Warning. Potentially triggery content.
I'm separating this from my previous 11.09 reaction post
due to content that some people might like to avoid. Namely, Sam's (implied) rape when he was in the Lucifer's cage.
The re-visiting of Sam's rape created the most tension for me during the episode. I found it very distressing and unsettling. I appreciate this is a horror show and it really lives up to this genre whenever Mark Pellegrino's Lucifer is on the screen. The very fact that the episode opened with Sam being touched by Lucifer set the tone for their exchanges throughout the episode. The threat was constant and I believe it was mirrored by Dean and Amara's scenes. I'm not sure if it's clever manipulation to create the horror or crass trivialisation of a very serious issue. I do know that the issue of consent is a constant one in Supernatural - I'm just not sure they
are fully aware of that.
Before I say more I thought I'd look at the dialogue that implies Sam was raped when he was in the cage after he returned Lucifer to it at the end of 5.22. I appreciate that some will have different interpretations of this dialogue, but as this has been re-visited again in S11 (they could have taken a different tangent), I'm convinced they are making it clear this is what happened to Sam. I have seen some interpretations that these could only be referencing Lucifer's possession
of Sam, rather than actual sexual assault. I think it does have that meaning also, but there's just too many direct references for it being only that (and it's believable that Hell would consist of every conceivable horror, including rape).
The first major piece of dialogue (and probably the most direct and disturbing) is from (6.11) Appointment in Samara:
Sam: My brother found a way to put it back in me. I don't want it.
Balthazar: No, you don't. No, no, 'cause Michael and Lucy are hate-banging it as we speak.
After Sam's memory wall is broken he starts to have visions of Lucifer. These are tricky because they are only Sam's hallucinations - it's his mind creating these. But he would have had reasons for thinking this. From (8.02) Hello Cruel World:
Hallucifer: Hi, Sam. Long time, no spooning.
Hallucifer: You’re still in my cell. You’re my bunkmate, buddy. You’re my little bitch, in every sense of the term.
And then again later in 7.15 Repo Man. This is the first time the word rape is actually used.
Hallucifer: The rapier wit, the wittier rape. Come on. I'll be good.
As the season wore on nothing more became of this - other than seeing Sam's fully tortured soul in (6.22) The Man Who Knew Too Much. It's nothing Sam spoke of or was referenced again. Much like Dean's experience in Hell. There were implications that he was sexually assaulted in hell also, but it was never spoken of by Dean.
And now that Lucifer is back, the suggestions continue. Sam's first vision is Lucifer touching him, followed by a feeling of calm. It's pure seduction - like Amara's seduction of Dean (I believe it's no accident that both brothers have mentioned a sense of calm from their seducers). We don't know this until the end of course, but looking back at that scene and knowing that Lucifer has been sending Sam the visions, it becomes clear.
When Lucifer first sees Sam, his first words reference touching:
Lucifer: Sam Winchester. My old roomie. Hug it out?
Mark's delivery is always so smooth and suggestive. During their exchanges Lucifer tries to break down Sam by using his fears and faith against him. He also wants to use Sam as a vessel (which has been his aim the whole time it seems) and even though Sam desperately wants his help he says no (*cheers* Sam on). But "no" is not what Lucifer wants to hear.
By the end of the episode we are left with this chilling line:
Lucifer: Hey, roomie -- upper bunk, lower bunk, or you wanna share?
It's suggestive and disturbing. No wonder Sam cried. His terror was palpable (I would love to know Jared's interpretation of all this). I believe we are left with no doubt that Lucifer will do what ever it takes to break Sam so he agrees to let him in. To be his vessel once again.
I think it's worth noting the parallel with Dean's seduction. I am utterly confused by some suggestions that Dean and Amara are being set up as a romantic couple. There is no romance here. The touch and kiss is as non-consensual as Sam's experience. Both boys are being used as a way to a means. Non-con/rape is power, not love.
Sam's flashbacks feature him being physically tortured by having his skin pulled by hooks (bad enough I know!). Showing more would be probably not get past the censors. It makes me wonder if they used Dean and Amara's kiss as a way to show what they couldn't with Lucifer and Sam.
After the kiss Dean is completely shocked and asks "what was that?".
Whereas Sam was able to say "no", Dean wasn't even given that choice.What does it all mean?
I have such mixed thoughts about all this. Non consensual possession has been a theme since demon possession was first introduced in S1 (Phantom Traveler). Demons simply don't ask to be let inside. Angels needs their vessels to give permission, but from what we've seen, it involves a lot of manipulation. Possession is about loss of autonomy and free will - something Sam is particularly familiar with.
I suppose my biggest concern is about the way they are going to handle this. I suspect, like the implications from S6/7, it is there only to enhance the horror of it all. We might get some post traumatic stress, but as the show doesn't really delve into these themes I doubt we'll ever get it fully explored (which I'm possibly ok with because I know the structure of this show). I also suspect it will be left ambiguous, leaving the interpretations to the viewer. I mostly worry that they will treat all this as they did Sam's non-con possession in S9. They will make him become the "bad" guy and he'll somehow be made to apologise for becoming a victim again (as he did in S9). If they manage to link this with what happened to him in a way that allows him (and Dean) to properly address what happened back then, I will be impressed. But I don't hold out too much hope for that to be honest.
It's an extraordinarily dark theme and one I truly hope they know what they are doing with.