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duckondebut


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SPN 10.03: one battle at a time.
chase surgeon
duckondebut

SPN 10.03

Well… that happened. (and it was awesome.)

(SPOILERS follow)

1. let me ask you: which one of us is really the monster?

Apart from that peculiar moment toward the end when the black was leeched away from Dean’s eyes after the final injection of purified blood, there was never a point where one could clearly delineate between demon!Dean and human!Dean. Even the final conversation between Dean and Castiel had me feel uneasy enough that I fully expected Dean’s eyes to flash pitch-black once Castiel left. It’s hardly surprising that the only thing his returning ‘humanity’ did to Dean was enable him to escape the trap and try to kill his brother freely. In an episode—and a season, really—which is constantly trying to redefine what we mean by ‘human’ and ‘monster’, the contrast between Dean clinging to the last vestiges of his demonic strength to smash his brother’s head in, and Crowley’s minions making principled stands against an autocratic ruler, is telling.

We all know that Dean is a master manipulator, but he never fails to impress when he really gets to work. His accusations of Sam being ‘worse than [him]’ are essentially meaningless from any logical standpoint, but he knows to appeal to Sam’s inherent sense of guilt and worthlessness well enough to throw him off track. His use of the word ‘monster’ is just as deliberate as his use of the same word in 4.21, or 4.04, or any of the times he’s even insinuated that Sam might be something Other; he knows the associations Sam’s brain will make, and he presses the button hard.

(To the people who’re taking Dean’s accusations at face-value and talking about Sam being ‘worse than he ever was’—yeah, I’ve seen the posts—please don’t let Dean play you, too.)

What’s more frightening is, even after he’s cured, he doesn’t really make a token effort at an apology or a conversation with Sam—not that I was expecting him to—but he asks a sympathetic and brainwashed Castiel, does he want a divorce? That line completely threw me. It’s about as flippant and horrible as his Teen Mom joke in 9.11, except worse, because it’s clear that he remembers the kind of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, that he threw at Sam from under the umbrella of demon-ness, and his first question is not is Sam ok? but what, the bitch wants to leave now? DID SOMEBODY SAY SHOW DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IT’S DOING?

And another thing: Dean knows exactly what would make Sam walk away. God knows Sam’s tried to do that, so many many times, only Dean’s always gone after him and dragged him right back. He knows that he can just say, I know I tried to kill you, but baby, that wasn’t really me—I was a demon, I was desperate, I was drunk, I wouldn’t be able to go on without you—fuck, fuck, I’m going to stop here before I completely creep myself out.

2. … and then i’m going to get drunk.

SAM, DARLING. If nothing else, I hope this experience will help him realise that the kind of vicious abuse that Dean hurled at him is pretty much an amplified version of what Dean’s been saying to him for years.

The scene did inspire some comparisons to 4.21, but let’s look at how Sam handled ‘saving his brother’. He had it planned out meticulously: he hired/blackmailed/threatened a priest to bless already screened blood from a hospital so that he didn’t mistakenly complete the trials when he used his own blood; he used a set of sterile syringes, and while he didn’t exactly employ universal precautions, at least he wasn’t pricking the same dirty syringe in and out like he did with himself in 8.23; he had thought enough to ensure that he got Dean’s blood type; and when he saw that it was hurting Dean to the point that it might actually kill him, he stopped, hesitated, reconsidered. At no point was he very far away from where Dean was sitting (except, probably, to marshal his resolve by looking at Dean’s pictures after his brother viciously beat him down), and he doesn’t fight back. Contrast this to the forced detox in 4.21. No contest. Sam Winchester is bloody magnificent (although he doesn’t need to be, and I just want him to get away from Dean ASAP).

I don’t know if he lowered the knife because he saw Castiel, or if he was really ready to let Dean kill him. I don’t really think Sam knows the answer, either.

