Supernatural Needs to Pull the Trigger on Destiel or Castiel (And They Need to Do it Now)

Become a Patron!

NOTE: Opinions presented in this article reflect those of the author and are not necessarily those of TDF as an entity. 

Supernatural has a problem, a problem that’s been brewing for a number of years now. No, I don’t mean a problem with its’ writing or story structure. It has those problems, too, of course, but the one I’m getting at is much larger, and cannot be rectified with better editing or continuity control. Namely, that it wants to please everybody, and that strategy is swiftly becoming entirely untenable.

For anyone who might be bizarrely unaware, Supernatural is famous for having one of the largest and most active fandoms currently in existence. (Check Tumblr’s weekly fandom metrics if you don’t believe me) Granted, in the era of social media, all entertainment is subject to seemingly endless critique, dissection and opinion-barrage by the masses. But Supernatural stands at something of a pinnacle in that arena (lucky them) and consensus amongst its’ fandom about pretty much anything is difficult to come by…everybody loves Bobby being the one reliable exception.

For some people, it’s all about Dean’s character arc, while some people are primarily here for Sam. Some fans will only watch episodes that include Castiel, and others just want him to go away and never return. Some people are devotees of the Monster of the Week format, while others are desperate for more solidly built myth-arc plots. Then of course – most divisive of all – there are the bisexual-Dean fans versus the hetero-Dean devotees, and the Destiel shippers, versus the Wincesters and the platonic-bros-for-life crowd.

All fandoms have their fair share of shipping wars and entrenched disputes over any number of topics. In many ways, this is in the nature and at the core of the institution of fandom itself, and that is much to the good, IMO. When it comes to pop-culture, I do not believe consensus is inherently a virtue in most instances; debate and intelligent disagreement have a great deal of intrinsic democratic value.

And truth be told, most of the disagreements and fandom dissatisfactions with Supernatural are either largely moot points, good only for academic debate at this juncture (e.g. was John Winchester outright abusive or just a lousy father) OR they are indefinitely tolerable, and fans will continue to watch the show irrespective of their prevalence/continuance (e.g. the lack of any main female characters throughout the show’s entire run).

Most of the things fans find fault with exist at the level of a side-eye annoyance that can often be shrugged off without too much difficulty (Or which only become ‘serious’ bones of contentious at the height of a hiatus, when all the good meta and speculation and coda/reparative fics have run relatively dry) In other words, fans can tolerate a fair amount of things that frustrate them, and continue to be reliable viewers. Yes, everyone has their own idiosyncratic lines in the sand, but as a demographic phenomenon, a preference for myth-arc versus MotW episodes is not usually going to drive away viewers en masse if a season delivers substantially less than their desired amount.

Here’s my point: fans will put up with some shit indefinitely, they’ll put up with some shit not at all, and some shit they’ll tolerate only up to a point. Supernatural is, I believe, swiftly approaching that point with regard to their now infamous (should I say ‘notorious’?) bi-Dean/Destiel/Castiel problem.

I already know of a number of people who have “rage-quit” the show due to their (tragically well-founded) lack of faith that Dean and Castiel will ever consummate their extravagantly drawn-out UST. The series’ queerbaiting – which is such a well-documented phenomenon that by now, everyone from the Daily Dot and Policy Mic to MTV, Salon and TV Guide treat it as an accepted fact – has already alienated a significant number of former viewers, and those of us who are still hanging on grow wearier of it by the day.

Supernatural "The Things We Carried"
Supernatural “The Things They Carried”
Supernatural "The Things We Carried"
Supernatural “The Things They Carried”

(REALLY, show?! Really?)

