Supernatural: Resolution or Idealization of Winchester Codependency


Trigger Warning: The following article contains discussion of harmful psychological conditions, and includes a brief reference to eating disorders.

While the last Supernatural was primarily a Monster of the Week and fairly unremarkable in a history of similarly formatted stories, the final three minutes of the episode have sparked debate and discussion within the Supernatural Family regarding a repeated theme that has divided the fans for years: the codependency of the Winchester brothers.

Codependencey is signified by, essentially, making a relationship more important to you than you are to yourself. Within the Supernatural fandom, it’s a heated point of contention: for some fans, it’s a rallying point, a symbol of the fact that the Winchesters are willing to die for each other. For others, it is a repetitive story device that has become a tiresome trope, used to manufacture drama between Winchesters and the rest of the Supernatural world.

Regardless of personal stance on the matter, Sam and Dean Winchester are undeniably codependent, following many of the denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control, and avoidance patterns outlined as characteristics of codependencey. They are on-screen “diagnosed” as codependent within the season 5 episode “Sam, Interrupted” where Dr. Fuller separates them, taking Sam away to group therapy and stopping Dean from following him. When Dean splutters “What? Why?” the doctor responds “Well, to be frank, uh, the relationship that you have with your brother seems dangerously codependent. I think a little time apart will do you both good.”

Later within the season, in the episode “Point of No Return,” Zachariah furthers the season commentary about their codependency, warning Adam about his brothers by saying: “So you know you can’t trust them, right? You know Sam and Dean Winchester are psychotically, irrationally, erotically codependent on each other, right?”

It’s important to note a few significant pieces of information about these two episodes before we really dive into the meat of the codependency theme of Supernatural: first of all, that “Sam, Interrupted” was penned by Andrew Dabb (with Daniel Loflin), who most recently wrote “Road Trip” and had the Winchester brothers to go separate ways. “Point of No Return” with the second direct reference to their codependency was written by Jeremy Carver, now one of the show-runners for Supernatural.

Perhaps most important to realize is that Season 5 was written as if it were the final season for 1655972_10203309020906006_653940799_nSupernatural, which was originally devised on a five-year plan. All major themes were to be tied off and addressed, the storyline wrapped up, and major problems resolved for a satisfying ending. Our final word on codependency was intended by creator Eric Kripke to be the exchange at Singer Salvage Yard during the season 5 finale, “Swan Song.”

DEAN: I’m in.

SAM: In with…?

DEAN: The whole “up with Satan” thing. I’m on board.

SAM: You’re gonna let me say yes?

DEAN: No. That’s the thing. It’s not on me to let you do anything. You’re a grown… well, overgrown… man. If this is what you want, I’ll back your play.

SAM: That’s the last thing I thought you’d ever say.

DEAN: Might be. I’m not gonna lie to you, though. It goes against every fiber I got. I mean, truth is… You know, watching out for you… it’s kinda been my job, you know? But more than that, it’s… it’s kinda who I am. You’re not a kid anymore, Sam, and I can’t keep treating you like one. Maybe I got to grow up a little, too. I don’t know if we got a snowball’s chance. But… But I do know that if anybody can do it… it’s you.

SAM: Thank you.

This is very significant—Kripke’s final intentions for the codependency of the brothers was to end it. Dean was to struggle with and conquer the instinct, and Sam was to decisively act as an independent adult, even at the expense of his own life for the sake of the entire world. That is, ultimately, precisely what Sam does, and Dean goes on to live a life for himself outside of his brother. While fans of the codependency declare it the saving grace which with the Winchester brothers were able to avert the Apocalypse, it’s Dean’s belief in Sam, harkening back to this conversation, that does the trick. Dean realizes that Sam is in there somewhere and strong enough to fight, just as planned. This is an act of love and faith, not an act of codependency, and to further confuse the two creates idealization of the flaw that is their shared psychological condition, rather than focusing on the strength of their love for each other.

The latest episode, “Sharp Teeth,” brings us the exact opposite of that “Swan Song” conversation as Sam and Dean’s trust has been strained, and relationship fractured, by the unwilling angelic possession (as opposed to the planned and orchestrated possession by Lucifer).

SAM:  Something’s broken here, Dean.

DEAN:  I’m not saying that it’s not. I… I just think maybe we need to put a couple W’s on the board and we get past all this.

SAM: I don’t think so. No, I wish, but… We don’t…see things the same way anymore. Our roles in this whole thing. Back in that church, talking me out of boarding up hell? Or tricking me into letting Gadreel possess me? I can’t trust you… not the way I thought I could, not the way I should be able to.

DEAN: Okay, look. Whatever happened… We are family, okay?

SAM: You say that like it’s some sort of cure-all, like it can change the fact that everything that has ever gone wrong between us has been because we’re family.

DEAN: So, what… we’re not family now?

SAM: I’m saying, you want to work? Let’s work. If you want to be brothers… Those are my terms.

This most recent interaction has led many fans to declare a need to “repair the codependency” of the brothers, as it’s a repeated motif within the show and therefore in their opinion the “heart of Supernatural.” However, that is a damaging assertion.

When writing psychological conditions within fiction, it is imperative that creators do so respectfully, without either glamorizing the condition or furthering the stigma of those who struggle to overcome it daily. Failure to do so can result in idealization of damaging concepts: for instance, media representations of eating disorders need to be responsible to ensure that health is prioritized, rather than creating shaming body image (a fact I truly hope Supernatural keeps in mind as we move into “The Purge” next week).

More significantly for the whole of the show, the codependency needs to be handled as the damaging psychological condition that it is for the Winchesters. Eric Kripke’s finale in “Swan Song,” and his direction throughout Season 5 to address it, was responsible storytelling in action. The problem was addressed, examined, and eventually overcome by our heroes.

Failure to do this, and to allow the Winchesters to establish themselves as self-reliant and capable individuals, does a disservice to these multidimensional characters we love.

Season 6 began a reversion to codependent behaviors, with Sam’s return from Hell. The phone conversation between Lisa and Dean in “You Can’t Handle the Truth” illustrates how the codependent relationship between the brothers continues undermining connections outside of their duo:

LISA: You’ve got so much buried in there, and you push it down, and you push it down. Do you honestly think that you can go through life like that and not freak out? Just, what, drink half a fifth a night and you’re good?

DEAN: You knew what you signed up for.

LISA: Yeah. But I didn’t expect Sam to come back. And I’m glad he’s okay. I am. But the minute he walked through that door, I knew. It was over. You two have the most unhealthy, tangled-up, crazy thing I’ve ever seen. And as long as he’s in your life, you’re never gonna be happy. . . That came out so much harsher than I meant.

DEAN: It’s not your fault.

LISA: I’m not saying don’t be close to Sam. I’m close to my sister. But if she got killed, I wouldn’t bring her back from the dead!

DEAN: Okay, Lis… I’m not gonna lie. Okay, me and Sam, we… we’ve got issues. No doubt. But you and Ben…

LISA: Me and Ben can’t be in this with you. I’m sorry.

The show itself does little to romanticize the codependency. Their dysfunctional inability to move past it has alienated the Winchesters from the rest of their world, and put a stumbling block up between them and all other outside relationships. This is a classic symptom of pathological codependency illustrated in 1622828_10203309020625999_142429732_nboth Season 5 references to their codependent relationship, with Doctor Fuller wanting Dean and Sam to make friends outside of each other, and with Zachariah illustrating that even their half-brother wouldn’t factor into their concerns. Benny is literally sacrificed in the name of codependency in Season 8, and Amelia (and therefore symbolically romantic relationships in general, much as Lisa before her) is left behind.

In Season 8, Winchester codependency derails the entire season mytharc, with “Sacrifice” as the bookend to “Swan Song,” showing the brothers choosing their codependent relationship over the safety of the world by not closing the gates to Hell. The climactic conversation in the church shows both brothers falling into the roles their codependencey dictates for them: Sam is a little brother feeling usurped by Dean’s outside relationships, while still resentful of Dean’s control as he has been in the past, thus showing that Sam plays his own part in the codependency dynamic.  Dean, meanwhile, puts everything aside to play the caretaker role to Sam.

DEAN: Think about it. Think about what we know, huh? Pulling souls from hell, curing demons, hell, ganking a Hellhound! We have enough knowledge on our side to turn the tide here. But I can’t do it without you.

SAM :You can barely do it with me. I mean, you think I screw up everything I try. You think I need a chaperone, remember?

DEAN: Come on, man. That’s not what I meant.

SAM: No, it’s exactly what you meant. You want to know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can’t do that again.

DEAN: Sam…

SAM What happens when you’ve decided I can’t be trusted again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another… another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother just…

DEAN: Hold on, hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it… none of it… is true. Listen, man, I know we’ve had our disagreements, okay? Hell, I know I’ve said some junk that set you back on your heels. But, Sammy…come on. I killed Benny to save you. I’m willing to let this bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed mom walk because of you. Don’t you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I’m begging you.

The idea that Dean has literally killed Benny, his own friend, “for Sam” is a chilling illustration of how far they are willing to go. Who else might they be willing to kill, or allow to die, in order to maintain this dependency? Charlie? Ben? Lisa? This is a disturbing trend, with potentially catastrophic personal repercussions, as they take the isolationism of codependency and add in the violent motifs of 1660534_10203309020706001_92198014_nSupernatural.  They “did what they had to do,” in order to maintain codependency, and this is the catchphrase of the moment, and a driving point for Dean, in particular, through all of Season 9 so far. Their codependency this year has necessitated exiling Castiel to cover the behaviors, and ultimately resulted in the death of Kevin Tran. While there is no question that the characters’ intentions were for the best, the behaviors to support them only furthering the ongoing issues.

“I’m doing this for your own good” is a such a common mentality in codependency that it is essentially a stock phrase for that dynamic in television and literature, and surfaces to cover any number of sins. Similarly, we see other clinical symptoms of codependency taking its toll on both brothers. Codependents, like the Winchesters are portrayed to be, often fall into low self-esteem, guilt and shame. They feel responsible for the well-being and happiness of another, over their own well-being, and often resort to self-destructive behaviors (risk taking, alcoholism, self-neglect) when they are unable to achieve the standards that they believe they should maintain for the object of their dependency. They often compulsively seek the acceptance of their focus, prioritizing their opinion over self-evaluation. The Winchesters fall in line with many of these symptoms, as illustrated throughout their interactions, and through how they are referenced by others.

Continuing the theme that Season 5 was intended to address and deal with the codependency once and for all, we have this interaction in “Fallen Idols,” illustrating Sam’s growing need for independence:

SAM:  No. You can think whatever you want. I deserve it, and worse. Hell, you’ll never punish me as much as I’m punishing myself, but the point is, if we’re gonna be a team, you and I—it has to be a two-way street.

DEAN: So we just go back to the way we were before?

SAM: No, because we were never that way before. Before didn’t work.

SAM: How do you think we got here?

DEAN: What’s that supposed to mean?

SAM: Dean, one of the reasons I went off with Ruby…was to get away from you.

DEAN: What?

SAM: It made me feel strong. Like I wasn’t your kid brother.

DEAN: Are you saying this is my fault?

SAM: No, it’s my fault. All I’m saying is that, if we’re gonna do this, we have to do it different, we can’t just fall into the same rut.

DEAN: What do you want me to do?

SAM: You’re gonna have to let me grow up, for starters.

Sam feels as if he is allowing himself to fall into dangerous reactions as he rebels against Dean’s control the way he once did John’s, regarded as a child because of Dean’s need to be the caretaker. Dean, meanwhile, falls into alcoholism and depression, and disregards his own self-worth outside of his ability to care for his brother; his instinctive need to be Sam’s caretaker driving him from the first episode, spurring him to sell his soul for his brother, and to encourage his possession by Gadreel, in order to keep Sam alive.

