There are lots of talking points here; writer Daniel Loflin hit a lot of emotional notes. But the wall between the brothers has a lot of holes in it, which may not have sunk this episode, but did make it resonate less than it could have. The season has Dean apparently holding on to every resentment he’s ever had concerning Sam, including ones that have never been presented onscreen, such as blaming Sam for being soulless.
He doesn’t seem to have processed any of his feelings about Sam and Ruby since season four, and to me, this causes story dissonance with previous seasons. Dean had an emotional arc in season five that centred on his feelings about Sam choosing Ruby over him. “Swan Song” showed him having processed a lot more than this season suggests.
So I have issues with the writers presenting Dean as being in the same place he was in the penultimate episode of season four, especially when it is possible for Dean to have issues with Sam in a way that fits. Dean’s fear of abandonment and hurt at Sam’s different definition of family have ample support in the story and are enough explanation for what’s motivating Dean. I don’t understand why the writers feel the need to throw the kitchen sink into the mix—it doesn’t strengthen the story. Dean has always needed family and he’s always placed Sam at the centre of his family.
The issues with Sam’s story are even deeper. It’s never been more apparent why one of Sam’s flashbacks should have shown us his emotional state when he ran instead of looking for Dean. I need to hurt for both boys as they vent their hurt disguised as anger at each other, especially when Benny is a target. I had no difficulty understanding both Winchesters in previous seasons when they had different perceptions and goals. But this time, we’re missing a major story point.
Having to fanwank Sam’s feelings about Dean gets less and less satisfying the more flashbacks we have to watch about Sam and Amelia. This episode suggested I should find the dissolution of the relationship because of Don’s return really sad, because of what Sam was losing. But last episode suggested the relationship was an escape so both Sam and Amelia didn’t have to face their losses. It’s difficult to go from flashbacks that present the relationship as living a lie to flashbacks that want me to embrace soap opera.
Sam’s flashbacks have slowed down the episodes they appear in and the season so far, because they go over old ground without advancing the present. Not only has Sam not had any epiphanies about his relationship, “Citizen Fang” ends with Sam still deeply caught up in it, as if the audience is breathlessly waiting to find out if Amelia really chooses Don. I’m hoping he doesn’t have an evil twin to further complicate her choice.