Supernatural’s fundamental problem is that it thinks it can continue to walk this razor-thin tightrope into infinity. Its’ writers and producers think they can make Misha Collins a series regular, and only include him in a handful of episodes throughout the whole of season 10. They think they can mollify the Cas-haters by making him largely absent, while simultaneously dropping in just enough Dean/Cas bonding to string along the Destielers at the same time (e.g. that scene at the restaurant, which let us all please note, resulted in a season high in the overall ratings after it was released as the teaser)

As I was watching the show’s latest installment, “The Things They Carried” this past Wednesday, my Tumblr dash saw an endless string of reblogs for the following post, which I believe summarizes the situation quite succinctly:

where angel

Supernatural’s problem is that the dilemma of Castiel, and his potential romantic relationship with Dean, is a fight that is NEVER going to be reconciled within the fandom or the general audience. People are NEVER going to come to any degree of consensus about it. And while slash fans used to only make up a miniscule fraction of a show’s total audience, that reality is swiftly becoming an anachronism. Indeed, if any show could potentially claim to have a critical mass of slash shippers amongst its core ‘general’ audience, it would probably be Supernatural (Sorry, fellas, that’s just what happens when send all your women packing to an early grave)

Maddeningly, Supernatural still refuses to actually face this fairly transparent fact. But fan patience for their denialism is becoming terminal very quickly. So here’s my two-cents, for whatever it is worth to you SPN writers: quit being such a big bunch of wishy-washy cowards and, well

pick a side
Supernatural “Reichenbach”

Either get rid of Castiel completely, or make Destiel canon. Bluntly, those are your two options. But please, enough of this ridiculous roller-coaster of “Dean and I do share a more profound bond,” and “I love need you,” to the two of them barely speaking to each other once every ten episodes. It doesn’t make sense, it’s profoundly bad writing and the opportunism behind it is so aggravatingly transparent, it’s cringe-worthy.

No matter which choice you ultimately make, you are GOING to make some faction of your audience mad. Sorry if I have to be the bearer of bad news for you on that front, but it’s past time y’all face facts. You have written yourselves into a dilemma for which there is absolutely no win-win solution. The only reason Captain Kirk never believed in no-win scenarios is because he was never part of the Supernatural fandom. You are not Burger King and not everyone can have it their way. So please stop writing the show like you are just desperate not to piss anyone off too much. There’s no getting around it at this point. Some significant faction of your viewership is going to wind up pissed at you when this is all over and done with.

You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You need to embrace that fact and get it over with, because right now you are just spinning your wheels, putting off an inevitability that you cannot circumvent. Either pull the trigger on Destiel or pull the trigger on Castiel, but whoever you are planning to disappoint, DO IT ALREADY. Stop dragging all of us along on your never-ending journey of colossal ambivalence. You have already managed to finagle a whopping eleven seasons out of it, which is way more than most other shows could ever dream of getting.

Yes, either one of those choices could very well be the end of you. Both are potentially fatal to your ratings, and you are not wrong to be afraid. But it’s time to face the music, because this see-saw of endless indecision isn’t fun anymore, for anyone. Please, why don’t you do us all a great big favor, and pick a bloody side already?

***

Post-Hoc Addendum: For the record, this piece was never meant to give the impression that I think Castiel is a worthwhile character only in his capacity to be shipped with Dean. I do not think that at all. My point here is more that I do not think he can remain on the show without simultaneously perpetuating false hope of Destiel becoming canon. Castiel is a worthwhile character in his own right, without a doubt. I just personally feel that his continued presence basically guarantees continued belief by a large number of fans in a ship that is probably destined never to come to port.

What I am calling for here, ultimately, is the total annihilation of false hope around Destiel, by whatever means. If they can pull that off and keep Castiel around, well bully for them and I stand corrected, egg all over my face.

  • As much as I would love to see Destiel go canon, Cas is still an important character NO MATTER WHAT. His worth is not defined by his relationship with Dean? ??? ?? I understand the frustration behind this article, because I feel like the show has been constantly baiting too, but Cas is SO important to so many people please don’t say that his only value in the show is as a love accessory.

  • I agreed with this article until it said that the way to solve the Destiel “problem” would be to get rid of Cas. That won’t be happening after the ratings in S7 and the fact that killing Cas off would do nothing to improve . Instead of reducing Cas to a love interest and fridging him, how about the writers stop playing coy and just come out and say it won’t be happening ever instead of the usual “wait and see” and give Cas some good storylines that won’t be tossed away after a couple of episodes?

