By Season 10, Castiel has been a guardian, ally, antagonist, friend, and now, an extended member of the Winchester family. Over the past ten seasons, Castiel furthered the story arc of Supernatural in many significant ways. Castiel’s evolution in the role he plays with regard to Sam and Dean, however, also helped elaborate one of the series’ key themes – the concept of created kinship. Sometimes called fictive kinship in anthropology, created kinship refers to those very personal ties we make with people who are not biologically or legally related to us, but whom we none-the-less consider to be family. After all, as Bobby Singer so famously said (and we may feel as a part of a fandom community), “Family don’t end in Blood.” Castiel’s story of rebellion, temptation, failure, and finally redemption, mirrors the brothers’ own struggles to rail against both the monsters they fight and the fates that would control their destinies.
All this week, we are sharing some of Castiel’s biggest moments by season. This article features five key moments in Season 10. Biggest moments for other seasons can be found by clicking on the links here.
In Season 10, Castiel is firmly aligned with Sam in the fight to save Dean, despite dealing with the continuing deterioration of his grace and therefore his angel powers. Throughout the season, Castiel is balancing his lack of power with the leadership role being foisted on him by Hannah and the remaining angels in heaven, helping Sam find and then rehabilitate Dean, and trying to make amends for his sins against the Novak family by finding and building a relationship with Claire Novak.
Season 10, Episode 1 – “Black”
Castiel is struggling with his declining grace. Sam decides against sharing a lead on Dean’s whereabouts with him because of Castiel’s physical presentation of symptoms. Hannah asks Castiel for help in tracking down rogue angels Daniel and Adina who chose to stay on earth rather than return to Heaven. In one pivotal scene, the angels sit around a campfire and debate the virtues of free will and living on Earth. With one tilt of his head, Castiel indicates to Hannah that he understands why Daniel and Adina chose earth over heaven.
Castiel has come a long way from the obedient (if questioning) soldier of Heaven we saw in Season 4. He now fully appreciates humanity and believes, perhaps too strongly, in the angels’ ability to internalize human values of free will and norms of self-determination. In other words, he thinks the angels would be better off if they were more human, so to speak. But by this point, even in suggesting that direction for Heaven, Castiel knows he is stepping close to the very deterministic leadership he rebelled against. The discussion around the campfire in this scene escalates and leads to a fight wherein Castiel kills Daniel to save Hannah.
Season 10, Episode 3 – “Soul Survivor”
After a grace power-up via Crowley, Castiel returns to the bunker to help Sam with curing Dean’s demonism. Demon Dean escapes his restraints and pursues Sam throughout the bunker. Castiel, still grace super-charged, catches Dean and restrains him so that Sam can finish the curative process. At this point, Castiel is really the only one who can help Sam. Most of the brothers’ other allies are either dead or unavailable. Although reluctant to lose his buddy Demon Dean, Crowley ends up being part of Dean’s return to humanity as well. Perhaps Crowley knew all along that Castiel, with a top off of angel power, was the only being who could help Sam. In the show’s mythology, angels are strongest and built for fighting demons. Seems Crowley may have a soft spot for Moose after all.
This moment is significant because it was Sam and Castiel who brought Dean back to humanity together. Dean had always been the one to push Castiel toward humanity and it seems fitting that Castiel, as an honorary Winchester, would help return the favor. Castiel’s role in helping return Dean to humanity cements his membership as a Winchester. He has died and come back and he has done something that compromises his moral code to benefit a family member – ingested stolen angel grace. And really, there seems to be nothing more “Winchester” than putting the needs of your family so far above your own you’re willing to violate your ethics, which for Castiel, as an angel, are even stronger (presumably) than human ethics.
Season 10, Episode 9 – “The Things We Left Behind”
Castiel finds and visits Claire Novak, who is living in a juvenile detention center. Although Castiel’s attempt to convince the supervisor to release Claire is unsuccessful, it led to some of the funniest moments this season. This episode was really one of the best of Season 10 for many reasons.
Castiel explores the extremely human problem of trying to repair relationships broken through unintended consequences. There are some truly hilarious and tender moments in this episode between Castiel and Claire, where Castiel is trying to figure out how to be in Claire’s life, even if he cannot replace her father. Castiel later helps Claire escape, but Claire has not forgiven Castiel. In fact, she steals his wallet and takes off to rejoin her questionable friends. Said friends later goad her into attempting to rob a convenience store. Enter Dean influenced by the Mark of Cain, and things do not end well for Claire’s “friends.”
