Initial reaction 12.22: "Who We Are"


THEN: Once again, we enter the Wayback Machine, and watch Roy and Walt murder our boys (does that mean one or both Winchesters are going to be murdered in this episode?) And some other things, culminating in the bunker being an excellent fortress and/or tomb. Come along, Mary.

NOW: Mary's killing hunters and I don't particularly care, except that she gets a text listing her next victims, which includes Jody Mills and suddenly I do care; I care quite a lot.

Title card!

The guys where we left them last week, locked in the bunker. Dean's throwing switches, Sam's talking about the garage and air vents, and Toni's pointing out why every option he suggests won't work. But she doesn't know who she's dealing with, does she? Dean says what we're all thinking - let's kill her to save on oxygen. But she says since she's the one who programmed Mary, so she's the only one who can deprogram her. Neither brother really believes it, but Sam seems to think they have nothing left to lose by keeping her alive. (Oxygen, Sam. That's what you have to lose.)

Actually, she's fairly useful, because knows an awful lot about the bunker. Like the fact that there's a manual override that would undo everything Ketch did. And it's outside the bunker. You know, if these guys happened to know anyone who wasn't actually in the bunker with them, maybe that person could activate the manual override. Huh. Too bad they don't have phones, and even if they did, they don't know a single person on the outside. (Seriously. Did Ketch say something about blocking cell phone signals? Is praying to Cas really no longer an option?)

Sam suddenly realizes they have access to all sorts of spells and stuff, and maybe they should try that. And, being Sam, he finds a spell that might work - except it requires the blood of virgins. You'd think the MoL might have some of that in a vault somewhere, but instead, Sam suggests they "fake it" with a purification spell. Won't be the first time they've re-virginized themselves, right? Toni refers to purfiying the blood and then using it in the spell as "two-step magic," which I guess it is, and she seems maybe a tiny bit impressed. Maybe you're finally realizing how awesome the Winchesters are, huh? Unfortunately, Ketch installed some kind of magic blocking, so the spell starts to work but then fails.

Day two. Dean says it's time for brawn, not brains. He points out the one wall in the bunker that's made of nothing but concrete, and behind it is an old sewer pipe (ew, how old, and does that mean unused?) that leads to the surface. They're going to "straight up Shawshank this bitch." In one of my favorite scenes in this entire episode, Dean heaves a sledgehammer at the wall and gets a faceful of concrete chips in return. "Goggles?" says Sam. "Goggles," agrees Dean. It's my second favorite scene ever that features Dean and a hammer.






My caps aren't very good, because it was so dark, but this scene demands to be capped.

There's hammering and then there's removal of outer shirts and more lucious hammering and I could watch this for a really long time. Then they stop for a break, with the wall barely scarred, and I could watch this even longer. I'm going to transcribe most of this conversation because it's just that good.

We'll get there.

No. No we won't. We're not gonna hit dirt for three days. Two if we're lucky. I know you feel it. The air, it's thin. And it's getting thinner... How did this happen?

What part?

All of it.

Yeah. You know, it wasn't long ago, I thought we had it made. We saved the world, we got Cas back, we had Mom back. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but still, we had 'em. And now.

Now they're all gone. And Mom, what they did to her... I just fell for their company line, man. I saw what they were doing and I thought, hunters on that scale, working together, how much good we can do. And once I was in, I just followed. Cause it was easy. Easier.

Easier than what?

Easier than leading... Is this how you pictured it? The end?

You know it's not. I always thought we'd go out, like, Butch and Sundance style.

Yeah, blaze of glory.

Blaze of glory... Son of a bitch.

Marvelous things about this scene:

- Huffing and puffing and sweaty single-layer Winchesters.
- Sam's soft voice and expressive face.
- Goggles? Goggles.
- Dean's palpable despair, especially when he talks about losing Cas and Mary.
- Sam thinking about what they did to Mary and knowing more about it than Dean could ever know, because he knows what they did to him, he knows what they're capable of, he knows how that feels.
- The Winchesters calmly facing their inevitable death together.
- Dean's smirk when he realizes what his blaze of glory is going to be.
- That flash of Sam's arm when he puts his hand up behind his head.

Basically, all of this is gold.










What part? All of it.

