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Supernatural - Advanced Thanatology - Review

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Supernatural “Advance Thanatology” was written by Steve Yockey and was directed by John F Showalter. The episode gives us a good look at the despair that Dean (Jensen Ackles) is consumed by and ends with the return of Castiel (Misha Collins) – likely the only thing that could give him hope – though I did like Billie’s (Lisa Berry) kick in the ass, telling him that he has work to do. Overall, this was a pretty solid episode with a decent, creepy ghost story at its heart.

First of all, I’ve been to Grand Junction, Colorado, and it didn’t look anything like what it looks like in this episode – but that’s nit picking. I absolutely adored the opening sequence. It felt like a complete call back to season one’s “Asylum” with another crazy doctor – and following hot on the heels of last week’s family therapy session, Dr Avery Meadows (Sacha M Romalo) was a complete throwback to Dr Ellicott. We also get Evan (Josh Hudniuk) bullying Shawn (Seth Isaac Johnson) into visiting the local creepy house. I loved the plague masks – so creepy!!

And besides being creepy, I loved that the plague masks were also a shout out to guest star Alisen Down, playing Shawn’s mother Penny. Down is utterly fantastic in Syfy’s 12 Monkeys – definitely watch this one if you aren’t! On 12 Monkeys, the Witness wears a plague mask, and just this past season Down’s character’s connection with the witness was revealed! Fun stuff.

Meanwhile, in the bunker, Sam (Jared Padalecki) is doing his best to help Dean through this tough time. He comes to him at breakfast and offers him both a beer and a case. Bonus cherry on top? Sam wants to work the case alone with Dean, leaving Jack (Alexander Calvert) at home alone. Sam even lets Dean tease him about not getting laid when he was younger for his geeky fantasy movie obsession. Sam even lets Dean be Agent Page!

Dean and Sam drop by to talk to Shawn, who won’t – can’t – talk. It’s the psychological trauma of what he saw, and that brings us full circle to season one’s “Dead in the Water.” There again, drawing and a child traumatized into silence. It’s in that episode that we learn that Dean didn’t speak after Mary’s death. It’s also a nice way to reinforce the repeated trauma that Dean has experienced over the course of his life and it underscores what losing Mary means to him. Dean tells Shawn that he knows about monsters. He also reassures him that he and Sam are the ones who take care of the monsters. Unfortunately, Shawn remains mute.

Dean and Sam get to their hotel, and Sam suggests visiting the local strip club – the Clam Diver – UGH! That’s the last straw. Dean knows something’s going on and confronts Sam about it. It’s hilarious, and completely in character, when we find out that Sam doesn’t like strip clubs (not news) and that he spent his last lap dance – paid for by big brother Dean – trying to convince the stripper to go back to school for nursing!

Sam finally admits that he’s just trying to be nice. And again, Dean insists that he’s fine. He just wants to help Dean out of this dark place. Sam is distraught that Dean doesn’t believe in anything because that’s who Dean is – he believes in people. Dean insists that he’s fought his way back before and he’ll do it again with his tried and true recipe of bullets, bacon, and booze… a lot of booze. And we’ve already seen evidence of the booze.

Meanwhile, Shawn wakes screaming from a nightmare. Penny comforts him, but suddenly Meadows is there with his mask – because Shawn took it with him – and his drill. He attacks Shawn, and later we learn that he possesses Shawn and uses him to get back to his house where he kills Shawn.

When Sam’s alarm goes off, Dean’s bed hasn’t been slept in…. because Dean didn’t make it that far. Sam finds him asleep on the floor and leaves him there while he goes to work. Sam questions Shawn’s friend Mike (Micah Solis) who confesses that Evan had tried to make him go to the Meadows house too.

Sam returns to find Dean stocking up on bacon. Sam briefs Dean on Meadows technique of lobotomizing his patients and then experimenting on them. Sam tells Dean he was cremated, but they suspect he might have made a demon deal of some kind. Sam also tells Dean that the creepy mask is a plague mask. Ackles provides some priceless comic relief in this scene with his bacon.

The brothers go back to talk to Penny after Shawn disappears. She describes feeling cold, and they both figure it must be a ghost. Dean is distraught and feels responsible for Shawn’s disappearance because he didn’t push him harder. They also figure out that Shawn must have taken something from the house.

As soon as they get into the house, the EMF meter goes crazy and Meadows shows up almost immediately. I loved Dean’s “What’s up, Doc?” Meadows goes right for Dean with his drill, and interestingly, Dean doesn’t make much of an effort to protect himself. Is this punishment for not protecting Shawn better or is this a bit of a death wish due to his general despair? Sam takes care of Meadows temporarily with an iron crowbar.

