“The Man Who Would Be King” was the Castiel-centric Supernatural episode that the fans have always wanted.
It was an episode written and directed by Ben Edlund, and had been the talk of the fandom since it was announced at the Paley Fest in March. It was not only exciting because there has yet to be a Castiel centered episode of Supernatural, (unless you count “The Rapture”) but specifically important considering what has been going on all season. To say that Castiel has not been himself this season is an understatement. Now, as Castiel does, let’s start from the beginning.
“The Man Who Would Be King” is the first episode of this series narrated by one of the main characters. “Swan Song” was, as you may remember, narrated by Chuck, whom we haven’t seen or heard from since. However, there have been rumors floating around that Rob Benedict will be returning in the season finale “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (but don’t hold me to that.)
As we began the episode, Castiel is sitting in Heaven, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only fan that said something very similar to the following: “Wow, Castiel. You look kinda horrible.” In fact, he looked completely defeated – head hanging and shoulders slumped. Then, he looks directing into the camera, or whoever he is talking to, and begins his story.
I have cried in my fair share of Supernatural episodes, but this one takes the cake. I’m pretty sure no episode of any series has left tears in my eyes in less than a minute after the start.
Castiel: “And of course, I remember the most remarkable event. Remarkable because it never came to pass. It was averted by two boys, an old drunk, and a fallen angel. The grand story. And we ripped up the ending and the rules. And destiny. Leaving nothing but freedom and choice.”
Cue the tears already falling down my cheeks. Castiel’s story picks up not too long after the end of last week’s episode “Mommy Dearest.” Eve informed the Winchesters that Crowley is still alive and kicking. And however much Dean doesn’t want to believe it, Sam and Bobby are insistent on checking out if Castiel has anything to do with Crowley still breathing. At every turn, Dean is forced to lie, saying they they are on a phony monster hunt, when in fact they are getting closer to Crowley. Although Castiel masks his emotions better than anyone else in this show, Dean is usually an open emotional book. He carries it all in his face. And it is beyond clear that he hates this.
Meanwhile, Castiel meets up with Crowley to let him know that he will take care of the Winchesters if they start getting close. Still torturing monsters and trying to find the door to Purgatory, Crowley is clearly worried. More so because he knows the Winchesters. And if they want to find him, they will. He tells Castiel to kill them, and without hesitation, he refuses. He may have been keeping secrets from them, but he is still a loyal friend. Which to Castiel, makes his choices all the worse. He hates lying, and hates keeping secrets, especially knowing that his friends already doubted him.
Castiel: “And the worst part was Dean…trying so hard to be loyal, with every instinct telling him otherwise.”
The torture that Castiel went through over the last year and a half, wondering what decisions he has made that were right, and which were wrong is something that he is not used to dealing with. Not lately. Not since he raised Dean from Hell and started looking after the Winchesters. Although there is much about his history that we don’t know, it’s safe to say that his contact with Dean and Sam has been unlike that of any other human encounter. He has not only protected them, he has learned from them.
Castiel: “I still considered myself the Winchesters’ guardian. After all, they taught me how to stand up, what to stand for, and what generally happens to you when you do.”
After the events of Season 4, and the angels doing everything they can to begin the Apocalypse, Castiel began to doubt. He spent a millennia following orders, and for the first time, he saw the flaws in the angelic nature of his brothers and sisters. He not only questioned his superiors, but he rebelled against them, and fought with the Winchesters to stop the end of everything. That it was more important to let people, even angels, choose their fates rather than bow to them. In a way, he owes his freedom and courage to Dean and Sam. Without it, he would have never made a deal with Crowley, defied Raphael and started this new war in Heaven. No matter how restored he was, he couldn’t do it alone. Raphael threatened to release Michael and Lucifer, and Castiel had nowhere else to turn. Crowley obviously did not to give Hell back to Lucifer, so offered Castiel a deal. With no one else to ask which way to turn, Castiel went to Dean.
