Supernatural 6.20 "The Man Who Would Be King"
In this extraordinary episode, written and directed by Ben Edlund, we are given an insider look at Castiel's character arc and journey throughout this season and how it ties together with what has been happening this entire time. This is rather documentary-style episode, where Castiel is talking to God (and to us, the audience) in recollecting the incidents which lead him down this particular path that he's currently on. I call this somewhat reminiscent to Firefly's "Out Of Gas" where it's several flashbacks cutting into one another back and forth to tell the story. Here, Castiel is reflecting on his choices since he was last mysteriously brought back to life and the obstacles he's had to hurdle and compromises he's had to make in stopping Raphael from taking over Heaven and creating another Apocalypse. Going from his business arrangement with Crowley, to him protecting the Winchesters and then them finding out he's been lying to them, thus trapping him and interrogating him into revealing the truth, which is something so ultimately heartbreaking (and angering) to watch. The episode ends with Castiel, sitting at the bench as seen in the beginning of the episode, finishing his story and confession, pleading to God to give him a sign, to let him know if this is the right path for him, if he's doing the right thing. But no answer is given, and we end in silence.
This episode was Edlund's directorial debut of Supernatural, and what a heartbreaking and perfect episode it was. This brings out a lot of emotions from all sides, but this is truly a masterpiece of how episodes should be.
Castiel: The Tragic Story Of A Conflicted Angel
"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 going to do whatever I must."
There are so many things that this episode presented to us, so many things that need to be said, to be addressed, to ask and wonder and speculate regarding Castiel and his intentions. I could spend paragraphs upon paragraphs deciphering what it all means. However, I'm not going to do that. Instead I'd like to address what this episode represented. It is my belief that "The Man Who Would Be King" is truly showing us how much of a tragic character Castiel really is and how Edlund used this opportunity to use specific directorial choices in shedding light to his side of the story, which isn't something this show does very often. The documentary-style manner of storytelling from his point-of-view shows us a different side of Castiel that we haven't seen before, and it makes a world of difference.
Castiel is a tragic character. Ever since the fourth season we see him learning and evolving from his experiences with humanity. He's questioned and doubted his own faith, and everything he once knew from his entire existence was shifted and changed, turned upside down and inside out. This kind of character development is vital to what we see in this episode. What people forget is that angels aren't humans, and that they view things differently than we do, and cannot grasp the concept of freedom and freewill. Even when Castiel returns to Heaven and tries to explain this, Rachel asks him "what does God want us to do with [freedom]?"
What's significant about this is that this is something that Castiel is constantly tackling. Do angels have freewill? Are they forever bound to follow orders, to be part of destiny? Can there ever be an equilibrium for them to understand the concept of freedom while still remaining true to their title as angelical creatures?
In this episode Castiel begins to question whether what he's doing is right, if it's the right path for him to take because he's joined forces with a demon in order to take Raphael down. Throughout he keeps referring that it was pride and arrogance that lead him down this path. However, is it really pride and arrogance? What makes Castiel think that he's been so prideful that he's been blind to everything in front of him? Simple: he hasn't known anything else. Angels who have taken too much into their pride are known to be the ones who have strayed from the path of righteousness and fallen from grace because of their own selfish needs. But Castiel hasn't been self-serving in anyway. Instead it is Raphael who has been the most prideful in this situation, as that meeting between him and Castiel was anything to go by. He wants all angels to pledge their alliance to him because that's what he wants. When fighting someone that prideful, and powerful considering that Raphael is an archangel while Castiel is not, one has to resort to taking certain desperate measures and make sacrifices and compromises that go against their own morality just to make sure none of what Raphael plans on doing comes to pass.
But here's the thing, Castiel isn't equipped with handling something like this himself. He's only just learned the meaning behind having freedom and fighting destiny and fate against all odds, and to fight a civil war in Heaven just to maintain the possibility for other angels to understand this concept too can be incredibly confusing, overwhelming, and stressful, to the point where he starts losing himself along the way. Castiel has come to recognize that he's changed, he's become different in fighting this war between himself and Raphael, and in understanding this he is confusing desperate with being prideful in his actions. He reflects on his decisions and choices, the lies and compromises he's had to make, and he can only come up with the conclusion that it's pride and arrogance because, well, what else could it be? What angel could do such things like make arrangements with demons and still remain pure and good?
