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Supernatural - Byzantium - Review

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Supernatural “Byzantium” was written by Meredith Glynn and was directed by Eduardo Sanchez. The episode sees the return of Lily Sunder, this time played by Veronica Cartwright (Alien). Like the last time we saw Lily, this episode features more troubles with angels. Amanda Tapping makes an appearance in front of the cameral as Naomi, and it’s always great to have her back. The Nothing also makes another appearance, and we see Castiel (Misha Collins) take on the mantel of stupidness as he makes a stupid deal in the tradition of the Winchester brothers.

While the storyarc points were particularly stupid in this episode, there were nonetheless some really strong performances. Dean (Jensen Ackles), Sam (Jared Padalecki), and Castiel watch over Jack (Alexander Calvert) as he dies. Jack tries to make them feel better – “don’t be sad.” As usual, Dean refuses to accept “meant to be” and storms out of the room. Jack asks Sam what happens next, but he can’t answer for a Nephilim. Jack tells Sam it will be an adventure. Both Padalecki and Calvert are terrific here.

Meanwhile, in the hallway, Castiel tries to get Dean to go back in to Jack. He knows as well as Dean that it isn’t fair – no one ever said that life was. But Dean waits just a little too long, and Jack is gone by the time he comes back in. Cas is the first to think about next steps. Dean is determined that Jack have a hunter’s funeral. When Sam walks off, Dean prevents Cas from following, telling him to give Sam some space to deal with his grief… unfortunately, Sam actually leaves the bunker, and Dean fears the worst.

We get a touching phone call from Dean to Mary (Samantha Smith), who doesn’t pick up. Dean leaves her a voicemail that Jack got sick and has died. As we listen, we see Cas moving about Jack’s room as each of the fathers deals with the death in their own way. It’s a little reminiscent of the phone call Sam made to John in “Faith.” And it’s typical Dean to reach out to his mother for comfort.

Dean and Cas go after Sam who’s taken the Impala. Dean is angry with Cas for letting Sam go, and the two find him sitting beside the car, grieving. Dean immediately wants to know if Sam has made a deal – but he hasn’t. He was trying to make the pyre, but the ax broke. Sam feels like he should have tried harder to save Jack. Cas tells them it doesn’t feel right – it’s not how he imagined Jack’s life ending. He feels that Jack was taken unnaturally, before his time – before Cas himself, and that’s the age-old dilemma of a parent who loses a child.

Dean takes control. They’ll say good-bye tomorrow. Tonight they’ll get loaded. The three sit around the kitchen table and reminisce about Jack – or so we imagine as all we hear is the music of “Please Call Home” by the Allman Brothers. And it’s a scene anyone who’s lost someone can relate to. Dean is the last man standing as Sam turns in first.

It turns out that Jack ends up in Heaven – and his heaven is hunting with his three fathers, but something is wrong as the scene flickers. Jack goes to investigate and finds himself in a creepy Heaven hallway – that is completely reminiscent of that creepy hotel hallway in The Shining. Instead of a wave of blood, however, Jack end up running away from a wave of black goo.

The next day, Dean wake up to find Lily with Sam and Cas. He points out that “she got old” which she explains as a side effect of giving up magic. Sam called her to help. Dean reminds them that Lily tried to kill Cas – but he’s ok with it if it means getting Jack back. Sam’s idea is that maybe Lily can read Kevin’s angel tablet translations – but she can’t. But Lily tells them that they can use her magic. Her magic draws power from the soul, so they could save Jack by using just a tiny bit of his soul. Dean is against it, and Sam wants more information. Lily tells them that if Jack is only trying to maintain his body – not extend his life as she did – the cost will be very little. Dean points out that Jack’s already gone. Cas suggests that if Jack is in Heaven, he can pull him back for a moment, and Lily tells them it’s long enough for Jack to perform the magic. Dean knows that she’s not doing it from the goodness of her heart. Lily knows she is old and sick – and she’s heading to Hell when she dies. She wants them to get her into Heaven to be with her daughter.

Dean, Sam, and Cas discuss Lily’s terms. Cas informs them that Billie/Death doesn’t decide who goes to Heaven – it’s a bit like Santa Claus, right? So rather a perfect holiday episode! Cas tells them that Anubis (Sean Amsing) decides – when you die, according to the ancient Egyptians, he weighs your heart on a scale against justice’s feather. Sam points out that the weighing the heart ceremony is Osiris – not Anubis – and they’ve met him – Dean calls him a “major dick” – mainly because Dean didn’t pass! See season seven’s “Defending Your Life.” Cas explains that Osiris is Anubis’ father and Heaven passed over him to his son, when they enlisted Anubis’ help when God left the judge position vacant. Lily is impressed by the very nonchalant way they say they can summon a god!

I loved that Jack finds his way into Kelly’s (Courtney Ford – and Young Kelly (Carmela Nossa Guizzo). Jack explains why she’s with her childhood dog – and she remembers dying when Jack was born. She’s horrified when she realizes why Jack is there – and she’s angry at first with Cas for not looking after Jack the way her promised, but Jack absolves him.

Dean and Sam argue over whether or not to do the spell. Dean is against “rolling the dice on the word of a pycho-ex-angel-killer!” Sam points out that crappy deals to save each other is what they do, and Dean points out that they never seem to end well (except from the standpoint that they are both still alive, of course!) Dean isn’t against the deal per se, but he doesn’t trust Lily. Cas has another problem – angel radio is sending out a distress signal. All of heaven’s gates are open – and it’s not good. They tell Cas to go and that they’ll pray when they are ready.

