It was difficult because John is such a difficult character to define
My first draft was utterly boring.
It was a farily detailed recap of Johns' appearance in the show, with a list of quotes about him, opinions and comments uttered in the show.
Then I had this idea of writing it in fairy tale form, The Tale of John Winchester and the Big Bad Demon. Or something like that.
It started like this:
"Once upon a time, in a pretty two storey house with a picket fence and a grass-green garden, lived John and Mary Winchester. Yes, like the rifle. They had a big, black shiny car, called The Impala, and two little boys, Dean and Sam, and they loved them very much.
One day, on Sam's six months birthday, the Big Bad Demon came to visit them. It had evil, secret plans for Sam, and it killed Mary in a horrible way. John saved Sammy, gave the baby boy to Dean to carry out of the house on fire, then followed, because Mary was burning on the nursery's ceiling and there was nothing else John could do to save her.
This fary tale doesn't have a happy ending..."
And we all know how the story goes.
John knew what he'd seen. He stood firm on it, trusted himself and his Marine's training, and took off - possibly also to avoid losing his children to CPS.
John took off, and from then on, what we know of him we know through Dean and Sam's eyes and memories and comments, his sons, and therefore utterly unreliable narrators, in one way, because the family issues stray their judgement from being objective, because they are involved, and aren't families the site of all battles and fights and wins and losses?
What we know of John comes from an evil team of writers/producers who love to have their aces up their- ...sleeves *G* and it's obvious, especially since recent developments in Season 2, that there is much more to learn about John than what we know and have seen till now.
John is a Shadow.
John is a Mistery.
A man with more than one persona: the Hunter, and the Father.
And also, the Widow, and the Avenger, and the Helper.
"If this is an emergency, call my son Dean, he can help."
John is a man that comes and goes, that appears and disappears.
John is a man that Sam sees in all his human fallibility, just a MAN, and therefore criticizes and attacks. A father that his Son has to overcome and defeat in order to become man at all effects.
John is a man that Dean sees as a Hero, and therefore adores (almost) blindly. A hero that has to be followed and obeyed, without whose lead a soldier might be lost and under whose command a son never become a Man.
John serves the narrative as scapegoat, as trigger: it's his fault if Dean and Sam are social misfits, outcasts, mavericks; it's because of him that it all starts, the series, and the hunting, and brother seeking brother, and all that follows.
John is, figuratively and literally, the sperm that gives birth, to the boys, to the story. If he had ignored what he saw, if he had chosen to forget Mary's body bleeding and burning on the ceiling, there would be no hunting. There would be no story. Mary's death is the impulse without which John wouldn't act, but the choice to act is solely John, against all odds, against his friends and acquaintances, against the law, against his own sons at one point.
John defies the reality that surrounds him, because he's seen that it's not what it is believed to be. John is the element of disturbance, the man that can't be controlled, a man set on a path of war, a path of self-destruction and sacrifice*, with a will that's basically unbreakable, keeping him going for more than 20 years.
John is the man that has sacrificed everything he had, yes, including his sons, to the discovery of Evil, and Ways to Kill it.
John is this close to become exactly what he hunts.
And that's why this journey that Dean and Sam are on is also John's Journey. A journey that will take him, should take him, to be the man he was.
But. This tale doesn't have a happy ending.
Because John can't go back.
He can only go forward, on the path he's chosen. He can only go forward, and leave his sons behind. He says so explicitly in Dead Man's Blood: "I never expected to make it out of this in one piece." He adds that he wont' see his children die, he can't. But as we see in Devils' Trap, it doesn't work out. Because John travels alone, in this world of his, and he knows that the sacrifices necessary to walk this path of his are not sacrifices he wants his children to make.
This story doesn't have a happy ending because John can't stop. Because his journey will bring him forward in his war, and there are no winners in war, only losers, only those, like Dean fears, that will be left behind to bury their loved ones.
John's Journey is a journey without a point of arrival, because his point of arrival is still burning in the past of his memories, and what's lost can't be regained, reconstrued, relived, rebuilt. John keeps travelling because he has forgotten how to stop and rest.
Dean and Sam can. John can't.
Dean and Sam can, if John lets them go.
What can we make, of a character like John, a Man that's a Hero that's a Hunter that's a Shadow that's a Father?
We can only follow his Journey. And hope, at some point, that he will remember, he's not alone.
* there are at least three scenes with him iconized ina Christ-like position, in Shadow first, at the end of Salvation, and in Devil's Trap last
Notes: questions, comments, doubts, all welcome. I have a second part to this entry that I may or may not add later on - or maybe post as a separate entry. Too much to say, in so many ways, and never enough anyway :)