I was sure the creepy Lizzie mannequin in the corner in Len’s home was going to come to life, then Dean goes down the stairs to a dark basement and the lights of course don’t work. I noticed the music was particularly suspenseful throughout the episode. In fact, if you listen specifically for the background sounds, there’s white noise wind in the basement and eerie “creep up on you” chords in various scenes. Was I being pulled into the fright fest by the music? I saw other people on Twitter freaking out as well. Did you have the same reaction? Why are these season 11 episodes so scary after all these years of seeing ghosts, monsters, dark spaces and gruesome murders? What has changed?
The rewatch went much better than the first viewing, thankfully. I knew when and where things were going to jump out of closets so I could watch the show for content, clues and messages. I knew I wanted to listen for all mentions of Amara, the Darkness, soullessness and other obvious myth advancements in the dialog but I found another layer of meaning that really surprised me!
When I summarized season 10’s threads, looking back to see when we were first given the clues to the myth arc’s ultimate direction, I concluded that the biggest clues to the season came in a seemingly innocuous monster of the week episode “Ask Jeeves” 10.06. I was reminded of that revelation when I starting hearing underlying threads in "Thin Lizzie", this season’s first pure monster of the week episode coincidentally placed at episode 5, almost the exact same timing as last season’s big clues. That history makes me want to take these threads very seriously!
It seemed odd to me that Amara would “want to see where Lizzie axed her folks”. What interest could that be to the Darkness? An apocalyptic being from before time began is interested in a singular crime, a family drama that went bad? The clue came in Amara’s answer:
Len: Are you lost, or staying at the Inn?
Amara: I wish I were. I want to see where Lizzie axed her folks … Poor Lizzie. I’ve been reading up on her. Her parents sucked. ….Oh no, Lizzie definitely hacked them. You can see it in her eyes. Serial Killer eyes.”
Let’s first focus on the serial killer theme. Serial killers were mentioned a suspiciously high number of times in the dialog. Dean first mentioned it in the bunker, when he was trying to understand why Sam thought these murders were a case:
Dean: Wait a minute. I know what this is. This has something to do with your freaky fetish for serial killers.
During a later conversation in the car, Sam repeated the phrase:
Sam: Maybe it’s not our usual kind of gig. Maybe we’re dealing with a serial killer.
Serial killers are often profiled to be psychopaths or sociopaths. Quick research into the most common definitions of these conditions revealed that “Both a psychopath and a sociopath have a complete disregard for the feelings and rights of others. Both fail to feel remorse or guilt. They appear to lack a conscience and are completely self-serving.” 1 In other words, serial killers act a lot like the soulless killers in the past few episodes…and a lot like the amoral entity of the Darkness.
Since she was old enough to read books and watch history lessons on-line, Amara has expressed concern for the pain that people experience. In 11.03 “The Bad Seed”, she was disturbed that God allowed so much pain in his world
Young Amara: God made a world where people have to suffer, and then they die.
Young Amara: But frankly, why would they want to live in such a world?
She was surprised, though, when Crowley described a world of pure evil, challenging “You'd really be happy if everyone... was evil?”
When Amara first met Sydney, Amara wanted to take away Sydney’s pain
Amara: you shouldn’t be driving. You could put your head through a window. I’m going to help you Sydney.
So Amara wants neither a world that includes pain nor a world of pure evil. Sydney described
“what it was like being with Amara. No hurting. No sadness. No memories. Amara took away the pain. She lightened something in me. I’m free. Before there was always this constant voice in my head. You can’t do that. It’s wrong. What if you get caught? Now it’s quiet. It’s just me and what I want. When you can do whatever you want you don’t have to get caught. And then you can really fly.”
Amara literally “took away the pain” by removing Sydney’s conscience (“When you can do whatever you want you don’t have to get caught.”), and making her completely self-serving (“It’s just me and what I want”). Essentially, Amara made Sydney into a sociopathic serial killer. Len said he felt the same urges building inside of him:
Len: I feel weird, man. Like something is hatching inside of me. Something dark, with wings.
Len: I know for sure, if I’m not stopped, there’ll be another kill. I can feel it. Like a bubble rising up.
