Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S11E05 – Thin Lizzie

In the fifth episode of the eleventh season of Supernatural, this was a pleasant surprise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

I don’t want Supernatural to return to any sort of “glory days” or to be what it was in the early seasons. If anything, I’d like to think that part of the feeling behind my reviews for this season is based on the idea that I want Supernatural to change and desperately so. I want the people writing this show to know that they’ve got an audience who is willing to take a new journey with them instead of one that seems to recycle the same plots and the same bits of character “development.” At the same time, I think there’s an element of nostalgia to “Thin Lizzie” that doesn’t feel gratuitous or repetitive, and I appreciate it. There’s nothing wrong with the show returning to its roots from time to time, and that’s the sense that I got from this episode.

In essence, this is a ghost story that’s twisted in Supernatural fashion into something much, much different than it starts out as. I think it’s very easy to see “Thin Lizzie” as a classic format for the show because it treads in a very popular, long-lasting bit of American folklore. Well… it’s weird to call an actual person and an actual murder folklore, but the myths and stories that have come from this murder make it feel that way. And I’d even say that this episode toys with the idea of an evolving lore about Borden, both in how the people who own the Borden house aim to keep their tourist trap alive and through Len. Initially, it seemed fairly obvious that the spirit of Lizzie Borden had somehow been summoned to murder the couple in the opening of the episode, but we’re quickly led away from that premise. Yet before we are, we’re shown how public interest in the unsolved murder of the Bordens was enough to sustain an entire lifestyle for the family who ran that household as a museum and a haven for ghost hunters. (Remember when I thought this would be a Ghostfacers episode???)

I found that interesting, but I think that what Nancy Won’s script does in its second half is what makes this such a strong and memorable episode. While Lizzie Borden’s story might be the framing device, this is actually a tale of morality. Through Len and Sydney, we’re forced to consider that perhaps losing one’s soul is not as clear-cut as we thought it was. We’d already seen Sam without a soul, as well as other characters in Supernatural. The diagnosis was always the same: upon losing one’s soul, a person would care about practically nothing and would lose their moral compass. Yet in this episode, we’ve got a dichotomy. Sydney loses her soul and becomes murderous in response. Len loses his soul and still retains a sense of morality, even if he’s faking it.

What I loved about this was the chance for the show to complicate something that was previously so straightforward. It stands to reason that humans would react differently to losing their soul, and I think this was a fascinating chance to study that. Whil Sydney gives herself over to the darkness of lacking a soul, she still did so while operating under a loose… morality, I guess? I mean, she killed in order to “protect” the boy she babysat, even if this was a horribly misguided and absurd thing to do. She thought it was the right thing to do, you know? And that makes Len’s decisions all the more fascinating. Even without a soul, Len knew right from wrong. The problem was that he found it challenging to care about it. He knew the routine, and he faked it while he could, but I got the sense that his transformation into someone like Sydney would be inevitable.

Well, at least that’s how I read Len’s take on all this. I think he’s one of the more intriguing characters to be introduced for a single episode of the show. There’s a whiff of a parallel between him and Dean, but it’s not overbearing to the plot. He’s likable to an extent, but we’re also clearly meant to be disturbed by his slow transformation. I honestly thought he would die at the end of the episode, so I was surprised that Won’s script gave us an ending for him that showed us that he wasn’t like the other soulless humans on the show.

But what does this mean for the Darkness and Amara? I think this helped me to understand Amara’s interest in chaos and violence, since she was perfectly fine letting both Sydney and Len loose in the world. And given that she can feed and create soulless murderers at the same time, I wonder if that’s the threat she poses. It’s not that she wants to conquer the world as much as she wants to change it, to make it the kind of place where evil can reign free. If the Darkness is coming for humanity, then I think “Thin Lizzie” hints at what this means for the world: pure, violent chaos.

The video for “Thin Lizzie” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at Borderlands Books, Book Riot Live, and Windycon this fall! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Kings, season 1 of Sense8, season 1 of Agent Carter, seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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