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The very first mention of Castiel comes in season 3, when he is one of the beings mentioned at the start of the invocation Sam reads over the grave of the sea captain in Red Sky At Morning.  (I haven't found a transcript of the invocation, but it appears to start by calling on "Aziel, Castiel, Lemistiel...".)  "Red Sky At Morning" is the only episode of Supernatural which was written by Laurence Andries, who is otherwise listed as a consulting producer on Season 3 of Supernatural for the episodes before the writers' strike.  Neither he nor anyone else can have known what he was starting.

"What know we of the Blest above but that they sing, and that they love?" (William Wordsworth)

The big difficulty in understanding Castiel is how little information we have about him.   We are shown few of Castiel's interactions with anyone except Dean, or with various fallen or disobedient (and therefore largely unreliable) angels.  Apart from Dean, there's no-one who talks about Castiel when he's not around, and there's almost no information about what Castiel has been doing and who he has been with.   In  It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,  when Sam is introduced to Castiel Sam says "I've heard a lot about you".  Really?  Sam may have heard a lot from Dean about what Castiel has done, but what could he have heard about Castiel himself?  Even when we look at what Castiel has said and done, his statements and actions for most of his time on earth have been compromised by the orders he has been given, and by disarray, dissention and disobedience amongst the angelic host.  He's beautiful, and he's an enigma.



Castiel

 

Age: unknown

The basic biographical facts of Castiel's life are pretty sketchy.  In On The Head Of A Pin, Uriel reminds Castiel of Lucifer: "you do remember him".  In order to remember Lucifer, Castiel must have been created by the time of the Fall, when Lucifer left heaven.   So he's been around a long time.

Address: no fixed abode

"It is not known precisely where angels dwell - whether in the air, the void, or the planets.  It has not been God's pleasure that we should be informed of their abode" (Voltaire)

Every time we see Castiel he is operating in an alien, unfamiliar environment - Earth.  It's implied in The Rapture that Castiel has stayed in the body of Jimmy Novak all the time between Lazarus Rising and the battle between the angels at the start of The Rapture, so he hasn't been home to heaven in all that time.  Then his period back home in heaven is a relatively brief, but obviously distressing period of "re-education" intended to negate all Castiel has learnt of humans, and in particular of Dean.  Since the start of season 5, Castiel has been wholly exiled from his home in heaven.  Who can forget that scene in The End of Castiel standing by the side of a road, with nowhere to go and no-one to spend time with, waiting for Dean to snatch the sleep he so desperately needs?  First we're laughing over the Voice telling Castiel he's almost out of minutes, then we're given that haunting image of loneliness.

Occupation: warrior of God

In "Are You There God?..." Castiel is clear that he is not a fluffy-winged guardian: "Angels are warriers of God.  I am a soldier".  He displays some strong military traits, too: obedience to orders, and loyalty to his fellow soldiers, his brothers in arms.  

"In Heaven, an angel is nobody in particular" (George Bernard Shaw)

As a soldier, Castiel seems to be pretty low down in the ranks.  He's an angel rather than an archangel.  Even as an angel he is ranked lower in the garrison than Anna and Zachariah.  In "Its The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester" Castiel is apparently in charge of Uriel.  But Castiel is only just in control: in Castiel's presence Uriel feels free both to get close to blaspheming (calling the humans, who are God's creation, "mud monkeys" and "plumbing on two legs") and to propose disobedience to the two angels true orders (when Castiel says "its out of our hands" Uriel replies "it doesn't have to be").  So even at this stage Uriel is not much in fear of Castiel's authority.  By the time of On The Head Of A Pin Uriel is giving orders to Castiel.   Castiel is left isolated at the bottom of the chain of angelic orders, not being told much and with no power to require other angels to act with him.

