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Review: Supernatural 14×08 “Byzantium”

While we’ve seen Sam and Dean barter, cheat, plead, and sacrifice to bring one another back from the dead over the years, “Byzantium” marked an important turning point for the boys in that they both lost someone they were prepared to go above and beyond to resurrect – surrogate son, Jack. And with dad number three, Castiel, on board, it was clear from the outset that Jack wouldn’t stay gone for long.

After Rowena announced that there was no hope for the Nephilim lad, Jack’s demise was swift. Sam stayed by his side as Jack channeled his inner Peter Pan, declaring death to be an adventure, but Dean, unable to deal with the unfairness of it all, lingered in the corridor with Cas still trying to coax him back to the boy’s bedside as Jack breathed his last. Of course, Dean then punished himself for missing Jack’s last minutes, and while Sam seemed to be holding it together, he soon slipped away to gather wood for a funeral pyre, and Cas and Dean later found him sitting in a daze by the roadside.

Initially, the brothers and the angel seemed prepared to grieve and say goodbye, Dean insisting they ‘get loaded’ as a form of wake for Jack, drinking the bunker dry, and eating nougat bars in his memory. But soon Sam was trying to find a way to reverse the permanence of death, enlisting the help of Lily Sunder, last seen in Season 12’s “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”. Lily, an expert in angel magic who had lost a daughter herself, had aged rapidly in the last couple of years, a result of ceasing use of the magic which had granted her longevity. Lily had used up the majority of her soul, burning through it in pursuit of revenge against the angel Ishim’s garrison, of which Castiel was part, having watched Ishim kill her daughter. Lily thought she had the ability to anchor Jack’s soul back into his body as long as Cas could find him and return him to his vessel for a second or two.

In exchange for her help, Lily wanted a guarantee that she would get into Heaven, something the Winchesters and Cas were not able to facilitate. The introduction of Anubis was a welcome addition, and it was revealed he’d taken over the duty of weighing human souls from his father, Osiris, and was performing this service for Heaven since the departure of God. While we’ve seen plenty of cross-cultural deities in Supernatural over the years, and Anubis was subject to the ‘pedestrianisation’ of gods and monsters which treats angels and demons as bureaucrats in suits, and ancient Egyptian idols as mere accountants, I really enjoyed Anubis as a character. He was fair, wise, kind even. Not the capricious kind of creature we’re used to from this show.

While the Winchesters tried to pursuade Lily to help their cause despite the fact she was essentially damned, Castiel was scouring Heaven for Jack, who’d found his mother, Kelly. I’m not sure how that was possible, given that Heaven is supposed to be a clip-show of best memories, and Jack never actually met Kelly, but maybe Nephilim Heaven is different from Human Heaven. Indeed, Jack’s presence was causing grief for the few remaining angels, who found themselves under attack from the mysterious entity from The Empty. Having set its sights on claiming Jack, The Cosmic Entity agreed to take Castiel instead, but not immediately. The Entity wanted Cas to know happiness before it came for him and ripped it away. Again, I’m fairly sure that The Empty literally spat Castiel out for being annoying and disrupting its slumber, so why it wants him back is anyone’s guess!

While Lily was initially reluctant to go through with the spell, she relented once Dean played the ‘we’ve both lost a child’ card, saving Jack and earning herself another go at Anubis’ abacus, and a place in Heaven. And as a handy bonus, a thanks for saving Heaven, Castiel got some intel on Michael’s whereabouts from Naomi (Amanda Tapping). So as we head for the mid-season finale, the extended Winchester clan are all alive and back together, with a potential lead on Michael. While it was interesting to see a new take on the old dance, I can’t help but feel Jack’s life being under threat was only ever going to be a short-term thing. While Alex Calvert plays Jack as an absolute sweetheart, and I love the subversive nature of the three dad MOL bunker family, the stakes didn’t feel real here.

Final Grade: C

+ The re-introduction of Lily Sunder was a pretty smart use of an existing character.

+ Cas telling Jack he loved him was adorable, and while the Winchesters’ sudden use of the term ‘son’ is a little heavy-handed, it is sweet that they finally sort of have their ‘apple pie’ life.

+ Anubis was a really great new character for the pantheon. I hope we see him again!

– Jack’s death never seemed like it would stick.

– What happened to everyone else who’s been living in the bunker suddenly?

– Mary Winchester once again proves to be the absolute worst by not returning her son’s anguished phone call. Presumably she’s still getting cosy with Bobby 2.0 in Donna’s cabin.

Extra Thought: At first, I thought The Entity was after Jack because Lucifer is in The Empty, but then it let him go so are we to assume he has nothing to do with the attack on Heaven?

What did you think? Was “Byzantium” an awfully big adventure, or did it do jack for you? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter.

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Katie Young

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