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Supernatural 9×03 I’m No Angel: The Good, the Bad, and the Social Media Fallout

I'm No Angel

Somewhere between the hype, the spoilers, the expectations, and the general volatility that seems to surround Cas-centric episodes, the Supernatural fandom had a bit of a breakdown last Tuesday. Nothing major. It wasn’t on the level of the fallout after the season 6 finale or Reading is Fundamental or last year’s Goodbye Stranger. I mean, there may have been a threat to boycott the episode, but at this point if the Supernatural fandom doesn’t threaten to boycott at least one episode per season then something has gone terribly wrong. But indeed, a lot of people got very upset in the lead-up to this episode, and then a lot more people got very upset after the episode aired (many of them different from the first group and upset in different ways). So now that the furor has died down and we’ve had a few days to recover, I think I’m ready to look at I’m No Angel in the cold, hard light of day. What worked here? What didn’t? There’s a lot in both categories, so let’s dive in.

(Warning: this review contains discussion of rape and rape culture)

Cas is Living Among Humans Now: GOOD

A lot of Cas fans have been waiting for this for a long time. There’s an entire culture of meta-analysis and fanfiction based on what would happen if Cas were ever to permanently fall. Many believed that it would be the perfect way to revitalize and find new material for a character who the writers often don’t seem to know what to do with. And I have to say that we were right. The canon take on Cas-as-human isn’t going to match most people’s speculation (how could it, considering the sheer volume and variety of fallen-Cas fan-made material?) but for the most part it works.

I enjoyed Cas’s interactions with the humans he meets immensely. The transition from angel to human is being portrayed thoughtfully, humorously, and almost lovingly. Of course Cas comes across as very strange to most people, what with all the complaining about bodily functions and ruminating on how new basic human interactions are to him. Luckily, most people seem to take his inexperience with life in general as merely inexperience with life on the streets, and tolerate his weirdness. But they also seem to recognize the openness, sincerity, and lack of pretension that endears Cas to fans, and they also are endeared. One man even hesitates to share information with Sam and Dean in an attempt to protect “Clarence” from whoever might be following him.

Speaking of which, it warmed my heart a little to see Cas going by the name “Clarence,” however briefly. Like her or not, Meg was a big part of the show and, towards the end of her run, a big part of Cas’s life. I think their relationship was mishandled in a lot of ways, but there is no denying that they cared about each other on some level. Since Castiel couldn’t very well go by the nickname that Dean gave him, as every angel in existence knows who “Cas” is, “Clarence” was a nice throw-back to a fallen friend.

The only thing that threw me off was the part where Cas squeezes a glob of toothpaste into his mouth in lieu of brushing his teeth. I get that it was supposed to be funny – Cas doesn’t know how to perform basic human tasks, haha! – but it was jarring considering Cas’s history. This is an ageless being who has observed humanity for millennia, once shared a body with a human (though Jimmy Novak seems to be gone for good, Cas did once have access to all his memories), and spent several months living as a married man. Are you telling me he doesn’t know what a toothbrush is? Missing out on popular culture references and needing to get used to peeing, I understand. But the writers need to take care that they don’t cross the line into dumbing Cas down for a laugh.

Actually, I lied. There was one more thing that rubbed me entirely the wrong way…

That Boob Shot: BAD

I believe I have said before that, when I watch Supernatural every week with my obligatory shock blanket and emergency bottle of cheap vodka handy, every once in a while I am smacked in the face with a shot or a scene or a line that makes it very clear that this show is written and directed primarily by straight, white dudes. This shot of Castiel staring dazedly down a woman’s shirt isn’t a development of his sexuality; it’s male gaze projected onto a character for whom it makes absolutely no sense.

To be clear, the reason it makes no sense has nothing to do with Cas’s sexual orientation. Considering the fact that he was originally a “multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent” and is “completely indifferent to sexual orientation,” I personally think it makes the most sense for Cas to be either pansexual or asexual. I’d settle for bisexual. But there are plenty of other possibilities; I can see Cas as gay, demisexual, grey-A, queer, or, considering his current situation, “questioning” would seem to be a good label for him.

The intention of the show is almost certainly to make him straight. That’s fine, if disappointing. Heterosexuality is a valid option in the pantheon of sexual orientations, though it is the most over-represented one in mainstream television.

But what I’m saying is that, no matter what Cas’s sexual orientation is supposed to be, that boob shot was terrible, because sexual orientation is not the same as learned expression of sexuality. Men who are attracted to women aren’t inherently fascinated by boobs; that comes from socialization in a culture of objectification. Even if Cas were straight as an arrow, there is no justification for him suddenly being captivated by the tops of a woman’s breasts.

The fact that Cas wasn’t socialized as a human is evident in every other one of his scenes. Why suddenly here, if not to reinforce heterosexuality and objectification of women’s bodies as the default?

