Last Week: Dean hopped into his DeLorean to rescue a potential game-changing weapon from the clutches of undead Nazis, Sam’s soul needs a band-aid, and Casifer is getting desperate.
Brimson, Missouri. I knew this episode was going to be about wrestling, and here they are, giant sweaty white men, grunting and huffing and knocking each other down a lot. One of the giant sweaty white men loses, as was seemingly planned, and is upset with his opponent. Apparently he wasn’t too happy with the simulated hanging-by-noose bit he employed at the conclusion of their fight. I agree: weird. The fight is over, though, and the winner is packing up to leave when the lights go out, signaling that Some Shit Is About To Go Down. Sure enough, a noose appears out of nowhere and he is lifted into the air, choking and gasping for air.
Back at the bunker. Sam’s been staring at his laptop for too long because he’s popping aspirin the way I pop Fenugreek (breastfeeding is tough). Dean’s found out about Larry ‘The Hangman’ Lee’s death, who used to be Daddy Winchester’s favorite back in the day. He suggests that they go to the funeral, pay their respects. Sam, as usual, is unimpressed with Dean’s abiding reverence for all things John Winchester, and snarks as much. Dean is determined, however. They aren’t getting anywhere with The Darkness, and Casifer has gone ghost. Why not take a semi-depressing trip down memory lane?
Hell. Casifer’s recruited Simmons, the pretty black demon, to be his right-hand woman. And the hunt is on: the demons are following strict orders to do whatever necessary to get their hands on another one of God’s hands. Casifer is in his element, channeling early 90s Alec Baldwin as he smugly commands his minions: “Always be closing!” OK, Luci. Crowley, meanwhile, still hates his life, as he’s now been further degraded into scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush. In a move clearly orchestrated to make us sympathize with the former King of Hell, Casifer relieves him of the toothbrush and tells him to continue cleaning with his tongue.
Dean and Sam are in Brimson, crashing the funeral of a man their father idolized in their youth. You know, just a regular day trip. Dean gushes about all of the familiar faces, but Sam’s outlook is decidedly bleak: “They’re all broken.” Their friend just died, Sam, so. But we get it: everyone is old. Their glory is fading. Dean spots Gunnar Lawless and immediately starts to stan, rushing over to introduce himself and holding his hand a beat too long. Presh. Meanwhile, Sam is stalking his former crush, Rio, the wrestling announcer. “You didn’t have my poster above your bed, did you?” she asks, and Sam twitches and blinks his way to an obviously dishonest negation. He goes on to discover that the wrestlers have apparently been dropping like flies recently, and no one can quite figure out why. Due to the nature of Larry Lee’s death, the general opinion is that he committed suicide. Well, their benign trip down memory lane couldn’t last that long. Sam dons his Hunter Hat and is ready for research!
Dean is hyped that Sam’s agreed to stay for the memorial show that night, but is clearly not picking up what Sam’s putting down as far as this potential case. He’s swept up in the glorious spectacle, adrift in a sea of nostalgia, and loving it. His fanboying wilts a bit, however, when he hears how much his heroes are raking in: a measly 25 bucks a night. With no money and no glory, Dean wonders, what’s even the point? And Sam’s like, hi, sound like anybody you know?
A father and his young son enter the match and sit behind the boys, an almost heartwarming sight — if the father wasn’t double-fisting beers. “Now that brings me back,” Sam remarks. Dean isn’t impressed.
Showtime! Gunner is in the ring, and Dean’s tossing panties left and right. After a few minutes of feigning a beat down, Gunner comes back and wallops his opponent, winning the fight and sending Dean into paroxysms of delight. The match concluded, Bad Dad leaves to “drain the dragon”, or whatever crass euphemism for peeing Supernatural characters are using these days. Bathrooms are full so he steps outside to relieve himself, and is stabbed to death in the process. And like, this guy wasn’t exactly Father of the Year, but come on. I just hope his son doesn’t grow up to become a hunter.
