“Good God, Y’all” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
First and foremost, ‘Supernatural’ is a show about sacrifice.
Sometimes sacrifice is done for the greater good; this would be, for example, when John allowed Sam to move away to college (albeit his method for getting Sam out of the house was a little skewed, but he had his reasons and only wanted the best for his youngest son), or when Dean refuses the offers of both the djinn and the immortal surgeon who promise that they can offer him a different life where he doesn’t have to fight demons. The Winchester boys have known nothing but sacrifice in their time on the show; they give up the comforts most people take for granted, like stable addresses, home-cooked meals, relationships, and education in order to help save people and fight the forces of darkness. But when asked why they fight, they seldom have an answer except “Because it’s right”, a mantra drilled into them by former-soldier John Winchester. The show began with the boys’ strong sense of honor and purpose and family and loyalty; above all else, the darkness must be stopped.
And while there have been noble sacrifices in the show, a great many of them have been selfish as well. The entire reason that Azazel’s plan came to pass without a hitch was because he could predict every move the Winchesters would make along the way; their weaknesses made it easier for him to play them than it is for the Charlie Daniels Band to play a fiddle solo. He knew that Mary would give anything to have John back when he was murdered, even her youngest son; he knew that John would do anything to protect his children, including barter his own soul, and he knew that Dean would imitate this without question in an effort to honor his father’s first and most important imprinted wish on him— “Save Sammy.”
And Dean is far from a martyr; while he may have saved Sam, in my opinion it was more because without Sam, there is no Dean Winchester. In flashback episodes, Dean was always there to protect his younger brother; Dean took his father’s order to heart and threw himself into the line of fire many times in order to keep his brother safe. Yet Kripke and Co. have given us several episodes where we see what Sam does in Dean’s absence. In many ways, Sam will always be a child, petulant and stubborn and gullible, less cynical than his brother. But in others, Sam is very much the man of the family; he is the one who carried on hunting in “Mystery Spot” after Dean’s for-real death, and when Dean went to Hell and Sam failed to raze him, Sam went on the best he could— he chose a path with Ruby and committed himself fully to becoming a lethal opponent for Lilith. In many ways, Sam has taken on John Winchester’s mantle.
In the original season, viewers were seeing things primarily through Dean’s point of view, and so we were led to believe that John was nearly flawless; a powerful hunter, a strong and respected (and sometimes feared) man of great influence, crafty, intelligent, resourceful, and unrelenting. It is only later, when we are given the voices of other characters to put it into perspective for us, that we begin to see John’s flaws: his shortcomings as a father, his deceitful tendencies with the boys, the abandonment issues he gave them both, the ridiculous weight he put on their heads at a tremendously young age, and the childhoods he robbed them of due to his own revenge-driven mission to avenge his dead wife.
John’s impulsiveness and recklessness led to Ellen Harvelle’s husband being killed on a hunt, and as the show has progressed we’ve begun to see a lot of parallels between Sam and John. At the end of “Jump the Shark”, Sam comments that he will take a comparison to his father as a compliment— an interesting development considering that in earlier seasons, Sam badmouthed his father near-constantly and Dean defended John with venomous loyalty.
So then in the theme of sacrifice, what are we to do with a renegade Angel of the Lord? Castiel was presented to us in “Lazarus Rising” as a cryptic, unquestioningly loyal warrior of God who was sent to guide Dean Winchester in the upcoming holy war. Through numerous betrayals and misleadings, Castiel began to realize that not all of his brothers were working under the same agenda; many of them not only questioned God, but outright defied Him and justified themselves with blaspheming that their Father was no longer watching their antics at all. Castiel has made many sacrifices throughout the fourth season, from the beginning ticklings of doubt and defiance (which he steadfastly tried to resist) to outright slaughter of his own brothers and superiors. Castiel has evolved throughout the show into a person who it is very hard to remember is not human; he is otherworldly and strange, with his characteristic head-tilts and uncanny ability to know what Dean is thinking, but it progressed into him actually feeling and thinking on his own, making decisions for himself in a way he has never done in several millenia of existence.
In this way, Castiel has replaced Sam as the person that Dean feels he must protect and reside over; for all of the hard times that Dean gives Cas, he is genuinely grateful for the angel’s help when it comes and he does exhibit some fondness and attachment to the angel despite his misgivings. So, then, with the developments in “Good God, Ya’ll” with Sam and Dean deciding to go separate ways and Sam retiring from hunting until he gets his inner darkness under control, the boys have regressed to almost exactly where they were in the pilot episode— Sam has chosen his own path and it has nothing to do with their father’s mission, while Dean maintains that the most important thing is getting the job done correctly, with Sam out of harm’s way.
It stands to be seen whether this decision will help or hinder them; as we the viewers know, without Sam there is no Dean, no “bitch” to his “jerk”, and there is no one there to fill in the spots where Dean himself can come across as shortsighted and impulsive. However, in this episode we did see Dean step up to the plate; he told Ellen that his first instinct was to call Bobby to get help on figuring out the problem, and Ellen told him flat-out “Well you got me, so let’s get on it”. Within moments, Dean had proven himself intelligent and resourceful; he solved the puzzle without help, and he managed to save the day and most of the people involved without Sam’s aid. It’s as though Season Four was a slow, painful severing of a limb on Dean Winchester’s body, and Dean sped through recovery; he is now learning to fight with only one arm, and sure, the phantom pain will still kick up from time to time and make him wonder how things would be different without Sam there, but he can fight and hold his own without his brother’s constant presence. Nonetheless, the boys are still not exactly playing it straight. This is the Apocalypse; we are in the endgame here. Neither brother told the other hunters why exactly it was the apocalypse; when they find out that Dean and Sam started the whole hootnanny, heads are going to roll.
Likewise, the development given by Castiel that the amulet Dean wears is a very powerful talisman that can sense when God’s presence is near was very interesting indeed. The contradiction that Sam, who many fans believed was going to turn out to either be Lucifer’s vessel or the Antichrist himself, gave that amulet to Dean and Dean’s obvious attachment to it (he may be mad at his brother, but the idea of Castiel borrowing the amulet and/or losing it clearly devastated him) was a very nice touch by the writers. Yet another example of Kripke’s infamous five-year-plan in action; when we saw the amulet in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”, who knew that it would turn out to be the key to finding God two sea sons later? Absolutely brilliant; when this show wraps, I can’t wait to go back and rewatch just to catch all of the foreshadowing they do.
The focus on the boys’ independence is an interesting new arc to say the least, and I for one can’t wait to see what the writers do with it. The idea of Sam having to fend for himself and take responsibility for his decisions, as well as the concept of Dean not having Sam to worry about when he has enough of his own problems to deal with, has limitless potential. The boys are vulnerable alone, sure, but as they’ve proven in the past, their primary vulnerability lies in their love for each other.
I will say, however, that that knowledge didn’t make me cry any less when Dean said “You wanna take the Impala?” ‘Cause yeah, the girl on the couch sobbing and yelling “YOU WENT TO HELL FOR HIM, DAMMIT!”… that was me.