Besides, this shot becomes even more superfluous when you take into account the fact that they explore Cas’s sexuality in much greater depth with…

April: Ehhhhhhh… BAD

This is a long, many-faceted topic, so let’s take it one piece at a time.

First of all, I was fairly impressed with the scenes Cas shared with April from their meeting through to their post-coital snuggles. This is the correct way to explore a character’s sexuality: show them interacting with and becoming fascinated by a person instead of by a set of mammaries! Sure, it was a bit rushed. But considering the short time frame it had to be squeezed into, I think the episode does an admirable job of convincing us that April and Cas are fond of and attracted to each other.

I’ve seen a lot of fans complaining that this sequence is unrealistic, that women don’t just bring men home off the street and Cas would never sleep with a woman he’d only known for a few hours. I disagree. Without getting too personal here, it is very possible for people to have sex quite soon after meeting, even if one or both is a virgin and even if neither of them see the potential for a long-term relationship. And to say that Cas deserves something “better” or “more meaningful” for his first time is to devalue countless real-life one-time-only encounters that were incredibly meaningful to the people who experienced them.

This episode was mostly about Cas’s first real experiences with humanity. Sex is, for most people, an important part of their human experiences. In light of that, I think Cas meeting and sleeping with April is a fine addition to the episode.

Then April shows her true colors, and everything goes to Hell.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: April rapes Castiel. She deceives and seduces him for the sole purpose of gaining his trust in order to humiliate him and eventually torture and kill him. The fact that Cas consents and enjoys it in the moment is irrelevant when his consent and enjoyment comes under such false pretenses. That’s where the “informed” part of “informed consent” comes from.

(EDIT: It’s been pointed out that April, the human vessel, was also a victim of rape in this scenario as the reaper possessing her forced her to have sex without her consent. This was clear to me, but I forgot to include it in this article. I apologize.)

A television show can deal with rape as a plot point and as a real-life issue without being dismissive, insulting, or culturally damaging.

But not Supernatural. Supernatural is not that show.

For Supernatural‘s other missteps when it comes to sexual consent, see their utter disregard for the vessels of demons starting at around season 3, their utter disregard for the vessels of angels starting at around season 5, and Season Seven, Time for a Wedding. Or, you know, don’t. Because that episode was awful.

And even without their terrible track record at depicting rape sensitively, they have their terrible track record with female characters to contend with, too. Suffice to say that, while a storyline about a woman who seems nice and has sex with a male lead only to turn out to be evil and eventually get retributively killed might be valid on another show, on Supernatural it is so predictable that it hurts. And while demonizing and executing one woman might be a legitimate episode if it happened once, the pattern of it in Supernatural has long since become straight-up misogynistic.

The culmination of April’s plotline was not material that Supernatural had any business covering, especially when it would have been just as effective if April had captured and tortured Cas non-sexually. That’s what nudged the April plot over the line from good into bad territory.

What punted it over the line and into the neighboring county of “Dear Christ What Were They Thinking?” was the scene later in the episode, where Dean and Sam react to the news that Cas and April had intercourse. Everything from the dialogue, their expressions, their tones of voice, to the choice of background music is a misstep. This would be an appropriate scene if Cas’s encounter with April were positive and consensual, but since he is essentially informing Dean and Sam that he was raped their reactions are completely out of line.

To me, this is by far the worst scene of the episode because it has a very real-world negative impact. Specifically, the reason male rape victims so rarely speak about their experiences is because they fear dismissal – they fear their loved ones reacting as Dean and Sam do to Cas. “Good job! You got laid! What are you complaining about?” And Cas’s apparent lack of concern just reinforces the idea that the rape of men is nothing to be concerned about. Apparently, in Supernatural’s opinion, it’s just fodder for jokes about condoms.

How disappointing, how heartbreaking is that?

Cas Dies… Again: GOOD

Okay, I’ve made myself sad. Let’s talk about something nice for a change – Cas dying! Wait, wait, give me a minute! I’ll explain!

I think this scene was needed after Cas’s earlier observation that he is now fated to die some day. It’s one thing to accept that Cas is technically mortal now; it’s quite another to be reminded in a visceral way just how vulnerable he is without his grace. And with his impressive history of death and resurrection over the last several seasons, one more “death” and one more miracle is a nice stamp on the running theme.

Of course, I doubt anyone was actually worried for Cas’s life what with Misha Collins being a series regular and all. But within the context of the show, it has real impact. Dean’s heartbreaking concern and his emphatic, “Never do that again!” are tangibly evolved from his reactions to Cas’s previous “deaths.” There’s an air of finality to it. Cas is mortal now. No more free passes. Now we’re playing for keeps.

That’s exactly what we need this season. Time to raise the stakes.

