Because it is pretty long I used a couple of cut tags.
When we first meet Dean Winchester, he is being carried into the scene by his mother. And subsequently carried out of it by his father. Later he does some carrying himself, namely Sam to safety.
Which ironically would make for a nice full circle because there is no way in hell he did walk to the car in Devil`s Trap and was most likely carried by Sam, possibly with John`s help.
Dean could have been your typical sarcastic, cocky smartass - later to be revealed to have a heart of gold. The Han-Solo type as the creators are often fond of citing, yet in the very first episode he defies this cliché with just one line.
Dean: "I can`t do this alone."
Sam: "Yes, you can."
Dean: "Well, I don`t want to.
Han Solo would have rather skinned Chewbacca and worn him as clothing before he`d admitted to that. Because that`s basically the admittal of need. Of not being the self-sufficient, unfazable guy he tries to appear to be.
This of course is perfectly in line with everything we learn about Dean throughout the Season, most notably his deep-seated fears of abandonement and wish to keep his family together and with him at all times. His core persona is slowly being revealed in these 22 episodes yet really it was pretty much already there in a nutshell.
And to get one thing out of the way right from the start: there will be no total saintification, victimization or villifying in this essay. Yes, Dean heroes, he also woobies and yes he can be a jerk. He has good sides and flaws. Yet most of all he is a fascinating and complex human being, I would like to
The defining event of Dean`s young life is no doubt the fateful night of Nov. 2nd 1983. He not only lost his mother then but his father as well since the John Winchester who came running out of this burning house wasn`t the same man we saw cuddling his little boy at the beginning. And I don`t mean that in an evil twin way.
Dean`s life fundamentally changed.
We don`t see very much of Dean in the aftermath of that tragedy, apart from a traumatized little boy huddling close to his father on the hood of the family car, but then we don`t need to. Look no further than Lucas in Dead in the water. The boy is clearly ProtoDean. Silent and withdrawn into his own little world. Dean even says as much. He also cites the reason for breaking it out of it as:
"See, my Mom, I know she wanted me to be brave. And I think about this everyday."
Dean has a lot of hero-worshipping going on for his father but obviously the very thought of his mother continues to heavily influence him. The scene in Home when the brothers encounter her ghost is a testament to this.
As we learn later in Something Wicked Dean had a significanct role in raising Sam, doing the day-to-day care things for his little brother. I don`t think it`s unreasonable an assumption to make that Dean was the affectionate turturer, the one to hand out goodnight kisses, the one to comfort Sammy over a bruised knee, the one to teach him to tie his shoes etc. In this Dean has carved himself a very motherly role with Sam.
In John`s journal (at the Official site) we can also read how little Dean climbed into the babies crib every night to protect him. Since Mary died just doing that, could it be that Dean is trying to take up her legacy here. Both in the protection and in trying to pass on what his mother probably did for him.
Another, albeit smaller, defining moment is shown to us in the flashbacks scenes of Something Wicked. A 9 year old Dean is entrusted with the care of a 5 year old Sam while his father goes huntning. And by the looks of it, it`s far from the first time. Everybody treats it like routine.
And little Dean does an admirable job until he steps out to act his age for a few minutes and as a result - Sam nearly dies. Adult Dean clearly feels he has screwed-up badly here and that John looked at him differently, probably in disappointment and anger. That is actually very telling because whether John may or may not have actually felt these things, he clearly never talked it over with Dean. Never tried to alleviate his son`s fear or adress his guilt. Yup, that was a Smack-John moment`with a baseball bat right there.
It would also tell Dean one thing or actually two: "Obey Dad at all costs" and "If I ever do something "selfish", something I want, it can only end badly. These are major life lessons to learn, I gotta say. And not really good ones.
That which defines us
Dean`s roles are clearly defined by himself yet he also defines himself through them. He is brother, son and hunter, in that order. Those are his jobs and he tries his damnedest to be good in them. Often to his own disadvantage.
Early on we learn of Sam`s aspirations. He went to College, wanted to study law and marry his girlfriend. For Dean we have to wait till episode 6 Skin to have Shapeshifter!Dean tell us (and I don`t think we have any reason to believe he is lying, twisting the feelings out of context yes but he has access to the actual memories):
"Don`t you think I had dreams of my my own? But we never get any specifics on what those dreams might have been. The closest we probably come is hearing Dean in Devil`s Trap that he wanted to be a fireman. Which is absolutely in character with Dean on so many levels, not only is it a "helper" job but it would also make sense considering his traumatic experience with the fire in which his Mom died. Still that could have been the dream of a much younger Dean whereas I think the Shapeshifter referred to something Dean thought about in his late teens.
