Column: Gods and Monsters: Jesus in “Supernatural”

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Gods and Monsters: 2013

spoilers but no proselytizing ahoy


The most common trope out there

A perennial question among fans of the show, Supernatural, is “Where is Jesus in all of this?” The question makes sense, because this has always been at its heart a show about the Christian Apocalypse. As this fan-made video from 2007 shows, even in season one, the religious imagery was heavy-duty:



As the central figure in the most important story of Christianity, Jesus Christ is one of the most common character tropes in Western literature, whether a writer is Christian or not. He is also remarkably prevalent in genre film and television, particularly of the dark fantasy variety.

Here is a short list of the more recent Christ figures in genre TV and movies: Alice in Resident Evil, Leeloo in The Fifth Element, John Constantine in Constantine, Captain Jack in Torchwood, Eleanor in the remake of Haunting of Hill House, Brayker in Demon Knight, Batman in The Dark Knight, Clark Kent at the end of season nine in Smallville and in the latest version of Superman, as well as Robocop.

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We also often see “split” versions of Christ in genre film and television, where two characters in an obvious Passion story represent different aspects (or even only the divine or human aspects) of a Christ figure, such as Kyle Reese and his son John Connor in The Terminator (They form a trinity with John’s mother, Sarah), and the Archangel Michael and Charlie’s unnamed baby in Legion. Since Legion is being turned into a TV show on Syfy, Dominion, this ought to be interesting. Probably bad but still interesting.


Who is Jesus?
The Nicene Creed and the roughly contemporaneous Apostles’ Creed sum up the basic elements of Christ’s importance to Christians and Christ’s story (as agreed on by almost all Christians), respectively:

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

Here, we have all the basic Christological elements of the story: Christ is God’s son. This essentially means he is not a created being like angels or humans, but begotten (of the same substance as God). He, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (a being much like the Ghost in the Machine that animates us all) make up the Trinity. Christians believe that the Trinity is not three Gods in one so much as three aspects of the One God. As such, you see God the Father in the role of the demiurge, the original, distant creator; God the Son as the part that interacts with us and has a personal relationship with us; and God the Holy Spirit as the part that is that breath through the universe that inspires us to the divine and is responsible for all those mysterious ways that puzzle us. Even the “ghost in the machine.” Think of it as the part that inhabits us.

Christ’s story on earth (and elsewhere) is also clear: He is born of a virgin via the Holy Spirit; he is crucified; he dies and is buried for three days, in which time he goes to Hell (and according to medieval stories, he spends that time harrowing Hell of worthy pagan ancients); he then is resurrected, appears back on earth for 40 days, and then goes back to Heaven (known as the Ascension). After this, he becomes a great cosmic leader and judge, though this is stated to happen in the future (during and after the Apocalypse).


The story of Jesus
Note that of all these elements, the one most easily dropped in speculative fiction is the Virgin Birth part. In fact, it can be used as a way to signal an Antichrist figure, instead. So, for example, Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels is born from a virgin birth, but turns out to be a false messiah and Antichrist who nearly destroys the Jedi Order. But his twin children Luke and Leia, who are born of Anakin’s illicit union with Padmé Amidala, become true saviors leading the Rebellion against the Empire a generation later. This is probably because the Virgin Birth is a sign or wonder intended to herald the holy nature of Jesus, rather than a concrete aspect with which humans can identify. It also need not be directly tied to his divinity, since Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth and revere Mary, but they perceive it as a sign of Jesus being a Prophet rather than the Son of God.

Nor is it necessary for Christ to be a virgin, or even celibate, himself. Mainstream Christians generally believe this quite firmly, but the biblical Christ doesn’t bring it up and interacts as a friend and mentor to many women in the New Testament. Also, in at least one surviving Gnostic gospel, Christ appears to have a wife in the story. Perhaps the main reason no one wants to believe Christ was married or had children is because Christ having human descendants would cut into the universality of his message. Christ can’t be paterfamilias to the world if he is paterfamilias of his own human family.

Similarly, while some Christians really focus on the miracles part of Christ’s ministry, Healing_of_a_bleeding_women_Marcellinus-Peter-Catacomb-w622-h350Jesus himself seemed very ambivalent about them. He states in the Gospels that they are mainly a way to get people’s attention so that they will listen to his message, though his performance of them often stems from his compassion for someone’s plight (raising Lazarus, for example) or due to the person’s faith (like the bleeding woman lost in the crowd who touches the hem of his robe to be cured, a story that appears in all three Synoptic Gospels).

This is largely because first-century Palestine, like the rest of the Mediterranean, was full of miracle workers and Christ wanted to stand out. Probably his most common miracle was the simple exorcism, since people of the time believed most illnesses, especially mental illness, came from demons. But also, he felt his unique message was the most important part of his time on earth. Even the greatest and most potent miracle of all – his resurrection – is a symbol of the undying strength of his message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This message is why Christ is one of the few religious leaders (like Buddha or Gandhi) who appeal even to those not in their religion – and it is unique. The idea that no matter who you were, how low you were, whatever you had done, you could find redemption and a close, personal relationship with a universal God who loved you, was a compelling message in his time and still is.

Paradoxically, this is also why Christians, as a group and as individuals, are so often subject to criticism and ridicule. If your religion appeals to the misfits of the world, it makes sense that you’re going to have a lot of oddballs. It doesn’t help that the Establishment has been trying (with mixed success) to coopt Christ’s unique message since at least the fourth century CE., so expect a lot of the usual bureaucratic hypocrisy since then. Many people “do” Christianity just because that’s the way they were raised or as a social thing.

Yet, the vigor of the message is evergreen and never more so than in speculative fiction. The scrappy underdog (or is that underGod?) storyline of Christ’s original time on earth with his little band of misfits (as well as their ultimate victory out of the worst defeat) really appeals, regardless of your fundamental belief system – hence the frequent use of the trope even by agnostics and atheists.


Jesus as human and as monster
Modern popular myth has greatly simplified the profusion of metaphors for Christ. This is largely due to the brutal theological debates of the Reformation, in which both Catholics and Protestants decried each other as heretics. But you would be really surprised at what’s out there in terms of how Jesus is perceived. That blonde, bearded, blue-eyed, passive hippy dude is very recent and very blah compared to the way he’s been portrayed over the years (One fourth century mural from Rome, for example, portrays Jesus as swarthy, short-haired and clean-shaven). The “Christ is my cosmic codependent BFF” image is popular and shallow, but it is not realistic, either in an historical or a theological sense. And it’s boring in a literary sense, too.

There is, for example, the ur-text Christ of the Book of Revelation. He is a terrifying monster-killer who directs angels to scourge the Earth to the rock and bone. Also, he is shockingly proactive in that mission, not in any way standing back while letting the angels do all the dirty work. Probably the scariest image is of his riding before his army with a sword coming out of his mouth from Revelation 19:15. Unsurprisingly, this was a popular image during the Crusades. When the Crusaders were winning, they saw Christ smiling upon their bloodletting. When the Muslims were winning, the Crusaders perceived the Muslims as nothing but God’s instruments on earth to punish Christian wickedness and purify them for Paradise. Either way, the Crusaders’ view of Christ was pretty cruel.

Then there is the visual representation of the Trinity as a three-faced Christ figure. This three-facedchrist-w622-h350Wikimedia collection erroneously states that this creepy visual metaphor dates to the 16th century, but it’s a lot older than that. In fact, the idea of a triple-faced (and triple-natured) God is ancient and pervasive in Indo-European religions, appearing at the top of pantheons ranging from ancient Celtic to Hindu. One of the oldest and most universal religious symbols in Indo-European mythology is that of the triple-faced supreme god. The number three is a high-level example of Indo-European religious numerology.

There are even medieval representations of Christ as a mermaid and such, as you can find in a book called The Monstrous Middle Ages. A book called Saracens, Demons and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art also discusses things like headless monsters with faces in their chests and demons with monster faces in their joints and crotches. The monsters were also anthropophages – cannibals. Medieval art was highly inventive in ways that modern horror just won’t do. Part of that might be due to the reflexive racism that pervades figures like Krampus and Zwarte Piet.

Speaking of medieval and Renaissance art, there was also an ongoing lively iconographic debate up until the Reformation about how to show Christ’s humanity. It was critical to pre-modern Christians that Christ be accessible as a human being, as well as a representation of the Divine. Christ is the part of the Trinity that interacts with us directly, the part of God that we feel is watching over us and understands us. You can’t relate to a paragon of virtue or a plaster saint.

The Franciscans were especially keen to explore this aspect of Christ and Renaissance artists generally did so by portraying Christ naked. With an erection. I’m not kidding. This was especially common with the Christ child. He might be portrayed lying alone and naked, smiling and pointing at his own genitals, or with his mother holding him and touching his genitals. Needless to say (since we come from the same later tradition), post-Renaissance people found the idea of Christ having sexuality disturbing and either blacked out or painted clothing over Christ’s nethers.

Also in question is Christ’s mental health. In a book published in 1922, The Psychic Health of Jesus, Walter Ernest Bundy observes:

The average Christian believer who looks to Jesus as the one and absolute religious example and leader, and the writer gladly and wholeheartedly confesses himself to this belief, will dismiss the question of Jesus’ psychic health with little ceremony and less thought as positively preposterous and will immediately consign those who have passed a pathographic judgment against Jesus to the very institution for the mentally morbid whither, were he living today, they would have Jesus directed for confinement and care.

Christ is a psychologically difficult figure with whom to grapple, a Trickster figure who challenges us to reconsider how we relate to each other and the rest of the world. But if he were living today, he’d also come off as pretty strange.


Christ as a literary figure
For a literary figure to be truly a part of the Christ trope, he or she must follow certain characteristics – which, contrary to the Blue-Eyed Jesus crowd’s way of thinking, involve neither gender nor race (nor even species, for that matter).