Turns Out Zeke is Super-Sketchy: GOOD

Out of all the storylines being set up this season, Zeke’s is one of the few that I actually believe is being executed and received according to plan. We were suckered in during the first episode of the season, when Cas’s vouch and Tahmoh Penikett’s pretty face earned Ezekiel the trust of most of the fandom. We were primed for another Benny Lafitte – a supernatural ally who has our heroes’ best interests at heart.

But Benny was introduced under untrustworthy circumstances, and only proved himself worthy of our confidence over the course of the season. Ezekiel seems to be the opposite – at first we have every reason to trust him, but he is slowly being revealed as something more sinister than what he first presented himself as. It starts with Zeke taking control over Sam’s body mid-sentence (unsettling) and culminates with his ultimatum to Dean concerning Cas (to much of fandom, unforgivable).

This is one time when I’m content to sit back and see what happens. I’m certain that the Supernatural powers that be have something interesting planned for Zeke. And while we didn’t get the angel ally we were hoping for, we just might get the multifaceted plot entanglement we deserve.

Dean Kicks Cas Out of the Bunker: GOOD

Osric Chau’s post about the fandom fallout, while it completely misses the point in some areas, gets at least one thing right in that the writers of Supernatural aim for drama, which often means terrible things happening to characters we love. “If the writers were actually just writing the show based off of the majority of fan reactions…” he says, “The most dramatic moment would be Sam burning his tongue on the hotness of the cocoa, and the rest of TFW sorts that out with water and massages.” While that’s a bit overly simplistic (lots of fans understand the need for drama through pain, and some seem practically addicted to angst) he’s not wrong that a good chunk of the fandom would like for more nice things to happen to their favorite characters.

Cas being evicted from the Men of Letters bunker was definitely not a nice thing. In my heart, I wish Cas could have stayed and we could have had a season of Dean, Sam, Cas, and Kevin hanging out in the bunker and teaching Cas how to play video games. But the show needs drama. And drama it will create.

Now, while I am a bit tired of drama that relies on Cas being separated from the Winchesters, in this case I can see the reasoning. If Zeke truly has some ulterior motive, as I suspect he does, then he has every reason not to give Cas a chance to look too closely at what he is up to. So, in order to further the Zeke-in-Sam plotline (for which I have high hopes), I can absolutely believe that removing Cas from the bunker was a necessary dramatic stroke.

And if Cas had to leave, then it was done in the most believable way possible. Dean clearly wants Cas to stay – he’s practically glowing to have his whole family under one roof again. But Ezekiel gives him a choice: either Cas goes, or Sam dies. Under those circumstances, Dean’s decision is completely understandable.

Furthermore, this is going to open up a whole host of possibilities with Cas’s character trajectory. While I would have liked nothing better than for Cas to learn about humanity from the Winchesters and Kevin, I am also excited to see him forge his own confidence through independence and build relationships outside of Team Free Will.

This is a case of a moment of angst setting the spark for a season’s worth of meaty plots and character development. I can dig it.

Reapers are Angels Now?: BAD

This is something of a side note, but it is incredibly annoying to me. Without bothering to explain themselves, Supernatural seems to have decided at some unknown point that reapers have always been a subset of angels. If you weren’t privvy to the inner workings of their minds, you are forgiven for being a little confused. Reapers have always been portrayed on this show as disciples of Death, and there has never been a hint that they are related to angels in any way. To say otherwise is a rather drastic tweak to canon, and it creates a tidy bundle of plot holes if you look too closely at the early seasons.

Now, I’m not against the evolution of canon. But it has to be done with some planning and awareness. You can’t just begin operating under the assumption that reapers are angels and everyone knows that. You have to reveal that information, and you have to make it work within the story.

For a good example of a twist on previous canon, in the episode Changing Channels the Trickster is revealed to actually be Gabriel, the rogue archangel. This completely changes our view of his earlier appearances, but when we look back we find that it actually makes sense. The reveal adds new layers to the existing canon without contradicting it.

The reveal that reapers are angels does not add to previous canon – it detracts from it. Should we now assume that Tessa has been appearing in a vessel since season 2? When Castiel walked through the crowd of reapers in Abandon All Hope, was he recognizing his brothers and sisters? Why does Death, who is so emphatically neutral in issues of Heaven versus Hell, work closely with agents of Heaven?

This is such a little thing, but it is a sad example of the writers apparently thinking that they can invent new aspects of canon wholesale without regard for previously established rules. They must think we have very short memories.

