Let's look at Castiel first. When we last saw him in “I'm Going to Like It Here,” he was just coming to the realization that he has become mortal. He was our Adam, cast from the Garden, and he was in denial for much of it until he finally strips away the vestiges of his divine nature to be bared before us as the human he's become. In “I'm No Angel,” we see this bear full fruit. He truly has become Adam in every sense---and sense is what seems to overwhelm Castiel on every level here.
He is encountering all the limited senses in full force---and it is shocking to his system. He has to cede to bodily functions. He needs sleep, he needs food, he needs shelter. Seemingly, the former angel has none of these things as he has been rendered homeless. Without his angelic powers, Castiel has no real skill set of use in the real world nor does he have any real purpose. He is a wandering lost soul looking to find where he belongs without really understanding what that means.
Supernatural has given us a great look into the human condition with this twist. A powerful supernatural being has been rendered human. It is the reverse of so many science fiction/fantasy tropes. Most times, we see an ordinary human being waking one day to realize they have super powers---be it telepathy or the ability to fly. Here, we see a once powerful creature be turned into a mortal being and how jarring that transition really can be.
Castiel has always been awkward at best when it comes to human customs---and here he is hopelessly clueless. Instead of “brushing his teeth,” he simply squirts the toothpaste into his mouth. He complains, “Do you ever tire of urniating? I'll never get used to it.” He finds sleep a challenge. His stomach demands food and he finds the hunger painful. He's feeling human lust largely for the first time---and not as the clinical understanding he's expressed in other ventures.
But all of these are his physical sensations. What do they really say about him---the man---not the angel he once was? Our Adam has made missteps in his first days as a mortal man, and others have noticed that there's something not quite right with him. He mentions odd things about passing gas or difficulty in sleeping. But what Castiel's really reminding us here is how special we really are as a species. It's a profound thread for the show to use.
Most of us never think twice about eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, or feeling any of the hundreds of emotions we feel in a single day. We are human, and it's how we navigate our world. Castiel's storyline makes us slow down here, take a moment to contemplate all the nitty gritty of being human on a fundamental level. We don't generally take time to do that because it is mundane, too common place or boring to do so. Since we already live it, we don't feel the need to examine the ordinary so closely.
And yet, what Castiel shows us in his inept attempts at assimilating into the human condition is how wondrous it can be. We're a marvelous species with many quirks, flaws, and odd habits. Seeing a super being turned into one of us reminds us that while it may be amazing to be able to fly or heal people or make fire with our thoughts, it can be pretty incredible to be an average person, too. There's something to be said for simply going through the human experience each day and that's captured here well.
The former angel also experiences the overwhelming roller-coaster that is human emotions. He feels everything from hope to despair to contentment to fear. When we take a moment to go over our own feelings, we may realize that each day we all feel a gamut of feelings---all the highs and the lows. Castiel is feeling very lost and confused. He's alone and afraid. This feeling of helplessness is new to him, and as he wasn't born human, he isn't entirely ready to cope with it the way we do.
For the first time, too, Castiel is desiring sex---and he gets it, too. Castiel is captured by April's kindness. She gives him food when he needs it most, she takes him in to her home when he needed a place to stay, and she then offers to him her body. Unfortunately, he's as naïve as a human being as he was an angel, and April isn't what she seems. She's not a human. She's a rogue reaper sent to hunt him down. The next morning, Castiel discovers his folly---and yet he drops a hint to what might be the fix to Heaven. If it was his grace that made all the angels fall, could it be that he's the key to fixing things again?
But April is unwilling to listen, and as the Winchesters arrive, she stabs Castiel fatally. It's a clue, too. If Castiel is to fix things, could it be that he has to die to go back and get his grace? We know Metatron took it while he was in Heaven. It has to still be up there. Could Castiel really be the key?
Of course he is revived by Ezekiel---and we see just how shocking it is to a human Castiel to be brought back from the dead fully healed. He looks around in disbelief and fear, looking from one Winchester to the other. And yet, as Dean lies to cover for Ezekiel, we see him put his steadfast trust in the elder Winchester.