And more good stuff is coming, because yes, my dearest friends, it's finally time to break out the grenade launcher. (Is it ridiculous that they had access to it? Are we supposed to believe that this one time, they parked the Impala in the garage, even though we saw them coming down the stairs from the front door? Does any of that even matter? I've decided not!) Toni calls it a "colossally stupid idea," and Dean agrees. "Yep! Big, beautiful, and dumb." She points out that he could bring the whole place down and kill them all, and Dean and Sam are all, "yeah," because they literally do not care any more. They exchange a look that I will never get over, and then Sam drags Toni off, and I'm pleased to notice she's in handcuffs now. She continues to complain, calling them lunatics, and I'd like to point out to her that being dragged off by a sweaty Sam Winchester in a v-neck grey t-shirt while wearing handcuffs might be some people's biggest fantasy, okay? Then Dean points the grenade launcher and says "Okay beautiful. Yippee kay-ay, mother-" and BOOM.





Okay, beautiful.

After the explosion, Sam leaves Toni behind and fights his way through the dust. He finds a big hole in the wall, and a set of rungs on what is apparently the old sewer pipe, but no sign of Dean. Then the hole collapses in a shower of rubble, and whatever way out there may have been is now filled with debris. And no Dean. Sam wanders the bunker, coughing and calling for Dean, and I'm confused about exactly where he's going, and how he ends up in the hallway. I must not know the layout of the bunker very well, because I really don't know why he's suddenly in the hall. He finally collapses in the war room, and I'm going to handwave any architectural anomalies because this is pretty awesome. Then the lights come on and the fans reverse back to their normal operation and start sucking dust out of the air and a door opens and Dean limps in with a huge freaking injury to his leg. "Hey, lunatic," he says, and my heart explodes.



Kaboom.

But my happiness is instantly erased because we cut to Jody's house and Mary knocking on her door and I am not okay with this, I am not even remotely okay with any of this.

Somewhere in the Impala, Dean cuffs Toni to the door while he and Sam go through a pile of cell phones, looking for one with a charge. Too bad they don't use the same phone Mary does, or the one Bobby did, because those hold a charge for years. Also too bad that they don't have a phone charger in the Impala. Seems like that's at least as useful as a grenade launcher. Dean finds one that works, and calls Garth to warn him to take his wife and hide. Although he calls her Bess and I thought her name was Amelia, because I remember a whole LJ conversation about yet another Amelia. Maybe Amelia was just a different member of that pack. But I digress. Sam finds another phone that works, but isn't able to get hold of Jody. And my heart stops.



Other things that make my heart stop. That hair. That face.

They drive into the night and burst into Jody's house and oh god there's blood on the carpet I don't want to watch this I don't want them to find her body and... oh. She's sitting in her living room, with Alex, nursing a bruise on her face. And Mary's tied to a chair. Well, okay then!

Alex works on Dean's leg, and I remember she's a nursing student, so this is a nice touch. He sits looking sadly at his mom and Jody comes over and pats his arm and he reaches up to grab her hand and they do a little hand-hug thing, and it's so natural and so affectionate and dammit, there goes my heart again.


I don't think I'm going to survive this episode.

Mary makes a snarky remark and asks if she's too different from the Mary he knew. Then she says "too much the same," and my interpretation on first watch was that she was saying she and Dean are too much the same, because if you missed all the reminders this season, Dean is a killer. But now I'm not sure what she meant.

Then Sam enters with Toni, which means she's been cuffed in the car the entire time Dean's been getting his leg patched up and drinking his first pain reliever. He tells her to "do your thing," and she admits she can't actually deprogram Mary after all. "The Mary that you know, the good Mary? She's hiding. Behind impenetrable psychic walls." Basically, Mary can't be saved.



Such pretty, pretty despair

Dean's all, okay, I only kept you alive for one reason and that reason is gone. He's prepared to take her out to the back yard and shoot her, which would be awkward, considering it's the Sheriff's back yard. But Mary's phone rings (apparently Mick was the only hobbit, because Ketch is labeled with his own name) and Toni points out that the BMoL are going to find out the Winchesters are alive, and they can either run or die. "Or we fight," says Sam.

