The Top Notch Wrestling shows John used to take his boys to when they were kids are one of the few memories Dean has of his father being happy. When he comes across an obituary for Larry the Hangman Lee, John’s favorite wrestler, Dean convinces Sam they should go to the funeral and pay their respects. They’ve been cooped up in the bunker, searching for ways to defeat Amara and Lucifer for a week, and he believes a change of scenery will do them some good. Sam even suggests they stay for the memorial show. In “Beyond the Mat”, the boys get to meet idols from their childhood and have a little fun. Of course, it wouldn’t be Supernatural without a demon lurking somewhere…
Sam and Dean mingle with the Top Notch crowd: “I worshiped you, growing up”
At the wake, Dean meets his favorite childhood wrestler, Gunner Lawless. Sam meets his first crush, a former wrestling manager named Rio. He blushes and denies having her poster above his bed as a kid (for the record, he did) but still makes a good impression. Rio waves and smiles at Sam when she sees him sitting in the audience at the beginning of the memorial match. Dean and Gunner also hit it off. They have a friendly drink at the bar and Gunner even shares the one lesson he learned after a lifetime of fighting, getting knocked down and getting back up. “Keep on grinding no matter what’s thrown your way”.
Sam and Dean investigate the Top Notch curse: “It’s gotta be one of the wrestlers”
Gunner Lawless wins the fight but tragedy strikes again when a fan is found stabbed multiple times. Sam learns there’s been a death at every stop on the Top Notch Tour and all the victims were marked with the same Sumerian symbol. Dean tests the wrestlers for demonic possession by offering free shots cut with holy water to the entire crew.
Later on, the Winchesters go after the one wrestler left to be tested, Harley. They find him dead, with the killer next to him. Gunner Lawless sold his soul ten years ago for another shot at the title. His deal’s come due, and the crossroads demon has been using him to collect souls and kill, in exchange for holding off the hellhounds. Harley’s dead because he wouldn’t make a deal, and the Winchesters are next on the demon’s list. Dean convinces Gunner to “do the right thing”, and the wrestler uses his last minutes on earth to save the brothers’ lives by killing the demon himself.
Crowley and the Hand of God: “I perfected the double-cross.”
Crowley is sprung from his cell by the same minion who was calling him a coward in “The Vessel”. After getting rid of Lucifer’s sentries (and picking up a new suit, the King’s got to look sharp), he heads toward his lock up to pick up an old artifact he now realizes is a Hand a God, the rod of Aaron. It’s a trap and he was followed there by Lucifer. Seems like the demon race has disavowed its King. They “hate him”, ever since he became “Dean Winchester’s number one fan”. Crowley defends himself by using the rod on Lucifer. Most of the blow is wasted on the minion who shielded the Lucifer with her body, but the archangel is injured, and even after the Hand becomes powerless, Crowley manages to disappear before Lucifer can capture him.
Overall grade: 6.5/10
The King is back! Tell a friend!
Just last week I was lamenting Crowley’s fate. I knew he’d rise from the manure but I didn’t expect him to make a comeback so quickly.
Crowley was one of the most exciting part of this otherwise slow episode. His line about “perfecting” the double-cross, delivered with Sheppard’s trademark brio, was the spark the episode desperately needed to keep this viewer’s fire burning in-between the scenes that featured a gloomy Gunner, a doomed Harley and the one most charmless crossroads demon the show has given us. As some of you may know, crossroads demons are among my favorite characters on this show.
They’re usually charismatic and memorable. The ladies have this hypnotic quality about them and the last time a male crossroads demon went rogue, he stole the show. “Blessed be”, Guy the Faux Wiccan (“Time For a Wedding”).
I guess one dazzling demon per episode is enough and Crowley always delivers. I cheered when he slipped Lucifer and I hope he goes after the archangel with the fury of a thousand hellhounds, and stands on his neck before he and the boys toss him back in the Cage. “Use your tongue” …Why don’t you go (back) to Hell, Luci.
The brothers were of course, the best part of the episode for me. Their excitement during the wrestling show was heartwarming, and any moments of happiness they can squeeze out of the “crap sandwich” that’s become of their lives is a win for me. Sam was adorable, blushing over Rio like a teenage boy and I liked that she acknowledged him when she saw him again at the match.
My darling Dean, always in touch with his inner child had me beaming like a proud mama. He looks so cute in his new coat, approaching a childhood hero with his winning smile, almost bursting with child-like joy. And his waving at the wrestler like a kid, trying to get that glove. Thirty-seven going on thirteen.
He also gave us one of the funniest moments of the episode with his own performance on the ring and that epic landing, “Agent Roussimoff”. He might be a little rusty and the bones are definitely cracking but the 1995 teen wrestling champion (“Bad Boys”) still got it!
Speaking of Dean’s past as a wrestling champ, let’s talk about the John connection. I was so happy to see Dean blossoming away from his father in “Bad Boys” and his excelling at wrestling was a part of it. “Your car? That’s Dad’s. Your favorite leather jacket? Dad’s. Your music? Dad’s” (“Dream a Little Dream of Me”). I thought wrestling was Dean’s and I can’t lie, I have mixed feeling after finding that, once again, this began as a John thing. Still, Dean was so good at it he became a champ, kinda like he’s the hunting champ today. Yeah, this doesn’t make me feel better. Let Dean’s next hobby be something John never cared about. This is my prayer for the sweet boy who was raised as John’s shadow and then berated for growing into the good little soldier he was programmed to become.