The narrative shows the codependency as a negative by illustrating the fallout and having both Sam and Dean acknowledge their partnership as broken: this flawed dynamic is heavily romanticized only by segments of Supernatural’s fragmented fandom, and seen as the ideal and most pure form of love, the willingness to die for someone–more importantly, the willingness to live for the success and health of another without personal regard.

This is a disturbing trend, but not an unfamiliar one for anyone with an ear to pop culture.

The last major franchise to rely upon romanticized codependency as its core was the Twilight Saga.

150839_10203309054066835_770571501_nFeminist media has shined a spotlight on the relationship between Bella and Edward as being dangerous for the audience to idealize, and pointed out the many flaws in using codependency as the basis for a relationship between the primary characters without offering resolution. The glamorization of codependency leads to mistaken notions of what “love” is. Bella Swan wished for death because Edward left her, and felt fulfilled only because of her relationships, around which she built her entire life. Edward, meanwhile, lacked any sense of boundaries when it came to Bella, made decisions on her behalf (“for her own good”) and treated Bella as if she was child in need of protecting from his own instincts, and her own ability to get herself into trouble.

This is not love. If someone is unable to function without the object of their affection, if they become self-destructive in conflict, if they subsume all sense of self in favor of another, lose all personal goals outside of that relationship, and alienate themselves from their friends and family in order to do so, it is codependencey. Love and codependencey are not one and the same.

In Twilight, this codependency is presented in a romantic light even as it is shown within the books to be damaging to the characters involved. Because the condition is never addressed and resolved within the text, it remains a part of the supposed fairytale that the readers clung to and aspired to.

That idealization is no less dangerous here for it being familial, rather than inherently romantic. In fact, one could argue it’s potentially more damaging because even after resolving it in Season 5, we are in Season 9 and still there are audience members who believe that the codependency is a positive aspect of the show. That’s a long time to grab on to an idea and internalize it.

The concept of codependency is being misappropriated to signify demonstrations of love–and after “Road Trip” and “Sharp Teeth,” I truly hope that the narrative is once more on track to resolve this, and put the Winchesters in a healthier place. Personal goals, self-worth, a sense of agency, mutual trust, and equality are necessary for a stronger bond between the brothers, and even maintaining their reliance upon each other as brothers and hunting partners is possible without psychological conditions binding them together.

The ideal, then, wouldn’t be codependencey–it would be interdependence, or a mutually beneficial and reciprocal reliance upon each other–to achieve that, Supernatural would need to address the destructive codependent behaviors that instead take it into a pathology. No viewer expects the Winchesters to leave this story the poster children for well-adjusted society, but growth and movement towards a healthy relationship is ideal, once again touching upon Season 5’s theme of addressing the past toxicity and allowing them to grow as people, with outside friendships and relationships and a sense of self-worth outside of each other, while maintaining brotherly love and support.

I don’t hope for this merely because I want what’s best for the characters, like any invested viewer. The narrative requires resolution, and further romanization of the condition reduces the characters to simply being a grittier, different kind of Bella Swan.

Nobody here wants that.

Author: Exorcising Emily

Emily is one of the first contributors to the Geekiary and helped set the standard for convention Twitter coverage for conventions. She’s been involved with fandom all of her life, especially active in the Firefly, Veronica Mars, and Supernatural fandoms. She’s known for her excitement over tea and the planet Pluto, as well as her activism towards fan led charity events and anti-bullying initiatives.

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138 thoughts on “Supernatural: Resolution or Idealization of Winchester Codependency

  1. Thank you for a thoughtful and balanced look at this situation. There is an appeal to the “do anything for you” relationship–it is very popular in fiction and I personally am drawn to it, many fans are, but there are different ways those dynamics can be played, and it can become off-putting and alienating. Fiction moves us for a reason, so it also doesn’t hold up to me when the excuse is made “it’s just a tv show” or “I don’t want realism” as a reason why disturbing aspects shouldn’t be addressed. Emotional realism is necessary for a story to work, no matter how out there the characters or setting are. Enjoying something in fiction doesn’t mean condoning it IRL, but that still doesn’t mean that the fictional aspects don’t affect us deeply and won’t contribute to perpetuating harmful RL viewpoints or doesn’t accurately depict RL struggles people face.

    “This is an act of love and faith, not an act of codependency, and to further confuse the two creates idealization of the flaw that is their shared psychological condition, rather than focusing on the strength of their love for each other.”

    Thank you for pointing this out. Sam and Dean are also not the only characters on SPN with a fierce sense of fierce loyalty and love for each other, that is not necessarily a codependent trait, nor is every demonstration of love and loyalty between the brothers due to codependency. Meanwhile, the harmful and hurtful aspects of the relationship get valorized and romanticized in fandom to the point where Sam and Dean as characters become obscured. I agree that SPN is fairly self aware on it and while it doesn’t entirely avoid valorizing it, it also questions it and the season 9 story has been overtly about examining those issues.

  2. Sometimes I feel like a weird outlier in the Supernatural fandom, because in the end, I want to see all the characters happy. At this point I even want to see Crowley get cured the rest of the way, and able to go on, remorseful, but moving toward something better. So it’s nice to read something like this that points out the toxic dynamic keeping happiness at bay. They can be brothers, they can be badass hunters, and they can find some happiness too.

    *pictures Buffy’s face, weary and filthy, but smiling and triumphant, staring down at the wreckage of Sunnydale after they finally closed the Hellmouth*

  3. Thank you – THIS is what I’ve often felt lets the show down. As a shipper of most pairs on the show, including Sam/Dean, it pisses me off that the writers always seem to fall back on this plot-line. The fact that two incredibly strong and developed characters who can defeat Satan and other big nasties are still repeating these patterns is very frustrating.

    Sure, a pair of people can go their whole lives living co-dependently, but this is a TV show, and the writers can control the outcome of their lives. It wouldn’t destroy a relationship to move beyond this plot-line, as you say, it would make it stronger, healthier and they would be much more effective Hunters.

    It’s a great point, that you mention how Kripke ended it.

    You have summed up this feeling that’s irritated me for several seasons really well. Great article.

    1. That’s is what Carver said he is working towards a more healthier and mature relationship between Sam and Dean, only he’s first destroying so he could build it back up in to something stronger and healthier.

  4. This is wonderful! /draws hearts around this article.

    I really love how you touched on the fact that we’ve already seen the codependency surpassed once, in S5, and that S6 regresses hugely (I know people tend to get very angry about the repetitive nature of their interactions but you really hit the nail on the head by alluding to the fact that this is the nature of their condition, not necessarily bad writing? And in fact, the only way to break that IS to change this codependency–unaddressed psychological conditions do often involve an amount of periodic regression, and Sam and Dean [and Cas] are actually a fairly true-to-life portrayal of how not breaking the cycle, particularly within a specific relationship or in dealing with specific TYPES of relationships, does mean your character can stagnate despite efforts for it to not) after that, understandable after Sam went to Hell and Dean was forced into a life he perhaps would not have chosen if not for his promise. I do think there are other things–as I’ve seen discussed a lot lately–to address in their respective psyches, but I think that addressing the individuals will only be possible once this destructive pattern that requires both of their cooperation and lack of self-examination and stagnation of character has itself been addressed.

    On that note, I agree with you that so far it seems to be a major theme of S9, and I can see easily that even if there are fans complaining about how 9.12 doesn’t seem to have properly addressed what’s going on (Sam’s blaming him for the wrong thing! No terms have actually been stated! It’s not JUST Dean’s fault!), we’re heading toward that happening, about a quarter of the way through the process at this point and getting there. I like very much that they DO have friends who will support them in ending this part of their relationship and yet not abandoning each other entirely for good (i.e. Cas, Charlie, Garth, Jody…), and also that those friends will be rewarded by NOT being pushed away as others have been. And this article really captures that it’s POSSIBLE, they CAN do this, and they should.

    That having been said about where the Winchesters are headed re: codependency changes, I wonder where Cas is going in relation to Heaven: some of the defining here could definitely read as red flags native to his struggling loyalties throughout his story, to God vs. Heaven vs. humanity vs. Dean (and Sam, who mostly want him to think for himself) vs. Crowley vs. Meg (and her Heaven-like expectations), and I’ve always maintained that he and Dean are alike in their fight for agency and actualization of self while their upbringings place responsibility for something outside of them squarely upon their shoulders in a way that they actually CHOOSE not to exert agency sometimes for the good of someone/something else because it’s not just control, it’s literally been written into who they are.

    P.S. On the subject of Twilight, I do think it is important to note that both relationships up for grabs in Bella’s love life are different shades of equally fucked up. It is often maintained that it’s ONLY Edward (because it IS Edward) but Jacob doesn’t really present a healthy situation either, with his all-consuming possessiveness and entitlement. Bella + her own agency in healthy, interdependent relationships = OTP.

  5. This is one of the most thoughtful, insightful, fact-based written articles I’ve read in a very long time, and I’m glad that the topic is codependency because I have seen the writers struggling this week with those who are unable to distinguish the difference between a healthy relationship that can still include drama, angst, conflict, high and low points but that has the characters happy, fulfilled, and passionate about living life for themselves; and this toxic element to the brothers’ relationship that has progressively gotten worse each year and at the same time become a tiresome, monotonous plot device that is used to create repetitive drama and angst that has become quite boring.

    Keeping Dean and Sam stagnant, unchanging, and uninteresting because it’s “romantic” is perplexing. I value Dean and Sam too much individually and as brothers to wish them a fate worse than death, a fate that has them forever trapped in this self-loathing, anxiety-ridden cycle that was spurred by the most traumatic event of their lives, the night their mother was burned to death and the night their father lost all semblance of what it meant to be a father and a loving caregiver. The night that Dean stopped being a child, and became a surrogate parent with no self-worth, self-value, or self-esteem of his own. The night that ensured that Dean would be hollowed out, empty, and unable to even see the sense in living a life if it wasn’t to save his brother. I no longer want to see Dean mentally, emotionally and spiritually imprisoned by something that happened to him when he was a child, something that was out of his control, and something that has kept him burning in perdition for 30 years. He deserves better than this.

    Sam also deserves better. He deserves to have full control of his life and to know that he matters and has value because of who he is. He should be able to feel secure to make his own decisions. Most importantly, he should want to live and be able to embrace his brother and not feel anger, resentment, and sadness because his trust has been broken and his mind has been violated.

    Codependency keeps both brothers miserable. And as a long standing, loyal viewer it’s something that is I am tired of seeing.

    1. I came to comment, read this, and I could not say it better if I spent a day composing something. This x infinity. I am bored beyond belief with the rinse-repeat going on in this show. Dean and Sam are in their thirties: please can both of them grow up and start acting like the adults they are.

  6. I love this article so much I want to frame it and put it on my wall!

    Rereading the dialogue from “Swan Song” almost makes me cry because Dean and Sam had come so far… only to be so regressed years later. I hope that they really are making a turn for the better this season.

    Codependency can creep into any relationship. I’ve seen it happen, much to my surprise, even in my own life. Fortunately we were able to work through it with the guidance of a wonderful counselor who helped us to separately value ourselves as individuals and the relationship. What a lot of people misunderstand, I think, is that codependency is not a deeper form of love or even some kind of admirable selflessness. You’re not actually protecting the other person by controlling them or making their life your reason for existing. It’s harmful to both parties. Only by allowing one another freedom can each individual grasp an internal locus of control and live their life to the fullest. I think Sam is already on the road to realizing this. When Dean gets there too, I am confident that they will both be happier and have an even deeper connection through their healthier partnership.

