‘Supernatural’ Season 14, Episode 19 Review: “Jack In the Box”
Sometimes I compare Supernatural to a rollercoaster — in that minute before the ride perks up, feeling the dewy air against your skin, at least you know it is not too long before your stomach drops as it bolts down the course. If that was last week’s episode, then “Jack In the Box” was the rare, but more alarming moment where the drop takes you by surprise, so much so that you are left in stressful anticipation waiting for the next turn. By that final frame, my insides were twisted up and tangled.
As always, spoilers ahead!
This episode begins after Mary’s body went up in flames (for the second time) at her hunter’s funeral. We catch sight of hunters scattered across the bunker. The camera coasts down to the library table, and there is a plethora of memories: photographs, guns, mementos from a life before, until we are struck by a solitary black and white photograph of Mary Winchester.
Then, Dean walks out, followed closely behind by Sam and Cas. This scene was necessary, for it not only showcased the trajectory of the episode, but it also highlighted Mary’s duality. It is no lie that perhaps we all had our differences when it came to the huntress, particularly when she left the boys to carry out her own adventures. But being surrounded by both her blood ties and the family that she created allowed us as an audience to forgive her.
What is a funeral, too, without a gate crasher? A subtle note with the flash of blue in a sea of beige, a”hunter” standing cross-armed is soon met by a hatchet perfectly wedging into his back. (Alternate) Bobby always knew how to make an entrance.
What is a humorous conversation about a monster — in this case, a wraith — showing up to a hunter’s funeral, soon turns south when alternate!Bobby catches wind of what (or who) exactly killed Mary. “I liked the kid,” he starts up before taking a pause. “We fought together, but there’s only one way this ends.” Cas mistakes his words for a plea to help Jack. But alternate!Bobby corrects him: “An unstoppable monster who don’t know right from wrong gets put down.” This is Bobbyspeak for a blood bath. Despite how Cas does not agree with him, this exchange was a nice callback to the earlier seasons and how sadly there was once not a second thought spared.
Jack is just as naive as he is dangerous
Meanwhile, in a dimly lit underground rail station, Jack is remembering Mary in a different way. By having an unbroken loop of his final moments with her stuck in his head, so, too, is his subconscious mirroring as Lucifer. It is an interesting way to incorporate his ‘DNA’ into the picture as his soul has shed. As he tries to reason with himself over whether the Winchester brothers will forgive him, he brings up worthy information we will explore later on. As of now, it only adds to the fact of what the writers have been trying to achieve these past two seasons: we feel for him.
Just as we feel sorry for a certain Winchester brother who has taken to his Impala, driven out to the woods and let his emotions wash over him. This is what we call a minor victory, folks! Although it does not get any easier to see Dean torn up, I for one am glad that he is expressing his feelings in a somewhat healthy manner. I also want to take a sidebar here to talk about the cinematography of this scene. What Supernatural has done so well this season is make a shot look beautiful and the dark sky hidden in the trees barely lighting the front of the Impala, as the camera tips for it to take over the frame before it focuses entirely on Dean. And this scene was no exception.
Up in Heaven, Duma’s definitely up to no good, as she has taken it upon herself to appoint herself as head of the new power structure, now that not only archangels have been wiped off the board but angels are dwindling in numbers. As Cas informs her that Jack had burned through his soul to save him among others, she finds a poetic realization: he lost his capacity for good through an act of goodness. This is something she very much plans to use for her own advantage later on.
Back in the bunker, Sam makes peace with Mary’s death by understanding that he is fortunate enough to know where mothers end up (or least his). God is real and Heaven is real, and Mary Winchester is at peace there. Sure, this scene has great one-liners, thanks to Dean: “God writes paperback books in his underwear.” But it also highlights the struggle Sam has had with his unwavering faith throughout the years. With the amount of heartache they have been through, it would be hard to question why exactly they lost it along the way. But here is Sam, still clinging to it.
Taking souls, making angels, the family business
We’re back at the rail station, except this time Jack is not alone. As Duma starts spurting out everything that he wants to hear, we quickly catch onto the fact that she has her own ulterior motives. With the angel in tow, she walks into a university staff member’s office — an author of books that claim that Heaven and God aren’t real. In front of the nonbeliever, Jack declares that while he has not seen God, he is his grandfather which makes for a comical interaction. (As always, Alex pulls off Jack’s innocence and forthrightness with ease.)
There is something in the nuance of being childlike, wonderlike even, and making us not feel unsettled in spite of how much power Jack has. A power he has in spades, Jack reminds us, as he flings a telephone off the desk before turning the opposing man into a pillar of salt — all with his characteristic head tilt.
Back at the bunker, Cas informs the Winchester brothers that the angels have promised they will find Jack. (If only he knew what means Duma has gone to after locating him.) While his decisions could have been better thought out this episode, Dean does make sense when it comes to trusting the angels: point black, it’s not going to happen. Sam, ever the researcher, then tells them about the weird case of the professor was turned into a pillar of salt, as well as the faith healer that died by falling into a crevice which had opened up. The dots are connected: Numbers 26:10 is referenced, and all roads lead to Jack.
Now we see Jack currently make his way down the white hallway of Heaven, still none the wiser to Duma’s plans which are being laid out perfectly. The next stage of her plans is to take human souls and forge them into angels. Jack sits on the throne and casts himself to a nearby church where he plans to turn a susceptible group of believers. What is heartbreaking about this scene is that Jack wholly believes he is doing the right thing; it’s what he believes Sam and Dean would want him to do — make others’ dreams into a reality.