    • I honestly am not sure the critique of fridging applies here. Traditionally fridiging is something that happens specifically to FEMALE characters to further a MALE character’s storyline. It is a specifically gendered critique that is about women having to die so men can be heroes. Killing Cas would not be fridging him, because it doesn’t play into that unequal gender dynamic that permeates our culture at large.

      Also, I’d like to think Castiel could remain on the show without his presence operating as de facto queerbait. I just don’t have faith that it is possible realistically. IF they could find a way to crush all lingering hopes of Destiel becoming canon — assuming they don’t ever plan to make it canon — and still keep Cas around, well, I think that would be quite an achievement. I just personally doubt they are capable of such a feat.

      My thesis, admittedly, is rather pessimistic in that sense. That I will openly concede to. But I stand by my pessimism. I simply do not have faith that the writers could integrate a well-written version of Castiel into the story and not perpetuate their own queerbaiting at the same time. Fans who do ultimately have a lot more faith in the writers than I. *shrug*

    • Except the ratings for season 7 had nothing to do with the lack of Castiel, and had everything to do with being on Friday’s without a strong lead in that was Smallville’s final season. For example compare the season 6 premiere ratings with season 7’s, a significant drop — and at this point no one knew Cas was being written out, and yet a drop in ratings all the same. Also take into account when Cas did return, did nothing for the ratings. In fact a Garth episode did higher in than any of the ones with Cas in them.

      I don’t think anyone is “playing coy” when you have Jensen as well as a CW executive saying it won’t happen, it won’t happen. Add on the writers stance being fairly clear, you can have your version of things, but the writers are going to always do their own thing.

  • They won’t, because it is still something SOME of the writers might like to explore. Everyone keeps thinking that there is this cohesion in the writer’s room. This is far from true. Not all of them see eye-to-eye when it comes to where they want to go with characters or plots. Why do you think there’s so much inconsistency? So, depending on the writer and their personal perception of Dean and Cas’ relationship, is pretty much what you are going to get. Jerry Wanek, Serge, Robbie Thompson, Adam Glass, Carver and Edlund, before he moved on, see the romantic implications. They most likely ship it on some level since they seem pretty dedicated on putting in as much meta and subtext in as possible. Serge and Wanek, even in episodes written by non-destiel perspective writers, will slip in Destiel meta. It’s become almost habitual.

    Also, I have been a shipper for over 20 years. I see nothing different in what SPN is doing with Destiel than what I have seen shows doing with other potential relationships between central characters in a series. I find it a little humourous this ‘all or nothing’ mentality that this particular ship’s believers have taken. Black and white? Please. That has never-EVER existed in television. Why? Because conflict and tension (romantic or otherwise) IS WHAT DRIVES A SHOW.

    Trust me, SPN would find it MUCH easier to just say, “It isn’t going to happen”. Ratings be damned. They don’t because all things must stay open for possibilities… especially when you have writers, a set director and a cinematographer who seem inspired by Dean and Cas (and the chemistry that Misha and Jensen bring to them) when they are together.

    The only thing killing anything with this show is fans dealing in absolutes. The fun is just going out the window and SPN has started being treated differently for doing the exact same thing other TV Series that include romantic elements have done since it became a thing. It’s facepalm worthy to be honest. You also have those among us Destielers who think that the profound love Dean and Cas have for each other has to equate to a sexual relationship. I’m sure the asexual and biromantic in our circle would agree that you can have some deep, twin flame profound and epic love without the inclusion of sex. That two people can explore intimacy on levels that don’t involve physical expression of it. It’s not a cop out. It’s just reality.

    I suspect there will continue to be this build until the Series finale year and THAT’s when we will know. You know what? That’s okay. SPN wouldn’t be the first show to make the final leap in the last year of a series to do so (Mulder and Scully danced around and around and around… for nearly forever Ugh) and SPN won’t be the last. So let’s not impose what WE think they should do, call it all or nothing or any other drastic ‘remedy’ we think will magically solve everything and just ENJOY the stories we are being given by individual writers. Individual writers who have their OWN take on how they see the relationships of the characters with their unique storytelling perceptions. Let’s enjoy the conflict and the romantic tension. Let’s just watch the show like we used to.

