Supernatural, “Unforgiven”: emotional punch

Quick Take: Supernatural, “Unforgiven”
A stunning blow to fans and the Winchester Brothers.

Sam in

Review: Supernatural, “Unforgiven”
(S0613) The February 11th episode delivered a stunning blow to fans and the Winchester Brothers. What happened?

In a nutshell, a lot. Sam gets a mysterious text with coordinates to a small town and of course Dean has reservations about going (why wouldn’t he?) but they go nonetheless. Dean worries that his little brother is scratching at the “Great Wall of Sam” and is putting himself at risk. However, Sam with his soul back feels responsibility for the actions of RoboSam. Now, he wouldn’t be our Sammy if he wasn’t bothered and guilty over whatever his soulless self may have done in the year and half he walked topside without his moral compass. He begins to have flashbacks to a hunt he was on with Samuel Campbell, his grandfather, and feels compelled to remember because people are turning up missing again. Sam and Samuel inform Sheriff Dobbs and his wife that they are hunters and not Federal Agents, and are searching for a monster taking men in their 30s. Sadly, RoboSam opts to use the Sheriff as bait without telling him he is such. Samuel doesn’t agree with the choice but doesn’t stop it either. Furthermore, Sam realizes that he is responsible while soulless for this man’s demise when he remembers pulling the trigger to kill Dobbs.

Sam is detained when he approaches the police station and winds up encountering the officer he beat to a pulp as RoboSam. Brenna Dobbs shows up to demand what happened to her husband. Then Sam explains he has no memory, which Brenna quickly references as a “Days of Our Lives” moment because amnesia happens in the soaps, right? But, she in short order does come to realize that when Sam said “something happened to him” she does believe he has no memory. She releases him from the jail but tells him to tie her up so it looks like a jail break. Dean in the meantime has called and left his brother a message telling him that the women being taken all have one thing in common: they’ve slept with Sam, or rather RoboSam, so it’s clear this creature is after Sam, luring him, hunting him.

Now, Dean is chomping at the bit to leave. He lets Bobby and Rufus come and finish the job but Sam’s response toward leaving is, "I've got a frickin' soul now, and it won't let me just walk away!" So he asks Dean to back him up and like a good, albeit worried big brother agrees and says, “Let’s Memento this out” and proceeds to help Sam piece together the fragments of clues which help to trigger another flashback that fully informs Sam of what happened prior to his previous departure from town.

However, there’s a twist: Dobbs was no longer human by the time Sam and Samuel found him and the other men, so they didn’t really die from being shot or burned. Now, Dobbs wants revenge and lured Sam to town. Long story short is that Sam kills "Spiderman" by chopping off his head as Dobbs was attacking Dean. Sam attempts to apologize to Dobb’s wife, but she knows the truth of what happened and that her husband was used as bait only to be shot and burned by RoboSam. However, for her this new Sam is just as guilty and slams the front door on him when he expresses how sorry he is over what happened then and now. Dean tries to comfort his brother in his own way by assuring Sam that it wasn’t really him that past year but Sam says he wants to make it “crystal clear” that it was him.

Viewers were given some more of that missed big brother/little brother dynamic in this episode and as Dean assures Sam that “everything is gonna be okay” while he sniffs some clothing before packing it – Sam in the next room says, “I don’t know Dean, if I did this here then who knows how many oth...” his speech breaks off and a thud is heard from the other room. Dean turns to see his brother’s legs jerking. He runs to Sam only to find him seizing on the ground and then becomes unresponsive as the “Great Wall of Sam” has its first deep scratch. Uh-oh!

Fans are left with the horror of where Sam has gone in his fractured mind – Hell, as the fires eats at his face and he screams in agony. Side note: I'm sort of wondering if this memory of Hell is his soul’s final memory of the Pit right before Death rescued it from the cage. Maybe that is why Sam was screaming so horribly when Death put his soul back inside, so perhaps this memory from behind the wall is the last memory his soul had before leaving Hell and the cage... food for thought.

