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Quick Reaction: 11x05 Thin Lizzie


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!



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2015 01:14 pm (UTC)
I was very impressed with all the callbacks to canon in this episode--as a first-time writer, I think that is a very good sign that she has done her homework!

Len was a fascinating character...reminded me in a way of Ronald Resnick back in Nightshifter from year 2, the guy who was convinced there were mandroids among us, and I'm kind of surprised Len survived! But turning himself in was an unexpected and novel solution to the problem. Last season's Dean would have killed him without a thought...but we have 'our Dean' back who doesn't kill humans in cold blood--whew!

I also liked how they went back to Sam's soulless time to analyze what is happening now--again, the writer did her research in creating a new development for what soullessness means now...

I am glad to see that there is going to be some layering to Amara's character--she is not pure evil, like Dick Roman was, she has layers and there may be some internal logic to her behavior that she is not acting purely to destroy humanity like Roman and Lucifer did...She did say she was going to help the babysitter and then gave her that blissful moment before sucking out her soul...hmmm
Nov. 5th, 2015 02:36 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't say that Dick Roman was pure evil though. From a human perspective, maybe, but then to cows, humans would be evil as well.

He was a leader who took care of his people in the best way he could think of. It's just that he saw humans as food, and like any one in food production, he saw no reason why he couldn't improve production, take down losses and decrease waste of resources on humans that weren't 'good' genetic stock.

Like any good rancher, he'd make sure that his food stock is healthy, well fed and cared for, until they're ready for the slaughter. Not sure if you can call that evil though.
Nov. 5th, 2015 03:56 pm (UTC)
Okay, I can see your point that to cows humans are evil...it's just that Roman was glorying in turning people into food, gloating over how stupid humans were...and that over-the-topness--a trait shared by Metatron and to an extent, Rowena,--make them less interesting villians to me. Their operating POV is that humans are stupid. I'm not getting that from Amara right now, more that humans are a puzzle.
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:34 pm (UTC)
I think there IS a difference, if we're using the cow metaphor - and you can still call it "pure evil" vs "evil." Because you can butcher cows one of two ways, you can treat them like non-sentient beings without emotions and fatten them up and slaughter them all. Or, you can take the Temple Grandin approach and treat them like sentient beings with emotional lives and you can CARE about their well-being before you lead them to slaughter.

Arguably, there's a measure of one of those two methods being more evil than the other. We've seen Amara do both... she just sucked out Lens soul, but with the babysitter she gave her a moment of bliss first. Why? Was it an experiment to see if the soul would taste sweeter? Did she actually want to give the girl joy so that she wouldn't miss her soul like Len? Is she trying to eat with a conscious?

To me, Roman was just concerned about the end product - how fat could he make the cows, how quickly could he slaughter them? Any "care" that went into it was to make them docile and the slaughtering easier for the rancher, rather than for the cattle.

Anyway, my point is that I think free range organics is slightly less evil than the sort of "big agricultural" methods.
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:26 pm (UTC)
YES! Len totally reminds me of Ronald Resnick, they have that same sort of innocent lovable quality to them.

And yes, I suppose that's the thing, after two seasons of shoot-first/murdery Dean, I was actually really surprised that he refrained from killing Len. It's nice.

Agreed completely on the writer doing her research, both in the soulless plot-lines that have come before, explaining the continuity, and also in the callbacks.

Agreed completely about Amara, her motivations aren't as transparent as Roman or some of the other villains. It makes for a more interesting build-up and a more formidable "villain" - if you don't know her motivations, it's hard to know what her next move is going to be, or what the true nature of the danger she posses is (beyond leaving soulless husks in her wake).
Nov. 5th, 2015 01:53 pm (UTC)
Hehehe! The ep was pretty funny but your review, as always, cracked me up!!

Loved the episode!

Interesting point about Len not killing himself. If he could rip his thumb off and not feel badly about it, doesn't seem like a very difficult thing to do.

I like Axe better too. Both are correct - Ax is used in the States more :P
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:37 pm (UTC)

And yes, I do find it curious that Len never even floated the idea.

And thanks for answering my question about Axe! I like the e. It just looks more correct.
Nov. 6th, 2015 03:49 am (UTC)
I think it's a survival instinct thing. Not caring about hurting yourself, isn't the same as not caring about killing yourself. Remember that soulless Sam was so unwilling to 'die', aka get his soul back, that he was willing to kill Bobby to prevent someone from ending his existence.
Nov. 6th, 2015 06:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's the only explanation I could come up with too... but yet, he seemed to be okay with Dean killing him, and that should have been against that same survival instinct too.
Nov. 6th, 2015 01:31 pm (UTC)
I thought of that too, since I am doing quite a thorough rewatch of Season 6 at present. But Len's situation is quite different from Sam's. Soulless Sam thought it was better to live soulless than to risk the dangers of getting his soul back. Len, on the other hand, thought it was better to die than to live without his soul.

