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Because I Want It To Be
 
There was something uniquely appropriate in Raphael borrowing Ken Lay's Heaven. As the chief executive of Enron, Lay was the architect of perhaps the biggest corporate fraud in America – and Raphael is continuing the fraud on both Heaven and Earth perpetrated earlier by Zachariah, who pretended the then-current apocalypse was the will of God. The ultimate irony, perhaps, is that Castiel went on to perpetrate his own fraud, lying to his follower angels as well as to the Winchesters while he secretly cut a deal with Crowley and nearly sold humanity to Purgatory in his attempt to secure enough power to confront Raphael on his own corrupt terms.
 


When Raphael claimed he had to reinstate the apocalypse because it was God's will, Castiel, appalled at the prospect of such utter destruction and devastation, asked him how he could say that, and Raphael responded simply, Because I want it to be. With that single, chilling line, Raphael revealed himself – and Zachariah before him – to be the ultimate hypocrites, professing divine will as the excuse for gratifying their own personal desires for power and paradise when they believed God was no longer watching them. They had lied deliberately to the angelic host to keep the other rank-and-file angels – like Castiel, once upon a time – in line; just remember Zachariah in Lucifer Rising, when admitting he'd always intended to break the seals, saying, Grunts on the ground, we couldn't just tell 'em the whole truth. We'd have a full-scale rebellion on our hands.  
 
And I would submit that is the power Castiel overlooked and ignored, the real power he could have used to oppose Raphael and his faction. Dean laid Zachariah's hypocrisy bare for Castiel, giving him grounds to choose against Zachariah while still preserving his belief in and dedication to God and to doing the right thing in God's eyes. I believe Castiel should have done the same for his brother and sister angels. There is great power in social justice:  just look at the American civil rights movement, when peaceful protest and civil disobedience – even when met with force and violence – ultimately prevailed in changing opinions and forcing legal, moral, and ethical change throughout a society. There is great power in truth and understanding, and great strength in numbers fueled by moral imperatives. Zachariah, Raphael, and their faction had kept the majority of angels in the dark about their intent because they feared what would have happened had the bulk of the heavenly host, who believed they were serving God, learned they were being deceived and used by rogues instead. Castiel was armed with the truth – but we never saw him share it, explain to the other angels why he had rebelled, and that he hadn’t rebelled against God, but against corrupt bureaucrats misusing their power in Heaven’s government.
 
You can fight city hall, but you can’t do it alone. When you’re up against serious, organized power, you build a coalition of your own; you get help. But you don’t accept it from an equally corrupt contractor seeking to line his own pockets and to get you, as a future leader, in his debt and under his thumb. No: you broadcast the truth and publish your proof, and you recruit the support of others like you. Individually, you might not have the power or the resources or the strength, but together, you can make a righteous army. And you can win.


 
Doing that, though, would have required Castiel to be a leader, to share his knowledge and his vision and his determination, and from what we saw, that wasn’t what he did. He let his fear of Raphael’s strength and of the utter destruction promised by the apocalypse overpower calm, strategic thinking, and then Crowley played on his pride, his hidden vanity, and his fear as if they were strings on his harp.
 
I don't think it's entirely too late for Castiel to redeem himself, find the right power, and shut down both Crowley and Raphael – but to do it, he needs to recognize that God already gave him the sign he was begging for at the end of the episode, a sign he just didn't want to see or hear because it meant he had done so much wrong. The sign was Dean telling him to stop. The sign was the still, small voice of Castiel's own conscience telling him he was wrong. The sign was the very shame inside him that made him lie and hide the truth.
 
Production Notes
 
I think in The Man Who Would Be King, Ben Edlund wrote a nearly perfect episode of Supernatural, and in only his second stint as a director – his first having been the episode Smile Time on Angel back in 2004 – I think he did himself proud. I particularly enjoyed the way he employed camera or actor moves to reveal Castiel as having been watching what went on in a scene, unseen, until another character (usually Dean) moved to uncover the angel having been hidden behind him. It's hard to make clear that a character we can see is invisible to the other characters in the scene, but Edlund pulled it off here.  (And I can only imagine the hilarity on set as Jensen, Jared, and Jim pretended to be unaware of Misha during the shooting … here's hoping we get outtakes on the season six DVDs!) The actors commented at the Paley Festival about the fun of having as their director the same man who wrote the episode, who could give them specific direction on what their characters were thinking or feeling, and the passion among all involved really showed on screen.
 
