When Castiel finally stops moping and feeling guilty for everything, he gets back to being the ass-kicker we know and love. Last night's scene of Castiel kicking ass was the highlight of the Supernatural midseason finale. The whole episode was highly entertaining, but also felt very much like a re-run.
In a nutshell, last night's midseason finale was all angels, all the time. The angels who fell to Earth are having a civil war, with a more corporate faction led by Bartholomew and a faction led by the "street tough" angel Malachi. (Confusingly, the "street tough" angel has a prissy women's choir on his side, and the more corporate faction includes a lot of bikers.) We see lots of entertainingly violent angel hits and counter-hits, and we get the sense that the angels are just going to wipe each other out, and maybe the planet along with them.
Castiel gets pulled into this plot, first when he's investigating along with Sam and Dean, and later when he meets a nice unaligned
fae angel, who gets captured and killed by Malachi. Malachi's guys are going to torture Castiel for info on Metatron, the recording angel who expelled all the other angels from Heaven — but then it turns out Malachi's right-hand torturer just wants to jump ship and join Metatron's crew. Which leads to Castiel's awesome scene of raw cunning and murder, culminating in Castiel stealing the angel's grace with a single gulp.
Also love Castiel confessing that he's become a "barbarian" and descended to the same level as the other warring angels. Nice stuff.
Meanwhile, after vague hints all midseason that the angel inhabiting Sam isn't what he seems, we find out he's not Ezekiel — he's Gadriel, the angel who was locked up for letting the serpent into the Garden of Eden. And Gadriel gets what that other angel wanted — he's recruited by Metatron, who's randomly back on Earth because he got bored alone in Heaven. Metatron has some supremely creepy, funny scenes where he talks about creating a new Heaven, without all those functionary angels, or any of the silly angels. And he basically wants to rule the new Heaven, but he won't be called God — instead, you call him X. (Huh?)
I feel like the episode is groping for some cosmological satire here:
The episode culminates in Dean realizing, too late, that Gadriel is not to be trusted, and that it may be too late to get him out of Sam's body, where he's been for the past nine episodes. Dean tries to set a trap for Gadriel, but it backfires, and we discover that Gadriel has a mission from Metatron: kill Kevin the prophet, the one person who could threaten Metatron's plans by deciphering some brand new unreadable text on the Angel Tablet.
The takeaway of the episode is that Dean has screwed everything up, yet again — he's lost Sam, who apparently is just Gadriel's vessel now. And right after Dean assured Kevin that trusting Dean won't get Kevin "screwed" this time, Kevin is royally and permanently screwed. Dean has gone from being the show's heroic mouthpiece for never giving up and hanging on to free will, to being the guy who makes terrible choice after terrible choice, because he can't let his brother go.
In any case, this was a superfun episode, that nevertheless felt a bit warmed-over. The angel civil war felt very much like the last angel civil war. And the Earthbound angels aren't, at this point, feeling that much different than the Leviathans a couple years ago. Sam is possessed yet again — this is the third or fourth time that Sam hasn't been Sam. Castiel is once again getting his hands dirty to try and clean up a mess he helped create.
There's nothing wrong with the tune, or how it's being played — it's just that the show has played this tune better in the past.
Also, I'm not sure what the angels represent any more. They used to have a legitimate point of view, believing that they were fulfilling God's plan in God's absence. Now they just seem like another set of supernatural mooks who look human most of the time — slightly harder to kill than demons but not that much harder. We haven't seen enough of Bartholomew for him to feel like a meaningful character, and Malachi is new as of this episode. It's also kind of random that the brothers have Crowley in their dungeon but we haven't even seen him in a few weeks, and the Abaddon plotline is apparently on hold.
All in all, Supernatural is still a fun show, but it's like when your favorite band from 10 years ago comes to town and plays all their greatest hits from 10 years ago. You still get out the lighter and all, but it's not like it'll be as good as when they were touring on that stuff right after it first came out.