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I don’t doubt for a moment that Balthazar was the one to hatch the plan to unsink the Titanic as a way to procure more souls as a power base for their rebellion. After all, Balthazar was the first angel we know of to actively trade in souls when he sold a piece of the staff of Moses to young Aaron Birch in exchange for his soul in The Third Man. I also don’t doubt that part of Balthazar’s motivation was his whimsical distaste for the James Cameron movie; after all, he could have accomplished the same end by intervening to prevent virtually any past disaster that had killed a lot of people, so picking the Titanic, of all possible things, could well have come down to his personal preference lottery.


 
Alternatively, if angels could perceive all the ways in which the world would change as a result of tweaking time, unsinking the Titanic might have been very attractive to Castiel precisely because it also restored two more of his few human friends, Ellen and Jo, and further improved the quality of life for Bobby and the Winchesters. I don’t believe Castiel knew ahead of time that would happen, however; we’ve long known that angels aren’t remotely omniscient. But I do think those added benefits made living with having made that choice a bit easier for Castiel, at least until things began to go so horribly wrong as Fate set about correcting course and forced him to confront the wrongness of what he had done.
 
I think Castiel’s alliance with Balthazar has been problematic at best, given Balthazar’s flighty and amoral nature. We learned they were friends in the days before Castiel rebelled, and I believe that genuine friendship, along with Castiel’s desperate need for the weapons Balthazar had stolen, prompted Castiel to choose badly in going along with Balthazar’s ideas. I would guess that affiliation has also complicated Castiel’s leadership position, because I can’t imagine many angels appreciating Balthazar’s feckless, flippant irreverence. It never bodes well for a leader if his followers can’t respect or trust his associates. 
 
I also wonder what vision, if any, Castiel actually has of what he truly wants to accomplish in Heaven. When we first met him in season four, he was a foot soldier distinguished only by his absolute, unflagging, unimaginative loyalty to God and his superiors; he had no command ambitions of his own and evidenced no personal desire other than serving God well. His gradual disillusion with Zachariah and his other superiors in Heaven upon learning they had lied to him and the other lesser angels and were actually scheming to bring about the apocalypse while pretending to forestall it gradually led him to accept Dean’s defiant call to join Team Free Will, but he was persuaded to that position not because he wanted to be free, but because he believed it was the right thing to do.


 
In trying to do what’s right, I think Castiel remains a servant of God, but I’m betting it’s increasingly hard for him to have faith in knowing what’s right in the absence of the surety he always had before through God. I wonder if the heart of Castiel’s difficulty in succeeding in the civil war in Heaven is because he doesn’t have and thus can’t convey to other angels a plan and a vision they could accept as defining their purpose and their goals. With the long-foretold apocalypse averted and God not on the scene to offer new instruction, all the prophecies and commands that defined angelic life no longer pertain; that’s got to be hard for the members of a social structure that was so rigidly grounded in hierarchy and order to accept, deal with, and understand. What do you do with yourself when the whole purpose of your life has apparently ceased to exist? According to Castiel, Raphael has been advocating putting things back the way they were by getting the apocalypse back on track, apparently in the belief that logic and order would be restored and things would again begin to unfold the way they should, according to the prophecies in which the angels always believed. That must be attractive to a lot of angels because it’s a mission they can understand and one that would put them back into the comfortable structure of knowing what’s expected of them and how their success would be measured.
 
Castiel, on the other hand, appears to be uncertain even in his own mind about what role the angels should play in this unscripted version of the future history of Heaven and Earth. I think he’s reluctant to kill other angels because in his heart he believes they are mistaken and misled, not evil, and  killing them would be wrong. I think he wants to persuade them to his side, but can’t clearly convey what that means because he doesn’t even know how to express it to himself. I suspect the others on his side have no unifying principle or common vision of the future at all, and thus form a much looser, less organized, and inherently weaker alliance than Raphael’s focused and goal-oriented army. As Castiel has continued the fight, I think he’s found himself forced increasingly into grey areas and questionable choices, always trying to do what’s right but feeling compelled in the process to do things he senses are wrong because the price of losing – the destruction of the Winchesters and their human world, who now appear to Castiel to form the culmination of God’s creation with all its complex embodiment of free will – is too much for him to pay. With the best of motives, he’s intentionally taken actions as callous, brutal, and wrong as torturing a boy for information, deliberately putting Sam and Dean at risk as unknowing decoys, and dealing in the currency of human souls like a demonic commodities trader seeking advantage, and I think that’s eating at him and making him question himself even as others question him, with no more answers to offer.
 
