sam & season 12
I keep going on about how much I loved season 12 for Sam, and I was talking to @bluestar86 last night (Or, hyperactively talking AT :P) and they were saying how narratively neat it was to end with Sam at the beginning (facing down a 1x01 parallel scene) again just like Dean ended last season back at the beginning, getting Mary back. Anyway several of the conversations I’ve seen or had about Sam are about how some people feel this season really wasn’t very good for him and he didn’t have anything happen to him… I think I kind of veered onto that for a moment after 12x21 because there was a lot of negativity around especially after we were all excited that the “someone in the life” thing he’d been about in season 11 and Eileen seemed to clearly be a part of had obviously taken such a blow, and the BMoL thing was now also obviously a total failure for him.
I think 12x22 did a pretty good job wrapping that up for Sam, since Berens did all the legwork in the first place for setting Sam up with the BMoL and then answering how that made feel and giving Sam a clear win with it in The Raid pt.2 so I don’t think I need to talk about that too much and also it only represents a fraction of his character stuff, something that was just sort of happening to him this season and actively for only an even smaller part of it, while obviously there had to be a much more real deal to it all.
I don’t know if maybe it’s too obvious or the problem seems to be that people think that he didn’t engage with the story enough for it to seem like it was happening TO him despite what I felt was a clear thing all through the season, but the Sam and Mary stuff was absolutely brilliant this year to me, and I think 12x22 and 12x23 spelled out a lot of stuff about how Sam was interacting with his arc and how the show was telling it, giving me some really clear examples to use. As I was accidentally talking Bluestar’s ear off (oh god I’m scrolling back through this conversation to scavenge my points and I am so sorry about how much of this chat is me… :P) Sam’s always had his shit dealt with largely in an external way, with things often being quite allegorical while Dean has an internal approach (the season 1 queer subtext for Sam vs Dean’s where Sam’s powers are queercoded but Dean just *is* is my favourite example :P). The 22/23 use of putting Dean IN Mary’s head to talk through everything while she didn’t say a word and he stood on the spot and vocalised everything, and then putting Sam in a different reality to passively view and have AU!Bobby explain to him all the relevant exposition to why this was the mirror of the previous episode doing the same thing for Sam is a very very neat back to back image of how their stories get told.
So back to the start:
Obviously Dean and Mary are more emotionally connected anyway because Dean was alive longer at the same time as her previously; in 1x01 he’s defensive of her memory and Sam doesn’t know her so can say something objectively ridiculous like she’s never coming back and Dean can get all angry about him DARING to suggest that. So when Mary comes back, Sam takes 1 and ¾ episodes to find out while Dean starts a much more complicated emotional arc with her dealing with her sacred memory and other personal crap he’s accumulated with her.
Mom. For me… just, um… having you here… fills in the biggest blank.
Sam doesn’t have a history with her, but he does have a massive emotional investment, so in a way their story can only start when they start actually DOING stuff together. But 12x02 also lays out the problem, that Mary is going to want to run away and not face her past because she DOES have massive personal crap accumulated about Sam, because her presence brings back the original balance where the emotional story was with Dean and the mytharc crap was with Sam, but now it’s about her - she could have had this exact same arc in season 1 if she’d been alive, say taking Jess’s death as the point to leg it and not bear to face Sam, as she feels responsible.
Mom, look, I am… thrilled that you’re back. I mean, I’m so damn happy, I-I-I can’t even stand it.
I just… it’s just gonna take me a second to catch up, you know?
Yeah, no, no. Look, take – take all the time you need, all right? It’s – it is what it is.
And when we do find Sam… how am I gonna face him?
What do you mean?
That yellow-eyed thing would never have come for him that night if I… I started all of this.
This all spells out nice and simply the entire sum of what’s going to be their problem this year and what they need to overcome at least in the sense of coming to peace with it. Sam just wants Mary around, Mary can’t be around Sam.
In 12x03 Mary begins the process of running away. Cutting her hair is symbolic of shedding her past image and is important and a step forward in mending with Dean and shedding saint!Mary and the dreaded nightgown image, but regressive in dealing with Sam, because they have such opposite demands on her emotionally. She needs to face the past with Sam, but to move forwards with Dean - which is also too much work for her because she’s being given the huge task of accepting messed up adult Dean because his need for her is so vast so of course it’s daunting (and I’m assuming there’s at least some postnatal depression kind of metaphor going on with all this ESPECIALLY with Sam - of course all mixed up in mytharc but 12x06 gives us that she would rather go hunting than stay and do childcare with Dean). Sam loses out harder because his need is so simple and Mary being flawed and hurting Dean is ultimately for the best - after 12x02 we wrote meta about his drinking alone scene as representing exactly this, and 12x22 and “I hate you” was the point he had to be brought to. But Sam makes no mytharc emotional progress with Mary if they’d spend the entire season joined at the hip catching up and doing generic mother - son activities, because it wasn’t addressing their problems.