First of all, the character must be a Savior. Christ’s primary mission involved saving Dominion-Season-1-Poster-Syfy-w622-h350the world. Many characters in Western literature are saviors of some type or another precisely because of the strong influence of Christ as a heroic model. Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is closely modeled on the Christ story, though Campbell claimed more universality for it than that. Many characters that are otherwise not particularly Christ-like (such as Harry Potter or Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time) have strong Christ vibes because they are the chosen Savior characters in the story.

Second, a character must be a Redeemer. Christ’s way of saving the world was to redeem it of its sins. This is an especially powerful aspect of the Christ story that marks a clear divide between before Christ’s life and after. Before, there was no happy afterlife for most people and much suffering for those in this life who weren’t in the top one percent of society. Afterward, anyone, even the lowest slave, had hope.

Remember that Jesus was born and preached in a subjugated province of an empire where a high percentage of the population was enslaved and most of the free poor lived in miserable circumstances little better than slavery. Redemption was a compelling message, which is why Eastern mystery cults like early Christianity were popular in the first place.

The flip side of this aspect of Christ as Redeemer is Christ the Judge, who will separate the sheep from the goats at the Day of Judgement. But a lot of people like to apply that only to other people. They see themselves as hanging out with Christ in Paradise after that day has come and gone, while all their enemies go into the fire.

Third, a Christ character must be a Scapegoat. The way Christ redeemed the world was by taking its sins on his own shoulders and taking responsibility for them. This is a combination of a sacrificial lamb with that of the scapegoat of Leviticus 16:10. The community’s sins were placed on the head of a goat, which was then driven out into the desert to die. In the Passion story (which originally took place over Passover, a festival commemorating another time God saved his chosen people), Christ died for the world’s sins in the most painful and humiliating way possible. This aspect of the Christ story is strongly evoked by the moving ending of The Dark Knight:

… [Batman is] the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.



Fourth, a Christ character must be a Revolutionary. A lot of Christians like to ignore this part of Jesus, but he was quite the subversive, what with clearing out the Temple marketplace with a whip, interfering in the proper stoning of adulteresses, healing lepers on the Sabbath, mixing up new wine out of water for weddings, showing kindness to Gentiles, and hanging out with prostitutes and moneychangers. His actions and parables were not comforting platitudes but challenges to people’s complacency, indifference and lazy thinking. Christ was (and is) not a comfortable person to engage. A literary Christ figure shouldn’t be, either.

Fifth, a Christ character must be a Teacher. Christ did not simply come to earth to die for humanity but also to teach humanity how to be better – kinder, more humble, more loving, more just. He did so both by example and by direct advice. As such, Christ also functions in a literary story as its moral center, even when his revolutionary/subversive aspect makes the other characters uncomfortable, as in W.E.B. Dubois’ biting short story “Jesus Christ in Texas.”

Sixth, a Christ character is a Healer, which involves to a great extent being an exorcist (and even slayer, when he is conflated with the Archangel Michael) of demons, due to the strong belief at the time that much physical, and all mental, illness derived from demonic possession. Note that Christ himself used these miracles to teach people and make them receptive to his message, but stated that the message was far more important. People tended to focus on the miracles (which got them what they thought they actually wanted), anyway. Because we humans are like that.

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Who and What is Jesus in the SPNverse?
The show has been very cagey about the person of Jesus in the SPNverse. Monsters, like the pagan gods in “A Very Supernatural Christmas” and Eve the mother of monsters, speak contemptuously of him as an upstart and legend in his own mind.

But underneath the studied contempt is a bitter acknowledgement that “this Jesus character” was a major game-changer who tipped the balance permanently in favor of humans. There were Hunters who predated Christ, but Christ is the one who put humans at the apex of earth’s hierarchy of human-like creatures, even more than Prometheus, a pagan god who gave humans fire (and a chance), and was punished for it.

We also see Crucifixion artifacts like the Spear of Destiny (which Dean discovers in the archives of the Men of Letters), as well as regularly used Christ-related objects like the rosary and holy water, that indicate Christ made his ultimate sacrifice – and that it was magically powerful – in the SPNverse. This is echoed in the explosiveness of Dean’s resurrection site (the best candidate to this point for a Christ figure on the show). Christ alters the Natural Order. So does Dean. One could argue that season four premiere “Lazarus Rising” marks a major watershed between BC (Before Castiel) and AD (Anno Dean) in the series.

In addition, the show employs Liturgical colors. In “Goodbye Stranger,” for example, Naomi programs Castiel into a Judas to assassinate Dean. During this scene, as Castiel resists, the normally pure-white light of her office windows is purple shading down to red. Purple is the color of Lent; red is the color of Easter Week. And this is also one of several scenes in the show in which Dean’s unconditional love expressed to someone who is killing him breaks the spell over them.



The writer is dead; long live the trope
There is a common postmodern literary theory out there called “The death of the writer.” It basically means that what the writer intended is not always what you end up with. What the reader thinks of what you wrote is also important.

In Supernatural, creator Eric Kripke has said straight out that he intended Sam Winchester to be a Luke Skywalker type in the beginning. You therefore see Jesus tropes all over the place for him the first two seasons, including in Sam’s ongoing (and tragically unsuccessful) attempts to save, lead and redeem the other Psykids, and culminating in Sam dying an innocent death after he refuses to kill the other surviving Psykid, Jake.

What pushed Sam out of this trope was Kripke’s conflicting desire to have Sam “go dark.” This mostly turned out to be Sam becoming selfish, vengeful and rather cold, not to mention consorting with a demonic witch. Had Sam successfully fought his way through all this to become a better human being, he could still have remained a Christ figure as the Apocalypse heated up. This is especially true, considering that Christ is the protagonist of the two stories the show used as basis for its mytharc: The Book of Revelation and Paradise Lost. Just as the story needed to have a Lucifer, an Antichrist, a Whore of Babylon, and a quartet of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it also needed a Christ figure. And that Christ figure needed to be the Hero of the story.

The season five recap, set to AC/DC’s rousing “Thunderstruck,” sets up Supernatural‘s version of Paradise Lost (shading into Paradise Regained and The Book of Revelation in season five) very well. Note the careful juxtaposition of angelic and demonic, Christ and AntiChrist imagery:



So, for the brothers to be central protagonists of the story (rather than spectators like most of the characters in the movie Legion, or The Omen series) from season four onward, one of them had to be a Christ figure. But by then, it couldn’t be Sam because he was going dark in a way that made him, not a Christ figure, but an Antichrist figure.

Other possible candidates included John Winchester (who traded his life and soul to save his son Dean at the beginning of season two) and Bobby Singer (who was a major leader and teacher of other Hunters). However, both of these father figures fell short due to their vengeful natures and their intolerance toward anyone who was not fully human by their judgements. Similarly, while the Prophet Chuck has been bandied about as a God the Creator character, he does not even remotely fit the Christ trope. He doesn’t even really work as a God figure because the biblical God is very actively involved in the storyline, whereas Chuck is a passive figure who stands on the sidelines and narrates the action. If there’s one thing the biblical God is not, in any form, it’s a cheerleader.

More recent and interesting have been the characters of Cain and of the Phoenix. In fact, Cain in particular is so close that one should classify him as a proto-Christ figure and the Phoenix in lore is a strongly Christological image. However, for various reasons I’ll get to in a bit, they both fall short of one other character. And that is Dean Winchester, the show’s other main character. But does he fit this complex trope? Well, let’s see:


He died for the sins of another and was resurrected by Heaven
Compare these two scenes with this scene and you’ll immediately be up to speed on the imagery. The sinless torture and horrific death on behalf of another (known as “Ecce Homo” in Christian iconography), the confounding of Evil in the midst of the Devil’s triumph, frightening signs and wonders, the miraculous immunity of a beloved witness, even the Pieta and the resurrection involving and heralded by angelic power, all are there. It is no coincidence that this sequence was so powerful and struck such a chord with the audience. The many Christians watching had been raised steeped in such imagery.





Then, of course, there’s this scene at the end of the show’s Apocalypse storyline, which reiterates Dean’s remarkable ability to help loved ones break even the strongest possession at a critical moment. Plus, what else would we expect from Jesus in the storyline but to ride into the pissing contest between two archangels in a hot muscle car, blasting Def Leppard?



He is the Redeemer of the story
The central image here, of course, is Dean’s refusal to kill Sam, his insistence on saving his brother from his intended fate as Lucifer’s vessel. Intriguingly, the figure of Cain is presented as a proto-Christ character who offered himself to hellfire in his brother’s place, so that his brother could go to Heaven.

Another proto-Christ character is the Phoenix (a common and vivid image of the Risen Christ), who is seeking vengeance for his dead wife in season six’s “Frontierland.” But he oversteps when he attacks Dean, an innocent. Yes, Dean has told him up front that he has to kill him, but the Phoenix “knows” Dean can’t hurt him and tries to kill him, anyway. Nor does the Phoenix ever do anything to be a Redeemer for others, only an innocent who seeks vengeance for his wife and for his own lynching.

Cain himself notes that the difference between him and Dean is that Dean didn’t kill his brother; he “saved” him. Dean is an advance on these two characters in his actions and morality. He even has inherited Cain’s Mark and has Phoenix ash in his blood.

In addition, Dean puts himself at risk in protecting Sam from the attacks of other Hunters like Gordon Walker and his friends. He also stands up for Sam in season nine’s “Devil May Care” when his breaking the Final Seal is brought up by a Hunter, Tracy, who got into the Life after demons murdered her family.

But other characters also benefit from interacting with Dean, even though most of the show’s recurring characters die violently. Those who die on behalf of the brothers end up in a better place. Ash, Pamela, Ellen, and Jo all end up in Heaven and later assure the brothers they do not regret dying for them. On the flip side, those who attack the brothers do not fare well at all.

This even happens to monsters and other supernatural creatures or (in the case of “Dog Dean Afternoon”) abused animals. Benny, who aids Dean in Purgatory, is able to come back to earth and settle his unfinished business, before ultimately deciding (when Dean asks him for help in guiding Sam back from Purgatory) to stay in Purgatory. For him, Purgatory is now better and he feels as though he belongs there.

