By request of Ikeke35. Hope you like.
The song Goodbye Stranger begins playing in the final moments of the episode of the same name- episode 8×17. It’s often coded as a ‘Destiel song’, but if you look at the lyrics, you see that the song is about loss, really.
Watch the clip where this song is used here.
…is the undisputed truth
But I have to have things my own way to keep me in my youth
Like a ship without an anchor, like a slave without a chain
Just the thought of those sweet ladies sends a shiver through my veins
And I will go on shining, shining like brand new
I’ll never look behind me, my troubles will be few
Goodbye stranger it’s been nice, hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view, hope your dreams will all come true
Goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane, will we ever meet again
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame, come tomorrow, feel no pain
Sweet devotion, it’s not for me
Just give me motion, set me free
And land and the ocean, far away
The life I’ve chosen, every day
So goodbye Mary, goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again
It’s a song about letting people go and leaving them behind. And of course, Cas leaves Dean behind, and Cas also leaves Naomi behind. In a way, Sam finally leaves Amelia behind. And they all leave Meg behind, as she dies at last.
Before I get into this meta, which is going to revolve around ships, let me just say that I’m a fanatic shipper of nothing. I like Destiel, I like Sastiel, I like Sam/Madison and Cassie/Dean and Sam/Jess and Dean/Lisa. I acknowledge the Sam/Dean subtext. I like Samelia less, but whatever.
(Shipping Megstiel like:
My point is, everyone’s going to put their own slant on shippy episodes because everyone sees pairings differently. And that’s fine.
So now let’s break down these song lyrics a little.
Firstly, it’s interesting in an episode like this- that depends so much on everyone’s interpretations of character, which vary- that when Dean switches on the radio the first of the song lyrics we hear are ‘is the undisputed truth’. Of course, there’s no such thing- much as I respect this fandom (mostly), sometimes it seems like fans are fighting tooth and nail to gain recognition that their opinions are the correct ones. Of course, thanks to the cutoff point of the song, we never find out what exactly is the undisputed truth. Possibly starting the song here was an acknowledgement of the inevitable deluge of ship-wars to come following this episode.
The ‘like a ship without an anchor, like a slave without a chain’ seems like an acknowledgement of Cas’s freedom from Naomi’s brainwashing- freedom that his bond with Dean afforded him. So we have hints that, yes, this song does pertain to Destiel. In this context, the words ‘Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice, hope you find your paradise’ could be interpreted as Dean addressing Cas- somewhat ironically, as Cas has just left ‘paradise’, rejecting it in favour of Dean. This could be taken as a suggestion of Dean actually being Cas’s idea of paradise- but of course, the word ‘stranger’ evokes the idea that Dean feels he still doesn’t know who or what Cas is. And the words ‘sweet devotion, it’s not for me/Just give me motion, set me free’ certainly don’t seem to imply any particular attachment in the Destiel area- but this belies the whole episode, as we’ve just seen Castiel having to kill thousands of fake Deans to prepare him for killing the real one.
The lyrics here, and the panning of the camera out to a beautiful long shot of Cas’s bus crossing the landscape, suggest that Cas is trying to focus on the ‘bigger picture’- the need to keep the tablet safe. To see this song through your Destiel goggles would be to interpret it as Cas and Dean lying to themselves about how much they need each other.
However, you could also see this song as an ode to Meg, who died minutes of screentime previously. In this context ‘goodbye stranger, it’s been nice, hope you find your paradise’ would make perfect sense- suggesting that she and Cas never wholly understood each other, just as they were starting to be confused about which of them was ‘good’ and which was ‘bad’. The effort to understand where Meg was coming from- for example, with her sexual euphemisms- could be applied to ‘tried to see your point of view’. In fact, the whole song would make sense in a Megstiel context.
However, my personal reading- though I do see the song as a homage to Meg as well- is that the song refers to Cas’s loss of identity, and the freedom he’s finding, or trying to find, in it. In fact, right after the line ‘just the thought of those sweet ladies/sends a shiver through my veins’ we cut from Sam and Dean in the Impala to Naomi and another female angel, looking exasperated.
In this light, it is again Cas who is the ‘stranger’- even to his own kind. As Naomi will later say, ‘you came off the line with a crack in your chassis’. Cas constantly fluctuates between angel and human, and sometimes other things too- like a plastic action figure, or a leviathan, or, you know, God- and even he doesn’t know what he is.
But in this song is reflected the idea that freedom can be found in this fluctuating state. Cas is an ancient being, and until recently, he was constant. But now he’s discovering people, and discovering that in many ways they’re better than angels. Cas dislikes the identity loss involved in being an angel- the brainwashing, the requisite obedience- but now, as his bus rattles off into the distance, he looks at peace, blending in amongst all the individual humans. The ‘sweet devotion, it’s not for me’ line could then be read as Cas renouncing Naomi’s authority.
My reading of this song is that it pays homage to Meg, and also shows Castiel renouncing the last of his allegiance to other angels. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.
Ikeke35, I hope this helps you settle your ideas about this song? Obviously there’s nothing wrong with your dislike, whether baseless or not. This is just my personal take on it. I like the use of this song, but that doesn’t mean you have to.