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Did Destiel Really Just Happen on Supernatural?

AS IF THERE WASN'T ENOUGH GOING ON

 

Dean and Cas look moody and attractive

Last night, something finally happened. Something people had been waiting years for. Something many of us had given up on because, honestly, the world is terrible so why would we get this? No, I’m not talking about the election results. I’m talking about Destiel. Yes, the Dean/Castiel ship on Supernatural. After twelve years of sexual tension, longing stares, invaded personal space, sacrificed lives and so much more … The angel Castiel told Dean Winchester “I love you” in a way that was unambiguously romantic.

Destiel happened.

Let’s recap first because I’m honestly still processing, and Destiel going canon before the election results is just … a lot right now. Cas and Dean have been shipped together ever since Cas pulled Dean out of hell. They’ve come close to “I love yous” before. In season eight, Dean snapped Cas out of mind control with the words “I need you” and there was an “I love you” in the script too but it didn’t make it to the final cut because Dean just doesn’t say that. As Cas was dying in season twelve, he said “I love you … ” to Dean and then added, “I love all of you.” And yet, that didn’t lead to any changes.

But last season Cas made a deal with the entity known as The Empty, which is basically the personification of the afterlife for angels and demons. Cas woke it up in season thirteen and it was mad and wanted Jack, so Cas traded his life. The Empty would only take him if he experienced a moment of true happiness.

And when that deal got made? Of course, every fan’s mind went to Buffy and Angel and how that “moment of true happiness” happened and we all figured that the only thing that would make Cas happy was Dean in some way, but again … I didn’t actually think that would happen even if it was the most logical thing because for the show. Because Destiel shippers had been so burned for so long. I had given up by that point. And I was fine with that! I didn’t need canon to confirm what I knew, I had made peace with a lifetime of nagging disappointment in what could have been on Supernatural.

I was at the point where I was pretty sure Destiel would never happen on screen. Not because the fact that at least one of these morons, if not both, was completely in love with the other wasn’t obvious from space, but because I figured if Supernatural was going to go there, they would have done it so long ago. It would have been so easy and in the end … it was easy. And I’m so happy to have been proven wrong. But Supernatural being Supernatural had to give us this in the most painful, tragic, and dramatic way.

As Death herself was about to reap Dean, Castiel figured that the only way to stop her and save Dean (and thus the world because he knew Dean could do it) was to experience that moment of happiness. And … his happiness was telling Dean he loved him. it wasn’t in the “having” as Cas said, but in the saying of it. In the simple act of loving. And yeah, the fact Cas said he thought his ultimate happiness was something he knew he could never have was what made this way more than platonic. It was romantic. It was amazing. It was gutting. It was profound.

Castiel said out loud what viewers and fans have known for a literal decade. Not just that loving Dean changed him, but that he loved Dean because Dean is the most loving person in the world. Dean has spent all season dealing with his anger and fury and hate, and in his final moments, Cas showed him that he wasn’t a man of hate … he was full of love.

And then Cas died! He died leaving a handprint on Dean’s shoulder, in an exact echo of the way he was introduced to the show! After his catchphrase had been “Hello, Dean” for years his final words were “Goodbye, Dean.” It was so much. Too much! It was so beautiful and sad and as the endpoint for the character of Castiel, who had been so changed by his love for this man, it made so much sense.

Now there will be rightful criticisms here, and there have been many on social media. I sympathize with fans who are mad that it “took this long” and who see this as a buried gay. I would counter that the episode ended with literally everyone on earth except Sam, Dean and Jack dead/vanished so … it was pretty brutal all around. Still. Having Cas say “I love you” to Dean in that way and then promptly die will sting.

I understand that bitterness, but I think that discounts how long and hard this journey has been how the symmetry of this story really does work. And now we can look back at Cas’s entire arc in this light! After years of being told we were bonkers and in some cases actually going bonkers to convince ourselves that what was right there was real … It means a lot to have this.

It means a lot that finally—FINALLY—we have canon romantic love on Castiel’s part. On Dean’s side? Who knows! The story isn’t over. I think Cas dying for him and telling him he loved him is going to motivate Dean through the end of the series. It’s huge. And who knows how things will shake out in the final two episodes.

In the end, I think what I want to say about this is  … Thank you. Thank you to Misha Collins for giving us an amazing character for twelve years. Thank you to Jensen Ackles for being able to have chemistry with anything on earth, but especially with Misha. Thanks to the writers for fighting for this, because I know they did and it can’t have been easy. Thanks to the show for giving us a win, when we had long given up.

And thanks to the timing of all this, because the fact that Destiel went canon before Joe Biden’s win means that now I’m going to associate Dean and Cas with the defeat of Donald Trump for the rest of my life and I think that’s beautiful.

(image: Dean Buscher/The CW)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.