The dogs in “Dog Dean Afternoon,” meanwhile, would not have been able to get revenge on the evil human who exploits them to save his own life if Dean had not used a spell to hear their grievances, set a whole shelter full of animals free, and set up the villain to be taken down by an angry dog pack.

Similarly, the angel Castiel aids Dean and dies on his behalf, only to be brought back several times under mysterious circumstances. And Gadriel seeks Dean out twice in his search for redemption, despite betraying him in the middle, and eventually dies a hero.


He is the moral center of the SPNverse
While the character is frequently mocked for this by some fans as “Saint Dean,” it is true that Dean’s morality always seems to end up being the “true” morality of the story. Those who ignore him do so at their peril. Dean is the SPNverse’s judge, jury and often executioner. When he curses someone, they are as good as dead, no matter how powerful they are. Dean may not kill them, but they are a dead character walking, even so. Even with the Mark of Cain storyline, everyone Dean has pitilessly killed has thoroughly deserved it.

One classic example of this is 2010!Dean’s confrontation with Samifer in 2014. Dean, completely unimpressed by Lucifer’s whining, or even his fawning (“I see why the other angels like you”), pronounces judgement on him as just another monster:

Dean: You’re not fooling me; you know that? With this sympathy-for-the-Devil crap. I know what you are.
Lucifer: What am I?
Dean: You’re the same thing, only bigger. The same brand of cockroach I’ve been squashing my whole life. An ugly, evil, belly-to-the-ground, supernatural piece of crap. The only difference between them and you is the size of your ego.

Lucifer responds by saying that he and Dean will always “end up here.” At that moment, Lucifer recognizes Dean as his opposite number and true adversary, and in both Revelation and Paradise Lost/Regained, that adversary is Christ.



Dean makes a similar speech to Metatron in the season nine finale, “Do You Believe in Miracles?” when he confronts him to buy time for Castiel to find the Angel Tablet and shatter it, thus breaking Metatron’s power:

Dean: You’ve been working those people outside for … what … a day? And already, they’ve spilled blood in your name. You are nothing but Bernie Madoff with wings.
Metatron: So, you’re saying I’m a fake? … I’ve walked among [humans]. And I can save them.
Dean: Sure you can. So long as long your mug is in every Bible and “What would Metatron do?” is on every bumper sticker.

Note that in this exchange (and in a previous conversation between Sam and Dean in which Sam says Metatron has a camp of homeless people convinced he’s Jesus), Metatron doesn’t want to be God the Father, per se; he wants to be Jesus. And Dean openly mocks him for his pretension, calling him a fraud.

So, when Metatron announces to Dean that he knows his plan, so it’s hopeless, when Dean goes into the fight to back up his friends with no hope, to die alone believing that they do not love him and feel only contempt for him, the conclusion about who is the Christ figure in that scene is clear. It’s not Metatron.


The angels are obsessed with him
This appears in many ways, most notably in Dean’s ongoing friendship with Castiel, the angel who pulled him out of Hell, and in Zachariah’s dark obsession with forcing Dean into accepting his destiny as Michael’s vessel. But we also see Naomi obsessed with killing Dean, Anna reawakened to her angelic nature by his resurrection, Gadriel seeking Dean out for redemption and his literal favor, and even Lucifer comments on how the angels in general “like” Dean. Dean is the Servant of Heaven who slays the schismatic Whore of Babylon. He is the First Seal and the one who will finish it, Alpha and Omega (another powerful image of Christ).

Also, a major role Dean plays with the angels is that of teacher (and even judge). Dean teaches Castiel about Free Will and the value of humanity. He teaches the wayward Archangel Gabriel to stand up to his brother Lucifer. He judges Lucifer. And he judges and executes Zachariah. He is also instrumental in Lucifer and Michael ending up in the Cage together, wearing his brothers. Even Uriel meets his death after he balks at following Dean.


He is the leader of Team Free Will
Whenever things look bleak. Whenever it appears that the Big Bad is going to win. Whenever it appears that Orthodoxy will prevail. Dean leads the ragtag Rebels against the evil Empire. Dean is the one who inspires people in the SPNverse when they have no hope. Dean is the one who forces weaklings, cowards and traitors to suck it up and do their duty.

Castiel is forced to look at what the angels are doing with the Apocalypse and help Dean escape from the “Beautiful Room” to seek out Sam and prevent him from breaking the Last Seal. Gabriel is forced to face up to his older brother and die in battle to save a goddess he (however haphazardly) loves. Gadriel seeks Dean out twice for redemption for having let the Serpent into the Garden and given Metatron God-like powers with the Angel Tablet.

A further aspect of this is the trope of the False Messiah. Dean repeatedly shows up such figures, usually by letting himself be attacked by them. Metatron sees himself as a “messiah” (a word uttered by one of his worshippers in “Do You Believe in Miracles?”), so Dean comes to teach him a lesson or two on what being Christ truly means.

The Archangel Michael (who is identified by some Christian sects as a pre-Christ figure) rules Heaven and wants to end the Apocalypse wearing Dean. Dean essentially spits in his face and slays Michael’s evil seraph emissary, Zachariah. Later, Dean is instrumental in Michael’s ending up in the Cage with his brother Lucifer. Godstiel mocks Dean, but later repents and dies while doing penance, then is mysteriously resurrected and reunited with his friend. It is at the height of their power that these would-be Gods are all thrown down and Dean Winchester is instrumental in their downfall. Even 2014!Lucifer is shown up by 2010!Dean, declaring his pyrrhic victory over a burnt-out Earth with little conviction.


He is everyone’s scapegoat
Another aspect or role of God in Supernatural is that everyone likes to blame their problems and mistakes on Him. It’s all God’s fault that the angels turned into jerks after He abandoned them. It’s all God’s fault that bad things happen to human beings. And in earlier seasons, under show creator Eric Kripke, the writing tended to back up that view much of the time. The rest of the time, the writing went with the old self-indulgent The Writer Is God trope (so that might explain why every showrunner since Kripke gets slammed by fandom at some point). That trope was even resurrected with Metatron, God’s Scribe.

However, in season nine, that has been turned on its head, by exploring further the aspect of Free Will. Basically, people in the SPNverse are now expected to take responsibility for their own actions, instead of blaming them on some vague scapegoat deity from a long, long time ago and very far away.

This goes hand in hand with the intensifying of Dean’s Jesus imagery. Castiel, even programmed, is held responsible for nearly beating Dean to death in “Goodbye Stranger.” Sam no longer gets a supernatural excuse for being a jackass (though he does still get a supernatural reason for being Limp!Sam). He’s Judas and Peter, respectively (and also somewhat mixed up).

Sam represents Humanity, in both its glory and its despair, in its talents and curses, its humility and its hubris. This is especially true in that the one group God will bend the knee (and the rules) for is Humanity and the one person to whom Dean will always defer, whom he will always put first, is Sam. And after Sam, other humans.

However, you can’t have people hash out their issues with some vague persona of God that you will not and can never really introduce, and Death is too powerful to interact with the story on an extended basis. You need a character to represent, to stand in for this persona, to take on the persona, as it were. And that has become Dean.

Dean gets blamed for a lot of other people’s sins and mistakes, while his own errors are magnified beyond reason (because, regardless of what he is, he is not currently either omniscient or omnipotent). But in the end, Dean is the one who always ends up being right. This is necessary in order for the other characters to have a moral sounding board off which to bounce.


Who is responsible for this?
It’s hard to say. One could argue that it was largely a product of lead actor Jensen Ackles and executive producer Kim Manners (since some of the most intense early religious imagery occurred in episodes that Manners directed). Manners, Ackles and other lead actor Jared Padalecki, for example, protested the writing on season two episode “Houses of the Holy” because it appeared to make priests look evil. They were over-ridden by Kripke, who seemed to have an odd, love-hate attraction to Christological tropes. Kripke himself finally sent Dean to Hell in exchange for Sam’s life (with Dean crucified in Hell, complete with hooks in his side and shoulder, and a thorn-like crown of sweat) and brought in angels. But he always seemed ambivalent about taking these storylines to their logical conclusions.

But later seasons also have Christ imagery. Even season nine finale “Do You Believe in Miracles?” is loaded with Jesus imagery, from Sam telling Dean that Metatron has convinced the group of murderous homeless people from Central Casting that he’s Jesus to the end song as Sam lays Dean on his bed, “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith, which is about addiction, but is also heavily loaded with crucifixion imagery.

Metatron talks about how the angels are “sheep” and he can lead them anywhere (Christ is a shepherd) and we know that Metatron is a false Christ figure in that he actually encourages and abets the lynching of an angel who exposes him, whereas Christ would never do that. When Dean finally faces off with him, Dean goes in to buy time for Castiel to get to the Angel Tablet, not specifically to kill Metatron. As much as Dean hates Metatron, he hates the possibility of becoming an unstoppable monster more, so he essentially lets himself be beaten and stabbed to death by the upstart, the Angel Tablet breaking even as he falls … and then rises again more powerful than before:



He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

Thus, Metatron is reduced and Dean comes back more powerful than before. Albeit with black eyes. Considering the stubbornness with which the show has been clinging to this trope for Dean, this should bring up some interesting theological issues next season.

Perhaps the most telling part of the season nine finale is the moment after Castiel shatters the Angel Tablet. Metatron, having just fatally stabbed Dean, returns to Heaven and mocks Castiel. He says that Castiel “draped yourself in the flag of Heaven,” but it was really to “save Dean Winchester.” When he informs Castiel that he’s just murdered Dean, that Castiel is too late, Castiel is devastated. If Metatron is the wannabe, then there must be the real thing and Castiel, John the Baptist or Peter-like, insists it’s not him. Well, Castiel would know – he’s been Godstiel.

As Castiel tells Dean as early as season five, “I did it – all of it – for you.” And this is the central image that is the most important – the character in a Christian religious story who comes back from Hell after a sinless death that redeems another, who leads the Faithful in an apparently hopeless battle against the forces of Evil, who dies encouraging those around him, whom others willingly follow and for whom others willingly die for their own redemption, that character is the Christ figure of the story.