Cut to a small group of hunters gathering in Jody's living room. There's a knock on the door and Sam pleasantly greets... Walt and Roy. Okay, I guess that's why we got that part of the "then." Dean's a lot less pleasant. When they say "we haven't seen you guys since..." he says "since you killed us." I love it. One of them (I can't remember who is who and I don't care enough about them separately to find out) asks if Sam's going to tell them what they're doing there, which means they were summoned to a meeting at Jody's house, and just came. And either (1) they knew the Winchesters would be there, and came anyway, or (b) they didn't know, and weren't particularly surprised to see them. Let's all handwave this together, shall we?

Sam starts to explain to the room. "My brother and I, we, um... No. You know what. I called you here, because people, our people, are being slaughtered. And we're next." Sam has decided to lead, guys. He explains what the BMoL are up to, with their recruitment tactics and their flashy gear and whatnot. "Most of you had the good sense to turn them down," he says. "I didn't." And his little nod, at that point, is exactly like the little nod he gives in 5.01 when Demon!Bobby tells him to lose his number. That same I'm a bad person and I've done something awful and I accept the consequences nod and it breaks my freaking heart. I want to hug him and remind him that he turned Mick Davies and he would have turned all of them; given enough time and patience he would have turned every one of those Brits into a Sam!Girl. I know this.

I have mixed feelings about Sam's actual speech. He says the BMoL want to decide who gets to live and die, which is... exactly what the Winchesters do, isn't it? I mean, their criteria is different, but they're still making that decision. I wish he had stuck to the point that that the BMoL are indiscriminate in who they kill, seeing everything in black and white and not recognizing shades of grey. On the other hand, he's giving this speech to people who literally murdered him as punishment for something he did, so. That's awesome. And Dean looks so proud of him.

When they get ready to go storm the castle, Dean says he's not going because of his leg injuries. Sam says he'll take a "jacked up Dean Winchester" over any ten hunters, gesturing toward the hunters he's actually taking, and they're probably saying "dammit, we're right here, we heard that." But they know it's true. I mean, two of them are Roy and Walt, for god's sake.

"I saw you," Dean says. "You're ready for this. You show those sons of bitches who's boss." Dean's gonna stay and save Mom. "Look, if she's in there, if our real Mom is in there somewhere, then I'm gonna try and find her, bring her back." Sam swallows, because he knows I love that, and Dean looks around to make sure no one's watching them and says "c'mere" and gives him a hug, because he knows I love that, and tells him "you come back" and oh, god. "Promise," says Sam, and then they do "bitch"/"jerk" and I know this is blatant fan pandering. I know bitch/jerk wasn't even a thing, wasn't ever intended to be a thing, until we made it a thing. But I love it, and I love the way Sam has a hard time looking at Dean, just like at the end of S11 when they hugged goodbye at Mary's grave, and I love the way Sam looks down and quickly walks away and Dean looks sad and anxious and alone and okay, it just works on me, all right? They know where my buttons are and they're pushing them hard tonight. There's also a nice little Kim Manners shout-out when Alex tells Jody to "kick it in the ass."




They are well and truly kicking me in the ass.

Dean then visibly shoves all his emotions down, because he knows I love that (they both know me so well, don't they?) and instructs Toni to get him into Mary's head. But she can't do it without her gear, which is at the BMoL bunker. But perhaps she could cobble something together.

Speaking of the BMoL bunker! Dr. Hess is giving instructions to her crew, telling them to not leave any witnesses when they go after their hunter targets. Bystanders, family members, everyone is fair game. Ketch looks anxious, and grabs a techy person to locate Mary, and keep it between us. Oh, look, Mary's in Lebanon. I know there was some discussion earlier about whether Ketch really has feelings for Mary, but let's not forget, he stole Dean's picture of her. I don't think he's simply trying to prevent a valuable asset from being re-stolen. I think he really does care for her, as much as he can care for anything that isn't a prohibitively expensive Scotch.

In the bunker, Mary is tied to a chair and Toni says she's going to go round up the stuff she needs. Dean doesn't want to let her out of his sight, but she doesn't see the point.

Need I remind you that my organization left me to die? At this point I'm not on anyone's side but my own. So I'll help you try to save your mother, and when the dust clears...

Will I let you go?

I'd like to see my son again. I'm not asking for a pass. I'm asking for a head start.

