A while back I did two top ten lists (sweetondean: here and here) chronicling some of the more memorable brotherly moments between Sam and Dean that happened to mean the most to me. All of these excluded rescues or sacrifices. Well, now I feel it’s about time, with us all reeling from the end of season ten, that we honour those daring rescues!
For these lists, I will not be including any failed rescues, only the successful ones, meaning there’ll be no mention of incidents like Sam’s fruitless crusade to save Dean from going to hell, or likewise, Dean’s attempt to liberate Sam from the Benders when Sam was the one who freed his own self from the cage, etc. Let’s focus purely on the triumphs. They’ll be listed in chronological order again, from the beginning of the series, to where we are now. Please keep in mind also that these two save each other A LOT, like, practically twice a day, so naturally there will be various intrepid rescues that will unfortunately be omitted, so by all means, add your own personal favourites in the comments!
As before, let’s start off with Dean, seeing as how he was rescuing his baby brother so early on that Sam was literally the baby brother on the night of that fire.
Number 1: Firing the Colt at the demon: Devil’s Trap
During their hasty rescue of their father in the show’s very first season finale, one of the demons managed to jump the brothers and started wailing on poor Sam. Repeated punches against the defenceless Winchester were discontinued, thanks to Dean firing one of the preciously few bullets of the Colt at the offender, thus killing him.
Within the shelter of a cabin to which they later retreat, it’s here that Dean reflects upon what it entailed actually shooting that demon dead. Not only did it cost them one of the bullets they would need to destroy Azazel and avenge their mother, it also meant the sacrifice of the human meatsuit. Much to Dean’s disgust, he had impulsively executed that innocent man, all for the sake of his little brother, a decision he dislikes but doesn’t regret. Because regardless of the sacrifice, he knows Sam’s survival is the most important result.
Number 2: Showing obvious favoritism: Croatoan
Some demonic virus is overtaking every person in a quarantined town, burdening the brothers with the very difficult task of putting down those who’ve been infected, while simultaneously protecting what few survivors are left. Tough calls are continually made by Dean, who understands that in order to keep this virus from spreading, they must indiscriminately eliminate anyone who’s been potentially infected. Favouritism is eventually demonstrated by Dean, however, when it seems like the virus has been transmitted to Sam via blood, yet he refuses to let anyone shoot his presumably contaminated brother. Technically Dean didn’t save Sam from the virus itself, since he was actually immune to it, but he did stand his ground by disallowing any gunfire to befall his brother. Even when Sam volunteers to do the deed himself, Dean resoundingly denies him this service, determined to be the one there for him in the end. It’s a good thing Dean acted so subjectively towards Sam, now that we know his immunity kept him sane anyway. But I also adore this scene for how it implies that if Sam was going to go down, Dean would be right there beside him, thinking he would never again leave that room without his brother.
Number 3: Sacrificing his soul: All Hell Breaks Loose Part Two
Quite a predictable choice on my part, but no one can refute the sheer valour in this pivotal transaction. Plus this action was just plain nutty, wasn’t it? God, I love this episode! If you wish to see some of the best acting of Jensen’s career, look no further than the scene where he summons a Crossroads Demon to deal away his soul in exchange for resurrecting a currently dead Sam. Dead might seem like an extreme case for one of the main leads to be in, but they get used to it by the third or fourth death!
Anyway, for Dean to sell his soul and agree to die in one year, going against everything they have ever believed, is such a monumental deed that I still to this day cannot wrap my brain around it. Yes, I get the lovely sentiment behind it, but to me it’s just bonkers to think that someone can willingly shorten their life to one additional year and then condemn themselves to hell for all eternity. Eternity is long, folks. Longer than the run of all the Dark Shadows episodes! Longer than all the seasons of Survivor! (Basically I can only measure things in terms of television longevity.) Undoubtedly Dean’s transaction with the Crossroads demon was bonkers, and that’s what made it so heartbreakingly heroic.
Number 4: Attacking the wraith: Sam, Interrupted
Has everyone realised that this episode title is a reference to Girl, Interrupted, which Misha Collins starred in? Not that that matters, just thought I’d throw in some pointless trivia. Driven insane by the wraith’s poison, this disadvantage is wrestled with valiantly by Dean during his attempt to reach the monster and slay her once and for all. Just in the nick of time Dean arrives on the spot before the wraith can eat Sam’s poisoned brain (these sentences are so strange when I read them back to myself) and manages to fight her off. Reason I always think back fondly upon this rather routine rescue, is because I take into consideration Dean’s utterly impaired mental state, and am blown away that he’s still able to protect Sam when he’s in danger. Minutes ago Dean was jolting at mere mentions of a monster, hypothesising the ghostly return of his father, and avoiding stepping on any cracks in the floor, yet amazingly he can still suppress his neurosis enough to kill the wraith and keep Sam’s brain from being eaten. Bravo.
Number 5: Being Death for a day: Appointment in Samarra
Some may disregard this rescue, since it wasn’t entirely successful on Dean’s part, but the end result was absolutely a success so I’m counting it. Missing his soul since his return from hell (these sentences just keep getting weirder), Sam is now depending on Dean to bargain with Death in order to retrieve the misplaced spirit. That which impressed me most was actually the very start of the expedition, when Dean gave consent to an unlicensed doctor to stop his heartbeat and render him temporarily deceased just for the sake of contacting Death in the first place. It was so risky that Dean was required to leave his will behind in the event of his death being permanent. Hard to top that off. From then on Dean undertakes Death’s trial of performing his job for a day, which also turns out to be a major bitch. Granted, he did technically fail as the grim reaper, but nevertheless Death acknowledged Dean’s commendable attempt and restored Sam’s soul to his body, so I consider that successful enough to qualify. Plus did I mention how he arranged for his temporary death with an unlicensed doctor, who only had a seventy-five percent success rate with this procedure? No, I will not stop harping on about this point.
