Shocking Theory About Supernatural Season Finale
Supernatural has everything: life, death, resurrection, redemption -- but above all, family -- all set to music you can really tap your toe to. It isn't some meandering piece of genre dreck. It's ... epic.
For 12 seasons, we have literally gone to Hell and back with the Winchester brothers, and it has indeed been an epic adventure. But the most recent season finale left fans aghast, saddened by the on- and off-screen deaths of three beloved characters: Mega Coven founder Rowena (Ruth Connell); Crowley the King of Hell (Mark Sheppard), and the multi-dimensional being of celestial intent himself, Castiel (Misha Collins). This post will not attempt to address how Rowena and Cas(s) have both been proven not-dead-yet in the past or how the Alternate Universe opens up a world of possibilities for Misha to return in some other capacity or how Castiel's pledged loyalty to Satan's spawn may put him first on the list to be resurrected. No, this post is about Jack.
Season 12's driving plot surrounded what to do about the impending birth of Lucifer's child. Why this Nephilim would be more powerful than Lucifer himself is anyone's guess, but that's what we're expected to believe. And Season 12 closes on the face of this being who is foretold to be more powerful than anyone we've encountered this side of God (or Amara). And his name ... is Jack.
Not exactly foreboding, Jack. Why Jack? Why indeed. I'll get back to that.
And the Wind Began to Howl
For now, let's discuss the season finale's title: "All Along the Watchtower". Twelve seasons of this love-letter to classic rock, and only now are we referencing one of the most iconic rock songs of all time? There must be a reason. For those who need a refresher, here are the lyrics to Bob Dylan's foreshadowing masterpiece:
"There must be some kind of way out of here,"
Said the joker to the thief.
"There's too much confusion. I can't get no relief.
Business men – they drink my wine.
Plowmen dig my earth.
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth."
"No reason to get excited,"
The thief – he kindly spoke.
"There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke;
But you and I we've been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now.
The hour's getting late."
All along the watchtower
Princess kept their view
While all the women came and went
Bare-foot servants too
Outside in the cold distance
A wild cat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl.
Scholars have analyzed this song ad nauseum. Many see it as a circular piece, where you're dropped into the middle of the action before returning to the beginning in the final stanza. Certainly, this is the interpretation of Ronald D. Moore, who made the song a focal point to the final revelations in his reboot of the science fiction classic Battlestar: Galactica. I tend to see it less cryptic in chronology. First we meet the riders, then we see them approaching from the perspective of the watchtower. But that doesn't really matter. What's important is the characters -- the Joker and the Thief -- two outsiders ominously approaching the watchtower of the establishment.
Some will tell you the Joker and the Thief are the two men crucified beside Jesus. Others point to Isaiah 21:5-9, which speaks of princes in a watchtower, and they'll make a case that the two riders are Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And I don't think that's too far off, in so much as Dylan is clearly using old-world imagery to evoke something apocalyptic, and while the riders aren't literally one of the four ring-bearers, their approach signals revolution and upheaval. I will tell you that the Joker is Bob Dylan himself, a lifetime spent poking fun at the establishment and now expressing anxiety over the tumultuous era of the song (released in 1967), signaling a great revolution to come.
Well, that's all well and good, Daddy-o, but what's that got to do with Jack? Good question. Stay with me.
The Day the Music Died
If "All Along the Watchtower" is the cryptic foretelling of future to come, its natural counterpart is Don McLean's "American Pie", another cryptic masterpiece, this time looking back on the past and lamenting all that happened. It is most famously linked to the 1959 plane crash that claimed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper; but its more subversive tones are found outside the chorus.
Now, for ten years we've been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone,
But that's not how it used to be
When the Jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh and while the King was looking down
The Jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lennon read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
The ten years McLean is referencing are the 1960s (specifically between 1959 when the music died and 1969 when he wrote this song), and while moss grows fat on the rolling stone that is Rock 'n Roll (and quite literally The Rolling Stones), a new talent is ascending to the throne. We're obviously talking about Bob Dylan now, a jester instead of a joker this time -- the voice of a generation, both figuratively in the way he spoke for the people and literally in that he didn't have a great singing voice -- donning a windbreak similar to Dean's on the cover of his seminal 1963 album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". The third stanza here is the most powerful. Who is the King? Is it Elvis Presley, who went to war and started making movies and opened the door for someone to take over? Is it President John F. Kennedy (the King of Camelot), who was literally looking down when he was assassinated in that same year, 1963? Or is it the King of Kings himself, Jesus Christ, who literally wore a thorny crown?
