“We keep each other human”
“It doesn’t matter — whatever we do. I mean, it turns out that you and me, we’re the, uh – the fire and the oil of the Armageddon. You know, on that basis alone, we should just pick a hemisphere. Stay away from each other for good. Because whatever we have between us — love, family, whatever it is — They are always gonna use it against us. The point is, maybe we are each others’ Achille’s heel. Maybe they’ll find a way to use us against each other, I don’t know.
I just know we’re all we got.
More than that, we keep each other human.
So, what do we do now? We make our own future.”
Being Human In The Supernatural World
It may sound strange to call HUMANITY the core theme of a TV show named „Supernatural“. And yes, you´re right, the show IS about two brothers fighting monsters, ghosts, demons, angels, and every other non-human being you could possibly think of (well, the Devil comes to mind, and the Voice Of God, but they are only the big players in the before mentioned pool of entities). But aside from the hunters´ actual hand-to-hand combat against physical materializations of Evil, there is a deeper layer to their struggle to keep the world running for the rest of us.
Humanity fighting against the representations of its worst fears: the most disturbing being that of loosing what makes us human. Of being bitten, kissed, touched, gripped, turned, or eaten and erased alltogether, nothing left of us but soulless robots, or infectious „monsters“ dangerous to others who still have a beating heart.
It´s this beating, kicking, bleeding, hurting heart that stands in the way of our favorite hunters so many times…
There he is…
Dean. The heart of the show, so to speak, with his overwhelming emotions, his tears, and silly jokes, and heart wringing struggle to save the ones he loves. Falling, and getting up again. Failing, and trying anew. Losing everyone, and everything, and still clinging to a straw of hope. Raised and trained to be a good soldier, and so not being one at heart. (Just look at his difficulty to accept authority outside the small circle of people he trusts).
If you don´t agree…look at this version of Dean…
In „The End“ we are confronted with a Dean almost totally deprived of emotions. Finally, he´s the soldier Sam accused him of being (in a different sense, I know…). Focused, and cold, and shooting a friend directly in the face without a second thought. He´s not second guessed by his troops, and he´s not second guessing himself any more. The perfect hunter…like Gordon. But human?
When Dean meets his own future self in 2014, I don´t know what scares him more – what the world has become, or what he himself has turned into. In my understanding, it was Zacharia´s plan to show Dean the outfall of his decisions, it´s effect on the world Dean is doomed to save time and again. I don´t think Zacharia was aware he gave Dean even more reason to say NO to his „offer“ to become Michael´s sword: Because future Dean IS a sword. The perfect weapon, not slowed down by doubt and emotions.
Of course, even 2014 future Dean still has something tying him to his „old“ self…and of course, this something – or someone – is Sam. He is perfectly ready to sacrifice his future friends – and his own life, I´m sure – to beat Lucifer and save the world. But at the same time, he has still his one purpose in mind, the task that makes him crawl up, pull together his shattered pieces, and carry on so many times…
His one job.
„Watch out for Sammy!“
Even if Sammy has turned into this….and doesn´t hesitate to kill Dean´s future self.
In Dean´s understanding, it is his JOB to prevent Sam from turning into Lucifer.
„Old“ Dean, the one with the intact heart, is correspondingly devastated to see his failure right in front of his eyes – and with a hell of a collateral damage around them.
And here we go…
Zacharia wanted to show Dean the inevitability of a final Lucifer/Michael showdown – to make him say YES to being Michael´s vessel AKA sword. (He´s not above playing Dean´s weak spot, Sammy, the manipulating b….. . Let´s just hate him a little more for that.)
But Dean is human. So much so that he is absolutely capable of wiping out logical consideration (heck, they made him LIVE the effect of his decision!) by his emotional needs, setting his priorities straight again.
And choosing the one other solution for the problem that Zachariah would never even have thought of.
He chooses his humanity: he reconnects.
Dean has hope, and he has purpose.
And he has love.
I guess that´s what makes us human, after all.
