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Heavy Meta Poisoning
Supernatural is truth
Every Second Counts: John in Salvation 
23rd-Oct-2006 07:21 pm
John - strong
Every Second Counts: John in Salvation

Note: I’m attempting to make this meta free of spoilers for season 2. The meta is only about the episode Salvation, but it’s hard to completely avoid things that might point to spoilers, as episode 2x01 starts just a day or so after the events in Salvation and is like the conclusion of the sentence that started in Salvation. My thoughts on John I this episode were mostly the same before I saw 2x01, but it’s impossible to not take what happened there into account when thinking about this meta. So, if you’re terribly sensitive to spoilers and haven’t seen the episode you might want to steer clear, even though I will do my best.

~~~

In John’s dialogue for this episode, references to time are prominent. He’s a man ticking down the minutes to some kind of ending, an ending he’s been working towards for more than two decades.

In the beginning of the episode, we see all three Winchesters in John’s motel room. The camera pans around to show us the maps and newspaper clippings on the walls. Clipping-covered walls tend to be television shorthand for a person who is obsessed to the point of instability, crazy even. John’s not crazy, but he’s clearly obsessed and willing to do just about anything to bring his long fight against the demon to an end.

He tells the boys, “Our whole lives we’ve been searching for this demon.” This is interesting because while the search has taken place over very nearly Dean and Sam’s whole lives, it’s been less than half of John’s life, perhaps two-thirds of his adult life. That he says “our whole lives” at this point gives us a clue that he’s lost the ability to look back at whatever good or bad things may have existed in his life before Mary’s death. He’s focused on the near future, counting down to some kind of end.

In that same conversation, he tells Sam, “I’ve always been one step behind it. Look, I’ve never gotten there in time to save...” He breaks off in the middle of the sentence, apparently overwhelmed with guilt for the people he’s failed to save. He wasn’t fast enough in the past; he got there too late. This go-around, he’s concentrating on the timeline, focusing on not letting time get away from him.

It’s worth noting that, even with the tremendous time pressure, he’s gentle with Sam when he has to mention Jessica. Jessica’s death is another one of his failures--a time when he didn’t figure things out and get there in time to stop it--and he hates that Sam’s had to suffer for that failure.

Later, on the road into Salvation, he pulls over to tell Dean and Sam about Pastor Jim’s death, taking the time to share his grief. The death of a man who was apparently an old friend hits John hard. Sam and Dean are shocked and sad, but John looks truly beaten down by the news. It’s another chunk of guilt for him to carry around on his shoulders, and he gives himself a moment to grieve before turning back to the task at hand.

He says, “Now we act like every second counts,” and lays out the plan for the day--getting information on six-month-old babies in the Salvation area. He plays the gruff drill sergeant, but he’s still overwhelmed by Jim’s death.

“This ends now,” he says. “I’m ending it. I don’t care what it takes.” This is John’s mission statement for the episode and pretty much for the whole plot arc.

Later, when Dean and Sam tell John about Sam’s visions. John is frustrated and a little angry that he didn’t already know. In the context of his focus on time and strategy, I see his frustration coming from learning only now about this new complication, which is also a new tool. It’s going to cause him to have to rethink his plan, and he’s worried that it will cost him time, a very precious commodity.

He gives in easily to Dean’s reprimand, recognizing the truth of Dean’s words and also probably acknowledging that what’s done is done and arguing will only eat up more time. When Meg calls, and John has to listen as another old friend dies, that just adds more pressure to end things as soon as possible. Meg gives him a nearly-unreasonable time limit for getting to Jackson to hand over the Colt, which only increases John’s need to manage every minute.

When he argues with Dean over the plan to get a fake gun to give to Meg, he basically acknowledges that the plan is flawed, perhaps doomed, but he explains, “I just need to buy a few hours, that’s all.”

When Sam confronts him, he confirms with his silence that he’s buying the time for Sam and Dean. This decision is clearly tearing him up. He gets upset, nearly or actually in tears, listing the things he wants, all of which are on a continuum between unlikely and impossible, at least at that moment. For Sam to go back to school. For Dean to have a home. For Mary to be alive.

There’s one thing he wants that he can do something about--“I just want this to be over.”

He apparently divides up the duties in order to get the fake gun and get ready to leave for Jackson as quickly as possible. He verbally and physically passes on the responsibility for killing the demon to Dean and Sam. “You finish what I started,” he tells them as he passes the real Colt to Dean.

Dean asks John to promise to get out if the plan goes bad, and John acknowledges him but doesn’t make any promises. He takes a brief moment to look back at his boys before he drives away from them for what he knows could be the last time.

When he arrives in Jackson, he quickly goes about making his preparations, casing the place and turning the water in a cistern into holy water. When he meets up with Meg, he clearly has no patience with her chatter. He wants to get the job done quickly, get them to accept the gun and then get away, hopefully back to his boys in Salvation.

