Home / Should Supernatural Have Signed Misha Collins as a Regular for the Ninth Season?

Should Supernatural Have Signed Misha Collins as a Regular for the Ninth Season?

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Zap2it broke the news yesterday that Misha Collins has been promoted back to regular status for season nine, as well as been given the opportunity to direct an episode. My first thought was “Great!” I’ve enjoyed much of Castiel’s story line over the last four and a half years and, goodness knows, the Winchesters can use all the friends they can get.

Misha CollinsBut I soon noticed I had just a bit of a niggling feeling about the news; something wasn’t quite sitting right. Upon reflection, I realized I’ve had issues with how Castiel has been used over the last two years. The issues have nothing to do with how Misha Collins creates the character—I love the way he imbues the angel with an otherworldly aura. From the moment Castiel unfurled his wings to show Dean he truly raised him from Perdition, I wanted to see more.

I loved Cas and Dean’s story line as they bonded over absent fathers. I loved that Cas fell from grace because he believed in Dean’s vision of free will. Cas and Dean’s friendship has been torn and frayed, but remains essentially intact, and I enjoyed what Cas tried to teach Dean this season as they journeyed through Purgatory. It took nuanced writing to believably posit Dean would forgive his friend for so horribly damaging Sam, but Castiel’s desire for penance feels real, and at this point, no one on Team Free Will has a blameless record.

All of this is to say my niggling feeling is not based on a dislike of the character. I like Castiel. However, I also feel he is a very problematic character. Castiel was created for the Apocalypse story line, which very nicely curtailed his power by having arch angels willing to smite him if he misbehaved. During Season four, it wasn’t clear exactly where Castiel’s loyalties lay as the boys slowly realized the angels were using them as ruthlessly as the demons were. When Cas finally declared himself for the Winchesters, he was in as much danger as they were.

Even with Castiel on the run with the Winchesters, Eric Kripke still had to deal with the issue of the boys having such a powerful ally. The Winchesters need to solve sticky situations by themselves to have credibility as heroes. It does not help the show to have Deus Ex Machina in angel form show up consistently to save Sam and Dean. The boys had enough trouble with agency in season five as they were buffeted between two powerful forces they could not defeat. Kripke found ways to dampen the angel’s power to allow Sam and Dean’s plans and sacrifices to take centre stage, where they belong.

In season six, new showrunner Sera Gamble dealt with the issue of Castiel’s power by creating a civil war in heaven and muddying the waters of Castiel’s loyalty again. It was a problematic solution, because Sam and Dean’s story line did not revolve around that civil war, so all the stresses on Cas happened off-screen, yet his story ended up shaping the season.

I like season six, but I can’t deny there are structural issues with the story lines, and the need to curtail Castiel’s ability to help Sam and Dean was the cause of some of them. And that’s the tail wagging the dog. Castiel should fit into and support Sam and Dean’s story needs, not cause story issues of his own.

Season seven left the writers trying to find another plausible way to depower Castiel, which was so far from easy they wrote him out for much of the season. The eventual solution of transferring Sam’s hell damage to the angel fell into the tail wagging the dog trap, as Sam’s two year long buildup of hell damage ended very flatly, while Castiel was mostly used for comic relief. The show would have benefitted more from concentration on paying off Sam’s arc.

“The Born-Again Identity,” the episode of Castiel’s return, shows how awkward inserting the angel can be. Sam’s cure comes out of the blue, robbing the audience of an emotional scene with Dean as he has to face the price Sam is paying for Dean’s decision to force Sam’s soul back into Soulless Sam. Does Sam blame him or does he agree having his soul is worth dying over? I suspect Sam agrees with Dean’s assessment, but we’ll never know, because the boys did not talk about it.

Instead, Dean’s focus is on Castiel, and again, story awkwardness ensues. Sera Gamble, the writer on this episode and generally an excellent dramatist, wrote two silly scenes in this episode. The first involves Castiel having a wife, forcing us to accept a scenario in which a woman decided to marry a very odd man in a very short amount of time and who is now dangling around the edge of the story, never to return but always to niggle.