Sam’s suspicions were correct: there is some supernatural afoot here. Dean’s protests sound hopelessly feeble when Sam points out that the cuts on dead dad’s corpse appear ritualistic. He zooms off to do some research while Dean elects to stay behind and talk to a few people. When he gets back inside, however, the arena is empty, and he takes advantage of the solitude to jump into the ring and try out some of his moves. This sequence comes to a hilarious end when Rio walks in on him and watches as he attempts the most awkward scramble out of the ring imaginable. I sometimes forget how awesome Jensen is with physical comedy.
Rio’s understandably spooked about the death that seems to follow their tour wherever they go. “Maybe we really are cursed,” she muses, while Dean silently yearns for BenGay. Seriously, dude is old and avoids vegetables like the plague. An Epsom salt bath, at least.
Back in Hell, there appears to have been a small mutiny. Mutiny of one, in fact. Simmons has tired of Casifer’s rule and is ready to have Crowley back, as she would tell it. She resolves to get him out, and delivers a convincing pep talk to a terrified Crowley. At this point, he is essentially the Reek to Lucifer’s Ramsay Snow, and it is a pitiful sight.
You know that magical moment that you wander into a drinking establishment during Comic-Con and your favorite celebrity, the one you flew thousands of miles to see and worship, is sitting at the bar, like fate and kismet intervened for this one shining moment of serendipitous opportunity? Yeah, that’s never happened to me either. But it’s Dean’s lucky day, because Gunner’s taking shots, and he doesn’t object when Dean sits right beside him. He assumes his false FBI identity (“Really buried the lede on that one,” Gunner notes) and then they’re off, comparing battle scars and swapping stories. Dean marvels that despite the myriad aches and pains and indignities of the profession, Gunner is “still out there, still doing it”. Gunner replies that slow and steady wins the race, the only way forward is through, yadda yadda. It’s a cute moment, one that both confirms Dean’s steady progression to octogenarian hunter but reminds him that there are other people who slog through tough jobs on a daily basis, people who are still decent and good at heart. Aw.
Ever the cockblock, Sam calls in the middle of their conversation to inform Dean that sure enough, at every stop on the wrestling tour, someone has died in a way that appeared to be an accident. And according to a local policeman who dealt with the last murder, it looked like “some kind of weird satanic crap.” Bingo. The symbol found on the corpses turns out to be ancient Sumerian, and has the power to “pluck the spark of life” (read: souls). So. Demons. Cool.
While Dean is chatting, Gunner and Harley are getting into it. Harley is the wrestler who lost at the beginning of this episode, and still seems to be mad about it, or he’s mad about something else – either way, he stays mad. He accuses Gunner of taking performance enhancing drugs, because he saw a shadowy man handing something to him before the last match (and he’s right, what was that?) It doesn’t seem to fit the picture of Gunner as painted thus far: wise, just, quietly perseverant. Harley throws a punch, but Gunner refuses to retaliate, telling him to chill out and sleep it off. Dean, having hung up and caught the tail end of the action, wonders why Gunner didn’t fight back. “Not worth it,” he responds simply. Dean buys him a shot and deftly slips some holy water into the glass, but no dice. Gunner doesn’t flinch. Oh well, Dean thinks, time to make sure everyone else in the room isn’t a demon, too.
Sam finds him passed out on a bench, after going shot-for-shot all night with a bar full of wrestlers. From the set of Sam’s jaw, Dean’s resembling the old man a bit too much for his liking. No one reacted to the holy water, though, and Harley is the only one still untested. They go to his place and find it empty and ransacked. Security camera footage reveals a stealthy abduction by…Gunner? Curiouser and curiouser.
In Hell, Crowley, with Simmons’ help, has busted out and finally taken a shower. I may not like him all that much, but he does look much better in the black suit.