I don’t believe Castiel ever lied to Dean before he agreed here that Balthazar had unsunk the Titanic on a whim. He’s said things that turned out not to be true, but he believed them at the time based on what he’d been told. Unlike Balthazar and Zachariah, Castiel never learned to lie without shame, and all the times before when he spoke to Dean and Sam, his eyes were direct and clear. This was the first time he couldn’t meet Dean’s eyes because of the falsehood in his own, and I’m a little surprised that neither of the brothers picked up on that glaringly aberrant behavior as being Castiel’s “tell.” Those previously clear and guileless eyes are why I believe Castiel was telling the absolute truth in The Third Man when he said he didn’t know who had brought Sam and Samuel back or why, and I truly believe he didn’t know Sam’s soul was missing until his delving for Sam’s soul found nothing in Family Matters. I think this was his first and last venture in soul-trading, brought on by listening to Balthazar when he shouldn’t have.


  
I think this episode really was all about the souls – not just the many Castiel and Balthazar manufactured by unsinking the Titanic, or the two in the Winchester’s bodies that Castiel found worth the forfeit of all the others, or even the ones in all the living humans on Earth – but also the ones in angels and monsters, in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and on Earth. I think that whoever or whatever brought Sam back soulless – and I’ve never believed Crowley had the mojo – did that with intent to illustrate the value and importance of a soul, to drive home to the Winchesters and their allies the importance of understanding the role of souls.
 
I don’t think it’s an accident that Fate said the exact same thing to Castiel that Dean heard from Death in Appointment In Samarra: It’s about the souls.
 
Back then, Death said he wasn’t retrieving Sam’s soul for Dean.
 
I wonder whom he was doing it for.
 
You’re Talking About People – People Who Are Loved. Who Would Be Missed.
 
At least three times in this episode, different people made the observation that never being born was different from and better than dying. We heard the same from the Winchester brothers themselves back in The Song Remains The Same when they tried to persuade Mary to leave John and never give birth to the two of them in order to avoid all the heartache that followed. That justification made restoring the timeline and erasing all the Titanic survivors and their descendents arguably easy. They weren’t really real, so making them never have been wouldn’t have had any impact on the people who remained in the altered timeline.


 
But it was a different thing to confront knowing that someone you loved would cease to be. Having Ellen and Jo alive in this timeline because of all the little things that changed as a result of the Titanic not sinking made the stakes of undoing that change both real and high. I loved the depiction of Ellen and Bobby as a couple, and it made me wonder how many other things about the timeline had changed precisely because they were together and there as an extended and heart-solid family to love and support Jo, Sam, and Dean.
 
This wasn’t the first time that pairing was suggested in this show, either. As soon as I realized Bobby and Ellen had wed, I flashed back to the false memories Zachariah had crafted for Dean in It’s A Terrible Life, when Dean Smith said, My father’s name is Bob, my mother’s name is Ellen, and my sister’s name is Jo. Zachariah hadn’t had to reach very far to make that thought convincing to Dean, with the way Dean builds his life around family.
 
