The Official Supernatural: “#THINMAN” (9.15) Retro Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale. In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. If I manage to stay on track, I should be able to post the season nine finale retro review right after the show comes back on Sunday, then bring in the newest season five recap and review the following Thursday.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Then recap of the Hellhounds/Ghostfacers (from waaayyy back, when the Brothers were much, much younger), then of the Brothers’ current feud (it makes Sam look very bad).

Cut to Now in Springdale, WA. A young girl in an upstairs room (as seen through the window by StalkerVision) is doing selfies and dancing to music (The Wind and the Waves’ “This House Is a Hotel”). Hearing a thump downstairs, she goes to check the hallway, calling for her mother. No answer, she goes back inside her room. As she checks her selfies, she spots a faceless figure in a mask standing behind her. Shocked, she turns to see the figure, then the lights go out. Immediately, she retreats to her closet and calls 911. But as she’s trying to talk to the operator, someone inside the closet kills her from behind with a knife.

Cue title cards.

At the Bunker, Sam is on the computer when Dean comes out with a duffel bag. Dean says he’ll be back in a few days; he’s off on a hunt. When Sam asks why Dean is going alone, Dean (channeling a significant portion of the audience, I’m quite sure) says that he doesn’t know what Sam wants these days. He had assumed, since Sam clearly doesn’t want to be around him, that Sam wouldn’t want to go on the hunt with him. Sam indicates otherwise, so Dean, rather perfunctorily, infodump-fills him in (there will come a time when Dean will just go without him).

Dean shows him the photo of Doomed Teaser Girl and her stalker-killer (which Dean says was leaked from the crime scene). He figures it’s a ghost. Sam starts to get his stuff together and passive-aggressively makes Dean guess that he’s coming along. Good times, as Dean says later in this episode.

In Springdale, the Brothers are in FBI mufti, interviewing the girl’s mother, Betty Smiles. The girl’s name was Casey. Sam asks the usual questions, while Dean does some EMF, and Betty responds strangely to Sam’s questions. She anticipates his question about the cold spots. Dean asks her why she mentioned them. She says her daughter’s been dead three days, the police have been useless, and she can’t afford a PI, so when some “supernaturalists” came calling, she answered their questions. Hmm, another Hunter?

When Dean asks the name of the supernaturalists, guess what name he gets? That’s right – the Ghostfacers. And their van is right nearby (they have an in-person interview that day with Grieving Mom). Dean is pissed.

In a diner are Ed and Harry. But while Ed is talking about the likes and followers on their site, Harry is distracted by stalking an ex-girlfriend on Facebook. Her new profile pic shows a guy’s arm around her shoulders and he’s jealous.

He’s also less-than-pleased when the Winchesters show up and corner them in the booth. When a tall, weedy-looking bus boy goes to freshen their coffee and take new orders, Dean tells him they’re ready for the check. Right after, the bus boy gets quietly reamed out by his manager for using dirty plates.

Harry blusters and shows Dean a small pistol in his belt. Dean is unimpressed, snarking about Harry’s “treasure trail” (bleh), and calling him and Ed “fame whores” who are bothering a grieving mom. Sam backs him up (for once). It comes out that the other Ghostfacers got “dropped” (though they’re still alive) and also, that Ed and Harry don’t believe the MOTW is a ghost. Unimpressed by Harry’s bravado, the Brothers threaten him and Ed again, and leave.

Back at their motel, Sam brings up the Ghostfacers’ website and finds out they’ve written a book: The Skinny on Thinman. Based on the Slenderman phenomenon from Something Awful about 11 years ago, the Thinman allegedly “lurks in the background of people’s lives and then kills them.” Sam thinks there is something to this, since people have reported sightings from all of the world. This seems a tad gullible of Sam, considering the first time he and Dean encountered Ed and Harry, they were involved in the inadvertent creation of a literal urban legend that came to life. Dean says he still thinks it’s a ghost, and that the Veil could be throwing out all sorts of weird entities. He starts looking through the local news for possible candidates.

Back in the dead girl’s room, Ed and Harry are doing their show. This is somewhat complicated by Harry obsessing on his phone, stalking his ex-girlfriend Dana’s new love life via Facebook (everyone’s life looks perfect on Facebook). Ed keeps trying to talk down Harry, who manically claims to be obsessed with becoming famous from the case. When Harry talks about how they’re going to finally find Thinman (“I can smell his musk!” he exclaims while sniffing Doomed Teaser Girl’s closet clothes), Ed suddenly gets pensive and suggests that they “bail” on this particular ghost hunt. With Sam and Dean in town, clearly it’s “serious” and “I don’t want my knees blown off by Sam and Dean.” But there seems to be something else going on with him, too.

Harry gets mad. He wants to get one over on the Winchesters, calling them “jockstraps” and declaring that “they don’t even have a Twitter!” But when he mentions all the “haters,” Dana’s name is most prominent, even though he tries to cover by mentioning Maggie and Spruce, from “Ghostfacers!” and the webseries, who left the Ghostfacers for “normal” (and presumably much safer) lives. Now that he and Ed are about to be famous, will Maggie and Spruce get to share in that? In meeting Dr. Phil? Nooooo.

