Cult Villains 2/ Azazel The Yellow Eyed Demon

Last week we took a look at Xena’s archenemy Callisto. This week we will be taking a look at Azazel, the main antagonist from the first two seasons of Supernatural.

Now Azazel was based loosely on the character of the same name from the Bible, though other than his name he bears very little similarity with the character.

Azazel or Yellow eyes as he is more commonly known has only to date appeared in a handful of episodes of the series. Still despite this he has ultimately gone down as one of the shows most popular and iconic villains and has also had arguably the biggest impact of any villain in the show.

He is certainly my favorite villain from the series and in this article I will explain why I feel he worked the best out of Supernatural’s impressive rogues gallery, as well as giving a complete over view of the character.

Character Overview

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Azazel first appears properly in the final episode of season 1 “Devils Trap”, where he is played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan whilst possessing John Winchester.

Prior to this however Azazel had appeared in fleeting cameos throughout season 1. He nevertheless had played a very important role in the two main characters, Sam and Dean Winchesters back stories.

His presence is first felt in the Pilot episode where we see that he murdered Mary Winchester, John’s wife and Sam and Dean’s mother by pinning her to the ceiling, slicing her stomach open and burning her alive.

This caused John Winchester to discover about the Supernatural and he spent the rest of his life tracking down the thing that killed his wife, whilst also training his two sons to become Hunters too.

At the end of the Pilot, Azazel murders Jesse, Sam Winchesters fiance the same way by pinning her to the ceiling, slicing her open and burning her to death. It is later revealed however that it was in fact one of Azazel’s minions that actually killed Jess.

At this point nothing is known about the creature that killed the Winchester boys mother and Jesse, but both Sam (who was ready to forsake his life as a hunter) and Dean soon take the road in order to track it down and kill it.

It soon becomes apparent that it was a Demon of some sort, with powers far beyond those of other Demons.

The two brothers later discover that the Demon has killed many more women in exactly the same fashion it murdered Mary and Jesse, and that it is also infecting many of the women it murders children in some way, giving them strange powers, with Sam himself having been affected this way.

The two boys eventually meet up and battle a group of Vampires who have stolen a special gun called The Colt that can kill anything supernatural. With John hoping to use it against the Demon. After testing it out on the leader of the Vampires, John and his two sons go to confront Azazel and though they are able to stop him from murdering another young woman and infecting her child. Azazel escapes and his two minions capture John. Though Sam and Dean later manage to rescue John, they discover that the Demon has in fact possessed their own father and finally come face to face with the monster that murdered their mother.

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The writers had spent an entire season building Azazel up as the ultimate monster, showing us the impact its had on the Winchester family, the lengths they will have to go to destroy it and how vicious it is.

Thus when he finally gets to appear properly on screen, and not just as a shadowy figure in the background, they really pull out all the stops and show us how he is able to pin Sam and Dean against the wall and completely overpower them using his mind with virtually no effort. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is also on top form here, making Azazel seem powerful, and relentlessly cruel as he takes pleasure in reminding the boys of how he killed their loved ones. I also loved it when we discovered that two of the Demons Sam and Dean slew earlier where in fact Azazel’s children. It was such a nice twist that they had now destroyed his family in their quest fro revenge. Though I also liked the way Azazel didn’t actually seem to care about either one of his kids, it was more just a “how dare you destroy MY kids” type of a thing as he merely used their deaths as a way to taunt Sam and Dean.

How would you like it if I killed your family. Oh that’s right (smiles) I forgot I did“.

This could very well be Morgans best performance in the series as we see him brilliantly switch from Yellow Eyes almost laughing as he sadistically tortures a helpless Dean, to John crying and begging Azazel to stop and give him back his body.

Most disturbing of all though is the way that Morgan plays Azazel as almost taking a sexual pleasure whilst torturing Sam and Dean in the body of their father!

Though Azazel does almost torture Dean to death, John is able to regain control of his body before the monster can finish the job. Though John begs Sam to shoot him before the Demon can escape him and end it now, ultimately Sam cannot and Yellow Eyes manages to flee.