  7. Great article Em! I wasn’t in fandom for the early years and so I can only imagine how the resolution of the brodependency went in fandom in S5. It’s been awhile since I watched those episodes, guess I need to brush up!

    Its interesting to note that Kripke attempted to repair and strengthen their relationship as part of each of their endgames. However, when Supernatural was continued with a new showrunner, who let’s face it, was in a bit over her head at times, the codependency was used as a repeated plot point and a major source of drama. One which can only be rehashed so many times, with secondary characters and the Winchesters’ chances at happiness sacrificed in the name of ‘the epic love story of Sam and Dean’, before there’s no one and nothing left.

    I was not a fan of Twilight. I had no interest in any of the films or books when they came out, and I think that’s because of the codependency that was pretty apparent in previews and what I heard from friends who saw the films. I think that True Blood started airing on HBO around the same time and it’s interesting to contemplate the differences and similarities of two pieces of film/tv, that have a human woman falling in love with a vampire in a world populated by all manner of supernatural creatures.

    In True Blood we see a young girl swept off her feet by a mysterious and handsome man/vampire, who thrusts her into this strange new world she never knew about, but who still maintains autonomy and a sense of self, even as she falls in love with this man who has the potential to control her every thought and action. Yes she loves him, and fights for him, but she remains her own person and even attempts to kill him when he gets out of control.

    There wasn’t anymore or less drama because she was strong, in fact that made me like her, and her story, all the more. Of course, Sookie is also bit of a Mary Sue, but that’s something for another day.

    I mainlined Supernatural over the course of last summer, and I remember loving the brother bond in seasons 1-2 and even a little in 3, even as I raced towards s4 and Castiel. Dean’s sacrifice at the end of S2 was crucial to the over all arc, as his time in Hell led to the Apocalypse after all. The codependency of Sam and Dean’s relationship started the Apocalypse, and the resolution of that codependency helped to avert it.

    The codependency is no longer crucial to the plot. It has become the plot, and that’s not good storytelling anymore.

    1. “The codependency is no longer crucial to the plot. It has become the plot, and that’s not good storytelling anymore.”

      This right here. This is key. I think it sums it up nicely.

      There are plenty of other ways to keep the boys in character, show growth, and yet still have conflict and different points of view. Rehashing an issue that is no longer critical to the plot, as that plot has been resolved does nothing for the narrative.

    2. @emilyloo03 You made an excellent point here: “Its interesting to note that Kripke attempted to repair and strengthen their relationship as part of each of their endgames. However, when Supernatural was continued with a new showrunner, who let’s face it, was in a bit over her head at times, the codependency was used as a repeated plot point and a major source of drama.” Kripke didn’t have a lot of time to address codependency as he was preoccupied attempting to bring the series to an end. Jeremy Carver, on the other hand, came on with a fresh new start and a brand new three year plan ahead of him. He seems to have immediately set out to tackle the issue of codependency, in the long-term. He started out by planting the seeds in season 8, culminating with the last Dean/Sam scene in the finale where they ‘chose each other’ over the world and then devoted the majority of season 9 to deconstruct this disorder and show the viewers over and over how destructive it is. He created a pattern we could all see clearly so that we would wake up; and the characters would wake up. I have no doubt in my mind that the writers this season all came to an agreement to make codependency one of the main season issues, and now here we are, discussing this important element of the show that has traditionally been overlooked and even glorified (by a small subset of fans). And I feel this is a great spot to be in. Addressing these issues and looking forward to a healthier, stronger relationship between Dean and Sam. 🙂

  8. You had me at Swan Song quotes! Such a cool 5 year arc that should have ended.

    I watched the bitterness of the SV fandom during my time in SPN fandom and now it’s come full circle. I tried to hang on post-Kripke but couldn’t make it past mid season 7 & now I only watch on occasion.

    While SPN is such a special show, I feel that fans are yearning for the glory days. It’s never gonna happen. Thoughtful s/ls are not in the future. They don’t have the talented writers or leadership anymore. I had fantasies that SPN would do an Angel sort of change where they would change location, change clothes…evolve

    I’m sorry to fans expecting change & evolution but it’s not gonna happen. .

  9. I think your overstating the throwing Castiel out of the bunker to be important at all to the story and equal to Kevins death. I don’t think a 2000 year old angel needs to be with two human boys to cope, he coped just fine, he’s a big boy. The MOL is not his home its the boys and it wasn’t necessary for him to stay. That being said, I don’t think it was a very balanced article at all purely because the reason why these boys have survived is because of that co-dependency because they are devoted to each other. There is no rule that these two should sacrificed for the greater good and the only one that seems to see that is Dean. And he also has a great grasp of family imo.

    He wants to be there for his brother, his family and he doesn’t think this ‘fight’ is worth sacrificing their lives. They don’t live int he real world where if you die you die, Dean and Sam know they can do something and for all Dean knew Gadreel was true to his word and all would of been o.k. Woiuld sam of been pissed if it was all roses and candy canes and no one died. His brother wanting him to live is a good thing not toxic. Pity you wrote this article to dismiss such a beautiful loving story. Bros fight, they fight for dominance, they fight about girls, they fight about what to eat. But in Supernatural the apocolpyse, Alistair, the YED, Lilith and every other horrible evil thing was beaten because these two are together and are co=dependent and know what it means to truly love someone enough to do anything for them. Have you thought that maybe its Sam that needs to realise that he deserves to live and that family is something that can cure-all!

    1. “he coped just fine, he’s a big boy.”

      Well no, he didn’t really, did he? Since he was hoodwinked and killed by a Reaper.

      “There is no rule that these two should sacrificed for the greater good”

      OTOH you seem amenable to the “rule” that their friends and loved ones should be sacrificed to the codependency? Kevin Tran’s death was most definitely not an example of a “a beautiful loving story.” Dean and Sam certainly don’t seem to think so. And it happened because of the codependency.

      1. But not everything shoud be on the Winchesters, they should be able to choose themselves and each other as the priority. Castiels alive he’s well and thats more than we can say for poor Jimmy how about giving him a second thought instead of poor whittle Castiel who caused the angels to fall in the first place. He though the could take on metatron and he got stung, his pride was his downfall. Sam and Dean didn’t cause the angels to fall.

        Again why should the Winchesters have to sacrifice themselves. They didn’t choose for those people to die, they’ve tried to save them more times than not. Its not like Gadreel said, if you do this I will kill Kevin.

        1. Is this article about Castiel? Is it about Jimmy? No. Don’t deflect.

          “Again why should the Winchesters have to sacrifice themselves.”

          Do you not grasp that it’s the *codependency* that makes them sacrifice themselves? Again, have you even read the article?

          In the narrative, both Sam and Dean are horrified by where this has led them. Come back and tell me how beautiful it all is when they are celebrating Kevin’s death and not mourning it. The narrative is clearly portraying codependency as a toxic, harmful thing – imo, that’s the entire point of this storyline. If you’re still saying it’s unicorns and rainbows, then this season has gone way over your head.

        2. Not that this article is about Cas as all, I just want to comment on what you’ve said about him.

          Cas didn’t make the angels fall on purpose, that was never his intention. He was trying to HELP Sam and Dean by closing up Heaven like they were supposed to be boarding up Hell. He wasn’t trying to take on Metatron, he was working with him because Metatron tricked him into thinking they were on the same side. He thought he was going to lock all the angels in Heaven, only Metatron knew that what he was doing would actually cause them to fall.

          And since you’re so angry about that I’m interested to know how angry you were at Sam when he accidentally freed Lucifer from his cage. Sam thought he was doing the right thing working with Ruby to stop the seals from being broken. Ruby tricked Sam just like Metatron tricked Cas. Neither of them knew that what they were doing was going to have catastrophic consequences. They both thought that what they were doing was the right thing, and they were only trying to help. They were both manipulated into doing the wrong thing.

          1. And Dean didn’t want Kevin killed on purpose either. He didn’t want Sam hurt, he wanted him alive. He didn’t want Bobby to get shot in the head or Ellen and Jo to die. He didn’t want his dad to die for him or his mom to burn on the ceiling. But things happen. Castiel willfully made a choice to confront metatron, he should of known that he was no match and had no idea what the plan was, he went in there whilst Dean said to not go, don’t go off half cocked and he did. He was capture and his grace gone and boom the angels fell. Castiels pride in himself thinking he’s the the answer to heaven has always been his motivation and now this bit him in the backside. So Dean and Sam do not need to be responsible for him, he should be responsible for himself, he perpetuated this mess.

            1. Castiel didn’t go to confront Metatron! He didn’t believe Naomi when she told Cas what Metatron was planning. He thought that because Naomi has lied to him time and time again, been inside his head, and forced him to do things he normally wouldn’t that she was lying again just to keep him from closing up Heaven. Before he goes to Dean he tells him that he is going to fix his home. And what does Dean say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, because Cas has already left before he can speak. And when Castiel gets to Metatron, seeing that Naomi is dead, he realized she was telling the truth. He doesn’t know before then, and it is already too late. As he’s strapped to the chair right before Metatron takes he grace he even says “You promised”. The ENTIRE time he believed that Metatron truly wanted to help him and he believed he was doing what was right.

              Again, going back to S4, how many times did Dean tell Sam to stop? How many times did he say to Sam that what he was doing was wrong and that he needed to get away from Ruby? Sam was so convinced that he was doing the right thing and that he was going to fix everything that he didn’t listen to Dean, and because of that Lucifer rose. That was on Sam.

              Sam and Cas are so similar, as Castiel himself pointed out in 9×11. They have both screwed up so many times because they just want to help. They both just want to do the right thing and unfortunately because of that their judgement is clouded a lot of the time. But the thing is, they are both incredibly remorseful about what they’ve done. Cas wants to fix things, he wants to help all of the fallen angels, because he KNOWS that he screwed up and that’s why they fell.

              Dean didn’t purposely cause Kevin’s death, but it was definitely his fault. BECAUSE of Sam and Dean’s codependency he couldn’t accept that his brother WANTED to die. BECAUSE of his codependency he completely violated Sam and made the decision for him. Sam never would have let Gadreel possess him. Never. And because Dean made that decision, Kevin was killed. He knows it and Sam knows it. And that, along with every other issue that has been caused by their codependency is exactly why it needs to be dealt with.

              So if Castiel is responsible for cleaning up his “mess” that is the fallen angels, Dean and Sam need to be responsible for the enormous mess that is their codependency. Which means working through it, and coming out on the other side healthier and happier than they were before. They need to realize there is a life outside of each other and that just because they’re family doesn’t mean that whenever they mess up they can say “well, we’re still brothers, so that means everything is okay”. Sam would have been completely wrong if he had just said “You made the decision between me living and dying for me, completely taking away my agency. You let an angel that you don’t know possess me without my fully informed consent. You kicked out your newly human best friend AFTER he had just died and been resurrected to keep the angel inside of me. And, on top of all that, you inadvertently caused the death of our very close friend, someone who we felt responsible for, trying to get the angel THAT YOU LET IN, out of me. But you know what, we’re family, so that’s okay. Where are we off to next?”.

              1. Just wanted to step in and let you know that the person you are responding to has been banned for personal attacks/name calling. I appreciate well thought out discussions and debates and would have let it continue if Grace hadn’t resorted to attacks. I just wanted you to be aware that the reason she won’t be responding is not because she doesn’t have anything to say (she probably does) but that she is no longer capable of posting a rebuttal. Sorry if I interrupted your discussion. I let her comments slide for a long time.

