It was always going to be difficult to follow Robbie Thompson’s ‘Baby’, which left me smiling for an entire week. Show was gutsy in giving the follow-up episode to a brand new writer, Nancy Won. But guess what? She pretty much pulled it off! The episode wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good.
Good things? It was SCARY. Old school Supernatural scary. Creepy music and big haunted-looking mansion full of creepy dolls and Lizzie Borden paintings that evoked ‘Playthings.’ Filmed in classic horror movie fashion, so that a simple walk down the basement stairs had me wanting to cover my eyes. That moment when Dean discovered the mark on one of the papers in Len’s house? Truly chilling. I gasped out loud! Love when Show can make me do that.
There was so much old school goodness. EMF meters. Smart boys figuring out it wasn’t a ghost in no time flat. Winchesters picking locks (competence kink, mmm). Sam and Dean ending up in a hotel room with one double (and lots of doilies). Winchesters tied up (it must be Tuesday, though this time it was Dean who got knocked out – yay for saving Sam some brain cells!). A Ghostfacers reference! Boys talking while leaning on the car and overlooking water. Even the ending shot. Old school! And I like it.
And in the midst of all that scary, some truly gorgeous shots of our boys, lit by flashlight like only Serge Ladouceur can do, or staring up into a flickering light fixture or peering through blinds. I loved the way Dean tapping on the flickering lights was reminiscent of Mary in the pilot.
I also loved the use of music once again, including the horror film-esque instrumentals, and later the version of one of the brothers’ themes as Sam bonds with Jordy.
I also loved Len. Kudos to Jared Gertner for playing him with heart (if not soul) and nuance. When we first met Len, I was worried we were going to get another fannish stereotype, and to some extent, we did – Dean refers to him as a “psycho fan” and a “crazed fan” and the words “obsessed” “harmless” and “superfan” are all right in line with some of the stereotypes I’m not wild about. But Len was written (and acted) to be much more than a stereotype; much like some of Kripke’s fan characters, Len even gets to save the day. And he’s not a loser the way we were eventually told that Becky was. “I’ve always been quirky, but I had a life, I had friends,” Len says wistfully. And Dean seems to get that. He changes his mind about Len as we all learn what kind of a man he really is. For a guy without a soul, he comes across as very human – a good man fighting to still do the right thing even without the built-in sense of guilt that is supposed to keep us all from killing each other.
It’s a testament to Nancy Won’s writing that even in the course of one episode, I cared about Len. I almost had to reach for the tissues when he told Dean that he needed to be stopped, and volunteered to be put away for others’ protection. That’s really something for a man without a soul!
I especially loved Sam’s interaction with Jordy in this episode. Jordy was clearly set up as a young Sam mirror, so it’s extra heartwarming to see grown-up Sam consoling him. It’s a moment that mirrors Sam and Dean too, with one of the brothers’ themes softly in the background as Sam tells Jordy, “People are gonna help you.” Like Dean helped Sam. Like family will do, to get you through.
For a brand new writer, it certainly felt like Nancy Won had done her homework. She must have watched more than a few episodes, because she got her canon right, which I always appreciate. Sam and Dean even talked about Sam’s time being soulless!!!
Too often the characters seem to forget their own history, not referencing something in their past when it seems clear they would. Won didn’t fall into that trap, and it added a layer of realism to see that the brothers have the same memories of their journey as we do.
Which brings me to the theme of the episode, and the question that’s currently rippling through fandom. What does it mean to be soulless? This episode made it clear that people react differently to losing their souls. Sam reacted one way, Len another, Sidney and that other girl who killed her grandmother in a more violent fashion. What makes that difference? Did the two women just have more of an axe to grind (sorry…)? Does losing your soul just allow you to act out your revenge fantasies if in fact you happen to have them?
(Btw, it bothered me to hear so much about Sidney’s past. I couldn’t help but empathize with her, an abuse survivor and trauma victim struggling with PTSD symptoms that were written almost too well. I guess Show is trying to explain to us why she has a lot of rage, but it just ended up making me feel bad for her and not want her villainized. It’s a horror movie trope, but one I don’t like.)
Len kept talking about how the lack of a soul was pulling at him too, making him darker. He seemed sure that he’d kill again eventually. Will that always happen? Why didn’t Sam go more murderous without his soul?
