Do you think Cas will get a happy ending? I used to be Cas' ending would be a choosing to be human thing but now I don't know. Not just the whole Billie thing but also Cas was involved in killing a child. There a certain things you just dont came back from and certain things show's won't have their main heroes do even in a fantasy setting -the protag can kill but he wont cheat, rape, or harm a child usually for example. :(
I didn’t feel like the episode was trying to tell us, Cas killed a kid and now he’s terrible, but instead, Cas feels responsible for the death of the kid, and he feels terrible, which really changes this from my perspective.
Dean killed a kid and it’s not routinely dragged out by the show to prove he shouldn’t be happy. I’m sure it’s tormenting him but narratively, that all disappeared when he got the Mark off into a sort of blob of generic terrible things he did under the Mark guilt, which wasn’t really that well explored either. At this point I’m sure they’re all writing it off as under mind control as a technicality, and not focusing on it like that.*
Sam drank the blood of a screaming nurse, killing her (a valued member of society with kind of a moral event horizon similar to killing children when it comes to listing innocents) - off screen, but it was Sam’s over-the-edge act that demonised HIS soul for all of 10 minutes at the end of season 4, and he only needed a season to repent for it all and stop Lucifer, and again, Cindy is pretty much never mentioned again.
*Note: not interested in starting the debate about how culpable Dean is for the stuff under the Mark (or I guess Sam under demon blood and Ruby’s manipulations); just commenting on the way the show presented it. It’s probably under the same bracket as Sam trying to murder Bobby in 6x11. Everyone can feel guilty and horrible but for the sake of core characterisation it wasn’t their fault enough to drag them under with it, and in 3 episodes time they seem mostly back to normal :P
Anyway. Both of these actions were objectively worse and more terrible and actively detrimental to Sam and Dean’s moral fibre and our perceptions of them than anything they showed with Cas. I’m not just defending Cas because, idk, I like him more than Sam and Dean; I don’t hate either of them for these things (and if I like Cas more it’s unrelated :P)
This episode was very careful to establish a villain who would evilly want to kill a child because he’s just plain awful (Ishim) and to contrast Cas to him repeatedly as a dark mirror to Cas’s character, AND use his actions of lying to them to make them enact orders that were emphatically described as part of the angel’s moral code, to trick the rest of the angels into being complicit in this murder.
Even when Cas thought it was a nephilim and not a human child, this was his immediate reaction to the nephilim being killed - a being that he thought was an abomination and that should be destroyed by all the laws he upheld:
He flinches at the sound of a young girl screaming, despite all of that, there’s a part of him even then that’s not entirely okay with it - that same part of him that’s always been terrible at following orders and of feeling sympathetic or protective of the innocent and defenceless, which is his core goodness that makes him such a great character.
This scene also directly implies that Cas murdered who knows how many babies:
Not always, angel. There was that day, back in Egypt, not so long ago, where we slew every first-born infant whose door wasn’t splashed with lamb’s blood. And that was just PR.
Well, I wasn’t there.
Oh, you were there. You just don’t remember it.
And the implication was that he resisted and rebelled there, and maybe even was controlled to do it just like Naomi forcing Cas to attack Dean in the crypt, as by that point it was established she could control his actions completely and use him to kill whoever she wanted (except Dean that one time - but the “first borns” thing is interesting to me anyway for the comparison).
All of this is meant to horrify us but I don’t think it’s meant to show Cas has broken morality - instead it highlights that he has GOOD morality because of how he reacts to these evil actions and situations, and the fact both times it’s less that he’s made evil choices but that he never had a choice. He may not have had “true” free will until 4x22 when he finally chooses to rebel against heaven and no longer heed their orders, and to decide for himself what is right or not. Obviously killing Lily’s kid came way before that, so we have to weigh how Cas’s character evolved over season 4, the way it was shown Heaven manipulated out dissent and rebellion (Anna tells us rebellious angels will be killed) and gives us the sort of emotional backstory on what Cas would have been up against 100 years ago, following orders and believing completely in Heaven because what other choice did he have? The fact his orders in this case were a lie isn’t even a part of this line of thought - if it HAD been a nephilim, this is how Cas reacted and felt, and what he was up against convincing him he had to do it while he was basically in a state where he was unable to pretty much THINK dissent or more than vague uncertain doubts he didn’t give voice to until 4x07 (100 years later :P). Throw in their absolute and unquestionable law that nephilim are evil and must be killed, and of course the Cas we saw there is following these orders and could have seemed even pleased or satisfied that the child was killed, but EVEN SO, he flinched.
BUT looking at the wider picture, even that they were lied to on top of that somewhat diminished responsibility, I’d agree blood is still on their hands because they helped, but their actual intent to murder is completely diminished by Ishim’s actions because they didn’t know it was an innocent human child and obviously would not have gone along with it if they knew. As the only angel who survived to find out what Ishim had really done, Cas isn’t just in a place to question his orders and assumptions about it being fine to murder Nephilim on principle, but to feel betrayed, manipulated and coerced into the murder of Lily’s kid - obviously this is on a personal level away from how Cas actually talks to Lily about what happened. All he can do THERE is express how sorry he is and to admit her right to be avenged if she wants to, because of course whatever he FEELS about it, his past actions still helped lead to her child’s murder.
