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Supernatural's Pivotal Episodes: Season 5, by Elle2
We're here, the fifth and final article in this series. The genesis for this journey came from a comment by Mo Ryan after the episode I've chosen as Season 5's pivotal episode aired. The comment was in regards to the pivot points of Season 5 which got me thinking about all the seasons and which episodes best fit the idea of a pivot point. So, if you've liked this series, thank Mo Ryan; if you have not enjoyed the series"¦um, no comments necessary (but don't blame Mo Ryan!) 
So, without further ado, I'll present the rules and then get on with the last article in the series:
As I've learned from Alice, rules are necessary when embarking on such an adventure. Thus, I have some rules regarding how I decided upon the pivotal episode of each season.
First off, it must add to what we know thus far, either for Sam or Dean or for the storyline as a whole
Second, it must be built upon in future episodes and events.
Third, the episode as a whole must be strong, this is the pivotal episode, not necessarily the most powerful episode of the season but in no way can it simply have a pivotal scene while the rest of the episode is flat or uneven or even forgettable.
Here we go, Season 5's pivotal episode:
Season 5, for all its ups and downs, had many excellent episodes, The End, Changing Channels, Abandon All Hope, The Song Remains the Same, My Bloody Valentine, Dark Side of the Moon, Point of No Return, Swan Song; it is from these I chose 'the' pivotal episode. Don't get me wrong, with the exception of four episodes [they shall not be named but they know who they are] the remaining unnamed episodes are very good.
The End shows us a possible future, one that may or may not have been manipulated by Zachariah in order to teach Dean a lesson; Dean learns a lesson it's just not the one Zachariah hoped for. From The End we get Dean reaching back out to Sam after having shut him out. Pivotal point to be sure but not 'the' pivotal episode for me.
Changing Channels reveals at long last just why The Trickster is so interested in the Winchesters and from here The Trickster/Gabriel makes a decision that is pivotal as it reveals to Sam and Dean the how of trapping Lucifer and ends this character's mysterious and enthralling storyline [or does it"¦Bardicvoice has some interesting opinions, read her Swan Song review for that"¦you've got a few weeks left before Supernatural Season 6 premiers.]
Abandon All Hope ends the storyline of two wonderful characters, Ellen and Jo, sends Dean further into the abyss of despair and proves what most of us had already guessed since it came at mid-point of the season"¦the Colt can't kill Lucifer.
The Song Remains the Same ends another character's story, Anna, allows Sam and Dean to connect with their parents, sort of, allows Sam to unload some baggage in a wonderfully moving scene with young John, gives us some more character insight into both young John and Mary "“ more on the John insights in an upcoming article I have planned "“ and once again slams the door of hope on Dean, and to an extent on Sam but it is Dean who thus far in the season is carrying the self-imposed burden of responsibility for the entire planet.
My Bloody Valentine sends Dean further down into the basement of despair while allowing Sam a chance to climb further out of his hole. Sam was open and honest from start to finish here and while he did give in and suck a couple of demons dry it was because of the manipulation of Famine who took down even Castiel. While it appeared Famine was undoing all of Sam's hard work, Sam won the day in the end; he did what he had to do in order to save Dean, Castiel and score the second of four rings. Dean, lost in his despair, missed all of Sam's victories, the honesty, the openness and the control.
Dark Side of the Moon is very pivotal and actually dukes it out with the episode I have chosen for 'the' pivotal episode of the season; you guessed it, Point of No Return wins the title for me of 'the' pivotal episode in Season 5, but it's close, very close.
Before I get into my reasons I'll just mention why Swan Song doesn't make the cut"¦there are events that transpire in Point of No Return that make the events of Swan Song possible, without Point of No Return Swan Song is not possible; since Swan Song closes out the five-year arc it cannot be the episode that pivots the entire season, something had to happen prior.
Dark Side of the Moon allows Sam to see inside Dean's perspective on events in Sam's life. For the first time Sam 'sees' how Dean perceived his actions, something Dean has always buried. Here Dean does not give full vent to what is inside of him but Sam sees enough to realize how badly his need for freedom and normalcy hurt Dean. Sam never meant to hurt Dean; I believe Sam truly never thought of his actions affecting Dean in the way that they did. What Sam does with the information is critical. 
So, why Point of No Return and not Dark Side of the Moon? Well, like I said, 'tis a tough call but since Supernatural is a show first and foremost about brothers and their relationship I have to come down on the side of the episode that shows the rebuilding of the relationship coupled with new growth as my ultimate pivot point for the season; in Point of No Return both brothers pivot and that to me wins the day.
Sam takes what he learned in Dark Side of the Moon, coupled with Dean's actions, or inactions, in 99 Problems and steps firmly into the role of leader in Point of No Return. This is a new role for Sam and he doesn't ask permission he takes it and in so doing surprises Dean and I do believe to some extent himself. 
Sam completely confounds Dean when he shows up at the hotel where Dean is packing. Dean is so amazed he can barely utter the question as to how Sam found him. Sam calmly asserts that he knows what Dean is going to do and it's not hard to figure out where he'll be. Sam and Dean have three encounters prior to the final scene in the truck and never once does Sam lose his patience with Dean. He is quiet, calm, gives Dean plenty of physical space, only entering his personal space once and that is to uncuff him and then he quickly backs away to the opposite side of the room. Sam is not going to confront Dean he is going to reason with him.



