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Roundtable Discussion on Supernatural 11×17 “Red Meat”

Here we are with another Supernatural Roundtable. This week we’re discussing “Red Meat” which was written by Andrew Dabb and Bob Berens. Participating this week are Debbi Bachman, Michele Villery and Jackie Bojarski. Here’s the topics this week:

Sam :

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Jackie: I think I can speak for everyone when I say that Sam was a badass in this episode. He was shot in the stomach and suffocated by a scared *cough* douchebag *cough* and yet he still manages to take out two werewolves, drive a car and show up right in the nick of time to save Dean from the douche-wolf (see, I can make up monster names, just like Dean Winchester!). If that’s not badass, I don’t know what is.

In all seriousness, Jared Padalecki deserves all the applause for his performance in this episode. Everything from his “death” scene to him struggling to get back to Dean were expertly conveyed by him, demonstrating Padalecki’s strong acting talent. Hopefully, the writers give him more challenges like this in the future.

Debbi: Sam!  Oh my word, Sam!  This is an absolute showcase of Jared Padalecki’s acting prowess.  I felt every bit of pain he was feeling as he stumbled through the house, killing two werewolves (while gut-shot) and then making his way to the Impala to warn his brother of Corbin’s treachery.  Then of course, he arrives in time to save Dean’s life.  This is who Sam has always been deep down.  Strong, brave, loyal beyond measure and now devoted to the hunter life.  Sam lives their motto “Saving People, Killing Things” and lives it well.

Sam has matured so much from the pilot; he’s embraced his destiny even as he’s repeatedly sacrificed himself for the greater good.  He’s always embraced his intelligence, but perhaps that his mind could be used in other ways. Now he uses both his intellectual and physical strength to power through emotional and physical pain as he comes into his own as a hunter.  He’s more than just Dean’s little brother, but he is certainly better for being so.

Michele: OMG!!! Sam is such a badass in this episode. Sam’s entire arc this season has been fantastic.   Sam while shot, killed three werewolves! He also drives two vehicles to get to his brother so that he can tell him about Corbin. He’s the epitome of the show’s motto. Jared Padalecki just killed this episode. You can feel his pain through all the grunts and fighting. He was amazing. His talent is just so underrated. We need more of this stuff.

Dean:

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Jackie: The driving force behind “Red Meat” was Jensen Ackles’s emotional performance–and what a performance it was! In many ways, this episode served as a glimpse into a possible future for Sam and Dean. It’s more than likely that when Sam and Dean finally do kick the bucket, they will do so like this: on a run-of-the-mill case, in a ramshackle cabin, with no one but the other to mourn them. And it’s also likely that the brothers have reached a point where death is permanent. Getting “extra lives” isn’t as easy to come by anymore, as Dean learns by the end of the episode.

But let’s talk some more about Dean’s grief and disbelief, shall we? When he returns to the cabin to find Sam dead, the brokenness in his face–the absolute devastation–was heartbreaking. As we all know, the worst thing that Dean can imagine is losing Sam, and losing Sam like this has to be like pouring acid on a gapping wound.

From that point on, Dean’s focused on only one thing: get Sam back or die trying. Even after all this time, he can’t lose Sam; it’s the one loss that he can never force himself to accept. A world without Sam is an empty world for Dean, and vice versa, so it’s no wonder that he’s willing to do anything and everything to get him back.

So what does Dean Winchester do? He commits suicide in an effort to make contact with Billie to strike a deal. But the twist is that just as Dean is about to take the pills, Sam miraculously wakes up, creating a parallel to “Romeo and Juliet” that everyone from fans to the cast picked up on.

Did Sam’s suffocation really put him into a mostly-dead state? It’s possible. However, I’m inclined that there was something supernatural at work here and that the “Big W” was revived an entity of some sort–God, perhaps?

Anyway, Dean’s conversation with Billie led him to realize several things. First, Sam’s still alive. Second, making deals isn’t as easy as it using to be. Billie won’t be an accomplice to the brothers messing with the natural order anymore, so the boys can count her out if they get in a bind in the future. Lastly, I think this helped Dean see that he can handle virtually any loss except losing Sam. Regardless of what’s going on, it pales in comparison to losing Sam. Hopefully, Dean won’t have to deal with that anytime in the future.