There’s a nice little X-Files shout at as the blue beams of the brothers’ flashlights cross in an X as they explore the house. Dean figures that Meadows is most likely tied to the masks, so they burn them. I loved Sam putting down the salt line and then Meadows getting stuck halfway through the door. Meadows burns as the masks burn, but the house is still haunted by all the ghosts whose bodies are hidden somewhere within it. The ghosts aren’t strong enough to pierce the veil but are strong enough to kill them.

Dean insists on going into the veil by killing himself – as Sam says, an insane risk. But he’s done it before. He tells Sam to give him three minutes before reviving him. I adored Jessica’s (Kayla Stanton) – the reaper who’s there for him – reaction to finding out that she’s there to try to reap Dean Winchester!

Jessica announces among a bunch of bookshelves with W on them that Dean Winchester is in the veil. At first, I just assumed that this was the W section for everyone – not that all these shelves were Dean! Meanwhile, Sam protects Dean by circling him with salt. Dean comes upon Shawn, so he’s definitely dead, and he tells Dean how he died. The Doc possessed him and killed him. Dean apologizes to Shawn and tells him he’s going to help him get out of there and go to a better place.

Dean returns to his body with the knowledge of where the bodies are just as his alarm goes off and Sam gives him the injection to revive him. Of course, Sam doesn’t have any paddles to shock him with. Suddenly, everything stops as Billie shows up with Death’s scythe and tells Dean that they need to talk.

Billie reminds Dean that Castiel killed her, and then we get another retcon of mythology. When one incarnation of death dies, the next reaper to die, takes his place. Remember when it was hard to kill a reaper? Remember when Death and God were kind of buds? Yeah. We’ll just handwave at all this and carry on because the scene itself is kind of cool.

Billie wants to know about how Dean and Sam are slipping between interdimensional words. Dean wants something in return – but all he asks for is that she free the ghosts at the Meadows house. He doesn’t ask to go back to life himself. Dean tells Billie about Jack creating a “little rip” when he was born. Dean wants to know why she cares, and she tells him that the whole mulit-verse quantum construct that they live in is like a house of cards. And this particular description makes me worried that suddenly the Winchesters are going to suddenly be a part of the DC multi-verse world…

Billie calls Dean on not asking to go back. It surprises her. Maybe he isn’t the same guy – whose death never sticks, who thinks he can save the world, who thinks he’s always going to win. Billie sees he has changed but she also sees that he’s scared that he can’t work through it this time. He tells her that it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter. He can’t save Mary, Castiel or even a scared little kid. Sam tries to help but Dean feels he’s just pulling Sam down. Dean tells Billie that maybe it’s just his time.

Billie sees that he just wants to die. She points to the many, many books on the shelf. It describes every way he dies. But the one that is real depends on him and his choices. Dean says he’s made his choice, but Billie tells him that none of the books say that Dean dies on that day. Dean is surprised. Billie insisted they would die after all, but she tells him that since she got her new job, she stands witness to a much larger picture. She tells him that she sees that Dean and Sam are important. She tells him that he has work to do – and that’s all he needs to know.  Dean tries to find out about Mary, but Billie sends him back.

Sam tries to comfort a devastated Penny, and there’s a rather powerful sequence of Penny stroking Shawn’s face before the coroner takes him away, during the musical montage. As a fan of 12 Monkeys, it was nice to see Down in such a different role.

It seems like Dean is going to keep everything to himself, but Sam is having none of it. The ghosts are simply gone, clearly something went on. Dean says they’ll talk about it later, but Sam calls him on it – they’ll talk now because he knows Dean will just keep evading him if they don’t. Surprisingly, without putting up much of a fight, Dean tells Sam about Death.

Even more, when Sam asks Dean if he’s ok, Dean admits that he’s not. In fact, he tells Sam he’s pretty far from ok. Padalecki and Ackles are both terrific in this scene. Dean tells Sam that he always thought what they did was important – no matter who they lost. He would take the hit and keep on fighting because he believed they were making the world a better place, and now he just doesn’t know. Sam surmises he doesn’t believe any more, and Dean tells him he just needs a win.

I’m not a big fan of the musical montage at the end of this episode – primarily because I’m not a big Steppenwolf fan. However, the episode ends with Dean getting a call as they drive home through the night – and then they change course. Dean gets his win. Castiel is waiting for them near a chapel at a telephone booth.

I’ll be interested to see Castiel’s reaction to Jack. Will he want to stay with him at the Bunker? Will Jack want to leave with him? Will Castiel be able to help Jack open the rip to rescue Mary? Will Dean’s hope be restored? And what work do Dean and Sam have to do? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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