Article Index

6.21  Let It Bleed:  I Wish This Changed Anything
Lovecraft opened doors.
Crowley takes Ben and Lisa;
Dean’s Achilles heel.
Episode Summary
The night of March 15, 1937 in Providence, Rhode Island, as a thunderstorm raged outside his house, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft had just finished the manuscript for The Haunter of the Dark when a black-clad figure burst in through the window of his study. Terrified, Lovecraft apologized to the figure, saying they just hadn't known, but the intruder killed him.
At Bobby's house, as the brothers were searching through the Campbell journals for any information on how to prevent Castiel from opening purgatory and wondering why the angel had visited Dean in the night, Bobby discovered one of the journals missing, evidently stolen by Castiel. Reading the copy he had made before the original disappeared, Bobby found a reference to hunter Moishe Campbell having visited H.P Lovecraft to discuss certain undescribed events of March 10, 1937. Noting the concept of opening doors into other dimensions and letting monsters through featured prominently in Lovecraft's stories, Bobby speculated Lovecraft might have known something about Purgatory.
Meanwhile, at the Braeden house, two demons burst in while Lisa and her current boyfriend Matt were watching afternoon baseball on television. Hearing the break-in where he was reading in his upstairs bedroom, Ben cautiously went to the landing to investigate, and saw his mother struggling in one man's arms while the other broke Matt's neck. Running to his room and barricading the door, Ben called Dean. Realizing Ben couldn't make it to the shotgun he'd left in Lisa's closet, Dean grimly advised the boy to jump out his window. Before Ben could comply, a demon broke the door in and grabbed him. Crowley picked up the phone the boy had dropped and told Dean that Lisa and Ben would be unharmed so long as the Winchesters stood down; then he hung up.
Sam wondered whether Castiel knew about the kidnapping, and Dean observed they had to assume he did. Dean said he was going after them, and when Sam instantly said he was going with, Dean argued that Sam and Bobby needed to stay on the Lovecraft thing because Castiel was way ahead of them. Sam flatly refused to let Dean go alone, saying Bobby could handle the case, and when Bobby began to protest, Dean said it was a big ball they absolutely couldn't afford to drop. Bobby agreed, but asked how they were going to find Lisa and Ben.
That night, as Bobby drove off on the Lovecraft case, the brothers summoned Balthazar to the junkyard to try persuading him to help in the hunt for Lisa and Ben. Discovering he already knew Crowley was still alive, they asked if he also knew Castiel had made a deal with Crowley to collaborate in locating and opening Purgatory in exchange for splitting between them the monster souls they would find. Balthazar claimed Castiel had told him, but the lie was as obvious on his face as his shock at the news. Dean explained that Crowley had taken innocent people who were important to him, and appealed for help to any shred of decency Balthazar had within him under his snarky exterior. Balthazar said that was fair enough, and promptly disappeared without agreeing to anything. Sam advocated calling Castiel, observing he might not know anything about what Crowley had done, but Dean adamantly refused. Sam asked what they would do instead.
Posing as a magazine reporter to interview a young geek who owned a large collection of Lovecraft's private papers, Bobby learned Castiel had been there before him, also posing clumsily as a reporter and asking questions about the events of March 10, 1937. The geek reported Lovecraft had a dinner party for six of his friends that night, and they'd done a black magic ritual intended to open a door into another dimension. When Bobby asked what happened, the guy laughed that there weren't any stories about Cthulhu in the papers the next day. He said he had several letters detailing the dinner party, but when he picked up the file folder, he found them missing, and Bobby realized Castiel had stolen them as he'd stolen the journal.
Continuing to dig, Bobby discovered every guest invited to the dinner party either died or disappeared inside a year. Reporting the information to Sam on the phone, Bobby said he was going to interview the one surviving witness Lovecraft hadn't actually invited: the then nine-year-old son of Lovecraft's maid, now 83, still living in the mental ward to which he'd been committed ever since that night. Bobby asked if the brothers had a lead on Lisa and Ben, and Sam – hearing the sounds of Dean brutally interrogating a demon inside a nearby shed – responded they were making inquiries.
Killing his latest demon subject with Ruby's knife and leaving the body where it fell next to a couple of others, Dean strapped yet another demon in the chair at the center of a devil's trap painted on the floor. When Sam, knowing he hadn't eaten or slept and worrying about him, came in to find him swigging whiskey straight from the bottle as he prepared to start his next interrogation, Sam tried to persuade him that he at least deserved to take a break and let Sam take over for a while. Overwhelmed with guilt and anger, Dean ordered him to back off, saying whatever happened to Lisa and Ben was 100 percent on him. Going outside, Sam prayed to Castiel, saying he didn't know whether Castiel was in on the Ben and Lisa thing or not, but begging the angel, if he had any heart at all, to bring them back to Dean. No one appeared and he walked disconsolately away – but Castiel had come, simply choosing to remain invisible.