Aw. She seems almost human. Dean agrees, and uncuffs her. But let's talk about this. Did her organization leave her to die? I don't think so. I think it was only Ketch, going rogue. I think it's entirely possible that Dr. Hess was told she'd been killed in action, and would have welcomed her back if she'd known the truth. But (spoiler alert) we'll never know.


Do we care? Nah.

At the BMoL bunker, we see the minions suiting up and weaponizing themselves. I'm going to stick with Sam's side of the split storyline for now, rather than going back and forth.

When Sam's raiders arrive at the bunker, we see a few minions outside with guns, but the ones Hess sent would already be on the road, wouldn't they? Oh, apparently they're all still in that meeting room. She sends them on the attack and there's a gun battle outside. The raiders break into the bunker and there's more shooting, apparently resulting in the deaths of everyone except Sam, Jody, and half of Walt&Roy.

Hess manages to lock herself into the conference room/war room/whatever, and she's speaking to someone on the computer. She tells them to "open a portal" and get her out of there, and that's interesting. The BMoL can travel through portals? Why did Toni take a plane? But the person on the other end says they don't have the resources for an "extraction." And it wouldn't matter anyway, because the door bursts open and Sam comes in and when she reaches for a gun, he uses his big voice and says don't because he knows I love it.

Hess tries to talk her way out of it. "Listen, Dean." I guffawed at that, and then I wondered if it was supposed to highlight that Sam isn't normally in the leadership position, since they decided to make that a thing in this episode. She tells him that cutting his ties with the BMoL right now would be a big mistake, and shows him a file with surveillance photos. Of Lucifer. She tells him Crowley let him out, and now he's dead. Sam's clearly thrown by both pieces of information. Lucifer's tracking down his baby, Hess tells him, and he can't face that alone. He needs the BMoL.

The man on the other end of the computer, presumably one of the Old Men of the BMoL, says "listen to her, boy," and maybe being called boy is too much. Sam looks scared and indecisive but then, as Jody and half of Walt&Roy eye him closely, he takes a deep breath and says "pass." Sam shoots the computer, Hess reaches for her gun, and Jody's all oh no you ain't shooting Sam Winchester you British piece of trash and plugs her right in the forehead. As Sam's surviving raiders drive away, the BMoL compound is destroyed by an explosion. I'd hoped a grenade launcher would be involved in the eventual downfall of the compound, but this is good too.




Yes, this is all very good.

Meanwhile, at the bunker, Toni has hooked Mary and Dean up to some kind of machine. Lucky thing she found a compatible piece of electronic equipment in a bunker that had been locked down since the 50s. (Let's do the handwave again!) She tells Dean that, since he hasn't had the training he'd need to find his way into Mary's psyche, she's going to drug him instead. And she was lucky enough to find a compatible hypnotic drug, too (handwave). She injects the hypnotic/sedative into both of their necks, with a slight pause for Dean to sneakily handcuff her to the table, and then he's out.

He wakes up in the living room of a house that's unfamiliar to me. There's an empty kitchen, and when he turns back to the living room, there's a crib. With an adorable baby inside. "Sam," he says, with a tiny sad almost-smile that shatters whatever remains of my heart. Mary comes in, wearing her perfect-mom sundress, and tells adorable baby Sam to take his nap. Dean follows her into the kitchen, where she's feeding Young!Dean a sandwich with the crusts cut off. Adult!Dean tells her they have to leave, she needs to come with him, but she can't hear him. Or won't? He grabs her arm and she pulls away, and he realizes she's choosing to be where she is. She tells Young!Dean that she only wants good things for him, and will never let anything bad happen to him. Adult!Dean stares at her in disbelief and finally says "I hate you."

"You lied to me," he says. "I was a kid! You promised you'd keep me safe, and then you make a deal with Azazel." Which is unfair, since she made that deal six years before he was born, but I see his point. As they stand at baby Sam's crib, Dean tells her how she ruined his life, because Dad was a shell and Dean had to be a father, and a mother, to keep Sammy safe. "And that wasn't fair, and I couldn't do it. And you want to know what that was like? They killed the girl that he loved. He got possessed by Lucifer. They tortured him in Hell. And he lost his soul. His soul. All because of you. All of it was because of you."

