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Supernatural is truth
1x22 John Meta: The Beginning of the End of John's Journey 
5th-Nov-2006 11:52 pm
not dead 'm writing
This ends, now. I'm ending it. I don't care take what it takes.
John Winchester, Salvation

Devil's Trap ends the first season with a bang. Quite literally. *g*

In retrospective, it's great to see Sam and Dean's first scene in the car, because the continuity with how their characters will behave in season 2 is so very tight, a true pleasure to watch. Such consistency is still a wonder to me, and I appreciate it very much. As soon as Dean takes the initiative and decides what to do, Sam starts questioning it. As they contemplate their father possibly being dead, Sam starts talking about their revenge and what John would have wanted them to do, whereas Dean's ferocity in stopping everything Demon-related until their father is safe and back with them, well, is scary.

But what about John?

I think that the lines I quoted at the beginning, even if spoken in Salvation (which is after all the first part of a two parter), really express the core explanation for John's behaviour all throughout Devil's Trap.

Let's step back for a moment, though, and spend a couple of words about Bobby and what his presence reveals to us about John.

DEAN: To tell you the truth, wasn't sure we should come.
BOBBY: Nonsense, your Daddy needs help.
DEAN: Last time we saw you, you did threaten to blast him full of buckshot, cocked the shotgun and everything.
BOBBY: Yeah, well, what can I say, John tends to have that effect on people.
DEAN: Yeah, I guess he does.

First think, I'd like to point out how Bobby says 'your daddy' - he repeats it a little later, too.

I don't know if it's just me, but using 'daddy' speaks to me of Bobby having known the Winchesters when the boys were really little. It's obvious that Dean is the one that has seen Bobby most recently, along with John, whereas possibly Sam hasn't seen him in a very long time, certainly before Stanford. However, Sam comment son the book of Salomon as if he's never known that Bobby had all this knowledge avaialble to him, or close enough to, that it makes me think that he hasn't seen bobby since he was too small to realize exactly what all those books might be.

Another reason why Bobby using 'daddy' strikes me is because it enhances John's father figure and role juxtaposing it with Dean and Sam's actual situation as 'lost boys' that haven't yet grown, because 'Daddy' is always around, always taking care of them.

The second point I'd like to make is how easily, apparently, John had falling outs with his friends.

First Daniel Elkins in DMB, now Bobby, Ellen in season 2. I wonder how many others. This helps in adding strenght to Sam's depiction of his father, as someone so focused, so stubborn, so obsessed, that he's very well capable of cutting ties to 'friends' that don't agree with him - or 'sons' - in order to follow the road he's taken. We don't know why John had this falling out with Bobby, whereas we know from John's own mouth that his controversy with Elkins was almost certainly about the Colt, and about Elkins wanting to keep hunting vampires and John believing them extinct. We will hopefully learn what has brought about the falling out with Ellen, at some point (what is said in No Exit doesn't fully convince me, it seems like only one part of the whole story).

Nonetheless, it's intriguing how, in the very same and short conversation, through Bobby, we are once again given the two most important aspect of John's personality: his being Dean and Sam's father, and his being a hunter. Conflicting and contrasting aspects, maybe and possibly and certainly, but that however co-exist in him.

In the episode, Meg arrives at Bobby, she's trapped and exorcized, and before she dies, she gives the boys clues about where to find John.

Before the boys leave to go rescue John, they thank Bobby for his help and he says:

BOBBY: You just go find your dad. And when you do, you bring him around, would you? I won't even try to shoot him this time.

Which again speaks to John's apparently infuriating character, but also how no one really keeps a grudge against him: Elkins still left him a note to tell him about the Colt, and even Ellen (season 2) calls him on the phone offering her help. (Episode 2x06 No Exit has given an explanation for Ellen and John's falling out, but I'm not yet sure that's the real reason. It's safe to say that's just one version of it, anyway.)

Fast forward. Sam draws the Devil's Trap on the Impala, Dean lies to him about carrying the Colt with him, they find the apartments where John is kept and by causing a fake fire alarm, get inside dressed up as firemen as the tenants leave. (And again, great continuity, with Sam arguing against bringing the Colt, Dean stating how similar in their thirst for revenge Sam and John are, and that Dean will have to be the one to bury them. Fast forward to their arguments in season 2, and you have great writing and characterisation).

When we finally see John, he is, once again, displayed on the bed in a Christ-like position - like he was at the end of Salvation, up against the wall, and even way back in Shadow as the Daevas attack him (it's interesting to point out the promo picture for DMB, at this point, which has John standing upright in the middle of the road in the very same position, back-lit so that features and any other detail becomes secondary to the cross-shape of his figure).

Of course, we know by now that the John that wakes up when Sam splashes Holy Water on him is actually The Demon (or Possessed!John, Demon!john, Demon!Papa) and sadly Holy Water doesn't work on Demons of his level. But, the boys don't know that, and the audience doesn't yet, and the fact that John's second question question is about the whereabouts of the Colt is totally in character with John as the boys and the audience know him. He's hell-bent on revenge (erm *g*) and it;s natural thathe would ask after the only weapon they have.

