A Supernatural Characters’ Study

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A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Aaronia on Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:34 am

Ok, I’ve taken all characters that have appeared at least twice in the show (Seasons 1 to 6) and have tried to organize them and categorize them, trying to find some interesting insights during the process. These are some of the ideas I have come up with:


THE WINCHESTER BROTHERS

Of course, the main characters are Dean and Sam Winchester, who appear in every episode of the series. I believe both characters are equally important to the show, Dean is often mentioned first as per chronological and alphabetical order (my own assumption of why Jared Padalecki is credited first in every episode is because he begun earlier to work for the WB with Gilmore Girls, and thus he has earned that right; I have never seen any official confirmation of this, but it does make sense to me). In my opinion there is no point in arguing which of the two brothers is the more prominent. Actually we might say that the overall main character of the show is their relationship, their deep brotherly love. As a symbol of their ‘home’ (their family, their bond), as the only thing they own and that has been always there to protect them, even in the direst of times, we have the beautiful Chevy Impala. We can elaborate this symbolism a bit more: Dean appears as the main guardian of the Impala, that is to say, of the family. He believes it is his job to keep his brother safe and to maintain their bond. This is his most revered heritage, like the Impala is the main legacy he received from his father. Dean is also the main driver and takes charge of maintenance and repairs, but he also lets Sam drive it occasionally and teaches him how to service it. When one of the brothers is missing the other one takes care of the Impala: Sam changes it a bit while Dean is in Hell, but the poor car gets sadly stored in a garage while Sam is missing from Dean’s life: the older brother keeps his beloved baby under wraps and visits it daily, like trying to keep alive the dearly memory of his original family while trying to build a new one.

An interesting aspect of these characters (the development of their main traits, as well as the growth of their brotherly bond) has been explored by the show when presenting us their childhood and teenage years. The interaction between the two young boys is at best presented in episode 3.8, although mini Sam and mini Dean get additional individual exploration in other episodes. I would also consider under this perspective the character of Ben, introduced in episode 3.2 as another mini Dean. The older Winchester brother will try to find family around this child, trying to offer him the kind of fatherly relationship that John could never give them, but he finally finds out that he is bound to repeat with this child the same story again. Ben Braeden is a vehicle for Dean to understand his relationship with his father and is equally a way for the audience to understand his childhood/fatherhood issues. Thus I consider this character in parallel with the younger actors’ portrayal of our two boys. In the case of Sam we have found him faced since childhood with his desire to be normal and not be considered a freak, and his great need to understand what happened to his missing mom and what his dad is up to. As the younger brother he was not put in charge like Dean (overcharged with responsibilities since his fourth year of age), but under his brother’s protection and under a veil of ignorance of his family history. Thus he has grown up with an urge to be independent and think for himself and a great need to understand in his own terms what he is meant to become and what is all that hunting business really about (unlike Dean who just takes all of this for granted).

(I’ ll try to keep posting my analysis of the other characters and their relations with the Winchesters in future posts, I hope it will get not too long. Everybody is welcome to comment and add their own inputs, but I might not be able to reply to everyone because I have some limited access to the web).
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Bec666 on Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:19 am

My only comment is wow, great post :)
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Aaronia on Fri Jul 15, 2011 4:07 am

(Thanks Bec666, I'll keep posting).

Before adding the next part of the analysis I wanted to comment something else about the Impala’s symbolism of the brotherly bond: I think that its hidden trunk full of weapons could also indicate how the secret hunting activity is one of the main things the brothers have in common, what keeps them together and makes them extremely dangerous. And the car’s endurance of even big accidents shows how their bond is able to survive the worst trials.
....

MOTHER AND FATHER

The most important characters in the lives of Sam and Dean are their parents, John and Mary Winchester, who have appeared in the show in 14 and 9 episodes respectively (in their younger and older versions and also in some ghostly or even hallucinatory ones) and have been mentioned even more often. The mother and father figures of our two boys or, better yet, the lack thereof, has marked their personalities for ever.

