The Official Supernatural: “Absence” (14.18) Live Recap Thread


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We start with a recap of Jack’s Boring-Ass Super-Baby plot (including a bit about Jack declaring himself a Winchester), and of Nick trying to call Lucifer back from the Empty, and then what happened at the end of last week.

We then cut to the Brothers entering the Bunker, calling for Mary and Jack. I am so very sick and tired of the old “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” nonsense this show likes to pull, where they build up a tense cliffhanger and then cut away to something that completely drains off that tension.

Anyhoo, the Brothers are pretty okay with Mary and Jack’s absence (see what I did there?) – perhaps more than they should be, considering the way Jack zipped in and out after healing Sam – and counting their lucky stars over being grateful to Jack. At least, until Dean calls Mary and her phone buzzes next to her backpack at the end of the table, which they somehow managed not to notice until now. (Also, where the hell is Donatello? You know, the guy they spent last week rescuing?)

So, they call Jack.

Cut to Captain Dumbass himself, hearing his phone ring, and discovering (this is how many times now?) that great pride goeth before a very great fall.

Cue title cards.

Sam is calling around, trying to find Mary and Jack. He just got off the phone with Rowena (who says she has a finding spell in action) and had previously talked to Bobby, Charlie and Donna. Dean just got off the phone with Jody. Nobody has heard a thing.

Dean gets a call from Castiel, who is horrified to hear that Jack is out alone with Mary. Castiel tells Dean about Jack killing the snake and Dean hangs up on him. Dean tells Sam about the snake, but downplays it as not a big deal. His hanging up on Castiel says otherwise.

Sam decides to track Jack’s phone. They find out that Jack is flying all over the world to different places. Cut to Jack, who is back at the cabin where he fried Nick and did whatever to Mary (who still hasn’t shown up yet). After some flashbacks to remind us that Jack and Mary spent half of last season together in the alt-SPNverse, Jack is accosted by a familiar figure – Nickifer. Turns out he’s not real (or claims not to be). He’s just Jack’s Id. Or something.

I don’t know what kind of hard-on this show has going for Lucifer, but I wish they’d stop now.

Fauxifer lets the cat out of the bag – Jack has killed Mary. Jack claims it was an accident. Fauxifer says that’s wrong. Why isn’t Jack calling the Winchesters if he truly believes it’s something he can take back?

Jack yells at Fauxifer and makes him disappear. I’m sure that won’t last.

In the car, on their way to the cabin (which they’ve managed to pinpoint thanks to Jack’s phone), Sam dithers, trying to figure out what’s going on with Jack. Dean can’t take any more white noise and tells him to shut up.

They arrive at the cabin, late at night. Sam looks inside while Dean searches around outside. Sam finds a very dead Nick in the cabin (nice reaction shot from Jared Padalecki). Sam calls to Dean, who has found something potentially far worse – a whole part of the surrounding area that is nothing but gray ash. I’m guessing that ash is the mortal remains of one Mary Winchester.

Castiel in his car is having a flashback (these are in black-and-white) to hunting vampires with Mary. Mary miscounted the number of vampires and got beaten up (she has a black eye), but she took care of the third one. She’s eating while scratched up. When Castiel offers to heal her, she demurs. She admits to being still wary of angels and new to this resurrection thing.

Castiel tells her that Sam and Dean are happy to have her back, that finally, they’re no longer alone. Mary smiles when she looks at him, saying “They were never alone.”

Castiel enters the cabin while Dean is showing no regrets over Nick’s death and Sam is waffling. Sam mentions the ashy “blast site” to Castiel, saying it was angelic.

Dean gets upset at Castiel and says that if Mary is dead, “you’re dead to me.”

Castiel tries to explain, with tears, that he was worried about Jack, but didn’t want to screw up their family. He says he doesn’t think Jack is evil, but that he now has an “absence of good.”

Dean just gets mad all over again. It doesn’t help when Rowena calls. She says she can’t track Jack because his energy is “too unstable, like looking at the sun.” She also has really bad news: “Mary Winchester is no longer on this earth.”

Neither brother takes this well (for that matter, neither does Castiel). Sam looks broken, while Dean turns away, gripping a chair and then smashing it against a wall.

Dean then turns back and he’s cold. When Sam asks what will they do now? Dean says, “What we always do when we lose someone – we fight.” He points out that Rowena has the Book of the Damned and has resurrected herself. Maybe they can resurrect Mary again.

Castiel says they don’t even know where she is, so Dean snaps at him, “Then go to Heaven and find her!”