    • The comparison with other HETEROSEXUAL romantic couples is, in my opinion, a completely false equivalence. It’s false because the show refuses to actually admit they even have a romantic dynamic, and that’s a huge part of my point/problem. Your argument assumes we live in a world where same-sex and alternate sex couples all get treated the same already, so couples like Mulder and Scully are a fair comparison point. They absolutely are not. With heterosexual couples, who the show ADMITS and everyone AGREES have a romantic dynamic, fans are not burdened by false hope because their hope isn’t false. Heteronormativity guarantees you that. Queer couples – particularly ones composed of nominally heterosexual characters – operate by a completely different set of norms. My whole point is, likely, with Dean and Castiel, fan hope that their relationship will be consummated in ANY way – sexual or not – is likely extremely misguided. It would be nice if we could all rest assured that this is a Mulder and Scully situation and satisfaction is basically guaranteed at some point. But that is not the world we live in. Not by a long shot, and I at least want everyone – both the show-runners and the fans – to be HONEST about that fact.

      “So let’s not impose what WE think they should do, call it all or nothing or any other drastic ‘remedy’ we think will magically solve everything and just ENJOY the stories we are being given by individual writers.” I don’t think this will ‘solve everything.’ Indeed, my article makes the point that everything CAN’T be solved because the fandom is irreconcilably divided on what should happen re: Dean/Castiel and ultimately someone is going to be massively disappointed at the end of all this. “Solving” it isn’t my point. My point is they should be HONEST about it. If Destiel doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, they need to find some way to be entirely upfront and irrefutably clear about that fact so they are not taking advantage of fans who are operating on false hope. The only ‘drastic’ thing I want here is the elimination of false hope, if it is false. And if it’s not false, I at least want them to make that clear somehow, in some way. If people’s faith in canon-Destiel is a completely waste of time, they need to say so in no uncertain terms, whether in a tweet or an open letter or an interview or by writing Castiel off permanently. They’ve had 6 years to toy around with the possibility, and my patience for it has completely worn out. They need to tell people if their investment in this is completely misguided. That way, at least fans can make an INFORMED choice about whether it is worth it to them to keep watching.

  • Y’all just need to shut up and enjoy the show and the wonderful human beings in front of and behind the camera. I am grateful for the time and imagination the writers put into the scripts. It’s entertainment people, not a real life love story. As far as the show loosing any part of it’s fandom, I seriously doubt the real fans will leave. Supernatural is not just a TV show to everyone, it is a family. Look beyound your rediculious assumtions and see the cast and crew for who the truly are, great people with big hearts. Hows many actors can put themselves out there like Jared Padalecki did recently? Saving God only knows how many lives with the Always Keep Fight campain, Jared told the world about his own struggles. The writers are doing exactly what they should be doing, keeping the fan interested in the show. Destiel is something people have created because they need something to bitch about. It’s not about sex, it’s about caring for oneanother as we all should.

  • The author if the audience wanted to see Mischa, it would have no thin halls on conventions.
    About Destiel – totally ludicrous. What UST? Show me this UST. I am the fan of a canon, without any far-fetched things, like your this Destiel, but I will believe in wincest, than in mythical Destiel rather. Mischa isn’t present, Dean remembers it? He calls him when it is necessary and when it becomes unnecessary – go walk Kass, it is free. Series about brothers, for the sake of them, they together and the world around against them. To whom the sad man and the actor mediocre is interesting not to the first freshness? Long ago it is time to clean this line with an angel from series in general, it is necessary to nobody, except the same idiots, as the author, with the moved roof on a gomoerotika.

  • “Either get rid of Castiel completely” Nope. No, just no. Huge fan of Cas with or without shipping. Even if they never make Destiel canon (which looks unlikely, even with the UST), I would be sorely disappointed to see Cas go. When they tried to get rid of him in s7, the ratings tanked and they were close to cancellation. The producers and showrunners are smart enough to realize that. Personally, I just want Cas around Dean and Sam more. Team Free Will, fighting the good fight like the family they are. Because Cas IS family to them – Dean said so, and from a Winchester, that’s the highest compliment there is.