It is not, however, so natural that John would openly praise Dean (later on in the cabin) for always having been looking after their family.

JOHN: I'm proud of you.
DEAN: You're not mad?
JOHN: For what?
DEAN: Using a bullet.
JOHN: Mad. ...I'm proud of you. Sam and I, we can get pretty obsessed, but you, you. You watch out for this family, you always have.

The lights flicker, Demon!John sends Sam to check on the salt lines, and repeatedly asks Dean for the Colt. Which is when Dean realizes that John is possessed.

DEAN: He'd be furious, that I wasted a bullet.He wouldn't be proud of me. He'd tear me a new one. You're not my dad.

Demon!John tries to convince them, tries to bring Sam on his side (Ah! Fat chance, Demon!John, Sammy follows Dean's lead), and when everything else fails, he invites Dean to shoot him. Which obviously Dean doesn't do, can't do, so the Demon reveals himself.

The whole confrontation scene between the boys and the Demon is brilliant, as angsty as fans can hope for, the Demon is also totally HOT (and so much into Dean's personal space that one HAS to wonder what else the Demon is into, apart from bringing chaos and evil into this world *g*), but let's not forget that this is John meta.

So, from our point of view, the most important moment is when John, "trapped inside his own meatsuit", manages to find enough strength to regain possess of his body for a few moments:

Stop. Stop it.

John's strength comes from Dean pleading with him for his life, since the Demon is slowly and painfully killing him. It's his love for Dean that makes John able to fight the Demon's possession, it's John's fighting for his son's life that gives the boys a few seconds of respite and allows Sam to grab the Colt.

Two major points about the cabin scene (also, Demon!John? He deserves a META all of his own, imo):

a) the fact that Dean realizes that his father MUST be possessed because John has been nice to him. John's detractors have underlined this as an ulterior proof that John must have been a horribile, abusive father.

I'd say that if it were so, neither Sam or Dean woul dhave had much problems then in shooting Possessed!John, in order to kill the Demon. Instead, both the boys can't. Dean can't at all. Sam, also pushed by Dean's bleeding on the floor and having actually 'seen' how the Demon intends to kill them, succeeds in shooting John's thigh - very good shot, btw, flesh wound, enough to stop the Demon without being lethal for his father's body.

b) Would John have been able to fight the Demon's possession were Sam pleading for his life instead of Dean?

Yes, of course he would have, I'd like to answer. You only need to go back and watch Something Wicked and remember the care and preotectiveness with which John hugs to his chest Baby!Sammy after shooting the Strega away.

However, there is no denying that DT shows us another instance of how tight and close the relationship is between Dean and John, much more than between Sam and John. As Dean says earlier on: "I know my dad better than anyone". It's Dean that recognises that John is not himself, and Sam trusts Dean almost blindly, because Sam, too, knows that Dean would know.

Sam shoots Demon!John, and this is when finally John comes back:

JOHN: Sammy! It's still alive. It's inside of me, I can feel it. You shoot me, you shoot me, you shoot me in the heart, son. Do it, now! Sam, you gotta hurry, I can't hold on to it much longer, you shoot me, son. Shoot me! Son, I'm begging you, we can end this here and now. Sammy! You do this! Sammy! Sam...

But. Sammy doesn't shoot him, all throughout John's pleading Dean keeps begging Sam not to shoot their father, and we know that Sam does what Dean wants (or, you know, he actually loves John enough not to want to kill him).

And there it is, the Demon escapes through the cracks in the floor, and John...John glares at Sam with pain and resentment and desperation, and lets his head bang on the floor, loudly.

Because what he said in Salvation:
This ends, now. I'm ending it. I don't care take what it takes.

What he repeats to Sam:
We can end this here and now

Well, John is ready for it. John is well ready to give up his life: "I don't expect to make it out in one piece" he says in DMB.

John is at the end of his personal journey. They finally have the weapon that could kill MAry's murdered, and the murderer is for the first time 'trapped'. It doesn't matter to John that killing the Demon equals to kill him as well. He's been hunting for more than 20 years, he is ready TO GO. To leave. He doesn't even stop to consider what killing the Demon in this way would make to his boys. Blindly, he loves them, but just as blindly, he protects their live but not their hearts.

John is the ruthless, obsessed hunter that he is, and that has so much consumed him, that he can't see how his death would affect his sons. Right at that moment, John has seen 20 years of fear, pain and hard work paying back, and what a first prize that is for him - vengeance and protection for his boys, all in one nice package.

But Sam doesn't shoot him. And it all disappears in a cloud of black smoke.

Can you imagine, feel, what enourmous, huge, burden of desperation that must have been for John, right then? A lifetime spent hunting, wasted. Starting it all over again. There is only so much that a man can take, and in my opinion, John Winchester has taken all that he could bear, right at that moment.

