September 18, 2018, marks the ten-year anniversary of Castiel’s first appearance on Supernatural. To celebrate this huge milestone for Misha Collins, who plays Castiel, as well as for the fans of the angel who burrowed so deeply into our hearts, we’ve been looking back at each season Castiel has been a part of with an article a day. We’ve already recapped what we think are some of his biggest moments in his first four seasons (you should check out Seasons 4, 5, 6, and 7 if you missed them!), and today we’re going to take a closer look at Season 8.
The season focuses heavily on Dean’s memories of Purgatory, his regret of not being able to save Castiel, and then Dean, Sam, and Castiel trying to figure out how to move past everything that happened in Season 7. Castiel is right in the middle of all of that turmoil, and it’s no surprise that it’s an emotional season for all three characters as well as for the viewers. It’s also a set up for how Castiel’s desperation to make everything better sadly sends him right back down another path which, in retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have taken.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the season and talk about how he got there in the first place.
Season 8, Episode 7 – “A Little Slice of Kevin”
If you recall, this is the episode that Castiel finally reappears after being trapped in Purgatory. Dean had been hallucinating seeing him, which Castiel explains by telling him that he had been trying to reach out but was too weak, but it is in this episode that he shows up for real. Castiel says he doesn’t know how he escaped, which understandably has Dean feeling more than a little suspicious. After Castiel cleans up from his Purgatory state, he stays with the Winchesters while they discuss the case. Castiel quickly figures out the names they’re saying are prophets and that certainly Kevin Tran is one of them. That leads to the discovery of why Crowley has Kevin, to translate the word of God, and the three of them attempt to save Kevin from Crowley together. Throughout this rescue mission, Castiel puts himself in danger repeatedly due to his weakened state from Purgatory, but does so with determination in order to help in any way he can. He assists in fighting off demons, he teleports to a room that Crowley is in with the tablet, and uses his grace to intimidate Crowley with his power by showing off a shadow of his wings. There’s a bit of a scuffle between them, causing the tablet to break in half as Crowley flees, leaving Castiel so weak he collapses.
What stands out as an important moment in this episode, though, isn’t the flashy scene with the wings. It’s a quieter moment when Castiel realizes Dean’s memories of what happened in Purgatory aren’t telling him the whole truth. Though he’s obviously reluctant to do so for his own personal reasons, he shows Dean what really happened in Purgatory: Dean didn’t fail to save him, Castiel chose to stay behind. In sharing this with Dean, he allows Dean to forgive himself for leaving Castiel behind. He also explains the reasoning he had for choosing to stay in Purgatory, saying he wanted to try to do penance for his sins. This moment is significant because it shows how much Castiel has grown since last season. He sees how the fault lies with him for most of what happened leading up to Purgatory, and after spending so long there as punishment, he feels like he finally paid for his debts, and because of that, that he is back to his normal self.
Season 8, Episode 8 – “Hunteri Heroici”
During this episode, the writers took a page straight out of Looney Toons. It might not seem like there was much impact to this episode, and it’s best remembered by most fans as the episode where Castiel tries to hunt like the Winchesters do. It goes hilariously wrong several times throughout the episode as Castiel swiftly learns there’s much more to hunting than just walking the walk.
However, there was a very important scene that took place at the end, when Sam was explaining that living in a dream world isn’t for the best. It would seem that in Sam’s speech to Fred, he accidentally made an impact on Castiel as well. After Castiel did his penance in Purgatory, he had refused to acknowledge Heaven or other angels, knowing he would be hated and maybe even hunted, and not wanting to face that. In true Winchester style, he made the decision to become a hunter in order to run from his problems.
After hearing Sam’s speech, Castiel seems to have realized he can’t continue to run from his problems forever. The time had come for him to face his fears, to go to Heaven and talk with the other angels and face what he’s done. It’s an amazing growing point for Castiel, who did a complete one-eighty considering he was all but done with trying to help Heaven in any way. Unfortunately, due to the mind control Naomi has on Castiel, she doesn’t allow him to have that chance, and instead, the episode ends with Castiel sitting next to Fred and listening to music.
Season 8, Episode 17 – “Goodbye Stranger”
This is the infamous episode that starts with Castiel killing what we think to be Dean, only for the camera to pan back and show a harrowing glimpse of a warehouse full of imposter Deans, all dead. It is here that we see just how strong Naomi’s hold has come to be on Castiel. At this moment in time, Castiel is her puppet, unable to do anything on his own or even resist the urge to kill one of his closest friends when he doesn’t want to do it. That is continuously showcased throughout the episode with Castiel hardly being able to make a move without Naomi’s approval.