  • Thank you. Agree with you 98% – imoo there was a third out here – give either dean or cas another love interest. Now, they can’t do it with dean bc of the whole ‘am doomed, gonna die, bye’ storyline, but they had a perfect candidate for cas – hannah – they built it up, and all – only for cas to reject her and hannah to disappear. So wtf are the writers doing? Do they WANT us to think cas is in loove with dean, or what?
    Anyway, I don’t usually read meta, but imo this post said it all: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3851680?hide_banner=true.
    Opinions?

  • Supernatural is pretty enjoyable. Supernatural fandom… not so much.

    I think the show’s been pretty blatant about Destiel not happening, between interviews, etc. There’s not really an abnormal amount of UST between Dean and Cas, it’s just how people look at their interactions. You can find as many scenes of Dean and Sam spouting the same crap at each other and “looking” at each other, but no one’s really accusing SPN of queerbaiting Wincest.

    I was cool with Destiel, up until the point where the fans went nuts and started sending threats to J-Pad- as if the existence of Sam the character was what was keeping Destiel from happening. Accusing Ackles of being a homophobic asshole, accusing the whole SPN writing crew of adding to the anti gay rhetoric. Slash fans are passionate- and that’s cool. They look for hints and UST- good for them. I don’t generally care about any of these things in most fandoms because you can look for it if you want, or ignore it if you want. But SPN fandom is straight up toxic with Destiel fans. (To be fair, there are a good number of very nice, sane destiel fans) But there’s also a vocal group of people who push crazy, inflammatory rhetoric.

    SPN Writers don’t want to do Destiel. Jensen doesn’t want to do Destiel. The producers don’t want to do Destiel. Why is this such a big deal? Destiel has some of the most talented amazing writers on the planet. Just go read some fanfiction. Sending hatemail to everyone involved, sending death threats to actors, accusing a pretty gay friendly group of people of being utter homophobes- c’mon… \

    I’m fulling expecting to get a ton of flame and hatemail for this.

  • I am absolutely disgusted with this article. I ship Destiel but I would rather it never happened if this is the sort bullcrap that comes out of it. How dare you reduce any character to whether or not they hook up and with whom? “Get Cas to screw Dean or trash him?!” Are you serious? If I didn’t know Misha shrugged off the hate I would pray he never saw this crap. How dare you put all his energy and fondness for his character down into what his parts get jammed into? I’d feel the same way if either he or Dean were female. This was a huge insult to Misha, the concept of Castiel, Jensen, and the writers. You should be ashamed.

    • When responding to an argument it is generally good practice to actually read it through first. Your particular characterization of my thesis was such a common misunderstanding around this piece — the title of which is admittedly reductive and was utilized mainly for the turn of phrase it enables — that I almost immediately offered the following clarification which DIRECTLY responds to your ostensible criticism:

      For the record, this piece was never meant to give the impression that I think Castiel is a worthwhile character only in his capacity to be shipped with Dean. I do not think that at all. My point here is more that I do not think he can remain on the show without simultaneously perpetuating false hope of Destiel becoming canon. Castiel is a worthwhile character in his own right, without a doubt. I just personally feel that his continued presence basically guarantees continued belief by a large number of fans in a ship that is probably destined never to come to port.

      I stated point-blank that I do NOT think Castiel’s worth as a character is confined to his “shippability” with Dean (or anyone else). That is simply a blatant misreading of what I wrote. My point was that as long as Castiel is around, a large portion of the fanbase is going to harbor false hope about Destiel, and the false hope is the real problem here. Writing Castiel off is the only way I can think of for them to definitively eliminate the false hope…assuming it is false, which I am inclined to believe it is.

  • To be honest, this makes no sense. No one would “rage quit” something that they have spent so much of their life devoted to.

  • As somebody who doesn’t particularly ‘ship’ anybody on this show (besides John and Mary :’d) my perspective is that Castiel has become more problematic than beneficial to the narrative and overall story the writers are trying to tell.

    I like Castiel. I absolutely adore his laconic, literal humour. I liked the depth he provided to the angels vs demons arc.