I know the Anime series is not considered canon for the main show, but I’ve really enjoyed watching it and have gained some insight taking into account the new information and the different versions presented of some episodes. I found endearing the few scenes where we can see little Dean hugging his beloved mommy or playing with her. Dean’s childish love for Mary is also stressed in our live action Supernatural episodes 2.20 and 5.16, while Sam’s adult interaction with his younger mother during the brother’s short time travel to their past will never compensate his growing up without her. I don’t really like Mary in 1.9 (her ghost), 4.21 (a demonic? hallucination) and 6.19 (her shape is adopted by Eve). Poor Sam got to see and hear his unknown mom saying the most intricate things, although he also got to see her through his brother’s memories in Dean’s heaven (5.16). The big difference between the two brothers consists mainly of this: Dean remembers his loving mother and the painful loss of her death, Sam has only a big void instead. Little Sam comments to his brother in the Anime episode “Rising Son”, after losing a female caretaker he had grown too attached to: “I understand you have always been sadder, now we are a bit more equal” (well I’m not quoting wordly, just from memory), and Dean replies: “we have always been equal, the three of us” (including their dad).

Mary’s death does indeed shape the destinies of the three Winchester men. From that point on, John will devote himself to the hunt of the Thing that killed her, for revenge and for protection of his kids and of other families. His hunting activities will also deprive both children of his much needed presence for a big part of their time during childhood. John will understand life as survival during wartime and hence the military kind of education his sons will receive. This also explains why he is used to big renunciations and can thus decide in a second that he will give his life to save his son’s. What is left unexplained is how could he ever think it was right to surrender his soul to his sworn archenemy, opening the self-sacrificing path that could have brought perdition to both of his sons and the apocalypse to the rest of the world. But John is a broken man, in the brink of hopelessness, and the life of Dean seems enough of a good deal to him, assuming that his older son will also be able to take care of the danger hidden in the younger one. Once again papa Winchester leaves them alone and puts the biggest of burdens on Dean’s shoulders, but he does it with the conviction that he has no other choice, that his son’s life is much more precious than his own life and soul and that he has trained them both well to fight even the biggest battles. And we still can’t say he was wrong.

Dean and Sam both loved their father, although Sam will only learn to accept his legacy and forgive his flaws while feeling guilty after his death. It seems that he was too much like John to be able to get along with him well. Dean is left to try to accept his father’s choice, but is just unable to understand that John’s death, the loss of their all knowledgeable father, teacher and commander, could in any way be considered a better option than his own death. The obedient son must learn now to take command of his own life, continuing the family business in partnership with his freaky little brother, who is at least finally committed to the hunting task. Left orphaned, without both their father and mother, the Winchester brothers soon receive (from their father’s acquaintances) two new protective figures in the likeness of John and Mary: Bobby Singer and Ellen Harvelle will be there to lend them a hand or offer some counsel when necessary.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby CLDeangrl on Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:16 pm

GREAT posts, Aaronia! :thumbup:

I have one question...why didn't you like Mary's ghost in "Home"? I loved the portrayal of her in that episode. Also loved the brief bit of her relationship with Dean and Sam that we got to see in "What is and Never Should Be", when Dean is sent to his ideal world by the Djinn. I think Mary's a very complex character that we never fully got to understand and yet, as you said, she - or at least her death - is the driving force in her sons' and her husband's lives.

And one comment...I think John's sacrifice was was made to protect both sons. He realized that Sam's best hope for salvation was through Dean, not himself. Dean could give him the protection and strength that John never could, so he made the necessary choice to give Sam what he needed and Dean what he deserved...another chance at life. It was the ultimate act of fatherly love and what totally turned me around on John, finally making me see the silver lining inside the dark cloud of his personality.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Sandiwich11 on Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:14 pm

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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Bec666 on Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:58 pm

Aaronia, I absolutely LOVE your thoughts. I am really enjoying your updates. I don't have the way with words that you do but I agree with everything you've said. :)
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Dahne on Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:44 am

Great thoughts. One thing - how do you explain John not calling when Sam leaves him the message that Dean is dying?
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Aaronia on Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:25 pm

Thank you very much, Sandwich11, for sticking the thread and Bec666 for your support.

