The CW’s long-running horror and religious fiction series Supernatural spanned 15 seasons, and upon its finale, made some questionable decisions regarding the characters’ fates. One character in particular whose fate did not sit well with fans is Angel Castiel (Misha Collins), who quickly became a fan-favorite after his debut fairly early into the show, and was then given his own story arcs to follow along the way.
Originally a warrior of God, Castiel’s initial mission to assist Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) in the battle between Heaven and Hell on Earth gave him a new purpose beyond a battle of the afterlives. This early breakout character became a regular mainstay in later seasons and earned his spot as a main character until the Supernatural series finale. But, while Supernatural is no stranger to killing beloved characters, it was Castiel’s death that felt incredibly divisive in execution. After being killed by the Archangel Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), Castiel was sent to The Empty — otherwise known as the afterlife for angels and demons alike.
Castiel Deserved a Better Death in ‘Supernatural’
Supernatural’s death scenes have greatly varied as to how well they were executed and how they resonated with fans in the aftermath. Castiel’s death succeeded in being one that the Supernatural fandom still remembers well and discusses in-depth long after Supernatural went off the air. Considering that there were potentially unexplored alternative directions to take with Castiel’s death, the reality of the matter leaves plenty of unknowns long after. The ongoing question of, “Why?” still echoes when looking back at Cas’ final moments, which remain to feel cruel and unfair.
Castiel’s Death Was Cruel and Unnecessary in ‘Supernatural’ Season 15
Prior to his death, Castiel confessed his love for Dean Winchester, and the timing of this confession was too close to his ultimate demise. The means of cutting off a potential queer storyline through an abrupt and almost thoughtless death was a disservice to Collins’ dedication to Supernatural. Castiel’s character development followed his transformation from a celestial being unsure of how to live as a human to a demon hunter who set out to save humanity. He was given the opportunity to embrace free will, and he proved that his purpose was more than to just pull Dean from Hell. To follow Castiel’s emotional monologue to Dean, concluded with an “I love you,” by sending him — a now openly gay character — to Super Hell is a choice made in immensely questionable taste by Supernatural’s showrunners.
The decision to take a moment that’s been longed after by Supernatural fans and just throw it away is baffling, and truly a great disservice to how far Cas has come on screen. Perhaps the element of Castiel going to Hell, especially after he confesses his love for Dean, is not a great look when taking that particular context into account. This consummate fate for Castiel seems especially harsh. It’s ironic, really, that a character whose initial role in the early seasons of Supernatural was to save others from Hell was sent to an equivalent (of sorts) himself. Ultimately, Castiel’s death was completely unsatisfactory and uninspired (despite being able to let the angel finally affirm his feelings).
Why Did the ‘Supernatural’ Writers Kill Castiel Only To Revive Him Later?
After his death, it’s later revealed that Castiel is able to escape The Empty due to Jack Kline (Alexander Calvert). Jack restores the angel’s life energy, allowing Castiel’s vessel to return to Earth. Despite this, viewers don’t see Castiel after his death scene, and it’s assumed that he doesn’t reconnect with Dean. Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) is the one who reveals to Dean in the series finale that Castiel was revived. So, Castiel’s death is only made more perplexing due to this immediate reversal and the fact that he isn’t reunited with Dean. It disregards the entire purpose of “killing” him off (except for his feelings finally being expressed). Supernatural’s misleading “death” is disappointing as it avoids the one aspect that can redeem the whole ordeal, which is giving Castiel and Dean closure at the show’s end. The two characters don’t necessarily need a romantic storyline, but considering the closeness of their relationship, Dean and Castiel deserved to at least share one final conversation after it was revealed that the angel wasn’t dead after all. Why the writers left out this reconnection between the two is confusing and tops off the series with an unanswered question. If they were to “kill off” Castiel only to bring him back, why bother taking the extra steps in the first place? Castiel admitting his love for Dean would still carry the emotional weight it bore without having to involve some temporary casualty.
