Sliced, Diced, and Cut to Pieces – Fandom, That is. Supernatural ‘Red Meat’
I should have known we were in trouble when the THEN segment for this week’s episode included Dean’s emotional confession to Sam, “I couldn’t live with you dead” and then we started getting a montage of Winchester deaths. My head was still spinning with that when we launched right into the beginning segment, which I expect to be non-Winchesters. It’s supposed to be that few minutes of red shirted guest-of-the-week getting mauled or murdered or eaten or something, but it’s not Winchesters so I’m usually more or less calm. But NO. From the first frame, it’s Sam and Dean getting thrown around by monsters and fighting for their lives and OMG I have a very bad feeling about this! Why is it Winchesters in this first segment when people are usually getting killed???????????
My heart started beating triple time right about then. And it didn’t stop for 45 more minutes. No, not even during commercials, which time I used to take to Twitter and plead for someone to come bring me a warm blankie and a gigantic bottle of wine because I COULD NOT CALM DOWN!
The sense of foreboding in the first few minutes was dizzying, and the second there was that pause and the werewolf picked up the gun I KNEW. I think I was screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO before he ever pulled the trigger. Before we saw Sam crumple in agonizing slow motion and fall. Before we saw the devastated look on Dean’s face as he watched in helpless horror.
Dean sinks a knife into the werewolf but I’m too busy sobbing and screaming to even care, because SAMMY!
And then, in a cruel capricious twist, we snap back to 48 HOURS EARLIER.
What???!!! No no no, you can’t do that to me, Show, Sam just got shot for godsakes!!
I started cursing Robert Berens and Andrew Dabb at that moment, and that pretty much continued throughout the episode too. Sorry, guys. I’m in awe of your brilliance with this episode, but I really do hate you.
48 hours earlier, we get Winchesters sitting calmly in the Men of Letters study, researching and reassuring. Sam keeps telling Dean they’ll prevail, they’ll find Cas, they’ll get him back. In the meantime, they need to do their jobs. Dean is surly. Pessimistic.
Hyperventilating in the corner, I’m still wondering how gut-shot Sam is doing lying on the floor of some cabin.
Sam: Let’s do what we do.
Me: Not this time, Sam! Don’t do it, Dean!
SNAP and we’re back in the present, Sam bleeding out on the floor and Dean now frantically doing the reassuring as he digs the bullet out before he even so much as glances at the tied up couple that they came to save. Both Jared and Jensen were amazing in this scene – I could FEEL Sam’s agony, the pure physicality of his pain expressed vividly in Jared’s expression, the way he trembles and shakes and screams through the cloth in his mouth because he can’t not make noise, and it’s all so REAL. And Dean’s face, as he fights off panic and tries to ground himself in order to do what he has to do. You can feel his desperation, his terror, as he closes his eyes and concentrates on digging the bullet out of his brother’s belly. It’s visceral in its reality, and I literally started to feel sick with it. The blood, the pain, the terror, it was all too right there, too vividly portrayed.
I want to give Jared and Jensen and Bob and Andrew and director Nina Lopez-Corrado all the kudos, but I also want to turn off the television and just make it STOP!
Of course, it doesn’t, and the tension just amps up instead of easing when Dean goes to help the tied up people and SAM FUCKING WINCHESTER, shaking with shock and pain and blood loss, tapes up his own stomach and bandages himself up. I’m still sobbing, because it’s so clear that he IS NOT OKAY and that means I am not okay either.
But Sam is a big damn hero and he insists that he can go when the formerly tied up guy (who I already don’t like) says they can’t stay there and Dean refuses to leave Sam behind. Stupid formerly tied up guy, this is Dean Winchester we’re talking about. OF COURSE he won’t leave his brother! Pfft.
Sam leans on his big brother and they limp out into the woods and I’m still rocking myself and trying to calm down because the sense of foreboding is definitely not going away. Jared continues to be amazing – every step Sam takes looks painful, every wince makes me flinch, every grimace and every involuntary little sound that he can’t hold in. It all works, and once again the realism is too much for me. Pretty sure I was screaming “Dean! Your brother needs to lie down, what the hell! Ignore that dick of a rescued guy!!”
Of course Dean doesn’t, he’s a big damn hero too. Winchesters. God.
SNAP and we’re back in the past, boys in fed suits alive and in one piece and breathtakingly gorgeous. They drink and bicker and a bartender is suspiciously helpful while a noticeably huge and menacing guy looms by the door, so we know things are going to go south soon. I want to scream at them NO DON’T GO but of course they’re already effing THERE. Damn you, Show!
