Let’s all talk about What Is and What Should Never Be (S2 E20)

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    • journalbookbinder
        October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10171

        One of my all-time favorite episodes. Centered on Dean. Heartbreaking to see inside his head; into his deepest wishes. For his mom. For Sam. For himself. It’s like they put an AU fan fic onscreen. I can’t wait to rewatch this one.

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      • kate38
          October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10185

          Raelle Tucker knocked this one outta the park! This is one of those episodes that is so chock full of good things that I could write a book about it. I’ll try to just keep it to the highlights.

          I always LOVE the Dean-centric episodes. Not only is Dean a compelling character, but watching Jensen in action never leaves me disappointed. He gives us EVERYTHING In this episode. His reaction when he sees Mary for the first time is so…pure and real. His heartbreak when he’s at John’s gravesite is visceral. He deserves an Emmy for that scene alone, by the way. His yearning to spend time with Mary is also very touching. I don’t like Mary, but I respect what having her in his life meant for Dean, and it makes me regret her death because of the effect it had on his life. Not for nothin’, but Samantha Smith was amazing in this episode. The scenes with her and Jensen are among my favorites.

          Interesting that in Dean’s dream life, Mary and Jessica are both alive, but John isn’t. I wonder if JDM was too busy for this one, so they had to write him out of the story. I can’t imagine Dean not wanting his father alive.

          I like Carmen a lot! I love that, if Dean had what he wanted (according to his djinn dream, anyway), he’d have a stable life with a woman who loves and understands him, a job fixing cars, and a guitar on the stand in the living room of HIS HOME. Dean was deprived of all those things, and it makes his 15-season story arc that much more tragic. Even though Dean was very broken when he was with Lisa, I think he was the closest we’ve ever seen him to happiness and stability when he was with Lisa and Ben. I think Dean never stopped wanting that life, even though he’d convinced himself that he didn’t deserve it. In “Paint it Black”, he mentioned wanting to “experience life differently”. I think having a stable life and a family of his own is one of the things he was probably thinking about. It makes me that much more furious that he died in the finale without ever having a chance at that life, or some version of a happy life. I know the finale is controversial (for a lot of reasons), but the fact that Sam got to live a life and Dean didn’t will never sit right with me. Never.

          I love the shout outs to earlier episodes, like “Phantom Traveler”, “Playthings”, and “Something Wicked”. Dean needed to see that he, Sam, and John SAVED people and changed the world for the better. It was hard watching that scene at John’s gravesite, when the tremendous burden of Dean’s real life came crashing down on him again. It was also hard watching Dean – once again – sacrifice his happiness and Sam’s for the mission, but it also affirmed how heroic and self-sacrificing Dean is.

          I also liked the shout out to the scene from the “Pilot”, when Dean broke into Sam’s apartment.

          I like how Dean figured out this case – the connection to the mystery girl, that killing himself might free him, etc. It says a lot about his intelligence and tenacity. I also love Sam’s acknowledgement that most people wouldn’t have had the strength to get out of the djinn’s illusion. Dean needed to hear that.


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        • journalbookbinder
            October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10498

            This is one of my all-time favorite episodes. There are so many amazing touches. So psychologically compelling. We all wonder what if life went a different way. What if someone didn’t die. I tend to think about the good “what if”…not thinking that if one thing changed, so would another; like Sam and Dean’s relationship in this imagined alternate life.

            Jensen. Oh my God. Every subtle expression…the one that gets me every time is when Mary casually touches his face when she says goodnight and he chases that touch. Gives me shivers. It says everything about much he needed and missed out on when Mary died young.

            I love watching Dean figure it out. Or trying to figure out that the fantasy life he is in is not necessarily good. I love the end where he confesses to Sam how badly he wanted to stay. I love that we come in on that conversation he had with Sam at the end; Sam asking about how they didn’t get along in this fantasy world and it was apparent that Dean had already told him everything about it.

            I really liked Jared here too. Being a bit of a jerk (but who knows what “fantasy world” Dean had done to “fantasy world” Sam at some point; sounds like he drank too much and wasn’t dependable). Then speaking (with words provided by the Djinn) about how Dean should “stay” and not go back in the end. Jared did a great job with an alternate version of Sam here too. It was painful to watch Sam brush Dean off like that; to watch Sam obviously feel like the superior one and someone who did NOT look up to Dean in this world.

            This is one of those “Mystery Spot” episodes that is the quintessential SPN. It has a few (very few) funny parts, it is so tragic, it is also spooky with the dying Djinn victim appearing to Dean in spite of the hallucination.

            Kate; I love Dean-centric epsiodes the best too. Jensen can and does carry everything alone when he has to. He’s incredible. And yes, Sam Smith WAS great in this episode when I sometimes think she (or the writing for her) falls short; she did not fall short here. THIS was how I saw Mary too. Obviously it’s how Dean saw his ideal version of her.

            That IS interesting that John wasn’t there. It was probably because he was too busy, but I can theorize that the most important thing to Dean was that John died of a heart attack instead of sacrificing himself for his son who always deems himself unworthy of that sacrifice. As Dean said, John’s death in this world was “awesome”.

            I love Carmen! I hate that he and Sam are estranged here, but I loved that he still had someone unquestionably in his corner who loves him and wants him to have a good life. I too wish Dean had gotten to live some version of this life with someone to love and a home and hobbies. I hate that the finale robbed him of that too. He deserved it. He sacrificed all the time for everyone else.