To believe in the genius of this song is to accept that's it's all three of them, drawing parallels across time and circumstance. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. A few years later, John Lennon will tell the world that The Beatles are bigger than Jesus, but for now, the man who carries the burden of an entire generation is the joker, the jester, Bob Dylan. But the final stanza foretells what's coming in 1964, the arrival of Lennon's Beatles -- an era known to history as "The British Invasion" -- and now it all starts to come together (pun intended).
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
Jack! Now we're getting somewhere. Wait, who's Jack Flash? Jack Flash is none other than Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, the other key players in the invasion from Britain. Figuratively, you can interpret these versus as condemnation of the Stones selling out, but it is literally and quite specifically about the music festival at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969. Facing criticism for high ticket prices and general greed, the Stones decided to end their American tour with a free concert at a hastily chosen venue with little forethought or planning. Security was provided by the local chapter of the Hells Angels (paid for in beer), and 300,000 drunk and stoned concert goers descended upon Altamont for an event that would signal the end of a generation. Famously, the Stones stopped their set in the middle of "Sympathy for the Devil" to admonish the unruly crowd, but they didn't notice -- a few songs later -- when a member of the Hells Angels stabbed to death someone in the crowd who had reportedly drawn a revolver and was advancing toward the stage. Satan's spell had taken over that event, and in McLean's view, Rock 'n Roll in general.
Incidentally, that same night, Marty Balin -- founder and lead singer of Jefferson Airplane -- was punched and knocked unconscious while on stage by a different Hells Angel. Balin would leave the band soon after that, but he would reunite with many of his original mates to join the reformed touring band, Jefferson Starship. "They're horrible, and they're hard to kill."
But back to Mick and "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Keith Richards will tell you the inspiration for this song came from their gardener, and that may very well be true, but the actual lyrics are artistically autobiographical, referencing Jagger's birth as a "blitzkrieg baby" in the middle of World War II Europe (a cross-fire hurricane). He sings of a difficult childhood, corporate punishment in school, not enough food to eat, etc., which may or may not be his story, but it's a good story to use to set the stage for his rise. "But it's all right now", he sings. "In fact it's a gas." Because he's risen from humble upbringings to become rich and famous, and then -- you guessed it -- he compares himself to Jesus.
OK, let's regroup. Supernatural's twelfth season is all about two things: Lucifer and the British Invasion. Don McLean's "American Pie" is all about the end of American innocence during another British Invasion. McLean references cultural icons using British monarchy, suggesting the King of Rock, the President of the United States, and Jesus Christ. In Supernatural, as Lucifer hops from vessel to vessel hatching a plot for the future, he first becomes the Rock God Vince Vincente, whose band hit it big with their single, "Bloody Messiah". Then he moves on to *ahem* President of the United States, where he ultimately sires his offspring ... Jack.
Names matter in Supernatural. Dean is a reference to Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road". And Sam is a small tweak to that same novel's Sal Paradise, changing it instead to the Hebrew-inspired praenomen meaning "name of God". It's no surprise, then, that Ketch is a reference to a famous executioner, and Doctor Hess recalls Hitler's next-in-line Rudolf Hess. And Mick? Well, I'm sure you can figure that one out. So, why name Lucifer's unholy offspring Jack? Why name the season finale "All Along the Watchtower"? It all comes back to "American Pie". And is there anyone you know who loves American pie?
And the three men I admire most,
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing
Bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die
Entering the 13th season, with the end drawing near, I cannot escape these lyrics. God (and Amara) already bailed, so I am inexorably drawn to the three men I admire most: Dean (the father), Sam (the son), and Castiel (holy and maybe now a ghost). Now I know this doesn't fit perfectly. The "Holy Ghost" is the spirit of God that lives within us, but with God vacationing on the coast, who represents the spirit of God within us more than good ol' Cas(s)? And don't tell me Dean isn't the father in this Supernatural trinity. We've known for a decade that he's the one who actually raised Sam, but if there was any doubt, it was put to rest in Season 12's penultimate episode, "Who We Are", when Dean forgives Mary for making him Sam's mother and father. One day soon, the three men I admire most will drive their Chevy to the levee one final time, they will catch the last train for the coast, and it will truly be the day the music died.