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a queer and pleasant danger
My dark heart: Sam in Heart 
9th-Apr-2007 10:55 pm

The human heart. We invest so much of what it is to be human in this organ, this symbol. It is what keeps us alive, what defines us as living, its beats marking out our progression from birth to death. It’s where we love, where we feel, where courage resides.


In Season One, the question was "where was Sam’s heart?”. Was it still with Jess, was it in being with Dean, back with his family, with the family business or was it only in his quest for revenge?  That was answered for us when Sam refused to shoot John to kill the demon, and when he stood at Dean’s bedside and whispered “we were just starting to be brothers again”.


This season the question has been “what is in Sam’s heart?” There is something that is inside him, something the Demon can use. That is Sam’s fear - will he be ruled and ruined by his dark heart?


Sam’s fear of what could be in his heart has been heightened by his encounters with the others like him - Max in Nightmare and Andy and Ansem in Simon Said, Ava in Hunted.  It has been confirmed and intensified by Dean’s revelation of John’s last words. Surely no father would charge one son with killing another unless the stakes were high, unless John feared the blackness within Sam could be devastating and uncontrollable?


Sam fears that he will be unable to control himself. In some ways what Sam fears in the face of the Yellow-eyed demon – that his dark desires will be unleashed - is a metaphor for the struggle all humans face, even those of us who aren’t psychic and targeted by Demons.


Our ego is what we present to the world, the generally controlled, mostly reasonable person. The id is all our primal instincts and urges – to fuck, fight and eat. It is not reasonable; it wants what it wants now and without limits. The ego is a manifestation of our id, with the extreme parts repressed and controlled. I think Sam has always been afraid of being unable to control his id, and that is part of what drove him away from a life of hunting.  (See The killer in me for a more detailed Freudian examination of Sam).


Since Hunted Sam’s fear of himself, of the killer within, has grown. He has tried to counter this by showing his good heart, by “saving as many people as possible”. But most importantly Sam feels that he can’t rely on restraining himself, so he seeks to enlist Dean in that role:


You have to watch out for me, all right? And if I ever turn into something that I'm not, you have to kill me.


But Sam suspects Dean may not be up to the task of helping Sam contain his impulses. In Houses of the Holy when Dean says he is looking out for Sam, Sam replies:

Yeah, I know you are. But you're just one person, Dean. And I needed to think that there was something else watching too, you know? Some higher power. Some greater good. And that maybe…


We get a glimpse of what Sam’s unrestrained dark side may do when he is possessed in Born Under a Bad Sign and it is all unrestrained drinking and smoking, sex and violence.


After his possession, Sam is perturbed that Dean did not act to stop him. We also see in Tall Tales, that Sam sees Dean as someone unable to control his own baser instincts – so what help can he be to Sam? The heart of the matter is - if Sam can’t control himself, can Dean do it for him?


By the events of Heart though, there has been a shift. We saw it first at the end of Roadkill when Sam says “hopes kind of the whole point”. Until then Sam has presented his ‘destiny’ as inevitable; he has been desperate and hope has been absent.


I think we see a Sam in Heart more hopeful, more confident in himself. And in this episode he chooses to do two things which a more fearful Sam couldn’t – he fucks and he kills.


Sam in the past would never have challenged Dean for the girl – he would’ve berated Dean for even thinking of sex in the middle of a hunt. But here Sam stands his ground and is not embarrassed or apologetic for his show of desire. (Of course this doesn’t help with his appalling lack of finesse in the art of seduction). Although just before the act, Sam’s fear of himself shows through when he says “I know I scare the crap out of you, alright”.


When Sam has sex with Madison, we see Sam as a sexual animal. It is no coincidence that the images echo what we saw of Sam when he was possessed. This is about the beast within – all devouring mouth, and bulging muscle and sinew. We are shown clearly the power in Sam’s body. But there is no hint that this is anything other than the passion and ardour of a young man. The key thing is that Sam, after so long, can let this side of him self free and not fear it.


Similarly he chooses to kill Madison, and while it is a terrible thing to have to do, he does not refuse it for fear it will confirm he is a killer, a dark murderer. Remember this is the Sam who hesitated to shoot the Tanner kid in Croatoan. This is where I see the hope for Sam – he is discovering his own strength in containing and controlling what’s within him.


