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Supernatural is truth
Dead in the Water – The Many Faces of Eve Sam Let me just… 
25th-May-2006 12:33 pm
sherlock: believe
Dead in the Water – The Many Faces of Eve Sam

Let me just preface this by saying, any mad meta skillz I may or may not have are just not a consideration when it comes to Supernatural. Because, as I discovered pretty early on in the season, there is something about those Winchester boys that makes my brain go utterly ‘phut’.

However, since I figured that “Sam’s motivation for this behaviour is because he’s pretty!” probably wasn’t going to cut it beyond a certain train-wrecky-hey-check-out-the-mangled-writer appeal, I’ve done my best to be, if not objective, then at least a bit less capslocky than has become my default lately. Run-on sentences remain a hazard, unfortunately.

Dead in the Water contains some of my very favourite Sams. There’s Cockblocking Sam, Obsessed Sam, Amused Smirky Sam, Little Brother Sam, Let’s Talk About Our Feelings And Cry Sam and Research Sam. That’s a whole lotta Sams, right there, and anyone who doubts Padalecki’s ability to rock the nuance can bite me. Hard.

Cockblocking Sam

Cockblocking Sam in Dead in the Water is an interesting one; the Sam we see in the brothers’ first scene of the episode. He’s what you get when you combine Obsessed Sam with Little Brother Sam and throw them in a room with Horndog Dean (not to be confused with Sleazy Dean, Gentleman Dean, Sexy Flirty Dean, Awkward Around Women Dean or Badly Lit Acres of Smooth Skin With Cassie Dean).

Cockblocking Sam + Obsessed Sam

At this point, all Sam can think about is finding their dad so they can track down Jessica’s killer. (Note that he tends to refer to the demon as the thing that killed Jessica rather than their mother. This is his immediate grief; his big loss. And it’s been what, a couple of weeks since her death? Of course he’s angry and grieving and, yeah, kinda one-track-minded at this point.)

So a Dean who’s blithely tracking down unrelated leads and perving on waitresses is going to seem like the most aggravating thing in the universe. You’re all fans; you know what obsession tastes like, right? Anything that interferes with the object of your obsession is the enemy. Delayed gratification causes irritation and anxiety. That’s Sam right now. He wants that demon so bad he can taste it, and anything that distracts from the hunt needs to be gone Right Now.

Cockblocking Sam + Little Brother Sam

There seems to be a certain sense of betrayal in Sam during that first scene. Note the tone of his voice when he’s speaking to Dean. [People don’t just disappear, Dean. Other people just stop looking for them.]. He’s been through something awful and the only thing that will make things better is hunting down this demon and killing it dead. Dean is Sam’s Big Brother. He makes things better – it’s what he does, it’s what he’s always done. So why is he wasting all this time with other matters? Somewhere in Sam at this point is a five year old, stamping his foot and howling out, “Hey! This isn’t fair!”

Amused Smirky Sam

There’s probably some of that betrayal still there later in the episode, but it’s softened by acceptance of the fact. They’re on the job and Sam will ride with it, but when Horndog Dean gets shot down by Amy Acker there’s a little bit of malice mixed in with the obvious bucketloads of affection. Amused Smirky Sam still has a bit of an edge to him, even if he doesn’t realise it.

(Actually, it occurs to me now that if my girlfriend had died a horribly flaming death a couple of weeks ago I wouldn’t want anybody else getting laid, either. Not terribly logical, but then mourning often has its own logic.)

Amused Smirky Sam + Little Brother Sam

That said, I adore Amused Smirky Sam. I’ve heard that tone of voice in my own younger siblings: the sheer glee that comes with being able to mock your big brother or sister. Ha! This is for the time you told me that you were a robot and if you didn’t sit in the front seat of the car on long trips you’d die.

Research Sam

Little Brother Sam kinda dips into the background for a bit when Research Sam takes over, because this is where Sam lives. He’s good at it, he enjoys it, and the overwhelming sense in the hotel room scene [This whole lake monster thing — it, it just bugs me.] is one of equality and comfortable respect. Not Little Brother and Big Brother, but equal partners on the hunt, both contributing and tossing ideas back and forth.

It makes me wonder if this is where Sam’s love of things academic started in the first place. Dean was older, Dean was (for a while at least) bigger and Dean got to play with the sharp things, but doing this and being good at it was Sam’s thing, what made him useful, what earned his brother’s respect. Maybe it grew from that so that Sam defines himself, at least partly, by his skill with research and knowledge and the importance of what he does. I bet he studied his arse off in college.

