Second Star to the Right, and Straight on Till Endgame: Castiel as Peter Pan, and What That Means for His Fall
Because I cut portions of this out of the big meta, and it related very well to the back and forth I had with littlehollyleaf and crankystalfos and I think also neven-ebrez on the possibility of Cas falling next season.
"Poor little half-and-half!" said Solomon, who was not really hard-hearted. "You will never be able to fly again, not even on windy days. You must live here on the island always."
"Then I shan’t be exactly a human?" Peter asked.
"Not exactly a bird?"
"What shall I be?"
"You will be a Betwixt-and-Between," Solomon said, and certainly he was a wise old fellow, for that is exactly how it turned out.
(Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens)
In personality, there is little to link our angel of the Lord with the boy who would not grow up, but it is difficult to remove the character from my mind when thinking of Cas’ character arc. In order to be friends with Dean, Cas could not remain with heaven—but neither can he ever successfully join earth. (He has, after all, been an angel for millennia.) He may not have Pan’s cockiness. He may be more subdued in his Pan-like wonder. However, his choice is the same: between pure freedom in humanity (though for Peter, this comes ironically from being more angelic, from being a bird) or controlled conformity in angelic grace (for Peter, humanity). Cas is Betwixt-and-Between: unable to go back and equally unable to move forward. He therefore has to become his own man, a species onto himself, an arc we’re still seeing build today.
Cas has tried the many flavors, in the past. “Which Cas are you now, original make and model, or crazy town?” Meg asked as recently as “Goodbye Stranger”. She leaves out in this a number of Castiels: fallen Cas, subservient Cas, rebellious Cas. Cas has, for four years, searched for who he is and it is only now that he is honing in on a possible answer by regaining his self-worth; by finding meaning in his life as it is and forgiving himself for his actions in trying to claw his way back to the heavenly arena. Freeing himself from Naomi’s power and accomplishing whatever task the Tablet seems to be asking of him, Cas can finally be what he promised Meg he was: just and simply himself.
How can he do this? I know some (read: most of fandom) predict Cas’ wings will be clipped, and it is certainly something that will be presented as (at the least) a possibility eventually. Season five in many ways dealt with the challenges and struggles of being fallen, but it was in a much safer and impermanent fashion. Truly fallen, truly human Cas only appeared at the tail end. As we climb towards the series’ probable end, we also no doubt will face again the uncomfortable truth: Cas and his beloved Winchesters are playing on different playing fields.
"I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long ago."
"You promised not to!"
"I couldn’t help it."
(Peter and Wendy)
Cas, even Betwixt-and-Between as he is, is immortal and unable to live comfortably in heaven; the Winchesters are not, and will die and most likely go there.
But is Cas falling necessarily something we will have this season? There are themes of suicide and sacrifice throughout the narrative. Occasionally the two have even been in contrast with one another, such as in “Freaks and Geeks”, when Krissy’s sacrifice of her revenge precedes directly Victor’s despair induced suicide. Becoming human, however, has never been tied into this though we have had the occasion, in cross-species affair after cross-species affair. The focus instead has always been precisely on the otherworldly aspect being inescapable, and even something to embrace (see Charlie/Glinda, James/Portia, and Betsy/Brick). When the burden of immortality is suggested (see Prometheus and Brick again), Cas is nowhere to be found to hear it.
However, as the lovely crankystalfos here points out, there is Fred in “Hunteri Heroici”. Cas may have reprogrammed Fred the same way Naomi has done him. However, it is also possible he sacrificed his powers for the greater good, as he has proven to himself he cannot hope to control them, now that he has been mentally compromised. The language is ambiguous enough to go either way: “There might be a way. The procedure will be painful, and… when it’s over, I’m not sure how much of you will be left.”
Meanwhile, there are also the Golem’s curious true words, as revealed by isthemachinesinging: “Fall from grace for me”. There is the ambiguous introduction of a new class of demons (which may in fact be fallen angels) by Henry in “As Time Goes By”: “Knights of Hell are hand-picked by Lucifer himself. They are of the first-fallen, first-born demons”.
We should know soon enough. As we enter the final four, if this is a thread that the writers intend to clarify, it will become obvious. The fundamental thing, however, is that, fallen or not, Cas must remain Betwixt-and-Between. To quote from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens again:
"For a bird, he was sitting on his wrong part. It is a blessing that he did not know, for otherwise he would have lost faith in his power to fly, and the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it".
And from Peter and Wendy:
"Second to the right," said Peter, "and then straight on till morning."
"What a funny address!"
Peter had a sinking. For the first time he felt that perhaps it was a funny address.
"No, it isn’t," he said.
"I mean," Wendy said nicely, remembering that she was hostess, "is that what they put on the letters?"
He wished she had not mentioned letters.
"Don’t get any letters," he said contemptuously.
"But your mother gets letters?"
"Don’t have a mother," he said. Not only had he no mother, but he had not the slightest desire to have one. He thought them very overrated persons. Wendy, however, felt at once that she was in the presence of a tragedy.
Attempting to become pure human will ruin Cas. He can try. He can mimic and he can learn. He can never truly be however, and the knowledge that he cannot could lead him down the same identity crisis we’ve seen him go through before (otherwise known as nowhere new, the wasteland of storytelling). Similarly though, he cannot be pure angel again, just as Peter cannot rejoin human society without fundamentally changing everything about who he has become:
Mrs. Darling […] told Peter that she had adopted all the other boys, and would like to adopt him also.
"Would you send me to school?" he inquired craftily.
"And then to an office?"
"I suppose so."
"Soon I should be a man?"
"I don’t want to go to school and learn solemn things," he told her passionately. "I don’t want to be a man. O Wendy’s mother, if I was to wake up and feel there was a beard!"
(Peter and Wendy)
Cas has been changed, utterly, and he can no longer hope to infringe upon heaven to make them in his image. He loves his ability to move freely, think freely, love freely (as the angel with “too much heart”) far too much.
Whichever of Castiel’s two sides claims his outward presentation of himself however, there is one truth: there must be something new to muck up the works. There must be an outside element that complicates his Betwixt-and-Between status. We have had antagonist after antagonist do this: Raphael, Crowley, Leviathan, Naomi. We’ve seen it turned against him, used to force him into despair and villainy. As Cas moves toward acceptance of it, and it becomes lost as a tactic against him, who will step up to complicate that status anew in a way that furthers his development and moves him one step closer to whatever his endgame place will be?
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