So, we’ll do a quick review of the rules and then I’ll present my case for my choice for Season 4’s pivotal episode.
Rules for pivotal episodes:
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.
On The Head of a Pin:
There is so much packed into this episode I’ll just pick a starting point and move on from there, it is in this episode that we open on Castiel thus heralding a much bigger angelic involvement henceforth. Castiel and Uriel kidnap Dean to torture the information out of Alistair as to who is killing angel. Not only are we given some backstory on Dean’s time in hell as we watch Dean torture Alistair and witness their interactions but we learn that Dean broke the first seal and that without the first seal being broken none of the rest could. That’s pivotal.
What happens next is Alistair escapes his bonds, how, well because Uriel is a rogue angel and he’s the one who has been killing the angels who won’t join him. Uriel wants Castiel to join him and he wants Dean dead; add rogue angels to the ever-growing list of Winchester enemies.
Sam calls on Ruby for assistance because he no longer believes Dean capable of doing the job; Ruby not only provides Dean’s location but provides the necessary ingredient for Sam to win the day, demon blood. It is here we learn that Sam has been drinking demon blood to hone his exorcising skills and not only that, now Sam can kill - and he does. Also it is here we see what the demon blood is doing to Sam, it is slowly taking him over as his eyes transition to black as he drives to save Dean.
Anna returns and proves herself a valuable ally as she saves Castiel and slays Uriel, Anna also is a catalyst in Castiel beginning to question his orders. It is after this that Castiel helps Dean save Sam in MATEOTB by pointing Dean to the perils of anyone presenting possible danger to a prophet; up to now Castiel had been toeing the company line.
The events unfolded in this episode directly lead us to the next episode where Zachariah arrives to teach Dean that he is a hunter and that it is part of who and what he is and that he’s born to it. It’s a Terrible Life would not have been necessary if not for the utter brokenness of Dean after OTHOAP and from this Zachariah reveals himself and we know what a grand manipulator he was now a full season later.
In addition to all the above goodness OTHOAP introduces us into what will become a valuable addition to the Winchester arsenal, angel swords. There is a lot of discussion out and about that Dean must somehow be “special” because he was able to kill Zachariah in Point of No Return but it is all the way back in this episode that the answer is found.
When Uriel confronts Castiel and admits that he’s trying to raise Lucifer, he states that only an angel can kill another angel. What’s important here is not just what is said but what occurs as the words are being spoken; from his sleeve he releases a sword, the kind of which we have never seen before. It is because only angels carry these swords that angels are able to kill angels; however, should anyone else get a hold of said sword then all bets are off.
I back this up with what Gabriel told Dean in Hammer of the Gods after Dean wondered how it was Kali didn’t kill him. Gabriel told Dean that he “allowed” Kali to lift a fake sword because there was no way he’d let her have his real sword that would kill him. Again, it’s the weapon, not who holds it that’s important.
In Point of No Return Castiel heads to the spot where “something is happening” - we know this to be Adam being reconstituted from ash - encounters two rogue angels and dispatches them with the sword he has carried since Uriel was slain. Castiel brings back not only Adam but the two swords that he prominently places on Bobby’s desk. Later in the episode Sam and Dean go with Castiel to Van Nuys to rescue Adam and both brothers carry the swords that Castiel delivers. We see that Dean goes in to rescue Adam and distract Zach so that Sam can come up behind him; Sam is carrying one of the angel swords; Dean the other. The swords are the key.
As a little extra gem I get out of this episode is that I can now fully appreciate Sam’s comment back in Metamorphosis: “I’ve got demon blood in me, Dean.”Well, yeah, Sam, you do but it’s because you’re drinking it. Blood cells only last four to six months before dying off and being filtered from the body as they are replaced so what was dripped into your mouth at six months’ of age wouldn’t really have a whole lot to do with who and what you are 22 plus years later; drink the stuff like Kool-Aid however and see what we get.
So much is unveiled in this episode that what came before and what still is coming today hinges off the events and revelations here.
On the Head of a Pin is Season 4’s pivotal episode.
Thanks for reading, Elle2
Thank you for this elaborate effort, dear. This is probably one of the most horrific episodes. Dean going all grand inquisitor again, and Alistair beating the elder Winchester almost to death... And great acting altogether.
We've said it countless times, but I stil can't stop raving about the acting qualities of Jensen here... a glance here, a shudder there... we know what he is going through and that he returns to a state of hell that will open old scars.
Also, Alistair was creepy, kudos to Heyerdahl for this amazing performance...
Elle2, no argument here. Fantastic episode, beautifully remembered by you in this article. Thank you! Jas
I like your reasoning about the demon blood. Ruby manipulated Sam into believing that he needed that "feather" to fly, but admitted before she was gutted that he didn't need it. I think Sam had abilities that were dormant all along until absolutely needed, like when he moved that furniture from where he was stuck in the closet by Max and saw Dean die in his mind. The other psychic kids (Ava and Jake) said their powers improved like they were flipping switches. Perhaps if Sam wasn't such a good guy he wouldn't have needed to drink demon blood after all. He would have given in to the temptations and started flipping his own switches.
I really wish that he came back as a human and those powers were gone, but I doubt that the story will go that way. I loved that they have kept Dean altogether a human so far anyway. I really would like those boys to be our wonderful HUMAN heroes again! Saving people! Hunting things! The family business!
