I’ve been with this show since the pilot in 2005, I adore the Sam and Dean dynamic and am wholly aware that the relationship between the brothers is the biggest part of “Supernatural’s” success. But they’ve been together for seven years now, and there are only so many ways to tell that fraternal story without retreading old ground (some fans feel we’ve already retrod old ground a couple of times as it is). The fact of the matter is, adding new characters — whether it’s Jo and Ellen, Ruby and Bela, Bobby and Rufus or Castiel and Gabriel — allow us to see Sam and Dean from new perspectives; they bring out new sides to the boys and force them to react in different ways than they’d react to each other.
We’ve seen Sam and Dean in sticky situations for years now, and we know how they respond when they’re up the creek without a paddle, but we’ve yet to see how Dean and Castiel would react to being stuck in a foxhole together, or how Sam truly functions as Sam (as opposed to the diet, soulless version of Sam we saw in Season 6) without his brother.
It illustrates the problem that many of us who, like Ms Prudom, have been with this show since its inception and have clung to it through (hell)fire and high water, have perceived with the current direction of Supernatural. On the surface, the point seems perfectly reasonable. Who can really dispute that other characters don’t contribute something significant to the story, that they don’t help Sam and Dean tell their story? Who can really watch this show and not adore Bobby for his unswerving loyalty, or smile along at Rufus’s curmudgeonly one liners, or empathize with Charlie’s delightful geekiness? Supporting characters are intrinsic to the show, they have their own stories to tell, their own means of better illuminating the boy’s characters and attributes. And let’s be honest, even the most die hard Sam and Dean fan wouldn’t suggest that you could have a show that was just about them discussing their feelings.
And that, of course, is the implicit message from Prudom, and no doubt others like her, maybe even in the writing team; that we’re being ridiculous by suggesting that the show has to be all about the boys all the time. The point is disingenuous, at best, and snide and patronizing at worst, and here’s why. Most of us old timer fans aren’t saying that we don’t want supporting characters. We’re not even saying that we mind the occasional episode dedicated to exploring those characters. We’re not even saying we mind some supporting characters becoming long term allies of the boys (we loved Bobby and mourned his passing, many of us like Jody Mills, or Ash, or Ellen, and newcomer Charlie). Supporting characters have always had a role in SPN.
But the fact is that the thing that made this show unique, the thing that pulled many of us in and kept us tuning in week after week, was the brothers. The dynamic between Sam and Dean. Their story. Their lives. How they reacted to and interacted with each other. It was the implicit understanding (sometimes stated explicitly) that they were the most important person in the other’s life, that really they were the only ones they could rely on, that it was really them against the rest of the world. Jensen and Jared brought that dynamic to life, and set Supernatural apart from all the other genre shows out there.
But then came Castiel. I’m among those who quite enjoyed the character when he first appeared. He was engaging, an interesting step up in the mythology, a novel addition. And I have remained fairly interested in him throughout seasons 5 and 6, and I thought his fall from grace was an interesting and innovative move for the character. But at no time did I feel that I was being expected to accept that Cas was an integral part of the brother-dynamic. He was a good ally, an interesting character, a friend even, but he wasn’t Dean’s brother, he wasn’t, despite the hyperbolic advertizing, the 3rd Man. He was like Bobby, an important supporting cast member, but subordinate to Sam and Dean, or Sam or Dean.
But, suddenly, as Ms Prudom suggests, we are being asked to get excited about watching Castiel and Dean together in a fox hole. We’re being asked to invest, emotionally, in Cas and Dean surviving together in Purgatory while Sam is separated from his brother and does something else (hunting with Garth), as if this is a substitute for the reason we all kept tuning in from Pilot. Implicitly, it is being suggested that Castiel is as important to Dean, or will become so, as his brother. Despite protestations and explanations from writers and producers (Jim Michaels I’m looking at you) and Castiel fans like Ms Pudrow, it feels like we’re being asked to entertain the idea that Castiel and Dean could be a new dynamic. That all sorts of new dynamics could supplement and replace the Sam and Dean relationship. That Sam and Dean must, because we can’t “retread the fraternal story”, diminish in favor of new dynamics.
No. Just no.
The proposition is, ab initio, a non starter. It’s not why the (usually silent) majority of us tuned in. It’s not what we’re interested in seeing. Supernatural is not an ensemble cast. Sam and Dean do not need a Scooby gang. Particularly not one whose second in command is Commander Data in a trench coat (thank you twitter for that beautiful description). Castiel is fine as an occasional supporting character, but as equal to Sam or Dean for our affections and interest? No. He’s a derivative character, whose “story” was covered better more than two decades ago by Star Trek. He’s the embodiment of a facile genre trope that is tolerable in small doses but tedious in quantity. Perhaps that explains the attempt to make him into something else. He has been, since season 4 the deus ex machina of Supernatural: the prop of lazy writers needing a teleporter or a superhealer. He has not, in my opinion, added anything to the story of Sam and Dean this season, and I am not even remotely interested in the rest of his story, whatever contrived garbage that turns out to be. I don’t mind him as an adjunct to the boys, and their story, but if I am being expected to applaud a Supernatural that has become a (bad) carbon copy of Buffy or Angel, then I’m afraid even I, arch defender of Supernatural and it’s writers, might hang up my salt and shotgun. And I never thought I’d write those words. But I will not tolerate the uninteresting angel as an equal or substitute for Sam and Dean.
Unlike many, I still have confidence in the writers. I think Cas will continue to be an occasional character and that most episodes in season 8 will be Sam and Dean-centric. Not Sam and Garth, or Dean and Cas. But, if Jared and Jensen no longer want to commit to the show as they have before, and the rise of Castiel is down to the disinterest of the boys, then I’d prefer the show just ends. If I wanted to watch Buffy, I’d unpack my box sets. I don’t need it in Supernatural.