Sam Winchester is one of the most multi-layered character I’ve ever seen on TV and that’s what makes him so interesting and loveable.
There are so many things to say about Sam, he brings out a lot of emotions from the audience. It would be too long to write about all the traits that make Sam who he is, whether it be his intelligence or his compassion or his sarcastic remarks. That’s why I will focus on one particularity that, to me, express at best the Sam I love and cherish and that’s the fact that Sam Winchester is a hero, a tragic but magnificent one.
Even if life isn’t remotely fair with him he goes through it without ever losing his hope or his optimism. This attitude saved the day a lot of time. Even when everyone gives up, to the last minute he’ll try and double his efforts. He never gives up on anyone, he’s always trying to save the most people possible. The only one he’s willing to give up on is himself and that’s heartbreaking.
Sam presents a lot of the tragic Greek hero’s archetypes. According to Aristotle a hero isn’t entirely good or bad ; he is deeply conflicted. He’s in search of his true identity and his true purpose while being subjected to misfortune and suffering, not because of an evil nature but because of mistakes he made knowingly or not. Sam has always been conflicted - from a young age as we learn in The Great Escapist - he never felt like he really fitted, believing he wasn’t pure and even seeing himself as not completely human, a freak. All his life he tried to extract himself from what he has been raised into, but he came to realize that whichever path he was going to, this life would always follow him.
Nevertheless, Sam constantly tries to understand the one around him, he will put himself in their shoes and search the true purpose of their actions, never judging their motivation. Especially with the one he loves, his mother being a great example from last season but with Dean also since the start. He empathizes not only with the families and the victims but with the supernatural beings who aren’t aware of what they’re doing or try but can’t change their condition (like Madison in Heart, Molly the ghost in Roadkill, Lenore in Bloodlust, Magda in American Nightmare…). It’s admirable and even if it is sometime seen as weakness by others it isn’t, far from it. To remain human enough to see the good in everyone is one of Sam’s biggest strengths.
His most impressive quality must be his forgiveness. He forgives even those who hurt him, sometime multiple times. Maybe it’s because he believes that if even him can be forgiven everyone must be, in the self-depreciating way he thinks of himself. Or it’s because often he wasn’t forgiven easily and he knows how it feels intimately. Sam is always so prompt to forgive others that he forgets to forgive himself. “There are people out there, good people, who are going to suffer because of me.” (Form and Void)
Furthermore, the tragic hero is contradictory, he’s a part of the action but at the same time he is subjected to it. He is guilty and yet innocent, lucid but blind. While he thinks he’s acting with foresight and independence, in fact it’s only later that he understands he was only a pawn in the Gods’ game and the true meaning of his actions is reveal to him. Indeed, Sam really thought he was doing the right thing pursuing Lilith’s death and at the time he was right thinking so. After all, everybody wanted to kill her(Dean and Bobby were more than willing too), even if by doing so he ultimately would be sacrificing himself. It’s only later that he (with everyone else) understand that he was being played by Heaven and Hell who were working alongside. The moment he understand he had sacrificed everything, his relation with his brother being the most important for him, all for the exact opposite of what he was fighting for, is the moment he breaks. After that instant he clearly isn’t the same anymore as he starts a kind of penance to redeem himself.
As a consequence, what makes Sam interesting is that he is fallible, he has to overcome his doubts, his mistakes and his culpability (real or felt). It’s his imperfection and his idiosyncrasies that make him real and appealing. A perfect hero is impossible for the audience to relate to and serve the purpose badly. Sam knows his flaws and he is probably the one who evolved the most during those twelve seasons and as a result he’s continuously trying to improve himself.
In addition, a hero is willing to sacrifice his needs, even his life for the good of others. He also has contradictory qualities and motivations and he will learn from his woes and draw a certain wisdom from them. He knows his quest implies danger, loses or even death, but ultimately he accepts the possibility sometimes even welcoming it, as Sam did so many times.
And his sacrifice is what distinguishes him from the others. He faces a dilemma and his death is a way to transcend it by offering is life for the greater good. Sam saved the world by directly and purposely throwing himself to an eternity of suffering impossible to even start to understand. But he did it willingly for the sake of the world and for his brother, never thinking of what would happen to him. What is even more tragic is that his reward was only more sufferings.
There is so much more I’d like to say about Sam Winchester to explain why I admire him so much but all of the above is enough to start to comprehend the extent of Sam Winchester. He’s such an inspiration for so many people, after everything he’s been through he would have earn the right to be bitter and resentful but he still has a golden heart, empathy, hope, kindness and compassion. He is sometimes misunderstood, his actions are held against him but to me it only reinforces the heroism of his nature. I loved him every step of the way since I watched the pilot. I loved him during times where he didn’t love himself and was at his lowest (Sacrifice was so painful) and during times where he had no idea who he was anymore.
If I could wish something for Sam it would be to see himself as I see him ; a truly good-hearted person who deserves to be loved, understood, listen to and appreciated just as he is.
At last, I want to thank you Mr. Padalecki for bringing such an amazing character to life, for making him what he is and for being his biggest advocate, for still being passionate about what you do, particularly because it causes you great personal sacrifices.
Your portrayal of Sam is so nuanced and deep it’s remarkable, you even give him a voice when the narrative doesn’t with subtle expressions or postures. Sam certainly would not be as he is if it wasn’t for you.
And as cheesy as it must sound thank you for being the real life hero Sam would be proud of, it means a lot and it only makes me prouder for loving Supernatural and Sam Winchester.