To stop a ghost from killing again, Dean is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
After reading about a young boy found on the side of highway that would only speak the word "monster" in Grand Junction, Colorado, Sam thinks that they have a case. He suggests that they leave Jack behind for this one as he has Sam's collection of nerdy fantasy movies to keep him occupied. Not one to argue, Dean agrees to have a hunt with just the two of them. After they arrive in town, they head over to the young boy's house to ask him about what happened but there's one problem – Shawn is traumatized and won't speak. With no answers about what happened to Shawn or his friend Evan, Sam suggests they head to the local strip club rather than the hotel. Knowing something is definitely up, Dean calls Sam out. Sam quickly confesses that he is worried about his brother since he doesn't believe in anything right now. Dean assures Sam that it will be fine but that he just needs time...and booze. The next day, Sam leaves a hungover Dean to recover while he speaks to Shawn's friend, Mike, about where Shawn and Evan went. After a bit of pressure, Mike tells Sam that Shawn and Evan went to the home of Dr. Avery Meadows. Sam later catches up with Dean and fills him in on the details. Dr. Meadows treated patients in his home during the nineteen sixties but lobotomized all of them. The ones that survived only lived to be experimented on even more. He was eventually stopped but only after he killed several people. Just then, Sam gets a call that Shawn is missing. Whatever they do, the Winchesters need to do it soon before Shawn becomes another one of the doctor's victims.
With a name like Advanced Thanatology, this episode of Supernatural could only be terrible. To start, the story of the episode didn't work. From the poorly constructed ghost to the recycled emotional detachment that Dean goes through every two seasons, the story felt generic at all times. I'm not partial to the monster of the week format but it can work if the story is told well. Instead, we had the Story of Dr. Meadows, a doctor that would lobotomize his patients because that's just what he did...? It's not something that the story ever bothered to explain. Although we were given the simple explanation that the plague mask was to protect him from disease, that's also not what doctors wore during the sixties. If the story was different and placed him in the eighteen sixties I could have believed it but it was just given to the character without having any significance besides giving him a creepy silhouette. Also, lobotomies are a bit more complicated than a power drill. So there's that. Even with all of that, the most out of character thing was how eager Dean was to kill himself to stop the ghost. Dean has killed himself before but he's done it for Sam or only when the situations was dire. How prepared he was to kill himself with a set of needles seemed more extreme than trying to solve the problem without dying first. The only good part of Advanced Thanatology was that Dean acknowledged that this wasn't a win. They defeated the monster but kids are dead and parents are broken. It's an honest take on how they did their job but no one's life is any better for it.
Another misstep Supernatural made in Advanced Thanatology was bringing back the reaper, Billie. I've never been a fan of Billy and have made that abundantly clear in several reviews. As a character, Billie is was an empty threat to the Winchesters; a loaded gun that would ever fire. Now she has become death and though infinite wisdom, has confirmed everything I thought before she can see the bigger picture and understands that the Winchesters are important. How did she never reach that conclusion before this? The Winchesters have saved literally saved the world no less than twelve times and only now does she understand that the two of them are important? It's bad writing on top of worse writing. Had Jack been there it would have bene far more interesting. Something born that may potentially never die rather than watching her lecture Dean on his latest existential crisis is dull. Just because Billie is doing it, it's not suddenly more interesting.
Unfortunately, Advanced Thanatology is easily first big dud of the season. Luckily, Castiel has finally reunited with the Winchesters. We'll see what happens when Jack meets his dad in next week's episode, Tombstone.