About Paula R. Stiles

Paula is not at all paranoid about government conspiracies after six years in EMS, two years in Africa for the Peace Corps, a few summers with the Park Service, and ten years studying the Knights Templar. She's seen governments in action. They couldn't cover up a toy picnic table, let alone evidence of alien visitation. Writes about science for fun, history for money, and zombies for the company. You can read her sober-as-a-judge book about Templars in medieval Spain, Templar Convivencia, on Amazon. You can find her homepage at: http://thesnowleopard.net.

Paula R. StilesColumn: Gods and Monsters: Jesus in “Supernatural”

50 Comments on “Column: Gods and Monsters: Jesus in “Supernatural””

  1. evave2

    Paula, I really appreciate your work on the religious symbolism here. This show makes me think of all the ways being redeemed means.
    I am a Catholic and conviction and practice. I don’t know if you are and I admit to knowing little about Protestant (or would you say Christian as opposed to Catholic?) theology.
    For instance, the Nicene Creed posted above. The last Pope worked about 2 years and CHANGED its formulation. There are many small changes, but the only BIG change I just can’t stand. Where it says “one in being” with the Father now it says “consubstantial” with the Father (Hey, my spell-check did not recognize that as a word!) I can see it means the same but it needlessly complicates the relationship in my opinion. I wonder if that was the original Greek word but I don’t care, in my home prayers I still say one in being.
    I have had numerous conversations re Dark Side of the Moon as to what Heaven would entail. I have rather amorphous feelings of “being with God” and that would mean I would no longer have a separate personality. But I like the imagery of everybody having their own Heaven.
    As always it is interesting to me what the original writer/author of the show meant to do. But I really feel that what the meaning turned out to be is different from what he intended.
    I enjoy your writings on this topic. I don’t know if I always believed this way or if you “led” me to it because what you write makes sense to me in my religious conviction.
    I do see Sam as a stand-in for fallible, sinful (that is, able to sin in the exercise of free will, this is not a slam at Sam, he gets enough of that), prideful humanity. Maybe that is what Kripke was aiming for, but I think it did not quite turn out like he thought.
    Maybe Sam irks me for the reasons I irk myself.
    But Dean is the one who is always trying to do the right thing (even if like last week he was waving his bone around and deliberately antagonizing angelic douches) and for the right reason.
    You helped me to see WHY Dean is the Righteous Man. It always makes me wonder WHY Michael, who I did not hate, just did not go to Dean and EXPLAIN to him what his idea was. Michael himself didn’t make me dislike Michael (and I didn’t even hate him in Swan Song, he was pissed that it had come to this) but his working with/ through douche-bag Zachariah sort of led me to think that ALL the angels really DID dislike humanity. Michael only bowed because his Father asked him, he felt he was perfect in his obedience but NEVER understood WHY God was doing this.
    This was great to read, and I loved the scenes you used.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Hi Eva,

      Thanks! As it turns out, I was baptized Catholic and raised mostly Episcopalian (my mother was Episcopalian, my father Catholic, both practicing), though I also went to a Catholic college. So, I have grown up wearing both hoods, as it were. To complicate matters further, I like to read about other religions to broaden my own religious understanding and have connections in the New Age community, partly due to my strong interest in shamanism. I also like astrology, but that’s more for fun, as I’ve been into astronomy since forever.

      And no, I don’t subscribe to that whole “Catholics aren’t Christians” thing that is just so nasty on so many levels. Of course Catholics are Christians. We worship Christ, no? I hate the Evangelical implication that Catholics aren’t really Christians but some sort of heretical icon worshipers. Yick.

      So, as Dean might say, it’s complicated. But I do have a strong background in both, enough to know that a lot of Evangelical Christianity is still a learning experience. Lots of old time Baptists down my way and boy, do they see things differently. I was really surprised when somebody was telling me that one thing is that they proselytize largely because they are held responsible for the state of someone’s soul if they don’t help them come to the love of Jesus Christ. This is entirely opposite to my personal belief that your religious views are your own and are not to be tampered with by yours truly. If you *want* help from me, I’ll do the best I can, but I’m not going to drag that horse to the river, shove its head under the water, and call it a baptism. Helps, I suppose, that I don’t believe that non-Christians are automatically “wrong” or “damned,” either.

      Anyhoo, I forgot to add in the above article (Hey, it was already almost seven thousand words long, which was about six thousand words more than I initially expected; stuff got left out) that we are still in the forty-day period after Easter when Christ walked the earth following his resurrection. The Ascension is next Thursday, Pentecost on June 8.

      What’s curious, I’ve found, is that this period is so neglected in Christianity. There’s not a whole lot of formal worship for it, no Maundy Thursdays or Advent wreaths or Lenten fasts, nothing really until the Ascension (when the Apostles lose him again) and Pentecost (when they are inhabited by the Holy Spirit). It’s all rah-rah-rah siss-boom-bah for Easter and then everybody packs it up for summer. Even the clergy aren’t really into it. And that’s just so bizarre because this is supposed to be one of the most profound periods when the Risen Jesus is in our midst. And we just ignore it.

      I think the show does a good job of showing this with Dean and TFW. When he’s there, they are angry and impatient with him, can’t wait to run off and do their own thing. But when he’s gone, they are bereft and really lost without him. As the song goes, they don’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone. Pave Paradise. Put up a parking lot.

      I hear you about changing the words. I’m not an outwardly demonstrative person in church (which can be really awkward when I’m at a revival meeting, as happens in the summer ecumenical program when we’re all visiting each other’s churches). I’m not there to put on a show, yell, “Jesus! Jesus!” and speak in tongues, handle snakes, or whatever. It’s very internal, which means a lot of it is memorized and I’m reflecting on the words. When somebody changes the damned words, that really throws me off because now, I have to concentrate on making sure I’m saying the right thing!

      What can I say? I blend in naturally with God’s Frozen People.

      Ironically, I think Zachariah’s machinations hid the true nature of Dean’s heaven from him. Before Zachariah interfered, Dean was on the Axis Mundi itself and able to move freely up and down it. Dean’s heaven is freedom, not some canned memories. Sure, he might get restless and return to earth to save more people and hunt more things, but that’s all part of the freedom gig. And Dean didn’t see that because he and Sam were so busy running from Zachariah.

      Personally, I’m not big on the whole “lose yourself in God forever” concept. I don’t see the point of learning all that stuff and becoming a better person if you just lose it all at the end, anyway. I think it’s just the next step in a great journey, myself, and this is only one small part of it.

      Yeah, I’ve seen the theory before that Sam annoys because he’s more like what we are, whereas Dean is more like what we want to be. I’m not sure I’d *exactly* subscribe to that, since Sam also has elements of the “cool kids,” while Dean is a geek and an outcast. But I do think that Sam’s reactions within their relationship are spot on for that. And that does mean, if the writers really are doing that, that the relationship will always be a bit like that. The relationship between Humanity and Christ does have its…quirks, shall we say.

      I think what you say about Michael answers your own question–Michael was upholding an orthodoxy that he claimed came from God but that was really of his own making. And he even arrogantly tried to impose it on Dean. Was he consciously aware of this weird status Dean has built up over the course of the story and trying to coopt it by possessing Dean? I don’t know. It’s a good question that may never be answered.

      1. evave2

        This may sound weird to you, but I was taught that Episcopalians were really our “brothers in Christ” that the theology was not different at all, just tweaked.

        So you think Michael AND Lucifer had the Apocalypse wrong. I think they had it right, but did not realize it was unnecessary. I thought Michael wanted to defeat Lucifer because he wanted Dad to come home. Michael did not want to be in charge, he wanted his daddy. I liked him when he was inhabiting John.

        One last thing: the show and my numerous attempts to understand MY OWN theory of the afterlife have led me to understand that I don’t know WHAT THE HECK comes after. And it shouldn’t matter. If I do the right thing, THAT is my “reward” in itself. I agree Dark Side of the Moon was Zachariah’s version of Sam and Dean’s heaven. I wondered if Ash was there to “help” or to HELP. Pamela was ‘way too happy to be memorexing that party at the Meadowlands. They both could have been facsimiles of what Sam and Dean would have EXPECTED them to be. I would’ve thought Ash’s Roadhouse would’ve had people in it you know? He was a people person.

        1. Paula R. Stiles

          Episcopalians/Anglicans do have a lot in common with Catholics in terms of liturgy. I’ve known several ex-Catholics who became Episcopalians. However, there are some pretty big differences in attitude toward religious authority.

          I don’t think Michael and Lucifer had the Apocalypse wrong; I think they invented it, not God. Maybe they both thought it would bring Daddy back.

          I have always kind of wondered if Pamela and Ash were the real thing, since they acted a bit too fake, but I don’t think that was the way Dabb and Loflin played it. I think we were supposed to believe Pamela and Ash were real.

  2. Ginger

    Paula, I just wanted to say that I got about halfway through this article yesterday and will finish it sometime today…so comments on it to follow. It’s fascinating and, as I read, I am trying to correlate all nine seasons into it. Even though you have done that very nicely, my brain just goes in that direction on it’s own. Comments on this article when I’ve finished and thought about it.

    You did answer one big problem I had with the finale on the other thread. I couldn’t figure out how Dean could be possessed, since he had the anti-possession tat and his soul remained ‘pure’ in that it had not been corrupted by centuries of torture. He also could not be ‘cured,’ since curing a demon involved the human to feel regret…remorse…guilt….all of those things. Chuck knows, Dean has felt all of that since he was four years old. So explaining the black eyes as looking into Dean’s Id resolves that for me.

    I also think that we were cheated of seeing Dark!Dean in S9. What I felt we saw was Edgy!Dean. Dean actually stayed true to his character, because he kept the moral center of the show and his one kill with the Blade was justified — as was him slashing Gadreel, and no carnage in the finale. Given that, I don’t expect to see Demon Dean in S10, but maybe Dark!Dean for a bit.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Thanks, Ginger! Yes, it turned out to be a bit longer than I originally intended. It also took a lot longer, too!