12x03 also showed us Mary’s trauma she needed to address, visually, with the John, Dean and Sam parallels in the haunted house. Sam wasn’t even a real baby - he was the broken, burned hollow doll. He was an object of absolute, triggering horror for Mary after she was trapped in the nursery with the doll by the ghosts, a reminder of her death, and the state of the doll very suggestive of what happened to Sam because of her deal - and basically visually displays everything Dean eventually told her what happened to Sam in his speech in 12x22.
Moving on to actually looking at how Sam feels about the mytharc, 12x04 and 12x05 featured Magda and Ellie as blatant Sam mirrors. With Magda, Sam gets to look back at his powers arc and say stuff that indicates how he feels about it now, especially when it comes to self-blame and his feeling of being unclean caused by Mary’s deal. (In the long run, Ketch killing her was for our shock value, Sam never learned on screen, and it wasn’t a part of his arc that she died, just something for us :P yay) With Ellie, he has an almost identical conversation about her horror about discovering her family history and that the blood running in her veins has this connection and that she was a fated vessel, if technically only because she was geographically nearby. Both of these mirrors make the episodes for Sam’s part focussed on how he feels about himself and what Mary’s deal did to him, and show he’s actually already, through all his previous trials and tribulations, made some peace with himself.
I mean… “trials” is deliberate word choice, since 8x21 he got to address how he felt unclean, then did the trials and I think even if he didn’t finish them again once he’s had time to process he’s already in a better place than before about it before season 12. I also feel season 5 resolved his original character arc and his actions in Swan Song completely redeemed him and eased his conscience and he literally was a blank slate after that, and also has a demonstrable sense of peace all through Gamble era - even in the middle of season 7 Bobby calls him out about it but ends up agreeing he’s just somehow ended up really zen :P… The problem here is that because Mary coming back was not really on the books back in season 5 Sam’s arc got resolved on a LOT of major points relating to the mytharc and he was really only left with Lucifer and Hell trauma which all dates from AFTER this resolution though as a direct result of it. So these two episodes explain how he’s feeling and that it actually isn’t something Mary should be afraid of because Sam’s in a good place with his past and so on, as he eventually manages to tell her in 12x22.
12x06 has their shared moment of trauma/horrible flashbacks when the 1x01 parallel happens where Sam and Mary get to relive it all with Bucky being tied to the ceiling and dripping blood (On Asa’s face, a sort of child figure to Mary as well) as the warning he’s there. The demon’s MO on killing like that was blatantly only so that we’d get them having this moment.
12x12 is where it really kicks off again, and after a lull on this while they dealed with other branches of the story, including the start of the nephilim arc, which with the Lucifer connection was already at least tenuously like Sam just for shared backstory - there was some speculation that the nephilim would be a good vessel for Lucifer and he only wanted it for that, which would have made Jack a direct Sam parallel… We didn’t see that although it was obvious Lucifer only wanted to use him to take over the universe and having a loyal son to do it is much easier than relying on his supposed perfect destined vessel, who was a bit harder to control than Lucifer had reckoned on :P Lesson learned since 5x22. Point is it was a sped up version of the process of milennia of figuring out how to get a Perfect Fated Vessel to empower Lucifer for the big take over.
I screamed and knocked my table with my knee so hard I still have a dent in it when Ramiel flashed yellow eyes at Mary along with the old season 1 remember-when-demons-were-scary sound effect. I’m honestly still kind of stunned and impressed that they brought back literal yellow eyed demons to act as a visual aid here. It forced a moment for Mary to tell Sam what she saw and for it to immediately become a Mary and Sam moment sharing this very specific trauma of what a YED meant to them, with Sam asking Mary what she’d gotten them into as if she even knew. Bringing in these princes of hell was again just a sort of visual thing to put on screen to put season 1 and Azazel’s original work with Sam back on the table, again making it clear the mytharc is connected to Sam. Dagon does for Jack what Azazel did for Sam, and even though Dean killed Azazel before his plans could come true he died convinced Sam was ready and going to be everything he was supposed to, leaving a thought for Dean for season 3 that Sam hadn’t been brought back right that segued into him going genuiely dark even if nothing was actually wrong with him like Azazel insinuated; I’m pretty sure Dagon died thinking that this changed nothing too, because Kelly saying Jack was good because he saved her just made Dagon laugh.