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"Are You Experienced?" (Jimmy Hendrix)

Castiel is inexperienced in fighting: neither he nor any other angel has been to earth in order to fight in a very long time.  As he says in Are You There, God?, "we're here walking among you now for the first time in 2,000 years."  So even if Castiel's nature is to be a soldier, and he is trained to be a soldier, he has had no recent experience of fighting on earth, and perhaps no experience of fighting at all before raising Dean out of hell.   It shows.  Castiel's first fight on earth comes in Heaven and Hell, and he fails.   He was losing his fight against Alistair, and was saved by Anna.  Then he fights Alistair again in On the Head Of A Pin, and is saved by Sam.  He loses his fight against Uriel in On the Head of a Pin and is saved by Anna again.  He loses his fight against other angels before being taken back to heaven at the start of The Rapture.  

Castiel's first fighting success comes later in The Rapture, when he kills two minor demons.   He is then ruthless in killing Zachariah's two sidekicks in Sympathy for the Devil.  He is vanquished by a much stronger power, the anti-Christ, Jesse, in I Believe the Children Are Our Future, when he is turned into a miniature action figure.  It's clear all the way through, though, that Castiel has courage, shown when he takes on opponents such as Raphael, Jesse and Gabriel that he knows are stronger than he is.  Eventually this attitude pays off and Castiel begins to learn how to fight effectively even though his angelic powers are diminishing.  He cleverly and ruthlessly uses Meg as a bridge to get out of the circle of holy oil in Abandon All Hope, and successfully stands up to Lucifer, escaping safely with Sam and Dean.  It's been a steep learning curve for him.

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Castiel and the humans

"It is by means of spirits that all the intercourse and communication of gods with men, both in waking life and in sleep, is carried on" (Socrates)

Castiel is also inexperienced in dealing with the humans.  There is an implication, from Anna in Heaven and Hell when she refers to being in the same foxhole as Castiel and Uriel, and from Uriel in On The Head Of A Pin when he is tempting Castiel to disobedience, that Castiel, along with Anna and Uriel, has been one of the angels watching over the Earth.  But observing is not doing, and Castiel's lack of practical experience on Earth is evident early on.  We are first shown him in Lazarus Rising when he unsuccessfully tries to contact Dean using his true voice.  He fails, and after his second attempt Dean's ears are left bleeding.  As he acknowledges to Dean; "This was my mistake".  It's a mistake based on inexperience, and on the assumption that Dean is special: he is of course, but not in the way Castiel first thought.  And that fact that Dean can't be contacted using Castiel's real voice means that Castiel has to come down among the humans in physical form in order to carry out his mission.

Not only is Castiel inexperienced in dealing with the humans, he has an alien's perspective on humans.  At the start of Season 4, when Castiel first comes down to earth, his view of humans is wholly derived from the fact that they are God's creation: it's an objective, intellection appreciation based solely on that divine origin.  "These people, they're all my father's creations.  They are works of art." (Castiel in It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester).  There's nothing personal in this description, and it's not an opinion formed on direct experience or independent thought, it's an opinion based solely on Castiel's faith in his God.  (The alternate, future, disillusioned Castiel in The End has a slightly less flattering assessment of humans: congratulated by Dean on joining the human club he says "I used to belong to a much better club".)

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Castiel's God-centric view of humans is challenged pretty early on, by Dean's snark in Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester.  Dean says angels are dicks, doubts the existence of God, and is sarcastic about the help the angels provided to deal with the witnesses.  This human isn't falling into line with the plans which Castiel has orders to follow, and Castiel's response is clear: "You should show me some respect.  I dragged you out of hell, I can throw you back in."  But for Castiel to put Dean back in hell without orders to do so would be disobedience.  And for Castiel to suggest that it would be his own choice to throw Dean back into hell is to abrogate to himself a decision which is God's, which is also disobedience.  So within three days of Castiel rescuing Dean from hell and coming down to earth, Dean has got under his skin to the extent of Castiel's suggesting something which is the angel's biggest crime, their "Murder One".  It's an early indication that Castiel's new job out among the humans is going to be harder, and more testing, than he could ever have contemplated when in the safety of heaven.

Comments  

elle2
# elle2 2010-01-15 22:23
Faellie,

Great analysis of the Castiel character. Having watched AAH last night (still sobbing!) I thought a bit about the progression of Castiel, how different he is this season from last, how far he's come from Lazarus Rising and how very much I enjoy his presence, sometimes lots of scene (like last night) and sometimes fleeting -- Good God, Y'all.