Whatever the Hell Happened on Twitter: I don’t know, man, yeah it was bad but it was also pretty funny

In case you missed the kerfuffle, it would seem that WB Executive and Supernatural script supervisor Chad Kennedy joined Twitter just in time to be offered up like a sacrificial lamb to thousands of despairing and angry fans last Tuesday night. Now, everyone on the Supernatural staff with a Twitter account has stuck their foot in their mouth at some point (with the possible exception of Robbie Thompson, who seems incapable of ever pissing me off), but Kennedy was new at this and apparently didn’t have even the rudimentary fan-wrangling skills that the writers and actors have developed.

That’s the only explanation I have for why he unambiguously stated that it was not the intention on this show for Dean or Cas to be bisexual.

Now, extreme disappointment with representation issues and a fundamental misunderstanding of the fandom aside, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. TV shows are allowed to declare their characters to be heterosexual, and I actually appreciated that someone was being clear about the show’s intentions for once instead of jerking fans around with false hope. Then things took a turn for the insulting when Kennedy seemed to realize how many people he’d just disappointed and began backpedaling as if his life depended on it. He claimed to support LGBT representation, and even said that he would approve a romantic relationship for Dean and Cas if that script ever came across his desk and made sense for the story. Nice words, but that quick about-face was very telling. It’s clear that everyone involved in this show seems to think that they can have their devoted-queer-fanbase-cake and eat it, too.

When some fans called him out for his sudden change of tune, he appeared to deny what he had just said. It was fairly surreal. It all culminated in Kennedy’s account disappearing, leading most to assume that he’d become overwhelmed by the fan response and deleted. His Twitter is back now, but the tweets relevant to Dean and Cas’s sexuality are missing (screenshots can be found here).

Another highlight of the night features Kennedy getting schooled in Supernatural canon when he tries to defend the idea that reapers have always been angels.

I don’t want to give a couple of Twitter exchanges too much gravitas. Yeah, Kennedy made a bit of a fool of himself, but, as I said before, so have most of the people who work on Supernatural, right down to the show runners and lead actors. And if you were surprised by his obvious queer-baiting, then you and I haven’t been watching the same show – yanking queer fandom’s chain is practically the Supernatural official sport (except when it comes to Charlie, who is perfect).

The poor guy just didn’t have a clue what he was getting into. So while he frustrated me to no end, I have to laugh at how quickly his night went south.

In the days since, there have been low-level aftershocks of fan interaction with official social media accounts. At this point, it’s pretty par for the course in the aftermath of a controversial episode. The cast and crew are overwhelmed with countless fan reactions, both positive and negative. They reply to a few – sometimes with insight, sometimes in ways that miss the point to an incredible degree. Fans extrapolate those responses past their intent, and the cycle begins anew.

In some ways this is inevitable with as big and passionate a fandom as Supernatural has. In other ways, the writers, executives, and even the actors are at fault for reacting in such a disorganized and inflammatory manner. It’s wonderful that these official social media accounts exist for us to interact with, especially in cases like Robbie Thompson, Osric Chau, Misha Collins, and others who seem to legitimately understand fan reactions and respond pragmatically and genuinely (most of the time). But others, like Chad Kennedy, Adam Glass, DJ Qualls, and others employ so much double-talk and get so defensive when called out that they seriously damage the trust the fans share with the show.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of them. After all, these are not official Supernatural accounts, but the personal accounts of the people involved with Supernatural. A certain amount of chaos and offensiveness is to be expected. But with social media teams like Elementary, Sleepy Hollow, and even Teen Wolf (despite its flaws) taking great pains to connect with their audience in a meaningful way, including by integrating a groundbreaking level of inclusivity in their respective canons, Supernatural‘s missteps become all the more glaring. And embarrassing.

And finally…

Linda Tran Rescues Herself from Crowley’s Goons and Joins the Boys in the Bunker, Which Totally Happened in the Episode and I Did Not Just Dream It: GUYS OH MAN THAT WAS THE BEST PART

Author: Christina Kim


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35 thoughts on “Supernatural 9×03 I’m No Angel: The Good, the Bad, and the Social Media Fallout

  1. Thank you for this great review. The episode did have some good parts, such as Cas’ journey and interactions with people, especially the men he ate with and the woman in the church. And I liked how further Ezekiel is leading Dean down a treacherous path. I even thought Cas’ death and Dean’s reaction was good. But all the good is overshadowed by the bad. The blatant objectification of women through that utterly useless boob shot. I saw spoiler pics where Cas gave some money to the lady in front of the shop, and to think that meaningful scene was cut in favor of the other is very telling. Most of all, thank you for the deserved criticism regarding the Cas/April scene being rape. The only thing I want to point out is that April herself was also raped since she was possessed by the reaper. I love the show, but the problems of misogyny, heterosexism, and acceptance of rape culture, so very evident in this episode, needs to be addressed. My only hope is that these blatant problems in this episode will not carry over into the entire season or will be addressed. But the fact that Dean and Sam cheered him on and joked about the rape, and Cas’ cavalier attitude towards it and poor dead April (real April) tells me how the show expects me to view it. Which is why I am starting to wonder about the writers’ seeming disconnect with the issues the fans have with the show, as evidenced through the Twitter disaster. But Supernatural has always been good where it is good, and bad where it is bad. I only hope the writers’ see these problematic elements and begin to address them.