What did I think? Grade: A-.

I loved this episode for what it offered the viewers -- brother bonding, great acting, good directing and for the most part good writing. I’ll throw the brief "blah" out straight away: I didn’t really care for the MOTW (SPN-speak for Monster of the Week) the Arachne (Spider woman/man), although an interesting monster not executed that well on the screen. Not bad just blah.

We can see that the brothers are for the most part on the same page. We have seen them at odds for so long that this new breath of life into their relationship has been a time of renewal for fans. Dean and Sam may not agree on the accountability of soulless Sam and it’s not sunshine and rainbows with the looming “wall” that threatens to shatter Sam with a tsunami of memories if it cracks. Dean’s afraid of the "what if’s" when the wash finishes the spin cycle; they are still brothers reclaiming the relationship of earlier seasons. Oh, I so wanted to hear Sam say "jerk" when Dean said “don’t be a bitch.” It’s been so long since we heard that once familiar brother banter. Alas, so close yet still so far away.

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles command their characters so well in each episode that I’m still surprised by what they pull off sometimes. There is a change in Dean; although the worries of the "wall" cracking weigh heavy, he has become lighter in spirit since the return of Sammy from Hell. Butch has reunited with his Sundance and despite the unknown enemies waiting to kick the door in and the precarious state of the flood gate “holding back the tide” in Sam’s head, Dean’s much better than he was. Sam is reconnecting to his brother and there is the familiar sense of protection and partnership that had been gone for so long, but he is also reconnecting to himself in the sense he sacrificed much in “Swan Song” and must reconcile the missing fragments of a year and half he walked topside without a soul. Our Sam cannot and will not brush the events of that time under the rug; he owns his responsibility to that time, even if in essence that responsibility is misplaced. We can only be proud of him as I’m sure even Dean on some level admires his little brother for wanting to right wrongs he feels he needs to make up for. Sam knows the possible dangers of trying to remember but will push on to discover what remains hidden from his soulless days possibly endangering the integrity of the "wall." His resolve brings to mind the words of Nietzsche: “no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Sam is a good man, a good soul, yet, these qualities may rip him utterly and ultimately asunder.

“…All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

The end of the episode slammed us all and Dean with the reality that the "wall" is an ever present threat. Sam seizes on the floor from the pain of the memory flooding forth through a fissure in the drywall of his mind. He becomes unresponsive in Dean’s grasp as his big brother calls out to him, “Sammy!” I’m afraid this is a taste of what is to come as Sam pushes, pokes and scratches as I’m sure he will, it is in his nature to do so. We have nine episodes left with episodes 21 and 22 being made into one big two-hour finale which will air on May 20th. Hopefully we'll see what happens with the "wall" and how the new big bad, “The Mother of All,” factors into the remainder of the season.

Much is coming for us and the Winchesters, so let’s ride this season until the wheels fall off!

By Dawn Nyberg

About the author

Dawn has a passion for the show Supernatural & everything that makes it great: acting, story arcs & classic rock. She loves episode spoilers, conventions & sneak peek clips. Follow her on Twitter: @Feretory

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4 Comments
On: Monday, February 14, 2011
jillyanne said:

From what I've seen around various websites, people either loved or hated this episode. While I have to say Unforgiven will never be one of my favorite episodes, there was plenty to love....I agree with all your points Dawn so I won't just ramble on repeating what you've already said. 

The potential for the writers to over-do Sam's guilt and remorse over his unsouled actions was huge. But they got it just right. 

One other thing: this episode reinforced for me my opinion that Grandpa must die. He was horrible! I cannot bear to even look at him. Someone pointed out that in this episode he was not long back from wherever he came back from (I'm sure it wasn't heaven) and so could be forgiven for not standing up to RoboSam. I don't buy that at all. I want to see Dean waste him! 

Loved the acting, direction and the editing (those flashbacks were awesome) 

I think Unforgiven was so completely different from Like A Virgin and that may have something to do with the way some people have reacted to it....

