Page 2 of 2
Think back to Dead Man's Blood and Sam's reactions to John's decisions and handling of the hunt, this is a much different Sam in PONR, calm, confident and a leader.
There is only one point in the entire episode that Sam loses his calm confidence and that is after Dean has disappeared after having blown Castiel to 'Oz', Sam returns from trying to locate Dean only to find out that Adam is gone that's three major blows within a span of perhaps an hour or two, no wonder Sam loses his cool a bit and gets a "watch your tone, boy" from Bobby. Up until then Bobby had followed Sam's lead without question or correction.
Bobby allows Sam the lead in reasoning with Dean as well as with trying to break through with Adam; Bobby maintains a similar role he has held for Dean many times, support when needed.
Castiel similarly follows Sam's lead, even when he clearly does not agree with Sam's plan he follows putting his full trust in Sam's judgment; a far cry from Castiel's denouncement of Sam's plan in I Believe the Children Are Our Future when Sam wanted to tell Jesse everything believing information would guide Jesse in making the right choice. Castiel's disdainful, "You didn't" was painfully true then but here Castiel follows Sam to the point of being willing to sacrifice his very self to see Sam's plan through.
Sam does something that Dean had never done with him before, he trusts, fully trusts Dean to do the right thing. We saw Dean follow Sam's lead all the way back in Nightmare when Sam wanted to talk to Max Miller but there were limits as Dean grabbed his gun from the glove compartment, which Max caught a glimpse of and ultimately killed himself with. Dean also questioned Sam's intentions more recently in Metamorphosis regarding if Sam would...when push came to shove...make the right decision regarding Rugaru/Jack. In Point of No Return Sam turns the tables on Dean by stating categorically that he believed that "when push shoves, [he'll] make the right decision."
For Dean this episode was where he hit absolute rock bottom and did what we all hoped he would, rebounded. Dean did everything he could in this episode to isolate himself from those he loved, insulted Cas, disavowed Bobby and told the absolute unvarnished truth to Sam - he did not trust him. For all that he was met with unflinching support, true at first Castiel's support was in the form of a beating but forgiveness did ensue once Castiel saw the complete brokenness of Dean; he got absolute truth and an awesome chick/flick moment from Bobby and he got Sam's complete trust which in the end worked.
"We're working on the power of love." And as Supernatural has always been about the love of these two brothers, here is the pivot point of Season 5, Sam loved Dean enough to trust him despite all of Dean's actions. Dean loved Sam enough that he couldn't disappoint him. When push shoved, both brothers came through.
The brothers find a new balance, finally. Dean stated back in The End that they needed to be together because they kept each other human, but he didn't see Sam as an equal. Sam stated in Fallen Idols that the way things were in the past didn't work and that was part of the reason he went off with Ruby, to get away from Dean. Going forward though not much had changed, Dean still questioned Sam and Sam questioned Sam; at the end of The Song Remains the Same Sam is questioning whether he'll be strong enough, remembering that he'd weakened before.
In Sam, Interrupted Dean carries the burden on his shoulders of saving all 6 billion people on the planet; he makes no reference to Sam being beside him in carrying that burden, in fact, he questions if Sam is really with him in this fight. Granted Dean 'trusts' Sam to save the entire town from the zombie invasion while he stays behind to protect and/or help Bobby but Dean's focus here is his devotion to Bobby; he's blinded to all else.
Dean explains what changed his mind at the end, it was Sam. Sam did what he did here because of things he learned in Dark Side of the Moon and going forward Sam took the lead and because Dean finally learned that he truly had to act as if Sam was his equal and not just say Sam was his equal Sam and Dean together caged Lucifer and brought down the curtain on the five-year arc.
For those reasons Point of No Return makes the grade for me as 'the' pivotal episode of Season 5.
There it is, folks, my five-part series on each season's pivotal episode is complete. We're now one week out from the beginning of Season 6's shooting schedule and before we know it, Season 6 will arrive.
Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting and I'll get to work on the rest of the articles I have planned for Hellatus"¦next up, my recitation of Season 5's highs and lows and whatever else I can think of to toss in that article.