As they prepare to summon Anubis, Dean tries to find out why Lily has stopped using her magic. She tells him that she was willing to burn her entire soul to get revenge, but she didn’t have to – she still has a sliver. Dean actually understands her desire to spend eternity with her daughter.

Cas arrives in heaven to find puddles of black goo everywhere and Duma (Erica Cerra) unconscious. She doesn’t remember what happened other than everything going black when it touched her. Cas takes her with him to find Jack. They find Jack’s heaven empty, and are joined there by Naomi who suggests that Jack’s angel side likely knew he was in heaven and left. She also tells them that the Shadow who rules the Empty is what’s attacking heaven. She points out that Cas is the only one of them to ever escape. The Shadow wants Jack, claiming Jack belongs to him because of his angel-side. If they don’t give up Jack, the Shadow will take all the human souls in heaven.

Naomi asks Cas to help her – by giving up Jack. But the Shadow seems to be possessing her, and as it swallows her she tells him to run.

At the Bunker, the three complete the spell to summon Anubis, who immediately recognize Sam and Dean as their files have come across his desk many times! They point out that even though they’ve died – a lot! – they’ve never met him. He points out that he’s more a “back of house” guy – he doesn’t get the face time of Death – he just does the paperwork.  Lily tells him that she’s the one who called him because she needs to know where she’s going when she dies. As it turns out, Anubis has an abacus – and the majority of the tokens turn black – Lily’s going to Hell.

I loved Anubis calling it a “miscalculation” when he tells them to let him go and they inform him that he’s trapped in palm oil. He also tells them that he doesn’t have the power to change the outcome of the abacus – and the abacus itself was a pretty cool detail. Sam insists that Anubis or God must have made an exception at some point. But Anubis insists that he is only an accountant. Neither he nor God decides who goes where – everyone decides for themselves based upon their actions over their lifetime. It’s tallied at the exact moment of their death – which is the hint that she still has time to change it.

Lily is distraught and refuses to do the spell because she didn’t get her half of the deal. Sam appeals to her that Jack is their kid. Dean accuses her of no longer being human because of how much soul she burned through. How could anyone who was human let someone else go through what she went through – the pain of losing a kid. It’s interesting to see Sam angry, but Dean pleading for her to help.

Jack and Kelly have taken refuge in her house because Jack knows something is wrong. When they hear something outside, Jack tells her to run and he’ll delay it – Kelly is clearly proud of her son, but tells him she’s not going anywhere. In the end, of course, it’s Cas and Duma. It’s wonderful to see that rare smile on Cas’ face as he actually laughs as he hugs Jack. He’s also happy to see Kelly, though he apologizes for failing. Kelly assures him that he didn’t fail – Jack is wonderful!

Cas tells them that they’ve found a way to bring Jack home. Kelly isn’t sure about giving up part of his soul, but Cas tells them about the danger of the Shadow and the Empty. Cas points out if Jack is alive, the Shadow will leave Heaven. And then we discover that Duma is actually the Shadow. I wasn’t sure that I liked how Cerra was playing the Shadow, but she’s clearly insane – and twitchy from all that time spent alone – and it worked for me. Cas, of course, tries ineffectively to protect Jack and Kelly.

In the end, Lily agrees to do the spell – after taking one last glance at her own daughter. This scene is nicely intercut with the fight with the Shadow to raise the tension. Kelly jumps into the fray to help Cas as Dean starts to pray. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Cas “receive” a prayer – but here his eyes roll back in his eyes. Cas steps up again to protect Jack and buy time. Cas tells the Shadow – who has Jack by the throat – to take him instead. The Shadow points out that Cas is already his – he’s where angels go when they die remember. Cas points out it could be eons before he dies, so he’ll go now and go willingly. The Shadow takes the deal – but not now. The Shadow will take him when he is finally happy – and Cas accepts the stupid deal – and now we know how the season will end – or maybe the fall finale?

Jack – like me – is angry that Cas has made this stupid deal. Cas explains that he did it because he made a promise (to Kelly, to keep Jack safe) – but more importantly, he did it because he loves Jack. And then Cas tells him that Sam and Dean love him too – and they don’t need to know about the deal. OMG. UGH! Cas tells Jack that he’s at peace with what he’s done, and Jack promises not to tell them. Kelly doesn’t promise though – please tell me she gets them a message!! Jack is a little reluctant to leave Kelly, but she tells him she’ll be waiting for him.

Cas sends Jack back, and Sam has Jack read the spell before he can die again. Once again Jack’s eyes glow – he feels a bit of his soul leave, but otherwise he feels good. It remains to be seen just what losing that tiny sliver of his soul will do to him, however, as he’s only half human. The spell itself takes its toll on Lily, and when they turn to thank her, she’s dead.

Lily is in Anubis’ office. She doesn’t understand why she’s there – but her luck has changed, and Anubis knows it. This time when she puts her hand on the abacus the result is the complete opposite. Anubis asks her if she knew what doing the price would cost her – her life. She doesn’t answer, but she clearly did. It was a self-less act – and saved Heaven and its angels – not to mention the souls in Heaven.

Naomi is ready to reward Cas for his selfless act. She has Michael’s location. Back at the bunker, the three Dads and their son share a family meal. The scene acts as a set up for the fall finale. They just have to find Dark Kaia and her Michael-killing spear.

There were definitely parts of this episode that I enjoyed – strong performances and the introduction of Anubis. However, the fact that the writers once again resort to a secret deal that will lead to the death and on-going torture of one of the main characters? C’mon. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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