Dahne, I don’t understand why John wouldn’t call on that occasion, he obviously cared about Dean’s life a lot, but I agree with your usual critic of the character, it just doesn’t make me feel bad about him because I choose to focus in the good aspects . The writers wanted to have him missing for most of season one, that’s why he didn’t show up, I guess. I would have loved seeing him secretly hiding around the healer’s big tent (like he was around in “Home”), but JDM was probably not available or the writers didn’t think it was worth it, so we are left with that dilemma. Let’s say he was in a real problematic hunt that had him real busy at the time, and then checked secretly that Dean was doing alright, letting of course Sam believe that he didn’t care at all.

CLDeangrl, you make a good point about John realizing that Sam has a better relation with Dean than with himself. Sam has being begging John to try to save Dean and blaming him for just everything. So, of course he wants Dean to live, but he might have also believed it was the best option for Sam. His sacrifice was surely an act of fatherly love but also kind of set a real bad example for his sons. The problem is that Dean felt forced to do for Sam at least the same that his father did for him, but he is a bit weaker than John (well, he did not have a mother and a proper father to take care of him when he was a child, so he is a bit damaged that way and doesn’t have a high concept of himself) so he finally breaks down and becomes evil in hell, breaking the first seal in a path that would lead to the apocalypse and the end of this world. You know, the ‘selling one’s soul’ thing is kind of bad per se. Lisa will later tell Dean that it’s a bit sick to try to revive dead people like that, Bobby also thinks it’s kind of wrong (although he will ‘sell his own soul’ for another urgent matter) and finally we have Death and Tessa teaching Dean that there is an order about life and death and it is really wrong to try to play around it. So, you know, what John did was completely messed up and finally played into Azazel’s plan to release Lucifer: Dean volunteered as a weak righteous man in hell and the terrible ‘one year’ wait for his death was the pressure that forced Sam to pay attention to Ruby’s plans in the first place.

And concerning Mary, I hate when the writers make her look bad (also in 5.16 when Zachariah showed the guys her mother despising them). She was supposed to have been a nice mother to her kids, and I want her to be a good person always and that her kids can see that, and not all that angst with her playing the bad guy. The scene in “Home” just rubbed me up the wrong way. She supposedly sacrificed herself for her kids, going against the poltergeist and cancelling his energy with hers, getting both him and herself destroyed. I don’t know, I would have liked some sweeter rapport with her kids (it was their first contact with her after her death) and not just a cryptic “I’m sorry” and I wanted that she would finally be at peace in heaven. Of course I love her portrayal in 2.20, but it was Dean’s desire for her, not the real Mary.

Thank you all for the great response to the thread. I’m preparing the next part, I hope I can post it today, not sure though.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby CLDeangrl on Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:56 pm

I hear you, but I disagree about Dean...I don't think he became evil in hell. He was human and he broke down under unbearable torture. It was completely understandable but it did break the first seal. I know what you mean about John setting a bad example by starting the self-sacrificing thinking that would take over all three Winchester's lives, but I still feel there's good to that thinking as well as bad, so it wasn't entirely a bad example. I can't fault John for making his sacrifice to save his son any more than I can fault Dean for giving in to the unthinkable pain he was endurig in Hell. They're human, afterall, nobody ever said they were perfect. Unfortunately all three Winchesters seem to have a tendency to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

As for Mary...I never considered her depiction in "Home" as bad. I thought it was handled well. Sure, we would all have loved a more tender and poignant and certainly more fleshed out moment than we got, but unfortunately life doesn't always work that way. I thought it was pretty realistic (as realistic as something of this subject matter can be) handling of the whole situation. And yeah the "apology" was frustrating, but it was necessary to set up what was to come in the following seasons.

