Review: Supernatural: “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05)


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[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


Imagine that you live like a mayfly, growing up in a violent life where people die young and nasty, repeatedly told you are nothing but a blunt tool in the service of other, better folk. Expecting to go out bloody and savage at a young age, unmourned, forgotten almost as soon as you die. Expecting … hoping at some point … that at least it won’t last forever and someday, very soon, you will find peace, even if it’s the peace of oblivion. You are surrounded by people who do all sorts of horrific things to live another day, but you? You’re ready to go pretty much any time.

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Now imagine that you are suddenly faced with being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of obscurity, held up into the light, made the light, the barrier, the firewall between Light and Dark, Firewall with a capital ‘F.’ And you start to realize, as you cheat – no, are cheated of – death over and over that your life may eventually end bloody, but it’s going to be a long time. Maybe even geologically speaking. Even to the point where you could outlive the angels, and certainly the demons, you previously thought immortal. That you are too important to die, that you have been given what you’ve seen so many others commit murder, betrayal and far worse to gain just a taste of.

And you even begin to suspect, after so many years of neglect and abuse, that the universe didn’t do this to hurt you. It did it out of love, this making you immortal. And not just immortal – eternal.

Imagine this new truth is dropped on you like a neutron bomb a moment after you thought you’d finally discovered the perfect way to commit suicide.

You wouldn’t feel blessed. You’d feel cursed. You’d feel like Dean Winchester near the end of this episode.

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I’m not sure yet if this is a top favorite, but I think I can consider “Advanced Thanatology” a favorite of the episodes so far this season and a genuinely entertaining, thought-provoking, re-watchable one. The episode does a very good job of staying on topic in terms of its central concept. There is Dean, who is profoundly, fundamentally, clinically depressed, trying to party his depression away. There is a young boy Dean tries to save who is snatched from life young and terrified. As in season one’s “Faith,” Dean tries to switch places with the boy, but is simply told that’s not the way things are. Dean’s life is important. The boy’s is just done. There is the loss of his devoted, down-to-earth mother (movingly played by Alisen Down, who was also in season eight’s “Trial and Error”). There is the sinister creepiness of the insane doctor, evoking pretty heavily both Dean’s fears about shrinks last week and the mad scientist doc of season one’s “Asylum.”

I think that’s what makes this central conflict so complex. It’s not just a case of a person who is not allowed to die, or who has become immortal and bored with it. It’s a case of someone who lives in a universe where life is short and hard, a prize taken away before anyone has had enough of it. This person assumes, especially since he is not important enough for second chances or extensions, that his life will be especially short and hard. As Dean puts it this week, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

And then, like some lost scion of royalty in a fairy tale, this person is raised from the gutter of human life, by beings who represent eternal concepts, and given a place on Mount Olympus, in the ninth sphere of Paradise, the Empyrean, and told that he can’t die because he is far, far too important to die. Without him, the universe would be toast. And to emphasize this (perhaps just to placate him and give him motivation to continue on), they include his beloved brother in the blessing, a brother for whom he would (and has) died. And then they even bring back his best friend.

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This is not a curse, to be singled out, spotlighted, in such a way. It just feels like one to Dean Winchester. Since the climactic scene with Billie is from Dean’s POV, it does indeed seem as though she is cruel in dangling the possibility of death – of many deaths – in front of him, before snatching it away. It’s subtle, but if you mind the signs in the story, especially when Dean glances up after Billie mentions the “shelf” of his deaths (a clever and evocative image of a very esoteric concept), that entire library of Ws is devoted just to him. In addition, two of the “deaths” Billie mentions have already happened to him or been avoided, and the third is in the very next episode. It begs the question of whether, depending on Dean’s choices, any of these deaths will ever prove truly final.

