“Jack in the Box’
April 18, 2019
THEN: “They’re never going to trust you again. And you can never trust them.”
Y’all. What even is this episode?
We start with a bunch of randos in the Bunker, where a collection of photos and Mary’s favorite weapons are laid out on the map table. Oh, snap. Is Mary getting an honest to Chuck wake? I like that. It feels right.
Although I’m not keen on all the childhood photos out for public inspection, especially the one of Mary and wee!Dean that’s like a talisman for him. Those should be private. But there it sits on the table between John’s demonic day planner and a framed picture of Mary. It’s the same picture Sam placed on her funeral pyre last week.
There must have been a double prints special at the CVS.
Dean gives his mother’s eulogy. He’s flanked by Sam and Cas … so I guess his angel is no longer dead to him?
Dean talks about the second chance he and Sam got with Mary. They’re just really open about that whole coming back from the dead thing, aren’t they? Do other hunters just take that for granted when it comes to a Winchester?
Anyhoo, Dean says they got to know their mother as a person, and I will bitch and complain again some more that it would have been nice to see that. Jensen sells the hell out of this scene, but show, Show; don’t tell.
The rando hunters nod and smile as Dean describes Mary as tough, strong, and opinionated. Stubborn as hell.
“She could handle a machete.”
Putting it out there now—when my day comes, if those same words are not spoken at my funeral, someone is getting SUCH a haunting!
Dean says there wasn’t much Mary couldn’t handle—including their old man—but she couldn’t cook worth a damn.
The randos laugh and then Dean speaks directly to Mary. He tells her she wasn’t here long enough, but they’re so glad for the time that they had. He says goodbye, with a quiet echo from Sam. Despite my snark, it is a lovely and heartfelt scene that makes up a little for Mary’s shitty offscreen death.
And then AV!Bobby sinks a hatchet into the skull of one of the hunters.
To be fair, the dude was a wraith, so. And rather than putting a damper on things, the boys agree that Mary would have appreciated having a dead monster at her memorial.
While he’s there, Bobby does a wellness check; Sam says it’s been tough and that Dean seems to be doing okay. Because Sam has never met his brother? Episode writers BuckLeming don’t watch the show?
Dean excuses himself to get a drink—also known as driving out to the place where Mary died to ugly cry alone.
Yeah, Dean is fiiiiiine.
This had to be a challenging scene for Jensen. His direction is basically to go sit on a stump and cry, but make it authentic and emotionally resonant. He doesn’t get any buildup in the scene or another actor’s energy to play off of. Just weep like your heart is breaking—and, GO!
Although I imagine that after living in Dean Winchester’s skin for 14 years, Jensen knows what Dean would be feeling and (clearly) could tap into that well of emotion.
But I have to wonder too, if some of those weren’t his own tears, shed for waiting a season too long to hit the eject button.
According to Jensen, it was pouring rain the night they shot this, and so cold that his tears were freezing to his face. He said he asked director Robert Singer to let him shoot the scene in the car, and Singer—the guy who thought ending Season 13 on a cheesy 80’s freeze frame was a good idea—said no because he wanted the “cinematic” crane shot coming up over the trees.
And beyond Jensen’s comfort, how much more perfect would it have been for Dean to give in to his grief within the safety of the Impala? How appropriate that the only person who could comfort Dean at this moment would be Baby?
Honestly, do any of TPTB on this show actually watch it?
Back in the Bunker, Bobby confirms that Jack killed Mary and is like, cool, cool. He’s just going to get up with his people—because Bobby has people now?—and avenge the death of his beloved because obviously Mary meant more to him that she did to her children.
Sam and Cas seem strangely unconcerned by Bobby’s vow to put their son down.
Castiel later hotfoots it to Heaven looking for help from Col. Samantha Carter, only to learn she’s in time out for allowing the Empty to invade on her watch. Alie from The 100 is running things now.
Where is Clarke when you need her?
Cas gives Alie from The 100 all the info (read: ammo) she needs to manipulate Jack into helping her make Heaven great again. She assuages his guilt—which he shouldn’t feel because soulless—by telling him it wasn’t his fault. She offers him redemption and sets the hook by holding out the promise of reconciliation—again, something that should not matter to Jack because soulless.
