Just hours after returning from VanCon, my brain was in a deep, Supernaturally induced, sleep deprived, travel slip stream fog. So what’s the first thing I did this morning? Valiantly tried to host the live tweet of the #WFBRewatch of “Meta Fiction”….before breakfast! My apologies to anyone who was confused when I sincerely asked why Castiel and Gabriel didn’t reach Dean on the phone (when they were in Metatron’s holodeck illusion). Have mercy! So I will give you my best attempt at a rewatch review, but please allow that these may not be the deepest thoughts I’ve ever shared…

I really, really liked “Meta Fiction” the second time around. When it first aired, I was conflicted about the meta messages to the viewers. Why did Metatron ask, “Who gives a story meaning? Is it the writer? Or you?” Later he said,
“My job is to set up interesting characters and see where they lead me. The by-product of having well-drawn characters is…They may surprise you. But I know something they don’t know…the ending.”
That sounded like a direct challenge from the Supernatural writing staff to the fans, almost as if they were saying to us, “In a battle for ownership of the story, we win.” Alternately, it may also have been a plea for trust and patience from Robbie Thompson, saying the characters will surprise us, the viewers, if we let the story play out to the end. In the context of additional, perceived slaps to the fandom that had been woven throughout several sequential episodes, though, I elevated the meaning of Robbie’s/Metatron’s words to be meta from show runner Jeremy Carver to the fandom: “Please, please trust us…because we are going to follow the story wherever it leads no matter how much YOU want to steer the ship!”

Maybe my limited philosophical capacity this morning did me a huge favor, though. I truly wasn’t capable of both watching the show and contemplating meta messages, so I just sat back and enjoyed it at face value…and you know what? I loved it! Bookdal eloquently states the meta concerns about this episode in her review (and I agree with everything she says), so I am going to focus on the eloquence of this show:

CastielWithFollowers
The absolute glory of Castiel’s character – he begs everyone to relieve him of the responsibility of leadership, yet even burdened with the knowledge and guilt of his past epic failures, he has the courage to try to lead the angels again. Someone has to step forward and he has learned so much from Sam, Dean and his own time as a human that maybe this time he will succeed. How many times do we, as humans, repeatedly fail? May we all have the courage to try yet again.

The depth of Jensen’s acting and the impact of the MoC on Dean – I was struck by the look in Dean’s eyes just before he lunged to kill Gadreel:

SPN 1061
[I cropped and lightened the shot to focus just on Dean’s expression]

Nate was good enough to pull the image of Dean from the Alastair torture scene in “On the Head of a Pin” as a comparison for me.
4.16 Deans look 0474

Way back in season 4, we were all scared at the intensity and depravity of Dean’s blood lust revealed to us by that scene. Yet compare Dean’s expression then to now. His eyes, eye brows, mouth, chin…to me he seems deadlier, more intense, emptier, more obsessed now. Such incredible acting from Jensen.

Possible blatant foreshadowing - After having seen the season 9 finale, I screamed at the “Meta Fiction” post-torture scene where Sam returned to find Gadreel unconscious on the floor and Dean out of site. Sam, entering a boiler room of some type, sees his bloody brother slumped against a wall.
9.18 Sam finds Dean 1209
Sam in "Meta Fiction"

Cropped and lightened to see Sam's expression:

9.18 Sam cropped finds Dean 1209 2
 
compared to Sam in "Do You Believe in Miracles":
9.23 Sam find Dean 1372

 Yelling, Sam bolts across the room, jumping over obstacles, to embrace his brother.
9.18 Sam running to Dean 1212
Sam running to Dean in "Meta Fiction"


9.23 Sam running to Dean 1411
Sam running to Dean in "Do You Believe in Miracles"

Exact foreshadowing of the finale reunion! Play them back to back. So similar!! Coincidence, or did the writers/directors set this up to show us that the MoC was killing/would kill Dean? Dean was able to back away from killing Gadreel, but it wouldn’t matter. In the final battle, he would be separated from Sam and would end up dead.

Random Thoughts
Deanshower02
First sight of the morning rewatch: Dean in the shower. Nice wake-up call.

Robbie delivered masterful turning points in so many season arcs:
·         the first meeting of Hannah (all the guest actors at VanCon commented that they were hired for only one episode. It was the strength of their performance and interpretation of the character that convinced the writers to use them again).

