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The Wanting Comes In Waves

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Trying to Understand s9 Dean

I was reading ash48's recent entry pleading for help understanding Dean's side of s9 and started writing a reply that got way too long, so here it is:

I usually call myself a Dean!girl, but I have found myself being closer to Sam!girl status during the Carver years, ending up as a bibro. Dean is stuck in reverse, and isn't as compelling and interesting a character as he used to be to me. He seemed to get so far to accepting his brother as a true partner in season 5, "I'll back your play" and look where he is now. I still really identify with him, as an older sibling, parent, etc. His motivations still seem pretty clear to me, and since he got Sam's soul back, he's barely had a chance to breathe.and deal with all the trauma and loss. And that in itself is getting a little repetitive. The dropoff in brother conversations in the Carver era has had dire effects on Sam and Dean still being relatable characters to us mere mortals. How could anyone go through what they have, and still be on speaking terms, much less be alive?

So where is Dean in s9, how do we come to any sympathy as the viewing audience after such a disastrous betrayal? I think that Dean was pushed too far in 9.01, the trauma of seeing his brother in a hospital bed about to die yet again (reminders of Bobby's hospital bedside), after months of him deteriorating from the Trials, after seeing what he saw in Sam's head, that Sam was maybe even suicidal because of their issues in season 8 and oh the rest of their life together.  Sam's "So? reverberating still in his mind from 8.23. It makes me sad to think that they never had the chance to discuss or process that whole thing and they probably never will.

On top of all that Dean is blaming himself for everything that came after the deal with Gadreel, for every last thing that went wrong. And usually Sam would be there chivying him out of that self-blame spiral he gets stuck in, but he wasn't, because Dean was holding all of that in and hiding it from Sam. It killed him not to be able to share the good and the bad with Sam, that's how his world works, that's how he survives it. And he screwed it up trying to save it.  All the good times he and Sam had together in early season 9 he couldn't even savor or take at 100% real, all  of it was coated in guilt for what he was hiding from Sam. While Sam was expressing how he hadn't felt so good in years, and thanking Dean for choosing to come back for him in "Bad Boys" , Dean couldn't really accept any of that as justly deserved or earned. All of it was based on a lie, no matter how good or true it was for Sam.
I think when Sam said "same circumstances I wouldn't," Dean was the most devastated we've ever seen him, it absolutely gutted him. I think Sam meant it to hurt him, to shock him, because he wasn't getting the conversation or reaction he needed from Dean to get through his hurt over what was done to him. At some level I think Sam wanted to really mean that. It would be completely rational to separate his behavior from Dean's. But deep down, as evidenced by his "I was lying" comment at the end of 8.23, he couldn't find it in himself to truly separate from their messed-up, twisted, co-dependent M.O. and even seemed a bit surprised that Dean really had believed him.

But the worst thing to me is (and here's where I feel sorry for Dean) is that he absolutely feels he deserves that reaction from Sam. Dean knows he's gone too far this time, he's done something unforgivable, but he knows he couldn't have done it differently, and he even feels guilty for that. He's internalized a lifetime of blaming himself for anything that ever goes wrong. So of course if his brother doesn't think he's worthy of saving, that makes sense because he is worthless and he's always known that for sure. That is Dean's go-to, factory reboot setting, (thanks for that Dad), if you screw up, add it to the list of why you are worth nothing to anyone.  And Sam, even as mad as he is (and he has all the reasons in the world to walk out and never come back) would be the first person in line to explain to Dean that he's the most worthwhile person in the world as far as he's concerned.

They love each other so very deeply and instinctively that they almost forget it sometimes, it makes everything hurt more between them when the forgetting goes on for too long like in s9.

So here's Dean at his lowest point in many years, torn away from any emotional support from Sam, assuming (wrongly) that Sam does not care if he lives or dies, with all the guilt for Kevin and all the rest piled on top of his lifetime of trying to cope with PTSD. He is at his most susceptible to fall into accepting the MoC as "one last maybe good thing I can do with my worthless life" (gee who's near suicidal now? It's like they take turns or something). I don't think Crowley really understood how lucky he was with the timing on that. Sure Dean's reckless and shoot first ask questions later, but taking on the MoC, seems really way past that.

I think Dean pretty quickly comes to accept the MoC as his just desserts, his richly deserved punishment, atonement, whatever. Just so long as he doesn't have to talk to Sam about it, it's all worth it. Where Sam maybe loses some sympathy points from me is that he doesn't push Dean about it, he doesn't demand answers, or research it obsessively, or really even worry about it too much. For quite a long time. That seems really OOC to me, and seems to support Dean's misinterpretation of "same circumstances, I wouldn't." Even if that's wrong, that's how it comes off to Dean as well as the audience. Bad writing choices maybe? Because Smart!Sam, Research!Sam, Curious!Sam would have, should have been allll over that right away no matter how pissed off he is at Dean.