The two of them then get down to work. Behind the camera, Harry films Ed coming out of the girl’s closet (yes, really) to talk about how young girls’ lives should be full of “giggles and joy,” not “bloood.” Harry stops the camera to praise Ed’s OTT performance (“You are so money!”), crowing that he and Ed will need snorkles because they will be so surrounded by hot women and their – this potentially pornographic rant is (thankfully) interrupted by Grieving Mom coming in with lemonade for them. It is a deeply awkward and unpleasant moment, especially when Ed and Harry completely switch gears and turn back into pleasant and polite young man. You can almost see them putting the masks back on.

Cut to Sam and Dean, who are back at their motel, researching the case and any other cases that might be connected to it. Dean has turned up three “unnatural deaths” in Springhill in the past six months, but none seems to be related to this one, nor are they violent. Sam says he’s found a pattern of deaths attributed to Thinman. He shows up in photos of people who later die, but most of these photos are obviously doctored after the fact by having had a Thinman figure (a tall, faceless figure in a dark coat) inserted into the background. But Casey’s photo wasn’t doctored. The figure in hers was real.

Dean is confused about how the phenomenon can be “both real and fake at the same time.” But as Sam points out, the death is real, so they go with that. She took the photo and then what? Who uploaded it? Sam says some unknown person with a blocked IP posted it to a Thinman fan forum. After snarking about the very existence of Thinman fan forums, Dean points out that ghosts don’t upload photos, so there’s a lead.

Off to the police station they go in their FBI suits, where they get a deputy to give them the box of files on the case. They ask about the sheriff, but the deputy says the sheriff is out hunting in the woods.

Sam notes that the phone is cracked and the deputy says it came in that way, that the call “cut off” at 11:59 pm. Dean notes that the coroner claims Casey died at midnight (that’s pretty exact), but Sam says the photo was put up around 2am. So, again, who put it up on the forum and how did the phone get cracked?

The deputy suggests the supernatural as a cause. It seems Ed and Harry have already been around and continue to poison the witness pool with their Thinman theory. They even gave the deputy a copy of their book. Dean stalks out in disgust.

Cut to the Apple Diner (where the brothers ate in a previous scene) that night. It’s closed and the manager is counting up the receipts. A repeated tapping on the door distracts him, so he checks, but no one’s there. He then checks the security camera footage to see what’s up and gets a flash of a Thinman figure outside that then appears right behind him. As he turns around, it slashes his throat and then walks away.

The next morning, the Brothers enter the diner to find that the deputy has allowed Ed and Harry to come in and start filming the dead manager’s body (we get a quick shot of it, lying in a huge pool of blood), thus thoroughly contaminating the crime scene. He claims that “a few counties over,” the police brought in a psychic who helped find the body of a local boy. Dean just glares at him, then goes over to roust the Ghostfacers, while Sam gets the deputy to show him the security footage.

Dean’s attempt to get rid of Ed and Harry fails when they threaten to out him as a fake FBI agent and his attempt to appeal to their sense of decency reveals that … well … they don’t have any. His suggestion that they might create a Tulpa (the manufactured MOTW in “Hell House”) also falls on deaf ears as they insist that the lore changes so quickly that a Tulpa could never get started.

At this point, they fill a (very reluctant) Dean in on the basic lore. Thinman is “part man, part tree.” No, he’s “the nightmare of an autistic boy.” And so on. At this point, Dean interrupts them and says that they “have no idea what Thinman is,” then walks off across the diner when the deputy calls out that there is something on the security camera. Sam shows Dean the footage the manager saw just before he was killed and then of the manager’s killing, just as Ed and Harry come up behind Dean. Dean says, so maybe it’s not a ghost, but now they have to figure out how the figure got from the parking lot into the locked diner – and so quickly.

Ed and Harry, momentarily taken aback by the footage, make some noises about the legend and not having registered EMF, then leave quickly while Dean asks to see the footage again. In their Ghostfacers van later that night, Harry is jubilant that they have a hit (even though every time they’ve stumbled on a real hunt in the past, they’ve lost a member. Violently). As he goes to suit up (to hunt down Thinman “in the woods, obvi,” since “Thinman hangs out by trees and the woods are where trees hang out”), he mentions that someone has already posted the footage from the diner up on the Thinman fan page. Ed finds this disconcerting, but Harry is oblivious to his unease, caught up in the excitement of the hunt, and the lure of fame and fortune.

Ed tries to point out that people have died at this point and that it’s probably best to just let Sam and Dean take care of it (saying, correctly, Sam and Dean are the real pros here). Harry gets mad.

Harry: Quit raining on my rainbow!

Ed: Rainbows can’t happen without rain.

Back at the motel, over beers and takeout, Sam is speculating that the teleporting into the diner implies demons. Dean allows that this is definitely possible: “a demon that likes stabbing and watching YouTube.”

Sam has found the video Harry mentioned in the previous scene. He is appalled that it already has 2000 views. Dean says that’s because “people are sick” (well, he’s not wrong). Sam wonders how videos went from “that baby chimp falling out of a tree to Killer Candid Camera.”

