Do angels exist? Christian, Hebrew and Muslim religious texts abound with references to the heavenly host. Within Supernatural, the concept of angels was first explored in 2.13 “Houses of the Holy.” This is when we learned that a young, narrow-minded Dean was absolutely certain angels didn’t exist. Sam, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure.
DEAN: So did you get in to see that crazy hooker?
SAM: Yeah. Gloria Sitnick. And I'm not so sure she's crazy.
DEAN: But she seriously believes that she was ... touched by an angel?
SAM: Yeah. Blinding light, feelings of spiritual ecstasy, the works. I mean, she's living in a locked ward and she's totally at peace.
DEAN: Oh yeah, you're right, sounds completely sane. What about the dude she stabbed?
SAM: Uh, Carl Gully. She said she killed him because he was evil.
DEAN: Was he?
SAM: I don't know. I mean, I couldn't find any dirt on him. I mean, he didn't have a criminal record, he worked at the campus library, had lots of friends. He was a churchgoer.
DEAN: Hm. So then Gloria's just your standard-issue wacko. I mean, she wouldn't be the first nut job in history to kill in the name of religion. Know what I mean?
SAM: No, but she's the second in town to murder because an angel told them to. Little bit odd, don't ya think?
DEAN: Well, little odd yes, supernatural maybe. But angels? I don't think so.
SAM: Why not?
DEAN: 'Cuz there's no such thing, Sam.
SAM: Dean, there's ten times as much lore about angels as there is about anything else we've ever hunted.
DEAN: Yeah, you know what? There's a ton of lore on unicorns too. In fact, I hear that they, they ride on silver moonbeams, and they shoot rainbows out of their ass.
SAM: Wait, there's no such thing as unicorns?
DEAN: That's cute. I'm just saying, man, there's just some legends that you just, you file under "bullcrap".
SAM: And you've got angels on the bullcrap list.
DEAN (looks up): Because I've never seen one.
SAM: So what?
DEAN: So I believe in what I can see.
SAM: Dean! You and I have seen things that most people couldn't even dream about.
DEAN: Exactly. With our own eyes. That's hard proof, okay? But in all this time I have never seen anything that looks like an angel. And don't you think that if they existed that we would have crossed paths with them? Or at least know someone that crossed paths with them? No. This is a, a demon or a spirit.
When Castiel made his heralded entrance in season 4, both Dean and Sam had their answer. From that sparks flying moment forward, angels became integral, pivotal characters in Supernatural’s story. In the 12 years that followed Castiel’s gravelly voiced, bold declaration, “I am an angel of the Lord”, 68 named angels influenced Sam, Dean and Castiel’s journeys.
Several played a major role in Team Free Will’s struggle against evil, while others made a memorable impact on the boys, and fans, in just one or two brief appearances.
Angels’ personalities were as varied as those of humans, ranging from cruel to kind, meek to aggressive, gullible to shrewd, trustworthy to devious. Yet, the unscrupulous and maniacal angels are always the first to come to mind in any discussion of Supernatural’s visitors from Heaven. Is that fair, though? With so many different characters, were there any angels that both the brothers and fans were happy to see? How about those who made us laugh or cry, find hope or regain faith? How about those who started out as enemies but became valuable allies?
A panel of Supernatural fans and authors recently took on the challenge of naming the most memorable angels in Supernatural’s story. In order to not slight those who retained their heavenly halos, I’ve divided my list of memorable angels into those that made me cringe, those who ranked somewhere between Heaven and Hell on the hit parade, and those I loved to see. Let’s start our angelic who’s who list by remembering the angels who brightened our day with their heavenly glow. Some of these names might surprise you!
Okay, well maybe you’ll be surprised after we list the most obvious, influential angel in Supernatural: Misha Collins' Castiel.
I loved Castiel! He answered the brothers’ prayers, healed them, resurrected them, guided them and gave them hope. He often got things wrong, but he was quick to admit his failings and atone for his mistakes. There were times when the brothers feared Castiel (remember when he became the New God?) and times when he was their mortal enemy.
