A word of warning to all red shirt campers in the world of Supernatural: those that camp often die screaming.
With Castiel in the wind and Mary in Texas hunting chupacabra (well, according to Ketch), the Winchesters are sent to Tomahawk, Wisconsin where they investigate a camper’s disappearance the previous night. One thing leads to another and the Winchesters are smack dab in the middle of the town legend of Black Bill. Kids, you step out of line and Black Bill will be there to do…well, whatever a half man/goat does to wayward souls.
Now, Sam’s first guess is that the Black Bill in question is a satyr who, with his trademarked pipes, roams the woods, frolics, and orgies with unsuspecting humans before feasting on their moist, delicious meat. Pretty fabulous, ain’t it. Well, it turns out that fiction is stranger than fiction. Delving deeper into the investigation and the decades of disappearances, Sam and Dean find out that the town sheriff, Barrett Bishop and his family has quite the intrepid history. Turns out, the Bishops founded Tomahawk and their prosperity over the years has one deadly caveat: the sacrifice of one human soul per year.
So, after decades upon decades of one person disappearing per year, why has twenty years gone by since those annual disappearances? Turns out that Barrett Bishop, Sr. died in 1997 and the good sheriff, taxidermist hand and all, couldn’t continue on with the family business. But half-brother and cast-off Pete Garfinkle, manager of the town meat plant (owned by the Bishop family) has no compunction in getting in touch with the ways of his descendants.
For Sleepy Hollow fans, no doubt that name rings plenty of bells. The primary antagonist for the first years of that series and god of sacrifice, Moloch is the driving force behind the Bishop family’s history of success. Sure, Moloch may not be Lucifer or Dagon but being a god comes with some serious mojo to back you, including resistance to injury and some kickass power.
Unfortunately for Moloch, said powers do not include bulletproof resistance to the Colt. With Sheriff Bishop’s help, Sam tracks Dean—Pete’s next sacrifice to Moloch—to the meat
plant. And though they are too late to save the first two victims, the unlikely pair arrives in time to take Moloch down; a single Colt bullet to the chest ends the god’s reign and Sheriff Bishop will be left to clean up the mess.
Speaking of mess, Mr. Ketch is doing his own cleanup. While the Winchesters are investigating the Wisconsin case, Ketch and his team break into the Bunker, planting bugs and searching for any and all clues as to what the Winchesters know in preparation for Dr. Hess’s directive for an American Hunterpocalypse. The infiltration is set to some upbeat music, giving the job an Ocean’s 11 (or 12 or 13) sort of feel. In truth, other than Dean’s overt flirtation with a diner waitress in Tomahawk (one that ends quite well for him), Ketch’s ‘heist’ is the only real levity in the episode.
Now, that doesn’t mean “The Memory Remains” is not without irony or poignancy. Touching on the former, when Pete has Dean trussed up, he tells the elder Winchester that “hunting people, killing them [is] the family business”. Dean’s reaction that the Bishop family motto is a twisted version of the Winchester creed of “hunting things, saving people” is priceless.
And despite the extremely sluggish pace and, let’s face it, boring hour, the last few minutes of the brothers returning to the Bunker nearly make up for what I’d categorize as one of the least re-watchable Supernatural episodes in the show’s history. When looking back at the murderous history of the Bishop family and their own Winchester legacy, Dean can’t help but wonder how the world will remember them. “Am I making a difference” is a question many people ask and, oftentimes, the answer to the question is one that can’t be readily answered. Sam, however, is able to address Dean’s question. It’s both simple and profound, one we all can take to heart.
“We left the world better than we found out,” Sam tells his brother. So simple and yet such a powerful statement.
Sometimes people can get so caught up on leaving a legacy that they forget the simplicity of improving upon the circumstances given to them. In truth, making things better than we found it is oftentimes the best thing we can hope to do.