Dean then reminiscences about Sam jumping off a roof, age five, dressed up as Batman. Sam notes that Dean did it first, but Dean says he was nine and he was dressed as Superman. “Everybody knows Batman can’t fly.” Sam complains that he broke his arm and Dean points out that he then “drove” Sam to the ER on the handlebars of his bike.

“Good times!” Dean says rather ruefully, swigging his beer (boy, have I been using that phrase a lot this year). Sam grudgingly allows, “Yeah, they were.” This brotherly moment, such as it is, is interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s Ed.

Ed: I gotta tell you guys something important. And then the case is yours.

In the park, which is well-lit and has people putting groceries in their cars and driving around, Harry is filming himself as a “solo Ghostfacer” and then going down a broad path, saying portentious things like “All alone, deep in the woods, a man could lose his marbles, being so close to the Blade of Doom. Lucky for us, I’m really good at Marbles.” This is a pretty obvious callback to the viral Slenderman webseries, Marble Hornets, but there also seems to be a subtle foreshadowing for the First Blade storyline that has been MIA for a few episodes.

At the motel, Ed is sitting on a bed, while the Brothers stand over him, explaining that “either you bleed Ghostfacers red or you don’t.” He talks about how Spruce wanted to do a startup and Maggie got into roller derby, and that was okay. But he couldn’t let Harry go, especially not to a Trust Fund Baby like his girlfriend. He complains that she called the Ghostfacers “stupid.”

Unimpressed, Dean calls this “Sad Times at Bitchmont High” (obviously a ref to 80s flick Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and tells him to move on. So, Ed admits that “I made up Thinman” to prevent Harry from leaving the Ghostfacers. He faked up one case and posted it online, but then other people latched onto it and it blew up.

Meanwhile, Harry is being stalked by a tall, thin, faceless figure.

Sam tells Ed that he has to tell Harry (“Trust me, secrets ruin relationships”) and Dean does a double-take at Sam’s vehemence. Sam is obviously making Ed’s admission about his own angst over Dean lying about Gadriel. But Sam has kept many a secret from Dean (remember Ruby?) and trust me, he will have completely forgotten this lesson by season ten.

Ed whines that if he tells Harry it’s not real, then the two of them will be reduced again to two ordinary guys, “loose puffs,” and Harry will leave the Ghostfacers. Sam is adamant. Ed has to tell his friend what’s up.

The Brothers then ask where Harry is. They’re disgusted to hear that Ed left him in the woods to go hunt Thinman alone, even after Ed insists that the “woods” is actually a well-frequented parking lot behind a grocery store. However manufactured the phenomenon, something about it is now real and killing people. They go off to look for Harry.

In the woods, Harry finds a pile of sticks in a star pattern that look as though they’ve been laid out for a campfire. This is a reference to The Blair Witch Project (1999), whose creators are damned lucky Karl Edward Wagner died five years before they ripped off his classic Mythos story, “Sticks,” and therefore couldn’t sue them.

Hearing some twigs breaking, an excited Harry goes to investigate, then turns back to find the pile rearranged. Rather than getting scared and running out of the woods (like a sensible person), he turns the camera on himself and intones, “We. Are Not. Alone.” At that moment, the tall figure appears over his shoulder and slashes him in the stomach when he turns around. He gets away and runs out of the woods, almost getting hit by the Impala. As he collapses, the Brothers get out and rush to his aid, while Ed looks on in horror.

The slash turns out to be superficial (there’ll be no mention of it again after this scene) and Sam is quickly able to bandage it up. Harry talks about “stapling” it back at the motel, which gets a double-take from Sam and Ed. Dean comes up, having found tire tracks in the woods and taken a photo of them.

This, of course, confuses Harry, who starts questioning the Brothers’ intelligence for not realizing that Thinman is a supernatural being who doesn’t drive. Dean shoots Ed a hard look.

Cut back to the motel, where Ed has just told Harry the truth and Harry is (predictably) freaking out. Harry says that Ed’s deception “crashed the Jenga tower of our lives!” He was going to marry Dana. Now he’s run off with Ed to “live a lie” and he’s put his life in danger for nothing (which is not an attitude he had before).

Ed says that Harry could always go back to Dana and apologize, but Harry insists it’s too late. Ed then tries to mitigate what he did by saying that there was never a guarantee that Thinman was real (though he does admit that he “had some inside knowledge” about it), but they could “keep it going for the fans.”

Harry refuses: “You made a chump out of me … I can’t trust you, anymore, Ed.” Ed tries to talk him out of it, but only digs himself deeper. So, he goes for coffee. Meeting Sam out in the hallway, where Sam asks him how it went, Ed has no words.

Sam goes in to talk to Harry. Harry is upset and isn’t sure how to proceed. Sam says that “there are things you can forgive and things you can’t.” When Harry asks which one is which, Sam says that’s up to Harry. Dean then comes in and says he’s got a lead on the tire tracks. Sam leaves with him.

