It was good to see Baby restored to her beautiful self after the trauma of last week, as Sam and Dean set out to investigate the brutal deaths of a young couple in the former home of alleged real-life axe murderer, Lizzie Borden.
This was the debut episode from new writer, Nancy Won, and for a while it seemed like we were in for a really traditional, old skool monster-of-the-week episode. The Winchesters left poor Castiel binge-watching The Wire, and headed out to indulge Sam’s serial killer fetish. Sam’s interest in real-life crime stories is a detail which was introduced last season, and I think it fits perfectly with his law background and his darker side. It bears repeating that as well as being the sweet boy who saved the world, Sam is a bona fide, paid-up vessel for Lucifer, a former blood junkie and soulless hunting machine, and a hot guy with a penchant for sleeping with non-human creatures, so while I don’t see him giving waitresses his number after making sweet lurve to them in the back of his car these days, I am absolutely on board with him getting excited about poking around the Borden residence.
But what appeared to be the haunting of a guesthouse by a vengeful spirit soon became hinky when the boys discovered that the ghostly goings-on were all just parlour tricks to draw in the tourists, the owner was chopped to death in her room, and another axe murder happened miles away from Lizzie’s old crib. While Sam went to check out the crime scene, Dean went looking for a local character and Lizzie obsessive, Len (a fabulous guest star turn by Jared Gertner of The Book of Mormon fame). Sam found the victim’s young son being comforted by babysitter, Sydney, but when the deceased’s widow returned home, she seemed pretty ambivalent about her husband’s demise. Meanwhile, Dean’s line of questioning ended with him discovering a sketch of the Mark of Cain, and Len confessing to an encounter with a young girl outside the Borden house, a girl calling herself Amara. DUH-DUH-DUH!! It seemed that Len’s soul had been taken, and he was simply going through the motions, unable to feel much of anything at all.
The boys regrouped and realised that they weren’t hunting homicidal ghosts, but that The Darkness had come to town, and was yumming up souls left, right, and centre. Whilst looking for the soulless widow, Sam and Dean handcuffed poor Len to the Impala and went to explore, getting knocked out and tied up in the process (standard) by none other than Sydney, the bad babysitter. It transpired that Sydney had been approached by Amara outside a nightclub and become an instant Darkness groupie. Losing her soul made her seek revenge on the boy who spurned her, a former employer who stiffed her a paycheck, and her current employers who she deemed to be terrible parents to her ward.
Things looked bleak for the Winchesters, but before Sydney could put bullets in their beautiful heads, Len came to the rescue, and axed her in the back, having PULLED HIS OWN THUMB OFF to get out of the cuffs, just to see if he could! Excuse me while I have some uncomfortable flashbacks to reading Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game and passing out…It seemed that Len remembered what it was like to do the right thing, and to be a good person, but that he killed Sydney out of a sense of cold curiosity rather than heroism. He warned Dean that he would do it again, and asked Dean to put him down, which Dean (thankfully) refused to do. Instead, Len decided to cop for all the murders and get himself locked away.
We ended on the obligatory ‘brothers having a chat by a body of water’ scene, deciding to follow the trail of human husks, and pre-teen Amara watching them drive off.
So kind of a curveball, this episode, leading us into a season one style ghost hunt and revealing the monster to be a human controlled by this season’s big bad. Next week’s episode also looks to be Amara-centric, and in terms of pacing, the season arc appears to be pretty front-loaded. I just hope we’re not peaking too soon!
I think I much preferred the first half of this episode to the second. It had a really nice, authentic Kripke-era premise – a case based on real events and local lore – and it was great to see these two strapping lads looking awkward in a hideously decorated hotel once again. I really miss the motels. There was even some banter about only having a double bed, although let the record state that Dean never actually did get his own room. The writing was pretty solid, so props to the newbie! Dean came off a little gruff, and there were some slightly clunky moments, but overall it all felt true to character, and Gertner’s contribution was brilliant.
Final Grade: C
+ Dean and Sam on the road and in tacky hotels. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that they requested a room with a double bed and not one single antiquing joke was made?!
+ More guest stars like Jared Gertner please!
+ Nice twist in weaving the myth arc into what initially seemed to be a MOTW episode.
+ Sam geeking out over serial killers will always make me a happy bunny.
+ I appreciated the exploration of different reactions to losing a soul, and the way that both Sydney and Len reflected facets of Sam’s time without his. Sydney welcomed The Darkness because it numbed the memories of her abusive parents, recalling Sam’s protestations when Dean was trying desperately to get his brother’s soul restored. And Len spoke of play acting emotions to make others feel more comfortable, based on his memories of being a good person. Sam did the same thing with Dean to get what he wanted, although he was, Dean noted, a ‘chilly droid’. It would be nice to spend a bit more time on the complexities of existing with no soul, rather than having people going immediately homicidal like Jenna did.
– A few clumsy moments of dialogue such as Castiel’s absence being explained by a Netflix binge. I wasn’t wild about the ‘ecstasy sex chocolate cake’ line either. Sydney felt like she was a sex cake? She felt like she was having sex while on Ecstasy and eating cake? She felt like having sex and Ecstasy and cake at the same time? It all sounds messy anyway. You shouldn’t sully good cake.
– Dean seemed to be up for putting the soulless people down without trying to save them until Sam intervened. I’m not sure if this is down to his connection with The Darkness or just that the reemergence of the Winchesters who save people is going to be short-lived. Either way, only one boy was saved, and despite a quick pep talk from Sam, I wasn’t convinced his aftercare was up to much. Poor kid.
Next week sees the return of the angels, but the throwaway lines about Castiel in the last couple of episodes suggest the show is running out of things for him to do. I love Cas, and I really hope he gets some meaningful story lines this season, but I’ve always thought the angels were best used sparingly.
What did you think? Was this episode severed head and shoulders above the rest, or was it just HACKneyed? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!