# Holmes 2010-06-24 09:15
I totally agree with you in your election. Point of no return truly is a privotal episode, it really was a point of no return, and obviosly, the boys made the right choice, they chose family, and with that they saved the world. As you said, dean saying as a joke that as a plan they were working on the power of love, at the end was totally true, that was their only plan, and on Swan Song it finally worked and saved humanity.
Thanks for this articles, they are great.
# Karen 2010-06-24 09:21
Hi Elle2
Thank you so much for this series, I enjoyed it immensely.
I have to admit Season 5 had me stumped. There were so many episodes this season that had pivotal moments, I couldn’t begin to pin it down to one. However your breakdown and insight of how you came to your decision of Point of no Return has sold me 100%. Thanks again.
# Jasminka 2010-06-24 15:12
Thank you, Elle2!... how did you manage to pick this one? For me pretty much the whole fifth season, as you so astutely mentioned with other words than I do, was a pivotal thing - in the lives of the Winchester brothers.

This season got under my skin in more ways than one, and so has the episode you picked. Whenever I watch it, and I don't do that often, I feel the goosebumps and clenches at my heart with immense force...

And don't we love show for this, we masochistic lot?

Cheers, best ever, Jas
# elle2 2010-06-24 15:58
Hi, Holmes, Karen, Cassi and Jasminka,

Thank you so much for your comments.

Holmes, you are welcome for the articles, glad you've been enjoying them. The power of love is what worked, in PONR and Swan Song and as so often is the case, there is truth in the joke. :-)

Karen, in one respect PONR was the easy pick for me because as I mentioned at the beginning of the article this is the one that got me thinking of the series and picking each one. That said, Season 5 had so many pivot points that the statement could be said that much of the season was a pivot point...

Cassi, Dark Side of the Moon amazes me so much...and to think Loflin and Dabb wrote it, shows what their genius really is when they strip away the less mature aspects of writing this series and focus intently on the emotions. This is simply my point of view and as has been the case many times when I've picked or ranked one season or episode over another, ask me on a different day and you'll get a different answer. I could easily come down on the side of DSOTM for the points you make, w/o Sam 'seeing' truly seeing Dean's perspective he wouldn't make the moves he makes in PONR.

For me I chose to edge PONR simply because both brothers pivot here and that, as I said, 'wins the day.' As others have said, mileage may vary. :-)

Jas, I'm working on my Road So Far (to be completed later this hellatus) and it's on version number four or five at this point simply because while Season 5 had some bumps along the way and perhaps bit off more than could be comfortably gnawed upon when you look at the whole it really is an excellent season and when you break down and take each episode individually [again, with the exception of the thus far unnamed four] they have some extraordinary moments that cannot go unnoticed.

I truly loved Sam (and I've always loved him) in PONR, he was so calm and assured with Dean. Never judged him, never pushed him, never got in his face, simply gave Dean room to breathe and make up his own was simply beautiful to watch.

Much has been said (on another fansite) that Jared has made a comment at the recent Rising Con in Barcelona that he hopes Sam changes in Season 6...I think (based on the comments that I read attributed to him) that what Jared means is that Sam continues along the course of being more assured, more in charge. He'll always be Dean's little brother chronologically but that does not mean that he doesn't have just as much to offer in the partnership and if PONR is any indication of Sam's leadership (as last glimsped in AHBLI) then I say go Jared, on Sam's change...more Sam like seen in PONR is great with me.

