Supernatural – Season 14 Episode 19
“Jack In The Box”
Supernatural marches towards the season finale by continuing the tension around Jack’s unpredictability and how different parties try to deal with that.
There is one scene in this episode that sums up Jack’s mental state at this point in time. It’s the scene where he sits alone with his thoughts -and Lucifer hallucination- replaying the death of Mary in his head while begging for his dead mother to give him guidance. Its an action he took in a moment of extreme passion while being unaware of the extent of his powers while not having the moral grounding to know that such an outburst is lethal for those around. The loss of his soul led to a loss of self control and this caused him to do something that now defines him in the eyes of those he was once close to. Jack feels alone, abandoned and completely lost which makes him wholly unpredictable as he has nobody guiding him. The devil on his shoulder tells him that the Winchesters hate him and he has nobody left that he can count on. There’s nothing to counter that negative voice so it sets up how susceptible Jack is to any kind of guiding force.
Duma decides to take advantage of this once she learns that Jack is isolated from the Winchesters. She has made it her business to make Heaven great again so takes Jack on a mission to punish to punish those who speak against God or Heaven in general using Biblical methods to kill them. One is turned into a pillar of salt, another is swallowed by the Earth and the third is eaten by worms. These attacks feel random and seem to serve no other purpose than Duma testing how malleable Jack is to move onto the next phase of her plan. It has been well established that there are very few Angels left so in order to restore Heaven to something resembling its former glory more will be required. Jack isn’t as powerful as God so can’t create Angels from thin air but he can turn the souls of the devout into new Angels. He does this and we’re left to wonder what this will lead to as we haven’t seen Angels forged from Humans before so it’s possible that they will retain Human traits and become something other than the traditional Angels that we are used to.
The point of this is to show how easily Jack can be manipulated and highlight the naivety that comes with him being so young. He is at his most vulnerable here because he has nobody to guide him so is eager to latch onto anyone who offers to help him make some sort of sense out of his life. Duma is so clearly doing that and sees him as a powerful resource to be harnessed for her own interests. He does everything she asks without questioning it because she tells him that the Winchesters will be pleased with him if he does. He seems to have no moral barometer so takes it at face value that these actions will put him in Sam and Dean’s good graces without realising that killing people for speaking out against God is an inherently immoral act. Alexander Calvert’s clear innocence in his performance offers an effective contrast to how casually sadistic his actions seem to be. Erica Cerra perfectly exudes a maternal tone with a selfish edge to it.
Castiel doesn’t take kindly to what Duma is doing and confronts her about it but Duma wants to use Mary’s afterlife as leverage to get Cas to go along with her plan. She only has to snap her fingers to take all of that away from her which forces Castiel to run her through with an Angel blade and kill her. I was surprised at this turn of events as it looked as if she was being set up as an antagonist who was able to pull Jack’s strings in order to make him a very dangerous threat. One thing Supernatural does well is subverting expectations but it can come at the expense of narratives that have potential. This Duma plot had a lot more potential than a scant few minutes of screen time could allow it to fulfil so her death at the hands of Castiel feels untimely as there is no opportunity for her plans to be fleshed out in any meaningful way other than a very quick statement as to what she wants to achieve. There is a sinister undertone to her actions that suggest she has something deeper in mind but it looks as if that will now never be clarified.
Jack’s naivety comes into play where Sam and Dean are concerned as they seem to agree that he can’t be redeemed. This comes across as a harsh judgement on their part considering everything that they’ve been through up until this point. Both of them are consumed by grief at losing their mother a second time but for them both to conclude that Jack is beyond redemption contradicts a lot of what they have collectively experienced. There was a point where Sam didn’t have a soul but he was brought back from the brink and forgiven for any misdeeds. Dean became of Hell’s most brutal torturers but was forgiven so the lack of empathy for Jack in this situation doesn’t really hold up. It is possible that they lose sight of their own failing in this scenario but the fact that nobody is able to call them out on this suggests that this stance hasn’t been all that well thought out.
There was even the opportunity for opposition to them in the form of Bobby who wants to show Jack no mercy after what he did. He resolves to find Jack and kill him while Sam and Dean appear to disagree with him but it’s more down to the fact that they want to be the ones to deal with him because they feel as if he’s their responsibility. Bobby calls Jack an unstoppable monster that doesn’t know right from wrong and the only person who sees fit to disagree with him is Cas. Sam says nothing in this moment while Cas talks about helping him.