How happy will Sam and Dean be, asks Allie from The 100, when Jack makes the world a better place by punishing the wicked who defy Heaven’s authority? So happy!
Words can’t describe how the Winchesters will feel, she says.
To my mind, not having a soul should make it harder to manipulate Jack. Guilt and redemption shouldn’t be a factor, because he can’t feel them. Jack should be more like Robo!Sam, operating on pure reason. And soul or no, Jack should be questioning Alie from The 100’s motives. Heaven has been trying to kill or control him since before he was born. He should know he can’t trust her.
And I don’t understand—other than bad writing—why Jack doesn’t go to the one person he knows he can rely on. The person his mother told him would always protect him and keep him safe. WHY DOESN’T JACK REACH OUT TO CAS?
Castiel returns to the Bunker with good news, everyone! Heaven is going to help them! He says he was promised that every effort would be made to locate Jack. Dean is the only one in the room who has ever met Heaven. He snarks that they can take that promise right to the bank.
They get a bead on Jack on their own when Sam uncovers two recent deaths—an atheist author turned into a pillar of salt and a faith healer swallowed up by the ground. Castiel has to explain that these are Bible-ie deaths by quoting the relevant verses.
Dean acts like he’s never heard of Lot’s wife, even though he referenced it in 11.21 “All in the Family” during his call out of Chuck. And wasn’t Sam translating the New Testament from the Hebrew not two episodes ago?
A third victim, a pastor with worms coming out of his skin, tells them that Jack *poofed* a prayer group right up to the Good Place to make them angels. A fact which Castiel confirms when he returns to Heaven and discovers Jack “forging” human souls into angels with a single touch.
And Lucifer couldn’t have done that during the ten minutes he was in charge of Heaven, because? The Heaven that’s been on the brink of total system shutdown for two seasons now, even though it wasn’t a problem at all when Metatron kicked all the angels out at the end of Season 8?
Also, if there’s one thing this show has taught me, it is to be both literal and specific in the wording of prayers.
Castiel pulls Alie from The 100 aside to be VERY CONCERNED. This is his concerned face. Alie from The 100 tells Cas that she is saving Heaven, so get on board or she will boot Mary and John from their perfect, shared eternity with a snap of her fingers. Cas pulls out his gladius and kills her.
Well, you overplayed that hand. Bye, Alie from The 100! Bye!
Cas returns to the throne room to collect Jack, but the boy is back on Earth responding to Sam’s prayer. Because Dean has decided that the only solution to the Jack problem is to trick him into climbing into the Ma’lak Box. And he lays the burden of convincing Jack to come home (read: lying) on Sam.
Can we talk about how much I hate this? Let’s talk about how much I hate this.
It’s one thing to write a character like a lobotomized kitten in order to get them from Point A to B. But BuckLeming have taken their usual lazy writing and ascended to a whole new level of suck.
Because Winchesters don’t give up on family.
Show has gone out of its way the last two seasons to show us that Jack is family. When Jack was dying in “Unhuman Nature”—an episode that BuckLeming wrote—Cas calls Jack their son. So I rebuke the idea that, even after losing Mary, Dean would be willing to condemn Jack to the box. Or that Sam would in any way go along with it. They would fight tooth and nail to find another way, just like they always do.
Last week in “Absence,” Sam owned making the call to use Lily Sunder’s magic, but there’s been no acknowledgment of what he—and Dean—owe to Jack for making that decision. They brought Jack for them. Jack burned through his soul to save them.
And Jack was willing to sacrifice himself for them because if there’s one thing he’s learned about being a Winchester, it’s that the limit does not exist when it comes to family.
So I challenge that Sam and Dean would be so quick to just give up on Jack and his potential for goodness. Sam’s attitude in “Absence” of, ‘Welp, I guess Jack was evil all along, what are you gonna do?’ just rang false to me.
All three of Jack’s dads have been in his shoes–Sam’s experience being the most direct, but also Cas when he was Godstiel and Dean when he was deep in the Mark and losing his compass. Cas put it best in “Absence” when he said Jack isn’t evil, he is simply absent of any good. That’s different.