So let's think about this. Let's think about Dean, pouring out his fractured heart, telling his once-sainted mother how broken he was as a child, but it all comes down to Sam. What they did to Sam. Because Dean still doesn't think he deserves Mary's love. He thinks of this in terms of "I had to be Sam's mother and father and I wasn't good enough so bad things happened to him." Oh, Dean. Let's not think about this any more, because it's breaking my heart.




But we can still look at it, because it's gorgeous.

In the real world, Toni observes the two unconscious Winchesters. Back in Mary's head, Dean tearfully tells her he hates her, but he loves her, because he can't help it. And he understands, "because I have made deals to save the ones I love." Dammit, we just heard Dean (1) use the word "love" twice in one speech, and (b) indirectly use the word "love" in relation to Sam. He forgives her, and tells her they can all start over, if she'll fight, if she'll look at him.

Just as she looks at him, Dean is ripped out of the dream state. In the real world, we see the leads from the not-from-the-50s machine being ripped off his head. By Ketch. Dean slowly comes around and sees Toni dead on the floor with her throat slit. I wonder if she would have been able to defend herself if she hadn't been cuffed? We'll never know. Ketch and Dean fight, but Dean's still coming off a sedative and is also pretty seriously wounded from earlier, so he's having a hard time. Ketch enjoys pounding on him, so he keeps it up for a while, taunting him with the news that Mary never talked about him at all (because Ketch knows where people's buttons are too). Dean does manage to put up a defense and they have a fairly brutal fight (I hope that table wasn't the one they carved their initials into, because they'll need to redo those on a different one).

But when he calls him stupid, Ketch has had enough. "I may be many things, but I'm not stupid," he says, and pulls a gun on him. A teeny tiny gun, I must say. Dean stands there, facing his death, but there's a shot and Ketch grabs at his arm. I first thought Toni must have survived, but it's actually Mary, standing behind him with a gun, just like when she killed Toni's minion at the beginning of the season. "I knew you were a killer," Ketch says to her. "You both are."

"You're right," Dean answers, and Mary blows him away.

Aftermath! The bodies have been covered but not removed. Dean limps into the room with a bottle of expired pain meds and sees Mary cleaning up. He tells her she doesn't have to do that, and she says that all of this is because of her. Which is true. She apologizes for being distant, and says she was trying to make things right, but from a distance, because being there with her boys, seeing what she'd done to them, was too much for her to deal with. Dean tells her that everything that happened to them made them who they are. "And who we are? We kick ass. We save the world." Yes, my sweet baby. Yes you do. She's afraid Sam won't forgive her, though. Sam conveniently enters and tells her she doesn't have to be scared of him, even though I don't think he even knows about her demon deal so how does he know what she's scared of, and wraps her in a big hug, planting his chin on top of her head because, let's all say it together, he knows I love that. Dean holds Sam's shoulder and says "glad you're back, man," which is code for I love you,and decides he needs to get in on this hug too.






And who can blame him?

So. Wow. I liked this one so much more than I expected. There were certain things that happened to push all of my buttons: single layers, hugs, heartfelt talks, calm bravery in the face of certain death, Sam struggling to breathe, Dean gleefully causing mayhem, revenge, intelligence, and badassery. And hammers. But my favorite thing was probably that there was so much love. Between Jody and the Winchesters, between Mary and her sons, but mostly between Dean and Sam. These two, they can put so much in just a look, let alone a hug or a heartfelt talk. There was just so much heart in this episode.

What does all of this mean for the future? Well, the outreach chapter of the BMoL is apparently destroyed, and apparently we'll never learn Ketch's tragic backstory. It also looks like Sam and Dean will never learn about Magda. But the Old Men are still there across the pond. And The Code still demands that anyone who kills a BMoL gets a death sentence, so maybe they'll be back in S13. But most importantly, it means 12.23 is going to be reserved for the Lucifetus. Yay.

Please keep in mind that some people might not have watched both episodes yet, so let's still keep spoilers for 12.23 out of the comments. And of course, please don't mention anything you knnow about S13. Wild-ass speculation and wishful thinking is welcome; nay, encouraged. Thank you!
I actually liked this ep quite a bit (I know, I know, I'm fickle what can I say :P) A few random points:

Re: getting to the grenade launcher in the Impala in the garage -- somehow it is possible to park in the garage and still come down the bunker stairs. I don't know how, but Sam & Cas do it for sure in "Alpha and Omega". And "Slumber Party" also makes it clear that there is a way to access the garage even when the main bunker door is shut. I don't know how any of this actually makes sense (the sister has been tearing her hair out over it for a while) but there is precedent at least!