Dean’s plan is to lock Jack in the box meant to contain Michael and throw away the key. He suggests this because they are unable to kill him and this is the next best thing. Sam is clearly not in full agreement with this plan though not to the degree that he actively argues against it so this becomes about Dean stating why he feels this is the only way without receiving much in the way of resistance. It feels very contrived that Sam is conflicted over this but ultimately willing to go along with it for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. This clearly exists to move the plot forward and set up a scenario where Jack feels betrayed going into the season finale.
The scene where Sam and Dean work to convince Jack to willingly get in the box is painful for all the wrong reasons. Sam being conflicted and feeling uncomfortable with lying to Jack because it is known that Jack will be more inclined to trust him makes sense but having him be such a terrible liar doesn’t. Jared Padalecki’s performance goes too far to show how uncomfortable Sam does to the point that Jack shouldn’t have been so quick to accept what he was being told. The dialogue is really clunky here as the bare minimum of information is given to Jack in regards to the ill constructed lie Sam and Dean are telling. When he asks how long it will take to restore his soul he is simply told “not long” rather than some made up timescale. Jack may be naive but he has never been portrayed as stupid. Nobody seems in character here and it’s very jarring.
It’s especially problematic considering Jack is clearly aware that killing Mary was wrong and he definitely feels the absence of Sam and Dean in his life. He accepts responsibility for what he did while explaining that it was a reaction to Mary berating him while making it absolutely clear that it was still his doing even though that was the catalyst. This doesn’t deter Sam or Dean who could have at least been willing to accept that Jack isn’t beyond redemption. It’s unknown how much of his soul is left so it’s strange that nobody seems willing to explode that.
Castiel does berate them for what they did. He points out that they are no better than Duma because they manipulated him the same way she did. Cas has always had Jack’s best interests at heart and appears to be the only one looking out for him at this point. As I’ve said it makes no sense for Sam and Dean to completely give up on him even considering what he did so the whole situation does feel manufactured to create a schism among the core characters. What happens next is certainly unpredictable but the characters have been made to behave counter to themselves in order to engineer this situation.
Jack breaking out of the box after unleashing the full scope of his powers following the Lucifer manifestation telling him that he has been manipulated is an effective ending with great visual flair. It does set up Jack as an unpredictable problem for the Winchesters to deal with and the fact that they tried to manipulate him means that they shoulder a lot of the blame for what he might do next. Since the possibility of reasoning with him in some way was never explored they have effectively created a problem that they now need to solve.
A problematic episode that relies on actions that are out of character to manufacture the necessary drama. Jack’s mental state is summed up really well in the scene where he’s reliving the death of Mary as the manifestation of Lucifer taunts him. He’s isolated, lost and feels abandoned at this point which makes him easy fodder for Duma to manipulate him into doing what she wants. Using Mary’s happy afterlife as leverage to prevent Castiel from telling Jack the truth sets her up as a villainous presence right before she is unceremoniously killed off. This certainly defies expectations but also flies in the face of some obvious potential brought on by Duma’s plan to reshape Heaven in her own idealised image. The way she manipulates Jack is maternal with a sinister edge to it so there was plenty of scope for this to develop.
Dean deciding to lock Jack in the box meant for Michael and using Sam to convince him because of Jack’s tendency to trust him is really cold. The episode plays out as if they have accepted that Jack is beyond redemption which completely forgets everything that Sam and Dean have been through such as Sam being without a soul or Dean being one of Hell’s best torturers. Both of these were fixed and forgiven so it makes no sense that they would feel this way about Jack even after what he did. Bobby’s point of view could have been used to spearhead this argument rather than Sam and Dean giving up on him which runs counter to their established characters. The scene where they convince Jack to get in the box is painful to watch as the dialogue is so poor as is Jared Padelecki’s performance that makes Sam such an obvious liar. Jack may be naive but he’s far from stupid so this shouldn’t have worked based on what was depicted on screen. Castiel calling them out on being no better than Duma is a good thing but it isn’t given enough room to breathe before Jack breaks out and becomes a problem for them that they created themselves.
- a strong showcase of Jack’s isolation
- Duma’s maternal yet sinister demeanour when manipulating Jack
- the manifestation of Lucifer as a counter to Jack’s naivety
- Sam and Dean forgetting all they have been forgiven for
- killing Duma when it felt like there was more story to tell
- Sam and Dean’s manipulation of Jack being painful to watch
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.