demon at the expense of his family would mean an ultimate victory for The Demon.

I like this idea much better than simply a personal evolution, and can see how that sacrifice could be viewed as the Demon's ultimate victory of sorts. That makes the Sam's choice is a triumph a much easier pill to swallow, and the shit happens ending almost something I can wrap around, given that all the profound content would be in derailing the Demon's intent being thwarted inthat it's all about the Winchester clan in general (and their destruction), not only Sam.

Unfortunately, however, I don't think I, personally, can go with it as more than an almost-buy in the "justify wrong choice as right" department, probably mostly because of the was I see the series as a whole in terms of literary theme and alegory. A very elegant explanation, but one that doesn't ultimately work when you view the dynamic in play the way I do: That Sam's journey is the hero's journey inthat he is the savior of the world and must get to a place where he is willing to sacrifice that which is most dear to him for the sake of the world. Anything less won't do.

I really was trying not to go here (*grins* I knew you would make me though), but some of my overall thoughts on the series have to do with religious alegory ... something a lot of good writers use to incredibly effective result without ever giving up the base for what they are doing as anything religious in nature at all.

But for me, I suppose, if you see John as the father (which I obviously do, although not God the father to anyone other than Dean), and Sam as the Savior, that makes Dean the children, aka us, which is why we all relate to him so strongly. And I find that intentional. I also think the Demon is evil incarnate and his immolation of the mothers of children he views as potential threat to be intended as a parallel to Ramses murder of all first born sons in an effort to destroy the savior/prophet who would be his undoing.

So while I don't necessarily thing the writers are drawing strict parallels between theological concepts and specific players, I do think they are tapping that mythology in a number of intentional ways, and drafting off the concept of the trilogy aspects of Christianity to the end of setting Sam up as a savior of sorts, held to a different standard of sacrifice for the sake of his people than a normal man would be.

So for me, I see the sacrifice of Sam's family (his life, so to speak) to be equatable to Christ's required sacrifice of His life in order to wash the sins of man away. And in that context, I can't see the Demon's ultimate victory as achieving that end, but rather, its ever act as an effort to derail that event, up to an including, immolting every child born that he feels might be the savior foretold as its undoing.

But I could be wrong. :D


ReplyThread Parent
adelheide
adelheide
Queen of the Monkey People
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

Oh, I agree. I think Kripke (that magnificent bastard) is shooting for far more cosmic themes. And many, as you eloquently pointed out, are probably all so interconnected to the main theme that they can’t be extricated.

I think I was viewing this on a more intimate, human level. While it’s all well and good to talk of heroes and saviors, it’s the very human-ness of SN that captures me so. Sam may be the savior, but he can also be a whiny bitch. Dean may be the hero, but he’s a smartass and a skirt chaser. John may be the grand poobah of beastie hunting, but he is so twisted and deformed by his crusade that he’s barely human any more. And while this all functions in a more operatic scheme, it also serves as a little morality tale. Especially John. He’s the walking embodiment of, “Kids, don’t let this happen to you.”

But, in human terms, how much are we willing to sacrifice to get what we want? Are we willing to divorce spouses, ignore friends, estrange family? Are we willing to kill, even if we believe it’s for the better good? And what does that make us in the end, if we are willing to do all those things? How are we differentiated from the “enemy” when good and evil is very often a matter of perspective? And, if we are to take a Nietzschian stance and do “whatever it takes”, what does that make us in the end? How are we different from our enemy? Are we different from our enemy?

Sam said it himself. They had the gun (albeit with only one bullet left). They would just have to start over. And before that semi came along, they were all alive and together. Sure, the ultimate goal hadn’t been achieved but they had faced the darkness together and come out the other side. Not whole, but alive and united. And wouldn’t that be the ultimate goal?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve sprained my brain. I need to go elevate it and put some ice on it.


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

LOL. You have an icon for every post, don't you. That is too funny.

I think Kripke (that magnificent bastard) is shooting for far more cosmic themes.

Exactly. Magnificent bastard ... I like that. Well suited, too.

think I was viewing this on a more intimate, human level. While it’s all well and good to talk of heroes and saviors, it’s the very human-ness of SN that captures me so. Sam may be the savior, but he can also be a whiny bitch. Dean may be the hero, but he’s a smartass and a skirt chaser. John may be the grand poobah of beastie hunting, but he is so twisted and deformed by his crusade that he’s barely human any more. And while this all functions in a more operatic scheme, it also serves as a little morality tale.