Meanwhile, Rowena is getting an unexpected visitor – Jack. She tells him that Sam and Dean are looking for him (he’s been ducking their calls).

Jack says he needs magic and admits he killed Mary. He says he just wanted her gone, just for a second, but that’s all it took. He wants Rowena to help him “undo it.”

Rowena admits that her usual way of resurrecting herself requires being put in place beforehand. Jack mentions the Book of the Damned. Rowena allows that there is a spell. Agnes, the witch who created the book, did so in captivity. She brought back her friends (who starved to death with her) via a spell called the Magicae Necromantiorum.

When Jack asks her about the ingredients, she says they’re “simple” and can be found in the Bunker, but the spell itself requires “great power.” Then Dean starts banging on the door, calling for Rowena (why would he be that dumb? Come on) and Jack realizes Rowena was “stalling” him.

Rowena tries to reason with him, telling him “they’re your kin.” But Jack is committed to going Full-On Stupid. He grabs her and flies off just as the Brothers bust in.

Castiel, meanwhile (or later on, because it’s daylight and Rowena got kidnapped at night), is at the playground that is the stairway to Heaven. He calls out to any angels who might be guarding it, but no one answers. He tries angel speak and calls Naomi’s name. No response.

Jack has arrived back at the Bunker with a captive Rowena in tow. He walks past a spot with knife marks. He has a flashback to Mary teaching him to throw knives (while Dean was gone and possessed by Michael). The flashback continues after Jack leaves as Mary and Sam (who just came in and still has the hiatus beard) have a heart-to-heart. Mary apologizes to Sam for being a lousy parent and says he’s been an “amazing” son.

We cut back to Sam. It turns out the latter half of the flashback was his. He’s still in Rowena’s office. Dean is pacing around, trying to figure things out.

Dean is still angry with Castiel. Sam, for once, admits that he has as much responsibility as Castiel, if not more. He says that Dean had warned everyone last season that Jack was dangerous and was ignored (nay, ridiculed, even, y’all). Sam says he made the call to bring Jack back from Heaven. And after Maggie and the other alt-Hunters died, Sam bailed on everyone. Sam knew Jack was dangerous, but he had also become family, so Sam ignored it.

Dean sits down and tries to comfort Sam by admitting Donatello tried to warn him, saying Jack was so powerful that it was impossible to tell if he was really okay. But he ignored it.

At the Bunker, Jack is impatient (also looking strung out), but Rowena tells him the spell takes time. She points out that she could have “fought” him before, even if she probably would have lost, but she wants the same thing he and the Brothers want – to bring Mary back.

Fauxifer shows up (Rowena looks around, but can’t see him) and badgers Jack about how he doesn’t really feel guilt or other emotions, anymore. Jack gets angry and Fauxifer disappears again. Rowena says she’s done. They now need only one thing – Mary’s body. Jack looks a little horrified. Yes, Jack, where is Mary’s body?

At the playground, Castiel refuses to leave until Naomi shows up. An angel then does appear, but it’s not Naomi. It’s Duma. You know … Duma. The angel who wanted to use Jack to create more angels. Duma. The angel who was possessed by the Empty Entity. So, it’s kind of interesting that she’s an even bigger bitch than ever.

Duma claims that Castiel’s mission (bringing Mary back) is pointless. Mary is “at peace.” She died “painlessly” and “instantly” and all that jazz. She calls Mary “complete.”

At the scene of the crime, Rowena is still trying to get Jack to tell her where Mary’s body is. Yeah, it’s that charred spot Dean found. Yuck.

Jack says he’ll do the spell himself. Rowena says magic spells don’t really work that well without concentration, which Jack doesn’t have. She says that whatever he brings back, it won’t be Mary.

Jack slams her back into her office – literally. As she calls the Brothers and warns them about the ugly side effects of necromancy-gone-wrong (as if they need that lesson), Jack does the spell himself. A big, pink, glowing, donut-shaped cloud appears overhead. Wind starts to blow, just as the Brothers show up in the car. The Impala’s engine abruptly dies.

The Brothers get out and run toward the site. They arrive just as the pink cloud disappears. Jack is looking down at something, then turns back to them. He says, “It didn’t work” and then flies away.

Mary (or a body that looks like her) is lying on the ground, but she’s dead. Dean runs to her and picks her up. Sam crouches down besides him and cries.

We get one more flashback to Dean and Mary in the car (from last episode?). It’s the shortest one of all. Mary is asleep on his shoulder and Dean smiles.

