In the midst of a civil war in heaven, Castiel has had to make incredibly difficult choices. When he chose to rebel against the powerful archangel Raphael, he was left with one question: the devil you know or the devil that wants to restart the apocalypse?
Times have not been easy for Castiel as he sits on a park bench giving his confession to God. He recalls some of the world's most memorable moments such as the physical evolution of humans, the Tower of Babel and the biggest event that never was, the averted day of reckoning. Since then things have not been as simple for him as Raphael wants to reignite Judgement Day and forced Castiel into a civil war for control of heaven. With all of his cards on the table and playing against an unbeatable opponent, Castiel has become desperate to win and allied himself with Crowley, the former king of hell, in the hopes they will be able to stop Raphael. In the meantime, Sam and Bobby have begun to suspect Castiel may have crossed over to the dark side while Dean refuses to believe his friend has changed. But if Castiel will stop at nothing to save heaven, will the Winchesters do whatever it takes to stop Castiel?
Finally, the episode that I have been asking for all year! "The Man Who Would Be King" was easily the best episode of the season and probably the past few seasons for that matter. By filling in all of the gaps since the end of season five, this episode has enriched every part of season six in what is essentially a recap leading into the discovery for Bobby and the Winchesters that Castiel is no longer the angel they once knew.
A huge strength of the show was the fantastic performances by Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard. Misha Collins has always turned in a great performance as Castiel but in an episode that was unquestionably his, he was finally given the room to spread his wings (did you see what I did there?). Cas's story has become tragic and the opportunity to show arrogance, anger, doubt and remorse were just a few pieces of what Collins brought out in his character in what was probably his best performance yet on the show. Speaking of great performers, I was thrilled when it was revealed Crowley was still alive last week as Mark Sheppard's presence was sorely missed. Once again, Sheppard delivers in spades giving Crowley the wit and cunning we have seen so many times before but the writing for Crowley in "The Man Who Would Be King" was spectacular. Stories can easily use anger jealousy to explain the motivations of a character but when they are able to rationalize their perspective into a persuasive argument it takes the show to a whole new level. This episode gave both empathy and pathos to the Castiel and Crowley in an entirely new way. Lastly, the scene between Dean and Castiel near the closing moments changed the course of the show, possibly turning allies into enemies forever.
Unfortunately, there was a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding hour of television. At the beginning of the episode when Castiel begins his confession there are a few black and white clips shown during his narration and it was too gimmicky; inserting a visual just for the sake of it rather than letting Collin's remarkable performance stand on its own like they did at the end. I know it's a minor complaint but it was just superfluous footage that distracted from the performance.
In a season that has been largely inconsistent, "The Man Who Would Be King" was amazing. If the last two episodes of season six are just as good as this week's the season could finish on a high note. Will Castiel see the errors of his ways before it's too late? The answers may be in next week's "Let It Bleed".