Also, the grenade launcher, heee, yeah, that was satisfying! (And I liked that ultimately Toni was useless in their escape, they didn't need to rely on her at all. :P)

I was spoiled about Dean going into Mary's head to break the brainwashing and I was expecting not to like it and then I really, really loved it. That Dean's greatest pain comes down to failing Sam, that he couldn't protect him from all those terrible things -- oh oh oh. It's sad but it's also beautiful -- and Sam's greatest pain in "Sacrifice" is letting Dean down, and now this...these two, these two!!! This is the Dean I've been missing all season.

I was a little perturbed by Sam's speech to the hunters -- actually I couldn't figure out why he had to give a dramatic speech at all, like, the BMOL are actively trying to kill them and hunters are used to risking their lives, and they had no respect for the BMOL anyway, I would've have thought Sam wouldn't get three words into the speech before someone interrupted, "Yeah, we know, they suck, you got an address we can storm?"

And also him changing the "my brother and I" to "I" made me...like on the one hand I love the idea of leader Sam, I think it's a natural progression for his character, he's always been about personal responsibility so now that he's mastering that, moving onto greater responsibility makes a lot of sense? but I also see some fans (...okay, yeah, I see Destiel fans) talking about 'breaking the toxic codependency' by which they mean splitting up the brothers, having them work apart and get totally separate lives and I don't have words for how much I don't want that, and this kind of felt like maybe the show was tilting there...

But then no one else seems to have read it that way, and so I can just love Sam being awesome and Dean being proud and supportive and the hug! the hug!

--Also, you're more on the Sam fan train than me -- is Sam struggling with being a leader a thing that's ever come up before? Because I couldn't think of it as being a theme -- like I said, I like it as a character arc for him, but it didn't feel so much like a developed story here so much as a single point? I can think of a lot of times he's taken leadership roles before (main one that comes to mind is rallying everyone to save the universe in "Alpha & Omega" last year) and I don't recall it coming up as a major issue before...

Finally, Dean could only find expired pain meds? They don't keep the bunker's first aid cabinet stocked, seriously guys? And also how come they didn't change outfits in the two days they were trapped in the bunker, when that's where all their stuff is? It felt weirdly like they don't really live there. (Okay that last is mostly because I did not like Dean's shirt, the red plaid was too broad for me, I wanted him to change :P)

But there were hugs! The Winchesters hug at the end, Sam holding his family, oh oh oh...see show, really, I am that easy...
That Dean's greatest pain comes down to failing Sam, that he couldn't protect him from all those terrible things -- oh oh oh. It's sad but it's also beautiful -- and Sam's greatest pain in "Sacrifice" is letting Dean down

Oh, yes! What a lovely parallel.

but I also see some fans (...okay, yeah, I see Destiel fans) talking about 'breaking the toxic codependency' by which they mean splitting up the brothers, having them work apart and get totally separate lives and I don't have words for how much I don't want that, and this kind of felt like maybe the show was tilting there...

What? Toxic codependency is WHY I WATCH THE SHOW.

--Also, you're more on the Sam fan train than me -- is Sam struggling with being a leader a thing that's ever come up before?

Not at all. Dean letting Sam go is a thing, but not Sam's leadership skills. Like you said, he's the one who rallied everyone else at the end of season 11, when they were sitting around waiting to die.

Finally, Dean could only find expired pain meds? They don't keep the bunker's first aid cabinet stocked, seriously guys?

Considering how often they use whiskey as a disinfectant instead of keeping rubbing alcohol on hand, I think that first aid cabinet isn't as well-stocked as it could be.
What? Toxic codependency is WHY I WATCH THE SHOW.

Ahahahah -- putting aside the serious discussions I've had on Tumblr about how they aren't really toxically codependent (like, their relationship is actually pretty functional, most of the problems with it are because they are so psychologically fucked up anyways, due to their lives) -- yes, this! And hopefully the show will remember it...
Ah, ~toxic codependency. If there's one pop-psych term I'd like to take out of the hands of fandom...

eta: Seriously, though, whatever its issues, I don't think the show is so incompetent as to deliberately dismantle its core narrative, which has always been the relationship between the leads.

