Thursday, October 24, 2013

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 3: I'm No Angel

A couple of priests are walking along minding their own business when some very-obvious angels stop them – they’re looking for Castiel.

Castiel is in a homeless shelter. And he’s eating toothpaste and going by the name “Clarence” and he’s tired of urinating. He goes to work, picking up litter and finds a trail of blood in the cemetery – he follows it to where blood is smeared over the name on a gravestone and sees 2 bodies – the priests at the beginning of the episode. They’re impaled on the fence, their eyes have been gouged out.

At the Winchester cave, Dean approaches mornings the same way I do (someone one has to gentle sneak up on) but Sam has already been out, up dressed and had a run and brought Dean an extra-grease breakfast. Dean is duly concerned by this freakish, unnatural behaviour (getting up early, running?!) and worries about Sam – so Ezekiel takes over and assures Dean Sam feels amazing. Yeah that was probably not very reassuring. But Ezekiel has news to pass on - listening to Angel Radio he has heard  group of angels organising, finding vessels – and looking for Castiel.

Still, Dean isn’t particularly happy with Ezekiel just randomly dropping in and shoos him away to let Sam take up the reigns again and we have the added problem of Dean forgetting what Sam does and doesn’t know.

Cut to angel Bartholomew who is cleverly manipulating a televangelist and his flock for vessels and doubtless other shinies. One of the faithful volunteers to be a vessel for the divine; giving herself to the angels. White light enters her (looking just like the black smoke of demon possession just light not darkness) and she… explodes messily. As Bartholomew explains, (calmly and without a hint of remorse to the deeply freaked out preacher) not everyone can hold an angel, no matter how willing. Casualties are to be expected and are a small price to pay – the preacher finds a theological justification, the angel doesn’t really care but seems willing to humour him.

Dean is worried about the organised angels being a threat to Castiel though Sam points out he may take a while to reach the Winchester cave simply because he’s human now and can’t move so fast. Still, he works with Dean to track how far Castiel could have travelled and if he’s in trouble – and find stories of exploded failed angel possessions and tortured priests which they also ascribe (accurately) to angel activity.

Castiel is still travelling among the homeless – who surprise him with their kindness and patience, even while he confuses them with his unfamiliarity with things like food and dealing with mortality and flatulence and sleep (and looking for sheep to count). He’s woken during the night by an angel trying to kill him – he slashes Castiel’s arm but Castiel still has his angel blade – and stabs the man in the chest. One light show and one dead angel.

Back at angel central, Rev Boyle, the preacher, is getting them an enormous number of vessels which both surprises and impresses the angels. Bartholomew seems to be the leader, other angels calling him sir and him even threatening an angel for failing to catch Castiel. They seem afraid of him – especially when he learns of their latest failure to catch Cas.

Dean and Sam follow Castiel’s trail, learning he’s using a fake name and tracking the angel kills.

Castiel moves to a new town with dwindling resources – distracted by food (and breasts), he gets a tattoo with an anti-angel ward, stopping Bartholomew and his followers from tracking him. Looking confused and disorientated, he goes to a church with lots of angelic iconography and hears a woman praying to the angels to help heal her sick husband. He’s touched by her prayer and need to believing in something stronger, but wonders how she would react to the idea that god is gone, that no-one is listening. She tells him she has faith and urges him to adopt the same belief.

Back at Bartholomew, he’s started thinking outside the box. He calls in a freelance Reaper (looks like they’re not going to be just a one off – and they are going to be tangible and visible more often) to track Castiel since he’s warded against angels. He tells them to go to the Winchesters and they’ll lead him to Castiel (wouldn’t it be easier to send some angels to follow Sam and Dean around rather than hiring outside help?). Sam and Dean keep investigating the angel deaths and find out about Rev Buddy Boyle; internationally renowned televangelist with his own very popular podcast, urging the faithful to let the angels in, just say yes and let them in. Uh-huh, Sam and Dean remind us that angels need permission to possess someone. They follow his trail further and learn that Castiel was heading to Detroit.

In Detroit Castiel is found dumpster diving for food (again reflecting on how little he knew about hunger and food being wasted) and a woman, April, takes pity on him and gives him a sandwich. Later, when he’s sheltering for the night, in the rain in a doorway she sees him again. She brings him home (she is a deeply kind woman. And Castiel is very very cute and forlorn. It would be like abandoning a puppy).

She treats his wound and he vaguely expounds on what happened to him, he blames it on trusting the wrong person (Metatron) and vanity – believing he was more important, more effective than he was. He’s unused to everything – hunger, cold and being alone… and she kisses him.

