With the excellence of "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" of late, it's been easy to forget how long "Supernatural" has been off the air. Granted, it's only been several weeks, but this series always ranks highly with the rest of the character-driven shows, and the absence has been palpable. It feels a lot longer since the brothers were at each other's throats.
As one would expect from these writers, the events of the previous episode aren't forgotten. Dean certainly remembers Sam's rant about how Dean is holding him back, and Sam continues to delude himself regarding his good intentions for his demon-spawned abilities. Carrying that baggage into this particular battle in the longer war meant that every action had a deeper context.
On the face of it, the Brothers Winchester are still working together, but the reality is that the rift between them has grown. Dean doesn't like the fact that Sam is lying to his face, and Sam doesn't seem to have a problem with keeping Dean in the dark. On Dean's end of the equation, it's not particular surprising. Castiel told him that keeping Sam in line was his responsibility, or the angels would deal with him along with the rest of the threats. Logically speaking, just because the angels are willing to use Sam to stop Lilith and the release of Lucifer doesn't mean that theyÃ¢â¬â¢ll let him live.
After all, Sam is no longer just slipping down the slope, aware of the consequences of his actions. Now he's taking giant leaps down into the abyss, clinging to self-delusion along the way. Like Pamela says in her dying moments: he knows better than to play at good intentions. It's always been clear that Ruby's goals had never changed, only her methods, and Sam is definitely on the road to becoming a semi-demonic overlord in his own right.
Which is why Tessa's warning to Dean hit all the right notes. Dean has little doubt that he and Sammy were manipulated into fighting the battle against Alastair, because Castiel didn't even try to hide it. Yet if Sam is deluding himself into believing that his intentions are pure and he can remain himself while embracing his demonic legacy, Dean is equally deluded into believing that the angels have a wonderful second chance waiting for him at the end.
Some will see that as continuing a poor and even blasphemous depiction of the angels, but it's in keeping with the Biblical and early dogmatic depictions. The angels were warriors, and they used whatever means necessary to achieve their goals. They didn't flinch at using people and exacting consequences on human weakness. If winning the way meant using the Brothers Winchester to the bitter end, that's what theyÃ¢â¬â¢d do. And while that might trouble Castiel a bit, angels like Uriel wouldn't bat an eye.
It definitely sucks that randy Pamela had to die, but she became a symbol of the cost of the war. I doubt she'll be the last sacrifice to be made on the road to victory (if victory is even in the cards). I have the very bad feeling that Bobby may not last much longer, either. This season may end with Sam and Dean at each other throats, and if so, it's been a long time coming. Perhaps the best thing about this series and how it's been handled is this slow march towards near-inevitable doom.