One macabrely amusing moment is when Jessica the panicked red-headed Reaper enters the W archive and blurts out, “Dean Winchester is in the Veil!” Clearly, this is a DEFCON-1 moment for Reapers at this point. Dean has become such an accomplished shaman and psychopomp (not to mention slayer of Reapers and other angels) that not only does he treat his spirit walk as an ordinary event, but his mere presence in their realm terrifies Reapers. Hence the phrase, “advanced thanatology.” It’s also notable that we will soon see that there are people who dreamwalk between worlds pretty often, yet the only time Death gets concerned is when Dean Winchester does it.

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Back when I was about twenty, I read a book called Once a Warrior King by David Donovan. It’s a memoir by a young first lieutenant who served as an advisor in a remote part of Vietnam during the War. Through an unfortunate and unforeseeable sequence of events, Donovan abruptly found himself the highest political authority in that area, with the power of life and death over everyone there. People bowed to him, fought him, admired him and reviled him as if he were the most important person in that region. He discovered that unlike many of his comrades, his job involved as much the impossible task of helping the people he served and improving their lives in a war zone as it did blowing up the enemy.

Around the time I read the book, I was elected to the captain’s position on a college rescue squad that was the second busiest ambulance squad in the state. I found myself going to EMS meetings where I represented the emergency care options of 14,000 people in five towns, as well as transport for a regional neonatal care unit. ER directors twice my age, sometimes grudgingly, treated me as an equal. It was a shock to the system. As one alumnus member bluntly told me, I had wanted a grownup’s job, so it was time to grow up and do it.

A few years later, when I was in Peace Corps in Cameroon, one of my farmers came to me one day and asked if I would intercede for him in a local dispute to our village’s de facto “mayor,” as I was his “patron.” I agreed, though I didn’t think my influence would do much good. To my surprise, the mayor greeted me warmly and readily agreed to my farmer’s request. I had lived in Boubara for a year and a half at that point, and had somehow remained blissfully aware until then that not only was I fairly high up in the village, but I was apparently among the top four officials out of six thousand people.

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Were these revelations ego boosts? To a certain extent, though I always felt they were undeserved ones. The position atop a pyramid feels pretty precarious. As far as I was concerned, the position, not the person, was important. Leadership is ultimately about service. If you’re all about the gold crown, you’re missing the point.

These roles also came with huge responsibilities and major real-world consequences, for many people, if/when I screwed up – and I worried a lot about screwing up. I made fully as many enemies as I did friends, simply as a matter of course. They, too, came with the job. I’m sure not everyone I knew during that time think I served well. I’d like to think that some people did, though.

C.S. Lewis puts it brilliantly in his fifth Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy:

For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.

Dean has always been acutely aware of the rough side of this equation. He’s taken many blows and won many enemies in his determination to hold by his unique motto: “Saving people, Hunting things: The Family Business.” What he has not understood up to this point is why the fact he came up with that idea makes him more than a rather filthy-minded footsoldier in the endless war between Light and Dark.

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I think that Billie is trying to make a point. And as reluctant as he still is to acknowledge that, I think Dean is finally beginning to understand what she means, what Chuck meant, what Amara meant. Jensen Ackles does a really nice job with this as he deadpans a polite “Hmm” every so often as Billie drops bomb after mindblowing bomb of cosmic revelation about his position in the SPNverse. Dean no longer bows to Death. These two are now equals, bargaining with almost amiable hostility over the fate of a hundred souls. It’s even possible that Death now bows to Dean, or soon will.

I’ll admit it. I like Billie. I just thought her previous motivation made her look stupid and petty. So, I was happy to see her promotion rectified that. She’s a worthy successor to the previous Death.

Problem is, Dean is still human and that kind of thing will break your mind. He’s not all right at the end (“I’m pretty far from okay”), by any means, but he does now have the tools to keep going once he sees Castiel at the phone booth, an embodiment of at least one of his prayers answered against all odds. What shape he’ll be in for the rest of the season is a whole other story.

