Supernatural starts out with a missing father, and spends the majority of the season giving us glimpses of just how badly he fucked up his sons before they’re (briefly) reunited as a family. On a show that’s rather notable for its toxic masculinity and toxic relationships, this one really stands out as messed up. Let’s have a look.
To briefly recap: when his wife was killed, John took their boys and started a life of hunting for the demon that killed her. We’ve seen glimpses of his sons’ lives, left behind to fend for themselves for days at a time in hotel rooms while Daddy’s off chasing evil things. Dean’s been forced to grow up and shoulder the responsibilities of keeping Sam fed, clothed, entertained, and safe. We’ll see much more of that in the future, but we’ve been given enough glimpses to know that Dean got the lion’s share of the responsibility. And he’s the one who always toed Daddy’s line, who never questioned orders, while Sam got it into his head to live his own damned life. While Dean stayed in the family business, Sam went off to college, and his dad stopped talking to him altogether.
When Dad goes missing, Dean goes to Sam for help – but doesn’t get it until Sam’s girlfriend is fridged by the same demon that killed their mother. Sam’s got a dual quest: find the demon and find their dad. Dean’s pretty focused on just finding Dad. They came quite close in Home, when we finally glimpse John Winchester. We learn in that episode that before Mary’s death, John was a stubborn man who doted on his family. We know Mary’s death changed him. And when he calls his sons in Scarecrow, we see that he still has that deep caring, but it’s overlain by a drill-sergeant demeanor that rises up when they don’t do exactly as they’re told. We see how Sam fights it, while Dean falls immediately into line.
We’ve seen in the boys’ behavior how each of them has been messed up by their dad in different ways. Sam loves his dad and is desperate to be loved in turn, but rejects his authority and asserts his independence. Dean is the good soldier, and if he had any rebellious spirit when it came to their father, it was beaten out of him by circumstances and a fair amount of emotional abuse.
But even if you didn’t know that history, you’d be able to guess it just from this scene in Episode 16, Shadow. Continue reading “Daddy’s Back! Supernatural S1 E16 Analysis: Shadow”