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dark Dean

A bit of a prick, actually

Posted on 2007.04.16 at 12:38
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Tags: , ,

I wrote The Longest Journey yesterday.  My brief to self: to insert the longed-for Sam/Gene closeness into the last ep.  I'm still a bit stunned at what actually happened.  I'd not really appreciated to what extent characters can take over from an author and dictate events by themselves.  Gene was very keen to re-establish the bond between them.  But Sam just didn't have it in him.  He was, as he always is, so immersed in his own little world that there was no room for anything else.

Herewith, a rant.  It's been brewing for some time now, but that fic (and thoughts from other people, notably Hmpf) have crystallised things somewhat.

The analogies are myriad.  A reformed smoker, railing at the world of unreformed smokers because talking about it is a link to the addiction.  A failing relationship, which you stay in because you're still in love with the way it was in happier times.  So I am with Sam.  Actually, the second is possibly more apt - that relationship may not be failing as such, just changing in nature as you come to an understanding and (hopefully) acceptance of the realities of the person you're with.  

Sam is, I can now accept, not what I built him up to be.  But I can't blame anyone else for this - I hero-worshipped him because I saw him the way I wanted to see him, strong, capable, an incorruptible force for good in a murky environment.  The question is, now I can see him for what he really is, can I learn to love him more realistically - do I want to?

So, the problems.  Sam is selfish, self-absorbed, self-obsessed.  Has no capacity for empathy, no ability or desire to see that there are perspectives other than his own.  The evidence has always been there, I think I began to glimpse the magnitude of this truth in ep 2.05.  Seeing the interview from Gene's perspective and then Annie's it occurred to me to wonder whose perspective we could actually trust.  Only Sam's, I thought.  Then *shock, gasp* - who says we can trust that?  Is he an objective narrator?  Of course not!

Let's look at Sam's back story.  He's 37ish, a DCI (all the signs would point to him being a fast-tracker, but he says he joined the force in 1988, so that would have made him 19.  Presumably the 'gap year' he refers to happened between leaving school and joining the force).  He has no noticeable circle of friends - we have no voices calling to him throuhg the ether other than Maya's and his mum's.  He would presumably have felt more tied to his reality had he a bunch of mates he could go out drinking with or whatever.  He does follow football, but hasn't been to a match since he was a child.  No evidence of any kind of life or social circle other than work.  

His girlfriend is not only a police officer, but one who works in the same department as him.  This relationship, however, is failing due to lack of communication (his).  Maya attempts to have meaningful conversations with him via voicemail as she has no hope of getting his attention otherwise.  When she presses the issue, he takes her off the case - an unaccountably vindictive and downright unprofessional act.  To the extent that, for a very long time, I thought this might be a sign of some more sinister involvement.  But no, it's just Sam having everything his way.  

Even in the coma, Sam's response to Maya continues to be selfish.  He hears her beg him to let her know everything's going to be all right.  No.  "It's not all right," he says.  She knows that, Sam.  She's looking for comfort.  Support, you know? Oh, you don't know.

The final ep, I'll come to.  Just want to pick up some of the other clues that were there for the analysing.  Notably, the number of people who die or nearly die because Sam's so busy seeing things his way.  Joanie for one.  Ray's spot on with this (as he is with so many things).  He might as well have cut her throat himself.  He was warned by everyone that this was an ongoing situation that he didn't have a clear enough understanding of.  Joanie was a scared young girl making the best of a bad situation.  Sam bullied and intimidated her, storming onto the moral high ground and throwing it at her.  (Mixed metaphors much?)

June, the cleaner with the engagement ring and the charming smile.  Horrifically injured because she was in the wrong place at (thanks to Sam) the wrong time.  Gene told him - Trent does two quick jobs.  Keep him in for a day, chances are he'll have missed whatever opportunity he's set up.  And there you go, Gene was spot on.  Yep, that'll be because he's been policing in this way and in this environment for donkey's years.  You know what really gets me, though? When Gene turns up at the hospital, Sam gets all snarky with him, as though it's Gene's fault.  I honestly believe Sam genuinely can't see June's predicament as any fault of his.  Gene should have thumped him harder.

Ray (who has Sam's number from the start, and is admirably consistent).  Almost blown up, because Sam refuses to see any possiblilty other than his own view.  Yes OK, the IRA weren't using dynamite.  That fact in itself didn't mean that nobody else could.  And taunting ray into going and having a look - unprofessional in the extreme.