Edited at 2017-05-23 03:40 am (UTC)
Haah, until this season I wouldn't have had any doubts, but s12 was a bit...confused? as to who its leads were, or at least what the leads of a show should be doing in regard to the narrative (for future reference, guys: the leads should be central to your narrative, not watching it unfold perplexedly from the sidelines...)

(Really I'm not so much worried about it happening in the show itself, as it runs on the Sam & Dean/J2 chemistry...sometimes I fret about how the show will end, but ehhh, if it's stupid, that's what fic is for!)
You mean that they might have Sam settle down with a woman and a library so he can be the 'new Bobby' while Dean and Cas drive off into the sunset? And somehow Sam and Dean go from "I won't do this without my brother" and "The only thing that matters--the only thing that's ever mattered--is that we're together" to "It's cool if we just see each other on the weekends?'' Yeah, the show has gotten a bit confused about what it's focus should be and where it's drive should be coming from, but I still somehow can't see it losing the plot that completely.
Ahahah you saw my ranting on tumblr about this back whenever, or it's just something that comes up? Either way, yeah, no, I don't really think they would...I just fret. This show is pretty unique in how it gives me what I want, and I get needlessly antsy about losing it...!
Sam conveniently enters and tells her she doesn't have to be scared of him, even though I don't think he even knows about her demon deal so how does he know what she's scared of, and wraps her in a big hug, planting his chin on top of her head because, let's all say it together, he knows I love that.

Sam's known since about season 4. After Dean went back and saw the deal he told Sam about it. That was the moment that Sam mentioned demon blood, and Dean realised that Sam already knew about that and never told him.
Sam knew about the demon blood, but I don't think he knew about Mary's deal. If he did, can someone please let me know which ep that was?
...I wrote a whole long comment and then I got a message that it had been marked as spam, so it won't show? I was trying to link to the transcript for 4x04, I guess that's what did it. Whoops.

Anyway, long comment made short, it's not 100% clear whether Sam knows or not, as is the case of many things in SPN, so if they want to make this a big deal in Mary & Sam's relationship, they could, or else they can never speak of it and we can just assume he does know.

ETA: And I just remembered! But in addition to knowing about the demon blood, Sam does know for sure that Mary knew Azazel -- in the 2x21 flashback when he found out about the blood, he sees Mary recognize Azazel -- Sam says outright, "She knew you." And given that he knows Azazel makes deals -- and that he knows Yellow-Eyes killed Mary's parents but not her -- Sam could figure out that Mary might have dealt with him.

Edited at 2017-05-22 08:45 pm (UTC)
Dean and Mary have this conversation in 12.02:

And when we do find Sam, how am I going to face him?

What do you mean?

That yellow-eyed thing would never have come for him that night if I... I started all of this.


Dean doesn't know about the deal, and I think Sam doesn't either. They know about the blood but they don't know why. Sure, Sam could have guessed that Mary made a deal. But he also knows who Azazel is, and he never made a deal with him, so he's not necessarily going to jump to that conclusion.
Dean definitely knows about the deal. In 4x03, Azazel (in Samuel, monologuing about his evil plans in true supervillain style) tells Dean exactly what he is making the deals for (to get into the house to feed the baby demon blood). (Mary, on the other hand, actually doesn't hear any of this; she doesn't know she's selling out her child, Azazel just tells her "in ten years I need to swing by your house for a little something, that's all.")

Then Dean arrives in time to see Mary kiss Azazel and John come back to life. And talking to Cas after coming back to the future, he says, "I couldn't stop any of it. She still made the deal. She still died in the nursery, didn't she?"

So when Mary says that in 12x02, that's not a revelation to Dean, but something he's already known for years. In fact, it's more a revelation for Mary, finding out what that deal she made really led to.
Ah, you're right! It still doesn't mean Sam knows, though, since Dean wasn't going to tell him about the blood until he realized Sam already knew about it and got mad that Sam was keeping the dame secret that he was!
Having just rewatched that conversation in 4x04, that's really vague -- we come in on the middle of their conversation about what Dean saw in the past, so it's not clear if Dean wasn't going to tell Sam about the blood at all, or if he was building up to it.