Couldn't agree more with everything you said. I just like to view it on both levels at the same time. And this goes to my point of being more willing to take the message as relevant to our lives if we recognize, in the heroes, ourselves. So while Dean is wittier and John more obsessed and Sammy nobler than anyone we would really know; it is equally Sam's capacity to whine and Dean's slick womanizing and John's tortured deformities that make them recognizable to us as real people, and thus make their themes something we are willing to consider relevant to us, rather than merely the pontificating of the religious establishment.

So absolutely, it is their very Humanity that makes the show. But that doesn't mean what drives them, or the messages we are supposed to take from their struggles, are not far more grand and far reaching than merely the tale of the Winchesters out there fighting the good fight for no reasons other than their own.

Sure, the ultimate goal hadn’t been achieved but they had faced the darkness together and come out the other side. Not whole, but alive and united. And wouldn’t that be the ultimate goal?

But they didn't come out the other side together and alive and united. Rather, they just made it to the car before realizing the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming semi.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve sprained my brain. I need to go elevate it and put some ice on it.

Owww. I have some Advil if you need it.


ReplyThread Parent
adelheide
adelheide
Queen of the Monkey People
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

Icons are my crack.

*brain limps in, on crutches* Damn you, making me think and stuff...

What I probably didn't express (ow) very well was that oft times, (ow) the human goal cannot be the cosmic goal. (ow ow) Sometimes, to preserver our humanity, (ow) we have to step away from the big picture and make the small gestures.

Ow.

Okay, that time, I pulled a synapse.


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

And sometimes, in order to destroy something as big picture as an eternal evil, one must sacrifice something as big picture as their soul.

I'm jes sayin ...

:D


ReplyThread Parent
adelheide
adelheide
Queen of the Monkey People
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

Well, now you're just bein' contrary...


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)
Re: pt 2: sacrifice and religious connotations

I'm always contrary. It's just that now you're seeing it ...

:D

Seriously though, I do get what you're saying. In the greater horror of war, the small gesture of a single mercy can become the definition of what it is to be Human.

See? I'm contrary, but that don't mean I'm not getting it. Kinda like Dean ... LOL


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astri13
astri13
astri13
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)

And...my brain has now officially exploded. *g*

I agree that the general message the show seems to put forth is: "Good can triumph over evil."

And I like that. Honestly I found the ending of Angel with their "the fight is all that matters"-message nine kinds of depressing. Because if there really is no light at the end of the tunnel, how long till you succumb to the darkness? It`s the utter absence of hope and people in general are just not designed to be able to function in that kind of environment. Thus I`m digging the more optimistic approach of SPN very much.

While I think that Sam`s choice here was influenced as much by his own reasons as Dean`s need, I even agree that from a cosmic viewpoint it was a failure. And you brought up an intriguing notion with Sam therefore ultimately betraying Dean with his inability to play his part as the one able to overcome his weakness. Poor Sam, damned if you do, damned if you don`t.
What I wouldn`t like is for that "failure" to be seen with a clear level of judgement. The whole scenario was presented very much with empathy and understanding for Sam`s choice, while John again came across as utterly consumed by vengeance.

For me it`s an intersting question of: What right do we have to ask that kind of sacrifice from others if we probably/maybe wouldn`t be willing to do it ourselves? Can choosing love ever be considered to be totally wrong, even if the consequences are terrible? Do the needs/wants of the many really necessarily outweigh the needs/wants of the one? *g*
I just don`t want there to be an easy and definite answer to this.

Just as I don`t think Sam in the Pilot is to be seen as the epitome of redemption from his fatal flaw. Because again, it`s not necessary to cut the people, who you might fear you`re too attached to, out of your life (I know it wasn`t that black and white but Sam seemed A-okay with the situation.) Not to mention denying a big part of your past and thus a big part of yourself to everybody, including yourself.

Which again brings us to the value of compromise and the wonders of happy medium. :-)
Just as Dean goes too far with defining his little world, Population: 3, by absolute love and loyalty to the point of utter self-sacrifice and thus setting himself up for the ultimate heartbreak because no way can the other live up to that ideal, Sam seems to have ventured too far in the other direction.

And I really see that as the Journey ahead of us with Dean and Sam. Their personal growth. They learned quite a bit about each other in the first season, probably due to interacting as adults without their Dad for the first time (Sam seemed quite shocked a few times to discover Dean`s emotional vulnerabilites, letting me to believe he largely bought the cocky facade Dean likes to put out), but still have miles to go, which in a big way can be attributed to their less than impressive communication skills with each other.
That said, I don`t want Dean or Sam to simply adopt the others philosophy on life be it hunting or "normal". That would be a disservice to either character.
Now that I`ve utterly digressed from the original question, I better stop. *g*


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)

And...my brain has now officially exploded. *g*

Ewwww. Could you clean up that mess before you leave, please?