About Lester. Ahahaha. When I wrote this (in the middle of the night, half-asleep), I wanted to write a Sam so scoured and depleted by his brother’s expectations that he starts to bend his own reality and principles around that perceived Winchester Ideal: you can go dark, just as long as it serves searching for/resurrecting family; you can live, just as long as you don’t actually live. Sam in the show fares a little better than the Sam in my story: he tempts Lester with the idea of a Faustian deal, and it seems as though he did mention consequences (Lester says, ‘my soul is yours’ to the demon, and it’s pretty obvious that that can only be a bad thing.), and while he actively enabled Lester to do the deal (to correcting his Latin from the bushes, LOL), he was genuinely upset that he couldn’t stop him from going ahead with it. I mean, on a scale of Winchester Transgressions Against Humanity, that doesn’t rank all that high, and certainly doesn’t put him ahead of either demon!Dean or human!Dean.

(I find this talk about how Lester was a sleazeball anyway, so Sam tricking him into a deal is not such a bad thing, to be really uncomfortable? Sam didn’t exactly now how odious Lester the MRA really was—he isn’t the master at reading people like his brother is—but even if he did, it doesn’t change the fact that he did manipulate a man when he was vulnerable.)

And at the end! Sam just wants to buy his brother a burger and get shitfaced drunk. Probably alone. Oh, sweetie. Please run away as fast and as far away as you can.

3. ‘enough’ is what we have.

Castiel is so tragic. It’s so obvious that, more than anybody, he’s modelled his idea of humanity after Dean Winchester. that’s what humans do, he says, as he refuses to admit that he’s in poor health and puts both himself and Hannah in repeated, avoidable danger. you’re brothers, and that excuses anything, he says, after having cannibalised yet another one of his own siblings. He excuses Dean yet again because Dean’s logic is what he knows, and I can’t even really be angry at Castiel for it, just unbearably sad. There is so much that Castiel has to unlearn, and for that he needs to stay away from the Winchesters.

4. … well. i didn’t see that coming.

Oh, Crowley. I think he was really invested in Dean partnering him because he sees Dean stuck in that strange space between demon and human—much like himself—and he feels that if he can get Dean committed to his cause, he can generally feel better and more secure about himself. As Crowley gets more and more human, his idea of ruling Hell also becomes more human—he conducts court, dresses his advisors and bodyguards in recognisable human clothes.

(He and Dean apparently have poured their hearts to each other—Dean appears to have an intimate knowledge of how Crowley broke down during the third Trial, something Crowley is ashamed about, and it’s a mark of how much he’d invested in Dean that he’d tell the man these things.)

There is a general sense of discontent in the fandom that SPN has essentially neutered its demons, made them banal instead of truly dark/dangerous. I think the point of the last several seasons is that evil can be pretty banal, and doesn’t necessarily come with black eyes and easy labels. Particularly in the present political climate, the very people professing themselves to be heroes and saviours can be worse than the ones who are traditionally associated with evil—for instance, in this episode, both the crossroad demon that Sam strings up and the minion who burns himself in front of Crowley, prove themselves to be far more principled and moral than the four main characters. Even Meg, whom everybody likes to hold up as representative of whatever the hell they want Show to be, had strong familial ties, and a devotion and loyalty to Lucifer that drove her actions. The more human Crowley gets, the more unpredictable and needlessly cruel that he gets.

It’s kind of awesome.


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I can't find anything you wrote to disagree with! Good job expressing what a lot of us are feeling right now!

It is awesome. As are you.- I loved reading this! Although I do think we're done with the black eyes on Dean for a while, I think all the faces he made after they bled back to green were him processing his memories of his demon-time.

And so far as monstrous goes- my favorite tweet of last night was "For anyone thinking that this is monstrous, I would lije to remind The Boys that Sam ate a nurse." Lol.

Thanks!

Yeah, we're probably done with the black eyes, but the consequences will likely play out over the rest of the season.

