Newsflash! The Winchesters Have FUN in Beyond The Mat
Nashcon delayed my episode review with its epicness, but here are a few thoughts on last week’s Supernatural episode before I get to posting a few con highlights. ‘Beyond The Mat’ was beautifully directed by Jerry Wanek, and was the first episode for writer John Bring (along with Andrew Dabb), and I really enjoyed it. Possibly not as much as Jared and Jensen enjoyed it, but still…
What’s to like? Well, we start out with the brothers in the bunker and an Ackles to Padalecki patented Sam n Dean toss and catch, which made me sit there grinning rather foolishly. I might have said “I love when they do that” to no one, but don’t judge.
The boys reminisce about their childhood and some rare good times with John, and I have a moment of uh oh retconning is about to happen, but it turns out I can pretty much go with it. There must have been a few times that John Winchester did something other than obsessively hunt monsters, so maybe those few times involved wresting. It seems right up his alley – a way to exorcise some of his personal demons and see the ‘good guys’ beat the ‘bad guys’ for once perhaps? I can see that appealing to John – and to his young sons as well. They grew up with violence a constant presence, and not the more or less controlled violence of a wrestling ring either. The kind that ends with people dead. So maybe working it out in a controlled environment, a time honored therapy for all sorts of issues, was just the ticket for all three Winchesters.
Yes, I can rationalize with the best of them when it comes to Show. But in this case, why not?
Besides, it gives me some awesome Winchester brotherly bonding moments. Sam is initially skeptical, wanting to stay on task. That is, until he really looks at his brother. Dean is practically pleading with him, covering his face in near-exhaustion.
Dean: I need – WE need – to get out of here. Let’s go stretch our legs.
Sam gets it. And they do.
Meanwhile, Casifer is in hell with lots of cheesy music and a chance to be both creepy and flirty simultaneously. Misha is clearly enjoying himself immensely and still doing a fabulous job of channeling Mark Pellegrino in the most appealing way. His scenes with Mark Sheppard weren’t as devastating as last week’s painful reveal, but Misha manages to convey so much cruelty in his demeaning of Crowley.
Casifer: What about you, little puppy?
This episode also gave fandom some amazing (and sexy) Misha gifs.
Casifer: Use your tongue.
Context? Who needs context?
We bounce back to the Winchesters, and usually I don’t like cut back and forths, but it worked more or less in this episode. A little jarring, and didn’t seem to be cut to parallel particularly, but not too bad. Anyway, the Winchesters are at the wake, which includes some of the episode’s guest stars who are actual wrestling stars, which is pretty damn cool. (And also Clif, making another guest appearance).
Sam: What happened to them? They’re all broken…
Now there’s a parallel if ever I heard one. The Winchesters are a lot like the wrestlers, constantly on the road, beat up by life but carrying on. Not a parallel I would have thought up, but it worked.
I also love this episode for giving us the return of Dean the fanboy, which I love beyond all reason. Jensen is just so GOOD at it (I suppose he has over a decade of experience being on the other end of all that fannishness, so damned if he doesn’t pull it off perfectly).
There’s something really awesome about seeing Jensen/Dean fanboy over someone the way we fangirl/fanboy over him. He does it with joy, like a celebration of fannishness instead of making fun. I swear, Dean looks just about as happy at meeting Gunner as everyone who comes out of the photo op room after their J2 photo op does at a con. I love seeing it on Dean’s face – he looks like a little boy again, in a rare moment of pure happiness.
Sam: Groupie much?
But Sam’s ribbing is fond, as Dean struggles to decide whether to go say hi. It played just like the first Comic Con chapter in Fangasm, when I tried to decide whether or not to speak to Mr. Ackles, flustered and nervous and stumbling over my words. If he’d shaken my hand at that first meeting, I feel certain I would have had a hard time letting it go too.
And wonder of wonders, we also get to see Sam fanboy! Jared is just as familiar with being on the other side of a crush, and he also plays it perfectly with Rio, just the right mix of embarrassment and elation at finally meeting her. Give me ALL the fanboy Sam and Dean!
The only minor quibble is Rio’s “You didn’t have a poster of me above your bed?” question with it’s implied “Ewww” because why the hell not? Pretty sure that’s exactly what the poster manufacturer intended, actually. But my bigger quibble is Dean’s teasing Sam about that being the truth. Not that there’s anything wrong with it – but that it doesn’t fit at all well with my Weechester canon. Really? They moved around constantly but Sam acquired a poster of Rio and kept putting it up above his bed? Where, in the motel du jour??