The shadow of all this of course is represented by Madison. Sam clearly sees the parallels between them. When Dean intimates that they will have to kill her Sam responds “…because she’s evil? That’s what they say about me Dean.”  But Madison can’t control her heart, her impulses and because there was no one who can contain her she has to be killed.


We know ultimately what will save Sam. It is at the heart of this show - the relationship, the love, between Sam and Dean. There is an added level of trust and love in this relationship now. It is present in all their interactions in this episode, for example at the beginning when Sam teases Dean about his excitement over hunting a werewolf.  His line about Disneyland is both a classic younger brother jib, but I think in light of Dean’s recent expressions of desire to escape their life to the Grand Canyon or Amsterdam, it carries an added meaning. It speaks of Sam wanting to give Dean something for himself.


The evolution of the boys’ relationship is demonstrated with tragic beauty in the final scenes. Madison’s final words “this is how you can save me” deliberately mirror those that have weighed so heavily on the Winchesters, from father to son to brother. Sam wavers when Madison asks this of him. Dean offers to take the burden from Sam, and then passes it back to him when Sam accepts this terrible responsibility.


It is this exchange that is important. Sam knowing Dean will offer to take a burden from him, but just as importantly will let Sam do what he feels he needs to. In the face of this dreadful event, the brothers know that the other is strong and can do what is necessary.


This not to say that Dean can kill Sam or the Sam can protect himself from the Demon’s influence. It does speak though to a bond and trust and love that will save them if anything can.


So at this late stage in Season Two, we are truly startying to find out the answer to the question “what is in Sam’s heart?” There maybe something dark there, something the demon can touch. We saw in this episode the strength of the love and courage that is in there too. We can only hope that these things will count for something in the trials that lie ahead. 


The thing about the heart is that we can’t see it. We know when it’s working and when it’s not. We know the quality of our own heart, or someone else’s, by how it makes us feel. I see your heart by what you do.


9th-Apr-2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
and when he stood at Dean’s bedside and whispered “we were just starting to be brothers again”.

I had totally forgotten about that. I loved that ep so much.

Is this the sammy-sexing-meta you were talking about? Cause it is made of all things good and thinky. I didn't think of most of this these things, I'm usually content to just watch the pretty, but you've brought up interesting points here.

I personally like to think that Dean's role in the whole matter is more pivotal than it seems . . . slightly more sublte too, maybe, but therefor all the more significant.
9th-Apr-2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
Oh i think Dean is absolutely pivotal here! but this is a Sammy meta ;) To be honest i see this whole episode as being about the point to which their relationship has evolved. There is so much in the giving and taking, the accepting and sharing in that scene. And I think Dean sees the strength in Sam here as he hasn't before. And I rewatched this scene today as I was writing this - AND IT BROKE ME AGAIN.

I also couldnt fiund a place to slip in the fact that back in Shadow Dean said "So Sammy's got a thing for the bad girls".
9th-Apr-2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
oh wow. very awesome meta.

that's all i got.
9th-Apr-2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
9th-Apr-2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you for that. I wish I could comment coherently about it but I can't, but I will say that you reminded me once again why I love this show so much.
I find it so interesting to go back and watch season 1 and watch the evolution of the boys relationship as it evolved into the one we see in Heart.
9th-Apr-2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Thank oyu. It is wonderful to go back now and see the boys in S1 - they are so different together then.
9th-Apr-2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
The evolution of the boys’ relationship is demonstrated with tragic beauty in the final scenes. Madison’s final words “this is how you can save me” deliberately mirror those that have weighed so heavily on the Winchesters, from father to son to brother. Sam wavers when Madison asks this of him. Dean offers to take the burden from Sam, and then passes it back to him when Sam accepts this terrible responsibility.

I'm just watching S1 from the beginning, and it's really interesting to see it with a different perspective.

I think that Sam wanted to honor Madison's wishes, because he wants that same respect for himself. She felt powerless over her supernatural issues, just like Sam does, and didn't want to live with that kind of struggle day in and day out, and Sam got that about her.

