A week after their failed mission to destroy Amara, and the revelation that Lucifer is currently wearing Castiel’s meat suit, the Winchesters decided they needed some time away from the lore books and the bunker. But instead of hitting a bar or going for a nice drive in the country with a picnic basket in the trunk, the brothers chose to spend their downtime attending a funeral when Dean read about the death of one of their childhood heroes – wrestler, Larry “Hangman” Lee – in the paper.
While Sam played it cool at the wake, chatting to the object of his teenage desire, a female promoter by the name of Rio, his brother was less composed when faced with one time champ, Gunner Lawless. It was Dr. Sexy all over again, as Dean’s man-crush left him grinning and tongue-tied.
Lee’s death appeared to be suicide, but the brutal murder of a punter at the memorial match after his service was weird enough to warrant an investigation from the FBI’s phoney finest. I especially liked Dean’s alias in this episode – Agent Roussimoff, the real surname of the late Andre the Giant.
Dean’s plan to test the entire wrestling squad for signs of the supernatural with tequila spiked with holy water resulted in a major hangover for him, but no new leads. However, when young buck, Shawn Harley (played by real life wrester, “The Miz“), was kidnapped, the Winchesters tracked him to a lock up where they discovered Lawless was being used as a hired goon by a crossroads demon (who weirdly looked a bit like a Tim Burton puppet of Ryan Gosling). Having bonded over the parallels of the wrestling life and the hunting life (traveling around and getting banged up for little reward), Dean persuaded Lawless to do the honorable thing and kill his demon, and then stood by as the hellhounds came to claim their prize. Lucks pups – quite a lot of meat on that one!
Meanwhile, in Hell, Crowley thought he’d found an out when a young demon aided his escape. But sadly for Fergus, Simmons was still working for Lucifer, and the hapless former king lead the devil straight to his secret weapon – a ‘Hand of God’ known as the Staff of Aaron. Like the fragment of the Ark of the Covenant, the staff only seemed to be good for one bolt, which Crowley unfortunately shot too early! I have to say Misha Collins is having a whale of a time being the ‘evilest evil that ever eviled’ and the innuendo levels are through the roof. Casifer pushing his finger between Crowley’s lips and telling him to ‘use his tongue’ actually made me blush!
I also winced at the scene in which the crossroad demon inflicted a particularly nasty injury on Harley, and I smiled along with Sam and Dean as they got super into the wrestling match. I love it when Supernatural can tug visceral reactions from me. It was nice to hear the boys talk about John, although the tendency in later seasons has been to paint him as a terrible father, hell-bent on revenge whose treatment of his boys was tantamount to abuse. You could argue that as the boys have matured, their perspective has changed, with Dean’s hero-worship diminishing as the scales fall from his eyes, and Sam’s resentment mellowing, although this episode showed that Sam still harbours some ill-will towards John and Dean is still just as eager to throw himself at potential substitute father figures as he was when he met Gordon Walker all those moons ago.
So not much development of the main arc this week, although we did learn that Hands of God seem to only be good for one use, which will be crucial in the showdown with Amara. This was a nice, stand-alone episode with some nostalgic moments, and an old-school feel.
Final Grade: C
+ Jensen Ackles proved once again that he is superb at physical comedy. The scene in which he got into the ring to practice some signature moves was priceless. He clearly had a cowboy persona all worked out, as well as borrowing heavily from some real world wrestling greats.
+ I could watch Casifer and Crowley do their warped little dance all day long.
+ It was great to see the brothers genuinely happy, if only for a little while, and the use of the hellhounds brought back all sorts of Season 3 memories for me. Perfectly bittersweet.
– A bit of retconning happening, I think. It’s a bit of a fanon trope to imagine young Dean would try and steal cable to watch adult movies, but to state he got his first B&E conviction for ‘borrowing’ a neighbour’s pay-per-view to watch a cage match is a bit of a stretch. We know he got sent to a boys’ home for stealing food aged sixteen, so it’s possible but the idea of wrestling being that important to the young Winchesters just feels a little shoe-horned.
– The comparisons between Sam and Dean and the wrestling troupe, and between the second victim and his son, and John and the younger Winchesters were not a masterclass in subtlety. But hey, this is Supernatural, and it’s a minor quibble.
– The show made some interesting points about hero worship and human fallibility. Dean’s disillusionment with Lawless mirrored his growing acceptance that his own father wasn’t perfect, and his gradual admission that Cas allowed Lucifer to make him a vessel. But while we saw flashes of the Dean Winchester of old – excitable and somewhat hedonistic – this episode underscored the fact that he has matured a lot. Instead of dismissing those who have disappointed him, he showed compassion and an understanding that you can always atone for past mistakes. And I’m hopeful he will apply this new logic to Sammy, and to himself.
So what did you think of “Beyond the Mat”? Did it make you ready to rumble, or ready to tap out? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!