We also - unfortunately IMO - have Cassie and Dean`s attempt to have somewhat of a long-term relationship with her, not only in the past but by his words at the end of Route 666 also in the present.
If one was mean, one could make the argument on account of Dean`s apparent love for Metallicar that he has a certain fondness for inanimate objects and that`s how Cassie came about. *cough*
Otoh we have two key scenes that act as a strong counterweight here.
One is the campfire exchange in Wendigo.
"Figure our family is so screwed to hell we can at least help others."
He obviously believes in what he does, in its importance. If he was just repeating some party-line here that would sound much, much different.
The second scene is the much talked about TALK from Shadow.
There is always gotta be something to hunt.
Can`t get any clearer than this IMO. This is his philosophy because unlike John and Sam his primary motive isn`t vengeance and never has been. When Mary died he was too young to have formed such a motivation and unlike Sam he didn`t suffer an "adult" loss.
Yes, the Celine Demon is personal for him but it wouldn`t mark the end of his quest. And he is most definitely not in it as a mindless drone for his father.
People need saving, he is there to do it. There is no question of why it has to be him just a simple demand-and-supply philosophy. In that regard Dean is very Batman-ish. A childhood loss propels him into a moral imperative to do good. And yeah, that`s awesome and more power to him, I say.
And he puts himself into it, training (and when the hell do we get a training montage of the boys? *g*) rigorously for all his life. He obviously is an experienced fighter, capable with weapons etc. Yes, his solo-hunt in Scarecrow didn`t go so great but I`ll chalk a lot of this up to bad luck and being upset over the fight with Sam.
John has survived twenty years in hunting and a kid could have come up with a better "plan" than he did in DMB. So while Dean hasn`t always been shown as capable at the job as he could have, I wouldn`t say he is a bad hunter. Far from it.
Notewhorty are also his little offhand remark in Bugs about rather blowing his brains out than living in suburbia. That of course is not the equivalent of a commitment to hunting but it`s a pretty drastic decision AGAINST the apple-pie life. ;) One he was and would have been raised in no less.
I`ve always found it interesting that the son who knew this life, even a little, doesn`t seem to long for it. Yet it makes perfect sense and it is telling that at the end of Something Wicked he wishes the innocence for Sam but not for himself. It`s because he HAD it and it was ripped away from him.
In that night the Winchester family was pretty much struck by demonic lightning. Would it have been easier to bear if they had known about the Supernatural beforehand? Maybe not but it wouldn`t have been as shocking. And if you know about the dangers, you at least got a fighting chance.
If this was the Matrix, Dean would be living out of it by choice.
The other little snippet of interest is his lack of reaction to the news of being legally dead. That would put a real cramp in any plans for a normal life. Sure he could forge himself an identity but with Cassie we`ve have seen that Dean is unhappy and unwilling with living a lie when it comes to important stuff.
That`s not to say he can`t be wistful of things he did give up upon or decided against. That`s a part of life. Everybody has some genuine regrets, usually the more the older you get.
But I don`t think that negates the fact that he has chosen this life for himself and does not plan to walk away from it. That he thinks it`s a worthwile and necessary life.
In so many words, Dean is a dedicated hunter. He does revel in the life: "it`s not without its perks" and he doesn`t feel like his life is put on hold or suspended in any way till he can finally find some "real" life. And to my mind he doesn`t secretly harbor the wish to get out of it like Sam does but is too afraid to do it. I see no evidence for this but plenty against it.
Just because the hardships and personal sacrifices of the hunting life wouldn`t seem worthwhile to many doesn`t make it an objective truth or even a truth Dean has to follow.
May he long for more or different things somewhere down the line? Companionship? A Family? Sure, could happen. He could even has his moments now. But again, that`s not uncommon at all.
So no, he wasn`t horribly woobied into the lifestyle and he isn`t weak or pathetic for staying in it. He chose it and stands by it. He doesn`t whine about it or act the martyr. And if you called him a poor little martyr he`d probably punch you in the face. :D
The second big cornerstone of Dean`s life is clearly his family. He is attached to them to an unhealthy degree. It`s the one big area where he is the most unfunctional of their little family unit as he pours too much of himself into his relationships which in turn puts a crushing weight on the other party.
You (Sam) and Dad, you`re all I have.
