“The Man Who Would Be King” Review
By Bekah James
I went into this episode with an enormous amount of trepidation. In fact, I tried to rationalize skipping it completely. I figured if I didn’t watch it, it wouldn’t be true. So, after several minutes of near-panic, I manned up and hit play on my DVR. When the pre-episode recap made my eyes water, I knew I was in for one hell of a ride. I was right.
Let me just get this out there so I don’t have to repeat myself: I cried throughout this episode, with intermittent moments of sobbing.
As the Sixth Season comes to a close, we were finally gifted with an episode directed by the god-like Ben Edlund. He wrung such emotions from the actors this week, most especially Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles. The coloring of Heaven (and the lack of coloring in the torture chamber) was beautiful. The off-centered and close-up shots were magnificent and well-placed. He also wrote the script, which was jammed packed with delicious dialogue designed to make the hardest of hard asses tear up like it was a 80s-style Hallmark commercial. I was in love with his style of direction the moment he had Castiel looking us—the fans—dead on as he began his confession to God. Did Mr. Edlund just tip his hat to the fans as the real gods in the Supernatural world? (Aww, thanks.) Also, I think it was a good choice considering the level of betrayal fans feel; we deserved an explanation as much as did Sam and Dean.
Also speaking to Mr. Edlund’s creativity and genius was his choice of music for the episode. I could hardly believe I was hearing Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” as Crowley poked and prodded at Eve’s autopsied body. If you aren’t familiar with the song, go ahead and check out the lyrics. It was thirteen kinds of warped for that scene… perfect for the King of Hell. The twisted music continued in Crowley’s updated Hell (an interminable line at what might very well by the DMV) was Johann Strauss’s “The Blue Danube Waltz”. Remarkable.
We were introduced to two new (and now dead) characters: Red the Demon Demon Hunter and Ellsworth the Demon Dispatcher (who was named after Jim Beaver’s character in the TV series Deadwood). I loved Ellsworth’s several goblets of blood as opposed to multiple phone lines—although perhaps the FBI phone call was a stretch—and the subordinate demons that vaguely resembled Sam and Dean. LOL, just LOL. Ben Edlund is not right in the head.
There’s no two ways about it: Mark A. Sheppard is absolutely genius as Crowley. If it wasn’t for the fact that Crowley is lobbying for the death of Dean and Sam, I would be on the campaign to sign him up as a series regular. He is fierce and unwavering in his portrayal of this ruthless and conniving demon—one so conniving, in fact, that he is willing to negotiate terms with an angel primed to take on Heaven once again. Crowley’s always been a favorite character of mine, even when he was manipulating the boys (and Bobby). But this… now that he’s managed to sway Castiel to the darkside… this may well be unforgiveable. I do applaud Crowley for being the first supernatural being to not underestimate the power of a Winchester with a mission!
I see Crowley as a drug dealer. He advanced Castiel 50,000 souls from Hell to jumpstart the Civil War in Heaven. So Castiel got a taste of big power and he liked it enough to broker The Deal (a 50/50 split… what the hell, Cas, you could’ve negotiated better!). Just like a pusher, Crowley was big with the talk, referring to Cas as “the new God” and how God saved Cas so that Cas could save them. It disappointed me to see that Crowley could maneuver Castiel into a position of believing that sort of malarkey, but hey, as Dean said, Castiel is the Balki Bartokomous of Heaven… so yeah.
Castiel’s big lie—hell, the big lie of the Season—according to Crowley is that Cas wants the Winchesters to believe that the angel is still good and righteous. “As long as they believe it, you get to believe it,” Crowley rightfully accused, and topped it off with this fantastic line: “Well, I’ve got news for you kitten. A whore is a whore is a whore.” I guess from Crowley’s perspective, and perhaps Castiel’s, that is true.