                -Admin Angel

    2. So Sam losing his agency and Sam having another personality taking him over at random intervals without his consent or knowledge wouldn’t bother Sam once he found out? Really? Kevin’s death is perfectly ok because we’re watching “Supernatural” and people can come back for ghostly cameo appearances or in dream sequences or mimicked by something evil in order to taunt Sam and Dean? So because of this, it’s okay that Kevin suffered, dying with his eyes burned out? It’s okay with you that Dean has no sense of self-worth and think he’s “poison” and nothing more than that “blunt instrument” bodyguard for Sam that their father drilled into Dean’s head as his only worth?

      “I think your overstating the throwing Castiel out of the bunker to be important at all to the story and equal to Kevins death. I don’t think a 2000 year old angel needs to be with two human boys to cope, he coped just fine, he’s a big boy. The MOL is not his home its the boys and it wasn’t necessary for him to stay. ”

      This is making me feel you didn’t actually watch season 9. The whole point of the Dean throwing Cas about the bunker sub-plot was that it endangered Cas, and the show clearly presented this as a sad, frightening turn of events. Cas did not have his powers at the time, he was mortal, in fact he was murdered in 9.03, and only survived because Gadreel was playing and manipulating Dean posing as Ezekiel, so he healed Cas, and then right afterwards, blackmailed Dean into kicking Cas out. With angels hunting Castiel who wanted him dead, it was clearly dangerous for him to be out of the bunker. The fact that Cas is resourceful and was lucky enough to find a place of work and managed to survive does not mean it’s inconsequential that he was put in danger because Dean made a deal to save Sam that hurt Sam and then had a domino effect endangering those they love, culminating in Kevin’s death.

      Your comment, btw, focuses on Castiel far, far more than the article does, which IMO was very balanced and did not at all advocate that Sam and Dean shouldn’t be close or shouldn’t rely on or try to save one another.

      1. There are alot of things in the Winchesters world that aren’t controllable and they don’t expect, death to friends is one of them. They have saved them, tried to protect them but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t want their family member to be alive. Dean didn’t want Kevin to die, didn’t expect it but it happened. He’ll regret it, be sad for Kevin but its not like it hasn’t happened before. Sam shouldn’t of had to die for the cause. Thats what Dean was saying. And Kevin’s life wasn’t going to end well anyway, he was a prophet it wasn’t the boys choice it was Gods. Castiel leaving the bunker is still not equal to Kevins death. So he was out on his own, its not the boys responsibility for everything. Castiel is not their responsibility, he isn’t a child. The last thing this story needs is Dean being a babysitter for an angel in a dead mans meat suit. Thats why they gave him powers again because the story was stupid imo. It just made Dean and Sam feel guilty, Castiel is not another Winchester.

        What if they didn’t have the bunker? Really Casitel is not a MOL. Dean was keeping his bro alive and throwing Casitel out of the bunker was definately worth it.

          1. Oh have you heard about Castiel/Misha’s departure. Its good to know they are moving from the angel s/l its about time.

            1. Oh have you heard about Castiel/Misha’s departure. Its good to know they are moving from the angel s/l its about time.

              What are you talking about? Scratch that, what are you drinking? I’d like some of it.

              1. The person you are commenting to has been banned for name calling. Also, while I definitely agree that their comments are baffling, now that the person instigating much of the negativity has been banned let’s keep the comments positive and refrain from attacking one another. Well thought out comments are absolutely encouraged. Name calling and personal attacks are not.

                -Admin Angel

          1. This person has been banned. While I agree that their comments are baffling, let’s refrain from personal attacks moving forward. Thank you.

            -Admin Angel

    3. I actually can’t understand most of this totally incoherent comment. But one thing I worked out partway through reading it is that you haven’t been watching the same show as the rest of us.

  10. The brothers are willing to die for each other and that will probably never change. That is the highest form of love and I’ve always been drawn to it and felt thrilled by it. A mother will die for her child, and I feel that as long as there are maybe a few people in my life that I could see myself running into a fire for or donating a kidney to, my life has love and meaning.

    But codependency is not truly about putting the other person first.

    Sam’s choice in this season’s premiere was to die and permanently leave it all behind. That was his informed, unhurried choice. If someone I loved made the same choice, like asked me to pull the plug in case of a hopeless sickness, I would respect that. Dean did not respect Sam’s choice – he overrode it. He tricked, hurt and violated his brother. Being possessed by an angel was something Sam would never have agreed to, not to just save himself as opposed to the entire world as in Swan Song, and Dean knew it. That’s why he kept Sam in the dark about it for months. That, what Dean did to Sam, was not the equivalent of running into a fire or jumping in front of a bullet – those things I still want to see the brothers do for each other – it was trampling all over Sam as a person to meet Dean’s need. Dean’s inability to function without him. Dean essentially reduced Sam to his own personal crutch and let it be known that it didn’t matter how Sam felt about it.

    I’m not saying this to bash Dean. I love Dean and I’m very invested in him. That’s precisely why I care and why I want to see something better between him and Sam. They both deserve better than this.

    The article describes the church scene in the s8 finale as a win for codependency. I must admit I hadn’t thought of it that way. It does make a lot of sense. In hindsight, maybe all of season 8 was leading up to that. Though I do feel it’s different from Swan Song, where Sam made the decision to sacrifice himself for the world, after taking days to think it through and also getting both Dean, Bobby and Cas on board with it. In Sacrifice, Sam didn’t know that closing the gates of Hell would cost him his life. It’s true that he didn’t care about that cost when Dean told him, but it can be argued that he didn’t have the time or the mental acuity at that moment to make an informed choice.

    I hope that Supernatural is moving forward to breaking the codependency and building something healthier between the brothers. The only major problem I see with that is that Sam is no longer much of a character in his own right. Season 9 has been exclusively about Dean and his inner workings and what’s made him who he is. Sam has been subsumed by another character half the time, and, when himself, he’s spent a lot of time unconscious or not getting the clues that something strange was going on (out of character for someone who’s supposed to be the smart one). We need to know how Sam feels and what he’s thinking, we need to know who he is basically and what makes him tick. We desperately need more Sam point-of-view.

    1. Oh, yes, please. More from Sam’s point of view! I adored Sam in seasons 1-3. I don’t feel like I know him so well anymore.

  11. Thanks for writing this article. I agree with every point – four corners.

    In season one I loved that Sam was an independent thinker and refused to follow John or Dean blindly. It’s ironic that in season nine we would have this disturbing parent/child codependent relationship. Seems Dean has unwittingly morphed into his father and Sam the “good son” who follows Dean blindly.

    In Man’s Best Friend with Benefits Sam ran to the door in a panic to explain the dog in the room to Dean, like a child to a parent – “It’s not my fault”. Of course, instead of the dog there was a beautiful girl on the bed by then so the scene was made funny. But on another level it was pathetic. And this right after Sam killed a hell hound.

    So I’m happy they’ve acknowledged that something is broken (no matter how painful and ugly) because hopefully they can rebuild a more healthy, balanced relationship as equal partners from this point.

  12. Thank you, Exorcising Emely….I had the same thoughts, and pondered why nobody else can or has the will to see the “crack in the picture”.
    Then I realized its the phenomenon of our time, to ignore the containing deep disturbing issues as long as the package looks good.
    greetz from Germany

  13. As much as I love the show and have been watching since the beginning I often think it would have been better for its legacy if it had ended after Swan Song.

    As you so eloquently showed, Kripke intended the co-dependent relationship to be resolved with both Dean and Sam accepting that their rolls and their attitudes towards each other could and should change and while conflict between them is good for the story telling, the conflict doesn’t have to revolve around their “need” for each other.

    It’s obvious that neither Sam nor Dean is happy with they way their lives are going, why would any fan of the show want them to continue along a path that keeps them that way? They can have a loving brotherly relationship that is built on trust and respect. They can depend on each other without be co-dependent. That is the relationship that I’m hoping the show is headed toward.

  14. they awfully codependednt on eachother what you have written in this article is very true thank you for writing it so people could see it in this perspective. I do hope the winchesters can sort out their codependency issues to a point where they can form other relationships and still be brothers.

  15. Thank you for this excellent article! I couldn’t agree more with what you said! Yes, the brothers relationship is important for the show, but I definitely don’t think it’s a bad thing for us to want their relationship to be healthy and non-codependant. People use the excuse “it’s just a TV show” but when you invest yourself in a TV show, or any form of fiction arguably, you want these characters to be happy, and I simply don’t think that co-dependency makes either of the Winchesters happy. The show seems to going out of it’s way now to highlight this as a well. As others have stated, there can still be love and loyalty in their relationship without it being toxic and co-dependant.

    And I confess, the first time I watched the church scene in 8×23, I quite liked it. After having the brothers be at odds with each other throughout the majority of S8, I thought it was nice to have them on the same page. It was only after I re-watched it that I realised how regressive it was for the brother’s independence. For instance, it was a pleasure to watch Dean and Benny’s relationship develop throughout S8, so it hurt to have Benny reduced to just another kill that Dean made for Sam. As someone who prefers SPN when it is more of an ensemble show, to have a key character reduced to that in the name of co-dependency was something that irritated me to no end.

    At this point, I find it near impossible that the show can ignore this issue any longer, and judging by the end of 9×12, I think that they might be heading towards a resolution for the co-dependency.The fact is, it’s been reused and rehashed over and over again as a plot device, and I maintain that it’s an unfortunate product of their upbringing, that shouldn’t be romaticised. The fact is, the co-dependency has become redundant now, because the brothers do have other people in their lives that they can rely on besides each other, and what I’d love for the show is Dean and Sam hunting together, not because they need to ,but because they want to.

  16. I see a lot of friends post memes that say things like “Love means always putting the other person first”. I have always found beliefs like this unsettling, but I couldn’t articulate exactly why. This very insiteful article has helped fill in the blanks about what I felt was off about these declarations. Thank you.

  17. Thank you for writing this.

    Recalling all those lines Dean and Sam said to each other it’s painful. It’s like they sacrifice their loved ones to show each other their love and dedication. And it keeps making them miserable.
    Kevin was family, he was supposed to be one of them. But I don’t think Dean means it when he says it anymore, somewhere along the way Dean lost the notion of family, love and caring. He’s obsessed with keeping his brother alive, even if it wrecks Sam. I want to believe the show created the brothers codependency so it could break it eventually, so they can grow and develop a healthier bond. It’s exhausting and now becoming boring, as spectator, to watch the brothers lying, tricking and manipulating each other in the name of ‘family’. That’s not what family is about. And Dean Winchester has shown too many times that for him family ‘ends with blood’. Everyone around them keeps getting dead or hurt for the sake of their bond.
    I want to see them overcoming this, once and for all. I want to see them surrounded by loved ones hunting demons. I want them to be brothers in their thirties who support each other instead of parent and child, that lost track of the toxicity of their ‘love’.

    1. *somewhere along the way Dean lost the notion of family, love and caring. He’s obsessed with keeping his brother alive, even if it wrecks Sam. *

      Yes, this. I don’t want to watch a character I view as a hero throwing everyone under the bus to save his brother – and doing it against his brother’s own free will. The writers need to portray this relationship differently since I think most fans are tired of the conflict. I firmly believe the co-dependency is a tool by which TPTB manufacture that conflict, and that fans need to show the writers they don’t care to see co-dependence any more if we want them to stop writing Dean and Sam constantly at odds with each other.

    2. Ah no he doesn’t think Kevin and Castiel are literally family. They are family in the sense that they are in this together, on the same side, fighting together for a common goal. But if you thought that Dean literally meant they were as close as his real family then your bonkers. Sam is the person he was raised with, had the same Mum and Dad, fought with, fought for, same blood. They are literally brothers. They are closer that is never going to change. They are family. I think Dean does throw around family and shouldn’t really, friend is good enough or it should be. His family is someone that he would sacrifice for, Sam and Dean are soul mates and they are heroes and they deseve to live and not sacrifice themselves for the fight. Kevin died, he would of died long before if it wasn’t for the boys.

