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Entertainment Weekly

TV Recaps

Supernatural recap: 'Advanced Thanatology'

Katie Yu/The CW

Posted on

We gave it an A-


9/13/05 - 1/1/70

TV Show
genre new
Fantasy, Drama
Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins
The CW

Before we get into the details of this week’s episode, I want to take a second to appreciate the season thus far. Not only has there not been a bad episode of Supernatural, but there hasn’t even been a fine episode of Supernatural. Week after week, season 13 has been delivering a wonderful balance of twists, humor, monster fighting, and devastating emotion. Somehow, 13 seasons into this show, everything they’re doing still feels fresh and earned, and good Chuck I love this show.

And that brings us to this week’s hour, which features one of the season’s most riveting scenes featuring two people doing nothing but talking. The action starts in Colorado when two kids take video cameras into a Mental Health Center. The entire thing is shot Blair Witch-style as Evan (the bully) and Sean (the smart, scared one) check out the house of Dr. Avery Meadows, a man who lobotomized every patient, and if they survived he would then experiment on them. So yeah, he sucked. And when Evan convinces Sean to steal one of the doctor’s very creepy masks, the doc’s ghost shows up and puts his drill into Evan’s head. Sean narrowly escapes, though by the time the cops find him, he’s so traumatized that all he can say is the word “monster.”

Thankfully, the word “monster” is pretty much the equivalent of sending up the Bat-Signal for the Winchesters. Back at the bunker — where Dean is fixing a PB&J for breakfast and pairing it with a beer at Sam’s suggestion — Sam catches Dean up on the case and suggests they take it on alone. Apparently Jack is working his way through Sam’s old fantasy DVDs, so Sam thinks they can leave him behind in favor of some classic brother bonding. And you know Dean isn’t going to turn that down.

The boys arrive in Colorado, where Dean tries his hand at talking to Sean. He puts forth his best material, telling Sean, “We’re the guys that stop the monsters. We’re the guys that scare them,” but it’s not working. All Sean can do is draw the doctor’s mask over and over…until that night, when the doctor shows up and takes him too.

Across town, Sam and Dean get ready to crash when Sam suggests they hit a strip club. Yes, you read that correctly. And you know Sam’s serious when he read the reviews. By the way, Sam Winchester might be the only man who’d ever read the reviews on a strip club. And that’s when Dean knows something is up, because the last time Sam got a lap dance, it was because Dean bought it for him at Christmas, and apparently, Sam spent the entire song trying to convince the girl she should go to nursing school. (I love this so much.)

Finally, Sam admits he’s being overly nice to Dean to try to help his older brother out of the dark place he’s in, but Dean assures him that he’s got everything under control. Dean has fought his way out of dark places before, and he’ll do it again, the way he always does: with bullets, bacon, and booze.

Speaking of booze, Sam wakes up the next morning to find a passed out Dean on the floor of their room with his tie around his head and a woman’s pink bra around his neck. (I guess that strip club really did deserve those great reviews.)

Sam leaves behind Dean to meet up with Mike, the third friend who was supposed to go exploring with Evan and Sean before backing out. Mike tells Sam all about where they went, and Sam brings the information (and more booze) back to a very hungover Dean, who’s naturally enjoying all the bacon at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.

Once Dean’s able to face the day sans sunglasses, the boys head to the doctor’s house, where they quickly come face to face with Dr. Meadows. Figuring his spirit must be tied to his creepy plague masks, Dean burns them, and the good news is that it works. The doc is gone. The bad news? Sam and Dean are now surrounded by the ghosts of the doctor’s patients, but because none of them are strong enough to pierce the veil, Sam and Dean can’t see them. And you can’t really fight something you can’t see. (Next: The return of Billie)

This is where Dean gets an idea. If they need to find out where the doctor hid the bodies, he can use his handy syringe that’s filled with something that will stop own heart. And then Sam can use the other syringe to bring him back in three minutes. While Dean’s in the veil, he can asks the ghosts where the bodies are. If you ask me, Dean seems a little too quick to jump to the “I know, why don’t I die?!” conclusion, especially for a case as random as this. But we find out exactly why Dean was so eager when Dean runs into a familiar face in the veil: Billie!

And guess what? She’s the new Death! Apparently, when Death dies, the next dead Reaper takes his/her place, so when Castiel killed Billie (after Dean killed Death), Billie got a promotion. Now, she wears all black, carries around a scythe, and gets to decide Dean’s fate all on her own.

What that in mind, Billie takes Dean to her reading room, where she tells him what she wants: She wants to know how he slipped between worlds. Dean agrees to tell her, but he wants something in exchange. But it’s not what you’re thinking. Dean doesn’t bargain for his own life. Instead, he asks that Billie free the ghosts trapped in the doctor’s house, including Evan, the little boy he believes he failed. Billie agrees, and so, Dean tells her all about Jack’s birth.

But that’s not the end of the conversation. It seems Billie picked up on the fact that Dean didn’t bother asking her to save him. And that means he’s changed. “Maybe you’re not that guy anymore, the guy who saves the world, the guy who thinks he’ll win no matter what,” she tells him. Cutting right to Dean’s core, she explains that he tells people he’ll work through it but he knows that he won’t, and that scares him.

“I don’t matter,” Dean tells her. He couldn’t save mom, or Cas, or even Evan. At this point, Dean feels like he’s dragging Sam down, so if now is his time, he’s okay with that. “You wanna die,” Billie tells him. And as much as that’s true, it’s quite literally not written in the stars. As Billie explains, every book on one of her shelves contains versions of how he dies — heart attack, burned by a red-haired witch, stabbed by a ghoul in a graveyard — but none of them say he dies today. Now that Billie’s Death, she sees the bigger picture, and she sees that the Winchesters are important. “You have work to do,” she tells him. Her eyes have been opened to the necessity of the Winchesters — welcome to the SPN Family, Billie — and because of that, she’s not going to let him die, even if he wants to.

Before Dean can ask her about Mary, she wakes him up. And before we talk about the next scene, I just want to sing the praises of this one. At its core, this was just a scene of two people talking very seriously, and it could have been boring, especially given its heavy content and its length. But thanks to the writing and the performances, I found this scene to be downright captivating, and I could’ve watched it for hours.

Once he’s back in the real world, Dean updates Sam on Billie’s new role before he tells his brother that he’s “pretty far from okay.” Dean’s entire life, he believed that what they did was important, no matter the cost, because they were making the world a better place. But now, he’s not so sure. All he is sure of is that he needs a win…and he’ll get one.

On the long drive home, Dean gets a phone call. We don’t know who it is, but we watch as Dean looks at Sam. They then drive to an alley, where they get out of the car and find…CASTIEL! And he’s all emotional and teary! What more could you want?!

If you ask me, this episode really did have it all, from funny brother shenanigans to heartfelt talks to shocking twists and emotional turns. But what did you think? Hit the comments below or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.