For a new writer to the show, Robbie Thompson seemed like an old pro. His episode, "Slash Fiction" reads as a love letter. It touches on so many things. Its self reflexive nature makes fans notice all the shout outs to previous episodes, while giving us more on the big bad of the season. If anything, this new writer proved that he "gets" Supernatural, and it can only be hoped that he gets to write more episodes down the road.
The shout outs in this episode start from the title and don't let up until the end. We start with Sam and Dean in a bank. The scene seems innocuous at first. Dean flirts with the bank teller, all the while hand signaling to Sam. It isn't until Sam barricades the front door that we realize something is wrong. Once the teller returns to give Dean his change, he says, his voice hard and cold, "Well, I'm gonna have to take a rain check... and all your money."
Both brothers then fire machine guns into the ceiling, demanding that everyone gets into the vault. The vault scene harkens back to "Nightshifter." In that episode, Sam and Dean did so to protect everyone from the skinwalker they were hunting. This time, they turn the guns on the people trapped inside, all while looking up at the cameras to make certain everyone sees them. It's not hard to figure out that these are not the brothers---that they are being imitated by yet more shapeshifters---something that goes back to "Skin."
Thompson continues giving us treats and meta shout outs to previous episodes when we see the real brothers join Bobby in the basement at the cabin. He's trying to get Chet the Leviathan to talk---or die, which ever is more convenient. So far, nothing works. Holy water, rock salt, silver, iron, all are useless. Chet only seems to become more amused as it goes along. His behavior recalls the exorcism of Meg Masters, when the brothers were trying to figure out the Yellow Eyed Demon's plans. The mouthiness of his character also points to Meg's snarky nature.
Chet, gleeful at being able to push all of their buttons, taunts, "Cause I'm not scared of you. You can't stop me. You can't stop any of us. We can't be killed, you stupid little chewtoys. You are aware that I'm the least of your concerns, right? Oh. You haven't watched the news today, have you?"
The brothers find out what their doubles have been doing and are none too pleased. Putting them back on the FBI Most Wanted list recalls the time they were on the run from Victor Hendriksen at the end of season 2 and half of 3. It also makes their life a bit harder---even after the clones are put down. Bobby knows this, so he sends them to someone he saved once, calling in a favor.
His name is Frank, and his character's approach to everything about the brothers is a self-reflexive exercise on the show itself. He tells them that they have to ditch their aliases, that they have to ditch their car, and smashes Sam's lop top to smithereens in front of them. Everything that they use and rely upon is being eroded here. It is only a matter of time if we see them truly ditch the staples of rock star aliases or not. Frank takes the meta even further when he gives them their new I.D.s as Mr. and Mr. Smith, calling to the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It's also a subtle nod to the title of the episode and the subgenre of fandom that pairs the brothers or any characters of the same gender.
Meanwhile, Bobby spends time with Chet, frustrated that nothing seems to shut up his "Chatty Cathy." He's stumped and irritated. Chet does nothing but taunt him endlessly, and so he grabs a machete and hacks the Leviathan's heads off. It doesn't simply reattach right away, so Bobby is surprised, but not certain that this is it. The doorbell rings, pulling him away to find another surprise: The Sheriff of Sioux Falls. She holds up some beer and says that she's there to thank him for saving her from the hospital. She offers to help him tidy up the cabin, and then goes about doing that. Bobby goes downstairs to find that Chet's head has found it's way back onto his body. Rather than letting the taunting begin again, he hacks it off, and stomps off.
The brothers are forced to drive a Pontiac Acadian, complete with a hanging squeaky My Little Pony that offends Dean. He yanks it down, and throws it into the backseat, causing Sam to express concern. Thompson then gives us the set up for one of the funniest scenes of the entire series. Dean cries that they're killing while using their faces, but now they've put "Baby on lockdown" and that "No one puts Baby in a corner." Sam tries to tell Dean that he's quoting Dirty Dancing, to which Dean snaps "Swayze gets a pass." Sam then turns on the radio, to have Air Supply's "All Out of Love" blaring through the speakers. Dean's expression sours even further and Sam offers to turn it back off. Dean tells him no and so he goes back to looking at the map trying to figure out the Leviathan doppelgangers next moves. Horror breaks out over Sam's face as he realizes that Dean is lip synching to the song, and while there are no lines exchanged in this scene, it is perfect because of it. His expression clearly says that he is questioning Dean's sanity---and considering Sam's instability, that says something. Unable to watch Dean any longer, Sam flips the radio off.