My biggest concern this week (well, second biggest… ranking right after finding out that it was true that Castiel was working with Crowley), was how Dean would react to his closest friend working in direct opposition to his main goal: Prevent Purgatory from being opened/ found. My concern was validated as Dean was a wonderful and terrible thing to behold. Jensen Ackles played Dean’s heartache and suspicion with such sincerity that it broke my heart over and over. His steadfast belief that his friend—his de facto brother—was not lying to him made me guts churn. He clearly was not onboard with keeping anything from the angel. The guilt on his face, the anger in his voice, the telling hand over his mouth, the utter pain in his eyes… shew. Jensen pulled out all of the stops to show the harrowing journey through the shock and dismay of learning that one of your nearest and dearest has betrayed you. There was one moment, after Castiel made the Superman mistake, that Dean’s face went from relieved to stunned to completely hard in under ten seconds. It was frightening, and I am shocked that Castiel could not read it. During the Ring of Fire scene… oh Dean, with his teary eyes and his hope’s valiant last stand. I had been afraid that the boys would whip out the Ring of Fire. It broke my already tattered heart into teeny, tiny glitter-sized pieces. The conversation ground those pieces to dust. His pained “son of a bitch” in addition to that last lingering look he cast at Castiel as he left the cabin… it was enough to set me into a wave of tears that forced me to pause my DVR in order to regain my composure… much to the chagrin of my viewing party, although they were pretty weepy, too.
It was my biggest fear (silly, but yeah) was that the boys would whip out the Ring of Fire. It broke my already tattered heart into teeny, tiny glitter-sized pieces. The conversation ground those pieces to dust.
There were several bits of dialogue that Dean had, or shared with Castiel, that I am certain broke the heart of many fans, and will be recited and studied during the upcoming (and long-ass) summer hiatus. My favorites (and the very worst) are as follows:
Dean: “But Cas, you’ll call, right? If you get into real trouble?” (We of course find out later that no, Castiel did not call when he found himself in ‘real trouble’ shortly after the Apocalypse. Sob!) Cas: “It sounds so simple when you say it like that. Where were you when I needed to hear it?”
Dean: “I was there. Where were you?”
Dean: “Cas, it’s not too late, we can fix this.”
Cas: “Dean, It’s not broken.”
Okay, so I haven’t really talked about Castiel. You’ll have to forgive me. This review is so late because it took me this long to really and truly process what the hell happened. Those that know me know that I am an affirmed (and unfailing) Cas Girl to my bones. I love the nerdy little guy. The thought that my favorite Winchester (hey, Dean said Castiel was family! It totally counts!) is a demon collaborator breaks me in half.
After watching (and rewatching this and other key episodes), I can see why Castiel would choose the path that he did. He was changed by his stint as a player in the game of free will, just as he was changed by his time as a human; and by knowing that God was pleased that he his friends had averted the Apocalypse. He was thrilled that God saw it fit to bring him back to life, setting work on saving Sam from Hell, and then returning to his favorite version of Heaven. (Oh, the smile on Cas’s face… it was glorious and pure.) But in a blink of an eye, all of Castiel’s giddiness ended with Raphael threatening to restart the Apocalypse simply because he wanted to do so! What was he supposed to do? Allow Raphael to undo everything he and the Winchesters had worked so hard to prevent? He went to seek counsel from Dean, but he could not disrupt Dean’s retirement because he loves Dean (sigh, not that way… pretty sure anyway). He did not want to haul Dean away from his supposed contentment with Lisa and Ben. In the end, it was a pretty craptastic decision to listen to Crowley’s grandstanding without at least consulting Dean, or even Sam or Bobby. Dean was right that Castiel’s reticence to tell anyone what he was doing was a blinking neon sign that he was up to something less than cool.
So what was it that led Castiel to believe his only valid choice was working with Crowley? He confessed to hubris and pride and overconfidence. I would also throw greed in the mix. He tasted the power of souls and of besting Raphael and wanted to retain it. What a change from the angel who wanted only to save God’s greatest creation: Mankind. But see, here’s where that line of thought goes astray again… isn’t that what he was doing now, by working with Crowley? The intention was to utilize souls to defeat Raphael, thereby preventing (or rather, RE-preventing) the Apocalypse, which will leave the Earth and its inhabitants decimated. Where is the wrong in that? I’ll tell you where: That Crowley also benefited from the souls. That must have seemed like a ducky situation for the time, but once the Civil War is over, will Crowley make a play? Of course he will. What will he want? God only knows. I think… I am pretty sure actually… that Castiel’s original purpose in starting the War and working with Crowley is justified under the terms of the Team Free Will Charter. He just needed to maybe present it to the Team for voting before he entered into any contracts with demons. Just sayin’.
