Season 11 brings it’s first ghost story into the fold as Sam and Dean investigate a string of murders in Minnesota that are tied to masks being worn by average citizens under the control of a vengeful spirit. Donna, a minor character from previous episodes returns as the sheriff who helps the Winchesters solve the case now that she’s aware of supernatural entities. The murders end up tying directly to a man named Chester, who was accidentally killed after being threatened over being too friendly to kids. Sam and Dean confront the ghost and burn the outfits he used to wear to stop him. Sam also believes his visions will lead him back to Lucifer’s cage.
I always had that gut feeling our first stand-alone episode this season would be a ghost story. The meta point here is that the Winchesters have done this dance so many times, very little surprises them nowadays regarding ghosts, and it shows, mostly on Dean’s face. It’s just a matter with how creating vengeful spirits can be in making it difficult for their objects and reasons for vengeance to find. Donna is a sweetheart so her presence on the show definitely helped with this rather boring tale that had a few creepy moments to pass the time. Not a great step up from the usual possession storyline, but not a stick in the dirt either.
After a man wearing a bunny mask is apprehended for killing a man, Sam and Dean get a call from Donna who explains the strange situation. They arrive and investigate the murder which leads them to believe a ghost is haunting the mask. After the guy is killed trying to attack Donna, the effect is gone and the mask burned. A gym teacher is later put in a coma by a woman in a jester outfit but it stopped and saved. A third person weaing a clown outfit kills the gym teacher in the hospital and is later stopped by Sam who still harbors tension over clowns in general. After questioning the sister of the man who once owned the costumes, and connecting the string of murders to an incident over the man (Chester’s) apparent suicide, they deduce he was murdered and later get that confession from the sister. In doing so, Chester possesses his sister’s son and attacks her, but Sam burns the mask and destroys the spirit. Later, Sam reveals to Dean that he thinks his visions as of late are pointing him to Lucifer’s cage and the possibility of returning to it for answers.
I like Donna. She always captures the essence of that northern mid-west personality and turns it up to eleven with her charm. This late in the show, it’s rare to see characters continue to survive in their own paradigms, but so far Donna seems to be doing well and has a good knack for dealing with the supernatural now that she’s aware of them. Her subplot with officer Doug was a little dry and if it weren’t for the “Road so far” I’d have forgotten the issue with her last ex. Doing stand-alone episodes with minor reoccurring characters is a good concept, once I hope is repeated often especially when the ageless plot of ghosts, monsters, and witch phenomena rolls around the corner.
It was only at the end, but now we have a better idea with at least what Sam believes is going on about the visions. I had put down one possible theory last week that the cage was in fact Lucifer’s cage and now that Sam believes it as well, I think we have ourselves a winner. What does it truly mean though? Does Lucifer or Michael have the answers to The Darkness and how to stop it? Or is there something more elusive and sinister at work? Maybe Lucifer himself is just finding a way to escape and is using Sam to lure him in. I think it’s more complicated than that, but it’s still exciting to see this old loose end be utilized for the central plot. It’s about time I say.
A ghost possessing multiple costumes almost sounded like a great idea and there were a few moments when the bunny outfit was genuinely creepy to be seen, but it lost it’s effect too fast and by the time the clown came around, it was laughable and not in a good way. I just didn’t enjoy this ghost plot and I’m a huge fan of Brigid Brannagh, back when she was on Kindred the Embraced and Angel. She’s awesome. What really feels too cookie-cutter is that both the gym teacher and the first victim seemed like characters that on the surface almost deserved their fate even without knowing what they did. Was it so necessary to paint them in that light before we got to know why they were targeted? Just felt like empty storytelling with cliché characters that weren’t sympathetic in the least. But that’s the dichotomy of characters who feel they can take the law into their own hands, ala Freddy Kruger getting burned by the parents of Springwood.
The creepy bunny mask in the cell. I wish it was in a darker room he was in, that would have increased the strangeness of it all. I felt the episode was going to stay in this direction of oddness, but the theme was overplayed afterward, or it just wasn’t done in a way that they could have capitalized on it by really hamming the shots up or made the costumes more sinister or even modified after the people were possessed.
Donna made the show a little more lighthearted than usual so I applaud her effort and word choices because she’s very clean-cut and sensible. I’m half expecting a future episode where she cuts loose and really swears up a storm to surprise the brothers. In any case, she outperformed and should be featured again in the season, hopefully not to die.
Why was it necessary to play at Sam’s clown issues. I don’t recall the end of the episode that introduced this but didn’t he get over that particular fear? And considering where’s he at in his existence, why should a man dressed up as a clown still have any effect on him at all? I know it’s cheesy and funny for him but logistically it shouldn’t drive him into that much discomfort.
I want to suspect that god isn’t the one responsible for the visions of the cell because it seems a little too out there and Sam does have a direct connection to the cell. I think something else is going on otherwise Dean should be getting some kind of vision too? There’s no point in only sharing this with one brother unless there was more subterfuge at work here. Dean may not believe, but he can’t ignore images like that, plus the Darkness put the whammy on him, so shouldn’t there be something else to counteract that, at least an attempt?
6 out of 10. For me, this was the lowest episode of the season. Ghost stories are tired, even for the brothers and it shows. I understand they have to spread out these plots over 23 episodes and some ghost stories have had great summaries, but not this one. It wasn’t even so much a predictable plot but nobody involved had any saving throws. Everyone essentially got what was coming to them and though I’ve always like Brigid, her attitude toward her brother didn’t make sense with why she’d let those two essentially scare her brother like that. I didn’t feel sympathy for anyone except the son. Between monsters and ghosts I’ll usually choose ghosts, but not this time. We’re getting a short break for Thanksgiving then we’ll get one or two more before the holiday seasons start. More Darkness is on its way. Thanks for reading.
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