Even when he's tried time and time again to protect the Winchesters, keep Heaven balanced while finding ways on defeating Raphael so he doesn't take over and start another apocalypse, Castiel still believes that he's chosen the wrong path. Instead, this is something that shows his humanity because he isn't prideful. He's questioning what is happening around him, he's reflecting, he understands the risks involved and those who take pride don't take that time to have personal reflections on that. Again, as I've said before in previous entries, this is the effects of war. War changes the outlook people used to have, they may have to resort to questionable means to achieve justice and they may not like it, but as long as they keep that main objective in their minds and understand the core of their purpose, that is all that matters.
Castiel is fighting for freedom, not for power, not like Raphael is. That is the biggest and most significant difference between them, and that's what he should always keep in mind when he starts doubting himself, doubting where he truly stands in this war.
Someone on my friendslist mentioned that this whole episode was Edlund's love letter to Castiel, and I think that is absolutely true. The way this whole episode was told was a deliberate decision to show us, the audience, his entire tragic story even when those around him cannot see or understand what he is going through. Any other episode would have had Castiel sneaking around, the Winchesters catching him and demanding the truth out of him. Instead, we get Castiel's confession of everything, detailing his relations with his family in Heaven to the Winchesters on Earth, and the corner he's been backed into with all his decisions and choices.
And this is why I stand firm in considering Castiel to be the most tragic character of the entire show.
Dean and Castiel: "A Long-Distance Marriage"
Castiel: It sounds so simple when you say it like that. Where were you when I needed to hear it?
Dean: I was here. Where were you?
Aside from this whole episode being a love letter to Castiel, it was also a love letter to the relationship of Dean and Castiel and their profound bond -- which has now been shattered due to the events and revelations taken place. Ben Edlund described their relationship like a "long-distance marriage", and he's absolutely right. One doesn't even need to see this episode to understand that theirs has always been a long-distance relationship of the marital kind, complete with late night bickering and drinking of alcohol (and the behind-the-scenes make-up sex...)
As heartbreaking as watching all of this crumble apart, there are some issues I have with how it was handled.
Granted Edlund is pretty much fucking flawless so it's not his fault, but rather the fault of the show and this entire season as a whole. The lack of continuity and tons of characterization flaws between Castiel and the Winchesters has been blatantly present all season long, and what infuriates me is when Edlund tries to make things make sense and make them as it should have been from the beginning, it doesn't add up because the continuity has been fucked up. Dean defends Castiel and gives appreciation to everything he's done for them, he calls Castiel their friend and part of the family. Hell, he even asked him how he was when he popped right beside him in the Impala. Now, these are the things that Dean Winchester is supposed to do -- however he hasn't been, not until these last two episodes at least. Which makes the whole emotional impact or ~betrayal fall rather flat. The Winchesters have been treating Castiel like shit for the majority of the season, they take advantage of him coming whenever he's called and just use him whenever they feel like it. Even in this episode, Dean dismisses Castiel before he even gets a chance to explain.
Now, granted, the Winchesters do have certain trust issues (among the many countless issues they have) and learning that someone who they considered to be a friend has been lying to them, that can be pretty harsh to hear. And we know that Dean doesn't deal with this kind of stuff that well. However, they way they all were acting was downright cruel and uncalled for, including using angel warding sigils around Bobby's house. That's near equivalent to locking someone out of their home or disowning them because you didn't like what they did.
Is that how you treat family or even a close friend? How is that right? Can we say overreaction much?
However, despite my anger towards the Winchesters after this episode, I feel a teeny tiny ounce of hope that Dean will forgive his angel because, like I said, Dean doesn't deal with this kind of startling revelations that break a level of trust with him. I might not agree with how he's handling it, as he deserves many bitchslaps for being so stupid and self-centered (same with Sam), however it's clear given the looks between them that Dean really does care for Castiel and this cut him deeply that he reacts in such a way because that's the only way he can react. Brashly, recklessly, stupidly. I have to believe that before this season is over he and Castiel will find that common ground again and patch things up. Because I believe in their profound bond.
I still blame this season
Plot Holes: Inconsistencies, Retconning and Confusion
Despite loving this episode, yet again this presented a huge issue concerning this season and how poorly things were executed earlier on. It is blatantly obvious from this episode how things just weren't thought through from the beginning, and if they were they did a piss-poor job at constructing it.
First of all, Castiel didn't raise Sam from perdition. That line belongs to Dean. Instead, he raised him from Lucifer's cage which is a huge difference, but that's still problematic because the entire point of Lucifer's cage was that it was nearly fucking impossible for anyone, angel or demon, to break into. Besides, even if he did do this by himself, that also would have been impossible because there was Michael and Lucifer down there and they would have ripped Castiel into shreds as well. Also, why would Castiel save Sam and not Adam if that were the case? Just, nothing in this revelation makes sense because it just doesn't add up to anything, and it makes it seem like that was just added last minute for there to be a ~reaction from Sam, which was also uncalled for, imo.
