Well, there's quite a donnybrook. I suppose it was coming. There was the airing of a laundry list of eight seasons worth of mad. None of them were surprising at this point but it was good to hear them acknowledged. It's great for continuity. The episode was directed by Tim Andrew, who has only done two other SPN episodes, Season 7 Yada Yada and Of Grave Importance. I liked it for the most part but Sam's flashbacks had awkward transitions. The writer was Adam Glass, who wrote several episodes over the last few seasons, including Party On, Garth, Mommy Dearest and Two and a Half Men. It's interesting to see an episode where the featured guest actor worked with both the writer and director on previous episodes. The episode used a Civil War soldier specter as the MotW and here's a bit about what was going in the region that ties in with what they did with the sets. If you don't want to read history, just skip the next two paragraphs.
Brother against brother is a way to sum up the situation many families found themselves in during the Civil War, especially in states along the border. It also reflects the fact that it was American against American. The episode was set in Missouri which was a border state during the war. All the states south of there seceded and joined the Confederacy. The episode was set in Kearney, Missouri, which is on the northern edge of the state near the border with Kansas. Leading up to the war, the region was settled by people from further south who brought southern traditions and slaves with them, enough so that it was known as Little Dixie. Kansas had a very active abolitionist movement, much of which was fueled by two anti-slavery newpapers in Lawrence. As states entered the Union, they had to declare themselves as free or slave states. In a very simplified telling of the history, Missouri joined as a slave state at the same time that Maine entered as a free state. That kept the legistative representation balanced in the federal government. When it came time for Kansas to join, the rules had changed and they didn't have to come in balanced by another state, they could just decide which they wanted to be. The Missouri slave-owning people wanted Kansas to come in as a slave state so their slaves couldn't cross the border to freedom. Many Kansans wanted to come in as a free state. At that point, a de facto war took place between free state Kansans and pro-slave Kansans and Missourians. Lawrence was sacked and the presses were destroyed along with a building and there was looting followed by retaliation and escalation. Kansas joined as a free state and shortly after that the Civil War broke out. Although it was a slave state, Missouri remained part of the Union and said they would remain neutral. In the end, troops and supplies from Missouri ended up going to both sides. The conflict among the people of Missouri, with some supporting the Union, others the Confederacy, and a third group wanting nothing to do with any of it lasted long after the war was over.
In the Kearney area, the tit for tat fighting with Kansas had grown to a brutal guerilla war. Nobody had clean hands and the civilians took the brunt of it on both sides. Lawrence continued to be a target and eventually a man named William Clarke Quantrill got together a group of 300 to 400 men and attacked Lawrence and killed most of the men and boys, between 150 and 200 of them. Most of Lawrence was burned. The retaliation continued and by the end, the civilian population and property on both sides of the state line were ravaged. A couple of Kearney's native sons, the James brothers, Frank and younger brother Jesse, were active in Quantrill's group with Frank probably participating in the Lawrence massacre. The James brothers later became notorious for armed bank and train robberies. Jesse was eventually shot in the back and killed by a member of his gang, Robert Ford, who had been living in his house and betrayed him for the reward money. Five months later, Frank turned himself in to the Missouri governor in exchange for not being extradited to Minnesota where he was wanted for murder. When he gave up his gun he said, "I have been hunted for twenty-one years, have literally lived in the saddle, have never known a day of perfect peace. It was one long, anxious, inexorable, eternal vigil."
With all of that as background, it makes a lot of sense that Sam and Dean airing hurts and betrayals would be set here. It also puts an extra punch into what Dean, a man from Lawrence, Kansas, says when he drops the match on the bones of the Confederate soldier, "We won." The sets incorporate flags from the Confederacy and the Union, as well as stars, stripes, red, white, and blue that are elements of both. The Union and Confederate armies are also represented by their uniform colors, navy blue and gray respectively and Sam and Dean wore those colors when the tension was the worst. The sets played up stereotypical parts of southern culture, not all of it flattering.
They started with the first victim and his wife, with their run down house, yard full of junk cars, and confederate flags. The slogan "the south will rise again" is a regional sentiment expressed for various reasons. Near the opening, they had an angel light but the better angels of our nature are not here, unless you count Garth.
Even the dialog about "get me a beer" is pretty much a stereotypical behavior. The wife gets a red shirt as a victim as well as the murderer.
The South wil rise again. It will be bloody.
This place subverts the white picket fence nicely.
Confederate battle flag in the window.
Christmas lights, wind chimes, and a flowered table cloth. The place is a confused, tangled mess. The son has his red and blue on.
More red and blue including clothes on the chick on the wall.
This has such a trapped, messy feeling to it complete with chains.
At this point, the boys are wearing opposite Civil War battle colors.
The Confederate flag shows up at the bar, too. The pool player's shirt says South. The drum has "the South will rise again" on the face.
Remember the trouble in Paradise from last week's motel? There it is wrapped around the tree on stage. More pokes at the hunting, shooting reputation of that part of the country. The beer posters are from the brewery in Party On, Garth. The deer's head is hanging there along with a sign about Route 66 which cuts through Missouri. There's also a car poster with a checkered flag floor like the finishing flag for a NASCAR race.
Confederate battle flag on the wall and more on the bandstand. Dean gets the red and yellow warning colors over him. In a place that probably serves pretty good burgers and fried food, Sam's got salad like in Bitten. They're still in blue and gray.
More flags are at the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. The real one is in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The real tomb.
I like how the shadows look a bit like stars. More flags.
The picture is lovely but I want a real cannon.
Dean's in blue now as he burns the Confederate soldier's bones.
There are a lot of places where blue and red are paired. The sheriff gets shot in front of a gun safety poster. Is that statue a dog or a deer?
