Spoiler alert! The average Supernatural fan (or anyone who looks up their local TV listings) knew that this week’s episode dealt with a hard-to-believe premise: the death of Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki). Despite the fact that technically, he’s died at least three times on the show — stabbed by a demon-blooded “special child” at the end of season two, thrown into a pit of Hell at the end of season five, and falling into a non-reversible coma after being weakened by the “trials” of season eight) — it was still surprising to see him fall to his supposed final death by just a simple bullet shot by a werewolf.
Then again, things are hardly ever as they seem on Supernatural, and “Red Meat” turned into an episode where Sam was not only in the least amount of danger, but also got the rare chance to completely save the day.
Through a series of confusingly placed flashbacks, we learned that Sam and Dean (Jensen Ackles) were investigating a series of mysterious deaths in a US National Park. After being pointed to an abandoned cabin by a friendly bartender (Suki Kaiser) (How many of us thought she was going to be a bigger part of the story?), the brothers find an unfortunate couple (Blair Penner and Erin Way) chained up by two werewolves. In the ensuing struggle, one of the monsters shoots Sam in the stomach before Dean’s able to wrestle the gun away and kill both wolves with it.
In true hunter fashion, Dean’s barely concerned by his brother’s gushing wound, attending to the scraped-up couple before administering first aid and removing the bullet. Sam’s badly injured, though, and his worsening condition prevents Dean from helping the couple escape, as there are more (unseen) werewolves on the way. While Dean’s momentarily out of the cabin, one of the former hostages, Corbin, reasons that their only chance of survival lies in strangling Sam to death. (Some of you might see shades of The Revenant in this.) Dean reluctantly agreed to leave Sam’s body behind as they made their escape.
At the hospital, Dean found himself facing criminal charges from a suspicious cop (Toby Levins). Luckily, Michelle (the grief-stricken hostage) and a concerned doctor (Eileen Pedde) were on his side. Dean’s plan to bring his brother back from the dead involves “talking to a super-scary death machine”, so in the episode’s most eerily disturbing scene, he overdoses on pills found in a supply closet. This leads a long spirit-talk with Billie the reaper (Lisa Berry), who’s rather unhelpful. The main gist of the conversation is that she believes that the brothers are doomed and she simply must claim his soul.
Did you notice that she didn’t say anything about Sam being dead? That’s because he isn’t. Covered in blood and staggering all the way, Sam managed to kill the remaining werewolves, drive the Impala to the hospital, and save Michelle from Corbin, who’s turned into another werewolf. As for Dean, he’s brought back to life by Dr. Kessler, who allowed everybody involved to get out of there without explaining anything to the police.
For the first time in a long while, this episode was truly unpredictable. It could’ve gone in so many different directions (What if the cop was a werewolf? What if the doctor was a werewolf? Why didn’t Amara show up to save Dean? What if Dean conjured up a crossroads demon instead?), but still managed to easily, and excellently, resolve itself.
Early fan consensus on this episode is that it was one of the season’s best, even though it was basically another stand-alone, monster-of-the-week episode. With the season finale just five episodes away, I have to wonder how season 11’s main plotlines are going to play out. Next week’s episode does promise Amara (Emily Swallow) and Lucifer/Castiel (Misha Collins) sightings, so from that episode, I expect at least some season-altering drama.