Something that “Supernatural” has long ago established is that when Dean thinks Sam is dead, he goes to extremes. Back at the end of season 2, he sold his soul to save his brother. And now, in the Wednesday, March 30 episode, he offers himself up again for a trade. But neither brother has all the facts in “Red Meat,” and just because they’ve faced werewolves before doesn’t mean it’s any easier.
This “SPN” episode may begin 48 hours after Sam finds them a case to work since they are, once again, coming up empty on Amara/Lucifer/Hand of God/anything to do with the major problems the world is currently facing, but it spends little time on the initial investigation and the time between the boys in the bunker and Sam getting shot – and it’s a smart choice. By now, there’s little about a werewolf hunt that hasn’t been shown before, and rather than take time away from the action of what follows after Sam is shot, “Red Meat” simply introduces the other werewolves in an obvious way, has the brothers head into the woods and briefly addresses the break they never get to take. (And after this hunt, Sam could sure use one that isn’t doctor-prescribed bed rest.)
Something else that has been established already is that it’s never a good idea to tell Dean to not tend to his brother when he’s injured or worse, leave him, especially to save two people that, frankly, it’s impossible to care about since they were introduced mere minutes before. And once Corbin decides to kill Sam to get Dean to lead them to safety, he doesn’t even need that bite on his arm to make him someone not worth saving. And even though it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see Dean’s reaction to finding his brother dead and hear that “Sammy?” before he’s ready to let the other werewolves find them and let out his pain with the knife in his hand. When Corbin pleads with him to help them, Dean agrees, but promises Sam that he’ll come back for him. And there come the tears.
When Michelle questions Corbin about what happened, he only tells her that he saved them, that he did what he had to do. Dean does find the road and even waves down the sheriff, but when he tries to go back for Sam, even punching the sheriff to do so, he gets tasered instead and wakes up in the medical center. The doctor wants him to rest, but after Michelle checks on him and mentions that her mother used to say that death is not he end, he realizes what he has to do: die. Will it work, she asks. “It has to,” he says, adding that he does have to do it, and that right there describes everything Dean does when it’s his brother’s life on the line.
But as Dean’s killing himself, Sam comes to, painfully pulling himself up in time to see other werewolves pulling up. He hides in the basement, and even as he’s losing a lot of blood, he manages to kill them both, get the keys to their truck and get back to the Impala. Meanwhile, Dean succeeds in dying, and Billie comes to reap him as Michelle gets the doctor to try to bring him back. While Billie wants to savor it, Dean wants to make a deal. The Darkness is going to mean the end of everything, and only Sam can stop it, he claims, but Billie knows what’s really behind Dean’s plea: “That’s cute though, 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.”
And even if Sam could win the battle, the answer would still be no. “No more second chances. No more extra lives,” she informs him. She’s not here to bargain, not even when Dean offers up himself in exchange for her bringing back Sam. No, she’s here to reap Dean, and the kicker is Sam’s not dead. “The empty, it’s waiting,” Billie tells him, holding her hand out to him. And then Dean looks back at the doctor working on him and comes back to life. Hopefully this isn’t the last of Billie because it feels like more should have been explored there.
The Sheriff wants to then arrest him for stealing and consuming a felony’s worth of drugs and assaulting a police officer, but once left alone, Michelle cuts him free. Dean’s walking out of the medical center when Sam calls him, but the call cuts out before he can warn his brother that Corbin was bit, and Sam struggles into the car and drives off. Dean finds out Corbin’s a werewolf himself when he saves Michelle from her husband wanting to bring her into the monster fold, but it’s Sam who saves Dean when Corbin tries to choke him to death. How Sam makes it that far is a testament to Sam Winchester.
It turns out that Sam’s body had gone into shock, so he was just “mostly dead,” and some blood transfusions and stitches later, he’s ready to go home and he’ll be back to normal with antibiotics and bed rest. But when he asks Dean what he did when he thought he was dead, Dean just tells him he knew he wasn’t dead. But Sam has to find out what Dean really did, right?
“Supernatural” season 11 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 17 “Red Meat”?