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Dean Winchester: Devoted Parent and Brother
TV Guide blog

An old TV Guide blog:

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today."


Thomas Paine said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."


Robert Kennedy said, "Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live."



CindyRose's wonderful treatise on Shadow and how the threads were weaving the mythology in that episode inspired me to indulge in a little Season 2 viewing and I discovered something that really made me think about how Dean views himself. {C}{C}

We've all talked about how Dean's identity is tied to his family. That there is no future, no identity, no Dean without his family. That like a parent who would view watching his children die and to outlive him as the worst possible existence (John expressed this as his worst fear in Dead Man's Blood ), so does Dean feel the same way and it's not surprising that he does, after all, John so much as acknowledged in In My Time of Dying that Dean took care of them both, most notably without complaint. Doesn't nurturing his little brother's childhood and taking care of his father's needs before and after rugged hunts give Dean the qualifications of a parent who sacrificed everything for his family? And wouldn't losing either of them be akin to losing himself? I think that Dean's mentality is very much driven from a parental perspective. John admitted to Sam that at some point he stopped being their father and became their drill sergeant. So it makes sense that Dean became the parent. Father, mother and brother, all in one.

Though we've acknowledged how much of an impact his influence as a parental role model has been for Sam and in the care taking of John in one way or another, I think that Season 2's episodes up to this point reflect how Dean has always seen his place in their family dynamic and once he failed at saving his father, his self-worth and self-destruction makes perfect sense. He was their protector and he should've been the one doing the sacrificing, not John. In a somewhat parallel comparison, by losing his father, the person who had taught him everything he knew about being a protector, he entered a dark place under much the same circumstances as John did over 20 years ago with the death of Mary and John feeling his failure to save her. {C}{C}

Dean's innate parental instincts are evident in how he has handled children in Season 1. In Dead in the Water
with Lucas, he broke through with :

"Maybe you don't think that any one will listen to you or believe you, but I want you to know that I will." {C}{C}

Such an affirmation of a child's experience is monumental and comes across completely parental in its concern and caring. What more trust-earning words could there be than to tell anyone, let alone a child, that you would believe them no matter what?  

In Something Wicked, beyond the big brotherly assertions about doing anything for your little brother that we've already talked about and that resonate in the episode, Dean not only reassures Michael that he and Sam will be there for him and tells him to not come out from underneath the bed until they say it's safe, much like a father would, he also tells him:

"Michael, are you sure you want to do this? You don't have to. It's okay. I won't get mad."

He gives Michael a choice and promises not to fault him if he didn't want to do it. He acknowledges that what he's asking him to do is scary and gives him an out without repercussions. What better way to instill confidence and to feel safe knowing someone like that is there for you no matter what you do?{C}{C}

Also, most notably in both of these episodes, Lucas and Michael are fatherless. Dean's entry into their lives gives them the courage to face the "darkness" and overcome it, as a father would reassure his children not to be afraid of the dark because he would be there to protect them (okay, not in poor Sam's case, he gets a gun from his father instead, but I digress). Lucas ascends from his silent world and Michael becomes a hero by saving his little brother. It's Dean's fatherly legacy to them both.{C}{C}

Playing the parental role also has its immense and unshakeable responsibilities such as protecting the life of someone you care about, preferring to die and sacrifice your own life to save them. We all know that Dean lives this edict like a mantra and carries the weight of the burden in doing all he can to ensure Sam's and John's safety and only fearing failure to do that. Dean fears very little except for that. It's no surprise that Dean felt John's death not only as a child would mourn the loss of a father, but I think deeper than that, there is this sense of failure that he couldn't prevent it or save him and that somehow he should have. He takes complete responsibility for what happened even though logic tells everyone around him there was nothing he could have done, yet he professes through words and actions that he should have prevented it, that he should have been the one to die, not John, much like a parent would feel if he had failed saving his children. Saving Dean played into John's parental decision to sacrifice himself so that Dean could live, not considering the repercussions it would cause for Dean. For John, as it is for Dean, "better me than him".{C}{C}

Dean expresses his need for the connection to his family and his desire to not go on without them in many ways. He is so weaved into the fabric that is his family, the people he raised and protected all his life, so bonded to their existence that without them, he feels he amounts to nothing. That there is no Dean Winchester without his family. He lives for them. It's his sole purpose in life and of course, specifically, his connection to a brother he was handed to at 4 years old to rescue from their burning house. What better "knighting" to a cause could there have been for him? John passing Sam on to him, giving him responsibility for Sam's life, was equal to passing on the legacy of protection that Dean hasn't shirked from since that night.

And when history almost repeated itself that night in Salvation when the demon came to claim another child at the cost of another mother's life and they were unsuccessful in their quest to kill it, Sam wants to finish it and tries to re-enter the house. Dean comes in to play again as he did at 4 years old and stops his brother in order to save him from the flames:
{C} {C}

"It's still in there!"

"Sam! Sam! No!"

"Dean, let me go! It's still in there."

"It's burning to the ground! It's suicide!"

"I don't care!"

"I do!"


"I do". Two words that assert so much, said with a conviction that should defy any kind of disobedience. Dean cares if Sam dies, feeling that sacrificing Sam's life to kill the demon wasn't worth it, even though Sam believes it is. Here you feel those words in Nightmare resonate:


“’Cause you’ve got one advantage that Max didn’t have.”

“Dad? Because Dad’s not here, Dean.”

“No. Me. As long as I’m around, nothing bad is gonna happen to you.”


It's an assertion that a parent would easily make to reassure their child that nothing will happen to them, that no harm will befall them as long as they (the parent) are around. What more security can a person offer than a guarantee of being protected and safe?{C}{C}

An even deeper thread of connection for Dean comes both in the Pilot and Croatoan. They almost mirror each other:

{C} {C}


{C} {C}

“I can’t do this alone.”

“Yes, you can.”

“Yeah. Well, I don’t want to.”

{C} {C}

{C} {C}


{C} {C}

"It's over for me. It doesn't have to be for you."


"No, you can keep going."

"Who says I want to?"

{C} {C}

{C} {C}

In both the last lines, they convey his desire not to be alone or with more gravity, not to go on at all without Sam by his side. Both times for different reasons, Sam asserts to Dean that he can be on his own and keep on going without him, but Dean, in both cases, emphasizes that he doesn't want to go it alone and more grimly, doesn't want to keep on going without Sam. {C}{C}

John's presence pervades both these assertions. It's John's disappearance that brings Dean to seek out Sam for help in finding him (which begins the mythology for all of us) and it's John's death that has driven Dean to question his ability to be Sam's protector and to bear the weight of his father's sacrifice for him as well as the secret he'd been entrusted with. {C}{C}

In Croatoan, though none of us knew it at the time, Dean was facing the real possibility that he would have to fulfill the promise he had made to their father in its raw reality, that he would have to kill his brother to keep him from becoming something else. It's a thought that, as a brother and as someone who has raised Sam, goes against any and all protective instinct that has been bred in him. Dean, at that point, couldn't conceive of such a scenario, but at the same time, couldn't see a way out. He hadn't come to the conclusion that he lives with now, that it's not about killing Sam, it's all about saving him. The parental instinct back in place.{C}{C}

We've all agreed and Dean has already proclaimed that he would rather die than kill his brother. Done. No room for debate. End of story. He is going to save him if it's the last thing he does. Like Thomas Paine's quote, he'd rather suffer the ominous future that awaits them both and be solely sacrificed as long as Sam is spared. Not a a hard choice for Dean. It wouldn't be for any parent.