Castiel: “I went to an old friend for help. But watching him I stopped. Everything he sacrificed, and I was about to ask him for more.”
He could bear asking Dean to come back to a world of angels and demons, not after everything he lost. As he always did, Castiel was trying to protect them. Like any big brother would. So when he didn’t have the heart to talk to Dean, Crowley talked a good deal. Offered Castiel a number of souls stocked up in Hell to fend off Raphael until they could open the door to Purgatory. I think part of him was already trying to make up for a mistake that he already made. Pulling Sam from Hell.
Castiel: “Once again, I went to harrow Hell, to free Sam from Lucifer’s cage. It was nearly impossible, but I was so full of confidence, of mission. I see now, that was arrogance. Hubris. Because of course, I hadn’t truly raised Sam, not all of him.”
As many of us suspected for some time now, Castiel is in fact the one that rose Sam from Hell. And I believe we all let out a collective breath when the soulless part of Sam was not on purpose, as some of us that. I can’t even describe the extent of my relief. If this was true, Dean would never forgive him. No one, not even Castiel hurts his baby brother. Even though it was a mistake, some of the damage to Sam’s soul of all the time he spent with Michael and Lucifer can be blamed on him. And no one carries more guilt about it than Castiel.
When a demon gives the Winchesters a lead on another demon that can point them in the direction of Crowley, Castiel has no choice but to protect their partnership, protect the boys and to protect himself. Crowley is ready to kill them, and Castiel kills the demons they are looking for to keep that from happening. And can we just take a quick sidetone here to say that I have never seen Castiel look so bad ass before. Let’s recap this for a moment. He pushed a demon back into a body after trying to smoke out. Dean, Sam and Bobby arrive shortly after, with no evidence of a demon presence at all. That is, until Crowley decides to send demons to kill them, despite Castiel’s adamant “no.”
Castiel: “Crowley sent his very best. I was caught as much by surprise as the rest of them. And it left me with yet another choice. I could reveal myself and smite the demons…of course, Crowley wouldn’t like it. But on the other hand, they were my friends. For a brief moment, I was me again.”
One of the most heartbreaking things that this episode revealed was that Castiel does not know how to be himself unless he is fighting with the Winchesters. Knowing this, we realize, that he didn’t know who he truly was that millennia before he met them. That he had no purpose before he became their guardian. There is no question. Dean and Sam Winchester and Castiel were destined to come together. That made this episode, and the destruction of trust between them much more difficult to watch. After saving them from Crowley’s mercenary, he tries to lie to them, but fails miserably. Ironically, with the very first pop culture reference and he ever understood, Castiel doomed himself. And the realization on Dean’s face was wrenching to say the least. Angry, Castiel confronts Crowley, who immediately points out the problem.
Crowley: “Come on, you don’t think I know what this is all about? The big lie. The Winchesters still by it, the good Cas. The righteous Cas. As long as they still believe it, you get to believe it.”
Obviously, Castiel didn’t see to kindly to that accusation, which he knew was absolutely right. Weaving these lies only became truly difficult after the Winchesters started suspecting him. Still the angel, Castiel reminds Crowley who he’s dealing with. Knowing that their old friend has been spying on their conversations, they prepare for an interrogation. And there is only one way to do that with an angel and get any answers. Holy fire. Dean prays for Castiel, with a side of whiskey. He arrives, Sam leads him into the circle, and Bobby lights the fire. I know I wasn’t the only fan that appreciated Dean not being the one to lead him into the trap, even after he knew Castiel has been lying. The look on the angel’s face as the holy oil is lit was surprise and guilt.
Dean: “You gotta look at me, man. You gotta level with me and tell me what’s going on. Look me in the eye and tell me you’re not working with Crowley.” *Castiel looks away* “Son of a bitch…”
All of the trust Dean had in him burned away in an instant. One of their most trusted friends betrayed them and Dean had no other choice but to finally believe it. As I knew it would be from the third episode of this season, the story has always been about the worth and value of human souls. Angels can use them as a nuclear resource. And whoever has more, will win the war in Heaven. I think no matter how many times Castiel tries to explain the importance of his victory, Sam and Dean will never quite understand it. He has tried to do so many times this season, and once again, they don’t listen.
