I've been watching S3 and have felt pretty comfortable with the characterization for both Sam and Dean. Do I have concerns and reservations? I do. But for the most part, I haven't felt as off-balanced as some of the more diehard fans do. It may be because I'm more of a casual viewer and I'm not involved in the fandom. I don't know. My viewing experience is just different I guess.
But just for the heck of it, I popped in "Faith" today because I love that episode. (Sam guilt/angst and Dean whump makes my day. Squee!) Anyway, I have only seen the episode once and that was over six months ago. However, I was struck just how much "Faith" echoed "Fresh Blood."
In "Faith," Sam confronts Dean on how he makes everything a joke when he's scared or in danger. Dean laughs it off. We had this in last night's episode as well. It's a running theme, of course, but I found it more pronounced in last night's ep.
Not only did we have a similar confrontation, even if last night's was more intense, but even some of the same dialogue. Dean makes a joke. Sam tells him it's not funny. Dean asks maybe a little funny? And Sam is still not amused.
The comparison just really struck me. These are two totally different scenarios but it really demonstrates to me the consistancy of their characters. So when Sam calls Dean on his stupidity in last night's episode, he's completely right. We even have the canon for it. In "Faith" it's more condensed whereas in in S3 it's more of a storyarc. But it's still there.
We also have an Impala mention in both episodes. In "Faith," Dean tells Sam he's going to have to take care of his car. In "Fresh Blood," we had that nice brotherly car scene at the end with Dean teaching Sam how to take care of the car.
It's really refreshing. That's one of things I like about this show. I really feel that the characters themselves have a lot of consistancy yet have room to move, grow, and make really dumb decisions.