November 9, 2017
“You and your brother keep coming back. You’re an affront to the balance of the universe and you cause disruption on a global scale.”
Grand Junction, Colorado. Two boys are recording a nighttime exploration of an abandoned mental hospital. It feels like an equal parts homage to Stranger Things and Blair Witch. They go into an upstairs treatment room and find a small collection of leather plague masks.
There are bits of desiccated tissue adhered to the inside of one of the masks. Evan puts the mask in Shawn’s backpack. A sound rumbles through the empty house. The boys decide it’s time to go.
They race down the hall heading for the door. At the foot of the stairs, Shawn’s flashlight illuminates a man wearing a plague mask and leather apron and holding a whirring drill. EEP! He lunges for the boy. Shawn dives under his arm and runs from the house. Evan’s screams echo behind him.
Dean is making a PB&J for breakfast. He’s using Tinkle brand jelly. Heh. Tinkle. Sam comes into the kitchen and calls the sandwich strong work. He asks if Dean wants a beer to go with it. I thought at first he was being snarky about Dean’s functional alcoholism, but he’s not. He’s being nice.
Dean’s spidey senses immediately begin tingling.
Sam brushes it off and presents the Grand Junction case. He proposes they check it out, just the two of them. Like old times. He says EJ is enjoying a fantasy flick marathon – Red Sonja, Beastmaster, Beastmaster 2 … “You know, the one with the time traveling ferrets.” They’ll throw up a little extra warding around the Bunker and EJ will be fine.
Dean is game and they’re soon pulling up in front of Shawn’s house. Sam hands Dean an ID. Dean looks at it with confusion. Agent Page? He thought Sam always liked to be Agent Page. Sam smiles and shrugs that he’s changing it up.
Shawn’s mother answers the door and EEP! It’s Olivia from 12 Monkeys! YOU ARE WALKING THROUGH A RED FOREST. THE GRASS IS TALL. IT’S JUST RAINED. MOST OF THE BLOOD HAS WASHED AWAY.
Oh, snap! That wasn’t the Empty Child in the cold open – it was the Witness!
Anyhoo, Olivia says that Shawn hasn’t spoken about what happened to him. He can’t. The trauma of what he saw in the house is too terrible.
Dean takes the lead on talking to Shawn, and thank the gods old and new that writer Steve Yockey remembers how good Dean is with kids. Shawn barely acknowledges Dean. He cuts his eyes in Dean’s direction and then returns his attention to the sketches in front of him. Each page is the same – the plague mask looming out of the darkness.
Dean asks Shawn if this is the monster. The one he told the police about. Shawn goes still. Dean sits down next to him and quietly says he knows what it’s like to see monsters. He knows that even after they’re gone, they never really go away. But he tells the boy that he and Sam are the guys who stop the monsters.
“We’re the guys that scare them.”
That reassurance isn’t enough to get Shawn to open up. He doesn’t say a word.
The boys repair to the night’s motel. Sam suggests they hit a strip club.
Sam stammers as he repeats himself. Strip club? There’s one just outside of town … the Clam Diver. “It got great reviews.” Dean stares slack-jawed at his brother.
“You read reviews … for the Clam Diver.”
Dean finally calls shenanigans. He says that Sam hates strip clubs. He reminds Sam that the last lap dance he had was at Christmas – a gift paid for by Dean – and he spent the entire song trying to convince the girl that she should go to nursing school. Sam attempts a protest. It dies on his lips as he realizes that yeah, he did do that.
Sam simply says he’s trying to be nice and gives his brother a knowing look. Dean says he’s fine and attempts to flee into the motel lobby. It’s the little wave he gives to trip the automatic door sensor (on the door that’s not automatic) that makes the scene poetry.
Sam is right on his heels. He says that Dean isn’t fine and presents “I don’t believe in a damn thing” as proof. He says that’s not Dean. Dean believes in people. Dean believes the world is going to end bloody, but that that’s no reason not to keep fighting.
It’s what he does. It’s who he is.
Dean acknowledges Sam’s desire to help but says he’s been down this road before. He fought his way back then and he will fight his way back again, the same way he always does.
“Bullets, bacon, and booze.”
“A lot of booze.”
