Death’s pale flag is not advanced there – An Epitaph for Ellen And Jo
“Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
and sing it to her bones”
Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
This week our favourite tv-show suffered a great loss. A mother died protecting her daughter. A daughter died protecting a pair of brothers, and thus trying to alter the course of a potentially horrific fate at least a little. Two ordinary women did something extraordinary. They saved lives. And, perhaps more importantly, they defended what they deemed necessary at that point in their short lives.
There was hardly anything else to do, was there? They were trapped by Evil forcing them into a decisive moment that made them act selflessly. I was amazed at how those women grew in that seemingly forlorn instant. Strangely, though they knew they would die, in a terrible manner, they still managed to create a moment of hope born out of the undying love for each other. And that, probably, touched me more than I expected possible.
Ellen was the incredible woman we’ve encountered in season two, gutsy and tender, a kind of mother to Sam and Dean – she seemed more vulnerable, but still the kind of woman to inspire respect, trust and affection.
Jo had really grown up. Her life as a huntress allowed her to become a more mature, brave woman who was able to muster up the strength to turn down a tempting last-night-on-earth offer from Dean, rather holding on to her self-respect. Possessed Sam had shoved in her face that she carried a torch for him, and we don’t really know whether her feelings towards Dean had changed. If she did love him, then not giving in to him makes her an even stronger character. The former freak with a knife collection had become a lovely, tough, yet sweet young woman capable of looking death in the eye.
“Finish, good lady. The bright day is done
And we are for the dark.”
Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra
How do we react when we know weâ€™re going to die? Some people panic. Some are paralyzed with fear. Sometimes a certain calmness kicks in when we begin to understand what it means to accept the inevitable. That is a moment dignity is able to raise its head and help us do what perhaps needs to be done â€“ sometimes maybe even lay down our lives to save others.
It is the kind of heroism that doesn’t require celebration. But it zooms in on what is right with human nature – that there is someone, in this case a young woman and her mother, capable of facing evil, resisting it with an act of courage many men (and women, of course) will fail to achieve.
Don’t misunderstand me – the kind of sacrifice Jo and Ellen committed themselves to often comes (in movies or tv-shows) with the male soldier, the male police officer, etc. I love to find a moment like that fuelled by a woman’s devotion, because I firmly believe that such an act of desperate courage doesn’t depend on gender, but on a person’s character, male or female.
The Harvelle women chose to accompany their friends, Sam, Dean, Castiel to hunt Lucifer, aware of the dangers awaiting them, but still hopeful to at least get a shot at the arch-enemy, thereby doing the dirty work no demon would even dare to try.
All they carried with them were a handful of guns (pretty much useless against a dozen hellhounds), their knowledge of the paranormal and their most important asset: integrity. If you need to go into battle, then with friends like that.
There was no hesitation when Dean was thrown down by a hellhound, Jo was there, not minding her own life, trying to save the life of the man she (maybe) loved.
In the panic and despair ensuing, Jo was the voice of reason, quickly assessing the situation and coming up with the only plan that carried at least a glimpse of hope – saving the Winchester brothers so they could try to kill the devil.
Looking at Jo, torn up and in torment, pulled painfully at my heart, this sweet woman became a powerhouse, albeit lethally wounded and terrified. “Mom, this might literally be your last chance to treat me like an adult. Might wanna take it?”
Although she must have known that nothing she said, no smile she forced could have lessened her mother’s agony, she did try to make it easier for Ellen – this is what we do, right?, try to protect the ones we love, whenever, however we can – even if there is nothing we can do to actually save them.
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Ellen had to face the worst possible scenario any mother dreads â€“ realizing she is going to lose her child. It’s not natural. Parents go before their children. That’s how it should be. But life rarely keeps to rules.
“You got me, Jo. And you’re right: this is important. But I will not leave you here alone.” She stayed to help Jo go through the last and worst moments of her young life, but, I think, in part to not have to live with the pain that already imprisoned her.
For a moment, as Jo’s head sank to her shoulder, her daughter’s death caught up with her, and she needed all the strength she had left to push the button and blow the hellhounds back to hell.
I will miss Ellen and Jo. These characters moved me from my first tv-screen-encounter. Thanks to Samantha Ferris’ and Alona Tal’s wonderful performances I grew to love these women. Ellen rocked! A wounded, yet strong, loving, witty lady who practically adopted the Winchesters without question. Jo grew so much and became a true huntress, able to face her worst fears.
They died not as victims, but as tough rebels, their heads unbowed. They saved the brothers’ lives. And this selfless act will hopefully save them from eternity in hell. “The other side” has to be heaven. You hear me, Cas? Make sure of it.
As Shakespeare has been popping up in my head all day (which you have undoubtedly noticed), allow me to close with another quote, saying goodbye to two interesting, lovely women:
“Good night, ladies, good night. Sweet ladies,
good night, good night.”