Mentally I still consider S7 late-season SPN, though at this point it is verifiably mid-season SPN (whaaat!!), and it's amazing to see how much Sam and Dean have changed, both in relation to each other and as individuals. Which doesn't in itself stun me--of course they are different people now--but recognizing how many years it's been since S7 really brings that home for me.
And also makes me think, "oh, motherfucker, why is characterization so difficult" because there are so many TINY little things that might distinguish an S7 POV from an S12 one, things I'd want to get just right. Like, you can totally ballpark it (me, writing anything in the vicinity of S1-3: AIM FOR THE GENERAL VICINITY OF "YOUNG..."), but getting into THIS year, or THIS MOMENT in this year is where any of this gets fun in the first place. Still, though, egads. XD
I also kind of forgot how much harder Dean was for me to read as a person pre-, like, S9. So hard. I like to think we've found a wavelength now--alternatively, I've decided one for him--but man. I think part of his difficulty in S7 is he keeps trying to connect his responses to direct experiences, but the model never quite fits; and later on, he mostly gives up even trying to do that. In the first half of S7 he keeps trying to connect his crazy to Sam's crazy. And while I absolutely don't doubt that factored in, Sam actually handles Hallucifer/post-Wall trouble with incredible aplomb.
And like, killing Amy wasn't about Dean's mistrust of Sam's judgment about her; or not being able to believe in a good monster; or even really being concerned for the safety of others, were they to let her go. When Dean tells Amy all about her inherent darkness, it's clear he's mostly talking about himself, and her death is almost entirely unrelated to her; it's about Dean and his self-concept. Which is way more awful than any narrative Sam put together and got mad about post-7x06.
And the case in 7x04 goes so. Ridiculously. Badly. XP Dean's not paying anywhere near enough attention but Sam's still hunting as though it's not a solo case. Sam spends so much time focused on Dean that he leaves the guy they're supposed to be saving, Warren, alone in some random hotel room in a circle of salt. And then is like, "damn, Warren, I told you to stay in the salt!" when Warren dies. He was previously established as being an anxious, flighty civilian with multiple ghosts after him. Of course he didn't stay in the salt, alone and utterly unsupervised! XP
I love how good Sam and Dean are at their job, but I'm also deeply in love with how bad Sam and Dean are at their job.
I remember during S7, a vocal faction of SPN fandom was upset about the kind of advice Dean received through the middle of S7 from Bobby, Frank, and Eliot Ness. (Basically, if you're feeling depressed and rudderless, get the fuck over it.) And yeah in the real world, that's terrible advice. But also characteristic of all of those characters, also advice that works/fails to work for Dean in what I find are interesting ways, so I've always liked that element of S7. What I hadn't realized--consciously, at any rate--is that all that advice was offered in consecutive episodes--quick succession, bam bam bam.
All of which guides Dean into his driven quest for revenge against Dick Roman, which again, I find fascinating because Show has already established that actualizing a revenge plot doesn't get you shit. Sam and Dean both know that. Bobby becomes ghost, and basically models vengeful spirit, and everyone--Sam, Dean, Bobby--knew that's what was going to happen. And yet, the revenge plot persists because it's the only thing keeping Dean together. After 7x10 he's enough of a mess that even Frank (of all people) can tell, but he's also on task in ways that he wasn't, as much, earlier in the season. In comparison to the cases in 7x04 and 7x05, say, 7x12 "Time After Time" actually goes velvety smooth. (Though notice how no one spares Chronos's sad, murderous love story with Lila Taylor any passing thought. So much for the Amy Pond Corollary Effect! XD Especially since we're about to head into 7x13, and Emma.)
I'm looking forward to returning to 7x23! And, for once, not because I love it. I've never been more disappointed by an episode of television than I was in 7x23 (and it's not even my least favorite episode of SPN). Watching it for the first time was, for me, a devastatingly unique experience, and I don't think I actually got over it until just before 9x01 aired. I didn't leave fandom (and in fact participated in like 99 challenges for some reason, including two rounds of summergen and a Big Bang, wtf?), but TBH I kind of did.
Anyway, clearly I'm here now, so I think it'll be interesting to re-encounter 7x23 now that it's been five years and SPN and I are in such a different place in our relationship!