Sam’s alarm blares him awake. He looks over at Dean’s bed. It hasn’t been slept in. Dean is instead passed out on the floor with an empty beer bottle by his head and a lacy pink bra looped around his neck.
I think we all remember where Dean stands on pink underthings.
Sam leaves Dean on the floor sawing logs. He interviews Mike, a friend of Shawn and Ethan’s. He wasn’t there the night of the incident, but Olivia believes he may know something. When Sam gets back to the hotel, he finds Dean wearing sunglasses indoors and loading up a plate with bacon. Sam asks what the hangover rating is on the hotel’s breakfast.
Wait, hangover? Can Dean even get drunk enough to have a hangover?
Dean shushes us both. What happened to being nice to him? Sam pulls a beer out of a brown paper bag. Dean tells him he is forgiven.
Sam fills Dean in from his talk with Mike. The mental hospital was once run by a Dr. Avery Meadows. He practiced in the 1960s and offered his patients only a single treatment – lobotomy. Those that survived he would subject to further “experiments”. Meadows was eventually tried and executed for his crimes, but Sam says he could have made a demon deal – if he was even human to begin with.
Dean points to a photo of a plague mask in Sam’s case file. It’s the same image that Shawn was drawing. Sam says Meadows was wearing a mask when he was arrested. They had to hold him down and rip it off his face.
Sam gets a call from Olivia – Shawn is missing. She tells them that he woke up screaming in the night from a bad dream. She helped him settle down, but when she went back to her room it felt cold. She thought Shawn had opened a window. When she went into his room to close it, he was gone.
Dean immediately feels guilty for not pushing Shawn harder. Sam tries to keep him focused. He floats the idea that Shawn could have taken something from Meadow’s house that’s connected to the doctor’s spirit. The house seems the most likely place to look for the boy.
So, Dean is eating breakfast when Olivia calls, but it’s night when they arrive at the old hospital. Is the SPN!verse set on Jupiter? How does time even work? Anyhoo, the boys are attacked by Meadows almost as soon as they walk through the door. Dean once again has to have his bacon saved by Sam. This is becoming a recurring thing and I do not care for it.
They make their way upstairs and into the treatment room. Dean notes the plague masks. He reaches for one – the same one Evan put in Shawn’s bag. As he does there’s a scream and the sound of a whirring drill. Sam salts the door while Dean puts all the masks in a metal trashcan. Meadows comes through the door but gets stuck, stymied by the salt line. The house rumbles and a gust of air blows under the door, breaking the line.
Sam fires on Meadows as Dean lights up the masks. The spirit shrieks and burns away into nothing.
They set off to find Shawn, but Sam soon realizes their breath is frosting in the air. The lightbulbs in the hallways fixtures begin to explode as angry voices call out for the doctor. They need to deal with the ghosts of the victims before they can safely search the house for Shawn. Dean decides the quickest solution is simply to ask.
Dean pulls a green metal tin from his bag. It’s labeled “DOCTOR ROBERT FOR EMERGENCY“. Inside are two syringes. Dean tells Sam that one stops the heart and the other starts it up again. If the ghosts aren’t strong enough to pierce the veil, then Dean is just going to pop over to the other side and ask them where the bodies are.
Sam barely has time to protest before Dean shoves the needle in his chest and pushes the plunger.
Sam checks his watch and encircles Dean with salt. He grabs the other syringe and waits. One minute down. Two minutes to go.
Jessica the Reaper marches through the stacks of a modern and minimalist library. She loudly announces that Dean Winchester is in the veil. Jessica the Reaper is having a bit of a day.
A familiar voice calls out to Dean. Shawn asks if he’s dead too. Dean asks Shawn what happened to him. Shawn’s memory flashes back to the night before. We see Meadows’ ghost possess the boy, put the mask on, and walk back to the hospital. Shawn says he couldn’t stop Meadows from picking up the drill.
Shawn tells Dean he misses his mom. Dean dies a little more inside.
Sam’s watch beeps and he administers the injection. Dean stands over his lifeless body and watches while nothing happens.
Another voice calls Dean’s name. Billie the Reaper is standing above Dean at the top of the stairs. She’s wearing a cunning black leather duster and carrying a delicately wrought but deadly scythe.
She’s carrying. A scythe.
“Hey, Dean. We need to talk.”
Dean refuses to believe his lying eyes. He saw Castiel kill Billie.
