“The story became the story.” Dean Winchester
“Bad Boys” provides a window into Dean’s past while reinforcing familiar thematic terrains covered in Supernatural. We need the stability of family to help us see our place in the world. But, who/ what constitutes our family?
“Bad Boys” begins when Sam picks up Dean’s phone and tells the speaker, “There’s no D Dog here.” Dean grabs the phone and says, “Hi, Sonny.” Sam’s quizzical face shows he doesn’t recognize the speaker. Dean quickly tells Sam a story of how he gambled away the food money when Sam was 12 and he was 16. To provide for Sam, he tried to shoplift peanut butter and bread, was caught and sent to a boy’s home. Dean reveals that Sonny knows what they do. When Sam queries Dean as to why Dean didn’t share the information, he simply says, “The story became the story. I was sixteen.” Historically Winchesters keep secrets from one another and then try to minimize the effects of the deception.
Dean looks at Sam and asks, “Are we up for a trip?”Sam, who certainly should be a little curious as to why Dean keeps framing that question to him, repeats, “There’s only me.”
They go to Sonny’s Home for Boys, where they solve the monster of the week case.
Timmy, one of the residents, and his mother were in a car accident. She threw him from the car before it exploded and she died. But Timmy was afraid and his mother’s spirit stayed with him. A year later, she has become an overprotective and vengeful spirit who hurts or kills anyone she perceives as a threat to her son. The effects from the death of a mother is a familiar Supernatural theme. So too, is the mythology that spirits who stay on earth become vengeful. By the time Sam and Dean arrive at Sonny’s, Timmy can no longer control her. Dean convinces Timmy that he must send her away. He tells Timmy he will be all right. Dean adds, “Sometimes you gotta do what’s best for you, even if it hurts the ones you love.”
Timmy’s story is reflected in Dean’s at 16. When Dean arrives at Sonny’s, he is angry and belligerent. He is guilty because he has gotten arrested and Sam is left alone. He tells Sam John located him, but made him remain at Sonny’s. The 16 year old Dean accepts his father’s decision. Sonny provides gentle guidance for the teenaged Dean. During his two month stay, Dean has the opportunity to live as a “normal teenager.” He attends school, is on the wrestling team, and has a girlfriend, Robin. The 16 year old Dean adjusts to his new environment, a trait he continually demonstrates as an adult, and benefits from doing so. He is hopeful and shows the vulnerability he, in all likelihood, has had to hide from John. This Dean shares he wanted to be a rock star or a mechanic. He invites Robin, who wants to travel the world and not take over her family’s business, to a dance.
Reality, as always, returns. John shows up the night of the dance. Dean looks out the window and sees Sam. To whom does Dean always owe his allegiance? Sam. He abandons his desires and once again takes on adult responsibilities. When Dean tells Timmy he has to do what is best for him, even if it hurts the ones he’s loves, what Dean doesn’t admit is how much he loved living at Sonny’s. He loved preparing for the school dance, having a girlfriend, or showing his athletic prowess by being on a school sports team. He loved being “normal.”
After Dean says his good-byes to Timmy, Robin, and Sonny, he and Sam sit in the car. The adult Sam always thought those two months were the worse in Dean’s life, but on reflection thinks maybe they were the best. One can only imagine what Dean said to hide those positive experiences from Sam. Sam, intelligent and astute as always, tells Dean, “Thank you for always being there.., for having my back. I know it hasn’t been easy.”
“Bad Boys” explores what families do. As a ghost, Timmy’s mother protects her child as best as she can. Dean returns to Sam and John, thus relinquishing his dream of being a “normal” teenager. Robin, Dean’s girlfriend, longs to travel as a teenager, but ends up taking over the family business, her parents’ diner, and loves it. When Sam thanks Dean for always being there for him, he realizes he doesn’t know the whole story. But Sam knows Dean. Dean has always sacrificed himself for Sam and Sam understands Dean will continue to do so.
Dean’s curt response as they drive away is, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” While this episode gives us a glimpse into Dean as a vulnerable, sensitive, angry and yet impressible teenager, we know the adult who layers himself. Moments of vulnerability come out sparingly. One occurs when he shows Timmy how to shake hands like a real man. Another occurs out when he makes the agreement with Ezekiel.
“The story became the story.”
Which stories do we believe as truth which may contain fabrics of hidden information woven within them? Especially when they concern the people we love? “Bad Boys” shows how the Winchesters value family above all. But it also reinforces their deceptions. Dean can’t look at Sam without acknowledging the biggest deception he has ever kept from him. He can’t help but wonder: How Sam will react when he learns about Ezekiel?
Does that make Dean a “bad boy”?