(As I mentioned in my post announcing this rewatch project, there will be spoilers!)
Season 2, Episode 20: What Is and What Should Never Be
Image and episode summary from Wikipedia:
Dean is attacked by a djinn, and suddenly finds himself in a world in which his mother had never been killed by Azazel. He and Sam were not brought up as hunters, and thus are no longer close. Although Dean enjoys his new life, a ghostly young woman seems to be haunting him. When he realizes that all the people that he and Sam had saved as hunters are now dead, he decides that he must give up his new-found happiness to save them. Though Sam does not believe him, he accompanies his brother to the djinn's lair. There Dean discovers that the young woman he has been seeing is a victim of the creature. Noticing that she is alive but hallucinating —a way for the djinn to keep its victims captive while it feeds off their blood —Dean realizes that he, too, is within an illusory world. Despite his dream family trying to convince him to stay, Dean kills himself in the dream, waking himself in the real world where Sam rescues him. Sam and Dean battle the djinn and Dean kills it. They discover the other victim is still alive and take her to the hospital where she is expected to recover.
We’re nearing the end of season two! This season has been much better than I remembered.
Sam calls Dean from the hotel room about a cop car outside the motel – they’re worried about being fugitives still. They’re on a case. People have been going missing. Sam thinks they’re hunting a djinn – a genie. Wish granters. They feed off people for centuries and usually live in ruins. Dean going to check out a place he saw a couple miles back. Sam says to come get him first but Dean says no.
Dean going to investigate, to see if there’s a djinn. I remember this being an emotional gut-punch type episode.
Dean senses that something isn’t right in this old warehouse. He slowly makes his way around, and we the viewer see someone hiding – a djinn! He uses some sort of magic on Dean. Now we are taken into Dean’s djinn-magic infused life.
Dean wakes up in bed next to a girl – he seems confused. He walks around the place; calls Sam on the phone. Dean is confused, not sure where he is, talks about djinn. Sam doesn’t seem to understand what he’s talking about. The girl turns out to be Dean’s girlfriend. On the phone, Sam thinks Dean is drunk, and has no idea what he’s talking about. Sam is studying law like pre-pilot episode Sam!
Dean realizes all the mail in this home is addressed to him, in Lawrence, Kansas. He’s living a life in a world where the demon never killed his mother and he and Sam never became hunters, and neither did their father (since Mary never died). BUT (SPOILER)– we learn later that Mary was from a family of hunters, before she met John Winchester. So does THIS universe’s Mary know about hunting and monsters?? Hmm. (END SPOILER)
Dean rushes to his childhood home – where his mother died in the pilot episode. He is so wonderfully happy to see his mom alive. Of course, she has no idea why he’s so upset. Dean asks his mom what she always told him when she put him to bed (angels were watching over him). She answers, and he knows it’s really her. He doesn’t know how, but he knows it’s really her. Has the djinn granted him a wish?
He tells Mary he’s happy to see her, she’s beautiful. He looks around the house, asks if there was ever a fire. Mary says no. Dean looks at all the family pictures – adorable! Where’s dad? He played on a softball team, according to the pictures. John Winchester is still dead, it turns out, but not by a monster. He died of a stroke, in his sleep. Dean is happy that he went peacefully – not the way he went out in Dean’s ‘real’ universe.
Dean doesn’t want Mary to call Carmen to pick him up. He wants to stay here for the night. He gets to be back in a childhood home with his mother who, in his world, died when he was just a kid.
The next morning, Dean wakes up and calls Sam again. He gets his voice mail. Dean visits a professor, and asks him about djinn. He is told that they are mentioned in the Koran. But Dean wants to know if they can really grant wishes. The professor says they are mythic creatures – not real. But Dean asks the professor in the stories, if one had a wish that they never even said out loud, could a djinn grant it? The professor says yes. They have a godlike power to alter reality however they want – past, present, future.
Dean laughs when he sees his trunk is weapon-free. But then he notices a girl across the road, in a white dress, staring at him. He approaches her but is distracted and when he turns back, she’s gone.
Back at his mother’s place, Dean is enjoying a delicious sandwich. He tells Mary he tried to call Sam but couldn’t reach him. Says he’s dying to see him. Mary is happy that Dean is hanging out all of a sudden, but why isn’t he at work at the garage? Dean says he’s got the day off. He notices the state of the lawn and mows it – I love to see Dean taking such joy in something so mundane, that in his world he never actually gets to do. The clip of him mowing – poorly at times – and waving to neighbours, to the tune of What a Wonderful World, is both funny and heartwarming. Dean’s deepest wish is for a normal life, with his family. He is happy here.