This is all wonderful and I agree with all of it EXCEPT Dean's line about Sam wanting a divorce. I actually think this is him worrying that he has driven Sam away. Because of course he didn't apologize which means he never got to hear Sam say (explicitly or not) "it's okay, I would do anything for you" and so he doesn't really know if they are okay, and he's trying to get the answer from Cas.

That's...kind of the problem, that the conversation is about his personal insecurities, not concern or even empathy for Sam.

Oh, I agree, it's problematic. I just don't think it's problematic in the way duckondebut does. And I think worrying about Sam wanting to leave him does show some empathy, but not enough for him to, you know, act on it.

It's probably more subjective than anything, but the line still feels almost jarringly flippant to me? There was a gifset going around on my dash that compiled all the times that SamnDean were referred to in terms of a married couple, and it's usually, "you two fight like an old married couple" after a minor squabble or an argument. This line from 10x03 was used as the last gif in the set, and it was a case of, "one of these is not like the others." So, to me, Dean phrasing it that way was him trivialising what had happened and how he expected Sam to react, and it's especially awful because he remembers every single damn thing he said to the man. Connotations do matter.

I suppose so. I'm just used to Dean being flippant to hide his true feelings, and to me, that line translates to "how badly have I fucked up here?" It will be very interesting to see where this goes next, and how Dean expects Sam to feel about all of it (because you KNOW he has expectations!)

(1) he remembers the kind of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, that he threw at Sam from under the umbrella of demon-ness, and his first question is not is Sam ok? but what, the bitch wants to leave now? DID SOMEBODY SAY SHOW DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IT’S DOING?

OMG, right? "CAS YOU DON'T THINK THIS IS GOING TO NEGATIVELY AFFECT ME, DO YOU???"

(2) Yes, I was amazed at the contrasts to S4. Sam's actually making choices with Dean's interests in mind - not putting on a show of wringing his hands in order to keep someone else thinking of him as the good brother while behaving with a combination of sadism and negligence.

(I find this talk about how Lester was a sleazeball anyway, so Sam tricking him into a deal is not such a bad thing, to be really uncomfortable? Sam didn’t exactly now how odious Lester the MRA really was—he isn’t the master at reading people like his brother is—but even if he did, it doesn’t change the fact that he did manipulate a man when he was vulnerable.)

Yeah, exactly. It was a calculated risk, it could've been a whole lot worse, but it was still not his finest moment.

anyway, high-five on your prophetic fic!

"CAS YOU DON'T THINK THIS IS GOING TO NEGATIVELY AFFECT ME, DO YOU???"


SO AWFUL.

anyway, high-five on your prophetic fic!

\o/

It’s hardly surprising that the only thing his returning ‘humanity’ did to Dean was enable him to escape the trap and try to kill his brother freely.

I actually gasped when it turned out they made Dean human for that part of the episode. I thought for sure they'd give certain parts of the audience the out of it being demon!Dean, who is nothing like Dean no sir, no how, Dean would never.

does he want a divorce?

I loved this so fucking much. SO DEAN. Hey Cas, pet me and reassure me that my terrible behaviour won't have any awful consequences for me. POOR ME.

If nothing else, I hope this experience will help him realise that the kind of vicious abuse that Dean hurled at him is pretty much an amplified version of what Dean’s been saying to him for years.

I think that scene at the end of The Purge really signalled Sam no longer has Dean on a pedestal, and for the first time has really started to see the kind of person he is? (I practically want to tattoo Sam's whole 'you think you're my savior, my brother - the hero …' on my body.) So, I'm sure he's mentally filing this away under: Is this the real Dean?

I don’t know if he lowered the knife because he saw Castiel, or if he was really ready to let Dean kill him. I don’t really think Sam knows the answer, either.