Finally...I agree with you about why Dad didn't come when Sam called. They were trying to keep the focus on Sam and Dean and not Dad so they kept him out of it. But like you, I like to think that he was nearby keeping an eye on things and ready to rush in should the boys have needed him. You never know, he could even have put the bug in his friend's ear about the faith healer so he could pass the information on to Sam. ;)
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Aaronia on Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:59 pm

Interesting reply, CLDeangrl. I believe we are mostly in agreement about these subjects. I just happened to be more disappointed with Mary’s appearance in “Home”, but you make a good defense of it. I also admit that I have a problem with the “sale of one’s own soul” being presented in the show as something heroic (when done as a loving sacrifice for somebody else), although it has also been stated by some characters (as I said before) that there is something really wrong about it. Dean himself spent a whole season digesting that his father had done that for him, and his first impulse about the guy in “Crossroads Blues” who had done the same thing for his wife (only with ten extra years of life) was to blame him of being guilty of a really wrong sin. But John, his worshipped hero, had chosen to do it, so there went Dean, following his father’s steps when he saw it necessary. I also believe that after selling his soul and being subjected to all that demonic manipulation in Hell, Dean would have become irreversibly evil, not because it weren’t understandable that he would give in under the terrible pain, but because of his ‘original’ sin of selling his soul to begin with, what means giving it up to the demons to do away with it. But anyway, as it is such an integral plot of the whole series, I have agreed with myself to finally accept this Supernatural heroic version of the “selling one’s soul” business, and I’m also kind of glad that Dean’s fall in Hell was conveniently overcome so that he could be a good guy again, and even a fighter of evil fighting on Heaven's side as their chosen hero (before giving up all kind of guidance whatsoever coming from the angels after feeling betrayed by them).

-----

THEIR FRIENDS (EXTENDED FAMILY)

Bobby Singer (who has appeared in 45 episodes, more or less) has stated once and again that he loves the Winchester bros as if they were his own sons. And he has confirmed this with hard facts: in his always being there for them (even at the risk of his life) and in the occasional much deserved scolding of the ‘idjit’ boys. His house and the surrounding salvage yard are a refuge for our guys and especially his panic room, an unbeatable bunker designed for ultimate protection against evil forces, which symbolizes what the character of Bobby offers to Sam and Dean: a fortress full of sigils, gadgets, tricks, weapons, lore knowledge (books over books of it), hunter experience and human wisdom to help them in their fight against all kinds of enemies, including the ones lurking inside of themselves.

It might be interesting to try to guess what a salvage yard means in Erik Kripke’s mind. An early draft of the pilot opens with Dean in a junkyard with all the stocked cars’ carcasses going wildly alive in a threatening supernatural kind of a way (http://es.scribd.com/doc/886560/Earliest-Pilot-draft; link taken from http://www.supernaturalwiki.com). Also, in the already mentioned Anime episode “Rising Son”, a bunch of junk cars join to form an enormous “transformer” monster demon. These examples indicate that those old discarded vehicles could be harboring a big hidden threat. It also could just show the decay of our gadget-based society or, following up with the Impala’s symbolism, the breaking apart of lots of familial relationships leading to a desolated psychological landscape, prone for monsters to come and find their prey in it. Bobby’s hunter activity also derived from a demon messing up with his wife. He comes from a broken family, but took responsibility and faced the challenge to hunt monsters and demons away. That’s what hunters do. They take care of some desolate areas of life and watch for bad things not to prey on them.

Bobby was introduced to the (hunter’s) life by Rufus Turner (4 episodes), who also used to be like a brother to him until a big fall out happened between them, and who finally died at Bobby’s own hands when his old friend was possessed by one of Eve’s creatures... what happens to be a typical hunter’s story, where a close partnership gets shattered big time once and again by the hardships of the life and where one hunter ends up killing his hunter mate because of having been turned, or possessed, or just per accident when acting as a bait or during a fight gone wrong. This is also the fate that seems always just waiting to happen even to such close hunting partners as Sam and Dean: both were deadly confronted against each other when Sam was influenced by a ghost in 1.10 or possessed by a demon in 2.14 (or just lacking a soul in half of season 6, when he even dared to turn against Bobby as a father figure) or when Dean was turned into a vampire in 6.5 and therefore just asked to be killed, or just any moment after John’s death because the older brother was warned by his father that he might eventually need to kill his (ginormous) little brother. A fate which also induced a few hunters to hunt them, or at least Sam (as Gordon, Kubrik and the ones who attacked them in 5.3 or 5.16) and even made a few related hunters get killed by the brothers (grandpa Samuel being killed by Sam and cousin Gwen by Dean). A fate that sadly also reached John Winchester when he unwillingly killed his hunting partner Bill Harvelle.