He shows gratitude to the Winchesters for coming to his aid and helping him to the Bunker---but this is short lived. Because of the bounty on his head, he cannot stay at the Bunker without endangering everyone there---especially Ezekiel which in turn means Sam. He is cast out into the world by Dean to try again at being a mere mortal in a dangerous world. As Castiel tries to understand not only his situation but what it means to be human, what will he discover? We're left to wonder just where he'll go, what he'll do.
Castiel tells Dean what he's learned so far about being human---that it's about finding a purpose. He's been trying to do that since the end of the Apocalypse. Perhaps as a human being with true free will he can do that---and remind us a little bit more about what it means to be human, too.
Another ply is about faith---and we see part of that appear in Castiel's story. We see him wander into a church and enter a pew looking around. He's trying to find some of the divine that he once possessed in the images of Jesus---and yet we can tell that he's left empty. A woman ahead of him is praying about her husband, calling on God to send His angels and to hear her prayer.
Unlike the woman, Castiel knows the truth. God has left, and they are alone. He knows it because he once was an angel and saw the aftermath of God's departure first hand. The Apocalypse came and went---and afterward it has been many missteps and fights to build a new order. He has seen the animosity that comes with that amongst his siblings---and has played a crucial role in Heaven's destruction. After all, it's why he's human now.
But this woman can teach Castiel much. She tells him, “Your lack of faith doesn't cancel what I believe. That's not how it works.” Sure, she may not know what Castiel does---but she's teaching him about real faith here---not in just what you can see. She believes that there must be something stronger than herself---and that is why she prays.
Prayer is said to be a powerful tool. We've seen it used to contact angels in the show. Castiel used it to try and reach God before he opened Purgatory---only to have silence as his answer. Dean prayed to Castiel when Sam was suffering under the Trials. He did it to alleviate some of his grief and worry---and while Castiel didn't answer, either, it seemed to have helped on some level.
Supernatural teaches us here about three versions of faith---lack of, zealous faith, and balanced faith. We saw lack of faith on Castiel's part certainly and a balanced faith on the part of the woman in the church. But what of zealous?
We see zealous faith on the part of the evangelist and the girl. They're so willing to believe anything Bartholomew tells them---and are so willing to do anything to please him and the other angels that it costs the girl everything. She begs to be taken as a vessel, and her body cannot handle the immense power and pressure. Jimmy Novak described being possessed by Castiel as being “hitched to a comet.” Unlike demons, angels can only possess certain people for a certain length of time before the vessel is destroyed. Only the “true” vessel can contain any particular angel for more than that---as it was with Lucifer with Sam and Jimmy with Castiel. Others will start to fall apart as Nick did or as Hael's vessel did.
It is zealous faith that the angels are willing to gamble on. They know there's enough people out there willing to buy what they are selling so they can achieve what they're after on earth: capturing and destroying Castiel and setting up a version of Heaven. Not unlike demons trying to take over things, the angels need people to make it possible. So, they'll use one weapon that demons can't: blind faith. It makes them as monstrous as the demons, too.
Supernatural is showing us just how dangerous zealous faith is----and how damaging a total lack of it can be, too.
So just what is the woman in the church teaching Castiel? If no faith is bad and zealous faith is bad, what else is there? We as human beings need faith. We need it in ourselves. We need it in each other. We need it in something bigger than ourselves. But does that “something” have to be God? Can it be something else? Sometimes we just need to believe that there is something bigger than us out there---no matter what we call it. It can be divine. It can be the collective of humanity. It can be the cosmos. Whatever it is, we know as human beings that we need it. Indvidually, we're far too small to take on everything alone.
We shouldn't be blind in our faith nor should we be without it. There is having faith without tipping to either extreme. There is a balance---and the woman teaches Castiel this lesson here. What she's really teaching Castiel is that sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to---even if you don't see or hear them back---and that it can help lift our burdens off of our own shoulders and allow us to find solace in knowing we've done what we can.
Layla once told Dean in "Faith", “I guess, if you're gonna have faith, you can’t just have it when the miracles happen. You have to have it when they don't.”