When the demons realize that the Colt is a fake, he does try to get out. His grin as he watches the demons get stopped by the holy water is interesting. This is the John who enjoys hunting evil things, even if he does it out of necessity. He’s outsmarted them for the moment, and that gives him a moment of something like glee in the middle of all the stress and fear and grief.

Most likely, he knows that he can’t truly get away from them, but at that point the goal becomes buying as much time as possible for Sam and Dean. He tries to call them, assumedly to check on them and to let them know what was going on, but the demons catch up to him. Even though it’s a losing game, he fights them, fights for every second.
Comments 
23rd-Oct-2006 08:12 pm (UTC)
“You finish what I started." Without giving too much away, that's pretty interesting in light of The Secret. The question is whether he was talking about the hunt that he started, or if this goes deeper and farther back then that.
24th-Oct-2006 12:34 am (UTC)
That's a good point! I had interpreted it as refering to hunting the demon, but there could totally be more.
23rd-Oct-2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
Nice meta.

One thing has bothered me about this episode...why does John leave the truck when he sees the flat tires? It's not ideal, but you *can* still drive a truck with four flats. You'll ruin the rims and maybe even the axels, but if the alternative is dying, then I'd drive that puppy, tires or no tires!

Just...it would have delayed things even further if Meg and male!Meg had had to track him down.
24th-Oct-2006 12:35 am (UTC)
You know, I never thought about that. You'll have to ask Kripke! *g*
24th-Oct-2006 02:18 am (UTC)
Nice one, lvoe your focus on time here.

I also see in this line “I just want this to be over.” a real weariness, a sense here that he will do anything to finish this, but also a dark wish for it to be over for himself.
24th-Oct-2006 02:42 am (UTC)
I also see in this line “I just want this to be over.” a real weariness, a sense here that he will do anything to finish this, but also a dark wish for it to be over for himself.

Oh, yeah, I see that a lot for John. As much as he loves his boys, he doesn't think they need him, and he doesn't intend to survive the battle. Eeee, present tense. *sniffles*
24th-Oct-2006 02:46 am (UTC)
its the irony of this family that none of them seem to realise how sacrificing themselves will hurt those they love the most.

*smacks all Wincehsters and then makes them hug*
24th-Oct-2006 02:59 am (UTC)
*smacks all Wincehsters and then makes them hug*

I think we need to have a hugathon--as many stories as possible in which the Winchesters hug. *g*
24th-Oct-2006 04:23 am (UTC)
*bounces*

YES! Please we have to organise a hugathon fic challenge! please pleaseplease! it would be so therapuetic for this fandom. and me. and maybe then our porn muses would return once we'd got all the hugging out of our system!

*looks at you with Sam!puppy eyes* I'm serious!
24th-Oct-2006 11:39 am (UTC)
Oh, boy. Okay! I want to wait a week or so, try to get the various challenge fics I have due soon done. Is that cool? Then we can work on getting the fandom to write more Winchester huggles. LOL
24th-Oct-2006 12:54 pm (UTC)
*pokes your muse*

get back to me when you have finished all your gorgeous fics. let me know if you need any beta-ing. ;)

Huggles rule!
24th-Oct-2006 12:32 pm (UTC)
In that same conversation, he tells Sam, “I’ve always been one step behind it. Look, I’ve never gotten there in time to save...” He breaks off in the middle of the sentence, apparently overwhelmed with guilt for the people he’s failed to save. He wasn’t fast enough in the past;

That`s an interesting point because when Dean and Sam saved the family here I immediately thought back to the Pilot and how nobody was there to save the Winchesters. Nobody was their guardian angel and from the boys reactions they seemed affected too.
Wonder what it was like for John who probably remembers that night more clearly to see others replay his personal tragedy. Ouch.
24th-Oct-2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Wonder what it was like for John who probably remembers that night more clearly to see others replay his personal tragedy. Ouch.

Ugh, yeah, that must be a total nightmare for him.
24th-Oct-2006 01:47 pm (UTC)
That he says “our whole lives” at this point gives us a clue that he’s lost the ability to look back at whatever good or bad things may have existed in his life before Mary’s death.

I think this is a brilliant insight into John. As I said in one of my metas, Dean has obviously learned from John this ability to block things out and move on, but I find it REALLY interesting that John is even willing to block out all the good things, too, whereas Dean pushes past only the bad...

There's a collossal meta in there somewhere. *sigh* Would that I had the time to write it.

Fantastic job! Thanks so much!
24th-Oct-2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
I find it REALLY interesting that John is even willing to block out all the good things, too, whereas Dean pushes past only the bad...

Wow, yeah, that does have the potential to be a whole other meta. It's like maybe Dean saw what he thought John was doing wrong and chose to do it differently, or maybe he's simply not as broken as John. Interesting! Thanks!
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