What do we learn about Dean in Benders? He really cares about Sam and would do anything to save him. There you go – shortest meta in history.
But really, I thought, this is episode 15. I think we’ve got the message that Dean feels Sam is his responsibility. This:
When we were young, I pretty much pulled him from a fire and ever since then, I’ve felt responsible for him, like it’s my job to keep him safe. I’m just afraid if we don’t find him fast…Please - he’s my family.
is hardly news to us.
I think the real point of Benders for Dean is it brings to the fore a theme that will become more important through this season and into the next. That is the fact that Dean will be forced to re-examine his own moral system, one that has been based on a simply duality “supernatural= should be killed; people=don’t kill”.
Mind you I think this simple dualistic way of thinking is one that Dean wants to believe in more than one that he actually does. We saw back in Nightmare that Dean didn’t have to spend anytime wrangling with whether he may have to kill Max – he just put him into the “monster” category, and that seemed enough for him. I think he recognises the moral ambiguity that people can introduce to his system:
You know, with our usual playmates there’s rules, there’s patterns. But with people, they’re just crazy.
Pa Bender: Have you ever killed before?
Dean: Well, that depends on what you mean.
In this episode Dean’s ethical framework is juxtaposed with two others.
In Kathleen we are presented with someone who is designated and good and on the side of law and order – literally. Someone we may expect to have a strong moral compass. Yet she transgresses when she kills Pa Bender in cold blood in revenge for her brother’s death. It makes us think – what would Dean do for Sam (or John)? Dean himself gives us some idea:
You hurt my brother, I’ll kill you, I swear. I’ll kill you all. I will kill you all!
The Benders are presented as amoral, motivated solely by their own desires. Yet they are linked to both the Winchesters and Kathleen by their care for family. The Benders are hunters with their own code, that over the years have obviously become distant from the societally accepted. Sound like any other family we know? How far down this path could the Winchesters go?
To look at it another way, I think Kathleen can be seen as a metaphor for Dean’s super-ego, and the Benders for his id and Dean himself as his ego.
In psychological terms, the super-ego (Kathleen) acts as the conscience. It maintains our sense of morality, and works to keep us acting within societies accepted norms.
The id (the Benders) is all about our primitive desires and drives such as sex, hunger and rage. The id requires immediate gratification and doesn’t care about what is taboo or what is acceptable.
The ego (Dean) has the task of finding a balance between these two. It (Dean) has to balance the desires, while protecting the individual and paying heed to the world in which they live. A task we continue to see Dean struggle throughout the series.