    1. I was also looking forward to seeing Cas interact with that woman in front of the shop, and was disappointed to see that something was probably cut there. And you’re absolutely right about April (the vessel) also being raped – it’s an ongoing problem that Supernatural doesn’t give enough thought to the consent of human vessels. I also hope the writers will begin to address these issues better.

  2. Thanks you! The only parts of the episode I liked were Cas as a homeless (before meting April) and the scene in the church. The rest? DISASTER!!! Horrible OOC. I would rate it 4/10 not more.

    1. I loved those scenes. I’m also a little bit in love with the scene where Dean reacts to Cas’s “death,” but that may be the incorrigible shipper in me. It’s too bad that there was so much wrong with this episode that it overshadowed the good.

  3. The whole male rape thing was not handled well…Glee showed the same kind of reaction in the previous season when one of the male students talked about being molested by a female when he was young, but at least the show had sense to address the issue later in the ep….SN didn’t do that and so, a man getting raped doesn’t seem to be a big deal

    a thing that i liked about the Twitter disaster was that Kennedy more than confirmed that Dean and Cas weren’t bisexual (don’t know if it was his own view or he knew the writers would never take the show in that direction)…yes it angered a lot of fans etc, but even though i ship Destiel i understood where he was coming from…and knowing that the show will never make it canon (i don’t buy the: oh we’ll do it if it makes sense in the storyline, c*ap) is far better than being tagged along with the occasional: just wait another season, who knows we might make it happen…

    i would rather ship my OTP in fan fics, Tumblr etc and enjoy the show rather hoping against hope that it will become canon definitely in the last ep of the series and drown myself in feels. yes, SN does has a knack of going to extremes and then saying ‘No Homo’ but at least they cleared the stuff in a sense and saying that what you are seeing is just subtext and not a ‘slow buildup’ so just sit back and try to enjoy the show

    1. Yeah, I have to agree that if they don’t plan on going that route then they shouldn’t string the fans along with “maybes.” My main beef with Kennedy is that, after he clearly said that Dean and Cas were intended to be straight, he then backtracked and began parroting the party line of, “Maybe one day if it makes sense for the story.”

  4. I agree with many of your points both on the good and the bad that was this incredibly uneven episode, however I totally disagree about Cas being raped. I think the sex scene was totally unnecessary to the story line and the followup with Dean & Sam was awkward at best, but it was not rape. Yes Cas is naive and physically a virgin but he knows about and understands what sex is.

    Your only reason for saying he was raped was that April had an ulterior motive in wanting to have sex with Cas, That just makes her evil not a rapist. People throw the term rape around way to casually these days, I’m not saying men can not be raped by a woman but for it to be rape in my mind there has to be some degree of unwanted force or pressure involved, whether its physical, emotional or psychological force.

    A man who’s female boss pressures him to have sex is being raped, any under-aged boy who is seduced by a older female is being raped, since in both those cases the woman has a degree of power over the man/boy and whether its stated or not there is the supposition of consequences if the advances are refused. Of course none of this applies to anyone who is incapable of understanding or giving consent.

    I think the sex scene was gratuitous, and seemed to be for the sole purpose of being able to make the protection / angel blade joke later with Dean & Sam. But in my opinion it wasn’t rape.

    1. If a man pretends to be his twin brother in order to have sex with said brother’s girlfriend, wouldn’t you call that rape? Even though she is not pressured physically, emotionally, or psychologically – she gives her consent freely and enjoys the sex – she is consenting to sex with her boyfriend, not with his brother. The deception makes it rape.

      In Deadpool Issue #12, Typhoid Mary disguises herself as Siryn and approaches Deadpool. They have sex. Deadpool is extremely happy about this until Mary reveals that it was her all along. Then Deadpool feels violated, and he was, because he consented to sex with Siryn, not with Typhoid Mary.

      Cas consented to sex with April – a human woman who took him in and cared for him. He did not, and could not consent to sex with the angel who was possessing April as he did not know that she existed. I’m not saying that Cas was raped because he was naive or a virgin; I’m saying he was raped because he was put in a position where he was unable to give informed consent.

      I suggest you re-think your definition of rape.

      1. To me for the act of sex to be called rape it either has to be completely non-consensual or it has to have a component of force or pressure involved, as in the examples I gave.

        Deceiving someone into having sex is vile and reprehensible and I’m sure the person who has been deceived does feel violated, but to me it still isn’t rape. I’m not sure what single word I would use to describe it but rape isn’t it.

