I don't have a preamble tonight. You all know the drill... seen the episode once, not the best memory, been drinking.
Let's get to it!
So, I'm not going to lie, I didn't have the highest hopes going into this episode - just because by now I'm used to the writer-rotation and I figured no one could follow up Robbie Thompson with a motw and survive. BUT!!! I was pleasantly surprised and I learned an important lesson about giving people the benefit of the doubt. Of course, as you all know, I don't read credits, so I didn't realize this was the new writer's first ep until I got home and read twitter - but she did a great job! If this is her just out of the gate, I'm excited to see what she produces when she picks up speed.
Anyway, we begin our tale in Fall River, MA, where two teenagers are brutally slain by an axe murderer. (Ax? Axe? How do you spell Axe? I want to put an e, because Ax looks dumb to me, but maybe *I'm* dumb.)
There was some confusion, because they put on that old song and then referenced The Shining, and that old song isn't in The Shining as far as my friend could recall and google on her phone. It IS in 2001. But, nevertheless, two young-adults be dead... because apparently staying in a haunted hotel is super fun and a good way to get laid... or murdered.
They also reference the Ghostfacers (I think) before they bite it, which was a really nice in universe reference.
Then we cut to Sam and Dean in the Bunker, and Sam has caught wind of the murders and is interested in going, because the hotel is apparently Lizzie Borden's house - and Lizzie Borden, I learn in this episode, is an American "serial killer" - though it sounds to me like she just murdered her own family, so... not really serial. But, Dean accuses the case of just being an excuse for Sam to indulge in his serial killer "fetish". I know this is a recent canon - just mentioned last year for the first time, but it's actually canon consistant with the only other episode that dealt with the ghost of a serial killer. In No Exit, way back in S2, it was Sam who recognized the real name of HH Holmes. Dean knew all about him too, but Sam was the one who knew the most.
Dean indulges Sam and agrees that they can go check it out. He asks "what about Cas" but according to Sam, Cas has just started binge-watching S2 of The Wire and is unlikely to surface anytime soon. I gotta say, I absolutely love this way of writing Cas out of the episodes - I just love picturing Cas in some room in the bunker binge watching Netflix and every time he comes up for air, the boys have left on another case, and he's just like, "Well... I guess I'll just start watching Person of Interest until they get home... " and then he disappears for another episode.
Anyway, Sam and Dean drive to Fall River and rent the hotel room. There's a lot of cool stuff here, like the hotel guy making a crack about working with family for 20 years... and Dean and Sam are like "uh, yeah, three years is the longest time we've gone consequtively WITHOUT working together since I was 6 months old, but yeah, 20 years must be rough..." only, you know, they say that with their eyes.
I also love the part where the hotel guy yells at his mother that "these guys" could probably eat some danishes, and Sam makes the "yeah, I could totally go for a danish" face.
They get up to the room and Dean is disgusted by the amount of flowers and doilies... and also annoyed that the hotel manager didn't mention that there was only one bed. I like the fact that they don't make a gay joke about it, even though I bet it's totally because he figured they were gay.
And, although I don't believe for a second that Sam wouldn't know what "Eau de toilette" means - I had to laugh at the "toilet water" exchange and Dean asking "why are you spraying it?!" and Sam being like "I wanted to see if the squeezy thing worked" and it's just perfect, because in that moment Sam is TOTALLY Dean's younger brother who is maybe seven years old.
Then it's investigating time - and they discover that it's all a hoax. There's an EMF generator, the lights are on timers, and there are speakers in the walls. Dean does happen to see a photographer outside though.
So, they go out for food.
And then the hotel manager lady gets murdered!
Sam and Dean break out their FBI badges and get right on the case, but hotel guy is distraught. This is where I start thinking it's hotel guy...only for him to never show up in the episode again...
They're on the their way to interview weird photographing dude when Sam gets a call about another murder in the next county. So, they split up... I guess Sam steals a car? This is never addressed. It'd be funny if Sam stole a car and drove it to a crime scene though.
Oh hey, Impala was all fixed in this episode!!! What are your guesses for how long that would have taken Dean and/or Sam and/or Cas? I need to know for timeline purposes. I feel kinda cheated out of "Dean working on the Impala" montages... but, I guess you can't have everything.
Dean goes to talk to Len, the photograph dude, who is a Lizzie Borden fan/believer. He tells Dean all about the restraining order he has and whatnot, and in general he's a pretty adorable little guy.
Meanwhile, Sam goes to the murder scene and talks to the babysitter, and then the mother comes home and is like "get out!" and Sam is like "geez lady" and the cop is like "people experience shock" and Sam is like "yeah, but RUDE" and the cop is like "some people have freaky reactions to loss" and Sam is like "trust, me, I know, I once started drinking demon-blood and went on a revenge demon-killing spree in response to loss... and this other time, I accidentally ran over a dog and then shaked up with an alcoholic veterinarian who was only using me to avoid thinking about her dead husband.... but still RUDE AND I THINK SHE'S THE MURDERER!"
Then Dean is looking through Len's papers and he finds a sketch of the Mark of Cain.... well, that's not creepy at all! She said, sarcastically. Dean freaks out a little and Len picks up on that, but he tells Dean everything - he saw Amara, outside the hotel. He sketched the Mark because she had it on her shoulder (Dude, the mark is on her chest... can you not even reference that general body part when it comes to underage kids? It just seems sort of weird. I mean, maybe say collarbone or something, "close to her clavical" perhaps, but "shoulder" is either the side or the back, colloquially.
