Here's another fantastic analysis from Faellie about season four and the influence of angels and demons. I send my sincere thanks to her in allowing us to sharing another worthwhile read.
This is a look back over what has been learnt about the major players in Season 4 of Supernatural, and some speculation as to what might be to come. It's spoiler free "“ which does mean that some of the speculation could already have been overtaken, and other things missed.
Part I: Dramatis personae
The angels in heaven
Angels are "the armies of heaven" and "warriors of God" (Castiel in Are you There God, It's Me Dean Winchester). We don't know how many angels there are, although Castiel says "Our numbers are not unlimited." Castiel tells us that six angels died during the events of AYTGIMDW, and seven deaths, all from the same garrison as Castiel, Uriel and Anna, started off the events of On The Head Of A Pin. In On The Head Of A Pin, Alistair says of Lilith "She wouldn't kill seven angels. She'd kill a hundred, a thousand".
There seem to be different levels of authority within the ranks of the angels: Anna was Castiel and Uriel's superior before she fell, and sometimes Castiel seems to have charge of Uriel and sometimes not. Orders to angels can also come from "revelation", which is what Uriel says he will seek in On the Head of a Pin. There are also ranks above angels in the heavenly hierarchy: as Castiel says in The Monster at the End of This Book, "I don't know how prophets are chosen. The order comes from high up on the celestial chain of command".
Archangels are certainly above angels: Castiel also says "Archangels are fierce. They're absolute. They're heaven's most terrifying weapon." In the various mythologies, there are numerous ways of ranking the heavenly beings, with up to 7 or 9 ranks. In most, angels are on the bottom rank and archangels next above them, and these are the only ones which concern themselves with the activities of human beings.
Four named angels have come to earth from heaven: Castiel, Uriel, Anna and Zachariah.
Castiel was around shortly after the life of Jesus Christ ("You should have seen Luke"), although according to Anna in Heaven and Hell only four angels have seen God, and Castiel seems not to be one of them.
In Are You There, God, It's me Dean Winchester, Castiel says "I'm a soldier". But not long after, in It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester, Castiel is having doubts: "I'll tell you something if you promise not to tell another soul ... I'm not a hammer, as you say. I have questions, I have doubts. I don't know what is right and what is wrong any more". At the start of On The Head Of A Pin Castiel is still following orders, however unwelcome, but he's already aware that he's being kept in the dark: "Dean, they don't tell me much". By the end of that episode Castiel tells Anna "I'm considering disobedience". In fact he may already have started disobedience, as he says that the angels have orders to kill Anna, but takes no action on those orders. In The Monster At The End Of This Book, Castiel seems to have circumvented orders not to interfere with prophecy, by giving Dean information about the archangel protecting the Prophet Chuck, which enables Dean to use that information to banish Lilith.
After a fight between angels at the start of The Rapture, Castiel is dragged back to be "re-educated" in heaven before he can tell Dean something important - which might have been the information that Lilith's death is the 66th seal. At the end of The Rapture he says "I learned my lesson while I was away, Dean. I serve heaven, I don't serve man. And I certainly don't serve you." But although Castiel is again following orders in busting Sam out of the Panic Room in When the Levee Breaks, he does finally disobey direct orders by busting Dean out of the Heaven/Hell Green Room in Lucifer Rising, and by telling him that Lilith's death is the 66th seal.
