The Dean shower and mirror gifsets are so pretty—and every time I see another one I think no matter how much water he uses, no matter how much fog he wipes away, he doesn’t feel clean and he can’t see himself clearly.
In light of Castiel’s attitude towards power this season—the ends do not justify by any means, his looking for another way, his denial that he can be a leader, the relief he showed in 9.18 when Gabriel announced he would be the new leader, his worried, horrified reaction to Dean’s mark, I’m thinking about why he would step out to lead the angel ducklings at the end of the ep. It’s possible it’s Metatron’s offer of a reliable power supply and Cas is deeply worried and (like Dean) willing to turn himself into a weapon, despite his gained awareness about power. He says in the ep “I’m just a soldier.” He doesn’t this time see himself as the only one who can fix it and save the day; it’s more “I did what I had to do” and a bit like Dean’s I don’t matter in light of what they’re up against mindset. But the emotional beats of Castiel’s character development have been so overt this season, and he’s not lacking in self-awareness by now, so I wonder.
The optimistic reading is that Castiel is going to play Metatron’s game in order to rip up the pages from the inside. Which would also be a very Castiel like thing to do, he’s a strategist. And Cas will take his chances with his burning out borrowed grace, to take down Metatron.
He looked pretty sad in that last scene. He doesn’t want to be the leader and has direct experience with the consequences of turning himself into a weapon (if Metatron’s offer of power supply is the reason). S9 in some respects is facing Cas with S6, and echoing it to show how Cas’s views have changed.
Metatron’s speech to Gadreel echoes Sammifer in the End, and Michael to Dean in The Song Remains the Same. No matter what you do, you can’t escape the inevitable outcome.
But Sam and Dean and Cas have defied that again and again, and Cas stepping out to lead isn’t the end point.