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On The Head Of A Pin
Oh, poor Dean! *sobs profusely* They broke him. Bad angels, bad!  
From the first shot in the Impala, Dean is in a very bad place, so much so Sam is shown driving while Dean is withdrawn in the passenger seat. He's crushed over Pamela's death, and that on top of his drama with Sam and the angels have worn him down. He's deeply depressed and doesn't join in on Sam's eagerness to track down a Lilith lead.
It's Dean's outburst after his depressed arrival at just another motel room that sums it up so well. He's upset about Pamela and wants to be left alone. I think the phrase "So maybe you can stop pushing us around like chess pieces for five freaking minutes!" gets the point across.  The burdens of saving the world are wearing him thin and there's never a break. The nasty angels take him anyway. Dicks with wings indeed. 
They have Alastair, and Dean is the only one that can get answers over who's killing the angels. He must use torture, the stuff he learned while he was in Hell. Dean desperately doesn't want to become that person again. He doesn't want to unleash that animal inside of him that he so loathes. Castiel is sympathetic, but as a good trained soldier, orders are orders. Dean's crushing acceptance that he must put more important needs over his own pretty much kills us dead. He puts duty above all else, a bravery test passed.
His lengthy and agonizing scenes with an unyielding Alastair twist our insides (and his too) about 800 ways. Dean holds firm even when the most crushing news possible happens. He broke the first seal with his first tortured soul in Hell. He swallows the devastating emotional blow but accepts his work isn't done. He goes back to Alastair, who's escaped thanks to Uriel and his "convert angels into Lucifer followers plan." Alastair beats Dean to near death before Castiel saves him. 

vlcsnap 00345  
After coming out of the coma, Castiel confirms that Dean started the apocalypse, and he's the only one that can stop it (I guess knowing the outcome now, that is a true statement). Dean has nothing left. He does the most human thing he's ever done, he cries and admits defeat. Castiel has no idea what to do.
The Monster At The End Of This Book
Thanks to the "intervention" in "It's A Terrible Life" Dean is back, but he's not ready to take on Lilith. Is his confidence shaken or is he being smart? 
He calls Sam in a roundabout way reckless, and tries to do the opposite of what Chuck wrote. It doesn't work, especially when Sam is itching for a showdown and refuses to listen to him. What else can Dean do? He does the inconceivable, he prays! Castiel is very pleased by this show of faith and helps Dean in a very sneaky way. Dean has left a big enough impression on Castiel where the angel is now pushing his boundaries.
Dean still hasn't let go of the idea that he must protect Sam. He is willing to do anything, even taking his chances with the wrath of an archangel. He is able to save Sam for now, but soon finds out Sam is more determined than ever to hunt Lilith down.  The fight is not over and neither is the danger.
Jump The Shark
With his new found perspective from the last few seasons, Dean without those rose colored glasses gets to see the very worst of his father, and it all comes from his brother. It bothers him a lot to where he's butting heads with Sam much like Sam did with their dad. No doubt when Dean salts and burns Adam's remains he thinks in the back of his mind that he isn't going to make the same mistake like he did with Sam. Trying to bring Adam back would be unnatural. He has indeed learned. Remember this for later.

The Rapture
Dean held incredible composure after seeing first hand what a blood sucking freak Sam has become. He didn't lose his temper or scream and yell, even though that was the final straw for him. That worries Sam a little, especially when he begs Dean to get it out in the open, but Dean doesn't give up the plan. With Bobby's help, it's time to rescue Sam from himself. 
Things go really bad with Castiel too. Castiel comes to him for help, but he's dragged off to Heaven before he can talk with Dean. When Castiel returns from being Heaven, he is no longer Dean's ally and friend. Dean is back to square one.
When The Levee Breaks
Maybe Dean's tired of reasoning with Sam, maybe he thinks there's no getting through to him, but locking Sam in the panic room in his mind is the only solution. Dry out like a junkie would and then maybe he'll come to his senses. After all, Sam's erratic behavior, his deception, that's all due to the demon blood right?
I don't think Dean goes into the detox plan knowing all the risks or understanding why Sam is doing this to himself. He seems a little shocked when Bobby says "if he survives." He might not have seen this as more than Sam's misguided need for revenge. His only reason is it's the best way to protect Sam, which is why he makes the deal with Castiel under the air of suspicion.
No, Dean doesn't realize how bad Sam's addiction has grown until Sam has the seizure. Sam has become unrecognizable. Dean could have taken Bobby's advice and given Sam more demon blood, but that wouldn't have gotten his brother back, which is all he wants. Sam is better off dead than becoming what Castiel warned him Sam could become.

That thinking isn't wrong, but Dean lets his anger get the better of him when Sam escapes and gets together with Ruby. When Sam saves Ruby from Dean's attack, Dean is too mad and incredulous at the time to listen to Sam's plea. He thinks Sam doesn't know what he's doing and he even says so. Dean ignores Bobby's advice and hits the hot button, using the "m" word, not realizing that's the one word Sam couldn't hear from him (as we saw in the earlier hallucination). I'm sure he didn't think that Sam would start throwing punches and try to kill him. He probably figured Sam would passively listen to him like he always did, swallowing all that resentment. 