Castiel is played by Misha Collins, so it's extraordinarily difficult to say anything negative about him. But there are a couple of things (sorry, Misha). The first is that, for the Winchesters, Castiel has been an unreliable ally: he was part of deliberately testing Dean's choices in ITGPSW, he was a part of making Dean torture Alistair in On The Head Of A Pin, he let Sam out of the Panic Room in When the Levee Breaks, and until the very last minute he withheld the vital information about Lilith's death being the 66th seal. The second big issue with Castiel is that he's a wimp. A wuss. How on earth, or out of it, has he survived thousands of years as one of God's warriors when he loses so many fights? He has no problems controlling humans (Bobby in Lazarus Rising and Sam in Heaven and Hell are both put to (temporary) sleep). But it's a different story against other supernaturals: Castiel has never yet won a fight against one of the stronger demons or against another angel. He was losing his fight against Alistair in Heaven and Hell, and was saved by Anna. He lost his fight against Alistair in On the Head Of A Pin and was saved by Sam. He lost his fight against Uriel in On the Head of a Pin and was saved by Anna again. He lost his fight against other angels before the start of The Rapture. The only supernaturals he's ever seen off are two examples of "sub-demon no 3" when he is in Claire's body in The Rapture. A record like this makes his decision to help Dean ("I do that, we will all be hunted. We'll all be killed."), and his stand with Chuck against the archangel at the end of Lucifer Rising, even more admirable, but you do have to wonder a bit, don't you? Particularly as Uriel said to Castiel when trying to recruit him in On The Head Of A Pin: "With you, we can be strong enough to raise our brother", so Castiel must have some useful powers, even if they don't show in a knock 'em down, drag 'em out fight.
When Castiel introduces Uriel in ITGPSW he says "He's what you might call a specialist", and Uriel himself says "It won't be the first city I've purified". Of Anna, in Heaven and Hell, Uriel says "don't worry, I'll kill her gentle", so he has the ability, and will, to kill a (fallen) angel, his former boss. He kills Alistair's two demon sidekicks in Heaven and Hell, and in the same episode gets into Dean's mind through a dream, even when the angels can't locate him past Ruby's hex bags. Uriel calls humans "mud monkeys" in ITGPSW. But he also calls Ruby a "stain" in I Know What You Did Last Summer, and an "abomination" in Heaven and Hell, so at this stage, though, we're thinking maybe he's not all bad all the way through.
However, Uriel lets Alistair out of the devil's trap in On The Head Of A Pin to try to cover up the fact that demons aren't killing angels, angels are. He confesses to Castiel that he has been trying to recruit members of the garrison to the cause of freeing Lucifer, and killing those who resist. There's no indication how many angels he has recruited, or who else is working with him (presumably not whoever it was that gave Castiel the orders to require Dean to torture Alistair). Uriel is killed as a traitor by Anna, his fomer boss, at the end of On The Head Of A Pin.
*We know from an interview with Eric Kripke that Paradise Lost by John Milton was one of the sources for the angel mythology in Season 4. But in Paradise Lost, Uriel, the keeper of heaven's gate, has long hair flowing round his shoulders. Evidently, Milton can't have been a prophet. Or he took his cue from a really dodgy cover artist.
It's not entirely clear why Anna chose to fall to earth. In Heaven and Hell she says "I disobeyed, which is about the worst thing you can do", but she also says "Every emotion, Dean, even the bad ones, that's why I fell. That's why I would give anything not to have to go back. Anything." Was her disobedience her desire for emotion? Are free will and emotions inextricably linked?
Although Anna burned through her body at the end of Heaven and Hell, she returned to it in On the Head Of a Pin. When questioned about this by Castiel, she says "It was destroyed, I know, but I guess I'm sentimental. Called in some old favours". Apparently Anna has friends in high places - and it would be interesting to know who that particular favour was from. Whoever it was, they gave her the same body back but with a much better dye job, which makes them possibly the first celestial hairdresser in history and a remarkably useful ally.
Surprisingly little is known of Zachariah, given his pivotal presence towards the end of Season 4. In It's A Terrible Life Zachariah describes himself as "Castiel's superior", but it doesn't seem to have been made clear whether Zachariah is an angel in the garrison's heirarchy (Anna's successor, perhaps?) or an archangel. Zachariah's appearance to the Prophet Chuck at the end of The Monster At The End Of This Book, where he stops Chuck from giving information about the future to Dean by saying "People shouldn't know too much about their own destiny. You try... and I'll stop you", at least raises the possibility that Zachariah might be the archangel who is tied to Chuck. Zachariah states that he, or possibly someone he is working with, has the power to bring Chuck back to life if he kills himself: "We'd only bring you back to life".
