Well, this is surprising to discuss, but ‘Destiel’ is trending, and it shot me into the past. It sounds impossible, but the long-lived CW show Supernatural is ending after 15 seasons, running from 2005 to 2020. The decision taken by the show’s writers to address the growing relationship between Dean and Castiel left some fans elated, while others walked away with a bitter taste in their mouth.
For the uninitiated, Supernatural is a fantasy show about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, trained by their father to hunt monsters, demons, werewolves, and other fantastic creatures. In season 4, we see the introduction of a new character – Castiel, an angel. Dean is sent to Hell, and season 4 begins with Castiel pulled Dean out of Hell, and saving him. The friendship between Dean and Castiel develops into a ‘profound bond’, as mentioned by Castiel himself. We see the two develop an intense friendship, and thus the ‘Destiel’ ship was born.
Over the years, the actors and the show-writers have hinted at the relationship, without making any overt actions, basically queerbaiting. It was assumed that the relationship would live in the heads of fans, and not on-screen. Supernatural became famous for referencing to, and at times pandering their enormous fanbase.
The latest episode, “Despair”, finally ties the thread that is Destiel, but not in the best way. A quick rundown of the episode (major spoilers ahead!):
“Ever since I pulled you out of hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you, I cared about Sam, I cared about Jack. But I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean.”
Castiel is forced to make a deal with ‘The Shadow’ to save Dean from Death. To sum up, Castiel makes a deal if he takes his own life, and the deal was that he could die only after experiencing a moment of true happiness. The twist is the entity that he made the deal with is ‘The Shadow’, a being that controls the dimension that existed before God. When angels and demons die, they go to this dimension, ‘The Empty’, for eternal slumber. Castiel experiences this moment of true happiness by finally admitting to Dean that he loved him. After he says those fateful three words, he’s taken by this entity to a dimension that’s worse than Hell, leaving Dean weeping on the floor.
There are two things that didn’t sit well with me, in this confession. One was the lack of response from Dean whatsoever. To Misha Collins’ (the actor who plays Castiel) credit, the scene was incredibly emotional. However, Dean’s response was… stoic, to say the least. The conversation was incredibly one-sided, and it felt tremendously unrequited. Part of the reason the ship worked was because both members participated. Dean and Castiel worked well together and they had good chemistry. Dean constantly tried to save Castiel, and vice-versa. Having Dean say nothing during this speech, except to say “why does this sound like a goodbye?” feels incomplete.
What’s worse is how quickly and effectively they killed that poor angel. Sending him to a fate worse than Hell immediately after he confesses his love is a pretty obvious example of the ‘bury your gays’ trope. Supernatural is famous for killing characters and then bringing them back, to the point where death felt meaningless. When you know they’ll return somehow, it doesn’t matter anymore.
Castiel’s death is different. He’s sent to a place of eternal slumber for angels, and this is the last season of the show. It’s coming to an end, and I doubt they’ll bring Castiel back after he’s had his grand speech. It makes the trope that much more obvious, and the queerbaiting that much worse. The grand reveal may have been touching, but at what cost? We see the ship being lived on-screen, only to have it cruelly – and permanently – snatched away. It’s a trope that should not have a place on-screen, and it sucks that burying your gays is still an idea that writers turn to, in 2020.
This is coming from someone who gave up on Supernatural because of their queerbaiting, and their wandering storyline. I walked away from the show because I couldn’t take the will-they-won’t-they dance anymore. The only reason I returned was because of this grand gesture, this final revelation where Castiel bears his soul. Honestly? I’m disappointed that this is what 9 years of shipping has led up to.
There are just 2 episodes left till the show closes, and Castiel’s return seems impossible. I’m hoping they don’t bring the angel back because it undercuts his grand speech. His death resulted from him experiencing a moment of happiness, which he felt after confessing to Dean. Bringing him back after that would cheapen the moment, and undermine what the two of them went through.
“I love you. Goodbye, Dean.”
The villain of the final season is God itself (fitting for a show that addresses supernatural and paranormal beings). The show looks like it will end the way it started, with the Winchester brothers. Considering how often Supernatural has killed its characters, I have a feeling that the show will end with the final death of Dean and Sam. Keeping one alive means that they might find a way to bring the other back, so ending the show with both their deaths seems final. In terms of carrying their demon-hunting work forward, other characters have been introduced over the seasons, so monsters will continue to be destroyed. I’m hoping that the brothers do find some form of ‘final peace’, either on Earth or beyond it, just like Castiel did.
The friendship between Dean and Cas was beautiful, and it was an unspoken truth that the two deeply cared for each other. Voicing out that love, just to kill it immediately afterward feels insulting. I’d have preferred the two standing together, vowing to protect each other.
Hell, I would even have preferred a platonic ending, rather than a confession that killed one of them. There is plenty of queer content that does a better job than this fantasy show. For thrills, Supernatural is fun to watch. For satisfying relationships? You’re better off elsewhere.
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