I’m gonna write it publicly now but please, don’t ever use the ship posts of someone to add “anti” comments like “they’re just bros / they’re not like that”….. that’s just rude :/ respect the opinion of others even if it’s not yours and just avoid if you don’t like it. Thank you.
The Woman in White, or How the First Three Episodes of Season 12 Redefine Winchester Relationships
You can never go home.
In the very first SPN episode ever, the Woman White’s words painfully echoed Sam and Dean’s reality of having their identities irrevocably shaped by the death of the episode’s other woman in white, the symbolic embodiment of home and safety and family unity, Mary Winchester. Her subsequent absence defined the course of the brothers’ lives as much as John Winchesters’ presence did. Fics and speculative meta have occasionally wondered what life for Sam and Dean would have been like had it been Mary and not John who had been the parent left behind. The closest we ever got to answer in canon was What Is and What Never Should Be. What has always been the most intriguing part of that episode for me was how it started to reshape Dean’s behaviour, his very identity the longer he was there. Or perhaps more accurately, how the deeply caring, and carefree aspects of Dean’s personality were brought to the surface without any Hunter-life induced hyper-masculinity interfering with his emotional expression. In fact, ultimately, it was the deep loyalty and ingrained care-giver role towards his brother that made him choose to leave a false Mary Winchester-shaped reality behind. Dean slid the mask of the hardened, devil-may-care persona back in place.
The Foundry’s monster of the week story-line, directed by Robert Singer, clearly parallel’s and mirrors 1x01 visually and narratively. Apart from the cradle flashbacks Mary has, it is a parent that has killed the children in this episode. While of course symbolically this can be read as a parallel to the way John Winchester’s ghost still has a hold on the boys, there is a more disturbing and intriguing secondary layer at work.
The return of the real Mary Winchester this season has put front and centre the question of the various WInchesters’ identities in relation to their own family; who are Dean, Sam and Mary as individuals now that the context of how they relate to each other has changed. Mary is no longer a new mommy who escaped the hunting life, but a mother of two fully-grown Hunters whose lives she never actively helped shape. She’s no longer a married woman, but a widow trying to fill in the blanks of her civilian-turned-Hunter husband’s identity through his Journal. In every stare out of the Impala window, in every hesitant, less-than-enthusiastic interaction with her boys, the loss of her identity screams painfully underneath. She’s still dressed in white, but season 1 Mary she ain’t, which is narratively underlined by the monster of the week, as mentioned above.
For Sam, having Mary in his life for the first time ever
fills in the biggest blank
Because Sam doesn’t remember Mary in any way before the YED killed her, his relationship with Mary is in many ways a clean slate. There’s no wondering how much she has changed, no comparisons to made when it comes to how she relates to him as a mother. While undeniably his identity was partly formed by her absence and how her death affected his relationship with John, Mary and Sam’s relationship is a story waiting to be written. As Dean said in Mama Mia
Dean: You know when you died, it changed Dad. I mean he was hell-bent on finding out what happened. The hunter life, it just took him over. I guess I was the same. But, Sammy– Sammy, he was different. He wanted out.
In its fundamentals meeting her, having her in his life again doesn’t change his identity. Her absence was always a given, Of course I am not saying that Sam is not affected by Mary’s return to the living, he very clearly is, but how he relates to her on an interpersonal level is dictated solely by the present and not in the past. After all, she never cut the crusts off his PB&Js. It’s also why Sam can accept her hug at the end of the episode whereas Dean cannot.
Which leaves Dean, the one who is always left, the little boy who wuvs hugs and refuses the one hug we all know he has craved most his entire life. Because while Mary never cut off the crusts of Sam’s PB&Js, she did for Dean, and Dean in turn, did it for Sammy. It is nothing new to state that Dean took over the caregiver role Mary was shown with as having for Dean. What has shaken me up quite a bit though, is how the first three episodes have shown us that in fact Dean may have taken on many more of Mary’s character traits than we had previously thought. And this isn’t a good thing. In this case, as Sam said, like mother like sons.
Keep Calm and Carry On made it clear Vonnegut - before always thought of as a beacon of Dean’s independent thought- is now connected to Mary as she loved the movie adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five. One of the reasons she thought John was cute was the fact he knew every Zeppelin song, Mary’s nickname for Impala is sweetheart. Hell, even the fandom given, that Dean’s love for food and specifically pie is connected to Mary was blown to hell
Dean: Your meatloaf was amazing.
Mary: Came from the Piggly Wiggly. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Disturbingly, the first three episodes have left me with the impression that in many ways Mary Winchester’s return has re-invoked the ghost of John Winchester but in the female form. And that given this new information, Dean is as much Mommy’s little soldier as he was John’s. On the surface we’ve seen a Dean much closer to WIaWNSB!Dean these past few weeks. But this time a Mary Winchester shaped reality was taken from without having any say in it. And his mask most likely about to slide back into place
So, I’m curious to see where the season is going to take all this. Winchester identity struggles are nothing new, but this one….I’ve said it before many times, Dean needs to break with his past in order to move on (perhaps on that “nice bike” Jensen has referenced in the past as being his preferred ending for Dean riding it off into the sunset) and Mary’s rejection of him might finally have been the catalyst he needs.
Dean: You’re home now
Mary: No, I’m not
It breaks my heart for Dean, but yeah, the Woman in White can never go home. And maybe it’s not such a bad thing, for it’s the kids that are caught in the spectre of her past.