This was a talky episode with a lot of exposition to deliver, but the beauty of it was, you didn't notice it. Having Castiel speak directly to the audience, with the audience occupying the position of God, worked wonderfully to suck us in as we perceived the things we'd seen and thought we'd known from an entirely different perspective that dramatically changed our understanding. And seeing the Winchesters, Bobby, Crowley, and his own decisions through Castiel's rueful, sad, and now wiser eyes made all of them different.


 
I think my only real quibble with the script was its total disregard for the Enochian sigils Castiel had burned into the brothers' ribs back during Sympathy For The Devil to hide them from angels. That was a crucial plot point throughout season five – one that even required the brothers to use cell phones to let Castiel know where they physically were, for example, in Good God, Y'All, The End, and My Bloody Valentine –  but it totally vanished during season six. I've grumbled about it gently throughout this season so far, hand-waving Castiel's ability to show up whenever required as indicating that direct prayer could trump the concealing power of the sigils, but Castiel showing up in the Impala in the beginning and spying on the brothers unseen pretty much throughout sidestepped that entirely. Perhaps Castiel, being so much more sensitive to human things than other angels, homed in on the Impala in the beginning, knowing Dean would be close, and targeted Bobby as a beacon when he was in the brothers' company, but it's pretty clear the writers are now simply blocking out awareness of the currently inconvenient angel-proofing on the brothers' bodies. Did Castiel wipe out the sigils when he healed Dean and brought Sam back from Hell? Would be nice to know.
 
Given that's my only quibble, though, it's a very minor one! And it's trumped by everything I loved about the story, starting with learning a lot of the truth that's been hidden from us this season, and continuing through Edlund's deft touch in using absurdity to lighten up otherwise potentially unbearable darkness. Castiel's more-than-half-bitter irreverence in recounting the past served not only to add a little levity to the narrative, but to convey just how deeply disaffected the angel had become. In the same moment, Edlund made us both laugh at human pretensions – interpreting the fall of the 37-foot Tower of Babel as a sign of divine wrath – and realize how very hurt and disgruntled Castiel himself was; that was superb. And who else could capture in two sentences the concept of God employing evolution to accomplish His creation (I remember being at a shoreline watching a little gray fish heave itself up on a beach, and an older brother saying, “Don't step on that fish, Castiel. Big plans for that fish.”), and who else would have created a demon twin to Bobby named Ellsworth, in honor of Jim Beaver's role on Deadwood, manning a bank of phones that included bubbling goblets of blood as hotlines to hunter demons? This episode had way too many quotable and memorable lines to count, and truly defined why I love Ben Edlund.


 
Donald L. Koch, who (as Don Koch) has served as an assistant editor on various episodes of the show since the beginning of season four, earned his first primary editor credit on Supernatural with this episode. Talk about starting with a bang! This was emphatically not an easy or straightforward episode to assemble, but I thought he did a great job. I really enjoyed the intercutting of the scenes from D.W. Griffith's 1916 film Intolerance (thanks to Jim Beaver – on Twitter as @jumblejim – for having identified the source material!) to illustrate part of Castiel's narration of history. And whoever picked the music for this episode was inspired! Running Billy Paul's  “Me and Mrs. Jones” under the scene of Castiel and Crowley in the torture/autopsy chamber had me in almost hiccuping hysterics (We've got a thing going on / We both know that it's wrong / But it's much too strong / To let it go now …), and playing Strauss's “The Blue Danube” as elevator background music in Hell was too deliciously torturous for words!


 
Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard owned this episode. All the way through, Misha delivered on Castiel's inner conflict and confusion, his wonder and dismay at how all his well-intentioned actions could have gone so wrong. Sheppard's Crowley not only chewed the scenery and spat it out – his delivery of those denim-wrapped nightmares just sticks in my mind! – but his deliberate, meticulously plotted seduction of Castiel was brilliantly executed.
 
While the focus of the episode was on Castiel, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki shone as the Winchesters. Jensen laid bare all of Dean's stubborn loyalty and utter devastation at realizing how deeply he'd been deceived, while Jared showed Sam's unfailing awareness of and consideration for his brother's feelings. After the half-season of watching soulless Sam being oblivious of his impact, I really appreciated how attuned to Dean Jared's Sam has been ever since recovering his soul, and how evident Jared has made Sam's desire to minimize Dean's pain. I love watching these two actors create the brother bond between Sam and Dean! I also love watching Jim Beaver as Bobby balancing the burdens of knowledge, wisdom, and compassionate affection.
 
