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Supernatural is truth
Not Waste Away: John in "Faith" 
2nd-Aug-2006 11:48 am

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:

  1. John was legitimately out of touch.
  2. John was afraid to come.
  3. 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.

Comments 
2nd-Aug-2006 05:47 pm (UTC)
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.

More fall-outs and people threatening to shoot him on sight? *g*

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.

I think it would have been okay to not show him in any way like they did here but a proper follow-up was definitely required. Best done as an acknowledgment by John upon their next personal encounter. *cough* The worst that could be done would be a follow-up that had John when prodded be all nonchalant about it: "Oh yeah, that. Nearly forgot about it. Wasn`t about the demon, was it?" *cough*

It could have certainly added another interesting twist if John, as suggested in some fanfics, had been the done to tip Sam off about Roy, via Joshua. With full knowledge about the situation. I could see that happening.

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.

Thing is, while understandable it is also selfish. Putting your own fears before being there for your dying child and cowardly letting the other child handle the tough stuff. It would be hard to look them in the eye again later on.

I think in terms of John`s character his absence in the episode it kinda up in the air. Not fully condemning yet but in retrospect all will depend on how it is followed up. Yet all in all it is another fitting chapter on the emotional roller-coaster ride that is John Winchester. Seriously as deeply complex as the boys are they got nothing on their old man. :)
3rd-Aug-2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
It could have certainly added another interesting twist if John, as suggested in some fanfics, had been the done to tip Sam off about Roy, via Joshua. With full knowledge about the situation. I could see that happening.

Oh, absolutely. I mean, John is a lot of things, and cunning, devious, and slightly cold regarding Dean's welfare are certainly three of them. I think, if he knew about the Reaper, he could totally have offered Roy's name up to Joshua, knowing what that might mean for Dean and knowing that Dean would take care of the problem.

Which, you know, makes him a cold bastard, but not at all out of character. *sigh*

Thing is, while understandable it is also selfish. Putting your own fears before being there for your dying child and cowardly letting the other child handle the tough stuff. It would be hard to look them in the eye again later on.

I think John's screwed up enough that he'd rationalize it all to hell and be able to look Sam in the eye easily. He's really just that fucked up. And even if Possibility One is the truth, I never said he was selfless, just that he's not the antichrist of daddies. *g*
3rd-Aug-2006 01:42 pm (UTC)
I think John's screwed up enough that he'd rationalize it all to hell and be able to look Sam in the eye easily. He's really just that fucked up.

Yeah, I can see that. I swear the man gives me whiplash sometimes from shaking my head. :)

I never said he was selfless, just that he's not the antichrist of daddies. *g*

Well, I never believed that. I mean, even the show itself gave us a negative example in the Dad in Nighmare with a big honkin "Look, it CAN get worse" sign. Even before I knew that it could have been so much worse. For all their screwed-upness Dean or Sam neither struck me as victims of physical or sexual abuse. They`d be worlds different.
2nd-Aug-2006 10:37 pm (UTC)
Interesting...

Two quick bits of food for thought:

1) There's Sam's message, which never explicitly says that Dean is dying or gives a time frame for it. In fact, he leaves off with a rather upbeat, I'm gonna fix it, attitude. Not saying that John couldn't read between the lines, or that the breaks in Sam's voice didn't carry over the cell lines. I think he had to know how serious it was, but there's an argument that he might not have.

2) I dunno what's permitted in the meta in this comm, but one thing that I found interesting, is John's total lack of acknowledgement when Dean calls him on this exact event in Salvation. He almost apologises for not getting in touch (GOD I love the way these guys utterly fail at communicating.) He noticibly doesn't excuse himself, which I think lends support to your theory number two--or to the idea that he simply wasn't a good father in that situation.
3rd-Aug-2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
I think he had to know how serious it was, but there's an argument that he might not have.

But that conclusion requires that John be oblivious to his son's pain and too fixated on his own hunt to care that... Oh, yeah. Um, okay you have a valid point *g*.
3rd-Aug-2006 01:38 pm (UTC)
Sorry! Forgot to respond to point two!

