A Week Later
Has it really only been a little over a week since we were all stunned by Supernatural’s season 14 finale, “Moriah”? It seems like so much longer that I’ve felt this panic and trepidation about it undermining the entire premise of Supernatural, and correspondingly, my dedication to the series. “Moriah” kicked off a firestorm of debate among fans as to the writer’s (Andrew Dabb) intentions. Portraying God as an uncaring, cruel, manipulative puppeteer whose only interest in his glorious creation is how much it can entertain him? The more I think it, the madder I get.
The thrill and shock of seeing Chuck again has worn off. My naïve hope that he appeared to save Jack and whisk him away to an exhilarating future exploring the universe with Grandpa Chuck and Great Auntie Amara has been shattered. Instead, Chuck incinerated Jack with little more thought than swatting away a bug. We are being told that free will was an illusion, Sam and Dean’s lives were written on celestial pages in indelible ink, and Castiel’s God as the guiding force for goodness was a fallacy.
The clear purpose of the episode was to shock (traumatize, appall, horrify) fans into the unsettling realization that everything about Supernatural could be subverted. That idea is so repugnant that Threads Part 1 was devoted to listing alternate theories to explain Chuck’s actions. A week later, I may have come up with the best theory yet.
Jack is Back
Completely unexpectedly, Jack’s story is not over. One of the last images of the finale was seeing Death tell our nougat-loving Nephilim with the endearing smile and disarmingly youthful good intentions that he still has a part to play in shaping the universe. But what if… he is already shaping the universe?
Part 1 of “Threads ‘Moriah’” stated that I simply don't believe what we saw in the finale. I offered four theories to explain Chuck’s out-of-character actions, all of which explored that we weren’t seeing the real Chuck but instead an impostor generated by 1) Lucifer 2) the Shadow, i.e. the Empty Entity 3) Amara, or some corruption of Chuck by Amara 4) a Mirror Universe generated by Chuck to teach Team Free Will a lesson. In commenting on the review, readers put forward a fifth theory that a false vision seen in an earlier episode was evidence of a parallel universe bleeding into Sam and Dean’s reality as the “cosmic consequence” promised by Death. Any of these imaginary constructs is still possible, but they are all focused on rewriting the end of the episode.
What if we go back to the beginning of the episode? What if Jack never escaped the Ma'lak box at all? What if it is as impenetrable as advertised and he is still trapped in there, tortured with doomsday scenarios thrown at him by his vision of Lucifer? What if all of “Moriah” was in Jack’s mind?
Worlds created by and seen in dreams has been a season 14 theme since the second episode, “Gods and Monsters”. Given what happened in the finale, that’s a rather prophetic title for the introduction to this thread, don’t you think? Consider the entirety of the season with this theory in mind:
- A quarter of the way through the season was 14.5 “Nightmare Logic”, another prophetic title that lends credence to this theory. It focused on nightmare fears brought to life by a djinn.
- At the season’s exact half-way point, “Nihilism” 14.10, either Dean or Michael manufactured an entire world in Dean’s mind where he lived out his dream of owning a bar. The philosophical definition of nihilism is that nothing in the world is real! Dean ultimately trapped Michael in a cage in that “dream world”.
- The season’s three-quarter mark, 14.15 “Peace of Mind”, gave Sam a turn at living in a dream world manufactured entirely by the strength of someone’s mind. If Robert Beren’s tweet about a falsehood in Castiel’s memories is true, then perhaps we saw Castiel’s turn at creating a dream world in 14.18 “Absence” as well.
- The season’s artistic, geometric symmetry (eps 5, 10, 15 and 20 focused on worlds generated by the mind) would be complete if Jack fabricated a world in his mind in 14.20.
If the entire episode was indeed a dream in Jack’s mind, all the characters’ actions make sense as a manifestation of Jack’s fears. Ever since Jack’s downward spiral began (after he killed Mary), Lucifer appeared to Jack as the personification of his fears. Betrayed by those he loves and trapped in a terrifying, confining, black space, Jack’s doomsday scenario would be defined by his memories of how Lucifer would perceive the world, i.e. the Chuck in “Moriah” was Lucifer's vision of God:
- Lucifer would portray God as an uncaring, manipulative god. He viewed God as cold and wrathful, quick to unmercifully punish defiance, thus precipitating Chuck’s “That’s the way you want it?” plunge into an apocalypse.
- Lucifer was afraid of Jack (as frankly were Sam, Dean and Castiel). It follows then that in Jack’s dream, Lucifer’s God was also afraid of Jack:
Sam: Wait a second. You're scared of him.
God: Aren't you?
