Supernatural: Advanced Thanatology
November 13, 2017 6:32 AM - Season 13, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Sam and Dean work on a case involving the ghost of a demented doctor; they get assistance from an unexpected source.

Maybe I'm too spoiler sensitive, but I chopped off one line from IMDB's description that I used for the front page. IMDB's full description reads:

Sam and Dean work on a case involving the ghost of a demented doctor; they get assistance from an unexpected source; Castiel finds his way back to the Winchesters.

Now with that out of the way:

1) I liked Sam trying to help Dean through whatever funk this is. I feel like we haven't seen that enough from these two. Feels like growth, to be working through something rather than pouting and alienating each other. Growth, but it's also believable. Bullets, Bacon, Booze.

2) Billie got a promotion. Nice turn of events. I loved the conversation between Billie and Dean--he's basically suicidal at this point, after everything they've lost, but she sends him back because now she can see that the world needs Winchesters. It was kind of a surprising twist, IMO. Normal SPN goes down some weird Dean-Is-Stuck-In-The-Veil rabbithole and Sam does something shocking and ill-advised to bring him back to life. This was better.

3) Guess who's back? kermitflail.gif
posted by terilou (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ah, but is it really Castiel?

On the other hand we have already done Castiel is not Castiel.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 6:44 AM on November 13, 2017

Ah, but is it really Castiel?

I didn't even think of this and now I feel dumb and sad. I retract my kermitflail.
posted by terilou at 6:57 AM on November 13, 2017

I don’t know, I’m not all that worried that it’s Void-Castiel pretending to be actual-Castiel. I mean, even if it has decided to involve itself with the Winchesters and Jack for some voidly reason, we know that Actual-Cas is no longer dead. Before we saw him I had been legitimately worried we would end up with some doesn’t-know-the-Winchesters-Cas from the alternate reality and all the Dean angst that would entail. So, even if they draw this out with an impersonation, they’ve confirmed that Actual-Cas lives, which makes him rescue-able.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

While I'm sad that my theory that Misha Collins would return to play an aged up Jack didn't pan out, I am looking forward to see how Jack and Cas play off each other.

I thought this was a pretty solid episode. The plot made sense, there was character growth like terilou said, and I love the way they brought back Billie. I hope she always stays a reluctant ally.

(On a semi-related note, the Kid and I met Curtis Armstrong at a con yesterday and he signed the photo of Metatron and Castiel "Love from the world's worst angel" which I thought was just delightful.)
posted by Ruki at 12:27 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I liked Sam trying to be extra-nice to Dean because he knew Dean was sad, especially combined with last week, where he was kind of coaching Jack around like, "okay, I know Dean is being a dope to you, but try it this way" because he actually does know this dude he's lived in a car with for like thirty years at this point.

I also liked that his actual plan, to try and subtly give Dean little things that would make him happy, was so simple and (bless) kind of hamfisted. He's maybe not playing at the top of his emotional range there, but also, taking care of Dean is still outside their most natural dynamic, and something he has to work at doing well (which is different from wanting to make sure that Dean's okay; he always wants that, but I don't think he was ever allowed to actually try and take care of Dean till they were both adults, and even then only very rarely and usually involving disaster at both ends.) Usually Sam's most healthy response to Dean being Not Okay is to very slightly panic and then try to feed him until matters somehow improve, so this is actually a pretty good development for them.

I was glad to see Billie back, I hope she sticks around. She might be a good addition to the spinoff too, actually.

I don't think I have an opinion yet on whether that's really Cas; I didn't watch the Void scenes closely enough to know whether Void Guy might have any possible interest in 1) coming to Earth and 2) impersonating Castiel to the Winchesters. I think I'm rooting for it to be Cas, to get the Evil Twin drama out of the way and to see him and Jack together.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:45 PM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

As I get older, I find I get a lot more upset about horror stuff where kids die. I mean, I never liked watching teens get killed in slasher movies, even when I was a teen, but now it seems more tragic to me than it used to. I felt really bad for these kids, and the devastated mom of the one kid. Their fate just seemed so harsh and awful, and the closest they got to a happy ending was poofing away to the afterlife.

That's not to say it was a bad episode, or the show went darker than it should have. I mean, it's a horror show. Horrifying things happen. But I really hoped those boys were gonna get saved, somehow. They were just dopey little babies!

It's funny how Castiel has been killed so many times it's nearly routine, and we knew he was coming back, but somehow this return did have some real emotional heft. Of course, that Steppenwolf song had a lot to do with it. I'd never heard it before, and Jesus, that was a gut-puncher.

Billie's fine, but I can't stop wishing the original Death would come back. That guy had a weird gravitas that elevated every scene he was in. I still can't quite believe they took him out as easily as they did. But it was interesting that while Billie's not quite an ally, she's seeing the Winchesters in a different way. She won't just be crabbing about how she'll get them for real NEXT time...

I also liked the moment when Dean almost kept the truth about Billie from Sam, but then coughed it up. They spent entire seasons keeping these huge, often inexplicable secrets from each other, and this did feel like a nod to that and progress of a sort. No more big secrets for no reason!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:18 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah I also appreciated Dean just spilling it for once, and Sam rightly making him. I'm looking forward to more Billie, the actress is really nailing that "I really wish I could throw you into the void but goddammit I can't" look.