Debbi: Always steadfast, always the big brother first, hunter second.  Dean was tested this episode and as hard as it was for him to leave Sam behind, dead, he chose to do what Sam would do and save the others first, even as his heart was breaking.  This is a more mature, more thoughtful Dean.  I love that both of these guys have learned from their shared past and are moving toward becoming the best versions of themselves that they could be.  This newer, more mature Dean is also seen as he talks to Michelle after she has lost her husband.  He is much more sympathetic to her situation than he would have been earlier in his life.  He listens to her and comforts her much as Sam would if their places were reversed.  Ackles hit all the right notes to tear your heart out as you know he was thinking of how he could manage if Sam had died.  It was a lovely, poignant scene with both actors at their best.

That said, we see Dean kill himself and then offer himself in trade for his brother.  His words said it was to save the world, but his heart said it was because as long as Sam was OK, he could be at peace.  Even if that peace was attained through death.  Self-sacrifice is a common theme in the show and a common denominator between the two brothers and so his suicide wasn’t as surprising as it would be in any other show.  The Reapers have their hands full with the Winchesters.  Their will to live for each other is stronger than just about any other force on the planet.  As long as one of them remains alive, the other won’t give up easily.  Ackles facial expression was heart-breaking when Billie told him Sam hadn’t died.  His will to live became unstoppable at that point and you could see it reflected in his eyes.

I’ve seen some comments that Dean would never had made the mistake of thinking Sam was dead and would have checked for life signs more carefully.  My counter to these thoughts are that Dean was being rushed by Corbin and Michelle and had seen the truck approaching and couldn’t be sure if the drivers were friendly or not.  He was loath to leave Sam behind – that was evident in his body language and eyes but he chose to honor his brother by saving those he could.  I love this more mature and thoughtful Dean.

Michele: Dean always puts his brother first. This episode was no exception. Dean’s look when he first saw that Sam had gotten shot was horrifying. You could see Dean’s horror while realizing his worst fear was happening before his eyes. I felt for him. Dean’s love for his brother was felt throughout this episode. Especially, when he committed suicide in an attempt to bargain with Billie just one last time to bring his brother back. Jensen Ackles was also amazing in this episode. His facial and body language while stopping at nothing to get his younger brother back was fantastic.

 

Billie:

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Jackie: Can Lisa Berry stay in this show forever? Her portrayal of Billie is a pleasure to watch, and I like that she’s firm in her belief that the Winchesters can’t keep messing with the natural order. I imagine that when she came for Dean and heard he wanted to make a deal, she must have been thinking “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Nevertheless, I really, really, really don’t want her to toss Sam or Dean into The Empty. They deserve better than that–they deserve peace and happiness, and I will accept nothing less.

Debbi: I love Lisa Berry!  She is as beautiful as she is lethal.  Billie’s words to Dean were chillingly blunt and there was no doubt that she was pleased to be able to put one of the Winchesters into the nothing.  That’s what makes her next words so interesting.  Billie didn’t have to tell Dean that Sam lived.  I have to believe that she was well aware of their co-dependent natures and that Dean would fight against being reaped once he knew his brother was alive.  That leaves us with the question, what exactly is she playing at?  Was her message about Sam deliberate or did she slip and make a mistake in taunting her victim?  This whole exchange deserves a closer look.  I’ve gone on record here predicting that Billie is the new Death and this one sentence seems in many ways to confirm that fact.  Death was always very fond of Dean.  Definitely more thought needed here.

Michele: Dear Supernatural Powers That Be, please keep Lisa Berry on this show! Lisa’s portrayal of Billie has been so refreshing. I loved her interaction with Dean. She told him two things he didn’t want to hear. He killed himself because he didn’t want to be alone and also, if he died, he was going into the empty. She was merciless and refused to bend. I do wonder how a reaper since Death is ‘gone’ could make such a rule. Why did she say, ‘if Sam, had died, she would have gotten the call.’ There are other reapers, so why her??  I’m going to re-watch this because there’s clearly something more to Billie in my opinion.

Reapers:

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Jackie: The only Reaper that we come into contact with in this episode is Billie and she hasn’t changed her tune. The natural order is out of whack and the Winchesters are to blame. Hopefully, she can right it without having to toss either of our boys into The Empty.