Clearly God could smite Jack whenever he wished to, so why would God have been afraid of Jack? That was an inconsistency that betrayed the irrationality of what we were seeing.
- Lucifer would expect a father to turn on his son because God turned against him. Hence Chuck’s desperation to have Dean betray Jack.
- Lucifer would portray God as smirking with delight while watching a father kill his son as a deserved punishment, because that is how Lucifer believes God feels about punishing him.
- Lucifer would want to corrupt Jack’s memory of Dean. Not understanding the power of love, Jack’s Lucination (Lucifer hallucination) would envision Dean’s revenge and rage winning over Dean’s love of Jack.
- Lucifer always threw tantrums when things didn’t go as he planned. Jack’s memory of his last encounter with his dad would be of Lucifer screaming in anger when Jack defied him, then threatening to create an apocalypse world. It follows then that Chuck’s apocalypse world came about from his own tantrum of being defied and shot.
- Lucifer always snapped his fingers to make bad things happen. Chuck snapped his fingers to bring about the apocalypse.
The Chuck we saw was exactly the God that Lucifer would perceive him to be, and as he would be manifested by Jack’s Lucinations. Many of us thought that Chuck might actually have been Lucifer impersonating God, but we couldn’t get past the argument that Lucifer didn’t have the kind of power Chuck displayed. Having God act like Lucifer in a dream eliminates that problem.
The remaining events in Jack’s vision, i.e. the rest of the episode, are also entirely consistent with how Jack would perceive things:
- Jack would be upset that Sam and Dean lied to him.
Jack: You lied to me!
Jack: You lied!
Consequently, the first part of Jack’s dream was him putting an end to all lying in the world.
- The news anchor on television was named Jack. Out of all possible names, the star of the show was named Jack!
Over to you, Jack. Jack?
- Jack would see himself as the hero in his version of the story. He justified all his actions to Castiel, who sympathetically validated all of Jack’s decisions and gave him hope for a solution:
Jack: Mary was a mistake. But ever since then, I've tried to do the right thing –
Castiel: except for Dumah. She led you astray.
Jack: And then I tried on my own, but every time I try, it -- it never goes right. It never … All I ever wanted was to be good. But now I'm just empty. Even this. I know you're here because you love me, and I want to love you back. It's just I can't.
Castiel: You can't yet. We just need time to fix this. We need to go somewhere safe, somewhere where no one can find us.
- Jack then heroically surrendered himself to Dean, offering no defense at all. He was the logical, loving, obedient son, who had learned well the lessons taught to him about “monsters” by his dads.
- Jack would expect that Lucifer (god in this scenario) would want him dead, as retribution for thwarting his plans to be a father/son team that reshaped the universe. So in Jack’s dream, LuciGod mercilessly betrayed and killed Jack, striking him down just as suddenly as Lucifer had sliced open Jack’s throat for his grace.
- Jack might also fear the real God’s judgement. Jack knew what he did was wrong, so he might believe he deserves death at God’s hand.
- Jack would believe that he would end up in the Empty when he died, having lived through the custody battle over his body that previously took place between Heaven and the Shadow.
- Jack knows what the Shadow looks like and could easily envision that maniacal smile of satisfaction at Jack’s appearance in its realm, given the Shadow forced a deal with Castiel, and displayed sinister glee at torturing Cas, Jack and Kelly. That smile alone is the stuff of nightmares!
- Jack would ultimately want to believe in his fathers. In Jack’s dream, Castiel never lost faith in him, Sam came running after Dean to stop him, and Dean ultimately made the right choice to love Jack and not kill him.
- The last element of Jack’s vision is the appearance of Death. Death is perfectly capable of talking to people in their dreams. What if that was actually her, interrupting and invading Jack’s dream?
The only question left? Was this dream all in Jack’s head, or does he have the power to make it reality, like the djinn did when amped up on archangel power? Chuck himself alluded to Jack being able to change the fabric of reality:
Chuck: Look, the point is the kid did all that with two words. What's next? He sneezes and -- whoops -- there goes India? I don't know. Maybe. But this is bad -- like Me Level Bad.
Sam: Can you stop him?
Chuck: Not exactly. But you can.
That point never made any sense! God couldn't stop Jack? Of course he could! At the end of the “play”, God dropped Jack dead in his tracks. So killing Jack was not what was being discussed here. Stopping Jack was what was asked. The boys can stop Jack because they are the only ones who can let him out of the box, ending his nightmare!
There were two other lines that struck me as odd, and therefore noteworthy in the script:
You're losing your mind over one yogurt!
You should've seen it. I caught a steelhead this big. I mean it!