        I tend not to comment on posts like this mostly because a lot of the writers seem to think because they say something its more then just their opinion and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong, as shown by your condescending final sentence. You are entitled to your opinion just as I am.

        1. I was going for concern, not condescension. This is not just an abstract debate. In matters with real-world impact, like the definition of rape, opinions can be harmful. If a person who went through what I’ve described came to you for support, it could be extremely damaging for them to hear that, in your opinion, what they suffered was not rape.

        2. I don’t wish to start an argument here, but I think the difference in opinion here comes from the vast array of sexual violations all coming under the catch-all phrase “rape”. Because of this, people tend to feel that if the act wasn’t violent, if a person wasn’t held down and forced against their will throughout the act, then it is not “rape”, and therefore shouldn’t be given the same amount of gravitas. This is why there is a lot of confusion and stigma attached to the idea of male rape victims, because how could they possibly enjoy it enough to take part when the entirety of the act has to be violent and forceful?
          What happened to Cas was definitely some form of sexual assault because, as the writer of this article explains, he was misled on the side of “informed” and so was unable to give “informed consent”. Whether or not it was “rape” depends on your own interpretation of that term, but for me, it covers everything from a violent attack in a dark alley to someone having sex with you just to steal your tv while you’re sleeping.

        3. @Rob In this case, it isn’t about a person being entitled to an opinion. It’s about what is legal, and what isn’t. What you basically have stated (in two separate comments) is that you feel that non-consensual sex doesn’t count as rape. You clarified that it’s basically only rape if a person is pressured or forced.

          That is exactly why “rape culture” is an issue, and exactly why both Cas and Amy were victims in this episode.

          I for one hope that you are just being a troll and that you don’t really think that way.

      2. In those situations an individual believes they have consented to sex with someone familiar to them, when that person’s identity is actually being used by a third party. Cas didn’t know April the woman — he only knew April the angel, who let him assume she was a random human. The angel is the one who brought him home to care for him, so the person he had sex with was the person he’d come to know. The fact that she was lying about herself does not automatically mean their sexual encounter was rape, any more than Sam raped Jess or Amelia by letting them assume he wasn’t actually a murdering, monster-hunting vessel of Lucifer whose presence put their lives in jeopardy. Throwing in the intent to harm, this also makes Sam a serial rape victim at the hands of Ruby.

        Discovering that a sexual partner misrepresented their true personality is a betrayal of trust, but you’re painting with very broad strokes to not only call that rape, but to challenge others to work it into their definition of the word. Honestly, I’m only bothering to address this because I have very strong feelings about rape — including date rape and other scenarios with non-physical coercion — and arguments like the one here cause people to become dismissive about this very important topic, because it sounds like the word rape can be used interchangeably with any sexual encounter that someone later regrets.

        1. With the information we have about the episode, it’s impossible to tell if what happened to Castiel was clearly rape or some form of sexual exploitation without informed consent.
          If Cas interacted with the real April at all (who gave him the sandwich- April or “April?”), then he was raped by the reaper “April.”
          If April was still in her body while “April” was bedding Cas, both he and April were raped because there’s no way Cas would have consented knowing he’d be raping a third party. I mean, I suppose it’s possible that “April” asked April for permission and was given it, but I doubt it. Plus, having sex with two people when you only know about one of them is dubious consent at best. (Which makes me wonder where the hell Jimmy is. Is he gone? If not, did Castiel ask his permission? Did he tell “April?”)

  5. I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with your assessment that April picking up a homeless guy off the street and bringing him home (much less having sex with him) is a normal human interaction. Bullshit. There’s nothing “normal” about that. There’s no way to deny this entire scenario was inordinately out of character for Castiel, but even if we are to believe April was an extremely kind and generous soul who only wanted to help a desolate man, at what point in reality would that show of altruism result in a skeevy massage a few moments later that ultimately led to intercourse? It felt extremely rushed because it WAS extremely rushed. I might have been able to buy into the April/Cas interactions if it had played out over several episodes culminating in sex. The sex scene served no narrative purpose and was written into the episode exclusively for the type of sexual exploitation “expected” of a show featuring three handsome actors with a disposable array of young, thin, attractive female guest stars.

    1. Congratulations, you’ve just called countless people with pleasant memories of their one-night stands “abnormal.” Okay, I agree it was rushed and probably would have worked better if it had been paced over two episodes or more, but for what it was it did work the way it was presented. And I disagree that it was out of character for Cas. Cas is earnest, curious, and pretty much free of psychological hang-ups about when and and with whom it is appropriate to have sex due to not having been raised in human society. It makes a lot of sense to me that, if a woman he liked and was attracted to clearly wanted to have sex with him, he would take her up on it. And the scene didn’t read as exploitative to me at all. They did a good job of making the emotional connection and Cas’s psyche the focus of the scene, instead of using it as a vehicle for fanservice.

