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SPN 11.21 All in the Family

Posted on 2016.05.22 at 17:59
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable
SPN 11.21 All in the Family

When are precepts good guidelines for action and when are they merely a rationale for doing what one wishes to do?
-- L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Chuck: I am being. She's nothingness. (11.20)

Chuck and Amara. Two existing polar opposite powers. Two entities with different precepts they have spent their entire existence living by.

Amara: End your suffering, Lucifer. Call out to him. Beg him to save you.
Lucifer: I'm no fan of Pops, but he did make all of... everything. That's something that you could never do. Because all you ever wanted was Nothing. You're strong, Amara. You may defeat him. But you will never be Him.

Amara is a being that wants the emptiness of nothing. That is the basis of her viewpoint and agenda. She seeks to destroy what has been created because she sees no value in creation.

Even in her attraction to Dean, she rationalizes in terms of what she thinks of as existence with meaning.

Amara: Dean, give up your... smallness. Your humanity and become boundless within me.
Dean: You're right. I am drawn to you. And it bothers the hell out of me, 'cause I can't control it.
Amara: Then why fight it? What you're feeling is that I am the end of your struggle. Something stops you. Keeps you from having it all.

Amara is trying to rationalize her attraction to Dean based on her own precepts, presenting her offer to Dean in terms of saving him from the pains and struggles of his life, failing to comprehend the most important part of Dean that is right in front of her.

Sam: So, you wanna tell me about it? I mean, Amara obviously figured out something was going on, and she didn't rip your head off.
Dean: She wants me to be a part of her. Not metaphorically, I'm talking literally -- forever. So in other words, adios.

Adios. To take away Dean's fight, his humanity, would be to turn him into nothing. She doesn't understand that she would be destroying the very thing that makes Dean ... Dean. It's why bearing the Mark was such a horrifying experience for him, being slowly turned into a demon, an empty shell of himself.

Then there is Chuck. His precepts are based on creation. He created a family for himself, worlds that expanded into creation that ended up surpassing what both his Light and his sister's Darkness were capable of. Beings that embodied both the best and worst of their origins. Light and Darkness.

We saw it in his first children, in what Lucifer and Metatron have done. Both fallen angels who failed to live up to the best they could have been. But in an unexpected turn of events, when presented with the opportunity to make a choice here between Chuck and Amara, Darkness and Light, Nothing versus Existence... they both chose Chuck. Metatron sacrificed himself, and showed once again the importance of free will.

Dean: Look, you screwed up, all right? Trust me. I’ve been there. But it is never too late to do the right thing. (11.15)

Chuck had given up on Lucifer, did not believe he could trust him the slightest bit. But this family that had torn itself apart is facing a choice here. To rebuild something long damaged. If humans can rebuild blown over toy constructions, can this family do the same?

What about God's responsibility to those that he made? If he lives by the precepts of creation, does he owe anything to that which he has made? Is his rationale for having originally locked Amara away based on any true responsibility for what he had made, or merely an excuse to do what he wished without interference from his sister?

Amara: Spoiled brat. I needed solitude and He needed a fan club, so He made all that. Then when I complained. He stuffed me in a hole for eons -- with your help.

Dean asks Chuck some questions that have been a long time coming for his character.

Dean: See, this is why I can't get behind God.
Sam: What are you talking about?
Dean: If he doesn't exist, fine. Bad crap happens to good people. That's how it is. There's no rhyme or reason -- just random, horrible, evil -- I get it, okay. I can roll with that. But if he is out there, what's wrong with him? Where the hell is he while all these decent people are getting torn to shreds? How does he live with himself? You know, why doesn't he help? (5.02)

We remember back when Dean first expressed his disappointment in the idea of a God existing that just didn't care about helping His own creation. Now Dean gets a chance to directly ask him about this.

Dean: Here's the thing, um... Chuck... And I mean no disrespect. Um... I'm guessing you came back to help with the Darkness, and that's great. That's, you know -- It's fantastic. Um, but you've been gone a-- a... long, long time. And there's so much crap that has gone down on the Earth for thousands of years. I mean, plagues and wars, slaughters, and you were, I don't know, writing books, going to fan conventions. Were you even aware o-or did you just tune it out?
Chuck: I was aware, Dean.
Chuck: You're frustrated. I get it. Believe me, I was hands-on -- Real hands-on, for, wow, ages. I was so sure if I kept stepping in, teaching, punishing, that these beautiful creatures that I created... would grow up. But it only stayed the same. And I saw that I needed to step away and let my baby find its way. Being over-involved is no longer parenting. It's enabling.
Dean: But it didn't get better.
Chuck: Well, I've been mulling it over. And from where I sit, I think it has.
Dean: Well from where I sit, it feels like you left us and you're trying to to justify.
Chuck: I know you had a complicated upbringing, Dean. But don't confuse me with your dad.