My timeline: That’s a serious crush to have a poster over your bed in hundreds of motels growing up, Sam. #Supernatural
That made no sense to me at all and I can’t quite rationalize it, so I think I’ll just put it down to Dean teasing. *shrugs*
Sam and Dean at the wrestling match was just a joy to behold. The brothers actually having some FUN together, some brotherly banter, talking about their shared past (even if Sam sees it with mixed feelings and Dean keeps trying to put his rose colored glasses back on).
The wrestlers parallel holds –
Dean: Town after town, putting your ass on the line for nothing, no money, no glory….
Sam: You realize you just described our lives.
(Yes, Show, we picked up on that parallel too, but thank you).
It’s okay, because I LOVE this scene. I love Sam and Dean being so joyous, shouting and laughing with abandon – and sharing it with each other. It’s a moment they’ll remember, even if things went to shit soon after as they always do for Winchesters. Dean’s face as he jumps up and hopes that he’ll get the glove –
Dean: He gives it to some kid before the match…
His face at that moment – it’s clear that he’s forgotten he’s no longer a kid, thrown back in time remembering how badly he must have wanted it, those few rare times that he got to BE a kid for a while.
Sam slaps him on the shoulder, gives him a soft “Maybe next time.” It’s ribbing, sure, but it’s full of empathy. Sam gets it, and he hurts a little then, I think, for both his brother and himself. There were so many thrills they never got as kids; that they never will now. It’s one of the things that bonds them together so tightly, because no one else will ever know the truth of that. Not like they do. They’re each other’s witnesses to so much no one else could ever understand.
By the way, Jared told me at Nashcon that the wrestler in the red outfit, Paul Lazenby, is a good friend – he often guests on Supernatural – and it was great having him in this episode. Gunner beats the crap out of him on the show, and then the not-so-great-John-Winchester-standin-dad dies and the boys split up and that means Dean gets to be that little boy he didn’t get to be enough, when nobody’s looking.
Jensen said at Nashcon that Dean’s antics in the ring weren’t scripted, which just makes me even more amazed at Ackles’ acting ability – and even more than that, just how much he GETS Dean Winchester. That roll into the ring (which he only actually did once, and then they cut together the multiple angles), the imitation of his hero, the way he went all out and so clearly got into it – it was all PERFECT. I loved seeing Dean let go and be a kid again, and I loved how Ackles seemed to love it just as much. His awkward flop over the ropes when Rio came in? Classic Ackles physical comedy. He’s so damn good at it!
When the episode aired, it was awesome to have the wrestlers tweeting along with the rest of us.
@mikethemiz: Im doing a Facebook live on my WWE fan page at 845pm. Getting everyone ready for @cw_spn tonight at 9pm. @wwe universe meet the SPN family!
And @alekspaun fits right in.
@Alekspaun: (teasing about Gunner beating up Dean): He likes it rough. #supernatural
He even remembered the hashtag!
Then we’re back to hell, and Crowley is escaping with a little help from a demon we’re not sure whether to trust. She’s convincing though, when she reminds him, “You’re Crowley.”
Damn right he is, and when we see him back in his familiar black suit, I couldn’t help but cheer. I wasn’t the only one either – his mum was on twitter.
@Ruthieconnell: Atta boy @marksheppard! #hesback #crowley
I’ve never rooted for a ‘villain’ like I root for Crowley. Of course, as Mark Sheppard reminds con-goers on a constant basis, Crowley is NOT a villain. He’s the hero of the story. According to Mark anyway.
Back to the Winchesters. Dean goes to a bar to investigate the wrestlers. It’s a seedy bar, with women dancing on pool tables and that dick of a wrestler Harley pouring tequila down the throat of a young woman bent backwards.
Dean Winchester: shakes his head disapprovingly
Me: I love you Dean Winchester
Dean and Gunner do shots and compare scars in what seems like some sort of male bonding ritual, and Gunner imparts some wisdom for Season 11.
Gunner: One thing I learned, you gotta keep grinding…
It’s an odd choice of words, and not one that fandom was universally enthusiastic about, but there it is. It is, I suppose, in keeping with the plethora of sexual innuendo that this episode had fun with. (Which is fine with me).
Dean decides the best way to be sure of who’s the demon is to give everyone holy water shots, which means Dean keeping up – and passing out. Sam finds him at closing time, which gives me some lovely concerned protective Sam moments.
Sam: Dean! Hey, Dean, hey.
It’s what Sam always says when he’s worried about his brother, and it makes me all warm inside.
Drunk!Dean is kinda adorable, even when he’s gassy and staggering.
We get the brothers working together, the EMF meter (yay!), and Sam and Dean finishing each other’s sentences.