An angel in Hell
We only know of one angel in hell, Lucifer. Everyone else in Hell has been portrayed as a demon, and so as having previously been a human, as Ruby pointed out to Dean in Malleus Maleficarum. (This is a departure from Milton's conception of Hell in Paradise Lost, in which Hell is populated by fallen angels - including one called Azazel.) Uriel says of Lucifer "How strong he was, how beautiful. And he didn't bow to humanity. He was punished for defending us". Casey in Sin City says of him "Once he was the most beautiful of all God's angels, but God demanded that he bow down before man, and when he refused, God banished him." Ruby said "God prefers humans to angels. Lucifer gets jealous, and then he gets creative and he twists and tempts a human soul [Lilith] into the very first demon, as a "screw you" to God. It's what got him locked up in the first place."
Lucifer has been separated from the demons in Hell, locked behind the 66 seals, and Azazel says in the flashback at the start of Lucifer Rising "The others have lost faith". Even Dean seems to have heard this version: "Lucifer? Lucifer's just a myth they tell at demon Sunday school". But some demons still worship Lucifer: Casey in Sin City says "I've got faith", and the Crossroads Demon in I Know What You Did Last Summer says "I have made peace with my Lord". Azazel, as the priest in Lucifer Rising, calls him "father": "People forget. My daddy is an angel, after all. Or was". And the demons Azazel, Ruby and Lilith have all been working for Lucifer's release.
Lucifer's powers are entirely unknown, leaving questions but no answers. It's not even known whether he was an angel or an archangel: in Paradise Lost he is said to have been an archangel. When Lucifer was sent to hell, was his grace ripped from him, as Anna ripped out her own grace when she fell? If so, what powers does he still have, and might he be able to get his grace back? Would he have the same powers as demons, the same powers as the "special children"? Angels in their true form can only talk and be seen by certain humans: is this the same for Lucifer? Does this restrict which human bodies he can inhabit? (While still in hell, Lucifer could talk through the seals in the Convent, shown in Lucifer Rising, using the body of the dead nun on the altar. He could even move the fingers "“ just as Castiel first moved Jimmy's fingers in The Rapture.)
Lucifer's motivations are also unknown, except that he's not too keen on us humans and is happy to tempt us into the ways of wickedness. In Paradise Lost, Lucifer knows that he cannot return to heaven, that he does not want to stay in hell or in the chaos around it, and that earth is a place where he can enjoy himself making mischief among the humans, starting with the successful temptation of Eve.
"God? God has left the building" sayeth Zachariah. "God isn't God any more. He doesn't care what we do" sayeth Uriel. "An unknowable father I can't help to understand" sayeth Anna. Anna is right: God is, of course, ineffable. But lets do some effing, just for the fun of it. Best guess on current knowledge seems to be that God has decided to give the angels the same freedom, the same free will, that he gave to humans all those thousands of years ago. No longer is an angel "some Stepford bitch in Paradise", as Dean sayeth to Cas. For the first time ever, the angels have agency to choose their actions, and no immediate threat that they will go directly to hell without passing go or collecting $200. About time too, one might sayeth. But it's a shame the angels are practising their new found freedoms on humans, rather than on one of the other planetary systems to which they have "delivered an enema" - as Zachariah so delicately putteth it.
Part II: Guess who's coming to dinner
If Lucifer rises, Castiel says that "Hell rises with him", and Ruby says it will be "one step closer to hell on earth for all people". So who will be heaping their plates at this all you can eat banquet? The first question, though, is whether what is chosen by those actors will change anything, or whether everything is already pre-destined. Castiel says in In The Beginning "Destiny can't be changed, Dean. All roads lead to the same destination" and in Lucifer Rising "Try to understand "“ this is long foretold." Zachariah in Its A Terrible Life tells Dean "You'll do everything you're destined to do. All of it. " So the angels seem to be big believers in predestination: the idea that God has written the whole story in advance and that everything we do fulfills that ordained destiny, even if we think we are acting in free will. (Or else the angels believe in fate and/or determinism, which is the same thing except that it wasn't God what done it.) Castiel at least seems to think that the angels are the ones through which the predestined future comes about: "We ourselves are supposed to be the agents of fate", he says to Uriel in On The Head Of A Pin.