      1. I could try and explain you what happened throughout season 8 as refutation to your comment, but actually I think you’re doing it very well yourself.

        1. I know S8 very well. Per Jensen, its like a war and no person will be left behind. In regard to looking for Castiel.
          He felt responsible because Dean feels responsible. He wanted to get back to Sam ASAP that was his focus.
          S8 was about Sam and Dean trusting each other and figuring out what they mean to each other. Yea thats S8

          1. He wanted to get back to Sam ASAP that was his focus.

            And in order to get back to Sam ASAP, he spent all that time there looking for Cas? I think that suggests that getting back to Sam wasn’t number one on his to-do list.

  18. Thank you for summing up how miserable this bond has become in such an intelligent and thoughtful way. I hope very much that this is the end of it, since this season has shown me a side of Dean that I find unpleasant and disturbing. Co-dependency =/= love, and I believe very firmly that most of the fans who support it are attempting to force their own shipping agenda onto the show.

  19. Ange (if your here today) -sorry this is totally off topic buy did you see Dylan Farrow’s open letter to hollywood? Do you think it will make celebs reconsider working with him or will they keep heaping on the praise? Yes, he is a genius but why do they pretend that he’s not a criminal also

    1. I’m here but the comments of this article are probably not the best way to converse about something off topic. You can find my personal contact details on the staff page or the general Geekiary contact info (which I also check) on the contact page.

      -Admin Angel

  20. While I absolutely agree that the codependency of the Winchester brothers is unhealthy, I come at it from a different angle. A good deal of the fandom wants to see the codependency nullified and each brother granted true agency. From my point of view, however, what makes the show compelling in part is the fact that Sam and Dean will always be agents of some other higher (or lower) force. They are tools, they are blunt objects for prevention of the end of the world. In order to be such, it is absolutely necessary that they be completely ruined people. Sam and Dean Winchester are unsalvageable, and their codependency is the visible symptom of the underlying condition. People raised to the status of messiah(s) in human myth are invariably broken by their trials. It’s been identified as a sociological and literary trope since the Epic of Gilgamesh and reflected in literature and art (yes, even television) up to the present day. (Apropos of recent fandom mores, look at how Frodo Baggins was destroyed by the quest to destroy the One Ring although it was the ultimate act of heroism.) Regarding the Winchester brothers, it seems to me that the writers’ intent is to convey the idea that redemption is an illusion. (I’m all for the character of Castiel, but if you don’t think Dean would sell his angelic ass out in a second for Sam’s sake, you and I aren’t watching the same show.) From the start of the series, of the two brothers one might expect only Sam to be able to make a break. Dean is, was, and will always be damaged goods–crushed by a life of abuse and manipulation. But the writers’ conscious decision to route very dark forces through Sam made it clear that he cannot be saved, either. The codependency is an absolute necessity to the continuation of the series, whether it’s romantic (which I’m not necessarily certain it is) or just “fated.” To tear them apart is to save them, and also to destroy them. The fact that Sam and Dean cannot be saved by any intervention–mortal, divine, infernal, or otherwise–means that they can keep doing their job, i.e., the thankless and soul-grinding task of keeping the world back from the brink of supernatural warfare. And oh, yes, there are casualties along the way. Viewers by and large don’t seem to understand that it’s quite intentional on the part of the creators to drive home the fact that a savior’s role is a wretched one. Sam and Dean as a unit fill that role in the show. They’re a package deal. It’s not “shipping” or “romance,” they and the select few who walk the same path as the Winchesters have to suffer so the rest of the world gets to stay blissfully ignorant. The monster-of-the-week and the teasing possibilities of redemption are just so much window dressing.

    1. While I agree with much of what you said, I find your logic a bit flawed. Yes, Dean and Sam are Knights in Blood-soaked Armor, irredeemably broken in their attempts to repeatedly stand between the natural and supernatural worlds (along with the third member of Team Free Will, Castiel – a damaged angel) there is nothing in their role that requires co-dependency. In fact, the brothers would still remain broken, still be them against the forces of Heaven and Hell, but work together better without the crippling psychiatric disorder. Their co-dependency is actually redundant at this point.
      Additionally a major theme of the first five seasons was fate versus free will, and they do seem to be bringing that theme back into play with the addition of the Cain story, but I think the show has consistently sided with free will. Team Free Will will work better if (or when) the writers break the co- dependency of the brothers which is holding them back from achieving individual autonomy.

      1. Good points, all. Can I ask: how do you see autonomy jibing with the show’s need for unbreakable partnership in Sam and Dean order to keep the evil at bay? Would they be as effective or motivated working without the threat of losing what each sees is the literal other half of him? I’m not trying to offend–I’d actually really like to hear your theory on Team Free Will and autonomy.

        Also, as a total aside, but there’s something delightfully contradictory and semantically jokey about juxtaposing the terms “team” and “free will,” but that’s just a personal observation that makes me giggle.

        1. Free Will means having the ability to choose instead of being compelled – or fated – to do something. In a real world example, the US Army found that enlisted soldiers who voluntarily served were better, stronger, more self-motivated professionals than the days when soldiers were drafted into service. Countless studies proved that point and essentially have ended the idea of conscripting people into service. Sam, Dean, and Castiel (Team Free Will) would be stronger as a unit if each member were there because they chose to be instead of feeling compelled, especially by a psychiatric disorder instead of something more positive as a bond of love or brotherhood.
          Does that help explain my statement better?

          1. It does. And I have seen those stats about soldiers, choice, and cohesion, so I completely understand. I suppose it remains to be seen whether Sam and Dean are capable of breaking the codependency since it’s so ingrained. I mean, in this alternate world, personalities can be changed completely by some sort of supernatural intervention, so it’s not inconceivable even if by outside means. I’ve seen people (forgive me for the internet-ism) IRL both able to kick codependency, and totally destroyed by it.

            I wrote my first comment because (maybe I’m a cynic), but what makes Sam and Dean compelling to me IS their damage. And while I see a lot of resolution, I don’t see a lot of exploration of that damage in fanworks, and that’s kind of a shame, because it’s psychologically fascinating. But fanwork is wish-fulfillment for everyone, and I won’t begrudge anybody their wish fulfillment, even myself 🙂

          2. You keep banging on about free will, that isn’t a focus of SPN. There is no Team Free Will. There have been more talk about Team Winchester between the boys. So its about family, Team Winchester. Sam and Dean riding around in an impala. That is the end story of Supernatural. They are dynamic and a team that can defeat the highest evil together. Their words, they are in this together, they are devoted to each other, that is the story of SPN

        2. “Free will” doesn’t mean alone. You can work in a team for the same goals and still have your own self and independence.

          Same with being siblings/partners. You can care about and want your sibling or partner to stay alive and work toward that goal, but it doesn’t have to be toxic. Caring about someone else doesn’t have to go all the way to depending on them to give meaning to your existence as you insist it does.

      1. On Twitter you are accusing us of blocking dissenting views. You then blocked us when we told you that you can repost your views without profanity. We are clearly not blocking dissenting views, but you are blocking us when we are inviting you to post again without profanity. You are an extremely baffling person. If you would like to have your comments not caught in our spam filter, you are welcome to repost without profanity. Thank you. And please stop spreading misinformation about our blog on Twitter.

        -Admin Angel

    2. ‘if you don’t think Dean would sell his angelic ass out in a second for Sam’s sake, you and I aren’t watching the same show.’

      If you don’t think the writers won’t at some point (probably this season since I think they are foreshadowing it) have Dean choose Cas over Sam in a second just to create yet more conflict (and yet more sturm und drang in the fandom) then you and I aren’t watching the same show. 😛

    3. This is, legitimately, the most depressing comment I’ve ever read. I, as well as many other fans, both those who support codependency, as well as those who’d like to see it brought to an end, while watching this show cheer for the Winchesters as heroes. Despite their flaws, and longstanding emotional damage.

      But if your viewing is right, and they are “completely ruined people” and “unsalvageable” then I don’t really care if they get devoured by wendigos.

      I followed Ben Edlund over to this show from his work in the Whedonverse, which is pretty much my home base in genre fiction. I expect my heroes to go through pain, I expect there to be casualties, but in the end I expect my heroes to save the day and stand amidst the rubble with well earned, hard won smiles on their faces.

      Like, I think your comment was obviously well-thought out, and well-reasoned. I just really do not want you to be right, because if you are I very desperately want the time and emotional energy I’ve invested in 8 1/2 seasons of this show back.

      FWIW I don’t think you are right, I think the S8 and S9 narrative is heading down a pretty clear path, where Sam is already asserting himself as an individual, and working toward his light at the end of the tunnel that he mentioned in S8, and I think Dean is on a lightspeed race to rock bottom so he can sort through the pieces when he lands and start building himself up in a better way.

      Only time will show which of our perspectives is correct.

      1. Sorry, had a typo, I meant to say, I find your take valid, even if I disagree that’s what’s really going on.

      2. It is rather depressing, yeah? I’ll admit to being a bit of a cynic, but I adore the doomed messiah trope. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me whether it ends well or badly. I like examining Sam and Dean as exaggerated archetypes that show us all sorts of facets of human nature, some of which are best expressed through tragedy. However, I absolutely take your point…and this is why I love dropping in on these things–for other people’s endlessly varied and well-reasoned interpretations. Thanks!

    4. This is a good point and certainly something I’ve considered about what kind of story SPN is telling. But as others have pointed out, if this turns out to be the case, it renders Sam and Dean unrelateable heroes to me. I actually do find the idea of permanently damaged heroes fascinating–and many of my favorite TV series have them and I think there is an element of that in SPN. However–I have to disagree that SPN is that kind of narrative, though it flirts with it. The first 5 seasons had a progression, momentum, and took both Sam and Dean each through realizations about themselves, and what they’re doing, culminating with Swan Song. SPN at its core is a hopeful narrative, despite its tragedies and setbacks and deeply scarred heroes, I’ve felt that from the beginning, and I’ve never really seen it go completely from the canon, although there have been times where it was wobbly and I mentally detached from what was happening. SPN could become a sort of “obligation” viewing where I stay with it out of attachment to the characters but am no longer that invested in what happens to them or the plot twists.

      For me the struggle is compelling, and the attempts at understanding, and heroes who do catch a break once in a while and who do get better. Also SPN deals with depression–so there will be setbacks, and backslides, but there will also be moves forward and moments of self-realization. Even the darkest kinds of heroes get moments of understanding, comfort, insight, they have attachments. This idea that Dean would kill his best friend to save his brother is a horrific, distasteful idea to me.

      That isn’t to say I find your take valid, it’s just a depressing thought and I tend to reject long-running series that go this route (it can be interesting for a standalone novel or movie…but not for season after season of wretched misery), no matter how well produced or well written they are.

      Also relevant to note for context (though not anything you’ve done here) there are many fans who say they love the brothers because they’re so messed up, who scoff at fans who want more growth and improved dynamics as misunderstanding the show, also want the brothers to get along and hug and be close, but they don’t seem to want any of the steps that are actually necessary for them to be close and get along and be effective partners. If SPN is by nature a “doomed heroes” story, then expecting Sam and Dean to be smiling, drinking beers on the Impala by the light of a golden sunset, warm moments of brother bonding, without addressing and repairing the things that need addressing and repairing, seems to go beyond the bounds of emotional credibility. Meanwhile, fans who do advocate for character development and who find SPN a hopeful narrative are not advocating for sunshine and happiness and lack of anguish or conflict. But I think it’s outright toxic, rather than compelling, that the people Sam and Dean love get sacrificed at the altar of the brother bond. And I do think it’s out of place for the type of “hopeful” narrative SPN is at its heart.