Castiel’s Death Didn’t Appropriately Fit His Impact on ‘Supernatural’ and Dean
Nonetheless, Supernatural’s decision to send Castiel into The Empty, after everything that he’s been through, is still an astounding narrative route to take. When looking back at the events of Castiel’s death, it’s incredibly frustrating to see how he was betrayed by his own storyline. Castiel’s death should have been more noble; even if it wasn’t his first death throughout the many Supernatural seasons, his last should have some dignity. There was little time to let it linger and resonate, and there should have been considering his presence on Supernatural throughout the seasons. The death scene was rushed. It left Castiel’s story feeling incomplete and puzzled viewers, especially considering he was just as important as the Winchester brothers. Why wasn’t there more time spent focusing on his death? Sure, he had died before, but this death seemed like a momentous point in the series. Castiel’s final moments were significant, but the urgency to kill him off still left more to be desired when it came to a real reaction from Dean beyond his, “Don’t do this, Cas.”
The Spanish translation of Castiel’s death scene in Supernatural works more in favor of Castiel’s feelings being clearly and openly reciprocated. Entertainment Weekly reported that the Spanish translation displayed Dean’s line as “Y yo a ti, Cas,” which translates to “And I you, Cas,” in response to Castiel telling Dean that he loves him. Misha Collins later corrected the differing translation, claiming there was a “rogue translator.” While an effort to clear any misconception across translations is an honest thing to do, it makes Castiel and Dean’s conclusory exchange even more disappointing. Castiel deserved to have his feelings acknowledged and validated. Supernatural slowly lets Cas embrace the human experience: his death features some aspect of humanity, though the unearthly element of The Empty keeps him bound to his identity as an angel.
Castiel’s Coming Out in ‘Supernatural’ Still Matters
Supernatural featured its share of queer representation but also succumbed to the “bury your gays” trope over the years. Castiel’s death has been accused of falling under the trope. However, the decision to momentarily send him away to The Empty should not defeat the importance of his coming out. Castiel’s coming out is important, whether it be for those who resonate with him as a character, who wanted to see Supernatural embrace a queer lead, or those who looked forward to his self-acceptance of being a gay man from his series debut. LGBTQIA+ representation on network television could benefit from greater visibility, and Supernatural allowing Castiel to come out (albeit briefly) should be considered as a series milestone regardless of the circumstances that followed.
For over a decade, the Supernatural fandom speculated on Castiel’s orientation, and the potential queer subtext and possible queer coding of Castiel’s character was subject to major speculation. Dean Winchester and Castiel’s hypothetical relationship was affectionately given the name “Destiel” and became a deeply integral part of how fans connected with the show. The ongoing question of whether Castiel and Dean would end up as romantic partners became a constant reminder that members of the LGBTQIA+ community also played a prominent role in the Supernatural fandom. The angel finally being able to speak upon his own truth and affirm his feelings was a step forward for Supernatural as it added more depth to his character arc. In hindsight, the show could have neglected addressing Castiel’s true feelings for Dean. Even if his coming out was short-lived, it was a necessary note to send him off on, becoming a demonstration of his growth since his introduction. He deserved to take pride in his love for Dean.
Since the end of the series, Misha Collins has continued to comment on and confirm Castiel’s identity. In an Instagram post made in June 2023, Collins shared Pride-themed fan art of his Supernatural character and wrote a caption that concluded with, “[O]n this last day of [Pride Month], I’m just pledging to do my part to keep fighting for equity, to keep fighting to make this society we can be proud of. (Also, Cas is gay).” The actor previously noted on social media that the ending of Supernatural was “intentionally inclusive” and “a celebration of someone expressing their truth.” In the same video, Collins confirmed that Castiel’s confession was done “in full knowledge of the consequences of those actions” when referring to his disappearance into The Empty. But, ultimately, Castiel coming out reiterates the importance of accepting himself, even if granted only a moment of living in authenticity. It satisfies the long-running question while, in Collins’ own words, letting Castiel finally express his full truth.