Maybe he remembered having the belief that it was wrong to take your own life? If he is trying to act like he used to, that could prevent him from killing himself :D
Nov. 5th, 2015 04:34 pm (UTC)
Firstly, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed your take. Maybe because it largely matched mine.

I really appreciated that there was someone else out there who can see that while it was not right for Dean to automatically jumpt to kill the soul less guy, he wasn't wrong about him either. I know Sam was absolutely correct in thining that they needed to try to help him first, but at the same time I don't think he really beleived that there was anyway they could help. It's a catch-22 really. Because it's either kill this guy before he hurts anyone, but he'll be innocent of any realy wrong doing or wait until he kills some other [innocent] person and then there's two dead people. No one wins right?

Also, about your question. I'm not sure what you are asking (though I have an idea) but to me that is just Dean's typical protective [big!brother] instincts coming out. For me it's about the trope that basements are typically seen as much more scary and dangereous than 'sunlit rooms' so Dean would never allow anyone [especiaslly his beloved little brother] to go the more dangerous route.
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)

And yes, I like it when the boys are both right and wrong - it makes for more compelling arguments when they both make good points, but also the actions their advocating aren't necessarily the correct actions to take. It definitely is a catch-22 when it comes to the soulless... do you wait for more bodies or do you take the risk that you're killing someone harmless?

I was just wondering if there was any already-established fanon about Dean searching the basements first. I don't think there is, but it makes sense to me for the reasons that you say... that Dean would take the more dangerous corners of any house in an effort to keep Sam safe.
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:11 pm (UTC)
I love how it turned out not to be a MOTW episode!

* * *

I used to work in a doily hotel myself. It really does look as creepy in real life :)

* * *

Those fed suits look so expensive! Especially Sam’s. Salvatore Ferragamo expensive. We’ve come a long way from season 1 monkey suits

* * *

The boy who lost his parents is soooo beautiful. I hope he’ll be a handsome man.

* * *

Those eyebrows on Amara. Absolutely hypontic. In a good way. I’m jealous.

She escaped Hell then…

* * *

Finally they addressed how loss of a soul affects different people differently!

Edited at 2015-11-05 10:13 pm (UTC)
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:44 pm (UTC)
Oh man, yeah, I've never stayed at a doily motel, but it'd probably feel like staying at my grandmother's house or something...though, probably with less nicotine stains. :P

Agreed about the suits! They're tastes have matured with them.

Also agreed about Jody. He's got good bone structure.

Amara's little sojourn from hell is interesting because the promo for next week suggests that it probably is just a little side-trip that she may or may not have had permission for.

I'm interested to see if they explore the soul-thing further. I've seen some fan-speculation that Dean may have had his soul sucked out by Amara, and the thought did cross my mind during this episode, since Dean seems to be the only one who has met Amara and NOT had his soul sucked out...but I'm not too sure about the theory. I think there'd be more signs... also, Dean JUST got rid of the mark, I'd kinda like him to be normal for while. :P
Nov. 6th, 2015 11:25 am (UTC)
Yeap, they even had those toilet water bottles with vintage pumps. Pink flowery wallpaper, canopy beds - the works.

Re: Dean goes to talk to Len, the photograph dude, who is a Lizzie Borden fan/believer.

I suck. I just read 'belieBer'.
Nov. 6th, 2015 05:21 pm (UTC)
Oh man, way to ruin an entire word bieber!

Yeah, I wasn't sure what to call him, because "fan" fits, I suppose... but, he believes in the ghost, so I wanted to capture that... and language is hard. :P
Nov. 5th, 2015 11:08 pm (UTC)
This was definitely an enjoyable episode. I don’t actually have much to say about it (and, for once, I think I’m actually telling the truth! …well, proportionately to how long I usually ramble in the comments here, anyway…) (thank you for being patient with my babbling!)

I caught the Ghostfacers reference, too! And, while they’re not my favorite, I do like it when the world feels interconnected, and previous plot points are referenced. There was a lot of that this episode, and it pleased me.

Yeah, Lizzie Borden (if she was guilty; I read something about her recently and I can’t remember whether or not this guy, using modern analytical techniques, decided she was likely to have done it or it was likely someone else; I think he decided she and her sister conspired or something? But like I said, I don’t recall)…anyway, all that aside, whether or not she was guilty, she wasn’t a serial killer, no. But she was an infamous American murderer, and most of those are serial killers, so…::shrug:: She gets the label, even if it doesn’t fit.

