I’ve been trying to get to 8x09 for months now, and I know this because I have this distinct memory of want to continue S8 very badly but also realizing, shit, wait, obviously I need to make room for 14x20 first. And ever since I’ve gotten these flashes of deep, keening longing for Sam and Dean at prompted and unprompted moments that I’ve never been able to capitalize on.
I’m supposed to be working, but it’s the random Friday in between the Fourth of July and the weekend, and I’m sick, so I was just like fuck it what do I care, time for leftover corn and 8x09 gdi.
I hate the feeling of being un-fluent in SPN and not feeling like I have it in me, within easy reach at all times, if that makes sense. But if it has to be that way, I will also say that coming home to it after a spell of absence is a wonderful feeling as well. <333333
8x09 is the episode where we find out that Benny’s been working as a fry cook in Louisiana at his great granddaughter’s gumbo shack and that Sam sicced Martin (from 5x11) on Benny and good lord, the whole thing is just so fantastic.
Sam is fantastic. Because he sure did send Martin to track Benny without telling Dean, which is both reasonable and probably something Dean should have expected, but also shitty. But when Dean’s advocating for Benny’s innocence and Martin’s arguing for the opposite, Sam gives him the chance. I dunno, man. Like, Sam’s just trying so hard to make space for whatever ineffable thing is driving Dean right now, even though he doesn’t really trust it and doesn’t think it will end well. He’s trying so hard.
Even after Dean tells Sam and Martin that they need to trust him about Benny because “every relationship I’ve ever hard eventually goes to shit” but “Benny’s never let me down,” essentially saying that his relationship with Sam is one of the one’s that’s gone to shit, he still leaves Dean the car.
Granted, he does leave Dean unconscious and handcuffed to a radiator, which is incredibly shitty (though not unprecedented, between the two of them)… But! He took the keys to Martin’s station wagon! When he easily could have just taken the Impala (and handcuffed him better)! And further delayed Dean! He knew they were leaving Dean in a position that was only going to earn them a head start, not a shutout, and he still went with that. Even though whatever Dean was spouting off clearly hit home. The look on his face was basically a visceral depiction of how a spirit leave a body. Dx
Dean is also fantastic. Because like, oh man, he’s not trying at all. Fuck Sam, I guess! And like, from any perspective outside Dean’s head, for all the schism of 8x01 and the tension about Benny and Amelia and Purgatory, etc., Sam and Dean’s relationship across the first half of S8 is actually not terrible. The state of their relationship does not at all warrant what Dean does to it in this ep. XP (They’re super open with each other in whatever ep it was where it turned out Castiel wasn’t dead!)
But it clearly doesn’t feel okay to Dean. Or at least, Benny’s return sends Dean back to a headspace where he suddenly feels like actually, things aren’t okay, there is more to process—but rather than do any of that processing Dean force-quits and acts from a place where everything is broken and the only solution is to accept this and break them more. Because mean, he comes out with his “everyone but Benny’s let me down at some point” without any regard for how Sam might take it. He’s not even explicitly trying to hurt Sam when he says it, or guilt him into giving into Dean’s wishes. Like, Dean’s good at that, but I don’t think that’s what he’s doing in this particular ep. It comes out because in that moment, that’s what he believes—never mind Sam’s extensive efforts to be understanding and capacious all day.
Then Dean goes all in when he catfishes Sam with Amelia’s distress text. He has to know that’s come unforgivable shit. Even if he tells himself, oh, the ends justify the means, etc., he knows. But in that moment it doesn’t matter because his actions aren’t breaking anything, because the thing is already broken. His relationship with Sam is already lost. It’s one of those times where Dean believes something is already over, can’t imagine it isn’t, and so just twists the knife and shoves it deeper. (See: 8x01, 8x05.)
But that’s not the whole story. I love that that however many hours later, Dean’s not actually in that headspace anymore. What you get from him is so context-specific, so mercurial. Either the moment has passed on its own or some largely unrelated sequence of events (e.g. going to go kill the villainous vampire, Desmond) has shaken him out of it. Even if Dean’s not over the moon about anything, he’s still operating on a completely difference baseline. When Sam calls “Amelia’s” number and gets Dean, he doesn’t get “everything’s already broken so fuck it” despair!Dean, he gets, “I know you’re mad but let me explain this to you, because I’m actually being reasonable” Dean. As to whether Dean recognizes this is what’s happening or not, I don’t know. I think Dean’s pretty self-aware, but there’s a lot of shit going on in his life right now, so maybe not. Regardless, I doubt it’s a stretch to suggest he doesn’t right now have the capacity to level with it. (Which is a storyline that I think continues itself straight through S9 and Gadreel, into the Mark of Cain, and doesn’t come out the other end until S11.)
And like, for Sam getting one Dean one day and a completely different Dean one interaction later must be aksljfa;lfjas;lfjafk;aj the most frustrating thinggggg in the wooooorlddddd!!!!!!! even as part of Sam kind of gets it, and is working so hard to understand Dean further. But what do you even do when Dean has so much control over his shittiness but also none at all, and it feels like whether you give him space/understading or ruthlessly (self-preservingly?) hold him accountable, you’re probably doing the wrong thing, no matter what??
Which is Sam’s main struggle in these latter episodes before the mid-season finale, re: both Dean after Purgatory as well as Amelia after Don’s-still-alive: trying to figure out how to make it through a life/a series of relationships where no matter what you do, or what you try to understand—what kindnesses you allow yourself and which you don’t, whose personhood you try to allow for—you’re going to be wrong. Maybe you’ll be a little right now and again, but it’s never going to matter as much as what’s wrong. That is, until the Trials.
I LOVE THEM.