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Sam’s had a fair amount of growth in the past few seasons, so it’s interesting to see how he fields what is basically part two (after this week) of trying to talk his brother off the ledge. His performance on that score last week was less than edifying. Not only did he try to bully Dean into group therapy, but he did so on a highly risky case when the two of them needed to be at their most alert and clear-headed. That case turned out to involve an MOTW that has done Dean considerable psychological and social damage in the past. And on top of that, Sam insisted on bringing Jack along. Not his finest hour. This week, he seems to be trying reverse psychology by indulging all of Dean’s favorite quirks, including his paranoia about crazy shrinks, though Dean sees him coming a mile away.

The episode doesn’t spell it out, but it’s gotta hurt Sam’s heart just a little when he hears Dean parrot back to him the cruel speech he served Dean at the end of “The Purge” years ago, about how Dean thought he was doing good, helping, making a difference, but really wasn’t. We see Sam grimace when Dean echoes this speech, clearly having taken it to heart and been wounded near to death with the slow-acting poison of it.

Sam can try to make up for all this with two-word apologies like “I’m sorry” (season four) and “I lied” (season nine), or more elaborate groveling like his speech about trusting the LoL in the penultimate (I don’t care what J2 say about that word; I love using it – penultimate, penultimate, penultimate) episode of last season. It won’t change the fact that more often over the years, he has spoken venom and anger, sometimes even hate, and that his brother is more emotionally primed to register abuse, anyway.

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While the sequence of Sam pampering/kissing up to Dean is amusing (and Dean passed out on the floor with his tie on his head and a big, pink bra around his neck is a hoot), I’m not sure Sam even knows what to do to make it up to his brother, let alone help Dean heal and become well. It’s a long, uphill battle, to be sure, and it is by no means all Sam’s fault that Dean is this way. John (and Mary’s death, it must be said) had a big hand in it, as well as all the self-inflicted wounds Dean has incurred along the way. It’s certainly going to take a lot more than “bullets, bacon and booze,” even “a lot of booze,” for Dean to pull out of this flat spin.

Admittedly, Sam does have a point about Dean’s “bossiness.” For all his poor self-esteem, Dean has frequently stepped into the role of King with effortless grace and arrogance, literally as if he were born to it. This is played for laughs for a bit in this episode with lines like “What happened to you being nice to me?” and “You are forgiven.” And when Dean is well, relatively speaking, it’s a constitutional monarchy with all of TFW getting a say.

But when things get ugly, shit goes down, and Dean’s mental health goes to a dark, dark place, it becomes, as he himself puts it in season nine, “not a democracy. This is a dictatorship.” And that’s when Dean makes unilateral decisions, such as killing himself to make a spirit walk from which he does not intend to return, simply to rescue Sam from a few angry ghosts that the two of them could probably banish a different way. At those times, Dean’s recklessness (“insouciance” as 2014!Apocalypse Castiel once put it) tips over into self-destructive and suicidal behavior that needs, at the very least, a gentle restraining hand on the arm, as Jody did to Dean in “Patience.”

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Finally, this was a properly satisfying MOTW this week. I’m glad the show is once again remembering that it’s supposed to be horror, not paranormal romance. Yeah, it went off into mytharc in the third act, but the first two acts did have a real Hunt that was actively resolved.

That doctor was extremely creepy (notice how he simply tosses Sam aside and goes after Dean, his preferred type of victim?). As unsympathetic as I found Evan (Doomed Teaser Kid), who was composed of unadulterated idiot, I found his death properly chilling. In fact, all of the scenes in the haunted house (a series of sets the show has used many times before, with all sorts of different lighting) were straight-up horror, no chaser, and the twist of the angry, confused ghosts coming after the Brothers after the doc was ganked was disturbing, regardless of our knowing the Brothers would (somehow) get out of it alive.