Maybe that's what having faith is really all about.
The strongest ply is, of course, the brotherly bond. This episode may have been Castiel-centric, but it had plenty of emphasis on the Winchesters and their story. Its fiber is the backbone of Supernatural, and this early portion of the season seems to be about making it a prominent weekly feature. There's an aura of Sam&Dean vs the World that seems to strengthen each week---and this episode certainly seemed to build upon that concept in many ways wonderfully. And while their thread may seem to wind with Castiel's here, it would seem that their plies are being separated for the time being.
That doesn't mean there isn't conflict or difficulties within their relationship. After all, there is a third wheel in the equation: Ezekiel. With him, he brings many questions and concerns. Which side is he on? What is his agenda? Is he to be trusted? The angel is there to help heal Sam, and thus far he's held to his word. But it does come with a price. Since Sam would never agree to being possessed intentionally, Dean has done it without Sam's full knowledge. He has to keep it secret if he hopes for Sam to heal enough to survive without angelic help.
It is a terrible burden, and it weighs heavily on Dean. They have vowed to not keep secrets from one another several times. They both know it always ends badly for one or both of them---and it puts an enormous strain upon their relationship when these secrets come to light. Sam kept his demon blood infection and addiction from Dean. Dean tried to keep his Deal secret. Dean tried to keep the Wall a secret. Each time they've kept secrets, it has managed to rupture at some point, wreaking havoc in its reveal.
But this secret isn't like the others---not entirely. Dean knows that he must keep it to keep Sam alive at all, and so he has to keep his mouth shut or risk losing it all. If Sam were to find out too soon, he could cast Ezekiel out and die. That cannot happen, and so Dean must hold back, no matter how difficult that task is. We can tell that it is because Dean is bursting at the seams throughout---and largely has since Ezekiel helped Sam after the fight with demons.
And yet, it seems as if the elder Winchester is playing a game of chicken with the situation. Sure, the first time Ezekiel takes Sam over while he's awake is jarring to Dean---but he calls on the angel later on to help find Castiel---all while nearly tipping his hand to Sam. It's a sticky situation to say the least. If Dean is not careful, he may expose what he's worked so hard to keep quiet.
Dean always anticipates the other shoe dropping. He knows it's going to come, and he knows that it will hurt---so like a band-aid, he wants to rip it off quickly. He doesn't want to hurt Sam or risk Sam's life by any means. If he did, he wouldn't have gone through with Zeke's possession in the first place. Subconsciously, however, he wants the bad stuff to get over with quickly, and since he knows it will happen he is playing a bit fast with the secret.
Not only does he call on the angel while Sam is awake and aware of Dean's bizarre behavior, he mentions things Zeke mentioned that confuse Sam. Dean knows his brother well. Sam is a curious man and he will start to question Dean's behavior. Not only is Dean trying to prepare for the other shoe to drop, he's also trying to tell Sam the truth in a roundabout way. He doesn't want to lie. He doesn't enjoy keeping this secret, and he doesn't want his brother to be angry with him for keeping it. If he can “tell” Sam, perhaps he can stem the tide of hurt feelings, too.
It's a great example of his growth as a character---and for their relationship. Dean trusts his brother. He told Zeke about Sam in “Devil May Care,” “He’s the one I’m used to talking to about all this stuff.” Dean wants his brother to be with him on this and on the same page. He wants it to be something they can work on together. Dean doesn't want to hide from Sam---not simply because he knows secrets can be their Achille's Heels. He wants Sam to know because he knows it will prove to Sam that he trusts him completely and that they are a unified team in every way. This secret is a block to that.
And yet, Dean will keep it for as long as necessary because he loves Sam.
On the other side, Sam is expressing all sorts of gratitude to his brother. On the surface, it is all about his big brother believing and trusting in him. He brings Dean a greasy breakfast and says, “Grabbed you real bacon and eggs. Extra grease. Not even gonna argue.” He teases Dean with fondness over the chemicals in his brother's pie. He expresses his absolute shock at Dean's lack of seeing It's a Wonderful Life with a smile. There's little things all over this episode that reflect that Sam is thanking his brother in the way Dean most understands: through actions. After all, they can't have chick flick moments, can they?
