Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Supernatural: The Man Who Would Be King

Crowley: "Am I the only game piece on the board who doesn't underestimate those denim-wrapped nightmares?"

This episode was actually pretty amazing. It answered all of our questions about Castiel's existential struggle. And we got a lot of the delightful King of Hell, Mark Sheppard.

The heart of the episode was the disintegrating relationship between Castiel and Dean. It's almost been like a love affair between Dean and Castiel, and I don't mean in a slashy sort of way. Dean wanted so desperately to keep believing in the angel who pulled him out of the pit, probably because Castiel gave Dean a sense of his own worth. And Dean gave Castiel something he'd never thought he would ever have – freedom of choice. And there's the rub. It's clear to me that Castiel couldn't handle having choices after millennia of following orders, and he made the wrong one.

How incredibly sad that it was Castiel who raised Sam, too. That failure said it all. Castiel isn't the same. The Winchesters inadvertently corrupted him by introducing freedom of choice to a being who was never supposed to have it. Castiel really is a fallen angel, like Lucifer; he just hasn't hit bottom yet. I also found it incredibly sad that Castiel doesn't have his own heaven, something even the most insignificant human has, because angels don't have souls. I don't think it ever completely sunk in before what a limited being Castiel actually is.

The flashbacks from Castiel's point of view made it feel like we'd been catapulted back into the core story that ended in season five. Where is this going? Wherever it is, it can't be good. Is Raphael right, after all? (No. He couldn't be. Destroying the entire earth can never be good, and anyone who likes Ken Lay's version of heaven can't possibly be right.) If God did save Castiel, reassembling him from little bits, if God intended that Castiel avert the Apocalypse and start a war in Heaven, why won't he answer Castiel's prayers?

There was so much to enjoy in this episode. I loved that the discussion of Superman and Kryptonite was so key. It was like a salute to their sister show, Smallville, which is just about to end; Jensen Ackles was a Smallville cast member when he got Supernatural. I loved that Crowley had his own Dean, Sam and Bobby. Very funny. And I loved that little Beetlejuice glimpse of Hell as an eternal line in a drab hallway outside of endless file rooms, with a never-ending muzak-like "Blue Danube" playing in the background. Actually, for me, filing eternally would be worse than waiting in line. Maybe there are lots of souls trapped in those rooms doing exactly that.

So Crowley wants to split the thirty or forty million souls in Purgatory with Castiel. He says. He also apparently wants to elevate Castiel in Heaven in order to control him. I'm still not quite sure why Castiel and Crowley will both die repeatedly and eternally if they don't find Purgatory, though. Did I miss something?

Bits and pieces:

— "The Man Who Would Be King" is the title of a bizarre short story by Rudyard Kipling. More here. I don't think Castiel ever wanted to rule. He just wants what he believes in now. Choice has become Castiel's religion.

— In the teaser, Castiel broke the fourth wall and looked right at the camera. Maybe that was a suggestion that God was in all of us. Or not.

— Way too much monster torture lately. It's like watching 24. In the morgue, Crowley was playing "Me and Mrs. Jones" as he tortured the monster. Too funny.

— Loved Castiel pushing the smoke back into Ellsworth, Bobby's demonic counterpart.

— No episode next week. We're actually getting a two-hour season finale on May 20; the Smallville finale is next week.


Castiel: "And of course I remember the most remarkable event. Remarkable because it never came to pass. It was averted by two boys, an old drunk, and a fallen angel."

Bobby: "We're dealing with a Superman who's gone dark side. Which means we've gotta be cautious, we gotta be smart, and maybe stock up on some Kryptonite."
Dean: (to Sam) "This makes you Lois Lane."
The big bad this season on Smallville is Darkseid, too.

Castiel: "Explaining freedom to angels is a bit like teaching poetry to fish."

Castiel: "Whose heaven is this?"
Raphael: "Ken Lay's. I'm borrowing it."
Castiel: "I still question his admittance here."
Raphael: "He's devout. Trumps everything."

Crowley: "This is not how synergy works!"

