Supernatural 11×17 Review: Red Meat

Supernatural -- "Red Meat" -- Image SN1117a_0138.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jensen Ackles as Dean and Jared Padalecki as Sam -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

I went into ‘Red Meat’ completely blind, hoping that my opinion wouldn’t be tainted by my preconceived prejudices.

Let’s be honest here. If I see who’s writing an episode ahead of time I can usually tell if it’ll be my jam.  If it’s written by Robbie Thompson, Robert Berens, or Andrew Dabb I’m probably going to have a great week.  But Eugenie Ross-Leming, Brad Buckner, Nicole Snyder, or Eric Charmelo?  Probably not my thing.  Their styles just don’t mesh with my interests.  Likewise, I’m more fond of mytharc episodes as opposed to Monster-of-the-Week style episodes, and have been known to go into a MOTW already kind of down about stepping away from the ongoing story for a week. Also, I’m a Cas girl.  The more Cas in an episode the better. These are my biases.  I know this.  So I jumped into ‘Red Meat’ not knowing a damn thing about it hoping that whatever came at me would get a more pure review without these biases tainting things going in.  And hey, it turned out to be a solid mix of things I like and don’t like with the show overall. It was a MOTW written by Berens and Dabb and I was both sad to be away from the ongoing plot (and Cas!), but still amazed at the level of emotional gravitas and self reflection they put into a short one off episode.

A continuing theme that pops up is how the Winchesters’ devotion to each other can sometimes get in the way of their dedication to save innocent lives.  In this case, Sam has been mortally wounded and Dean won’t leave him behind at the werewolf den.  The two werewolf victims need Dean to escape, though, and staying behind for Sam puts them at risk.  Sam has been injured way worse than this and survived before, so I don’t blame Dean for initially staying behind to try and save him.  It’s an ongoing pattern, though, and the brothers always have to overcome their reluctance to sacrifice each other in order to save people (or the whole world, as the case may be).  They do eventually make the right choice, the day is saved, and they’re portrayed as heroes.  Despite the repetitiveness of this trope, my heartstrings were still pulled as I watched Dean go over that decision in his head.  Jensen Ackles continues to act his ass off week after week.  Even a repetitive trope moved me emotionally.

spn2And as for Sammy?  Oh Sammy.  Poor injured-yet-still-heroic Sammy.  Of the two brothers, he has always been the more self aware one when it comes to this weakness of theirs.  His dialogue in previous episodes has flat out stated that this trait doesn’t typically work out well for others.  I often identify more with Dean as a character, but I respect Sam for things like this.

Also, holy hell, he has to go through another werewolf episode where he has a very very bad terrible awful day?  Let’s pause for a moment and look at his poor history here.  He’s been killed numerous times.  He’s been possessed by Lucifer.  He’s been tortured by angry archangels in the pit.  So if you think about it, he’s been through worse, but I can’t help but feel like there’s a particular brand of hurt gunning for Sam every time werewolves pop up in their lives.  This goes all the way back to ‘Heart‘ where Sam almost finds love, only to have to kill her when it’s revealed she’s a werewolf.  From a psychological level, I’m sure the stuff Lucifer put him through is way worse, but man he always seems to get the short end of the stick with this particular type of monster.  Poor poor Sam.  I want to cry about this for a while.

Can we also take a minute to appreciate the reaper Billie?  Even she pointed their weakness out to Dean, flat out telling him that he’s asking for Sam back for purely selfish reasons. Don’t get mad at me for this.  This came directly from the characters in the episode itself.  I’m merely summarizing their words in this instance.  I’m beginning to wonder if the characters being aware of this pattern is a sign that the writers understand the dangerous pattern the Winchesters keep finding themselves in and hope to correct it?  They tend to make the right choice in the end, and save the innocent lives in a great show of selflessness that makes them Big Damn Heroes (to quote Firefly), but there’s always a rocky road before they get to that point.  The struggle is tough to get through.  It makes me sometimes not love the brothers as much as I should.  But I guess having a character flaw does make them more human.  I just wish that character flaw didn’t endanger so many innocent lives.  Couldn’t they, like, bite their nails or something?  No lives endangered there.

Trigger Warning: The following two paragraphs discusses suicide.  Skip to the final paragraph to avoid that topic.

As a side note, I was particularly disturbed by the graphic nature of Dean’s suicide attempt.  I guess it’s sort of funny to say I found that to be particularly graphic after we watched Sam bleed out of his abdomen and a werewolf punch through a guy’s chest, but suicide by pills verges on triggering for me for personal reasons.  Thankfully it is just on this side of triggering for me and I was able to get through the episode without having to shut it off, but it does highlight a point about triggers in general.  While I watched the werewolf stick his arm through a guy without issue, watching Dean down a handful of pills made me gasp and avert my eyes.  Triggers are not universal, nor can all potential triggers be though of by writers, but this week did happen to hit a particularly sensitive subject for me even if only for a moment.

This has been a huge topic in fandom lately.  Some people found the recent YANA campaign to be triggering because some felt that it made light of stalking.  Most people didn’t find this triggering at all and continued to support the campaign (myself included).  But here I am disturbed by watching Dean down pills and vomit white foam as he dies, but I’ve been told to toughen up about these things.  I’ve been accused of wanting to be “coddled.”  I sense a double standard here.  But I’m veering slightly away from the episode topic now, so forgive the tangent.  The point is, triggers are not universal and people need to stop getting on each other’s case about wanting content warnings.  We’ve all been through stuff, and seeing that stuff portrayed can bother us.  This happened to bother me.

End of Trigger Warning

Overall ‘Red Meat’ was a solidly emotional hour of TV.  I’m still eager to get back to the mytharc and I still miss Castiel (and still horribly conflicted about the very concept of ‘Casifer’), but if we’re going to have a one-off self-contained episode, at least it’s a good one.  Well done Berens and Dabb.  Now let’s get back to the mytharc.  And let’s wrap up the Amara thing and move onto something better.  Please? Awesome, thanks.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.

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4 thoughts on “Supernatural 11×17 Review: Red Meat

  1. 11×17 is a filler episode, and I thought, that it was one of the worst episodes ever.

    1. Fair enough. I may have set the bar low, but Jensen’s acting really saved it from being the “worst” to me. Dude can make a tired trope interesting.

  2. None of our guys ever fails to deliver on the show. We are seriously actor-blessed. Even our guest actors are, without exception, impressive. So I’ll just go to the crux of the problem I have with this ep: plot. We often hear the writers talk about how episodes “drive the story”. So I guess I just feel like “driving plot”-wise we were just pretty much barely treading water albeit in a powerful/moving way. There’s nothing new here, and if anything the bros took a step backwards in the honesty department. Possibly the ep was a veritable basket of Easter Eggs that may make sense later. But at face value I’m confused about what new thing they wanted to achieve here.

  3. On first watch I was a little underwhelmed but after a few viewings I absolutely loved this episode. I think a lot more happened here than both brothers “dying” and a few werewolves were snuffed. Dean delivered a message to Billie if the Winchesters go down she goes down with them. Billie seemed a little rattled by that. Both brothers reassured us that they will save each other no matter what and I think that the foretelling here is that it will take both of them to defeat the Darkness. Neither is going to do it alone. I understand why Dean didn’t fess up to Sam in the end. For one thing he didn’t have to. Sam knew that Dean did something reckless but the important thing was they were ok.

    I don’t think this episode was a much filler as it may seem on the surface.

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