I’ve never watched more than a few Supernatural episodes at a time, but for as long as the show’s been on the air, I’ve known it to be about one thing: The enduring relationship between Sam and Dean Winchester, which of course many fans have interpreted as entirely tortured and romantic. (“Wincest” is one of my favorite pieces of lingo to come out of fandom, ever.) I stopped watching the show a few years ago, but I tuned in to last night’s season 8 premiere hoping that, even if I didn’t understand the latest threat to the world, Sam and Dean would have their usual pithy one-liners and awkward sexual tension.
And at first, Supernatural delivered. The Winchester brothers’ reunion, after a year apart where Dean was running for his life in Purgatory, is bittersweet because Dean doesn’t believe that Sam is actually his brother. He douses him with milk and cuts his arm to check, and does the same to himself. Once they’re sure that both are human, they laugh at how silly they look, and Sam says, ”I don’t know if I should hug you or take a shower.” That definitely sounded slashy to me, not to mention the fact that they both have a milky fluid on their clothes. (Yes, my mind immediately went there.) But soon after, when Dean is questioning Sam about what he’s been up to for the past twelve months, they have this uncomfortable exchange:
Sam: “I stopped hunting.”
Dean: “Yeah, and Sasha Grey went legit.”
Sam says nothing.
Sam: “Well, she did do a Soderbergh film.”
Dean: “No, Sammy, you!”
Even though Dean had always told Sam that if one of them died, the other shouldn’t look for him… he hadn’t actually imagined that his brother would do that. “We always ignored that,” Dean protests, “because of our deep and abiding love for each other!” And here’s where the writers have “broken up” Sam and Dean, at least temporarily. Dean feels betrayed, and Sam doesn’t want to feel guilty for attempting to have a happy, normal life.
As hurt and angry as Dean is, you can tell how much Sam longed for something other than hunting—especially after he fell for a veterinarian named Amelia. But even when he’s trying to explain that connection to his brother, it’s the funny Sam/Dean dynamic that’s the most meaningful part of the conversation:
Dean: “So how’d it go down? You drop your peanut butter into her chocolate?”
Sam: “I hit her dog.”
Dean: “I knew I smelled dog!”
Sam: “And I knew you’d have a bitch fit.”
Dean: “There are two rules: You don’t take a joint from a guy named Don, and no dogs in the car!”
It’s so difficult to see Dean and Sam at odds, especially since we know that the writers are well aware of the Wincest fandom. They’ve mocked it before, in episodes where people assume that Sam and Dean are lovers or even where Sam has acknowledged that slash fanfiction about them exists. So when the brothers are at odds, I can’t help reading it as lovers fighting. Especially when Sam is counseling young prophet Kevin about how “it gets better” and Kevin shoots back, “You know I’m not gay, right?”
Oh, and when we learn that Dean has a new buddy, the vampire Benny who he brought with him from Purgatory. Hell, the episode ends with the two of them having this secretive phone call!
Dean: “Listen, Benny, not to beat a dead horse—what we did down there is what we had to do. I don’t regret it for a second, but maybe until we both adjust it’s best we don’t talk for a while.”
Benny: “There it is.”
Dean: “One day at a time, just like we talked about.”
Benny: “I think you were right.”
Dean: “About what?”
Benny: “Purgatory is pure. I’m kinda wishing I had appreciated it more, you know? Like you.”
OK, I’m just gonna say it: My mind went immediately to some forbidden sexual affair. I know that that’s not what the writers envisioned at all, but it was fun to put the conversation in that context. In actuality, what Dean is referencing seems to be him going to the dark side when he was in Purgatory, tapping in to some primal instincts in order to survive. As Zap2it pointed out, Dean almost misses Purgatory. He’s got PTSD like when he escaped Hell, but in this case it’s more like a soldier who’s returned home and doesn’t know how he fits into his old life.
So, we can definitely anticipate seeing more of Benny this season. Not only was he the character everyone has been talking about in the recaps, but executive producer Jeremy Carver told E! Online, “I think you’ll see Benny playing a pretty important part in his physical presence and I guess his psychological presence. The idea of Benny I think hangs over our brothers pretty heavily, certainly as the year goes along.”
Just so long as Sam and Dean can reconcile before the series ends, please?
Photos: Ed Araquel/The CW, Diyah Pera/The CW