      No, Dean wouldn’t be possessed, since he is inside his own body. But I really do think the writers mainly intended the black eyes as a psychological metaphor and haven’t yet thought through what that means in terms of show mythology.

      Dean has actually killed twice with the Blade (Remember Magnus?), but you’re right that he’s never gone quite over the edge and I’m not sure the show would do that. It might be out of character.

  3. castiel's cat

    Kudos! As someone who has studied Christian imagery as an undergraduate and in graduate school and therefore knows enough, I have to praise your excellent scholarship. More than that it will provide . A great jumping off point for further discussion. For instance cas by the river in Purgatory obsessively washing his hands to baptised himself. He is truly John the Baptist.

    I am relieved too because immediately after the finale I waa a bit worried that dean’s story would be used to redeem Sam. Clearly that’s not the case and Carver is really going whole hog. Too bad his writers aren’t up to it and throw too much if their personal issues into things. And they don’t even do good motw. Losers.

    I am looking forward to Dean the Pantocrator next season.

    1. evave2

      I looked up Pantocrator (hey spell check did not recognize that as a word; does anybody know a spell check that actually HAS difficult words in it) and I don’t see how that would apply to dean. Dean the All-Powerful? I could see if the show was trying to sell it, Dean the Messiah figure.

      Oh Paula & CC: Pope Francis is enpaneling a group to rewrite or update the exorcism ritual. It appears he believes in demonic possession. I wonder how Evangelicals will handle THAT.

      Anyway, Pantocrator really intrigues me as a concept. Wiki says it was used a hellalot of times in Revelations.
      That’s the one book I avoid because I don’t LIKE Jesus with swords coming out of his mouth.

      1. Paula R. Stiles

        Well, the show did have Metatron trying to call himself the Messiah–and Dean calling him out on it. But methinks Metatron is more like an historical Pontius Pilate (who was not the conflicted nice guy of the Bible).

        Lord, are we going back to demonic possession, again? Sheesh.

        Yeah, Christ is Mr. Scary in Revelation.

        1. evave2

          I am sorry I did not explain myself well enough re demonic possession:
          the Pope is convening a panel to write a new exorcism rite. I don’t know if it will be in Latin or in the vernacular. I don’t know if it will supercede the Rituale Romanum.

          I don’t know what non-Catholic exorcisms are like (whenever one is shown in movies or television it is always a Catholic exorcism) but I do know other religions do have them.

          Do they borrow from Catholic rites or do they write their own?

          I wonder if the show will try the new one (of course it may be years down the line).

          On IMDB yesterday somebody at some convention quoted Mischa as saying an 11th season is looking good (I think the Supernatural finale had MUCH better ratings than any other CW show finale but I may have read the stats wrong).

          1. Paula R. Stiles

            I don’t recall exactly how Protestant exorcism rites go. I think they might be similar to the healing ritual we see in “Faith.” But I think they also borrow fairly heavily from the Catholic rite.

            Yeah, that was me on IMDB saying that. I noticed it got buried in all the wank. SPN has huge CW ratings right now. It’s not going anywhere for a while.

    2. Paula R. Stiles

      Good call on Castiel. He does have a lot of guilt, doesn’t he? Then again, he also smote the crap out of a whole lot of people, too.

      I dunno. Are we really at a level where Dean can be considered omnipotent?

    3. evave2

      There is a fairly new book out by Bart Ehrman who is an expert in early Christianity. He was trying to figure out HOW Christianity became a new religion not just a sect within Judaism.
      His research has led him to believe that from the beginning Christians believed Jesus raised up from the dead. That was the deal for them. Ehrman had originally thought that the Resurrection was something that came into this new sect late 1st early 2nd century CE and that Jesus was a fairly conventional Apocalyptic Messianic preacher (note those two words – bringing on the Apocalypse).

      I am tying this back into your article about the number of times Dean has been raised from the dead: first by Castiel on the orders of heaven and then by God himself according to Joshua the Gardener in Dark Side of the Moon. It was never thru human agency, only divine agency.
      Sam’s resurrection in All Hell Breaks Loose II was thru DEAN’S agency (the deal).

      I don’t know if this matters at all for your theory in this post, but it just struck me that Dean’s multiple resurrections ARE important in a meta sense for the show.

      Was he really dying in Mystery Spot, or was it all a construct of Gabriel in Sam’s mind?

      This resurrection business is important to me and I am glad you went into it so thoroughly.

        1. Paula R. Stiles

          I don’t think they ever really clarified which it was, but the implication in “Changing Channels” was that an archangel’s apparent ability to bend reality was really an ability to generate powerful illusions. Which would explain why Lucifer needed to engage in such an elaborate Apocalypse plan in the first place.

      1. Paula R. Stiles

        There is an example of the Trinity in John 14-5, in which the Risen Christ talks about sending the Disciples an “Advocate” that appears to be an early version of the Holy Spirit. I was really shocked that this appeared so early, since the Gospel of John is from the first century CE.

        It’s interesting that, as you point out, Dean has been brought back by divine (or at least angelic) intervention so many times.

      2. Paula R. Stiles

        Really interesting you bring up Erhman, as I happened across the book in question (“How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee,” right?) in the airport and picked up, along with that one called “Zealot.” This one is brand new. Anyhoo, I’m about eighty pages into it and one thing I find really fascinating is his discussion of levels and types of divinity in the ancient world, both Pagan and Jewish, as well as the various points early Christians decided Christ became divine (the idea of his having always been divine coming pretty late, in fact). He talks at length about how the Synoptic Gospels don’t appear to have believed Christ was divine (or felt he was divine) until after his resurrection. This is quite fascinating as, from a literary point of view, John’s version of Christ is a bit of a Mary Sue. Fascinating from a theological viewpoint but not so much from a literary viewpoint.

        But the idea of a Christ figure who comes to the slow (and rather horrible, all things considered) realization that he is a *lot* more than a mere human has lots of possibilities. And it fits Dean, especially his MoC storyline, very well. His death and resurrection as a superhuman are basically a tale of apotheosis. It’s a very dark tale of apotheosis, but hey, this is horror, after all.

  4. castiel's cat

    I was thinking of those scowling judgemental Christ busts in medallions that early christian and Byzantine folks loved. He’s wAtching you and he’s not happy so watch out.

    If he has cain’s powers then he’s one of the most powerful people in the universe.

    Again Metatron did not seem so unhappy to be caught… keep all the dumb dumb angels away.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      I’ll admit I had to look up the word, but the concept is familiar. I agree that Christ is often portrayed in early Byzantine art as a stern king. I think it reflects the imperial view of a divine king.

      There’s no reason to believe Dean doesn’t have Cain’s powers. Did anybody notice that he did call the Blade to him right before Metatron stabbed him? His powers were growing and now, they’ll grow even more.

      I think Metatron was upset about being caught near the end, but he looked disgruntled more than anything. I hope we don’t get any more Metatron hand-wavey retcon BS next season. It was hard to invest in any of that.

      1. Paula R. Stiles

        Yes, I remember your comments from that other thread. It’s very common in some artistic traditions, but almost heretical in others. It’s tough for ordinary people to relate to a distant, stern king. Christians are very protective of their individual images of whom they think Christ really is.

  5. Ginger

    This was a fascinating read, Paula. Carver may not be going in that direction, but whether intentional or not, all of the writers have kept Dean’s moral center up to now. I’m sure going to be looking at S10 with this article in mind.

    I wonder, though, since Cas is now a lead (and Crowley coming on-board) if Cas isn’t being set up as the Jesus figure. He did have his own angel storyline separate from the Winchesters this season and the parable of the workers in the vineyard says that any who accept to work the will of Heaven, no matter how late in the day, will receive an equal reward with those who have been faithful the longest. I think that Dean, like Sam, will be kept fully human in the end and Cas will take his seat on the throne.

    It did not set well with me that as worthy as Dean is, that his reward (his being ‘worthy’ enough to take on the MoC) this season was to become the very thing he never wanted to be and that he tried so hard to keep Sam from becoming. It’s not that I think being ‘worthy’ meant being a distinguished killer — I never thought that was it at all.

    The last minute reveal that Cain tried to kill himself, just as Dean was willing to sacrifice himself to stop Metatron (like Jesus’ sacrifice to save humanity), was a last-minute curve ball thrown to the viewers, but it was Cas who put Metatron out of play.

    I suppose it is too risky for the show to go in this direction, although everything is there already (i.e., God exists in the SPNverse, as he resurrected Cas and removed the brothers from the convent), but I did think Carver missed an opportunity to make a point about the difference between religion and spirituality (as opposed to the comment about wars being started over religion). Dean could have pointed out that God’s only purpose is to give humans free will to make the choices it needs to make, as opposed to following a religion or dogma. Metatron wanted followers of the dogma, blind faith in him and that he would take care of each individual as their need required. Dean represents the free will, making choices, along with the willingness to accept responsibility for those choices made. I think it would have been a good point to make if, in fact, his intention is that Dean is the Christ figure in the story.

    I know that doesn’t mean that Dean is Jesus; rather that he is the Christ-figure in the story. I just thought it was an opportunity to lift the show to a little higher level.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Thanks, Ginger!

      I think Castiel is too dirtied up morally to be a Christ figure. Also, he wasn’t the one who died this season and he’s got so many sins on his head that dying would appear to be penance rather than redeeming others.

      I do wonder, though, if the show intends to do anything more with Dean and the angels. Dean’s dying to bring down Metatron would hopefully make an impression on them. It’s hard to tell, as their learning curves are pretty flat.

      I’m not sure Dean would express his opinion of Free Will in that way. He’s too “cynical” (as Metatron put it), too practical.

      1. Ginger

        The angel story was such an epic fail, I thought at first they might drop it. But are the Gates of Heaven open now; are those souls still floating around in the veil? I didn’t see in the finale that those questions were answered. Obviously, Cas will be trying to get his grace back, probably fail, and become fully human as a set-up to S11 (and I am expecting a S11).