The poor guy did horrible things while possessed by Lucifer and Leviathans, but he was just as dangerous and cruel when he sided with fast talking manipulators who convinced him that their bidding was God’s will (cue Crowley, Metatron or Naomi). He betrayed the boys more than once, but they in turn also betrayed and deeply hurt him. Yet, Castiel became Sam and Dean’s brother. He was the best of the angels. He never lost faith in humanity, and he alone never lost faith in Jack. Castiel was guided by his heart, and ended up at the right hand of the new, benevolent god.
Whether the Trickster, the spoiled baby brother, the reluctant defender, or a righteous archangel, I never tired of having Gabriel on my screen. His witty humor and mischievous antics immediately made him a truly unique addition to the story, but it was his deeply hidden moral compass that made him endearing.
Each successive “death” of Gabriel’s was more keenly felt, as his backstory and redemption arc pulled us deeper into understanding his role in Heaven’s family feud over humanity. His final demise in the AU was the death of a hero.
Michael (Prime Universe)
Even though he was the boys’ enemy (most of the time), Michael was an admirable character because he remained unwaveringly committed to his mission from God. Unlike his AU counterpart or Michael’s sibling Raphael, Michael wasn’t corrupted by glory or power. Instead, he was driven to be “a good son” who tried for a millennia to carry out his Father’s wishes. Was Michael courageous or cowardly for never questioning his role? After all, Castiel was applauded for his independent thinking. But rebellious defiance motivated by arrogance, pride or jealousy led to Lucifer’s fall from grace. Michael’s rejection of that temptation made him a leader and role model for the other angels. He heroically fought for his beliefs, even though those beliefs were dangerously apocalyptic and built on falsehoods.
Jake Abel and Matthew Cohen both delivered inspired portrayals of Michael, so his insertion into plots led to classic, memorable episodes. It was fitting that he bridged the original apocalypse story of seasons 2 through 5 to the end of the Winchesters’ saga in season 15.
Oh, how we love our bad boys! Ever the scoundrel, Balthazar was as loyal to his friends as he was to himself. Sebastian Roche’s French accented pizzazz and mischief made him a welcome addition to any episode! You just never knew what he was going to do! The instigator of the nearly back-to-back episodes “The French Mistake” and “My Heart Will Go On”, Balthi gave us and the boys incredibly imaginative adventures. His betrayal and death at Castiel’s hand was a poignant loss, and something that I regret as much as I’m sure Castiel does.
A big part of Gadreel’s appeal (to me) was his portrayal by Tahmoh Penikett. Such a commanding presence and performance! I always saw Gadreel as a sympathetic character. He truly wanted to redeem himself, and until he was misled by Metatron, Gadreel was relatively forthright with Dean. Let’s not forget that Gadreel saved Sam, Castiel and Charlie! I was immensely annoyed that Gadreel was gullible enough to betray and murder for Metatron, but so did Castiel, so the parallel there was material to the main story. Is one guilty of crimes if they are too trusting to see the underlying motivation? When does it become their fault for not questioning orders, or is it always the fault of the manipulator? I lay all of Gadreel’s (and Castiel’s) grave transgressions, including the murder of Kevin, at Metatron’s feet. Gadreel’s final heroic death at least gave him the redemption he desired.
Sweet Anna. Long before Castiel’s break with the fold, Anna rejected the blind obedience that was expected of Supernatural’s angels. She became human, living among the humble and holy, until apocalyptic triggers forced her back into the battle for Earth. I loved Anna because she was basically Castiel’s female counterpart. Like him, Anna was a fierce warrior and commander in the angelic army who eventually saw divinity in humanity’s free will. She and Cas were also each isolated by their beliefs in both worlds. Julie McNiven’s Anna was a more relatable character at first, though, in that Cas was an angel who adopted humanity, whereas Anna was more a human who happened to have an angelic history and powers (her humanity was accentuated by her wanting to spend the night with Dean). Anna was a smart, confident female character who loved, forgave, understood, sympathized and tried the best she could to be an ally to the boys. She died as Sam and Dean’s enemy but I always saw her death as heroic because she gave her life trying to save the world (i.e. us) from the apocalypse.
