“God doesn’t decide. I don’t decide. You do; each of you…your individual choices all tallied up at the precise moment of your death.”
For all the monster killing and Winchester chemistry, the two things Supernatural has done as well as any show in recent memory are reinvention and reintroduction. Coupled together, these two ideas have allowed the show to continue through even some of the leaner years and return stronger than ever. It’s an important prospect for “Byzantium” because, despite going to the resurrection well once again, Supernatural re-frames that narrative and introduces an entirely new set of issues for the protagonists.
“Byzantium” doesn’t waste time, getting to the heartbreak of Jack’s death within the first five minutes. It’s a gut punch, watching Sam, Dean, and Cas powerless to stop the inevitable. All three are hit hard when Jack dies but Sam and Dean show the most human emotions (after all, Castiel is still an angel and not as in tune with emotions). After a night of drinking to remember Jack, Sam comes up with a possible solution: Lily Sunder.
Last seen in Season 12’s “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”, Lily was a human who, after angels killed her daughter, vowed to gain her revenge on the celestials by tapping into Enochian magic. Though it gave her many abilities to combat her angelic targets, each use of the magic burned away a portion of her soul. Sam thinks that she could help Jack by using the magic to sustain him, righting the chaos left inside him by the theft of his Grace. Like many of their plans, it’s a bold one, predicated on the deal they make with Lily to get her into Heaven. Though they hit some rough spots during negotiations, Lily does help Jack and, with Castiel’s help, they are able to return the Nephilim to life.
As with any major initiative in Supernatural, nothing comes without a cost. “Byzantium” makes this clear on several fronts. Due to her blood quest to kill angels, Lily finds herself staring Hell in the face and, when Sam and Dean try to bargain with Anubis on her behalf, the Guardian of the Dead reminds them that it’s not him—or God—that decides a person’s fate. It’s his or her actions that drive their final destination. Though the factor of consequences has always been there, often times Supernatural characters ignore it for love and loyalty. Sometimes it is justified—a selfless sacrifice for another—while other times the actions cannot be described as anything more than selfish and reckless. Castiel’s actions in “Byzantium” fall firmly in the former category.
Tasked with retrieving Jack from Heaven for the ritual, Cas discovers that Heaven has been invaded by the Empty, that formless, nameless entity serving over the nothingness that is the final resting place for angels and demons alike. As Jack is part angel, the Empty demands its property and will burn through Heaven to get what it wants. Wanting to keep Jack from such a fate, Castiel offers himself up freely to the Empty and, considering that he’s the only one to escape it (awakening the Empty in the process) it readily accepts. But Castiel’s actions do not just save Jack; the remaining angels, as well as the billions of souls that call Heaven home, are saved. It’s the greatest of sacrifices, one Castiel happily makes for the closest thing the angel will have to a child.
So the scales are balanced, Jack is alive and will. Additionally, thanks to Castiel’s sacrifice, our white hats have something else in hand: the location of the archangel Michael.
Supernatural – “Byzantium”
- We got to revisit several characters this week. The once-used Lily Sunder in addition to Dumah, Kelly, and Naomi. It’s always great to see that. Add in the debut of Anubis, the accountant of Heaven’s souls and “Byzantium” juggled these characters well enough to give them their own moment to shine.
- Though it’s a good thing to see Jack alive, the emotional power of Sam, Dean, and Cas watching him die is somewhat muted by his speedy resurrection. This isn’t the first time a character has died only to return so quickly and each time it’s a slight disappointment. With that said, there is solace in the fact that consequences for these resurrections follow and if it’s one thing Supernatural doesn’t skimp on is making characters pay. As Baron Mordo said in Doctor Strange, “the bill comes due.”
- Just when we thought Michael and some ‘roided-up monsters were a problem, the Empty makes an appearance. There isn’t much detail to go on this Supernatural beastie but the power to invade Heaven with impunity sure makes it a massive threat. Castiel’s deal with the Empty is reminiscent of Dean’s crossroads deal to save Sam. The difference is that, whereas Dean knew the time he had left before his deal was us, Cas only has the promise that, the moment he reaches happiness, the Empty will drag him off into the nothingness. That’s the kind of cloud over your head that’ll make it hard to take joy in much at all.