        I think giving Cas the angel story and keeping it solely his, without involvement with the Winchesters, was Carver’s way to establish Cas as one of the leads. I would expect that Crowley will have the big role in S10, establishing him as an ensemble cast member, too, at least for S10.

        Maybe with these “internal arcs” Carver appears to like, he is trying to move the entire show away from the religious aspect (with no character being a Christ figure) into Shakespearian tragedy territory, with the intention of restoring both Sam and Dean to ordinary humans in the end? (Ordinary being not a good descriptor, I guess, but mere humans at the end of the story.)

        I can’t really tell what he is up to, because things seem to be just thrown out, without build-up. I find it hard to get emotionally involved in the story when there’s not the build-up and with sub-text being unreliable. For instance, I don’t know what kind of “special” demon Dean and Cain are? What does that mean? I don’t know what kind of special demon Crowley is supposed to be. Where does all his powers come from? How did a mere CRD become the King of Hell? He outwitted Abbadon, but he did not appear to be as powerful as her. Isn’t he supposed to be 300 years old, yet he was back in the day romping with Naomi?

        There is lots I can’t follow anymore. Carver has definitely changed the structure of the story from what EK had in mind, it seems.

        1. Paula R. Stiles

          I think Carver is more obsessed with the religious and Christ parallels than Kripke and Gamble, not less. He basically recreated Christ’s abandonment by his disciples and murder by his enemies in this past season for Dean.

          I don’t know what Carver wants to do with this, but all the comments everyone said about this being a gamechanger indicate changing Dean back to human is not something the showrunners intend to do unless this storyline really goes south with the audience. And so far, the audience is loving it. Is Sam effectively human now? Sure. But that’s a game-changer for Sam, too, since Sam has never been really “human” prior to 7.17. It’s as if the evolution is from not-quite-human to human is for Sam and human to superhuman for Dean.

          I don’t agree that Crowley outwitted Abaddon. He made a desperation ploy in which he set loose a nuke that killed her, but is that really any smarter than the brothers’ killing Lilith? He just seems to be a small bureaucrat taking advantage of the chaos in Hell, just as Metatron took advantage of the chaos in Heaven–except that Metatron has a lot more knowledge at his disposal than Crowley does. Metatron is a sort of heavenly Stalin.

          I don’t think Crowley will come to dominate the show, any more than Castiel has. The show learned a lesson from “Bloodlines” and “Bitten” about taking the brothers out of even one episode and focusing too much on other characters.

          We don’t know yet what’s going on with the gates of Heaven. So far, there’s only one gate. I suppose Reapers could start ferrying the lost souls through the gate, but that could take basically forever. This might require a Death summoning.

          1. castiel's cat

            Crowley took advantage of the fact that the upper level demons were all Winchestered before season 6 leaving him to kill Lucifer loyalists and take over with bravado and perhaps more intelligence and knowledge than his compatriot demons.

            What he does best is finding someone who will do the wet work and helping them behind the scenes. When he is on the offensive he fails miserably per seasons 6 and 8. The funny thing is I don’t think he cares about hell at all. I think he wants an eternal road trip with Dean to howl at the moon.

          2. Paula R. Stiles

            I thought their conversation in the diner, paired with the warning from Crowley’s massage therapist, was instructive–Dean was basically telling Crowley he needed to get his act together and rule Hell and Crowley was acting all blasé about it. We’ll see if Demon!Dean decides to step into the power vacuum.

  6. Jayne

    I always assumed there was no Jesus in the Supernatural because Erick Kripke and Sera Gamble are both Jewish. Only Christians would wonder where Jesus was in the show and why he has never been mentioned. But the show is much more old Testament than New.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Eric Kripke has made it exceedingly obvious that he used both the Book of Revelation and Paradise Lost as sources for season four onward. Being Jewish (secular, actually, not practicing, according to some of his past comments) or not, it’s obvious they’ve been doing a Christian apocalypse. Any ambiguity about that left when they started using actual characters from Revelation like the AntiChrist and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

      http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2009/08/supernatural-season-5-eric-kripke-cw.html

      So, no, the show is not more Old Testament than New. Not even close.

      And if you’re going to have an AntiChrist, you *have* to have a Christ figure.

      That’s not even getting into all the references about Metatron wanting to be the new Jesus in the season nine finale. Pretty sure Christian fans aren’t imagining that.

  7. Marisol

    Really great article Paula! I am so looking forward to your reviews!

    I am curious about the way they shot Dean’s death scene. Seeing it again in your clip, I am convinced that it isn’t just about Metatron and Castiel smashing the tablet. When Dean falls over mortally wounded, the angel tablet shatters to the floor and the earth trembles. All in slo-mo. I don’t know, usually slow motion means a meaningful scene just happened. What do you think? On first watch, I thought the shattering tablet bore major significance to Dean’s death, and that the trembling earth was heaven’s protest at his demise and a harbinger of his transformation into a powerful being — and I don’t mean a demon. I am going to persist in thinking that the wrtiters are more clever than to just make him a demon, and will make up some new and delicious powerful being for Dean to be.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      My impression was also that the two events were not simply juxtaposed to look pretty. The other tablets were broken in half. The Angel Tablet didn’t just break–it shattered. It also shattered at the same time Dean fell and the rumble was heard shortly thereafter, signaling both to Sam and a dying Dean that Metatron had been reduced (hence Sam’s attack on him).

      I hear what you’re saying about Dean coming back as something greater than a demon (and we already know that Cain is greater). This kind of game-changing plot move *should* be heralded by major signs and wonders, which is why, I think, it makes sense to believe the two events are connected.

      Also, this episode is the second time in the season that Game of Thrones is mentioned. This may be significant as there is a major game-changing moment at the very end of the first season finale in which Daenerys burns a woman alive on her husband’s funeral pyre (general audience agreement is that said woman kinda deserved it). I’m not sure if this is actually stated in the story, or is fan spec, but it’s believed that Daenerys’ dragons hatched in the same fire due to this blood sacrifice.

      So, the reference to Game of Thrones could be important, since it makes it clear that the Supernatural writers are well aware of GoT and probably that same plot point.

      1. Marisol

        So really Dean’s death was a blood sacrifice and the landscape will be transformed. This would be so great. I hope the writers are smart enough to run with it.

        Also on rewatch, in the context of Sam’s actions throughout the whole season, the season opener really did set the stage for the exploration of Sam’s over-blown sense of self-importance. They never strayed from that aspect of his character through all 23 episodes. It was the little storyline that was actually threaded in almost all episodes. They left the MoC out of play for half of the spring but let Sam’s nastiness rear its head every ep. throughout the season. But then he does have a brother who is noticed by God, Death and all the powerful beings in the supernatural universe so he has to find his own worth somewhere, I guess, and it was the supposed catalyst for Dean’s decent. Whatever writers. Maybe it was a sign that mean Sammy will be the big bad for next season.

        .

        1. Paula R. Stiles

          What really struck me was not just the course of Sam from feeling a sense of overblown importance down to humble humanity who can’t fight back, but the course of Dean from scrappy human up against overpowered angels in the season premiere to a dangerous superhuman who terrifies ordinary angels and even gives a souped-up Metatron pause.

          1. Marisol

            Yes, you are so right about Sam and Dean’s personal arcs. And Crowley isn’t following his own advice about never underestimating a Winchester, he ought to be afraid of Dean, there is no telling what will happen when he wakes up. Though, just becuase Crowley said wake up and see what I see, etc., doesn’t mean Dean will be a demon, it may just mean that Dean now has some souped up powers like a demon.

            I wonder if Metatron wasn’t afraid of Dean because he hadn’t been killed yet and so transformed. Metatron would know about Cain, all of it, and he would know the burden Cain was talking about and the being Dean would become. Maybe Dean and Cain’s being type gets imprinted by the first angel or demon they see and that entity becomes their ruler. So Metatron was trying to take Dean for his weapon and now Dean will be Crowley’s. God, that is a terrible idea, I hope not.

            I am just delighted that the Mark has been so successful in the ratings and that it might just actually stay around for awhile.

          2. Paula R. Stiles

            Damned straight Crowley should be afraid of Dean. Once again, he’s got a tiger by the tail and it’s going to bite him.

            I had a problem with Metatron because he was so inconsistently written and half the time, I couldn’t figure out just what they were giving for his motivation. Didn’t help that Armstrong kept wildly swinging back and forth between jolly and pissy, so that it was impossible to figure out just when we were supposed to be seeing the “real” Metatron and when the mask. It got boring.

            So, I found it very hard to judge Metatron’s feelings toward Dean since the writers spent so much time hiding them. It was all circumstantial. I do believe that if Metatron hadn’t been afraid of Dean, he wouldn’t have been lying in wait for him, baiting an obvious trap, in the first place. He wouldn’t have been bothering with Dean at all, just as he didn’t bother with Sam.

            The idea of Metatron and Crowley trying to snatch Dean as their personal weapon is an interesting one. We saw this motivation already in Sinclair and even Sam, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Hell, Crowley used Dean as his weapon against Abaddon, which is probably why Sam was so willing to put all the blame for the MoC on Crowley at the end of the season finale.

            But as we’ve already seen, Dean and the MoC/Blade are not something you can control and they certainly can’t be your personal weapon. It’s also possible that the wearer of the MoC becomes more independent and ungovernable not less as time goes by. Though I do hope they keep Dean and Cain distinct and don’t just turn Dean into a Cain clone. Give Dean his own special spin on the MoC and being a “demon,” if a demon is what he really is now.

            I hope they don’t cut this short. It has potential to bust Dean out of a lot of ruts for good.

  8. gail

    Paula, I am not a religious person so can’t comment on the first part of your article but I loved the rest and hope you and Marisol are right about Dean. A lot of fans are exited about Demon Dean but I am not, I don’t know what has me worried more, what they will do with Demon Dean or what will happen when he is cured because I don’t want a story like S7 Sam who does not feel guilty for what he has done, Dean would not be the Dean we all know if they do this. All that Dean has been through he deserves something better than being a demon. Would’t it be nice if Dean kick’s Crowley’s butt instead of working with or for him.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      No worries, Gail. As I said at the beginning of the article, it’s not meant to proselytize, only discuss it as a literary trope that appears on the show. No need for Christianity to be part of a reader or poster’s belief system.

