Supernatural's Pivotal Episodes: Season 3, by Elle2

Here we are, four weeks into Hellatus and all is well, right? Come on, we're doing fine aren't we? The site is rocking with articles, games, daily motivational posters and soon there will be a clock, you know the kind of clock I'm talking about; the one that counts down to the beginning of Season 6. It's coming soon, the clock that is. Also, casting spoilers will soon be up since filming begins July 1st which is just three short weeks away.

If you're still debating, read Faellie's article regarding to Spoil or not to Spoil - then make up your mind. J

So, in the effort to keep up with my goal of one article per week, I bring you the third in my Pivotal Episodes series. As before, I'll include the rules for pivotal episodes:

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.

For all that the third season was a bit rocky (kinda like Season 5 but both rocked when they rocked!) it was hard to pick 'the pivotal' episode, so I'll make my case for the reasons why those not chosen were not chosen and then, since that will likely tell you which one I did chose, I'll make my case for the one I did choose.

While Ruby is a pivotal character and was introduced in Magnificent 7 and Lisa in The Kids Are All Right has become more pivotal (although I'm certain that is short-lived , hopefully not her though) and Bela appeared in Bad Day At Black Rock and eventually stole the Colt and that kinda was important I cannot rest 'the' pivotal episode on the arrival of a character so that knocks those three episodes out of the running , so far I'm certain no one is surprised.

Sin City is a far more critical episode than we originally give it credit for, go back and rewatch especially the scenes between Casey and Dean and you'll realize just how much Kripke gave away of his future plans. Still, as I stated above in the rules, a pivotal scene, or two, is not enough to raise a decent episode up to 'pivotal' episode.

Bedtime Stories is a decent episode, although a bit stretched in credulity at many a time. While it does show Sam's continued slide down the slippery slope it doesn't make the cut either. Sam's slide is important but since this is a process and there isn't a defining moment, this is not enough to credit this episode with 'the pivotal' status.

Red Sky in the Morning…well, aside from the tuxedos and the 'drumbeat' we've been hearing much of this season so far of Dean trying to convince Sam that he's better off without him, there just isn't much here.

So now we make it to "Fresh Blood," a delicious episode but still not 'the pivotal' one. Granted, Sam and Dean have a powerful brotherly scene where Sam reminds Dean that he knows him much better than Dean gives him credit , it's similar to the information we and Dean saw and learned back in Blood Lust. Fresh Blood gives Gordon a brutally magnificent send off and we get another brotherly moment with the Impala.

Bring on the Christmas bells, eggnog, stolen wreaths and meadow sweet but the backstory of Sam giving Dean the prized amulet and the revelation that Bobby has been a part of these boys' lives all the way back to when they were eight and twelve isn't enough to elevate this to 'pivotal' although there are pivotal scenes.

As an aside, I love the journey Sam takes as he shifts the focus off of himself and puts it on Dean and gives his brother one last Christmas. Dean never minded how disjointed, cheap or dingy their holidays were, for him it was about family; here Sam embraces that aspect and looks beyond the lack in their lives and makes the most of what he has. It's fudgin' beautiful and I always have something in my eye throughout much of this episode.

Then there are four episodes in a row that are powerful, some more than others, some more complete than others but all build to something critical and in these four is 'the pivotal' episode of Season 3. So, yes, that takes "Ghostfacers," "Long Distance Call," "Time is on My Side" and "No Rest For the Wicked" out of the running. While NRFTW is amazing, it is more a closure to the will they or won't they save Dean (they don't , hope that doesn't spoil anything for anybody) and since it isn't the first time a main character has been killed, it doesn't qualify as pivotal in the context of 'the' pivotal episode.

First up, "Malleus Maleficarum" [crickets chirping] It briefly crossed my mind because of several pivotal points, first, we learn that all demons were once human and that Dean will one day become one. Second, Lilith is alluded to here, of course she's alluded to as a he and not the she that she is but it is here the menace begins. Third, Sam admits he's trying to become more like Dean in order to survive without him. Fourth, Ruby enlists Dean in her manipulative little plan, sort of. Still, while there are pivotal points, again, the episode on a whole is uneven and does not qualify.

Next up, Dream a Little Dream of Me, again, it doesn't qualify although the backstory on Bobby is emotionally compelling and I'm glad it did not get dropped but rather deepened in Season 5's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Sam pleading with Dean to care about himself is important and does lead to Dean ultimately deciding to give a fudgin' thought about himself. I cannot forget the scene between Dean and dream/Dean which goes down as one of my favorite Dean defining moments as Dean finally stops hiding behind alcohol, sex and sarcasm and faces his fears and makes a stand. But, while that stand forces Dean to care a little bit more about himself his self-sacrificing ways and self-loathing continue to this day so critical moment it may be, it's not enough to elevate this to 'the' pivotal episode.

So, let's get down to brass tacks, Mystery Spot v Jus In Bello. Keep in mind, the order these were initially intended was Jus In Belo and then Mystery Spot, that's important.

I'm sure there are many thinking that Mystery Spot has to be the one, it is a strong episode, it is brilliantly written, directed and acted by all, with special kudos given to Jared for all his efforts which frankly appear effortless. Jus In Bello is a very powerful episode but it is more contained like Nightshifter, it is about the brothers but it is also about others with Nancy and Henrickson having nice little character moments. JIB does not resonate as Mystery Spot does because while it packs a punch, it does not carry the emotional punch that MS carries, and there's no hug…although there is some blood.