SNAP and we’re back to Sam stumbling through the forest, shaking and staggering and keeping going through sheer will, and still trying to make jokes about roadhouse chili to reassure his brother. They take refuge in another abandoned cabin, which has no phone service but has working lanterns, so now we can see Sam’s gory injuries by beautiful lamplight and crap, I’m totally feeling sick again.
“We’ve got to keep moving. Those of us who can,” says the rescued guy – Corbin – and tries to convince Dean to leave Sam once again. Oh, Dean’s face when Corbin tries that. I shivered, and this time it wasn’t with terror.
Dean insists that he’ll make a litter and they’ll carry Sam the rest of the way and all I can think of is all the fanart in this fandom with the caption “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” and for some reason that makes my already watery eyes start to overflow. Oh Sam. Oh Dean. I have such a bad feeling about this.
Meanwhile, snapped back to the past, sure enough the bartender and the big looming guy are the weres. I hate them too, btw.
Dean goes into the woods to make a litter, breaking tree limbs and throwing them down, and once again you can FEEL his desperation. He’s terrified, knows he’s working against time trying to save Sam – trying to do the most important thing in his entire life. The frantic way he’s trying to hurry, his clumsiness as a result, it all rings so true. I know what that feels like – we all know. It’s like the nightmare that you have when you’re trying to do the most important thing EVER and your feet won’t move fast enough, like they’re stuck in thick mud.
I don’t know whether this was scripted or not (I’m guessing not because that’s my new game to play) but what really made that scene so effing real was Dean being so desperate that he’s struck by a tree branch and he lashes out — at the tree!
Dean: Get off me!
Isn’t that exactly what would happen, even with an inanimate object? He has to close his eyes and try to calm himself down and I feel for him so much, my heart is breaking for him already.
In the distance, we see the lights of the werewolves’ truck and REALLY Show? How much more can you put the Winchesters through in this episode??
Oh but Show is not done with us, not by a long shot. Inside the cabin, Sam is still being a Big. Damn. Hero. He’s encouraging Corbin and Michelle to go get Dean, to get out of there, to leave him behind.
Corbin, who we already suspect is compromised, regards Sam with a stare that made my blood run cold.
“He won’t leave you. And we won’t last without him.”
I started screaming for real then, yelling NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO even before realization and horror dawned on Sam’s face and Corbin reached down to clamp a hand over Sam’s mouth and nose. Oh shit shit shit, Jared effing SOLD that scene! Everything about the way he fought and flailed – the desperation of it, the strength that desperation gave him even as wounded as he was – once again the realism did me in.
When Sam finally collapsed, I literally collapsed too, sobbing and shaking and still muttering No no no no.
Michele: Is he?
I sobbed through the commercial, and right into the next scene, anticipating the awful awful moment when Dean would return and find his brother…
It’s hard for me to even write it up now without getting emotional again. Dean’s first “Sam!” and then the look on his face as he sinks to his knees. His softly uttered, almost childlike “Sammy?” as he shakes him ineffectually. It’s what anyone would do if they found themselves in this position that is the worst possible thing imaginable.
It’s denial, for a second, then desperate hope as he Dean searches for a pulse, and then the terrible steely blankness of shock comes down like a curtain over Dean’s expressive face.
It was like watching AHBL2 all over again, when I cried for a week and couldn’t get the scene out of my mind because Jensen Ackles is just that effing good. All those emotions got pulled up again during this scene, making everything even MORE intense, even more heartbreaking.
Meanwhile, Corbin tries to encourage Dean to leave with them, that he’ll die if he stays here, and oh, we all know that Dean doesn’t give two fucks about that right now. Sam is dead and that’s all that matters.
Dean: Let ‘em come.
If the scene didn’t remind you of AHBL before, it sure as hell did now. It’s the same tone, the same look, the same deadness in Dean’s eyes as when he fixes Bobby with that stare and says “Then let it end.”
Because for Dean, it has ended. The world ended the second Sam stopped breathing.
Michelle: Help us, please.
Even in his agony, that gets through. Dean is still a Big. Damn. Hero. He will happily sacrifice himself, but he won’t sacrifice the lives of innocent people (okay, person, but…) And somehow that just overwhelmed me with love for this character who’s captivated me for over a decade. That he would pull himself out of the absolute devastation and grief and still do his best to save these people – the ones whose predicament ended up costing him his brother – it touched me so much.
Predictably, that made me cry harder.
And then Dean leans down to talk to Sam, so tender, so gentle.
Dean: I’m gonna come back for you, okay? I promise.