      I think the Demon!Dean plot remains a great unknown. If what they’ve done with him so far with the MoC storyline is any indication, he will be not at all like Sambot. Sambot, after all, was basically Sam with no filters, which meant that he was very self-centered, did whatever he liked, didn’t think about consequences, and was mean.

      I think Demon!Dean won’t have filters, either, but the character we’ll get won’t be like Sambot because Dean is a very different character from Sam. I think he’ll be wildly chaotic and apt to kill people whom others might consider “gray,” but I don’t think he’ll be going around slaughtering innocents. After all, Cain wasn’t doing that.

      I sincerely hope Dean won’t be Crowley’s bitch.

  9. Tj

    The reason they won’t bring Jesus in is because the show would end, all he would need to do is lift a finger and completely wipe out all the baddies

  10. castiel's cat

    Paula and Marisol! Love your discussion and agree with your editing observations. Especially in a carver episode because he won’t put something in unless it’s important.

    Personally I thought Crowley was afraid of dean which is why he tried to explain himself. As awestruck as he was by the miracle of dean’s transformation, and as hopeful as he was about he and dean running amuck together (Crowley replacing both sam and cas), he is afraid that dean will wake up mad at him and kill him.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      He certainly came across as currying favor. But yes, he did see it as a miracle. In light of Crowley’s disinterest in running Hell, it’s curious how eager he was to tag along on the hunt for Metatron. Dean had to send him packing.

      Also, if Crowley hadn’t been afraid of Dean, he wouldn’t have had to distract the brothers so he could flee with Gavin.

      1. castiel's cat

        I think Crowley wanted to experience the miracle, help dean frame his final moments of humanity and help him translation… and avoid getting gutted by an angry dean. It was about as empathetic and compassionate as Crowley gets. I thought what mark did in Miracles was extraordinary. I was done with Crowley after that horrible gavin business, although now I see gavin may have been included as a big clue that Crowley has really changed. He’s now a better demon than he waa as a man.

        He wanted dean to recognize how he stayed loyal in that episode too.

  11. AFriendOfAFriend

    Just wanted to say that I LOVE your essay, Paula! Thank you for putting many things I have been thinking for a long time, but wouldn’t have ever been able to verbalize this amazing myself, into one fantastic article. Agreeing on everything!

  12. C.J.

    First off, I just wanted to say that I loved this article.

    I’m a literature student and someone who has history with Christianity (I’m the ‘Raised-Catholic’ trope personified: a staunch Agnostic-Atheist that still blesses herself when the shit hits the fan.) As such, The Christ Figure aspect of Dean’s character has been a fascinating subject to me ever since I realized that Dean is Supernatural’s defacto Jesus Figure. Seeing it outlined so succinctly makes me really happy.

    I actually think that Dean was intended to be a Christ Figure from the start and not something that happened later on, starting around season three when Sam (despite being Luke Skywalker) couldn’t cut it anymore.

    Sam to me was ALWAYS meant to be an Antichrist figure (The fact that Supernatural has THE Antichrist, notwithstanding). Sam’s a reluctant Antichrist figure, but an Antichrist figure none the less. His status as one of Azazel’s Special Children from infancy and the fact that he was born, regardless of Azazel, as Lucifer’s vessel cements this in my mind. I think Sam being an Antichrist figure despite being one of the shows protagonist’s jives completely with the undercurrent of grayness Supernatural has with its concepts of good and evil and with its theme of Free Will. Who’s to stay an Antichrist CAN’T have a Hero’s Journey?

    As far as Dean is concerned though, the earliest proof I can come up with for Dean’s status as a Christ Figure is in 1.12 (‘Faith’) when Dean gets “faith” healed after suffering a near fatal electrocution. z

    Even though Roy got his healing power from a reaper his wife has bound, presumably he still had the God given ability to look into people’s hearts. Dean’s heart “stood out from all the rest” to Roy and what he saw in Dean’s heart was, “A young man with an important purpose. A job to do.” Though this happened long before the Light side of Supernatural’s mythology was really hammered out and it probably works better in hindsight than when it was written, but there’s still an implication of Dean being Chosen for something.

    Also in this episode, both Layla’s mother and Roy’s wife look down on Dean with disdain because he lacks faith and because he’s critical of how their church operates. They see him as being totally unworthy of being healed and, in Roy’s wife case, actually worthy of punishment for his supposedly wicked ways, despite Dean’s humble reluctance to be healed, his utter remorse for Layla and the simple fact that their preacher chose him via the suggestion of the deity they claim to believe in.

    This is a textbook example of religious hypocrisy and the very real irony that often Atheists exhibit more Christian virtues than actual Christians do, but this is also something that Jesus is shown to have to deal with and time again in the gospels. Jesus is always calling into question the religious status quo and its hypocrisy (The Woes of The Pharisees in Matthew) and Jesus is constantly in a state of nearly getting thrown of cliffs because of it and because the pious around him don’t see him as ‘good enough’ (The Rejection of Jesus in Luke).

    Putting all that aside though, I was wondering what your opinion is on the trope of ‘Messiah’/’Stigmatic’ Sam. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a rather popular fanfic trope that exists mostly in the Sam!girl subset of the fandom that, best I can determine, started to really become a thing around the end of The Trails arc. Supposedly, it’s meant as an inverse of BoyKing!Sam/Evil!Sam trope.

    Fics written with this trope in mind revolve around Sam getting the Stigmata as a sign of Heaven forgiving his sins, allowing him to become the new Christ in the process. They’re usually drunk on Catholic imagery and tend to be, what I like to call, ‘The Passion of Sam Winchester’ fics, where Sam suffers greatly and in gruesome detail from the Stigmata, ‘but opens not his mouth.’ Dean is usually there as some form of Apostle expy to take care of Sam and bear Witness.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of it. I feel like it turns Sam into a bit of a Mary-Sue (because not only is Sam an Antichrist, he’s Jesus now too) and causes Sam to lose the darkness central to his character and to his dichotomy with Dean. It also has the problem, as I’ve seen from those who read it into the actual canon, of creating an enormous amount of erasure towards Dean’s own Christ narrative to the point where some won’t acknowledge that Dean even HAS a Christ narrative to begin with, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Hi C.J. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      While I agree that Dean’s Heaven-related arc goes back to “Faith,” I’m a bit skeptical that Kripke ever intended it that way so far back. Remember that he originally intended to have Sam sacrifice himself by going dark to save Dean at the end of season three.

      It ties into your point about the Sam-Christ fanfics. Up until season three, there’s a basis for that. But after it, any attempt to make Sam a Christ figure would basically be missing the theology forest for the religious imagery trees. Just because you nail someone to a tree, doesn’t make them a Christ figure. Yes, Christ died for our sins in Christian theology, but Christians know this because of what he did in his life before that. Sam could have the bloody hands and feet all the writers like, but his selfishness and self-centeredness would still disqualify him as a Christ figure, especially in season eight and nine.

    2. Paula R. Stiles

      Hi C.J.,

      First of all, let me apologize for taking so long to get back to you on this comment. It’s been a very hectic year and my response required more complexity than I had at hand at the time.

      Interesting, your theory that Dean was intended as a Jesus figure all along. I’m not sure I agree with it, since the intent in the early drafts of the pilot seemed clearly to make Sam out to be the persecuted brother and Dean a dangerous and psychopathic individual. Also, Dean was going very dark in season two before he made his deal. But there is also the theme (very common in dark fantasy and horror shows, which aren’t exactly what you’d call imaginative when it comes to worldbuilding) that Heaven is worse than Hell, and that angels and God are, at best, cold and uncaring, more evil than demons, at worst. This is a lazy form of discussing the theodicy of evil, that lets humans entirely off the hook for abusing their own Free Will in favor of blaming God for everything, but it’s very common in the genre. So, I can see Kripke going that route eventually, what with his “I can only have angels in my show if they’re dicks!” myopic vision.

      But I also don’t think he ever thought that far ahead (and he’s since admitted he had no five-year plan). A good example was the writers’ decision to go the literal The Writer Is God with Chuck. This fell foul of the setup they’d had with God where He’s a deadbeat dad. It ruined a previously popular and inoffensive character by giving him a hidden agenda (since he was made clearly aware of who and what he was supposed to be) that turned him into a manipulative creep.

      But I’m sure at the time, all they thought was, “Oh! It’ll be cute and meta!”

      I do think some other people on the show saw the potential Dean had for becoming a Christ figure in his deep devotion to the Family Business from very early on and “Faith” is a good example. Got me all hopeful, too. I don’t think those people were ever Eric Kripke or Sera Gamble, though.

      Layla’s mother and Roy’s wife are definite Pharisee/Saducee figures in the biblical sense (the historical Pharisees and Saducees being, of course, quite different, just as the historical Philistines were actually a whole lot more cultured and civilized than the Hebrews). Their error is a classic one in that they conflate their needs and wants with God’s wants and commands. It’s a very common fallacy among people who otherwise feel they are good Christians.

      We all want God to be on our side and when God isn’t, we get upset. Or we assume somebody is interfering in our relationship with God (hence the obsession with “defending” an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being, which is really about defending one’s image of, and relationship with, God). Nobody wants to believe that we, as individuals, are no more or less entitled to happiness and good fortune than anyone else, and that there is a balance where sometimes, we are supposed to bear our misfortunes with fortitude and cheer the good fortune of others, even when we’re not feeling it. That those are very important moments that build character.

      No argument on Sam as an Antichrist figure. After all, the Antichrist is supposed to fool others that he is the Second Coming of Christ. So, his story is going to mirror that of Christ’s for a while until he shows his true colors (or, in Sam’s case, falters as the moral challenges get harder).

