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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supernatural: "I'm No Angel"

Illustration for article titled Supernatural: "I'm No Angel"

If there’s one reason Supernatural has managed to stick around so long after its creator-mandated expiration date, it just might be Castiel. Not only is Misha Collins awesome/funny/smoldering, the character’s semi-regular presence shakes up the Winchester dynamic, adds some humor to the proceedings, and gives someone a bit more powerful the opportunity to go through the characters’ guilt cycle. It doesn’t hurt that Cas has worked well as both an ally and an antagonist, misguided about morality in a godless, directionless world. Before the end of last season, Cas was trapped between two worlds, not human enough to understand his charges but too empathetic for the cold, calculating angels (before the Naomi plot got going, his decision to be a hunter made quite a bit of sense). In “I’m No Angel,” the show tries to deal fully with Cas’ integration into humanity at large and…. kind of fails?

With such a strong core concept, there was pretty much no way Human Cas was going to be bad—I mean, he calls himself Clarence, indirectly after the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life (which Dean has apparently never seen). But the way that subject is treated in “I’m No Angel” isn’t especially good. Cas learns a bunch of “lessons” about being human, all of which are pretty boilerplate. (“I’m finding that often the people with the least to give are the most generous.”) Sure, he’s coming to terms with the loss of his grace, and his outsider perspective provides an opportunity to examine some of the hypocrisies of human culture, but his shock seems a bit off. At least in theory, he’s spent millennia watching human beings act, but is just now coming to realize how much food goes to waste when others are hungry? Now he feels that hunger and so appreciates the necessity of the food, but I’m not sure the show’s approach is as nuanced as all that. And it’s unclear if we’re supposed to be as surprised and shocked as Cas is at not-great social commentary—there’s a totally straight scene of Cas going to a church and arguing with a religious woman over her faith. The character has had an ongoing spiritual crisis for a long, long time (including several possible identities within this very season), but externalizing it so obviously is just the slightest bit annoying.

Thankfully, Collins is game enough to carry the story, for the most part. Cas’ bewilderment at basic human practices has always been a solid source of humor, but here it also provides pathos as the former angel learns to fully empathize with his charges (there is still a lot of comedy, especially in the repeated requests for burritos). Over the course of “I’m No Angel,” Cas learns about hunger, cold, human wastefulness, and finally some good old-fashioned sexual healing. Our little, ancient Castiel finally “becomes a man” with new friend April (Shannon Lucio, who has had a host of recent guest spots), getting busy in the most groan-worthy part of tonight’s episode. As they begin to connect, April literally says, “You’re not alone tonight,” which come on. It’s a bit less cheesy because of course April is a reaper contracted out to kill Cas, but still. There are no good options when either every woman Cas gets close to this season is a hostile angel (sigh), or a human April would have decided to sleep with a definitely creepy, not quite normal dude in a bloody shirt. In that context, it actually makes sense that Cas is the one who is too naïve to realize that a nice, normal girl probably wouldn’t have gotten freaky with a homeless guy.

Besides Cas’ story, “I’m No Angel” introduces Bartholomew, an up and coming angel looking to seize the reigns in Heaven. Bartholomew is a cocky, malicious, and classically handsome bastard who looks like he’d be a perfect villain on Suits (though I’m not positive because I don’t watch that show), Dick Roman style. I’m looking forward to Bartholomew, who’s made more of an impression in this episode than Naomi made most of last season. The angel’s plan seems to entail maximizing potential vessels for all the fallen angels by utilizing televangelist Reverend Buddy Boyle, who preaches that when an angel host arrives, humans should be welcoming. This device is pretty funny, and reminiscent of Dick Roman’s food marketing back in season seven. But not all humans are capable of serving as vessels for angels, and the ones who are unfit simply explode instead. This plot—some of the willing get in touch with the divine while others die horrible—seems pretty to close to the promicin vials on The 4400, if anyone remembers that show. Boyle himself is a bit of a sleaze (his leer when his young assistant “gives herself over to the divine” is just overkill), but he appears to be truly faithful and a lot of fun. And that in turn presents one of the Winchester’s biggest problems in dealing with the angels: Who wouldn’t give in when presented with nigh-irrefutable evidence of the existence of angels (and presumably therefore of God)?

Well, the Winchesters wouldn’t. Over in their corner of the episode, the brothers look for Cas. They discover that Bartholomew (or Bart, as Boyle calls him) has employed mercenary reapers to track down Cas and torture and kill one of those reapers. This amounts to a sequence of brief, standard Winchester scenes, including a textbook argument over junkfood (that Ackles nails, natch). The introduction of the reapers as tools for Bartholomew seems like an unnecessary complication, and turns one of the few relatively engaging and neutral components of the show’s mythology into yet another generic baddie (albeit one that needs to be killed with an angel sword). I wonder how Death feels about his guys doing jobs for angels, for money? More importantly, I hope we either get to see just how displeased Death is, assuming that’s the case, or there’s some deeper game the reapers (and Death) are playing.

Meanwhile, Dean is struggling with Ezekiel’s increasing willingness to pop up and do stuff in Sam’s meat suit, even when that includes cool stuff like basically bringing Cas back from the dead. To hide Ezekiel’s presence, Dean lies about what, exactly, happened, literally telling Cas that he lies “a lot,” because hey! He’s lying to Sam again, about Ezekiel! In case you forgot! The angelic possession story is representative of this season so far in a few ways. All of the pieces are there, but like in last week’s episode, “I’m No Angel” weirdly fails to execute. Several good ideas, from the image of the impaled eyeless priests to Cas’ fight with the lab coat-wearing angel, are just weirdly, hastily executed in ways that prevent the moments from fully landing. Cas’ absence was notably felt in last week’s episode, but tonight makes it clear that even with some attempt at splitting up the Winchesters’ focus this season of Supernatural is still a bit overstuffed. The best part of the episode might just be Cas casually settling into the Men Of Letters hideout, complimenting the water pressure as one of the guys.


Stray Observations:

  • Cas’ realization of his own mortality is practically a throwaway, which is sad for a lot of reasons.
  • Padalecki continues to be excellent at somehow channeling Tahmoh Penikett, to the point where it’s obvious that Ezekiel has taken control to heal Cas without dialogue.
  • Dean: “Did you have protection?” Cas: “I had my angel blade.” Indeed.
  • Everyone watches televangelists on their phones, for some reason.
  • Let’s all ignore the “twist” of Ezekiel forcing Dean to kick Cas out until next week, okay?