And the biggest question of all: was Show using Len as a mirror because one of the Winchesters is lacking something in the soul department? Was that what Amara did to Dean when she leaned in for what looked like it might be a kiss in those flash-forward-or-backward visions?
There has been a lot of speculation that Dean is somehow “off” this season. That despite Jensen’s insistence that the brothers aren’t afflicted by anything, that Dean has been colder (especially to Sam) than expected, and that maybe that means he’s at least partially soulless. I haven’t really seen it, but this episode and all the discussion of how being soulless affects everyone differently – and Len’s demonstration of how well someone who’s motivated and has a bit of conscience left can convincingly “go through the motions” — made me wonder. There was so much emphasis on faking it in the conversation between Dean and Len, that it certainly seemed intentional.
Later, Dean describes his time with Amara in the same way as Sidney does: quiet. Dean Winchester has as much of a trauma background as the babysitter, and perhaps as much longing for that sort of quiet. Did Amara know that? Is that part of her ‘bond’ with him?
On the ‘not soulless’ side, Dean’s appetite seems intact, both for sex and food and drink. He slept in ‘Baby’ and if he’s faking it for Sam’s sake, why did he apologize to the Impala for all that befell her when he was all alone? He was also empathic in his conversation with Len, insisting that he didn’t want to kill him and looking distressed about the whole situation.
On the ‘but maybe’ side, he’s definitely grumpy and not Mr. Empathy, particularly in that strange exchange in this episode where Sam reminds him that they’re trying to save people, not kill them, and Dean says “oh that’s right, the new rules.”
Huh? Those are definitely not new rules, Dean. But I didn’t entirely understand Sam’s speech either, so maybe Dean’s just as confused as I am. Or maybe he’s logically reminding himself of rules that he can no longer feel emotional urgency about, just like Sam did when he was soulless.
The pointed things that this episode had to say about soullessness and the longing for ‘quiet’? That makes a much better case for *something* to have happened to Dean’s soul.
And there was an overt reference to Sam’s ability to be the sensitive, empathic one.
If Dean, it turns out, does have his full complement of soul, then why such deliberate parallels in this episode? And why are so many people finding him off? I wonder if it’s us who have changed, more than the Winchesters. Those boys have been through so much, including being estranged from each other and hurting each other (or in some cases trying to kill each other…), that having them go back to their Season 1 bickering and picking on each other maybe doesn’t quite sit right. With us, not with them. Maybe, after being right there with them as they truly did hurt each other, we can’t see their brotherly taunts as the sort of harmless almost affectionate ribbing that we did in the early seasons. I think we desperately need to see the brothers being more overtly affectionate, now that we’ve seen so much of the opposite. We’re protective of them, even when it comes to each other; perhaps even more when it comes to each other, because we know how much they can hurt the other.
Dean’s ribbing of Sam in this episode doesn’t seem to be out of line compared to how Sam and Dean interacted in those early seasons. I interpreted his snarky comment about how hard it is to work with family as the same sort of dig Dean loved to get in at his little brother back then. It’s on the surface something hurtful, but underneath it’s affectionate. Sam gives him a pursed lips look, but he didn’t seem hurt to me; it looked to me like Sam interpreted it the same way I did.
Dean ribbed Sam about how he was soulless too, but at the same time, he also listened to Sam and took what he said seriously. It’s like the obligatory ribbing has to come first, but more seriously, Dean seems to respect Sam. They’re working together, seamless (including that nonverbal communication that I love to see), and they’re each trusting the other to be smart and competent and to get the job done. (Other than Dean inexplicably not knowing what a marsupial was….really?? One small fail, Nancy Won. Dean Winchester is NOT dumb, despite a few poorly written scripts).
The way Dean teased Sam about his “serial killer fetish” felt affectionate to me as well; typical Dean behavior, trying to ruffle Sam’s feathers when in all likelihood Dean kinda thinks Sam’s interest in serial killers is a good thing for their line of work. These are the brothers who made ‘driver picks the music’ famous and don’t mind super glueing each other’s hands to beer bottles, after all. It just didn’t feel mean spirited to me.
At the very least, this episode really got people talking. And confused.