·         first time Gad became suspicious of Metatron. That arc turning around…

·         Gabriel returning (not an arc this season but it had to be difficult to figure out how to fit that in while juggling everything else in this episode!)

·         Castiel’s character changed for all time with one touch of Metatron’s finger

·         Cas learns about Moc on Dean (and tells Sam to watch Dean)

·         and Cas decides to be a leader once more.

Gad to Sam, “You can’t make me talk”. According to *spoilers* for season 10, Sam sure will be able to make people talk.

Bookdal

For those of you who know my twitter avatar, Bookdal, you probably know that I'm a fan of Robbie Thompson so I write these comments from a place of respect, or at least I hope you see them as such. So, when "Meta Fiction" first aired I was conflicted and even through the re-airing I remain conflicted. One reading of the episode is a self-flagellation - an acknowledgement that when writers try to rewrite or continue an already established narrative that a contention emerges from that disconnect. For example, Metatron's or here Gabriel's note about continuity errors. I think that reading, though, is not totally self-deprecating. Throughout the episode there is a hint of anger and almost resentment toward both the story (in the form of the brothers) and the reader who is best represented by Castiel. In fact I can't help but wonder if Castiel was meant to take the place of the "fan" or the "viewer" in the context of this episode, and I'll be honest, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that equation.

9.18 Book burning 0898
The burning of the Edlund book was symbolic in a way that I'm not sure Thompson's episode fully comprehended. And here is where my issue lies with meta in this show. Increasingly, especially since Dabb and Loflin's Season 7, “Time for a Wedding” catastrophe, meta has been used to punish the viewer, to put the consumer of texts into a bad light. Even Metatron, who is the bad guy, is a bad reader and by extension, a bad writer. Castiel is oblivious until he is endowed with a library of popular culture references. And all the while the brothers occupy this tertiary space - this secondhand geography in the story. The episode reads to me as part "I know we screw up," part "You are way too picky," part "You are the most important person, reader," and part "We don't even care if you exist." That reading? Well that's just a problem in a whole bunch of ways. 

I feel like I'm in The Princess Bride by saying this but I will bastardize the quote anyway to say, "Robbie, I don't think this episode means what you think it means." 

Nate Winchester

·         Oh don't show your good episode in the middle of your bad episode. #MST3kquotes 
MetatronAtTypewriter
·         "What makes a story work?" Nobody this season seems to know.

·         This opener gets funnier if you imagine it’s the first time Dean's showered in 9 years.

·         "People without souls acting out." How do you test for that? Did the other hunters at least fix it?

·         Castiel has become... BATMAN

·         S7 angel said: "There's too few of us left." After S9 there should be like... 7 angels left.

·         Why kill the angels that refuse heaven? Why not just take the grace of everyone and leave them stuck on earth?

·         I wish the show would do more with the "hunter signs". 

SPN 0772
·         Oh Gabriel, you try so hard to save this season...

·         @dicksp8jr performance reminds me what the show's been missing for a while: smiles. I mean even during some of the darkest moments in the earlier seasons the boys found joy where they could.

·         AAAHHHH, Gabriel is looking right at my soul!!!

·         Man the ADR in the alley scene here sounds really off.
FixedCoat
·         "I really hate continuity errors." ...Oh PTB, you are so tempting us... 

·         "I have been inside you Sam." And millions of fangirls cried in jealousy!

·         Also, Gadreel ended up dead, which means Sam's epeen of death record remains intact.

·         *tosses book in fire* "THERE, That's what I think of your work, Kripke!"

·         "I'm in no mood for [Crowley]." Yeah, the king really has "his hooks" in Dean... /sarc

·         Well to be fair, Cas didn't screw up his 'happily ever after' as much as Dean did...

·         "I'm going to save you a seat up top." 'Then why am I going to have to lie to get past the door in a few episodes?'

·         "I loved humanity!" Would have been nice to SEE signs of that this season.

·         "You think you're invincible!" Some episodes later: "Hah! I'm invincible!"

9.18 Gad kill me 1076
·         I admit, I like @TahmohPenikett screaming "kill me". Wish he had more this season.

·         Sam calling Dean as he heads off to do something he shouldn't, a nice reversal of S4 finale.