Clearly Castiel has doubts, regrets and even lines he refuses to cross. To the point, he would not ask Dean to return to hunting after the Apocalypse. He not only refused to kill the Winchesters after they took out Eve, but promised to tear down their entire arrangement if Crowley so much as mussed a hair on their heads. He also protected the boys when Crowley sent demon assassins after them at Ellsworth’s compound. He spied on Sam and Dean to make sure they weren’t getting close to Crowley, but he was also keeping a watch out to make sure Crowley did not break their agreement not to harm the Winchesters. It is clear that Castiel is super protective of “the boys” (as he called them this week… yay!), but that protection served a secondary purpose… hiding his perfidy from his friends. And why would that be a concern? It’s not like Sam and Dean can kill Castiel, unless Cas was foolish enough to leave an angel sword hanging around. I think his concern is fully emotional—guilt and love—which means Castiel is closer to humanity than I thought (yay!).
I just had a thought. When Castiel first showed up this Season in 6×03 “The Third Man”, he said (and I quote): “… But I don’t know Sam. We have no idea who pulled you back from the Cage, or why.” That was a blatant lie; not a lie of omission. That seems a thousand times worse to me. Now, was that a conscious decision from Sera Gamble, or did they just sort of happen upon this little partnership idea with Crowley? I don’t know which one I would prefer. Interestingly enough, “The Third Man” was also the introduction of all souls as currency business, as well as the Angel Cavity Search. Curious, very curious.
Back to the episode at hand. Crowley called Castiel the next God, but Castiel called himself the next Lucifer, a possibility that horrified him. Funny how Lucifer tempted Eve with an apple into original sin, and now here is Crowley trying to tempt Castiel into abandoning his righteousness. Crowley said that Lucifer was a petulant child, but that Castiel loves God and God loves Castiel, so clearly God meant for Castiel to save them—everyone—from Raphael’s attempt to recreate the Apocalypse. But wasn’t that Lucifer’s great sin (at least according to Lucy in Season 5’s “Sympathy for the Devil”), loving God too much? And didn’t the other angels always say that Lucifer was God’s favorite? Well, there you have it… a little bit of history repeating itself, I think. Please, please tell me I am overreaching here.
I do wish that Castiel had taken the opportunity, when he found Dean alone at Bobby’s, to really talk to Dean; to confess the way he had confessed to God. I truly believe that had Castiel told Dean everything, then perhaps there would be a path to redemption and renewal. Dean gave him a door to forgiveness when he asked the angel to not work with Crowley “just ‘cause.” It was similar to the plea Dean made to Sam when Sam continued to choose Ruby over his brother’s advice and warnings. We all remember how well that turned out, right? This scene may have been the most harrowing of the entire episode for me. Hell, I think it was the most emotionally scarring (for me) two minutes of the entire Season.
With all of this, Misha Collins broke my heart into teeny, tiny glitter-sized pieces. He has broken the mold on loving, vengeful, goofy, rebelling, clueless, lying angels. For someone who is generally relegated to aloof and cold performances on this show, I was very happy to see him crack his knuckles and dig himself into the heaviest episode of the Season. He knocked it out of the park, and even if Castiel ends up being the next Big Bad, I look forward to seeing more of his work.
Lastly, I found myself praying along with Castiel, hoping that God gave him the sign he needed. Ben Edlund… you, sir, are on my list. You have broken my heart and frayed my nerves. You have given these characters more to endure than ever before. You kept it real and powerful. You made me cry until I thought I would have to buy stock in Kleenex. You… sir… are a genius. Keep it the eff up.
There’s a Tear in Bekah’s Beer
There was supposed to be drinking whenever Cas said “Dean”, but I couldn’t count. I drank a copious amount of Peach Schnapps and Vodka with a wittle splashy of seltzer water. It burned almost as much as my mascara running into my eyes from my tears.
Next time: Season Finale!! May 20th! Two full hours of angst, horror, revelations and cliffhangers! Let’s go ahead and end the Season on a high/drunk note. Let’s go with every time someone calls out “Sam!” “Dean!” “Bobby!” “Cas!” in anger or to warn them of danger. Woot!