Not Waste Away: John in "Faith"
The great, over-riding question for "Faith": Where the HELL is John!?
Come on, tell me you weren't thinking that.
The question brings up all the favorite meta questions: Is John really that sucky a father? Does he care so little for Dean? If he doesn't care for Dean at all (because, remember, John is the antichrist of all fathers, right?) then why doesn't he come to comfort Sam? And, of course, the ever-touted "WTF?"
I came up with a couple of different possibilities for John not appearing. Okay, I lied: I've got three:
- John was legitimately out of touch.
- John was afraid to come.
- John was there, we just didn't know.
Possibility One means John was probably in trouble, unable to get in touch with anyone
(because, dude, Sam called everyone
!), so he's still a good father, just one who's in it up to his eyeballs. Possibility Two is really going to be the bulk of my meta, so I shut up about it here, yes? Possibility Three is bad storytelling on the writers' parts and while I'll discuss it, I don't want to know that they dropped the ball on this, kthxbye.
Let's be all orderly and such, shall we?
Possibility One: John was legitimately out of touch
This possibility saves John some serious karma, in my mind. We assume he hasn't just been hanging out in Sacramento all these months, right? Although maybe he has, as the last place the boys knew him to be before he disappeared is not far from there. But let's say he wasn't, and I'll tell you why I think that.
If you look very closely at John during the phone call from Sacramento at the beginning of "Scarecrow" you'll see that he looks a little roughed up in the face. There are little slices around one eye and into his hairline. That's not just a problem with JDM's face--I checked. *g*
So we can assume that he's been into some heavy stuff since he disappeared, else why would he be afraid to see the boys in "Home," right? It's entirely possible that he was hunting and didn't have his phone or couldn't get to it.
I can just imagine what all the other hunters thought when Sam called them all and then they called John and didn't get an answer. Pissed ain't the word.
Possibility One has nothing to recommend it in the way of meta, so let's move on to three (yes, we're skipping two--pay attention), which supposes that the writers were going to do something, but forgot.
Possibility Three: John was there, we just didn't know.
TV writers never drop the ball, so let's assume that they didn't have a plan to, say, have us find out that John actually was there and angsting and sad, but was too ascared to get to the boys and let them know. He's done it before.
Except that that would just be bad storytelling on the writers' parts. If you later want to tell me that someone was somewhere where I, the viewer, did not see him, you'd better do it just a couple of episodes on, before I forget that I didn't see him where I didn't see him. If you want me, the viewer, to know that he was there, but you don't want the characters to know, then show him to me, okay? Simple storytelling.
Okay, Possibility Three pisses me off. Let's move on.
Possibility Two: John was afraid to come
*sigh* I love this possibility. It rounds John out in a very human, very screwed up way that warms me in the subcocklar area (that's the area below the cockles of your heart, for those who don't listen to Dennis Leary).
The situation would go something like this: John gets Sam's message (or the messages of the other hunters whom Sam has called, all saying WTF?), but is afraid to come for any number of reasons. He could be afraid to draw down the wrath of the demons on Dean when he's his most vulnerable. He could be afraid to come for fear of coming out in the open, thereby drawing the aforementioned wrath down on his own head. My personal bet? He was afraid to come because he didn't want to see his child die.
John's had one too many experiences in watching loved ones die, hasn't he?
John's also had too much experience being at the whims of chance to deal well with seeing Dean waste away. The way he raised his boys verily reeks of control issues, and given that his wife died horribly before his eyes probably didn't help him moderate any control freak nature he might already have had in him.
Medical situations are things John can't fight. He can't raise the dead (except in some fanfic *g*), he can't spontaneously heal people... If Dean's "sick," as Sam says in his phone message, then John may think there's nothing he can do about it. People get sick and they die--as Dean says himself "We can't kill Death."
And if I were a loving, deeply scarred, slightly not-sane father, I don't know that I could watch my kid die of something I couldn't kill, either. Especially if I was used to killing things to begin with.
Dean's imminent death is something John's psyche is not equipped to handle anymore. Maybe, if Mary had lived and Dean had come down with something horribly deadly and disease-y like, John would have coped better. As it is, he's learned to deal through killing his problems--maybe a skill he picked up in the military, maybe on the floor of Sammy's nursery. We'll never actually know.
What we do know, as of "Faith," is that John thinks staying away will keep his boys safe. He thinks he's doing them a favor. In the case before him, staying away isn't doing anything to keep anyone safe but him. In that he's pretty damn selfish...
But I don't think he's a bad father. Just a really, really screwed up one who's terrified of watching his children die.
I'll save the discussion of why he thinks it's okay to put them in situations where they might die, as long as he doesn't have to watch. That's for the end of the season.