Half Full of What?: Dean in "Scarecrow"
"Scarecrow" begins during the second week of April. By this time, Sam and Dean have been on the road for almost six months, without a word from their father. While Sam has obviously learned to deal--at least a little--with Jess's death, he's still got that anger brewing, and John's phone call is obviously the only impetus he needs to stoke the flames.
"Scarecrow" is, ultimately, about the differences between the boys and their approaches to the life they lead together. They're a good team, those Winchester boys. They work through each other's weaknesses, they offer a united front against the bad guys... Or they usually do. This time is different. This time, Dad has torn them apart with a single phone call, and those differences come crashing down on them.
The discussion on that empty night road shows the crash quite clearly. Sam is angry more than anything else; angry at their father for leaving them out of the hunt, angry at Dean for presuming to equate his pain with Sam's, angry at the demon who took his love... On the other hand, Dean is fixated on his job. Because it is his job, and he's been bred to it. Yes, they have a lead on Dad, and yes, they've been looking for him for months, but Dad is fine. He told them so (and Dean chooses to believe that without questioning what Dad's been doing for the last six months), and he also gave them a job to do. So Dean's going to do it. He's going to save some lives.
It's his job.
And here's the fundamental difference between Dean and the rest of the Winchester clan. John hunts evil because he hopes to find a slim trail that will lead him to his wife's killer. Sam hunts evil because he hopes the hunt will lead him to his father (and from there, to the killer of both his mother and his girlfriend). Dean misses his mother, as is obvious from his reactions in both "Dead in the Water" and "Home," but he hunts because he hunts. Because evil needs to be stopped. "Saving people. Hunting things. The family business." That's his credo, pretty much untouched by the horrible losses that John and Sam have borne.
Now, now! I'm not saying that Mary's death didn't wound Dean deeply. She was his loving mother and he lost her. That's a traumatizing thing for a four-year-old to go through--slightly less traumatizing than the life he's led since then, but... Sam has a point: Dean remembers his mother in the vagueness of childhood as the pretty blonde woman who loved him and taught him to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and tucked him in at night. John remembers clearly the years spent with the gorgeous girl who swept him off his feet, who gave him his boys. Sam remembers the beauty who gave a young man normalcy and believed in him when he thought his family didn't. The memories are distinctly different in their ability to scar. Dean is hurt by the aftermath. John and Sam are hurt by the life before the aftermath.
So, yes, traumatizing. Life-altering. Yet Dean's come to find his own meaning in that new-altered life. For him, the hunt isn't about revenge, it's about justice. He calls Sam selfish when it should seem that Sam's off to find their dad and ensure that he's okay--when Sam's doing something to help their father--and Dean has a point, too. Yes, they know where Dad is (or where he was), but there are two people who are going to die if they don't get to Burkittsville. Dad's alive. Those two people may not be if Dean doesn't hunt.
So the brothers part ways: Dean to pursue the evil at hand, Sam to pursue the evil of the past. And for the first time in the series, we get to see what Dean is like on his own.
Wow. Sort of disappointed. *g*
First off, Dean has no filter, and I think the scene when he first reaches Burkittsville says a lot about Sam's ability to smooth Dean's rough edges. Granted, Dean is a little off kilter because of the blowup with his brother, but you've got to wonder if he's always been this hamfisted. Again, when he talks to the doomed couple, trying to convince them that they should leave town before nightfall, he's... really awkward. In a way that Sam just wouldn't be. And the wistful edge to his voice when he explains exactly how easy it would have been for Sam to convince them of the folly of their ways says that Dean knows all about this fault of his. He's a hunter, not a touchy-feely diplomat.
And hunt he does. Once night falls, Dean's in his element. He fights off the wood god in short order and sends the couple on their way. This is his life, after all, not balling up anger and hunting for that one last demonic key to his mother's death. Dean's managed to mutate the anger of a four-year-old orphan into something that, once again, has saved the day.
And yet the orphan is still there.
Before the hunt, before his own peril at the end of the episode, there's the phone call. I like to think Dean called Sam, and not the other way around. And it makes sense--Dean's discovered the answer (which speaks to his ability to ferret out answers and come to the right conclusions) and he has to turn to someone to talk through the logic of it. While he was hesitant to call Sam the morning after their fight, he calls now because he has something useful to say: This is the killer, here's how I'm going to stop it...
But he can never get the family out of his mind. He loves Sam. He misses him. He also realizes that Sam has to go his own way. It's not a lesson he wants to learn, but he's learned it before, when Sam left for college, and this time, he gets to say what he needs to. The fact that the two of them didn't speak for years after Sam went to college says to me that Dean never got the chance to tell Sam what he tells him in that phone call. He's open, honest (perhaps too honest for his own comfort, with that slip-up about talking back to Dad)... He just doesn't have the anger of the rest of them. Again, it's about justice. It's right that Sam go and find Dad, because I don't think Dean disagrees that Dad might need help--I think he just sees the coming sacrifices in Burkittsville as the top priority, seeing as he only has a couple of days to stop them.
I also find this discussion significant because of the parallel between it and their last discussion before Jess dies, when Sam is standing outside the Impala and says, quietly, "Call me if you find him."
That's not what Dean says at all. Dean's not done with his family, the way Sam thought he was. For Dean, this isn't a case of you go your way, I'll go mine. No. The family is still intact. He's still going to get back with them--and soon--instead of going back to some other life that doesn't involve his brother and dad. Dean says "call me when you find him."
Now you may say that the change in language is because they know Dad's alive now, and they didn't in the pilot, but I'm more inclined to think that it says something about the proverbial glass. Sam's was clearly half-empty long before Jess died. Dean's?
Well, it's always half full of something.