The second awkward scene is Dean getting through to Castiel by showing him he carried his trenchcoat all this time in the trunk of his car. That wouldn’t be so bad, except Dean has been stealing a different car a week all year, and picturing him tenderly transferring this coat from one trunk to another, all under Sam’s nose, strains credibility. Supporting actors’ stories should not create story strain.

The rest of season seven constrained Castiel’s power by having the angel develop mental issues as a result of his guilt over killing angels, betraying Dean and hurting Sam. And while that sounds meaty, in fact Castiel was played for laughs, at times to the detriment of the story (Castiel playing twister comes to mind).

Misha Collins and Amanda TappingTaking up the showrunner mantle for season eight (and hopefully nine and ten), Jeremy Carver had to come up with his own plan for using Castiel effectively. He took a leaf from Kripke’s playbook and created angels more powerful than Cas, able to control him and make him dangerous for the Winchesters to trust. It’s been a good story—except there hasn’t been a lot of narrative space to tell it. Sam and Dean have had their own stories to explore and Castiel hasn’t fit into many of them since Purgatory.

Sam and Dean’s relationship has been battered this season, and understandably, there’s been a lot of attention paid to their stresses. I would argue that despite the many scenes they’ve had, the story line needs more exploration yet to make many of the earlier story choices pay off, from Sam not looking for Dean to Sam demanding Dean cut Benny loose. When Sam and Dean don’t work, the show doesn’t work.

So I understand why the writers elected to drop the Castiel/angel story abruptly to set up the brothers’ relationship repair and Men of Letters story line. The show has needed a real reboot since the end of season five—one that gives Sam and Dean new purpose and agency. The new mythology and history does that. And it’s difficult to set up a story line confirming Sam and Dean as partners and giving them the power to take the battle to the enemy if they include Castiel.

Castiel is so powerful that he robs the story of tension, and it’s very difficult to prevent it from happening, as shown when he easily gathers all the spell components to blast demons back to hell. He also interacts almost exclusively with Dean, which unbalances the brothers. Perhaps next season, Castiel and Sam will develop a relationship of their own, but if not, having Castiel as a series regular means Sam and Dean have fewer scenes together. If the show tries to balance Sam’s side by giving him a relationship of his own, the Winchesters have even fewer scenes together, and that does not improve this show.

I’m left to wonder how Castiel will be used to support Sam and Dean’s story next season, rather than cause story problems. I don’t want to see his character’s needs shape the major arc. I want the writers to craft a season long arc they can thread through all the episodes, rather than having to drop it abruptly because Cas’s power is an issue. And I want Sam and Dean to know they each offer the other something no one else can give—that’s the core of Supernatural.

Will the writers come up with an excellent solution for Castiel? So far, every season has had to start from scratch. I think if Cas is going to be a series regular, the writers have to come up with a more permanent solution so there are no tail and dog issues when crafting stories. One possible answer is to cut off Cas from heaven’s power so he is essentially human, and there is story unfolding this season which would support that.

But would that give us a Castiel we all love to watch? I think Castiel’s otherworldliness is a huge part of his charm and making him human is going to work against that. There’s also the problem of how to work him into the story if he doesn’t have powers—is he going to be a third Winchester riding around in the Impala with Sam and Dean? I think that would throw the show off balance, especially if the writers don’t deepen Cas and Sam’s relationship.

It remains to be seen if all this comes together in a satisfying way. I hope it does. But I am a little leery of Castiel’s impact on the story if the writers aren’t worried, too.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • deborah

    I’m saddened you have joined the argument that Dean and Sam have always done everything alone,etc. Tell that to Bobby, Ash, Ellen, Jo, and the list goes on. Dean and Sam have never gotten themselves out of “sticky situations” without help from some corner. Frankly, Misha Collins’s Castiel is a HUGE asset to Supernatural and the Dean and Castiel stories are one of my main draws to the show. I am thrilled Misha has been signed as a regular in season nine.