Anyway Mannequin 3 looks awesome...can't wait :)

On: Monday, February 14, 2011
Dawn Nyberg said:

Hi Jillyanne, Yes, I'd have to agree that the epi reaction is love/hate with fans. I just see so much potential in the remains of the season! Although, gotta say I am wondering how this week's episode is going to cover the ground that it does: Lisa/Ben are in it, the boys have a hunt and then there is the small factor of where we last left off ... Sam seizing on the floor and going unresponsive/catatonic before we get a glimpse of his Hell ... I'll be curious to see how they get from A to B to C in this epi.

Looking forward to Mannequin 3: The Reckoning this week :-)

Thanks for commenting!!

On: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Cassandra said:

Hi Dawn! Really great review. I know some people hated this episode, but I really loved it. I think Jared and Jensen continue to give outstanding performances, the writing was top notch, and the flashback scenes were beautifully done. It was so amazing to see the drastic differences between RoboSam and Sam in this episode. I agree too that the writers had the opportunity to overdo Sam's guilt, but I think it was just right and Padalecki really sold it. Sam acknowledged that RoboSam did some very awful things, which Sam obviously feels absolutely horrible about, but he's not exactly wallowing in it. He's just trying to fix as much as he can despite the serious risk to himself. That's our Sammy.

 

I understand your feelings of 'blah' about the MOTW, but I think you missed something. The real MOTW was RoboSam. Yeah, they had to fight spiderman, but this was really about RoboSam. He was cold, calculating, and downright brutal. He was also a bit of a slut, but that's a different discussion. It's one thing to hear him say that he's done horrible things and killed innocent people in the line of duty, but it's a horse of a different color to actually see him beat some poor policeman's face in. Or watch him use an innocent man as bait. Or see him not even try to save spiderwoman's victims; just shoot them in the head and burn them. RoboSam was a monster and now Sam is having to try to come to grips with all the evil things RoboSam did.

 

Something else I really liked about this episode was the brotherly interaction. I agree that Dean has a bit more lightness to him now that Sam is back. I think that has a great deal to do with the fact that now Dean doesn't feel like he has to face all the evil of the world alone. I think Jensen Ackles has also done a fantastic job of showing the difference between the Dean of the first half of the season and the Dean of now. He's older, wiser, and a little worse for the wear but he's got his sense of humor back. I also find Dean and Sam's rationalizations for RoboSam's behavior interesting. Dean has convinced himself (and has been trying to convice Sam) that RoboSam wasn't really him. Sam, on the other hand, has decided that it was him and now he's gotta fix as much as he can of what RoboSam broke. I love that Supernatural isn't letting Sam off the hook by just having him believe that it wasn't really him. It's a bold choice and I'm so excited to see what they do with it. I also love the fact that although big brother protective mode is Dean's go-to reaction, he's also letting Sam make his own decisions now. He of course wants to protect his little brother, but he also knows that he can't treat Sam like a kid anymore because he's not. I loved that they had Dean and Sam actually have an honest, frank discussion about their situation and what to do next. That has been missing for so long now. Something else that was great, Dean backing Sam's play because Sam asked him to. Dean is all tough on the outside, but inside, he's just a big softie. Which is what I love about him. :)

 

If you can't tell, I loved loved this episode. I thought there were so many fantastic things about it and it made me excited for what's in store for the rest of the season. Great review, Dawn and I look forward to your next one! :)

On: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Dawn Nyberg said:

Hi Cassandra, I'm glad you liked the review! I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed the episode. You're right I never considered Sam as the MOTW. I see your point. I guess I hadn't thought of that because unlike a lot of viewers I never thought RoboSam was a monster. He was a man with no soul, no humanity or moral compass, basically an animal. He did as any animal would do he acted on instinct for survival and sexual needs, I thought RoboSam was a sociopath but the Alpha Vampire said it best when he told Sam that he was the "perfect animal". But, you've seen an angle I didn't until you pointed it out :-)

As always, thanks for reading and commenting!! Much appreciated :)

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