We also got Agents Collins and Gabriel, which may have been truly brilliant if someone was thinking of Genesis and how the Darkness predates everything. And creepy Amara with her serial killer eyes staring wistfully after Dean as the brothers drive away.
Someone on my timeline totally called it: Amara is me lurking in the bushes staring at J2
Smarter person than me on LiveJournal: Genesis = “The earth was without form and void (11.02), and darkness (hee!) was over the face of the deep.”
Oooooh. If you did that, Nancy Won, you definitely won!
Also I absolutely loved Sam and the squeezy thing. Jared can do humor so well, and he doesn’t get to put that talent to good use often enough. That whole scene, and both Jared and Jensen’s execution of it, was priceless!
As was Sam’s face when the hotel operator said that he and Dean could probably make a dent in their surplus pastry supply.
So all in all, I mostly liked this episode. It wasn’t ‘Baby,’ but I didn’t expect it to be. And it’s got everyone talking, speculating about what’s going on and why we had so much emphasis on serial killers and soullessness. I can’t wait to find out!
We even got a broment at the end, the boys leaning on Baby overlooking some pretty Vancouver body of water, eating and TALKING. That felt good to me, and I’m hoping it – and the bliss of last week’s episode – was real.
What do you think?
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25 thoughts on “Supernatural Welcomes a New Writer with ‘Thin Lizzie’”
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Hmmmm, as for Dean being “off”…
Dean: It’s funny, it doesn’t seem to be coming from mine.
Famine: Yes. I noticed that. Have you wondered why that is? How you could even walk in my presence?
Dean: Well, I like to think it’s because of my strength of character.
Famine: I disagree. Yes. I see. That’s one deep, dark nothing you got there, Dean. Can’t fill it, can you? Not with food or drink. Not even with sex.
Dean: Oh, you’re so full of crap.
Famine: Oh, you can smirk and joke and lie to your brother, lie to yourself, but not to me! I can see inside you, Dean. I can see how broken you are, how defeated. You can’t win, and you know it. But you just keep fighting. Just… keep going through the motions. You’re not hungry, Dean, because inside, you’re already… dead.
From “My bloody Valantine”
As for Dean being off:
“Dean: It’s funny, it doesn’t seem to be coming from mine.
Famine: Yes. I noticed that. Have you wondered why that is? How you could even walk in my presence?
Dean: Well, I like to think it’s because of my strength of character.
Famine: I disagree. Yes. I see. That’s one deep, dark nothing you got there, Dean. Can’t fill it, can you? Not with food or drink. Not even with sex.
Dean: Oh, you’re so full of crap.
Famine: Oh, you can smirk and joke and lie to your brother, lie to yourself, but not to me! I can see inside you, Dean. I can see how broken you are, how defeated. You can’t win, and you know it. But you just keep fighting. Just… keep going through the motions. You’re not hungry, Dean, because inside, you’re already… dead.”
From My Bloody Valentine
I thought of this, too! Dean’s been “off” for a long time. This sort of “going through the motions” line pops up periodically, and the exchange with Famine really hits it on the head.
Deliberate mislead regarding Dean’s soul?
I don’t Dean is without a soul or faking it…not in the way one might think. I do think he’s freaked out about what Amara said about them being bonded. I think after learning what Amara is up to, he’s even more scared…but in typical Dean fashion, right now he’s keeping it to himself, perhaps because he doesn’t quite understand it yet, perhaps he doesn’t want to worry Sam, perhaps he’s trying to deny it all…most likely all three…but I do think Dean’s “off behavior” is because he’s freaked out right now and he’s trying not to show it….but the more frightened/worried he becomes, the more it manifests in his behavior. We’ve seen it all before, in s2 when he didn’t tell Sam about having to kill him, in s7 when he killed Amy and felt like crap for keeping it from Sam and then again in s9 when he let Gad in and didn’t tell Sam. I’m sure eventually even Sam will notice how ‘off” Dean is and he will open up and admit to why. The whole fake it conversation can also can tie into what he’s doing right now…going through the motions of him being fine when really he’s totally freaked out right now.