Sam pulls up and Dean can’t believe he’s with Jessica – she’s alive too! Dean is so happy to see her. But Sam seems distant and a bit cold with Sam. They live in California, where Sam is going to law school at Standford. And it’s mom’s birthday – which Sam doesn’t seem surprised that Dean forgot. Their relationship definitely seems strained.
The family is all out at dinner for mom’s birthday. Everyone seems happy. Sam makes an announcement – he and Jessica are getting engaged. Everyone is happy, and Dean gives his congratulations. Mary is sad that the boys’ dad can’t be there. Dean tells Sam he’s really glad that he’s happy.
Again, Dean sees that girl in the background and goes to investigate, but when he gets closer, she disappears. His family think he’s acting strangely.
Back at the mom’s house, Sam asks Dean what that was all about. Dean said he thought he saw someone but it was nothing. Mary goes to bed after thanking them for a lovely birthday. Sam and Jessica make to leave, but Dean says it’s still early, let’s get a drink. Sam says maybe another time. Dean pushes and Sam asks the ladies to leave them alone. Sam wants to know – what’s gotten into him, with this whole warm fuzzy thing. Dean says he’s happy for Sammy. Sam says they don’t talk outside of holidays, and Dean doesn’t call him Sammy. It seems this Dean has stolen money and a prom date from Sam, missed his graduation, etc. Sam says they don’t have anything in common. Dean says they do – hunting. But Sam says he’s never been hunting in his life. In this universe, if they aren’t hunting monsters, saving people, etc., what do they have to bring them together? Nothing, apparently.
Back at his place, Dean and Carmen are hanging out. She tells him that Sam and Dean don’t really know each other all that well, but Sam doesn’t know what he’s missing. Dean wants to make it up to Sam, fix things with him, with everyone. Dean tells her that he feels like he’s been given a second chance and he doesn’t want to waste it. They start to get romantic but Carmen has to go to work at the night shift at the hospital. She’s a nurse.
Alone, Dean is having a beer, watching TV. Normal life stuff! As he goes through the channels, he notices that it’s the anniversary of the crash of flight 424 – back in the ‘real’ world, Sam and Dean stopped that crash. But in this world, without them as hunters, without Mary’s death as the catalyst for John Winchester’s hunting, all the people they’ve helped died.
Dean opens a closet door and sees bodies hanging, then sees the mysterious girl again – then it all flickers and disappears.
Dean goes to John Winchester’s grave and tells him that everyone John saved, everyone Sam and Dean saved, are all dead. And this girl is haunting him. He doesn’t know why. It’s like his old life is coming after him, like it doesn’t want him to be happy. He says the John Winchester he knows – not softball John – would tell him to go hunt the djinn. His happiness vs. those other people’s lives is no contest. But Dean wants to know why. Why can’t he and Mary and Sam have happiness? Why do they have to sacrifice everything?
Sam and Jessica are in bed, sleeping. Sam hears a noise and gets up to investigate. I LOVE that this scene parallels the pilot episode, when Sam and Dean first meet on screen. It’s such a wonderful callback. (Listening to Eric Kripke’s commentary on the DVD of this episode, he does say that they tried as much as possible to do shot for shot recreations of those scenes, with the lighting and angles and music and everything. So great!)
Sam is not happy to see Dean. Dean jokes, saying he is looking for a beer. Sam accuses Dean of breaking into the house to steal mom’s silver. We know that Dean wants the silver to kill a djinn, but Sam won’t believe it, so Dean says he owes someone money. Sam says he can’t believe they’re related. Dean says he’s sorry they don’t get along, he wishes he could stay and fix it, but he’s gotta go do this. People’s lives depend on it. He says to tell mom he loves her.
“I’ll see you, Sammy.” SADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD. I don’t like a world they don’t have a good a relationship.
To Dean’s surprise, Sam gets in the car and says that whatever stupid thing Dean’s about to do, he’s not doing it alone, and that’s that. Because Dean is still his brother. “Bitch” “What are you calling me a bitch for?” HAHAHAHAH Classic. This show already knows the emotional heartbeat moments that fans love.
Sam opens Dean’s bag and finds a container of blood, and of course freaks out. Dean says he doesn’t want to know what this is about. Dean says he needed a silver knife dipped in lamb’s blood to kill a djinn. He tells him that there are bad things out there in the dark and that people have to be saved. Sam understandably thinks Dean is having some sort of psychotic breakdown and tries to make a call, but Dean chucks the phone out the window.
