“What do we always do when we lose one of our own? We fight. We fight to bring them back.”
There are times when a show takes a course of action that is both head-scratching and unnecessary. For its part, Supernatural generally does a fantastic job justifying their narrative decisions. Sure, there are hiccups (Seasons 6 through 8 being one long and loud one) but overall, my disappointment with character decisions are eventually borne out at narrative’s end. And yet, even with two episodes remaining to validate Mary Winchester’s death, I can’t help but wonder…why, Supernatural, why?
Rewinding a bit, it’s been pretty clear that, once Michael was taken off the board, Jack was primed to become the season’s big bad (or biggest, if you will). Like Dark Willow from Season 6 of Buffy, his makings were foreshadowed early on, only coming alive when circumstances came together like a perfect storm. It started last season when Lucifer snatched much of his power and then, early this season when the Winchesters had to tie Jack’s life essence to his soul to keep him alive. In that, he became just a dude with no powers and no real skills hunting.
Over the course of weeks, they built him back up, refining his relationship with everyone, making it clear this familial bond they shared and, when he risked himself to take out Michael, the dominoes began to fall.
Last week when he burned out Nick, Lucifer’s favorite meat suit, with Mary watching it all unfold, a switch went off in him, cascading his still young and inexperienced mind with a cascade of emotions…or maybe they were echoes of them, considering his lack of a soul.
“Absence” is one of those few episodes where not much really happens and yet its emotional resonance stayed with me even hours later.
Knowing he made an unforgivable mistake, Jack spends the majority of the episode either running away from the consequences or scrambling to undo it. He’s that hit-and-run driver who, thanks to a split second of distraction, slammed into an unsuspecting pedestrian. What makes it worse is his relationship with Mary, how she treated him like a son. Jack’s fear, frustration, dread, and denial are things we have all experienced at one point or another where we’ve made a grave error in judgment and would scour the world for the power to take it back. But like our lot in life, Jack—even with his fantastical powers—is helpless in the face of the one burning truth…he killed Mary Winchester.
The time spent between Jack’s ordeal and that rising dread of Sam and Dean is expertly divided. Whereas Jack has no idea how to handle the emotional damage his actions have caused, Sam and Dean are at first hard-pressed to believe something terrible has happened. The longer their search for Mary and Jack goes, the more they fight the unsettling truth that their mother is dead.
So where do we go from here? Despite Jack’s arc and horrible mistake, he’s not an evil character. Like Willow, he’s part of the family and, I would argue, even less dangerous than Dark Willow herself as there was nothing malicious in his actions, rather an inability to control his powers. This show has always been about the bonds of family. Jack is family and despite the anger Sam and Dean must feel at what he did is it that easy to forget about that relationship? In some ways, “Absence” tackles that question of what we are willing to forgive when those we love screw up, whether we can see past our own pain and anger to reach out in the moment to give that person a way back from the precipice of no return?
As Giles once told Buffy, forgiveness is not predicated on someone deserving it, rather it’s because they need it. Jack is clearly on that ledge, teetering toward abyss; the question becomes will Castiel, Sam, and especially Dean be able to work past the loss of one family member in time not to make it two?
The Good, The Bad, The Supernatural
- I’m still a bit numb from what happened here. With two episodes left, there’s only so much material left. Will the end justify their actions here? Jack is still not totally gone, thus his path of redemption is not yet lost.
- When Castiel reaches Dumah to check on Mary’s soul, her response to him is profound: “Mary Winchester is complete,” she says, “you and the Winchesters may not be. But she is.” We’ve all lost someone close to us and, most times get lost up in our own pain. Acknowledging that—whether you believe in Heaven or just that their suffering is over—is, while difficult to accept, is that one saving grace we can hold on to.
- Having Lucifer as the metaphysical devil on Jack’s shoulder, prodding at the Nephilim’s every doubt and fear, was a perfect representation of his character. Now that Nick is gone and Lucifer remains in the Empty, keeping him as a presence in Jack’s psyche is another hurdle the young man will have to overcome if he wishes to make it to the other side.