Shawn’s fate was also horrific and sad. He and Evan didn’t intend to trespass on such deadly territory, but then, innocence and ignorance are not always an effective defense against the dark. His poor mother is left with her lifelong grief, (undeserved) guilt, lots of questions and a dead body, with “closure” being a mocking concept, all underscored by a classic Steppenwolf song about second chances. Shawn and Evan’s slightly wiser friend Mike will live on, also plagued with guilt he doesn’t deserve.
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The drill evokes trepanning (on top of lobotomy), a brutally ancient way to deal with both head trauma and depression. The plague masks were also a nice twist. The episode does mention their origin, though some more elaboration seems in order. The bird-like plague mask in the episode dates in design at least to the 17th century (medical historians consider it an early kind of HAZMAT suit), but was intended to deal with a much-older problem – the Black Death, which has tormented Eurasia and North Africa periodically since the 14th century. The Black Death had such a high body count and was so traumatic for the cultures who suffered under it that it contributes elements to most of our horror tales today.

The Black Death tended to kill off medical personnel from physicians to nuns and monks at a much higher rate than the population they treated, which was equally demoralizing for the healers and the patients. The masks were intended to protect physicians from the plague (though their historical efficacy is a matter of great debate), but they also tended to scare the hell out of the patients. It’s probably not much of a surprise that the horrific bird-demons of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights bear a striking resemblance to these later plague masks.

In this MOTW’s case, the crazy doctor also appears to use the mask to highlight his evil intentions and hide his identity, much like the killers in slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine. It’s pretty effective in making what was once a human (and is still a human soul) seem eerily inhuman and alien. All in all, an effective recycling of concepts (like the house full of captive ghosts from season seven’s “Of Grave Importance” or the sinister ghost shrink from “Asylum”) from both greater and lesser episodes.


Next: Tombstone: A puzzling case with ties to the Old West gives Dean a chance to indulge his Inner Texas Ranger.


You can find my live recap of “Advanced Thanatology” here.


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21 thoughts on “Review: Supernatural: “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05)”

  1. It’s amazing to me that the show started out so clearly as the Special Sam with Shiny Powers story, with Dean as the undisputed wisecracking sidekick.

    Thirteen years later, Dean is literally the lynchpin around which the entire SPNverse revolves. He’s been acknowledged and even respected by primordial entities such as God, Amara, and Death (both versions), just from him being himself. He’s had more one-on-one conversations about his cosmic purpose than anyone else, and they’ve always re-established his irreplaceable role in the big picture.

    An angel fell so hard for him that his blinding devotion to this one specific human indirectly endangered the world multiple times.

    The King of Hell was so smitten that he practically begged for Dean to rule by his side in Hell, ultimately pining his little black heart out until he sacrificed himself to save the one he could never have.

    Jack instinctively trusts Dean more than Sam and actively seeks his approval, even imitating his mundane actions to be just a little closer to him (physically and figuratively).

    This ongoing theme developed slowly, beginning in season 4, mostly forgotten in 6, 7, and 8, then returning with a roaring vengeance in 9, 10, and 11. Dean being the most important person in the universe is ingrained in the show’s mythos at this point. Imagining Sam in this role, getting a one-on-one conversation with Death about his cosmic importance, is almost laughable for how strange and unnatural it would feel.

    I’ll admit that I feel no small amount of satisfaction from that. All of Sam’s attempts to mold the world, the way Dean effortlessly does, have blown up in his face and either failed or yielded unintended consequences (killing Lilith, the Trials, releasing Amara, going to Lucifer for help with Amara, attempting to take the MoC from Dean, joining the BMoL). Despite Sam being the one who started out with the Mysterious Destiny and Shiny Powers, he didn’t turn out to be as important as he thought he was, or wanted to be. Not to mention, any time he gets the notion that he’s been Chosen to do some Important Thing (and screw everyone else’s opinion), catastrophe is surely on its way.

    I think what sets Dean apart (and lets him avoid such cosmic consequences) is that he is ultimately incorruptible. Unlike every other major character in the show, Dean has never chosen power or ego over his loved ones or his inner morality. He’s never blindly accepted being Chosen nor let angels or demons manipulate him through his informed importance, prioritizing his reliable gut instinct instead. It took one demon to make Sam fall, yet the greatest efforts of angels, supposedly the good guys, couldn’t make Dean budge unless their goals aligned with his own principles of right and wrong.