The town’s detective described Len as “harmless”, and indeed, Len’s activities and life seemed passive enough. Even when he lurked in the B&B’s basement for weeks, he said “I wasn’t hurting anyone”. So if Len’s nature was to be passive and peaceful, maybe it was a longer road for him to find a logical reason to kill.
Dean: Why hasn’t he offed anybody. I mean it took Jenna all of walking down stairs to slit her grandmother’s throat.
Sam: Maybe not everyone who gets their soul sucked out turns into a killer.
Dean: or maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.
The concept of people reacting differently to being soulless was established in 9.17 “Mother’s Little Helper”. In that ep, Sam speculated “Yeah, well, maybe everyone has a different reaction to losing their soul.”
He repeated his theory at the end of this episode:
Sam: It kind of makes sense, you know. People having different reactions to losing their souls. I did. Everyone’s got their own history, right?
Dean: Len loses his heart. Sydney loses her head. What are we looking for? - the cowardly lion next?
Sydney immediately taking up an ax made sense given her confession of tendencies to revenge and violence:
Sydney: I used to fantasize about killing her and now I’m living the dream.
Len was a happier person. He described having friends and fun before he became “a robot”. So soullessness manifests differently depending on the person’s starting point before their conscience is removed. Len suspects that he will become a serial killer, but it will just take longer than it did for Sydney whose mind screamed out with fantasies of revenge.
She couldn’t sleep because she would wake up screaming from nightmares of her past. She used alcohol to numb the pain of her memories (sounds a lot like Dean!). She welcomed being pain-free, whereas it frightened Len who knew what it meant to feel happiness. Sydney embraced soullessness; Len accepted it, but both it seemed would end up in the same place in the end – soulless serial killers.
Amara’s vision for the perfect world is one where there is no pain, not because everything is perfect but rather because everyone does what they want. They aren’t emotionless – Sydney felt euphoria and Len felt fear and panic, but in Amara’s perfect world, everyone is disconnected from their empathy, self-restraint, guilt or conscience. They can do whatever they want to please themselves because their mind has gone… quiet.
Soullessness is so Quiet
Recognizing that people reacted differently when they encountered the Darkness, Sam tried to get more “data” by asking Dean about his experience:
Sam: The darkness. I think we only know the tip of what she is, what she does to people. Len was freaked out by her but Sydney couldn’t get enough. The bliss she was talking about, you know. What was it like for you? Did you feel like that with Amara?
Dean: No, I mean it was quiet until she started hatching killers and rallying monsters to raise armies.
Dean didn’t answer Sam’s question…or did he? Dean did not say what he felt when he was with Amara, which is what Sam asked. Rather Dean said what his world was like before she became active. Oddly, Sydney described the Darkness using the exact same word:
Now it’s quiet
When both Len and Sydney talked about what it was like to be around or to be touched by Amara, Dean seemed both alarmed and enlightened, as if he just found the missing piece of the puzzle and could suddenly see the big picture that had previously been so elusive. It is absolutely not a coincidence that both Dean and Sydney used the same word to describe their worlds after encountering Amara. Amara seemed to have genuine concern for Dean when they first met, just as she had for Sydney (“I’m going to help you Sydney.”)
At this point in their encounter, Amara “helped” Sydney simply by touching her. Sydney broke into spontaneous laughter, and later described her elation before Amara sucked out her soul as “Ecstasy Orgasm Chocolate Cake”. What if Amara also touched Dean and “took away the pain”. Is that when his world became “quiet”, silencing all those voices in his head that constantly screamed “you shouldn’t have done that”, “you can’t”, “don’t do it” and “it’s hopeless”? Has Dean been rendered “painless”, i.e. numb or uncaring by Amara?
This theory is strengthened by the constant reminders of the motions that Sam went through after the brothers knew he was soulless. Dean told him to “Fake it till you make it”, words that were reprised by Len. Sam also described being soulless similarly to Len’s confession: “I remember what it was like to do the right thing so I’m going through the motions for as long as I can.”
Could Dean be going through the motions?
