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8.23 - Sacrifice

New challenges for human Cas?

Looking back on the last season and how Castiel's journey as an angel came to an abrupt conclusion, one can say that we'll have a few things coming up next season that might significantly change the approach to writing this character.
In the SpinOff Online interview for season 8, Supernatural writer Daniel Loflin talked about the challenges of writing for a character with too much powers at his disposal. The most crucial problem in writing a story with two human heroes seems to be that they shouldn't get too much support, because it undermines the challenges the Winchesters usually overcome. But what about human Castiel?
In the season finale the show proceeded to show Metatron taking away Castiel's grace, which left the audience wondering whether his storyline will take Cas away from the role of a confidante, who is off-screen, and instead push for a more central storytelling. With Jeremy Carver recently implying that we will get to understand his character in new ways, including his connections to other people, we can expect things to shake up a little bit.

Heaven vs Hell in season 9?

One such thing would be the hunt for his grace and the ultimate fight in a world full of fallen angels with Metatron as the antagonist. We have seen how the fall has affected the entire world, and this is something of a fundamental change in the show. The world can finally become aware that supernatural creatures exist, and additionally, we get to see how fallen angels integrate into the human world, discovering whether they are a threat or not. An even more interesting scenario seems to be how the loss of the angels might affect the human souls that are still in heaven, for example, people like Bobby, and Ellen and Jo, Ash, and several others. Will they be playing a potential role from the other side?
And there's one thing left that also alludes to season 9 extending the conflict between heaven and hell. Key players like Crowley and Cas are fundamentally changed after all, which means others will step up. One such character is Abaddon, who barely survived her confrontation with Sam. The imminent threat of demons wanting revenge for the mere attempt to close the gates of hell might force Sam and Dean into an outright war.

How will Castiel be integrated into the story? A recap

5.04 - The End
There are several ways to do that and those ways include fleshing out how he reacts to being human in the first place, including his emotions, and especially his understanding of humanity. We already had brief glimpses of human Cas and it showed a very bleak picture overall. In 5.04 - The End, we saw Cas feeling useless and indulging in harmful behavior, facing the reality of what he supposedly was at that time.
Fans still speculate, whether the reality created by another angel was an accurate representation of Castiel becoming human, or whether it was all a hoax by Zachariah. We will probably never know and it's not exactly something that everybody wants to see becoming real.
As season 5 progressed, this hopelessness certainly increased, but in the end, Castiel still retained a sense of belonging and actively chose to prevent another Apocalypse. As we know, things only got worse - it wouldn't be Supernatural if they didn't - and we watched his journey from becoming a wrathful God to facing his death (I lost count how many times he died. But Dean still holds the record).
Season 7, then, was driven by loss and Dean's feelings, to the point where even Bobby and Sam brought it up in a conversation (7.09). Castiel ultimately came back, chose to fight side by side with Dean against Dick Roman, and that's how the dynamic duo landed in Purgatory. Once Dean was reunited with him, we were introduced to another conflict that strongly played with perception, especially Dean's. He faced another loss and his subsequent guilt continued to play out on screen until the moment Castiel came back. Cas carried his own burden independently, and was very close to giving up, initially choosing to be a part of Sam and Dean's world, before his wish to fix his mistakes took over.
8.08 - Hunteri Heroici
I find it particularly interesting how Castiel's struggles seem to mirror Sam's on a certain level. Unlike Dean, both Sam and Castiel lost themselves in the fight for humanity. Thus, it wasn't surprising to see Cas listening to Sam in Hunteri Heroici, facing his mistakes rather than running from them.
This motivation established his entire journey for the rest of season 8, especially the willingness to atone for his sins. Sadly, things are never that easy and his struggles were highlighted when Naomi brainwashed him into repeating all those mistakes again. Unlike his deal with Crowley, this betrayal was not one driven by agency, because Castiel was completely robbed of it. He arguably wasn't the same from the moment she introduced herself and started her reprogramming, and the ultimate killing blow should've been killing Dean, the human he cares about the most. We know that Castiel's affection for him overpowered Naomi's desire to see Dean dead, and with the help of the tablet, Cas was back again. But even the real angel makes mistakes (as there is no perfection and humanity isn't perfect either) and one of those mistakes was trusting Metatron in the end and hoping that he can help out. Cas voicing that he doesn't trust Dean is a questionable choice, though. A paragon of humanity like Dean Winchester, flawed and so very human, is something that should make the choice for Cas easier, rather than a random angel he meets on street. I'm still confused about that particular scene.
However, we can definitely say that too much heart was always Castiel's problem. It seems to me that his emotions, his ability to have doubts and feel affection for humanity, is something that is causing him a lot of trouble. He's not the only one, though. In fact, I'd argue that characters like Naomi show a remarkable strength and agency despite the general tendency to show angels as being obedient soldiers. Angels aren't foes against humanity and they shouldn't be treated as such, because they often experience the same family struggles that humans do. There's a long list of angels, who have a big heart and can fight against what essentially means keeping them in line. More importantly, the war in heaven is a reflection of people being lost when a parent abandons them, when people feel as if they don't have someone to guide them along the way. But it's also a necessary step for angels as well as humans, because it gives them the ability to take on responsibility and to make their own choices rather than just relying on someone else. And this is a motive Dean Winchester stands for and it's also not surprising, considering he represents the role of a father, mother and brother for Sam, who often feels lost without Dean's guidance.

So where will Castiel stand in all of this as a human?

I won't argue that he can understand free will better as a human. It seems that he possesses the ability to make his own choices, but still looks for guidance and approval. Being human shouldn't make him a completely different person and it wouldn't make sense for him to make a 180° turn in how he behaves and responds to human things. After all, it's just the difference between observing humanity and being part of it, but a species doesn't determine personality.
And that's why I still expect him to be confused about certain things, but also respond to it out of necessity and learn from it. I also expect him to feel the longing for heaven and to fight to get his grace back. His wish to fight for both heaven and humanity shouldn't change, even though he might be crippled by his guilt after trusting Metatron. Moreover, Misha Collins recently confirmed at a Convention that Cas still has all of his memories, so what we can expect is a reunion with Sam and Dean at some point. If things go well, Cas will acclimatize to humanity by fully experiencing the pros and cons of it, and Sam and Dean will be there to help him along the way. Bye bye trenchcoat, and welcome plaid shirts.

His relationship with Dean

8.02 - What's up, Tiger Mommy
A central element to Castiel's story was also the relationship he formed with Dean and this story got a surprising amount of narrative weight in season 8. It started with miscommunication in Purgatory, and continued with willingness to talk about problems, trust issues, constant abandonment, and a kind of silent goodbye in the season 8 finale.
One thing we know for certain: Things haven't been resolved at all between them, and with Cas becoming human these issues will come up again. His role as a human will take him away from being a guardian angel, and it will also help by giving us the opportunity to see him as more than a plot device who fixes problems.
Castiel's worth is not defined by being there for other people when things get rough.
Ultimately, he deserves his own point of view to conclude his redemption arc, which also includes his shaky relationship with Dean. Those issues that they both face, including not trusting each other fully, might force them to actually do so. It would be a welcome change to see them working side by side without Castiel disappearing after another hunt just because he can. In fact, Cas can fully become part of the team, perhaps even moving into the MoL bunker, researching with Sam, talking to Kevin and mending fences with Dean. The narrative importance of their relationship will carry over to season 9, and will also gain a new perspective with Cas being human, living a human life and for once, maybe making all the right choices.
Season 9 can't come soon enough and hopefully things will get better for all protagonists involved. But this is SPN. And we know how that usually works out.

What do you expect from human Cas?

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