Me: That’s it, I’m done. Totally done.
I could barely see the screen through my own tears, but somehow I was clear enough to see Dean look back at his brother on the floor, tears spilling over, chin quivering. I had the odd thought of oh, he left the lamp on. He left the lamp on for his brother. His dead brother.
That was it. I was wrecked. I’m wrecked again now, just writing this up. Damn you, Show!
Onscreen, they snapped back to the past, Sam alive and well and teasing Dean about how they should take some time off and go camping. He’s smiling, cajoling, and he looks so good…
Me: Yes! Why don’t you enact that fanfic instead, you know, a nice pleasant Sam and Dean go camping AU where nobody dies! Not this tearjerker case fic that’s KILLING ME.
Meanwhile, Dean is doing his best to lead the couple to safety and Corbin is confessing to his wife that he killed Sam.
Corbin: I saved us. I can’t lose you. I did what I had to do.
Foreshadowing? Or just a reiteration of the theme of Supernatural for eleven seasons? Either way, it chilled me to the bone.
I had one small moment of almost smile as Dean ran out into the roadway to flag down the sheriff, because tight jeans and bowlegs mmm.
Mission accomplished, civilians safe, and all Dean wants is to keep his promise and get back to Sam.
Dean: I have to get back to my brother.
The sheriff, who I also don’t like at all, does not understand that these are Winchesters he’s dealing with and yes, Dean HAS TO GET BACK TO HIS BROTHER. It’s the theme of the show, for godsakes! Unfortunately Sheriff is not a fan and does not appreciate Dean’s frantic punch to the jaw and attempt to get the hell out of there. As if Dean isn’t having the worst day of his often tragic life, he gets tazered for his trouble. SERIOUSLY Show???!!!
I’m momentarily distracted from my sobbing by how gorgeous Dean looks waking up in the hospital (and looking way too big for that little bed lol). It’s the same thing I thought when Jensen tweeted this photo out during filming, along with a complaint to Jared.
@JensenAckles: @jarpad …Wish I was at a bar. Hell, wish I was in Austin. U don’t care.
We see Corbin being a dick and Michelle being empathic and grateful and the Sheriff continuing to be a dick too. Erin Way did a fabulous job as Michelle – every emotion came through loud and clear. Michelle goes to Dean and tries to comfort him, so I like her very much – though I question her choice of husband.
Once again, Ackles does an amazing job portraying Dean’s shock and grief. He looks almost like he’s been stunned, unable to process the full weight of what he’s lost. He looks up at Michelle like her every acknowledgement of that loss hurts him physically. He can barely look at her; he flinches, eyes watery. The damage done to Dean Winchester is horribly, strikingly obvious.
I’m assuming it’s the shock and concussion and tazering that don’t allow Dean to think about contacting a reaper until Michelle’s sympathy triggers it.
Dean: I need to talk to a scary crazy death machine.
He rifles the cabinet for pills and I feel sick again, knowing what he’s going to do. It was a tough scene to experience, especially for many in the fandom who have had their own struggles with depression, but I saw it as Dean not being willing to give up. He’s done this before, engineered his own death temporarily to have a conversation with the other side. He wanted to contact Billie and try to make a deal, not give up and join Sam. The fact that he assured Michelle that if he didn’t make it back, no hard feelings, was certainly Dean admitting that life has little meaning without Sam, but that wasn’t his goal – that was an “if this doesn’t work”.
Michelle: You don’t have to do this.
Dean: Yeah, I do.
Oh, Dean. My heart.
Meanwhile, Sam. We get a loving voyeuristic pan up Sam’s bloodied body and out of nowhere HOLYSHIT he’s alive!
He’s alive and Dean’s about to kill himself.
If anyone didn’t immediately think of Romeo and Juliet, what show are you watching? The situation is the same, and the horrible horrible tragedy of it is just as poignant.
Sam is so clearly in agony – once again, Jared portrays his pain and determination vividly. I HURT watching him. He moves like every movement costs him, sweating and shaking as he lurches around the cabin.
It’s pure determination that’s keeping him going, and I’m in awe watching. The bad guys arrive and he drags himself downstairs.
In the hospital, Dean falls down.
In the cabin, Sam falls down.
The symmetry was beautifully filmed and edited, and the symbolism of it only added to the tragedy: the brothers, still together. Always together.
And oh god, the blood. Sam bleeding, holding himself together, gasping.
And oh god, Dean foaming at the mouth, choking, convulsing.
It’s not pretty, none of it. It’s raw and visceral and horrible.