This was a conversation that fascinated me on many levels. There is obviously a power imbalance between Chuck and Dean, God to human, that Dean is clearly aware of, hence his trying to choose his words carefully but still driven to ask something that bothers him on a fundamental level. The blocking of this scene, however, gave the imagery of a very different power positioning. Dean was literally seated higher than Chuck, leaving Chuck looking up at him, rather than down. He was holding this powerful being accountable for his actions, or nonactions. The positioning and context of Chuck's responses made me think of Chuck's viewpoint in this moment: From where he sat... he saw a child who had grown up, who had found his way without his father in the picture. Someone who was not the disappointment His other children had turned out to be.

Sam being a silent specter to this conversation was also interesting. He physically sat on level ground with Chuck, he was more awed and fascinated by the confirmation of Chuck's existence and affirmation of his having had faith in God his whole life. He didn't need the answers to these questions because he already believed, maybe naively. But he also absolutely had his brother's back. When he and Dean are later discussing the option of going against Chuck's wishes and trying to rescue Lucifer/Castiel from Amara's hands, he shushed Dean when he spotted Chuck approaching, knowing Chuck would disapprove of Dean's plan. His faith in Chuck is overshadowed by his faith in his brother. He trusted Dean to handle being in Amara's vicinity, acting as decoy so he and Metatron could go in and rescue Lucifer.

Narratively Sam has been aligned with God, as Dean has been aligned with the Darkness, but these two siblings have found their balance with each other, working together despite the fact that they are different people with differences in their beliefs. Their family precepts are both their guidelines and reasons for action.

When Metatron spilled the beans about what Chuck was apparently planning to really do regarding Amara, it wasn't Sam who questioned him, but Dean again, this time alone.

And again the blocking mirrored their first conversation on this subject. Dean standing tall over a seated Chuck, then sitting next to him but still physically taller than the contemplative God.

Dean: You started this. You started all of this. But does that give you the right to end it? You know, we're not just some toys you throw away. I think you owe us more than that.
Chuck: If my plan doesn't work, then humans will step up. You, Sam, others that are the chosen will have to find a way. It's why I saved you years ago. You're the firewall between light and darkness.

Chuck said some frightening but powerful things here. He was reiterating his earlier statement to Sam and Dean that he had faith in them, but this was also more than that. Chuck and Dean are talking about Chuck's plan to sacrifice himself to Amara in the hope that humanity will prevail against the Darkness if necessary. The part that frightens me is that even though Chuck is including Sam and others in his words, this is actually a private conversation with Dean. The one person Amara has not been able to bring herself to destroy, at least not without his permission.

Chuck: I thought if I could show my sister that there was something more than just us, something better than us, then maybe she'd change. Maybe she'd stop... being... her. But... every time I'd build a new world... she'd destroy it. (11.20)

It leaves me wondering, just what does Chuck expect of Dean in the process of saving the world, knowing of his connection to Amara?

Dean: Why me? Out of all the sick people, why save me?
Roy: Well, like I said before, the Lord guides me. I looked into your heart, and you just stood out from all the rest.
Dean: What did you see in my heart?
Roy: A young man with an important purpose. A job to do. And it isn't finished. (1.12)

Is Chuck playing a deeper game than even has been revealed yet? He told Dean not to mistake him for John Winchester, but he is placing the burden of responsibility for saving the world on Dean's shoulders, just as John did before sacrificing himself to Yellow Eyes. Trusting Dean and Sam to find a way to finish the job.

His chosen firewall, his weapon to save what He has created. There was even a moment in the episode where we saw Chuck deliberately pat Dean's shoulder as he walked past him. After the Winchester's earlier attempts to locate a Hand of God, that very power may be symbolic, or may end up having a more literal meaning than we ever guessed.

All possibilities appear to be set up on the table. I am terrified about which door is going to be opened and play out.

And now I'm off to dive into 11.22. Meep!


borgmama1of5 at 2016-05-23 02:12 (UTC) (Link)
Really appreciate your analysis of the blocking of Dean's two scenes with Chuck. Were you aware Jensen said the first scene was written for Dean to be angry with Chuck but that he felt Dean would feel hurt and abandoned, not angry and played it that way.

Also love how you have gone all the way back to year one to find signposts to where we are now!
blackcat333_99 at 2016-05-24 00:03 (UTC) (Link)
Lovely acting choice by Mr Ackles, thank you for sharing that detail. Yes, having Dean show his pain instead of anger was very effective for me.
freya922 at 2016-05-23 04:18 (UTC) (Link)
This was the single best discussion of the episode I have come across, deepening its meaning for me by highlighting aspects I hadn't even noticed, like Dean and Chuck's physical positions in the scenes. Also loved he reference back to "Faith."
blackcat333_99 at 2016-05-24 00:05 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! The blocking just stood out to me because it was unusual for Dean to sit where he was, the way he was, and the camera work really just caught my eye on the blocking and emphasis of the height differences in play - it clearly was a deliberate choice to block it this way, not just because Jensen is physically taller than Rob.
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