There is an ebb and flow between Sam and Dean here. When one is concerned about the other---as Dean is about Sam going for a jog or after Ezekiel cedes control after healing Castiel or when Sam is concerned about Dean---we can see that they've truly have one another's backs. Secret or no secret, they're watching out for one another. It's what makes their particular thread in the story so strong and enduring, too. In so many subtle ways, we're seeing the brothers say “I love you” to one another, and that makes for great story for them.
Sam isn't blind, however. He may not know what his brother is hiding, but that doesn't mean he can't tell that Dean is struggling on some level. It shows in the worry lines in his expression or in his questioning tone of voice when asking Dean about things. He worries for his brother as much as Dean worries for him here. He knows when Dean is ringing alarm bells and is upset. After so many years of watching his brother, he knows the signs. And there are so many all over this episode!
We know that it's only a matter of time before he finds out. We can only hope that the concern, love, and trust he has for Dean will be strong enough to withstand the secret's fall out. After all, Sam also knows how far his brother will go. In some ways, he may accept it easier if it means he knows his brother won't be in danger the way he was after selling his soul. If it takes Sam being possessed in order to keep Dean from taking the burden of his survival, then he'll gladly do it. That's if, of course, he doesn't let his anger blind him to these truths.
There's another possibility to consider, too. What if Sam's gratitude is a subconscious thank you for what Dean's done? Zeke has told Dean that he knows what Sam knows---and Zeke did tell Dean, “That's why I said yes” in “Devil May Care.” Is it possible on some level that Sam already knows? If so, what will this mean later on for the fall out? If not, what will the fall out do to the current relationship the brothers are enjoying? After all they've been through and the strengthening their bond has had in this early part of the season, we can certainly hope the thread is strong enough to withstand his initial bursts of anger---no matter how right or wrong that anger may be.
Zeke tells Dean in “Devil May Care,” “And I know that what you did you did out of love.” Perhaps, if Sam knows on some level, he knows that, too. By now, both brothers should know that most of their actions---especially concerning one another---stem from love. It is equally their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. It's also why we watch them so faithfully. The love they share for one another makes the story a richer and more vibrant fabric. Love is what makes their ply in the story so strong.
Their love for one another shows in this episode, too. The brothers are working together as a single unit to find Castiel. They're united and on the same page in that regard---and it shows in how they go about their business. There's an easy relationship between them here as they feed off of one another during the case. There's a palpable connection between them as they work. It feels natural and right---and we can sense that they know it. It shows in how comfortable they are---despite the secret.
No one is fighting it or trying to hide from themselves. Sam and Dean know that this is what they're supposed to be doing. They also know that this isn't just about Castiel, their friend. They're also left to deal with the fall out of the angels falling. They have to know what they're up to just as much if they're going to counter it. Which means they must work together with complete trust. They are, after all, trapped between Godzilla and Mothra to a degree. Demons are also on the move with Abaddon as their leader---and now they must learn what the angels are up to. It will take them as Sam&Dean to do it.
But Zeke's frequent appearances tend to makes us wonder about him, and if we can truly trust him. Can we? Should we? We can easily take all his turns at the controls as test driving his vessel for permanent occupation---and yet when Zeke tells Dean, “I cannot be making public appearances,” we're not so sure he's looking to make Sam his vessel for good. In this episode, it seems we should trust the angel. After all, he did help Dean find Castiel, and rather than turning coat on the Winchesters, he revives Castiel. He could have easily told the other angels what had happened. But he doesn't---as far as we know.
We feel a bit of doubt when he has Castiel cast from the Bunker, however. Most of all, it makes us wonder, though, if Zeke is somehow in trouble with the other angels. What price does he have on his head and why? He seems insistent that they not know he is there. Is it merely helping the Winchesters that places him in danger or is it something more drastic than that? What part does he play in the faction fighting within Heaven? Where does he fit in with things? He told Dean, upon their first meeting, “Believe it or not, some of us still do believe in our mission. And that means we believe in Castiel...and you.” Is it possible that he was fighting against the factions looking to destroy Castiel or the Winchesters before coming to earth?
