Supernatural – Season 14 Episode 7
Sam, Dean and Castiel scramble desperately to find a way to save Jack when his condition worsens in the latest Supernatural.
Jack has certainly made an impression in his relatively short time on the show. His presence has enabled Sam, Dean and Castiel to learn what sort of a father they would be both separately and together. He also ties into the show’s overriding theme of non standard yet workable family units.
He’s also a strong character in his own right which makes his terminal condition all the more tragic. I don’t think for a minute that Jack will end up dying but that doesn’t downplay the emotional impact of what this episode explores as it is almost entirely focused on the relationships Jack has forged with other characters.
On a plot level it’s a fairly frantic yet deliberate outing as everyone explores any option they have available to get to the bottom of Jack’s affliction. The first thing they try is the Human method of taking him to a hospital to see if the problem is medical. This leads to a hilarious scene where Sam, Dean and Castiel struggle to falsify information in order to have Jack admitted to hospital. Dean trying to come up with a plausible date of birth was a particular highlight. It works to defuse the tension a little bit while still conveying how urgent the situation is. Dean especially sees this as a waste of time as he feels that there isn’t a second to lose.
Naturally it quickly becomes clear that medical science can do nothing to help Jack even if his affliction has a distinctly physical reaction that can be detected by medical tests. Basically his entire body is shutting down though the tests aren’t able to determine what the cause is. The problem is definitely more mystical than medical and Jack being a Nephilim is identified to be the cause once Rowena is drafted in to help.
Using Rowena sparingly is definitely a good thing as far as I’m concerned due to my personal issues with the character though I do acknowledge that she has a place within the show. Moving away from her being an antagonist that the Winchesters still haven’t killed despite her being very dangerous is definitely the right move as now she can act as something of a magical troubleshooter who still has a friction filled relationship with Sam and Dean. Sam has the stronger connection to her but even then she challenge him and his ability to see the best in her. Her prior encounter with Lucifer where he basically killed her makes for an obvious dramatic opportunity as she will be less than enthusiastic about helping his son.
Amusingly Sam lures her there under the assumption that Dean needs her help then has to make a heartfelt appeal on behalf of Jack to get her to help. He tells her the facts around Jack having no love for Lucifer but Rowena’s animosity is very powerful and she initially refuses to help him. This changes when Jack himself shows her how pleasant he can be by thanking her for what she did in saving them from the other world. It’s brief but it triggers something in Rowena that makes her motivated to help. Rowena’s change of heart does happen too quickly in order to move the plot along without being entirely justified.
The problem turns out to be that his Grace is an essential component in allowing him to function. Without that the Archangel and Human parts of him are at War and the conflict can’t be resolved. Unless his Grace can be recharged he will surely die and there’s nothing else that can be done to prevent that. Jack basically has a terminal illness which makes the problem relatable outside of the supernatural trappings as the characters have to consider the notion that someone so young will meet his end so early in life. It’s something so universally tragic even without taking into account that Jack is around a year old.
Jack’s mortality is handled with real sophistication. At first he decides that he’s going to leave and experience life rather than sitting around waiting to die on the off chance that a miracle cure will be found. Dean catches him and decides to spend time with him because he knows that there isn’t much of it left. What follows is really moving and charming. The first thing Dean does is give him a driving lesson which is possibly the most fatherly thing he has ever done. It’s a really great scene and Dean is hugely patient with him throughout the whole process. Alexander Calvert’s performance wonderfully shows how much fun Jack is having and that he appreciates the time spent with Dean.
This basically amounts to Jack adding and crossing items off his bucket list. Dean suggests the usual alcohol and women coping strategy but Jack has a more sedate idea in the form of fishing. He wanted to try it after Dean talks about his father taking him fishing as a kid. This makes it feel like an essential childhood memory that he’s lacking so he sees this experience as perfection because it helps him realise that spending time with those you love is what is important about life rather than the bigger moments. It’s the small experiences that people miss and the fishing scene explores that perfectly. There is so much emotion behind what is being said. Jensen Ackles does an excellent job conveying the pain he prevents himself from expressing for Jack’s benefit.
Dialogue elsewhere in the episode further underpins how distraught Dean is by reminding the audience that Dean was hostile towards Jack when he first appeared because he assumed that he would be no different to Lucifer. Jack connected to Dean more profoundly than anyone else out of a desire to prove himself and measure up in his eyes so that justifies the reason for Jack opting to spend more time with him. Dean wants to make up for not trusting him early on by spending as much meaningful time with Jack as possible before he’s unable to do that any more.
Castiel’s reaction to Jack’s rapidly declining health is to do everything he can to find a cure. Ketch points them in the direction of a Shaman named Sergei (Dimitri Vantis) who might be able to help. Right from the beginning he seems like a really dodgy character with his half answers to Cas’ questions and his generally elusive nature that clearly shows he can’t be trusted. He is clearly taking advantage of Cas’ desperation to gain the upper hand in the interaction and offers something of an answer to the predicament. Anyone watching will understand that this is far too easy as Cas is being handed the very thing that he is looking for but he’s too distracted to notice and willing to latch onto any morsel of hope that he is given. It’s easy to say that Cas should know better but the episode does such a good job of reminding the audience how much Jack means to the characters that him being distracted makes sense. It’s unclear what Sergei’s endgame is but considering Dean has been suffering from blurred vision and dizzy spells my money’s on Michael being behind it.