And Corbin is changing into a werewolf in the bathroom for godsakes. What else can go wrong??
Sam is hiding from the weres, as they sniff out his blood, and I’m wondering how much more suspense I can take. Instead of crying, I’m now clutching myself and muttering OMG OMG OMG OMG over and over, which is probably even more alarming looking than the former sobbing. My nails are probably bitten down to nothing and I haven’t even been able to get it together enough to touch that glass of wine I thought I’d enjoy with my Show. Hah!
But this is Supernatural, goddammit. On my screen, SAM FUCKING WINCHESTER, bleeding out and half dead, lures both werewolves in and kills them both. This is a whole new definition of badass, people!
Predictably, we’re not allowed much sense of relief. Dean is still on the floor and it’s not looking good. Billie makes her entrance – which Lisa Berry always manages to make so full of menace that it’s terrifying and awesome all at once – and the way she’s looking at Dean lets us know right away that she’s not here to bargain with him.
Billie: Of all the ways I thought you’d go…
Dean tries to bargain. He pleads. His eyes fill with tears as he grows increasingly desperate, faced with what he thinks is his last chance to get Sam back.
He offers himself for Sam, the most time honored Winchester way, and say what you will, but it just makes me love these characters more. Makes me start sobbing again as Dean pleads with her.
Billie: You can’t lose him. The answer will always be no. Game’s over, Dean. No more second chances.
Dean: I’m begging you, please. Bring him back. Take me instead.
Billie makes one big mistake though. She tells Dean that Sam is not dead. And that changes EVERYTHING.
Billie: The empty, it’s waiting…
Dean turns back to his body convulsing on the floor and you can see the second he turns all that Winchester determination into getting back to it. His brother is alive; his brother needs him. There is NOTHING, not a reaper, not Death, not God/Chuck himself, who could keep Dean Winchester from getting back to his brother.
Bang, Dean wakes up – but he gets no reprieve and neither do we. The dick of a Sheriff cuffs him and wants to sedate him (but the awesome doc refuses). One look from Dean and Michelle knows what she has to do – she knows how desperate he is to get to his brother. Off go the cuffs. And now it’s Dean trying to get to Sam, and Sam trying to get to Dean. He knows Corbin is a werewolf and Dean is in danger. And that’s what drives Sam, terribly wounded and in so much pain, to keep going. He stumbles, wheezing through gritted teeth, but he doesn’t stop. Once again, Jared conveyed all this brilliantly.
I let out a whoop of accomplishment when Sam finally got to the Impala – you can FEEL his relief at just making it back “home”. He throws himself against the car, leaning into her and letting her hold him up for a moment and just relishing that sense of security she gives him.
He manages just enough service to call Dean – exactly as Dean is trying to call him – and Dean’s look of absolute overwhelming relief when he hears Sam’s voice made my eyes start to water again.
That broke me, that quiet exclamation, full of so much emotion. These boys are going to kill me, I swear.
The call cuts out and the need to warn Dean spurs Sam on. Jared showed us exactly how painful it was for Sam to climb into the car, because holy crap, with those injuries folding his long legs into that car must have been AGONY. He can barely reach up to close the door, but he does it. All those little details once again made it so real, made me feel for Sam and made me just feel overwhelmed with love for that character. Nothing will stop these boys from saving each other. Nothing.
Meanwhile, werewolf Corbin attacks the nice lady doc, who I want to believe isn’t actually dead, and kills the crappy Sheriff. Dean reappears just in time to save Michelle from being turned, but Corbin attacks Dean instead, choking him and clearly about to take him out and at this point I’m so exhausted I’m just pleading with Show, NO MORE STRESS!
Sam appears and saves the day, shooting Corbin and saving Dean, and OMG seriously. SAM FUCKING WINCHESTER.
My timeline: _Sassy_Cassy_ : Sam Winchester: Gets shot. Murdered. Comes back. Kills 3 werewolves. Drives self to hospital. Saves Dean.
Dean: It took you long enough!
Sam: collapses to the floor.
Me: What, no hug????
But honestly, that’s not what Dean would do. His emotions frazzled, raw, exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster of the last 48 hours, what Dean would do is deflect. Make a joke, so that everyone knows that it’s okay, that Sam is really back. He reverts to the way they are, to the way he relates to his brother, at least on the outside. It’s code for I love you and I’m so effing glad you’re alive, because Winchesters don’t say that out loud. Sam hears it for what it is.