Lol, I have a lot of feelings about this, I'm sorry. I think Sam would have killed Dean if he absolutely had to? Like, it's the last thing on earth he wants to do, but Dean is a clear and present danger to him. When Sam sacrifices himself for Dean, that's really a different dynamic at work; he isn't laying down to die just because Dean wants him dead. Sam has never been able to fight back against Dean because he didn't know they were at war and Dean was the enemy, but in this situation it's really obvious. And Sam wants to live; he fights really, really hard to live. Besides, fandom is utterly convinced Sam would have just let Dean kill him, and if nothing else when fandom gets this worked up about something you can be sure it's wrong. I totally, totally agree with you that Sam probably doesn't know this yet, because push didn't come to shove since Cas showed up in time.


And Sam wants to live; he fights really, really hard to live.

True. He still had the knife in hand and lightning-fast reflexes, and I think he was ready to defend himself and maybe even kill Dean if it came down to it. While he clearly didn't want Dean to die (in fact, it was Castiel who was mirroring Dean's sentiments from 4.21, while Sam was arguing for Dean's life over Dean's perceived humanity), he definitely wasn't ready to sacrifice himself for his brother, either. Why go through the whole song-and-dance over stealing purified blood from the hospital, otherwise?

Omg, I had to break this in two.

he tempts Lester with the idea of a Faustian deal, and it seems as though he did mention consequences

Well, he offers Lester the chance at a deal, and - this is crucial - he tells him the whole truth. It's a demon deal, you sell your soul in exchange for whatever you want (which Lester doesn't mention is 'more than anything I want my wife dead.'). And then they drive out to wherever, and Sam sets up the devil's trap and - this is also crucial - Lester seems pretty much free to leave at any time. Like, Sam didn't kidnap him, threaten him, coerce him in any way. Sam can't even be accused of using him as bait since Lester knows he's being brought to see a demon. So Lester's deal is 100% on Lester. And Sam not being able to stop him in time is no different than Sam not being around to stop Dean taking the mark, basically. Lester has free will - he knows the truth and he is free from coercion - and he makes his own bed. Offering someone the chance to do something immoral isn't great, but Sam never intended for him to go through with it, and despite Dean's protestations to the contrary, intentions do matter. Also, like, demons deceive people into deals - off the top of my head: those women in Malleus Maleficarum, Bela, the family in Trial and Error - none of them even knew they were talking to a demon and making a deal.

Dean lying and deceiving Sam about EVERYTHING and it ending up costing Sam his life and (at one point) his soul, THAT's a demon deal right there. Ask me how much I laughed when Dean said Sam had taken 'a guy at his lowest, used him, and it cost him his life and his soul'. Oops, I believe that was you, Dean.

Basically all this to say: I loved loved loved that this turned out to be the ~monstrous thing Sam did. I laughed, I was so happy.

So, I'd seen posts leading up to this episode with people saying 'after all this we deserve an EPIC HUG' and I would be like, NOOOOOOO DNW. AND THEN WE DIDN'T GET ONE. And it didn't even register until I saw complaining about the two of them not even having a moment together at the end, and like, HOW AWESOME WAS THAT? And what we got instead was the two of them separately looking at those pictures of happy times. BRILLIANT.

Also, like, demons deceive people into deals - off the top of my head: those women in Malleus Maleficarum, Bela, the family in Trial and Error - none of them even knew they were talking to a demon and making a deal.

Yeah. I mean, this is still enough of a morally grey area (Sam did propose the idea to Lester when he was depressed and drunk and wasn't entirely compos mentis), that Sam feels bad about it without all that much prodding from Dean. I saw a quote from Padalecki somewhere where he talked about them (paraphrasing) "realising that doing this--saving each other over and over again--was doing more harm than good", and this incident probably comes up as yet another way this lifestyle that was beaten into him forces Sam to compromise on everything--his life, his health, his desires, his morals.

what we got instead was the two of them separately looking at those pictures of happy times. BRILLIANT.

YES. SO BRILL.

I mean, this is still enough of a morally grey area (Sam did propose the idea to Lester when he was depressed and drunk and wasn't entirely compos mentis), that Sam feels bad about it without all that much prodding from Dean.

Had to come back to say YES to this. Lol, it kills Sam just to point someone in the direction of doing something wrong. HE IS SO GOOD.

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