We're also not surprised that Dean will choose Sam over Castiel, here. We've seen him do it several times through the series. If it comes down to anyone and Sam, Dean will always choose his little brother. It goes back to the love between them that we saw in this episode.
It's also about faith. For Dean here, it is the cautious variety. He's trusting Zeke, and while we've seen Dean struggle with his faith in a higher power in the past, he wants so badly to believe in Zeke. Until the angel proves otherwise, he'll have to go on faith that Zeke is telling the truth. He'll have to believe that the angel is on their side and will leave when the time comes. It is a difficult thing to do---and so far he's been rewarded with Sam's faith in him and them.
However, this time it's not just about Sam. If Castiel should bring the angels to the Bunker doorstep, Dean knows it will bring trouble to more than him and his brother. There's others to consider like Kevin. He told the prophet, “But out that door, it's demons, and it's angels, and they would all love to get their hands on a prophet,” and that is most certainly true. They would like to know what is written on the tablets to advance their nefarious agendas. Dean knows this, too. If they were to find out where Kevin is staying, they would lay an endless siege to get inside---and then claim their prize.
The Bunker, too, is a special place that is to be well guarded. It is a home base, safe from prying eyes and dangers. In its short time being the Winchester home, it has become their sanctuary and stronghold. To have anything threaten that is to put its information at risk----and potentially many outside its walls in danger. After all, Sam was told to throw the key away in order to protect what was inside its walls. Castiel poses a major threat to that safety.
And so, we understand Dean's decision. It may break our hearts to see him have to tell Castiel that he must go---but we get it. When Zeke tells him, “If Castiel is in danger, and if he is here, I am in danger,” we can hear the seriousness in the gravity of his voice. The earnest quality to his voice makes us want to teeter over the edge and believe him. Much like Dean, for Sam's sake we'll have to.
Adam Harrington gives us our first major angelic player since Naomi's demise---and he is nefarious and cruel. Harrington makes Bartholomew ruthless and manipulative. There's an oiliness to his performance that makes him instantly unlikeable as the latest angel villain. He makes his expressions smug and self-righteous, and Harrington shows that Bartholomew enjoys the young woman's demise after she begs to be taken over by an angel. We can sense how angry he and the other angels are with Castiel in the venomous way Harrington delivers his lines and how his eyes narrow. He is leading a search for the one responsible for destroying their home. How big of a player will Harrington's Bartholomew turn out to be will be a question answered as the season progresses. Either way, he's already shown he's not an angel they'll want on the Bunker doorstep for certain.
Shannon Lucio enters the show at first glance as a potential love interest for Castiel. After all, Metatron did tell him to go, find a wife, and make babies. We're led to believe, as Castiel is, that she's a kind person willing to help someone in need. It's possible the first meeting they have that is true. There's a genuine sympathy in Lucio's offering of the sandwich that makes her seem sweet. As Lucio's April takes Castiel in for the night, there's a nervous demeanor about her---and as she gets Castiel to open up and eventually go to bed with her, we want to believe as Castiel does---all on how she sells these scenes. In the morning after scene, Lucio flips a switch, and we can tell that she's not the sweet girl we thought she was. Her face becomes much harsher and her voice cold and mocking. As she becomes crueler towards Castiel, we see Lucio's performance amp up with intensity. She's vicious and captivating while on screen, meshing well against Collins in chemistry. She may have been a short lived villain, but she made impact with every scene she had, telling us the story through her performance.
