This is another gifset I owed past!Me, although to be honest in the intervening 2 years I probably have found a gifset of it and defaced it with comments because I know me.
Here’s my notes from the last meta rewatch:
The reverend asks everyone to pray and Sam bows his head right away and Dean sits there facing forward and needs a nudge from Sam to bow his head as well. At this point in canon it just looks like him being unaware or just kind of… casually not inclined to pray, but… Argh, this is a wonderful 1 second introduction to Sam and Dean vs faith. They get asked to pray and Sam just does it unquestioningly without even really knowing anything about the guy they’re praying for. And we know this is foreshadowing for Dean’s ongoing issues with the whole thing.
(Also my shipper heart is sobbing because of just how ingrained not-praying was in Dean’s mentality before Cas. UGH)
100 points for blink and you miss it characterisation that holds true for the entire extended emotional arcs of these characters. Bravo.
We’re still only really halfway to Faith, which sets out this whole thing plain on the page, but I love the staging of this. That Sam is the one who at the very least with no context you could assume gets the social nuance of what you’re supposed to do here (and the previous episode was Skin, where we found out for the first time in plain words that Dean feels like a “freak” specifically to regular society and whether Sam fits this bracket too or not he can at least pretend and pass for ~normal~)…
I like as well that you could assume if you were going into this blind that Dean as the apparently more loyal connected-to-the-family-business son (in the words the show likes to use about them ignoring deeper fandom analysis) in a job where they have already been shown utilising religious exorcisms and holy water to fight a demon, Dean might also be the more religious (which might also be more surprising reversal of expectations because he plays bad but Sam seems the goody two shoes and there is that association)… But nope. 4x05 confirms Sam is Van Helsing :P (I have no idea why my brain jumped there. Favourite episode skewing my thought process >.>) Guess he was the one who did the exorcism in 1x04 as well, but Dean was annoyed Sam didn’t think he knew “Christo”, like, duh of course he studied this sort of thing. Anyway, turns out Dean is just a hunter who utilises all the tools, but doesn’t hold any stock in the power behind them.
And Sam telling Dean what to do here, and early example of him policing Dean to behave more politely. Maybe not to blow their cover, but maybe just because Sam thinks you should be respectful even when it’s a grabby jock who they know saw Lori as a conquest and wasn’t exactly sweetly in love with her - I think they could guess how things were going/would have gone between a frat boy and preacher’s daughter exactly as they did in the cold open :P Depending what types of make out spot murder lore they already know about, the idea of punishment might already be on their minds at least low key…
But yeah, my favourite thing about this layered moment is just the Destiel thing, okay? I’m predictable :P Dean’s issues with faith getting their first nod on the screen here showing so so early on that Dean doesn’t particularly like praying. Then Faith cracks it all open and sets up emotional threads which echo all the way through the show. That and Houses of the Holy work together to basically create the entire Destiel framework in a way (and it’s because of 2x13 I’ve been using “angels are watching over you” for my Mary & TFW interactions tag all year).
There’s a sort of semi-conspiracy thought (I’ve never seen a source for it but ~everyone knows~ that Dean’s original love interest was meant to be an angel or whatever (I don’t believe this)) but definitely from the very very start and certainly long before their faiths were actually tested by real angels showing up, Dean had a relationship with the divine directly setting him up with the irony of it being real, while for Sam it would be the irony that it would be cruel to him. And the building blocks are all in place by season 4, easily, for Sam to have his thing with Ruby and Dean to basically have Cas as his equivalent character, their respective mentors for Heaven and Hell, through the season. I think they were pretty much always meant to come down on these sides if the show ever made it to Heaven vs Hell escalation, even if it was something a bit easier to grapple with in a version of the show that never brought in angels. Dean’s reluctance and lack of faith are integral to the irony that makes Cas such an immensely fascinating character to introduce *for* Dean and then to be strongly associated with him through the rest of the show, whether you ship them or not.
(And since I do ship them, welp, for me this is literally, 7 episodes in, where I start counting what will retroactively be excellent Destiel subtext and the beginning of any portrayal of their onscreen relationship. Because they are SO much more than 2 dudes staring at each other.)