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.
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.