"Byzantium" – Supernatural S14E08 Review

Another week, another escape from death's cold clutches.

"Byzantium" was okay enough for what it was. But what it was, was... nothing new. Someone major on the show dies. Some of the others rush to find a way to bring them back. They and the creative team find a new way to bring the person back. We get introduced to someone else in Death's entourage. One of the others makes a major sacrifice. Dead person comes back before their body has even had time to chill. The end.

Cripes, even Sam says basically "It's what we do." I'm not talking about something Supernatural dragged out from ten seasons ago. Every season they go through this routine. Last year it was "The Big Empty" and Castiel. And now we hear more about the Empty, which was the deus ex mechina of sorts in that episode.

Misha Collins, Supernatural S14E08

But what was what "Byzantium" was? (to turn a phrase). Let's find out. Jack is dying, and then Jack is dead. All before the show's credits roll. The brothers spend a little time mourning. Sam goes to cut trees for a funeral pyre and Jack's death has made the ax handle fragile enough to break. Dean and Castiel find Sam, bring him back, and they all drink--a lot--to Jack's death. Castiel looks awfully chipper during these scenes. I prefer the little bursts of emotion like we'll see later, rather than this smiling slightly drunk angel. From everything I've heard, Misha Collins is a happy, cheerful, prankster-type guy. But watching Castiel smile and laugh without a plot reason is just... creepy.

When Dean wakes up the next morning, he discovers Sam and Castiel have called in Lily Sunder. Who appeared once before in "Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets" and was played by Alicia Witt. Now she's played by Veronica Cartwright and is... Veronica Cartwright-ish aged. 69. I wonder why they got Cartwright to replace Witt: Witt doesn't seem to be in the middle of TV production elsewhere. Maybe they just wanted to give the character some gravitas?

In the episode, Lily has aged because she stopped using her soul magic. And she's dying, presumably of old age although 69 isn't that old, is it? Maybe they got Cartwright to make Lily look closer to death? Anyhoo, Lily can cast a spell to bring Jack back and keep him alive with a part of his soul: not much, not if he doesn't do anything super-powerful. But he couldn't anyway, so that doesn't seem like that big a sacrifice. Castiel will have to go to Heaven, where Jack is hanging out with his mother Kelly (Courtney Ford). Which I suppose explains why Nora wasn't in this week's episode of DC's Legends.

The angels in Heaven have been overrun by the shadow presence of the aforementioned Empty. Castiel rescues Duma (Erica Cerra) and they find Jack and Kelly. However, Duma is actually the Cosmic Empty. it wants Jack because the Empty is where angels and demons go to die, and Jack was half-angel. Castiel offers himself--there's that sacrifice thing--and the Cosmic entity says it'll take him when he's happiest. So hopefully no one else will die so Castiel will get all smiley at their wake.

Sean Amsing, Supernatural S14E08

Meanwhile, Lily won't do her end of the deal unless the Winchesters get her to Heaven. They summon the Egyptian Anubis (Sean Amsing), who is managing the paperwork for Billie/Death and the Reapers. Anubis checks Lily's soul and reports she's going to Hell and there's nothing he can do prevent it. The Winchesters let him go and Lily packs her bags to leave. However, Dean lays a speech on her asking how she could do to them the same thing the angels did to Lily's daughter. She casts the spell and helps bring Jack back, and then dies. Lily ends up in Anubis' office, and he checks her soul and discovers that thanks to her good deed she's going to Heaven after all.

Naomi rewards Castiel for his sacrifice by telling him where Michael is. Castiel tells the Winchesters and the restored Jack, and they all hoist a glass and toast to Michael's mid-season not-quite-a-defeat.

The episode is okay, as far as it goes. It just doesn't go very far. I liked the bits with Anubis, even if they had to slow down the story to explain to Lily about how the Winchesters knew Osiris, and his son Anubis took over the "family business" after Sam put Osiris into a coma (in "Defending Your Life"). Because heaven forbid they undermine a story seven years old by bringing Osiris out of his coma 193 years early. Maybe Faran Tahir, who played Osiris, was unavailable.

"Byzantium" also ended on a flat note because nothing was really lost. Jack is alive, Castiel will be taken away when the Cosmic Entity is good and ready. Which will only be when Misha Collins is ready to leave the show. Or they'll do it but the Winchesters will pull the same thing they did this episode and somehow they'll beat death (if not Death) and rescue Castiel.

Veronica Cartwright, Supernatural S14E08

Veronica Cartwright could do smug superiority in her sleep, and "Byzantium" doesn't give her much to do characterization-wise. It's the kind of role she does these days now that she's in her 60s. There's nothing wrong with her performance, but there's nothing overly right with it, either.

All the stuff with Jack, and Kelly, and Sam, and Dean, plays out about how you'd expect. There's a few comments about how they don't feel Jack should have been taken from them, and it feels wrong for Jack to be taken so young. And they're right. But then... he's back by the end of the episode. His dying and coming back in 40 or so minutes of screen time, after a few episodes of coughing up blood, just doesn't feel like anything. The characters act like Jack will be back among them and death is an inconvenience, so that's how I feel. It would have been more shocking if they kept Jack dead. But we knew the creative team wouldn't have the cajones to do that. The team barely have any time to mourn Jack before they're already off and running on how to bring him back. And by the end of the episode, he's back. When they "killed" Gambi on Black Lightning, at least they took an episode to mourn and deal with the aftermath before they just dumped him back on us with a save out of an old serial cliffhanger.

Alexander Calvert, Supernatural S14E08

So we end up with just another episode showing the revolving-door relationship between the Winchesters, and Jack. Other then give them a convenient way to track down Michael, the episode didn't really accomplish anything. Jack is back, but Jack was never gone long enough for it to have any impact.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Dec 7, 2018

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