The life of a hunter is a solitary one and the partnership with other hunters, although desirable in principle, tends to end in a bad way, so that the ‘family’ bond among the Winchester brothers and Bobby Singer is really a rare exception. As it also is a really rare endeavor to run a Roadhouse for hunters, where they can hang out together in their idle times. Ellen Harvelle (9 episodes) sticked to this task after her husband died, maybe because of her need to keep an eye on the hunting business and still take care of her impetuous daughter Jo (until she decided to take care of herself). Ellen had once respected John Winchester as a good friend and tended kindly to his sons after his death, trying to forget the damage done. Her figure (paralleling the Roadhouse) is that of a nurturing mother (or home) and a core reference of helpful connections, but unavoidably engulfed in an atmosphere of suspicion (because of the dangerous nature of the people surrounding her) and fated (both she and her bar) to an untimely departure from the show. Her role of being a friendly harbor for the guys, deriving from her relation with John in the old times, was earlier played by Missouri Moseley (who reprises Ellen’s role in the Anime show), a character who seems to have evolved into both Bobby and Ellen after the actress was found unavailable to return to the show. Other characters who have played a similar role, although with much less time on screen, were Pastor Jim and Caleb (both killed by the demon Meg, who also had a hand in the killing of Ellen and Jo).

In an alternate dimension (4.17) Dean believes his parents are called Bobby and Ellen, and that he has a sister named Jo. Also in the ‘Unsunk Titanic’ reality (6.17) Ellen and Bobby appear as a couple, with Jo being their daughter/stepdaughter, what places her in a ‘sisterly’ role with respect to the Winchester brothers. Joanna Harvelle (6 episodes), raised in a hunting environment, belongs to the extended family of our boys, and despite her romantic inclination towards Dean, she was mainly regarded by them as a little sister. Before Bill’s story was known, it was speculated by the fans that Jo could have been their real half-sister, assuming a love affair had taken place between John and Ellen in the old times, but the honor of being the third hidden Winchester sibling went finally to Adam Milligan (3 episodes), son of a sporadic love relationship between John and his mother Kate. However, Adam unfortunately was already dead when Sam and Dean finally learned about him and ran to his help.

Adam and his mother were killed by revengeful creatures which had been deprived of their father by John (4.19), while Ellen and Jo (already mortally wounded by Meg’s hellhounds) died in a self-inflicted explosion to buy some time for the boys in the big battle against the devil himself (5.10). The previous night they had taken a ‘family’ picture at Bobby’s place, a lovely picture which ended being vicariously cremated. After losing their mother and father, Sam and Dean have also lost each other (several times, although luckily yet only temporarily) and their closest ‘family’ friends, except Bobby, who was saved of the big catastrophe in “Abandon All Hope” by his being in a wheelchair (after another fateful encounter with the same demonic Meg).

The brothers still found later a new hunters’ family in the Campbell clan, what resulted in a big deception, as the revived grandpa Samuel (8 episodes) turned out to be a traitor and cousin Christian (4) the vessel of a demon. Gwen and Mark Campbell might have been some alright relatives if they had stayed alive long enough to overcome the reserves the whole clan held against Dean upon first meeting him. The Campbells of past times, when young Mary still lived with her parents, are another example of a hunter family, all of its members horribly fated to untimely deaths. Jo and young Mary seem to be contrasting figures as both girls were raised in a hunting environment, but Mary didn’t want to stay in the family business while Jo did wish (unsuccessfully for a long time) to be accepted in it; Mary tried to marry out of the hunting circle (with John), what ended being the beginning of a new hunting clan (the Winchesters), while Jo felt attracted to a hunter (Dean), to end up being rejected as a hunter herself (for some time). The whole Harvelle clan became (like the Campbell clan) finally eliminated: all of their members getting killed while in action with some of the Winchesters.