Crowley: "I'm talking about happy endings for all of us, with all possible entendres intended."

Outstanding. And by the far the best episode focusing on Castiel. Four out of four... well, take a number and get in line,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I loved Me and Mrs. Jones too! Nearly injured myself laughing with tea in my mouth.

    The Man Who Would be King is about getting what you ask for and then finding it comes with strings attached. This is one HECK of a string!

    As to why God doesn't answer . . .answering would utterly defeat the purpose of free will. In fact, through exercise of free will angels might GET souls. We just don't know. But for absolute sure, the instant that any divinity shows its hand, then free will is invalidated and all existence is schooled to the real or imagined will of a divine hall monitor. Only in the absence of literal evidence is faith real. It seemed to me to be an act of profound love to let the first children (angels) suffer the anxiety and fear it takes to grow up. Leaving Cas with no answer is, in a way, the most profound act of respect and love. He'll make bad decisions and must learn from them, like any mortal would do.


  2. What an interesting episode. I want to watch it again before I decide if I love it or hate it--I think I'm going to love it.

    I laughed so hard during the Hell scene that I nearly choked to death on air. What a sad way to go.

    Is anyone else interested in starting a fan campaign for the creation of an Untitled Mark Sheppard Project? Maybe just a TV show of him saying quippy deadpan one-liners for 45 minutes a week? I'd watch that.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I agree with Zob. Dean, Sam, and Bobby should have given Cas more of a chance to explain himself. Having already had the chance to learn from their deals with the Devil, they should be more understanding, not self righteous. (Then again, that seems to be Dean's mode this season. He loves to get on his moral high horse when it suits him.)

    There was lots to enjoy in this episode, but I felt a bit underwhelmed when it was over. I was expecting to be blown out of the water, and instead, I was merely entertained.

    My favorite part was the final moment, when Castiel was left desperately waiting for his sign from God. Very powerful.

    I also loved Bobby's demon counterpart being named Ellsworth. A Deadwood shout out is always a glorious thing.

  5. Wow, color me impressed! This episode was amazing and such a difference from Edlund´s previous work but it was an amazing change.
    My heart breaks completely for Castiel, who is completely cornered and I fear things will not end nicely.

  6. I'm completely Team Castiel and am so happy for him to finally have his own episode. I've been afraid for him since the whole going up against Fate thing, which never works out well in Greek tragedies. :( But the evolution of his character is beyond profound. It reminds me a touch of Data in STTNG and how he reacts to finally getting that touch of humanity. It can burn if you're not prepared to handle it.

  7. When Bobby, Sam, and Dean were accusing Castiel of making a deal with a demon, I was just waiting if some of them would realize how ridiculous they were being and would burst out laughing. Hadn't all of them made a deal with a demon at some point? Weren't all of them working with this very demon just last season? If their past experiences should have taught them anything, it's that desperate times call for desperate measures, and that while such a deal is never a good thing, sometimes it can be the least horrible choice.

    This was the second time that I've been very disappointed with Dean lately (the first one being the recent killing of the phoenix - "You're a monster so I've got to kill you, even if you've done nothing wrong." - really, Dean?)

    But anyway, besides this problem it was a very good episode - more Castiel is always a good thing and we finally got some answers that were long overdue.

  8. To address a couple of points -- I think a big part of Dean's anger had to do with being spied on and lied to by someone he considered to be a friend. And the Winchesters and Bobby can make deals with demons until the cows come home, but they're not angels. I suspect that dealing with a demon was crossing the line.

  9. In relation to the Winchesters not cutting Castiel more slack, I think Dean in particular had Cas up on a pedestal in an unhealthy combination of a God/father/friend/superhero figure. Now he's been hit by the realisation that Cas is fallible and has made a genuine mistake. He's never had choice and he's never had friends before, Angelic brothers and sisters yes but friends no. He's having a hard time dealing with both. How very tragic. You know, from my human perspective.

    Goo, what a great comment about God's absence in Supernatural. To me, that's the perfect explanation and I would be very satisfied if the angels learn that and achieve souldom by the end of the series.

