I want to take a look at Dean and Cas’s relationship in season 8, because it is at a strange impasse, and, well, surprisingly realistic in my opinion. But it is not in a happy place, for reasons I’ll explain here. Spoilers for season 8, of course, as well as mentions of suicide and depression.
All photos from Home of the Nutty.
(Written after 8x08.)
If “A Little Slice of Kevin” did anything constructive, it began the unraveling of the serious codependency Dean and Cas have and, truthfully, need to let go of. But, being the most atypical relationship ever and nothing short of a Greek tragedy, it couldn’t have came at the worst time. Dean, who spent all of season 7 coming to terms with himself as a man and his feelings for Cas, finally gets to say to Cas “I need you.” That’s as close to a “I love you” Dean’s probably ever going to manage. But Cas, by staying in Purgatory, tells Dean, “I know, but it’s not enough.”
I mean, talk about one hell of a rejection. Dean, for a solid year, was very much the righteous man of legend, doing terrible things and justifying it to find the love of his life. And in that last moment, when he had worked so hard, believed so much to get Cas home, Cas let go.
And this is the look on Dean’s face.
It’s world ending.
That moment was so goddamn earth shattering, that Dean can’t even process it. He has to reconstruct the memory in his mind to a more believable version, because how could Cas, after everything they’ve been through, just let go on purpose?
Dean recreates the memory, but it still feels wrong to him. Dean says this to Sam:
You know, I could have pulled him out. I just don’t understand why he didn’t try harder.
And he tells Cas this, demanding answers, too.
What? What the hell happened? Back there. Purgatory. I told you I would get you out. We were there! It was like you just gave up. It’s like you didn’t believe we could do it. I mean, you kept saying that you didn’t think it would work. Did you not trust me?
Dean’s saying, “We were supposed to do this together, nothing stops us when we’re a team. We spent two seasons figuring this out: When we’re together, we can take on Leviathan, we can take on the Apocalypse, we can escape Purgatory. How could you not believe that? How come you didn’t believe in us?”
And Cas truthfully replies, “Because you can’t save everyone, my friend. You can’t save me.”
Once your partner, the person you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with says that (usually in the form of, “I love you, but I’m not happy”), what do you do then? When your partner just ups and leaves (as Don did to Amelia) or commits suicide (as Brick did to Betsy), what do those left behind do?
”Dearest Betsy… So tired of it all.”
The answer is, they survive. It’ll be painful, and it’ll change everything about them, too. Amelia lashed out and ran away; Betsy had to live her last years alone and sad. Dean became cold and practically emotionless, finding little humor in anything. And when we, as the audience, finally saw Dean how we’ve always wanted to see him—happy, confident, ready to take on the world with his angel at his side—it hurts to think that it’ll be years before we see that again. If we ever see that again.
I don’t want to dismiss Castiel’s issues of course, because Jesus fucking Christ. In Christianity, it’s believed that to commit suicide is the ultimate sin, because you are rejecting the one gift God gave you: life. I can’t even imagine what it would mean for an angel to contemplate suicide, if an angel has ever done that before. And Cas’s inability to exert his free will must be maddening. Not only was he not given the choice to stay in Purgatory, but he cannot stay dead. As a creature that has died several times and then came back, you can only imagine what kind of mindfuck that is. Cas calls it a punishment, too, which tells you his mindset on it. Also, every time someone almost kills him, someone saves him (Meg from Hester; Benny from the Leviathan). With no other options to escape his pain, especially not through death, like Dean, he has to figure out how to live.
This time, however, Cas won’t let Dean help him find his way. It’s hard to say if Dean can even help him either. The world isn’t ending for once; there’s no real imperative to tell Cas to nut the fuck up like in 7x23. But that’s the thing with depression. In the end, no matter how hard you try to save a person, said person is the only one that can save themselves. More importantly, they have to want to save themselves.
Sometimes it’s really hard to deal with that fact too, that you can’t save everyone let alone the one you love, and Dean, who even in his darkest moments was still willing to fight … Well, you can see it on Dean’s face again.
I don’t know if Dean will figure this out. Dean still carries all of his guilt, and it still viciously eats away at him. His confidence in their partnership as been shattered and though he gains some of it back in 8x08 (they work on a case! They talk!), he loses it again so quickly. His “why can’t you believe in me? In us?” question can only be answered when/if Cas finds himself again. After everything those two have been through, they still can’t be happy. And Dean might have resigned himself to this when he tells Benny, “Guys like us, we don’t get families.”
As for Cas, when he doesn’t have the option of making up for what he did in Heaven, I don’t know what he’s going to do. I have to wonder, if given the option to free himself from his pain if he’d take it (in the form of angel lobotomy, perhaps?), because he has no other option to help himself feel better. I think we have some clues to what will happen next however, based on the story line.
Dean and Cas will become monsters.
Not literally of course, but we’ve seen the monsters that have emerged when someone in a partnership leaves and metaphorically (or literally) dies. We see Brick’s heart turning people into murderers. We have Kate that literally become a monster (8x04). We have Andrea, who became everything that Benny didn’t want her to be. We have Amelia and her depression, plus Don coming back (and who knows what Don’s been through, and what kind of monster he is now). You could even argue that Dean is the monster that returned to Sam. Dean became a monster too, in torturing all those souls in Purgatory and liking it. Now that Dean doesn’t have anything to fight for, what will he become now? And then we have Cas, unable to save himself… what kind of monster will he become?
"What I loved," Benny once said to the love of his life. "It ain’t here anymore. It was snuffed out a long time ago by monsters like me… like what you’ve become." Later, he’ll ask Dean, "Why did you save me?"
And if Dean and Cas can’t save themselves, who will save them? And can anyone save them this time?
An update (post 8x16) here.
Read all my meta here.