His singing along with Air Supply recalls his singing of REO Speedwagon in season 2 and his singing of Bon Jovi at the end of season 3. It's a nice shoutout that Thompson has brought into his script. Thompson is also playing on Dean's love for the Impala, the particular song of choice pulling further on the joke. It also allows us to see Sam pick up smoothly on the next clue as to where they're headed---and the next meta connection. The Leviathan twins are going in order of their cases since Sam left Stanford. They started in Jericho. The next stop? St. Louis, where a skinwalker first took Dean's face to commit crimes. Dean is excited about going to the diner there because they have some of his favorite burgers. Unfortunately, Leviathan Sam and Dean are already there.
The conversation between the Leviathan Sam and Dean at the diner is the most meta fictional of the entire episode. They are sitting at the counter, the usual orders sitting in front of them when Leviathan Dean takes a couple bites of a burger, only to throw it down in disgust. He states, "You know, he has one of these every day? And in his heart, he thinks they're almost as good as sex. This? Is disgusting." Leviathan Sam concurs about Sam's choice of food by stating, "Dead plants with creamy goo. It's like eating self-righteousness."
Leviathan Dean continues, commenting on Dean's character, "Talk about a hero complex. And he doesn't have relationships, no, he has applications for sainthood. Oh, and he thinks he's funny. Thinks he's a damn comedian."
Leviathan Sam is even less impressed with Sam, and gestures at himself with his thumbs, saying "Who's has two thumbs and full blown bats in the belfry? I'm serious. It's nothing but Satan vision on the inside."
The manner in which Leviathan Sam behaves harkens back to Soulless Sam. The way he speaks, his gestures, his expressions, are all reflections of Sam's soulless period completely. He even muses about eating a brother like this with the same nonchalance Soulless Sam exhibited.
When they open fire on the diner, the meta shifts from being self-reflexive to commentary and reference to Pulp Fiction, another tie in to the title being "Slash Fiction." Their lines when they start to shoot are almost word for word from the film---minus the swearing, of course. Leviathan Sam stands up, brandishing his weapon and shouts, "Everybody be cool, this is a robbery!" to which Leviathan Dean commands, "Anybody moves and I'll execute every last one of you!"
To add to the meta, they've allowed the author of the Outsiders, S.E. Hinton to be one of the victims at the diner. A major fan of the program, she wanted to play a role in it. We've seen the Outsiders referenced in the series in the past as well---Sam's teacher in "After School Special" had it written on the chalk board for instance. It's a neat thing to not only see such a great author brought in, even as a victim, but a fan, too.
Bobby is still dealing with Chet, who has now shifted into him. Thompson pulls on the scene at the beginning of "Caged Heat" when Crowley did the same to a shifter wearing his face. The Leviathan Bobby taunts him with secrets about himself---having daddy issues and being a dropout drunk---and Bobby lets it fall off his shoulders. He is still struggling to figure out what can truly hurt the monster when something drips through the ceiling. Jody is upstairs, wringing a rag out. The dripping hits the monster just right and he screams in pain, making Bobby run up the stairs to ask her what is in the bucket. He kisses her forcefully---giving rise to perhaps a new shipping pairing within fandom. She holds up a bottle of cleaning solution. Outside of chopping the head off, it's the first thing to really slow them down at all---or cause fear!
The brothers find out that the diner has been hit and end up going to Iowa to follow their evil twins. Once they arrive, they spot them and are going to confront them when the cops close in. The wrong Winchesters are brought in, and Leviathan Dean winks playfully at them as they're escorted to the station. Once there, Sam is taken to an interrogation room while Dean is thrown into the jail cell. Thompson is shouting out to the episode "The Usual Suspects" by having the brothers put in these positions. Dean insists on having his phone call. Their capture and having to convince the law that they've got the wrong guys reminds us of when they had to do the same with Hendriksen. The cops here are just as unimpressed with Dean's pleading.