Even Sam's determination to keep Vic Tyler with his family, despite the increasingly apparent fact that they're way better off without him, is a totally first-person, rather childish, black-and-white view that takes no account of the realities or the impact on anyone else who might be involved.  Notably his mother.  

So, the final ep.  So many issues.  The lack of bonding with Gene.  (Come to think, it was Gene who said Sam trusted him in the previous ep, Sam never actually confirmed this in so many words).  No sign whatsoever that this presumably odious task of destroying a friend caused him any noteable heartache, which for Sam, given to angsting at the drop of a hat, is saying something.  And then that scene with Annie in the bedroom, where I seriously could have slapped him.  "I can't stay.  Spend the night with me."  What on earth had ever given him the impression that Annie was the type of girl who'd go along with this suggestion?  Nothing, of course, because he'd never have stopped and taken the time to think about it from her point of view.

Smaller point, but it rankled with me that Sam, having found out he was an undercover officer, immediately dumped this all on the team he was supposedly investigating.  And genuinely expected support from them, especially Annie.  That's our Sam - if you're suffering, make sure everyone around you suffers too.

I have nothing to say about the 'leap of faith' that hasn't been said extremely articulately by others.  It stands for itself.  Even in the interests of analysis, I can't bring myself to think about his mum's likely reaction too closely.  Still, as long as Sam's happy.

In conclusion, a summary and a theory.  Sam is a dangerous person to get close to.  He is incapable of trust, love, any emotions that call for an understanding that other people have an existence in their own right.  He refuses, when pressed, to accept that others' points of view could possibly have any validity.  He is, I think, actually incapable of understanding that his actions could have a negative emotional or physical impact on the world around him.  Also, for a supposedly bright man he shows an astounding lack of ability to learn from experience.  In short, he is emotionally stunted.

Which is where my theory comes in.  It relates to the coach accident.  Sam admits that this happened, although he claims to have only broken his arm.  However, the details that Frank Morgan supplies - the waking coma, the extended hospitalisation, the silence etc - are presumably created by Sam's subconsious too.  Perhaps these are, in fact, repressed memories.  Perhaps he suffered some kind of severe trauma at the age of 12 that impaired his ability to develop normally in terms of his emotional progression.  It's a possibility - certainly many of Sam's reactions would make a great deal more sense if they came from a man with the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old.


Rant over.  For now.


Comments:


§ xeno §
dorcas_gustine at 2007-04-16 12:59 (UTC) (Link)
Exactly!!!
I never actually liked Sam, from episode 1, and the fact that all the series was showed from his point of view kinda softens this selfish side of him, but he remains a "selfish, self-absorbed, self-obsessed," socially-retarded prick. Sometimes his behaviour is almost autistic. This is bringing the alientation of the modern man to new heights. To some extent I think we could consider 1973 as a manifestation of said alienation. Still, Sam doesn't seem to realize that he is in fact the main (if not the only one) cause of his isolation from the world.

And I think you may be onto something with that theory of yours, it could certainly explain a lot of things.

Oooohh, plot bunnies.
§ xeno §
dorcas_gustine at 2007-04-16 13:06 (UTC) (Link)
Ah! Forgot!

The fact that he is an only child of a de-facto single mother also adds to his selfishness, presuming he's been spoilt and accostumed to having everything, to being literally at the centre of the universe (his mother's in fact).
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-16 13:22 (UTC) (Link)
Oh yeah. That fact brings with it all sorts of other points - Sam's search for a father-figure (even Frank Morgan's attitude is sort of crazily paternal), the whole 'what is it with you and women' thing, the fact that he often (including at the very end) seeks Annie's validation for his actions. ('Tell me what to do'). He does say the house was usually full of women. He must have been spoilt silly.

Bunnies, you say? Excellent! :D
Andy
m31andy at 2007-04-16 14:23 (UTC) (Link)
Sam is selfish, self-absorbed, self-obsessed. Has no capacity for empathy, no ability or desire to see that there are perspectives other than his own.

Interesting. This all seems to tie into a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago (pre- Season 2) when we were making a case for Sam being a clinical psychopath.

Both of us agreed that it is possible to show empathy without an empathic nature, and show yourself up better, say, than one who was truly empathic. An intellectual empathy, as it were.

This is probably what led to a lot of dark!fic plot bunnies...
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-16 15:14 (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure it is. Similar to the way that someone with Asbergers can learn through intelligent trial and error to compensate for what they don't pick up on an emotional level.