Dean on the other hand has no doubts that the concepts of fate and predestination are simply a means of crowd control: "Destiny? Don't give me that "holy" crap. Destiny, God's plan, it's all a bunch of lies, you poor, stupid son of a bitch. It's just a way for your bosses to keep me and keep you in line."
The Prophet Chuck should have a role to play, too. Castiel said of Chuck that "He isn't deciding anything. He's a mouthpiece, a conduit for the inspired word." Castiel also said that "What the prophet has written can't be unwritten. As he has seen it, so it shall come to pass." And Zachariah has made it clear that Chuck has no choice but to write. But there is some wriggle room in the Winchester Gospel. Firstly, Chuck doesn't always get the whole story as it unfolds - he apparently believed what he first saw in the Sam/Lilith "love connection", writing about a "fiery demonic passion" that could be inferred from what he had seen at the time, but didn't actually happen when the full story was revealed. The other thing is that Chuck doesn't write down everything he "sees" - he omitted Sam drinking demon blood. If Chuck sees something, but doesn't write it, is it still pre-destined?
Whether the play is already written or the characters are improvising as they go along, what roles are going to be played by the various actors on the stage of the Apocalypse?
Lucifer can be expected to have the demons on his side, but the most powerful demons "“ Azazel, Lilith, Alistair and Ruby "“ all died while Lucifer was being set free. The only named demons left alive are Meg, Azazel's daughter, and those of the Magnificent Seven which were exorcised rather than killed. But as Castiel said, "If Lucifer rises, Hell rises with him." So any demon left in hell after the escape in All Hell Breaks Loose can be expected to be walking the earth. We know what demons can do to humans, and we also know that some demons have powers useful against angels: the script on the funeral home in Death Takes A Holiday prevented angels from entering the building, Ruby's "extra crunchy" hex bags stopped the angels from finding Dean, Sam and Anna in Heaven and Hell, and the angels do not seem to be able to read demon minds: Azazel kept his motivations secret from them, and Alistair's will was strong enough to bring the angels to an impasse in On The Head Of A Pin.
It's not clear whether Lucifer will have on his side the rebel angels who helped to set him free and bring on the Apocalypse. (In Paradise Lost, one-third of the angels in heaven rebelled alongside Lucifer.) In Lucifer Rising, Zachariah refers to the angels who helped free Lucifer as "senior management", so at least some of the rebel angels are probably powerful. But the purpose of the rebel angels' plotting appears confused: Uriel may have been working for Lucifer's freedom as an end in itself: "Help me spread the word. Help me bring on the apocalypse", but Zachariah wanted Lucifer free as a means to a greater end: Lucifer's death at the hands of Dean would lead to paradise on earth. It's difficult to know to what extent either faction would intervene in events on earth, or to what timing.
It's not even clear that the angels who are still obedient to God will fight on the side of the humans. Castiel says "What is so worth saving? I see nothing but pain here. I see inside you. I see your guilt, your anger, confusion. In paradise, all is forgiven. You'll be at peace. Even with Sam." If this is a commonly held view among the "good" angels, the chances of them intervening are not great. And when Dean accuses Castiel of being heartless, Castiel replies "As a matter of fact, we are." Which means that appealing to the angels' better natures might not do much good. Even if the angels are willing to intervene, it's not all good news. Ruby said in Heaven and Hell: "You do not want to get between these two armies. Its Godzilla and Mothra. If one side doesn't get us, the other one will". It's going to be a bumpy ride, whatever happens.
Oh, Sam. What are we going to do with you? (Apart from that.)