Another reason I think that Sam doesn't get much sympathy is because of s8, he never really explained to Dean why he didn't look for him. Not to Dean's or a lot of the audience's satisfaction. That also feeds into the viewers buying into Dean's misinterpretation of "same circumstances, I wouldn't." That compounded on top of a whole lot of fans still not forgiving him for the demon blood/Ruby stuff (not me at all, but there are lots of these folks especially on tumblr).  Also, many fans were reflecting returned-from-Purgatory Dean's hardline stance of most of s8 in a lot of ways. There was more than half a season of Dean being very unforgiving of Sam which is hard for the audience to forget.

So in conclusion of this long ramble, Dean believes he deserves it, turning into a demon because he is at his core worthless. Sam would not in any way agree. I'm feeling sorry for both of them at the end of the season, because they've lost each other once again. Whether they'll ever talk about all this in any sort of coherent or complete manner remains to be seen, and I admit I am not too hopeful about that.

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I have always been a Samgirl that loves Dean. Though there have been times Dean's done/said stuff to Sam that's bugged me. BUT being honest here in the newer season's (starting round 6) when I out and out hated him. The 1st half of season 8 (the whole Benny and Amy thing still piss's me off) and the 2nd half of season 9 where for me the hardest to like Dean.

I really enjoyed reading this though, cause anything that helps me understand later season Dean the better thats for sure. Not going to get it from the writer anyway. -___-


Thanks for your comment. Yes, it has been hard to love or even like Dean a lot of the time in these later seasons, even for a Deangirl, and Sam's been kind of unrecognizable since season 8 (to me at least). But I'm glad that what I wrote helped you understand later season Dean a little better. I keep thinking about why Sam stays with him, and am even more impressed with Sam as a tremendously strong, compassionate person. Dean's biggest failure in season 9 is not accepting the gift that is Sam's continued presence in his life until it's too late.

AMEN to everything you pointed out here, my dear. Curious moi, I used the link you left at ash48's "looking-for-help-to-understand-Dean-in-s09" post and voilá - here I am.

Well, I ♥ them both equally, with a small tendency more to the El Deano side. And with that background, I only can second you thoroughly in all points you are adressing with this post of yours.
- Couldn't explain it any better.
*nods**nods*

And now, after nodding in contentment to your excellent explantation for some strange Dean behaviour in s09, I feel much better.
Because your words made me remember... remember, why I once felt in love with this show and will stick to it until the end:

DEAN & SAM s07e18 - ANIMATED - Lady first (boys leaving motelroom) photo DEANSAMs07e18-ANIMATED-Ladyfirstboysleavingmotelroom.gif

♥ * ♥ Forgive me, but I couldn't resist... ♥ * ♥ SMILEY - ANIM - rot-werde Smiley, süß photo SMILEY-ANIM-rot-werdeSmileys-1.gif

...But I'm sure you know what I mean; didn't you?
*winks & waves*

So, thank you very much for writing and sharing your thoughs about s09-Show in general and about s09-El Deano in particular. I agree to 100% [didn't believe that there's another fangurl who, in fact, is thinking quite the same in that case] with you and wish you a good start into the week.
SMILEY  - ANIM - Müde-Augen-Smiley - Good Nite!, cute photo SMILEY-ANIM-Muumlde-Augen-Smiley-GoodNitecute_zps4189b37d.gif

Thanks for your reply,glad to find another fan who is thinking the same way about the show. I love the Lady First gif, very appropriate.

This is a really interesting post. Thank you!

The dropoff in brother conversations in the Carver era has had dire effects on Sam and Dean still being relatable characters to us. Very good point. People used to joke sometimes about the "over-the-Impala" Feelings Talk at the end of the episode in the Kripke years, but I think it really helped to make the relationship work onscreen, and the lack of those talks is really hurting the show. And I think it hurts Sam's character in particular, because Dean still talks to people - Cas, random bartenders, Charlie, even Crowley - but Sam doesn't. Sam doesn't talk to anyone but Dean, and now that he doesn't really talk to Dean, he's become a bit of a cypher, unless you are really trying to get into his mindset.

I think Dean pretty quickly comes to accept the MoC as his just desserts, his richly deserved punishment, atonement, whatever. See, this makes sense to me in theory, and it fits with Dean's characterisation in previous years, but I didn't really see that onscreen this season. Dean was so self-righteous about it, it made it very hard to sympathize. IDK.

Hi, thanks for your comment!
I miss those "over the Impala" brother talks, you are absolutely right, that was where we really got to see inside Sam just the teensiest bit. And gosh I want that so much, because he's such an interesting complex character, only getting to see him from outside via Dean just isn't enough.

You are so right that it was hard to sympathize with Dean about the MoC, because he brought it all on himself. I guess I'm depending on the past season's characterization to bring me to that sympathy. That and putting myself in Sam's position and seeing Dean from that view to get past the self-righteousness.

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