This episode definitely gave a lot of room to ethically exonerate Cas of everything except what will be his conflict with the current nephilim plot - the duty/obligation/moral code from Heaven which dictates that they must be destroyed. And even that, he has to admit he’s now gained enough insight that even seeing it as a separate thing from what happened with Lily’s kid (since she wasn’t a nephilim, the ethical lesson about murder being bad technically doesn’t apply to actual nephilim) he WOULD feel some hesitation now, so the episode has even begun to shake his faith in that, even setting aside that tiny hint that our Cas has always been in there somewhere even when following these orders seemingly blindly. He was the angel who doubted.
I mean, there’s still a long and dodgy road to go about wtf the show will do with Lucifer’s baby, but this is a good sign that they’re edging away from killing it on principle, and it’s Cas’s principle that’s dictating that. So he hasn’t actually reached the same crossroads as Sam and Dean did when they murdered innocents, and he’s already had a strong lesson in questioning his assumptions, and what to do about nephilim. I think unless he decides to do it anyway, at this point your fears about him being unredeemable aren’t a problem yet at all.
At the moment I don’t feel Cas is in any moral danger in this way compared to Sam and Dean’s various bad moral slides, because he started in the uncompromising place, in 12x08 and flashback!Cas whose lines were pretty much all enforcing the idea from Heaven that nephilim are bad and need to be killed and so on, and now by the end of 12x10 this has been at least chipped at a little so far. I have some hope now that Cas will make the right choice, by whatever standards the show works on (this whole thing is really ethically messed up when it comes to the Lucifer baby stuff so idk how much that will relate to what fans think the right choice will be and people with different opinions in general will react differently to what they do, I guess.) But at least by the show’s apparent rules for the characters and whether they’re being presented as good, bad, redeemable, in danger of moral lapse, they’re apparently trying to show us Cas changing and learning and hoping to find another way to deal with it than the old, absolute rule of Heaven he was trying to enforce. Which is all a positive sign that he WON’T go down a bad road and kill the kid and end up in this place where it affects him in the long run…
I hope :P
I don’t know if Cas will get a happy ending or not because they’re really messing around filling time on a show they know at the moment they can write as if it will never end, but Cas has clear goals set out for happiness and belonging and a sense of home, as well as obstacles to stop him getting there, settling in, and then being in a place where he’s achieved all his goals before the end, and then obviously has to have terrible stuff happen to him to take it away again because that’s not how things work in stories >.> So these delays on Cas getting what he wants are good because obviously they want to hold something back for him to aim at.
But I definitely don’t think Cas has been damaged beyond the point of ethical redemption or deservedness of a happy ending.
I DID in my watching notes, when Ishim was talking about tearing out Lily’s heart because she broke his, and went for her daughter, immediately link it to when by Cas’s POV on being heartbroken by his family turning on him and refusing to help/believe in him/trust him in 6x20, he then goes off and breaks Sam’s wall to slow up Dean from stopping him. Obviously that’s a really exaggerated bad example I just made with a lot of character slander to compare what Cas was doing to what Ishim did. BUT it was his one big, truly “unforgivable” action in the narrative.
Dean acts as the shows moral compass, and often/mostly has the final say on ethical issues like this, determining who is good and bad (and if he’s wrong, it’s on his shoulders to deal with that - 7x03 was the last episode I watched this week working through the show with my mum, and of course the next episode after that is the judgement one where Dean’s heart is weighed, and blah blah off track here but Dean’s moral judgement is really important on the show). DEAN FORGIVES CAS for hurting Sam. It’s an almost miraculous recovery because to Dean hurting Sam is just… the absolute worst thing you can do. Dean is otherwise the sort of person who would advocate shooting their own grandfather for betrayal, but after Cas does it and inflicts the worst damage on Sam we’ve seen anyone go through in the whole show… He lets Cas back in and accepts his attempts to redeem himself. Cas’s season 7 redemption is one of the most important stories on the show for him or Dean or even Sam when it comes to personal relationships… I like to just randomly watch Cas’s season 7 episodes and bawl at the screen :P
Anyway, Cas went right over the moral event horizon in 6x22, but he was brought back already, years ago, and like Sam jumping into the cage to atone for season 4, has been morally recovered, in a way, for a very long time. He still feels some guilt for it but the narrative (which blurs with Dean’s opinion :P) has forgiven him. Sam and Dean are initially horrified by Cas’s story in the middle of the episode, but don’t reject him and the final conversation is positive, with them discussing that change and hoping for a change with their next decisions.
(still not sure what’s up with Dean and the Mark and all that, but as I said… rug sweeping :P But yeah, Dean is the character always talking about how they go down swinging and doesn’t see a happy end, and I do think he doesn’t think he deserves one, just that exploring any of the reasons why has all been suppressed by him, so it’s not being dealt with >.> He’s probably got a list of reasons dating back to when he was four years old. Whether HE gets the happy ending is something they’ve been poking at for years, and when that starts getting properly addressed, we’ll know the show is nearly over :P)