Castiel is a keeper (like Bobby) and I appreciate you dissecting the character so well. His story is very similar to the Winchesters, solitary, scary, no home, separated from loved ones, in danger all the time. Like Dean he was the obedient son, yet like Sam he has the flare for disobedience -- or perhaps thinking outside the box, challenging the status quo.

Great analysis, thanks for putting it together and sharing.
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-01-15 23:03
Great article Faellie. Castiel's character has certainly been changing for the better...certai nly better for him. Maybe he is becoming more aware of what Anna was trying to tell him.

He certainly has come on strong for the boys as of late. I have to wonder though, if the Castiel, who died in Lucifer Rising, is the same Castiel who appeared in Sympathy for the Devil. There was always a suggestion that Sam was never the same after he died, so I have always wonder the same thing about Cas.

On a side note, Castiel is the Angel for Thursday. Cute one Kripke.

Thanks for the article. So nice to read one about Cas!
ElenaM
# ElenaM 2010-01-16 00:30
Great character analysis, Faellie. And punctuated with really cool quotes!

There's this Melissa Etheridge song I've got stuck in my head now: Angels never came down, there's no one here they want to hang around, but if they knew, if they knew you at all, then one by one angels would fall...

I think of Castiel everytime I hear that.
Sablgreen--interesting point. Ha-- he really is the angel of Thursday! So funny :lol:
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-16 06:18
Let’s give Castiel some love, indeed. This is absolutely amazing, Faellie, and it is due to look at the angel with a benevolent and generous eye. He has been criticized too much for my taste. I’ve liked the character from his first appearance – ‘I am the one who grabbed you tight and raised you from perdition’. Another force in the Supernatural Olympics.

What I love most about Castiel is his ambivalence. One-dimensional characters usually bore me (though they can be fun when taken over the top, like Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham), and in the beginning of the show we had no clear clue of Castiel’s agenda. Even now, as he is established as a brother in arms of the Winchesters, there is an air about him that indicates there might still be more to the angel than our eyes see.

You’ve given us a beautiful analysis here, and thank you for the quotes. I love that (hell, I use them myself all the time, as you might have noticed, ahem…), as it’s a fine way to stress the occasional point.
I wonder if the creators are going to give us some more higher ranking angels, as well. Those angels dealing with humans (archangels included) belong to a lower order. There are e.g. the cherubim or the seraphim, immensely powerful and close to God, that might provide some leverage… but, well, as it is often the case with the really powerful, they might just be lazy and let the groundlings do all the work…

What I loved about Castiel, among other things, is his deep faith – he can’t bring himself to believe that God ‘left the building’. So far, he still rests assured that he will find Him. He has changed so much in his life (do angels actually live – are they breathers?), broken with everything he used to take for granted, but he remains loyal and faithful to God.
I’ve always admired that about people who carry deep faith (I don’t refer to the bigot, of course), as it seems to be unusually disburdening. I have had periods in my life (and probably will go through those again) struggling with my faith, which is not fun.
I believe Castiel takes a lot of strength from that fact. And he might just be the one to find God (or, in the sometimes twisted realm of Supernatural’ s writers, it might just be the one believing the least – Dean. Or Sam.)

Thank you for this great piece, Faellie. It was a joy to read!!


ElenaM, there's another Etheridge-song I love in particular 'Talking to my angel'

:-), Jas
Freebird
# Freebird 2010-01-16 10:03
Loved your article, Faellie! I just realized how little I know about Castiel. Thanks for enlightening me :-)
I wish the writers would tell more about Castiel's search for God. Zacharia's statement that God has left the building was, for me, one of the shockers - a very tricky ground the writers are walking there. How can the Creator of everything be gone? And where would He go to, anyway? I love Castiel's faith against all odds and have a feeling that there's more to him than even he is aware of. Maybe he's been chosen by God as well, just like Dean. For what exactly - well, I can't wait to see.
Anyway, the Supernatural-an gel-characters have kinda changed the way I look on angels: no christmas-card- angel is ever going to be the same ;-)
Randal
# Randal 2010-01-16 13:26
What an excellent and enthralling analysis of a wonderful character. Definitely parallels with Dean, and they're displayed in the same manner, in that misty, nebulous realm of "so you wanna be a hero, here's your chance in this black pit of despair."

