If the show wanted us to hate the Winchesters – Dean in particular – then Supernatural season 14 episode 19 “Jack in the Box” achieved this in spades. This was an episode thoroughly in contrast with established characterizations of the heroes and one that will make us resent them for quite a while, unless they reverse things in next week’s finale.
The episode starts off with Dean (Jensen Ackles), Cas (Misha Collins), and Sam (Jared Padalecki) giving a memorial to Mary, and we found out (much to my annoyance) that the Apocalypse World hunters are still alive – looks like Michael had killed only a few of them. Alternate Bobby (Jim Beaver) then signals his arrival by killing a wraith who had been infiltrating the bunker. Bobby is livid over the loss of Mary and leaves with the promise that he would find and kill Jack for what he did. This prompts Castiel to visit Heaven – and this cannot be stated enough, but Castiel is the only person who remains likable by the end of this episode.
In Heaven, Duma (Erica Cerra) reveals she’s imprisoned Naomi for her failure as a leader and taken over the reins herself. Castiel shares news of Jack’s soulless state to her, only for Duma’s eyes to sparkle with the idea that she can use Jack to further her own motives.
Finding Jack (Alexander Calvert) still whimpering over his actions, Duma manipulates him into killing those humans who she sees as influential, but enemies of god and his mission, such as an atheist professor and a TV evangelist. With the news of these deaths being public, Sam voices them over to the rest of the group.
Duma’s next intention is for Jack to create angels, and she has Jack convince a prayer group to accompany him to Heaven where he seemingly does succeed into turning them in angels. Their leader, who didn’t trust Jack’s words, is left to be eaten by worms, but survives long enough to relay Jack’s actions to Sam and Dean at the hospital. This is the final level for Dean, who convinces Sam they need to seal Jack in the box he had built back when he wanted to be thrown in the bottom of the ocean when Michael had been in his mind.
The plan is for them to dupe Jack into thinking they’ve forgiven him and then lie about finding a magical spell that can get him his soul back. Here, both Sam and Dean go against character and agree to seal Jack. It makes Dean look like nothing more than a vengeful jerk as he’s giddy at the prospect of sealing Jack for eternity despite all the boy has done for them. Likewise, Sam is only partly fazed by this prospect and even goes along with the plan knowing that Jack likes him better than Dean, so it would be prudent for Sam to manipulate him.
Castiel arrives in Heaven and kills Duma when she threatens to destroy the Heaven that John and Mary are sharing as well as claiming she won’t back down from her destructive ways. Before Castiel can get to Jack, Sam and Dean have summoned him to the bunker already. In a show of awful acting, along the lines of how they’d acted in season six’s “The French Mistake”, Sam and Dean tell Jack they forgive him for killing Mary. Jack admits he regrets what happened, although the blank look on his face conveys he doesn’t really feel much of what he claims to feel. Dean clearly loathes Jack by this point, but plays along until Sam convinces Jack to lie in the box.
Dear sweet Jack believes the Winchesters and agrees to be sealed in the box, not knowing they have no intention of ever releasing him. Strangely, and also infuriatingly, Dean and Sam are then shown enjoying a drink for their successful manipulation of the child and wonder if they can forget about him. While Sam voices some measure of regret and that he might not be able to forget Jack, Dean is more at ease and is just glad Jack isn’t their problem anymore.
However, inside the box, Jack is again shown to be talking to his subconscious, which takes the form of Lucifer once more. Lucifer taunts him by telling Jack that the Winchesters played him and will never release him.
Very upset Castiel – the only one who hasn’t given up on Jack – is severely disappointed in Sam and Dean for what they did to Jack and accuse them of not being any better than Duma for manipulating him. Dean, as always never claiming responsibility for his own actions, isn’t sorry at all and gets in Castiel’s face yet again over Jack killing Mary. By now, though, Jack’s super abilities kick in due to his upset state, and he destroys the box confining him. The trio enter the room to see Jack looking as vengeful as ever over their efforts to lock him up for good.
Although Supernatural wants us to see Jack as the bad guy, that’s nowhere near how it’s coming across. Instead, Dean and Sam seem like the villains as they refuse to see how Jack is being manipulated and that he can’t control what he does. Back in season six, when Soulless Sam had been running rampant, Dean did everything he could to help him and refused to let go of Sam. Here, it’s entirely hypocritical of them to accuse Jack of being bad.
With the boy now free and his trust in the Winchesters completely gone, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the finale. If Dean remains as awful as he’s been the last couple episodes, I wouldn’t mind Jack coming out as the victor.
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