13x04: What’s the Deal with Catharsis?
This isn’t funny anymore. I am not okay. I’m in a state of needing to do laps around my room (and the room is roomy enough to be comfy) (but roomy enough for doing laps in it ain’t). All this excess energy is making me sweat even when I sit still!! (I exaggerate) But Jesus Mary and Joseph the writers and cast and crew and the whole shebang and shindig is giving us… SO MUCH. *everything*
So, here’s the recipe for Deconstructing Dean:
You take Dean Winchester, you make him slam all his walls back in place and you drain him of the want to feel anything, because the pain is too much to handle, so if he feels it, he knows it’ll fucking break him, right?
Now for the most crucial part: you make him act the part of his father and you make him latch onto that persona, one that he’s cultivated within himself in order to be the good son, the responsible big brother, the dutiful soldier, the hero. Only this time you make this persona into what it really is without the warmth and hope and love that is at the heart of Dean Winchester: you make it a shell. You make it obvious that this persona is based in the lie Dean has always told himself of who he needs to be in order to cope, in order to be strong, to carry all this weight placed on his shoulders from too young an age.
And Dean himself doesn’t even believe in this lie anymore:
- Refusing to listen to Miriam’s tirades and his comment of “I’m just a guy doing a job” in 13x01 began to deliver a sense of maturity, of Dean truly on the cusp of growing the fuck up
- In 13x02 this was pushed further with Jack’s line: Pain is part of the complete human experience. Accepting it is a sign of maturity.
- In 13x03, Dean’s actual aversion to his toxic masculinity and his need to address it and reject it was highlighted through every plot line in that episode being rooted in Dean’s self-examination and what he needs to understand: no one can tell you who you are - you choose who to be. (choice and identity) (like wow)
- By 13x04 it’s clear to this meta writer exactly how much Dean knows his performance is a shell, but there’s no way he can let go of it. It’s his safety net now, keeping all the feelings at bay. Feelings are weaknesses, his performance says, and shuts them all out
- Save one, of course, and that’s the anger
How is it highlighted to us that he knows the performance is a shell?
–> By him asking Sammy to keep the faith for the both of them.
Dean’s aware of what he’s doing, he’s so aware of shutting everyone out, and he knows, deep down, that it isn’t him, that he wants to believe they can save Mary because he can see that there’s a chance, but right now… all faith has drained from him because the root of his hope for the future has been taken away. (yes of course that’s Cas)
How else can we ascertain that Dean, deep down, wants to mature?
Well, how about –>
Sam: He was really into the whole catharsis thing.
Dean: Yeah, sure, who wouldn’t be, if it’s like another word for happy ending?
Now, they really, really could’ve written this line in a way that didn’t imply that Dean is actually saying what? He is saying that he can understand why Wes was into the whole catharsis thing when catharsis was another word for happy ending. Meaning Dean can understand why someone would want to work on themselves on the basis of getting their happy ending. MEANING DEAN WINCHESTER WANTS A HAPPY ENDING. He still wants that long and happy life, he just doesn’t see it anymore for REASONS.
FFS. (FOR FUCK’S SAKE)
And for someone who abjectly dismisses the idea of therapy as bullcrap and thinks the whole thing is like snake oil for the mind…
Okay, so, I know Dean is anti-everything here. I get it. He is demonstrating how little faith he has in this brain-scrambling, emotion-combing time waster of an endeavour, right? But I just want to look a tiny bit closer at this specific moment in this scene.
Because look at Dean’s body language –> it’s completely open.
Jensen is formidable in using body language and those famed micro-expressions to tell us tons about Dean. That’s because he’s a formidable actor and using body language and micro-expressions is part of his job. Human communication is more than 50% based in body language, so to say that this tool for subtext doesn’t matter to the story, that the visual narrative is a layer that can be dismissed as unimportant, is mildly insane. Just in case anyone ever says that. (I bid you stop it) (not to be bossy) (just please seriously)
Also, look at Jared sat at the edge of that sofa, Dean taking up space, spreading himself out like an alpha male. Sam looks more defensive than Dean here, and considering where this scene is headed, there’s no wonder. What’s so subtle about this, though, is that by the end of the episode we’ll get a small catharsis from Dean, where he puts words to how he’s feeling, answering the question from Sam that opens the entire episode, so Dean’s open body language towards Sam here can also be seen as foreshadowing of that, that he’s open wide to the fact that Sam is actually right. *slow eyebrow raise*
And then there’s how Dean asks his question:
Mom was great, now she’s dead–>
–> Dismissive to a fault, because Dean’s grief truly is not tied to Mary, because deep down Dean can see the worth in Sam’s belief that they can get her back, underneath all that pain there is still a glimmer of hope.
What’s the deal with catharsis?–>
–> Yeah, exactly - Dean throws this out there and does so immediately. Again, it of course has to do with his attitude towards therapy in general, it’s to do with the anger masking his pain, but it’s also a defence mechanism, because he isn’t ready to be open, no matter how much he subconsciously wants to be, or feels he needs to be. Asking this question here just underlines this already hinted at need, because deep down Dean wants to believe there’s something that can somehow lead him to a happy ending, he wants to know what the deal with catharsis is for himself, because he wants to have faith in the future again. He just can’t right now, because his future burned on a pyre not very long ago.
I mean the GROWING PAINS of it all! Dean Winchester is maturing into an adult before our very eyes and it makes me so fucking happy for him!! And what does that small moment at the end of the episode, the moment of very very tentative catharsis (hopefully leading to a properly significant moment in 13x05) still give him? That one tiny line of dialogue where he admits to Sam how Sam’s been right in calling him out on his behaviour and how he doesn’t want to be like this forever, it’s just for now, because right now he doesn’t believe in a damn thing.
It gets him this –>