Supernatural Retrospective – Part 21 (Cas & Crow)

Part 20 (just… Metatron)

Now that we’ve touched on their two big foes, let’s examine the two main protagonists against them.  Castiel and Crowley. (warning: this one will go a little over)

natejump

Castiel – His story seemed promising at the start of the new season.  The show has long had a “superman problem” with him, needing to run side plots to distract him so that his powers couldn’t solve the regular show in 90 seconds.  However a huge part of the fandom are HIS fans so we can’t just ditch him from the show either.  So rendering Castiel mortal seemed like an elegant solution.  It would also open up new stories as he explored what it meant to be human and learned from the Winchesters how to still be a force for good even if you’re not invincible.

At first, they did have a few of those stories of his discovery.  But then the show stopped and instead spent most of the season treating him like he was fully powered – shuffled off, away from the main characters, doing his own thing.  He never takes on an active role in his own story.  Like we never see him work against Metatron in any way until Metay forces him to be an enemy.

Then midway through the season, they even re-empower him via a method that Castiel could have used in the first episode of that season.  In fact, looked at objectively, there’s no real reason for him not to re-empower in that scene given things look just as desperate and hopeless as it does later.  However it probably fooled people because when you look at how the later scene is framed, lit, and shot, it is all in a way as to imply to the audience greater desperation compared to the earlier opportunity. The one thing we can say about S9 is that the visuals are gorgeous and often do far more work for the story than the writing does.

Had Castiel remained powerless, so many plot holes, retcons, and questionable moments later in the series would have been avoided.  For example, why not use Castiel’s mental powers to help Sam instead of having Crowley torture him in 9.10? (Well, the real question is “why didn’t they apply the angel exorcism on Samdreel?”)  You could have him unwilling to kill Sam in 9.11 because he no longer has the power to heal/rez the boy.  And that’s just in the same season.  Never mind the latter seasons which have examples like: a plucky redhead beloved by the fandom gets killed (Why doesn’t Castiel resurrect Charlie? April traumatized him against redheads I guess.  Really, you just have to invent an answer.)  Heck the show could have finally have an excuse for letting the “immortal angel” start showing age.

But instead of taking opportunities from the story to fix things, the show has Cas power up again.  At which point he moves from being something of a character to a plot device for the convenience of the show, until it’s not convenient then they have him invent excuses that sound hollow when considering the character and circumstances.  Thus, episode 9.09 is where I say, Castiel jumped the shark.

Crowley – Let me explain something first.

I don’t really care that much about Adam.

What I care about is Sam and Dean as heroes.  Part of being a heroic character would be rescuing someone they know is in trouble and family.  Adam being stuck in the cage with them doing nothing about it is like watching a scene where Sam and Dean are eating at an outdoor restaurant when a wreck happens in the street in front of them.  Instead of getting up and helping those involved, we see the two of them sit there, order some desert, and debate over taking care of the bill.  While yes an argument can be made that the boys don’t have any obligation to go help those involved in the car wreck, their failure to do so weakens their status as heroic figures.  Thus I don’t care about Adam for Adam’s sake, I care about him because it weakens Sam & Dean’s heroic character.

So S8 concluded with Sam very nearly curing Crowley of his demonness, then being stopped at the last moment.  Now I know the boys were distracted, they had a lot on their plate at the start of S9, but the fact remains that he was “in their possession” (so to speak) from episode 1, until episode 10 and in the entire time, THE BOYS DO NOT FINISH CURING HIM.  While the qualities of what makes a hero is an involved and interesting discussion that can be had, it seems to me pretty damn obvious (pun intended) that giving a villainous figure a shot at redemption and real reform is an heroic action.

Obviously there is a bit of an “ideal vs real” conflict here.  Ideally, should the boys cure every demon they come across?  Sure, that would be heroic.  Realistically, could the boys “cure” every demon they come across?  Of course not.  Battlefield conditions and as well as the method itself keeps it from being a realistic, permanent effort.  But none of those conditions apply in Crowley’s case during this season.  They have Crowley in the basement, he’s not going anywhere and they are not being attacked.  The procedure is just about done so they wouldn’t have much of a supply issue and then they even want him to do favors for them (like answering questions or translating things).  So do they bother redeeming Crowley?  Give him another shot?  Give him an incentive to do the right thing?  He is even written as having a blood addiction this season as if he wants to be cured.  And yet the boys deny it to him!  It’s like watching them deny life-saving medicine from a cancer patient.  Even if the patient is an asshole, the ones denying come off looking like dicks.

Wait, it gets worse.  Rather than helping another being do the right thing, the boys… let’s just go to the transcript of 9.16:

DEAN
Look at you. You’re a mess. You know, we were counting on you. You let us down.

SAM
Your slimy followers were counting on you to kill Abaddon, and you let them down.

DEAN
The man with all the mojo — Captain Evil.

