In “Beyond the Mat,” Sam and Dean Winchester stumble upon a case involving one of Dean’s childhood heroes. They come to pay respects to the wrestling circuit they so enjoyed as children, and though they find everything’s not as grand as they remember, they’re still able to take a moment from the grind that has become their lives to find some joy. The episode itself is a bit of grind for us, but we’re able to experience our own moments of delight watching the mental wrestling match between Lucifer and Crowley. Supernatural doesn’t advance the season story arc in “Beyond the Mat,” but provides an interlude in the journey that ultimately falls short of what we’ve come to expect in Season 11.
A Blast from the Past
When Dean reads that their dad’s favorite wrestler, Larry “The Hangman” Lee, has died, he wants to go the funeral. Ever the nerdy researcher, Sam doesn’t think they should go, but Dean needs a break. They both have good memories going to wrestling matches with their dad and it gives them a chance to fan out. Dean meets his childhood favorite, Gunnar Lawless, while Sam has a slightly awkward conversation with his first crush, Rio. After the service they attend a memorial match which turns out to be pretty fun for the brothers. Sam notes that watching wrestling is one of the few times he saw his dad happy, and the brothers seem to have a similar experience.
The fading wrestling circuit parallels the grind that the boys are stuck in right now. They still have no idea how to deal with the Darkness, and the awareness that Lucifer is inhabiting Castiel adds a new layer of gloom. Sam tells Dean that the wrestlers are only getting paid $25 for the show. Dean says it hardly seems worth it for them:
Dean: “Town after town, putting your ass on the line for next to nothing. No money. No glory. Wow.”
Sam: “You realize you just literally described our jobs.”
Sam and Dean end up investigating a string of deaths following the wrestling show. An ancient Sumerian symbol that has the power to take souls leads the boys to suspect the deaths are demon-related. There are few fun bits in their investigation, like Dean suffering from a terrible hangover after spending the evening offering the wrestlers shots spiked with holy water.
Once they track down the demon they seem completely unprepared, even though they suspected a demon was behind the deaths. It’s always funny how all the demons know who the Winchesters are, while Sam and Dean can’t be bothered to even learn their names. Crowley isn’t the only Winchester fanboy; the other demons just hide it better.
One of the things that makes this episode grim is the fallen heroes theme. It’s not just that Gunnar sold his soul, and for so little, but that he became a murdering henchman. If we wanted to see serial killer storylines we’d start watching Criminal Minds. Does Gunnar eventually redeem himself? Not really—certainly not enough. We did enjoy hearing the hellhound howls as they came for the damned man. The joyful fan moments of the Winchesters, like Dean practicing his moves in the empty ring, helped lessen the bleakness we felt watching “Beyond the Mat,” but it was really Crowley and Lucifer that provided some redemption for the episode.
Meet the New Boss
We still can’t get enough of watching Misha Collins as Lucifer. He’s fantastic in the role and just about as menacing as Mark Pellegrino. What Lucifer is doing to the ex-King is almost too horrible to watch (unless you’re a demon minion). Lucifer was bound to get bitten by his defiant pet at some point.
The first scene in Administrative Hell is a nod to the scene in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil at the Ministry of Information, the original Administrative Hell. Satan finally seems to be taking to his new role and looks for any opportunity to shame Crowley in front of his minions.
When Lucifer’s right-hand demon, Simmons, helps Crowley escape, telling him, “You’re Crowley and the Devil should be afraid of you,” we couldn’t help but be suspicious of her. After she showed so much disdain towards Crowley it didn’t seem likely she would help her old Master. The only thing that we weren’t sure about was if Crowley recognized it was a trap right away (he did perfect the double-cross, after all). It was still fun to watch Crowley and Simmons make their way to his Gringotts vault.
We learn that there are other Hand of God objects floating around. The one Crowley has is the Rod of Aaron, created by God on the 7th day and given to Aaron, brother of Moses. Lucifer confronts Crowley, but the ex-King already has the Rod. What Crowley doesn’t anticipate is the Rod only being good for a one-time smiting. Simmons sacrifices herself for Lucifer, so he continues to roam the earth as Castiel. Luckily, Crowley gets away and we hope Dean’s number one fan joins up with the Winchesters soon.
Back at the bunker, Sam and Dean talk about Gunnar. Dean gives a gritty inspirational talk. It’s not clear if Sam is his intended audience or if his speech is really just a form of self-talk.
Sam: “Dean, we’ll get him [Cas] back.”
Dean: “We will. We just got to … keep grinding. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how hard it gets, you got to keep grinding.”
Dean: “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 that gets in our way, well, God help them.”
Sam: “Damn right.”
Dean: “Damn right.”
“Beyond the Mat” provides some hope that someone will find a way to stop Amara. It seems like Lucifer has put his demons to work on finding weapons and information. We can’t help but wonder if Lucifer will end up choosing Auntie Amara over his distant dad if push comes to shove. Supernatural, the hardest working show on television today, goes on a short hiatus over the next three weeks. When they return, we’re expecting that things will start to heat up.
Final Note: When “Beyond the Mat” premiered, the CW ran an in memoriam dedicating the episode to production graphic artist Canece Hanna, who died earlier in the year. Hanna had been the CW since its inception. She started with The WB in 2000 and continued her television graphics work when The WB and UPN merged to become the CW in 2006. As well as her long-time graphics work with The CW network Hanna also showcased her creative talents through her company Whoa That’s Bright A tribute screen at the end of the episode noted that Canece Hanna was “an adventurous spirit and a generous soul. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.”