At the end of season 1 he then sends a Demon lackey to attack them on the road. Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger as Sam, Dean and John are all badly wounded and at the mercy of a Demon.

In the season 2 premier “In My Time of Dying” we discover that Sam and John survived, but Dean still weak after Azazel’s torture of him is now mortally wounded. Knowing his son is going to die John summons Azazel and makes a deal with him.

He will trade him the Colt the only thing that can kill him in exchange for Deans life. Azazel agrees, but only on the condition that John give up not only his life, but his soul to Azazel. John with no other choice agrees, and thus whilst Dean is saved (with Azazel even possessing the Reaper that has come to take Deans soul away, played by Lindsey McKeaon who also briefly plays Azazel) John dies soon after and his soul is taken to hell by Azazel where he endures torture.

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In this episode Azazel is played by Frederic Lehne. Now Lehne has gone on to be the actor most associated with the role and its not hard to see why. Morgan was good as Yellow Eyes, but it would be hard to find a villain more unnerving than Lehne as the Demon.

Much like Morgan, Lehne adds a somewhat Jack Nicholson quality to the characters mannerisms and speech. Still Lehne plays him in a much more sinister and manipulative fashion as we see the villain enjoy getting under the skin of John in their brief confrontation.

Originally Lehne was only supposed to play the villain in this one episode, but the producers were so impressed with his performance that they asked him back for Azazels next appearance in the two part season 2 finale, “All Hell Breaks Loose”.

In this story Azazel whisks all of the children he has been infecting with his blood away (including Sam) to a remote area and forces them to fight to the death to determine who is the strongest.

Azazel favours Sam and even appears to him in a dream to give him advice. This moment showed a new twisted side to Azazel that he favoured Sam the most out of all of his Special Children simply because he was the kindest. If Azazel could twist his mind and bring him down to his level then he feels he would have truly won. Ultimately when another one of the Special Children named Jake wins and murders Sam, Azazel is almost disappointed and later is ecstatic when Dean brings Sam back through another deal with a Demon like his father did for him. Most horrifying of all is when Sam murders Jake in cold blood even when Jake begs him for mercy and Azazel cheers him on, almost showing a kind of fatherly love.

Ultimately Azazel is hoist by his own petard as he uses the Colt to open the Devils Gate, a portal to Hell. Azazel’s plan was apparently to free an army of Demons and then have one of his special Children lead them to overrun the earth. However unfortunately for Azazel John Winchesters soul also escapes from hell (after having endured a hundred years worth of torture, with time moving a lot faster in Hell) and attacks Azazel allowing Dean enough time to grab the Colt and use it to shoot Azazel right in the heart killing the Demon once and for all.

We also discovered earlier in this story how Azazel infected Sam and the other special children, by pouring his blood into their mouths when they were infants and we also see that he apparently knew Mary Winchester before he killed her, but the details of this are not known about until much later.

It wouldn’t be until after Azazel’s death that we learned his actual name. Throughout his time on the show he was always referred to as “The Yellow Eyed Demon”, “Yellow Eyes” or even just simply “The Demon”.

Post Death Appearances

Though Azazel had been finally destroyed, this would not be the last we would see of him.

In the season 4 episode “In the Beginning” Dean Winchester is sent backwards in time to the 1970’s. Here he meets his mum and dad when they were younger and discovers that his mother was in fact a hunter. Together Dean, Mary and Samuel, Dean’s grandfather soon battle Azazel who is revealed to be making deals with people. Dean tries to find the Colt, hoping he can use it to kill Azazel now and thus change time.