As a passing background line, you’d think the guy would have said he caught a fish, not a specific type of trout (I looked it up). Then there are these omnipresent background lyrics:
Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more
Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreamin', I can hear them say
By my count, dream worlds and realities fabricated by one’s mind have been featured in eight of season 14’s twenty episodes. There may be more, but that’s how many we’ve discussed in "Threads" reviews. That’s nearly half of the year’s plots – and a huge clue that we may finally have found an explanation for Chuck’s odd behavior! What do you think?
Castiel's Truth as the Voice of Reason… and Fandom
In “Moriah”, Castiel was the voice of both reason and of what many Supernatural fan have wanted to say to the writers about this whole Ma’lak box plot. For the sake of creating intense drama and suspense, the writers asked fans to believe what our eyes showed us, but if this entire episode was a dream, maybe Castiel was not only Jack’s lifeline to reality, but also ours. Castiel first voiced our doubts about Jack’s escape:
I don't understand. The Ma'lak box can hold an archangel.
The brothers offered the explanation the writers want us to believe:
Sam: Jack's not an archangel.
Dean: Yeah, apparently, the kid leveled up.
Then Castiel repeated fans’ shock that the brothers would turn on Jack:
Castiel: You should never have tried to lock him away!
When faced with a confusing version of Chuck, Castiel again challenged what he was hearing and seeing:
Castiel: I don't understand why we're talking about killing Jack. You can fix him. You can restore his soul. That's why I called you.
Chuck: Yeah, not so much.
Sam : You're God.
Chuck: Well, souls are complicated -- even for me. Besides, even if I could, would you really want -- I mean, after what he did?
That was an odd statement from God, if he was himself. Of course God would want to try to save, i.e. forgive, someone for wrong doing, no matter “what he did.” Castiel counters with options:
Cass: Then we bind him. We throw him in the Cage until –
Dean: Stop, Cass. You heard him. This is the only way.
Still not believing what he was hearing, Cas challenged the group think that seemed to have taken hold of his friends,
Castiel: And Billie said the only way to defeat Michael was to lock you in a box!
Undeterred, Castiel continued to challenge God’s all-knowing authority:
Chuck: So, this doesn't so much fire bullets as it sends a wave of multi-dimensional energy across a perfectly balanced quantum link between whoever's shooting it and whoever they're shooting at.
It’s interesting that Castiel was Sam’s guide into Dean’s dream world in “Nihilism”. Cas explained the dynamics of worlds created out of memories, and was able to navigate his way through illusion. He seemed to be doing the same thing with Jack’s dream world, challenging the fabric of the lies. There has also been a growing schism between Castiel and the brothers over Jack the past few episodes. Has he been purposely separated from them to distinguish his view of reality? Castiel’s final hint to us was the most important clue that everything was a fabrication, not reality:
Sam: I thought Chuck said that the gun was the only thing that could [kill Jack].
Castiel: He's a writer. Writers lie.
Repeatedly we were told not to believe what the writers were showing us. Chuck's, and subsequently Castiel's, blatant statement was presumably referring to Chuck’s admission that he couldn’t be trusted because he was a writer, but let’s look at the meta interpretation of that statement:
Chuck: You see, this is why people need to lie. It's good. Keeps the peace, you know?
Castiel: Seems like an odd stance for you. [Cas again suspicious of Chuck’s actions]
Chuck: I'm a writer. Lying's kind of what we do.
There was a humorous respite in the episode where lying wasn’t allowed:
Sam: Dean, every time I try and say "Elvis," it comes out
Dean: The sad, horrible truth. You know why? Because we can't lie. […] When people can't lie, the Internet gets real quiet.
There was soon a clear declaration that truth-telling was over, though:
Dean: Yeah, we can lie again.
We were also clearly reminded that Jack can and has lied, despite his recent aversion to the practice:
Jack: I don't mean to bother you, but we talked before, and I liked that talk, and I thought we could just maybe talk again, maybe about your daughter.
Grandma Kline: No.
Jack: I don't understand.
Grandma Kline: You lied to us.
Was this entire episode a lie, manufactured not by Chuck, but by Jack? Moreover, was it all a waking nightmare, or was he able to create it as a reality with his Nephilim powers?
Is Billie the only being able to see it for what it is?
If you want more, Part 3 of Threads will address Dean's conversion, Sam finally speaking candidly to God, running away, time and the unexpected humor of the episode (I can leave those alone, though, if you've had enough!)! In the mean time, what do you think of this new theory? How does it compare to the previous theories? What revelations have you discovered in a week of rewatching and discussing “Moriah”?
Please add your thoughts below, then catch up on my prior season 14 "Threads" reviews, and all my other reviews and articles since season 8, by going to my Writer Page!
Additional Screencaps courtesy of https://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps
Transcript Quotes courtesy of https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/