“Losing your soul doesn’t make you bad; it doesn’t make you anything. It’s an absence of pity, of empathy, of humanity.”
In Supernatural, it’s become the norm that, after a major development in the season-long story arc, the following episode calms things down a bit. “Peace of Mind” is that calm; a filler before the inevitable storm of these final five episodes seem to be trending towards the Winchesters having to confront the unlikeliest of foes: one of their own.
We catch up to Team Winchester a week or two after Michael’s defeat at Jack’s hands and the former’s slaughter of Maggie and the other hunters. Though Dean seems to have adjusted well enough to their deaths, Sam’s taking things a bit harder. In order to distance himself from the Bunker—a tangible reminder of his friends’ deaths—Sam takes on another case. This one leads him (and the accompanying Castiel) to Charming Acres, Arkansas. They investigate a man’s death after his head explodes and what they find is a town set in that idyllic Pleasantville-type setting of the 1950s.
But the inhabitants of the quaint town are ensorcelled by Mayor Harrington, a man who, after his wife died and the world around him modernized, wanted nothing more than the simpler times. Though we never discover the origin of his powers, Harrington’s words are able to make people do his bidding with only those that reject his picturesque ideal suffering the consequences. It’s only thanks to his daughter Sunny that Harrington’s control is wrested away and Sam and Cas get out of town unscathed.
While Sam and Cas explore Charming Acres, Dean takes Jack on a field trip. Worried that killing Michael forced Jack to burn off his soul, they visit the foremost expert on the soulless—the prophet Donatello. He speaks of his experience and though he’s not quite certain of Jack’s condition, warns Dean to keep an eye on the lad. That advice is thoroughly warranted when, in an effort of compassion, Jack promises to reunite the snake he gained from last week’s villain (the gorgon Noah) with its master. Jack obliterates the reptile, burning it to ash while a very concerned Castiel watches from the doorway.
As an emotional journey, “Peace of Mind” is light on execution. Of the main characters, only Sam experiences any type of real arc. From the start of the episode, his need to get out to another hunt is obviously him needing to stay busy in order to forget what Michael did to his friends. It’s not until after his experience in Charming Acres, a bastion of good feelings and nothing bad that came at the right time for Sam, where he admits to Dean the scars finding Maggie and the others murdered has left on him. “I hate this place right now,” he tells Dean. “Everywhere I look, I see them…I see Maggie”. If Charming Acres did one thing for Sam, it was to remind him that the Bunker is his home and no amount of running around on cases will help heal those open wounds. “I think I just need some time” are his final words of the episode and is a poignant reminder that even those used to tragedy can’t just magically get through it without time to process, time to grieve, time to heal.
And then there’s Jack. I had theorized that, after his obliteration of Michael, the cost to his soul may lead to him becoming the real villain of this season (or next). Though we don’t get that definitive answer this week, there’s no doubt that the Jack we’ve come to know and love these past few years, is no longer there. Whether or not he ends up becoming his original destiny as the Antichrist remains up in the air. But like that eerie calm before the most horrible of storms, something’s coming. And it ain’t good.