·         That Dean could beat up an angel without his hand & arm breaking should have been a big clue to them.
BlowoutHolyfire
·         I'm annoyed that Met could just blow away the fire. I wish he had outsmarted the boys.

·         As much as they're hanging out with Crowley, surprised the boys haven't melted down one of their dozen angel blades into bullets.
9.18 Cas Sees MoC 1419
·         "Dammit Dean" See what happens when you leave him alone, Cas?  IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!

·         "That was God's problem, he published the first draft." AND THE WRITERS THIS SEASON!

·         This episode really makes me wonder how self-aware the writers were about how bad a job they were doing this season...

·         Just saying it would also be funny if Cas led all the angels to the Winchesters and said: "These guys are leaders."

Jensen vs Jensen! [Nate gives more examples than those shown above]

S9- http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=199&pid=245340#top_display_media
http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=199&pid=245343#top_display_media
http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=199&pid=245470#top_display_media

S4- http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=76&pid=65941#top_display_media
http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=76&pid=65948#top_display_media
http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=76&pid=65707#top_display_media
http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/displayimage.php?album=76&pid=65929#top_display_media

Like Nightsky said on twitter a few times, this episode does advance a lot of the plot and story this season.  The only problem is that all the plot threads this season are pointed in so many directions it’s almost comical, like watching a dozen clown cars careening in a dozen different directions while trying to drive down a straight, flat road. For example, the angel ordeal has been pulling Castiel away from the Winchesters, leaving the boys with no real involvement in it other than revenge against Gadreel.  Meanwhile with the Mark of Cain AND the revelation of Abaddon’s plot, the boys are being pulled away from Castiel in the direction of Hell.  Had these two plots been kept secret, little would have needed to change.

Things that happened towards the end of the season needed to happen much sooner.  Castiel should have gathered his followers near the bunker, sought help from the Winchesters on how to lead and make tough decisions.  The Winchesters should have consulted with the angels on the Mark or the Knights.  This doesn’t mean the problems had to be resolved right away, but we could get some sense that things were linked and this all wasn’t taking place in two different universes.

QuestioningGadreel
Poor Gadreel.  We could have seen more instances of him being conflicted over having to kill people in his duties, or asking questions of Metatron (like “this will be better for humans?”) or anything else other than one line mentioning he likes people which is only sold by the power of Tahmoh’s acting skill.

Castiel’s scenes just get weird when you try thinking about them from the perspective of the character rather than “meta-knowledge” (like, because WE the audience know Metatron’s evil…).  Why is he refusing the deal?  He wants peace, right?  Cas wants the angels to return to heaven, right?  What is Metatron doing or going to do that makes working with him an impossibility?  Better yet, what reason can you give for Cas to refuse Metatron that WOULDN’T also apply against Castiel working for the Winchesters?  We need these things better established.

What IS Metatron’s plan all along in the first place?  Why doesn’t he make Abaddon the villain of his story?  Then convince Dean to take the MoC as Metatron’s champion to defeat Abaddon?  Why kill angels that disagree?  Why not just take their grace and leave them powerless on earth (that seems to be what a lot want)?  I’ve watched the entire season and I STILL can’t answer those questions.

It is “funny” the show put in lines like “I hate continuity errors” then proceeded to have continuity errors done by the writing staff (like Sam acting surprised Gadreel was working with Metatron when the two were meeting with Sam’s body which means Sam should remember).  This and a few other instances really makes one wonder if the staff was self-aware or not.

All in all this episode isn’t as bad as some we’ve had this season but – ironically – it’s very much a first draft.  Individual parts were great, but when assembled as a whole, ultimately it all fell apart.

*****

So we had three very different opinions of the episode. All our reviews intersect with some common observations, but we drive them to different conclusions. No denying, though, that the episode was packed with character and plot development. What do you think was done well and what missed the target for you? Nate and I both called out similarities between this and the finale, and this plot compared to season 4. Coincidences? Planned foreshadowing and historical references? A lot to talk about!

All of our detailed reviews, games and "Let's Speculate" articles for "Meta Fiction"  can be found in the Episode Guide.
Many more screencaps and promotional photos can be found in the Photo Gallery.