I don't care if it's void-Cas, #kermitflail away! I don't think it is though, the void seemed more intent on going back to sleep.
posted by numaner at 11:17 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sam being all, "hey, wanna check out the Golden Clam?" (or whatever it was) cracked me up.

Also, Dean's very casual and sudden "oh, gonna go kill myself now, be back in three minutes" in an episode where we were already reminded that the Reapers object to that made me go "dude, what?" Though of course he's suicidal, and he only asks for the problem to be solved, not that he cares about going back.

And then Billie's change of heart...damn. Wow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this one for reasons you guys have already touched on: I feel like the Winchesters have grown, (in prior seasons this secret would've been season-long), I'm glad to see Castiel and I thought Billie's change of heart was way more interesting than her promise to toss them to the Empty.

Billie's fine, but I can't stop wishing the original Death would come back.

This is my one complaint there too - I really liked original flavor Death. I mean, Billie's cool and all, (and has the right poise for the job), but he was pretty great, and I miss his food obsession.
posted by mordax at 8:53 AM on November 14, 2017


Dean: What about Jack?
Sam: He's catching up on all my old fantasy DVDs, Red Sonja, Beastmaster, Beastmaster II, you know, the one with the time traveling ferrets.
Dean: Yeah. Wow. How you ever got laid, I'll never know.

Sam: Well I say we talk to the other friend, uh, Mike, first thing in the morning.
Dean: Sounds like a plan.
Sam: So, strip club?
Dean: Wait. Sorry. What?
Sam: Mm, strip… club. There’s one just outside of town, the, uh… Clamdiver.
Dean: You wanna go to the Clamdiver?
Sam: Yeah. It – it got great reviews.
Dean: You read reviews for the Clamdiver?
Sam: It got four and a half –
Dean: Dude, what is going on with you?
Sam: What are you talking about?
Dean: All day. You give me a beer for breakfast. You gave me Agent Page, which you always like to be. You didn’t whine about me blaring my music the whole way here. And when we stopped for lunch, you ordered my chili fries.
Sam: You love chili fries.
Dean: Everybody loves chili fries. That’s not the point. Now you wanna go hang out at a strip club? You hate strip clubs.
Sam: No I don’t.
Dean: Dude the last lap dance you had was at Christmas. It was a gift, paid for by me. You spent the entire song trying to convince the girl that she should go to nursing school. So what is it? Is it my birthday? Did I win a bet that I don’t know about? What?
Sam: No, nothing. Nothing. I mean, I’m just trying to be nice.
Dean: Why?
Sam: Because… you know why.
Dean: I’m fine.
Sam: No, you’re not, Dean. You said you don’t believe in anything and that’s not true. That’s not you. You do believe in things. You believe in people. That’s who you are. That’s what you do. I know you’re in a dark place, and I just want to help.
Dean: Okay. Look, I’ve been down this road before and I fought my way back. I will fight my way back again.
Sam: How?
Dean: Same way I always do: bullets, bacon, and booze. [rings front desk bell] A lotta booze.


The masks that the boys find in the house, and the one worn by the ghost, are plague masks, notably worn by doctors dating back to the 14th century in Rome. These doctors treated people afflicted with the bubonic plague, also known as "The Black Death". The beak of the mask was hollow and was filled with dried flowers, herbs, and spices. This served two purposes, one of which was to mask the smell of dead bodies and other unpleasant odours one would encounter treating people afflicted with the plague. However, its main function was to protect the wearer from being infected by the disease. Back in the 14th century it was believed that diseases were transmitted via "bad air"; this theory was called miasma. It was believed by doctors that the herbs would counter the "evil" smells of the plague and prevent them from becoming infected. The miasma theory was disproven by the germ theory of disease, but germ theory wasn't accepted by the medical community as fact until well into the 19th century.

Thanatology is the study of death.

The scene on the staircase landing takes place in Hatley Castle, which is also used as the home of Oliver Queen in Arrow and Luthor mansion in Smallville.

Sam thinks it is risky that Dean is willing to intentionally temporarily kill himself so that he can pierce the veil and get information from the dead, but Dean has already successfully done this not once, but twice before, in "Appointment in Samarra" (ep. 6.11) and "Red Meat" (ep. 11.17).

Alisen Down, who plays Penny Raider, also played Alice Cassity in "Trial and Error" (ep. 8.14).

On Royal Towers Hotel in the morning, when the alarm sounds in the morning, the radio clock (or what he is) shows three different times: 7:59 (the alarm sounds) then 8:00, and the next second 8:01 and the alarm is stopped by Sam. In the next frame, the clock shows again 8:00.

One of the ways that Billie mentions Dean possibly dying is being killed by a ghoul in a graveyard. The next episode after this one depicts Dean hunting a ghoul in a graveyard.

Billie mentions being "burned by a redhaired witch" as a possible method of Dean (permanently) dying. This is a possible reference to Rowena's return later in the season.

When Castiel returns from the Big Empty, his trench coat is different; instead of plain and unadorned, it is now vented in front and back and has a belt.
posted by orange swan at 4:09 PM on February 7, 2022

I think I might have enjoyed seeing Sam spending the duration of a lap dance trying to convince the stripper to go to nursing school.

It seemed very contrived to me that Dean would decide to temporarily off himself to find out where the doctor hid the bodies. They're bodies -- they can't be that hard to find. But then again, he's grieving and not thinking straight. Part of him wanted to die.
posted by orange swan at 4:13 PM on February 7, 2022

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