            I also liked that Pilot call-back when Dean was in Mary’s house to get the silver knife. Jensen was SO GOOD at this scene; realizing how Sam almost hated him for being so sketchy and Dean KNOWING that’s NOT how he really is. He had to play along to get the knife and it was painful to watch.

            I agree Kate that Sam is always the “smart one”. Dean figured this out entirely on his own. Dean is just as smart.

            Such a great episode!!!! I love it so much. I’m glad the girl lived. Though barely! That makeup and everything was very effective where the Djinn was holding them. She really looked dead. There’s something great about that shot of her toes barely touching the floor too when she’s strung up. What a painful position to be in. It looked like true torture.

            It as a LITTLE unbelievable that Dean had the strength to save Sam after he was similarly in a bad way. But I guess I could argue adrenaline.

            Loved that moment when Dean realized he was dating a nurse. “How respectable!” Love that. BTW, my spouse who wear scrubs says no one ever holds scrubs up to their body when deciding what to wear as Carmen did.

            I loved that even in that almost-perfect world, it mattered to Dean immensely that the people who he had saved were dead in this world since he was not there to save them. It shows that he feels the sacrifice was necessary and he took pride in those saved lives as he should. This was a BRILLIANT way to let us see inside Dean’s head without him talking it out or anything. SUCH a brilliant episode!

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            • kate38
                October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10500

                “Jensen. Oh my God. Every subtle expression…the one that gets me every time is when Mary casually touches his face when she says goodnight and he chases that touch. Gives me shivers. It says everything about much he needed and missed out on when Mary died young.”

                SO true! If you have the DVD or Blue Ray, you should listen to the commentary for this episode. Eric Kripke remarks about how Jensen was so dialed in and connected to Dean’s emotions in this episode and in those scenes with Mary in particular.
                I think I’ll rewatch again just to hear the commentary…:)


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              • kate38
                  October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10501

                  Loved that moment when Dean realized he was dating a nurse. “How respectable!” Love that. BTW, my spouse who wear scrubs says no one ever holds scrubs up to their body when deciding what to wear as Carmen did.”

                  LOL! Your spouse is very wise and absolutely correct! Nobody does that 🙂
                  In fact, many people who wear scrubs don’t even wear them outside of the medical facility, to reduce the risk of bringing something contagious home, or bringing something from home into the medical facility (where your patients might be immunocompromised). I’ve always changed from my street clothes into scrubs when I got to work, and then changed back into street clothes when I leave. I’ve seen some people wear scrubs outside (getting coffee in the morning at Starbucks, riding the train to or from work, etc.) but I don’t think most people do that.


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              • PigNaPoke
                  October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm #10517

                  Late to the party and not much to add as you two said EVERYTHING I LOVE about this episode already so eloquently!!!

                  It is one of my top ten ever episodes as well and I am always equally excited and sad when it’s up in my rotation of viewing the entire series.

                  I really found the choices of the writers here interesting to present Dean still as a pretty troubled soul with some rough patches in the past and some callous behavior (stealing money from mom, drinking too much, forgetting his mom’s birthday, never having helped around the house)!! If this was his dream life, why didn’t the Djinn make him perfect, too?
                  Or is that just a sign of how Dean in his dream life wants good things for all the people he loves but still thinks so little of himself that he only deserves a certain measure of happiness (Carmen) and not the whole pie? I mean it was pretty clear that even in this dream version, Dean was not the most integrated into the family from everyone else’s remarks.
                  And does that mean then that loosing his mom and growing up the tough way he did WITH Sam by his side (and John training them) and all the responsibility in the world dumped on him from an early age made him actually MORE empathetic and caring about others?

                  SO many interesting psychological moments here.

                  I always have the feeling in this episode that Dean is hopeful that he could fix his relationship with Sam if he’s given a chance. It clearly bothers him that they don’t get along. Until he figures out that this is not a real live and then come the two most heartbreaking moments for me in this episode: first when Dean effectively gives up on the staying there while talking to John in the graveyard and second when he says goodbye to Sam and asks him to tell his mom that he loves her. UGH! Both so sad. (AND brilliantly acted)

                  I will forever be grateful on behalf of Dean that he DID have the year with Lisa and Ben at least and had a taste of a home life and being a dad and having a good partner. It was lovely to see a hint of that here as well and I do also love Carmen, who seemed pretty similar to Lisa to me in her down-to-earth-practicality and her support of Dean.

                  Where I differ a little with you two’s view is the fact that I believe that Dean does give up his dream of a family life somewhere down the road. I do think he wants to semi-retire with less hunting at the end of season 15 and, of course, I agree that he absolutely should have had that opportunity for YEARS but I don’t think that Dean envisioned a family (partner and kid) at that time anymore. I think by the time Dean makes the decision to let Lisa and Ben go because he believes that he just can’t guarantee their safety and can’t leave the hunting life either THAT dream of having a stable life as a dad and partner dies. And he later replaces the idea of an “alternative life” with a different vision.

                  Anyhow – AMAZING episode and one that keeps me thinking and trying to puzzle out all of the many layers.


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              Let’s all talk about What Is and What Should Never Be (S2 E20)

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