This season is more intense, more emotional, and shows greater character development with Sam and Dean than the other two. The stakes are higher, the stories more complex, and with the introduction of writer Jeremy Carver (yes, Dean fans, start pelting me), a new dimension of episode is introduced, packing an incredible amount of dialogue, action, humor, intriguing characters, plot twists, and set detail into 38 minutes. Even Kripke upped his game, for the difference between "The Magnificent Seven" and "No Rest For The Wicked" is night and day. Other than the pilot, NRFTW is his masterpiece.
The acting as usual is outstanding, and somehow got better. First, we aren't just talking about Jensen and Jared. Jim Beaver is masterful as Bobby's role becomes more defined and he gets meatier story lines. As the anxiety over Dean's deal and the demon war grows larger, Bobby becomes a bigger voice of reason, a more solid foundation, and a greater father figure than ever before. Jim fits like a glove too with Jensen and Jared, and the three of them together on screen engross us in the intimate reality that each other is all they have.
Jensen has been great since day one, and this season, living up to high expectations, he again exceeded them. Seeing the self-actualization of Dean is an intense ride as we witness his movement from taking on his death sentence with recklessness, to regret when he sees Lisa and Ben, to the reality of Hell setting in, to the revelation his gruesome fate, to being forced to accept things about himself, to a renewed will to live, to, finally, acceptance of his doom. Wow. Nothing Jensen has done thus far though can match his horrifying portrayal of Dean being mauled to death by an invisible hellhound. That's not as easy as it looks, and most of the time such gruesome acts happen off camera. As a bonus, watch the extra on "Dream A Little Dream of Me" where Kripke raves about the incredible job Jensen did during the Dean vs. Dean showdown. I couldn't describe it any better.
Jared, however, earns the award for most dramatic improvement. I'm still in awe when I pull out episodes like the pilot and "Home" over how far he's come when watching any episode in season three, especially "Mystery Spot". The reality of Dean's demise tears Sam apart, and every bit of that struggle is painfully portrayed each episode with Sam's gloomy demeanor and his slow descent into darkness. While Dean becomes the person he was meant to be, Sam loses all touch with his identity and becomes unrecognizable to both him and us. It must only get worse for him in season four too, for Dean's death can only push him lower. To think, Jensen got the easy part at the end of the finale. Jared killed us with his reaction after going after Lilith, when the heart-crushing reality that Dean was gone hit him hard.
When both these guys are on, I'm out of words to describe what remarkable things happen. I've already stretched the thesaurus too thin with all my episode reviews. I mean, what else can I say? How about incredibly magnificent? Stupendously jaw-dropping awesome? Tear-jerking heart-tugging amazing? Really freaking cool? Yeah, I got nothing. All I can do is bow down to greatness.