Then we find out that Amara sucked out Len's soul! And this part is super interesting because Len describes in great deal how he feels - or rather, doesn't feel - and we discover that much like the dementors in HP, Amara gives people depression... or at least, she's given Len depression.. as we find out, there are different reactions.
This leads to another great conversation between Sam and Dean where we get the classic battle between a pessimist and an optimist. I reiterate again, at it's heart, Supernatural works best when that's what it's about - a pessimist and an optimist traveling the country together and asking questions about humanity. I love that stuff, and that's exactly what this episode is. Dean thinks Len is a ticking timebomb and they have to kill him, Sam thinks that Len should be given the benefit of the doubt and also they should try to save him. It's awesome because their are both simultaenously right and wrong.
They compromise (or rather, Sam wins) and they take Len with them as they try to track down the rude wife before she murders again. They call the babysitter and she is super sketchy and I immediately shift my suspicious to her, but then I think, well, maybe I'm wrong? (Spoiler: I am not wrong)
Len continues to give them valuable information into his condition - he feels like darkness is filling him up, waiting to be released. Dean gets impatient and just tells him that his soul is gone, Sam is not overly thrilled at Dean's bluntness - but to be fair, Sam, Dean DID ask you to talk to Len so you could break it to him nicely and you refused - you should have anticipated that Dean might take matters into his own hands.
Dean handcuffs Len to the car. Len understands but is disappointed.
Then they see an overturned lamp through the house window and it's time to stalk around the house with their guns drawn. Dean takes the basement and Sam takes the upstairs (is there any fanon out there about the way they divvy up this job...I'm starting to wonder how often Dean is like "I'll take the super sketchy basement, you go check out the sunny upstairs, Sammy.")
Dean finds bodies and gets knocked out for his trouble. Sam gets held at gun point by the babysitter after finding Jordy, the kid, in the upstairs closet. As soon as Sam put his gun down OUT OF REACH to assist Jordy, I knew that was going to happen...oh Sam, what the heck were you thinking?
The babysitter, we find out, has also met Amara. She's going to offer the Winchesters to her like a sacrifice to a goddess, because that's what she believes Amara is. She recounts for us their meeting and this time Amara did things a little differently - before she sucked out the babysitter's soul, she gave her the experience of pure joy. It's very interesting...so, while Amara is as empty of actual morality (beyond the concept of morality), she feels peaceful in everything she does and every decision she makes...she feels joy and peace and freedom. She takes a very dostoevsky-an stance and associates the ability to murder with the experience of true freedom.
I'm getting ahead of myself. She also has a cool conversation with Amara in which Amara calls angels "whiney winged suck-ups" - which, I find interesting, because either Amara learned about angels from Crowley, or she met them before... both are possible.
Anyway, the babysitter is free from her memories, the abuses of her past, her ptsd, etc. She killed Jordy's family because he saw a reflection of her own in them... I wonder why she didn't kill her own... maybe she had already run away and they were just inconveniently far away to go back and kill.
In the end, it's Len who saves the day - which, I sort of knew was going to happen, because you don't leave a soulless dude handcuffed to a car without there being consequences or him coming into play later - that's a rule of writing, I'm sure.
Sam confronts the kiddie-poo. It's actually a pretty nice conversation, and very character-y, because Sam empathizes with him, recognizes part of himself in him, and then tells him that it's going to be okay and that "people are going to help you." And I just really like that belief in people being kind that Sam has... and to me, it means that even as a kid, he experienced that kindness from more people than just Dean. More people than just Dean helped Dean and Sam... and Sam might have been thinking of Bobby, or Pastor Jim, or whomever, but I like that he totally recognizes that there were people have always wanted to help.
Dean takes Len back home and they have a chat. Len talks about how he only did what he did because he could remember that it was the "right" to help Sam and Dean, but he didn't FEEL it. He didn't necessarily actually care, he just logically looked at the situation and realized that a "normal" person WOULD care. And it's very much Soulless!Sam type logic - fake it until you make it, or just enough to fool your brother for as long as possible anyway. But, Len also recognizes that he'll probably kill again and he needs to be stopped. He tells Dean to kill him, but Dean says no, so Len decides to turn himself in for ALL the murders, so therefore they'll never let him out.
What I find super interesting is A)Dean doesn't kill Len. I think if I were Dean, I seriously concider it - if Len ASKED to be killed, if there's no way to cure him... but then, I DO live in a country that has legal assisted-suicide, so maybe my left-leaning politics has made me extremely biased. B)Len doesn't kill HIMSELF. This I also find fancinating. There's still some self-preservation instinct in Len, because although he basically asks Dean to kill him, he doesn't even float the possibility of hanging himself... I guess it'd be WAY too dark for the show, because Len IS basically depressed, so, yeah, we don't want to promote suicide... but, at the same time, I have to wonder what stops him, or what in his mind is okay with dying by Dean's hand but not his own.
Then Sam and Dean stop for burgers and talk about what they're going to do about Amara... the concensus is that they'll just follow the bodies until they find her and then they'll figure it out. They drive off down the road and out of the trees steps Amara, who tells the fading-into-the-sunset!Dean that she'll see him soon.
Very ominous indeed and unsettling.
So, yeah, surprisingly good episode for a motw from a new writer! I am happy with this new hire. There was lots to chew on and also some great laughs. :)
Next week it looks like we're back to mytharc already!