    It amazes me that the show has managed to keep this one theme pretty consistent, given the serious flaws and inconsistencies we’ve seen pile up. Even after 13 seasons, the writers have made sure to not let Dean cross the moral event horizon that Sam has been boomeranged back and forth across for years. It hasn’t done Sam’s character any favors, since those actions are usually whitewashed and ignored, rendering his character development (if any) pretty much meaningless. Sure, Dean’s toed the line, but if soullessnes for Sam is an adequate excuse, then the MoC absolutely qualifies (not to mention Dean at his worst was still better than some of the shit that regular Sam pulled, in the same season even).

    I look forward to where the rest of the season goes, as Michael!Dean has been hinted pretty heavily and I’m really looking forward to the payoff for Billie’s prophecy in 13.05. And no, I don’t regret writing a giant essay at 4:00am.

    1. Well, we might have a bit more of a delay, since the area’s about to get hit by a snowstorm tonight or tomorrow and that usually means this part of the state basically shuts down.

  2. Poking around the internet for speculation and somebody threw out the idea Rowena returns as a demon which would make sense if she made a deal.
    I know she’s a natural witch however she is also vain and power hungry…

      1. Ah. I missed that.
        Reddit Supernatural is weird. Imagine supernatural white supremacist superfans deriding the SJW writing while whining about Dean being mean.

        1. Reddit in general has a bad rep for harboring trolls no one else but 4Chan is willing to tolerate, though I think it depends on the fandom. Strangely enough, I’ve found the most-informed and least-obnoxious Game of Thrones fans seem to be on Reddit.

          I see a lot of whining in some quarters about Dean being “mean” and “whiny,” the spin-off being dead in the water, and some quite-uncomplimentary things about Claire and the other younger female leads. But then, I also see the same people talk about their love for Ruby and Bela (both characters who were actively loathed by the fandom during their tenure) and how they don’t understand why the show has never brought them back. At least with the Charlie fans, I get that she had an enthusiastic (if small) fandom within the fandom that basically just watched for her. The fans who loved her *really* loved her and never quite understood how divisive she was as a character or that she didn’t fit into the rest of the show because they were lukewarm, at best, about the rest of the show.

          It’s always good to take online fandom opinions with a grain of salt (and yes, I include myself in that). It may be the best way we can get detailed feedback on what the audience likes and doesn’t like, but the Nielsen numbers will always be more accurate, albeit with far less info and only statistically speaking. There have been complaints about the accuracy of the Nielsens for a long time, but since they’re just a way to get advertisers to sponsor the show, not a popularity contest, that doesn’t matter too much.

          1. Yep. FYI, the new galley proof arrived for The Supernatural Codex. and it is good for primetime. I’ll send it to you Tuesday or Wednesday (since tomorrow is a holiday).

    1. FYI, because so many of the clips and interviews and such come out last-minute for the show now, I’ll be doing the next spoilers column this Thursday during the day. And since I still don’t do live TV, I’ll do a live recap on Friday night.

  3. I really liked this episode because it gave us ‘real’ insight into Dean’s mind. We have not had one of ‘those’ for a while.

    I know this is weird but I somehow at the end of the series see Chuck and Amara coming back for Dean, that he joins with them. I think if Amara had even taken Dean’s soul she would’ve forgiven Chuck much sooner.

  4. Bosch is late 15th, early 16th century.
    The irony of course was that the black plague was spread by fleas.
    This was by far the best episode overseen by Singer and Dabb and probably the only one actually worth reviewing.
    A very scary and solid motw episode.
    Sam was being kind to Dean because perhaps he really listened last week but he was also handling Dean too and Dean knew it.
    I don’t dispute the Firewall connection or the fact that Billie as Death now recognizes how important Dean is…
    The fact is her dialogue specifically mentions the rift and the alternate Apocalypse and therefore I think she was referencing Dean’s importance to saving this universe from that clusterfuck. I think it was a de facto acknowledgement that Dean is the Michael sword and Michael and his OTV are the only thing that can stop AU Michael.
    As I said last season, the only reason to redo the apocalypse is Dean!Michael. The only way for Dean to say yes is for him to be in this specific mindset where he jumps into a sacrifice for a win. And there have been a lot of hints leading up to this, including name-dropping Michael, trolling the Apocalypse by reappeopriating the old fropes and story lines, giving Dean access to Michael’s lance… Even depowering Luci who was no match for AU Michael suggests that Dean!Michael is the only hope.
    Yes Jack is super duper powered but he is not a fighter and something will happen to depower him or take him out of the game.