Again, it is at the end of this episode when we see Castiel make a choice that significantly impacts the rest of the season and shows how strong his will really is. Dean and Castiel are in a crypt together, working on freeing the angel tablet so that Crowley doesn’t get his hands on it. Dean gets to it first since it’s warded against angels, and upon Naomi’s orders, Castiel demands the tablet from Dean. Clearly sensing something is off with his friend, Dean refuses to hand it over. After being forced by Naomi’s control over his mind, Castiel begins to physically attack Dean, being told the entire time what to do by Naomi. Castiel is trying to fight against her, arguing with her in his mind while his body continues to pummel his friend, but is unable to break free from her control. All the while, Dean isn’t fighting back against Castiel’s attack, but rather trying to reach through to him on an emotional level.
Proving just how strong his friendship is with Dean, it was Dean’s final broken plea that he needs Castiel in his life that broke Castiel from Naomi’s hold. It took incredible strength of will for Castiel to finally break free of Naomi’s mind control and save Dean in the process, yet he somehow did it. This proves that his loyalty and commitment is back with the Winchesters, and how he sees them as his family, once again choosing them over the angels and Heaven. This moment showed Castiel that he is capable of doing anything, of being his own person, and that he is no longer just a puppet to Heaven and the other angels. This moment is when Castiel finally became the kind of angel he’s always wanted to be, able to live with free will and stand tall after all he’s been through.
Season 8, Episode 22 – “Clip Show”
Castiel, having finally come into his own, has decided he wants to help Metatron fix Heaven. In this episode, Metatron explains Naomi is only controlling one small faction of Heaven, telling him he wishes to seal Heaven closed to force everybody to work together. Metatron tells Castiel that as the past scribe of God, he knows how to do the trials without the tablet. And so, at Metatron’s urging, Castiel begins what he believes are the angel tablet trials to close Heaven, which starts with cutting out the heart of a Nephilim. Though he clearly doesn’t want to do it, he buys into Metatron’s coaching and reasoning, and Castiel takes the first step towards making poor choices with good intentions.
Season 8, Episode 23 – “Sacrifice”
For the first time, Castiel approaches Dean for help with the angel trials. Dean isn’t eager to help him considering Sam is working on the demon trials with Crowley, but after Sam’s convincing, Dean agrees. After successfully getting the bow of a Cupid with Dean, the two of them approach Kevin to ask for the next step in the angel trials. Kevin tells them he doesn’t see anything on the angel tablet about the heart of a Nephilim or the bow of a Cupid. This is Castiel’s first hint that maybe the path he’s started down might not be the right one. Naomi of all people then appears, telling Castiel Metatron’s real plan – to expel the angels from Heaven – and warning Dean that if Sam completes the demon trials that he will die.
Considering the history Castiel has with Naomi, it’s not hard to understand why he doesn’t exactly trust her. Castiel flies Dean back to Sam, and despite Naomi’s warning, he decides to find out the truth for himself by returning to Heaven to investigate. Upon arriving, he finds Naomi dead with a drill through her head, and the truth comes crashing down around him when he learns that Metatron was lying to him the whole time.
Metatron overpowers him and takes his grace, rendering him human as he sends him back down on Earth. At the end of the episode, he is stuck watching all the angels fall as Metatron completes the spell and locks the doors to Heaven. Castiel is left human and alone as he’s forced to watch his brothers and sisters literally falling through the sky, all because of the choices he made. He tried and failed again. He did his best and tried to make things right, only to make them worse than ever. After voluntarily spending time in Purgatory doing penance, then spending all season growing as a character, owning up to his choices, and attempting to make things right, he now has to face the harrowing fact that he helped this happen. Once again, it is Castiel’s naivety and blind determination that has led to this situation. We can only hope that he has learned from his mistakes this time, and asks for help before making more rash decisions.
So much happened for Castiel in Season 8, but when the end of the season came, everybody watching was still on the edge of their seats waiting for more. We’re left wondering if Sam’s going to be okay, how Dean’s going to get him back to his old self, and how Castiel is going to cope with what Metatron has done to him, and consequently, the rest of the angels.
Make sure to stop by again tomorrow to relive how Castiel works through one of his biggest challenges yet: humanity.