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the island of conclusions

5.02 reaction

the island of conclusions

bright star

5.02 reaction

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bright star
Most of this has probably been said already, but I couldn't help writing it down...

Since other people have been doing an excellent job with the more serious elements of the episode, I’ll start with the shallow.

First, how hot is Castiel in his “Show me. Some. Respect” mode? He finally seems to have remembered what the YED always knew: that a little domination brings out the sexy in Dean.

Combined with his slightly batshit angelic devotion?…*fans self*…and I don’t even like D/C slash.

Of course that’s something Ellen has always known. Which is probably why Dean saying “Yes Ma’am” to her is just a little more enjoyable than it should be.

So let’s see: we had sub!Dean, smart!Dean, and BAMF!Dean all in one episode. No wonder I liked it better than…certainly better than 5.01, probably better than any episode since that little run from 4.16-4.18, possibly any since “Lazarus Rising.”

(BTW—are we supposed to think that all of Dean’s jewelry is magic now? Is that big silver ring with no back story good for more than opening bottles? What about those stringy leather bracelet thingies?

I always thought he was just a guy who liked to wear a lot of jewelry. Now I know he’s just a guy who’s been unknowingly preparing himself for the apocalypse.)

Yeah, yeah, alright. I also liked the episode for the substantial amounts of substantial stuff in it.

The guy playing War was kind of wonderful in his smugness, and I adored the exchange between Dean and the Iraq war veteran.

I know every fan in fandom has weighed in on the final scene, but I can’t seem to help myself, so here goes:

I though it was marvelous, particularly in the low-key, straightforward way it was played--such a contrast to the crying and walloping we had so much of in S4 (which I thoroughly enjoyed, in the manner discussed above, but it’s good to move on).

I’m about to go on for a bit about Dean, because that’s the way I roll, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think the Sam arc wasn’t compelling and coherent and JP didn’t play it beautifully.

There were a lot of things going on in the episode, and playing out in that final scene, but I thought one particularly interesting aspect of it was an establishing of Dean’s autonomy—or rather, Dean recognizing his own autonomy. Goodness knows, this has been a long time coming.

The first few seasons of SPN, especially S2, gave us a Dean who literally could not exist, could not be without Sam—couldn’t imagine himself living if they weren’t together. S3-S4, then, were about the consequences of living—and dying—in that belief, that frame of mind.

Of course, the brutal irony of it all was, that the Sam that Dean couldn’t live without was not the Sam he came back to in S4 (if, in fact, that Sam had ever really existed). Hence, the crying and walloping mentioned above.

Living that way was always a little exhausting for Dean—as evidenced in the season-long death wish he carried in S2 (elevated into explicit canon in his conversation with Tessa in 4.16). The only “rest” or relief available to him seemed to be death.

So it’s interesting that the Show has decided to follow through on what seemed to be Dean’s therapeutic break-through in the angelic green room in 4.22, when he refuses paradisiacal peace, and says to Castiel,

“I’ll take the pain, I’ll take the guilt, I’ll even take Sam as he is,” in order to keep fighting and saving people, saving families, because “if that’s not worth dying for, I don’t know what it.”

It seems that, in the true cathartic manner, acknowledging that Sam is “as he is” has enabled Dean to imagine that he, Dean, has a life beyond Sam, a life in which Sam doesn’t always come first.

This was most clear in that final scene, when Dean is able to let Sam walk away—something he couldn’t do in 4.18, and wouldn’t give into without a walloping in 4.21. But that move was nicely foreshadowed by two earlier scenes in the episode.

First, when he hears that Sam has been taken and starts to rush out the door after him, only to turn back, and commit himself to the ordinary people in the basement. I thought it was important that Dean makes that decision on his own, silently, without being brow-beaten by Ellen or anybody else into doing “the right thing.” Not only was he consciously shifting his priorities there, but he was doing it independently, autonomously.

And second, in the scene when Ellen asks him what his “instincts” are about what’s happening, and Dean says his instinct is to call Sam or Bobby for advice. Here, Ellen does (awesomely, as she does everything in this episode) chivvy him into thinking for himself. Which he then does, quite effectively. I thought it was a nice way of showing that some of Dean’s “instincts” are actually habits—and that when push comes to shove he really can think and act differently and independently (thanks, Ellen!).

Because of this build-up, it made sense that Dean was able not only to hear Sam’s need to step away, but also to voice his own need to be on his own, to commit himself and his energies otherwise, and elsewhere.

It seems important that he’s not just letting go of Sam here, he letting go of his father’s directives regarding Sam (protect and/or kill). He’s differentiating himself from both of them.

I’ve seen the episode compared to “Croatoan,” and the communal war madness did nicely parallel the zombie virus thing. But that just makes the difference in the endings register more strongly. In “Croatoan,” Dean is ready to harm others, and forsake the world in order to stay with Sam (significantly this may be the S2 episode where he most poignantly articulates how exhausting the “life” has become for him). In 5.02, in contrast, Dean commits to the world and lets Sam go.

I know this is quite a rose-colored view of things. It’s rare to see anything trump co-dependence on SPN, and I expect the boys will be back together, issues and all, soon enough. Still, it was nice to see Dean’s character arc play out with such coherence.

Plus, he got to figure shit out and kick some ass.
  • (no subject) -
    • I know--I feel like the separation has been inevitable for a while--since ~4.04, but I'm glad that the show put it off until they could do it from a place of acceptance rather than anger and accusation. Sad--but satisfying, in a way.

      And I agree that the acting was just great--no histrionics, but so much feeling. I particularly liked it when Sam said he was sorry, and Dean said "I know you are, Sam" (not "Sammy").

      Ow--but it opens up the possibility of things being different in the future.

      Thanks for reading!
  • This. All this. Amen. :-)
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