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Much has been made of the Supernatural season four episode Jump the Shark and the standard TV script cliché it took on with its own unique style. However, the truth is the last half of season four of Supernatural has also dealt with two other of the four standard clichés scripts that always come along in any long running television series. What has made these things stand out above the usual fare that comes along with the clichés is the way in which the Supernatural writers cleverly manipulated them to advance and present the issues going on between Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
As fans and viewers approach the airing of the season four finale, The Rapture, I thought it might be interesting to look at these clichés and to provide some commentary on how they came across in my perspective of them.
The first episode to present us with standard television script Cliché was the episode It’s a Terrible Life. In the episode, this was a twist on the old standard of what if the characters found themselves living different lives. Dean Smith was the stereotypical corporate sales manager with his suit and tie and yuppie lifestyle while Sam Wesson was the stereotypical tech geek stuck in the company uniform in a vast maze of cubicles and frustration with his life. Smith & Wesson: two trouble shooters in different aspects of the mundane world. We see these two strangers come together as if drawn by a magnet to each other and see them thrown together to hunt a vengeful spirit. The moral of this cliché was supposed to be that they belong together as brothers and hunters. Yet the problem I had with the “big reveal” at the end when the Angel Zachariah gives Dean back his memories and tells him the whole lesson was to prove to Dean that he would ‘always find his way back to being a hunter even in the dark’ fell totally false. In short, I as a viewer saw this angel lying to Dean.
Dean Smith was living the corporate life, but he seemed very happy in it. He had a purpose, he had friends and he had a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging was never more evident than when Dean Smith felt comfortable enough with a female co-worker to give her a warm, platonic pat on the shoulder as he went by. It was a gesture of feeling like family. If it hadn’t been for the restlessness of Sam Wesson and his barging into Dean Smith’s life, Dean would not have found his way to back to being hunter. All this really served to prove is that Dean Winchester is in the life he is in because of Sam and all that ties Dean to his brother. I saw the nice safe corporate world as an allegory for the nice normal life Dean had as a little boy until the YED came to disrupt everything; Sam started on the journey to his destiny, and Dean being forced to go along with him as protector and devoted older brother.
Zachariah lied. It wasn’t Dean’s instincts as a hunter that made him find his way back or be able to step up to the plate. It was his sense of duty and his subconscious link to Sam. If Sam hadn’t been present to draw him back into their world, Dean Smith would still be behind his desk. For this viewer there was a certain sense of sadness in seeing Dean have to give up his corporate life to once again have to sacrifice having friends and the comfort of having a bit of a routine. Zachariah made it all sound so suffocating but in reality it was a comforting normalcy that Dean was denied.
The second standard cliché was of course the highly touted ‘yes we are really gonna do this’ introduction of a hitherto unknown younger sibling. Into Sam and Dean Winchester’s lives came Adam Milligan, the nineteen-year-old illegitimate son of their father, John Winchester. I have to admit this was an interesting limb for the writers and the creator, Eric Kripke to go out on especially when the relationship between Dean and Sam is falling apart. To throw the curveball of another brother at them was an interesting concept. It was through their individual approaches to how to handle the situation of having another brother that we the viewers got a good look inside of the rift that was forming between Dean and Sam and how it was forming.
What I, as a viewer, found interesting in this cliché script was that once again at the heart of the issues between Sam and Dean was the way in which normalcy had been stripped from their lives. Watching the hurt on Dean’s face as he found out that their dad had not only made sure Adam had the kind of normal life that had he had denied to Dean and Sam but that John lived some of it with Adam was heart breaking. In this episode, it was Dean’s turn to lie. He lied to himself and to Sam when he said that John Winchester didn’t have a choice with how he raised his two oldest sons, dragging them into the shadowy, lonely world of being hunters. There was always a choice, but Dean lied because even in the midst of finding out their dad had given Adam the normalcy he had denied his oldest sons, Dean couldn’t stop being loyal to the father he never really knew. Watching Sam turn into that same kind of unknowable man was scaring the hell out of Dean.