I don’t think it’s exactly new rules… I just think it’s one of those little reminders to the fans that if you’re noticing the eps are more old school, it’s because they are…but the boys are not the same as they were then, so as you noticed, things will be different, not bad, just different….as they usually are when a decade passes. If you remember, all the way back to blood lust, Sam had to remind dean about not killing things just because they’re supernatural…sam told dean no, we kill because they’re evil. This rule was pretty much standard all the way back then. So much has happened though since then…once the boys got the demon knife from Ruby, they killed demons without exorcising them. As a matter of fact we were reminded by Sam all the way in s5, Good God y’all about how he missed saving people like he used to. Dean noted when he was hopped up on demon blood, but I think sam was referring to using his powers and saving the victim…As show has gone on, killing the vessel became standard…then in later years it got to “saving ea. other above all others” notion by both which seems to have caused quite a mess at times and collateral damage to those who were their friends. I think Sam’s finally come to understand that this way doesn’t work anymore, that they’ve forgotten what their job truly is….and that it’s time to go back to it. given Sam’s guilt regarding the release of the darkness, it doesn’t surprise me that he would remember that it’s about saving everyone and his need to do it.
I think the whole soul sucking notion is to exemplify how dangerous Amara/Darkness is and why she needs to be stopped…bottom line seemed to be that no matter how being soulless affects one differently….in the end it creates killers….it kills the light inside of humanity and creates nothing but void and empty….and Dark….the very world God fought against in the first place.
Not sure because it’s early still….but I’m thinking the bond between Amara and Dean might come from the fact he freed her. If the moc had remained on cain, she’d still be trapped..once dean took the mark…well you know the rest…so there could be the same connection to dean that Lucifer felt with Sam, Sam being his true vessel over all others. he’d never hurt him, he’d never lie to him…blah blah…we’re connected. I think it was Lucifer trying to psych sam out so he’d say yes. I think it’s very possible that Amara is trying to psych Dean out…trying to form a connection to him…make him believe they’re bonded….are we sure that Dean was protected from the Darkness by Amara? could it have been that someone/something had protected Dean from Amara? that’s why she noted she would see him again, because she didn’t get to him then, because something stopped her?
i’m loving this season and I thought nancy won did a wonderful job with this eppy…I feel like she’s playing it both ways so that we’re not sure and we’re kept guessing…..I love when they do that, and she did it with humor, intelligence and appreciation of continuity yet still allowing the boys to be seen as they are today….and not as they were then.
looking forward to her next ep.
Love your comments! All the above! I also think Dean could just be showing a bit of PTSD? I mean, talking about not forgetting their past… As much as I have been loving this season, I’m dismayed that there haven’t been more moments of PTSD-like behavior from Dean. Has everyone completely forgotten what he’s gone through the last season and a half?
The discussion with Len, when he mentions doing what is right and going for as long as he can was a perfect reflection of what Dean had been doing all last season and the look on Dean’s face made me think he was having a hard time listening to Len talk about it.
So maybe Dean is ‘off’ because of all the mind-twisting crap he went through under the influence of the MoC. He’s still recovering and, in true Dean fashion… he’s fine and keeping the struggle internal.
awesome comment. i was going to say the exact same thing about the “new rules”. dean is always forgetting about saving the “vessel” of the evilness, tending to go in guns blazing (or whatever weapon…), but sam being the empathic, more caring one, has consistently sought to “cure” the evil and save the human part of the person whenever possible. dean remembers, then always seems to say “oh yeah, we’re doing it a new way now” even though it’s not ever really new, because he’s so consistently hung up on john’s training. and because he’s the badass of the two.
I really liked the episode and thought it deserved much higher ratings. Dean is looking especially breathtakingly beautiful lately – loved those close ups. I do think he’s ‘off’ just a bit. He surely is concerned – what does it mean when Amara says they’re ‘bound’? Loved the episode. Loved Lenny. Season 11 is shaping up well.
I think that any episode following “Baby” is going to be a let down in a way (sorry) but I found this one alright. To be honest, I didn’t realize that there was a new writer and it certainly was not obvious-so, great job. Dean doesn’t seem too off to me but maybe I’m missing something. I do think that there is more to the Amara/Dean story than we’ve seen and Dean is hiding it from Sam and maybe us too. I’m worried about where this “bond” will lead. Crowley is finding out (again) that his protege is more than he can handle so I’m thinking eventually he will be teaming up with the boys ( or Dean) anyway. All in all I liked this episode, and give it 4 knives out of 5.
