A shell, incapable of holding life.
After arriving back at the bunker, Sam and Dean expected to see Jack and Mary but find themselves alone. When Dean calls Mary, him and Sam hear her phone in the room and know that something is wrong. They call Jack but he doesn't answer. They track his phone only to find him hopping across the planet from one continent to the next. They head out where Mary and Jack tracked Nick down only to find Nick's burned out body and a field that has been devastated. Back at the bunker, Castiel shows up and tells that that he noticed something was off with Jack and was planning on telling the Winchesters but it's too late. Dean is furious so they call Rowena for help. Rowena hears a knock at the door only to find Jack standing there. After Jack lost control, Mary Winchester is no more. Jack is desperate to do anything he can but there is no fixing this. No take backs and no second chances.
Well-paced and with very few missteps, Absence was the true send off episode for Mary Winchester. Absence started on slower beat by having Sam and Dean arrive at the bunker, relieved that everything was over with Nick and that Jack had saved the day. From there, the tension slowly built as they waited for Mary and Jack to return. When that didn't happen, the tone of the episode abruptly shifted from calm to desperate. Supernatural's gamble to play up the mystery and the faint hope that Mary Winchester may still be alive brought the audience on the same journey that Sam and Dean were on as Absence lead us through the stages of grief until we accepted that Mary was gone. I was the quality of the writing and the direction that were able to pull this off with the same finesse as John Winchester coming back for that brief moment. All in all, Absence was probably one of the best episodes of season fourteen.
While usually cheesy and overdone, the flashbacks in Absence each told a short narrative of Mary Winchester. From Castiel's memory of Mary's distrust of him and angels to the subtle moment of her and Dean in the impala, each flashback felt true to the characters. Each had their own relationship with Mary and it was the perfect way to illustrate that in a way that only added to the depth of the episode. The only minor negative that I can say about Absence is the scene where Sam and Dean found the destruction left by Jack. Overall, the layout of what occurred didn't visually translate onto the screen very well at all. I know that it was intended to appear as complete destruction but it came across as a shot where there was a clearing in the trees and the direction was to make the area somewhat darker or blackened. It didn't drive what happened to Mary and was only more apparent each time they returned.
While Absence is a great sendoff episode, Mary Winchester has been not been used to her full potential since the storyline with the British Men of Letters concluded. After that plot was finished, it always felt like Mary has been an absentee side character that is always "off on a hunt" just to keep her out of the story. While her death is the catalyst for turning the Winchesters against Jack, she should have had a larger role in the season. Supernatural has a history of having great farewell episodes for characters but has never been good at giving them their due throughout the season to bring that to the next level.
All in all Absence was a great episode from Supernatural. With only two episodes reaming for season fourteen, we'll see what happens next week when the angels make their play for Jack in Jack in the Box.