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Ahh, SPN. You give us so much munchy thinky fodder. We thank you. (Well, many of us do. Some of us. A decent percentage, anyhow.)

This is mostly going to be thoughts, reactions and story meta on the last few eps. However, I'm going to say something upfront, and I hope it won't put anyone off reading my ponderizing here. It's something I feel is highly relevant to my analysis of SPN, to be clear on where I'm coming from.

I am a Christian, and more than that, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. (That is, actively seeking to follow in his footsteps, which is more than can be said for a lot of people who claim his name for their bastardized religion.) That's right; I believe Jesus is God, walked the world as a human man, blood and guts and sweat and tears, calling out the religious leaders' hypocrisy, up to his elbows in the pain of the downtrodden, outcast and afflicted, and showing everyone what it means to have God love them. I believe God rightly refuses to be anyone but himself, and does not have to answer to anyone for that. I believe the bible is God's trustworthy word and witness of himself. (I could make some kind of note here about the intellectual integrity of this, but in all my experience of The Great Shouting Match Of Who's Better, almost nobody ever actually cares. I still like to debate it, but that's beside the point.)

And, as such, I am part of a two-thousand-year tradition of vitriolic, batcrap-crazy, schismatic, intolerant, entitled fandom. SPN-dom is two minutes in a freaking kiddie pool. So yeah, go Team Self-Righteous Thumbscrews, Stake-Burning, And Cultural World Domination. Woooo.

Anyhow, enough of that for now, although I'll talk (not shout) about it with anyone who wants to. On to Sam'n'Dean, who wuv hugs. Volunteers? Anyone?


SPN doesn't usually ruffle me. Almost never. I love SPN for so many reasons, none of them being that it genuinely creeps me out. One, because it very rarely manages to; and two, because I don't like being creeped out, ta anyways*. It's a combination that usually works out well.

So Bloody Valentine was very, very difficult to watch for me. Not the gore, although that was ... urg. (Not ashamed to say I averted my eyes for the first scene, and the deep-fryer.) It was the concepts they were playing with.

SPN is basically humanistic in principle; humans, championed by the Winchesters, are the measure of all things. Human solutions to the dilemas they face is the de facto modus operandi, and, however pyrrhic, it's the only consistently rewarded behaviour on the show. (Whatever they have in store for the revelations of Dark Side, it certainly highlights this underlying premise. More on that in a bit.)

So they keep most of the evil comfortably supernatural, holding mirrors up to human evil very indirectly. If they didn't, the show would be essentially unwatchable. When they turn the spotlight on humans, and rip the skin off our polite pretenses, even when it's subtle, the implications are brutal. And when humans are front-and-centre – Nightmare, Benders, Sin City, Dream a Little Dream of Me, Time Is On My Side, Family Remains, by my count – well. That's when Show gets seriously disturbing.

To me, these episodes do more than any intimidating or scenery-chewing appearances of Lucifer et al to slow Sam and Dean's momentum, from the metanarrative standpoint. They take hopeless to a whole other level, and while they're there, quietly undermine the idea that humanity can save itself, and thus Show's only proposition for victory.

The rest of the time, we've mostly been watching humanity with the brakes off, often heavily (comfortably) disguised as non-human beasties or influence. The ghosts and demons of SPN are both exactly that. Like Sex and Violence, Valentine presented people with their normal inhibitions overridden in the cause of getting/taking their desires, although obviously in different ways and to different degrees. And that is flat-out ugly to watch, not because it's unreal, but because of how accurate it is.

There was plenty to love about the episode, all those cracky elements SPN weaves together with such gleeful abandon and general success. And then there was the evolution and growing maturity of the brothers on display, setting up all sorts of things for the final run this season, and preserving the knitting-together of their relationship. I've never been so proud of Sam as when he said no, no matter what happened before. And Dean's core hunger (and I argue it was there, and just as strong as anyone else's) for pure cessation. He wanted nothing more at that point than to rest, to stop, to be in the middle of a big pile of nothing. Considering ... well, everything, that's not the most unhealthy thing in the world, although it's obviously not good.

Which brings us to his prayer at the end. (Which, in Dark Side, was answered as directly as SPN's Almighty was inclined to.) If Valentine had not ended on that little scene, I would have not had much trouble getting past my perturbation. But that moment spun me right round, baby, right round.

I'm not expecting SPN to get God right. When you haven't spent time getting to know someone, you can't portray them accurately. I don't hold it against them for getting something wrong that they're not trying to get right; they take things from all over the place and break them to their story, which is their prerogative. (God has a similar one.)

Moreover, God ruins the story. Any time God shows up in a story, it immediately becomes about him. Being the centre of the universe is in his job description; it is part of who he is. This could not be further from SPN's philosophy or series arc.

They went cagey and ambiguous with his presence and motive, which was the best choice for them. He's still going to brush against the story, and the weight of him still lies on it, more insistently even than John does, but they've got him out of it as far as they can. Having opened the box, they're never going to get it completely closed, but after almost two seasons' work they've managed to wrench the full focus back onto Sam and Dean. Which is where they are intending to keep it.

But for a show that isn't trying to get God right, they nail a whole lot of the reality and rigour of the cosmic spiritual battle which we are all a part of, whether we recognise it or not. So much of the show resonates with people's lives because of it.

And I've seen prayers on shows before. Dean's was ... not like that. That rawness was extraordinary, and so achingly familiar. I've been where Dean was many, many times. Taken beyond all human resource, beyond any capacity of strength or endurance, driven to my knees to acknowledge that I am not enough. That I need God to show up, or I am destroyed. This is the place where you are beyond yourself, finally willing to meet God as God, on his terms. Not as God-on-your-leash.

This is where God shows up. Every time.

He doesn't take you out of the battle; he joins you in it. He gives you his resources to fight. Consider this, and see which parts of it sound familiar:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed....

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This was written by the apostle Paul. A lawyer by training, as smart as Sam and doggedly dedicated to the mission as Dean. He was the real deal, and understood the battle as well as anyone can. Yet he could truthfully witness that he was not crushed, not despairing, not abandoned, not destroyed. I can witness the same about my own life. That whole passage is written from experience, not theory, about how the forces of death and destruction are literally turned into life, richer, fuller, deeper, always. By God, through Jesus. Evil is not only defeated, it is used against itself. No one and nothing else can do that. Not even Paul. Not even Dean and Sam and Bobby and Castiel.

Which is what finally, after five seasons of trying, broke my heart for Dean. Because I knew that SPN could not and would not let him have that.

Watching Dark Side (which was brilliant), it couldn't go any other way. The show, to me, feels to be positioning itself for a triumphant finale (as triumphant as they get, anyway), and this is a necessary low to start that trajectory from. Dean, Sam, Bobby and Castiel are in the right places for that. In-story, Dean could not be given what God grants to all who ask: himself. Because then the triumph is God's. And SPN is Dean and Sam. But my real world heart breaks for him anyway.

*"Ta": "thankyou" abbreviated almost out of existence, as per British/Commonwealth linguistic laziness.
**The passage is 2 Corinthians 4-6:10; the verses quoted are 4:8-9 and 6:4-10.

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January 2016
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