This week's big debate seems to be about Cas and humanity. I've read posts that are both excited and upset about how it seems like Cas is eventually going to choose to become human. I was wondering if you had any insight into whether that's a good thing or a bad thing for him, or if he should choose to stay an angel.
Heya! :) I am going to answer this to the best of my ability which is a liiittle bit loopy and over-tired today :P
But yeah I have been scrolling my dash and I am not dead yet so I have seen this discussion going on :D I sort of feel like I haven’t got much to say about it in a way that I haven’t said/agreed with before (so it’s been redundant to weigh in), but like… riiiight back when I was a Fandom Newbie and getting to know the lay of the land and I just got absorbed right into the general fandom consensus at that time among the groups of meta writers I glommed onto…
I mean, because I showed up after 9x18, and then though of course I was around for the following episodes I really started the whole circus of new episode reactions along with everyone, with season 10… between tearing apart the Cas stuff in 9x18 and then the Cas and Hannah stuff in 10x01-3 it just seemed really really obvious where Carver was going with it, and what it meant to Cas? And I mean okay this was 3 (4?) years ago but I also feel like with Cas’s development getting stalled over and over and over except in tangential ways, this was all put on ice like 3 times over before he even got possessed by Lucifer, so the MAJOR work on this was between the last minutes of 8x23 and 10x18 and even then that’s the STORYTELLING of it, and of course Cas himself puts the whole thing on ice as something he has the luxury to think about in 9x09. (Except for the one peanut butter and jelly conversation.)
So in 9x18 the MAJOR thing is that the lyrics “loneliness is a coat you wear” are laid over Cas taking off the coat to mend it (although that’s left out so it’s more like… he takes it off to gather his thoughts on what he’s going to do next, which is even more symbolic and useless in a practical way of why he does it). He then puts the coat back on to greet his army… And in a few episodes Metatron does the “draped yourself in the flag of Heaven” thing, which when 9x18 is all about the subtext and telling us to pay attention, I find a very very straight line to what that meant about him doing similar to 12x19 - using Heaven but not wanting Heaven, and never mind his motivation with Dean (and that being what changes his mind and makes him play Metatron’s game), the way it portrays Heaven as an obligation and a duty to help, but with a loneliness that comes from wearing that coat. He’s walking out into a parking lot full of angels but the lyrics are screaming that he’s without love, and lonely, and the end of the season confirms these choices were the reason.
And in season 10 it gets more personal, and we have Hannah as a counter example. With Daniel in 10x01 who wants to stay on earth and gets what that’s all about we see Cas empathising, but at the end of the episode he goes way deeper than that, talking about human things that upset and startle Hannah. She literally drapes the flag of Heaven over him in 10x02 and smooths it down and accidentally reveals that the plaid of Winchesters is underneath the collar all along, and Cas is sleeping and acting more and more human while sick. She wants to give him his grace back to stop this and he resists… Out of penance and lack of self-worth and knowing he did a heinous thing to steal grace in the first place (again, for Dean, not just to be an angel again but because he needed to survive to warn him about Ezekiel). But symbolically she is trying to make him take the grace and be an angel. Be a leader, the angel the others will rally behind and follow. She represents how all of Heaven feels about him (and 12x19 and 12x15 cover similar ground in what Kelvin says about Cas).
But also in 10x07 it goes deeper with how she feels about humanity - that the human things are forbidden, that love and enjoying sensual pleasures like showers are just *wrong* for angels to experience. She rejects human things entirely as stuff that’s not for her, and nopes out hard. And she is symbolic of angels in general, of Heaven’s desires and feelings in general when she asks him to be a leader.
This is the sort of pressure - innocent of malice but FULL of lack of understanding - that is at odds with what Cas FEELS which is full empathy to wanting to be on earth… an actual understanding and feeling for these human things. He’s in his own body without a shared vessel as 10x09 goes on to confirm, which means he has none of the conflict Hannah does there, and 10x09 paints quite a picture of Cas as wildly unlike all the angels in this way, because it confirms for once and for all he’s alone in there and the Jimmy issue is resolved.
