SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!
First up, let me say that I really enjoyed this one. I know some folk are disappointed at the lack of direct Winchester involvement, but for me -- unlike 'Family Remains' -- I felt there was direct relevance to the ongoing storyline. Plus, I love Castiel and I liked seeing his vessel's story. The family in 'Family Remains' really were one-off characters, and I wasn't invested. I am invested in Castiel and now Jimmy. Especially since I think Jimmy's story is absolutely a foreshadowing of what we can expect to see happening to the boys. Most likely Dean, I think. Anyhow.
Gathering some bits and bobs that have happened up till now, I'm wondering if there isn't a pattern. In 'Metamorphosis', Dean told Sam, 'If I didn't know you, I would want to hunt you.' I think it's the use of 'want' that's significant. Just prior, we learned that Dean isn't only a hunter because his father taught him hunting. We learned it's in his blood. That he's descended from a family of hunters, the Campbells. I think that's huge, and I think it ties into the fact that Jimmy -- and his daughter, Claire -- belong to a bloodline that makes them suitable as angelic vessels. Going back to Dean, Zachariah said to him -- you'll find your way to hunting in the dark every time. And that's tied up with destiny, fate. Dean was destined to do this. He was born a hunter, with the instinct to seek out the monsters. Tie that in with the comment from Castiel as seen in the trailer for next week -- your brother will become something you're compelled to kill. And look at that word -- compelled. No choosing there. The urge is inbuilt. You see evil, you kill it. Pure instinct. Dean has to kill evil, because the urge is in his blood. It's what he was born to do. For Sam, the blood connection is a corruption. He wasn't born to go bad, his blood was tainted as an infant. I think his course was charted then, and if Dean was fated to be the man who started and then stops Lucifer rising, then Sam is the dark flipside of that coin.
Another thought. Go back to season 3, 'Dream A Little Dream.' Confronting himself, dragging harsh truths into the light, Dean realised he'd been raised as his father's blunt instrument. A soldier. A weapon. Jump forward to 'On the Head of a Pin' -- what does Anna say to Castiel? 'Why are you letting Dean do this? You could ruin the only weapon you have.'
So is that Dean's ultimate purpose? Was he born not only a hunter, but a weapon? To be used first by John in his drive for revenge and to find the YED, but ultimately and more importantly by God, by the angels, in the fight against Lucifer? And does that explain Castiel's shocking about face? Consider the previews again. Castiel asks Dean, are you ready to surrender yourself and serve God and his angels? And Dean, with nowhere else to turn, says yes. Consider the last thing Castiel said to Dean in "The Rapture.' I serve heaven, I don't serve man. I certainly don't serve you. The second time we met Castiel he described himself as God's warrior. Like Dean, he's a soldier.
The soldier does not serve the weapon. The soldier uses the weapon, as harshly and as brutally as he needs to, until the job is done. And if, in getting the job done, the weapon is destroyed? So be it.
And there's the problem. Because Castiel had reached the point where he was prepared to put the welfare of the weapon above the purpose of the mission. He stood on the line in 'Monster'. He bent the rules, he didn't break them. But in the opening of 'The Rapture', it seems he was about to cross over that line. There's speculation it has something to do with what Chuck saw, which was so big Zachariah stepped in and warned him to keep his mouth shut or else. So maybe that's what Castiel has learned and was preparing to tell Dean -- because, like Chuck, he was horrified by it and wanted to keep Dean safe from it. Whatever it was, it was significant. It has Castiel freaked out because he has broken a cardinal rule -- he's let himself get too close. And that's when heaven stepped in. Yanked him home and gave him a serious wake up call about where his priorities lie. And they're not with keeping Dean safe. They're in making sure he's ready to use when they need him.