Because really, what was the point of dealing with soulless!Sam for the entire first half of the season? Pretty pointless now, amirite?
Also, Castiel and Crowley are having a conversation in the episode where Castiel tells Crowley that they have to find Purgatory otherwise they will "die again and again until the end of time." What the fuck is this supposed to mean? This is never addressed in the episode on what this means, unless this is supposedly a metaphor for when Crowley showed Castiel the "new Hell" that he created, however I doubt so because Castiel has died and mysteriously brought back. What if Crowley has done the same, as well? But nonetheless, this wasn't explained and I'm confused.
This show needs to get their shit together at actually making sense, and stop retconning shit right and left just because they can, because that is also getting incredibly old. :/
Memorable Moments of the Episode:
++ ~ E V E R Y T H I N G ~
Seriously, the best episode of the season without a doubt. Everything was absolutely fucking perfect, even with the heartbreaking and angry scenes. EDLUND MARRY ME, PLZ. But if we're going for specifics....
++ I loved seeing Heaven. Granted I think it would have been better to see something more elaborate for the angels and were they reside instead of them taking hold in other people's heavens, plus I wanted more of their natural selves with wings and not their vessels, but with the limited budget this show has the way they handled it was impressive (as in, fancy filters to make it all ~glossy~ and ~faded~ with vibrant colors, lol) and besides, how would they have done that anyway? They did well with what they had for us to follow the story.
++ In any case, I particularly loved that Castiel's personal "heaven" to visit, as that is precisely what I always envisioned him going to whenever he needed to get away. He just had that sincere smile on his face and that? That was something very rare to see on him. ♥
++ I need to rewatch and listen to Castiel's monologue throughout the episode again, because it was just so beautifully told from his point of view, and he makes several jokes. Or at least lines I found funny because Castiel is being lighthearted with his words. Oh and also? Him being more accustomed to talking the way human beings talk ("I'm an angel, you ass.") and appearing to have an understanding for pop culture references? Humanity taught him well, how well is up for interpretation since the latter is what gets him caught in his web of lies. But nonetheless, it's endearing all the same.
++ Crowley flirting with Castiel, even subtly into their conversations, is always welcome.
++ BAMF!Castiel = always my favorite. From slamming Crowley into walls to smiting demons, along with forcing the demon smoke back into the body and smiting them in that fashion. Hello. ;)
++ There were several images in this episode I found interesting: Raphael was sitting in a room in Heaven (forget whose) with a George Bush poster hanging on the wall, and in the Hell hallway there's a picture of Crowley -- which was really his face photoshopped onto a real life Hilter photograph.
++ I loved seeing how Castiel can remain invisible. It puts creeper!Cas on an entirely new level of canon now, lol. But I still think it's amazing, plus the way he was looking at Dean in the many shots? Especially because he's letting his guard down to look at Dean in that way and for so long? OMG. MY HEART, IT ACHES. :( Even more painful the way they were both looking at each other at the end there. My heart cannot take it, it just cannot.
++ "Get out of my sight" <--- The way Castiel growled that? omg, if I wasn't so pained by the angst I would have imploded from how hot that sounded, ngl. *___*
++ Seeing Castiel praying, or rather confessing his sins openly to God and pleading for a sign? Just breaks my fucking heart too much. Again, tragic character. Right there. I just wanted to hug him, our poor precious angel. ;___; *hugs him tightly*
Overall: This was such a beautifully tragic and heartbreaking episode, that Ben Edlund deserves a fucking medal and award for it. Fantastic directorial debut and amazing writing and handling of the characters, as always of course. Getting to see things from other character's perspective is such a rare treat because it's always from the Winchesters-side, never other characters like Bobby or Castiel. We had a Bobby-centric episode this season, and now it was Castiel's turn, and this was just so perfectly constructed, from the structure and the narrative to the story and the emotional points. I just wished that despite the amazing work Edlund did with it, the impact would have been better had this season actually been good. Instead, it made me side with Castiel more than the Winchesters because they are selfish twats who need to learn how to listen to others and stop thinking about themselves, but I digress.
Just take over the show already, Edlund. A++++++
By far my favorite episode of this whole season, hands down. Epic creys with major heartache and all. I love it. ♥