Out in the hallway, Dean says the tires belong to a 1989 Geo Metro and there’s only one such car in town. The deputy told him it belongs to a night security guard at the local mill. Sam’s confused about how a Tulpa could have a car and a job. Dean says they might as well find out what’s going on, so off they go.

Ed has been hiding around the corner with coffee, eavesdropping. As soon as they leave, he goes back into the motel room to find Harry getting ready to leave. Harry, doing a complete 180 from his aggressive attitude earlier in the episode, is quite happy to let Sam and Dean take care of things now. When Ed says he wants to help them solve the case, Harry brutally says that Ed would just “screw things up.”

Ed points out that before they turned into fame whores, they wanted to “help people” and he just wants to “make things right.” This persuades Harry to come along: “We can make things right.”

The Brothers arrive at the mill, where they find the deputy. He insists that with the sheriff “AWOL,” he’s worried about his job and wants to help the FBI solve the case. Dean rather reluctantly agrees. He and Sam go ahead of the deputy into the mill, guns drawn. This gives the deputy the perfect opportunity to taser them with both hands: “Always wanted to use these things.”

Dean wakes up handcuffed to a chair, while the deputy is setting up a camera and lights, singing “Camptown Ladies” without the words except “doo-dah.” Sam is tied to a chair near Dean, away from the camera. Dean tries to get the deputy to talk by calling him out as “Thinman” while the deputy is pulling a shower-curtain-style woodsy background out behind Dean. The deputy just keeps on singing.

Dean: Sam, make him stop.

Sam asks if the guy is a demon and how he “teleported” into the diner. This gets two words out of him: “team effort.” A tall figure in a mask and wearing a dark coat walks in. It’s the busboy from the diner. Thinman is two humans, not one supernatural being.

Sam recognizes the busboy, Roger, while Dean references the trope they’re apeing – the movie Scream (which, personally, I’ve always thought was overrated).

Once the bus boy is unmasked, he’s pretty talkative. He killed his boss because he was a “dick” and Casey because she turned him down for a date. Dean notices a body wrapped in plastic nearby, with a sheriff’s cap on top of it. The busboy also killed the sheriff, though the deputy cheerfully admits was in on it: “He’s the psycho. I’m the visionary.” They met in a bar, got talking, found Thinman online, blogged a bit, and then decided to make it real.

The clueless deputy starts to brag about how everyone underestimates him (like the sheriff), how satisfying it is to get one over on two “feds” who looked down on him and used him as their gofer (too stupid to realize that it’s obvious at this point Sam and Dean aren’t feds).

He and his partner, as they whine about feeling “invisible” in a small town, are also oblivious to the glances the Brothers are signalling to each other. Sam slowly cuts himself free while calling them out on their “cosplay” and Dean distracts the two psychos by insulting them. Dean tells them that they’re not really Thinman, just copy cats. Roger begs to differ, saying that Dean will soon be too dead to tell anyone, anyway.

Sam starts to look alarmed as the deputy gets behind the camera and Roger positions himself behind Dean’s chair, putting on his mask to cut Dean’s throat live. But as Sam shouts, “Don’t!” a noise outside distracts the two psychos. Putting duct tape over Sam and Dean’s mouths, they go to investigate.

As we all know, that’s a huge mistake. You never want to leave Sam and Dean alone tied to chairs. They won’t be there when you get back.

The noise, of course, is Ed and Harry coming in with flashlights. Harry encounters Roger (in the mask) first. Roger kicks Harry in the nuts and then pins him against a large industrial fan, about to cut his throat when Ed shows up with a gun to his Roger’s head. But while Ed and Harry argue over how to pronounce the word “meme,” and Ed calls Roger a wannabe, the deputy comes up and knocks Ed down.

As they two psychos force Ed and Harry back to their filming location, the deputy is pontificating about how this is a “Frankenstein situation” where Ed and Harry have created the monster that will kill them. The original plan was to let one of them live, but, well, change of plan. Now the deputy and Roger are going to kill Ed and Harry, and then the secret that Ed created Thinman will die with him. This way, the deputy and Roger can claim the urban legend for themselves.

This speech is interrupted by the discovery that, yup, Sam and Dean have escaped. The Brothers may have had a senior moment and allowed the deputy to get the drop on them before, but that moment’s over.

Sam grabs the deputy, while Roger tries to grab Harry for leverage. As Sam knocks the deputy down, Dean comes up behind Roger and peels him right off Harry. Easily overpowering Roger, he slowly makes Roger stab himself to death as Roger begs and then lets him settle on the ground. The one thing I really don’t like about this shot is that we don’t get the look on Dean’s face as the knife goes in. I get that they wanted to give the guest star his moment, but a less-tight shot could have done that just as well. It’s a weird choice from veteran director Jeannot Szwarc.

Sam is so busy reacting in consternation to what Dean is doing that the deputy has time to grab Ed’s pistol, which he had previously taken from Ed. Sloppy, Sam. Ed jumps in front of Sam and tries to talk the deputy down, saying “it’s all my fault.” Unimpressed, the deputy is about to shoot him, anyway (“I have enough bullets for both of you”), but Harry shoots the deputy with his own gun, just as he’s about to pull the trigger. Ed is horrified. Dean carefully takes the deputy’s gun out of Harry’s hand and pats him on the shoulder, while sharing a look with Sam. Sam pats Ed on the shoulder.

