Supernatural Recap: “Beyond the Mat”

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Banner by the Collected Mutineer

Episode 11×15 AKA “The One With Wrestlers”

Well, the hellatus is over and Darkness is unleashed on the Earth in the form of a woman. Sam has hair glorious enough to rival season 8; Dean has a weird not-quite-consensual relationship with the Big Bad; and Castiel’s not here right now. I’m guessing the Winchesters won’t be getting sunshine and puppies anytime soon…Warning there be spoilers ahead.

Synopsis

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This isn’t your average MotW episode, and that seems to be par for the course in season 11. While the structure is inherently like a midseason filler episode, its story has the Winchesters emanating a nostalgia for their childhood and reflects the changing era of Supernatural. 

The plot is simple: devoid of any plans to defeat the Darkness or any knowledge on how to save Castiel, the Winchesters attend the funeral of one of their childhood heroes: a wrestler. While they are at the wake, they discover that the suicide is a potential case for them, a fact that is later confirmed by the second death of a wrestler. Along the way we meet Gunnar, a pro wrestler and personal hero for Dean, who turns out to be an enforcer for a demon who’s looking to store away souls in light of Hell’s political upheaval.

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Speaking of hell, Lucifer has become top dog (or should I say devil) once more, sending out his lower level minions to find another Hand of God. Crowley, Lucifer’s “puppy”, is chained up, mocked, and humiliated in a bizarro turn of events rarely seen outside of fanfiction. One of Lucifer’s lackeys helps the former King of Hell escape and it is revealed that Crowley knows the location of the Rod of Aaron, which is a Hand of God. (For those of you unfamiliar with biblical lore–Aaron was the brother of Moses and a high priest.)

Crowley is double-crossed by the minion, to the surprise of no one, and Lucifer appears to claim the Rod of Aaron for himself. Also to the surprise of no one, Crowley has a trick up his sleeve, and he double-crosses the double-crossers (does that make it a triple or quadruple cross?). Unfortunately, he uses up another Hand of God and we’re still no closer to defeating the Darkness.

Cue the fandom’s long-suffering, overly-dramatic sigh.

The Big Picture

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The Hand of God

While I am unclear on what exactly the Hand of God will do for the Winchesters or Lucifer, it’s clear that the writers are again relying on the magical weapon to fulfill (or, perhaps, subvert, as in season 9) the arc of the monomyth, more commonly known as the hero’s journey. In seasons 8-10, and now 11, we have seen a “magical weapon” appear in the first few episodes after the midseason premiere. In season 8, we had the tablets, in season 9 the Mark, and in season 10, the Book of the Damned. These weapons are always used to help the Winchesters defeat the Big Bad and save the world–but do they really? The writers of Supernatural have spent the last few seasons subverting the trajectory of the hero’s journey, and by releasing the Darkness, the Winchesters are no longer the heroes and have now embarked on the quest for redemption.

So, this magical weapon–will it really save them and the world? I’d like to think that anything labelled as the “Hand of God” would only mean good things, but at this point in the season, I’m going to just shrug. If the rumors are right, Chuck (Rob Benedict) will be reappearing soon, and I think we will get our answers.

Putting It On the Line

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By allowing the Winchesters to meet the aging idols of their childhood, the wrestling ring becomes a metaphor for the hunting lifestyle. As Dean says it, they go out and put their lives on the line, again and again, for little to no reward (forgive my probably loose paraphrase). In the context of this episode, the aging wrestler who takes a supernatural deal to stave off the inevitable is a thinly-veiled allegorical character for Dean. Dean also made a deal with a demon to save Sam, and that ended in season three with the haunting growls of hellhounds. It’s a story that has been often repeated over the eleven seasons we’ve known the Winchesters–Sam or Dean get in a tight spot, Sam or Dean do something supernatural but slightly unwise to save themselves (and sometimes the world), and then they have to pay the piper.

However, “Beyond the Mat” suggests that time is coming to an end. Billie the Reaper has said that the Winchesters will get no more do-overs (and really, are we ever going to talk about Death’s death?) and the return of Chuck suggests that perhaps, this time, the boys will have to turn to a more celestial solution than a deal with the Devil.

Unless, of course, Casifer shows up and wants to play.

 Supernatural returns on March 23 with “Safe House”, written by Robbie Thompson. 

Until next time,

-The Collectress


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