Let's do a side by side comparison.

Mystery Spot gives us a preview of who and what Sam becomes without Dean. In Mystery Spot Sam cuts himself off from Bobby and hunts anything and everything he can find, something that we know happens after NRFTW. At the end of Mystery Spot, when he's given the solution to trap The Trickster and hopefully save Dean, Sam takes the bait , or does he? At first it appears that Sam is blindly willing to kill an innocent or Bobby in order to save Dean but we see that he really knows he's up against the Trickster and thus is not blindly traveling down the dark path. Thank heavens.

Much of "Mystery Spot" is a lesson for Sam, it's impossible to save Dean; however, that doesn't stop Sam from trying, not in the remainder of Season 3 nor in the four months that Dean is dead. We learn that Sam trapped and killed a crossroads demon, attempted to open the devil's gate and ultimately tapped his powers in an effort to hunt down and exact revenge on Lilith; obviously the lesson The Trickster was seeking to impart to Sam failed to take hold.

"Mystery Spot" does deepen the mystery behind The Trickster. He stated back in "Tall Tales" that he liked the Winchesters and here he makes it obvious that he's trying to get through to Sam. True to his wily ways he does not make his intentions clear and we are left to ponder for nearly two years before he finally reveals his interest. While The Trickster's story arc is fascinating (and tragic) there are two seasons that pass before we know why and The Trickster's plan here didn't work, thus no pivot.

"Mystery Spot" is a powerfully emotional episode, Dean sees his brother unravel. Sam watches Dean die time and time again and even exists for six months without Dean , at least in his mind. One of the continuing mysteries for Mystery Spot is whether or not Sam actually lived those days or whether he dreamed them all. Arguments can be made for either side, time travel, time warp or a very incredibly intense and real dream.

In the end, whether it was a dream or whether it was actual time passing and then ultimately reversed is of no matter (since it is never alluded to Bobby wondering where Sam and Dean were for six plus months I'd wager it was more like time being bent as Castiel did in "In The Beginning") since the real point of Mystery Spot was for Sam to learn something.

Mystery Spot is powerful, deep, multi-layered, funny, sorrowful and purely brilliant but it does not make my choice of 'the pivotal' episode of Season 3. [told you this installation would be controversial] that honor goes to Jus In Bello.

Now, for those of you who are still reading, who did not exit the article because you presumed I dissed Mystery Spot, here's my reasons why.

Much of Season 3 thus far was Dean pretending he didn't care about saving himself while Sam sought to find a way to save him. The brothers butted heads numerous times about the issue of whether to save Dean which likely would endanger Sam and Sam struck out on his own and killed the crossroads demon because he refused to be told what to do and refused to sit back and do nothing while Dean walked resolutely to his damnation. Granted in DALDOM Dean finally admitted he didn't want to die, in the end he still did and he wasn't willing to do anything (or everything like Sam wanted in "Time Is On My Side") to live, so pivotal moment for Dean in DALDOM, but not pivotal episode making, especially as there were bigger things afoot.

Jus In Bello introduces us to the first time demons hunt the Winchesters. This is such a significant turn of events that Dean even mentions it! "It's like we have a contract out on us...I think it's 'cause we're so cool. Do you think it's 'cause we're so cool?" Clearly we are meant to make note of this.

Secondly, Lilith is introduced and it is shown that Sam already knows about this, something that does not sit well with Dean. It's not the first time Sam has ever lied to Dean (or withheld information , heck, that goes back to "Bloody Mary"). It is the first time Sam has withheld such important information as given to him by Ruby.

Third, Ruby has so many more layers of manipulation at work here that we could even know at the time. [One of the reasons I love this show is that even one to two seasons later you can go back and realize the depth of a moment or event, this is one of those times.]

Ruby, working for Lilith, already knows that the Colt is gone. [remember, we now know Bella gave the Colt to Crowley who was Lilith's right-hand man (and possible lover)] Her 'altruistic' suggestion of sacrificing herself, through Nancy's virginal heart, is a red herring pure and simple. Ruby had one purpose and that is to drive a wedge between Sam and Dean and it has many components: Test Sam's moral compass, cut Dean's self-assurance down and plant the suggestion to Sam that listening to Ruby is smart, especially since Ruby knew that Dean would soon be out of the picture.

It's important to note that Dean's plan, crazy as it may appear on paper, actually worked. However, with the deck stacked against them by a manipulative, holder-of-all-cards, demon [Lilith] and her demon sidekick [Ruby] in the end Dean's plan failed but not because of the plan or the plan's execution but because Ruby and Lilith always intended it to fail.

It's no accident that in "Long Distance Call" and "Time Is On My Side" and "No Rest For The Wicked" Sam is willing to go his own path, choose his course over following Dean's. TIOMS shows just how far Sam's morality compass has failed as he contemplates turning Dean into a 'monster' simply because the capacity to do so is in his grasp. Sam is openly urging a pact with Ruby in NRFTW because they're at the eleventh hour and we see that once Dean is in hell and Sam has lost all hope of saving him he listens to Ruby. Season 4 and Season 5 deal with those actions of following Ruby and it was in JIB that the pivot point was activated.

So, bring on the comments, bring on the thoughts. I shudder, I mean, eagerly await them!

Season 4 and Season 5 should be a lot less controversial! And by the conclusion of this series we'll be only one week away from the beginning of shooting of Season 6. Wow!

Thanks for reading. Elle2