At the time he doesn’t realize his slip of the tongue, but rushes to Crowley’s, well, headquarters to set the demon’s head right. ‘If you touch a hair on their heads, I will tear it all down: our arrangement, everything. I’m still an angel. And I will bury you.’ This is another glimpse of the old Cas. And he even manages to shake Crowley up, just a bit, since this was not the demon’s idea of synergy. (Bless you, Ben Edlund, for these terrific one-liners!)
In his memory, probably triggered by the demons that almost killed his friends, Castiel goes back in time again, to the beginning of this season. Dean lived with Lisa, mourning for his brother. Castiel needed him to help him in his fight against Rafael. But he hesitated. ‘Watching him, I stopped everything he sacrificed, and I was about to ask him for more.’
And then Crowley showed up. Offering Castiel a deal. Crowley, mischievous and clever demon that he is, worked out what kind of help Castiel might need to overcome Rafael. And how he could lure Castiel into it. And Cas, falling victim to pride, fell for it, eventually.
Well, thanks to Cas joining Crowley for a little chat, we get to see how hell looks like an endless time of standing in line. For eternity. With a Strauss waltz playing in disharmony. What a brilliant idea! Edlund, you genius. Uh-oh, I know, I know, I am repeating myself.
Crowley, unfortunately, happened to be another kind of genius. He pushed the right buttons to lure Castiel into making a deal with him. He made it plausible for Cas that he was needed upstairs, and that perhaps God wanted him to pin the sheriff star to his collar. He gave the angel a reason why he might have been saved. What his purpose might be. And how he could gather the power to actually fulfill that purpose the ‘nuclear’ power of purgatory.
As they walked through the corridors with I think a poster of Crowley in a fascist looking uniform on the wall, the demon explained his plan in detail, again pushing all the right buttons. And since Cas refused to get Dean into it, Crowley offered to take a ‘certain big, bald patriarch off the bench’, namely Samuel Campbell. And finally we learn who brought Grandpa Campbell back from hell. Elegantly done, Mr Edlund!
How could Castiel refuse at this moment?
This is like an echo of the difficult choices Sam had to make on his journey through the last seasons. With both of them, it boils down to a simple reason: the hope to be doing the right thing. The need to help and save their loved ones. The necessity to save the world from the apocalypse. Unfortunately, just like Sam, Castiel believed to be doing the right thing even trying out his newly gained power on the big Kahuna, Rafael, as soon as he knew how to wield it. ‘…and so went the long road of good intentions, the road that brought me here.’ No one else but Castiel declared war. He began the celestial civil war. It didn’t just happen. Castiel was the main perpetrator. The one who nudged the balance. Oh, Cas…
The next time the Winchester gang calls him, Castiel appears right away, walking into their trap, believing they trust him again. How wrong he is. A moment later he is trapped in a ring of holy oil set afire.
This breaks my heart that Dean, Sam and Bobby came to a point where they felt compelled to lure their friend into a trap. And Castiel finally realizing where he slipped and what terrible consequences that might have.
This is another echo of the past to me. There was a time, Dean, Bobby and Castiel trapped Sam to rid him of his demon blood. He also tried to explain, but they wouldn’t let him. Castiel doesn’t get the chance to explain, either. Dean’s reaction to Castiel’s betrayal is very much in the same, bitter neighbourhood as we saw him when he realized what Sam had done. Because he regards Castiel to be one of the extended Winchester family, the kind that don’t end with blood. There can hardly be a greater pain.
‘Sam, I am the one who raised you from perdition!’ Cas tries desperately. And to me Sam appears to have just been hit by a fist. Oh, Castiel, oh, no, Sam. This is no real shock to me – there was always this possibility. But I didn’t expect Castiel to hide this information from them (and us) for so long. On the other hand, he brought him back damaged. There might just be a reason for keeping it a secret there.
‘What? Well, no offense, but you did a pretty piss-poor job of it.’ Tears are already welling up in his eyes. That information did strike home. Oh, yes, even more as it dawns on him: ‘Wait. Did you bring me back soulless on purpose?’ His voice breaks. The thought alone must be almost unbearable to Sam.
‘How could you think that?!‘ And Cas can hardly believe what he is accused of. This is bloody painful. Sam could have hit him with an angel-killing-sword. I doubt that would have hurt more.
‘Well, I’m thinking a lot of things right now, Cas.’ He can’t answer to this right now. And of course Cas did not bring Sam back like that on purpose. I don’t believe it.
‘Listen, Rafael will kill us all. He’ll turn the world into a graveyard. I had no choice.’
‘No,’ Dean interrupts, ‘you had a choice. You just made the wrong one.’
‘You don’t understand. It’s complicated.’
‘No, actually, it’s not. And you know that. Why else would you keep this whole thing a secret, unless you knew that it was wrong? When crap like this comes around we deal with it, like we always have. What we don’t do is: we don’t go out and make another deal with the devil!’