Dagon’s time on the show carries this part for Sam even though he had almost no interaction with her, just by visual association of yellow eyes and what she’s doing. 12x17 parallels her directly to Azazel in the staging of the action to 1x21, for example, and she already has her special child in hand unlike Azazel who was having a lot of fun with an ant farm with the entire special children project. (This also escalates into the main problem after the midseason in general making the second half of the show about a mytharc connected to Sam metaphorically in the same way Amara was connected to Dean metaphorically - I suppose 12x08 would be the 9x11 step of all that. Cas was already connected to the nephilim arc in 12x08 when he was the one who broke the news to them, 12x10 making it very clear he felt it was his problem. 12x19 MAKES it his problem. And in general now we know for sure it was used as the end of season episode thing that escalated everything into season 13 and was the final shot of the season.)
So I think when it comes to Sam stuff that gets us back to 12x22 & 23 - with Dean making clear Mary’s deal was the biggest hurt in his speech to her and listing what it did to him with her death and to Sam with the mytharc smacking him in the face because of it. When Mary is back, she repeats the thought from 12x02 that she’s scared of Sam, and Sam appears out of the woodwork to hug her and reassure her with the same message but this time it’s post-communication so they actually all have a real understanding, and don’t have this catastrophic void. Mary’s still fucked up but at least she isn’t ready to flee from Sam in horror, and I think it was that far more than anything about dealing with Dean that made her run in the start of the season, because she could have worked things out awkwardly with him because she had no underlying fear of him in the same way.
And then to 12x23 where the AU is caused by Mary NOT making the deal, and I think it’s important to bear in mind everything about Sam and this so far this season because it’s all been dredged back up again, but in 12x22 he got to make a peace with Mary that they could actually deal with this. It’s not a manipulative, wow the world would suck worse if it DIDN’T happen, be thankful it did. It’s something Sam can see, sure, but we benefit the most in a meta way to know that the message of the show is that Mary’s deal is now all good, at least for how Sam can feel about it. The fact he sees the world as better because of it, and that he’s at peace with what it did to him, is written into the fact this world is showing US that things would be so much more worse without it, and I guess this is the representation of how he feels shown to us in an actual example of a tangible world that expresses this feeling.
And of course as I said the season ends with Sam running off to investigate what happened with Jack, and being the one to follow his scorched footprints into the room with the crib that such a big fuss was made of earlier like he would get a chance to USE it but now is acting like set dressing:
Again one episode after Sam was represented as a crib all through a long speech (because babies suck at acting :P)
and a reminder that everything for him began with that moment in 1x01. Even though the thought Mary was in was more like 5x16’s memory than 1x01, Sam was brought down from the nursery and his crib was there, and the way Dean woke up in the chair directly paralleled 1x01’s opening with John waking up there. So the two blurred, and the conversation happening over the crib was about Mary’s deal which resulted in Azazel standing over the crib. In the show’s language, nurseries are Sam. And he ends the season in one, looking at a yellow-eyed thing that that crib technically belonged to even if he’s massively over sized for it (lol, even Sam wasn’t that tall a baby)… And whatever happens to Jack, now reflects on Sam, and his original feelings and choices about the demon blood arc and being Lucifer’s vessel. If Jack is pure evil he’s just a dark mirror for Sam to work through some shit. It’s more likely he’ll at least start neutral or as a uncomfortably powerful and volatile blank slate, but like how Mary isn’t exactly fixed, Sam now has a stage set to work through his own stuff that he might not have wanted to touch to blame Mary in the same way Dean had to get to an “I hate you” stage.
(And I wonder about Mary in this because one thing that wasn’t revisited except a brief mention she didn’t remember, was 1x09 and Mary apologising to Sam there as a ghost, right as things were kicking off with his psychic crap. I think also once he knew all the truth later in season 4 & 5, he could also feel that Mary had already apologised and so again he’s in a different place from Mary where he’s ahead of her since she doesn’t remember… I still feel like season 13 will probably be tackling Sam and Mary more directly than this year where it was more Dean and Mary, and Jack for good bad or neutral will offer a way to put a LOT of stuff on screen that we can see through him as Amara was to Dean a representation of his issues made manifest… He doesn’t even have to have a ton of contact with Sam although I am perversely hoping he duckling-imprints on Sam since he was the one who walked in on him freshly born :P But ech, speculation. Who knows how this will go, I can’t really do more than wonder about the longer character arcs and what I’d find funniest to do in the first minute of the next episode :P)
Anyway, this is all for me why season 12 was an incredible Sam season, and I’d been yelling loudly about each and every one of these developments as they happened. Long story short, I’m now an enthusiastic Sam girl because of Dabb and Berens’s combined efforts, and I genuinely feel like this season did him a great service in the story.