This review contains spoilers.
11.15 Beyond The Mat
Burnt out on lore-reading and Darkness-hunting, the Winchesters decide a little break is in order and the opportunity arises to pay their respects at the funeral of the Hangman, a wrestler they used to watch with John growing up. However, the Hangman died in deeply ironic and mysterious circumstances and when a father in the audience with his son is killed during a show, Dean and Sam realise there’s a case on. Elsewhere, Lustiel has turned Hell into a cheerier Glengarry Glen Ross with less shouting and more soul-dealing. His torment of Crowley continues, but the demon thinks he has a way to getting his groove back.
Every now and again, the show offers a glimpse back into what life was like for the Winchesters as kids when out hunting with their father. Most of the time it’s on the miserable end of the spectrum, highlighting John’s neglect as the ways and means that the brothers got so close. Here, we get something a little more positive; in their downtime, John used to take them to see touring wrestling shows and was an avid fan himself. Although Sam’s typically cynical about it, it’s clear there’s a lot of nostalgia bound up in this world for both of them.
I love that Dean’s a former wrestling groupie and any chance the boys get to live out the happier parts of their childhood tend to yield nice moments, like the two of them going over their favourites. It also means that we get a scene of Dean living out his fantasies as a wrestler in the ring. We all know Ackles is adept at a one-liner and a reaction face, but it’s always fun to see his physical comedy ability too. His not-so-graceful fall out of the ring is a laugh out loud moment. Sam’s always been the more serious one, for sure, but Padalecki gets a few comic moments to himself this week, particularly when trying not to let his first crush know he was one of the teenage boys with a poster of her above his bed.
The old saying, “never meet your heroes” comes into play here as the killings transpire to be the work of a demon, whose attempt to give his name is gloriously cut off by Sam. He also happens to be the demon to whom Gunner Lawless, Dean’s favourite wrestler, happened to sell his soul for one last shot at glory. It turns out to be a fairly run of the mill case in that respect, but I like that there was a mini-redemption at the end for Gunner, even if the episode could’ve made more of it.
While the boys are off gallivanting with men in spandex, it is left to the Lustiel/Crowley storyline to pick up the ongoing arc involving Hands of God, following on from last week’s episode. It turns out that Crowley knows where one is, the Rod of Aaron (so many phallus jokes) and Simmons frees him to pursuit it, claiming that she’s one of his supporters still. Did anyone really think that Simmons wasn’t still working for Lustiel? But of course, it’s another double cross! This is Crowley after all.
The thing is, though, a lot of this particular strand of the episode feels pretty superfluous. We already know that a Hand of God is a one-hit wonder and that Lustiel is a pretty bad dude. We know that Crowley is both a badass and a bit stupid at times. Nothing of note was really added here, nor was the plotline progressed further than having Crowley free from Hell. Whilst I appreciated the various movie references Misha Collins got to spit out, most of this could’ve been accomplished in one scene. It took away from the meat of the episode and especially Gunner’s moment of heroism. It’s over in a flash, but feels like it should’ve been given a little more heft, given this season’s focus on consequences.
An episode of two halves, Beyond The Mat manages to succeed more than it fails, but the feeling that the season has been stalling somewhat (Love Hurts was especially guilty of this) continues. Still, it’s probably worth it for the sight of Dean trying out his wrestling moves.
Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, The Vessel, here.