      They have always been capable of growth and change and understanding and compassion. It is also a war story, these are deeply traumatized soldier characters. However, within that framework, SPN has been a hopeful narrative. I think it’s something of a hybrid, with elements of the hopeful narrative and of the doomed tragic heroes.

    5. Sorry, had a typo, I meant to say, I find your take valid, even if I disagree that’s what’s really going on.

      1. A very cogent argument, and I can absolutely see your points. I think I should probably clarify my own by saying that I, too, would be turned off if it was nonstop misery. I am absolutely on board with you that the brothers remain hopeful throughout it all, and that’s part of what makes it the bad times more tragic. But hope is a very human thing, and I enjoy TV shows (and books etc.) because of the way they make us reflect on ourselves. I’m of the opinion that when it all ends, it won’t end well for Sam or Dean, though it will for the world at large. They are sacrifices, but I don’t take that to mean they can’t have times of intense happiness, and even peace. Your comment really made me think on my position, and that’s f***ing awesome. Thanks!

  21. – I’m all for the character of Castiel, but if you don’t think Dean would sell his angelic ass out in a second for Sam’s sake, you and I aren’t watching the same show.-

    And yet he didn’t exactly hurry to get out of Purgatory back to Sam did he? No, he stayed to find Cas. And nor did he kill Cas for what Cas did to Sam.

    -The codependency is an absolute necessity to the continuation of the series, whether it’s romantic (which I’m not necessarily certain it is) or just “fated.” –

    Opinion as fact, and not an opinion I and a lot of other fans share. IMO the codependency is killing the show and that’s pretty clear from how many fans are sick of the conflict it breeds.

    This is a great article, agree with every word. 🙂

    1. ‘Opinion as fact, and not an opinion I and a lot of other fans share. IMO the codependency is killing the show and that’s pretty clear from how many fans are sick of the conflict it breeds.’

      It’s not fact, it’s just my opinion, stated strongly. You are, of course, free to agree or disagree…and it seems like the latter is the case, which is fine. We’re all calling it how we see it. Unless the creators come out with an explicit call on any of these, it’s up to interpretation, which is great.

      I enjoy the thematic discussion much more than I enjoy the show. It’s a rich source of human archetypes. I’m sure someone out there in the insular, academic Moby-Dick “fandom” is all, “Goddammit, Captain Ahab had altruistic motives for his vendetta!” Regardless of whether SPN continues or stops, it will always be a subject for exegesis and debate, by which any number of people are free to believe their interpretation is “right.” In the end, who cares if all or none are “right?” It’s just stimulating discussion.

      Seems to me that fandom wars are much more about emotional investment in people who don’t exist and, unfortunately, much less about what these made-up people show us about the motivations of real people (albeit in broad and sometimes clumsy strokes). I don’t care about Sam and Dean Winchester. I care about what Sam and Dean Winchester show us about humanity as a whole.

      1. Dean might of stayed to find a friend but he would of done the same for Bobby, Kevin, Jo, Ellen etc. Its not that he was inlove with Castiel or felt closer to him. It was actually a storyline to show that this guy is loyal, he’s a hero, a fighter and ‘will not leave anyone behind’. That was from Jensen himself. And as far as the ‘fans’ being against the co-dependency imo your so wrong. The backlash to Adam Glass after that episode re the ‘brother’ comment etc was all about saving the dependent relationship, even nicknaming it brodependency. So the majority of fans love that relationship, its why they watch, heck its what Kripke created as the ‘love story’ of SPN. These boys would do anything for each other. Thats epic, thats the story. And the majority of fans want that which is why twitter exploded.

        1. “The backlash to Adam Glass after that episode re the ‘brother’ comment etc was all about saving the dependent relationship, even nicknaming it brodependency. ”

          Er, no, actually Robbie Thompson coined the term brodependency and he did so to refer to this new iteration of the brother bond – ie, no more codependency.

          And please provide your proof for saying that all of the fans tweeting to ask for the brotherly bond to be repaired are calling for codependency? Heck, even I tweeted asking for the brothers to be back on the same page asap, but I am *not remotely interested* in seeing the toxic codependency continue.

          1. You can go do your own research for one. And Adam Glass’ response to the bros parting only to rebuild it. Sometimes conflict is good and makes them stronger. And no Robbies comment was in support of the co-dependency coining it bro-dependency. They are building the dependency, re-evaluating family and what they mean to each other. Its nice to know where the story is, and thats with the brothers and always will be. Their story is the most compelling. Whether they are fighting or making up they are the centre of each others lives. They are happier together and they make each other better people. Thats Canon! Hence why they are hunting together even though they are made at each other.

            1. And no Robbies comment was in support of the co-dependency coining it bro-dependency.

              I don’t agree. I think if Robbie had wanted to support codependency, he would have tweeted to say that instead of using this new term brodependency.

              They are happier together

              Oh yes, I could see how happy they were at the end of 9×11. All smiles they were.

              Their story might be compelling to you but it isn’t to me, not any more. It’s boring same-old same-old and It’s nice they’re changing it.

              1. Just wanted to step in and let you know that the person you are responding to has been banned for personal attacks/name calling. I appreciate well thought out discussions and debates and would have let it continue if Grace hadn’t resorted to attacks. I just wanted you to be aware that the reason she won’t be responding is not because she doesn’t have anything to say (she probably does) but that she is no longer capable of posting a rebuttal. Sorry if I interrupted your discussion. I let her comments slide for a long time.

                -Admin Angel

    2. Well according to Jensen Dean lived by the fact that he’s loyal and the old arm adage of ‘never leave a soldier behind’ for the reason he looked for Castiel and the fact that he had powers and hey Dean thought he’d actually be able to use them to get out. But Benny on the other hand knew all about Sam, so Benny and Dean must of had some great chats about his brother and what he means to him since he knew how much Dean loved his brother.
      He did want Death to kill him in 701 so I’m guessing he was wanting him dead for what he did to Sam then. But he’s often called Castiel a tool, useful etc. He has powers after all which is why he calls him to ‘help’.

  22. Kudos: this is a brilliant article. Seconding all the comments here in favour of death to codependency. \o/

  23. I can’t agree more with everything you said ! This is one of the best article I’ve ever read about the Winchester.

    The Winchester’s codependency disturbed me since season 3, when Dean sacrificed himself to hell to save Sam’s life.

    I think that doing something about the codependency of the brothers, making them overcome it, is certainly THE thing the writers should do to reborn the show that is slowly dying. They already said everything they have to said about the brothers suffering from codependency. What can be more accurate than Dean going to hell for Sam ? Now, it would be so great to concentrate on a way to make them go forward ! With that, they would be able to introduce new issues, new characters more consistent and less easy to kill.

    Anyway, great, great, great post ! 😀

  24. Brilliant article. I’m glad that the show seems to be heading towards addressing the codependency issue. Sam and Dean will always care for and work with each other. They don’t have to be codependent on each other to continue to have their strong bond. Let them have a healthier relationship.

    1. I always laugh when I head fans pull out this “healthier relationship” stuff. I guess you forgot they both went thru what’s inarguably the most trauma anyone on Earth can suffer- culminating in decades in Hell. Yes, did you all forget about that? Hell- where any and every torture; physical and psychological, was used on them. It’s implied Sam was raped, (his Lucifer hallucination alluding to Sam being his ‘bunkmate’), and Dean was ripped apart and made whole again and again until he mentall broke enough to agree to become a torturer.

      This ALONE is the cherry on the top of the boy’s dysfunction- the kind of dysfunction that comes from never having another person to turn to who can understand what each went thru- it’s no wonder that they are so intertwined and enmeshed that each finds solace in each other and in their commitment to each other.

      Dean was given a prime directive as a child, to take care of Sam. At the formative years of his life, his psyche was molded into what can’t be undone with a few hugs and a heart to heart over a beer while sitting on the Impala hood. He has severe issues with self worth and identity, as well as Sam.

      The show’s premise is based on these two enmeshed personalities, and most of the storylines have only come about because of it. If they were healthy, they’d have split up long ago. The way they are now, they can’t. Mentally, they NEED each other, that’s the glue that keeps the conflict going.

      I’m curious what these fans who want the boys to be normal expect the show to look like if this happens. More silly larping episodes, I suppose. Yeah, those are fun, but a steady diet of sweetness will kill this show.

      The show and writers have gotten lazy and keep falling back on the pattern of boys fight/ boys separate/ boys make up. I’m tired of that, too. There are many, many great ideas that could be explored with these characters. They certainly have barely tapped the potential in the MOL bunker. But what I’d like to see is an exploration of how Sam and Dean are dealing with the fallout from their cumulative traumas. Sweeping it all under the rug and making them out as if they’re invincible gets boring.

      If TPTB want to get these guys dealing with their codependency- it has to be done over months and years. Because frankly, people this messed up need serious psychological counseling to unmesh their personalities. An easy fix is not reality. If you want to say, Well, it’s just a TV show, we can do it in 2 episodes, then why would you even get upset if they ARE codependent? It’s the show, it’s the characters, why do they need to be “healthy”?

      If watching flawed and damaged characters upsets you as a viewer, there are plenty of other shows on TV where everyone is happy, healthy, nothing bad ever happens, they have lots of friends and go out to barbecues at the neighbor’s house, etc. This is not that show. These are two very intense characters who have a pretty unhealthy view of the world, themselves and each other. It makes the show work and I wish the Pollyanna’s would quit trying to “fix” them and make them into a washed out, watery version of what they are.

      1. This is a false argument. Nothing in the article, or fans arguing that Sam and Dean need character development and greater self-awareness for the brother bond to improve, have advocated for fluffy happy characters with no problems.

        Meanwhile I am questioning how fans want the brothers to be close, and united, and to hug, and smile and have prank wars and bond and stand by each other, and work together without so much conflict, but don’t want any of the self-awareness, development, and yes, change, the work that would be necessary to actually get them there.

      2. Your comment is ridiculous. Dean having no self-worth, and the boys’ friends having to die horribly to preserve this bond, is not to be celebrated or romanticized.

        “I’m curious what these fans who want the boys to be normal expect the show to look like if this happens.”

        You seem to labor under the illusion we want them happily married with the white picket fence. We don’t. We want them respecting each other as brothers and partners, and kicking monster ass without having to decapitate and disown anyone else they get close to in order to fulfill your Wincest fantasies.

        1. Only a delusional destiel fan called someone that loves the brothers a ‘wincest fan’. You don’t watch the show for anything other than crazy fantasy ships and think thats how everyone sees it. NO we think your delusional! SPN has nothing to do with ships, never has. And the bros trying to keep each other alive is healthy. Dean has a healthy outlook about family, he will save Sam, think he’s worthy, thing he deserves to be here and not sacrifice himself for the fight. Sam and Dean save people, who have they sacrificed. They’d keep them alive if they had a choice but they are fighting evil/monsters who are unpredictable. The people that have died around them probably would of died long before the Winchesters came into their lives. They didn’t make Kevin a prophet, that’d be God. They didn’t make people hunters, that was their choice. They have saved way more than not. If it wasn’t for their co-dependent relationship the apocolypse would of happened, the world goes boom! But thanks to Dean not being able to let Sam go, he went to him or what was then his body and told him he was there for him. Sam fought, sam took Lucifer to the cage. ‘all hail the co-dependent relationship’. And who said thats the story of SPN anyhow, they are pulling the boys apart only to mend them. So no matter what the boys will always be together and be devoted to each other and destiel will never and has never happened.:)

          1. I notice you aren’t calling out your ~colleague Dee, further down thread, who was the one who started making ship-based accusations?

            I can’t make any sense of your ramblings because of your poor grammar, but this: “destiel will never ” – Well, you don’t actually know that, do you? Since we haven’t yet reached the final episode of the final season.