Dean, you are unfair. I love you, but at this point, I could just slap you. You, especially you, know how easy it is to make the wrong choice, but still believing it to be the right one! Your own brother did it. Your parents did it. Pretty much your whole family made deals, again and again. You have experience in these matters, and I can only hope that should another hell spawn come up to push the right buttons you would not fall for it again. But Castiel is inexperienced in the realm of deals with the devil. He made his to save all of you. To prevent Rafael from restoring the apocalypse all over again and reducing all the sacrifices you all made to absurdity.
‘It sounds so simple when you say it like that. Where were you when I needed to hear it?’
‘I was there. Where were you?’
Watching you, Dean, in your life with Lisa, hoping that you might find at least some kind of peace. Cas didn’t want to ask another sacrifice from him.
But it’s too late for any kind of apology or explanation. Demons are about to be upon them. Dean still hopes to be able to fix whatever needs fixing, but Castiel sends them away, to safety. And their wellbeing is the first thing Castiel asks as Crowley enters. ‘Please, heard you the first time. I promise, nary a hair on their artfully tousled heads.‘ Another line I could just kiss Edlund for. I love the way he plays with the image of the show. Naughty, and very, very intelligent.
‘You know the difference between you and me: I know what I am. What are you, Castiel? What exactly are you willing to do?’ A very good question. And the answer, when we find it in Cas’ mind, will surprise Crowley, I’m sure. I don’t think there is malice.
Again, Castiel pops in on Dean, this time asleep on Bobby’s couch. As my respected colleague and friend Julie pointed out to me the other day: don’t they have beds? Bobby’s house is big enough for all of them to be able to sleep in a bed, isn’t it? Yes. Indeed. How is it that always one of them sleeps on the couch and/or on the floor? This is one of the moments I would like to get to know more of the everyday lives of the Winchesters. You know, like buying a new tooth brush, filling the Impala’s tank or, well, putting fresh linens on a bed upstairs in Bobby’s house. But that’s just meâ€¦
As Castiel explains to Dean, softly, that Bobby got some of the angel-proofing wrong, Dean counters with a verbal attack, making sure Castiel understands that he is supposed to carry a considerable part of the blame. ‘Too bad we have to angel-proof in the first place.’
Castiel, however, is not looking for a fight. He’s desperate. He needs Dean to understand. That he is doing what he is doing for Dean and because of him. I believe Cardinal Wolsey once said about King Henry VIII ‘Always tell the king what he should do, never what he can do.’
‘I’m gonna logic you, okay? I’m saying don’t, just ’cause. I’m asking you not to. That’s it. Next to Sam, you and Bobby are the closest things I have to family, that you are like a brother to me. So if I’m asking you not to do something, you gotta trust me, man.’
‘Well, I’ll do what I have to do to stop you.’
This sounds a lot like ‘if you love me, you won’t do it.’ It’s the kind of blackmail that can destroy a relationship entirely.
I understand, though, were Dean’s bitterness and harsh decisions come from. This is, again, a situation like those he found when Sam was consorting with Ruby, choosing a demon over his own brother. Again, a brother (in arms and in heart) sort-of chooses a demon over Dean. And even though Castiel holds against Dean that he is merely a man while Cas is an angel, the angel reacts and acts more human than he himself expected.
Dean needs to be decisive at this point, and clear, and aggressive simply because he is in pain. I believe he hoped to never undergo such an ordeal again, losing someone close in this manner. He hoped to be able to save those he needed to save, but now he’s helpless again. Often, in the past, Dean reacted with anger and cynicism when he felt helpless. Not to know what to do is one of the most grievous enemies of the older Winchester. And not to be able to save a loved one, even more. It’s a lonely place to be. Again. This will leave a scar in Dean’s soul. I am certain of it. And perhaps re-open old wounds.
I’m asking you father, one last time: am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path? You have to tell me, you have to give me a sign. Give me a sign. Because if you don’t, I’m gonna, I’m gonna do whatever, whatever I must.’
I remember moments of my life when I have been praying this hard. And the despair that fuels such an instant. Cas stills suffers from the delusion that God will actually answer him. He thought he knew what God expected of him. Or of the other angels. When he realizes that there is no answer, he is again, utterly, alone. The childlike angel that got to know humans and his own humanity is lost, at present with little hope. ‘I lived like one not born to die, a thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears, no hope I needed, and I knew no fears’, as Hartley Coleridge observed in his poem, ‘nor child, nor man, nor youth, nor sage, I find my hair is grey, for I have lost the race I never ran.’
I am terrified what the remaining two episodes of this season will hold. The nightly colour the show has worn for quite a while seems to get even darker, and more painful, if that is possible at all. In many ways this episode made a promise to take us further into the abyss of human and angelic pain. The actors are at the height of their craft and talent. A part of me can’t wait to see them perform the horrific scenes waiting for us. Another part simply wants to run away. Again I have to admit, this show and its characters keep a hold on my heart. All I can do is hope that there will be light in the end. At least a hint of it. But something tells me to not get my hopes too high. Rather get ready to be broken hearted. That would not exactly be new. Not with Supernatural.