SAM
Oh, it’s pathetic.

CROWLEY
What is this? An intervention?

SAM
You need to focus, Crowley. Get a grip!

DEAN
What, you just gonna let Hell go to Hell?

Are the guys asking him to finish reforming?  Make Hell a better place?  NOPE!  The HEROES of the show are TEMPTING another character TO DO EVIL – all in order to get what they want.  If you don’t see what’s wrong with that, imagine Crowley was replaced with say… Kim Jong-un.  And after some adventures, he’s starting to show regrets and awareness of how he might be mistreating the people of his nation.  Then the boys enter and say, “Come on, man!  You’re the rule of North Korea!  Get a grip!” pretty much undoing his character’s journey.

I mean, do you remember any time previously someone on the show tempted another character to do something wrong in order to get what they want?  Oh what about Azazel talking to Jake back in S2?  Yet here in S9 we now have the bros being no better than their first enemy.

Just imagine had the show actually redeemed Crowley?  He could’ve added a great dynamic to the team.  Or if we keept Castiel mortal, you could have then had two storylines running parallel as 2 characters rediscover being mortal and compare/contrast them.  Does one adapt better than the other?  Does one of them “fall off” and start seeking to restore their former glory?  While everyone assumes that would be Crowley what kind of twist and story would it be if it was Castiel?  Keep them both mortal, and you can have C&C drive into a spinoff where they rediscover the world and what it means to be human.

But no, this is where the show moved from being about characters with stories and journeys and instead became “Supernatural: the Brand.”  The brand has an angel.  The brand has a demon.  We can’t make them not be an angel, or not be a demon even if keeping the status quo has our heroes committing villainous acts.

So by now, one might be tempted to say the twist in S9 was that the arc villain for the season were Sam & Dean themselves.  But they weren’t exactly – they were more the lieutenants.  No, the real villain of S9 was The Brand(TM).  Unfortunately, it was a villain the boys never had any hope of defeating – a villain that was able to easily twist them into carrying out its scheme.  Ironically in this season, Team Free Will had no free will at all.

Part 22 (onto the boys)

(as always, thanks to @WEDNESDAYspn for the banner)

P.S. The OTHER thing that bugged me about Crowley? (I would have put this above but I was on a roll and couldn’t break the flow)

Episode 9.10

DEAN
This don’t make us square. I see you again –

CROWLEY
I’m dead. Yes, I know. I love you, too.

Episode 9.11

CROWLEY
Omelets. Broken eggs. Et cetera.

DEAN [angrily punches CROWLEY]
After I kill Abaddon… you’re next!

Episode 9.16

SAM
Listen, you said Crowley was only useful till we got the Blade. We got the Blade.

[DEAN’s eye flicker to CROWLEY and that is when CROWLEY makes his move. He flings the Winchesters to the side of the car and holds them there. The First Blade falls from SAM’s hand to the ground.]

CROWLEY
You know, boys, I’m in debt to you. You forced sobriety on me, and now I can see the situation for what it is. Dean, you are quite the killing machine. And it occurs to me that Abaddon is not the only name on your list. My name must be up there, as well.

Episode 9.17

DEAN [finally turning around to face SAM]
Well, maybe because I want an end to all this. Maybe because if we find Abaddon, then Crowley ponies up the First Blade, and we kill her and him both. So, what you call being “obsessed,” I call doing my job.

Episode 9.21

ABADDON
To be indelicate. But here’s the thing, pet — same goes for you. And once I’m gone, who do you think’s next on those cute boys’ list? That’s right. So let’s get real. Join me in taking out the Winchesters and that ridiculous Blade, and then we’ll deal with each other.

Yes, throughout the season we hear how he is going to be killed by them right after Abaddon.  And yet how does it end?  What happens in S9 right after Abaddon is dead?  Back to episode 9.21:

CROWLEY (removing the bullet from his shoulder with a large knife)
You could at least — aah! — help me with this.

SAM
We didn’t kill you, Crowley, even though it would’ve been very easy. Isn’t that enough?

Why??? WHY ARE YOU NOT KILLING HIM?  He WAS RIGHT THERE!  Paralyzed and unable to move!  You said you were going to kill him all season, but we don’t even get WHY you’re not going to.  If you’re not going to be totally heroic, AT LEAST BE CONSISTENT!

s9

 

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4 thoughts on “Supernatural Retrospective – Part 21 (Cas & Crow)

  1. The way Castiel explained it, stealing another angel’s grace is about as low as it gets, kind of like a human stealing someone else’s kidneys or other vital organs. To me, that explanation was sufficient for not doing it sooner. When Castiel finally did this, it was a life and death situation; he had been captured by Malachi and his band of merry anarchists.

