Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 5
An apparently standard “Ghost Hunt” Supernatural episode turns into a really interesting exploration of the concept of having no soul in the universe of this show.
After a couple of murders happen in the house that Lizzie Borden grew up in, Sam becomes really interested in checking it out as he is a self confessed history buff and is fascinated to investigate this case. Dean is more cynical about this as he feels that the cause might just be a competent killer rather than anything supernatural.
At the absence of anything better to do they go and check it out and the episode appears to go through the motions on these types of stories. They ask some questions, check out the location of the murder and bring out the portable EMF scanners.
The episode gets vastly more interesting when the character of Len (Jared Gertner) is introduced. He is a Lizzie Borden fanatic but seems overall pretty harmless until he reveals that he had a run in with Amara who unfortunately harvested his soul and let him go about his business.
Len isn’t characterised the way I would expect for someone who was soulless in this show. He seems mostly unchanged from how he probably seems normally and certainly isn’t a murderous psychopath. It is explained that he is going through the motions of his life motivated only by his memories of the person he used to be. He does the same things he normally does but is completely dispassionate about them. He also feels that something dark is starting to grow inside him and feels compelled to resist it.
It’s an interesting development to have him turn him in for the murders so that he can’t be a danger to anyone outside of prison. Again, his memories fuel his actions and he simply goes through the motions. He doesn’t feel innocent or guilty but he remembers what he would consider the right thing to do so takes himself away from being a danger to others. I like that Dean refuses to kill him because saving people is important to him at this point. It’s good that this theme is continuing throughout the season.
Sam has the experience of being soulless but this is something completely new to him. He has no useful advice for Len because his experience of losing his own soul was very different. This is definitely new territory for the Winchesters and Amara’s overall plan still remains a complete mystery.
The other side of being soulless is shown through the character Sydney (Tess Atkins) who acts much more as I expected. Like with Len her memories are what fuel her actions. She recounts her troubled childhood and how liberated she suddenly feels having no soul. She worships Amara for apparently freeing her from the confines of morality and describes the Darkness as “peaceful”. Sydney didn’t have a lot of screen time but she provided an effective contrast to Len’s experience of being soulless.
Amara sucking out the souls of both people and Demons is an interesting way for her power to grow. She literally consumes the essence of things she encounters and uses that to further her own agenda. I would like the show to go into a bit more detail about the difference between a human soul and a demon soul. The demon souls are black which makes sense given that they are evil and the human souls are white suggesting purity but I wonder if there’s a difference in the effect on Amara as she consumes them. I also wonder what her plan is around consuming these souls. Since Sydney ended up worshipping her I wonder if she is planning to build herself an army of soulless humans for some dark purpose or if they are simply collateral damage.
As good as the episode was with the exploration of what being soulless means I found it a little thin on content. Once the soulless plot kicked in everything was really compelling but it took the episode a long time to get to that point. There weren’t any meaningful scenes for Sam and Dean throughout the episode beyond those I have already mentioned and the whole thing was pretty poorly paced. I do like the minimalist approach of leaving Crowley and Castiel out but this should be replaced with some solid development of the Winchesters. This review is a lot shorter than usual because there is so little to really talk about.
A solid but very content thin episode of Supernatural that explores the idea of soulless humans really well but leaves out any meaningful development for the Winchesters.
I like that the story started as a simple “ghost hunt” and went through the motions of those types of stories on this show but managed to surprise when the real story presented itself. The reveal of Len as having his soul harvested by Amara was interesting as my expectations of what someone without a would be like were completely subverted.
Len going through the motions of his life based on his memories of what he was like was a fascinating development. He feels empty and is unable to be passionate about anything any more but gets on with it anyway. He can feel something dark growing inside him but doesn’t understand what it is or what to do with it. The fact that he turns himself in to remove the potential for danger makes sense as he goes through the motions of doing the right thing whether he cares about it or not.
Sydney is the complete opposite of that and embraces the freedom that comes with having no soul. All of her childhood trauma is washed away and she worships Amara for doing this to her. She describes the Darkness as “peaceful” which should prove interesting once it develops a little more.
Amara is a solid villain so far but her plan is a little on the vague side. I wonder if demon and human souls have different effects on her and how that might play out over the coming episodes.
There wasn’t really much here beyond the soulless people and how they factor into the story of the episode and the season. I like the minimalist approach to leaving out Castiel and Crowley but it should be replaced by meaningful development for the Winchesters and it just wasn’t. The pacing of the episode was very slow and took too long to get to the real meat of the story. As such this review is a lot shorter than usual.