Debbi: Not much to add here other than to say that while Billie seems to be in control of her decisions (possibly Death herself), could she in fact be following orders from our old friend Death (Julian Richings) and tossing out the Sam comment as a command rather than a slip or a decision she made on her own.  I think there is more to come on the topics of both Death and the Reapers.

Michele: I have never seen reapers with this much power. Since Death is gone can make their own rules? In Billie’s case, there seems to be something more. She’s absolute in her decision that the guys have to go into The Empty and that they can’t make any more deals. That’s a huge power to have. I also wonder why we saw her working with The King of Hell earlier this season. It makes sense, but again, since when do reapers just make deals like that? I think that either Billie is the new Death or that of course, Death himself (Julian Richlings) isn’t gone after all.

Death:  

Jackie: As Michelle says at the end of the episode, “After everything we survived together, I watched the man I loved die. There’s no normal after that.” Dean can relate because that’s essentially what he was going through in this episode: watching Sam die–believing Sam was dead–and trying to imagine a life without him after everything they’ve been together. As this show has reiterated time and time again, there is no “normal” for Dean after losing Sam. If you need evidence beyond this episode of this fact, think about All Hell Breaks Loose Parts 1 & 2, about Swan Song, about Sam being comatose in season 6, almost dying in season 8, and so on and so forth. In each of these instances, Dean did what he had to do to save Sam and get him back–just like Sam did for Dean in season 10–and just like Corbin in this episode.

I think that final scene served to do more that just parallel how far the brothers are willing to go for each other, however; I think it also foreshadows a decision to come, in which one brother or the other will have to do something unspeakable to prevent the loss of the other.

Michele:  The final scene between  Michelle and Dean was one of the best scenes of the season. There were soooo many parallels in this episode. Romeo and Juliet came to mind immediately. What I know is, the boys will do whatever they have to do for each other to avoid Death.

Werewolves:

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Jackie: I enjoyed returning to the mythology of the werewolf in this episode, especially Alpha Werewolves. I had a feeling from the beginning that Corbin got bit and would turn by the end, and I was right. I’d like to learn more about them in the future. After all, there must be more hanging around that town. Perhaps Sam and Dean will have to return to finish the job.

Debbi: Always a great villain, the werewolves again were both creepy, scary and violent.  The fact that the townspeople were weres themselves or at the very least protecting the weres was pretty transparent.  I also suspected Corbin had been infected.  Even as he struggled with Sam in the office he seemed to exhibiting more strength and violence than he was capable of on his own.  Even injured Sam would have been a force to be reckoned with and he was able to subdue him fairly easily.

Michele: I always enjoy the werewolves. I did want to kill Corbin myself after he tried to kill Sam. But, it’s always good to see how the werewolves have evolved. This episode we saw purebreds who could change at any time day or night.  It was sad to see Corbin transform because he loved his wife and was trying to do anything to keep her safe. Sam was totally a badass for taking him down, otherwise, Corbin ultimately would have ended up killing Michelle.

 

Predictions:

Jackie: More than ever, I think we’re going to see an epic sacrifice by the end of this season, and my money is on Cas. It would be a fitting way for him to redeem himself. It could also be that one of the brothers will have to take him out for the greater good or to prevent the loss of the other.

Debbi: I do believe Billie is our new Death and that we will learn this by the end of the season as I believe Death will be necessary in their battle against Amara.  Death is by his/her own admission the second oldest force (being) on the planet, secondary only to God himself.  It seems reasonable to assume his/her expertise will be needed to capture Amara and lock her away once again…. could Death bear the mark locking her prison?  Food for thought.

Michele:  I’m with Debbi. Billie’s the new Death or it’s a temporary meat suit of some kind until we see Death’s (Julian Richling) original meatsuit.  They’re going to need Death and God along with Lucifer to lock up Amara. I have a feeling because it keeps being mentioned, that someone is going into The Empty. Maybe Cas, maybe Sam? Someone will!

Overall Score:

Jackie: A ++++++ The parallels, transitions and emotional suspense were top-notch. Definitely one of the best episodes of the season!

Debbi: A+ from me.  This episode had everything I love most about this show.

Michele:  A+++++++ from me!  The parallels and emotional connection kept me on the edge of my seat.

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