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Supernatural - Absence & Jack in the Box - Review

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My apologies for playing catch up here at the end of the season. This will be a quick re-cap/review of the two previous episodes which have frankly done a pretty sad job of setting us up for the finale of the season. I don’t think that I’m alone in being disappointed in how this season has limped along in the last few episodes. I’m even more disappointed because these should be setting us up for a spectacular final season. I don’t want to see this show limp to the end of its run – I’m hoping for a return to the truly great seasons we had early in the run, but is that possible without Eric Kripke? I’m not convinced it is…. But I digress, let’s take a look at the last two episodes.

“Absence” was written by Robert Berens and was directed by Nina Lopez-Corrado. It was a truly pathetic send off of Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith). Her death was completely anti-climactic, and for such a smart hunter, she went out in a truly stupid blaze – of non-glory.

Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) arrive back home to an absence of both Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Mary. They aren’t really worried until they call Mary and see that her phone is in the bunker. When they call Jack, he simply refuses to answer his phone. Cas (Misha Collins) finally calls and tells Dean about the snake. Sam tracks Jack via the GPS on his phone and they watch him flit all over the world.

I both liked and hated all the flashbacks of Mary. I’ve felt since they brought her back that they’d under used her and it feels like we got all the scenes we should have been having all along, jammed in here. I did like the sepia tone for the flashbacks. A particular highlight was the scene between Cas and Mary not long after she returned. Cas tells Mary that the boys are glad to have her back, and Mary tells Cas that they boys were never alone. The chemistry between Collins and Smith made me even more disappointed that we didn’t get more scenes between the two.

Having Nick/Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) suddenly turn up as Jack’s “conscience” was really just a bit heavy-handed for me. Pellegrino is still delightful as Lucifer, and he brings it every time, but did we really need this figment of Jack’s guilty conscience?

Sam tries to understand what’s going on with Jack, but Dean is simply focused on finding Mary. They make their way to the cabin where Jack killed Nick – and Mary. Sam finds Nick’s corpse – so he’s really, really dead. Dean finds a patch of scorched earth – and ash – all that’s left of Mary. Sam starts to worry, and even Dean starts to think the worst. When Cas shows up, Dean is ready to put all the blame on Cas for not telling them that something was wrong with Jack. Cas tells them that what Jack did to the snake wasn’t evil – it was the absence of good – another absence. Cas tells them that he didn’t want to hurt the family. Rowena (Ruth Connell) calls and delivers the grim news that Mary is no longer on this earth.

Dean is furious but determined to do what they always do when they lose one of their own. They fight. Rowena has the Book of the Damned, and Dean sends Cas to Heaven.

Jack shows up at Rowena’s asking for her help… because he killed Mary. He needs magic to bring her back. For someone without a soul, he is certainly full of anguish. Rowena tells Jack the magic she uses on herself has to be prepared in advance – but there may be an answer in the Book of the Damned – a way to break the ultimate curse. When Dean and Sam arrive, Jack flees with Rowena.

Meanwhile, Cas finds the door to Heaven unguarded and no answer from Naomi. Duma (Erica Cerra) finally answers – and knows he’s looking for Mary. Duma tells Cas that Mary is at peace – she died painlessly and instantly and completely. She’s in a perfect Heaven. Cas insists on checking – and finds her with John.

There’s another nice moment between Sam and Mary just before Sam tries to talk Dean off the ledge. Sam reminds Dean that they are also responsible for what happened to Jack – and ultimately, what happened to Mary. Dean also admits that he ignored Donatello’s warning. It’s another nice scene between the two.

At the bunker, Rowena tries to get through to Jack. She also notices him acting oddly while Jack is listening to his “conscience.” Again, for someone soulless he seems to have a lot of emotion. Rowena is ready to cast the spell to break the curse of death – but she still needs Mary’s body… and that’s a problem. Jack insists that he’ll cast the spell himself, but Rowena warns that whatever he brings back, it won’t be Mary. Jack then flings Rowena back to her flat. She calls Dean and Sam and tells them to stop Jack – necromancy is unpredictable and she’s worried he’ll bring back something terrible. For a moment, I thought maybe evil Mary was going to be the big bad going forward…

In the end, all Jack brings back is a shell. Jack tells them it didn’t work and then disappears. Dean is the first to go to the body and cradle her, leading to a nice transition to his memory of Mary sleeping on his shoulder in the Impala.

“Nick” convinces Jack that the Winchesters will never trust him again – and that means that he can never trust them.

I did like the scene of Sam going through the pictures – so many that are familiar to all long time viewers. Cas arrives and tells the brothers that Mary is happy in her Heaven with John – there’s now sorrow or guilt – just joy. Dean stands apart from Sam – who holds Cas back as they hold a hunter’s funeral for their mother and we get a montage of pictures and scenes. The final shot is of the brothers initials carved in the table at the bunker – now joined by MW.

