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In Season 9, Episode 22...

Tessa, a former reaper seen multiple times across the series,

...is one of the three bombers.

Are reapers angels? Are they former angels? Can they switch from one to the other? Is it explained anywhere?

  • Yay, my first tumbletweed. -_- – Kalissar Mar 17 '16 at 12:27
  • Reapers are angels that serve Death, it seems like. – Shamshiel Mar 26 '16 at 17:00
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    Hello. If you find a canon source for this, it would be answer worthy, but I don't recall any mention of reapers being angels. – Kalissar Mar 31 '16 at 8:24
1

The show hasn't come down hard on this question, but the balance of evidence (such as it is) suggests that

Reapers are not angels

There are several things we've seen about reapers to strongly suggest that they're not angels; none of them are wholly satisfying on their own, but taken together they do seem to nod towards that conclusion:

  • Their true form is perceivable without grievous injury. In "In My Time of Dying" (the season 2 premiere), Dean sees the true form of the reaper Tessa:

    enter image description here

    Contrast this with angels: in the season 4 premiere, "Lazarus Rising", the psychic Pamela Barnes sneaks a peak at Castiel's true form, and has her eyes burned out for her trouble; Cas later says:

    Castiel: I warned her not to spy on my true form. It can be... overwhelming to humans

    Supernatural Season 4 Episode 1: "Lazarus Rising"

  • They can be trapped. Reaper traps have been used on two occasions: by the demon Alastair in "Death Takes a Holiday" and by Bobby in "Death's Door." The traps seem to incapacitate reapers1, similar to the effect devil's traps have on demons.

    On the other hand, we've never seen an angel trapped in this way

    • The closest would be holy fire, which isn't much of a comparison
    • We've also seen (for example, in the season 9 episode "Meta Fiction") that angel warding can be used to trap angels in confined spaces (like the trunk of the Impala). However, we've never seen them used to trap angels in the open, the way reaper traps seem to work
  • They don't seem to have wings. We can infer this from how the two die. Compare the death of the unnamed reaper killed by Alastair in "Death Takes a Holiday" (on the floor, behind Alastair and Tessa):

    enter image description here

    To an image of dead Zachariah from "Point of No Return"

    enter image description here

    And notice the distinct lack of wing-shaped burns around the dead reaper.

  • They answer to Death, not Heaven. Every other angel we meet in the show is taking their cues from Heaven, or from other angels; the only exceptions are former soldiers who abandoned the cause (like Anna, Metatron, and Gabriel). In contrast, the reapers seem to get instructions from Death:

    Tessa: Dean, you have to take her.

    Dean: Says who?

    Tessa: Death.

    Supernatural Season 6 Episode 11: "Appointment in Samarra"

  • Actually, they're rather apolitical in general. We've seen reapers willing to work with both demons (Ajay and Billie) and angels (Maurice and April), without the bellyaching we hear from angels who are forced to work with demons

  • They can be controlled by spellwork. The first time we encounter a reaper (season 1's "Faith"), a woman has used black magic to lasso one into doing her bidding. This is something we never see even attempted on angels

However

Reapers do exhibit some similarities to angels. Most notably, they seem to have something resembling a grace; in "I'm No Angel", when Dean cuts into the rogue reaper Maurice with an angel blade, his would emits a bluish-white light similar to what we've seen from other angels:

enter image description here

And when he's killed, similar light bursts out of his mouth, not unlike what happens when angels are killed - though much less dramatic:

enter image description here

So it's possible that reapers are related to angels in some way, which may help explain how Metatron's brainwashing worked on Tessa.


1 At least temporarily; Bobby's reaper eventually escapes, though that may be due to the circumstances of their encounter rather than a property of either the reaper or the trap

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