…because 4's a crowd…
In celebration of National Sibling day, I wanted to take a look at the best and most dysfunctional sibling relationships currently on screen. Siblings select people that will know you throughout your life, for better or for worse. They know you without the filters you put on for the rest of the world, including your parents, because Hey, who cares what they think.
This naked exposure of your true self can make the sibling relationship one of the most complex. Outlying factors like personality traits, parental affections, home environment, outside influence can then make the relationship an unbreakable bond – or an unyielding chain.
Three very popular TV shows not only closely examine sibling relationships; they also use them to drive the character arcs. TV is an ideal setting to examine such interactions as the long-form allows characters to develop and become multifaceted in the hands of skilled writers and actors. The Originals is a show in its second season centered on a 1000-year-old family and the long list of grievances and grudges acquired in that time. Supernatural, alternatively, is currently filming its eleventh season. It follows two brothers who have just come together as adults after a childhood of misunderstandings. And finally, everybody knows the Lannister family, and what they will do to each other for power.
The Mikaelson Clan
The Originals focuses on a family that was granted (or cursed) with the gift of immortality. Created by their mother who couldn’t bear the loss of another child, and hated by their father for the unnatural creatures they became, the story and relationships of the children are an easy way to see how children are forever affected by their upbringing – even after a thousand years. The youngest son Klaus is unable to understand why his father hates him as a child. After years of trying to win his affection he finally learns he is the product of his mother’s affair. He reacts with violence and dismissal. As his father’s rage escalates in retaliation, Klaus flees the family land with two of his siblings, Elijah and Rebekah, who have been his only sympathizers.
A 1000 years later, abuse still affects Klaus, making him paranoid, vengeful and prone to fits of rage of his own. He is suspicious of his sibling’s affection, not only to him, but others as well. When directed toward him, he believes it must be to curry favor. When directed towards others, Klaus worries they will desert him and so endeavours to cut their ties to everyone else. As the most powerful of the three, he kills off their lovers and friends to isolate them from anyone but family. His love for his siblings is many times the very thing that drives them away, even as he continues to rely on them for his own salvation.
Many times, Elijah and Rebekah have abandoned Klaus to his machinations – only to come back to him when he needs them. They feel responsible for his anger because stood aside as their father abused and neglected him. Their love that is established at such a young age it only grows stronger in time. Elijah and Rebekah’s love for Klaus shows how in the end, siblings can forgive like no other because siblings understand them like none other.
The Winchestor Brothers
The Winchester brothers present the flipside of the dysfunctional Michaelson relationship. Though not very close as kids, the disappearance of their father brought them together as adults. What was supposed to be a short search for their father turned into a ten-year journey on the road, where they saved the world and themselves multiple times over. Sam and Dean have a very curious relationship because they are not similar at all. The only thing that ties them together is their share genealogy and yet they have both ‘died’ (Supernatural fans will know what I mean) for each other multiple times.
Their perpetual cycle of sacrifice for each other is more motivated by selfishness than selflessness. At the beginning of the ninth season, we encounter a Sam who is very wounded from the demon trials of the previous season. He consciously undertook those trials know he would die at the end, because he wanted to atone his grievances with Dean. As he lay dying, Dean works hard to find someone to save Sam and succeeds. Sam’s anger is understandable, but so is Dean’s unwillingness to let go of the one person who knows him so completely.
Despite their differences, Sam and Dean are cut from the same cloth. They may not always agree with one another, but they understand each other completely. And that is what siblings can provide, an intimate knowledge of your temperament, your motivations. They know you, will forgive you, and will do anything to hold on to that dysfunctional relationship with you.
The Lannister’s Woes
Unless of course, you’re like the Lannisters. (We’re not even touching Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship with a yardstick.)
The Lannister’s relationship with each other showcases what happens when siblings have to compete with each other – for parental attention, for inheritance, for power. If you have always seen your sibling as someone in your way, you will develop a complicated rivalry with them. And because of the very reasons listed above, this rivalry can be one of the most bitter your entire life.