“Team Free Will. One ex-blood junkie, one dropout with 6 bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose over there”. –Dean Winchester (5.13 The Song Remains the Same)
Team Free Will is a concept that was born 5 seasons ago. To this day, it’s still that: a concept. Team Free Will is something that lives inside fan’s minds, something that is used in fanfiction and that everyone on Tumblr uses to tag gifsets of Dean, Sam and Castiel. Dean baptising them as Team Free Will inspired and encouraged fans to interpret their relationship as three main characters working together. It seemed like, from then on, Dean, Sam and Castiel would come as a pack. A single unit. However, Team Free Will is something that’s rarely seen on the actual show. And it’s getting really strange because both Castiel and Team Free Will are very popular in the fandom. I mean, you just have to take a look at the most voted tees for the Supernatural Design Challenge.
Let’s recap for a bit. The only times where Castiel has been in the same mission as Sam and Dean were during S4 and S5 when they were fighting the Apocalypse. That is, when Eric Kripke was still the showrunner. After that, Castiel went darkside in S6, he died and then went crazy in S7, was manipulated by Naomi in S8 and, lastly, became human and was kicked out of the bunker because of Ezekiel/Gadreel. What’s gonna happen now in S10? While Sam is looking for demon!Dean, Castiel is busy dying and staying away from Sam. Why? Because he doesn’t want to be “a burden”.
These are all explanations that we’re getting so far. “The plot demanded that Castiel had to be away from the Winchesters” is an excuse that we’ve heard over and over again from the writers. But, is that really all there is? We’ve tried to come up with some explanations why the writers of Supernatural might be doing this. Here we go.
– Because having Misha in every scene/episode would be too expensive.
Misha Collins has been a series regular since Season 9. The problem has not so much to do with how often he’s seen on the show but more with what he’s doing when he appears. Let’s just do a quick review of the episodes Castiel was in during Season 9:
9×01 – Castiel is on his own. He talks with Dean on the phone. 9×03 – Castiel is on his own. He has not-con sex with a reaper and meets with Sam and Dean at the end, only to be kicked out of the bunker by Dean. 9×06 – Castiel finally meets with Dean and they work a case together. 9×09 – Castiel meets with the Winchesters. He’s later kidnapped and tortured. 9×10 – Castiel works with Crowley and Dean to heal Sam. 9×11 – Castiel helps Sam with his recovery. 9×14 – Castiel is on his own. Captured again, kills Bartholomew. 9×18 – Castiel is on his own. He’s manipulated by Metatron to lead the angels. 9×21 – Castiel struggles with his army of angels and Gadreel. He’s only with the Winchesters in the beginning. 9×22 – Castiel tries to figure out who’s killing his angels helped by Sam and Dean. At the end, he chooses Dean and abandons his army. 9×23 – He’s separated from the Winchesters when he goes to Heaven with Gadreel to take down Metatron.
He’s appeared in 11/23 episodes. Out of those 11, he’s shared scenes with Sam and Dean in 8 of them. That makes 8 episodes of Team Free Will out of 23. Not to say that some of those interactions were just phone calls or mere conversation in the last minutes of an episode. So much for Team Free Will!
– Because their stories don’t match.
Well, they’re the writers and they’re the ones making the stories not match! There’s always a reason for Castiel to be away from the Winchesters. So if you are to explain why he’s not there, it makes sense. But again, that’s because that’s how the writers wanted it to be. Why does Castiel need to have his own storyline all the time? It’s like we’ve got the mandatory Sam&Dean, and then Cas off by himself doing random stuff just because he happens to be so popular that the writers feel obligated to put him there. Why not make his stories intertwine instead?
– Because they’re afraid of a negative response from only-bros fans on Twitter
I don’t think it has to be said at his point how incredibly popular and loved Misha Collins is. There’s much more love for Misha than hate. To change the main characters is always a big decision and one that TBTP are very reluctant to make, especially when the original formula has worked so well for them. However, it’s happened before in other shows. Doctor Who changes its main characters every now and then, American Horror Story changes all the characters and part of the cast every season, The Big Bang Theory added important characters like Bernadette and Amy… etc.
– Because Castiel is too powerful
We had that argument for a long time. Due to Castiel being an angel (a seraph now) he’s way too powerful for being around the Winchesters. He’d remove the sense of danger because he could fix anything by snapping his fingers. That is understandable (although they could still work it to make the situations dangerous even for Cas). But guess what, he’s human now, and he’s still away from the Winchesters.
There are a lot of reasons why the constant presence of Team Free Will would be good for the show. We’re not even gonna talk about fanfiction, where Castiel is always fighting the good fight along with Sam and Dean (and Bobby). I’m an avid Supernatural fanfiction reader but I still haven’t found a single fanfic that didn’t include Castiel as a main protagonist (and I’m not talking only about Destiel fics). Season 6, 7, 8 and 9 could have been told perfectly well with the active participation of Castiel as a Winchester member. Again, not gonna talk too much about fanfictions here but Redemption Road was a flawless reconstruction of S7.
Castiel contributes immensely to the dynamic between the brothers. And anybody who thought Castiel’s place is not with the Winchesters would be lying to themselves because that’s what the show has been hinting at in the last 2 seasons.
The story of Castiel being conflicted or about to die is as old and boring as the brothers lying to each other and fighting all the time for no reason. Been there, done that. We need something else at this point. For now, Team Free Will is more fanon than canon. It’s all full of supposed to bes, off-screen scenes and TBTP statements on how much they appreciate Castiel despite keeping him on one side. Fans know that Team Free Will is a completely plausible way of carrying the rest of the show. And we’d love nothing more than seeing Dean, Sam and Castiel fighting together when the end of Supernatural comes.