Comments  

Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2014-08-27 21:32
Quote:
Had these two plots been kept secret
Dangit, I mean "separate". See you're note the only one with "morning-typoit ist". ;)
E
# E 2014-08-28 09:09
Quote:
Castiel’s scenes just get weird when you try thinking about them from the perspective of the character rather than “meta-knowledge” (like, because WE the audience know Metatron’s evil…). Why is he refusing the deal? He wants peace, right? Cas wants the angels to return to heaven, right? What is Metatron doing or going to do that makes working with him an impossibility? Better yet, what reason can you give for Cas to refuse Metatron that WOULDN’T also apply against Castiel working for the Winchesters? We need these things better established.
Well, it may have had something to do with Metatron killing Naomi in front of Cas, attacking him, tying him up and forcibly stealing his grace by literally cutting it out of him, and then banishing him to earth as a human so that he could later die and bring his 'stories' back to Metatron. I had zero problem with Cas not trusting nor wanting to join Metatron as he's proven himself to be untrustworthy. IMO Cas has canon reasons not to trust him as he'd already been betrayed by him; that's not meta IMO.
Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2014-08-28 09:20
Castiel wasn't there when Naomi died. And like Metatron pointed out, he let Castiel live (that's more than April did) and sent him not only to earth, but at least in one of the places he was most likely to survive in (imagine if Cas had ended up in Africa or the Middle East or China or...).

Besides, Metatron is at least offering to make up for what he did in this scene. Something which Castiel should have plenty of sympathy for (see: Sam's S7 mental problems).
E
# E 2014-08-28 10:38
I'll concede the Naomi point, but Castiel still knew that Metatron was the one who killed her and he was horrified by that. And I definitely got the impression that having your grace forcibly removed (unlike Anna who willingly gave her's up) is pretty much worse than death in an angels eyes given the other angels' response to Cas when Metatron let it slip that Castiel had stolen Theo's grace (you'll notice that Metatron didn't' mention that he'd stolen Cas's grace first). So, I still contend that it makes perfect sense (to me anyway) why Castiel was not inclined to trust Metatron and pretty much saw him as an enemy regardless of the similarities in their ultimate goal. Not to mention the fact that that Cas knew that Metatron was establishing himself as the new god. Cas, as someone who'd erroneously done the same thing in season 6, knew how much hubris that act required and how inherently corrupt and corrupting it was, so again, I had no problems with Cas's unwillingness to trust Metatron; it made perfect sense to me and was adequately supported in the actual characterizatio n and canon events on screen. :D
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-08-28 11:10
it's really not that complicated to understand cas's reason for not trusting metatron...I mean metatron totally told cas that he should've believed the "bitch" when Naomi pointed out to cas that she was in fact in metatron's head and knew what he was trying to do....Naomi warned cas that metatron wanted to cast the angels out...that he was lying to him...and metatron admitting it....admitting that it was a spell, taking cas's grace and cas witnessing the fall of his bretheren...I think that pretty much paints metatron in a negative light and one not meant to be trusted....meta tron's confession pretty much sealed the deal I think....
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2014-08-28 13:07
Really didn't like it as much this time around. This was about the time in the season that Metatron went from being a bad guy you either hate or love to hate, to a whiny, petulant, annoying little twerp. Dean continued along on his season of angst, though the scenes with him and Gadreel, with Gadreel goading him on, were very well done. Dean looked downright deranged in that scene. However, it does strain credulity that Sam would leave Dean alone with Gadreel in that situation. Sam may be mad at Dean but he's not stupid.

No issues here with Castiel not trusting Metatron because he had proven himself in S8 to be untrustworthy; he lied to Castiel about closing up heaven, stole his grace, so why would Castiel start trusting him now?

It occurred to me that many fans prescribe to the notion that Chuck was God. If that's the case, then God wrote the Winchester Gospels which would make Metatron burning them rather blasphemous. I hope for Metatron's sake that Dad doesn't come home anytime soon.

I have no problem with the meta aspects, though they've been going a little overboard recently, along with trying to one-up each other with the clever cultural references. It is Carver and company's story to tell and if they want to take their shots, so be it. But, on the flip side, it's ours to decide whether or not to watch.
Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2014-08-28 14:37
CORRECTION

Ok, I actually need to correct myself, I had totally screwed up there (part of the problem when you're sometimes trying to do these things during work downtimes and keep getting interrupted).