I'm very curious to know more about the nature of souls. Crowley “loaned” Castiel fifty thousand souls to supercharge him against Raphael; did Castiel's use of them burn them out, or are there fifty thousand new – and spiritually undeserved – niches in Heaven? And were the fifty thousand souls reportedly created during My Heart Will Go On intended to repay Crowley, perhaps to try getting Castiel out of his deal, or was that seeming correspondence in numbers a coincidence? Why did Sam emerge soulless out of Hell when Castiel tried to rescue him – did Death or God perhaps intentionally block his soul's escape, in order to highlight and underline the vital importance of souls? How and why are archangels more intrinsically powerful than other angels – or are they? Will we ever know?
 
My two biggest take-aways from this episode were the need we all have to ask for and accept help from others, and the absolute importance of telling the truth to the people we care about. No matter who you are, as the U2 song put it, sometimes you can't make it on your own, and there's no shame in admitting that and asking for help. This season would have been totally different if Castiel had just revealed himself to Dean when he first realized how lost he was, admitted his mistakes, and asked for help, and if he'd told the complete and unvarnished truth of all he'd learned about their corrupt government to all his brother and sister angels in Heaven.
 
And it also goes to show that might have been are the three saddest words in the English language.
 

 

Comments  

Ellie
# Ellie 2011-05-19 02:55
Ben Edlund set out to give Castiel a sympathetic pov and therefore the audience and he certainly achieved that .so job well done I suppose.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 20:56
Glad you could appreciate the effect, even if you're not invested in Castiel! Edlund definitely succeeded in his intent ... :)
KatieV
# KatieV 2011-05-19 06:15
Thank you Mary for another thoughtful and insightful review. I love reading your thoughts about this wonderful show. I also wonder how much of these underlying themes the writers intended to create when they put pen to paper or was it all there in the collective subconscious and they, like Chuck, are just a means to express them.
Or is that going Uber-Meta?
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 20:58
Thanks, Katie! I suspect a number of the underlying themes were in the writers' minds - but I also suspect we often read things into the subtext that they didn't intend, but which prove to be happy unconscious accidents in the long run!
MB
# MB 2011-05-19 09:04
RE the sigils.

I'd like to posit that perhaps it isn't a forgotten plot point. We see Castiel heal Dean at the end of 5.22 and considering the victory they've scored and his mood at the time it'd be reasonable to assume that he removed the sigils then too. The fight was over after all.

Similarly hauling Sam out from Hell could have given Castiel the same opportunity to remove the sigils although this one involves a little more leeway.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 21:00
Thanks for coming and commenting!

I wouldn't be surprised if Cass removed the sigils at some point, thinking them no longer necessary; my only little quibble is that we've never been told or been shown that. We've just seen Castiel turning up in the brothers' presence, when last season, they made a big thing of him not being able to do that. It's just a little quibble, in any case!
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-05-19 09:08
"Dean's stubborn loyalty and utter devastation at realizing how deeply he'd been deceived, while Jared showed Sam's unfailing awareness of and consideration for his brother's feelings. After the half-season of watching soulless Sam being oblivious of his impact, I really appreciated how attuned to Dean Jared's Sam has been ever since recovering his soul, and how evident Jared has made Sam's desire to minimize Dean's pain."

I am glad you brought this point out. This is exactly what I have been noticing the last two or three episodes, and it is a welcome relief.

I thought the episode was brilliant; too, but...how do I say this...

Your analysis was pretty much how I viewed the episode, but I guess it's just that I am not all that interested in an angel dealing with human emotions, dilemmas; all that stuff, and that story taking center stage in the season. I realize that the resolution to Cas's problems will set the stage for S7's story.

That said, whether I like the direction the show has taken, kudos to Edlund. The episode was amazing, beautifully done, answered questions without tainting Cas as an unredeemable character, and brought him full fledged into the series as a lead.

Thanks for a great review.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 21:05
Thanks, Ginger!

I'm glad you could appreciate the episode even though you don't particularly care for the Heaven/Hell storyline.