    However, seeing people (in general) stating that he is ‘more important’ than one or either Winchester is just baffling.

    The fact that there are actually ‘fans’ who want Sam awol and replaced by the Cas and Dean Ghostbusting Team is just too much.

    This is a show which has *always* made its overall theme very clear; Family, you gotta earn that.

    In my opinion, and I know a lot disagree, the Castiel and Dean dynamic was/is just a validation of that overall theme. The things that people point out as evidence of romance (the melodramatic ‘I need you’ the emotional stares, the embraces etc) are all behaviours that have been shown between Dean and Sam (and I dont know about anybody else but I’m not romantically shipping those two)

    It’s not fact. It’s interpretation and having an interpretation that draws from the family/brotherhood dynamic that the show was built upon doesn’t exclusively make one a raging homophobe.

    Castiel’s character and his arcs have become stale. As painful as it might be to admit, I think its time for him to go.

    I miss Bobby too but even his character presented the same conundrum. It became the Dean, Sam and Bobby show. I raged at the writers too but upon reflection, I realised that they were only maintaining the integrity of their story. They could have kept Bobby around but they chose a path that would provide growth and emotional impact to the boys and I respect that they had the nerve to go there.

    The story is about the boys journey. It always has been and if the writers have any sense, it always will be.

    I don’t care if Destiel becomes canon or not but too many people are purporting it like it’s the most important part of the show and it’s not.

    Castiel is no more or less important than Bobby in these boys lives and he is just as expendable as Bobby too if it helps to further the narrative of the only two characters that truly drive this story; Sam and Dean.

    Sam and Dean are the story, family is the story, and I’m not a fan of anything that threatens the integrity of telling that story and when you see fans rage quitting, demanding, throwing accusations around and hating on the writers/cast, its hard not to feel like a ship or even a character is doing that.

    After everything that SPN has offered, the world that its built, the fandom and family etc it’s sad that its worth seems to have come down to whether we get to see Dean and Cas make out on screen 🙁 There is so much more to this story than romantic relationships.

    This story is already a love story. It’s a love story that has already broken down macho stereotypes and hetero male stereotypes in a really significant way.

    This is a love story and to see people wave a hand over the love shown between Sam and Dean, Dean and Cas and basically say it doesn’t count or it isn’t enough unless they start having sex is what I find incredibly damaging.

    Representation is important but so is the source. Trying to find representation in a story about two brothers who hunt monsters and watch everybody they love die around them is only going to A) lead to disappointment or B) unpick the foundations that this story was built upon.

    I mean, people even bought up Charlie’s sexuality as a reason why she shouldn’t have died. Their parents can die, their surrogate parent can die, their half brother can die, their lovers can die, Satan, St.Michael and Death can die but dont kill the only lesbian female? O.o Seriously.

    Even if Destiel did happen in canon, their story would only ever take second place to Sam and Dean’s (as it should) I’m sorry but I just dont see the potential for epic representation that people do.

    Maybe it’s different for males but as a pansexual female, I dont feel that seeing Destiel play out around the central story of Sam and Dean is going to provide the cure all representation that people seem to claim.

    What world changing benefits will come from a bisexual Dean Winchester that makes inserting it into the narrative so necessary for the show to thrive and survive?

    That bisexual males can like rock music?
    That bisexual males can drive classic cars?
    That bisexual males can rock leather jackets?
    That bisexual males also like to drink whiskey?

    Or that bisexual males can also reinforce machismo stereotypes?

    And sadly, I agree that it doesn’t seem resolvable unless they just bite the bullet and nix Castiel entirely.

    Its just a shame that the writers and the fans have let it get to this point 🙁

  • I think that they will keep playing with us for a long time. If Destiel becomes canon (which I hardly doubt) it will probably be on the show’s last episode. I’m so sick of this queerbaiting, Destiel having incredibly emotional scenes in one episode and then not talking for another 10, makes literally no sense. I’m fed up with Supernatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep watching, I’m to emotionally attached to the characters to quit now, but I’m really sick of this… Great article by the way.

  • >