In the coda, Dean is putting gear in the back of the Impala. Sam comes up to talk to him (but doesn’t help with the gear – come on, Sam). Dean has set up the scene in the mill to make it look as though Roger and the deputy killed each other. Since they were killed by their own weapons, it was relatively easy. It makes the careful way he was able to kill Roger without putting his own prints or DNA on the knife that much more chilling. Equally chilling is that this town was so small that it had a psychopath in charge of its police department for weeks and no one noticed. Maybe it’s just as well these two ended up dead.

Sam can’t get over the fact that the MOTW was “just people … friggin’ people.”

Dean: Well, like I said, people are sick.

Meanwhile, Ed and Harry are having their own talk. Ed asks if they’re now “cool.” But Harry wants to break up the band. He just killed a person and he’s freaked out over it. He also now claims that he only came out to solve Thinman to wrap up his entire involvement in the Ghostfacers. When Ed tries to claim that he “did this for us,” Harry, in an obvious echo of Sam a few weeks ago, says, “You did this for you.” Harry says he can’t forgive Ed, that their relationship is now “complicated” (echoing what his girlfriend said on Facebook).

As Sam (looking especially pensive) and Dean look on, an emotional Harry comes over and asks for a ride. Very low-key, Dean just says, “Yeah, sure.” They leave Ed behind at the Ghostfacers van, Harry in the Impala’s backseat. As he watches his lifelong friend leave him behind, Ed starts to cry.

In the Impala, Dean asks Harry if he’s okay. Harry starts to say yes and then admits no. He talks about an image of having someone beside you all your life, until you were old and sitting together in rocking chairs. Until the day you realize “that rocking chair is empty.”

“You know what I mean?” he asks, but the Brothers (especially Sam) just look uncomfortable.

Credits

The show dropped to a 0.9/3 in the A18-49 demo and in audience to 1.93 million.

Review: Boy, this episode sure is a mood, isn’t it? The show’s done some episodes that are more depressing than scary (“Criss Angel Is a Douchebag” from season four fairly leaps to mind here), but this one is both depressing and scary. As such, on top of being in the middle of the season, it’s been largely (unjustly?) forgotten.

So, this is the swan song for Ed and Harry, AKA the Hell Hounds, AKA the Ghostfacers, whom we first met in season one’s “Hell House.” It’s quite sad. Ed and Harry were always obnoxious in a very nerdy way, and in way, way over their heads. This got them into a lot of trouble over the years.

It got one of their junior members killed (in “Ghostfacers!”) and another disfigured and severely traumatized (in the 2010 webseries, which was basically a full episode broken up into segments of a few minutes each). But Ed and Harry were always a solid team, in sync, sympatico in their obsession with the dual goal of exposing the supernatural world to humanity at large and getting rich and famous doing it.

It was a petty goal in the grander scheme of the show, perhaps even quixotic in light of how adept humanity at large in the show is at ignoring even enormous events like the fall of the angels at the end of season eight. Ed and Harry actually met Castiel in the webseries, but showed no interest in the angel situation in “#THINMAN.” Nor did they make any attempt to pump the Brothers (who they know for a fact are connected deep into the supernatural world) for info. Ed and Harry, in the end, continued to make the mysteries of the supernatural world All About Ed and Harry.

It was therefore profoundly sad to see these two fall apart so spectacularly, messily and permanently, both individually and as a team. I mean, if even the Ghostfacers can’t make it, what about the rest of us?

Now, I’ll grant you that Ed and Harry are pretty unlikeable. They’re not just “ordinary.” They are dudebros and very much Incels. The misogyny that Harry, especially, demonstrates in this episode is pretty disturbing, to the point where there isn’t a huge amount of difference between him and the killers in attitude (which makes his killing one of them that much more disturbing). I mean, who talks about masses of women shoving their crotches in your face while filming a scene in a room where a young girl was violently murdered a few days before? Harry does.

Unfortunately, this is one major reason I was never a huge fan of Jenny Klein episodes (she wrote this one). There was a lot of internalized misogyny and messed-up gender roles in her writing. This one is practically a complete sausage fest, with only two minor female characters (Doomed Teaser Girl Casey and her mom) appearing early on. It’s almost as if Klein is trying way too hard to be one of the Writers Room boys.

In light of stuff like that (and Ed being more lowkey about it, but definitely hostile toward Harry’s ex because she’s breaking up the band), it puts Dean’s contempt for them in a different light. Rather than being condescending toward them because they are nerds, Dean dislikes them because they are misogynistic douchebros.

Dean likes women. I don’t just mean that he likes to have sex with them. I mean that he likes to hang out with them and spend time with them and learn from them and even mentor them. Even women he has no sexual interest in (much older or much younger women), he has positive interactions with. In the show, that is fairly unique for recurring male characters. Dean’s snark about geeky men, even from the earlier seasons, has actually aged pretty well.