Remember when Dean said he would be SoullessSam’s Jiminy Cricket? Dean said he would ‘set all the rules’ and be Sam’s conscious for him. I was reminded of that episode when Dean said the following very strange thing to Sam in “Thin Lizzie”:
Dean: We can’t kill him because he hasn’t done anything yet.
Sam: We don’t want to kill him. We want to save people, remember?
Dean: Right. Your new rules.
Sam even thought that was weird.
Dean thinks “saving people” is a rule? Have you also noticed how often Dean has asked Sam what they should do next? Sam doesn’t usually call the shots, but Dean has seemed unusually interested in Sam’s opinion lately. Then there's how bluntly Dean blurted out to harsh truth to Len about him being soulless...
of course, that could just be Dean being Dean... but it also seemed weird that a few weeks ago, Dean didn’t want Cas to heal him. In 11.03 “The Bad Seed”, Dean first shied away from being healed:
Castiel (gesturing toward deans injuries): Dean, I can fix that.Was Dean reacting in some way to being able to feel pain? The reticence to being healed by Cas was reinforced at the end of 11.04 “Baby”:
Dean: No, no, no. No, no. It's fine, Cas. Besides, I had it comin'.
Dean: We'll get Cas to fix you up.Len said his thumb being ripped off hurt “like a mother” but he didn’t care. It was just…fascinating, in a Spock kind of way. Was Dean also interested in experiencing his own pain again?
Sam: Only if he fixes you up, too.
Dean: Okay, mom. Let's go home.
Sam: You know what? We are home.
Dean: Come on. Come on. Ahh. There's my girl.
All these threads - serial killers having no conscience and killing if there is a logical motive that seems altruistic (Dean debating whether they were justified in killing Len yet); soulless “shells” feeling no emotional pain and losing interest in their former passions (Len’s fandom hobby and Dean’s goal of saving people); reminders of everyone reacting differently to being touched by the darkness - all hint that Dean was touched by Amara, and while he may still have his soul (as Sydney did at first), he is cut off from its noisy, bothersome guidance.
ParentsThere has been a deliberate, constant thread of parenthood in these first 5 episodes. Wednesday’s first three visual reviews for this season have identified unmistakable themes of pregnancy and parenting in cinematography. The episodes' plots and titles have also overtly referenced reproduction. We were introduced to Amara in a hospital maternity ward, with her birth described in detail by her father. The second episode took place largely in a nursery with constant references to “the baby”. The third episode was titled “The Bad Seed”, insinuating the seeds of reproduction. Crowley assigned Amara a “nanny” who wore an apron and home schooled the little girl. He himself insisted on being called Uncle Crowley. The fourth episode was even titled “Baby”. Yes, we all interpreted that as referring to Dean’s nickname for his beloved Impala, but it also reinforces the childhood theme. In that episode, the sympathetic monster of the week was a mother would do “anything” to protect her children. “Thin Lizzy” then told the story of a little girl named Lizzie Borden who killed her parents, and touched on Amara’s unexplained interest in that pathology.
There have been constant references to motherhood in all of the season 11 dialogues so far as well (I’ve highlighted some of this week’s throughout this article). Dean calling Sam “mom” repeatedly reinforcing the idea of getting his rules from Sam, and of Sam being Dean’s moral compass. Dean also referenced the idea of working with family when talking to the Inn keeper:
“Working with family can be tough.”
Sam gave Dean a “Really? I thought you liked working together” look. Remember how Soulless Sam said it was “exhausting” trying to keep up appearances of sincerity and caring around Dean? I thought Dean’s remark here both reinforced his soulless persona and the family theme – two for one!
At the end of the episode, Sam sat on the steps and talked to the little boy about losing his mom and dad, and that he would survive. There are many more mentions of motherhood, parenting, and raising children throughout this season’s episodes thus far. Listen for them in your rewatches and bring us the quotes in the comments!
So why all the emphasis on parenting? With the unrelenting motherhood thread, I am convinced somebody here is a mother! The angels refer to God as Dad all the time, but thus far Amara has only referred to him as “God”, not Dad. So it doesn’t seem that Amara is God’s child. Death also said that the Darkness predated God, so it seems clear that The Darkness is not God’s “child” either.
