What I loved about the episode and the parallel to the Swan Song scene is that they managed to beautifully contrast Dean’s two most important relationships and the way they are fundamentally different from one another.
Dean managed to get through to Sam by reassuring him with “I’m here.” — always his protective big brother, being strong & there for him, but with Cas it’s open and vulnerable “I need you.” and there was absolutely no doubt in the way he spoke how desperately true he really meant it. I had similar thoughts in the prayer scene of the previous episode, but this one reaffirmed my belief that Dean looks at Cas & needs him almost as he would his spouse (as opposed to his brother).
Dean is Cas’ and Cas is Dean’s and it hurts me.
I love how different these two relationships are. In her tags, Amanda mentions that looking at this parallel is about locating the center of Dean’s relationship to both men, and I really agree — there is a core difference between how these two relationships manifest in Dean’s life (and let there be no doubt: Dean deeply loves and needs both of these men, they are his family, they are the two people who have his back and who he’d die for time and time again. He loves them sfm). But “I need you” vs. “I’m here! I’m not going to leave you” are such simple but deep frames of how they operationalize very differently for him. Both frames have so much to do with Dean’s point of vulnerability in relation to both of these men, how he positions himself in their lives, how he’s experienced them in moments of pain and salvation — Dean carrying Sam from the fire; Cas carrying Dean from Hell. And now, the different ways they continue to carry each other (hee, I feel the need to quote Tim O’Brien here — “They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other.“
Re: Dean/Cas. Sometimes I joke about how Dean and Cas are married, but in many ways this is about how I see them as equals, as partners, how in many ways they can be each other’s shoulder to lean on, they can be each other’s confidants (“I have questions. I have doubts.” and “I can’t do it, Cas, it’s too big. Alastair was right. I’m not a hero, I’m not strong enough.”); they can be someone to face the horrors of the world beside; simply put: they can each other’s best friend. Dean is a caretaker, no doubt, but in many ways Dean knows and has seen that Cas can take care of himself too, and that Cas can also be a caretaker for Dean and Sam, a protective force in the Winchester’s lives, someone Dean can rely on/lean on/ask for help in no-win situations. Dean has been that for Cas as well to — someone Cas has come to for help, someone that has tried to save/protect Cas in many ways. It’s not about using each other contrary to popular belief — it’s about loving each other and knowing when you turn your head, who will be there at your side to help get your through another day. Dean and Cas are for each other the two people they have come to rely on the most to help carry some of the burdens of the world (much like a spouse would). This gets screwed up sometimes of course, because they don’t always know how to reach each other, how to listen to each other, and they are both fierce protectors and that instinct manifests in wanting to protect each other too (because they love each other), and that can mean they will butt heads about how best to do that, fight and push each other — but in many ways this is what it means to negotiate a marriage, an equal partnership, and to love and need and want someone by your side through the good, the bad, and every moment in between. “I need you” is so damn powerful, so raw and haunting, and it carries with is such shocking vulnerability, and for these two bamf warriors to need each other — that there says so much about all the ways they love each other.