Supernatural’s mid-season finale packed an emotional punch, as showrunner Jeremy Carver promised. Sam and Dean both made decisions based on their own perceptions of the other’s emotional state which ended up biting them in the rear, leaving the brothers angry and estranged. The episode was designed to keep fans talking over Hellatus and will succeed at that. What it doesn’t do as well is address the issues that have plagued the season, from the way Sam’s flashbacks drag down the show to the poor characterization at the heart of the fraying of the boys’ bond.
I’ll start with the episode itself, as there is undeniably a lot of good stuff there. The story layered betrayal upon betrayal as Sam and Dean reveal how little they trust each other and how angry they are with each other over hurts years old. Jared and Jensen are fantastic in selling the boys’ anger and pain. Sam throws the first emotional punch as he tells Dean he set an emotionally unstable hunter (Martin) to trail Benny because “no hunter worth his salt” would let a vampire run around unobserved.
It’s an odd perspective for Sam to take, as he was the one who argued Lenore and her nest should be trusted and allowed to live their life without hassle and, much more recently, was completely fine with letting Kate the werewolf wander off with no supervision at all, despite there being little reason to believe she will be able to resist her werewolf nature when she turns. Sam was fine last season with trusting Amy to continue on her way after she clearly showed she was willing to kill when her son needed the right kind of food.
Sam’s decision to have Benny trailed is so poorly supported by his past characterization, I can only read it as a further play on his part to show Dean how angry he is Dean cares so much about Benny. Sam ended his fight with Dean in “Southern Comfort” by stating he just may be the hunter who kills Benny and clearly, Sam had no intention of dropping this line of thought.
As a way to communicate that he’s hurt Dean seems to have found another and maybe better brother, however, it has a lot of drawbacks. So far neither Dean nor the audience has had a real glimpse of Sam’s emotional state when he decided not to look for Dean nor has Sam shown a glimmer of gratitude that Benny helped his brother survive Purgatory. The scene has not been well set to feel torn when Sam sets his sights on Benny. I like the character very much and am not prepared to see him as cannon fodder in a Winchester War of the Roses.