Advanced Thanatology

Advanced Thanatology(13.5) provides the viewer with more lore to chew upon while experiencing the depth of Dean’s despair and Sam’s desire to help his not so okay brother. Sam tries to pull Dean out of his emotional downward spin by giving him beer at breakfast, buying chili fries, offering to go to a strip club with Dean, and letting Dean play FBI agent with Sam’s favorite alias all to be nice considering Dean’s emptiness. Dean says his  solution is in”bullets, bacon, and booze, lots of booze.” These insights into the Winchesters’ psyches develop through a monster of the week story.

The  demented ghost doctor threw me back to a season 1 episode where the Winchesters go after a demented ghost doctor who tormented his patients at an asylum. Both episodes start with teenagers exploring an abandoned medical facility. While the earlier episode explores Sam’s feeling about Dean, this episode dissects Dean’s emotional status. The first year episode ends with a win for the brothers. This current episode shows Dean not thinking he does his best to save people as there are no winners except the imprisoned ghosts. This episode also revives the suicide mixture Dean uses to cross into the veil that was used in “Appointment in Sumara” and more recently “Red Meat”. This time however, Dean is at an emotional low and is willing to accept the finality of his death as long as the ghosts are allowed to move on with a new reaper.

And herein lies the new lore: when Death is killed, the first reaper to die afterwards, becomes the new Death, scythe and all. Enter Billie, who teaches Dean and the viewer this nugget of lore along with the catalogue of Dean’s many possible deaths, but not during this episode.  She needs to know how Winchesters cross over to other worlds as this information is clearly scratching at her brain. She describes the multi-universality, the fragility of its construct, and her fear that the Winchester will clumsily take it all apart. Dean bargains for the release of the spirits and not to strike a bargain for his own survival. Billie emphasizes how different Dean is now. She sends Dean back because despite Dean thinking he is not important, Billie lets him know the Winchesters are important and have work to do. The choice to show Sam’s desperate attempt to revive Dean and label the stunt as stupid once again drives home the brotherly love. The director’s choice to freeze frame Sam leaning over his dead brother while Billie and Dean talk, works well. Everything comes to a stop including the viewer’s  momentary belief that Dean will return. Alas, Dean does not feel this ghost hunt as a win since none of the teenagers survive the ghost. How is he saving people? How much can he take? Sam once again forces Dean to talk about how he feels because Sam knows they will not talk about it later.

Behold the car ride home. Dean grim and driving. Sam catching a few zzz’s. The cell phone rings. Baby drives up to what looks like the last phone booth in the U.S.A. and Cas stands there in his raincoat.

Steve Yockey writes an episode that shows he understands the relationship between Sam and Dean, Dean’s desperation, and Sam’s love. This episode is also a reminder of the toll being a hunter takes.

Items worth noting:

  • Dean passed out and snoring wrapped in a pink bra on the motel floor. Sam’s reaction to leave him alone and take Baby to continue the investigation.  Contrast of Sam and Dean so well drawn out by the writer.
  • Dean literally drowning himself with bacon at breakfast, recovering from a hangover-sunglasses and all,(Only douche-bags wear sun glasses indoors?). Dean looking around to see if anyone notices his once again sloppy eating habits. Is it too much or does fandom crave these “Deanisms.”
  • Billie and her reading room. All the W files and reference to Dean’s choices. Free will.
  • The caring of Sam for Dean. Sam saving Dean from himself.
  • Cas returns. Is this the win Dean needs to re-set his emotional playing field?
  • Jack left in the bunker so we can get full SAM AND DEAN in an open, honest, emotional plain no distractions by the alt-universe arc.
  • The director’s choice to show Baby as part of the hunt in many camera angles.
  • Ghost possession. Ah, Bobby, I remember it well.
  • Sam putting down a salt circle around Dean’s lifeless body-how many times does he have to see Dean die?( long live Supernatural).

Items that annoy me:

  • The name of the strip club. I know it is part of the show’s ambiance, but in light of all of the alleged abuse being reported, it just feels exploitive. Timing of a script.
  • Dean’s wonderment that Sam ever “got laid” based on his choice of childhood games and dislike of lap dances. True, Yockey does capture the differences between Sam and Dean with quips woven into the script. Given that Sam had little trouble in “Baby”- why include it- not hitting me right.
  • Sam has to tell Dean to burn the masks(the anchors for the ghost)- all of them. Dean is so far gone he does not know how to do his job?
  • Where were the bodies buried? Why Winchesters can’t find them. No answer.
  • How much does Billie know? Is she on a learning curve or just inherited knowledge.
  • Anyone seen a coin operated phone booth nearby? Only Cas can find one.

Okay, not everything can be answered in 42 minutes of a script. Overall, this is another great episode this season.

Questioning:  Besides the return of a rain coated Cas, is this enough of a win for Dean? Is it a new style raincoat? How is Cas? If there is a possibility of return, can there be hope for Mary? Dean will fully accept this as a win and ask questions later, but Sam being the “researcher” brother is going to want to know details and knows that good things for Winchesters usually bring on another shoe dropping for them. What is the cosmic importance of the brothers in the big picture? Only time may reveal the answers.  My hope is that these questions will get answers and that s 13 will not disappoint and devolve if the new demon in charge of Hell becomes more present. I appreciate how these monster of the week episodes are back drop for the brotherly relationship this format works.





9 thoughts on “Advanced Thanatology

  1. Just remembering how good Dean was in the first year episode talking to the young boy who drew pictures because he could not talk after witnessing the drownings in the lake. Dean’s inability to help Sean with his monster trauma demonstrates how he,(Dean) feels he did not push the victim hard enough for information on the event that made him mute. Of course, this “inability” is Dean’s point of view from a very low vantage point. In both episodes, it looks like Dean is willing to die to save the victim. Season one he and Sam are successful. Season 13.5 not a win for people, just ghosts. Dean’s perception of himself is at the lowest it has ever been. Perfect that Cas is back. Perhaps this opens possibilities for Mary. It gives Dean a belief he seems to have lost. Or does it?


  2. Sam has to tell Dean to burn the masks(the anchors for the ghost)- all of them. Dean is so far gone he does not know how to do his job?

    I think what Yocky was trying to point out to us was that Dean was bothered about the two boys as two of the masks I believe were linked to them, if he burns all masks boys are gone for good and can’t be saved? Dean desperately as we know wanted a win, and a save for once that meant something. I think Dean was hesitating and Sam was just reinforcing what Dean had to do.

    Lovely article and yes, I noticed the directors angels. I love how this show improves on that score each and every season! B xx


    1. I saw it as a need for Sam to take the leadership role since Dean is so low he can’t even do his job to his high standard-saving people, pressing Sean for details. Remember when Dean pulled information out of the mute boy who witnessed the drownings in the first season.? Dean is going through the motions but not really up to speed, so Sam had to coach him.


  3. Remember in Red Meat, 11.17, Dean took a desperate risk and killed himself to cross over the veil, so he can beg the Reaper not to take Sam only to discover Sam was dead.

    Once Sam discovered that Dean has committed suicide to save him, Sam is outraged at the horror of Dean’s death inducing gamble.

    Now, Dean carries with him, as part of his arsenal, a sucide-regenerate kit to use in emergencies and Sam helps him carry out the suicide willing to risk he can restore his brother.

    Has Death lost its horror and now, as Billie told Dean death has deserted him?

    What forbidden act can the brothers commit that will not become routine?

    Liked by 1 person

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