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Production Notes
Overall, I loved this episode. I was glad to see Lisa and Ben still alive at the end, although forever off-limits, and the situation also provided a vital glimpse into Castiel. Sera Gamble writes great emotion, and I always know her scripts will leave a genuine grief behind.
I'll get my issues out of the way first, as always. The one thing about the script by Sera Gamble that troubled me, as it did Sam, was Dean having Castiel erase Lisa's and Ben's memories of him. I’ve already noted the apparent assumption that their ignorance would keep them safe is a fallacy, since anyone who understands what they mean to Dean would still be inclined to use them against him whether the two of them remembered him or not. I also had to wonder just how many things Castiel needed to launder to erase Dean from their lives, given he’d lived with them for a year; did the angel alter all the photos we saw earlier in the season, clean up the mess from the demons’ home invasion, and resurrect Matt? And is Castiel’s memory rewrite any more secure than the wall Death put in Sam’s mind?
I had to smile for the historical revision that had Lovecraft finishing the manuscript for The Haunter of the Dark on the night of his death; the short story was actually written in November 1935 and published in the magazine Weird Tales in December 1936. And since Lovecraft, who suffered from intestinal cancer, actually entered the hospital on March 10, 1937, where he died on March 15, that dinner party would have been sparsely attended! Ah, but we already know the Supernatural universe is a dimension away from ours, so Lovecraft’s life was obviously different there … :) I was a little bothered that Dean, with all his love of horror stories, didn't know anything about Lovecraft, but I understand that, in order to convey his biographical information to the audience, one of our heroes would need to be filled in, and he was the least bookish of the three. This at least wasn't quite as egregious as making him not recognize references to characters from Dracula back in Monster Movie
I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of John Showalter’s direction. The one bit that felt off was the incredibly lackadaisical attitude of the demons guarding Lisa and Ben in the abandoned foundry: their slow, pretty much one-at-a-time response to the sounds of Dean attacking outside the door of the room marked them as certifiable idiots. Okay, they maybe knew about the ace-in-the-hole demon occupying Lisa – but that wouldn't have made them not care about their own existence. If I were a demon guarding Dean's Precious, I'd be a lot faster to charge in groups of force if I heard Dean-like noises indicating an assault!
I loved the blocking and camera work on the phone conversation between Dean and Crowley. On Crowley's end, the demon did all the moving; on Dean's end, the camera was in motion, pivoting around Dean to give us glimpses of Bobby and Sam. It was a neat difference that also reinforced their respective roles: Crowley was the one in charge, the mover of the situation, while Dean was the one caught in it and looking for an out. That was delicious! I also enjoyed the use of the nighttime junkyard in their summoning of Balthazar; it was imaginative and visually striking, and I have a weakness for crane shots. I laughed when Balthy showed up standing on a car! In the hospital scene between Castiel and Dean, I was struck by the shot of Dean's face framed under Castiel's arm as the angel healed Lisa; that was an unexpected camera angle that just did something quietly powerful for the scene.
 All the performances in this were golden. Cindy Sampson had a great turn as demon-Lisa; that was such a vicious, evil departure from the character we've come to know, and she really sold it. The scene at the end, when Lisa no longer remembered Dean, was also perfect; we saw all the innate decency we knew from the character extended to a stranger, which made that farewell all the harder to watch. I've loved everything we saw of Lisa, and Cindy was a big part of that. I never once questioned the reality of this woman or her relationship with Dean, and I will miss her every bit as much as Dean does. Nicholas Elias did a great job as Ben, a brave kid up against unimaginable horror and fear. He had the spunk we remembered from his younger self in The Kids Are Alright, but also a more mature awareness of the threat that made this situation a much harder one for him to deal with. His interaction with Jensen Ackles' Dean while he was held hostage by demon-Lisa and in dealing with the aftermath of Lisa's stabbing immediately made me think of similar scenes happening in the past between John and Dean, with a boy forced to take on hideous responsibility and discovering it was much worse than any expectations he'd had of what it would be like to hunt like his Dad. I'm going to miss Ben, too.
Sebastian Roché continued to delight as Balthazar. Balthazar joining the Winchesters despite himself because he saw them as necessary to his own survival was a treat. I love the snark Sebastian brought to every scene, especially his momentarily injured, put-upon look when Sam said they didn't buy that his cooperation was due to any shred of decency, and the immediate flip to an acknowledgment that they were right. Beautifully written and wonderfully brought to life! The same is true of Mark Sheppard's continuing star turn as Crowley; dyed-in-the-wool evil has never been this funny while also being frightening.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ellie Visyak as brought to life by Kim Ulrich back in Like A Virgin, and remarked at the time that I'd love to see her past with Bobby fleshed out. I was delighted to see that happen here! She and Jim Beaver made a great pair. For a totally different reason, I laughed out loud at Bobby's line to her saying, You're not exactly from Milwaukee, are you? Ellie might not be, but I am!
As we understand more and more about what's been going on with Castiel all season, Misha Collins has brought the angel's anguish to life. Here, we saw him dealing with another price of his chosen course of action as his friendship with Dean fractured even more and he had more cause to regret and rethink his partnership with Crowley. His frustration at being unable to push Crowley into either releasing Lisa and Ben or even promising their safety was palpable. Even better, however, was his very quiet acknowledgment at the end that he just wanted to fix what he could; that was heartbreaking.
This episode belonged to Jensen Ackles. I remain amazed at the depth of genuine pain he conveys through Dean. The intensity of all of Dean's emotions makes him riveting to watch. His comic timing makes the funny things absolutely hilarious, but it's always the pain I feel and remember the most. I grieve for Dean giving up Lisa and Ben and all they represented for him – and that's because of the life Jensen brings to him. I also continue to be very happy with the way Jared Padalecki is delivering Sam with his soul back. Watching him during every scene he shared with Dean, Sam's concern for his brother just leaped off the screen.
The art department cracked me up with the job they did on the Lovecraft collector's apartment. Miskatonic University lives – and a very familiar tiger and moon velvet painting somehow turned up on the wall! 
The episode had perfect music choices, as I've come to expect. During the home invasion, Ben was listening to “Loudest Alarm” by Scars On 45:  I'm glad I never turned to you / to hold me back / Well you must be living with a four-leaf clover / The number seven running all the way through you / And as I wait to feel another day older / I will be praying, praying for a chance to prove … And I couldn't imagine a more appropriate song to play behind Castiel's confrontation with Crowley than The Undisputed Truth's “Smiling Faces Sometimes:” Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend / Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within / smiling faces sometimes / They don't tell the truth / Tell lies and I got proof / Beware, beware of the handshake / That hides the snake / Beware of the pat on the back / It just might hold you back. There's Crowley in a nutshell! The scary part was that it also spoke to what Castiel has become.
Next up: my review of the season finale, in another few days. But I'll say this straight up: I think the finale was only part three of a four-part chapter in the current story. We don't know how that chapter really ends yet, and I won't judge it as complete until I've seen 7.01.


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!