Death, no matter how fleeting on a show like Supernatural, will always be a lingering threat. What Supernatural is great at doing is creating new circumstances in which our characters have to deal with loss. There was a time when Dean and Sam Winchester would go straight to a crossroads in order to bring someone back. But there are other ways to save someone and the show’s willingness to explore those are why it’s still around after 14 years. This episode, titled “Byzantium,” is another example, after the season 14 premiere episode “Stranger in a Strange Land,” that finds a new way to tell the same story.
Jack dies in the first few minutes of this episode. That early of a death obviously means he’ll probably be back by episode’s end. Much like the season five episode “Dark Side of the Moon,” in which the brothers are killed in the cold open and spend the rest of the episode in heaven, Jack finds himself in an eerily empty heaven, a reminder of Naomi’s warning last season. Jack is soon chased by a dark substance, almost resembling demon smoke, but more liquid in appearance. He’s able to get away and finds his way to his mother. Beyond the emotional angst of the brothers, this was the best part of the episode, and a pleasant surprise to see Kelly again.
This episode does beg the question, though: Will there ever come a time when the Winchesters don’t go to great lengths to bring someone back? It seems a very privileged thing to do, especially in the same episode that brings back Lily Sunder. Lily lost her daughter centuries ago, but why doesn’t she get to bring her back? It might just be the nature of Supernatural that provides such a narrow focus on Sam and Dean that the plights of other characters, minor ones though they may be, never really feel concrete enough to me. The show attempts to make it seem like Sam and Dean have learned their lesson (after Sam leaves the bunker, Dean and Cas track him down on the side of the rode, with Dean yelling, “Tell me you didn’t make a deal!”), but minutes later, they find some loop hole and make a deal with Lily. Yes, there are differences, and it’s not completely the same thing. In fact, I’m impressed the show can still come up with different ways to get characters out of death, but my main concern is the lack of learning on Sam and Dean’s part. These sorts of things never pan out the way they think they will, and yet, they continue forward.
Cas, too, makes a deal. That dark liquid substance chasing Jack is The Empty, who’s after Jack because it believes Jack is his property due to Jack’s half-angel part of himself. I’m really glad we’re able to explore more of The Empty as an entity as I find it to be incredibly creepy and dynamic, a villain we haven’t quite seen before on Supernatural. The deal Cas makes is to take Jack’s place in The Empty, but The Empty assures Cas it’ll come for him when he least expects it. In this sense, Cas walks the path of season three Dean Winchester, but convinces Jack to keep it secret from the brothers. Jack’s soul is restored (well, most of it) as Lily gives up the rest of the magic that was keeping her alive to Jack, her last good deed that allows her into heaven.
The coolest part of the episode is Anubis. The mythology here is adapted, of course, but this one feels more profound than any other time the brothers have encountered something straight from mythology. Not only is Anubis suave, but he also offers a great bit of philosophy: as Lily tries to negotiate her fate, he tells her he can’t change where she’s going, that it was up to her all those years ago.
This Week’s Wayward Thoughts:
- “Then it’s going to be an adventure.” Jack channeling Peter Pan.
- I like that Jack asks Sam what happens next after he dies. Sam’s an expert on this, but I’m not sure the show has ever tried to put the afterlife into a profound conversation like this.
- I’m not sure how I feel about the montage of the boys drinking and toasting to Jack after he dies. It’s a weird tonal shift from that (which implies they’re deciding to move on) to Sam calling Lily Sunder and making a deal with her to get Jack back.
- “You got old.”
- Naomi returns. We haven’t seen her since she returned last year to give Cas a warning about the dying heaven. It feels like she shows up here for the same reason, but the events taking place here are totally different from last year, so that was kind of confusing.
- “Keep me here. Try and kill me. It is not going to change Lily Sunder’s fate. But it might change yours.”
- They’re a little heavy handed with the whole “Jack is our son” thing, but then again, this show has always been about family.
See ya next week for the mid-season finale!