When you think you’ve seen everything Supernatural has to offer, the writers show there’s still gold to mine. This time, it’s wrestling.
At a loss for all things Lucifer, Amara, and Hand of God, Dean catches wind of the passing of Larry “The Hangman” Lee, their father’s favorite wrestler back in the day. After convincing Sam they need to “stretch [their] legs”, the brothers head to Brimson, MO to pay their respects. Both see childhood idols at the wake with Dean talking to Gunnar Lawless and Sam running into his first crush, Rio. She tells Sam about the memorial show that night and the Winchesters find themselves in the front row. Prior to the matches starting, Sam tells Dean how little the wrestlers are getting for the night and the elder Winchester responds on how it sucks that “town after town putting your ass on the line for next to nothing? No money. No glory.” Sam catches the irony in that statement, considering how identical it is to what they do night in and night out as hunters. Sadly, the fun stuff gets overshadowed by yet another death, this time a fan is discovered out back, murdered and marked as one would see during some Satanic ritual. The boys don their hunter caps and start on the investigation. Sam heads back to the hotel to research the mark while Dean—after some gratuitous ‘action’ in the empty ring—heads out to the bars to question the wrestlers.
Meanwhile, in some obscure hellhole, Lucifer is putting his sycophants to work searching for any other Hand of God relic and still finds time to torment and break down Crowley. That is until Simmons, a young enterprising demon, frees Crowley, telling him that there are others in the demon community that would much rather have him as King instead of Lucifer. The pair escape Lucifer’s base after killing two guards and Crowley heads to his own hidden safe house. It contains dozens of treasures and invaluable artifacts, the greatest of which is the Rod of Aaron, created by God on the sixth day and given to the brother of Moses. Now that he knows the power these items contain, he can use it to usurp hell’s throne from the original devil.
Back to the main case, Dean gets some drinking time with Gunnar who, after sharing the harshness of the wrestling life, gives Dean some of the best advice the hunter’s even received. “One thing I learned,” he says, “you gotta keep on grinding no matter what’s thrown your way.” Sam rings Dean about the mark—an ancient Sumerian symbol found on the other bodies found when Top Notch had been in cities. Its rough translation is the ability “to pluck the spark of life”, a possible reference to a soul which means a demon’s behind the kills. Because the promotion uses locals for setups, one of the wrestlers has to be the demon they’re looking for. What better way to find out than buy shots for everyone and toss in a bit of holy water into the mix?
It doesn’t work out as well as Dean—now quite drunk—thought, though he tells Sam that every wrestler save for the young upstart Shawn Harley had been tested. When they show up at Harley’s motel room, they find the wrestler gone, his room torn apart. Surveillance footage shows a white van pulling up to his door and Gunnar Lawless carrying Harley’s unconscious form into the vehicle. But if Harley’s a demon, how did Lawless get the drop on him? They are able to use traffic cameras and track the van’s destination.
Before the Winchesters stumble onto the scene, we discover that Gunnar’s not a demon, merely an ‘associate’ of Duke, a demon Lawless made a deal with a decade ago. Now Duke wants to expand and offers Harley the same deal: his greatest desire for the measly price of one’s soul and a few other favors along the way. Harley declines, telling the surprised demon that, if Hell’s real, Heaven must be as well and “I’m not giving up my shot at Paradise for a belt I can win on my own.” Obviously, Duke doesn’t take the rejection well and, after disfiguring Harley, orders Gunnar to finish the job.
“Is it just me, or is it getting a little phallic in here?”
Remember Crowley’s plan? Well, it hits a snag when Lucifer shows up, not only gloating about catching Crowley in the act but thanking the demon Simmons for her subversion of Crowley’s trust. But where Lucifer’s boast of inventing the double-cross, Crowley shows he’s not an also-ran. After swiping the Rod under Lucifer’s nose, he snaps back on how he perfected said double-cross and then takes in the God power from the Rod, intent on smiting Lucifer. Simmons sacrifices herself for the King of Hell and when Crowley goes to finish the job, he discovers it’s a one-hit wonder. Lucky for him, he’s able to get the hell out of dodge before Lucifer tans his hide good and proper.
Sam and Dean trail the van to the abandoned building only to find out they’re too late to save Harley. Duke tries to introduce himself but the Winchesters don’t care. He orders Gunnar to take Dean out while tending to Sam on his own. It’s a mistake as Dean’s able to reach Gunnar before the wrestling star enacts Duke’s orders. “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Dean tells him.
“You really believe that?” Gunnar asks.
“I have to.”
Those three words are enough for Gunnar to turn on Duke, killing the demon. But in doing so, it frees the hellhounds to acquire their target. Unlike many faced with such a death, Gunnar owns his mistakes, admitting that he’s deserves what’s coming to him.
Back at the Bunker, despite striking out in their fights with Lucifer and the Darkness, Dean finally has the confidence back that they’ll win. He echoes Gunnar’s earlier words: “Keep grinding. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how hard it gets, you gotta keep grinding.”
- Keep Grinding. Truer words have never been spoken. The grind is what breeds success in our lives and it’s especially true for the Winchesters. Live gives us so many setbacks, it’s easy to lose sight of the prize and succumb to the pain of failure. But it’s the precious moment when you can give up that, if you don’t, you get over the hump and speed towards your goal. Gunnar’s words to Dean make the elder Winchester realize that, if history is any indication, they can and will get it done.
- It’s been tough watching the once proud Crowley become a caricature of himself, broken and beaten. But we finally saw him regain much of his mojo. Sure, he had to hightail it out of there before Lucifer could end him but he also reminded the Morningstar that he should not be underestimated.
- As a wrestling fan, it was great to see The Miz have a decent role in the episode. Of course that also leads to…
- The Miz getting the short end of the stick. Also, it would’ve been good to see a bit more of Crowley.
- Duke the demon was nothing special; just a run of the mill crossroads demon, albeit with his own entrepreneurial nature. Still, he’s a forgettable villain.
- So many great references this episode. Starting with the ‘Beyond the Mat’ title, the same name as an excellent documentary on the lives of several famous wrestlers including Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Mick Foley, and Terry Funk. If you’re a fan of wrestling, watch it. Now!
- Other wrestling tidbits include Dean’s ‘Roussimoff’ alias, a tribute to Andre the Giant, and Dean’s Ric Flair “wooo!” impersonation. I’m sure there were others that slipped my notice but it was classic Supernatural.
- Lucifer, after doing quoting Glengarry Glenross (“Always. Be. Closing.”) channels his inner Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive, reminding his team to search everywhere for a Hand of God relic. Again, vintage Supernatural.