And I think Sam has finally come to a new place of respect for Dean and for John, because in the Pilot, we see that Sam seems to think that he can escape his old life completely, that his what happened to Mary is the equivalent of a random break-in. He also seems to think that John and Dean are hanging onto something that's intangible, that they will never reach, and that it has nothing to do with him.

But as we know, that's not true at all, and Jessica's death is one of the events that smacks Sam with the reality that he can't escape who he is. I think coming to realize what makes Dean and John tick is a fundamental part of the evolution of their relationship, as you called it, and plays a big part in how Sam will cope with the upcoming challenges.

This is all probably so old hat to you, but I'm just now re-watching S1 for the first time, so it's just right there in my head!

Wonderful meta! :)

9th-Apr-2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Yes rewatching S1 informs us alot about what is happening now. And I agreed with your point about what Sam is realising about Dean and Johns life - the family business looks different to Sam now than it did back in Wendigo.
The other part of this is that I think Dean similarily has a better appreciation of John's lonely jounrey over all those years.
10th-Apr-2007 01:58 am (UTC)
I think you've definitely nailed it on its little pointy head.

Something else I noticed in Heart was that Sam finally seemed equal to Dean. He did something Dean doesn't believe he has the "heart" to do -- kill someone close to him to save him.

Dean's overprotective shield Sam from everything really skewed their relationship... raised Dean while keeping Sam down. Heart put them on equal footing.
10th-Apr-2007 02:01 am (UTC)
Thanks you. I think you are right, this is the episode which shows us the different palce their relationship is in now. In the past Dean wouldn't have let Sam kill Madison, and maybe Sam would've let Dean do it (not sure on that).

There is some sense that they are both moving forward in a different way than even a few episodes ago.
10th-Apr-2007 02:05 am (UTC)
Great meta. While I agree that this episode showed us that Sam is more confident in himself, I think the ending might have set him back a bit. The fact that he fucked and killed the same person might mean that he'll be more fearful in the future of being as confident of himself again. I loved that he felt ready to give into instincts for once, but the ramifications of that just tell me that he'll be going back to repressing himself. Just what I thought though, and again, you're meta was awesome and all insightful and stuff!
10th-Apr-2007 02:13 am (UTC)
The fact that he fucked and killed the same person might mean that he'll be more fearful in the future of being as confident of himself again. My take is that it will either have a major effect on him in withdrawing back into himself, or I think this will be one of those experiences that actually makes him even stronger.

We'll have to wait and see. And thanks for your lovely words about this meta.
10th-Apr-2007 07:36 am (UTC)
This is a great meta! Thank you for putting in the time to write it.

This is where I see the hope for Sam – he is discovering his own strength in containing and controlling what’s within him.

In addition to the "Sam discovery" theme you wrote about above, I think that Sam's journey has also been one of acceptance: coming to terms with who he is, his role in the story, and re-embracing the responsibility of having a family - something he left behind when he fled to Stanford. He's very much the reluctant hero in season one, even going so far to say that he can't wait get back to school and "to be a real person again" (Shadow). Contrast this to him in season 2 when he tells Dean they can't run from their problems, saying that he tried running before all the way to California (Hunted). I think Sam's strength/control that you spoke about is directly related to him finally accepting and, after Heart, further embracing his hunter side. The switch has now been flipped so to speak.

I love the fact that we're seeing Sam - who intially was hestitant and almost unwilling to engage - find his strength and embrace his responsibility. And at the same time, we're watching Dean - who at first glance is self-assured and hard edged - unravel as he tries to reconcile his seemingly dogmatic beliefs about killing evil with his love for Sam and his responsibility to carry out his dad's last wishes. The development of Sam and Dean's character's are nicely balanced opposites; it's the "build one up and tear one down" technique. Add to that that Sam and Dean's meet and greet personas seem to be contraditory to what seems to be developing on the inside (Sam: soft and gooey on the outside all sympathetic and puppy dog eyes and hard on the inside. Dean: a gruff, cocky, confident exterior and soft when it comes to those he loves on the inside) and the resulting paradox is lovely.