Me: I love that!
We also get Harley the bad guy turning out to have some nuances instead of being one dimensional. Though I was confused as to why Harley knew so damn much about demons. Is he a student of demonology in his spare time?? Anyway, he says no, gets his Achilles tendon severed for his trouble, and damn, sometimes I forget just how dark and violent Supernatural can be. Ouch.
Snap back to Crowley and Simmons (great job by Bethany Brown!) in his secret lair, where there’s a painting of him.
Crowley: Ah, the good old days…
(At Nashcon, Mark said he changed that line, because Crowley is completely uncomfortable with his past and hates thinking of himself as Fergus. And yet, he kept that portrait…. which seems to be of Fergus before the age that Rowena traded him away for some livestock…hmmm…)
Crowley also has Chuck’s Supernatural books in his secret stash, which is interesting. And the Rod of Aaron, which makes for some more innuendo.
Simmons: Can I touch it?
Crowley: I don’t think you can handle my rod.
Casifer (no, let’s go with Lustiel here): I bet I can…. Is it just me, or is it getting a little phallic in here?
Once again, this episode wins the suggestive sexy Misha gif contest.
Misha also gets to deliver Lustiel’s cheesy lines, including “B T dubs” and various pop culture references, which he does perfectly. He also knows how to get to Crowley.
Lustiel: You’re nothing but Dean Winchester’s number one fan.
Half of fandom: Wait, I thought that was me!
Zap back to the Winchesters confronting the red-eyed demon, Gunner tossing Dean through a wall, and another protective Sam exclamation.
Zap, back to Crowley and Lustiel trying to out-double-cross each other.
Zap, back to Dean trying to talk Gunner into doing the right thing.
Dean: I know about hell, deals, all of it. Okay, you screwed up, I’ve been there. But it’s never too late to do the right thing.
We all know why Dean needs to believe that. And I think we believe it right along with him.
Zap, back to Crowley and Lustiel, and another hand of God one shot.
Casifer and Crowley duke it out – which Mark said was quite a romp for him and Misha. They really did smash into that wall, which was being held up by a bunch of people on the other side because they hit it hard. No wonder it looked realistic! Neither Crowley nor Casifer truly wins the one-upmanship contest, but Crowley escapes at least. And that makes me very excited to see where this part of the story goes from here!
We know that Sam and Dean are determined to get Cas back (whether he wants it or not, as Dean says). Where will Crowley stand in this? Mark said this weekend that we should expect multiple unholy alliances, so I guess we’ll see…
Meanwhile, the demon has Sam against the wall, and he’s definitely a dick but inexplicably (but kind of awesomely) he does use non-binary language, which made most of fandom go “What?!!! Yay!” Thanks John Bring and Andrew Dabb (that was apparently Dabb’s idea).
Also, the red-eyed demon has good taste. And eyesight.
Demon to Dean: Hey yourself, handsome.
But he’s still a demon, and besides, he’s threatening Sammy. Gunner kills him with Ruby’s knife, and Sam immediately runs to Dean with yet another “Dean! Hey hey, you okay?”
He is, but Gunner isn’t. That short scene where Gunner hears the hell hounds was one of those scenes that just gave me shivers. One of those terrifying little moments that Show does so well. Just hearing them – and the haunted look on Dean’s face when he realizes that’s what Gunner is hearing – ohgod. It took me all the way back to Season 3, when it was Dean hearing them, when they tore him apart and took him to hell. I can’t remember it without shuddering.
Hearing them pounding at the door, ready to break through – it literally turned my stomach.
Gunner tries to do the right thing in the end, another nuanced portrayal of a ‘bad guy’ which I appreciated. And Sam and Dean go home.
Sam: We’ll get Cas back, we’ve just gotta…
Dean: …Keep grinding.
Dean: And that’s how we’re gonna win. And anyone that gets in our way? Well God help ‘em.
Sam: Damn right.
Dean: Damn right.
Jensen said at Nashcon that the ending of that scene wasn’t scripted – that was Jensen and Jared, adding what they knew their characters would say. It’s often those little moments that the Winchesters seem so real to me, and perhaps it’s not an accident. Nobody knows Sam and Dean like Jared and Jensen. And it shows.
So now we wait. With the Winchesters united. With Crowley in the wind and Cas stuck inside Lucifer, and Dean and Sam determined to save him and to defeat The Darkness. Almost a whole month before the rest of the season rolls out, but if Jared and Jensen’s excitement about the next five episodes is anything to go by, we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
Stay tuned for lots more – from Nashcon, Houscon and some exclusive interviews too!
Caps by @kayb625 – many thanks!
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