I don't know enough about the subject to know whether Sam shows signs of being a clinical psychopath. (Mood I'm in, I'll agree anyway!) I do think there are distinct signs he'd fit in comfily somewhere along the autistic spectrum, though.
Andy
m31andy at 2007-04-16 17:07 (UTC) (Link)
Checklist:

1. Superficial charm and above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
3. Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations.
4. Unreliability.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.
6. Lack of remorse or shame.
7. Antisocial behavior without apparent compunction.
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
9. Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.
10. General poverty in major affective reactions.
11. Specific loss of insight.
12. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.
13. Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink, and sometimes without.
14. Suicide threats rarely carried out.
15. Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.
16. Failure to follow any life plan.

(Though it's from Wikipedia. ;) )

*cough*

Also, from the same article:

"It has been suggested that people can suffer apparently psychopathic personality changes from lesions or damage of the brain's frontal lobe[40] [41]. This is sometimes called Pseudopsychopathic personality disorder or Frontal lobe disorder."

And this is why we *feed* our psycho!Sam bunnies. It's not short-hand, it's a diagnosis.

;)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-17 18:34 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, just followed that link. I wouldn't say he ticks all the boxes, but a lot of the points made me go 'yeah, that's IT!' I was quite proud that I'd picked up on a few of them (the inability to learn from experience, for example)! Certainly a good deal of evidence there to support your theory.
Hmpf
hmpf at 2007-04-16 15:37 (UTC) (Link)

Intellectual empathy

>Both of us agreed that it is possible to show empathy without an empathic nature, and show yourself up better, say, than one who was truly empathic. An intellectual empathy, as it were.

Definitely. A lot of *my* 'empathy' is like that. I'm not a very 'nice' person, really, and not easy to move.

I sometimes wonder if writing is the only way I can 'get' other people's emotions. I've defintely wondered if I have some autistic tendencies.
Hmpf
hmpf at 2007-04-16 14:50 (UTC) (Link)

Very good post.

I have my work cut out for me if I want to reform Sam into a better person in fic, haven't I?! Is it even possible, do you think?

*is scared*

To be fair, though, I think that Sam *is* right a lot of the time when he's being inflexible about the 'right way' to do policework. This is actually the area where I have the least problems with him. It's personal relationships where he screws up big time, again and again.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-16 15:27 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Very good post.

Is it even possible, do you think?
Honestly? No. Sam is what he is. I'd guess that trying to reform him would make for a rather uncomfortable characterisation.

I think that Sam *is* right a lot of the time when he's being inflexible about the 'right way' to do policework.
I'm not sure I can separate the two things. I don't expect him to compromise his principles, but being prepared to listen and work in and on behalf of the team would be a refreshing start!
Hmpf
hmpf at 2007-04-16 15:32 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Very good post.

>Honestly? No. Sam is what he is. I'd guess that trying to reform him would make for a rather uncomfortable characterisation.

I've always suspected my fic was a bit polly-annaish... (Well, one of them really is, and unashamedly so, because it's basically an alternative ending based on the idea of 'What if Sam had actually *learned* what his subconscious was trying to tell him in 1973?' The other is striving for a higher degree of believability, but my need to give Sam a chance will still mean some 'uncomfortable characterisation', as you put it so nicely. *g*)

I do want to believe that there might be something worth saving in Sam, though. I'm about to rewatch parts of LOM with a friend (kinda dreading it at the moment), and I'm going to be on the lookout for *any* sign that there's a human being in there, somewhere...
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-16 16:27 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Very good post.

I've always suspected my fic was a bit polly-annaish...
Just to clarify, I was in no way suggesting any incapability on your part! I sincerely hope you can reform him. I'm speaking from my own experience (Sam was resistant to any warmth I tried to introduce), and it has occurred to me to wonder if the writers found the same difficulty, and this is why the whole Sam/Gene bonding thing seemed not to work.

Also, thanks for reccing my rant! I'm genuinely honoured. And I've friended you (well, I'm just about to), hope this is OK.
Hmpf
hmpf at 2007-04-16 16:34 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Very good post.

>Just to clarify, I was in no way suggesting any incapability on your part!

I didn't take it like that, either. But if you're right with your view of Sam, and I think you mostly are, then there's no way I can write my fic without it being at least *slightly* out of character. Irritatingly, that doesn't seem to stop me from wanting to write it. We all have our ways of dealing with the situation, I guess, and writing my *own* kind of wishfulfilment fic seems to be part of mine. Right after writing horribly bleak and cruel 'true ending' fic, that is. ;-)

>And I've friended you (well, I'm just about to), hope this is OK.

