Major spoilers for Season 15, Episode 18 ahead!
You may have seen the title and thought, “Supernatural? I haven’t heard that name in years. . . .” If that’s the case, then boy do I have some news for you! If you aren’t familiar with Supernatural, ‘Destiel’ is the ship name for the characters Dean Winchester, a demon hunter, and Castiel, an angel. Since Castiel’s first appearance in season four, fans have coupled the two together because of the (seemingly) romantic moments they share. If you are familiar with Supernatural, then you’re familiar with the years of queerbaiting this show has perpetuated through the “bromance” between the two characters. Now here we are, 12 years later, finally confirming their relationship — or, at least, it seemed to, with only one episode left in the series.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, the episode “Despair” aired on the CW Network. In the episode, Castiel makes a deal to sacrifice himself for Dean. If he didn’t, Death (yes, the human embodiment of death) would have killed everyone. However, because of a previous deal he made, he can only die after experiencing true happiness. So, through tears and awkward smiles, Castiel confesses his love for Dean. He leaves Dean with a handprint, similar to the one he gave Dean when they first met. Romantic, right? Many fans would agree as they took to Twitter to express their excitement. One Twitter user tweeted out, “The most beautiful slow burn in TV history.” Another user tweeted, “I can’t believe this is happening. I might need someone to pinch me!”
Even though many fans were excited about this confirmation, most were disappointed with how the scene was handled. One Twitter user said, “The SPN writers wrote one of the gayest Tumblr ships, queerbaited us for over a decade and then had the audacity to make #destiel canon before sending one of them to superhell…what sorta…” Another shared a sentiment a lot of viewers felt — that the energy the two characters had were not the same. People noted that Misha Collins, the actor who plays Castiel, gave an emotional performance, while Jensen Ackles, the actor who plays Dean, just stood there.
Fans also questioned if the confession was romantic. Some felt like Castiel was just expressing brotherly love, as no romantic gestures were made (no, they didn’t kiss). Misha Collins tried to put those doubts to rest as he liked a tweet that says “GAY” and spoke at the DarkLight Online Convention, stating, “Destiel is canon after Castiel makes his homosexual declaration of love.” Many fans still aren’t convinced, as Castiel didn’t make an appearance (nor was he mentioned) on the Nov. 12 episode.
What made fans the most upset was that this confession came just moments before Castiel’s death. Supernatural fell right into the “bury your gays” trope. One definition of that trope is, “At least one half of the couple, often the one who was more aggressive in pursuing a relationship, thus ‘perverting’ the other one, has to die at the end.” This trope is often seen in older works, such as the 1924 film Michael and the 1995 film Braveheart. Seeing it play out in 2020 is a bit of a shock. However, this isn’t the first time the CW has been under fire for perpetuating this trope. The 100 killed off their fan-favorite queer character, Lexa, shortly after she got into a relationship. Supernatural has gotten in trouble because of ‘Destiel’ before because of comments the cast has made.
Ackles has expressed before that he doesn’t support ‘Destiel’ and has said at a past convention that “Destiel doesn’t exist,” which, perhaps, came through in his performance during Castiel’s confession. Collins, who, as aforementioned, supports the ship, also had to defend the writers and call the queerbaiting allegations “unfair.” Supernatural does have a history of treating its LGBTQIA+ characters poorly. In season three, Alan J. Corbett, the first gay character on the show, gruesomely died and became stuck as a death echo, where a ghost is trapped reliving their death. To be freed from this echo, his crush had to confess his love. So, this isn’t Supernatural’s first time they’ve buried their gays. Will this be how the show goes out too?
With Castiel and Dean’s performance in “Despair,” it’s hard to oppose the queerbaiting allegations. The confession was lackluster, one-sided, and, quite frankly, awkward. There’s only one episode left in the series, so there is hope that Supernatural will give Castiel and Dean a happy ending. Is that enough to remedy the years of denial and queerbaiting? We’ll have to tune in and see.
Featured Image Courtesy of Pride