It`s no big surprise then that he has taken up the mediator role in a never ending quest to keep his brother and his father from tearing each other to shreds. Good luck with that Dean. Why don`t you do something simpler?Like calculate the total of Pi. *g*
Dean wants his family together and if possible with him at all times, well baring some breaks for threesomes. ;) But he clearly can`t comprehend of the concept of them loving him from a distance. Though admittedly whenever someone has left him before, it was pretty final so I can see where his all-or-nothing mentality comes from.
When John went missing it`s telling that the first thing he did was make a beeline for Sam at Stanford. He needs at least one of them with him. The fact that he would prefer both, even after we`ve seen the horrible display in "Dead Man`s Blood", is even more poignant. I mean it was like a family picnic from hell and by all appearances deja vu-material for Dean. So to rather want this than to be alone speaks volumes about his need for his family. And some pretty impressive powers of denial as he seems to think given time, he can fix this into a happy-sunny world for everybody.
Hell, he even takes being the whipping boy for John`s misdirected anger, i.e. the Impala remark.
I think his logic here harkens back to his totally screwed-up sense of self-worth or self-identity. He tries to fullfill the needs of Sam and John so they won`t leave him. Which also belies the notion that Dean isn`t sensitive. To fullfill another person you have to be finely attuned to them/their feelings by default. Which is my definition of sensitivity.
If he does good at those jobs, they`ll love him. If he doesn`t, they`ll not. He places the value on his actions, not on his being.
Therefore it makes sense he wants them around physically, otherwise how can he fullfill them? And if he can`t, how can they, by his logic, keep on loving him from afar.
They don`t need you. Not like you need them.
It`s true and it`s a circle that feeds itself.
Of course it`s not true that they don`t need him at all or will stop loving him if they part. Dean just needs to get to a place where he can see and accept this.
Dean and John
IMO John has used Dean`s sacrificing nature in regard to his family heavily for his own benefits and thus only contributed to his unfunctionalness and co-dependency. Sam otoh has IMO done his level best to help Dean in that regard. The brothers don`t always understand each other but they are trying with the best intentions.
Dean clearly hero-worships John and chases after his affection. He wants John to be proud of him. And I think John is but he also due to his actions often just reiterates the notion that Dean on his own isn`t important. No contact in Home, none in Faith with an offhand remark about it in Salvation and the less said about the ending of Devil`s Trap the better.
I don`t for one minute think that John doesn`t love Dean and treasures him or that he does that intentionally but what the hell is Dean supposed to think here?
Shapeshifter!Dean has probably been the most honest Dean we ever saw in that regard as he voiced some real resentment of John in what Dean would normally in even admit to himself feeling IMO.
Dean and Sam
Dean is clearly immensely protective of Sam and at times quasi-parental.
"Sammy, Sammy. Bloody Mary
"Answer me when I`m talkin to you Asylum
"He`s kinda my responsibility" Benders
"That`s my boy Provenance
And to nobody`s surprise he just loathes it when Sam slips into the protective role (Phantom Traveller and Dean`s fear of flying which I babbled at length about here or Faith and Benders.)
Yet he doesn`t treat Sam like a kid but more like an equal partner when they`re hunting. He admitted to respecting Sam going after his dreams and standing up to Dad. He practically validated Sam`s stance there. Takes guts to admit that.
He also does his level best to help Sam deal with his grief and rage after Jessica`s death on various occassions and mostly is fairly succesfull there.
The brothers biggest point of contention otoh is their Dad. Every real fight they have harkens back to him somehow. The Asylum-Scarecrow combo practically had Dad as the big pink elephant in the room.
In their big scene in Shadow however the problem was an unbelievable amount of miscommunication.
Sam`s: "You`ve got to let me go." clearly translated to When this is over we`re done and I never want to see you again. God, I can`t wait for that.
Given Dean`s mindset, their past and Sam`s most unfortunate wording I can see how this happened.
Here I want to look at some of the characteristics that make our Dean. :)
Dean and Attitude
Since I already did a whole meta on the subject here: More bark than bite
I`d like to keep this one short. Yes, Dean often comes across as a cocky smartass with tons of attitude but remember one thing: all the weapons, the leather jacket and the manly stubble aside, he just looks pretty. He has very smooth features, almost feminine attributes (big Anime eyes, full lips) yet he lives in a world of seedy motels, hustling in (biker) bars. A world where hunters seem to be gruff older men.
Damn the only place I can think of where he`d be more off a mark would be prison.
So I can totally see him going on the offensive. Mouthing off before anybody else even has a chance to make some "Girl"-comment.
