So, because life, I rarely get to watch our Show live or even on the night it airs and sometimes I stumble across a spoiler or two on Twitter as I'm predictably sucked into the Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr Bermuda Triangle while trying to be productive during the subsequent work day. That happened this time and I saw several comments regarding "Red Meat" pondering the point of this episode. And not in a meta, philosophical, let us discuss together way.
However, I think they made three very good points with this episode, and a couple of sidebars, if you want my opinion. And, well, you're reading my Ramble, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say you do.
Very Good Point #1: Billie wasn't messing around, ya'll. This time, dead means dead. They go into the Nothing (er, um, sorry...The Empty. Whatever, writers.) That thrills me to no end, you guys. Because finally death has dominion. That desperate fight for life is legitimate. No deals, no loopholes, no angels pulling them from perdition. Dead. End. Kaput. Finito. This is important because....
Very Good Point #2: Dean does not value his life. I don't think it's fair to say that he has a death wish -- I don't think he wishes to die. I just think that he's okay if he does--provided Sam is alive, safe, sound, intact, all of that. If Sam's okay and Dean dies, Dean's good with that because he does not see that his life in and of itself holds value. I'm sure there are quite a few clinical diagnosis that could apply to Dean; I'm not a doctor (I don't even play one on TV), so I'm not going to delve into labeling him as any particular thing.
But the fact of the matter is, Dean hasn't felt that he matters for a long, long time. Remember back when he sold his soul at the crossroads in exchange for Sam's life, and Bobby about throttled him when he found out? Dean told Bobby at that time, "At least this way, my life can mean something." If Sam and died back in Cold Oak, and Dean had lived, and no deal had been made, Dean would never have felt his life was worth a single thing and in all likelihood would have been dead within the year anyway through simply...not caring about what happened to him.
Over the last ten years we have seen countless examples of Dean's only feelings of self-worth coming through what he can do for others, to save others, to protect others, and ultimately to keep Sam safe and alive. He is willing to literally do anything to save Sam. He's died to bring him back--three times now (Hellhounds, bargaining with Death/working with Tara, and this little meet cute with Billie). But the only times he's ever truly been at peace with himself was when he was fighting his way through Purgatory or when he was a demon and the care was simply burned out of him. Dean--our Dean, the Dean we love--is both a savvy, capable, tough-as-nails hunter and fierce protector, and also a broken, tortured soul who has been told time and time again by everyone from his brother to an angel of the Lord that he has value and worth and matters and yet...he doesn't believe them.
And some part of me really gets that. You can believe that they believe it. You can trust that they think it's true. But until you buy into it yourself, it's all just words. Nice, comforting, appreciated words, but...just words. And Dean is surrounded by words that have thus far slipped off the Teflon of his heart. Not for lack of attempts, but for lack of acceptance.
The thing that might change this outlook--that might topple Dean from the take me for him mindset--is Billie's stalwart declaration that she is Reaping him when the time comes and taking him to the Empty and she means it. Dean might not be too eager to head to that fate and be willing to fight for himself, not just for others. Not just for Sam. Because, as we have seen....
Very Good Point #3: Sam Winchester is a tough S.o.B. I mean, he never was a wilting flower. Let's face it, these boys have been through the wringer and then some, but so often it's depicted that Sam is the "brains" and Dean the "brawn." Dean is the self-described "blunt instrument." Ready to shoot first, ask questions later, and kill every last son of a bitch who dares to lay a hand on his brother. But man, never let it be said that Sam isn't equally as fierce. Equally as tough. And equally as capable. I think that for the sake of the storyline, this is critical because of Dean's "greater good" argument to Billie--Sam is the only one (only human anyway) who can stop Amara.
Dean didn't go into it with Billie because, well, reasons, but he'd given the mantel of responsibility for Amara's take-down over to Sam not because he thought Sam was strong enough, but because Dean knew he wasn't. Except now...well, now I think we all know that Sam is strong enough. And not just strong enough of soul and will to sacrfice himself to save the world, strong enough physically to power through and save his brother. I think that was important for us to see. We can be told time and again, but seeing it--seeing him bleeding and gray and weak and gasping for breath but still managing to save his brother from being strangled by a werewolf--was the proof we needed to believe it was possible.