Castiel confronted Crowley about the kidnapping, but Crowley argued he'd complied with the letter of Castiel's orders not to harm a hair on the Winchester brothers' heads, saying he was just exploiting the obvious loophole in their agreement. Crowley observed that as long as he had Lisa and Ben, the brothers would be scouring the Earth for them, not looking for the demon or the angel. Castiel said the demon should have talked to him first, but Crowley said he'd rather seek forgiveness than permission. Castiel demanded to know where they were, but Crowley refused to say, and when Castiel demanded that he not harm them, the demon said he would do with them as he pleased, telling the angel he'd already reached the limit of his ability to declare humans off-limits. He said if Castiel wanted to stop him, he should find Purgatory. Castiel winced, feeling himself summoned, and said he would be back.
Following the summons to a woods by a stream, he found Balthazar waiting for him. Balthazar asked straight up if he was in bed with the king of Hades. Castiel denied it, but Balthazar observed he'd always been a terrible liar, and asked why. Castiel said it was a means to the end of winning the war. Balthazar said he assumed Castiel would be the vessel, sucking up all those souls, all that power, into himself, and Castiel said it was the only way. Balthazar countered that it might be too much power for him to hold, noting if that happened, Castiel would explode and take a substantial chunk of the planet with him, but Castiel flatly maintained that wouldn't happen. Balthazar asked him to swear it was entirely risk free, but instead, Castiel briefly apologized for not having told him, and then said he needed to know whether Balthazar was with him or not. Balthazar chuckled ruefully, saying Castiel might be certifiable, but he was in. Castiel asked how he'd learned about the deal, and Balthazar said the Winchesters had told him,  being a touch worked up about the kidnapping business.


Visiting the old man in the mental ward, Bobby learned Castiel had again been there before him, but the old man observed Castiel was a liar and not what he pretended to be. Bobby asked about the night of the dinner party, and the old man said he already knew the story; they did their spell and they all said it failed. The man then asked if Bobby believed in monsters, and when he said he did, the man noted saying that could get Bobby locked up in the mental ward for the rest of his life. Bobby assured him that, whatever he saw, Bobby would believe what he said. The man said the spell worked; a door opened and something came through, but it was invisible, so no one but him knew it. When Bobby asked how he knew, the man said the thing had gone into his mother and taken her over. He said she was never the same after that, even smelling different, and then she disappeared – and one by one, everyone else who had been there died. Bobby said he was sorry about the man's mom, and the man, overcome, said no one else had ever said that to him. He asked if Bobby wanted to see a picture, and drew out an old photograph of himself with his mother, Eleanor, from 1935 – and Bobby realized the woman was Dr. Ellie Visyak, his former lover, who had given Dean the dragon-slaying sword in Like A Virgin.