So Gunner is behind all of this, but not in the way we think. Harley is bound and tied to a chair, and he pleads with Gunner to let him go, he made a mistake, please. It’s an oddly tender moment, in which it’s clear how young and foolhardy Harley really is. Gunner is solemn when he responds that it “isn’t his call”, and then the same shadowy man that supposedly dealt him drugs comes into view. And then his eyes flash crimson. Oh.
He makes the standard offer: give me your soul, I give you whatever you want. He boasts that Gunner is already a ‘satisfied customer’, although tbh, Gunner seems pretty downtrodden to me. Harley considers, but refuses, because if demons exist, then hell exists, then heaven exists. He doesn’t want to risk his chance of getting into heaven because of a rash decision like surrendering his soul to a demon. Well reasoned, Har. The demon snaps his Achilles tendon in response. Harley: 😮
Crowley takes Simmons to his super secret hiding spot. He’s been hiding a Hand of God in a chest, y’know, like a rainy day fund. It’s a Rod of Aaron, and as soon as Simmons sees it, she wants to touch it. Crowley’s response: “With all due respect, Simmons, I don’t think you can handle my rod.” And naturally, because of course Casifer was never actually fooled, he chimes in, “I bet I can!” And Simmons is just like:
“Is it just me, or is it getting a little phallic in here?” Casifer wonders, which would honestly be a perfect tagline for this show. He goes on to gloat about how he knew all along, how he and Simmons orchestrated the entire prison break routine. “You’re nothing but Dean Winchester’s Number One Fan,” he sneers. And somewhere deep inside, Castiel is like, um, exCUSE me???
Casifer opens the chest, but it’s empty: Crowley’s not exactly new to this, after all. He commences the Hand of God glo up, and it’s looking like light’s out for Luci. And Simmons is like, see, the way my loyalty is set up…
Upstairs, the demon has set his sights on Sam and Dean, who have since busted in to help Harley and Gunner. Gunner quickly confesses to Dean how he get entangled in this demonic mess: ten years ago, foolhardy and desperate for the belt, he soul his soul in exchange for glory and riches. Dean recalls that his title only lasted for a week. Gunner’s like, YEAH. So, poor schmuck sold his soul for one amazing week. Damn. Dean tries to encourage him anyway, saying it’s never too late to do the right now. Hopelessly naive? Maybe. But for a man at the very end of his rope, maybe some cliche advice is what he needs.
It works. Gunner stabs the demon, his final act before the hellhounds start braying. He urges Sam and Dean to leave and refuses to accept Dean’s admiration. “I’ve never been a good man,” he states simply. Does it count if the goodness only comes at the very end of your life? Is it too late? The boys exit and the invisible hounds rush in.
After blasting Simmons into the ether (RIP) and knocking Casifer over, the rod’s load seems to be shot (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the writers started it). Crowley and Casifer realize this at the same time, but before Casifer can begin exacting his revenge, Crowley teleports the hell away.
What started as a fun little trip down memory lane ends as another really horrible weekend for Dean. He watched one of his favorite childhood heroes not only die, but be snatched by the very same otherworldly monsters that tore his ass up back in season three. Rather than sink beneath despair, however, Dean seems to channel Gunner in his determination to press forward. We’re gonna save Cas, kill the Darkness, set the world at rights, DO ALL THE THINGS. I don’t know what to make of this spate of positivity: is it grim hope, or a false show of bravado? At this point, I don’t suppose it really matters. The only way out is through, after all.
Brief hiatus until March 23rd, but when we return: The Darkness is finally back on the scene, employing ghosts, terrorizing kids, and continuing to ruin Dean’s life, probably. Missed you, Mar-Mar.
Carla is a writer, teacher, and proud Slytherclaw. Her work has been published in The Toast, McSweeney’s, Potluck Mag, and Luna Luna Mag. Follow her @carlawaslike for more Supernatural rants and desperate dispatches from the middle school trenches.