Then again, drunk Sam is fun, drugged Sam is fun, evil Sam is fun, happy Sam is long as there's Sam, I'm good.

Thanks for all the comments!
# Jasminka 2010-06-24 16:42
Can't wait to read your Road So Far, Elle2... it's going to be fun, no doubt...
As for this SamGirl here - I would love to see Sam growing even more, if it's true what has been told. Well, we are going to have to wait some more - but we're doing well, writing, reading, killling Hellatus time. Love Jas
# Evelyn 2010-06-26 14:49
I loved this episode and loved your analysis elle2. Given your reasonings I would have to concur about this being the pivotal episode.

During this episode, Sam was finally able to break through this unseen barrier that surrounded him and emerge as the strong, capable leader that he is. I loved him in this episode. As you pointed out, his patience and calm demeanor were real signs of growth and maturity that we hadn't seen in him recently. And this growth stayed with him through the rest of the season.

I found it interesting where you pointed out how Sam gave Dean physical space. I noticed it, but didn't really give it any thought. But now that you point it out, given the frame of mind that Dean was in, that was a very smart move on Sam's part. (Speaking from personal experience, when you are as low as Dean was, the last thing you want or need is someone in your personal space or wanting to give you hugs or something like that. Those kind of actions just give you a negative reaction and make you want to scream and run away. It's because you don't feel you deserve any love from a hug, or kindness, which is what usually comes when someone invades your space. That is why Dean so willingly allowed Castiel to beat him up, he felt that that is truly what he deserved.)

These four are truly family, because when Dean tried to push Castiel, Bobby and Sam away, anyone not family would have left, but family is family and they continued to support Dean no matter what he said or did. And Dean really said some caustic, hurtful things to Sam. Sam didn't deserve it, but they were said nonetheless and they were truthful, nonetheless, but Sam didn't deserve it. Sam had every reason to turn his back on Dean, but Sam's actions really showed that maturity as well as the deep, abiding love that he has for his brother.

It would have been interesting to see if Sam would have been able to have the confidence within himself to emerge as this strong leader had Dean not been in such emotional turmoil. I think that Dean being in the emotional decline that he was, not strong or domineering, was the doorway that allowed Sam to emerge. I believe Sam had it in him all the time but Dean consistently would not allow that door to open. Sam would try to open it, would talk about it, but in some way, Dean would always slam it shut, would not allow Sam to walk through. But, with Dean slip-sliding down that abyss of depression, that gave Sam the opportunity to finally break down that door and show Dean that he is his equal, in every way. And he proved it, boy did he ever prove it.

Lastly, I loved how both brothers finally came to terms separately and together with their faults and mistakes, realizing and understanding the pain that exists in the other and finally come to that point of working as equals. It was definitely a beautiful sight to see. Wow! I'm going to have to go watch this episode tonight. Such a great episode and great pick for pivotal episode of Season 5. Thanks.
# Elle2 2010-06-26 22:17

You captured and expanded upon thoughts I had, thank you so much.

I agree with your analysis of the why and how of Dean being so hurtful. I too know that feeling that there are points where you just don't want kindness or a hug or understanding because you don't believe you deserve it. I love how Sam worked so hard to give Dean what he needed here.

Also, I think you've nailed it when you say that Dean's slip-slide into the abyss is what allowed Sam to emerge. Dean has always been the 'driver' so to speak and Sam was not able to really be at the front and strong because Dean constantly shut him down. But here, with Dean disabled as it were from his own depression Sam was able to take the reins and assume the leadership role simply because there was no one to get in his way.

Sam wasn't pushy or domineering, he simply lead because it was needed and he was/is capable.

I'm dying to watch DSOTM and 99 Problems and PONR in a row because they make a great mini-arc in this season.

You're welcome and thank you
# Evelyn 2010-06-27 19:27
Elle2, I watched those 3 episodes last night. What a combination and I reconfirmed for myself that PONR is a most awesome episode and definitely the major turning point for the season. I noticed this time that as Sam was taking the leadership role, Dean was allowing him and following him. During their scenes in the Panic Room, I realized that Dean was asking Sam questions about what "he" was going to do and when they were upstairs talking to Adam, Sam was taking the lead in all this and everyone, including Dean was following his lead. In the past it has always been Dean leading and everyone else following, but with this episode their roles were reversed. I noticed that this change all started in DSOTM and fully realized itself in PONR. What a truly great trio of episodes for Season 5. And those two scenes of Dean and Sam in the panic room, shear masterpieces.