Sam: Dean, look, I know you think that Cas is gone —
Dean: It’s because he is.
Sam: He’s not! He’s in there somewhere, Dean. I know it.
Dean: No, you don’t.
'Dean simply cannot wrap his head around a Cas who would make such grievous mistakes, so he writes the angel off completely. And it makes sense, because this is what happens when you disappoint someone who doesn’t have relationships but “applications for sainthood”. When you fail him, he discards you like the idea you are.'
With Cas, Dean finally found someone that should be able to live up to the pedestal. After all, Cas is an Angel of the Lord, the holiest of the holy. Undying loyalty, otherworldly devotion, profound bond, etc. If Cas can’t be perfect, nobody can. But then of course Cas betrays him by working with Crowley, and lying to him, etc. He falls off the pedestal.
Note how Dean talks about Cas in “Meet the New Boss”:Dean: Cas is never coming back. He’s lied to us, he used us, he cracked your gourd like it was nothing. No more talk; we have spent enough on him.
Levi!Dean: He doesn’t have relationships. No, he has applications for sainthood.
'YES. A thousand times yes. Dean has this tendency to view the people he loves as all good or all bad, and it’s probably one of his biggest faults inhibiting him from forming lasting relationships. By relating to people in this way, Dean condenses real, human individuals – who inevitably have flaws and weaknesses – into ideas, which can be clung to or discarded at will. In essence, he negates and erases their humanity.
But nobody can stand on a pedestal forever. We all make mistakes; we all fall eventually. And so Dean is bound to be disappointed by those he loves most, because he refuses to accept that everyone has flaws, even the people he’s closest to.
Dean does this, of course, because his own self-worth and identity are so damaged that he can’t conceive of himself in anything other than ideas: the Good Son; the Righteous Man; the Protective Older Brother; etc. He never learned how (thanks, John). And Dean hates himself so much for not being able to live up to these roles – imposed mostly by outside sources – that he compensates by erasing the weaknesses he sees in others, because by doing so he can justify his own self-loathing (as in, “these people are perfect, which only makes me look that much worse in comparison”, etc.). If they weren’t perfect, then they’d be like him, and in Dean’s mind, he loves these people too much to think so poorly of them.
(Where did Dean learn to relate to people this way? From his father, John Winchester, of course,who placed Mary on such a high pedestal after her death that the real thing was bound to hurt and disappoint her sons when they eventually met her. Nobody could live up to the St. Mary Winchester, not even Mary Winchester. But that’s another analysis for another time.)
Nowhere is Dean’s tendency toward erasure more apparent than with Lisa. Somehow Lisa went from being the “bendiest weekend of my life” to the idealized family that he never thought he could have (mostly because of his interactions with Ben in “The Kids Are Alright”, I think). Jensen himself has even confirmed that Dean wasn’t in love with Lisa so much as he was in love with what he thought she represented. And that’s why, I think, their relationship was doomed to fail: because people don’t represent family, or peace, or closure. They’re just people.
Season 6 does some brilliantly clever things with point-of-view to underline this point. Many people complained (myself included) that Lisa lost any semblance of personality she’d once had this season, but consider that for this arc, Dean is our POV character, not the generally omniscient POV we had for the previous five seasons. So what do we, as the audience, learn about Lisa through Dean’s eyes? Not much, other than that she is pretty, and comforting, and puts up with his crap. They have nothing in common. We see them do nothing together: no shared hobbies, barely even any conversations that don’t revolve around season plot points.
Indeed, we learn far more about Ben – we hear about his school projects, we see him help Dean restore a car. And when Dean arranges to die in “Appointment in Samarra”, the letter he writes is addressed to Ben, not Lisa, or Lisa and Ben.
Lisa remains a big question mark, which is not how she appeared in “The Kids Are Alright” – also written by Sera Gamble, by the way, which suggests to me that her character erasure here was entirely intentional. It’s a hint that Dean doesn’t really see Lisa as anything other than an idea, as the Saint That Stayed With Him. (Sound familiar? It should, as that’s what Meg says of Cas in “Reading is Fundamental”.)
Character-wise, Dean needed the Lisa and Ben arc; he needed this gigantic fuck-up in his life, because it shows him just how disastrous and harmful his tendency to idolize people can be. And it’s a big stepping stone as to why he tries so hard to reach out to forgive Cas in the end of Season 7. Contrary to popular criticism, Dean is growing. Dean is evolving. He’s learning what acting like a man really means.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.’