Research Sam + Little Brother Sam = Let’s Talk About Our Feelings And Cry Sam

I love that when you combine Research Sam with Little Brother Sam in this episode, you get Let’s Talk About Our Feelings And Cry Sam. I cannot stop watching Sam’s face in that scene where Dean’s talking to Lucas about their mother. [But see, my mom—I know she wanted me to be brave. I think about that every day. And I do my best to be brave.] It’s the perfect combination of “I didn’t know this. Why didn’t I know this? I need to know more about this” and pure wide-eyed little brother hearing something new about his big brother and hey, it turns out Dean’s not as okay as he says he is. It’s part confusion, part dawning awareness, part denial, part sadness, part respect. I repeat: nuance, people!

I really don’t think Sam’s entirely comfortable with this new (to him) facet of Dean. In both the car scene [You know, um…what you said about mom…you never told me that before.] and the brief scene after they rescue Lucas [Look, we’re not gonna save everybody.], Sam seems awkward and unsure. His drive for knowledge makes him bring the subject of their mother up with Dean, but his discomfort makes him sound timid and a bit embarrassed (and a bit like he’s just found out Dean researches the cure for cancer in his spare time, hi Little Brother Sam!). His attempt at comfort is so sweetly earnest and clichéd that it’s obvious he’s reaching for something to say; he has no idea how to make Dean feel better because he’s still newish to the concept of Dean feeling bad in the first place. Classic little brother. Classic. I love it to pieces.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got and this meta seems a touch incomplete. I get the feeling that if I rewatched this episode tomorrow I’d find at least three other Sams that need exploring, and I’d probably want to rewrite this whole thing to contradict everything I’m convinced of today. For now, though, I think I’ve touched on all the Sams I had in mind. Got any more? Feel free to share them – Sam’s a big guy and there’s plenty to go around!
27th-May-2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
Hey, hello. I just saw this, and as they're re-airing the season and this ep is up next, i thought i'd read.

I have to agree - this is *Sam* in all his glory. Heh. Particularly trying to comfort Dean - he's never really been in that role, and i get the feeling that Mary and the night she died was kind of - off limits. That he didn't remember her and Dean and John just didn't talk much about her.

Nice bit of meta, I enjoyed it!
2nd-Jun-2006 09:02 am (UTC)
Absolutely! I get the same feeling, of Mary's death being a weirdly taboo subject in the family. Possibly that was something started by John but Dean continued it, and poor Sam was left sitting back and not really getting what hurt so much about her being gone. Huh. That was poorly worded. Her absence would have hurt Sam just as much, but her loss probably not as badly. Yeah?
2nd-Jun-2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
I think, deep down inside, he thinks he should *feel* a certain way about Mary and her being dead, but having never known her or had a mother, i don't think he really does. It's like people talking about my grandfather that died before i was born - i can miss him in an abstract way, but i can't really *feel* it, since i never connected with the man.

And yeah, i think it would have made the whole hunt thing just that much more difficult to Sam to deal with and want to continue.
30th-May-2006 10:15 am (UTC)
This is a nice idea for a meta! I like how you tackled all of these different facets of Sam; you made me appreciate Padalecki's performance in this episode a whole lot more than I did originally. *chagrined*

I think one of the disappointing things about SPN is how they so narrowly focused Sam's feelings over Jessica's death in the early episodes. Until Bloody Mary, it was mostly a tightly focused rage, and they kept putting him in situations where he was called "selfish" (or some other variant of the same sentiment) for how desperately he wanted revenge. The scene in the diner, for instance, felt to me like the "we gotta babysit, too?" scene in Wendigo. It's as if there's a time lag that the audience is aware of but the writing doesn't acknowledge. I'd rather consider it a flaw of Dean's, this constant revert back to "you're selfish," etc., but it's never called on by either character or the situations they're in, and so it feels more to me like faulty writing. I'm rambling, but what I'm trying to say is that I wish they'd honored Sam's grief more and slapped down his anger less, which would have allowed for another facet of Sam to be explored.

Well, I'll shut up now.

Great meta! :)
2nd-Jun-2006 08:58 am (UTC)
Yuh huh. I get the feeling if Sam had been less growly-grief and more emo-grief, though, there would have been a lot less initial brotherly conflict, and as much as the writing occasionally sucked a monkey through thirty feet of garden hose I think the conflict was something intentional, part of the wider story arc that Kripke was looking to resolve gradually, culminating (although hopefully not entirely) in Devil's Trap. That was a hell of a sentence. *g*
10th-Jun-2006 05:06 am (UTC)
I really loved reading this. I don't think I noticed all of this when watching the first time, but the general gist of it was my impression--and it was great to just have it all spelled out like this. :-) Thanks.
10th-Jun-2006 05:14 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks! And you know what? I was totally right about rewatching. The next time I watched the ep after posting the meta, I found myself not only coming up with new Sams but sometimes disagreeeing with myself about the motivations of the Sams I'd written about.

10th-Jun-2006 06:17 am (UTC)
LOL I know the feeling, but that's part of what makes these episodes so interesting. You discover something new or more layers every time you watch. *g*
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