I don’t know if a longer in-scene discussion about her got cut, but the offhand way both Ed and Harry talk about Maggie (and don’t talk about Corbett or Ambyr at all) is disconcerting. That Maggie and Ambyr are both women (and Maggie a woman of color), and that Corbett was gay and in love with Ed, does not help. That’s a whole lot of erasure.

Okay, Spruce was really just another geek drawn into the group, so I can see why they would dismiss his desertion. Corbett died for Ed, so I can see Ed and Harry never mentioning him again after that (though it does make them really unlikeable). Same with Ambyr who got her face slashed up in the webseries, especially since she never canonically appeared on the show. But Ed quit the Ghostfacers for a while over what happened to Ambyr at the end of the webseries. There’s no mention of that. You’d think she should have been a much bigger source of conflict between Ed and Harry than an ex-girlfriend who never appears onscreen.

Maggie was more important than that. Maggie is Ed’s sister and Harry actually created conflict between him and Ed by hooking up with her in “Ghostfacers!” to Ed’s extreme consternation. Yet, now, she’s just a footnote in their shared story, just somebody that they used to know.

There is no sense of understanding from Ed and Harry that maybe after one of them died and another was seriously disfigured, the remaining Ghostfacers members finally clued in how dangerous the larger supernatural world around them really is and fled back to the relative safety of the smaller, mundane human world before they, too, could suffer the hideous fate of the hapless Redshirt.

I think that’s what’s saddest about Ed and Harry in “#THINMAN.” They’re no longer evolving. Now they’re de-evolving.

I got the impression the show wanted me to feel sorriest for Harry, but I actually felt worse for Ed. Sure, Ed tricked Harry by creating the Thinman phenomenon hoax, but Harry went after it like a lion after starving meat. Harry ditched his long-suffering girlfriend to team back up with Ed, then obsessed over her and cyberstalked her. He was manic, aggressive and out of control, and he blamed Ed for everything that had happened between them. I never really bought that he intended to quit after the end of the Thinman hunt, all along.

In contrast, Ed was a lot calmer and gave the impression that he had grown up a bit – something I’ll readily admit I never thought I’d ever be saying about these two. Again, yes, there were some things he’d done that were creepy – notably, creating a hoax just to get his bud back and break up his bud’s relationship with a girl.

On the other hand, it wasn’t Ed’s fault that the hoax got co-opted by a couple of serial killers in a folie a deux. Ed’s duplicity and Harry’s refusal to own any responsibility for his own actions ended up killing the relationship off for good, even if Ed and Harry were themselves left alive to walk away. It’s a depressing denouement to see the concept of bromance on the show de-evolve from the competent and self-sacrificing Sam and Dean to the bumbling and fame-obsessed Ed and Harry to a couple of small-town serial killing Abbot-and-Costello douchebags who prey on young girls for kicks and clicks.

The show went with the age-old (since season one’s “The Benders”) idea that that the worst MOTW of all is ordinary human beings. But it also went down the Something Awful phenomenon rabbit hole known as Slenderman (created by Eric Knudsen in 2009). I first became aware of this (deliberately manufactured) new urban legend through the low-budget webseries, Marble Hornets (2009-present), which is probably the best (and creepiest) video representation of the phenomenon.

The idea of Slenderman is that he is a mysterious, tall, thin, faceless figure that appears in photographs and video all over the world. People who catch him on film are unaware of his presence at the time of filming, even though he can be quite close.

In one instance from Marble Hornets, someone is filming another person giving a speech in front of a window. When the video is played back, Slenderman is right outside the window, only a few feet away and separated only by glass and air. But even the cameraman didn’t notice at the time. There’s another scene where the exhausted protagonist falls asleep on a bed in a grotty, bare room somewhere. He leaves the camera on him for security, only to wake up and see on the footage that Slenderman visited him and sat on his bed half the night (sure puts Castiel doing that to Dean in season five’s “The End” into a different perspective, huh?). Slenderman stalks his/its victims until one day, after they’ve reached a peak of paranoia and become isolated from everyone around them, they just disappear. Most never come back and the few who do are never the same again.

These are the kinds of things one could run across at 2am on Facebook a decade ago.

One could argue that this episode may have been inspired by a real-life case in which two little 12-year-old bullies took their friend out to a park and then tried to stab her to death – except that “#THINMAN” actually came out nearly three months before the attack took place. The two attackers later claimed that they were told by “Slenderman” to do the deed and then that they were mentally ill (to try to deflect responsibility). Unimpressed, the authorities charged them in adult court and then sentenced them to decades in a psych hospital. One of them just lost an appeal of her sentence this month.

It is unfortunate that most reviewers of this episode take out the meta data from the title, since that loses a lot of the context. It’s not “Thinman” or even “#Thinman.” It’s “#THINMAN.” The hashtag, obviously, derives from Twitter usage (it’s not exclusive to them, but they’re the ones who use it the most and probably first).

Though this is now going by the wayside, Twitter has from the start used hashtags before a word (or a term with no spaces between words) to group them together in easily searchable categories. This also makes it easier to make a trend by adding on tweets with the same hashtag. Since the whole point of Ed creating Thinman was to make the urban legend go viral, the hashtag shows that he did it via social media. It even hints which social media he used the most.