To quickly skip ahead on this side of things, 12x10 shows the same thing but dialled up to a zillion. Instead of Hannah standing in for a clueless family that doesn’t understand and can’t empathise with the different feelings and sense of belonging Cas has, but is still mostly harmless if accidentally intolerant and stifling with their expectations and demands, we have Ishim, who stands in for the worst sort of family experience with intolerance. He’s also in love with a human and that’s the metaphor for violent, self-loathing homophobia I guess, as he kills Lily’s daughter to emotionally sever himself from her, to no avail, and tries to kill Cas for having the same “weakness”. Lashing out with hatred because of the internalised feelings of crossing a taboo line that their society has turned into a harsh rule. Supposedly good reasons are offered with the nephilim thing, but obviously Cas and Dean aren’t gonna have a baby any time soon, so the metaphor unfolds itself as queer through and through once Ishim turns on Dean.
And to walk aaaall the way back DOWN canon, I’m stalled in my rewatch in 4x10 at Anna pacing around talking about how she did the worst thing imaginable and cut out her grace and fell. 4x10 is the first episode to actually explore the nature of angels and lays down some ground rules, like that sex and disobedience are forbidden.
Orders are orders. I’m sure I have a death sentence on my head.
I disobeyed… which, for us, is about the worst thing you can do. I fell.
She fell to earth, became human.
(I have the transcript open and scrolled down to that part in a tab and have for months… CBA to go find her talking about sex later but I think we all know the stuff she says)
That “worst thing you can do” line feels to me like with retcons from 12x10, that the “sacred oath” may be any sort of angel to human dalliance or connection or desire to BE and to be FREE. The same thing Hannah nopes out of in 10x07 is what Anna had to tear out her grace to experience. Anna having to take her grace back to survive is tragic, especially as it puts her right in the vulnerable firing line of Naomi’s reprogramming. This metaphor is SO much worse with Anna than even Cas, as it’s so simple about her returning to her family as an angel again after making a break to be free and live as a human like she wants, then to be tortured back to the family line and pure obedience, to her eventual death as an unrecognisable killer, a la Cas in 8x17. But without the sympathetic inside view and long arc to explain it or the narrative having any interest in saving her >.> (Hi, I like Anna and am bitter about that whole thing 5eva :P)
Cas in 9x09 also takes back a grace to survive (and this whole arc brings in the clear concept that has been on the backburner since Anna of grace and consciousness as 2 separate things, and grace to an angel being more of its power than its mind, though functionally they seem one and the same when nothing hinky is going on - something else important for human endgame as well as showing ways of removing grace without falling and turning into a human baby)… Again like Anna Cas has little choice when he takes the grace back. He was happy to die human until he learned Sam and Dean were in trouble, and made a horrific choice to help them by stealing grace. After that getting his real grace seemed like the only way to fix him dying of his actions, though he seemed happy to again, the story had other ideas :P (And Mittens wrote something on how Cas has “let himself die” in the way he didn’t in 10x18, where he has to pass through death for change and reaping the character benefits of transitions. (Flyingfish1′s heroine journey meta also comes to mind). Of course by not letting himself die, he’s trapped in the 10x18 > 12x19 holding pattern on his entire life and personal arcs except the ever-worsening depression and self-worth arcs that spring up in the meantime, and the belonging one.)
Anyway it’s all connected, these angels with their connections to humanity, either what they really really want and are denied by fate, or by fate end up experiencing, and really really don’t want. Or in Ishim’s case he really wanted and then because of being an example of a total tool representing institutional prejudices, decided murder was the best way out of his brush with feeling human things. And they all tell us things about Cas from different angles, with different angels (sorry. wordplay was right there.) The long and short of it is that Cas is supposed to be one of those marble statues with no doubts (in 4x10 - *buzzer noise* WRONG *points at 4x07 and “I have doubts”) or that human things are not for them (*points at Cas even bringing up the subject and confusing Hannah about why you’d want to learn them and horrified that Cas seemed to have picked up human cooties by admiring these qualities in the first place*) or indeed that angels in general are massively intolerant to humans and from start to finish it’s a death penalty offence to get tangled up with them or want to be/be one of them. (I know 12x10 is more applicable to the Destiel side of things but the general message about Heaven’s intolerance with “humanity” instead of queerness with all the other examples makes a lot of sense to me.)