The sheriff finally gives him his phone call, holding it on speaker phone for Dean. Bobby is describing what he has learned---mentioning decapitation and borax. This disturbs the sheriff and he believes these killers he's caught are even crazier than they thought. It isn't until he looks out to see his deputies, just freshly sent home, eating other officers before shifting back into Sam and Dean that he thinks maybe that phone call wasn't full of crazy. In much the same way that Hendriksen had to see the demons to believe the brothers, the sheriff has to see these monsters in action to know they're not lying. He promptly lets Dean out, who tells him to get the chemicals Bobby said worked. Dean then runs into Sam, only to realize that it's Leviathan Sam.
He breaks out an axe and brandishes it at him, to which Leviathan Sam chuckles. He taunts about getting close enough and Dean waits for the chemical to be thrown on him before decapitating the evil twin of his little brother. While he's dealing with one evil twin, Sam is being taunted by the other. Leviathan Dean has entered the interrogation room and is ready to torment an already fragile Sam---and spill Dean's secret about Amy. It cracks the foundation Sam had been forming since "Hello, Cruel World."
Dean enters and chops his twin's head off, but the damage has already been done. We see Sam looking shattered and broken sitting there as he stares at his brother with disbelief. There is no time at the station to deal with this revelation, so they clean up the mess the monsters have made and get the sheriff to help get them declared dead again. It works until the FBI agents chasing them all episode catch up---and we learn that they're Leviathans themselves. They, much the way Lilith killed everyone at the police station in "Jus in Bello," promptly kill the sheriff and his daughter.
The boss Leviathan is revealed when Crowley pays him a visit, and true to his character, he tries to cozy up to the biggest player on the table. The Leviathan boss looks at him with disdain and tells him "Now it's your turn to listen. I'd sooner swim through hot garbage than shake hands with a bottom-feeding mutation like you. You demons are ugly, lazy, gold-digging whores. You're less than humans, and they're not good for much till you dip 'em in garlic sauce. I'd never work with you, Crowley. In fact, if I wasn't busy with better things, I might actively wipe your kind from the face of the Universe. And you'd deserve it. Are we clear?" Crowley gets the message clearly and leaves quickly.
We learn that they won't try to bring the brothers back into the media's eye with another crime spree---knowing it might be hard for the public to believe they could come back from the dead so many times. This is a meta remark on the fact that Sam and Dean have been killed and brought back often through out the series and Thompson pulls on this thread beautifully.
Once the brothers are away from the station and are able to pull over to dump their evil twins heads, we see Sam finally explode. He demands to know if what the Leviathan Dean said was true about Amy. Dean doesn't refute it and Sam prepares to walk away again, angry. His words here are different in some ways. He says "right now" twice, indicating that even he knows a permanent split is impossible. It's fairly easy to say that they'll find a way past this rough patch as well---and they must. It is better that this secret come out now rather than at the end of the season, too. The underlying problems that are contained within this secret can now be addressed and they must if they hope to survive against an enemy that can download their very thoughts and memories.
Thompson might have been a first time writer for this series, but he certainly knew how to write for it. He covered so much of what makes us fans love the series---the meta, the funny character moments, the snappy dialogue, and the fast plot. Each scene showed his love for the series as a whole---and that he had paid close attention to numerous events from the past seasons. It can only be hoped, truly, that we see him write more episodes in this season---or a potential next season.
The acting, as always, was top notch. Sean Owen Roberts has truly made Chet a joy to watch. He's snarky, he's a loud mouth, and he comes off as cocky. He's an enjoyable addition to the show, and it's almost a shame to see him go once he changes to Bobby and ends up leaving headless. Even though Chet was taunting people like Bobby, I couldn't help but laugh at how much of a delight Roberts was when he delivered his lines. I really loved his "tick tock, old man" cat call. Something about how he said it was just a hoot.
Seeing Kim Rhodes return as Jody was a total delight. She has the tough exterior with the soft center just right. The chemistry she shares with Beaver is palpable, and it's no wonder they've leaned towards possibly pairing the two together. It was adorable the way she said to Bobby, "Call me Jody." Rhodes seems to have so much fun playing this character and it shows. I am hoping that as the season continues she becomes more of a player to aid Bobby. After all, Bobby needs someone to look out for him while he looks out for the brothers.