This show is perfect for deconstructing characters. OMG. Gamble, Kripke ... I love you. Sorry, I got a little ramble-y. Don't mind me and my runaway fingers. ;)
10th-Apr-2007 08:27 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for your comments - this show makes meta bitches of us all! The strength of the writing for this show, particularly Gamble and Tucker, are their chacrterisations. While I pretend no objectivity on the matter, there are many shows with better plotting, but few with better character development.

I can't wait to see where we end up at the end of this season. I mean its interesting that some people saw Heart as elaving Sam in terrible place, whereas some of us see it as Sam really coming into his own. And really things could go either way in the eps to come (and I am unspoiled so this is purely speculation). I wonder whether we won't see this dynamic flip again, with Dean finding himself and his strength.

Oh i imagine there will be much to write about in the months ahead./rambling
10th-Apr-2007 09:56 am (UTC)
Very good post. I agree a lot, if not entirely. But I'm totally unable to respond back on the level it merits. :)
10th-Apr-2007 10:07 am (UTC)
I agree a lot, if not entirely. Oh no. You can't just drop a teaser like that and skip away...

don;t make me tickle you til you tell!
10th-Apr-2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
Goddamn. I have a bunch of thoughts and thank you for writing this and putting it so well.

Oh Sammy, you haven't seen the last of it.
10th-Apr-2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
oh there are trials to come for these boys...
(Deleted comment)
10th-Apr-2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
it's the bond of the brothers that'll save each other oh i totally believe this. we just have to wait and see how.
11th-Apr-2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Mmmm. Thank you for this. In a way it's a counterpoint to me for that fic you wrote a few weeks ago dealing with Sam and Dean after BUaBS (which I don't think I commented on. *cough* Sorry.): that brought to light things I already felt in a fictional setting and was thrilled to see addressed, whereas this showed me a completely new way of seeing things in a non-fic setting.

I particularly valued your lens of S1 and S2 through Sam's heart - a fascinating way of looking at it, and very appropriate.

Also, I love that you point out the hope that comes out in Heart. I think we had all seen it as a real step forward for Sam that he was having sex again, but it's an excellent point to make that the fact he is able to kill is, in fact, a positive thing. (God, that's so fucked up. Poor Sam. *pets our boys in their angsty little world*) Thank you for highlighting a silver lining to the rather brutal ending to that episode.

This whole saving-by-killing thing, though, makes me think we really need a meta on what the HELL it means to be "saved" on Supernatural. Or "evil", for that matter. Because that's kind of the crux of the season. Any idea if it's been done?
11th-Apr-2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
saving-by-killing thing i don't know how it relates but I keep thinking back to Buffy and how we found out what "her gift is death" meant.
13th-Apr-2007 08:56 am (UTC)
Thanks to this, I can't help but wonder what will be the question for the Third Season... "What is Sam's heart?"

This is, I think, great piece.
Thank You for letting us read this. :)

And yeah, you're not the only one recalling Buffy and her gift.
I merely hope Kripke and co. will keep on twisting the words, have some more rabbits in their hats to pull out...
13th-Apr-2007 09:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. And I have no doubt that Kripke and Gamble are going to pull something out for the finale that stuns us all.
15th-Apr-2007 12:41 am (UTC)
This is really interesting! I was thinking something along the same lines, but you expressed it much better. Mind if I friend you? :)
15th-Apr-2007 01:04 am (UTC)
Thanks very much and please friend away. If you're interested in metas, mine are tagged in my jounral (excuse shameless self-pimping) or you might like to check out spn_heavymeta where all the thinking goes on!
29th-Apr-2007 07:36 am (UTC)
This is so thought provoking!!
I made connections to HP while reading this (but ignore that - i jsut randomly tend to do that)
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." but thsi is Supernatural \o/
I think we see a Sam in Heart more hopeful, more confident in himself. And in this episode he chooses to do two things which a more fearful Sam couldn’t – he fucks and he kills. agreed! and last 5 words kills me :)
*hugs dean and sam* they are soo damaged they need loving :(
Friended you!
29th-Apr-2007 08:31 am (UTC)
Thank you. Glad you got something from this. And i liked that HP quote. I'm not into HP, but I can appreciate he is also someone with unexplored powers who faces a fierce nemesis, like Sam.

Welcome aboard.
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