All that's left as Sam goes to leave is an ultimatum. If Sam is willing to walk out on family, then Dean can't help him anymore. Sam leaves anyway. Dean takes that to be the ultimate betrayal without understanding why Sam did it. He really doesn't know his brother.
Yes, out of a season of tests, this one Dean failed.  (Sam, is no innocent either, so blame is not being assigned in that statement).
Lucifer Rising
Thank heavens Bobby is great at virtual ass kicking. He hands Dean his on platter, telling him that family is supposed to make him miserable and he's a better man than his father, who turned Sam away rather than talk to him. That little pep talk comes just in time too before the angels take Dean away, right when he starts thinking about trying to get hold of Sam. 
The end is coming, the final showdown, time to make amends. Except it's too late. Sam won't answer his cell, the angels won't let him leave and they won't give him five minutes with Sam. Zachariah gleefully announces the apocalypse is happening and Sam plays a part. Now Dean is really worried about Sam and what they're going to do to him. The fact that Sam becomes his biggest worry means his priorities are back in line. He hasn't given up on family. 


Dean's greatest triumph though is he finally gets through to Castiel. The orders are wrong and not coming from God. Castiel sends Zachariah away and tells Dean the horrible truth. If Sam kills Lilith, the end begins. 
I've watched the end of "Lucifer Rising" several times and while Dean is concerned of Sam's well being, he still looks mad just before Sam tells him he's sorry. Not seething, but irritated. I'm dying to see what sort of brotherly exchange comes from that. Me thinks Dean isn't going to forgive Sam so easily. There's too much mistrust and hard feelings. He's going to need to be there for Sam though, since his brother is facing his darkest hour and can't do it alone.
As for Dean's mental state, I think he's more than ready to take on the apocalypse now. He's passed all his character tests. It's time to step up. He's just got to pick up a fallen angel and an addict brother first. Men of destiny gotta do that sort of thing. Bring on season five! 


# Bevie 2009-08-18 15:39
Hi Clarice

Just to let you know Alice did Sam's deeper look for Season Four on August 12, 2009.

Just go up top and look in the latest articles list.

And Alice, another great article!

Lol! Although I DO see chemistry between Dean and Anna. Different strokes I guess.
# Tigershire 2009-08-19 00:49
OK, first, loved the article Alice, nicely done. Now, back to When the Levee Breaks - at first I believed that the demon blood was doing all those nasty things to Sam as he started to detox, but.....

Yes, but. We know that Cas is the one who let Sam out. He broke circle and opened the door, etc. How much more could he have possibly done? All of it really. Cas could have flung Sam around the room. He could have inspired all those hallucinations (although I don't think he did). At this point Cas was in obedient soldier mode and NOT helping Dean. He was, in fact, helping Uriel even thought he didn't know it.

Then there was Ruby's comment at the end of Lucifer Rising....You didn't need the feather Dumbo, you had it in you the whole time.

Perhaps the detox was augmented by Cas????

# elle 2009-08-19 11:42
Excellent article! I enjoyed the look at Dean's journey and the idea that he was subject to character tests. I am really curious to see the result of these tests in Season Five.

Tigershire, you make an interesting observation that Cas could have been puppeting Sam during his seizure. My understanding of the demon blood addiction that afflicts Sam is that while he didn't need the blood to activate his powers, the addiction was still true. I think that Ruby got Sam hooked so he was dependent on her and more pliable and swayed to her suggestions. I do believe he was addicted in the truest sence of the word, like any drug addict or acoholic. Intriguing to think about though.
# Tigershire 2009-08-20 01:10
Elle, Yes, now that I think about, I agree. The sweats, etc would have definitely be a withdrawal thing. Still, I wonder about how much Cas was involved. The Angels wanted Sam out of that panic room and Cas was still believing in Uriel at this point.

I guess part of the reason I wonder is, with the Devil's Traps on the floor and ceiling, and all the "anti-demon" stuff around, wouldn't it have had some effect on Sam? I mean, sure he never had as much demon mojo as a full on demon, but for the blood to have the effect of tossing him around the room seems pretty heavy weight to me.

Ah, just the rabid thoughts of fan nearing the end of hellatius......
# Suze 2009-08-22 17:17
Tigershire, that is SO sneaky ...

Cunning as a bag full of weasles. You totally had me going for a few minutes but I don't think all the cold turkey was Cas-induced as we saw Sam hurting on other occasions and if the whole thing was psychosematic and/or Angels messing with his head then the addict recovery storyline they've been touting for S5 ( soon ... soon ... be calm ... ) is going to be a touch on the short side ... ;-)
# Tigershire 2009-08-22 18:52
Hey Suze - what kind of SuperN fan would I be if I didn't over analyze the show hey! GRIN

Actually, I never did think Cas caused the hallucinations but when he peeked out from the side of the panic room after Sam bugged out....I said, out loud to the TV no less, "How long have you been there?" My eyes even went all squinty as I peered at him on my TV screen.

Not to mention that I think Cas had a bit of a hand in getting both Dean and Bobby to take a nap right when Sam needed to leave. But it's speculation on my part there too.

The whole deal is highly suspicious, is all.

And with 5 days til I head to Vancouver, I'm feeling a bit twitchy - GRIN.
# Lolita 2009-10-11 14:20
I want to know something! Like, why did Sam leave Dean in the hotel room, when the Levee Breaks? He was after killing Lilith, because she was holding the deal Dean made when he sacrificed himself for Sam? So pretty much Sam is revenge-driven against Lilith, whereas Dean is not? I am really confused, it's an awesome series, and being confused is good (means it's complicated), but can someone explain please?
# Lolita 2009-10-12 01:34
Oh, you actually answered me, I feel so special, haha! Love you, Alice.

I still need to get why Sam wants to Lilith at the first place. Is it because she killed Dean? That she held his deal? So the whole revenge thing he has going actually is based on the fact it's all to receive 'justice' (wow, he really is lawyer material!) for what she did to Dean? I just thought of that, it makes sense. Because I always went along that he wants to kill Lilith, and just never really *thought* why.