    1. I know Bosch is earlier. I’m referring to why the masks creep people out, even though they were originally created for benign, protective purposes. They spark earlier, more embedded images of medieval demons.

      Oh, Dean totally recognized Sam’s attempt to “handle” him, though I do think Sam was showing a learning curve after last week, too.

      1. They are inherently creepy. The extension of the nose harbored a purification agent didn’t. I forget what they used. Something pungent.
        Didn’t medieval harpiehave bird faces and women’s bodies. It’s been too long since I perused a beastiary.
        I am sure many fans resist this Dean= demogod= firewall concept however now that Chick = God Dean’s elevated status is canonical since season 5.
        Dean was allowed to change the written story twice in season 5, a highly unique situation that Chuck comments upon twice. The second time of course was when he shows up at Stull making Dean’s decision the decisive act that stops the Apocalypse.
        And of course Chuck answers Dean in 11 and despite Chuck being the de facto leader , Dean was the one that had the world’s fate in his hands and Dean was the one who decided how to deal with Amara choosing empathy rather than violence.
        Dean’s exalted status has been acknowledged by God, Amara, Michael (it was always Dean’s choice), Cas, Crowley, Benny, Death 1 and now Death 2.

        Even Dean has acknowledged it for years by virtue of the fact that he has been bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders since he was resurrected in Lazarus Rising.

        I still think that Death is specifically reference AU Michael coming here and Dean being the only one that can fight him by agreeing to be the Michael sword.

  5. On a different and unrelated note, you bring up the idea that the position is what is important, rather than the person. We’ve seen this already with prophets. Now we see it with Death. Does this mean when Dean finally does succeed in dying, he will be replaced by another “Firewall?” Or is this of a more eternal nature, like God or Amara. Or tied to location (SPN verse), although the presence of the multiverse argues against that. Just curious.

    1. I’m not sure where the show is going with this. Dean’s position as the Firewall is a rather obvious meta for the writers’ acknowledgement that without Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (or at least Ackles), this show would not continue.

      Chuck hinted that Dean can conceivably be replaced by another Firewall (i.e., that his and Sam’s story can be replaced by someone else’s). We also see this with Billie replacing the previous Death. But as we see above, it’s questionable whether this show can continue with a Coy and Vance, and even Wayward Sisters is intended as another, somewhat related story, but hardly as a replacement version of the same story.

      So, it’s debateable whether Chuck and Billie have been offering a viable alternative (someday, you can rest and be replaced) or whether Dean’s ability to create new revelation, as it were, and new directions for the SPNverse to go is unique.

      I lean toward the latter idea. While other characters have certainly been inspired by Dean’s example and have been able to pass on that message to some extent, their own efforts to create new “revelation” (like Castiel’s attempts to teach Free Will to angels or Crowley’s attempts to harness demons to higher, less selfish, and less self-destructive goals) have generally been dismal failures. You still need the original source.

  6. Fascinating analysis as always.
    Leadership is a tricky thing. From the outside, it can look like power and perks and flattery from others. And many go into it with this idea. And some continue to insist on this, sometimes quite successfully, gaining power, money, benefits. But is this really leadership?

    In my experience, leadership involves three things. 1. Vision. What are you trying to achieve. 2. Strategy. How are you trying to achieve it. 3. Moral accountability. This, I think, is the area in which most people fail. There is a reason for the saying, “The captain goes down with the ship.”

    Now obviously, Dean laid out his vision in the pilot. “Saving people, hunting things.” He expands upon it at different times, using it as a motivation for others, most notably in his speech to the newly minted team free will. (Season 4, 5? I’m not remembering right now.)