Amara saved Dean. How was he found away from the car? Sam was saved by Baby’s embrace? Obviously, the mark drew Amara to Dean- they will never hurt each other- she said. This set of events and conversation has to be in Dean’s mind. He is also feeling that the Darkness is on him since he let her free( Yes, Sam feels it is his fault b/c of the spell). Dean can’t kill Len which proves he is truly free of the MOC. He doesn’t seem to just be going through the motions. And yet I do feel something off as well. Many theories-just let it play out and hope it is not some trite re-play. I agree that Nancy Won does a solid for us in this episode. Think the throw back to earlier episodes is handled adroitly and the brother barbs are all good humored. This episode does pose a question as to whether Amara picks the souls of people who have been so how wronged in life in an effort to let them set things straight. She has a very different view of good and evil than the Biblical tale and maybe that is why GOD locked her away.
The scene between Sam and Jordy is handled with much better empathy that the scene where Sam attempts to comfort a young boy who has lost his Dad,”remember the Titans” by wanting to buy an ice-cream as comfort. Has Sam grown so much? There is has been much focus on Dean’s character and yet I have a very Sam centered arc sneaking around in here given his visions and a few one liners. The perfume spray just shows how underused Jared’s ability to do comedy is underused.
While I wasn’t in love with this episode, I think it was well done. I’ll agree that investing so much time in Sydney seemed to be a bit much. The scene was drawn out in my opinion and bogged down the pace of the show.
As for Dean being off, I don’t see it. He has lived a massive amount of trauma and change in the past ten years. His body of knowledge is so much greater than it was when we first met him. It would be wrong to have him exactly as he was in season one. He has changed so his humour and interactions will also have changed. I think the moments of teasing and snarky comments are the equivilant of teasing in the first season but by a character that has evolved.
If Sam and Dean hadn’t evolved over the past ten seasons after having lived what they did, the show would not be on the air. It is precicely because they have changed that 11 seasons have been posible. These are not one dimensional characters. Like you and I, they are a work in progress. I am nowhere near the same person I was ten yearrs ago. My life journey continues to mould and shape me.
From the very beginning of the season, I have searched Genesis for some clues as to where Show is going. With this episode and all the talk of what it means to be soulless and how everyone reacts differently, I’m going out on a limb and forming a tentative hypothesis. Using what Amara has said in past episodes about how humans are suffering and she wants to help them, I think she’s removing their souls in order for them to stop suffering. She is fixing God’s mistake of granting us souls because having a soul leads to pain and suffering. She is returning us to the animal kingdom if you will. Beings of instinct and reaction. (some animals lash out while others run away)
Because we all have a unique perception of life events, we react differently. When Sam was soulless, he became the perfect hunter. Calculating and efficiant. He left Dean out of it because he knew Dean would be better off. He didn’t take into account the emotional effect it would have on Dean to know his brother was not in the cage because that was an emotional (soul) based reaction.
Dean’s moment of soullessness (mark of cain, demonDean) caused him to be the carefree person he was never able to be because of the responsabilities put upon him since he was four years old. He never had the chance to party and hang with friends and just not give a f**k about anything so that’s what he did. He abandonned Sam because he no longer wanted the responsability of taking care of him. He was free and flying.
Sydney became a serial killer because she felt hurt and betrayed by those around her. She lived traumas that left her powerless and affraid, a victim. Without her soul, she took charge and sought vengence. She took out anyone that made her feel like a victim, something she probably has wanted to do for a very long time but her conscience (soul) stopped her from following through.
Amara is setting us free. Back to the chaos that “the Light” had extinguished in Genesis. We became seperate from the kill or be killed animal kingdom.
Ok, that’s it for me. I love having this forum and I thank you for allowing me to voice my opinion. Your reviews often help me organise my thoughts and reactions.
Until the next time, cheers!
Agree with chantal’s chaos theory! Well written reply. I picked up on Dean’s new rules remark and as the episode progressed I can see the old rules become new again. I had twitted something similar to the show writers and was given a favored rely. After 10 years people mature. Dean has need Sam’s parent at times and as a parent it is very hard to let the children grow up. You always want to step in and protect them. Dean will always see Sam as the small kid brither but I think now he is accepting Sam is an adult and can make is own mistakes and Dean has to let Sam think and act for himself. The relationship has to become more balanced again. Order vs. Chaos. I was worried this episode would be a “filler” but it really wasn’t. Poor Len does entire season six review in one dialog. The episode did a great job keeping the main story arc going, teasing the interest for upcoming episode, keeping fans guessing and loyal fans happy with connections to the character’s back story.