“Jack in the Box” was written by the team of Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner and was directed by Robert Singer. The episode begins with a hunter’s wake for Mary. I did really like Dean delivering the eulogy. Padalecki does a terrific job in this scene as we see Sam struggling with his emotions. Dean is of course simply ignoring his. The eulogy is interrupted by a gratuitous hatchet to the head from Bobby (Jim Beaver). And suddenly, the burgeoning relationship between Bobby and Mary is completely ignored.

Sam needs the company of friends to work through his grief and shares a beer with Bobby and Cas. Bobby wants to know about the “kid.” There’s only one way it ends. Cas agrees, but he wants to find him and help him. Bobby insists that if Jack’s human side is gone, what’s left is Lucifer. Bobby points out that an unstoppable monster that doesn’t know right from wrong gets put down. Bobby goes off to gather some of his own people to take care of him.

Jack is still tormented by what he did – again, way too tormented for someone without a soul. Lucifer/Nick continues to torment Jack and convince him that the Winchesters don’t want any more to do with him.

Dean has told the others he’s going out for a drink, but Ackles delivers an amazing performance as Dean gives in to his grief alone in the woods.

Cas pays another visit to Heaven. Duma tells Cas that Naomi is being held in a cell because of letting the Nothing almost destroy Heaven. Duma is in charge, and Cas asks for her help with Jack. He tells her that he’s burned through his soul, losing his capacity for good through an act of goodness. She seems to really appreciate the irony.

Dean returns, and Sam tries to help Dean come to terms with what’s happened. Most people have to rely on faith, but they know God and angels are real. Dean points out that God write paperbacks in his underwear and angels are dicks. Sam says that they know that Mary is in a great place, but Dean focuses on the fact that she’s dead.

Duma visits Jack and tells him that he has a glorious destiny. What happened with Mary was a mistake. Duma assures Jack that he can make the world a better place – and that will make Sam and Dean happy. Jack goes to see Dr Tate (Giles Panton) – someone who doesn’t believe in Heaven and who writes books on the “fake” Bible. Jack turns him into a pillar of salt when he won’t recant.

Cas tells Dean and Sam that Heaven is going to help, and Dean is immediately skeptical. Sam finds the story of Tate online – and then a story of a woman in Texas. Cas immediately recognizes the Biblical significance and the three easily determine that Jack has to be behind it.

Meanwhile, Duma reveals her real plan – to get Jack to make new angels. Jack collects a bible group – leaving their Pastor to be eaten by worms – which was a pretty good special effect!

Dean has a plan to get Jack into the Ma’lak box. They’ll convince Jack that he only has to get into the box for however long it will take to get his soul back. Sam insists that Jack will know something’s up, and the kicker is that Sam has to be the one to convince him – Dean admits that he’ll lose it if he has to do it.

Cas goes back to try to get into Heaven, only to have Eremiel (Monroe Mackenzie) try to stop him from coming in. Jack is happy and proud of himself to tell Cas that he’s making angels. Cas calls Duma on using Jack to solidify her own position in Heaven. Duma insists that she’s saving Heaven. When Duma threatens Mary and John, Cas doesn’t hesitate in killing her!

Sam prays to Jack to get his attention. He tells Jack that bad things happen, but they’re family. Jack answers Sam’s prayer – and tells them that he was so glad to hear from them. Jack tells them that he regrets the “accident” – Jack tries to explain what happened – and Dean can barely contain himself. Ackles, Padalecki, and Calvert are all terrific in this scene. Dean tells Jack that they forgive him. Jack says he wants things to go back to the way things were – and Dean uses this as a way to convince Jack that they are close to hitting the reset button. Jack willingly gets in the box – and I did like the tension in this scene as Dean and Sam set and close the trap.

It doesn’t take long for Jack to start to panic. Sam and Dean share a drink. Sam looks uncomfortable immediately and doubts that he can keep Jack locked up indefinitely. Dean reminds Sam that Jack was a long shot from the beginning. Sam tries to remind Dean that longshots are their thing. Meanwhile, “Lucifer” is back with Jack, telling him that the Winchesters played him.

Cas arrives with the news from Heaven – that Duma made Jack do those things. Cas is very angry when they tell him that Jack is in the Ma’lak box. Cas declares Dean no better than Duma – manipulating Jack. Dean insists it’s their only play, but Jack is too strong even for the Ma’lak box and blows his way out. The episode ends with a glowing eyed Jack emerging from the smoke and destruction of the box.

I felt like both of these episodes were really all over the place in terms of plot. Unlike previous seasons, now that Mary is dead – and we know that Ackles, Padalecki, and Collins are all coming back for the final season – I can’t see that there is any real tension. It seems unlikely that Dean will ever forgive Jack. I do think that having Mary and John in their own special Heaven is foreshadowing for the end of the series – Dean and Sam will end up with their parents – and perhaps a surprise guest star as a companion... my fingers are crossed for Sam to be reunited with Jess (Adrienne Palicki). What did you think of the episodes? What are you hoping to see in the season finale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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