First thing? Dean was different. Some people are saying OOC, but I disagree. I thought Jensen was perfect at portraying what I call the male defense system. I know so many guys who, when faced with an intensely emotional situation, retreat into exactly the kind of behavior Dean was displaying: jokey, macho, inappropriate at times, somewhat distant, and majorly in denial. In real life it usually makes the guy look like a jerk. (Which made me think, if Dean was like this in the pilot, I don't think I would have liked him very much. I wonder what first time viewers thought.)
Out of love, Dean made an enormous sacrifice, the culmination of a life of sacrifice for his family. He couldn't save Mom, he couldn't save Dad, but he could save Sammy, so he did. I think he's feeling enormous relief over having Sam back, guilt over placing the same burden on his brother that his father put on him, and, deep down, fear of what lies ahead. Which is just too much for Dean to deal with, so he retreats inside himself and puts on a show, a show of "I'm okay, everything's fine, I made my deal and I'm good with it." I think he's telling the truth when he says he's tired. So for once he's going to try to let go of all his worries, let loose, and just
Sam, on the other hand, seems more grounded in the reality of their situation than ever before, and Jared brought a new maturity to his performance, I thought. I was really impressed with his acting in this episode. I liked the way Sam was taking on the more adult role, staying focused on the task at hand and trying to save Dean from his own reckless behavior.
The scene between the boys at the end really emphasized to me how much Dean has been affected by everything that has happened. Sometimes in this show, the scripts are like poetry, and the words alone touch you. Other times, the scripts are more action driven, or the words just fall short, and then I look to Jensen's eyes to tell me the story. He truly makes Dean's eyes the windows to his soul. But in this episode, especially during that last scene, when I looked in Dean's eyes, all I saw were shutters. He's put up a wall, but I have no doubt that eventually Sammy will be the one to tear it down.
Okay, how much did Bobby rock?! I loved him in this episode! It's great to see the boys with a father figure who is calm and collaborative, instead of secretive and obsessed. From his cool muscle car, to his appearance in a suit (hatless!), to his outraged tirade at Tamara, Bobby was awesome. So it looks like he's pretty well connected in the hunter world that John hid from the boys. I hope we'll be seeing more of him!
I liked the story. The seven deadly sins as demons was an interesting concept to me. I also liked seeing other hunters thrown into the mix, although I thought Isaac was a jerk, and Tamara was pretty ineffective. Their house took the place of the usual motel room for imaginative set decoration this time! What was that crazy baby doll hanging next to Sam's head while he was talking about teaming up? Creepy.
I also liked Ruby and her evidently magic demon knife. Her ruthlessness was brutal and obviously shocking to Sam, and I liked the way they introduced her, mysteriously and in small doses. I'm in, tell me more! I'm curious about her backstory (at least one of the demons recognized her), and that knife, and how she'll fit in with everything else this season. Also, how cool was it that when she stabbed Pride under his chin, you could see the blade of her knife in his open mouth? *shivers* So I guess the possessed are just so much collateral damage in her book.
I do have one question. How does everyone know everything about the Winchesters? The demons on this show are always pulling info out of thin air, it seems, and I've always fanwanked that they were reading their victims' subconscious minds or something, but Envy made it sound like they all sit around in hell talking about Dean and Sam. Isaac and Tamara knew all about the brothers' involvement in letting the demons out. And Ruby called Sam by name. It makes me feel like they're all reading Super-wiki or something!
Finally, there were a couple of fun moments for me. How cute was it that Jared went all Texas twangy when they were sitting in the car in front of the bar and Sam said, "So what, he just walks up to someone, touches 'em, and they go stark ravin' psycho or somethin'?" hee! Then, at the end, when Sam said, "You're unbelievable!" to Dean, was anyone else waiting for him to answer, "That's what she said!" No, just me? Okay then. :)
All in all, I thought this episode was a good setup for the rest of the season. I think the overall arc of Dean having just one year to live, played out against a background of hunting down all the escaped demons, sounds promising. Now, if they would just bring Ellen back, I would be a completely happy camper.