Like the previous episode discussed, Castiel’s interactions with Claire further humanize his character. In many ways, Castiel is learning the most human lesson of all here – having to reconcile who you are now with your past actions. Castiel recognizes that although he was following holy orders when he possessed Jimmy Novak, this action which ultimately helped the Winchesters save the world, led to collateral damage for Amelia and Claire. While one might be tempted to make an argument in favor of utilitarianism here, (most angels would probably agree that the needs of the many are worth the cost of some human lives) Castiel, in attempting to bond with Claire and help her shows how far he has turned from the angel mindset. Even when she betrays him, Castiel still seeks to help Claire, who in turn must deal with the unintended consequences of her actions when she inadvertently puts people in Dean’s path. Building a relationship with Claire also ties Castiel more firmly to Earth and humanity. He has made his choice; he would rather deal with the consequences of his actions and the imperfect family he’s building on Earth than run Heaven.
Season 10, Episode 20 – “Angel Heart”
Having been accepted into the Winchester’s created family, Castiel now tries to do the same for Claire Novak. Claire calls Castiel and Sam and Dean for help in finding her mom, Amelia. This episode was special in that it produced some of the most iconic lines in the entire series. A line of Claire’s at the end of the episode when the boys bring her to Jody Mills’s house, “So what? This is some sort of halfway house for wayward girls?” inspired the entire Wayward Daughters Movement.
But Castiel giving Claire a stuffed version of Grumpy Cat as a birthday gift was a stroke of marketing genius, leading to hilarious meta humor meets product placement. Hot Topic carries exclusive Supernatural merchandise, and people in the fandom have often compared Castiel’s trademark “expression of no expression” face and piercing blue eyes to celebrity feline Grumpy Cat. After Claire pulls the plush Grumpy Cat toy from the gift bag, Castiel states in his deadpan voice, “I got it at the Hot Topical.” Claire also bonds with Dean in this episode over the classic comedy film Caddyshack, which is possibly a reference to actress Kathryn Newton’s real-life golf skills.
There are so many important moments for Castiel in this episode. Maybe most importantly, it really shows how much he is trying to embrace a parenting role with Claire. Castiel has moved beyond simply trying to assimilate into human culture due to necessity and instead is attempting to choose how he wants to participate in it. In the same way that an adult may yearn for a child to love and teach and nurture, Castiel feels this longing for Claire while simultaneously feeling responsible for breaking apart her family of origin. Parents are expected to care for and protect their children. Castiel attempts to do this for Claire multiple times in this episode and throughout this season. Like many parents, perhaps Castiel feels the one real way to make a difference in the world and right past wrongs is to try to do better with the next generation. Western parenting norms also emphasize bolstering children’s self-esteem by making children feel unique and valued. One way we parents do that is through birthday celebrations. By giving a gift to Claire, Castiel is showing he has internalized what is expected of him in the parenting role on multiple levels – parents not only protect their children, they also value and validate their existence.
Season 10, Episode 22 – “The Prisoner”
Once again proving that he is more than willing to bleed for the Winchesters, Castiel tries to stop Dean from running off to commit more extreme violence. Dean has just killed Cyrus Styne and most of the Styne family after they abducted him, but Castiel is nowhere close to ready to give up. In fact, he delivers a moving speech to his friend.
Maybe you could fight the Mark for years. Maybe centuries, like Cain did. But you cannot fight it forever. And when you finally turn, and you will turn… Sam, and everyone you know, everyone you love… they could be long dead. Everyone except me. I’m the one who will have to watch you murder the world. So if there’s even a small chance that we can save you, I won’t let you walk out of this room.
That declaration causes Castiel to nearly die at Dean’s hand by his own angel blade. Dean’s bloody beating of Castiel shows how badly the Mark of Cain has affected him. That he would kill a not entirely guilty youth and nearly his best friend illustrates that Dean is losing the battle against the Mark. Castiel demonstrates his commitment to saving humanity, and Dean’s soul, in his willingness to give everything. Castiel is fully human and fully Winchester in this moment, willing to die to save his friend from a fate worse than death.
Perhaps it’s because of their unique bond that Dean does not kill Castiel; after all, this being has saved him from Hell and saved his life on numerous other occasions. But maybe Dean not killing Castiel is his last cry for help. He is begging to be saved from this fate, for potentially a fate worse than death or hell; a fate where he becomes the thing he hates and fears most of all and fully embraces the darkness that has been inside of him all along. The last shred of control Dean has also likely recognizes that Sam may not be strong enough to prevent Dean from giving in to the Mark of Cain. And the thing Dean fears most of all, more than losing his brother, is being the one responsible for Sam’s death or being the one to kill Sam. So this last scene is Dean once again, asking Castiel to save him, and it was both incredibly hard to watch and momentous for both characters.
Season 10 was a big one for Castiel when it came to emotional growth. Check back tomorrow for the next part in our series celebrating our favorite angel Castiel with five of Season 11’s biggest Castiel moments.