I thought that would be the end of the emotional wringing this episode had provided, but I was wrong. Dean and Michelle’s heart to heart in the hospital hallway was so well done that it pulled up emotions I thought I had totally exhausted. Once again, Erin was amazing; her Michelle was so devastated, so broken. So lost. And we know that’s exactly how Dean would be without Sam.
Dean: You’ll be okay. Eventually you’ll get back to normal.
Michelle: No I won’t. After everything we survived together, I watched the man I love die. There’s no normal after that.
We know it’s true; Dean knows it too. It’s as true for him as it is for her. The look on his face breaks my heart all over again.
Michelle: Where am I even supposed to go?
That line of dialogue spoke volumes, and rang so true. That’s what loss feels like, how it changes everything, how it makes you feel like you no longer fit in your own life or your own world. Kudos Berens and Dabb. I hate you.
The episode ends as it should, with the brothers driving off in Baby. We don’t get a hug, but we get Dean with a protective hand on Sam’s back as they walk down the steps.
Sam: What did you do? When you thought I was dead?
Dean deflects, makes a joke, but Sam persists. He doesn’t tell Sam though, despite the new honesty thing they’ve had going on between them this season.
Dean: I knew you weren’t dead. I knew.
He clearly doesn’t believe Dean, but he doesn’t push. Maybe some things are better left unsaid.
As for me, it took me three hours to calm down enough to go to bed. My social media feeds all reflected the same way I was feeling.
“I haven’t been this fucked up over Supernatural in a long time.”
Exactly. I remember the early seasons of SPN, where we would all simultaneously curse Kripke out for destroying us and worship his brilliance. This episode felt like that – it wasn’t pleasant to watch, it was actually physically and emotionally devastating. But that was part of its brilliance, to tap into the depth of feeling we have for these characters, to grab us by the throat and make us unable to look away or pretend that we don’t CARE about these characters. We do care. After all this time, it’s incredible that we care so effing much.
If I had any doubt of that, it was erased by this episode. (I probably didn’t have any, but still…) If I had any doubts about the brilliance of this cast, crew, writers and directors (I didn’t, but still…) that was also erased. Jared and Jensen killed it. Knocked it out of the park. No wonder they’ve been so excited about us seeing this episode.
In fact, they were so excited that they had a watch party in Jensen’s trailer – Jared, Jensen, Misha and Rob all watching together and being ridiculously adorable.
I watched along with the west coast feed again (since my live watch was with the east coast) and just enjoyed all their tweets and banter. As the episode neared its end, both Jared and Jensen started livestreaming on facebook. Literally from right next to each other. No wonder Sam and Dean’s relationship comes across as so authentic!
Jared: Come over here, Ackles!
They stood in front of the screen and spoke their lines along with their characters.
Jared: This is like meta meta.
Oh boys. Don’t ever change.
Jarpad: That was my chance to do a Revenant scene🙂. I LOVE #Supernatural!!
One of Misha’s tweets echoed a lot of what fandom was feeling:
Misha: this is a bad situation all around. I am too fragile for this. When’s the beach vacation ep.
Exactly! That AU vacation fic I was talking about earlier!
Even Ackles wasn’t immune.
JensenAckles: I was there filming this and I’m having anxiety watching this! #HipsterWerewolf
He also overwhelmed fandom even more by being protective of his character.
JensenAckles: @_LisaBerry, stop making my Dean tear up. Oh this is killin me.
Fandom: MY Dean? Oh kill me now.
Meanwhile, a lot of the SPN guest cast also had a watch party and tweeted along – Ruth Connell, Alaina Huffman, and this episode’s Lisa Berry, Erin Way and director Nina Lopez-Corrado!
At one point, Alaina’s live tweets tried to go out with Rob’s live tweets. You can’t make this stuff up, seriously.
The live tweeting was an absolute love fest – writer Robert Berens joined in, as did Briana Buckmaster and other alums. The director gave mad props to all the actors, the actors and the writers gave mad props to the director – and to the guest actors – and everyone basically just overwhelmed poor hapless fandom all over again, this time with the SPNFamily feeling.
Nina Lopez-Corrado: thanks to the amazing cast & crew for making me feel like family.
That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? This episode, this fandom, this whole crazy eleven-going-on-twelve season phenomenon. I bitch and complain and bite my nails and invest in bulk boxes of tissues, but you know what? I’m damn grateful.
Stay tuned for more – we’ll be at DCCon tomorrow and would be thrilled to sign copies of Fangasm or Fan Phenomena Supernatural if you bring some! Come say hi to us in B 29 and 30! And stay tuned for our exclusive interviews, including one with tonite’s kickass guest star, Lisa Berry!
Thanks to @kayb625 for caps!