Couple of Sidebars:
This is the second hunt in a row that Sam has insisted they take that has ended up...well, not all that great for them. I get his point that they don't have any leads and Dean sitting around with no leads is a Very Bad Thing because Dean gets...down. No, not just "down"...he gets practically despondent. Hopeless. As if all the light in his world has been sucked out and put in a lead-lined box and the only thing left to do is drink until there is something to kill. His despair over not finding Cas or a way to save him has become palpable and so, yeah, I get that Sam is like, dude, this is our job...when you don't know what to do, you hunt...and there's always going to be something to hunt.
But. Both times ended up with them battered and bruised and with Dean near death, so...I say Sam's not allowed to make plans for a while.
Still, it was cute to see him trying so desperately to cheer his brother up, reminding him that they had wanted to take some time off and go camping. Sam needs to stay busy, too. Needs to be reminded that they can actually do some good in the world. That they have purpose beyond pouring over old books for some kind of random clue as to how to clean up this mess they got themselves into. I honestly think that's part of what drove him to keep going when he was so weak and wounded. He had been the one who insisted on this hunt and when he woke up, bleeding and alone, and knew his brother was out there with a soon-to-be werewolf, he knew that no matter what, he had to fix this.
Just as Dean felt that he had to fix the sudden imbalance to his world with Sam dead (or so he thought). I think what hit me hardest about Sam's apparent demise was that Dean hadn't been there, next to him. Every other time one of them has died (which in and of itself is a weird collection of words) they'd been together. They'd held onto each other through the pain and the fall and the emptiness afterwards. And to have Dean not be there and come in and find Sam just...gone. I felt that shock slip over Dean's face. I felt the denial and the resistance and the numb impossibility that the world was still moving forward--that there were still people to save, still a job to do--and Sam wasn't in it. Wasn't a part of it.
The way Dean's eyes filled with tears that hung suspended until he vowed to come back for Sam just...gah. My heart literally twisted. Prior to that when he was getting the bullet out of Sam and doing his "everything is totally okay, this is just a flesh wound, you're gonna be okay because I won't let anything else be true" routine, I felt his internal panic. His "I didn't want to go on this damn hunt in the first place and now look" frustration. And then later when he was gathering wood to make a litter for Sam he was really struggling to keep it together. He was scared and frustrated and desperate and lashing out at trees.
Funny thing...I get that, too. Lashing out at inanimate objects when the world is just not working. We are putting our house on the market soon and fixing things that need fixing...like the hole in the storage room door where I put my heel through it (accidentally) after a particularly trying time dealing with both my mother and my stubborn, precocious, two-year-old, once upon a time. Yeah. So, it happens.
Anyway, by the time he stared down at Sam's body, his heart breaking in front of us, I was already neck-deep in Dean angst. And while the cop tazing him seemed a bit extreme, I also didn't mind one bit the fact that the doc recognized he had broken ribs and a nasty concussion. That werewolf fight was vicious and these guys walk away from fights like that all the time with barely a limp. While it lasted, it was refreshing to see Dean curled over in the pain of broken ribs because...well, that's real.
The thing I had a really hard time watching, though, was Dean OD'ing on whatever those barbital pills were he swallowed. Even though I knew he wouldn't die die--I mean, they did just green light Season 12, and it is Supernatural--it was not easy to see him seize and foam at the mouth like that. It was a lot easier when he died back in Season...what was it? 8? When he fetched Death to get Sam's soul back? This was rather visceral and I could see it actually being a bit triggering for some people--especially with all of the Always Keep Fighting and You're Not Alone campaigning these guys do.
It's an important lesson in separating the show from real life.
Last sidebar before I get to my lists...Dean not telling Sam the truth about what he went through when he thought Sam was dead. I saw a lot of comments about that, too. Not great comments, either. And to be honest, 70% of me agrees with the sigh-eye-roll-here-we-go-again-secrets-a
It's raw and scary and way too soon for Dean to say, "Dude, when you died, I was completely lost. It was like I fell into some huge hole inside of me and there was no light and no air and no way out. I was moving on muscle memory alone. There was no fighting, no wining, no anything until I realized I could make a deal and get you back. So, I kinda swallowed a bunch of pills with a doc on standby and had a chat with a Reaper. It's all good, though, because they brought me back Pulp Fiction style and I'm okay."
