Equally unsurprisingly, my reaction is one well... mixed. Conflicted.
So, way back in season 2, after watching Father Reynolds talk with Sam and Dean about the picture of the Archangel Michael smiting the demons with his firey sword (and well, looking at the significant lingering of the camera on the picture) several of my online friends and I came to the conclusion that Dean's special "purpose" was that he was the physical embodiment of th Archangel Michael, that he would be the only person who could stop the apocalypse or defeat lucifer or whatever the demons were planning.
Of course, at that time, we thought angels didn't exist in the Supernaturalverse. We also didn't know that Lucifer existed or that Sam was the literal antichrist set up to free Lucifer. So, in my mind and my friends minds (as far as I know) we invisioned this as more the ultimate "fuck you" from Dean--Dean the guy who's always been shoved to the sidelines, manipulated, taken for granted, called "Daddy's little blunt instrument," "good little soldier," etc. That Dean would be the only one with the capability to save the world just seemed like an incredibly appropriate and empowering fate for Dean. A ray of hope and self-worth in a sea of psyche-crushing low self-esteem. I suppose I was asking for too much.
Instead, in "Sympathy for the Devil," we learn that Dean is indeed the physical manifestation of the Archangel Michael, in that he is literally Michael's vessel. Only, the angels don't want Dean for his brains or ingenuity or resiliant spirit, no, they want him to surrender himself completely, to give his consent so that Michael can take over--hijack his mind and body--and bring about "heaven on Earth"... This is one of those cases where I hate being right, which happens far too often with Supernatural. I don't quite know what to say. What a frigging disapointment. So, what? We're supposed to believe that Dean really is a pathetic excuse for a human being? Nothing more than a tool to be used by his father, the demons, and now the angels to do their bidding? I want some character development goddamnit. Not that Dean's mental state and complete lack of self-worth or self-esteem is necessarily unrealistic considering what he's been through (frankly, after 40 years in hell, I'm surprised he remembers how to drive a car or dial a telephone or that he can sleep at all), but it would just be really nice to see him start to believe in himself a little. -- Especially since I'm getting the sense that the fate of humanity hangs on that.
Then there's the somewhat unfortunately squicky comparison of demonic and angelic possession. Demonic possession is clearly like rape--there's no consent (most of the time), it's a violation, it's all bad, etc. The angels seem to pride themselves on how they get consent first, except that it also seems to be the most frustrating thing for them--unlike their demonic neices and nephews, they have to hang around relatively powerless, harassing people until they trick them into saying "yes." I'm just not sure what we're supposed to take from the angels' approach... is this a story of "yes isn't yes if it's under duress"? Really, we got it already guys, angels and demons both suck.
And speaking of angels, just how stupid ARE they (or at least Zachariah's group of them)? Did they honestly think they'd be able to do anything that would make Dean "consent" to being possessed? Dean spent 40 years in HELL. He's been down the road of sacrificing himself for people, of having other sacrifice themselves for him, he knows all the crap that comes with it, and the worst possible fate(s) he could be condemning himself (or Sam or Bobby) to if he doesn't do what the angels ask. This means hello stupid angels, you have no leverage whatsoever to make Dean do what you want. I'm not really complaining there, just not entirely sure I'm happy with the characterization of the villainous angels. Villains are more frightening when they're smart and don't spend all their time pontificating around unnecessarily slow dipping devices or taunting the (anti)heros with useless threats.
But what's really got me frustrated, more than the let down of Dean's angelic tool-dom, is Dean's attitude towards Sam. Has he really learned nothing? Hello, dude, you were the one who made the deal and went to hell and started the whole thing in motion--you were set up; Sam was set up too. Yes, Sam trusted Ruby over you, and that eventually freed Lucifer. But YOU also thought that killing Lilith would do the trick--right up until the angels told you otherwise; you just didn't want to hunt her, because your experiences along those lines had been disasterous, and you didn't want Sam using his powers. But let's reexamine. It wasn't Sam using his powers or killing Lilith that freed Lucifer... actually, it's not entirely clear that lilith had to be killed with Sam's powers (although, if not then what exactly was the point of Azazel's whole intricate scheme?), but I digress. It was Sam killing Lilith with his powers at exactly the right time and place after 65 other seals had been broken; anything else wouldn't have worked. So, Dean, you can't really even blame Sam for that--if anything, blame the angels for setting him up. Yes, you were right, Ruby was bad all along, but haven't you gotten the message yet? The whole point of Ruby and Castiel (sorry Cas, you're a kickass dude now, but you were totally a bad-angel chump for much of season 4) seducing Sam and Dean was to split them up, sow discord, make it so they would keep secrets, not trust, etc. And now, that's exactly what you're doing, Dean--distrusting Sam, possibly shutting him out. Haven't you gotten a clue in the last 4 seasons that you really are stronger as a family? Yes, that's right, warts and faults and all, you and Sam together are near-unstoppable, so unstoppable that every bigbad that comes your way tries immediately to split you up. Yes, you're hurt, but don't you understand that right now, you're letting them win? (Also, what happened to the attitude we saw when Dean left that non-hateful voicemail on Sam's cell in "Lucifer Rising," you know, the one Sam never got to hear? Where'd that Dean go? Or did the writers just conveniently forget about that little snippet of character development?)
The episode was not without encouragement, though. Dean's speech in Bobby's hospital room is exactly what I've been hoping to hear out of Dean since the mytharc began to unwind. Humans saying "back off" to angels and demons alike and claiming Earth as their home. Brilliant! With Dean at the center, using his amazing powers of persuasion, charisma, and never-give-up attitude to lead the charge. (Notice how 50% of the time a particularly nasty demon is hellbent on killing Dean, he's able to coax the demon's host into reasserting himself and thwarting the demon's plan? Yeah, that's the kind of inspirational power that just might make a difference.) Of course, Dean himself doesn't believe this is possible. He's tired, worn out, and has no faith in himself (if he ever did), not helped by his feelings of failure towards the "one thing he did right" (i.e., Sam). But what I want to see is Dean taking on that can-do attitue for real. That's the battle I want to see. That's the ending/fate/challenge I want for Dean. Is that asking too much? Or must we suffer through even more breakdown of Dean's psyche to the point where it is completely imposible for him to ever recover, making him one of the most victimized characters ever?
Still, even if Dean does find some faith (in himself) and get his groove back (and maybe recover his wonder twin relationship with Sam along the way) I had a sinking feeling hearing Zachariah talk about Michael and how Dean's his one, only, special vessel. So, if Michael is on the side of Zachariah and not Castiel (who seems to have found the long-lost god who started this whole mess?), then it stands to reason, Michael may need to be dispatched. Of course, Michael can't fully manifest unless he pops into a vessel, and the only vessel possible is Dean. So if you want to kill him... Is it just me, or is anyone else sensing we might have another "Harry is a Horcrux" situation on our hands wherin Dean will have to commit suicide to kill his enemy? Anyone? What's gonna be the catch to get him out of that one? Or is that going to be how Dean goes out in a blaze of glory?
I guess I'll have to keep watching and see. I'm just...ambivalent and conflicted for the time being. Here's to hoping Dean gets some good psychotherapy somewhere along the way.