Supernatural S11E15 “Beyond The Mat” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm
Writers: John Bring & Andrew Dabb
Director: Jerry Wanek
Essential Plot Points:
- When Sam and Dean were younger, their Dad used to take them to wrestling shows. Dean comes across an obituary for what used to be his Dad’s favourite wrestler, and so the boys go to pay their respects.
- Meanwhile, Lucifer’s got his demonic horde on the search for another Hand of God, while he’s also got Crowley on a leash licking the floors clean. Talk about a demotion..!
- At the funeral, Sam and Dean are getting to meet their childhood crushes! Sam used to have a thing for Rio, manager and all-round caretaker for the wrestlers, whilst Dean’s finding it difficult to get a word out around his childhood hero Gunnar Lawless.
- There’s a memorial match, so of course the boys attend. Gunnar’s in, and wins hands-down – but there was some sort of backroom deal going on pre-match. Not an entirely fair win?
- Post-match, and there’s a brutal murder to take the tone down. Sam thinks it might be a case given the almost ritualistic nature of it. Back in “FBI” mode, Dean goes to find out more.
- He finds Gunnar at the local bar, and they chat about the scars they’ve received doing what they do, and keeping at it despite that. He finds out that the wrestling life isn’t always a safe one, and a call from Sam confirms it: there’s been a death at every stop the tour’s made.
- One wrestler in particular, Harley, has got a temper on him, and on top of that, he was witness to Gunnar’s shady deal. The Winchesters go to check out his motel room, but it’s already been ransacked by the time they get there.
- Turns out that not all Crowley’s demons have turned against him; some want to help him. One helps him escape and regain his former glory. They head to Crowley’s lock-up to try and find a new Hand of God: The Rod of Aaron. But – surprise! He was double-crossed, and Lucifer followed them.
- Before Lucifer can get hold of the Rod, Crowley claims its power for himself to try and use it on Lucifer – but his henchman throws herself in the way of the blast and sacrifices herself. Of course, Crowley doesn’t know that the weapons are one-hit-wonders.
- Security cam footage shows that Harley was knocked out and taken away – by Gunnar himself. And Gunnar has a crossroads demon on his shoulder.
- The crossroads demon, Duke, has Gunnar on his side and killing for him, and now he wants Harley in on it too. Harley declines – and gets his achilles sliced as a result. Ouch.
- Having figured out where Gunnar took Harley, the Winchesters show up, but don’t get very far before they’re attacked. Gunnar explains how he wanted glory, whilst Duke’s using his conquests to gather more souls for him as protection against The Darkness.
- For Gunnar, it’s time up: the hellhounds have come for him.
In a small respite from the main plotline that Dean really needs after that whole ordeal with the submarine last week, the boys are off to pay their respects to past heroes this time in what should be a quiet, no-monsters-involved trip. But of course, it wouldn’t be Supernatural without a demon or two thrown into the mix.
This episode hints at a bit more of the Winchester’s past, telling us that whilst John Winchester may never have taken his boys to a baseball game like he did with Adam, he took them to wrestling matches instead. (Fits in well with the “dragging his boys into a violent lifestyle” image that John’s built up for himself over the seasons, wouldn’t you say?) We discover that both the boys both had childhood heroes in the wrestling ring, and that they don’t know how to talk to them; a nice easter egg for those who have come face-to-face with Jared Padalecki or Jensen Ackles at conventions and had about as much success getting a sentence out as Dean does with Gunnar!
Writers Dabb and Bring made an interesting choice in how they introduce the Winchester’s childhood heroes of choice. Sam blatantly tells Rio, the wrestlers’ pseudo-mom, how she was his first crush as a kid, and is clearly awestruck by her presence, which is preceded by Dean fumbling his way through a conversation with wrestler Gunnar Lawless. Dean clearly looks up to Gunnar in a big way, which is emphasised when Gunnar walks into his match and gives away his glove – a signature move – and Dean fanboys like no other. Particularly when he’s on the receiving end of a patent Gunnar wink! A lot of analysis could be put into Dean’s interactions with Gunnar, but put simply – it’s hero worship with what’s likely a little bit of a man-crush thrown in there as well!
It makes it all the more devastating when we discover that it was Gunnar committing the vicious murders the whole time. Dean has never had many people to look up to before; his Dad, maybe, but it’s a thin line. More “fearful respect” than “hero worship” when you’re not looking through rose-tinted glasses. Bobby Singer was probably the best example of a true figure for Dean to look up to, but of course he’s gone too. That Gunnar, a childhood hero of Dean’s, turns out to have dabbled in the demonic just adds to the never-ending wave of angst that is Dean Winchester’s life.
Speaking of the demonic: it’s rare for a monster-of-the-week episode to contain actual overarching plot elements in it, but this time the A-plot is interspersed with Lucifer and Crowley’s adventures finding a new Hand of God. Crowley’s really got the short end of the stick; Lucifer’s forcing him to clean floors with his tongue, he’s all chained up, and his supposedly loyal demon horde are all against him. Turns out the King of Hell is nothing against Lucifer! For all that Crowley’s done over the years, it’s sad to see him reduced to something so weak – here’s hoping he can build himself back up now he’s escaped.
- Dean’s mega-enthusiastic fanboying over Gunnar Lawless and the wrestling lifestyle! It’s not often we see the excitable, boyish side of Dean anymore.
- It’s always nice to learn some more about the boys’ pasts!
- Lucifer’s, “Is it getting a little phallic in here?” is a great, unexpected line, and maybe sums the episode up a little too well?
- The sub-story with Lucifer and Crowley is a nice addition to an otherwise fairly generic monster-of-the-week episode.
- It’s sad to watch Dean and Sam simply walk away from Gunnar as the hellhounds bear down on him, particularly since Dean’s been there before. There may not be much they can do, but it still seems heartless.
And the Random:
- “Beyond The Mat” is the title of a 1999 pro-wrestling documentary.
- Lucifer’s “lick the floor” comment was an ad lib.
- Duke uses “zhimself”, a gender neutral pronoun.
- Dean’s FBI alias this week is Agent ‘Roussimoff’, wrestler and The Princess Bride star André the Giant’s surname.