At Bobby's, embarking on another round of demon interrogation, Dean unwittingly broke the integrity of the devil's trap by smudging the paint with his boot, and the demon flung him across the room and began to strangle him. Castiel appeared and smote the demon, saving him. Dean observed sourly he hadn't asked for the angel's help and asked why he was there. Castiel said he had no idea Crowley would take Lisa and Ben, and when Dean scoffed in disbelief, saying he didn't believe a word coming out of the angel's mouth, Castiel said he thought Dean had said they were like family and he thought so too, asking whether trust shouldn't run both ways. Dean said he couldn't, and Castiel countered by saying he did everything Dean had asked and always came when Dean called and was still his friend, despite Dean's lack of faith in him and his threats. Noting he'd saved him again, Castiel asked if anyone but his closest kin had ever done more for him, and said trusting his plan was the only thing he asked of Dean, maintaining he'd earned that trust. He said he'd come to tell Dean he would find Lisa and Ben and bring them back, but he told Dean to stand behind him the one time he asked. Disturbed, Dean pointed out that his standing down was the same ransom Crowley had demanded, and he refused, telling Castiel to leave and even to go tell Crowley that Dean's message was both of them could kiss his ass. Dean turned his back on the angel, and after a moment, Castiel disappeared.
Bobby found Ellie Visyak at a hideaway cabin with a protective symbol scrawled on the door. He revealed he knew what she was, showing her the photograph, and she admitted the truth, including that she was about 900 years older than she'd told him when they were sleeping together. Noting she'd been living pretty quietly on Earth for 75 years, while Eve had started unleashing wholesale violence the moment she came across, Bobby asked her what her game was, and she responded that she was a friend. She said not every creature in Purgatory was the same, and she had just been the thing that fell through when Lovecraft opened the door. She said the world was lucky she'd been the one who came through because she enjoyed the world the way it was and had done everything she could – including killing Lovecraft and giving Dean the sword – to keep the door to Purgatory closed. Bobby warned her an angel wanted Purgatory and was looking for her, and said the only way to stop him was to get ahead of him. He said he needed to know how to open the door, but she refused to tell him, saying it was too dangerous for anyone to know. She thanked him for the warning, but when he asked her to let him take her somewhere and protect her, she gently refused, saying she had other places lined up and he was only a man; she'd be better off protecting herself.
Balthazar appeared back at Bobby's, catching Sam in the act of borrowing a page from Dean's book and drinking his feelings, and told Sam he had come to say he was officially on their team, although he knew he would live to regret it. He admitted to both brothers that his choice to join them was a matter of his own survival, because he'd asked Castiel some questions and didn't like the answers. He observed Castiel seemed awfully sure of himself for someone who wanted to swallow a million nuclear reactors, and he was uneasy because of the potential for meltdown. He said he'd taken the liberty of looking for their friends, but while he'd found them, he couldn't get them for the brothers because Crowley had angel-proofed the building, which he observed said a lot about the non-trusting status of the demon's relationship with Castiel. Dean told him to get them as close as he could and Balthazar agreed, but warned they'd then be on their own. He dropped them in an alley outside an abandoned foundry and disappeared.
The brothers killed a sentry demon who came outside, and then split up inside to search. Demons got the drop on Sam, knocked him out, and locked him in a room, but Dean made it to the room where Lisa and Ben were tied up under guard, using the knife to kill every demon who got in his way. He cut them free, but Lisa – who'd been possessed by a demon under Crowley's orders as a precaution against rescue – snatched the knife from his hand and held it to Ben's throat. The demon tormented both Dean and Ben by professing to tell them what trapped Lisa was thinking, saying first that Dean was Ben's real father and then that he wasn't, then saying Lisa wished she'd never met Dean and thought he was her worst mistake, after the mistake she made in keeping Ben. Dean told Ben that the demon wasn't his mom and was lying, and the demon taunted Ben that Lisa was begging the demon to kill him, saying Ben was holding her back and she hadn't had any fun since he'd been born. Catching Ben's eyes, Dean promised the boy he'd be okay, and then flung holy water in Lisa's face and pulled Ben to safety behind him as the demon screamed. Dean wrestled her up against the wall and knocked the knife out of her hand, but wouldn't hit her, fearing to hurt Lisa. The demon flung him off and advanced on him, but Dean began an exorcism, continuing the chant even when the demon first hit him and then grabbed his throat, trying to silence him. He told her she could go to Hell. Grabbing a chisel, the demon plunged it into Lisa's side, saying if he exorcised her now, Lisa would just be a dead meat-suit. With a sorrowful glance at Ben, Dean reluctantly but resolutely continued the exorcism, driving out the demon, and Lisa collapsed to the floor, agonized and bleeding.