Also since he obviously doesn`t see any meaning in forming a bond with the people they randomly met, why should he waste his time being all nice-nice with them? He clearly is empathetic and does bond with some people in peril he feels a kinship with rather nicely.
But the typical Joe Schmo on the street? If they do something Dean deems stupid, he`s gonna tell them. Very much like House does for example.
And he just loves to buck authority. As much as he obeys his Dad, he totally makes up for it with any legal or religious authority figures. :D
No chick flick moments
Dean is someone who internalizes his feelings to a great deal. He may try to open up Sam to talk about his feelings but he doesn`t want to talk about his own. And he seems pretty incapable of dealing with affection/gratitude that`s directed to him.
He deflects Sam`s attempts to, simply put, say something nice to him. He did it with the attempted apology in the Pilot, Sam trying to say something about Dean`s confession to Lucas, the apology in Asylum (though I can see his point there), Sam`s words at the end of Scarecrow, Sam trying to grant him absolution in Something Wicked, thanking him in Salvation and Devil`s Trap.
He ALWAYS clams up.
He couldn`t really believe or understand why he had been saved in Faith. It befuddled him and he truly and totally believed Layla deserved to live more. Without knowing much about her.
In that he is, psychologically speaking, sorely lacking of not an Ego but an Id. Which is ironic because if anybody understands the lust principle it`s Dean.
Again he is NO Saint or Christ in a leather jacket but this is a major factor to Dean`s "brokenness" as a character. Just an interesting observation in an observational kind of way. ;)
Faster pussycat, kill, kill, kill
A few times Dean and Sam have clashed on the issue of morality, most notably killing a human. While yes, Dean seems to be very black and white in this, so seems Sam. One looks at the action not the "actioner" (is that even a word?), the other classifies the perpetrator. Don`t see much shades of grey either way.
Also Dean may be gung ho in his thinking but would he go through with it just as easily? Would he have just shot Max and be done with it? It`s different thinking about it than actually going through with it. And he clearly showed he was being introspective about it in DT.
Dean and kids
He has a wonderful rapport with them, see Lucas and Michael, also the kid in Benders. Not so much Missy there but I say given time he could have turned the tables. ;)
He doesn`t talk down to them and easily bonds with them. Maybe because a part of him is still a little boy himself. I think he clearly would make a wonderful father who`d spoiled his kids rotten.
Lets face it, the man has a healthy sex drive. And why shouldn`t he? He is young, hot and has a high-risk occupation so it makes sense to live life to the fullest.
While flirty he isn`t mean or aggressive about it. When Andrea shoots him down, he accepts it, no harm, no foul. Hailey accepts it in the playfullness it is meant and they get along great.
The stewardess in Phantom Traveller even looked a bit disappointed that he either was a nutcase or had lost interest in flirting with her.
And he looked downright and uncomfortable when women express a genuine affection that goes beyond "come hither", as evidenced by his sheepish looks to both Hailey and Andrea kissing him in gratitude.
Yes, he makes up stories about himself as seen in Provenance but frankly the story was so outrageous I can`t believe anybody would fall for it. And if they did, well sorry girls, you got one smokin hottie out of the deal.
He is also shown to be polite to older woman as Missouri showed us. When in fact she would have given him ample reason to give her a piece of his mind.
The deepest emotional connection in the first Season IMO he found with Layla in Faith. Apart from his guilt about her she obviously touched a chord within him.
With Cassie on the other hand I could shake the feeling that he was in love with the idea of being in love and going by a little manual "How to be a good boyfriend." He was acting downright whipped and so Un-Dean that it leads me to believe him being so uncomfortable in this territory that he had totally lost his balance.
I really hope this notion of Dumb!Dean will rot in the grave it deserves. The man build an EMF-meter out of a busted up walk-man. That shows at least he is mechanically inclined.
He doesn`t have the College education or even the manners (and if he does, he doesn`t bother showing them) but that doesn`t make him stupid. He just strikes me as one of those people who doesn`t have much use for "book"-stuff and likes to apply his intelligence on a practical level. For him that`s hunting. So it stands to reason that he would put more effort in creating hunting tools, figuring out blood patterns and so on then he would ever in learning something just for the sake of gathering knowledge.
Oh, and the other really smart thing he did? Not handing Sam a loaded gun in Asylum. ;)
Before this meta reaches novel-length I want to say that Season 1 for me has been about Dean`s character revelation. Which is not to say he didn`t show growth, with Sam or John or on the whole, but mostly it has been like the peeling of an onion. And one hell of a ride.