This Supernatural review contains spoilers.
Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 17
What happens when you’ve been skating by for years, escaping death again and again, and suddenly the rules have been reset? Billie the Reaper’s threat to the Winchesters gets very close to home in this episode when a gunshot wound sends Sam sprawling and Dean searching for answers from the beyond.
It all starts off with a great THEN montage, which I can’t avoid commenting on. The video editors of Supernatural have had a number of creatively cut intro montages that tell the story so far and gear the audience up for what’s coming. They’re also great at telling a visual joke through the selections and speed at which they edit the clips together. This time, they showed a sped up rendition of the many times Sam and Dean have died. Yes, Sam and Dean dying has become a punch line, and it has become important to rewrite that dynamic. Gone are the jokey episodes when Dean might die while eating a funny taco. This time, Death plays for keeps.
The sound design on this episode was, for the most part, sparse. There weren’t any overbearing music cues, or victorious returns to the Impala to listen to some upbeat classic rock. The music used was more subtle, and I was struck by the stillness in those early scenes after the fight with the werewolves. The tone was firmly set — this was to be a serious episode.
The near-fatal shooting of Sam was, unfortunately, given away in the previews and would have carried so much more weight if it had been a surprise. Oh well. It was still a remarkable beginning. Right away, we’re faced with Sam’s mortality. Sam struggled after being wounded, which made the escape from the rest of the werewolves more difficult for the others. When one of the escapees suffocates Sam so the rest of the group can survive, it looks like the end. Dean is forced to leave Sam behind to save the others, thinking his brother is dead.
That whole setup lead to a great parallel scene in which Dean overdoses on pills in the hospital so he can plead for his brothers life, and the scene back at the cabin in which the camera pans along Sam’s body on the floor. And then Sam gasps for breath, and a moment of horror is allowed to sink in. He was only “mostly dead,” like Westley in The Princess Bride. But whoops! Dean just killed himself, and Billie the Reaper has already decreed no take-backsies.
This was really a masterfully done episode. It wasn’t a season arc important episode, at least not in the normal sense. It had nothing to do with Amara, except for the worry that maybe Dean won’t be able to handle things if Sam is gone. Billie’s threat of mortality could have been forgotten about until the end of the season, but we got a nice continuation on that theme here.
Things are heating up for the Winchesters. Let‘s see how hot it gets after this brush with death.