      Obviously, you are free to disagree with me and dislike the scene. But please don’t make disparaging comments about people who choose to have sex under different circumstances than you would.

  6. Great review! I hope some from the Supernatural crew will read this, they really should!

    I have watched SPN for several years now and am/was a big fan. But I have always hated the way they treat women and social issues on the show, but this episode, 9×03, was one of the worst! And I’m so dissapointed they so brutally define Castiel as a heterosexual, it’s completely ridiculous, and April did not even need to have sex with Cas in order to get what she needed, where is logic? Sexism, heterosexism, consent/rape-issues, dealt very badly, and BIG plot-holes in ONE episode. Wow Supernatural…
    I’m both dissapointed and embarrased. And if the reaper was in a vessel, the girl it was posessing was also raped and killed, and that didn’t even bother Cas or the boys either?
    I love all the characters on the show so much, but I’m not sure if I will keep watching anymore.

    Thank you so much for writing this review! The people behind SPN needs so badly to be informed of these issues.

  7. I agree and disagree with parts of your review. For me, the only enjoyable scenes were Cas with the homeless people at the beginning and Cas in the church interacting with that woman. The end scene with Dean asking Cas to leave, may be for dramatic purposes, but in reality is to simply ensure that Castiel is in separate scenes from Dean and Sam. But the way that potentially dramatic scene was handled, leaves an immense amount to be desired. Why the fade to black? Why not attempt to tackle that scene? Also all the Dean and Sam scenes seemed very flat, as if the two actors were just going through the motions with a script they had done numerous times before, with no drama that it was Castiel, almost their family by now. This was the chance for writers and actors to try something in more depth and they didn’t deliver.

    The entire April sex sequence was simply there to emphasize Cas’ heterosexuality, because yes, I do disagree with you: while it is perfectly fine for many people to have pleasant one-night stands, it is rather unusual to see a down-and-out homeless man picking food out of the garbage and bring him home and have sex. THAT is the unusual part, not sex with a relative stranger, but sex with someone who was so down and out that he was rooting through garbage. In some circumstances, that person may even feel it is their duty to provide sex in return for the kindness shown. In any case, April being an angel-reaper, or whatever the new Chad Kennedy/Supernatural canon is now, could have worked without the sex part. But with the sex part written in, the writers could have turned the sex and the eventual realization what April was, into something emotional and dramatic on Cas’ part. Not into the reactions we got from Cas, Dean and Sam.

    This episode was pretty glaring in the deficiencies of the two writers in having no depth whatsoever, the two showrunners in letting a script like this out, of the director in a pretty poor directing effort, and finally the WB executive in how he handled Twitter. Those who want to be on Twitter, associated with a show, should first be required to take a training course. That way we could avoid the dramas created by Adam Glass, Jim Michaels, Chad Kennedy and others.

    1. I didn’t mention this in the review, but I agree that the fade to black in lieu of an actual conversation at the end of the episode was a cop-out. I also agree that the episode was overall a bit listless in the acting and directing departments.

      I don’t know how a Twitter training course for industry accounts would work, but I for one support the heck out of it. 😉

  8. Great review! While I personally don’t think that *any* part of this episode was particularly well written, I agree with the parts of it that you said were good. I love the idea of Cas exploring humanity and really enjoyed watching his interactions with the homeless community. Despite how I feel about the Cas/April sex (not good, not important for the story – if it had just been about Cas exploring his sexuality, then it would have been good for character development, but it wasn’t), I was actually more annoyed with the blatant misogyny of this episode. I swear it was like they had a list of female stereotypes that they just checked off: Mother figure? Check. Naive young religious girl? Check. Woman with boobs to be objectified? Check. Sexually confident woman who turns out to either be evil or possessed by evil? CHECK. The whole thing was just horrendous to be honest.

    1. I think I’ve become a bit desensitized to the casual misogyny of this show, but you’re right. Unfortunately the treatment of women and minorities in any single episode seems to depend a lot on the writer, and Buckner and Ross-Leming don’t have the greatest track record (see: The Slice Girls, Man’s Best Friends With Benefits). But next week is a Charlie episode, written by Robbie Thompson, so my hopes are high.

      1. Wow, I forgot they wrote The Slice Girls! They literally wrote the exact same rape apologist reaction to a rape scene twice, then, with Lydia and Dean. Original, Ross-Leming and Buckner, real original.

        Personally I loved most of this episode, in the case of Castiel interacting with humans. He’s /just/ helpless enough, while still being very capable and kind and Other. I thought the “What sheep” is actually a really realistic way to respond to how to fall asleep if you’re not from human culture, that the faith conversation with the woman in the church was really fantastic, and that Castiel’s resourcefulness in using his money for a survival tattoo just as he did for food was ingenious.