I agree! The chaos angle looks incredibly promising.
“Dean has to let Sam think and act for himself. The relationship has to become more balanced again.”
Why is the onus always on Dean when it comes to their relationship? Sam is just as responsible for their relationship being fcked up and yet it’s always only Dean who needs to change. Dean has “let Sam think and act for himself” the entire series. He just doesn’t always agree with him.
Amara appears to have a more complex view of humanity. She is working on how difficult is must be to suffer and God got it wrong. Her total view…to be seen.
Are there are people saying Dean is soulless? Really? I’d call that reaching, big time. And lest we all forget (yikes! how could we), last season Dean was affected by the mark and did many, many bad things. We are the sum of our experiences, so don’t expect that experience not to leave big, harsh, welty marks. In “Baby”, Dean was caring and competent. If he comes of smartass sometimes, well, that’s Dean. And we, as humans, sometimes we act like snarky brats and sometimes we seem pretty damn heavenly in our behavior. Let’s allow our fictional heroes to be as varied in their behavior as we are. Only seems fair, right?
Making Dean souless seems like a retread of Sam’s story and usually the show doesn’t repeat an entire arc but does echo themes. If they do a retread then says there are few stories left to tell about the Winchesters. I fear that would be a death knell, so not thinking that the writers would go there. Been there…done that….. There is a deep bond between Dean and Amara. What worries me more is the conversation Sam had with Dean about relationships. “Have you met us” ? 0 In domestic life”. And yet there must be a yearning…
” Let’s allow our fictional heroes to be as varied in their behavior as we are. Only seems fair, right?”
I agree completely. The reason I love this show is precisely because of the depth of character. I want my heroes to be susceptible, to bleed, to be a little damaged. They’re heros because they continue in spite of their hardships and pain. It’s much more true to life than most of what’s out on TV.
I agree, Nancy Won did a great job with this ep. I really enjoyed all those little references to the past, something which seems obviously ignored in some episodes. It does give the feeling of continuity, of family, how brothers would talk to each other, and make reference to things they had been through.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned tho’, is how Dean stared off into the trees where Amara was hiding as they drove past. Like he knew she was there…!!! I think there is a lot more to this “bond” between them than we know yet. Or was that just me and my imagination?
excellent writeup as usual! i too winced during sidney’s expose about her abuse because of my past, but i enjoyed it (perhaps not “enjoyed”…i appreciated it because i appreciate how the show tugs my feels and brings so much of my personal trauma into the light of mainstream telly; it also was a good vehicle for explaining her killing spree and her reaction to being soulless).
as to the fan theory of dean being soulless…i don’t buy it. not only to expound on the comment above that the show is just not really into retreading like that, but because dean just would not hide that from sam in light of their newly healed relationship. a lot of talk was made during hiatus about how the brothers were going back to being the brothers we love this season and really healing their relationship, and dean hiding something that profound from sam would be BAD. it would piss off fandom in a huge way, and it would pretty much put a big fat wet blanket on this season’s story arc. in just a small bit of thinking and digesting the writeup and the comments, i think maybe amara perhaps *tasted* dean’s soul. or perhaps took a tiny bit of it. or perhaps the mark as an arcane, supremely powerful bit of magic has left an indelible, un-erasable stain/imprint on dean’s soul he feels but cannot fathom or explain. the bond between him and amara/the darkness. and as was mentioned above, it has him seriously freaked out. remember the look on his face when he saw the mark on amara as a baby and how he tried to keep her from crowley. how he keeps trying to fathom the flashbacks and how he is not talking too much about them to sam, but starts trying to. how he lets sam distract him from talking about them. he’s really freaked about the bond they have. i think his “offness” is just him being really nervous about the bond. and they just discovered how rapidly amara is growing, and that has added to his intense nervousness. he’s really trying to figure out wtf is going on and how to cope with it on a personal level as well as a hunter…as a winchester…as the one who is responsible for it (he sees it that way, even though sam also sees it that he is the one responsible). these guys have been through so much, their psyches are burdened beyond what normal people can tolerate. they should be stark raving mad. to expect dean to not be off is like expecting him and sam to have started the season with their relationship fully intact and healed. just improbable.