The other interesting thing that this episode revealed about where the brothers Winchester are with each other was that while Sam is changing and growing into someone or something else, Dean is still trapped in his reactive nature. Still caught up in his past, unable to break free of what his father had instilled into him to be his driving force since he was four years old: Protect Sam. It also showed us that the Siren lied when he said that all Dean wanted was a little brother to follow him around and look up to him. The thought of having that with Adam scared Dean almost as much as seeing Sam turning into their father. What Dean wants is his ‘normalcy back’. Dean just wants for him and Sam to go back to being two brothers driving down the road in their ’67 Chevy Impala with a trunk full of weapons hunting down supernatural creatures.
It was at this point that I developed my theory that the reason we have seen so much of Dean’s reactions this season and so much of what has been going on with Sam has been kept hidden is because it might just be that the writers intended Dean to represent the viewing audience. That through him our takes and views on the situation was reflected into the story. Dean wants what we want, Dean worries about what we worry about and like us, he sees very little of what is going on with Sam and so Dean reflects our frustrations at this. We as the audience can only be reactive to what happens in the show, which is why Dean is our representative because he is the reactive character while Sam is the proactive one who keeps the story moving along.
This brings us to the third cliché script that the Supernatural writers took on with their own unique style. The cliché where one of the partners becomes addicted to a drug and the other has to do an intervention. Of course this being Supernatural, Sam isn’t addicted to a drug, but rather to demon blood which is giving him his power to fight and kill those very same demons. However, on a deeper level it is also Sam’s coming to terms with his destiny and to embracing his life for who and what he is. I found it very interesting that Sam has an ‘inner child’ self (whom we saw in the form of Collin Ford who does an excellent job of playing the younger version of Sam Winchester) as opposed to Dean whom, as we saw in Dream A Little Dream of Me, has only an inner adult self. Also interesting is that in everything that has been going on, while Sam may have kept secrets, he is the only one who has been the most honest. He is the only one who has gone after his goal in a straightforward line, only choosing not to share with Dean the things he feels his brother isn’t strong enough to handle. The only problem with this in my opinion of things is that Sam is mistaking Dean’s caution and his hesitancy as a weakness.
It is in this third cliché script that the writers begin to reveal the full depth of the rift between Sam and Dean Winchester. Shows us how far apart the brothers have become in their fundamental views on how to deal with the coming Apocalypse and with each other. In Sam, we see how much he has fallen onto the same obsessive path as his father, seeing only the goal in front of him and in Dean, we see the kind of weary resignation of man who has been pushed beyond his limits and who is clinging to his duty out of sheer stubborn will, deep loyalty and love. It is also, where we as the audience, once again looking through Dean’s eyes, see that Dean’s reactive nature may no longer be enough to keep Sam from changing, from becoming who is meant to be. When Sam tells Dean, ‘you don’t know me, you never knew me’ that scene has its greatest impact because the writers and show creator chose to keep Sam hidden from us and from Dean.
The one thing that I as a viewer have noticed or come to have another theory about is that every season, Dean is the same consistent character. Things happen and he reacts to them with Jensen Ackles giving us amazing performances in these reactions to the things that change the world around Dean and force him to deal with those changes. Sam on the other hand becomes a different variation of his character every season with Jared Padalecki more than rising to the challenge of having to play a different version of his character as Sam changes and evolves into a different person. That leaves me to wonder if the writers and show creator will attempt to do the last kind of cliché script they haven’t done yet; the one where either Sam or Dean becomes amnesic and lost and the other one has to find him before something terrible happens.
In the hands of the creative talent of the writers for Supernatural and the awesome acting talents of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles this kind of cliché script could turn into something very intriguing. It’s possible there is even a chance for Dean to step out of being the same reactive character he has been for four seasons and add a new dimension to him if he totally forgot who he was. We got a little taste of this concept in It’s a Terrible Life but not to the full extent of which this kind of cliché could be played out because even when he was ‘Dean Smith’, he was still reactive to a situation in which Sam was being proactive to the events. I guess we will just have to wait and see if the Supernatural writers venture into this cliché.
Meanwhile the season finale of Supernatural’s fourth season titled Lucifer Rising, is just around the bend and everyone from the writers, series creator and the actors promise fans that it will be one helluva an event and will leave us hanging on by our fingernails waiting for the beginning of season five this coming September. Lucifer Rising airs on tonight at 9 PM EST on The CW. Check out the sneak peek of the episode and the stills gallery provided by The CW Network.
Click on the Image below to see the Still Gallery.