Dean tells him to sit tight and try not to get them both killed.
It’s not even the right license plate in this world!
They get to their destination: Illinois. It’s the same building Dean investigated at the beginning of the episode.
They go in, and Sam tells Dean there’s nothing here. He tries to persuade him to leave. But they hear something. Dean tells Sam to stay behind him and keep his mouth shut.
They move along and find the djinn’s victims, hanging up like Dean’s vision when he opened the closet. Sam is freaked out.
One of the victims is the girl Dean kept seeing. That’s the connection. The djinn is making his way over to his victims. Sam and Dean hide. The girl cries, and the djinn uses magic to put her back to sleep, in her wish-granted world.
Then he drinks her blood from a bag that’s been used to drain it.
Sam makes a noise and the djinn hears, but the boys manage to hide somewhere else. Sam is freaking out when he comes to understand that Dean is not crazy, that this is all real.
Dean realizes that the djinn isn’t granting wishes, it’s just making victims think it has granted wishes.
Dean notices the lights are flickering – Sam tries to get him to leave, saying the djinn could come back. Dean wonders, what if this is all in his head, and he is another victim tied up somewhere. He’s in here somewhere, taking it all in, but can’t snap out of it. Sam tries harder and harder to get him to leave. Dean says Sam isn’t real. Sam tries to get him to leave. Dean pulls out the silver knife and asks Sam that isn’t it an old wives tale that if you are about to die in a dream, you wake up? So what if he kills himself here – will he wake up somewhere in that warehouse as one of the djinn’s victims?
Sam tells him that’s crazy, he’s real, this is real, they have to leave. Sam says he’s here, it isn’t a dream, and Dean is about to kill himself. Dean says no, he’s pretty sure, like 90 percent sure, but sure enough. He moves to do it but Sam yells wait. And then their mom walks in, and Carmen. Sam asks Dean why he had to keep digging and couldn’t leave well enough alone? Jess is there too. Sam says Dean was happy. His mom says to put the knife down. Dean tells her she isn’t real, none of it is. Mary says it doesn’t matter, it’s still better than anything he had. It’s everything he wants. They are a family again. She asks him to go home. Dean says that he’ll die. The djinn will drain the life out of him in a couple of days. Mary says in here, it will feel like a lifetime. No more pain or fear, just love and comfort and safety.
Mary asks Dean to stay with them. Jessica says Dean doesn’t have to worry about Sam, and can watch him live a full life. Carmen kisses Dean and says they can have a future, their own family. She loves him. They all want him to stay. Sam asks why it’s their job to save everyone. Haven’t they done enough? He’s begging Dean to give him the knife.
Dean looks at them all. With tears in his eyes, he says he’s sorry, and stabs himself. He wakes up, tied up in the djinn’s lair, with Sam there trying to save him.
Sam says he thought he lost Dean for a second and Dean says he almost did. Sam goes to cut him down but the djinn appears before he can finish. He fights with the djinn, who seems to have the upper hand, but then Dean appears and stabs the djinn, killing it.
Dean goes to find the other victims. The girl from earlier is still alive. They cut her down, and Dean promises to get her out of there.
Back at the motel, Dean sees Carmen in a beer ad – that’s where the djinn got the image of the girl to play Dean’s perfect girl.
The girl they saved is in the hospital, stabilized. She will pull through.
Dean says Sam should have seen it. Their lives. Sam was such a wussy. Sam asks Dean that they didn’t get along? Wasn’t it supposed to be a perfect fantasy?
Dean says it was just a wish for their mom to live. But if she never died, Sam never would have stuck around and they never would have hunted.
Sam says he’s glad Dean got himself out – most people wouldn’t have the strength and would have stayed. Dean tells him all about the fantasy but Sam says it wasn’t real. But Dean admits that he wanted to stay so bad. Ever since their dad died, all he can think about is how much the job of hunting has cost them. They’ve lost so much. They’ve sacrificed so much. But Sam says it’s worth it – people are alive because of him. It isn’t fair and it hurts, but it’s worth it.
What an episode! I really love the way it tugs on the heartstrings, showing us Dean’s wish that their mother had never died, and then showing us what that life could have looked like. And even though he and Sam didn’t get along, and even though it would have cost him his life, Dean was so tempted to stay in that fantasy.
And I’m happy that Sam understands where Dean’s coming from – after all, he’s lost his mother and father, and also Jess and the potential of a normal life that he wanted – but that he knows that the sacrifices they’ve had to make are worth it for the lives they’ve saved and the people they’ve helped.