Then we cut back to the present and reality, which is the show fridging Mary Winchester, Family Matriarch, all over again. Classy, Show. Classy.

Cut to Jack in some random warehouse, being “commiserated” with by Fauxifer. Fauxifer tells him that Castiel, Sam and Dean will never trust him again and now he can’t trust them, either.

In the Bunker, Sam is looking at photos of Mary. Castiel comes in. He says that Mary is in Heaven and “at peace.” He mentions that he spoke to Duma, not Naomi. Duma did eventually let him in and he saw Mary’s heaven. She’s with John. Castiel tries to sugar-coat it, but it’s basically just their parents abandoning the Brothers all over again.

Sam says he talked to Rowena and that Jack only brought back “an empty shell,” a “replica.” Sam wonders what they will do now.

Dean, who has come in, says, “What we always do.” And that turns out to be a Hunter’s funeral. We get a montage of Mary in life as Sam puts one of her photos on the fire. Castiel tries to go to Dean, who is just standing off to one side, staring at the flames, face hard and deadly cold, but Sam holds him back.

There’s a final shot of the initials Sam and Dean carved into the table, with Mary’s now also carved in (they weren’t near the beginning of the episode).

Credits

Ratings for this week went up a bit to a 0.4 and 1.47 million. I guess people were more interested in Mary in death than life.

The promo, etc. for next week is up here.

FYI, the entire season up to this point is now available on Amazon, as well as a season pass. If you’ve been buying episodes as you go along, it appears that the season pass is free.

Review

What the hell was that?

I keep reminding myself that this part of the season, even in my favorite seasons, was usually pretty damned bad. If it wasn’t, it was because the season had “ended” prematurely with a satisfying conclusion and then gone on too long to a cliffhanger for the next season. But damn, it’s been tough to remember that this season. So many wasted opportunities. So many poor writing decisions. So much crap.

And now they’ve fridged Mary. Again. Once again, a female character was killed off in support of a (much younger) male character and his storyline. Which wasn’t any damned good in the first place.

Fandom’s response was rather strange. There was a lot of talk from the usual quarters about what a wonderful goodbye and tribute it was (it wasn’t). There were fans who didn’t like Mary, anyway, and had no problems articulating their indifference to her fate. Then there were the Jack (and even Lucifer) stans who tried to justify what Jack did by saying Mary caused her own murder (by badgering Jack). Blame the Victim is totally a thing in some parts of our culture, especially if the victim is a woman, older and not following a path of traditional femininity.

So, fandom misogyny (much of it internalized) was definitely a thing when it came to opinions on Mary. But that was influenced by the misogyny (some of it internalized) in how she was written. So, let’s look at that, first.

Mary was brought back at the very end of Jeremy Carver’s tenure as showrunner. A fair bit of ink has been spilled speculating how much of the end of season 11 Carver was still involved in. Considering how well it hung together (in retrospect) and how Mary was treated in subsequent seasons, I’m gonna go with “quite a bit.”

Dabb&Co. never seemed to know what to do with Mary. They acted as if she were the character equivalent of anthrax. Hell, they acted as if she were the equivalent of Bela Talbot and we all know how that turned out (by the way, Whiskey Cavalier has its own issues, but it’s a pretty decent show).

Thing is, Bela was just an annoying antagonist/love interest for one season. Mary is a core character of Supernatural. She’s the first one we ever saw on the show and if we do get a Butch-and-Sundance ending with the Brothers in Heaven, she could well be in the last shot, too. So, intentionally screwing her up is a whole lot more problematical. Makes me wonder if this stellar writing decision was the straw that broke the “Fuck, let’s just make next season the last” dromedary’s back. The timing would be about right.

I suppose one could argue that Carver dumped her return in the remaining writers’ laps and left them to figure it out. That would, however, ignore the part where Dabb, Buckner, Ross-Leming and a few others had been around for most, even all, of the Carver years and surely were on board when this idea was originally floated. So, let’s not cry too hard for them, Supernatural fandom.

The sad thing is that Mary was never really allowed to outgrow her roles as wife and mother (in that order), even though doing that retconned her background from season four’s “In the Beginning.” As many were the problems that prematurely sank Grimm, those writers did at least introduce the title character’s Grimm mom as a true badass who, underneath her cold exterior, cared about her son very much. Even if they, too, didn’t know what to do with her and fridged her later (told you that show had problems).

