Supernatural “Beyond the Mat” Review (Season 11, Episode 15)

One of the things that popped in my head while I was watching this week’s Supernatural was my very first Supernatural fan convention six or so years ago. I was beyond excited to meet Jensen Ackles (whose work I’d been a fan of since he was on Dark Angel) and Jared Padalecki, but I was also a little bit worried because I didn’t want to shatter the image of them that I had in my head. The entire plane ride I kept thinking to myself: please don’t be jerks; please don’t be jerks. It was pretty much the mantra I chanted all the way up until I finally got my chance to meet them. As it turns out, they’re not jerks at all. They’re actually two of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was to realize that two guys I admire were just as cool in real life as they are on TV. This fandom lucked out and the entire cast is pretty much awesome, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we meet our heroes and they’re nothing like the persona they display to the public nor are they anything like the persona we’ve created for them in our own heads. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our heroes are fallible. We put them up on so high a pedestal and when they make a mistake, it’s devastating to realize that our heroes are, at the end of the day, only human.

It’s so rare that we Sam and Dean just have fun. Usually they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they end up just snatching a little bit of happiness wherever and whenever they can find it. Usually it’s something as simple as grabbing a drink and a game of pool at a bar. Or hooking up with a woman they met while working a job. It’s been a long time since Sam and Dean have done anything remotely fun, but that’s exactly what they did in this episode. They both had fond memories of John taking them to see this traveling wrestling show when they were kids, and watching them sit ringside during the wrestling match, you would think they were kids all over again. They were cheering and hollering along with the rest of the fans, and it was nice to see them just relax and be friends and brothers again. Also, Sam and Dean in this episode were pretty much every Supernatural fangirl ever, and it was priceless. Dean turning into a stuttering mess when he came face to face with his hero Gunnar Lawless and Sam’s reaction to meeting his first crush were just adorable. The joy didn’t last, though, since Sam and Dean can never go anywhere without the job following them. Murder + ritualistic looking carving on the victim = Sam and Dean working a case.

The case, as it turns out, was simply a crossroads demon trying to build itself a nest egg. Hell is in a bit of flux since Lucifer came back and took over (more on that later) so it looks like it’s pretty much every demon for shimself at the moment. The crossroads demon was using Gunnar to do its dirty work because Gunnar had made a deal ten years ago that had come due. Instead of letting the hellhounds drag Gunnar to Hell, the demon was forcing Gunnar to kill for it. Gunnar made his deal because he was, as he put it, “desperate and dumb.” It also seems that he lacked character which is something Harley (surprisingly) possessed. Harley was a young, up and coming wrestler who was talented but very arrogant. Like a lot of kids in those kinds of professions, he was chomping at the bit to make a name for himself and win the wrestling title. The offer the demon made Harley was no doubt the same one he made Gunnar. However, instead of taking the easy road, Harley said he would rather grind for success he knew he was capable of achieving instead of giving up his chance at eternal paradise just to get what he wanted quicker. That’s clearly the choice Gunnar wishes he had made ten years ago. Gunnar’s admission to Dean brought to mind a time of Dean being “desperate and dumb” all those years ago when Jake killed Sam, and that’s part of why Dean could empathize. I love when the show remembers its history and draws parallels to present events. Sadly, Gunnar accepting responsibility for his actions didn’t change any of the choices Gunnar made or the consequences he had to face. I felt kind of bad for Gunnar because desperation does cause people to do dumb things, but I most I felt bad for the Boys. Dean especially. Sam and Dean have such precious few happy childhood memories, and going to the wrestling matches was one of them. Now that Dean’s seen the truth about his hero, those memories will forever be tainted for him.

While Sam and Dean were taking a bit of a break, things were heating up between Casifer and Crowley. Casifer had put Hell’s considerable resources to work seeking out other hands of God. He also continued to humiliate Crowley at every possible opportunity. It was kind of sad really. Crowley thought he had obtained the upper hand when Simmons helped him escape, but she was just playing him. I can’t say that that came as a shocker though. Crowley always ruled Hell through fear and intimidation. No one was ever loyal to him because they loved and/or respected him. That’s not the case for Lucifer. Lucifer created a lot of demons and many of them were loyal to him even while he was stuck in The Cage. I’m sure Crowley thought he’d rounded up and killed all the Lucifer loyalists after the aborted apocalypse, but demons are slippery little buggers. And fickle. They’ll fall in line under whoever appears to have the most power. Lucifer is, at least for the moment, more powerful than Crowley and much more intimidating. But Crowley seems like he’s back in the saddle. Or at least he’s back a bit more to being Crowley. He’s still afraid of Casifer (and rightfully so) but now that he’s not literally under Casifer’s thumb for the moment, I think we’re going to see Crowley try and figure out how to turn this situation to his advantage. Because that’s what Crowley does. It seems that while Casifer is laser focused on finding the other hands of God, some of the demons are splintering off and doing their own thing without reporting to the home office. Crowley tended to keep an eye on such things, but Casifer is much less concerned about the day-to-day operations of Hell. I’m wondering whether they’re setting up for factions to arise in Hell the same way the did in Heaven. Depending on how long the show is planning to have Lucifer possess Castiel, it could be interesting to watch Crowley battle Lucifer to reclaim his throne.

I enjoyed this episode a whole lot more than I thought I would. I’m not a fan of wrestling, so I didn’t think this episode would capture my attention. But Supernatural continues to surprise me. Sam and Dean at the wrestling match was totally worth the price of admission. Not to mention Dean’s reaction to meeting Gunnar Lawless for the first time or when he jumped into the ring and proceeded to have an imaginary wrestling match. Jensen Ackles does such a great job with comedy, and everything about his imaginary wrestling match was gold. I also cannot begin to say how much I love the fact the Boys are finally being honest with each other and admitting that things are taking a toll on them. The reason they ended up going to the wresting match in the first place is that Dean truthfully told Sam that he was burnt out and needed a break. Then, after everything, when Sam asked if Dean was ok, Dean once again truthfully admitted that he’s not ok but he’s going to keep pushing forward. It’s such a breath of fresh air to have Sam and Dean be honest with each other and stand together against the world after so many years of unnecessary drama between them. Sadly, this was the last new episode we’re going to get for a month (an entire month, people!) and I consider that cruel and unusual punishment. Oh well, at least I have Fangirl!Dean to keep me entertained during this relatively brief hellatus.