Because if there really is no light at the end of the tunnel, how long till you succumb to the darkness?

I'm with you in preferring SPN's choice, but the above is what Angel was all about. There was no hope for redemption for Angel ... his only redemption was in continuing the struggle despite the fact that there was no hope for redemption. So within the context of what that whole show was about (well, except for the whole Cordy!Demon idiocy which was about, uh, nothing), it worked for Angel. There is no redemption, only the struggle. And that's why they ended it that way.

But I agree with you, this is not what SPN is about, nor should it be.

Poor Sam, damned if you do, damned if you don`t.

Exactly. But the savior's sacrifice must always be selfless or it doesn't hold the potential to redeem the world. In order to save the world others for others, he must give up his own world. Such is the cross he bears, if you'll forgive the obviousness of that pun. ;)

I absolutely agree with what you say about the journey from here being about Dean and Sam. I don't know if the theological connotations I see now will hold over into S2, especially since I'd bet my eye teeth that both Papa John and the Demon will be toast by the end of the first ep of S2, but for right now, I find them valid, and interesting.


ReplyThread Parent
astri13
astri13
astri13
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)

Ewwww. Could you clean up that mess before you leave, please?

Okay, mopping it up right now. *g*

There is no redemption, only the struggle. And that's why they ended it that way.

I know and I loved Angel but at the end of the day I`m a big fat sap for a happy ending. So even if there is no redemption in the sense of ever being able to right the wrongs he commited, I still love the idea of there being a chance of forgiveness and finding peace of mind.


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC)

I don't think Joss believes in happy endings unless that is what the story calls for. And I tend to agree with him in that. For my money, while it would have made me much "happier" to have a nice, bright, happy ending for Angel (or at least one that coul manage a dark shade of grey rather than true coal black), I would have lost respect for what he was trying to say with the whole series if he'd gone there.

The right choice was to stick by what he'd claimed all along: There is not redemption for Angel, only the struggle. To have relented on that stance just because he was ending the series would be, IMO, to say that it was never really true anyway. That you were always going to get desert, I just told you that you weren't so you'd think about what a bad boy you were, Angel. You know what I mean?


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astri13
astri13
astri13
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC)

I realize that`s just a personal preference but I HATE, absolutely hate open or cliffhanger endings.

And the end of Angel was one for me, because sure, in all likelyhood they`re dead, but if he`d cut the Buffy-Finale off at a certain point, it would have been the exact same situation and they survived (granted on total plot contrivances and deus ex machina but still *g*).

And it made me hate the Buffy ending even more because all the people I hated survived there while the Angel crew I cared much more for got the shitty end of the stick. TV-shows are so unfair. *wails* *g*


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 17th, 2006 09:08 pm (UTC)

I,personally, preferred Angel's open ended finale to Buffy's stupid (and anti-climactic) one.

TV shows are unfair ... LOL! Yes, they are. The bastards. :D


ReplyThread Parent
astri13
astri13
astri13
Thu, May. 18th, 2006 10:45 am (UTC)

Exactly. But the savior's sacrifice must always be selfless or it doesn't hold the potential to redeem the world. In order to save the world others for others, he must give up his own world. Such is the cross he bears, if you'll forgive the obviousness of that pun. ;)

I think I pondered this last night in my sleep. Somebody help me. *g*

Maybe because unlike the big scale battles of Buffy and Angel where literally the world hung in balance, I have trouble applying the same to Sam.
Letting the demon go sure is bad news, especially for our poor Winchesters but for about 99 % of the population? Not a blip on the radar screen.

And again, total sympathy for the saviour rejecting the sacrifice because who truly has a right to demand that of him.

So I guess in the end for me it is both, a personal triumph and yet a cosmic failure.
Yes, I love my little paradoxons. ;-)


ReplyThread Parent
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Thu, May. 18th, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)

Letting the demon go sure is bad news, especially for our poor Winchesters but for about 99 % of the population? Not a blip on the radar screen.

I don't know about that. I think the implication of such a dramatic increase demonic possessions may be intended to indicate that a world-in-the-balance kind of battle is in the offing. That may not be accurate, but that's the way I've been taking it.

And again, total sympathy for the saviour rejecting the sacrifice because who truly has a right to demand that of him.