I really do appreciate the way we've seen re-souled Sam appreciating his brother, even as we saw Dean appreciating having Sam fully back. I've been loving the renewed brother dynamic, especially given how long it's been missing. Love the Winchester brothers, and always will!
Clare
# Clare 2011-05-19 14:27
Really excellent meta, though I think you've left out a very important factor in Cas's choices: his love for Dean, which shone through every time he looked at Dean in this episode. He wasn't prepared to risk *Dean*. The real tragedy is that what he's planning *will* risk Dean.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 21:11
Thanks, Clare! And great point on Castiel's caring for Dean. I don't think the angel fully understands this "feeling" thing even yet, but it's clear how much Dean has come to matter to him. And you're dead right; what he's doing is jeopardizing precisely the one man he most intended to protect.
Bevie
# Bevie 2011-05-19 14:29
Anything I could say would pale in comparison to your thinky thoughts Mary, so I just want to remind you how very much I enjoy your reviews and metas. :-)

I may not comment on every one, but know that I thoroughly read and enjoy all of them.

Thank you
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 21:11
Thank you very much, Bevie! *Hugs*
Maria G
# Maria G 2011-05-19 17:23
How and why are archangels more intrinsically powerful than other angels – or are they? Will we ever know?

I believe they're following religious canon when it comes to Archangels. They're far more powerful than Angels because they're higher in rank. Angels deal with individuals (hence the term "guardian angel") and the delivery of messages, whereas Archangels deal with large groups, nations, etc. Logic would indicate you'd need more power to deal with more people.

Just my 2p.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-19 21:17
Thanks, Maria! Nice points!

I grew up Catholic, so I know the doctrine; my question was aimed more at how the show's cosmology encompasses the relative powers of angels. If angels draw power from souls, I'm curious about how archangels get more than others - and whether it's possible Castiel may now have more access to power than he had before he was brought back in Swan Song. I more than halfway wonder, especially after Castiel's comment then that he was "new and improved," whether he might have gotten an upgrade to archangelic status without realizing it. Wouldn't that be a kick, if he was now actually a straight power match for Raphael, and just didn't realize it, limiting himself simply because he was accustomed to thinking himself intrinsically less powerful? Hmm ... more thinking is required, I think!
MB
# MB 2011-05-20 08:30
Quote:
How and why are archangels more intrinsically powerful than other angels – or are they? Will we ever know?

I believe they're following religious canon when it comes to Archangels. They're far more powerful than Angels because they're higher in rank. Angels deal with individuals (hence the term "guardian angel") and the delivery of messages, whereas Archangels deal with large groups, nations, etc. Logic would indicate you'd need more power to deal with more people.

Just my 2p.
I don't think this is necessarily true. I'd accept that the archangels are the top of the tree however Cupids are meant to be higher than angels but they've made it clear that the Cupid(s) on SPN are below Castiel's paygrade.
CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2011-05-19 23:04
This is another great article. It was quite heart breaking in some parts, and I guess being confronted with hard truths can have that effect.

I especially liked the way you concluded the article - the effect of the last sentence and the accompanying picture was devastatingly sad.

I did wonder (and commented on another article) why didn't Castiel seek out Joshua to see if God had any views on the matter (c.f. Dark Side of the Moon).
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-20 18:22
Thank you; glad you liked! Thank Alice for the final photo - she's the one who supplies the pictures, and she ALWAYS nails it!

I suspect Castiel didn't seek out Joshua because he didn't want to get the same answer the boys did back in Dark Side of the Moon - that God didn't think it was his problem. Poor angel ...
BagginsDVM
# BagginsDVM 2011-05-19 23:51
Awesome episode, awesome review!
Gosh, not much that I can add to what you've presented for us to ponder! Castiel's story of the fish crawling onto shore definitely caught my attention, for that's always been my view of evolution, having learned in Catholic grade school that God set evolution in motion.
I like the idea that angels have always had free will too, but just never had the need or desire to explore it until they had more direct contact with humans.

Oh, Cas! I just wanted to smack him upside the head while giving him a big hug at the same time. I agree; he just hasn't realized that the sign he was asking for was the man standing in front of him, telling him to stop.

Misha, Mark, Jensen, Jared, Jim...TV just doesn't get any better than this!

Dawn
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2011-05-20 18:23
Thanks, Dawn! I'm with you; I always wondered about people so literal-minded that they couldn't contemplate God having chosen evolution as his mechanism of creation.

And I definitely agree that TV doesn't get better than this!
Carla
# Carla 2011-05-21 11:17
"And it also goes to show that might have been are the three saddest words in the English language."

This is truly sad. It reminds me of a brazilian poet called Manuel Bandeira. In one of his poems, there's a verse that says "Uma vida inteira que podia ter sido e não foi", which is something like "A whole life that might have been and was not."
I think it fits really well Sam and Dean's lives.

Great review as always, Mary!