    Using Castiel’s mental powers in 9.10? Umm… I think Sam was occupied by another angel at the time; might have made it difficult. And besides, in Season 9 Sam had been violated by Dean, Ezekiel/Gadreel, and Crowley. Castiel doing the same thing would just be considered piling on at that point. It was disappointing they never went back and addressed the angel exorcism spell Alistair started using on Castiel in S4.

    Agreed… never gave a crap about Adam; he had already died, was resurrected, and said yes to Michael; It was never made entirely clear what happened to Adam. You’d think Sam would know and could fill everyone in but he was too busy being a plot device in S9. And yes, in S6 Death asked Dean to pick a soul to rescue from the cage but Death may have been doing that to yank Dean’s chain. Was Adam subsumed by Michael, with Michael releasing his soul? Or, as with Jimmy, when Castiel Molotov’d him in Swan Song, did that destroy Adam’s body and release his soul to heaven? Or, is he stuck in the cage with Michael. This could have been easily fixed by Sam saying that Adam’s sould wasn’t in the cage. The show has never really shown much interest in going back and addressing the Michael / Adam thing and I think it’s too late at this point.

    As far as Crowley goes, that was maddening in Season 9, having so many opportunities to kill him but not following thru. If they did finish curing Crowley, wouldn’t that have completed the trials and killed Sam? Besides, Crowley is evil but can be worked with; who knows what you end up with if they had killed Crowley (plus, we’d lose Mark Sheppard).

    That always bugged me about S8, taking on the trials and not thinking there would be repercussions. And, once taking them on, not finishing them. That was reckless and stupid but, then again, Dean topped even that level of stupidity by taking on the Mark of Cain, even after Cain told him there was a cost.

    As I’ve mentioned in earlier comments on your blog, the big difference in the post-Kripke era has been that Sam and Dean’s problems are of their own making, the actions they took and decisions they made. In the Kripke era, you have heaven and hell working together to make sure the Apocalypse happens, manipulating the brothers. Sam made a lot of bad decisions but he literally had the devil (or his helpers) manipulating him since he was 6 months old.

    • The way Castiel explained it, stealing another angel’s grace is about as low as it gets, kind of like a human stealing someone else’s kidneys or other vital organs. To me, that explanation was sufficient for not doing it sooner.

      Which becomes ironic since Castiel was one of the angels that “took” Anna grace waaaaay back in episode 4.10. Now, I’ll admit that there’s room for explanations on a difference, and those could have been interesting, giving us more insight into Angel culture and motivations. But – as always this season – they didn’t explain it or do anything more with it.

      There’s also just the implication that we know an angel with removed grace still gets to live. As far as we can tell, an angel stabbed with a blade is dead – as in oblivion, completely removed, no more, ceased to be. Now on the one hand, while I would really hate to lose a kidney, would I rather do that than die? Was it really “better” that Castiel outright killed Hael instead of rendering her mortal, then using his new power to heal her up? If angels really saw it that way, it says something about them. But for me, I would find it much more heroic for him to have spared her and then tried to help out later on in the season. (just imagine if she came back instead of introducing Hannah)

      Similar to my complaints about Castiel at the start of the season, it makes you wonder if some writers on the show haven’t gotten the memo that he’s not supposed to be evil any more.

      Umm… I think Sam was occupied by another angel at the time; might have made it difficult.

      Yeah, would have been nice if the show told us something like that. Though the excuse also makes it seem weird that a demon can possess a person possessed by an angel given that angels can regularly burn demons up.

      The rest of this reply will be in the SPN retrospective supplemental.

      Castiel doing the same thing would just be considered piling on at that point.

      Well the idea is that if he did it, Crowley would NOT, so it’d be slightly less piling on. 😉

      It was disappointing they never went back and addressed the angel exorcism spell Alistair started using on Castiel in S4.

      Cheers to that!

      It was never made entirely clear what happened to Adam.

      Exactly! IT DIDN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! And just 1 line inserted into any number of opportunities would have fixed it easily!

      If they did finish curing Crowley, wouldn’t that have completed the trials and killed Sam?

      I don’t see that it would have if say… Dean had finished the job. Heck, given that later Sam cured the demon Dean and didn’t seem to finish the trials then it looks like once his arms stopped glowing any “curing” Sam would do wouldn’t count as trial completion.

      But then again, that just goes to show how badly defined the trials were.

      Besides, Crowley is evil but can be worked with; who knows what you end up with if they had killed Crowley (plus, we’d lose Mark Sheppard).

      Yeah, all the more reason to cure him. 😉 And I mean, working with the villain to say… maintain his power structure, I mean that’s understandable and a common hero trope. But encouraging the villain to do evil? No, I still say something’s gone majorly wrong there and really shakes up the boys statuses as heroic figures.

      As I’ve mentioned in earlier comments on your blog, the big difference in the post-Kripke era has been that Sam and Dean’s problems are of their own making, the actions they took and decisions they made.

      Next week girl. Next week…

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