Brotherly love is one of the core themes of Supernatural, although many fans and fan fiction writers over the years have taken it further into romantic and sexual pairings. While several gay characters have been featured throughout the decade and a half of the show’s run, the core group has remained resolutely straight. However, in its third to last episode, a gay romantic declaration was declared between two of the central players.
The slash pairing in question is that of hunter Dean and angel Castiel, and is referred to in the fandom as Destiel, since any good piece of shipping combines the names of those featured into a portmanteau. It comes from the belief that multiple moments have hinted at something more than them just being merely allies and friends, and in the episode “Despair,” it’s canonically declared that the romantic affection exists in at least a one-sided form.
The climax features Dean and Castiel being chased by Billie, formerly a reaper and now the replacement Death, who was mortally wounded earlier in the episode. After Dean accidentally leads them into a dead end, Castiel reveals a deal he previously made with the Shadow, the ruler of the extra-planar void the Empty and the one thing that Billie fears, the payment of which was that if Castiel experienced true happiness, the entity would be summoned and trap him in the endless nothingness for eternity.
Castiel states that he had often wondered what form the moment would take, before he realized that “happiness isn’t in the having, it’s in just being. It’s in just saying it.” After explaining what Dean means to him and how knowing the abrasive hunter has changed him for the better, he professes his love for him, whereupon the Shadow’s tendrils are called forth, pulling both him and Billie into the Empty and in sacrificing his immortal existence, he saves Dean one final time.
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Castiel actor Misha Collins has now confirmed the intent of the angel’s words, and also addressed an issue that their timing unfortunately brings up, saying:
“Castiel tells Dean he loves him and basically makes Destiel canon. Fans are kind of freaking out over that. And then to complicate matters, he dies right after that. So Castiel makes this homosexual declaration of love, which is amazing that that happens, and then he dies right after, which plays into a timeless Hollywood trope of kill the gays. We give and then we take away.”
As Collins states, “bury your gays” is a problematic recurrence that sees gay characters killed at a far greater rate than straight ones, suggesting that their lives are somehow worth less simply due to who they’re wired to be attracted to. The high mortality rate of pretty much everyone that Supernatural has ever featured might mitigate those accusations, but still doesn’t entirely excuse them. Nevertheless, Collins’ comments make the romantic connection official, and shippers can now rewatch the characters’ previous interactions and feel vindicated in their perception.