Jump back to Jimmy. I think it was significant that he said to the boys, Being used by an angel is like being chained to a comet. I think Dean is about to get chained to that same comet. And I think he's about to experience what Jimmy has experienced. Loss of self-determination. Subordination of everything, of self, to the service of God, of the angels, in the quest to avert the apocalypse. Now what that means for Dean long term, I don't know. Remembering what Tessa said to him in Holiday -- probably nothing good. Look what happened to Jimmy. He kept his family safe, at the cost of his old life. He has nothing to look forward to now but pain, as Castiel uses him to the bitter end. That's the price of selfless service to God, in this war. Jimmy's not a weapon -- he's a cavalry horse. He'll be ridden until it's over.
At this point I don't know if they're going to break Castiel down, so that despite his and heaven's best efforts, he finds himself dropping his barriers again. Dramatically it would certainly up the ante -- and I'm all for that. And I don't know that they'd have spent so much time showing that growing friendship only to abandon it completely. I really don't want them to, I love that relationship. But this twist is certainly fascinating -- if Dean does indeed agree to serve God and his angels then that means he's serving Castiel. And Dean has never subordinated himself to anyone except John. Was his desperate prayer in Monster the beginning of that journey? Jump to Castiel's comment to Dean in Holiday -- every time I ask you to do something, you seem to do the exact opposite. So that'll have to change. Castiel, it seems, is about to become Dean's superior.
As for Sam's journey, I don't know where to start. If Dean is heaven's weapon then it seems Sam is hell's pawn, used and abused and manipulated and twisted to suit an evil purpose. Of course, both brothers are being used. But just as a demon takes a human host and rides it to destruction, never bothering to heal any wounds, letting the injured host die once the demon departs -- so it seems that hell is riding Sam, and will abandon him broken when it's done. And while being used by heaven isn't kind either -- as Jimmy attests -- the sacrifice is made willingly and a choice is offered and at the end, there is peace for heaven's pawn. And even though Castiel is implacable, there is also compassion and pity and affection -- Castiel in Claire clearly feels for Jimmy -- which ties back to Castiel's comment to Dean in Head of a Pin, where he says -- there's a concern I'm getting too close to the humans in my charge. Of course at that moment, Castiel didn't believe it. Or at least, didn't think it was so important. Believed he could handle his growing attachment to Dean. And now we don't know if he actually believes he was in error, or if he's just reeling from what Anna implies was painful punishment for his lapse in judgement. Or maybe it's both and that's the heart of his journey. How to balance what must be done with how he feels.
I love the fact that the show is giving us a heaven that is just as ruthless in its pursuit of victory as is hell. God never promised the ride would be easy. Just ask Job, or any number of saints and prophets who came to grisly ends for their faith and service. And this is war, the ultimate war, and there are always casualties in war. The question is, which soldiers are suffering and dying for a good cause, to serve the light, to save the innocent ... and which are being used -- or are using themselves -- to bring about darkness and despair?
As I said, I think the point of focusing on Jimmy and his family in this episode was a means to foreshadow the cost to the Winchesters, and to highlight the sacifices they're going to make. Dean has been shown up close and personal what it costs to serve heaven. He's going into the deal with his eyes wide open, no illusions. In meeting Jimmy, in witnessing Jimmy's fate, he's been given a preview of what he can expect if he surrenders himself to his destiny as heaven's weapon. Which only makes him more heroic. When Jimmy first agreed to host Castiel, he didn't really understand what that meant. He had some kind of idealised, romantic notion about serving God. There was even a part of him that was proud of being chosen. There was some ego involved. It became about him, as much as about his faith and serving God. And then, like Castiel, he got seriously schooled on what being in service to heaven really means. So his choice the second time, to take Castiel back, to become a vessel again, was made with true knowledge, true understanding. No more illusions, no more ego. It was a selfless act this time, the decision made knowing the terrible cost. And I think his sacrifice serves to make sure that Dean will also have no more illusions. When he gives himself in service to Castiel -- as the preview suggests he will -- he does it with a profound understanding of the consequences -- because of Jimmy. And that, I think, was the ultimate purpose of this episode. Or at least, one of them.
Whew! Sorry this was a bit grasshoppery. So much stuff going on. But those thoughts have been pinging, and I had to get them out!