I think this might've been the first Castiel-centric episode of Supernatural where I was actually totally invested right from the start. I didn't even have to be convinced it wasn't pure fangirl fodder. (I know.) "Stairway to Heaven" wasn't even a complete Cas-fest; the Castiel stuff shared screentime with Dean's epic bloodlust/manpain, which, with one—ONE—episode left in Season Fine, has finally started to get cray cray and awesome. You know, just in time for summer break.
Despite the dour ending, "Stairway to Heaven" featured "Commander" Castiel in all his reluctant, fearless-leader glory, and after hearing all about Castiel the Soldier for so long, it was nice to actually see that persona. He's been the "baby in a trenchcoat" for far too long. I mean, "raised your ass from perdition" is the finest flavor of Castiel—though "new and improved, with 100 percent more pop culture references" is a close second. Also: Aww, he was so proud to get the LOTR reference.
And of course, like basically everything else on Supernatural, Castiel's tenure as the cuddly puppy-dog alternative to Team Boogertron was short-lived, and of course it was because he couldn't bring himself to shank Dean in response to the shanking of Tessa, the latest casualty of Dean's ongoing shank-fest who was also an angel or something? STOP TOUCHING THE MYTHOLOGY, SUPERNATURAL. JUST STOP IT.
And stop killing all the girls.
And stop... just stop. If you want to stab something, go stab Sam, because he's been super-dumb lately and at least then I'll be able to feel all happy about the Cain and Abel parallels you've been shoving down our throats since Cain first revealed that Abel—the biblical goody-two-shoes of old—was actually cavorting with Satan when his big bro did him in. Not to mention the fact that next week is the season finale, and all good Supernatural finales require Sam to do his best corpse-bride impression. The show is is 63 in dog years, it's allowed to be comfortable, and frankly, when it tries to rewrite the details, we get "Bloodlines" and "Taxi Driver" and the muckity-muck of an uneven season that started out promising, which makes the pain feel that much more severe.
There's certainly still hope for a great finish, though. "Stairway to Heaven" is proof of that—aside from the whole reapers-are-angels thing.
Here's what was great:
Dean's Mark of Cain bloodlust was kicked up to 11 this week, as he argued with Sam over whether or not the First Blade should be his new favorite binky and went far beyond being a mere dickhead to acting really quite terrifying. The terror isn't necessarily in the bloodshed—though it's definitely disturbing and such an extreme opposite of the Anti-Torture Dean we saw in the aftermath of his hell-cation. The gore, the blood, the delight in terrorizing his victims is the icing on the cake of everything else. "Everything else" being when Dean isn't running someone through with the First Blade.
Dean is capable of being pretty bloodthirsty and scary even when he isn't all hopped up on Mark of Cain juice. He has some pretty nasty—and totally sober—kills under his belt. We know exactly what he's capable of, and the thing is, so does Dean. With the exception of his time in Purgatory, Dean himself is generally pretty horrified by the man he's grown up to be, clinging to the "hero" label as though that makes it better somehow. And maybe it does, but just a little. Both Dean and Sam have certainly done "what they had to do" at various points in Supernatural's run, from throwing a demon-blood kegger to torturing for hire to letting Lucifer say yes to the meat-dress to or stuffing an archangel down a coma patient's throat against his will. Even in Purgatory, I don't think Dean particularly enjoyed the killing, but he enjoyed not having to think about it, not having to justify it. It was "pure" in the sense that inhibitions weren't necessary. They were still in the back of his mind, however.
Together, the Mark and the First Blade eliminate that inhibition. We've seen Dean do some terrible stuff even with self-control. Dean WITHOUT self-control is something utterly terrifying, and not only does Dean know it, but Dean likes it. He's spent half this season trying to win back Sam's approval following the Gadreel incident, and years before that trying to please Castiel, Lisa, John Winchester, and cute blondes in high school history class, and it's never really worked out. Now, as far as Dean's concerned, it doesn't have to.
Back in Sam's demon blood days, so much of his self-destructive rage was fed by residual disappointments with his life, his relationships, his feelings of failure when it came to (not) saving Dean from Hell, (not) being the good soldier John Winchester wanted, (not) escaping the hunting life. All those seeds were planted well before the series picked up in the middle of his life. Dean has sorely needed a similar treatment for a long time, and his descent into corruption is no less satisfyingly tragic.
Metatron's tenuous control on Heaven, which is slipping further and further despite his swelling ranks, proved itself to be a comfortably slow-burn story heading into the finale. It made Gadreel's long-anticipated betrayal a cathartic experience for all... until Dean stabbed him with the First Blade. It's just a flesh wound, right? RIGHT?
"Stairway to Heaven" also (sort of) gave us a reunited Team Free Will. Dean's reassurance that Cas and the Winchesters versus the world beats the armies of heaven and hell any day of the week represented the sort of solidarity Season 9 has been missing since... well, it's just been missing it. Granted, it's hard to get behind the awesome threesome with Dean in his current homicidal state, but, eh, we'll get there. Teamwork makes the dream work.
I'm still really bummed about killing off Tessa though. :(
– Dumb Winchester Sighting: OMG get it together, Sam.
– Lol @ Boogertron being called a "nerd." I see what you did there!
– "Old shoes and... alcoholism?"
What did you think of "Stairway to Heaven"? What are your predictions for the finale? Who's gonna die (for now)? Who's gonna live (for now)?
AIRED ON 2/3/2016
Season 11 : Episode 12
AIRS ON 2/10/2016
Season 11 : Episode 13