The final Impala scene gives us the John that the boys, that Dean, would recognise as his father. A father capable of scolding, rebuking, protesting the fact that hsi son hasn't shot him.

But that's John. And that's the John that Dean would save and give up on everything else for, that's the John that spent Sam's college fund on ammo, that's the John has lived his life for more than 20 years trying to discover enough on the supernatural to make his boys safe and able to protect themselves.

In Devil's Trap, John is ready to go, if this means that it all ends there. And with that final crash, well, for all that we knew, it could have ended there. And John would have been right, in wanting his son to shoot him. And just like Dean wanted to save him, careless of their revenge on the Demon, we'll see that in In My Time of Dying, John is still convinced that Sam shoul dhave shot him (which makes sense, since the episodes are one the continuation of the other), and even more so since now Dean is dying. Which is something that John will NOT watch, will avoid at all cost, will deal with Demon in order to avoid it.

Because after all, all that John cares about are his sons.
6th-Nov-2006 12:43 am (UTC)
He's been hunting for more than 20 years, he is ready TO GO.

Yeah, absolutely. John in these last couple of episodes just screamed to me that he wanted to die. He wanted to die in the service of his quest, wanted his death to mean something, to buy something for his boys, but was also just plain tired and ready to be done. *sigh*

I'll quibble with you on the meaning of Bobby using the word "daddy," though. A lot of people I've known who've had acents like Bobby's use that word as a matter of course. If Bobby had met the Winchesters when Sam and Dean were 60-something, and John was in his dotage, I think he still probably would have referred to John as their daddy.
6th-Nov-2006 12:50 am (UTC)
re: Bobby saying 'daddy'

I plead being a foreigner *G*
Good to know, and thank you for pointing that out; so many nuances and references that I miss because of that :(

If Bobby had met the Winchesters when Sam and Dean were 60-something, and John was in his dotage, I think he still probably would have referred to John as their daddy.

for some reason, that would have seemed less relevant to me...because of the age issues? *ponders*

eh, a 90 yo John fighting with a 60 yp Sammy *grins happily*

I think he was ready to go, too, and that's why he's so disappointed in being still alive and breathing AND the Demon still being around. In IMToD, however, his deal is about the Colt and the last bullet...though I don't he hesitated at all when The Demon asks him for something more.

6th-Nov-2006 12:16 pm (UTC)
he protects their lives but not their hearts.

I think that pretty much sums up John Winchester. :)
Great meta!
I also wonder, with everything that happened, how Dean would feel now about begging Sammy not to shoot John back in the cabin. This show just doesn't let up on the angst, does it? :)
6th-Nov-2006 12:30 pm (UTC)
thank you :D

how Dean would feel now about begging Sammy not to shoot John back in the cabin.

Eh, great question! I find it quite entertaining that, after all, John was right in begging Sammy to shoot him, it would have solved lots of problems, get them rid of the demon and avoid SOME angst...I don't think Sam would have taken to shooting his father that easiily, but hey, you can't have everything *G*

Buckets and buckets o'angst! :D
8th-Nov-2006 04:46 am (UTC)
Wodnerful meta that gave me new insights into John.

Can you imagine, feel, what enourmous, huge, burden of desperation that must have been for John, right then? A lifetime spent hunting, wasted. Starting it all over again. There is only so much that a man can take, and in my opinion, John Winchester has taken all that he could bear, right at that moment.

Thanks you for this - I think i was (along with most of the fandom) so focussed on Dean's sufefring, and the final scene, that I really didn't spend enough time thinking what it must've been like for John. To be possessed byt he thing you've hunted and hated? To be forced to torture your children? To lose the chance to kill it? Excellent point - and adds so much more to a reading of what happens in the next epsiode.
8th-Nov-2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
thank you for reading and commenting.
It's one of the things I love most about SPN, the fact that each of the WInchesters has his perspective on things...and each IS right! Sam wants a safe, normal life, and there's nothing wrong with that; Dean wants his family together, and there's nothing worng with that either; John wants his boys safe, and killing the Demon seems the best way to do that, and if he dies with it, well, parents have to die before their children anyway, don't they? It's in the nature of things, and there's nothing wrong with that either.

Such conflicts! :D

To be forced to torture your children? Ah, yes, you picked up a very good point to add in order to explain John's focus on killing this Demon, because right then and there, he had proof that this Demon would hurt and toy with his boys, and what better reason to kill him, at 'any' cost?

I still can't re-watch IMToD...but I will, eventually. What I'd love to write about is the perception that I get that most in fandom forget that John didn't straight away offer his life for Dean's, he offered a deal, the Colt and the bullet. It's the Demon that asked for more. I think that's an important nuance, somehow - one that John didn't hesitate in taking, because, for Dean, he'd do anything (and for Sam, too), but not the one he had planned for.

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