If you’ve ever searched up urban legends or conspiracy theories on Twitter, particularly those that link to YouTube videos, the title immediately gives you an image of how the Thinman phenomenon spread, what it looked like, and what kind of paltry fame two losers from a small town in Washington state were seeking when they turned to murdering their neighbors.

Putting the title in all-caps is a common way going back to Usenet (when all we really had was ASCII) of showing emphasis that one would normally show with italics, bold or underlining. It highlights the importance of the word or term (or title, as of a book or show) and makes it stand out.

Because of this, using all-caps comes off as shouting and is widely considered rude (bad netiquette) going all the way back to the 1990s. Thus, putting the title “Thinman” in all-caps is intentionally ironic in that it simultaneously shows the desperation, the self-importance, and the sheer insignificance of this manufactured phenomenon (and the MOTWs who used it as an excuse to kill for paltry reasons) in the grand scheme of the SPNverse and the show itself.

It was REALLY OBVIOUS that Ed and Harry, and the implosion of their lifelong bromance, was intended to be a commentary on the current state of affairs between Sam and Dean. However, I found the actual parallels rather confusing and ultimately not so useful. Yes, I get that the writers wanted to change things up to make it less linear, but it also reduced the power of the metaphorical comparisons.

For example, Ed is the one who “betrayed” Harry by creating Thinman to lure him back onto the road, just as Dean “betrayed” Sam by tricking him into saying yes to an angel to heal him from the inside out. And yes, I know that a comparison between wrecking someone’s life for one’s own gain versus healing someone in an underhanded and creepy way is pretty inexact, but let’s just roll with it. I’m guessing the writers want us to take that nonsense Sam was spouting the other week, about Dean only healing him so he wouldn’t be alone, seriously.

Okay, but then, for the comparison to continue, Ed needs to stay the Dean analogue in the Ghostfacers duo and be the one who kills one of the MOTWs. But it’s actually Harry who shoots the deputy, while Dean stabs the waiter, making both Harry and Dean look unstable and frightening, not Ed. So, then what, Ed is now Sam? So, which one is Ed when Harry ditches him to take a final ride with the Winchesters? Are we to believe that Sam is the one who doesn’t want to be alone now? Honestly, I’m confused.

There is some support for this idea in the rest of the episode. A big hint comes in the beginning, when Sam decides to tag along on the hunt literally as Dean is heading out the door. Sam even acts surprised that Dean wouldn’t want him to come along, even after Dean points out that Sam hasn’t wanted to be around him, lately, and was giving him the cold shoulder as late as the previous scene (last week’s coda).

Every time Sam started making snide comments in this episode about not trusting people, and how secrets permanently ruin relationships, I kept thinking of Sam sneaking around behind Dean’s back with Ruby, of persuading him to ditch Lisa and Ben to join up with Grandpa Shady, of abandoning him in Purgatory while simultaneously bailing on Kevin. Hell, he was even keeping secrets from Dean early in season one – and feeling completely justified about it. And he has never properly apologized for those things, nor has he ever allowed Dean any privacy of his own.

Sure, one could say he made up for some of it by jumping into a gigantic plothole at the end of season five to prevent Lucifer from killing Dean and then the world. But Sam certainly didn’t say yes to Lucifer for Dean in the first place. Sam has broken Dean’s trust over and over and over again – and you know what? It has damaged their relationship. Permanently.

But whenever Sam makes such comments in this episode, even up to this point in the season, it is quite clear from the dialogue and Jared Padalecki’s delivery that Sam is only thinking about Dean’s lying to him about Gadriel. Makes me want to smack Sam hard.

So, in that sense, Sam is totally Ed. But he’s also totally Harry.

I get the impression that Sam is still acting like an adolescent here. He’s been punishing Dean for the whole Ezekiel/Gadriel thing, but now he’s starting to cool down and has decided he kinda wants to hunt with Dean again. You know, he pushes Dean away when Dean wants to be around him, but won’t let Dean go off on his own. He also seems to assume that Dean is fine with hanging fire while Sam decides what to do, with no respect for the fact that Dean has his own life to lead.

That was maybe understandable when Sam was actually still an adolescent and learning the more complex forms of healthy social interaction and relationships after a highly dysfunctional childhood. But he’s in his thirties by this point in the show. With all the supernatural Sam Done Come Back Wrong excuses stripped away, this behavior is now starting to look stalkery and controlling, and more than a little narcissistic. Grow up and stop gaslighting your brother, Sam.

Next week: Blade Runners: Crowley reappears with news about the First Blade. Show-changing shenanigans ensue.

The Kripke Years

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Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

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Season 14

Season 15


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3 thoughts on “The Official Supernatural: “#THINMAN” (9.15) Retro Recap and Review”

  1. If your looking for parallels between the brothers and the Ghostfacers, the parallels between Ed and Sam seem pretty clear. Sam’s done plenty of dishonest and generally douchey things to get Dean away from people he cares about. Lisa and Benny spring fairly to mind. I’m sure Dean’s feelings towards Sam could also be characterized as “complicated”.

