10 Great Moments from Supernatural Season 11, Episode 17 – “Red Meat”
A sister fan who also happens to be a dear friend loved this episode as much as I did, and she said it best: “I don’t get why they aren’t phoning it in at this point. They could half-ass it. But we get that. Unreal.” I couldn’t agree more. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki clearly love the Winchesters as much as we hardcores do, and it showed in this magnificently portrayed episode where Dean, once again, will do anything to keep Sam from dying.
It’s not often that we see the boys in the opening scene, so I wasn’t expecting it. I also wasn’t expecting Sam to GET SHOT, for Chuck’s sake! I know, I know. The whole show hangs on the brothers, so when a Winchester is mortally wounded onscreen, it doesn’t mean much. Except somehow? It always does. Seeing Sam fall to the floor, blood flowing from his abdomen, his mouth stained with it, too? Well, he wasn’t the only one who felt hit in the gut, I’m not gonna lie. I know we’re getting a Season Twelve, and I know Sam Winchester is half of the reason for that. Still. I don’t like it when my boys get hurt and when they might die? I like it even less.
48 Hours Mystery
I’m not always a fan of flashback episodes of television in general, but in this case it worked. This was a heavy, heavy episode, and seeing the boys alive and well interspersed with all the trauma was, as Salt ‘n’ Pepa would put it, very necessary. Amidst his convictions that Cas will be saved, somehow, Sam tells Dean, “This is a case. Let’s do what we do. Let’s work it.” It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again—even when the world is coming down around them, even when it’s everyone that needs saving, the Winchesters will always find a way amongst the many to make the time to save the few.
Three people hurt. In trouble. Who is Dean going to run to first? Like you even had to ask. When a clearly panicked but determined to remain calm Dean dug the bullet from his flesh, Sam may have Dean’s only focus, but the vics were Sam’s. His prodding Dean to set them free (and bandaging his own severe wound while he did) was just another reminder of their priorities. Save the people. Save each other. (Side note: Dean’s need to warn Sam of the pain, his apologies as he hurt him trying to help him, and his cracking a joke when the bullet was removed? All of that let us know how truly scared he was. In that moment it was clear why nothing else existed in the room—in the world—other than Sam.)
King of Pain
Jared Padalecki was nothing short of amazing in this episode, portraying his pain with such conviction it made me tense in my chair, over and over. His shudders and groans, his staggering and stumbling, clutching his wound and involuntarily crying out, none of it felt overly dramatic. Hell, for what Sam was going through it was almost underplayed, and that served it perfectly. I can’t imagine how draining all of this was to act but Padalecki did it well. I don’t yearn to see this type of performance again (mostly because it means Sam is dying) but if I do? I’d want it played with exactly this finesse.
So Corbin felt for his wife, Dean feels for his brother: they are the priority above all. When it is clear that more werewolves are on their tail, Corbin’s need to save Michelle makes him challenge Dean at first to leave Sam behind, and when Dean won’t and goes out to make a travois to drag Sam to safety, Corbin takes matters—via Sam’s mouth and nose—into his own hands. He suffocates him, showing how he is strong enough to do so by the werewolf bite on his arm (bet he doesn’t know about Sam’s larynx of steel, though, huh?)
When Dean sees Sam dead, his stunned devastation quickly changes to stoicism. “Let them come,” he says, grim, until Corbin begs him to save them. Then the job overtakes Dean. Dad taught him well. Do the job. “I’m gonna come back for you, okay? I promise,” he swears to Sam, and we know he will. As he looks back, one perfect tear beginning to fall down his face, we know, somehow, he’s not gonna leave Sam behind in all the ways that matter.
Wherefore Art Thou Bromeo?
Dean knows the best way to resuscitate Sam is to die himself and make a deal with Sam’s reaper. The only sticky wicket? We know Sam’s not actually dead. In the hospital after being tased and confused, Dean decides to overdose on barbiturates while Michelle watches, telling her to summon the doctor to revive him, if she can. Two people who adore each other and know they can’t live without the other. Two people determined to stay together despite all that life does to pull them apart. One seemingly dead, the other poisoning himself to find them in the afterlife. Sound familiar? The stomach-churning thought that Dean would kill himself to be with Sam and Sam ultimately being alive without him was nothing less than Shakespearean, in plot and in tone. Fortunately, for us, we know this isn’t the final act.
Anyone else kind of in love with Billie the Reaper? I know, it’s forbidden. After all, her mission is to make sure that when the Winchesters die next, they stay good and dead, but she (and her portrayer Lisa Berry) is such a presence onscreen that I can’t help it. Billie and Dean’s banter is confident—cocky even—until Dean sees how serious Billie’s upper hand is. “The answer will always be no,” she says. “I’m asking you. I’m begging you, please. Bring him back. Bring him back and take me instead,” Dean says, and we’ve heard that before, too, but it still breaks your heart. Billie tells Dean “the Big W” isn’t dead and waits for Dean to be so she can take him with her. Thankfully that little podunk emergency center is worth a damn, and Dean is suddenly, gratefully, revived with a well-timed shot of adrenaline. Kind of like the stuff that’s pumping through my veins.
Sam F***ing Winchester
Meanwhile, Sam? KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES, pretty much one-handed! When the werewolves come to the cabin he is stashed away in, he falls down the basement steps to hide (as Dean, in stereo, falls to the ground in the hospital, overdosed) and, when the wolves follow him, he somehow manages to kill them (no need for me to ask how he got the silver knife—I’m going with stuck in his boot?). He staggers back to their truck to head back toward the Impala. He leans gratefully against Baby for a moment and it is sweet, and then he manages to call Dean and get his location before the call is broken and he cannot tell Dean that Corbin is probably turning as they speak. No matter. Sam knows where he is, and, bleeding out or not, he will get there and he will save his brother. How? He’s Sam F***ing Winchester, that’s how.
Corbin turns, as we knew he would, killing the doctor. Michelle finds her, and then Corbin appears, thrusting his hand through the chest of the police officer on duty in a gruesome, awesome shot. He promises Michelle that they can be together forever if she’ll just be turned. She begs him to stop but he still advances until Dean takes him down with a crash. “Run,” he tells her, and she does for a moment before turning back. She watches as Corbin chokes Dean with his newfound strength and makes to kill him, but he’s stone-cold shot in the back by Sam before he can. “Took you long enough,” Dean says as Sam sinks to the floor, finally able to rest, seeing his brother alive and well. Not dead. Again.
The New Normal
Michelle asks Dean about Sam. Dean says that when Corbin choked him out he sent his body into a sort of stasis, and that he was only mostly dead, which, as we learned in The Princess Bride, is also slightly alive. Sam will be okay. Michelle, devastated at the loss of her husband, manages to say, “That must be nice,” and I have to commend actress Erin Way on her utterly gorgeous, heartbreaking performance. Dean assures her she’ll be okay, too. That she’ll get back to normal. “No I won’t,” she says quietly. She watched the man she loved die. How can anything ever be normal again? Dean understands, more than she’ll ever know. Dean and Sam make to head back to the Bunker, Sam stitched up and antibiotic-laden. Sam asks Dean what he did, when he thought Sam was dead. “I knew you weren’t dead,” Dean lies, sparing his brother once more, and, as Baby pulls off into the street we know that the Winchesters, as we hope they always will, live to fight another day.
As we hurtle toward the season finale the question is: Can the Winchesters keep their mortality streak literally alive? Only six more episodes to find out. See you next week for Episode 18, “Hell’s Angel.”