As helpful aids for the brothers’ task, per their valuable skills, and in close relation to Ellen and Bobby, we find the interesting characters of Ash and Pamela (appearing in 5 and 4 episodes, respectively), the only good friends of our guys who, after their obligatory untimely deaths, are known to have made it safely to heaven. Other important allies of the Winchesters fall under different categories, like their supernatural friends (Castiel as their angel brother and others like Anna, the questionable Ruby, etc.) and their romantic relationships (Jessica and Lisa), which will be presented at another time.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby CLDeangrl on Sun Jul 17, 2011 12:19 am

Good stuff, Aaronia. I'd never heard or thought of the idea of Jo being considered as a possible half-sister of the boys. Don't know where that comes from. I think she was just as she was presented...born into a hunting family, like the boys, and wanting to carry on her father's legacy, as the boys do for their father. I know there was originally supposed to be some romantic connection between Dean and Jo but I never saw that working, it just didn't seem to fit. I think the brother/sister connection was much more appropriate.

I also love your drawing a similarity between the physical refuge that the safe room represents and the psychological/emotional refuge Bobby himself affords for the boys. Very interesting!
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby trackerem on Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:16 pm

i'm taking 2 points, the first one, that dean became evil in hell. this is the age old thought about destiny & what is personal belief. dean was destined to open the first seal, so it was going to happen. dean was the righteous man to break that seal. the thought also that john was supposed to be that person but in the end, it was dean.

was dean evil in hell, my thought absolutely not! again, he fulfilled this destiny. the moral dilemma that the writers are always leaving us with! i totally love it fyi!

jo being the boys' sister would be the absolute writer's twist for us! dean kissed her when she was dying so nothing irreversible has happened that none of us or dean couldnt live with! this has been brought up somewhat in discussion groups & i personally think that it could be so! the fact that jo & dean never got together actually strengthens the thought! being a blonde, tough hunting type plays into the familial connection! good thoughts!! thank ya! :D
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Bec666 on Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:43 pm

Loving your post Aaronia. They are so well thought out. Your thoughts about Ellen and Bobby were dead on. I also agree about Dean becoming evil in hell. He did, fact is fact. He tortured souls and enjoyed it. Now all you Dean girls don't hand me my head, I'm not saying he wanted to, just saying he did. Plain and simple. Given where he was and what he went through, who would blame him?

I don't and never saw Jo as a half sister or sister in anyway. I don't think Kripke ever intended that either. Dean would have taken her to bed in an instant if he thought he could do it and not have to commit to a relationship, OR suffer Ellen's wrath. He didn't love Jo, don't think he ever did. But when Sam said he thought of her as a little sister, that was the Demon, not Sam. I always saw Dean as wanting a one night stand.. or maybe a few night stands.. but nothing serious.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby CLDeangrl on Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:03 am

Oh I definitely think Dean committed evil acts in hell, and yes, it was his destiny to break the first seal by doing so. As I said, he was human...who wouldn't have broken in that situation? But I don't think he remained evil any more than Sam ever did. I think in their hearts...their souls...there is still more good than bad in them.

As for the comment the posessed Sam made to Jo about Dean thinking of her as a sister...I'm not sure that was the demon. I think Dean may actually have thought of her more like a sister...the way he thinks of Bobby as a surrogate father...but that doesn't mean she IS his sister, or half sister. I don't buy that for a minute and I definitely don't think it was ever in the writer's or Kripke's minds. In fact, Kripke himself has said when they originally conceived of Jo they meant for there to be a romantic link between her and Dean but they just couldn't pull it off to their satisfaction so it never happened. So the idea that they were actually half-sibilings is just wishful thinking on the part of the fans, imo.
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Re: A Supernatural Characters’ Study

Postby Bec666 on Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:34 am

Sorry not buying Dean thinking of Jo as a sister. He did NOT look at her like a brother looks at a sister. I think he wanted to sleep with her but he didn't love her. And he wasn't going to hurt her or Ellen by just using her. I think he knew Jo loved him so it would have been too easy.
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