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Unabashed Spoiler Hound & Fanfic writer

Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Dean Winchester: The Definition of Being Saved

An old TV Guide Blog:

Confucious said, "To love a thing is to want it to live."



verb [ trans. ]


keep safe or rescue (someone or something) from harm or danger

• prevent (someone) from dying

• (in Christian use) preserve (a person's soul) from damnation.

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“Sam, when Dad told me I might have to kill you, it was only if I couldn’t save you. Now if it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to save you.”

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Powerful words of conviction from a courageous and loving older brother who believes so much in the inherent goodness of his younger brother, he trusts his instincts that Sam isn't capable of doing harm based solely on this belief in him and doesn't consider possession until it is clear and apparent. Dean gives us hope by showing us a new perspective of the secret. It doesn't have to be about killing Sam, but about saving him. Dean lives by the very essence of the definition of what saving Sam means. To keep him safe, to rescue him from harm or danger, to prevent him from dying and to keep Sam's soul protected from damnation.{C}{C}

However, in the soul wrenching light of Heart, a new glare of reality has been cast onto Dean's declaration. Madison's words and Sam's actions to fulfill her request have given new meaning to the definition of what it
means to save someone. There's now a potential "flaw" to Dean's plan to save Sam:

“I don’t want to die. I don’t. But I can’t live like this. This is the way you can save me. Please. I’m asking you to save me.”


Suddenly saving Sam might mean having to kill him after all if he faces the same fate as Madison. It's what Sam considered when he asked Dean in Playthings, that if he "ever turns into something" he's not, Dean has to kill him. Dean manages later to find a way for him to come to terms with the prospect of killing Sam by turning it around and making it about saving him, first and foremost, and to Dean, that doesn't mean killing Sam to prevent him from becoming something else, it means to keep him alive, safe, protected, and untainted. But now, he has to face that horrendous scenario yet again.{C}{C}

Watching Dean's face as the camera slowly and agonizingly zooms in closer, waiting obediently and respectfully as Sam had asked him to while he heads to the other room to fulfill Madison's last request of him, you can see the conflict in his eyes, along with the aching desire to help his brother, wishing he could change things so that Sam wouldn't have to face killing a woman he had come to care about. As he has always done, Dean tries to "save" Sam from having to even do the deed by offering to do it himself and that Sam didn't "have to", but Sam shows courage in despair and tells Dean that, yes, he does have to do it, that she had asked him to do it. Though not pointedly expressed for Dean's benefit, the words hit home with him nevertheless. Sam was showing him that he understood what Madison was asking of him and that as much as he doesn't want to do it, he will because she had asked him to do it. {C}{C}

I can hear similar, if not those exact words coming out of Sam's mouth as he places a gun into Dean's hand just as he had in Born Under a Bad Sign, asking him to kill him to "save" him. Dean won't be able to just say that he'd rather die than do it and walk away that next time. You can see Dean's face revealing in that aching close up the question, "Can I be as courageous as Sam's being for Madison? Can I 'save' Sam the same way?" The answer is again unclear, uncertain. That wonderful heroic clarity in Dean's earlier declaration is now shrouded in doubt. 

Still, I also see Sam understanding Dean's side from having been put in that position and having to follow through with it. Just as Sam is about to walk into the room, he takes one last look in Dean's direction and in my vivid imagination, I'd like to think that I saw a small touch of 'I don't want to do this", despite knowing he has to. I'd like to think that Sam now understands the burden that he's placed squarely on Dean's shoulders. Sam only knew Madison for a very short time, had grown to care about her and had found it almost impossible to take her out of her misery. How can he possibly expect Dean to face having to do the same thing without inflicting emotional damage? Dean has lived this entire life protecting Sam, loving Sam, caring for him and keping him alive. Multiply what Sam was going through with Madison a thousand times and you still couldn't come close to the degree of pain and torture it would be for Dean to do the very same thing.{C}{C}

There's a thread that ties Heart to Born Under a Bad Sign as well.

Sam tells Dean in Born Under a Bad Sign:


"I don't want to hurt anyone else. I don't want to hurt you."


Then in Heart, Madison says the exact same thing, word for word to Sam.


Two good people threaded together in the belief that they can't live a life where they will hurt innocent people and people they love. One is already a "monster". The other has an uncertain future ahead of him, facing the real possibility of becoming a monster.{C}{C}

"Saving" someone could also mean ending a life as a merciful act, to keep someone from becoming a monster. It's what Sam has been trying to get Dean to see. His line to Dean challenges Dean's "double standard":{C}{C}

“Yeah. That’s what they say about me, Dean. So, me you won’t kill but her you’re just going to blow away?”

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The look on Dean's face at that moment was as if he had been slapped in the face with a harsh and unacceptable reality.

The agonizing close up of Dean's face at the end of the episode communicates so many feelings and thoughts as we have already talked about. But maybe one can also see in the pursed lips, the jaw clench, and the lone tear falling down his cheek that Dean's conflicted. He witnesses his brother taking on the responsibility of Madison's request seriously and my vivid imagination wonders if there is a flicker of doubt in Dean's eyes, that he wonders that if by refusing to kill Sam when he had asked in Born Under a Bad Sign (even though it was the right move in the end), saying he would rather die than kill him, if he was being selfish, caring only about how doing that would affect him and only that. There's this shadow of a doubt there that saving him may ultimately mean killing Sam after all despite his best efforts.{C}{C}

Of course, Dean will continue to cling to the hope that he won't have to face that situation and his focus will be 100% on saving Sam in the truest sense of the word. To think otherwise for Dean would not only mean admitting defeat before the battle has truly begun, but it would distract him from his personal prime directive and any distraction from that could mean the difference between life and death as well as determine the shift between one kind of saving to another.