Forgive me for indulging myself here for a moment, but I couldn’t help speculating about how the Singers came to be and all the ways having them together might have made the world we know different. Looking at the “B&E Auto” sign, which had obviously been up for a number of years although clearly not as long as the “Singer Auto” one we’ve always known, I jumped to the conclusion that Bobby had probably been to Harvelle’s Roadhouse, perhaps during his hunting days with Rufus, and married Ellen some time after Bill Harvelle died. Ellen and Jo being together with Bobby at the salvage yard would have made Jo and Ellen’s relationship different, too, perhaps with Ellen less fiercely overprotective and Jo consequently not chafing so much at being held back, becoming more mature and competent at a younger age. And if all of them were together when Sam and Dean first met them, even before John died and they turned to Bobby for help, the brothers’ family support structure would have been more solid and established right from the get-go, with a mother and sister flavor as well as a surrogate father. 


 
I had to wonder if the whole sequence of how the brothers averted the apocalypse might have changed – not just Ellen and Jo not dying during an attempt to kill Lucifer with the Colt, but maybe the brothers coming up with a whole different approach to derailing the apocalypse, one not including all the pain and estrangement between them that the real timeline held precisely because they both had other sounding boards they loved and trusted who could have kept them from making the missteps they did and savaging each other along the way. I couldn’t see that Mustang holding the kind of family importance the Impala always did, so it couldn’t have been the catalyst for Sam’s salvation; something else had to have been in play. The brothers in the alternate timeline had a practiced rhythm and comfortable ease with each other we haven’t seen in years; watching them moving in perfect synchronization to summon Balthazar was a treat.
 
And all of that was the gift, I think, of all of them having been loved.
 
I wish they could have had that in the real timeline. I wonder how much of the alternate one the brothers actually do remember, and whether they’ll have more to regret than just realizing the loss Bobby doesn’t even know he suffered. Now we, like them, miss Ellen and Jo all the more.

Comments  

Merannoeu
# Merannoeu 2011-04-22 20:12
Great review Mary as always. I just have one comment. Unless I missed it in your review, there was an incident in season 5 where Castiel knows he is lying to Dean and can't hold eye contact. It had something to do with Castiel telling Dean that he would be with Sammy. I think it was in When the Levee breaks.
Anyway, I recall we did get a glimpse of Castiel being less than truthful before.
Mary, I really appreciate your effort in doing this--I always enjoy reading your work.
Deborah
# Deborah 2011-04-23 14:44
Thanks, Mary, for another interesting and insightful revuew. I loved this episode, for the closeness of the brothers, for the relationship of Bobby and Ellen, for the humor, and for the heartbreak - unknown by Bobby but known by Sam and Dean. I loved the last scene - Dean taking the book from Bobby and covering him with the blanket while Sam watched with a look of such love and sadness. I so love these boys.

However, like Merannoeu, I think that, while Castiel may not have outright lied to Dean before, he has certainly been deceitful before. I wonder if Dean will ever find out that Castiel was the one who let Sam out of the panic room and set into motion the killing of Lilith and subsequent rising of Lucifer. I realize he was most likely following orders and that it happened before he got all the "free will" lessons from Sam and Dean, but he still did something that he has kept hidden from Dean that in my mind was not alleviated by the fact that he eventually helped Dean get to Sam, but too late to stop the opening of the final seal.

Thanks again for another wonderful review. I look forward to reading your review of Frontierland!
BagginsDVM
# BagginsDVM 2011-04-23 20:18
I do so love to read your interpretation of each episode, Mary!

I really like your thoughts on the angels' confusion without God present to give them the guidance & orders they were so used to receiving. Castiel does seem to be floundering with his newfound authority; he certainly wants to do the right thing, but hasn't chosen the best of a cabinet of advisors if he is listening to Balthazar now, & perhaps other less trustworthy individuals. I wonder where Joshua has gotten off to in his garden. I wonder if he has heard any more from God? Cas needs to know that God is still out there & still cares, if our angel is to get his focus back. He's learned the value of true friendship in his relationship with the Winchesters, but he's risking a lot of damage to that if he continues lying to them. Will Dean extend his "blank slate" forgiveness to Cas once the truth comes out?

It's fascinating & heartbreaking to think of how things could have been different in averting the apocalypse if the boys truly had had the family support they experienced in this alternate timeline. I love your view of how Bobby & Ellen ended up together. What an awesome couple they made!

Dawn