It's one of those cases (there are a lot of them!) that you can either give the characters the benefit of the doubt or conversely assume the worst, and there's no proof either way. Likewise, Sam knowing about the deal -- we know there are a lot of pretty major revelations that are shared off-screen (two I can think of offhand are that Dean in Hell broke the first seal and that Billie wanted to toss them into the Empty) but the brothers also do have a habit of keeping some secrets from each other.

(I personally think Dean has told Sam about Mary's deal, because while Dean does keep stuff from Sam, he tends to feel guilty about it and get all squirrelly and angsty, and while he was weird with Mary all through season 12, he never acted like there was anything up with him and Sam. Sam never thought Dean was hiding something from him, though he always catches on to that. Sam on the other hand is better at compartmentalizing and can keep secrets from Dean without showing much signs.)
Yeah, I'm right there with you on this one and the button-pushing and the amount of heart in it. It surpassed my expectations in some ways (the Dean & Mary confrontation, Jody surviving) and lived down to it in others (all the BMoL issues I've already ranted about). But the stuff it did right was the stuff it carried through from the rest of the series, and so I came away from it at least partly satisfied on a storytelling level.

My favorite thing by far was Mary locked in her fantasyland, so similar to the memory Dean wanted to linger in in his Heaven. Another thing they have in common. That whole monologue. His "I hate you" was so perfectly timed and delivered it made me gasp a little. It makes a perfect bookend with his outburst in the dream episode in season three--the one where he confronts his shadow self about John's parenting--a lot of it totally valid and some irrational but coming from very real pain, like when he blames John because he "let Mom die." No, it's not rational to blame John for that particular sin--or Mary for not protecting them from the consequences of the deal she was angel!roofied into making--but whose suppressed anger about their childhood trauma has ever come out all rational and objective when finally voiced? And yeah, heartbreaking that even when he's acknowledging how unfair the role he was made to play was he brings it all back around to how he wasn't good enough and Sam suffered the consequences. He could have brought up that in trying to protect Sam he went to Hell and nearly lost his humanity, but he doesn't.

My feelings on Sam's arc are more....mixed. I can see how I might have liked it, if it were set up differently. He looked so pretty that it was impossible to be too grumpy while he was onscreen. I saw hamfisted political allegory everywhere and again questioned how much of that was me projecting, but really. I do think Dabb wanted to do an arc about why people get drawn into authoritarian regimes that offer a worldview where everything is black and white, us vs the other, and they are the only ones who can protect you from the Mexicans Muslims monsters. But no, actually they're just control-freak fascists who might just turn on your group next. And that was why they had the climax come down to Sam making a speech--to hammer in the point about this being a fight against an ideological enemy. And because somebody (Berens? He wrote this and 12x14--which more than anything this ep felt like a continuation of--right?) made the belated decision to frame the personal side as being about Sam struggling with being too passive and needing to take a stand. On something. And realizing his potential as a leader--which, okay, like I said, if it had been set up differently I can see how I might have been into this. Or it it's followed up satisfactorily--or at all--next season.
I guess maybe Dean's "pick a side" comment was supposed to lead us up to Sam "finally" becoming a leader? But yeah, it felt awkwardly tacked on. And was gleefully handwaved, given the rest of this ep!
Robert Behren's specialty is writing excellent emotional dialogue. The dialogue between the brothers, and Dean and Mary, were poor gold. I choked up at Dean's speech to Mary, and the tears running down his face. (No single man tear!) I had to do a lot of handwaving, but I was okay with most of it. Sam's Big Speech bugged me, but then, I hate Big Speeches in almost any context. It seemed out of character, too.
So much excellent dialog, and also some beautiful wordless or almost wordless moments. That look before Dean used the grenade launcher. Jody touching Dean's arm and him grabbing hers in response. Dean looking down at baby Dream!Sam.
I loved this ep so hard, and I got so much of what I wanted and needed to see! Maybe there were a few scenes that made me hand wave, but honestly I can live with it if it means we get single layer sweaty boys, and heart and heart moments, and that beautiful scene with Dean and Mary (I teared up more than once!)

So yeah, this is pretty much the finale I wanted (so I forgive 12.23 a few things, I think, maybe.)