Putting pressure on the stab wound, Dean called Sam for help, but with Sam unconscious in a room, the call went to voicemail. Dean repeatedly called Ben's name, trying to get his attention, but the boy was in shock; running out of patience and time, he slapped Ben across the face, telling him he needed to focus. While he picked Lisa up to carry her out, he told Ben to get the salt gun out of his duffel and be ready to shoot anything that tried to stop them, and they started making their hasty way out of the warehouse. When Ben shot his first demon, he froze again; to snap him out of it, Dean brutally asked if he wanted his mom to die, and Ben steadied down, shooting two more demons along the way. As they passed the room where Sam was locked up, Sam, conscious again, heard them and called out, and Dean put Lisa down just long enough to shoot the lock off the door. Dean had Ben give the gun to Sam, telling Sam they needed a ride to the hospital. Escaping the warehouse, Sam boosted a white SUV and they all piled in, Dean cradling Lisa in the back seat. He kept talking, encouraging Lisa to stay with him and trying to reassure Ben she would be okay, while telling Sam desperately they had to go faster.
At the hospital, sitting beside Lisa's bed as she lay unresponsive, Dean apologized to Ben, but the boy silently got up and walked out even as Castiel appeared. Dean bitterly asked what he was doing there and what he wanted him to say, telling the angel Lisa would be dead by midnight. Castiel said he was sorry, and Dean retorted that he didn't care, saying it was too little, too late. Castiel said he hadn't come for Dean, and then reached out and laid his hand on Lisa's head, healing her. He said she was fine and would wake soon, adding that he'd said he was sorry and he meant it. Broken, Dean thanked him, but added that he wished this changed anything. Castiel agreed and said he understood, adding that all else aside, he just wanted to fix what he could. As he turned to go, Dean said there was one more thing the angel could do for him.
Not long after, Lisa woke up to find Ben sitting beside her. He told her they'd been in a car crash, that he was fine but she'd hit her head pretty hard, but she was okay now. Dean watched them from the hallway. When he stepped in and said hi, they didn't recognize him. He apologized, saying he'd been the guy who'd hit them, that he'd just lost control for a moment and was really glad they were all right and could get their lives back to their normal now. Smiling forgiveness, Lisa said they were okay and that's what was important. Dean said he'd leave them alone, and in parting told Ben to take care of his mom. Fighting tears, he walked away.
Out at the car, Sam said Dean had done some shady crap before, but whitewashing their memories – as Sam could say from experience – was the worst. Dean cut him off, saying if Sam ever mentioned Lisa or Ben to him again, he'd break his nose. When Sam started to remonstrate with him, Dean said he was serious, and looking at the pain and loss etched on his brother's face, Sam finally nodded and stayed silent.

At night, Ellie Visyak left her hideaway cabin – which now boasted angel-proofing on the windows – and carried her bag to her car. As she reached for the door handle, she heard wings, and saw Castiel's reflection behind her in the car window. Defeated, she turned to face him, and he put his hand on her shoulder and blinked them both away.


Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-05-28 14:07
Wonderful, spot on review of Let It Bleed.

I am always struck by how willing Dean is to cut off his own arm. Here, I get the sense that he has cut his nose off to spite his face. I understand WHY he cut himself out of Lisa and Ben's lives, but I, too, think it wrong. He may think he's protecting them and keeping them from the horrors that is his life and the supernatural that stalks it, but he has ultimately put them in more danger.

If he had heeded Soulless Sam's warning that perhaps he couldn't have this Apple Pie life with them, he might have had them floating around out there for when he should or could truly retire for real. Instead, he held on tight and tried. It's hard to say if we will see them again, but it is a shame that Dean has chosen to carry this alone.