Castiel: “To get the souls. I can stop Raphael. Please, you have to trust me.”
Sam: “Trust you? How in the hell are we supposed to trust you now?”
Castiel: “I’m still me. I’m still you’re friend. Sam, I am the one who raised you from perdition.”
Sam: “What? Well, no offense, but you did a pretty piss poor job of it. Did you bring me back soulless on purpose?”
Castiel: “How could you think that?”
How could you blame Sam’s anger? Or Dean and Bobby’s for that matter? He not only kept secrets from them, but he lied to Sam’s face in “The Third Man” that he did not know who brought him back from Hell. Soulless Sam yes, but Castiel didn’t know that yet. Castiel swears that everything he has done has always been to protect them. I think part of him wants to believe that, while the other part, agrees with Dean.
Dean: “Why else would you keep this whole thing a secret, huh? 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 make another deal with the devil.”
Castiel: “It sounds so simple when you say it like that. Where were you when I needed to hear it?”
Dean: “I was there. Where were you?”
They’ve all made deals with demons now. All four of them sold a part of themselves to save the others. Dean to save Sam. Sam for revenge, then to end the Apocalypse. Bobby to help find Death. Now Castiel, to stop Raphael from continuing the Apocalypse. Castiel no longer has any time to try and convince them. Crowley once again sends demons to stop the Winchesters. Still in the angel trap, Castiel tells them to run. But not before Dean looks back reluctantly, then disappears before the King of Hell arrives. Bobby’s house is now surrounded with sigils to ward off angels, which Castiel points out when he arrives were wrong.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking? Bobby never gets his symbols wrong. Some of us believe it is because Bobby knew Castiel would arrive to speak to Dean, and he deserved a chance to explain himself. Hell, they have given demons chances to explain themselves, as other enemies. Why not someone they consider a friend? (Can I just say, that the lighting in this scene was gorgeous! It created the perfect somber and foreboding mood.) Once again, Castiel tries to get Dean to understand, without the eyes or ears of Bobby or Sam. Since they’ve met, these two have always heard the other more efficiently if it is just them. There is a level of understanding and friendship between them they only they know.
Castiel: “I’m doing this for you, Dean. I’m doing this because of you.”
Dean: “Because of me, yeah. You gotta be kidding me.”
Castiel: “You’re the one who taught me that freedom and free will-“
Dean: “You’re a freaking child, you know that? Just because you can do what you want, doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.”
Castiel: “I know what I’m doing, Dean.”
Dean: “I’m not going to logic you, okay. I’m saying don’t. Just ’cause. I’m asking you not to, that’s it.”
Castiel: “I don’t understand-“
Dean: “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.”
Anyone who has been a fan of this series long enough knows where Dean stands when it comes to family. It means that he will do anything to keep them alive and keep them safe. There is nothing else more important than family. It’s the first time that Dean has declared to Castiel how important he actually is to the Winchesters. Hearing those words from him, I’m sure made his guilt even heavier. Castiel knows what it means to betray family. He rebelled against his brothers and sisters before. And now, he is truly alone, with his only allegiance to a demon. The only place that he now has to go for help, is God. We return to Castiel in heaven, praying for guidance. Desperately, with unshed tears and more emotional that any of us have ever seen Castiel, he asks for a sign. He no longer knows if he is on the right path. And if he doesn’t get one, he will do whatever he has to.
I know many fans are upset that Sam and Dean are so angry with Castiel. If you ask this blogger, they have every right to be to angry. Castiel has kept secrets from them and lied all season long. Yes, it was to protect them, but after all they have been through together, Castiel still lied. Dean is right. He should have come to them and should have trusted them with his partnership with Crowley. And at this point, with Castiel and Dean willing to do whatever he has to, I am terrified how all of this is going to end. Definitely not well.