          2. I await your similar diligence in calling out your friend below for her Destieler comment.

            I can’t work out what any of the rest of this comment means. I suggest you get a friend to do a spelling and grammar check before you post replies.

            1. The fact that you don’t understand whats written shows me that your a destieler. I mean you watch a show for a delusional fanfiction. Castiel bashes Dean and you call it love ha. The thing is this season as last season is about the boys connection and how they consider family. This is a positive for bro-fans because Sam is realising that maybe his view on family is not healthy either and both of them need to accept themselves for who they are. So your anti-dependency may not be the story, its more likely to be pro co-dependency. 🙂

              1. I’ve warned you against name calling. Now I have to ban you. You were given a chance.

                -Admin Angel

          3. “they are pulling the boys apart only to mend them.”

            I don’t think anyone here is actually denying that? In fact it’s what we want to happen. Look through the comments: is anyone here saying they don’t want the brothers back in a good place, with no conflict? Nope. If you had read and/or understood the article you would see that’s what the writer wants too. Have you actually read it? Or are you just blundering through and replying in a knee-jerk fashion? Only your responses make little sense and are very contradictory.

            1. Oh no I read it and sometimes thing can be summed up in one word ‘destial’ its tainted viewership. The show has always been about the co-dependence. If it wasn’t there Season 1 – 5 wouldn’t of happened. They are devoted brothers it doesn’t have to be set in r/l, its fantasy and its something of superheroes. They also are human so we see their reactions when things happen.

          4. “Disagreement is fine, but please do not be cruel, hurtful, or downright mean towards other community members.” Calling other community members delusional is cruel and hurtful. Please don’t continue to do that.

            Please read our policy:

            Thank you.

            -Admin Angel

            1. I really hope you are warning the other participants. Because I’m offended by their comments.

      3. @Denise: The author of this article said NOTHING about wanting a normal relationship for Dean and Sam. She stated, ” No viewer expects the Winchesters to leave this story the poster children for well-adjusted society, but growth and movement towards a healthy relationship is ideal, once again touching upon Season 5’s theme of addressing the past toxicity and allowing them to grow as people, with outside friendships and relationships and a sense of self-worth outside of each other, while maintaining brotherly love and support.” It would help if you actually read the article above, instead of coming in here to argue preconceived notions about what people want when none of that is discussed in this article.

    2. They might be addressing it but not the way you as a destiel shipper wants. Maybe they are addressing the fact that Sam has an almost not existent feeling about family and what it means. Maybe this is addressing not looking for Dean in season 8. Why didn’t he look, why does Dean put family on the high pedistal and so close to him and Sam seems to, while he loves his brother, he’s willing to sacrifice himself and Dean for the fight. Where as Dean is saying NO. We don’t need to do that. Dean is saying that the both of them don’t need to sacrifice themselves. Maybe its Sam that has to realise that!

  25. Not surprising this article is written by a diehard Destieler who’s agenda is to break the brother’s bond in the hopes that Jeremy Carver will canonize their silly idea that Dean will suddenly become bisexual and fall in love with Castiel. Note the addition of the trigger warning to amp up the scary/badwrong factor, and do your research into the author of this article and you’ll see exactly how she’s pushed her Destiel agenda.
    Not falling for it. Sorry.

    1. Not suprising that you are the one who made the article about Destiel when it’s not mentioned once, and in fact focuses solely on Sam and Dean’s relationship and the fallout caused by their choices. Who’s obsessed with shipping now?

    2. You could try actually reading it, Denise?

      So apparently you can say a destiel fan isn’t entitled to comment on co-dependency because bias somehow disqualifies her from doing so – but somehow you are entitled to even though you’re biased too? I know you: you’re a Wincester and a Tinhatter, meaning you’re not any more neutral than she is – just that your bias goes the other way.

      Any fan, no matter what they ship, is entitled to express opinions about the codependency. I’m a Wincest shipper (and one of your followers on Twitter actually) and I’m sick of it.

      1. I just wanted to highlight:

        “Any fan, no matter what they ship, is entitled to express opinions about the codependency. I’m a Wincest shipper (and one of your followers on Twitter actually) and I’m sick of it.”

        Thank you. 🙂

        The discussion started off very civilized and now it’s being derailed by a few people who cannot discuss important issues from different perspectives without resorting to insults and throwing around conspiracy theories about shipper agendas.

        This sentiment of fans wanting to repair the broken brother’s bond? It’s pretty damn common, and you see it across the board from ALL kinds of fans. I’ve seen it from fans of Dean/Sam (platonic), from shippers of Wincest, from Dean!girls, from Sam!girls, and from fans of everyone in between.

        ADDITIONALLY, this is a sentiment shared by Eric Kripke in season 5 and Jeremy Carver in season 9.

        How can this universal perspective, that has existed for years and been shared by multiple showrunners, be a ‘shipper agenda’? And what does shipping have to do with this article? There is no reference to ships so why bring it up if not to try to distract from the articles’ valid content?

        At the end of the day, what people want is to see the Winchesters happy. Happiness isn’t only reserved for “perfect people leading perfect lives”. Many of us can relate to this. We can understand that we may be broken and damaged past the point of ever being completely whole but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy and strive to repair the important bonds in our lives.

        Those of you who come in here with hate and hostility, spreading as much misery within the fandom as the brothers’ diseased codependency spreads on the show, I can only wonder what your motivation is…

      2. Thank you for saying this.

        (Am not a wincest shipper, but care deeply about the Sam & Dean relationship, and about Sam, and about Dean, and am tired of hearing all my opinions are irrelevant because I ship Destiel. I try to treat Sam, Dean, and Castiel’s povs with equal respect, as do many other Destiel fans and I also know that Wincest fans are not a monolith. Am pretty sure plenty of wincest and brother-centric fans would like the brother bond to get better and realize that suggesting there be more honesty and some character growth to get there is not an attack on the brother bond).

    3. This is a derailing comment that adds nothing to the conversation, and contains distasteful fan bashing generalizations.

    4. @Dee: NOT SURPRISING that those with weak arguments immediately resort to mudslinging and spreading false statements about the author instead of discussing the content of the work itself in a respectful manner. As for agendas, that’s an ironic statement coming from an extreme “bros only” Wincest fan. Your unprovoked hate and hostility clearly portray you as the vision of “agenda-free” objectivity, right?. *laughs*

      1. Newsflash, bros fans are bros fans we don’t look at SPN as one giant ship j/s And who is to judge healthy. And who is to judge that saving your family isn’t something noble. Why do they need to choose not to save each other so some people can say its ‘healthy’. I think healthy is knowing who you are, and boy boys are heroes. I think its working up to Sam knowing what family really means, because I think its Sam that has the problem. He doesn’t choose family which is scary. Thats not moving on, growing up, thats some kind of detatchment disorder. He needs to know committment, family and what it is the boys do. They do what they do because they are dependent on each other and they work together like no one else. SPN has nothing to do with ships, they are fantasy, most fans watch SPN for what it is and thats a story about two brothers who are devoted to each other and are heroes.

        1. “He doesn’t choose family which is scary. Thats not moving on, growing up, thats some kind of detatchment disorder. ”

          I’m sorry, but are you seriously saying that a guy of 30+ who wants some degree of independence has a detachment disorder? *Seriously*?

          I mean, *seriously**?

          And again: ***seriously***???

          1. Hahhaaaa, that was literally all I could think of reading that comment. There’s just not good ways to defend their codependency as something normal, so people should save themselves some trouble and just admit they love it for what it is. What I can’t figure out is why is it so important for them to paint it as something good & what “the show is & should stay about”.

          1. As do you and your destiel friends. ;( If he kept Castiel in the bunker despite Sam being on the chopping block you’d call that healthy. Why does he need to put Castiel in front of his flesh and blood. Have you heard Dean speak, he loves his brother, wants him with him and in this world to live. Obviously you don’t care about that above your ship.Atleast tptb are finally getting that there are two types of ‘fans’ and ignore the ones that make up their own fantasy ship.

    5. If you are not willing to comment on the content of the article but instead only want to divert attention away by ‘outing’ a bias on the part of the author, (one that she would free admit to having) I can only assume you have your own bias – either by shipping a ship you see as conflicting with Destiel, or having an anti-shipping agenda.

      Not everything in this fandom is about shipping, and making it so is disingenuous or even offensive to those that don’t share any investment in ships or have no opinion on shipping. Its also denigrates the experience of fans who do ship but who invest in the show for multiple reasons, of which shipping may be the least significant of these. Are fans only allowed to watch with one eye? If they ship, does that mean the narrative and other character inter-relationships are just ‘white noise’? If so, you’d think Wincest shippers would have changed channels a long time ago.

      Inferring that to agree (‘falling for it’) with the points made in this article you have to have an ulterior Destiel shipping motive is nothing more than perpetuating a divisive myth.

    6. Hi, this is the admin of the website. Her article didn’t originally have a trigger warning and I asked her to include it. Don’t blame her for that. I asked her to include a trigger warning because she mentioned anorexia. In our internal documents anorexia along with suicide and self harm are things that we mandate get a trigger warning. Please put the fault where it lies, on me as the administrator who requested it, not on the person who wrote the article which didn’t originally have it. If you look around our website all other articles with similar content also have trigger warnings.

      -Admin Angel

  26. Thanj you for the well written article. I was thinking about the last three minutes of this episode as well. Im my opinion there is one important piont to the hole question: the Mark of Cain is a burden, as wie learnt from Cain, and it might be that Dean for once will have to put family behind an other issue. Just like Cain did, when he killed his brother. I am Not saying that Dean will have to kill Sam in the end, but Somerset Kind of discission will be asked of him, i am sure. However the outcome, this to me would mein, that Sam will be grown up at last and in equal terms with his Brother.
    The quotes from Cain and what Sam Said about Family and being brothers seem to point in this direction, I think.

  27. Death to codependancy this has been a poison to both Dean and Sam over the years im all for them working together as brothers but in a healthy relationship and are allowed to have friends who they dont have to sacrifice to save each others arses, About time TPTB had grown some balls it should have happened a long time ago.

  28. great article! I personally want to see the brothers happy. In their current relationship, they are never going to be happy. The codependency needs to break and they both need to find some self worth in themselves instead of each other.

  29. At the end of the day, I see most fans want similar things for the brothers. The difference is that unless you’re an extreme “bros only, Wincest” fan, you’re apparently NOT allowed to care about the brothers and if you do then you’re bashed and treated with hostility because you must have some agenda.This kind of deviation of discussion isn’t about the show. This isn’t about Sam or Dean. This isn’t about codependency. This is a reflection of a personal bias that some fans have against other fans.

    1. It’s sad, because I actually see a lot of similar goals. Maybe variations and disagreements how to get there, but from different parts of the fandom I see a wish that the brothers could get along better and stop manufactured, repetitive conflict, that we see why they like and respect each other, why they trust each other.

      But somehow unless you’re a hard line “brothers first, last, and always” fan you have no right to speak, have no valid feelings, have no genuine interest. I fail to see how my shipping Destiel (or thinking Castiel is extremely important) erases the reasons why Sam and Dean ping so hard for me as characters and why I still give a darn despite the disappointing blows canon has delivered over the seasons.

  30. I want them to be healthy and not so codependent. What I didn’t like in “Sharp Teeth” was Sam implying they can’t be brothers anymore. Because that isn’t possible, it’s unrealistic, and I feel that it’s ungrateful. Dean did what he did to save Sam’s life.

    1. I agree! I want them to be brothers too. And I think that’s where it’s headed, a healthier brother bond that is made up of two equals, standing united against the big bads of the world. It’s going to be a tough road ahead, but that will make it lasting and worth the trouble!!