  • Dilys

    I could not disagree with you more. I am thrilled that Misha is a regular in Season 9 and so happy Cas will be part of the story more. He’s my favorite character and he is the reason I fangirl SPN so much.

  • Kara

    I agree that Castiel’s character brings a lot to the show, but as you point out he also brings a lot of problems the show has not always been able to deal with. With the power at his disposal less is always more, and I’m afraid as a series regular he unbalances the show. That and the obvious imbalance when it comes to Sam and Cas scenes vs Dean and Cas scenes. If they can’t find a way to reinforce Sam and Cas’s relationship, I think the Angle’s regular presence next season will be even more problematic.

  • Nicola

    To answer your question, yes Supernatural should have signed Misha as a regular for season 9. I love Cas and I enjoy the show more when he is in it. Supernatural will always be about Dean and Sam but I don’t see why Cas can’t be there to add another dynamic to the show. It would have gotten stale a long time ago if it wasn’t for the addition of other characters.

  • Marie

    I definitely share you concerns, Gerry. The problem with having a “Superman” on a show–at least on the side of good–is that for that to work, the superpowered hero has always had to be the primary focus of the show. When has there ever been a “Superman” where the story is based around his human counterparts? I think all of Cas’s storylines since S4 ended show how awkwardly he fits into their universe, which is a shame, but not surprising. I’m not sure the writers will ever commit to depowering him (they seem to like having the deus ex machina side of him around), so IA that using his powers to make stuff too easy is a problem this show will be facing for at least one more year. I also very much agree with balancing out Dean-Cas scenes with Sam-Cas scenes. This season the imbalance between Dean-other characters and Sam-other characters in general has gotten the most lopsided this show has ever been, and them starting fixing that with Cas would go a long way to correcting it, if the writers ever plan to.

  • Cassie

    I absolutely LOVE the character of Castiel. He brings so much to the show. So happy to have him as a regular again!

  • Joels

    Thankfully we have fresh Show running blood with Jeremy Carver and a creative, versatile bevy of writers with which to solve a powerful problem like Castiel. Indeed, SPN’s fan fiction writers have had no trouble overcoming this angelic niggle for years.
    I’m thrilled at Misha Collins return as regular & director next season and the opportunity for him to do more with our beloved, enduringly popular Castiel.

  • Kivina

    I couldn’t be more happy about Misha being regular again. When he disappeared during season 7 and it was just the brothers over and over again, I have to admit I stopped watching for a while and then started watching more episodes at once when Cas came back. It was just…boring. Now, with season 8 it’s something different. I’m every week thrilled to see what’s going to happen on the show and I can’t wait for Cas’ return. But now I know that he’s out there, actually alive and important to the story. He adds so much to the show. He’s family now. Without him it’s like if the show was without Dean or Sam. I get that he’s not that important for the show and never will be but he’s important to me and the characters.
    I’m pretty sure that producers and writers have something in mind for him when Misha is being regular again. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to become human to get away from Naomi.
    Season 5 with Team Free Will was my all time favorite and I hope season 9 will be just as amazing.

  • Gerry

    Hi all, so glad to read all your comments! I agree with many of you that Castiel has offered a lot to the show over the years. I just also think that since the Apocalypse ended, he’s also added story problems.

    Deborah, I don’t think I stated Sam and Dean did every things alone. I love the relationships they had with Ellen, Ash, Jo, Rufus etc. But none of those characters were ever any near to regular status. They were used only when there was a specific story need for them. And none of them had superpowers, so Sam and Dean always took the lead on solving whatever problem they were in. The scene where Dean had to wire Jo up with explosives so she could provide a distraction for the hell hounds was heartbreaking because there was no other way out, no magic solution.