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Maybe I was grading on a sliding scale because following Baby wasn’t going to be easy, but I just loved this one. The working a case plot that turns into a bigger picture story pulled me in from the get go. And there’s something very personal in the way Len nonchalantly recounts putting his life’s work up on eBay, and that “Now it all belongs to some machinist in Ohio.” There was something in that moment, that moment where he realized he could walk away from his life’s work and identity, that crystalized the episode for me. But I’ve been known to see what I want. That’s what good writing and acting are all about, right?
Most of the points I wanted to make are already on here so I’ll try (and fail) to keep this on point.
I’m also of the opinion that Dean, while clearly somehow affected by his bond with Amara, still has his soul. The reason I think he’s affected by the bond is pretty simple – the Big Bad Monster of the year told him they are connected. He should be freaked out. That is the normal reaction, and his reactions seem rather consistent with Dean over the years. Like a few other people posted before me, there has been change in him over the course of the show, as there should be. It’s why I said we can go back to Season 1 style episodes, but not Season 1 style characters. The boys have been through too much to be 2005 Sam and Dean in 2015. (Without, for instance, angelic assistance or some other divine intervention. This is Supernatural, time travel occasionally happens, so never say never.)
I took the “new rules” exchange and some of the other banter as brothers being brothers – I don’t think we were meant to necessarily read much into that. One of my favorite things in the previous week’s Baby was the easy dialogue between the brothers. Yes, this provided the broments we all wanted, but it also made it clear, with how easy that felt, that even if the show has been focusing on their estrangements, Sam and Dean regained and maintained their (beautifully codependent) closeness. That conversation felt like they had been talking like that for years, not weeks.
Personally, I was glad to finally see someone who went soulless in a similar way to Sam. If souls are the one thing keeping us from going on murderous rampages I’m curious as to how that works as a source of power for angels/demons/gods/things I’ve forgotten about.
“The fake it til you make it” conversation reminded me more of Frank Deveraux in Season 7 than anything else. His conversation with Dean about “being professional” and deciding to be okay for the rest of the week feels like it fits here. Again, not because Dean is soulless, but because he is rightfully freaked out.
The quick line about Sam’s visions was a nice a way to remind us about the possible Lucifer tie-in, which just seems like it has to be coming. Lucifer showed up as Jess telling Sam what he wanted to hear, why not show up as John?
Sydney’s backstory didn’t seem excessive to me. I think as we see how people are affected by Amara we’ll need to know that sort of information to see how soullessness works when she takes the soul. (And is Amara’s soul snatching any different than other monsters?) The parking lot conversation (which included the wonderful, “Excuse me, drunk girl?”) also showed that Amara can somehow project something onto/into a person before she takes their soul.
Lastly, I have to mention one of my favorite lines from the episode. For a new to the show writer, I think Nancy Won nailed Dean’s reaction to Len’s non-reaction to pulling off his own thumb: “I’m not going to lie to you. That’s worrisome.”
One more thing: Sam *did* go murderous when he had no soul. In becoming a perfect hunter, he was a killing machine. However, he was mostly going after monsters, so it balanced out.
He wasn’t on an unfocused rampage or revenge killing, instead he was calculating about it. It’s easy to overlook within the context of the show because it served a purpose: he was hunting. But we know he killed innocent people to gain the upper hand. If killing two people saved five, he followed the math. (I’m quoting one of Jared’s con panels on that.)
Sam’s soulless behavior mirrored some of those serial killers that fascinate him.
This was a surprisingly good episode in a season of good episodes. Who would want to have to follow “Baby?” Yet it worked well. Dean does seem more irritable than usual but it’s hard to know if his soul has been marred by the Mark or his connection to the Darkness, or if just an internal struggle he’s having. This episode really wanted us to think about what happens when someone loses their, which could hint at something to come. It’s also possible that the writers just need to explain why Amara’s victims are acting so differently than what we saw before when someone lost their soul. It was a fun episode nevertheless!