Sure. Will friend you back, can't guarantee I'll read much for the time being, though, as I'm in a bit of an non-lj-reading phase. I tend to get these, on and off. My presence in my friends' lives (both on- and offline) is much like Gandalf's: "Expect me when you see me." *g*
stabbim
stabbim at 2007-04-16 18:44 (UTC) (Link)
Got here via hmpf's journal. Interesting interpretation of Sam Tyler. I don't judge him quite as harshly. Or, let's rather say, I really enjoyed Sam Tyler in series 1, hey, I could even identify with him, but I couldn't stand him in series 2 for all the reasons you mentioned. Maybe because there wasn't a learning curve after everything that happened to him in series 1. In fact, I think what irritated me most that he seemed to be emotionally stuck all the time. That IRA episode where he taunts Ray seemed totally out of character for me... sort of. But you're right... it kind of fits. Oh man, I'll have to think about this some more.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-17 19:09 (UTC) (Link)
I love this response because it kind of encapsulates my journey since 2.08. I started from 'I like the last 4 mins' (never the jump itself though), then started to see it as part of the narrative rather than just the curtain call it is, and the whole thing made me angry. And to an extent sympathetic, as Sam clearly has serious mental issues. But then that made me angry with the writers...!
Alys Scarlet
alysscarlet at 2007-04-16 18:44 (UTC) (Link)
Very thought-provoking post. Thank you!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-18 18:21 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for commenting - glad it gave you pause for thought. :)
candogirl
candogirl at 2007-04-18 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
Followed a link over from hmpf's journal. Your theory is interesting, but I can't fully get behind it.
Imo, Sam makes a mistake in the finale. He uses all of his detecting skills and all that he learned in 1973, and he makes the wrong call. He doesn't know he's making the wrong call, only we do. I can't blame him for the decision he makes, it has been coming all along. If you look back at the first and second episodes of the series you see Sam trying to make heads or tails of where he is by being very tactile. He feels the walls in the morgue, he feels Annie's heart beat, he feels the grit on her hand, he slices his thumb with a razor and it physically hurts. In the finale, he can still feel Annie's heart but when he cuts his thumb again he can't feel it. The problem with Sam isn't so much that he is selfish, it's that he asks the wrong questions. In the pilot he asks Annie why he would make up the detail about the grit on her hand. The real question is why he wouldn't. If your mind is trying to trick you into something, then it would be very thorough. Sam doesn't see the possible trickery at work.

No sign whatsoever that this presumably odious task of destroying a friend caused him any noteable heartache, which for Sam, given to angsting at the drop of a hat, is saying something.
I have to disagree with this, at the beginning of the ep he stands by the window and convinces himself that none of it is real. Then when he does start to think 1973 is real, a teary eyed Sam says to Morgan, "If this is real, then Gene has a life. What's gonna happen to him." Once he starts thinking of the people in 1973 as real, he can not stop. That moment really is the one that leads him to his need to return to save them later on. Once again, he has come to this decision of reality by trusting the papers that his own mind creates. He never questions their validity. He still doesn't understand the game.

I still believe that Sam didn't think he was killing himself. I think at that point, due to his experiences or his brain tumor/surgery, he believes that 2006 is not the real world. I think the audience's reaction to the jump is more about Simm's acting combined with the music and the direction than it is about a character killing himself. It is thrilling to watch someone make such a bold decision. And it is a bold choice, no matter how wrong he is. In Sam's mind it's a leap of faith. Only we realize he's killing himself. Everyone keeps saying that Sam chooses 1973 over 2006, I think that Sam, out of illness or just many months of confusion, thinks he is choosing reality over delusion. The people that think it was a happy ending are a bit daft imo, but it doesn't make a difference as to what I got out of it. It was the darkest ending of a television show, I've ever seen, and it was made even darker by the character's ignorance of that fact.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-18 22:29 (UTC) (Link)
Firstly, thanks loads for your excellent, detailed and thoughtful response. It's given me a few things to think about.

I will admit to a little annoyance at myself for using the word 'selfish', which I had up to now tried to avoid. I maintain that Sam is utterly introspective, self-absorbed, but 'selfish' implies a level of control over this that I don't think Sam has.

(Your example, Then when he does start to think 1973 is real, a teary eyed Sam says to Morgan, "If this is real, then Gene has a life. What's gonna happen to him." is completely valid, and a point taken, although it is isolated - I can think of few, if any, other occasions throughout the entire 16 eps where Sam stops to consider the effects of his actions on others, despite Annie's frequent attempts to try to make him do this).