    1. Your comment reminds me of something Bobby once said, can’t remember exact wording, but it was something along the lines of them loving Sam too much. That assessment was not completely wrong. Like any younger sibling ( and I am one) you can rely too much on the older ones and this is completely true of Sam, he is despite their unconventional upbringing , very much a typical young sibling who has been over protected.

      It’s a two way street though and that’s why I wish, wish, wish Dean would say no more often, not ignore the douchey things, but the difficulty there though is he is not a typical older sibling. Dean’s a parent in all but name, he’s been trained as a protector all his life so much so he fails even to register when his sacrifices are a step too far, he tries to step back but keeps getting drawn in , he expresses his hurt but always takes it back even when its still a valid hurt, because that’s what a parent would do.
      Even when he chose Lisa and Ben, Sam wouldn’t let him go. Dean mostly has no one to support him to stand firm within his network, Bobby himself switched his views according to the situation, Castiel actively brought Sam back onboard against Dean’s wishes.
      People, meaning well, tend to push them together as if they are one person (Jody I’m looking at you!) They even talk about them as “SamandDean” like they are conjoined but within that always Sam is given the primary role of “Sam and” …..like Dean is just the plus one.
      Even Dean’s own ex Cassie said to him “where’s your brother?” within hours/ days of meeting Sam. The guy is never appearently deemed whole in the eyes of the world unless he is with Sam, so how does Dean break that mold??
      Dean’s given everything he ever had to and for Sam, childhood, body, soul. For Sam to fail would negate all that which is why he keeps right on stepping in, it may seem overly protective, even overbearing at times but he’s so emotionally invested in Sam, Sam is his legacy. Dean loves his brother wholeheartedly and he wants that legacy and Sam’s future to be a good one, but he also can’t break free of people’s perceptions of his right to a seperate Identity.

  2. This was an episode in such bad taste. I question the judgement of the show runner on some of the episodes throughout his tenure. The remaining GhostFacers still seeking fame and fortune while people were dying and glorifying the worst aspects of social media. It was not entertainment and most certainly not amusing in the way you could have looked at the Facers earlier appearance.

    The whole episode was a poor choice of parallels for where the Winchesters were at. Firstly no matter the state of their own personal relationship, they do not and never have revelled in the misery of others. Secondly setting up a myth for fame, girls and kicks does not equate to what happened between Dean and Sam and their lifetime of trauma. I found it objectionable of the writer to even hint there was a real parallel, never mind hit us with anvils.

    This episode though holds up an uncomfortable mirror to what’s really going on. Sam needs to control his environment and his life is really asserting itself. Not a bad thing in and of itself, it’s a direct result of his messed up childhood and the traumatic events he’s been through and he isn’t always aware he’s doing it and isn’t always wrong to assert his needs.
    However, the moment Dean makes the decision to step away, to stop dwelling in the negative and make himself useful where he’s needed, a sort of subconscious thing triggers in Sam that stems from his own fear of abandonment, which is every bit as strong as Dean’s, but Sam will not acknowledge it.

    Sam follows Dean on the hunt rather churlishly for what reason? Because he has needs too, he needs his brothers attention, devotion and love, needs for Dean to be in his life because he’s the only constant and true relationship or friendship Sam has with anyone of any duration. Perhaps there’s also a hint of envy that Dean found a way to start making lemonade out of the lemons around him that wasn’t about Sam?
    Whatever it was Sam continued in passive agressive mode with the mixed messages, just confusing Dean who must have been exhausted trying to guess what he’s supposed to do. I wish Dean had stood up to Sam and said ” I need some space Dude” and take the job alone, but he fetl so bad about everything, he couldn’t.

    Sam is not as emotionally healthy as he believes himself to be, in fact he is actually lying to himself, as he has done throughout the series and Dean is at such a low point he takes the path of least resistance and lets Sam tag along when he doesn’t really need him .

    This wearing down of Dean’s will is exactly what happened with John, with the Angels, with Alistair. Dean is primed for submission through repeatedly being taken for granted, being emotionally and sometimes physically, beaten down. Sam knows all Dean’s buttons to press and does so unmercifully and un-repentant. Sam won’t let go any more than Dean , he keeps Dean close in a most unhealthy way having learned by watching his father.
    This season Sam becomes ever more like John and it’s not a pretty picture of how childhood in the Winchester household must have been.

    No one permits Dean to have a life of his own, not his father, nor the Angels and nor his brother. When Dean does assert his needs he’s repeatedly ignored , overridden and accused of being selfish, agressive or weak, sometimes all those things simultaneously. It’s a pattern of behaviour from those close to him to recognise fault him , yet they will not accept the self same faults are equally applicable if not more so to themselves . No one steps up and says Dean can determine his own fate or defends his right to have choices.

    It makes for drama, but the tone of the writing of seasons 8 through 10 was uncomfortable and unpleasant in the isolation and vilification of Dean as a character whilst showcasing the worst faults of others. If these were not fictional characters , I’d be worried about all of their collective mental and emotional wellness.

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