Castiel is struggling mightily as a human being, and Misha Collins shows us that in so many different ways. He keeps the character familiar enough in mannerism and speech, and yet we can see a slow metamorphosis from the beginning to end. More and more of the angel falls away and the human emerges, making the transition a fascinating one. Collins conveys all of Castiel's ups and downs well---from his inept use of toothpaste to standing surrounded by the crowd to finally losing his virginity. He makes us feel what Castiel feels be it feeling overwhelmed or despair or hope. There is an endearing quality to his performance with all the awkwardness the angel possessed translating well into the human version. There's a childlike quality to the performance, too---matching well with Castiel's former angelic naivete. We can sense in his performance that Castiel is horribly lost in the wide world, trying to navigate it with all the limitations he's never had to experience before. Collins shows, in this single episode, the roller coaster that it is being a human being. He's confused and lost, full of despair while in the church, hungry, tired, frightened, and full of lust. And yet, Collins makes sure we can see Castiel's hope as he makes observations about humanity that belie his former divine nature. When Collins delivers the line, “I've found that the most generous people are those with the least” and “There's more to being a human than survival” we can sense that former other-worldliness transferring to the now vulnerable Castiel. When he is tortured by April, Collins shows how Castiel is struggling with the overwhelming agony that causes, and we can hear real fear in his voice as he begs for his life in vain. After his revival by Ezekiel, we see how confused and overwhelmed he is by the experience, his first time as a human. We can see how jarring it is in just his body language and shocked facial expressions. Collins, however, breaks our hearts when Dean casts Castiel out of the Bunker in order to save Sam. It is slight, but we can see his expression slowly crumble as he realizes that he's truly alone now. It'll be interesting to see what Collins does next with Castiel---and where the former angel goes next.
Normally Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki would get their very own actors sections, but based on the performance in this episode, they deserve to be discussed together. Their performances are heavily intertwined, much as their characters are---and it's all in the chemistry Ackles and Padalecki share. With eight seasons plus under their belts as Sam and Dean, it's easy to see that the characters are like familiar clothes to them, and that showed here. There was an ease in their scenes together as the Winchesters search for Castiel. An undercurrent of comfort and love laced through their portrayals. We could sense that Sam and Dean are in a great place with one another---all through Ackles and Padalecki's dual performances. Scenes such as Sam chiding Dean over the chemicals in his pie or Dean not knowing about It's a Wonderful Life brought affection to the episode---and it's in how they delivered these lines that made them special.
That being said, there was a bit of tension in their rapport due to the Ezekiel secret---mostly on Ackles side and confusion and concern on Padalecki's. What's fascinating about watching these two actors work together is just how they take their character threads and weave them together into a single fabric. When it is undone, we can see their individual contributions that shape the whole---and how each of them will feed off the other to make the performance better. That becomes clearest when Padalecki would flip, seemingly on a dime, between Sam and Ezekiel. The chemistry would shift when Ezekiel would appear. The character has an other-worldliness about him that would set up an instant buffer between Padalecki and Ackles. Padalecki is stoic and cautious as the angel and his body language conveys that well. His expression is penetrating as Ezekiel, too, and that makes us take instant notice when he is playing him as opposed to Sam. And yet, there's a compassion and understanding in Ezekiel that shows in Padalecki's voice. He makes us want to trust the angel when he delivers lines such as, “I'm useful.” When Padalecki plays Ezekiel, we see Ackles shift his portrayal of Dean, too. He is a bit more wary when talking with the angel, almost as if he's afraid he may scare Ezekiel off. We can see it in his cautious facial expressions and tense body language. It is obvious that Ackles wants to convey how jarring it is to talk with someone that looks like Sam but isn't---and yet as the episode progresses, we can sense that Dean is warming up little by little to Zeke. After all, Dean has given the angel a nickname. And, as we see Dean call on Ezekiel to help find Castiel, we can sense that he's starting to trust the angel's judgments and character, especially when he tells the confused Sam, “I'm letting you know.” As the season progresses, it'll be interesting to see how Dean and Ezekiel's chemistry changes---and how Padalecki and Ackles will convey that.
Best Lines of the Week:
Dean: No. I read "pie." The rest is just "blah, blah, blah."
Castiel: Do you ever get tired of urinating? I'll never get used to it.
Sam: Of course! That's what Meg used to call him. Of course he doesn't get that he's using the name of a pretty famous angel.
Next week, Charlie whips in like a Tornado. Will the boys still be in Kansas afterward?