The Leviathan’s psychological warfare also moved along Sam and Dean’s personal story. Dean’s secret he’s been hiding from Sam is not new territory for the brothers. We’ve seen them fight and separate before. Re-occurring plot bunnies can be an issue for a show—but not necessarily. As with any story, the success depends on how it is told.
I found Evil Dean’s reveal of real Dean’s secret to Sam very effective. I loved the way the Leviathans were clearly separate characters from the Winchesters. Evil Dean took such delight in making his meal bitter and knew exactly how to push Sam’s buttons. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles were both wonderful in playing their alternate characters, and this scene really highlighted Ackles’ ability to play a character dark and attractive at the same time, making us feel guilty for loving to watch him.
Besides being enjoyable to watch, the scene also clarified the reason for re-introducing the secret/lie story line. This time, the point is for the brothers to examine how far they have come from season one. Sam is ready for Dean to allow him to grow up. I don’t think their eventual reconciliation is going to centre on whether Dean was right to kill Amy. My money is on Sam needing Dean to trust him to handle the hard issues.
I think Sam and Dean’s overall arc this year will be on recognizing how they need to let go in order to stay close. Dean will always be Sam’s big brother, but he has to learn to put more emphasis on “brother” rather than caretaker. Sam needs to realize his tendency to walk away when he’s upset makes Dean’s life very difficult. And I don’t think this examination is repetitive. Our early bonds shape us and negotiating space to grow up with our nearest and dearest is a lifelong process. I have always loved the authenticity of the emotional exploration of the Winchester family and I think this arc rings true.
Since the emphasis of the secret issue is more on the brothers’ relationship than plot development, I think Sam and Dean will work past it reasonably quickly. This season is about bringing the boys together, not splitting them up. They’re renegotiating the way they work together, not leaving the other behind. They need to be a team to stay alive.