After a bit of an absence this episode picks up on Nick’s ongoing quest to solve the murder of his family. This is taking him down a really dark road where he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about doing anything. Killing a priest is a particularly striking especially the way that he does it but every kill we see is really brutal in its own way. When Nick kills it’s a very visceral and physical act with a lot of ferocity behind it fuelled by the anger and grief that consumes him which makes for a stark contrast to Lucifer’s almost clinical finger snap that comes with a small amount of glee afterwards. Nick is considered and sadistic in the way he goes about killing people and feels that his actions are justifiable because he is looking to avenge an injustice. He also admits that it feels good to do so and for a while he believes that those urges will go away when he solves the murder but eventually realises that he takes immense pleasure in it which brings him to pray for Lucifer to return and absolve him of the consequences of his actions. At this point he has entirely given up and wants to be free of the grief that consumes him. Having Lucifer take over his body is the solution in Nick’s mind and that appears to be on its way judging by the imagery of Lucifer apparently coming back from The Empty.
There’s a lot to unpack about Nick in this particular episode. It’s unclear if Lucifer went for him specifically because he knew that he was always capable of those tendencies so saw him as a worthy vessel for that reason. I would personally prefer it if Nick was a gentle person who was badly corrupted by the essence of Lucifer though it also works if he’s drawn to Nick because he senses that potential. Lucifer and Nick are very different people outside of the fact they take joy in making others suffer. Nick is a very conflicted man who has no idea what his identity is now that he is free of Lucifer.
He appears horrified to some degree that he takes joy in killing though is deluded that this will subside as soon as he finds the answers that he’s looking for. The episode suggests that he isn’t entirely beyond redemption when he warns a girl who invites him to spend time with her and her friends to stay away from him though it’s still unclear if his killing streak is indiscriminate or specifically connected to those who might know something about the murder of his family. As a side note it’s very strange for a woman to be approached by a creepy guy in an alley and have that interaction end with her inviting him to join her night out. That doesn’t strike me as the behaviour of a well adjusted person.
Lucifer on the other hand has no sense of morality and is motivated by innately selfish desires as well as an inferiority complex that has roots in his relationship with his father. If Lucifer is to return which seems very likely I would like to see some inner head discussions between the two characters where they can explore what makes them different but also similar. Nick has proven to be too interesting as a character to just abandon in favour of Lucifer plus it would be anticlimactic to bring him back only to cast him aside so quickly.
Another thing to consider is that Nick and Jack are both products of Lucifer in a sense but react to that in very different ways. Nick appears to be embracing Lucifer’s legacy through his sadism where Jack actively works to break free of it. Both of them are being punished for it by finding themselves damned in their own way. Once again, a CW show likes to trade in binaries though there’s no denying that having Nick and Jack as parallel examples of Lucifer’s influence is really effective.
An excellent episode that delivers a moving exploration of the connection built between Jack and the other characters. If you take away the supernatural trappings this is the story of a non standard family dealing with the fact that the youngest member has a terminal illness. Everything is explored from the sense of hopelessness to the desire to make the last days spent together meaningful. It’s a good mix and the scenes Jack shares with Dean where he has a driving lesson and ends up in a really sedate moment where they spend time together fishing are really powerful. It just goes to show how quickly Jack has made an impression and the performances of the actors do an excellent job pulling all of this off. The only thing that lets it down is Rowena’s quick change of heart in deciding to help Jack because it feels somewhat unearned especially when compared to the strong familial connections explored elsewhere in the episode.
Castiel’s visit to the Shaman is a really desperate move on his part because he has no idea if it will do any good. Ultimately he’s blind to the fact that he is being manipulated and takes what he is given at face value while failing to realise that he’s being manipulated. To what end is unclear but it probably has a lot to do with Michael judging by Dean’s dizzy spells and blurred vision. Nick’s obsession with finding those responsible for killing his family has reached terrifying extremes. At first he feels that this bloodlust will go away once he finds the truth before later admitting that he enjoys what he’s doing. His breakdown and appeal to Lucifer to return because he can’t handle how he’s feeling is brilliantly handled and hopefully sets up a dual performance from Mark Pellegrino as the contrast between Nick and Lucifer is explored. It’s too good an opportunity to miss. Nick and Jack are both products of Lucifer in different ways so having Lucifer back in the show while keeping Nick around will provide plenty of scope to play around with this idea.
- the strong connection between Jack and the main characters
- powerful sedate moments such as driving lessons and fishing
- Nick’s complicated mental state
- the return of Lucifer and the potential that brings
- Rowena’s rapid change of heart
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