        I loved Dean’s desperation to find Cas, I loved Sam being a bit perturbed by Dean’s constant lying while Zeke was kind of ridiculously obviously a Bad Decision in an Urgent Situation that’s going to lead Dean to empathizing with Sam and Cas having made the same. I loved Dean’s reaction to Castiel’s death, and I loved the callback to Free to Be You and Me with “I lied.” and Castiel’s expression in response to that. Dean wanted something really, really bad, didn’t he? He wanted Cas alive.

        But I /hated/ the weight that wasn’t given to the scene where Dean kicks Cas out, which is part of what made this feel like platonicizing or stepping back for now at least (because last season, that scene would have been done far differently, with a lot of emotional weight on it and far fewer “LOL CAS HAD SEX” undertones before it).

        I hated the fact that instead of showing Castiel is good at making emotional connections fast with kind humans (thus preserving his easily read demisexuality and not erasing or dehumanizing mine), he was manipulated into it, with completely uninformed consent (and it’s getting really tiring and triggering arguing with fandom that that was indisputably rape, so thank you for making it clear here) and no one paid attention to either his own consent or that of April.

        The /best/ possible reading of that last scene discussing it is that he’s repressed it after Dean told him she had saved him, (like Dean, like Sam, many times over) and sees it with, as Misha said, “rose-colored glasses”, ignoring the problem with the person who assaulted him the same way he does Meg for having been around when nobody else was until it’s a “good memory”. The worst reading and what is likely at least somewhat accurate? The two writers are frat boy dicks who don’t care about ace erasure, don’t care about consent dynamics enough to recognize that was rape (even if Cas does, with “And that required intercourse?”), and don’t care about any gender or sexuality more complex than the average cishet dudebro.

        I think, in the days since where we’ve basically learned the writers are writing their own interpretations into the episodes and TPTB are fighting over what’s going on with the most potentially queer relationship on the show, it has become quite clear which side Ross-Leming and Buckner stand on (and Bee, and to a point, Kennedy). I can only hope next time they write an episode (and seriously why aren’t they fired yet, JFC) the decision has been made in our favor so we’ll get more of an A Little Slice of Kevin next time and less of a Slice Girls.

  9. I’m not a shipper on the show but I feel like fans are disempowering themselves with seeking validation from tptb.

    I just read this (I think she’s a wincest shipper-not sure) but it’s beautiful. I think it will make the destiels that are hurting right now feel a little better.

    http://bookdal.tumblr.com/

    1. That’s sweet and all, bookdal, but it doesn’t help the Dean/Cas people who want validation for queer Dean, queer Cas, and the queer relationship they deserve. Being “smarter than” the text isn’t the problem; the text being dumber than we are is. Because the text is what’s seen by the world, what influences other people, and what stands as media representation of queer people. Fandom is often a subset of sweet, subtext-attentive friends who agree with us at least on most things, and that probably won’t change regardless of what happens with the relationship or the characters, but that doesn’t help anybody queer whatsoever who is desperate to see themselves on the screen for once.

      1. I found it on tumblr. I’m not the author.

        Have you checked out Lost Girl? The main character is bi and her relationships with both men & women are treated thoughtfully. No shame on the screen. It’s a great show!

        1. Oh, I know. I’m just making the reply.

          I’ve got a lot of queer rep on my to-watch list, but tbh, I don’t watch all that much television to begin with, so keeping up with one show is difficult as it is. Thank you though!

  10. Thank you for pointing out the reaper/angel thing. I was really confused and thought that I had misunderstood something.

    Dean calls her a reaper. She mentions that she had to be told Cas was dangerous, something any angel would know. She is obviously a reaper for hire within the story.

    But she seems concerned with the plight of the angels, angry even. A reaper really wouldn’t care. Also she clearly stated that she was possessing April. Up to this point there was ABSOLUTELY nothing to indicate that reapers use vessels.

  11. Was this written before everything with Guy Norman Bee? I can see where someone might have found the part with Chad Kennedy amusing (although I mostly had no idea why he was put in that position by Adam Glass – he clearly had no idea what to say or do), but Bee’s general attitude and comments made me sick.

    1. I wrote this after Guy Norman Bee’s comments occurred, but before I was aware of them. I agree it’s a lot harder to find humor in what Bee said. I try to put a positive or humorous spin on things, but the truth is that the way people are treated by SPN staff for demanding more and better representation is horrifying.

      1. I have rarely seen anyone, even at this show, be so nasty and elitist and hostile toward fans, many of whom were being polite and responding to an attack he started. That was the last straw for a number of fans I know, some of whom were very loyal and supportive of this show. Some of the people at this show see fans as beyond worthless. If you don’t want fans to feel any emotional investment, then why not just film old tube socks for 40 minutes.

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