I am hopeful that in season 7 we will see Sam, and his stubbornness, despite Dean's threat to break his face, coax Dean into talking about this painful moment. Dean can only shove so much pain down and at a certain point it will kill him for good.

I agree with your wonderful assessment of Cas. He truly does care for Dean, despite the awful monster he becomes at the end of The Man Who Knew Too Much. I felt he was trying to apologize to Dean in Let It Bleed, and the question becomes what would have Cas done if Dean had given him the forgiveness he had given Sam and Bobby at Rufus's grave side? Had Cas witnessed that, too, invisible? Had he hoped that Dean would extend that wonderful heart of gold and embrace him with that forgiveness, despite the hurt? It's hard to say.

I am a fiction writer by trade, so I don't know as much about screenwriting or direction, but I found your analysis of the use of camera shots and angles to enhance my understanding of this episode. I will be looking out for these elements in this and other episode, and it gives my meta loving heart more fat to chew on, so I thank you for that.

All in all, I have enjoyed the Lisa and Ben storyline. We got to see a different side of Dean because of them, someone softer and more patient. In fact, I think it is because of them that Dean has the patience to endure Soulless Sam. I think a younger Dean would have possibly made more of an attempt to put Soulless Sam down, but here he has the patience to not only endure but to help Sam recapture his soul. If he hadn't had them in his life, I think it would have been different.

I will be curious to see if this storyline has been closed for good. I, too, think much like you that this is a part of a trilogy or four part arc of episodes. It's not much different than the way All Hell Breaks Loose 1 and 2 blend into The Magnificent Seven.

So, again, thank you.
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-28 15:43
Thank you! Glad you liked!

I'm with you in hoping that Sam may yet get Dean to talk about Lisa and Ben, both in terms of what he had and what he lost. Sam and Bobby are the only people we've seen able to pressure him into talking. Sam has done it time and again by making it about the effect Dean's pain has on him, manipulating Dean's "protect Sammy" wiring by showing Dean how upset it makes Sam to see Dean transparently trying to hide pain, shame, and fear. When the only way to alleviate Sam's worry is to talk about himself, Dean eventually caves in and 'fesses up. Bobby has done it by being accepting and holding out a father's unconditional love; Dean knows that when Bobby shakes his head and calls him an idjit, it's as much a term of love as the "bitch/jerk" mantra he and Sam share. I really do hope it will slowly come out, but I definitely won't expect it to come soon or all at once when it finally does happen.

You make a great point about Dean's time with Lisa and Ben likely having contributed a lot to his ability to deal with soulless Sam. I hadn't thought of it, but you're right; he had to learn a whole new balance and an unfamiliar patience that served him in good stead when Sam felt so very off. Thanks for that!

On Castiel: I think forgiveness and redemption are still possible, but not quite yet. I couldn't see Dean offering forgiveness in the middle of the argument, though; not when his whole point is how wrong Castiel is being in doing what he's doing. Dean's had time to process what went down with Sam earlier, and knowing how rapidly things can go south with no one meaning them to, wanted neither Sam nor Bobby to feel the kind of guilt Sam was carrying for his failings and Bobby was carrying for Rufus's death if his own death came on him before he could say the words. I think he'll get there with Castiel eventually, but Castiel admitting to having done wrong things and desiring forgiveness is an essential and currently missing part of that equation. Forgiveness means nothing if there's no awareness of guilt establishing the perceived need for it. Here, Castiel has stubbornly maintained he's done nothing wrong, but only what he had to do; he's maintained that Dean and the others were the ones in the wrong for not trusting him. Not feeling the need for forgiveness, I doubt he'd accept it even if it were offered.

When he does admit it and seeks to atone for it, forgiveness will be waiting; of that, I have no doubt. And I'm hoping that may be where season seven takes the story.

Again, thank you.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-05-28 16:09
Sam has always had a manner of turning those puppy eyes on Dean and forcing him to admit things, yes. I expect, much the same way he had to drag it out of Dean about going to Hell in season 3 and then what had happened in Hell in season 4 we'll see Sam play another similar card to bring Dean out. Sam can take some of the blame for what happened with Lisa and Ben--as it was his idea to shove Dean at them. They must resolve this issue between them or face another fracture that could damage but not break their relationship.

