Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 9, Episode 3 of The CW's "Supernatural," titled "I'm No Angel."
This week's "Supernatural" made up for last week's lack of Castiel with a decidedly angel-centric hour, showing us exactly what our favorite wingless wonder was up to while the Winchesters were being tossed around by Abaddon last week. Sadly, that apparently included Castiel fighting for his life, sleeping on the streets and dumpster diving for food.
It was gut-wrenching to see Castiel left out in the rain with no one to turn to and nowhere to go for shelter, made all the more poignant because he made no complaints about his situation. He showed no disdain about eating from the trash or sleeping under a bridge as many of us might in similar circumstances, and that unassuming pragmatism made his plight seem even more unfair.
It helps that Misha Collins has always imbued Castiel with effortless humanity and vulnerability, and somehow seeing him out of his trusty trenchcoat made Cas seem even more fragile.
Collins was certainly the driving force of the episode, and Castiel was so awed by even the most basic human experiences that his scenes were as engaging as they were heartbreaking. There's something so magnetic about familiar characters evolving in such profound ways, especially when it comes to supernatural beings taking tentative steps towards humanity (something we'll hopefully see manifested in Crowley this season, too). Watching other characters respond to Castiel's weirdness in various ways, depending on their own circumstances, was also enlightening.
So far, the show is doing a good job of exploring the moral and logistical implications of Dean's choice to allow Ezekiel to possess Sam. "I'm No Angel" gave us a glimpse at just how difficult it will continue to be for Dean to keep Ezekiel's presence a secret from Sam, and hinted at the emotional toll that deception is already taking on him.
Jensen Ackles plays scenes with such nuance, even the most subtle shifts in expression can speak volumes about Dean's internal struggle, and this was perfectly demonstrated in the scenes in which he was forced to lie to Sam and Castiel about Ezekiel's various methods of problem-solving. Although Dean's response ("I did. I do that.") to Castiel's question about whether he lied to April was played for laughs with that familiar comedic music cue, the line itself was actually kind of heartbreaking, since it's obvious that Dean didn't want to lie to the two people he's closest to, but it's a situation he's sadly become familiar with.
While Jared Padalecki had less to do in terms of the story this week (except for playing Sam's growing confusion adorably), it was still fascinating to see him transitioning between Sam and Ezekiel so seamlessly. It must be challenging to have to bring out the shifting motivations of a character from within another character, but in Ezekiel's last scene with Dean especially, there was something decidedly off about the angel and his ultimatum to Dean. Compared to the last couple of episodes, Ezekiel certainly seemed more reticent when it came to assisting Castiel, and his admission that Castiel staying would put him in danger certainly indicated that there's a lot he's still not telling Dean, and, as hinted in the premiere, that he might be every bit as wanted by the angels as Castiel is.
Obviously, Castiel's Enochian warding was shielding him from the angels -- including Zeke -- and April admitted that she lucked into finding him, so there's no reason to believe that Castiel staying at the bunker would've attracted Bartholomew's posse as Zeke implied, especially given that the MOL bunker is also supposed to be warded. So is Zeke just twitchy about Castiel discovering that he's inside Sam for some reason, or is there another way for the angels to track one of them? Either way, forcing Dean to choose between Castiel and Sam put Zeke firmly on my naughty list, especially since Dean really had no choice but to evict Cas, unless he wanted Zeke to essentially take Sam off life support. Then again, Sam could now be healed enough to live on his own, for all we know, and the emotional blackmail could simply have been Zeke's way of staying cozy and effectively hidden from the angels inside Sam.
It was disappointing that the episode abruptly ended with Dean telling Castiel that he couldn't stay (talk about kicking someone when they're down), and I sincerely hope the next episode picks up right where this one left off, because I want to hear Dean's explanation for throwing Castiel back out on the streets, especially since it seems like Dean intends to keep Zeke a secret from him too. After fighting to reunite with Cas in Purgatory (and consequently guilt-tripping himself over the mistaken belief that he had abandoned him), let alone going on a wild goose chase to find him this week, Dean should be left feeling pretty rough about the decision to throw his friend to the wolves -- anything less will feel like character assassination. If they find Cas a secret hideout to hole up in next week, no harm done, but if he's homeless and vulnerable again, that's just sloppy writing. Since next week's episode seems designed as more of a comedic standalone, let's hope those story threads carry over.
Although the episode's character beats were engaging, other parts of "I'm No Angel" rang false. Since when can Reapers possess humans, as the one inside April apparently did? I recall Reapers being able to make themselves look like whatever they want, but unless I missed something, there was never any need for them to inhabit human vessels, right? And while I understand Castiel being overcome with lust now that he finally has the full array of human emotions bouncing around inside him, it felt unnecessarily creepy to have a Reaper taking advantage of him sexually in the process of gathering information. Was that really a necessary plot point, when simply tying him up and torturing him would've been more expeditious?
As for Bartholomew -- using an overzealous televangelist was a smart way for angels to procure willing vessels fast, and Adam Harrington was suitably intimidating as Naomi's protege, but those scenes didn't land for me. I know angels are supposed to be a little socially awkward, but somewhere between the writing and the casting, Bartholomew's henchmen came across as clunky and wooden, which took me out of the narrative. Hopefully different actors or snappier writing will made any future appearances a little more compelling. I felt that the dialogue in "I'm No Angel" fell flat overall, made more noticeable by the guest stars, but the three leads once again capably elevated the material.
I also found it very hard to believe that Dean wouldn't know that Meg's nickname for Castiel was a reference to "It's A Wonderful Life." One of my biggest pet peeves is when a writer feels the need to make a character uncharacteristically dumb (especially a character as pop-culture savvy as Dean) just to service exposition, particularly exposition that doesn't actually need to be explained. It does a disservice to both the characters and the audience. I recall that the same writers, Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, did something similar last season when they had Sam explain what a witch's familiar was to Dean. You're on notice, writers!
Overall, "I'm No Angel" was an uneven but ultimately gripping hour thanks to a powerhouse performance from Collins, the introduction of a new faction of angels and further suspicion cast on Ezekiel's intentions. I just hope that the writers have a satisfying plan for Castiel that doesn't leave Dean and Sam looking heartless next week.
"Supernatural" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.
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