Supernatural “Red Meat” Review (Season 11, Episode 17)

One of the good things about a show being on the air for more than eleven years is the fact that certain things about the show become classic. Sometimes it’s a situation. Sometimes it’s the music. Sometimes it’s the way a character responds to a certain situation. Sometimes it’s just the entire vibe of an episode. So if there was one thing I could say about this week’s Supernatural, it’s that this was a classic episode. Sam and Dean showed up in town, got a little beat up, killed the monsters, saved the victims, saved each other, and then drove off in Baby a little bit worse for wear but living to fight another day.

This episode started off much more intense than I expected. I knew from reading the previews that Sam was going to get shot and be on the verge of death, but I didn’t expect it to happen in the cold open. The force of that scene set the tone for the rest of the episode, and I was literally on the edge of my seat for almost the entire 43 minutes. And honestly, there were a few scenes that literally had me wanting to cover my eyes because they were so intense. Yes, I’m talking about watching Dean start seizing and foaming at the mouth while he’s dying. And don’t even get me started on Werewolf Jerkface trying to strangle Sam to death so that Dean would get him and his wife to safety. I thought Supernatural was done making my heart skip beats like that, but apparently they’ve still got a few in them.

In addition to a lot of intense sequences, there were also some very powerful, subtle performances. Werewolf Jerkface’s wife Michelle had a lot of quiet moments that conveyed so much emotion. Her scenes with Dean were especially heartbreaking. It’s not breaking news that Dean goes a little off the rails when something bad happens to Sam. That was on full display here. Dean was clearly panicking in the cabin when Sam initially got shot, but he kept his head enough to do some rudimentary first aid. It got a little worse when they made it to the second cabin and Dean was collecting wood to make a gurney so they could carry Sam. But then, when it looked like Sam was dead, Dean gave up. It was clear in the slump of his shoulders, the blank look on his face, and the way he was willing to let the other werewolves come and kill him too. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how Billie was able to resist giving Dean anything he wanted when he begged her with such a mix of despair and desperation on his face. Unsurprisingly, Jensen Ackles did a wonderful job conveying so many of Dean’s emotions without saying anything. He has always done a fantastic job of playing the nuances of Dean, and this episode required a lot of that. Kudos to Jensen for really great work.

Now let’s talk about the BAMF hunter that is Sam Winchester. I’ve said on many occasions that season seven is my least favorite season, but one episode I really enjoyed during that season was ‘The Born Again Identity.’ The reason I enjoy that episode so much is that it shows you exactly the kind of man Sam Winchester is. Even though he’s stuck in the nuthouse because Hallucifer is preventing him from sleeping and literally driving him crazy, Sam still finds the inner strength to overcome his own issues in order to help a girl being terrorized by her brother’s ghost. If anyone had any doubt that Sam is not only a hero but a good man, then that episode unequivocally answers that question for you. Fast forward to this week’s episode, and we have Sam reminding us that he is a hero and a good man. Even after being shot in the gut and strangled nearly to death, Sam still takes down two werewolves and makes it to the urgent care center in enough time to save Dean and Michelle from Werewolf Jerkface. Jared Padalecki did such a wonderful job of conveying Sam’s determination to save the innocent people and his brother despite literally bleeding out. I could literally feel how painful it was for Sam to drag himself from one spot to another because Padalecki put just that much into his performance. Nicely done. I pretty much collapsed with him when he finally made it to the hospital to take out Werewolf Jerkface. Speaking of which, although Dean could’ve taken Werewolf Jerkface down himself, it was important for Sam to do it because Dean needed to see it.

Ever since Dean admitted that he doesn’t believe he can take down Amara, he’s felt kind of useless in the fight. He’s a man of action, and his inability to take any action on one of the biggest cases he and Sam have ever faced has really been eating at him. It’s not that he doesn’t believe Sam is capable of doing it. Of course he has faith in Sam. The problem is that no matter how old Sam gets or how much he’s survived in the past, Sam is always going to be Dean’s little brother. Dean’s instinct and desire is always going to be to step in front of Sam to protect him from whatever bad thing is coming his way. Speaking from experience, it’s very difficult as an older sibling to see your younger sibling as anything other than your younger sibling. Both my brothers have been much bigger than me for a long time, but in my eyes they are still (and will always be) my little brothers. The same is true for Dean, but on a much more intense level because of all that he and Sam have been through. That’s not an indictment against Dean. It just is what it is. It was important for Dean to witness Sam show his strength even when he was at his weakest physically because Dean needed to be reminded what Sam is capable of. Dean needed to be reminded that even though Sam is still his little brother, he’s also a smart, strong, capable hunter too.

As much as I enjoyed this episode, I must admit that I was expecting a little bit more from Dean’s conversation with Billie. Perhaps this was just a chance for Dean to hear for himself that Billie intends to make sure he and Sam end up in The Empty. It’s one thing for someone else to have shared that information with you, but it’s something else entirely for you have heard it for yourself direct from the source. Maybe that was the whole point of that meeting. To let Dean hear from Billie what her plans for the Winchester brothers are. Well, that and to let Dean know that she wasn’t joking about refusing to bring them back the next time they finally die. I don’t think anyone’s actually said ‘no’ to Dean before when he’s offered a deal. But beyond that, we didn’t learn anything new from that interaction. Thus, as much as I like Billie, her presence in this episode didn’t feel particularly necessary. But since she’s such an enjoyable character and Dean stomped all over my feels in that scene with his single man tear, I’ll just let it pass. Just as an aside, it is so wrong that Billie is itching to throw Sam and Dean into the empty. I get that she’s kinda ticked off about them killing Death. I also get that she doesn’t want them screwing up the natural order. But at the same time, Sam and Dean have sacrificed too much and endured too much for their only reward to be an eternity in the empty. Very little in their lives hasn’t been either influenced or flat out manipulated by Heaven and/or Hell. Despite knowing that, Sam and Dean continue trying to fight the good fight. They deserve better than nothingness after they die.

All in all, another solid episode. Andrew Dabb and Robert Berens should not be allowed to write episodes together anymore because I’m not entirely sure my feels can handle it. Dean broke my heart. Sam both broke my heart and made me proud. But I felt so bad for Michelle. Not only was she kidnapped and tortured by werewolves on her honeymoon, but she also saw her husband get turned into a monster and subsequently killed. She’s never going to be ok again. I don’t know what Deputy Jerkface’s deal was, but I wasn’t even a little bit upset when he got taken out. He was such a weiner. I’m a little concerned about the Boys taking a step backwards. One of the many things I’ve absolutely loved about this season is that Sam and Dean have actually been honest with each other. It’s put their relationship on much more solid ground than it’s been on in years, and I don’t want all that work to go to waste. I don’t know why Dean lied to Sam about what he did because in the grand scheme of things, nothing became of it. Dean was again willing to sacrifice himself for Sam, but Sam already knows that. So it didn’t make sense that Dean wasn’t honest when Sam asked him about it. Maybe he thought Sam would get upset with him. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I don’t want Sam and Dean to start lying to/hiding things from each other again. A friend pointed out that this is basically just a little white lie, and while that’s true, it’s the little white lies that spiral into bigger and bigger lies until we’re right back where we started. Let’s just hope this was a fluke. Next week it looks like we get back to the main storyline of Amara and also check back in with Casifer and Crowley. Looks like it’s gonna be a wild ride.