Southern Comfort is a liqueur but I'm thinking Dean probably thinks of BBQ as comfort food.
I really like how you can see inside the car.
In the same scene, Sam is standing in front of a jumble of green chairs. Chaos like at the murder victim's house. It looks like ivy growing along the door. This is not a fan fiction Dean because he set a cup down on his baby.
Later, the red, white and blue is reflected on the car.
Warning red and yellow, too. Along with a steak feed.
Sunscreen goes on sale in the SPN universe a lot.
Mad Buck beer.
There are stars, particularly in the motel room. There's a lot going on with the room but we'll get to that.
For every stereotype there must be an equal and opposite stereotype. The prom date is the other image of the South - a refined lady serving sweet tea on her white wicker furniture on her wide veranda. She's got the red, blue and gray going on as well as flowered lace curtains.
With her cultivated flowers. You have to wonder if part of Mrs. Lew's reason for murder had to do with jealousy of Ms. Alcott's apparent success in life. She's wearing quite a rock.
After this, we got one of Sam's flashbacks. Much as a sex scene is fun to watch, I'm glad they didn't play it like that with Sam and Amelia. We found out Amelia's husband up and went to war without talking to her about it because he thought it was the right thing to do. It must be this show that makes that sound like something hinky. His name was Don. Don't share weed with him. Basically these two are having a rebound relationship based on sober thinking. Rolls eyes.
This is great green shag carpeting.
Under the turbulent waves.
In front of them.
Amelia's shirt is a perfect match with the kitchen.
At the end, Sam and Amelia have a drink under a painting that was used in the motel in Party On, Garth. I love how there's an ash tray on the coffee table in the room with the no smoking sign. There's a brochure behind Sam of homes.
So this is a relationship about comfort and grief, I guess?
Back to the present and Sam and Garth go find out about a pair of brothers, divided by the war. In the course of that war, one killed the other and later brought his bones back for burial.
At this point, Sam is wearing the colors of a Confederate officer. You can see a bit of a mannequin in the back behind Sam with the uniform on.
They figure out about the penny while Dean is being schooled by the specter and we get an Asylum-like confrontation with a gun. There is so much in the fight scene that is so revealing of the boys' relationship. There's a great discussion of it here at ash48's journal. If you look at what the possessed people were holding a grudge about, they echo parts of the conflict between Sam and Dean. All of the conflicts come down to the point of view of the possessed person. They are also things that the possessed had dealt with on the surface. They'd all seemed to have moved on. In the first, it was a jealous spouse killing her husband for an infidelity that was really all in the eye of the beholder. They had broken up when the guy took someone else to the prom. The second was a bad business partner who drove the business into the ground. Sounds familiar. The third was a guy who's boss was overworking him and making him do a job he didn't want. The last was an ump who made a judgement call about the player that the player didn't agree with. None of these would be things you'd think would drive someone to murder. Underneath it all, a lot of it had to do with jealousy and that's rampant in the boys' relationship right now. It's also all about abandoning each other and the fear that it will happen again. If they didn't need each other so much, none of what they're fighting about would hurt so much. There's a lot of guilt in there on both sides too but in the course of this fight, Sam takes that part to heart.
I know NASCAR racing is really popular in the south. I'm not sure what the significance is of putting Dean with a gun in front of a picture of the Daytona 500 but I like the shot. There's a lot of red and yellow in it. Dean's wearing the Union blue now.
Even the room is divided into North and South. Red, white and blue with stars on the one side and gray and white with the finishing flag on the floor and food wrapper.
Sam knows that Dean is possessed but he hears Dean saying these things, not the specter, and takes it as an emotional blow. He's not worried about getting killed here. He's just absorbing the hit and later, looks so resigned.
The motel is called the Little Dixie Motel and the signs are over here on the gray half.
For all that Dean is angry, he never would have said some of that stuff without the specter pushing. It's interesting that he didn't just mention Sam's betrayal, but Cas's too.
Now a brief intermission to say that Sam's boots are sweet. Back to the motel room, I'm pretty sure the magazine open on the floor is a detail of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It depicts the Genesis version of the creation story, Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden, and Noah with the ark and some of his misadventures. It was done by Michelangelo who painted most of it lying on his back on scaffolding. Maybe it's here because it's a picture of the original trouble in Paradise.
Garth got the penny away from Dean. In the aftermath, Dean granted Garth his blessing to wear The Hat. Sam remembered finding someone to grieve with and then came out and told Dean he was on notice to move on or Sam was going to. What was different about this fight is that Sam didn't throw in the towel and leave, he got back in the car. As the people of the region know, getting past a grudge is difficult. The Civil War ended in 1865 but the US flag didn't fly over the county courthouse for many years. One spot on Wiki says not until WWI.
In this case, I'd say green is good. I have to admit, as much as I like Garth as a character, he's no Bobby. I really miss Bobby and don't want anyone to replace him down to hats and "idjits." Still, if it makes Garth feel better...
After the way Sam reacted with Dean's gun on him, I wasn't sure what kind of reaction he would have here. I'm glad he had an angry reaction, told Dean to shape up, and then got in the car, rather than walking away. So now we're set up for a showdown between Sam and Benny. It never stops.
A lot of the story can be summed up by the motel sign. A yellow arrow pointing the way to danger. It's the North's red, white and blue stacked on the South's black and white NASCAR flag. There's a reminder of the area's history with Little Dixie and a welcome to the Jesse James Outlaw Days. Jesse, who died because of betrayal, after a life of crime, leaving an older brother to live out the rest of his life from job to job and place to place. Frank finally came back to the family home in Kearney, where he died at 72.
All caps from homeofthenutty