I love that Sam dorks out about serial killers/famous murderers. Mostly because I do. And, yeah, it’s a new canon—but, like you said, it makes sense. And I like it.

Totally agreed on this seasons way of keeping Cas offscreen. Also, yay for Person of Interest! I really like that show.

Agreed about the ‘toilet water’ exchange! It made me giggle.

I thought it would turn out to be the hotel guy, too.

Agreed on Sam’s reactions to the mother. And everything you said about Dean and Len and the Mark. Len was kind of adorable.

I really loved Sam and Dean arguing over who had to tell Len he was soulless. I just liked that scene. And then Sam’s reaction to Dean’s eventual bluntness.

As for how Amara knows about angels…probably Crowley’s got a lot to do with it, but weren’t the Archangels involved in locking her up? She could conceivably have gotten that impression from at least two of them…

I really thought Len was going to end up killing himself, too. I’m glad he didn’t, mostly because that would have been a super dark turn on what’s overall a fairly light episode (she says, after the episode with soul-sucking monsters and horrific backstories and axe murders)…but, yeah, it is interesting. I like the ‘people have different reactions to soullessness’ aspect to this episode in general. It’s been touched on before, at least briefly, but this episode really focused on that, and I like lore expansions (if that’s the right phrase?) like that…

That was a slightly unsettling moment at the end with Amara, yes. Although she doesn’t actually creep me out nearly as much as previous child monsters/villains have? I’m not sure exactly why, because she hits a lot of the same notes…but, like, for example, I can’t watch most of Lillith’s episodes unless someone is with me and it’s broad daylight, but Amara I’m not having that problem with…IDK.

Anyway, yes! Agreed with your summation about the episode. I do like how, while neither this episode nor last was mytharc-focused, it’s gone back to that S5 vibe where all the episodes touched on the mytharc at least vaguely. Anyway, we’ll see what happens next week when we get back into mytharc for real, so to speak…should be fun!
Nov. 6th, 2015 07:03 am (UTC)
I guess before the real "rash" of serial killers, or the "feeling" that there are many serial killers thanks to TV shows, there were really only legendary murders and murderers, and Lizzie Borden falls into that category, so it makes sense that Sam would know of her.. or that serial killer enthusiasts would know of her.

Also, yay for Person of Interest! I really like that show.

I'm going to be honest - I've only seen a couple episodes. But I've got a really good friend here in Vancouver who is a huge fan of it and writes a ton of fanfic for it. So, yeah... they really want me to watch it, and I MIGHT, but I am so slow at watching shows it's ridiculous and I've got to catch up on and finish some other shows first.

probably Crowley’s got a lot to do with it, but weren’t the Archangels involved in locking her up? She could conceivably have gotten that impression from at least two of them…

I'm not sure if that's been confirmed by canon or not. I can't remember what Death's exact words were... I know that all signs are pointing to the archangels being key to locking her up again, so odds are good that it's correct - but still, I'm just not sure we've got confirmation on that yet so I didn't want to jump to conclusions.

but this episode really focused on that, and I like lore expansions (if that’s the right phrase?) like that…

Well, I understand what you mean, so therefore you have communicated effectively using words whether they exist or not! And agreed!

And yeah, little Lilith was way more creepy than Amara. I'm not sure what it is either.

I do like how, while neither this episode nor last was mytharc-focused, it’s gone back to that S5 vibe where all the episodes touched on the mytharc at least vaguely.

Agreed agreed, they haven't actually been that bad about that in recent years, but it seems even more ingrained this season.

Thanks for the ramble!! :)
Nov. 6th, 2015 04:09 pm (UTC)
Random thoughts:
Your recaps are basically my only touchstone for understanding all the spn gifsets that float past on tumblr these days.

Cas hanging out in the bunker, unseen, watching netflix is hilarious though.

Lizzie Borden is mostly remembered through a line of doggerel, which I HOPE the show included, because if they didn't shame on them.

Nov. 6th, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC)
I am happy to provide that service for you... and find it amusing that most of the time, I am drunk.

I know it would piss off the Cas fans, but part of me kind of wants them to spend the entire season with Cas in another room, unseen, watching netflix. It would just be too hilarious.

They didn't include the doggerel! So, shame on them. Unless I just missed it - but coincidentally, I watched an episode of Warehouse 13 that mentioned Lizzie Borden yesterday, and THEY had the doggerel.
Nov. 6th, 2015 10:32 pm (UTC)
hah! So warehouse 13 had your back then.
Nov. 6th, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, once again, TV is my source of knowledge when it comes to the history of Americaland.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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