I have a confession to make.
I used to be a Sam-Girl.Now, I’m what’s called Bi-Bro, (which sounds vaguely obscene.)
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can talk.
I understand Sam. I always have, up to a point. Not being a cis-gender, straight, White guy, while dealing with the Supernatural, my understanding of some things is going to be somewhat limited. But I get Sam. At least I thought I did.
Let’s back it up here for a second.
I’d heard about this show, about a year before it actually aired. I’d read about it, in Fangoria magazine, of all places, and knew it would be one of the top Fall shows I’d be watching. Other than the premise, I knew nothing about it. I had never heard of the actors and sort of vaguely knew some of the writers from other shows.
But I loved Sam from the moment he beat the shit out of his brother, in the dark room where we first met Dean. I hated Dean from the moment he opened his mouth, though. Outside of being heroic, he had every quality I ever hated in a man. It took me nearly three seasons to figure out what all the “hoopla” over Dean was all about. (It’s definitely the lips!) Up til then, I mostly just tolerated his presence. But I’m all fixed, now.
I loved Sam, though. That boyish smile and those soft, dewy eyes – he was pretty, earnest (Faith), passionate (Dead in the Water), and he cared about people and doing the right thing (Croatoan) and he argued for compassion (Heart), even for the monsters and I admired that. But now…I’m not sure that was really Sam.
How much of Sam’s earlier persona, was just Sam trying hard not to be a freak, or give in to whatever dark impulses the demon blood encouraged in him? ( Sam, Interrupted) How much of that, was just him trying to find out who he was and what he wanted to be vs. how he actually felt (Nightmare), vs. how he thinks he’s supposed to act in order to seem normal to everyone else (The Pilot)? Of course, quite a few of us go through that, but how much of that was just him trying to get as far away from his, then unknown, destiny?
Sam is introspective, self-reliant, quiet and contemplative, and smart as fuck (when the writers remember that). He is a serious ass-kicker, has a cast- iron will, he’s stubborn, compassionate, stoic, and relentless.
And now, he’s different, again.
I’d noticed a change in his overall attitude since his time in Hell and since his purification from the demon blood in season eight. When he came back from Hell, outside of being soulless for a while, it seemed as if something had been burned out of him. He seemed tired even before he went insane. Just how much of his earlier behavior, his fire, in season one, was him fighting against the pull of the demon blood in his system? His compassion? Maybe he felt a strong urge to not be compassionate, so he overcompensated. The cast – iron will? He had to develop that in order to assert control over those feelings. He certainly had to develop that, to fight Lucifer. The relentlessness, and stoicism? How much of that was the demon blood expressing itself through other avenues of behavior? Exactly how long has Sam been fighting the battle for his autonomy?
Were all of Sam’s finest qualities, the qualities I so admired, were they simply Sam’s fortress against the demon blood in his veins? And what kind of person would he have been without that? Would he have been genial, affable, lazy? Without the demon blood, would he have been a slacker? And if most of his life has been spent trying to be whoever he thinks he should be trying to be (and how could he begin to know who that is?), while fighting against what or who he thinks he might turn out to be, I have to ask… Who is he when he’s NOT fighting something or someone to be that person?
He’s been possessed multiple times by angels and demons, he’s been soulless, he’s been insane, he’s been too ill to care about who he is. Throughout all of that, there was the demon blood. His life, who he could’ve, should’ve, would have been, was derailed from the moment Azazel walked into his bedroom that night and neither we nor Sam will ever get to know that man.
Sam is a person who prefers to think through his problems. And once he’s been burned, he learns from that mistake and makes an effort never to repeat it. (He likes to make all new, horrible mistakes.) Trusting a demon? Never again! Not looking for Dean after his disappearance? He learned!
He’s not normally rash and we’ve seen why. When Sam makes rash decisions, they are almost always awful. And how much of that was the demon blood clouding his instinctual responses? Sam has never behaved well, on his instincts, and he knows this. Hell, he doesn’t do well without Dean as his anchor, period. (Neither of them do.) Considering the nature of their profession, this is a good thing. We have enough rash behavior to deal with in Dean.
When Sam isn’t quietly brooding over his issues, then he’s running away from them. When he was a child he ran away from his family several times, according to Dean. When he fights with Dean he would rather walk away. When he fought with his father, he ran away to college. After he raised Lucifer from his cage, he tried to run away from the Apocalypse. When Dean went to Purgatory, he ran away from everything, including himself. (I suspect that is the real reason for the anger fans have for him not looking for Dean.) He runs away from his own life. This same man, has no trouble running INTO a burning building. We’ve seen Sam stand and fight to protect everyone but himself.
And now, he’s stopped running.
Even during his possession by Gadreel, we witnessed a Sam who is a lot less passive and angsty about who and what he is. He was calm and sometimes even content, in a manner we’ve not seen before, as if he’d found something or reached some sort of peace in himself, laughing, making friends again and hugging people.
Sam used to chafe at everything, his family, his life, his destiny. I know a lot of fans didn’t care for it but I love the way he stood up to Dean last season because he was doing it for himself. He stated his case and then he stood his ground. Not only did he stand his ground but no matter how much Dean tried to distance himself, in an effort to not talk about the things he’d done, Sam wouldn’t let him run away. (Well, not after he got Dean back in his orbit, again.) This was a new tactic for Sam and I enjoyed it. Yeah, it didn’t work because Dean’s a pretty stubborn bastard too, but when Dean walked into danger, Sam had his back. When he called out for him, Sam came running. I would argue that last season was the best fight they’ve ever had. They worked together better than they had at anytime after Swan Song.
Is this the real Sam? Or as close as were going to get, considering what he’s been through? Or is this some new iteration of ____!Sam? Will the writers give us some more of this version (who I happen to like), or derail it with another possession, illness or who knows what?
I’m not asking for the old Sam back. Season one through three Sam, (the character I first fell in love with), is long gone. But I’m okay (so far) with this new, standup, brutally honest, sharply snarky version of him that sometimes even smiles. I think the writers are doing a fair job, (so far), in trying to repair this character. Their attempts, right now, are slow and tentative. Perhaps, they’re not sure where they want to take him but they are listening to the fans and they’re, at least, trying to learn from their mistakes,too.
I’m looking forward to whoever this version of Sam is, we’re trying to rediscover.
I’ve been looking forward. I’ll keep looking forward, with one caveat-I hope they don’t screw it up, and please! no more Dumb!Sam.
I’ve never liked him.