  10. Something struck me while watching this episode. When Castiel broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the us, the viewers, I think he was in fact talking to god. Ergo: We, the viewers, are god.
    Think about it. We, the viewers, basically have the power to affect all that happens in the Supernatural universe. If we love a character WE have the power to bring it back.
    Could it be, really be, that WE are god?
    Would be really interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

  11. Henrik, I did mention this in my "bits" section. But less in the "we are powerful fans" sense. :)

  12. Well butter me up and call me a ninny! Sorry, Billie. I apparently got so engrossed in my "insight" that I totally overlooked that.
    On the other hand, you did say "god is in all of us" and I, like you also say in your comment, am more on the line that we ARE god.
    Much as a character in a Sims-game would look on us.
    It would explain why god never answers - we can never talk directly to the characters in the show, only use our divine powers to keep a favourite character or discard one that's outlived its purpose.

  13. Henrik, you made me think about the teachings of Valentine Michael Smith. "Thou art God and I am God and all that groks is God." Have you read Stranger in a Strange Land? I read it when I was twelve, and it had a profound effect on me. (It is definitely not a children's book. Or even a young adult book. I was precocious.)

  14. No, Billie, I have not read Stranger...but now I guess I'll have to! :D
    I had to look up the meaning of the word "Grok" (and precocious too, actually). It's a really cool world we live in where people who I have never met can make me curious about so many things. Just had to say it.
    Anyway, lets grok whenever possible, shall we? After all, we are god.
    And we, god, obviously grok with supernatural.

  15. Great stuff, Castiel and Crowley should get a spin-off. He's a free-willed angel who has no grasp on pop-culture and he's a dry-witted gay demon, they hunt for souls.

  16. I found this to be very moving.

    For me, a very powerful moment was when Sam accused Cass of knowing that he didn't have a soul. We, as the viewers knew he was telling the truth, but the look in Sam's eyes reminded me of "Sam."

    JA continues to astonish. The looks he gives Cass when Cass makes the Superman speech were unforgettable. All that emotion through his eyes. Stunning.

    We're obviously headed for a massive showdown. For once, I am going into the season finales with genuinely no clue about what is going to happen.

  17. Loving everyone's deep comments and Goo's comment makes so much sense. (I've been really impressed how carefully Supernatural walks a fine line when it comes to religion too, though the implication that in "our" world nothing supernatural exists was stated a bit categorically for my taste).

    Of course, I just stopped in to make Tumblr-inspired faecetious comments, as follows:

    "Is that the only thing you're holding up?"

    I think the sub-text is rapidly become the text.

    Mind in the gutter, sorry :)

  18. Looking back on this episode and knowing where it leads Castiel in the next season, the Iron Maiden song, "The Man Who Would Be King" fits this story arc very well. From the setting of "his reflection of the beauty around him" (monologuing at the beginning in the forest), to lines like, "no regrets but his pride" (he discusses his hubris). Hoping he'd be saved, searching for answers... it all plays out in the lyrics. And then taking a life... well that could be Raphael, or taking Sam's sanity. (I'd go the the latter.)
    What do you think?

  19. Okay, tuning in years too late to hope for a reply, but what, exactly, is the mistake Castiel has made here, what is his "wrong choice"? If Cas does nothing, Raphael wins, the world gets turned into a graveyard, and no doubt Sam and Dean get infinitely tortured by Raphael's followers. So instead, Cas goes after the Purgatory souls to (somehow) fuel his victory--and apparently that will unleash a whole bunch of monsters into the world. Dean never puts forth any kind of alternate plan ("Just do what a I say, because") and if pressed he probably would've spouted their usual line, "We'll find another way." But Cas could've said, "This is the way to beat Raphael, and if the monsters are released, we'll find a way to put them back." What am I missing? Why do Sam and Dean think Castiel's actions are so reprehensible?

    1. He kept the boys out of the loop. He operated behind their backs. He notes the moment they cottoned onto him. Wasn't this explicit? He went to Crowley. He knew the boys wouldn't stand for it. What's your confusion?


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.