Supernatural returned from hiatus last night, with a taut and emotional episode moving both the myth arc and the personal stories forward. The story, written by Jenny Klein and directed by Robert Singer, has many gritty scenes that grab the audience by the throat. In so many ways, “Torn and Frayed” is not an easy ride, which is not in itself a bad thing. Supernatural has never been afraid to break its audience’s heart, usually to great dramatic effect. But this time, I find my relationship to the show is getting torn and frayed, something I’ve been afraid of since the premiere set up Sam’s story this season.
I’ll set Sam’s story aside for a moment and look at Castiel’s first, as his development this season has been both interesting and moving. Castiel is a wonderful character who nevertheless poses huge issues for the writers. He’s too powerful to simply act as a third Winchester, but his relationship with Dean, who taught him the power of self-definition and love, is too interesting to lose. The writers have not known what to do with the angel since the Apocalypse story ended and too often, Castiel has functioned as comic relief. In season 8, he’s regained his status as a character with goals and needs and hurts, all of which I care about.
Castiel is mired in the kind of guilt Dean felt for so long, needing to atone for the hubris which led him to be an agent of destruction in heaven and earth. Castiel’s full recognition and ownership of his mistakes has helped to make Dean’s forgiveness of his friend believable and welcome, despite the magnitude of Castiel’s betrayal of Dean and injury to Sam. I believe in his need to save Samandriel, heaven’s most adorable angel, because of the guilt of so many angel deaths on his conscience.
And that makes the way Cas is being used by Naomi all the more wrenching to watch. I don’t yet know what’s up with Naomi’s secret little room in heaven, but I don’t trust her motives one bit, particularly since she used the same torturous mind control techniques on Castiel as Crowley uses on Samandriel. The result of Castiel’s interactions with her is Castiel killing the angel he’s trying to save (to my horror), so I doubt Cas is going to feel any atonement once he’s free of Naomi’s control. It’s very sad watching Cas try so hard to find a way forward and having Naomi undercut all his relationships by forcing him into lies and betrayal.