“Lizzy Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When the job was finally done
Gave her father forty one.”

Most of us have heard some rendition of folk rhyme immortalizing Lizzy Borden’s alleged murder of her family. Despite all the ghosts, ghouls, and cultural lore tackled in the series, this week’s Supernatural is the first time the Lizzy Borden story has ever been used.

The boys are searching for something to do

Bored and frustrated with any leads on the Darkness, the Winchesters head to Fall River, Massachusetts after Sam picks up the story of a double murder at the Borden Bed & Breakfast. After finding out that one of the victims was a descendant of the Bordens, the two split up and search the premises. Dean catches sight of a creepy guy taking pictures outside and it’s the only thing of note as both of them uncover the B&B’s reality: everything has been set up to create the mood of a haunted residence so the initial evidence of ghostly interference is quickly debunked. Still, that leaves someone doing the killing and that killing ramps up when one of the co-owners of the place is axed, followed by a random family man miles away from the B&B. Is this a traveling ghost or a serial murderer?

While Sam checks out the second murder, Dean pays a visit to the photographer, Len. Dean’s talk to the awkward Len is uneventful until the hunter spots a sketch of the all-too familiar Mark. He presses Len and the little guy spills about his run in with Amara and something she did to him. “I’m like a robot puppet man,” he tells Dean. The eldest Winchester fills Sam in on Amara’s presence in Fall River and what she did to Len—sucked out his soul—and Sam thinks the case can be made that Mrs. Pinski, wife of the most recent victim, is exhibiting a very similar ‘Pierre-I don’t care’ attitude as well.

With the express purpose of keeping Len in their sights as well as fighting over who needs to tell him about his soulless standing, the brothers track down Mrs. Pinski with the aid of Sydney, the babysitter for Jordy Pinski. They cuff Len to the car and Dean spills the beans of Len’s soul status. He’s both surprised and relieved to finally know and the brothers leave him in the car while they investigate the house. Dean finds Mrs. Pinski’s body as well as her “special friend” and Sam stumbles across a trussed up Jordy in the closet. Somehow, both are ambushed by Sydney the babysitter who, surprise-surprise, is fresh out of soul as well.

Sam, Dean and Len follow Sydney’s info…right into a trap

She ties up the brothers and, after expressing her plan to offer the two up to Amara, she goes on about how, thanks to Amara’s help, she saved Jordy from terrible parents, a situation she’s intimately familiar with. All the victims were people who wronged her and the literal unburdening of her soul freed Sydney to commit the atrocities. Things go quickly from here with Sam escaping his bonds but, before Sydney can put him down with a shotgun blast to the chest, Len plants a hatchet into Sydney’s back. As she lay dying, Sydney speaks on the immediate future. “The Darkness is coming,” she says, “It’s so peaceful. It’s coming for us all.”

In the aftermath, Dean talks to Len who can feel the emptiness inside of him bubbling up. Tying in his actions of saving them, he says. “I remember what it was like to do the right thing, so I’m going through the motions…for as long as I can.” Then he does something one wouldn’t expect from a soulless person: he turns himself in for the murders. The brothers contemplate the latest case and how the loss of a soul affects everyone differently. Maybe this is Amara’s effect or, like demons, there’s no true template for how these things change people.

Unseen by the brothers, Amara steps out of the bushes and watches the pair drive off. “Bye Dean,” she says with a cold, knowing smile, “I’ll see you soon.”

The Good

  • Soul Play—With all the things we’ve seen over the past decade, we haven’t seen too many soulless humans walking the floor in Supernatural. It’s easy to assume everyone, after an unfettering of a conscience, would act the same. In that, we fall into the same trap fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer did in this sense—the assumption that a conscience is the only thing we can depend on to keep up from acting like animals. Len’s explanation of his behavior—the idea that he remembered what it meant to do the right thing—is a powerful one. Paired with the of-referenced nature versus nurture, we could have quite a robust discussion on the definition of a soul…
  • Following up the whole soul-thing, Amara continues to grow. It’s only a matter of time before she’s full grown and, when that happens, will her pull towards Dean, and vice versa, become that much stronger. When they reunite, will Dean’s urge to protect her override his desire to save this world. Conversely, will any of his emotional traits change the way she feels? Yes, she’s a force beyond nature but still inhabits a human host, one with human desires and emotions. Combined with her connection to Dean, will her human biology alter (in even the smallest way) her drive to spread herself as the Darkness?

The Bad

  • Let’s face it, every year Supernatural has its share of filler episodes. “Thin Lizzy” was season eleven’s first true monster-of-the-week filler, more so than last week’s fantastic “Baby”. Sadly, this week had none of the creativity and pizzazz as its immediate predecessor though, as mentioned in the first bullet above, it does introduce a few interesting talking points on the nature of the soul.

The Supernatural

  • The Winchesters on leaving Castiel behind. “He’s knee-deep in binge watching The Wire. He’s on season two.”
  • Dean’s first interaction with the seemingly harmless Len re: his camera. “Have you captured any Caspers on that thing?”
  • Dean trying to grasp the nature of the soulless. “Len loses his heart. Sydney loses her head. What are we looking for, the Cowardly Lion next?”