He was just so adorable! An angel whose mission is to impart love wherever he goes? What’s not to love? I would not have wanted a lengthy myth arc about Cupid, but Lex Medlin’s single portrayal of Cupid (5.14 “My Bloody Valentine”) was delightfully memorable!
Another memorial performance from just one episode was Dan Payne’s Abner. Appearing in 9.10 “Road Trip” as Gadreel’s oldest, most trusted friend, I loved how Abner exemplified a path to happiness that is paved with forgiveness of self and others. Abner’s peaceful acceptance of the torture he endured in Heaven’s jail, and his warm, loving outlook on life with his new family, glowed with the grace that all angels should have brought to Earth. He wasn't heroic or important, but he was gentle, which made him memorable in a world of violence.
ABNER: We are friends. And the fall, it's our second chance. We can forget our old hates, who we were.
GADREEL: It's not that easy.
ABNER: Yes, it is. Look at me. I'm happy.
GADREEL: And your vessel – is he happy?
ABNER: He was an abusive ass. But I love my family, and they love me. I'm not a wise man, Gadreel. But I know this. The key to happiness? It's getting the one thing you want most and never letting it go.
GADREEL And what if there's a price?
ABNER: There's always a price. But it's worth paying
That well-intentioned advice to his “best friend” signed Abner’s death warrant. His innocent vulnerability at the moment of his death struck me, betrayed by someone he had trusted for a millennia. Abner’s life had meaning in the end, though, because he had released his adopted family from the abuse of their spouse/ father.
“Alfie” was another angel who exemplified the innocent, humble, loving nature that I believe brings out the best in all of us. He was #9 in my list of “Top 10 Characters Gone Too Soon” because, to me, he was “worthy of the title ‘angel’". He, too, died at the hands of a trusted friend who was being brainwashed by a more powerful angel. I wish the boys would have encountered more angels like Samandriel, but alas, Supernatural wasn’t Highway to Heaven. Still, if angels do walk among us, I envision they are like Tyler Johnston’s Samandriel.
Hannah (Honorable Mention)
If this was a Top 10 list, Hannah would get an honorable mention to take the tenth spot. Hannah had many admirable qualities. She supported Castiel, initially giving him confidence and worthwhile, practical assistance. She tried to be a leader to other angels in Heaven. She also made a very difficult, ethical decision to give up her vessel because it was the right thing to do for her host. Her impact on Castiel’s journey to discovery of self was significant, so for that, she was truly memorable.
Hannah was also one of the few angels who was portrayed by both a woman (Erica Caroll) and a man (Lee Majdoub), depicting Supernatural’s gender-neutral vision of angels. Hannah doesn’t quite fit in with the others on this list, though, because she was very quick to abandon Castiel, instead believing Metatron’s lies. She also betrayed Castiel when ordered to do so (11.02 “Form and Void”). Ultimately, she tried to come to his aid, but her defiance of the evil angel majority cost her her life.
Reviewing the choices above, it seems I enjoyed watching angels who could be viewed as virtuous in one way or another. Some were flawed allies while others were sworn enemies, but in the end, they were all either innocent victims or heroes. Michael may be the exception, but even he was betrayed as he sought to betray.
Notably, I haven’t listed any of the rogues’ gallery of angels. That list certainly contains very memorable characters – the ones we loved to hate. I think that’s another article entirely!
Now that you've seen my list, make up your list! Who were your most beloved angels? Think about it on your own or listen to the entire Con-Tinual panel discussion between me, Alexander Gideon, Elektra Hammond, and Kristin Jackson, hosted by Gail Z. Martin. We discuss angels not mentioned above and share some interesting angel trivia. Then share your thoughts below!