I don't believe he does think that 2006/7 is fantasy. Not that I'm saying your opinion is wrong, just that it's not how I see it. To my mind, he's understood the metaphysical nature of what Nelson was telling him, and realises that he 'feels' more in 1973. He may possibly believe in both as real existences (although personally I believe he knows that 1973 is a product of his mind, but no longer cares). Either way, I see him as a mentally damaged (possibly because of the tumour's effects, possibly innately) but highly intelligent man, and I think he is aware of the reality that he is jumping off a roof. However, I also think you're right that he thinks it's a bold move.

I fully agree, there is no way this can be seen as a happy ending. I actually like that about it. Ending the show in this dark, edgy way is more challenging, and therefore feels more worthwhile than the 'happy ever after' scenario. Only problem is, that's what it was dressed up as.

(Hmm. As you can see, I'm not quite done contemplating the ending yet!XD)
candogirl
candogirl at 2007-04-18 23:15 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, the ending is so layered that it leads to much contemplation. hmpf and I went round after round about it here if you're interested.

I will admit to a little annoyance at myself for using the word 'selfish', which I had up to now tried to avoid. I maintain that Sam is utterly introspective, self-absorbed, but 'selfish' implies a level of control over this that I don't think Sam has.

Got it. And I agree that Sam is self absorbed, but by the nature of the situation he's in, wouldn't he have to be? I can't say I blame him for that as, if I were trapped in an imaginary past I'd probably only think of myself too.

I don't believe he does think that 2006/7 is fantasy. Not that I'm saying your opinion is wrong, just that it's not how I see it. To my mind, he's understood the metaphysical nature of what Nelson was telling him, and realises that he 'feels' more in 1973.
I agree that this is a definite possibility. Sam may feel that each world is valid. Not that I'm saying your opinion is wrong (we're so polite, I love it) but, I didn't get that he was really aware that '73 was a fantasy. Of course, I also think there is a possibility that he doesn't think he really ever came out of the coma. And that the changing of the station at the end means that he's not going to try to "wake up" anymore. Which is a different form of suicide and should have been given a little more gravitas, imo.

(although personally I believe he knows that 1973 is a product of his mind, but no longer cares).
That is v. interesting and ties in with the one theory of him never waking and deciding not to try. I find those very dark, but still appealing ways for the show to end.

I don't know. I like that Sam fucked up in the end. I like that he went for what made him happy even if others got hurt. I didn't need the after school special ending here wherein Sam learns a very important lesson and moves on with his life, it turns out I wanted the emotional release. I would have been fine if he'd stayed in 2006 as I wasn't rooting for him to stay in '73, but I was really pleased with the way everything came together in the end. The ending is flawed, the characters are flawed, life is flawed. I loved it.

despite Annie's frequent attempts to try to make him do this)

Hee! You have Annie as a good character doing the right thing. I see Annie as almost a villain. She's what keeps him in '73 from the beginning, she is the one who makes the world real. Don't get me wrong I love Sam and Annie, but I think it's f'd up that she is what ends up killing him. Of course, you can't be a real villain if the intention isn't there. But still, she's a baaaaad influence on Sam.
:)

I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-19 00:51 (UTC) (Link)
Hee! You have Annie as a good character doing the right thing.
Ooo no I really really don't. I've been a fan of Evil!Annie theories since she first got Neil involved, and ever since. Sure, she's trying to make him consider others (herself included - 'friendship and trust goes both ways' and all that - but even when she said that she was actually lying to Sam anyway). But by doing that she is, intentionally or otherwise, tying Sam further into his fantasy and confusing the issue further for him. Also, her almost mercurial shifts in mood towards him (2.04 in particular, where she swings back and forth from downright hostile to flirtatious) are a contributive factor. Not much of an Annie fan!

I'll swing by and have a look at your discussion with Hmpf. Should make for an interesting read!
candogirl
candogirl at 2007-04-19 00:36 (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, I was just puttering in my apartment and realized that what I really wanted to say was that it may not be that Sam thinks one reality is more real than the other. It may be that he doesn't fully believe in either so he chooses the one that would make him happier.

I don't know if that clarifies anything or just muddies the waters even more. It may not even be logical. It may be that I need to stop thinking about the finale.

:)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-04-19 00:56 (UTC) (Link)
Oops, replied to your last without looking! Yep, I agree with this - with the rider that it's all very well him choosing the reality that makes him happier, but there are others to consider when making this decision. His mum, for one. (I know, this is getting a tad circular!)

Stop thinking about the finale? Not sure I understand!
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