Supernatural kept Telling us that Mary was a great Hunter, but most of the time, it Showed her as a Damsel in Distress, or a supporting Mom character, or somebody’s girlfriend. Samantha Smith may be getting a bit old for Katniss-style heroics, but that didn’t mean they had to make Mary look weak, either.

Imagine if, instead of getting dragged all over charred hill and yon by Lucifer in early season 13, Mary had bailed on him early, and hooked up with alt-Bobby and the Resistance. Imagine if, instead of basically falling into John’s arms when they were reunited in “Lebanon,” she had given him a brief, fierce kiss, then the bitchslap of all bitchslaps, followed by a hotly worded speech along the lines of “What the hell did you do to my boys? You forced Dean to replace me as Sam’s mom! I’ve been dealing with your parental fallout for two years! I died for three decades! What was your damned excuse?!”

Now don’t tell me that the parts of fandom that were pissed off at her for not standing up for Sam and Dean, for abandoning them all the time (especially Dean) after she got back, wouldn’t have forgiven her a whole lot for such a speech. Sure, the John stans wouldn’t have been happy, but when half the fandom thinks your Lead Characters’ Mom character is worse than their abusive Dad character, you gotta do something to right that morality ship. I mean, come on.

This is where we get into the misogyny from fandom. Fandom has often been extra-hard on female characters. Yeah, some of that was down to crappy writing, but some fans are also just plain willing to give equivalent male characters a whole lot more rope. John is a complete son of a bitch to his sons, even when he’s trying to half-ass apologize to them in “Lebanon,” but he’s just misunderstood. Mary can’t cook worth a damn and she’s the WORST MOM EVER. Crowley is a vicious misogynist and unapologetic opportunist who tortures and kills for fun or boredom, and he’s just a little boy lost. Rowena tries fruitlessly to bring back her son, after regretting screwing him up, by trying to kill Death (which is pretty badass) and she’s a NARCISSISTIC EVOL HOEBAG.

This is, of course, not to say that when a female character is hated (coughLadyBevellcoughcoughIhadtolookuphernamebecauseIgotsousedtocallingher”TheTwat”coughcoughcough), it’s always because the fans are internalizing misogyny. Some female characters are just plain poorly written. Some are even intended to be hateful. Ruby, bless her demonic heart, was both.

But Mary is one that exists at an intersection between bad writing and bad expectations. There are male characters who have been written just as poorly (or worse) as Mary, but have been forgiven and become beloved, either/both by the writers or by the fandom.

Speaking of, there’s Jack. Woof, talk about bad writing. Poor Alex Calvert has done a lot to make Jack palatable, even relatable and likable, over the past two seasons, but the character has a lot of problems. Most of them stem from Jack’s ongoing role as a Cousin Oliver/Scrappy-Doo, Super Baby Variant. What that boils down to is that Jack is a walking Gary Stu.

Think about it: Jack is almost immediately accepted by the lead characters. They even treat him as their son. In fact, their own mother treats him more like a son than her own kids. He has special, sparkly powers that make him more powerful than any of the other characters in the story and give him a special, sparkly destiny. He has a special, sparkly birth and ancestry (and a special, sparkly connection to the show’s #1 Supervillain). He has a Savior Complex. He is (or at least feels) frequently misunderstood.

Conclusion: He’s a Gary Stu.

This makes it doubly, even triply, unlikely that he can come back from this, since it knocks him right off his Gary Stu pedestal. Murdering Mary is quite bad enough. And it was murder, not an accident like the guy who got knocked into a pole last season (in “Tombstone”). Jack is quite capable of not using lethal force, yet chose to use it. However brief the impulse, however much he regrets it now, he intended to kill in that moment, therefore it’s murder.

I suppose it’s possible Dean might eventually forgive Jack murdering Dean’s mother (these writers would probably have Sam waffle), but it would require better writing than we currently have, at least on the mytharc level. And it would probably take longer than the show has left. And it leaves aside the part where no one in TFW (not even Crowley, who sure tried hard) has ever actually killed his or her mother, yet Jack has now done it twice – first with his birth mother and now with his surrogate mother who was in the alt-SPNverse with him for months last season. It’s a TFW point of no return.

Now if Jack had stuck around and accepted the consequences of his reckless actions, maaaayyyyybe it would have been different. But he didn’t. He ran. And how he’s letting his darker side dictate his choices and talk him into believing he wasn’t the one to blame.

The show argues that Jack gets whiny and flails about and pins the blame on others because he’s lost (most of?) his soul and can’t feel emotions. But Donatello isn’t like that. And there were episodes of exposition about how Jack had to live in a balance between his soul and his grace, that if he lost one or the other, he would die. So, if he’s lost his soul (or even most of it) shouldn’t he just drop dead? That balance is gone.