Aside from this very touching – and much longed for by an angsty fandom – reconciliation of the brothers (and a cute pair of vintage cars), there´s even more „humanity factors“ hidden in the outcome of this episode.
When Dean meets Zachariah ( a friend of mine baptized him „Jerkeriah“, which fits just perfectly, right?), he makes his decision – alone.
But he has backup when it comes to kissing Zach good bye. Because there is Cas, having his back.
What Dean realizes with alarming clarity is the fact that we can´t be human without relationships. Family and friends are the anchors of our tossed souls, and by cutting them loose, for what noble or understandable purposes ever, we cut ourselves from a lifeline. I like the quotation that makes our title so much, because it shows this fact in striking simplicity: It´s not „I keep you human“, or „You keep me human“. It´s „We keep each other human“, and that´s just about the core of human relationships I guess.
This means Dean has to learn – or re-learn – to trust again. Without trust, our relationships won´t work, period. Trust means an effort for both parts though. And I think that´s what our favorite brothers have to learn the hard way here.
So Dean has hope, and purpose, and love. And he has family and friends, who are the reason he has all three. The reason he NEEDS all three. And the reason he fails, and falls, and looses one of them sometimes…
Even Dean, the untiring Carry-On-My–Wayward-Son, has his dark places. He admits to being tired of his life, of his job, of the unbearable responsibility loaded on his shoulders more than once. But he comes to his feet again, and tries, and fails, and tries better…
Keeping his beloved ones safe is his purpose. It gives him the hope he needs to not give up. Even when his family and friends fail him : Sam, and Cas, with their habit of putting Dean into a roller coaster of ups and downs.
There are a few rocks in his life, and the most outstanding one sure is Bobby, the surrogate-father/criticizing friend/wise Yedi master figure of his life. Ellen, the mother figure, tough but with a big heart, and Jo, the fearless huntress, whose sacrifice adds to Dean´s guilt but equally to his motivation to carry on as well.
He even seems keep connected to people long dead and gone…like his mother…
There is Cas, of course, and then Benny, his non-human friends (Benny gets the humanity thing better I guess), whom Dean tends to treat like fully blown humans, giving especially Castiel some trouble…
They represent the strange places Dean gets to know throughout the seasons – Heaven, and Hell, and Purgatory. Dean lives through them all, and he does so as a human being. What´s more, he manages to let his humanity rub off on those who he´s dealing with, or at least makes them want to understand humanity.
Both of his non-human friends mirror essential parts of Dean´s character. Cas in his struggle to do the right thing, in his attempt to righten his failures, in his trying again and again. Benny in the vehemence he shows in fighting for the humanity buried inside the monster he doesn´t want to be any more, and in his understanding of family.
For Dean, every real friend gets incorporated into his idea of Family sooner or later anyway. It´s a chosen family for the Winchesters, in lack of a real one, and even that one keeps loosing members constantly.
Until there is only Dean left in 9×9, when he is on the floor, Kevin´s lifeless body in front of his eyes, Sam taken away and gone, everyone else dead. And this is where you´d say: OK, that´s it. Now he´s broken for real.
And still…he´s scrambling to his feet. Looking for a way to repair the damage. Sure, it´s guilt mostly that guides him. But guilt alone would probably only end in suicide. Guilt smashes you, it paralyses. So I dare say there is still some hope left in Dean, even in this darkest in a long line of pitch dark hours. You can let it weigh you down. Or you can use it as a motor, something to drive you.
Dean chooses the latter. Which contradicts Famine´s observation, to my mind. Dean´s not dead inside. He may be hurt, and broken, and torn, and frayed, and heck, damaged in many ways.
But he feels. His heart is still bleeding. He has it all in him: loss, and guilt, and fear, and rage, and ache, and pain, and hate, and bond.
And hope. And love.
He´s a hero. And he´s human.
If you don´t already know it, watch the fantastic vid by Loki (and all her other ones if you´re already at it):
„Four letter words“