Reaper bloke keeps following Sam and Dean, listening to them talk aloud of all the places Castiel would go and complain about additives in Dean’s pie. Sadly for Reaper bloke, the retconning of Reapers has removed the part where only the dead and dying can see them – so Sam and Dean notice him not-so-subtly following them.

It’s a shame he doesn’t have any of that intangibility going for him either, as the Winchesters string him up by the wrists and torture information out of him with the angel blade – learning about Naomi’s death and new boss Bartholomew. The Reaper taunts Dean that he can kill him but others will find Castiel – Dean stabs him in the head.

Cut to Castiel in bed with April and some fumbling post sex talk (including Castiel saying “I’m not angel”). And the next morning happiness is completely ruined by her finding his angel dagger, apparently knowing what it is and holding it to his throat. She’s an angel, working for Bartholomew and, after restraining Castiel, she starts questioning him with the angel blade – more torture as she tries to learn about Metatron and the spell that banished the angels from Heaven –not believing Castiel was a dupe

After looking all night Dean has finally reached the end of his patience with no Castiel in sight. He pulls over and appeals to Ezekiel (confusing Sam before he finally gets the hint) to help him find Castiel or at least the Reaper tracking him.

They burst into April’s flat just as she stabs Castiel.  She sends Dean and Sam flying with her telekinesis (an angel who remembered her powers!) then smacks Sam again with super strength – but Dean takes the angel blade out of Castiel and stabs her with it. Another dead angel.

Dean hurries to Castiel – but he doesn’t answer or wake up. Dean tells Sam that Castiel is gone (I would like to say I was horrified by the possibility but there’s no way that was going to stick – also it’s Supernatural. Death is a temporary inconvenience – for straight white men anyway). Samkiel steps forward and heals Castiel – draining himself and fainting in the process. Castiel is alive. Dean tells Castiel never to get stabbed again – Castiel agrees but is confused that the stabbing didn’t kill him. dean makes a quick excuse – Sam got knocked out and Dean claims he made a deal with April to heal Castiel or be stabbed – and then killed her anyway. (“you lied.” “I did. I do that.” Heh).

To the Winchester cave – and Sam is confused how Dean even found Castiel and Castiel is enjoying humanity with regular meals and hot water and how it has given him a new insight into humanity – that and having sex with April (much to the slightly horrified bemusement and amusement of the Winchesters – especially when he considers his angel blade protection). All is looking good until Ezekiel pops up again.

He wants Castiel to leave. He thinks his presence will put them in danger – will specifically put him in danger – and if Castiel stays, Ezekiel will leave. And if he leaves Sam, Sam will die.

Dean tells Castiel he can’t stay

Awwwwwwww, that wounded look!

Ok, deep breath, but I am going to have to criticise Castiel’s portrayal (DOOOOOOM!) (And not for the whole “he kissed a woman! AARGH!” which has caused no small amount of ructions in fandom and to which, I say – are you shocked? That’s how queerbaiting works. You don’t get canon characters – you get canon tokens and lots and lots of hints and subtext.

No, I’m more frowning at how lost Castiel is – how unfamiliar he is with the real world. Ok unfamiliarity with sleeping fine – even hunger (but we’ve seen him eat. We’ve even seen him hungry) makes sense since he’s newly human. But this constant lack of filter? Not realising that saying “eating is new to me” would weird out humans? This isn’t season 4 anymore, Castiel has been around humans for some time now. Even accepting that Castiel isn’t the brightest of angels, there has to be a limit. Him adopting to humanity? Great. Him being completely clueless about the world (while other angels who, we can assume, are likely far less experienced than him fit in far more easily) not great.

What I do think is a much better commentary is how little he knew about the plight of humanity – waste while people go hungry for example. Considering that he’s an angel, that alone adds a lot to the world building of Supernatural – of course it was more than clear by the angels’ general contempt for humanity – but it’s still an important addition that even one of the more humane angels was utterly indifferent and unaware of poverty.

I quite like Castiel’s comment on Vanity being the cause of his situation. It’s an interesting way of looking at things and I wonder how much it can be cast on Supernatural as a whole. How many problems have been caused by Castiel – or the Winchesters – assuming they’re super special (albeit for very good reasons?) Whether cheating death or assuming they can completely change the whole nature of reality on a grand scale (like trying to remove demons from the equation entirely). How many series arcs have storylines even major storylines where the big bad is caused – directly or otherwise – by one of the main characters?

I am suspicious of Ezekiel – does he have a nefarious plan? Yet Castiel vouched for him? But then, how much of a judge of character is the perpetually naïve Castiel? Is he a coward? He doesn’t seem to be – maybe he has a pre-existing beef with Bartholomew?