I was this close to shutting off my computer after watching King of the Damned, but no… I now have this thought that won’t let me focus on anything else, so can we please talk about the conversation between Cas and Sam?
Cas: I wanted to ask you about Gadreel. The time he possessed you.
Sam: It’s not really something I really like to—
Cas: Sam, please.
Sam: He didn’t possess me… completely. More like we… shared housing. I was still me.
Cas: Did you ever sense a presence?
Sam: I don’t really know what I felt. I mean, maybe, that I wasn’t completely alone?
Cas: Did you ever feel threatened?
Sam: No. More that he… wasn’t at rest. Like he had unfinished business. Now that we know more about him I’d say he felt misunderstood.
Cas: But not… a danger. Not hostile.
Sam: No… I was wrong, obviously. He killed Kevin.
Call me crazy but I think this is about a lot more than Cas trying to figure out whether or not his initial assessment of Gadreel was wrong. In fact, I have a feeling that if we want to know how Dean’s storyline is going to be resolved, we should keep a close eye to the direction Gadreel’s story is going to take.
Remember all the Michael = Dean, Lucifer = Sam and God = John parallels we had back in S4 and S5? Well how about this: this time around ‘the corrupted son’ (Gadreel) is Dean, ‘the brother/family’ (Cas) is Sam and ‘the manipulator’ (Metatron) is John.
There has been a lot of focus on Dean’s past and the way John still has a very strong hold on Dean this season. It was made very clear that John’s failure as a parent is the reason Dean’s violation toward Sam is still very deeply connected to his self-perceived lack of identity.
But first of all, let’s discuss what Sam had to say about Gadreel:
- They shared housing.
- Gadreel made Sam feel as though he wasn’t completely alone.
- Sam didn’t feel threatened by his presence.
- Gadreel had unfinished business, wasn’t at rest, felt misunderstood.
- Gadreel killed Kevin.
Both Sam and Dean shared housing almost all their life. Their father wasn’t around all that much but at least Sam had Dean who ‘made him feel as though he wasn’t completely alone’. Sam never felt threatened by Dean before - he trusted Dean. However, he suffered a severe violation of said trust only recently at the hand of his own brother (which resulted in anger. In 9x10 we learned that Cas - the brother - felt betrayed by Gadreel).
Next to his (rightful) anger, Sam is starting to realize something significant: he’s starting to see Dean in a completely different light and is beginning to differentiate the trauma Dean suffered at the hand of their father from his own. He now knows that after all these years, Dean still has unfinished business with his dad. There is still a terrible hole inside of him and there is no way Dean could rest while it’s still ripping him apart from inside. Sam even tried to communicate this to Dean and make his brother see that he needs to change (trouble is, Sam still isn’t entirely aware of his own involvement in Dean’s issues so it all backfired).
Dean’s response to that? “You would do the same for me" - "what I did I did for the right reasons”. Essentially, Dean feels misunderstood. Dean is misunderstood. But Dean also misunderstands. And yet, just like Cas says about Gadreel, Dean is not a danger. He’s not hostile. He’s a lost kid trying to find his way back home.
Gadreel killed Kevin because Metatron told him to and manipulated him into thinking that this was how he would be able to go back home an redeem himself. But at the same time, it’s Dean who killed Kevin because his father told him to save Sam at all costs. So for Dean, security means keeping Sam alive - letting Sam die is the type of ‘failure’ that makes everything pale in comparison (even Sam himself). We all know it’s not about Sam per se, it’s about Dean’s need for love (<— just in case you ever felt inclined to read a lengthy analysis of why I think that is).
Gadreel didn’t just trick Dean into agreeing with him, he didn’t just deceive him - both Gadreel and Dean gravitate toward each other because there is no misunderstanding between the two. Their stories are intertwined and just like Castiel says later in the episode, they both “place their faith in the wrong master”. It’s no surprise they both are so very familiar with being kept in chains, with death and the wish to die, that they loathe each other and still care far too much. The reality is that they loathe themselves and what they have become (it’s not arrogance that makes Gadreel trust Metatron - it’s his desire to redeem himself and defend his own worth. And it was not selfishness that made Dean violate his brother - it was about keeping his self-worth alive due to John’s iron grip over his soul).
But Gadreels struggle is one step ahead of Dean’s. Already he is asking ”I gave him my word, you expect me to come make war on him?" Dean is miles away from even touching that thought. After all, he didn’t just give his word: he gave his life and soul to the man he thought his dad wanted and needed him to be.
And Gadreel is going to make war on Metatron - we know this, the narrative has given as a pretty clear indication of where Gadreel’s loyalties are going to end up by the end of the season. Right now, we are left with a very conflicted Gadreel but I’m sure Cas’ confidence in him will give him all the tools he needs to shake off Metatron’s deception and think for himself.
Dean, too, has Cas’ confidence and loyalty. He also has a brother who is worried about him, despite the wall of hurt and pain between the two of them. In fact, in Gadreel’s story, Cas could easily represent Sam - the brother who was hurt and betrayed. Cas turned to anger in 9x10, much like Sam did with Dean, because that’s the response an emotional situation like that demands. However, Cas is taking a leap and makes himself see Gadreel for the angel he is beyond the betrayal that occurred and the hurt he inflicted (which is only possible because of the growth we saw Cas go through). It’s similar to how Sam is starting to figure out just how badly Dean is keeping it together and how deeply his scars actually run.
From a mere speculative viewpoint, I think the odds for Gadreel’s survival aren’t very high. In all the ways he may be a mirror for Dean, he is also the anti-mirror because while Dean is loved, Gadreel has no one. My gut tells me Gadreel is not going to survive this season and possibly die at the hand of Metatron or maybe even kill himself as one last act of ‘good’ (aka his own redemption). And like many others, I also believe Dean’s current self-destructive behavior may lead to him turning the blade on himself by the end.
I think there’s a possibility that both their journeys this season will end in death and yet Dean’s story is only just beginning. Gadreel has already freed himself, he already found back to himself, redeemed himself in the eyes of Cas (his brother) who is close to a spokesperson for Angel kind. So in the event of his death he’d at least take with him the knowledge of having been given the chance to make amends. In a twisted way, it could mean he’d die in peace.
Dean, on the other hand, still has a very long way to go. So if he dies (or tries to die/dies a metaphorical death), he is going to come back into a world where he will HAVE to make war on his issues, on his father’s image, on the gaping hole inside of him that tells him he is ‘nothing outside of Sam’. He is going to have to take the road Gadreel took - the road toward redemption and, much like Sam and Cas, forgive himself and the little boy that couldn’t save his family all those years ago.
Lastly, this whole season long I’ve felt so uncertain when it comes to Sam’s story and how it might get resolved by the end of the series. But now I can’t help but think that his story will take a similar route to Cas’: finding inner peace and accepting the fact that there is darkness inside. Overcoming and knowing said darkness and working with it. Maybe he’ll become a leader of sorts, re-define the Men of Letters, defining his life on his own terms. You know, become the version of Sam he always fought so hard to be, back when he was still a teenager.
I really think that in that way, Sam and Cas are very similar while Dean is completely different but still very much needed in both their lives. They make a great team, all three of them and if it weren’t for each of them, I’m pretty sure none of them would have survived this long.