Before the season began, I proposed a theory that God had some relationship to the Darkness, possibly that it was the “dark side” of the Universe’s “soul”. Now that we have more clues, could the Darkness be God’s equal, i.e. the Mother of the Universe?
I’ve been praying and I know that she can hear me. I can feel it. She’s close. She hasn’t left me. She is a goddess. The darkness is coming. It’s so peaceful. It’s coming for all of us.
Interestingly, Sydney refers to Amara in the feminine, i.e. She’s close, She hasn’t left me, Goddess, but Sydney refers to the Darkness separate from Amara, i.e. The Darkness is coming, It’s so peaceful. It’s coming. That reinforces when Amara saw and talked to a separate entity in the mirror a few weeks ago. It seems safe to judge/predict/theorize/conclude that Amara and the Darkness are two separate things so that opens up more possibilities.
Is Darkness the Mother of Amara? A strong case could be made for that lineage. She seemed parental in the mirror and they referred to being locked away together. That would also explain why Amara was interested in Lizzie’s justifiable killing of her parents – Amara is researching cases where children end parents. It could also be implied by the death of the inn keeper's mom - a crotchety mother dies for wronging someone; and the mother who reacted unemotionally to the death of her husband also ended up murdered for being immoral. Dead moms everywhere!
In 11.01’s Threads article and comments, I noted that Mike (meaning Gift from God) and Jane (meaning Like God) produced a child named Amara (meaning Eternal, unfading, beloved and imperishable). Is it possible that God created Amara to control the Darkness?
That would be consistent with the father’s name (gift from God). Equally possible though is that Amara is a goddess in her own right (“like God”) and was the first guardian of the key to the Darkness’ prison. After all, she now bears the scar of the Mark. When the mark was released from Dean it immediately appeared on the baby Amara. Is Amara the goddess who held the key before God created angels? Was Lucifer the second bearer of the key, not the first?
What if Amara is the mother of the Darkness? She is the Goddess who created The Darkness to take pain away from the universe. She controls it, and it is coming to bring “peace” to the world. She is now in control of the key to its prison. Could she let “it” out any time she pleases?
What is your favorite theory? At this point, do we even agree that someone is a mother?
I don’t believe it is a significant thread for the season, but I thought it was interesting that Len was portrayed as “superfan” that was “obsessed but harmless”. Look at all these references:
Dean: It was probably just some psycho fan who had seen too many slasher flicks”
Dean: probably just some crazed fan broke in, right?
Dean: You are a lizzie borden… I don’t think fan covers it
Len: Super Fan
Dean: What about super fan, curator, living the bliss?
Len: I’ve always been odd, and quirky but I had a life, friends.
This “superfan” was characterized by a restraining order, the gag order not to talk about the restraining order, leading a live chat about the murders, the Lizzie blog, the ghost conventions and “I put this whole collection on eBay last night”. I was having real flashbacks to Becky in “Time for a Wedding”. I’m not sure what Supernatural’s new writer, Nancy Won, thinks about fans, but this seemed to be an odd way to introduce herself to the fandom. Did you notice this?
Truth is STILL a thread:
Dean to Len: it’s best just to go with the truth here.…reinforcing that Dean is not yet telling Sam the truth.
Dean to Len (about the thumb thing): Well I’m not going to lie. That’s worrisome.
Bottled Toilet water? Why do you keep spraying it? All right, now I’m going to go check out the rest of the inn because now I got gramma all over me”
Cracked me up! Loved the comedic timing!
I also want to look up the words and backstory to the song that was playing in Lizzie’s bedroom when the kids were killed. I bet it has some interesting significance.
That’s enough mind-numbing (pun intended) analysis of this episode! What are your theories? Let's try to keep the comments mostly spoiler free so no one has to be afraid to read or participate. Put spoiler alerts if you have mild or short spoilers. If you have serious spoilery info to share that shed's light on these theories, how about popping over to the spoiler discussion page?
screencaps courtesy of http://supernaturalfansonline.com/gallery/