WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 15, Episode 7 of Supernatural, “Last Call.”
Dean Winchester just can’t catch a break in Season 15 of Supernatural. In addition to the Winchesters’ ongoing spat with God, there’s also the matter of Sam’s visions of the two killing each other, his tattered relationship with surrogate brother Castiel, and a waning number of allies (and a growing number of enemies).
In the latest episode, “Last Call,” Dean can cross yet another old friend off of his list. This is far from the first time the older Winchester brother has had to deal with the betrayal of a loved one, but the nature of this one really stings because, in confronting the worst in someone close to him, Dean comes face-to-face with a very personal kind of evil.
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The episode sees Dean working a case solo — a missing girl who was claimed to have been “raptured” by her (at the time) drunken best friend. Thinking this could be the work of Chuck (God), Dean traces her steps to a roadside bar in Texas. From its Patrick Swayze-influenced name to its flirtatious bartender to its non-stop party atmosphere, the place is the stuff of Dean’s post-hunting life dreams. To make things even better, he discovers it’s owned by his old hunting buddy, Lee Webb. The pair haven’t seen each other in over a decade, but reminisce as if no time has passed at all.
Though they talk, drink, sing — and even “Roadhouse rules” — the night away, it’s clear to discerning viewers that something isn’t right here. After working a case together with Dean and his father, John, Lee seemed to have fallen off the radar. In fact, Dean is surprised to see him still alive given how it’s been since he last heard from him, which is odd considering how close the two apparently once were. Lee also dodges questions about the circumstances of the final case he worked, only revealing that it was enough to put him off “the life” for good — something he has no regrets about.
Even more suspicious, when Dean shows him a photo of the missing girl, Lee fails to recognize her, despite the bartender, Lorna, reminding him that she’s a regular. When Lorna then offers Dean a lead — the scrapyard — Lee tries to persuade him to go to the lake instead, seeming dismayed when Dean chooses the former, instead. It’s not long before we find out why Lee wanted to keep him away from the scrapyard: just as Dean discovers the missing girl’s body in the trunk of her car, Lee appears behind him and knocks his old friend out.
A groggy Dean awakens in a private room at Lee’s bar with a drip tube stuck protruding from his hand. The other end hangs at the edge of a large cage where the droplets of his blood entice an aquatic-looking monster to step into the light. The monster is a Marid and, as Lee explains to a shocked Dean, it’ll grant all of your wishes as long as you keep feeding it. After discovering the beast during his final hunt, Lee decided it was as good a retirement plan as any, and has been quietly living a charmed, monster-free existence ever since — save, of course, for the one he’s been keeping like a giant, scaly hamster behind his bar all these years and supplying innocent victims to.
Naturally, all Dean wants to know is why someone he once knew to be a brother-in-arms would do something like this, which Lee explains: “Good or bad, the world doesn’t care.” He claims that he deserves a payoff for his past heroism, which Dean scoffs at, disgusted.
Like a true overly cocky villain, once Lee is done with his monologuing, he leaves his former friend to be slowly eaten up — drop by drop. Underestimating Dean becomes his downfall. The resourceful hunter soon escapes his bindings and faces the creatures head-on. Outside, Lee hears the sounds of their scrap followed by footsteps approaching the door. It swings open… and the Marid’s head rolls out. Just to hammer home what the message of this subplot is all about, Lee, in response to Dean saying he doesn’t “know him” anymore, says: “I am you, Dean. I’m the you that woke up and saw the world was broken.
Lee then offers Dean a chance to wash his hands of the incident and be on his way. But the Dean we know never lets a monster go unpunished. The pair go at it with first their guns and then their bare fists, with Lee meeting his demise on the end of a sharpened pool cue.
This storyline is a stand-out one for a few reasons. One is that it harkens back to one of the most terrifying episodes in the show’s history, “The Benders,” in which Sam and Dean come face-to-face with another human family of hunters who kill people instead of monsters. The other is that it perfectly represents the kind of hero Dean Winchester is by having him confront the worst possible version of himself. Lee’s life, on the surface, is everything Dean dreams of having for himself outside of hunting. In fact, we’ve seen him live out this exact version of his own personal heaven just a season ago when Apocalypse World’s version of archangel Michael kept Dean’s psyche trapped in a fantasy in which he owned an old-fashioned bar alongside a confident and beautiful bartender.
But, in order to get it, Lee made a Monkey’s Paw of a promise, turning him, in Dean’s eyes, into the very thing he used to hunt for a living. It would have been easy for Dean to walk away when Lee gave him the opportunity. No one else besides him knew what Lee was up to, after all. Instead, Dean stays and has a fight to the death with a man he used to call a friend because he can’t let any injustice slide. And, as always, he goes home completely empty-handed other than the knowledge that no more young women will be bled dry by Lee and his Marid.
With a long history of excessive violence behind him, Dean is far from a perfect hero, but he is a consistent one. Time and time again, both he and Sam’s selflessness has been one the most compelling things Supernatural has going for it. The quiet, ordinary nature of their heroism rests on the fundamental idea that doing the right thing is its own reward. They don’t get money, fame, love or even a small, rowdy bar in Texas to make it all seem worthwhile; the work is dirty and dangerous and the payoffs are not theirs to enjoy: keeping the world a little safer for those who have no idea it was ever in at risk.
The episode does a great job of succinctly summing all of this up in the end. In his final moments, Lee asks, “Why do you care so much, Dean?” to which Dean simply replies, “Because someone has to.”
Airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, the final season of Supernatural stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Alexander Calvert.
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