I felt strangely sympathetic towards the character Gadreel. I think we’re meant to, really, at least towards the end of Season Nine. He’s done these awful things- hi, Kevin- he’s betrayed the Winchesters in the worst way, yet I felt for him, because he’s tormented by what he’s done. He’s trying to atone for something long past, and in the process dug himself in deeper.
Really, Gadreel just wants redemption. He is not ‘bad’ in the same sense as, say, Metatron is ‘bad’, because he does care. The point is that he’s haunted by what he’s done. Sound familiar?
There’s a clear parallel drawn between Sam releasing Lucifer and Gadreel letting Lucifer into the garden of Eden- and both were misled, and wished to atone. Then we have Cas’s betrayal at the end of Season Six- a fascinating small arc. All these characters have to believe that they can be saved, and it’s encouraging to the viewer, too. Because hey, if the fount of original sin can seek forgiveness and find it, then who can’t, right?
But it’s the stage inbetween the sin committed and the subsequent redemption that SPN is truly interested in. Gadreel lives in that gap, has done for thousands of years; Brother’s Keeper was, on some level, all about that, about Dean acknowledging that he could be saved in a way that may or may not have damned the world. Viewed through that lens, it’s a fascinating episode, issues aside.
Crowley undergoes a similar transformation, almost parallel- he starts out in a resplendent state of damnation, goes even deeper into that over the course of Season Eight- and then is yanked sharply out of it by Sam, who’s trying to atone for his own past sins.
You all know the scene.
It’s in my top five scenes. Of anything. Ever.
CROWLEY: Would it be possible, Moose… I’d like to ask you a… a favour. Earlier, when you were confessing back there… what did you say? I only ask, because… given my history… it raises the question… Where do I start, to even look for forgiveness? I mean…
SAM: How about we start with this.
The first time I watched it, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that they actually went there so completely.
Then we have Gadreel:
‘The only thing that matters in the end is the mission – protecting those who would not and cannot protect themselves – the humans. None of us is bigger than that. And we will not let our fears, our self-absorption prevent us from seeing it through. Not anymore.
Move to the other side of your cell, Castiel, and keep your head down. When they say my name, perhaps I won’t just be the one who let the serpent in. Perhaps I will be known as one of the many who gave heaven a second chance. Run, sister.’
It’s salvation through self-sacrifice. Remind you of anything?
Yet ‘being saved’ is generally known as ‘going to Heaven’- Sam was saved through going to Hell. According to SPN philosophy, redemption isn’t a matter of personal happiness, unlike a lot of Christian theology; it’s a matter of the good you do to others.
Dean remains one of the only characters unwilling to acknowledge that he wants to be forgiven.
Brother’s Keeper took a step in that direction- Dean effectively decided that he was worthy of forgiveness- but he remains unable, or unwilling, to ask for it. But who knows- maybe that’s what’s on the cards for Season Eleven.