Actually I’ve seen the argument a lot that this debate is metaphorical to the trans experience for Cas changing species, even more than the interspecies romance parallel to sexuality metaphors, and I think it is fairly simple to me that this is part of the general queer metaphor applied to Cas as something the angels are intolerant of. 12x10 threw in the Benjamin stuff too and made it a little angel gender studies thing (which Hannah also helped with in 10x17 by reprising her “totally in love with Cas” look in a male vessel and not giving a crap about the change). With Benjamin they said that the angel Cas was closest to there was the one who had a ….. friendship ….. with his vessel. So there’s a lot going on there between that and the “his vessel is a woman, benjamin is an angel” thing) :P
I think, anyway, Anna wanting to be human and getting disowned on pain of death and having to become an angel again, and even then being hunted for daring to not be an angel once, is the closest parallel to what Cas faces. Especially for internalised ideas he had at the time and hadn’t got to unlearn until he was a human.
And I think, additionally to that, he may not have even realised that being human even answered his feeling of not belonging or being different until AFTER it happened. Like, Metatron forced it on him too soon and then everything was non-stop awful and then suddenly he’s had to get grace again (and heading for that flag of heaven metaphor), and only then he gets to reflect on what it felt like, by way of being an angel again looking back on it. It was so brutal and short that he never got a chance to appreciate being human at the time in a way where it would explain to him what he lacks.
By 10x18 he has the family dinner and he takes his coat off for it. Heaven has rejected him, he’s seemingly chosen the Winchesters again, and got his grace back, but he has to go back to the grind, and he doesn’t change his wardrobe, he keeps the coat which is basically performative angel-ness with Winchester plaid underneath.
(Actually about the only time I can think of that angel-ness is used as the queer metaphor and not the other way around is in 9x06 when Cas is playing cis straight human to Nora and Dean shows up yelling about him being an angel at his workplace… I think that’s a very circumstantial metaphor which is more about delightfully queercoding the entire thing than a wider statement… After all, contained within a season where the main arc for Cas is leading a heaven army thing, and ending in “i just want to be an angel” in utter, tragic defeat on the emotional battlefield. Absolutely NOT a statement on what would make Cas feel HAPPY, just useful and numb, per 10x03 and what he says about human pain and how revealing those lines are side by side about what Cas is feeling and how angel is he REALLY, like, deep down in his too-big heart where it matters)
But yeah he just keeps on going after 10x18 and this all kinda drops away, so I think until season 12 basically nothing was really done to mess around with this concept again in a substantial, meaningful way aside from attack dog and similar arcs tangential to this and more about Cas’s state of mind in general (as the same conflict can be applied to Dean when human). It has become more about Cas belonging in the Winchesters as the main thing - 12x19 has Cas being way more upfront about using Kelvin to his face, that he’s only going along with it because his old connections to Heaven are useful, as well as shining a massive spotlight on Cas considering himself a guardian angel as a bad bad thing, which is actively damaging his beloved family relationships and especially upsetting Dean. He would rather protect them from afar, and I think long-term Cas ending up with the Winchesters but as an angel would always be somewhat prone to that sort of thought in an emergency that as a more powerful being he would have to protect them, and a sense of not belonging entirely as another species that can’t quiiite relate no matter how different he is and how much more kinship he feels with humanity even as an angel. I can’t see that as a happy ending, and since 12x19 it feels rather more like it would be not finishing a plotline that is not JUST about this relationship but using it to move the piece on the board about Cas’s human arc forward another step, as his endgame would be not just as human, but also with them, so tying the concepts together isn’t a bad idea, as long as it’s clear this is something in season 9 and 10 Cas came to as a desire without very much contact with them at all, and therefore very much for himself as an understanding of what he is and what he desires.
And, again, I don’t think Cas has great resources for self-reflection on the subject - not just that Metatron had to turn him human briefly to even make him realise he could ever do it, but something like using the belonging with family arc to help speed it along gives him a clear reason and goal for why it works and would feel right for him and to give him the place to self-analyse with motivation. I really don’t like the idea of equating this entirely with Cas’s belonging with the Winchesters arc all on its own, though. It CAN’T just be about that he should be human to be with his human friends/family etc. But I do think that a lot of the work to explain why he identifies with humanity has ALREADY been done and is a solid, existing part of his character already.