Let’s not get into how the writers forgot that once Jack “ate” Michael’s grace, he no longer needed to drain his soul to fuel his powers. Yet, they had characters continue to worry that Jack was still draining his soul.

Further, Jack clearly does feel emotions throughout the episode. He’s shocked, horrified, depressed, angry and ashamed – otherwise, he wouldn’t have bothered to run (well, fly) from Sam and Dean. Also, since he has angelic grace (and angels definitely feel emotions), his angelic side ought to at least be feeling emotion. He’s not only human. He’s half-human and half-angel (AKA sparkly Gary Stu powers). The show wants to have it both ways with him, which, again, is a sign that he’s not only a Gary Stu, but a Creator’s Pet.

It doesn’t help that this is a repetitious storyline (pillaged with almost no filing off of serial numbers from the Dark Willow storyline in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that shows Jack as a slow learner and someone who will pretty much always go with his pride in his powers even over love and concern for others.

Jack has already accidentally killed someone while using his powers. He regretted it. He lost his powers due to being stupid. He regretted it. He got some semblance of his powers back for use as life support. He abused it and ignored every warning not to do so. This past episode, right before he murdered Mary, he murdered Nick. It doesn’t matter that Nick really deserved it. What matters is how much Jack enjoyed it.

One might argue that Dean and Sam have killed a lot of people, some of them human, and often thoroughly enjoyed it. But they’re fundamentally different from Jack in a couple of ways. For a start, they have learned from those experiences to have different limits.

For example, in last week’s episode, Sam nearly strangled Nick to death. It seemed Plot Stupid for Sam to stop when he did, “allowing” Nick to smack him over the head with a rock. But on top of strangling being a deeply personal and vicious way to kill someone, it has especially ugly and troubling undertones for Sam. This is the way Sam nearly killed Dean near the end of season four, before going off with Ruby. The show never directly referenced it (say, by replacing Nick’s face for a second with Dean’s), but whether or not the writers intended it, that is part of show history and the subtext is there.

Sam learned that that was a hard limit, that he crossed it, that it damaged his relationship with his brother for a very long time, and that he doesn’t want to do it again, to anybody. Not really. Not even if it gets him smacked upside the head with a rock.

The other thing is that they don’t have Jack’s powers. Right now, Jack is like Anthony in the short story-turned-Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” He can do almost anything (well … except for bringing Mary back to life; or reconciling with her sons) to almost anybody and he is addicted to it. He has a White Knight attitude a light year wide, but the reality is that he uses his powers because they feel good. He wants his powers to be good because that’s an excuse to use them.

Much has been said about his lack of impulse control due to being, in age, still a toddler. But that isn’t actually an argument in his favor. The world shouldn’t have to wait until he grows up and gains some wisdom if that radically increases the chances that the world won’t still be there once he does.

Really, I think the only way Jack can stick around past the end of the season (or next season’s premiere, if they do a cliffhanger involving him) is if he’s rendered powerless again. And even then, that would be … another repetitive storyline. One could still argue (especially after Fauxifer showed up) that Lucifer is possessing him. The possibility that this is all some Michael plot (Michael hated Mary whenever he bothered to think about her and it would be another way to break Dean) also remains strong. But I don’t think that would help Jack, since Jack is still making decisions as himself, just really crappy and unsympathetic ones.

As you may have noticed, Sam, Dean and Castiel got short shrift in this episode, despite it being Sam and Dean’s mother whose death created “absence” in their lives. Dean is furious with Castiel and some Destiel fans are up in arms about it. I say, hey, at least Dean isn’t trying to get Death to reap him this time. So, they’re better off than that. There’s a bit of Xena-hating-Gabrielle-after-Gabrielle’s-daughter-murdered-Xena’s-son from Xena: Warrior Princess in this conflict, though the serial numbers are better-filed-off. Castiel feels bad. Dean doesn’t want to hear it. Sam, for once, is playing referee.

But I think they’ll eventually reconcile.

Finally, I found Duma’s appearance to Castiel … unnerving. When last we saw Duma, she had just been possessed by the Empty Entity. She’s always been a bit cold and dodgy, but that was on overdrive this week. Her language in reference to Mary (“Mary Winchester is complete”) reminded me of the Empty Entity. And I was suspicious that Naomi never showed up. Makes me wonder if the EE never actually left Heaven.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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