It’s rare for “Supernatural” fans to agree with each other — but from what we’ve seen this season, most viewers aren’t particularly enamored of the flashbacks to Sam’s life with love interest Amelia while Dean was in Purgatory.
Indeed, in a show that’s never focused on romance, the numerous scenes showing the progression Sam and Amelia’s relationship seem a bit out of place. After this week’s episode, Hunteri Heroici, some fans are theorizing that the misty watercolored memories are in fact hallucinations — a dream world constructed by Sam’s broken mind to cope with his loneliness after Dean’s disappearance.
In the season premiere, we saw Sam sneak out of Amelia’s bed and go to meet Dean at Rufus’ cabin, while a mysterious figure watched him from the shadows. Flashbacks have shown them meeting at her veterinary office, arguing about his general creepiness, sharing an idyllic birthday picnic at a park, and finally bonding over their respective losses. In last night’s episode, Sam’s remembered them moving into a house together, and her gruff father gradually warming up to him.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Sam, Dean, and Castiel encountered a psycho-kinetic man whose cartoonish dream world was influencing reality. Their goal was to get him to let go of his safe, imaginary place and accept reality.
Sam launched into an insistent speech. “Look, it can be nice living in a dream world,” he said. “It can be great. I know that. And you can hide, and you can pretend all the crap out there doesn’t exist, but you can’t do it forever because eventually whatever it is you’re running from, it’ll find you. It’ll come along, and it’ll punch you in the gut, and then you’ve got to wake up. Because if you don’t, then trying to keep that dream alive will destroy you. It’ll destroy everything.”
On a surface level, we figured Sam was talking about his time away from hunting, when he was a handyman at a local motel and had a quiet, normal (if not exactly passionate) relationship with a veterinarian. But could he have been talking about a more literal dream world? Fans on Twitter have speculated that Sam’s damaged mind could have constructed a “normal” reality in order to process his grief after being left “well and truly alone” after Dean and Castiel went to Purgatory, Bobby’s ghost was banished, and Crowley hijacked Kevin.
Lending credence to the theory was the final flashback of the episode. After present-day Sam delivered his speech about reality creeping in — and Castiel reminded him he couldn’t run anymore — he remembered a crucial moment in his “dream world.” Amelia’s father reminded Sam briefly of Dean, and Sam said “He was the best. I lost him, and I ran.” A moment later, Amelia got news that her late husband, Don, who she had been grieving, wasn’t dead at all.
Did that really happen, or was it Sam’s mind giving him an “out” and pushing him back into reality after invoking Dean’s memory?
It’s certainly an interesting theory, and it does hold some water. It could explain the relevance of Sam’s romance to the current story, since his persistent flashbacks would imply that he’s still got some hell-related mental illness happening. That would be particularly satisfying as pay-off for the persistent PTSD trauma that plagued Sam in Season 7.
Some sort of catatonic state would also justify his abandonment of hunting and his failure to search for Dean during their year apart, which many fans have considered to be out of character for Sam. Could the shadowy observer who watched Sam sneak out of Amelia’s house have been Sam himself?
At Comic-Con, executive producer Jeremy Carver told fans that a major theme of Season 8 is perception, and the different ways a moment can be seen. It was something that was explored with Dean and Castiel, and their different perceptions of the moment that Dean left Castiel in Purgatory. Is Sam perceiving a world — and a romance — that didn’t exist?
Over the course of the next two episodes, Sam’s relationship with Amelia — and how it fell apart — will be explored much further. We’ll finally learn why he left her (and his dog!) in the middle of the night.
“It makes for some really good television,” Jared Padalecki told us when we asked him about the reveal. “I’m really
excited about it. It’s been — I don’t want to say it’s been a while, it
hasn’t been a while, but I’ve read the last few episodes and this last
one coming up, and I’m actually thinking ‘This is really cool!’ I just
had a talk with [executive producer] Bob Singer, he was up, and I was
like ‘I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed.’ You sign on to another
season and you’re like ‘I hope it’s good!’ and with a new showrunner,
and new blood. I’m so happy with the direction we’ve gone. I think it’s
really really cool.”
In the meantime, weigh in below in the comments section with your own thoughts! Do you subscribe to the Sam-is-crazy theory? Do you think we’re digging too deep here? Let us know.