Going to be veeeery interesting going forward where, to us humans, such disobedience is seen as heroic contra that of Lucifer and whether the Big Kahuna is as much of a hardass as might be assumed (I might assume not).
Pelagy October
# Pelagy October 2010-01-16 13:35
Hello !
I'm a pro lurker, but, having read your great great article, I really wanted to thank you for this analysis ! I love Castiel's character & there is not much meta about him. I think he's a positive parallel for Dean's character as Ruby's was a negative one for Sam.
Again, thank you !
Pelagy October
http://brian-boru.deviantart.com/
immie_8
# immie_8 2010-01-16 22:18
Wonderful meta Faellie! Castiel's character has indeed changed a lot since we first met him, but at his core he remains God's faithful soldier, and I love that about him.

I also love the dynamic between Dean and Castiel. In some ways, they're 2 completely different characters, but, as you said, at the core, both are heroes, just trying as best they can to do the right thing. :-)
Anene
# Anene 2010-01-17 05:33
Castiel was interesting and had such a great character arc and potential in season 4 even though he was a wimp sometimes. He radiated power, faith, courage and was badass, driven and an individual. Even when he was being a dick to Dean, i still adored him because at least i understood where he was coming from. But come season 5 and i don't recognize him anymore. I don't see or feel any of the things he radiated back in season 4. I feel like i am watching a washed out and pale version of the character. Instead of interest, he now provokes in me boredom and irritation most of the time. I feel like any depth he had has been erased and substituted with artificial and painfully transparent plot-device and fan-service tag that i get kind of embarrassed. I weep and long for the angel of Monster at the End of the Book or The Rapture very badly.

I feel like all the characters progression he had last season has been reversed. The natural pace of his character progression last season is gone. I feel like every level Castiel reaches is being forced and rushed with no middle ground.


I find it hard to suspense my belief and take the character seriously anymore when he is sharing the same space as Sam and Dean. The well rounded and 3 dimensional level of Sam and Dean's character's is always glaringly obvious when compared.

I wish for the rest half of this season, his character is treated better. I beg for continuity at least. And no more comic relief that don't make sense and takes away from the character.
Faellie
# Faellie 2010-01-17 08:37
Thanks to all for your comments. Thanks too to Alice for the screencaps - I suspect it's just not possible to have too many pictures of Castiel.

It does seem to me that there have been fewer expressions of love for Castiel this season than last. I wonder whether this might be because his character has changed (I think developed) but we've see this relatively sporadically on screen, when compared to Sam and Dean. Rewatching episodes over the holidays made his development easier to understand - and confirmed my love for the character.

Has God left the building, or is he dead? Will Dean's amulet help to find him? The answers start next Thursday!
Bethany!
# Bethany! 2010-01-18 09:14
great article! :!:

I think I love the fact that there is so much you don't know about Castiel probably so much we're never meant to know. I love that he's beginning to understand humans in the way that milliena of observation would never be able to give.

I do want to see more of the Cas that we saw at the end of Abandon All Hope because it was nice to see his determination and his strength and convinction in choosing his side and sticking to it, something that we haven't seen since early season 4. It will be interesting to see how this almost steely conviction and ruthlessness (way to tell Meg who's boss!) will mesh with his developing understanding of humans and how will this effect his established relationship with Dean and his developing one with Sam. - quick note to Sam although he has only met Sam in person a few times I feel that a lot of Cas's understanding of humans and human relationships comes from his interaction with Dean and therefore it would stand to reason that he would view Sam through a Dean tilted lense.

Bring on thursday!
Karen
# Karen 2010-01-19 09:26
Hi Faellie
I also like Castiel and the development he has taken. I like that he’s still loyal to his father/God and to Dean. Even to Sam, the way he told Lucifer that he couldn’t have Sam made my heart soar. However I have to admit there have been a few occasions I have wanted to cuff him in the back of the head.
Thank you for sharing.