Number 6: Bringing Cas back: The Born Again Identity
Soul restoration was not a triumph without a few drawbacks, one of which includes Sam suffering from hallucinations featuring a loquacious Lucifer and memories of hell uprooting his current reality. Insomnia threatened to end Sam’s life lest they diffuse these hallucinations somehow, so Dean left his brother in the hands of a hospital and set out to find a supernatural healer. Quaint coincidence led to Dean reuniting with a recently amnesiac Cas, where the two of them then proceeded to fight their way through demons and purge the insanity from Sam’s mind.
Does anyone ever wonder what happened to the woman who took in the amnesiac Cas? Weren’t they married?! Did he just wander off, regain his memory and never bothered to say goodbye to the poor woman? What happened to her? As a side note, Meg refers to Cas as “Tree-topper” in this episode. Reference to the angel topping a Christmas tree. Great name for an angel, if so. Now I miss Meg . . .
Number 7: Sending Benny to Purgatory: Taxi Driver
Trials to close the Gates of Hell were indeed arduous for Sam, second of which required him to travel to Hades itself, through Purgatory, in order to bring a righteous soul to Heaven. Only problem is that halfway through delivering Bobby’s spirit to salvation, they lose their ride back to the land of the living, and now Dean must find a way to return his brother to earth. When I originally saw this episode, I honestly thought that when Dean met up with Benny, his plan was to be turned into a vampire, then be killed, which would automatically send his soul to Purgatory where he’d track down Sam and Bobby himself and lead them to the portal out of there. Afterwards he’d use Benny, the vampire who turned him, to cure himself of his recent vampirism. I know, right? My plan was WAY more complicated than Dean’s! What the hell was I smoking? Benny’s sacrifice as Sam’s escort through Purgatory was pretty distressing to watch, really stressing the turmoil Dean felt when choosing between the life of his new monster friend and little brother. It’s one thing for Dean to sacrifice his own life for his brother’s sake, but quite another to sacrifice someone else’s.
Number 8: Allowing Gadreel to possess Sam: I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here
Absolute favourite scene ever between the brothers, for me, is the unbelievably emotional discussion they have in the church in the Season 8 finale, Sacrifice. Dear Lord, that scene of Dean dissuading Sam from completing the final trial so that he may live, despite that meaning they leave the Gates of Hell open, makes me cry happily every time! Sadly, as to be expected, that beautiful rescue did not happen without a few hitches, like Sam falling into a coma in which he would soon die.
Disregarding Sam’s autonomy, Dean made the decision on his behalf and allowed some shady angel to take possession of him, since he’d then be able to heal him from within. However you may react to Dean’s total transgression towards Sam, this rescue will always stand out to me specifically for its resultant controversy. Any show that can spawn thought-provoking debates and divisive examinations on codependence, love and free will among its fanbase is proving itself to be a rarity, as most shows do nothing more than serve as braindead entertainment. Applaud shows that challenge their audience and make you question the morals of its stories, because that’s not something that happens often. Oh, and Jared’s overall portrayal of Gadreel was awesome.
Number 9: Driving Gadreel out of Sam: Road Trip
Know whose portrayal as Gadreel was equally as awesome?: Tahmoh Penikett’s. Once Gadreel was ejected from Sam’s body, yay, we got to go back to enjoying another actor’s take on him! Yes, tragically Gadreel’s invasion of Sam did not turn out well, so it didn’t take long for Dean’s mission to free his brother of the angel to unfold, though unfortunately such measures had to be taken after Kevin’s death (whimper). Out of all of season nine’s great episodes, this one was probably my favourite, because it was a rare chance to see Dean, Cas and Crowley all team up for a single goal, that one happening to be Sam’s rescue. Such rescue did in fact include needles to the brain, double simultaneous possessions, and one kick ass scene of Sam banishing Gadreel from his body, altogether making for an unforgettable episode. Dean essentially had to undo the damage he himself did by originally allowing Gadreel to possess Sam in the first place, but at least he did a decent job of cleaning up after his mess, even if it did require letting Crowley share temporary possession of his brother.
Number 10: Sharing in the blood sacrifice: The Werther Project
Lastly we come to one of the newer episodes, where an enchanted box demands to be given the blood of a Man of Letters in order to be opened and to release the codex that’s sealed inside. Said codex will help Rowena translate the Book of the Damned and possibly cure Dean of the Mark of Cain, so Sam is all too willing to pour out as much of his blood as needed. Luckily Dean arrives in time to stop Sam from draining himself completely, cutting open his own wrist for the remainder of the blood.
Wonderfully symbolic, how it takes the joined bloodline of both brothers to unlock the box and dispel its destructive curse. Our show is not about one brother, alone, sacrificing themselves, but rather both brothers, together, shedding their blood and giving their lives to whatever task they’re facing.
Together they fight, and even if they do lose a little blood along the way, it’ll never be enough to where they can no longer carry on their legendary bloodline, so long as they have each other’s backs.
Next we cover the times Sam has rescued Dean over the years!
Hope you enjoy and will voice plenty of your own opinions in the comments.