Anything's permissible in the comments--it's the metas that can't extrapolate character arcs from episodes later in the season. And hell yes, John is at his most screwed up in that scene!

It's kind of hard to watch him not acknowledge how much that had to hurt Dean--to pass it off with a "I can't say I like your new attitude" is just another slap in the face of a kid who's spent his whole life trying to make Dad happy.

It's also the answer of a man who has nothing to say for himself and is so terrified of watching his kid die that he's probably all but blocked that damn phone call from his mind, whether the message got to him in time or not.

*sigh* I loves John!
2nd-Aug-2006 11:30 pm (UTC)
He can't raise the dead (except in some fanfic *g*)

Does that mean I think of John as God-like? *g*

I don't know if it's just massive inconsistancy in the writing for John, or the writers want to make us all pull out our hair and meta and screawm WTF at our tvs. I'm almost to the point of option #2.
3rd-Aug-2006 01:40 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping for option #3: John really is just the most fucked up character on television since Chris Keller on Oz.

*nods decisively* Yup. I like that answer!
4th-Aug-2006 02:26 am (UTC)
John really is just the most fucked up character on television since Chris Keller on Oz

Duuuuuuuuuuuude! I think I just hurt something. *blink* I don't honestly know what to say to that. I mean yeah, we have two different fucked-up types: John isn't a sexual predator who hates himself. He may hate himself to some degree, thinking he failed Mary by not saving her, or avenging her later on.

Chris. Ahhhhh, what a lovely, lovely broken man *g*

OMG, I don't have a Keller icon! I must amend this post-haste...
3rd-Aug-2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
Honestly? I don't think he sees himself as a bad father, and I don't think he's trying to be one, and I really think he loves the boys very much, but any way you spin it, not even calling when one of your children is dying = bad parent. Being scared to watch Dean die is surely an understandable emotion but it does make him selfish as hell. If any person I knew acted like this, I'd tell him to suck it the fuck up and go comfort the son who's dying and help the son taking care of the one dying cope with the possible loss of the one true constant in his life. (But then again, if any person I knew acted like John towards their kids, I'd call child protective services. Sure, leave a nine-year-old and a five-year-old alone togeher for days with a loaded shotgun in the room.)

The only explanation that excuses John in my point of view is that he honestly didn't know and didn't get the message until it was all over, which I can buy, I guess. But then he got the message in 'Home', and in 'Shadow', so maybe, not that much.

I think villifying John as some people do is vastly oversimplifying the matter, and I think that he's neither devil incarnate nor even trying or realizing that he's not a good parent. He's doing all he can to prepare his children for a tough world, and in that he's a good father, but he doesn't recognize any need of theirs that isn't food, water or medical attention, and in that he fails. Look at the psychological wreckage that is Dean and tell me that John didn't fail Dean on an emotional level. He taught them how to survive. But he didn't teach them how to live as functional human beings. And I know that's probably because he didn't know how to do that himself after Mary died, but that still makes him a clueless parent at best. And now, even though he realizes - as his conversation with Sam in DMB shows - some of the mistakes he made, he's still incapable to even show concern for anything but their physical safety. Sam and Dean have to emotionally salvage each other. John won't even recognise the need.

In conclusion to this long rant, I think John tries, but he doesn't try hard enough, and not at all when it goes against what he thinks is right regarding the hunt for the demon.
5th-Aug-2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
My vote's on explanation #2 with just a dash of #3 (we have no evidence either way on #3. He may well have. That's my story and I'm sticking to it .)

Explanation #1 hadn't honestly occurred to me but that could be the case.

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.

Right on. Now, maybe in season two we'll get a flashback that reveals that he was there. But you're right it would have to be soon enough after the ep in question to have the impact. OTOH, there have been tv series where something has happened in one season and than up to a full season later, we got another POV or find out more about what happened, throwing that first episode into a completely new light. I'm afraid in this case they're just going to drop it, either through carelessness or an attempt to keep up the John mystique. Revealing that he was there would in a way weaken that. It could be on purpose, to make the character more frustrating, and therefore prompting all this discussion.

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