This is one of my all-time favorite episodes (that is a an ever-growing list
Jensen really blew it out of the park again and you are right, Jas, it's the small movements and the absolute deadness in his eyes that sell so much. And I do place it up there with I Know What You Did Last Summer (another favorite) because that did give us so much of what we'd been wanting in regards to what Sam did those four months and how Ruby was able to 'worm' even deeper under his defenses. It's in IKWYDLS that she used Dean as a lever to work Sam more into trusting her, as Sam himself said when relating the backstory to Dean, she said things that Dean would have said. And it is nicely followed up here in OTHOAP when as Sam is saying to her he needs the blood she for the first time we hear of it calls him Sammy (die awful demon, die!)
Bevie, what wonderful thoughts you have on Sam and his abilities. I have wondered why Sam was not able to as easily manipulate his abilities, aside from that key moment in Nightmare when he moves the cabinet) and to date I don't think that has been satisfactorily explained...unt il your analysis. Sam has fought against them all along the way (in part likely because of Dean's presence) and it was only after Dean was gone that Ruby was able to manipulate him and she used an external catalyst to do it, blood. Perhaps it is his inherent goodness that she had to work around...but then why did Sam have to drink so much in Swan Song? I don't know and don't think this has been fully revealed.
I'm going to go forward however with your thoughts in mind, Sam is/was so inherently good that unless he was given 'the feather to fly' he wasn't going to freely access his powers so Ruby gave him a symbol.
Like you I am very much hoping that he is back fully human and all the 'abilities' et al are gone. Don't know either if that will happen. I'm very eager to discover through season 6 what that teasing line -- 'nothing is as it seems'. Filming begins in about two weeks (I've heard June 30 and July 1 -- hey, 'tis only 24 hours' difference there) so before we know it Sept 10th or Sept 17 or (horror of horrors) Sept 24th will be here and we'll get to enjoy the new season of Winchester adventures.
This article is spot on. We learned so very much. Jensen was amazing during the torture scene. He was scaring me! So many important reveals and it took awhile to digest everything. A great episode!
Thanks you for this well thought out and greatly written article.
I do hope we're all back to square one next season, it's going to be a bit short on dramatic tension if he can make the nasties go POOF just by glaring at them.
All hum along with Green Day, now ...
First off, welcome Jenn! So glad you're loving our site. There are a lot of awesome writers here and really awesome commenters (is that a word?) Alice has made this a place for fun and safety where all things Supernatural are loved and anything nasty gets a quick bit of discussion and then swiped away. Usually the nastiness results in an article from a site writer that wonders what all the fuss is about (such as Jared v. Jensen...yep, Alice went there) but nasty is not allowed.
Glad you're enjoying reading and exploring, we've got lots and lots of stuff (and all last year's hellatus is archived for your reading pleasure/leisur e) so it should help pass the 90 some days -- oh, no I've started counting!!! Hope you enjoy and always feel safe to comment.
Suze, you and Bevie really sum it up so well and you've added yet another dimension to focus on, Sam needed that to sort of distance himself from what he was doing....ooo, fascinating.
Hey, Jas, can you apply your professional experience to exploring this topic? Not like you aren't doing enough what with researching and writing a complex article on God and various aspects of faiths, but in your spare seconds....
Thanks Jenn and Suze for the comments and Suze I totally agree...here's hoping for some square one with no glares that can make the nasties go poof...I'll expose my musical ignorance now...what Green Day song are you humming?
Thanks for the comments
Thanks so much, Jas
Just sent you an email with the thoughts prompted by the comments here!
I have to totally agree with you on this one. This episode was flawless for me.
And as you have specified, so much came out in this one.
One other thing for me too was the first real hint that Ruby was not to be trusted. I always felt she had her own agenda, but I was never really sure if she would actually betray the boys or not. It wasnâ€™t until seeing that evil smile of hers as Sam drank her blood. Man she gave me chills. After that I knew she was not to be trusted at all.
One more to goâ€¦Iâ€™ve trying to figure out season 5, but the only ones I figure to be in the running is The End and Abandon All Hope.
Canâ€™t wait to see what you decided on.
Great point you made that I totally left out...shame on me! This is the first episode that I truly enjoyed GC's portrayal of Ruby and it was completely due to that subtle evil smile and the emotion that was put into her eyes as Sam started drinking the blood...she really sold the darkness and manipulation of Ruby here.
I'm glad I've got you wondering and I'll let no hints out about Season 5's pivotal episode (IMO) other than to say it was the episode I watched that started me thinking of doing this entire series of articles and it was the first one chosen...other than that you'll have to wait a few more days. I'll be polishing the article this weekend and send it off for the usual arrival on your screen next week.
Then it's off to the rest of Hellatus with no series just articles about writers, characters, seasonal wrap ups and whatever else strikes my fancy...and I owe an article out that Anene prompted me to write..I'm getting pretty excited about that one.
Thanks for the comments and I'll be looking forward to reading/hearing from you once Season 5 comes out!
Once again, I can't argue with your choice here, but just to help out with season five, I'd like to proffer Fallen Idols as the pivotal episode.
Sorry that we're articulate, I'm sure we'll shake things up before too long though. As for Season 5's pivotal episode....hmm, are you channelling me?
Thanks for your comments, Season four had so many excellent episodes but as you say this one had so much impact. This is actually the first episode I reviewed as I was just blown away by Ben Edlund's writing and Jared and Jensen's acting.
Glad you're enjoying the series...the final one is almost done.
Randal just made me snort my drink. :mrgreen:
Hope you're all right after snorting your drink...Randal is like that (that's why we love him!) Glad you're enjoying the articles, I've sent Season 5's off a short time ago so by tomorrow sometime it should be up.