So, he uses his usual defense mechanism of humor and let's Sam focus on healing up and is able to pretend for a bit that it didn't really happen. He didn't really just basically attempt suicide--regardless of the reason he did it--and they can go back to trying to find Cas and defeat Lucifer and The Darkness.
But the truth will come out sometime. Maybe when they next risk death, maybe when Billie the Reaper is mentioned again, maybe somehow the Universe knows. I'm not sure, but it will come up and Sam will learn the truth and Dean will have to face the music and they will deal with it. As they always do. With halting, desperate promises and intense stares and evasive explanations that all really just boil down to four simple words: I love you, man.
- Dean performing field surgery to get the bullet out with non-stop running reassurances while also tossing instructions to the rescued hikers. In those few minutes, he was literally everywhere and didn't lose his cool once. Not until Hiker Dude suggested they leave Sam behind.
- Dean hitting the tree with the broken branch. I get it, man.
- Dean's devastated face when he thinks Sam is dead. That man has the uncanny ability to convey an ocean of emotion in one blink. It's remarkable.
- "I'm going to come back for you. Okay? I promise."
- S: "This could be like camping! It could be fun!" D: "Which part? Freezing our nuts off in the middle of the woods on a thin lead?" S: "Yeah! That part!"
- Dean having a concussion and broken ribs. Because.
- Dean curling over himself from pain (in more ways than one) and suddenly getting a look on his face that spells Trouble with a capital "T".
- Billie telling Dean the ways she had always thought he would die, including, "...choking on a burger while binge-watching Charles in Charge..." D: "That was peak Baio." I totally agree.
- "Cute. You pretending you're trying to save Sam for the greater good when we both know you're doing it for you. You can't lose him."
- "The answer will always be 'no'. Game's over, Dean. No more second chances, no more extra lives. Time to say bye-bye to Luigi, Mario."
- "Please bring him back. Bring him back and take me instead." Guh. *rubs heart*
- The look on Dean's face when he gets that call from Sam.
- Sam showing up at the last minute to shoot the Hiker Dude (was it Corbin?) and save Dean from getting strangled.
- "It took you long enough."
- "They said I could leave an hour ago, but where am I even supposed to go? After everything I survived together, I watched the man I love die. There's no normal after that." Dean's face as he listens, her words hitting him like bullets to the heart, feeling every one as the truth.
- S: "What did you do when you thought I was dead?" D: "Thought about redecorating your room. Putting in a jacuzzi. Glitter ball. Really class up the joint."
- D: "I knew you weren't dead." S: "Right." D: "I knew." Say it a few more times, Dean, and you might convince yourself it's true.
- Werewolf lore inconsistencies. I noted this once before back when Garth became a werewolf living with a werewolf family and we had that hiker gal wolfing out as well...when we encountered Madison as a werewolf, she didn't remember anything she did as her wolf self. So, hiker dude knowing exactly what he was doing when he put his hand through the sheriff's chest then told his wife not to be afraid of him just had me tilting my head. Not a HUGE deal, but....
- Dean having a concussion, broken ribs, a shot of adrenalin to the heart, and a system recovering from an overdose...and he walks out of the clinic and drives away. NOT TO MENTION, Sam getting a "few quarts" of blood, some stitches and antibiotics and being basically good to go. Oh, Show. You and your magic healing abilities. This is why I love fanfiction. *smiles*
- "He was only 'mostly' dead." I love a great Princess Bride quote as much as the next gal, but dudes, Dean really thought Sam was dead and almost killed himself to get him back, so it's not like he went through his pockets to look for loose change. *shakes head at writers* Maybe the clinic gave Sam chocolate-coated antibiotics. I hear the chocolate coating makes it go down easier.
- Okay, seriously, raise your hand if you thought Sam was going to smash his fingers when he pulled the Impala's door shut by grabbing hold of the window. *raises hand*
- Yeah, that's basically it.