      I’ve only seen a few of the fanfic versions of Sam as the Messiah, but I definitely recall excited commentary on things like Sam’s crucifix poses when he’s in withdrawal in “When the Levee Breaks” and falling into the Cage at the end of “Swan Song.” The problem here is that it requires taking that imagery entirely out of its context to perceive it without irony. I mean, Sam is in withdrawal from killing people for their demon blood in the first case and was just a party to the near-beating death of his brother (who was the real lamb going to the slaughter in that scene) in the second.

      I think the problem here is the idea that Sam receives the stigmata after his sins are forgiven. Now, there is some debate within the Synoptic Gospels themselves over whether Jesus’ sins are forgiven by his baptism from John, but mainstream Christianity now believes that Christ was always without sin, that he wasn’t just a guy who was washed of his sins and then became Christ. “Without sin” is (no surprise) a very difficult concept with which many theologians have wrestled, since its most extreme form can make Christ a remote paragon of virtue who is impossible to relate to, but one way to perceive it is as Dean’s moral center that remains unshaken through everything, that would only be changed if Dean were no longer the character Dean.

      Sam, on the other hand, is selfish, resentful, and (worst of all) filled with pride. No way can he be a true Christ figure after his encounter with the Sins. Also, as you say, it takes away what makes Sam unique and interesting, and requires that Dean’s own Christ narrative–even his entire Hero’s Journey–be erased.

      1. C.J.

        That’s totally cool. Don’t worry about that.

        I wanted to bring up, now that we’re past the mid-season finale of season ten, how oddly Christological the Mark of Cain arc has proven to be.

        First off, we have the season nine finale who’s symbolism couldn’t be any more obvious. Dean faces off against Metatron, a false messiah who actually gets referred to as ‘Messiah’ and ‘New Jesus’ in text (by definition, Metatron is more of a literal Antichrist than both Sam and Jesse combined since he has malicious intent and plays the role Biblically straight) only to have himself beaten to a pulp, stabbed and killed. We have Dean being stabbed with an angel sword, the Angel Tablet being broken and an earthquake occurring almost simultaneously, all three of which have parallels to the various Passion narratives of the Gospels (Mathew and John specifically) . Dean even resurrects at the end.

        Then we have Cain himself. You listed Cain as a sort of Proto-Christ and he is (at least in the Supernatural universe). He gave himself up to hell fire so his brother would gain Salvation after getting corrupted by Lucifer. But it goes deeper than that I think. Cain was a cultivator of the land, meaning that – presumably- he grew grain. Grain has Christological connections, particularly in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, as symbol of the Eucharist: the Body of Christ made present in the substance of bread via transubstantiation.

        Cain also, being the elder of the first pair of brothers and the progenitor of the Michael/Lucifer bloodline, was the first Michael vessel and presumably the original Michael Sword by virtue of him being the defacto Michael vessel. As you pointed out, Michael and pre-incarnate Christ are sometimes believed to be the same entity and as far as narrative role goes, Michael is the most direct stand in for Christ in universe (actions and disposition notwithstanding) by virtue of him being God’s eldest son and the spiritual being that will destroy Lucifer.

        I myself am also wont to bring up that Dean, semantically speaking, bares the ‘stigmata of Cain’. ‘Stigmata’ meaning ‘mark’ in Greek. That’s a bit of a long shot, but one I like to make anyways.
        Dean’s season ten story arc (so far) has obvious parallels to his other more obvious Christ arc: season four. Dean goes to Hell-an internal one instead of an external one- were a demon tempts him to embrace a demonic side of himself, Sam goes to all manner of lengths to get him back, only for him to ultimately be saved by an angel and brought back to his state of humanity. An metaphorical existential resurrection as opposed to a literal physical one.

        While the Mark of Cain is demonic, and one Dean took on willingly (though in an act of desperation) it’s one that Dean has sincere regret over. Dean is penitent, always trying to atone for his sins caused by the Mark of Cain, even if that means his own death. Dean is constantly trying to be his own Suffering Servant, his own Paschal Lamb. The scene in ‘The Things We Left Behind’ between Dean and Castiel were Dean asks Castiel to kill him if he goes too far because Castiel is the only one with the fortitude to do it has very obvious Jesus and Judas undertones, particularly if you ascribe to gnostic theology (or to the works of Nikos Kazantzakis or Andrew Lloyd Webber) were Judas betrayed Jesus at Jesus behest. It’s made even more obvious thanks to Dean wearing purple which is the liturgical color of Lent and Advent and, at least in Mark and John, the color of the robe forced on Jesus during his Passion.

        Now on the topic of Christ-Sam, my biggest issue with it far and away is all the Christ-Dean erasure it propagates. There are people claim that Mary making the deal with Azazel or Sam being tormented by Hallucifer are gospel parallels – the virginal conception of Jesus and Jesus fasting in the desert respectively- but see no Gospel parallels to Dean being in Hell for forty years and getting tempted by Alastair or Michael coming to the aid of young!John and pregnant!Mary when their lives are threatened by Anna – Jesus fasting in the desert and the Massacre of the Innocence respectively. There are people who will readily identify Sam going through The Trails as Christological, but have nothing to say about the Christological implications of Dean being the resurrected Righteous Man and breaking the first seal, in fact most would deny it even IS Christological to start with.

        Perhaps most of it is due to the fact that Sam is the character with the more obvious Christ imagery which naturally means that people are more likely read his character as messianic while Dean’s imagery is more subtle. After all, lots of people will look at Sam jumping into The Cage with his hands out stretched and call it Christ imagery, but not everyone will look at Dean willingly walking in between Michael and Lucifer’s self-righteous pissing contest and getting himself beaten into a bloody pulp in the off chance that he might be able to save the world and see it for messianic act that it truly is. After all, if Dean hadn’t gone into the cemetery, a situation that was guaranteed to get him ripped apart, if Dean didn’t gone like a lamb to the slaughter, Sam wouldn’t have broken through in the first place. Sam might have jumped into the Cage, but it was Dean’s act of selflessness that ultimately saved the world.

        Who knows, maybe the show writers – some of them at least- are doing it on purpose: giving Sam the more obvious Christ imagery while given Dean the actual Christ narrative. After all, Sam has been called the Antichrist in canon (Ruby, Gordon and even Dean have referred to him as such) and like you said, the job of the Antichrist is to act as Christ-like as possible, despite not actually being Christ. His job is to trick the faithful, to lead them away from Christ. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. Maybe they’re using Sam as a messianic red herring.

  13. C.J.

    Exactly. Sam might be the one doing a crucifixion pose when he’s going through demon blood detox or getting drained by ghouls, but Dean is the one who willingly laid down his life for another’s salvation, conquered death through the power of Heaven and is a prophetic figure known as ‘The Righteous Man’ who shall start and end the Apocalypse. Sam might have cornered the market on Christ imagery, but Dean has the Christ narrative and that’s what actually matters.

    It’s interesting that you mention Sam’s self-orientation because in Sam-Christ fics, it’s usually all about Sam becoming Christ as part of his personal Salvation. Sam doesn’t sacrifice anything (apart from his body, though technically not of his own volition), nor does Sam save anyone. Sometimes Sam is depicted as having Jesus powers, like turning water into wine, but he never heals anyone or raises anyone from the dead. (To me this is really problematic because I would expect Sam to do just that if he had the power to, both as a hunter and as Sam Winchester, if his demon exorcising arc is any indication, and even more so if he’s supposed to be Christ.)

    That is completely missing the point of The Messiah. The Messiah, whether they’re the one who brings salvation or breaks the yoke of oppressive imperial regimes, is always meant to save other people, not just themselves. If they’re doing it for themselves, they are no Messiah.

    I’ve even heard authors say that they have Sam getting stigmata/becoming Christ simply because they think God ‘owes it’ to Sam. Both as a Catholic and an Atheist that idea bothers the shit out of me. The universe doesn’t owe us anything. We have to earn things on our own, through our own actions and choices. Messiah hood is no different (even more so in the Jewish understanding of the concept).

    I bring this up because by contrast, Christ-Dean is virtually non-existent in fandom. There are people who ascribe to a messianic reading of Dean’s character and there are a handful of fics that play the trope relatively straight, but it doesn’t permeate the fandom at anywhere near the same level that Christ-Sam does. To me that’s really tragic because, unlike Christ-Sam, Christ-Dean is actually canon. It’s a far more compelling scenario, in my opinion to play around with in fic because it allows for duality.

    For example, if someone told Dean that he was the Messiah, Dean would scoff and call it bullshit. If his hands started bleeding, Dean would bitch about not being able to drive Baby or hold a gun. Dean would have to try really hard to not punch anyone who called it a blessing and he would hold a grudge against God for doing it to him or choosing him for something he can’t handle in the first place. But by the same token, Dean would use his powers to heal people without a second’s hesitation. In fact, Dean would probably go looking for hunts just by virtue of the fact that no matter what happens, everyone will get saved and it would piss Sam off because he knows that Dean’s in pain and wearing himself thin.

    1. Paula R. Stiles

      Hi C.J.

      It’s interesting that you mention that Christ-Dean is rare in fanfic. Back in the day when I wrote fanfic, I noticed that even though, technically, there is no limit on what you can write for fanfic in a verse, most writers tend to follow a relatively narrow set of tropes. Some of these tropes can be wiiiiilllllldly not-canon, yet accepted as the norm in the fanfic portion of fandom. On the other hand, if you write certain things, even if they are essentially canon, some writers not only won’t buy them, but may even get upset or offended.

      I think this falls under the oft-stated theory that fanfic is a way to fill in the lacunae in the story–a dramatic confrontation that ended too abruptly, an intriguing storyline that went nowhere, a character pairing that would never occur on the show. That sort of thing. Maybe that’s why we get so much Christ-Sam stories in fanfic, or maybe it’s a twist on the hurt/comfort approach.

      Speaking of hurt/comfort, there may not be all that much Christ-Dean fanfic, but hoo-boy is there some serious Tortured!Dean stuff that sure looks as though fans want to see him get scourged and crucified.

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