However unfortunately Azazel soon possess Samuel Campbell and overpowers Dean. Azazel tells Dean that he is making deals with people so that he can enter their house in ten years for some unspecified purpose. With Dean knowing its so that he can infect their children with his blood and make them into his special children. Azazel also lets it be known to Dean that his endgame is much bigger than simply having one of his Special Children command his “bargain basement” Demon army. Dean gloats to Azazel that he will one day kill him, and Azazel enraged over this murders Samuel and and later goes on to kill John. He does so so that he can make a deal with Mary to enter her house in ten years in exchange for John’s life, which explains how Mary knows him when she spots him years later standing over Sam’s crib. With no other choice Mary agrees to the deal and Azazel escapes before Dean can shoot him with the Colt.

Azazel goes on to appear in the 4th season finale “Lucifer Rising” where we see him  posses a priest and slaughter several nuns in order to contact his “father” Lucifer.

Finally Azazel goes on to appear once more as a hallucination in the first episode of season 6 “Exile on Main St”. Here Frederic Lehne reprises his role as the Demon.

Azazels Legacy on The Series

Azazel’s endgame was ultimately revealed to be releasing Satan himself. Satan had been imprisoned many thousands of years ago, and the only thing that could free him was breaking 66 of the seals that were binding him to his prison. Azazel created the special children not lead his Demon army but to kill Lilith the first Demon Lucifer had created. Lilith’s death was the final seal that had to be broken in order to release Lucifer from his prison. The final special child who killed Lilith and set Lucifer free would also at the same time serve as Lucifers host and allow him to reach his full power and ultimately overrun the earth.

At the same time Azazel also needed to break the first seal too. The first seal could only be broken when a righteous man was sent to hell and tortured other souls in there. Azazel had originally hoped it would be John Winchester. Every day when John was tortured by the Demon Alistair he was given the option to have his torture stopped as long as he tortured others, which would break the first seal. John however refused for over 100 years and eventually escaped. However when Dean’s soul is taken to hell after he makes a deal to ensure Sam’s resurrection, Dean cracked after 30 years and ended up torturing other souls before being freed from hell, which broke the first seal.

Thus Azazel’s actions ultimately allowed Satan to get free.

Azazel’s impact on the show therefore is felt many years after his death. For years no one not the Winchesters, not even the viewers were exactly sure what his end game was.

However in quite a nice twist it is later revealed that Lucifer wants to simply rule the earth and that he hates Demons just as much if not more so than human beings, having only created Demons as a means to an end. Lucifer intends to wipe them out as soon as he has gained control of the earth.

Thus whilst Azazel may have been a master manipulator he himself was being tricked by his own father and had his plan worked it would have meant the end of his kind.

Lucifer hates Demons so much that he later allows Sam to torture the Demons that helped Azazel manipulate his entire life. One can only imagine what Sam would have done to Azazel had he lived to that point. In this respect Azazel was rather lucky that Dean killed him many years earlier.

Why I Prefer Azazel To Supernatural’s Other Main Villains

Now I think that Supernatural has one of the best rogues galleries of any series. I have enjoyed all of its main villains to some extent, but I still feel than none of them have been quite as effective as Azazel for a number of reasons.

To start with I don’t feel any of them had quite the same personal connection with the Winchester boys as Azazel did.

Azazel had murdered their mother, and later Sam’s fiance. Their whole reason for being hunters in the first place was to destroy Azazel, thus naturally his encounters with them seemed more tense for me at least. You really wanted the Winchesters to get him and make him pay. It wasn’t just like later villains who were the big bad of the year or two years.

Also Azazel I don’t think was quite as overused as some of the later villains have been. He only appeared in a handful of episodes. Unlike Dick Roman, Crowley or Lucifer who popped up fairly regularly, Azazel was used sparingly which meant his effectiveness wasn’t limited in my opinion.

Finally I also feel that Azazels plan was the most interesting. You genuinely didn’t know what he was planning for 5 years, three of which were after his death, but surprisingly for such a long story arc it all fitted together rather well and made perfect sense.

However having said all of that I am glad that they killed off Azazel after two years. As good as he was, they couldn’t have dragged out the Winchesters hunting him down for 2 years plot, so whilst I still feel that he was the most effective main villain of the series I also think they finished his story at about the right time.

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