And, as Cas pointed out to Alie from The 100, Jack is two! While he has a certain level of innate knowledge about the world and has shown he can be perceptive (two traits which vary from one episode to the next depending on the writer), Jack still lacks a great deal of life experience. And he has the impulse control of a toddler.
If Andrew Dabb knew how to pace a season, he would have given all of these elements time to breathe. We would have seen Jack’s three dads sharing their experiences with him and helping him learn to navigate a complex world with no internal barometer. Of distinguishing what is good and what is right and what is just convenient.
There would have been a build-up to the breaking point that would have felt authentic and earned, rather than rushed and cheap.
With Dean standing over him, Sam reluctantly prays to Jack. He tells the boy that bad things happen, but they’re family, and they can get through this. They can move forward. It’s what Mary—and Kelly—would want. Sam says they just want things to be the way they were.
Jack appears in the Bunker with a flutter of wings and Dean goes absolutely still. Sam steps around behind his brother and approaches Jack. Sam moves slowly and deliberately; Dean’s posture is rigid and coiled. He never takes his eyes off Jack.
The boy acknowledges that things have been bad, and if it helps, he says he regrets it. The … accident. It’s just that Mary kept talking about his soul and pushing him … Sam looks like he wants to crawl out of his skin as Jack explains what happened.
Dean clarifies that Mary made him do it. There is a tension in his face and flatness to his tone that should have anyone else curled up in the fetal position soiling themselves.
Dean is his most terrifying when he is still and quiet.
But Jack doesn’t pick up on it. He admits that no, it was him, but he didn’t want the whole no soul thing to become an issue between them. He says he guesses he snapped. A muscle in Dean’s jaw twitches. The rage inside him coils a little tighter. The intensity of his stare could melt tungsten.
Jack says it all happened so fast. He wishes it didn’t happen. Dean smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He says they understand … and they forgive him, “you know, for the accident.” He stammers a bit but manages to stick the landing.
Jack is so relieved that Sam and Dean understand. He knew they would. Now things can go back to the way they were. Dean floats the possibility of fixing Jack’s soul and keeping him ‘safe’ until everything is ready. Safe, so that he doesn’t hurt anyone. So he doesn’t have another accident. Dean can barely say the word.
Somehow, despite Sam’s twitchiness and Dean’s preternatural calm, Jack doesn’t suspect anything untoward. After some initial trepidation, the boy climbs into the box willingly. He smiles and declares it not bad! Hey, would Dean lie about it being comfy? Jack asks how long before he can come out. Sam vagues that it won’t be too long.
The boys exchange a look. Sam turns on the sincerity and says they’ve got this. Jack says okay and Dean closes and locks the box.
Sitting in the kitchen, Dean pours the sweet, sweet healing booze while they contemplate keeping Jack locked up for eternity. Sam isn’t sure he can do that. Dean says they knew from the beginning it was a long shot with Jack.
But did they? Did they really?
Dean was suspicious of Jack for literally three episodes of Season 13. He started coming around in 13.04 after Jack saved them from the evil shapeshifter, and was totally on board the Jack train by 13.06 after Cas came back from the Empty. In fact, after Jack accidentally killed the security guard in “Tombstone,” Dean tells Jack that he’s not a monster, despite what Dean once thought. And that if he is, then they’re all monsters because they all have blood on their hands.
And see, that would have been an interesting arc to explore. Show could have gone back to the themes of good and evil that Sam and Dean debated in the Mexican restaurant in “Brother’s Keeper” in Season 10. But after “Tombstone,” Jack going dark side isn’t really talked about again. Dean raised the possibility that Jack killed the dream walker artist in “The Bad Place,” but was easily persuaded by Sam to stand down.
And speaking of “The Bad Place,” whatever happened with Kaia Ren? Is she just still hanging out in the abandoned recycling center waiting for Dean to bring back her spear? Hello? Anyone?
Cas joins the party, breathlessly announcing there’s news! Jack was being manipulated by Alie from The 100! They have to find him and tell him!
The argument in the kitchen is interrupted by the rumbling sound of an explosion. The Bunker shakes and goes into lockdown. Team Free Will rushes to the storage room while the klaxon screams. A figure with glowing golden eyes slowly emerges through the dust and debris.
Turn around bright eyes, indeed.