    Strategically, he is typically the one to plan the hunts, decide on the methods used, and adapt them on the go, which represents a very high level of skill. And he accepts input from others, praising it when it is due.

    Morally, Dean has been the only consistently morally accountable character on the show. He takes responsibility for his mistakes and even sins and learns from them. And he accepts responsibility for the actions of TFW. Now this is tricky. Many people, have (rightly) talked about how most of the principal characters blame Dean for things that are actually their own fault, and how this is abusive. And it is, because they should be responsible for themselves. But it is also true that a leader IS responsible for the actions of those they lead. Which is why leaders have the power to hire, to fire, to punish or pardon, and even in extreme cases to execute. And if they abuse this, they can be held accountable by the people they serve, their own superiors, (God?).

    Interestingly, the one area in which Dean typically fails in accountability are his many suicides. It is understandable that he wants to end things. Obviously, he is not trying to hurt others, he had lived a life of abuse, he is exhausted and has been depressed for years. And those of my loved ones that have been suicidal have informed me that at the time, they thought they were serving the world by removing themselves from it. But thinking you won’t hurt anyone is not the same as not hurting anyone. He has, in a sense, tacitly accepted leadership since at least season 5. And in this position, he is primed to hurt more people than most.

    You bring up the Chronicles of Narnia. What this reminds me of is the scene in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, in which King Caspian had decided to go with Reepicheep to the end of the world on a final adventure that would certainly lead to his death. To which Reepicheep answers him ,

    “If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not, (allow you to do this)” said Reepicheep with a very low bow. “You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses.”

    Obviously, Dean is not seeking adventure (he has enough of that), but substitute “end your life” for this, and the sentiment is very nearly the same. That is why the scene in “Point of no Return”, in which they restrain Dean, is ugly and brutal, but narratively makes sense. And as he still has not comprehended his own importance and therefore responsibility, I think this is why Death herself stepped in to restrain him.

    1. He actually lays it out in “Wendigo.” Kripke has admitted that the family angle, let alone the Family Business angle, was not part of the original concept. It was just a way of introducing his Woobie!Hero, so that philosophy wasn’t touched on in the Pilot. Dean created TFW at the end of “The Song Remains the Same” and TFW 2.0 in “Tombstone.”

      About the accountability angle, I think this is tricky. Yes, I think the fact that Dean has been thrust into this role as the leader (or at least caretaker) of the SPNverse garden (and possibly even “this whole multi-versal quantum construct we live in” that Billie refers to in “Advanced Thanatology”) unfortunately makes him responsible for its overall condition and fate. He’s had that role for years (he even grumps about it in season seven’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters”). That’s unfair, but it’s what happens when you’re King.

      However, even Dean has a right to decide how to end his life, assuming he is in his right mind when he’s making the decision. That’s a big question, since Dean is a very disturbed individual and is fairly often out of his mind, or at least adjacent to it, not to mention already profoundly and chronically depressed. But aside from that chronic condition (which, unfortunately, is often used by people like Sam and Jody to take away Dean’s rights to decide what to do with his own life and body), eternal beings like Chuck and Billie use their ability to withhold a natural death from Dean based on the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Though, if you look at it from a normal human point of view, even Dean’s, it looks like the needs of the one outweighing the needs of the many because almost every human (or, indeed any being that can die) would see being resurrected again and again as a privilege given to almost no one, “an affront to the Natural Order,” as Death once put it. But as Billie (who, herself, has been resurrected in a new role) hinted, Dean’s resurrections are actually an integral part of keeping the Natural Order going, even if they put Dean (and Sam) outside it.

      The problem here is that taking away Dean’s agency, even for his own or the greater good, harms his mental health. And he is already quite ill. Plus, he’s very strong-willed and can recognize when his agency is being taken away from him. So, it makes sense he would dig in his heels when he can’t even choose when or how he gets to die and has an unnatural lifespan imposed upon him.

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