Where was I? Oh, yeah. Fairly even screen time, alternating focus on the two main characters, like "Something Wicked" was redemption for wee!Dean, then Sam got some action in "Provenance".
Season Two launched the same way and stayed fairly even until "No Exit," when we got very little Sam. Of course, that's because of that
The brothers started to separate in season 2, with Sam going off on his own all the time ("Hunted," "Born Under a Bad Sign") and the boys realizing some of their fundamental differences ("Houses of the Holy"). But still...equal screen time.
Perhaps season 3 broke the Js. They were consistently together throughout the season, united in a common goal, sharing the camera. Interviews and articles talked about how the two main actors had such a demanding job, being in nearly every scene. They tried to bring in some new recurring characters to share the load, with mixed/debatable results.
Then came season 4, and an unprecedented event.
Jared got to go to Hawaii.
In the amazing episode "In the Beginning," Castiel sends Dean to the past. Sam is only seen in the opening shots, going off with Ruby to do something we know he shouldn't be doing. Then Jensen Ackles knocks it out of the park as Dean trying to save his family from events that can't be changed.
So wouldn't it have been fair for Jensen to get a vacation while we get an episode that focuses on Sam? If the goal was to give the guys a break so they didn't, you know, break, then we'd expect an even distribution of episodes or scenes focused on one character. Flashbacks in "After School Special" helped, and we saw a little bit more of Sam, but not enough to send Jensen out of Canada during filming (or at least not further than LA).
Season five, then, right? It's all about Lucifer wanting Sam's body. So we must get an episode with mostly Sam. Poor Jensen needs time off that doesn't mean hiatus for us! But even though the boys break up and go their separate ways, even though we see lots of Sam in "Free to Be You and Me"...*pauses to think of lots of Sam...in bed...shirtless...*
Don't worry. I remember where I left off. And I DO have a point, I promise! (I can't help rambling a little as I work my way up to it. It's such delicious territory in which to ramble.)
Arguably the best episode of the first half of season 5 is 5.04, "The End," where Zachariah sends Dean forward in time in an attempt to convince him the only way is to say yes to being Michael's vessel. And not only is there very little Sam in that episode, we get DOUBLE Dean.
Now, honestly, who's going to complain about getting double Dean? Except the Samgirls. The rabid ones. But that's beside the point.
I think this episode explains exactly why Dean gets all these solo turns.
Even though Jared Padalecki is a good actor and has made huge strides since his earnest Gilmore Girls days, he still drops back into the flared-nostril school of acting from time to time. I'm going to toss out a highly unscientific stat and say that in roughly 50% of his scenes, he still strikes me as putting on the character.
In contract, I almost never feel that way about Jensen. I always feel that he has fully embodied Dean, that the character is being projected from inside himself. Sure, he hardens/deepens his voice a little, but that's an element of character, not a mask or prop. In "The End," we not only saw Dean confront himself, he was two totally different people. The same guy, but tempered by different experiences, living different lives, making different decisions. And I never, ever confused the two. It wasn't just that Future!Dean wore the Army green of war while Present!Dean got to wear hopeful blue. It was the look on his face, the way he held himself, the way he spoke. Technology made it seem like they were in the same room, interacting with each other, but acting made us believe it.
So bottom line...here's how I see it. I don't think the writers deliberately choose to showcase Dean because Jensen is a better actor. But I do think Jensen being a better actor gives the writers freedom to showcase him.
What do you think? Agree, disagree, think I'm off my nut? Do you have a different theory? Post in the comments! Help us get through the homestretch to the return of season 5!