    I think Bobby is the closest comparison to Castiel and while he always seemed to have the right spell at hand, he couldn’t zap anything to make it right. And the writers still decided the Winchesters relied too much upon him and wrote him out. If they relied too much upon Bobby for story comfort, I really wonder how they will increase Castiel’s role without causing story issues. And Bobby related to both boys, unlike Cas.

    I hope for the best with Castiel, but I do have trepidations about increasing his time.

  • JJ

    Good god–you sound like one of Cas haters who think the brothers need to be alone. Cas need not be equal friends to each brother–how realistic is that? And Dean and Sam having a regular ally is good not bad. And the Cas solutions have worked despite what you say ANd I have faith in Carver and his crew to make it work.

  • KAY66

    I have no worries that Carver Edlund will have success in making Castiel’s character consistent and relevant to the story of Sam and Dean, that he will be allowed to have a well rounded character and I’m looking forward to his interactions with Sam and Dean as a team and individuals, of course that also means a world of pain. It wouldn’t be spn any other way.

  • Gerry

    Hi JJ, not sure how you got Cas hater out of my article. Definitely not where I’m coming from, as I think my past reviews have frequently shown.

    I do think how Cas relates to both the boys matters if he’s going to increase his time on the show and I do think the way he is an ally is a huge story point that matters. The writers wrote Bobby out because they felt they had made the boys too reliant on him. If Bobby was a problem as deus ex machina, Castiel is more so, which is why the writers take such trouble to find ways to depower him and most frequently end up dropping his story line abruptly while they brain storm. I don’t look at season seven as a great way of telling Cas’s story.

    I also don’t think the way the writers had to drop Cas and Naomi’s arc to allow the brothers to come together and gain power as a great way to develop the tablet arc.

    Threading a season long arc throughout all the episodes has been a problem since season five ended and Cas has to support that goal, not be a problem.

    I wish it felt like solving these problems is something the writers can easily do, but they’ve pretty clearly shown it’s really difficult. I do have hope Carver has something up his sleeve as great as the Men of Letters story, but I have to say I was very unimpressed with the Amelia story, so it could go either way.

  • Laura

    Wow, way to diminish a character who is important and relevant to a lot of fans *in his own right* and who is certainly much more than support to us too. In fact I’m more interested in Castiel’s story and journey right now than I am in the tedious rinse-repeat brotherly angst-woobie-Sam-worried-Dean we seem to be getting. Please don’t parrot Gamble’s view that Cas (and by virtue his fans) are redundant to this show.

    “Kripke found ways to dampen the angel’s power…”

    And you assume the highly paid people who run the show can’t also think up a way to do this?

  • Gerry

    Hi Laura, I am writing from the standpoint that Cas is a supporting character to Sam and Dean’s leads, which I think there is a good deal of support for. (-:

    Of course Cas has fans in his own right and deservedly so. But I also think that Sam and Dean have to work for the show to work and that Castiel will not be a substitute for the brothers’ dynamic working well. There’s a reason the writers shuffled Cas’s story offscreen after hiatus to give Sam and Dean the space to heal and reboot.

    “And you assume the highly paid people who run the show can’t also think up a way to do this?”

    I assume the clear issues the other showrunners had with dealing with Cas’s deus ex machina issue will not disappear for Carver and that Carver is not infallible. I think he already stumbled with Sam’s earlier story line.

  • Claire

    LOL, right, because if Cas isn’t there the writers won’t just come up with another plot device to tell the brothers all they need to know, or magic them back through time, or help them learn out to destroy the MOTW. Please. He wasn’t there in season 7 and there was a new plot device every week. They can easily depower him. He falls: there, I did it for them.

  • Sara

    Cas fans obviously will not take kindly to your opinion even if you like the character or give very credible points. They can be very protective and extreme sometimes but I thought you should know I believe you have very excellent and true points. Whether you like the character or not, there are i