Kevin MacNally made Frank instantly likeable. I hope that this is not the last we've seen of this character. He fit right in to the fabric, possibly being even more paranoid than Bobby is himself. I loved his lines such as, "You're number two on the Most Wanted list. Quickest climb up the charts since Donna Summer." and "Try to stay out of view of the 200 million cameras that the government has access to, k?" and perhaps his best, "For what? Sending you to your death? Your doubles want to be on candid camera, put you in the line of fire. Now, I'd lay low, 'cause I love life and its infinite mysteries. But you two want to be dumb, that's fine. At least have the common sense to ditch your car." Not only are they great quotes to begin with, but MacNally delivers them pitch perfectly.
Jim Beaver played his dual role perfectly. He sold us a frustrated Bobby, stumped and struggling to figure out just what makes the Leviathan really tick. Bobby is, as always, flustered around the sheriff, and Beaver shows us that in his fidgeting and bashful behavior. He gave us a stunned but happy Bobby, kissing Jody after the chemical burns Chet. Beaver showed just how Bobby handles being taunted---cool as a cucumber until that moment when he cuts the head off in disgust. His turn as a Leviathan was a delight. I could tell that he had a lot of fun playing the role. We haven't seen Beaver play such a spin on Bobby since "And Then There Were None," and it was nice to see that return to the show.
Mark Sheppard was a pleasant surprise at the end, in true Crowley self serving form. He really does that smug exterior hiding the insecure truth well. I really love how he butters people up only to find out that they want him dead and switches on a dime against them. Shepphard brings such great charm to Crowley that I find myself liking him more each time I see him. Sure, he's technically a villain and would turn on the Winchesters as soon as they no longer have a common enemy, but he's not half bad most of the time! I wonder just how much we'll see of him after this encounter with the Boss Leviathan.
James Patrick Stuart brings Dick Roman, the Leviathan Boss to life here. He's slimy, and comes off more like a corporate sleeze than a cruel man eating monster, and yet that's scarier than if we had seen him munch on someone. Stuart is creepy, sleazy, and intimidating when he talks down to Crowley. He conveys Dick's disdain for humans and demons alike with the way he carries himself and says his lines. The way he says that "humans aren't good for much besides dipping in garlic sauce" sent shivers down my spine. He will be a worthy adversary we can tell already, and if he's considered the boss of the Leviathan, one can only wonder just what powers he has that the others don't. Will it take more than borax and decapitation to just slow him down or kill him? I'm hoping we get to see Roman popping up more often and see just what Stuart does with the character going further.
Jared and Jensen really shined in this episode in their respective dual roles. I could tell that both had a lot of fun playing the evil versions of themselves. They really sold us at first that it might be the real Sam and Dean, but once they revealed the Leviathan versions, they fully embraced them. Somehow, Jensen made Dean seem snarkier and darker---even darker than when Lucifer was taunting Sam in "Hello, Cruel World." Jared showed us a cruel Leviathan Sam that knew how to have fun, and his smiles throughout were deliciously creepy. The way they shot the crime spree videos showed that they knew how sensational media works.
In their portrayals of the real brothers, we saw them frustrated and annoyed. The brothers had a shared goal and were on the same page. The chemistry that's marked their costarring was in full force in this episode and we not only saw that with the Leviathan pair, we saw it here with the real Winchesters. We saw Dean's fire lit big time as the crime spree became more and more personal. He seemed more bothered about the car being taken than his own face, but it got him moving and off the guilt he's been so focused upon. When Sam finally learns the truth, we watch Jared's face crumble and his eyes turn sorrowful. It was a powerful performance that made me feel bad not just for Sam but the brothers as a whole.
Now that the secret is out, it'll be interesting to see how they handle that and move forward. Will it cause Sam to regress into his hallucinations? What of the Leviathans? We learned more about them in this episode, that they're not totally impervious to everything. When will the Boss Dick Roman encounter the brothers? It's not hard to imagine that he'll give in and handle them himself---after all the failures by his subordinates. The big question about them is their hierarchy and how it works. Now that the Leviathan have infiltrated the FBI and other authorities the way demons before them have, how will the brothers hunt without being caught---new identities aside? This romp of an episode certainly was an outstanding debut by Thompson and pushed us further into the plot of season 7. I look forward to where they take this next.