Billie chuckles. She says it’s funny to hear a Winchester talk about the finality of dying. She reminds him that there are actually rules. And one of them says that if you kill one incarnation of Death – like Dean did in “Brother’s Keeper” – the next Reaper to die takes his place.
“Turns out, I got a promotion. New job. New gear.”
Billie pulls off her gloves to reveal a shiny new ring to go along with the new scythe. The white stone is round unlike Death Prime’s square setting. Billie’s accessories game is on point.
She turns away from Dean and he suddenly finds himself in the W section of Death’s archives. Billie calls it her reading room. I think it needs more comfy chairs, but that’s just me.
And y’all I totally want to be Death’s archivist in my next life.
Dean is dead, but whether he stays dead depends. Billie says word on the inter-dimensional street is that he’s been slipping between worlds … and she wants to know how he did it. Dean sasses that he thought Death knew everything. Billie takes a deep breath and smiles. He can imagine then how this one little blind spot is really bothering her.
Dean tests the waters to see if Billie is willing to deal. When she nibbles, he offers to tell her whatever she wants to know in exchange for freeing the spirits trapped in the Meadows house. Billie tries to cover her surprise that Dean is making it so easy. That’s a deal she’ll take.
Jessica returns to the Meadows house. The spirits of the dead – including Evan and Shawn – gather around her. She tells them it’s going to be okay. They don’t have to stay there. One by one the souls evaporate into glowing clouds of white light and move on.
Billie tells him it’s done. Dean tells her about EJ and the floating space vagina. He says the world on the other side isn’t exactly Candy Land. Dean wonders why Billie even cares. She patiently explains that the whole multiversal quantum construct they live in is like a house of cards. And the last thing she needs is some big, dumb Winchester knocking it all down.
Dean can’t argue with that logic. “That does sound like us.”
Billie regards Dean thoughtfully. She says he’s changed. The Dean Winchester she knows and loves would have bargained to go back – to slip away from death’s sticky grasp and live yet again. She wonders if maybe he isn’t that guy anymore. The guy who saves the world. The guy who always thinks he’ll win no matter what.
“You have changed. And you tell people it’s not a big deal. You tell people you’ll work through it – but you know you won’t. You can’t. And that scares the hell out of you.”
Or is Billie wrong?
Dean doesn’t rise to the bait. He simply says it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter. He couldn’t save Mary. He couldn’t save Cas. He couldn’t save a scared kid. He tells Billie he’s not going to beg. If it’s his time, it’s his time.
Dean is so very, very tired. Billie looks into his heart. She says he wants to die. It’s a nice call back to Season 4 and Castiel’s realization that Dean didn’t think he deserved to be saved.
Billie walks into the stacks. She rests her hand on a shelf. She says that every notebook on that shelf tells a version of how Dean dies.
Burned by a red-haired witch.
Stabbed by a ghoul in a graveyard.
But none of those books say he dies today.
All of Dean’s deaths are a small part of a much larger picture to which Billie now stands witness. And as much as their necessity chagrins her, Billie sees that Dean and Sam are important.
The Universe has work for them.
The sun is barely up as the authorities begin wheeling out bodies and examining remains at the Meadows house. Dean hedges and deflects when Sam asks what happened the night before with the drugs and the ghosts and the hey hey. Sam pushes back, and – DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!? – Dean tells him the truth. He says he saw Death and that she told him they have work to do.
Dean looks over at Olivia. Sam clocks his reaction to Olivia’s raw grief and asks again some more if Dean is okay. Dean doesn’t try to hide from it this time. He says no, he’s not okay. He’s pretty far from it.
Sweet Jebus, honesty and caring and sharing? What show am I watching?!?
Dean says that he’s always believed that what they do is important – no matter the cost. He would take the hit of each loss and keep on fighting because he believed. But losing Cas and Mary has shattered that belief. Sam’s heart breaks for his brother. Dean desperately says he just needs a win.
“I just need a damn win.”
The boys drive through the day and into the night while Steppenwolf sings that it’s never too late to start all over again. Dean’s phone rings. He goes absolutely still when he hears the voice on the other end.
Some time later the car rolls to a stop. The neon glow from a storefront church’s cross illuminates the deserted street. Castiel is standing by one of the the last pay phones in America.
And then they kiss.