'This episode is mostly to advance the overarching Leviathan storyline, but there is that bit at the end where Dean finally admits to killing Amy – which is another indication that he listened to what Sam said last episode and is trying to talk about his feelings. Of course, it backfires, and Sam leaves.
That’s an important moment for Dean – just because he’s willing to admit his guilt doesn’t mean that others won’t be mad at him for the wrongs he committed. And nor it doesn’t absolve him of his wrongdoing. Dean realizes that he can’t just let Sam go now; he’s still got to put in the work to make things right.
Keep this in mind for when Dean gives Cas the “nobody cares that you’re broken” speech in “Survival of the Fittest”.’
'It’s important that Sam is the one to take the lead in this conversation, because it leaves Dean free to hear Sam’s message as well.
'When a relationship cracks, usually both parties have a hand in it”; and
“All these years, you buried your anger and your disappointment till it tore you apart. All you needed to do was talk.”
And despite Dean brushing away Sam’s attempt to talk about what’s eating at him later in the episode, Dean does pay attention here. Rewatch this scene, with your eyes on Dean, and you’ll see how the camera switches to him at key moments of Sam’s ‘counselling’ and lingers on his reactions. Clearly he is listening – and Dean will attempt to put these ideas into practice with Cas in both “The Born Again Identity” and “Reading Is Fundamental”.
One last bit: Notice that Sam’s “all you needed to do was talk” makes Dean so angry that he actually goads the witches into inflicting more punishment on him, even though their conflict by this point is mostly resolved. It’s like when he hears that, Dean wants to be hurt. Ouch.’
Back to the A plot, in which two witches are currently having marital troubles because Don the husband had an affair. Coffeeisoxygen wrote a much more detailed analysis about the A plot than I will, but as always, the A plot in this episode is a parallel for the C plot, which is Dean’s grief over Cas (the B plot is with Chet the Leviathan). So, that means, in this parallel, Cas was the philandering spouse, and Dean is the one with hurt feelings that can’t be gotten over.
For example, note how Dean says to Maggie, the witch Don cheated on:
Dean: Nobody can defend Don. Right? Totally. But, uh, we get that you feel betrayed…because you were.
No less than an acknowledgement from one “scorned spouse” to another. Also there’s this aside:
Dean (describing the Starks’ relationship): Maybe it’s punishment. Maybe it’s sick, messed-up, erotic, kinky, clamps and feathers kind of love.
Sam (to Dean): Okay, okay, that’s going way too deep, there, cowboy.
Bolded for where Sam basically tells Dean to quit projecting his own shit on the Starks.
(And what is Dean projecting about? A love that he considers, in his own words, “sick”, “messed-up” and “kinky”. Remember what I said about Dean feeling guilty for falling in love with Cas, and thinking it’s unrequited? His own words suggest that he thinks his feelings are “sick” and “messed up”, presumably because he’s a human in love with a supernatural being. He says similar things when describing the relationship between Sam and Amy in “Girl Next Door”.)
And if that weren’t enough, Sam immediately follows that up with:
Sam (to Maggie): Look, what he’s trying to say is that — is that you two — whatever it is you have, you’re bonded.
Hello, word choice. That’s no accident there. Word choice matters.
'By this point, Dean’s alcoholism is in full swing, and early in the episode, we see him drinking himself to sleep (note the empty beer bottle by the bedstand) and having nightmares about Cas dying, Sam shooting at Dean in madness, and his killing Amy (again the projection thing!).
Note that unlike the scenes of Sam’s madness or Amy’s death, Dean’s memory of Cas’s death is shot in a strange negative space, with jerky, uneven camera shots. Even in dreams, Dean is unable to linger on the moment for too long. And it says something important that he can look his brother’s madness in the eye, but when he tries to reconcile Cas’s death, his brain shuts down and goes off the rails. He can’t deal with the idea, even in dreams.’
'So first, we have our first instance of Dean trying to have a one-night stand in, what, three seasons? And he has to psych himself into it, telling himself, “You are Dean Winchester. This is what you do.”
And so why is it so important that Dean sleep with someone – sleep with a woman – he just met, anyway? The language he uses sounds almost like he’s psyching himself up for a rebound. (A rebound from who? Cas.)