Sam is in a bad place. Physically, he's addicted to demon blood, and has the fear that his intake of demon blood and his use of his powers will have changed him for ever. Mentally, the knowledge he has carried within himself for so long, that he had demon blood in him, has brought him even lower. What's been keeping him going has been the thought that he can use the powers the demon blood gives him in order to kill Lilith, justifying this firstly as revenge for Dean going to hell, and secondly to stop her from breaking the 66th seal. Instead, he has learnt that by killing Lilith he broke the 66th seal. He doesn't even know yet that Dean broke the first seal in Hell, and even when he learns this, as he surely will, it may not be much consolation.
Ruby says to Sam "You saved us. You set [Lucifer] free. And he's gonna be grateful. He's gonna repay you in ways that you can't even imagine." So it's unlikely that Sam is in immediate danger from Lucifer. Indeed, having lost all his powerful demon allies, it's entirely possible that Lucifer will try to recruit Sam as the "demon king" that Azazel planned for him. Sam certainly has the power to control the demons, as he could threaten death to any of them and was able to make Alastair talk when the angels could not. This potential as a powerful ally might keep him safe from Lucifer for the time being, but he's in a precarious position while he tries to work out how to live with himself and what he's going to do.
If Lucifer wants Sam on his side, which seems entirely likely, he's going to need Dean on his side, too. And that's just not going to happen, no way, even if Dean did break the first seal that led to Lucifer being free. It seems unlikely that Lucifer knows the prophecies about Dean being the one to stop Lucifer. Uriel, who might have told him, is dead. Zachariah won't tell him: Zachariah wants Dean to kill Lucifer so that there can be paradise on earth. So Lucifer might think he has a couple of reasons to let Dean live: Dean, although inadvertently, helped Lucifer get free from hell by breaking the first seal, and hurting Dean would put an end to any chance Lucifer thinks he has of wooing Sam over to being his demon king.
If Lucifer holds off on hunting Dean, then that gives Dean the opportunity to hunt Lucifer. Anna says to Castiel in On The Head Of A Pin that Dean is "the one real weapon we have". So if Dean is the one who kills Lucifer, how will he do it? After all, Lucifer is an angel, and according to Uriel "the only thing that can kill an angel is another angel". Dean is one of the good guys, but he's no angel.
Dean has the knife (formerly "Ruby's knife"), but we know this doesn't work on angels, as it had no effect at all when Dean used it on Castiel in Lazarus Rising. The Colt can kill anything. It was last heard of in Time Is On My Side, when Bela said that she gave it to Lilith to try to get out of her deal. Lilith is dead, and all hell has broken loose. Has the Colt come back to earth with those denizens of hell? And if so, can Dean find it, and then use it to kill Lucifer?
Even if Dean has the means to kill Lucifer, he still has a problem. OK, he has a lot of problems. But the really big problem is that although Dean knows what outcome he wants - to protect people from demons, from Lucifer, and from any other supernaturals with a less than positive interest in us humans - he doesn't know how to get there. After the fiasco of the 66th seal, he's going to want to be pretty sure that any irrevocable actions he takes are the right ones. And while killing Lucifer might be a good idea in the short term, there's the difficulty that it's what Zachariah wants him to do, and falling in with Zachariah's wishes is not going to be high on Dean's to-do list at the moment. Also, Dean's unlikely to trust Zachariah's promise of paradise on earth: Zachariah says "what's not to like about that", but Dean will be pretty sure that there's something. He's clear about it when Castiel says "What is so worth saving? I see nothing but pain here. I see inside you. I see your guilt, your anger, confusion. In paradise, all is forgiven. You'll be at peace. Even with Sam." Dean's reply is categorical: "You can take your peace - and shove it up your lily white ass".
Give or take a few supernatural entities, Dean likes earth pretty much the way it is, thank you. And he doesn't want harm coming to people and families. If killing Lucifer is the way to keep things as they are, then Dean will do it. But he'll want to know what the outcome will be before he takes that step. After all, Dean's firmly on the side of us humans. Just as we're on his.