Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 15 – “Beyond the Mat”

Supernatural keeps on grinding in a solid stand-alone episode with a dash of Crowley/Castiel/Lucifer intrigue.

“Keep grinding. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how hard it gets. You got to keep grinding. And that’s how we’re gonna win. And we’re gonna win. We’re gonna save Cas, we’re gonna ice the devil, and we’re gonna shank the Darkness. And anyone who gets in our way? Well, God help them.”

— Dean Winchester, “Beyond The Mat”

Those are the words that pretty much summed up both tonight’s episode and season 11 of Supernatural thus far. (As we speak, they’re likely being printed onto Hot Topic shirts.) All kidding aside, the show continued its streak of successful, mostly stand-alone episodes with tonight’s above-average installment.

While looking through newspaper obituaries online — isn’t that Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) job? — Dean (Jensen Ackles) discovers the death of Larry “The Hangman” Lee (Travis Watters), a professional wrestler that was an important part of their childhood, and decides the two of them should go to his public funeral service. Just there to “pay their respects”, Dean excitedly meets some of the wrestlers he and his father followed, while Sam mildly flirts with Rio (Jackie Debatin), a manager whose poster used to adorn his childhood bedroom. Of course, after learning about the other unexplained deaths of various wrestlers and fans, the Winchesters investigate.

In one of this season’s most GIF-worthy moments, Dean playfully bounces around the wrestling ring, but anyone hoping to see him actually fight will be disappointed. His master plan for catching the killer was to spike all of the wrestlers’ drinks with holy water, but all he gets in return is a hangover. Sam joins him to look for Shawn Harley (WWE star Mike “The Miz” Mizanin), a young hotshot wrestler who was kicked out of the bar before he could take part in Dean’s test.

As it turns out, Shawn is being held captive by Duke (Aidan Kahn), a crossroads demon gone rogue. Since Hell has been in chaos with the Crowley/Lucifer/Amara situation, he took it upon himself to collect and store up souls for himself, with the help of former wrestling champ Gunner Lawless (iZombie‘s Aleks Paunovic). Thanks to his newfound bond with Dean (the two compared old battle scars together back at the bar), Gunner kills Duke and accepts his fate as hell-hound chow.

Meanwhile, back at Hell, Castiel/Lucifer (Misha Collins) has been running the place like Glengarry Glen Ross (he actually quotes Blake’s [Alec Baldwin] famous catchphrase: “always be closing”), with black-suited demons hard at soul-stealing work. Crowley (Mark Sheppard) had been reduced to licking the floor clean as a punishment, but was freed from his chains by Simmons (Bethany Brown), a demon underling. Believing her to be a part of his new demon revolt, Crowley takes her to his secret room of treasures, but not before getting a natty new suit for himself.

However, it was just a ruse by Lucifer to see where he had stashed the Rod of Aaron, another Hand of God object. Crowley attempts to use its power to kill Lucifer/Castiel, but Simmons takes the hit instead. (Technically, the previously unnamed Simmons qualifies as another one of the show’s many secondary female character deaths, as she had been featured in several episodes, but only had her first speaking role last week.)

So, another episode of Supernatural ended back at the Winchester bunker, as Dean delivered the aforementioned speech. Like Sam, the strength of the episode likely left most of the show’s loyal fans responding with a confident, “Damn right”.

It’s worth noting that the CW dedicated “Beyond the Mat” to graphic artist Canece Hanna, who passed away earlier this year. Before the end credits, a tribute screen listed that she was “an adventurous spirit and a generous soul. She will be missed by everyone who knew her”.

RATING 6 / 10