Speaking of which, this dialogue happens during this episode:
Dean: [*pounds a double scotch*] I’ll do another.
Bartender: Love life or job? [*smiles at Dean’s confused look*] Two quick doubles, it’s something. I’m Mia, by the way.
Dean: Well, Mia. That is a… complex question.
As I’ve said before, if Dean is really only troubled by his guilt over Amy, why the vague non-response to “love life or job”? If we are to assume that Dean is not in love with Cas, then his response here is nonsensical, because he hasn’t slept with anyone since Lisa, and Anna before her. But if Dean is in love with Cas, well, then suddenly his response makes a whole lot more sense.’
'Set aside all the killing people or not killing people or whatever, and you’re left with this: Amy is a supernatural being that Sam fell in love with as a child. More importantly, from Dean’s perspective:Amy is a supernatural being that Sam once fell in love with when he was too stupid to know not to. Dean knows that no matter how innocent she seems, Amy is a snake in the grass. She’s dangerous. And by killing Amy, Dean thinks he’s doing Sam a favor. Sam’s blinded by nostalgia, Dean thinks, and so it’s up to Dean to do what must be done.
This is a pretty obvious projection on Dean’s part of his feelings about what Cas did to him. Cas seemed innocuous, and Dean trusted him. But then Cas broke Sam’s wall, opened the door to Purgatory and unleashed the Leviathan. Cas, by virtue of being a supernatural being, is and always was dangerous, and Dean forgot it. He let his feelings cloud his judgment, and now everyone must pay the price.
Here’s why I really emphasized all that stuff about A plots and B/C plots earlier, because without understanding how the A plot mirrors the C plot and vice versa, you’re missing out on what this episode is really trying to tell you.
Basically, the A plot in this episode (the Amy storyline) acts as a reflection of the C plot (Dean’s grief), in which Dean realizes that Cas is the supernatural being that he fell in love with when he was too stupid to know not to. And so by killing Amy, Dean is attempting to retroactively fix that mistake with Cas.’
'Bobby says what any normal person would in this situation, which makes it easy to overlook just how unusual this is, because actually, this isn’t normal for Bobby Singer. This isn’t how he relates. Bobby is the man who greets genuine anguish with a terse “boo hoo” or “suck it up”, and when Sam chose a demon over his brother, he told Dean “so sorry your feelings got hurt, princess”. Later on in this very season, he will tell Dean to shove his grief down so deep until essentially he can’t find it anymore. I mean, it’s not just that Bobby isn’t touchy-feely; it’s that he actively derides and discourages displays of emotion in his adopted sons.
So that a man who has time and again told Dean to deny his pain now is not only acknowledgingthat pain, but validating it, should show that the circumstances here are so extraordinary even Bobby can’t deny them any longer.
So why now? Why does Bobby offer to talk now, and about this, especially when Team Free Will has hunted world-threatening monsters and Sam’s gone off-the-rails before?
The only difference here is Cas – it is the loss of Cas that has Bobby reaching out in a way so foreign to him it visibly freaks him out as he does it.
I think the root of this action, as with many things in this series, is John Winchester. In season 4, especially, it’s made very clear that Bobby has no love for John, and that he blames John for a lot of the emotional and mental dysfunction that his two sons currently struggle with. In “Lucifer Rising”, he even snaps when he thinks Dean sounds too much like John, saying “you’re a better man than your daddy ever was”.
Bobby also knows that it was losing the love of his life that pushed John over the edge, and turned him from a normal man into a cold-blooded, obsessed monster. Maybe he understands this even more than Dean and Sam do, since Bobby lost his wife to a demon too.
Look, Bobby ain’t no idjit. There’s an obvious parallel here, between John losing Mary and Dean losing Cas, and Bobby can see it. And given how much he dislikes John, it only makes sense that if Bobby sees Dean on the path to becoming like his father, he’s going to do anything he can – include offering to talk about Dean’s feelings – to stop it.
What I’m saying, in other words, is that this one bit of dialogue reveals that Bobby thinks Cas is the love of Dean’s life, and that he’s afraid losing him will turn Dean into the next John.
And like I said, Bobby ain’t no idjit. Given how broken Dean becomes in this season, he wasn’t exactly all that wrong.’