In a happy ending even if it all gets told tied up with the Winchesters, I would point to season 9 & 10 to argue that it was not JUST FOR them, but that they were the soft landing for him to make a decision. If he became human he wouldn’t be forcing himself to fit in with them, he would be doing it for himself. I mean, since season 4 he is equated with Anna, protesting loudly he’s nothing like her when even before we meet her he admits to one of the cardinal sins of doubt. He has ALWAYS had a slight leaning towards humanity and clearly described as UNANGELIC traits and feelings. So in this way he’s always FELT different and therefore as it gets expanded and expanded and ends up being a deeply complex metaphor and fascinating way to relate to Cas, it’s clear this is an inherent part of him from the start. The human feelings that Hannah violently nopes out of have been things Cas has tolerated, defined himself by, and felt all along. She’s used to show that Cas hasn’t ever been bothered in the same way, and just uses her leaving as an excuse to delve even deeper into human connections by worrying about Claire, and in the narrative, walking us right into proving he has his own body and no Jimmy, and another way Cas is both unique, and uniquely suited to a human endgame.
I think though that a lot of this is personal and subjective on the arguments going around, and I see this sooo deeply through the old meta I read back in season 9 & 10 which has shaped all my ongoing thoughts I do know I have developed probably my own biases on this. I think Cas would never be happy as an angel in a happy families endgame because the Guardian Angel Cas issue (which was his downfall in season 6, so not a new thing, just re-focused recently) would always play on his mind as it’s shown that he self-sabotages his relationships in order to protect them. I see it like season 4 Sam using his powers to exorcise because it’s an ethical way to get rid of demons quick in a fight without stabbing the innocent meatsuit. In season 5 even knowing aaall the trouble it caused him and that Ruby played off his desire to save people as a GOOD thing to do great evil, he was tempted by the demon blood and regrets/resents not being able to use powers to exorcise the kids. (Obviously before he learns they were all just human all along because that episode is so disturbing >.>)
Even if it went some pretty hinky places (as in the end of season 6 for Cas and the guardian angel mentality, with Crowley as his Ruby, as he uses “i still considered myself the Winchesters’ guardian” as a justification) Sam’s motives were for good originally and he missed the idea of sacrificing his own morality to save people for an objective better good. Cas seeing his powers as making him more powerful, therefore more expendable, less included, and with a personal sense of duty to watch over and protect them, HAVING the powers would only ever be living in temptation to do a 12x19 again. Sam only recovers properly without the powers to tempt him and I feel he’s in a very different place as a person by now… Cas with a human endgame might not get room to grow out of it on screen but by his grace being removed (hopefully and tbh by necessity willingly), he’d have the potential and promise that he would be able to recover in the same way from this toxic mentality. And I consider 12x19 very much doing for Cas and the guardian angel thing what Carver era and 8x01 especially did for the codependency. Just put it all on the table and told us, this is hurting them more than it’s doing good in the world. Let’s look at how it hurts them and why. Let’s aim to fix it and let them move past it.
And even if Cas can start to recover from some broad strokes, like feeling more included, feeling like less of a tool/personal attack dog, he will only have a long term chance at happiness if the temptation is removed at the source, and he will need to UNDERSTAND that too and to vocalise some things about his reasons for watching over them like this LONG before he chooses humanity. And these are very much my personal subjective feelings on why it feels BAD to me that Cas would stay an angel, as it’s right off on another end of the spectrum of why people are arguing they feel bad if he would become human. To me the personal identity stuff right down to complex sexuality and gender metaphors are MAIN TEXT in Cas’s arc due to him being an inherently queer character. The “it feel bad” reaction to me right now is that I feel sad for Cas being an angel around the Winchesters forever because he will always be their guardian angel and that’s BAD for what he WANTS which is just to be a part of the family with no complicated strings attached like his obligation to protect them. So to me I see humanity as the obvious answer to that. But that’s a personal reading of what I hope would happen and why. So my explanation of what I see in the text is one thing and this part is another, if that makes sense?
… I hope any of this makes sense. I apologise for typing so long… I know I said I’ve said it all before but I mean I assume you’re not tag-diving on my blog if you’re just asking me and tbh I wouldn’t know what tag to dive either and they’re *my* tags so I’m not judging ;)