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