One thing did I like was the scene where Dean uses his own experience of Hell to reach Gunner. Jensen did an great job and you could see Dean digging into his own wounds to get through to Gunner.
The invisible hounds bursting through locked doors is one of my favorite visual on this show and “Crossroad’s Blues” is the masterpiece that started it all. Demons have lost some of their allure since they can get knocked down with a punch depending on who’s writing the episode, and especially since everybody started carrying a Dollar Tree angel blade up their sleeve, but hellhounds never lost their appeal. Even after Juliette being lullabied into submission by Crowley in “King of the Damned”, the remain to me, the scariest beasts of Supernatural.
When it comes to Sam, there was something about the writing I didn’t quite understand in this episode. I believe he had a crush on Rio. Somehow him having a poster of her above his bed doesn’t seem to fit the character. This is the guy who doesn’t feel at home anywhere and doesn’t hang posters (“Slumber Party”). Or maybe he only turned into that guy after John moved them around one time too many. Either way, didn’t ring true for me.
I also thought Sam had an interesting reaction to seeing a bad father at the wrestling show. He even made a snide remark about John, provoking Dean’s annoyed response, “You wanna not try and ruin one of the nicest things Dad ever did for us, please?”
Sam has never hidden his disapproval of John’s parenting but with the years, he’s softened his stance and even when critical of his father, it is my opinion that he hasn’t exhibited the level of derision we saw in this episode since “The Song Remains the Same” (the episode where he faced John and told him he understood). I guess Sam has a lot in his mind.
Which brings me to the brothers’ emotional state of mind. At the beginning of this episode, they seem exhausted. Dean is ”burnt”, and looks like he’s close to crumbling. I still see in his eyes that vulnerability that’s been swallowing him since “Into the Mystic”.
As for Sam, he looks fried but he’s retreating his robomode where he can work, work, work without giving into emotions that can only cripple him. He has the focused and resigned look of the one who doesn’t get to fall apart because he’s “got” it. To shake of this blues, let’s talk about this hilarious moment.
Chuck help me. Look at him, he is all legs (not a flaw, by the way). Still that landing, not bad.
You gotta love him.
Best Dean moments
One of the things I love the most about Dean is how childlike he is sometimes. I just want to pick up, put him on my lap and bake him a pie, in no particular order. My son… To the boy who was forced too grow up to fast.
Then there are the moments where he reaches deep and you just can’t say no.
Or, those moments where he comes to you, tells you how awesome you are, and you definitely can’t say no. Seriously, how cute is fanboy Dean?
Best Sam moments
Look at this blushing rose. Lovely. I see the make up department matched his cheeks to the wallpaper for maximum effect.
The best moments are also in those quiet, concerned, I’m here and I’m watching you looks Sam gives Dean.
Or that fond look in his eyes when he catches his brother in a moment of glee.
Ah, yes. Domestic!Winchesters winsynching in the morning.
Just being bros.
And more importantly, always supportive of each other’s dreams. You’ll get your glove Dean. Someday…
Another childhood memory ruined for the Winchesters but how wonderful it was to see them having fun! I wasn’t really into the story and the monster-of-the week left me cold, but the brothers were a joy to watch. I’m also ecstatic that Crowley’s broken free from Lucifer. I hope he wards himself to the teeth with everything Rowena’s taught him and stays out of Lucifer’s grasp. I’m also looking forward to his counter-attack because we know he’s out for blood. The minion didn’t mean a word of it but it was still true : Lucifer should be afraid of Crowley.
In some parts, the tone of the episode was off for me. I know the Winchesters are “burnt” but the “keep grinding” end speech rang a bit hollow. Jensen sold it through the teary eyes of an emotionally burnt Dean but overall, the moment didn’t have the emotional resonance these kinds moments usually hold for me.
Can’t win em all, but “Beyond the Mat” will still go down as an episode chock full of lovely Winchester moments, and that means a whole lot.
I’m really looking forward to the next episodes. Where is the big, bad, scary threat Amara? When is she meeting Dean again? What is she doing about her plan? The plan to spread bliss, take revenge on God and make Dean hers? The boys say it’s bad out there. I wish I could agree. I understand that Emily is not on call for this particular episode but I would appreciate news of a disturbance somewhere, anywhere, and strange happenings that could get us talking and thinking about how “bad” it is supposed out there, through this new hiatus.
The preview for the next episode looks promising but for now, let’s discuss “Beyond the Mat”. Did you enjoy the episode? I’d also love to hear your thoughts about where are the boys are mentally and that whole “keep grinding” business.
XI : Winchester Brothers Report
11.01 “We Broke It, We Bought It”
11.02 “That Giant, Crazy Fart”
11.03 “And I have a fake badge”
11.04 “We’re home”
11.05 “That whole sensitive verbal massage”
11.06 “She overpowered me, end of story”
11.07 “What do you mean, killer bunny?”
11.08 “The family that showers together”
11.09 “If Sam’s not safe, it’s not happening”
11A Midseason Report Card “So, lock and key?”
11.10 “Sam can’t talk cause he’s waxing…”
11.11 “All that’s ever mattered is that we’re together”
11.12 “And when you mix it up with the potatoes and the beans”
11.13 “I can’t help it if I’m a hopeless romantic.”
11.14 “Non, je ne regrette rien.”