Oh, absolutely. I don't think the role of savior is something anyone can -- rightfully or otherwise -- demand of Sam. I just think that is his role in all this. Or at least, that there's good groundwork laid that it is intended to be his role, or his destiny, if you will.

And I'm all for paradoxons. :D


ReplyThread Parent
koorifumi
koorifumi
koorifumi
Tue, May. 23rd, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)

I’ve been following your metas on Supernatural with great interest, even though I’m late to tune in on them. There are a lot of enthralling theories and the discussions gave me something to think about, offering different interpretations and perspectives. So thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-)

About Sam’s choice being triumph or failure:

Perhaps it’s not about failure or triumph at all. Perhaps they want to show us you can make the wrong choice for the right reasons and you still have to cope (live or die *g*) with the consequences. Personally I’d prefer this massage to the notion: he made a fault, thus he gets punished. And it wouldn’t boil down to the message
“Shit happens” either – a very unsatisfying massage indeed.

I think it’s about making a choice, about knowing the reasons why you made this choice and about living with the consequences. And it’s great that there WERE consequences. But actually it doesn’t invalidate what Sam did, his choice and the reasons for it. For me right or wrong doesn’t play into it that much. Anyway it will be interesting to see, if Sam now will stick to his decision and cope with the consequences or if he will be all guilt ridden and go on about how it’s all his fault.

But I also like the theory that Sam failed Dean by not shooting DemonJohn – that makes for a nicely crooked storyline.

There are some other things that came to my mind while reading your metas, but it will take me a while to find the right place where to put them amongst all the other comments.


ReplyThread
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Tue, May. 23rd, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)

I'm gald you decided to join in the fun. It's been great discussing all this stuff even if it has, in contrast to its original intend, actually intensified my missing of fresh SPN eps rather than feeding the need to a less raucous state of demand.

I think it’s about making a choice, about knowing the reasons why you made this choice and about living with the consequences. And it’s great that there WERE consequences. But actually it doesn’t invalidate what Sam did, his choice and the reasons for it. For me right or wrong doesn’t play into it that much.

I completely agree. This is more or less where I was going with the "shit happens" interpretation, although the way you state it seems MUCH easier to like than the way I did. :D I do believe that, if Sam's choice is not intended by the writers to be viewed as a failure, that this was probably their point.

And this point is also a standard in dramatic storytelling: That you can do everything right and still fail. That much of what happens is beyond our control, so all you can do is the best you can do and then try to surive the consequences and fit a happy life in there somewhere.

I find this kind of statement more fitting, in general, to more reality-bound shows that are trying to make smaller,more reality-bound statements than I do to a show like Supernatural that, by virtue of it's reality-flexible format, seems to be more suited to making larger statements of a more alegorical and sweeping nature; but I absolutely agree that this might well be the point. And that it's a valid point, and one they have chosen to make before, particularly in FAITH; for certainly, Dean does everything right there, and Layla is still going to die.

Bad things happen to good people: Dean's reasoning for why there is no God. Or at least, not one he is willing to conceed is relevant or participatory in the war they wage on the battleground of good vs evil. And I'm willing to buy this as one of my 3 interpretations, I just said it more like "shit happens" than "bad things happen to good people." :D

And I very much like what you said about the point being living with the consequences of your choice, whether that choice is right or wrong by your way of judging it. Because certainly, I can make mulitple cases for why individuals can logically view Sam's choice as either right or wrong, and the relevant reality is that regardless of the right or wrong of the choice itself, the consequence of that choice is that last 30 seconds of the episode.

And I absolutely agree that it is most excellent there were consequences. It makes for an incredibly strong episode, and it certainly complicates the hell out of things to make the right choice for the reason (putting your family first) only to have the consequence of that choice be disaster for the family you were trying to save. That, IMO, holds much greater potential to turn Sam down a dark road of soul than Jess's mode of murder ever did. Because this holds the potential to teach him that to be less obsessed with the Demon's destruction than John is to allow something like this to happen. Which very much holds the potential to re-make Sam into John, where his experience with Jess's murder was so different from John's experience with Mary's murder that I never found it to be a real threat of creating a John out of Sam.

Probably the most wonderful thing ever said (IMO) about this subject is something Al Swearengen said in Deadwood under similar circumstances to a character who is feeling the world is over because something bad happened out of a choice he felt was right at the time: "Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or fuckin’ beatin’s. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back."

That, I think, describes Dean to a tee. Whether or not the same can be said of Sam is yet to be seen.


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