  31. I’d also like to add another toxic duo in recent TV – Chuck & Blair from Gossip Girl. The most disturbing thing is that this type of relationship is shown in a TV show specifically marketed to young girls, which then proceeded to romanticize it, ignoring all its damaging aspects & ultimately put them together in the end. I have no problem with bad relationships being portrayed on the screen. In fact I welcome it, people should see that love isn’t as easy as Hollywood would like you to think. The problem is when it’s misrepresented as something to be desired.

  32. Very well written and interesting article.
    Still, I’d like to defend “sacrifice” by saying that what you read as Sam feeling usurped by Dean’s others relationships, IMO was Sam asking Dean to *trust* him to do his choices and to do right .. That was a continuation of Swan Song as I see it. For Dean to trust Sam, and for Sam to be his own person, while living and hunting with his brother, after actively chosing to not close the gates, and keep up with the hunting life, as *partners*, as *equals*.
    Not closing the gates of hell is also not the same as allowing the apocalypse to happen in order to save Sam’s life. It was more of keep fighting together, in order to save the word one demon after another … because it’s not like the world would have ended if Sam didn’t close the gates of hell. That was just the opposite. That was Dean saying, I trust you to be my equal, my partner. And that was Sam saying, this is not a suicide mission for me. I have your trust and your faith in me, and I can keep fighting the good fight, without blindly sacrificing my life in the process.
    Sam chosing to not close the gates of hell was him acquiring self-worth and confidence and not thinking “well, I’m better off dead cause my brother doesn’t trust me and he thinks I’m a total screw-up” anymore.
    I mean, I agree the codependency has been unhealty and at times still is, but their relationship in sacrifice was beautiful, and balanced, and healthy … or at least it seemed to be heading that way.
    9×01 with the angel possession … THAT was kind of unhealty. And that’s the reason Sam is so angry and disappointed at this point IMO … because knowing about what Dean did in 9×01 now, he must think of the church talk in sacrifice as Dean just manipolating him into giving up the trials for the sake of codependency ….
    Sam thinks now Dean didn’t really mean anything by that, and he feels betrayed. This is where they need to work through .. and we’ll see where they go from here ….

    I also think Dean really meant what he said in the church. But that he kinda backpedaled from there when he saw/heard Sam giving up his life to Death in 9×01. I think he felt like he couldn’t let go Sam at that point, still thinking his life was not worthy enough. I think he may have felt like he didn’t really got through to Sam in the church, and he couldn’t let Sam die thinking Dean saw him as not trustworthy or strong enough.

    So, I see where both of them come from during the final exchange in sharp teeth …. even if Sam was quite harsh and the line about not being brothers anymore was absolutely unnecessary, cause it was just said to hurt, and given how Dean was/is already broken up about all this, it was just senseless.

  33. I could take this article more seriously if I was not aware that you are a hardcore Destiel shipper. Apparently, Sam & Dean’s brotherly relationship is a roadblock to Destiel becoming canon.

    1. This article is indicating that they want a healthy relationship between the brothers. If she thought a healthy brotherly relationship was a roadblock to a ship (which she didn’t mention in the article at all) why would she actively WANT it to happen? If she thought it was a roadblock, wouldn’t she want their healthy relationship to end, not get stronger/healthier?

      1. I’m not going to sit here & argue with each & ever one of you, however, Emily is using flawed/inaccurate logic to argue her point.

        For one, Kripke NEVER intended to end the co-depenency between the brothers with Swan Song – Swan Song was written the way it was specifically to keep the story lines open for the show to continue additional seasons. Had SPN ended with Swan Song, I have no doubt both brothers would have gone down fighting together.

        As long as Dean continues to put Sam before everyone & everything else in his life, Destiel shippers are unhappy. Because that puts Cas lower on Dean’s list of priorities.

        Regardless of whether Emily mentions that whether or not she is a Destiel shipper in the article, she is a Destiel shipper & the relaitonship she is concerned the most with in SPN is Dean & Cas, not Dean & Sam – the relationship the show is built upon. Without Sam & Dean, you don’t have SPN.

        1. I don’t see any of that, though. At all. I don’t see anyone saying that Dean and Sam shouldn’t care about each other. People are saying they want to see them have a healthy relationship, not a co-dependent relationship. Codependency is unhealthy. I don’t think anyone here, either the article or in the comments, is saying they want to see the relationship between Dean and Sam end at all. If so, please point me in that direction. I feel like you are seeing things that aren’t there.

      2. Thank you for pointing all this out, Angel. It’s very disturbing to see how many false motives can be projected onto a person simply because they happen to be a fan of Castiel or Dean/Cas. None of that excludes someone from also caring about other characters, relationships, or in this case a toxic disorder.

        1. I’m just baffled that wanting a healthy relationship between two people somehow translates to hating them and wanting them to never speak again OR for one of them to have an unhealthy relationship with another character. I just don’t understand where it’s coming from at all.

    2. And I would take you more seriously if you had an actual argument without having to fall back on “Destielers just want their ship”, as if that somehow proves you’re completely in the right. You don’t have to be any kind of shipper to recognize bad & repetitive writing, and for it to ruin your enjoyment of the show.

    3. Your comment would make sense if all the article was, for example, actually asking for the brothers to continue to fight and to become more and more angry at each other until they drifted apart, so that all Dean had was Cas.

      However, it doesn’t.

      “Apparently, Sam & Dean’s brotherly relationship is a roadblock to Destiel becoming canon.”

      Yes, and I’m fairly sure that’s why some fans (including you?) want Sam and Dean to remain codependent.

        1. It is about ships because the author of this article is a hardcore destiel shipper. Now destiel is a made up fanfiction ship that has nothing to do with Supernatural so she hardly watches the show for what it is about. Everything comes from, let the boys have friends (i.e. seperate them so Dean can have sex with Castiel).

          There as another article written where it was about the boys relationship and what it all meant that was from Fangasm. It was how the boys are devoted and how they love each other and what maybe those words really meant on both sides. Maybe you should read that. But nope, you actually think that Dean is gay and even if he was a relationship with Castiel would be sick and disgusting since he’s in a dead mans meatsuit (or not dead man) and their relationship is more abusive than romantic.

          1. Dean is gay

            And you say that as if you consider it something disgusting. Your comment has really homophobic undertones. I hope it wasn’t intentional.

          2. Wow. According to your comment, if one ships Destiel, then that is literally all they care about and cannot/are not allowed to have opinions about ANY other aspect of the show.

            Now I know where that rumor started! From people like you.


            Protip: From reading your comments, you appear to be more obsessed with Destiel than Destiel shippers are. Maybe you should take YOUR shipping goggles off. Nobody here is even talking about it, hon.

    4. This is a willfully derailing comment and completely misses the point of the article. All this fanbashing is completely inappropriate.

  34. To those in favor of keeping and even glamorizing Dean and Sam’s codependency:
    1. Codependency is important to the storyline, yes, but that is because it is one of the major conflicts. And regardless of the ending in Supernatural, conflicts in any story must be resolved in order to create a satisfying ending (note that satisfying does not necessarily mean that the emotion we as viewers feel is a pleasant one). Some emotional conflicts in stories must be resolved earlier in the story in order to focus attention on the tension of future plot points, which I hope is what we are seeing currently in Supernatural. For example, in Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” (which details common elements of the hero’s journey in myth), the removal of self and ego occurs before the final confrontation so that the hero can adequately face his final challenges.

    2. Codependency is a psychological disorder. It is harmful. One form of it is a disorder catalogued in the DSM-IV (as Dependent Personality Disorder, compiled by the APA). Those with DPD often end up in abusive relationships, sometimes with addicts. I worry that some of you who find this romantic will actively seek out relationships like this, and I hope that you can understand how damaging that would be for you and possibly your partner.

    3. From a very young age, my mother (who was always very ill) and I were involved in a codependent relationship that destroyed my academic record and halted my life when she died last year. Surviving on my own still seems impossible sometimes. I would not wish that on anyone.

    4. You deserve better than a codependent relationship. Sam and Dean deserve better than a codependent relationship. Please do not perpetuate DPD and codependency as romantic, glamorized relationships (regardless of whether it’s presented as fiction), as even if you personally would not actively seek this relationship, others you speak to about it may end up hurt.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and consider what I’ve said.

  35. What a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-written article! Thank you for writing this, Emily, and thank you Angel and The Geekiary for posting it. I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion and it really opened my eyes to a lot of points about the Winchesters relationship. Here’s hoping that the show will deliver on a better brother bond in the future.

  36. Dean opened the door of the Bunker and found home. He cooked, shopped, cleaned as giddy as a bride. I expected him to show wearing a white ruffled apron he found left over from the 1950s. The boys have their own rooms for the first time. Dean in reverence decorates his own room, his own photo of his mother, and I could cry, his own bed with memory foam that remembered him and called him home.

    Here was healing for the body and soul of both men.

  37. Dean found home and then the Trials began. The threat of donning again blood stained armor just beginning to have the blood dry is a grief before a death. Both men vow to not repeat past poison patterns of behavior, know that the Trials would likely require one of their deaths.

    At the first Trial Dean stood and looked at the hated bunk bed that kept him from his own memory foam and longed for his home.

    By mid season 9 Sam and Dean rip each other using logical argument as if stale words alone could cure wounds set in horror and blood. The Mark of Cain marks Dean for agony, madness, murder and destruction. There is the faint hint that the First Blade will slaughter Sam by Dean’s hand.

    How bleak and far away Dean’s home looks now.

    Let us hope the writers of this new mythology give us cures and not tragedy in the end. Many people watch Sam and Dean and see their own lives played out in their real horror and blood.
    Many people watch for reconciliation and curing of what they thought could not be cured in their own lives. What the look for is hope.

    The Greeks knew the power of literature to give people a way to cleanse their souls and wrote plays in religious festivals for this purpose. We are privileged to see this theme repeated in our time so poor in myth and literature.

  38. Months and months late, I find this. But then, years and years late I’m finally blessed with time and TV access to watch “Supernatural” and come to some conclusions of my own about it.

    I’m hoping so desperately that Season Ten allows Dean–who’s the controlling partner of the codependency–to accept that his version of “family” is destroying his real relationship, and in the process taking his life, Sam’s, and their many friends’ with it.

    Sam’s been trying to find a way to let go for years–and doing pretty well when he’s given the chance. Dean keeps coming back and turning it into ao combined guilt/ultimatum thing. “Love me on my terms or lose me entirely forever–or destroy me.” Sam can’t quite bring himself to end it entirely…and he’s subject enough to guilt himself that he caves when Dean uses it on him. But Dean’s the one who controls the dynamic, calls the shots, sets the terms.

    Either Dean has to grow up enough to let go for good–when faced by life, as well as by the sudden-death drop of the Lucifer arc–or Sam has to take a vast leap, and find it in him to take over conscious control of how the relationship game is played, and stick to it no matter how Dean rages and screams and threatens.

    As for the entire discussion of how codepenency is being valorized within fandom to stand as the perfect trope for “romance”?

    Aiieeeeeeee! I’m pretty nearly ready to put my eyes out. You can’t read most of the message boards or the fanfic without being drowned in people yearning to believe that the more F*CKED UP two characters are, the more they erode each other, the more it’s Twoo Wuv.

    There’s no greater compliment to a great love than to meet death, and have the survivor come away saying not “I can’t live without you,” followed by a suicide or decline into despair, but “Because I loved you, I will live better, even in the sorrow of your loss and the pain of my grief. Your love left me stronger and wiser and more whole, and your passing cannot take that away from us.”

    Gads. I find myself wondering what is wrong with people that they’re so gaga over the “romance” of destructive relationships. It’s a bit creepy.

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