It just occurred to me as I was thinking about your review and how Dean seemed to tolerate Soulless Sam as well as he had that it had something to do with his time with Lisa and Ben. The more I turn that thought over in my mind, the more I think it fits. It also pulls that thread and the thread concerning Sam and Dean together in a wonderful way. Each piece fits together well and would have been missed if omitted.

The only reason I say that Cas is trying to apologize through this episode is not because he feels he did wrong. I agree with you. He most certainly does NOT feel that he is in the wrong. His hubris is so entrenched at this stage for that. I think he's more apologizing for the fact that it somehow hurt Dean. He might not entirely grasp why it hurt Dean---and shame on him if he does---but I sensed that he was sorry that it hurt Dean in some way. If he had gotten Dean's approval, which is another thing he sought--along with some form of forgiveness, I don't think Cas would have taken either. He was so paranoid by the end of the season that anything anyone said to him was questioned and discarded as a lie by Cas. He might have sought it, but his paranoia would have forced him to reject it.

I do think, that if Cas is given the chance, to seek forgiveness and redemption it will be waiting for him. He has so much to atone for from breaking Sam's wall---which in a strange bizarre way may be a gift, to taking Heaven's throne by twisted force, to lying about resurrecting Sam from the Cage sans soul.

We know, as self sacrificing as Dean can be, that he is also forgiving. He has a large loving heart and I don't doubt that if he would open it to Cas again that they could find ways to heal this rift.

We shall see!

And you're welcome. I am just thrilled by this wonderful site and its brilliantly insightful writers such as yourself. I feel so privileged to sit amongst you.
# rmoats8621 2011-05-30 01:53
This was an amazing article as were the comments that followed. I have totally enjoyed this and look forward to the next one. Also, I am just as amazed of the insight that the writers and commentators of this site have into this wonderful show. :D
# Sylvie 2011-05-30 15:40
I desperately wanted Dean to say, Don't you see, you're doing the exact same thing Sam did, when he deliberately lied to us all, listened to and cooperated secretly with Ruby, and wound up opening the door to Lucifer's cage? That's why I can't trust you – you're making all the same mistakes for all the same reasons, and you can't even see it, any more than he could. You both believed you were doing the necessary thing, that you didn't have any other viable choice, that the stakes were too high to take a chance on failing – and you're both wrong.
That was amazing, I wish he'd said that exactly. You are truly an amazing writer (as is everyone on this site). I take off my hat to Jensen Ackles for the astounding acting all season, but most especially in this episode, you could feel Dean's vulnerability through the screen. These two guys are so great at what they do, I wish they would get acknowledged for it. But then again, maybe they are our well kept secret and I'm not much in to sharing anyway!

Keep up the good work on the writing, it's something I look forward to.
# BagginsDVM 2011-05-31 20:06
Similar to what Alice included in her review, I was quite depressed initially after this episode, wondering how much more sadness & loss Dean was going to have to endure. I just want some happiness for the man & his loved ones, & the eternal optimist in me is still expecting that by the time the series ends. In the meantime, I'll suffer along with the guys no matter what comes their way.
I'm in full agreement with your analysis of Dean & Cas & where their characters stood in relationship to each other in this episode, still respecting the other, trying to maintain that unique friendship. If only they would have tried to explain their viewpoints to each other! Then again, they were too entrenched in their situations to really listen to each other.
I certainly saw John in Dean during the Braeden rescue mission. Although I don't agree with Dean's decision regarding the memory wipe, it fits with where his head & heart were at. That's our Dean Winchester, flawed but definitely our hero.
I like the idea of viewing these last 2 episodes of season 6 as just the first part of an arc; cliffhanger absolutely!
I won't know how I feel about all that happened in these episodes until I see the resolution of these storylines in the beginning of season 7 (or maybe later!) I'm in it for the long haul!