Though he inhabits an adult’s body, it’s easy to forget that Jack’s mind is still that of a child. He barely grasps concepts outside of what he has been taught. Add the fact that he is soulless, and this recipe of Jack does not allow a gray area: there is either black or white.
As the lightning sparks against the stained glass windows, Jack’s wings become a silhouette.
It is safe to say that by this point, the church is filled with wonder. Pastor Aimes enters and is greeted by Jack. “I was just taking your friends to become angels… Would you like to join them?” Obviously, the pastor refuses, unable to believe in the possibility. Telling Jack to leave, Pastor Aimes is flung to the floor. Worms, plenty of them, tear out of his face. Then the flutter of wings can be heard as Jack carries the flock with him back to Heaven.
Maybe because the scene has now been wormified or maybe because we are now very much aware how far gone Jack is, it is here where we become terrified of him.
The Impala drives down the highway, and we are transported to a hospital. Robert Singer walks across the screen dressed in full doctor attire. Yes, you read that right — the Robert Singer. In a moment of meta, Dean gives him a sideways glance, and we are back to the case. Visiting Pastor Aimes, the boys soon realize two things: 1) They were right about the biblical references, and 2) Jack is much more dangerous than the research first implied.
Step one: Coax Jack into the box
“Say I agree [with your plan],” Sam muses. “[Jack] can’t be killed.” “No, but he can be contained,” Dean explains.
Without a soul, Jack is running without a moral compass. Dean explains what he needs in order to successfully get Jack into the Ma’lak box on his own free will. He needs Sam on board, because, as Dean puts it, “you’ve always been in his corner.”
We can see the wheels in Sam’s head turning, caught between his own moral compass and the need to protect himself and those he loves. But Dean is Dean, and he’s always done best by him.
It is not the most well thought out or flawlessly executed plan — although one can question if any of their plans have ever been well thought out or flawlessly executed — but it is important to note Dean’s current head state of mind here. He just lost his mom, without warning, for the second time. The reason behind her death is attached to Jack, who became an atomic bomb after being irritated and frightened. More importantly, though, is that Mary was a second mom to Jack, just as Sam, Dean, and Cas are his dads. Who’s to say that what happened to Mary could have easily happened to them?
Cas, however, is not having the best of luck, as Heaven’s gates are now closed for him. He is able to get into Heaven using the angel Eremiel as a shield, and he happens upon Jack forging angels. “Cas, look! I’m making angels!” He tells Duma that he plans to take Jack back with him to the bunker. But Duma reminds Cas that “Ma and Pa Wincehster” are in their own private blissful Heaven, and one snap of her fingers can end all of that. With no other options before him, and in an event that has been transpiring since the beginning of this season (and boy, I am happy that it has finally happened), Cas kills Duma.
While neither brother is sure if prayer will work, Sam prays to Jack to come to the bunker, and it ends up working after all. From the get-go, the angst in the atmosphere could be cut with a knife. Sam and Dean do absolutely everything that they can to remain poised, but it is in the simple movements that we see the brothers are not handling this confrontation well: Dean’s nose flair when Jack calls Mary’s death “an accident,” Sam turning his head — not to hide his own feelings from Jack — but to make sure that his brothers are in check, and the rolling of his tongue when Dean has to make himself do that. As a fly on the wall, we feel the same sentiment.
Dean flicks on the light switch for the cell, and it is as if the world pauses: every step of Jack’s is slow, in contrast to Dean’s quick dialogue as he tries to convince Jack to climb into the Ma’lak box. With a little forced coaxing and false assurances from Sam, Jack lies down in the box. Sam feels every nerve electrified with discomfort as Dean locks it.
Step two: Pray that he does not get out
“Sam? Dean?!” Jack calls out, the torch from his phone casting blue light across his face. Sam is in pain, and Dean is mad. Both of the boys sit in the kitchen drinking scotch (courtesy of Ketch), pondering if this is their life now. Dean, in a foreshadowing to the earlier minutes of this episode, reminds Sam that it would always end up like this. He does not take too well to it.
Meanwhile, we see Jack’s subconscious awakened to life to tell him the sad reality that he has been tricked by the two he trusted the most. Jack realizes that the Winchesters have no intentions to unlock the Ma’lak box, and the emotions that run across his face make it unbearable for us to watch.
In walks Cas, who tells the brothers of the news that Duma has been manipulating Jack this entire time. He does not know that Jack is locked away, and when he learns of this, his anger flares up. Jack’s subconscious keeps talking and, with every word, his trust in the brothers still remains… until it does not anymore.
His eyes light up, the fiery orange taking over, and the box begins to shake.
While Dean and Cas fight in the kitchen, Cas points fingers, telling him that he is doing the same thing Duma did: manipulating Jack. Jack’s eyes light up for the second time. “You just want to forget about him.” Dean interrupts Cas, “— I wish that I could forget about him after what he did.” In spite of how Dean sees Jack now, he still cares.
With everything that Jack has, the box rattles and shakes, the welded symbols lighting up, Lucifer’s mechanical laughter heard above it all until the bunker flashes its red warning. Team Free Will run frantically to the cell, and out of the purple smoke are those two eyes. It is Jack, and he has escaped.
Condolences to your stomach. That was this week’s episode of Supernatural. In what will be a big episode next week, and our supposedly last cliffhanger before Supernatural’s fifteenth and final season begins, we cannot wait to (re)strap ourselves in.
“Moriah” will air on The CW on Thursday April 25 at 8 p.m. EST.