What had triggered the tweet (and then I forgot in the write up) was that Metatron's deal, was for Castiel to be his enemy. Which Castiel... may have been doing? I admit, his actions & motivations mid season were kind of unexplained. Anyway, the only way to "refuse" Metatron would be: to become a faithful lackey, to focus with the Winchesters on hunting Abaddon, suicide. In that scene, Metatron is offering to reward Castiel for Cas to continue doing what he's doing, only less solo and more with a raiding party. So my question was: Why not take the deal and then look for a later chance at betrayal? (hey it worked against Crowley in S6)

So please accept my correction and apologies for my confusion.
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-08-29 09:01
I liked this eppy a lot first time around and second time around. what I really noticed the second time around though was how smart gad actually is. I mean, he might be tunnel visioned by his need for redemption, but he's not stupid. the speech to dean really got me to see how clever gad really is....

based on what we've learned about sam over the years, especially what we learned last season, both in the great escapist and in sacrifice, sam has always felt unworthy. he has issues just like dean has concerning the way he sees himself. based on his confession he sees himself as a failure and a disappointment to his brother. based on his confessions he's felt this way for a long long time. so it stands to reason, that over the years sam would feel insecure regarding the way dean sees him. so sam believing that dean only wants him around so that he isn't alone is mostly likely a thought that has crossed sam's mind many times before. he's dean's job. he's his responsibility. yet he's disappointed dean so often. dean doesn't trust him. all of these are sam's insecurities regarding his brother and I think gad played on those when confronting dean...goading him into trying to get dean to kill him. this is confirmed in sam's speech in the purge....what is the upside to me being alive? dean's response was are you kidding, you and me fighting the good fight...that response wasn't really about dean wanting his brother around because he loves him. that response, which plays on sam's insecurity, implies to sam that dean only needs him with him so they can hunt together...thus you get the question sam finally poses to dean....be honest..you didn't save me for me...you saved me for you...because you don't want to be alone. sam's misguided belief, due to his own lack of self worth, has him misunderstandin g dean's response...thus concluding that dean obviously sees sam the way sam sees sam...

gad was inside sam, he knows all of sam's feelings, all of his insecurities and he used that against dean. gad took sam's own belief of how he feels his brother feels and made dean believe that it was what sam thought of dean....when in fact, I believe, based on all that sam has confessed, it's what sam believes about himself and what dean thinks of him. it was brilliant...it was a perfect way to goad dean. to get him so angry that he'd kill him, which is what gad was trying to get dean to do. now gad, living with dean, can easily get a play on his mindset. hell Crowley knows dean too. not to mention, gad get can a sense of how dean sees himself from sam, who isn't totally blind to his brother...and I still think there was a connection to dean when gad placed his hand on dean's head so he can connect to sam.

anyway, given what I know of the boys and given the boys confessions, I totally believe that gad played off of both their insecurities to goad dean into killing him....then we also start to see gad a little later starting to see the light regarding metatron....thi s was the beginning of the end of the alliance between the two.... ;)


totally loved seeing trickster again...so hope we get to see him again...
debbab
# debbab 2014-08-30 11:49
Nate, Dean has showered before season9. Mystery Spot, he slips on the soap and dies. Okay, it is off screen. He mentions the water pressure in the MoL bunker ins S 8. There are other times. I've also noticed many shots of both brothers brushing their teeth. We know they wash clothing. Pretty sure hygiene is good. Gotta clean off that monster goo after a hunt. Cas cleans up differently, but still uses the bathroom. Not until S9 does he figure out a bathroom. Now, did Sam wash Dean off when he died at the end of S9?
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-08-30 12:50
He showered in Bugs as well.
LEAH
# LEAH 2014-08-30 13:34
Also that scene where ghost Bobby writes on the mirror. S7. :)
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-08-30 19:48
so I guess it's safe to say that it's sam who needs a shower.....as he hasn't taken one since hell house:p:D I guess I can volunteer to point that out to sam and maybe see if he needs any help;):D
LEAH
# LEAH 2014-08-30 23:15
Well then he must be a dirty dirty boy and could use your help!:D;)
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-08-31 08:12
well i'd do my best for the greater good....and, well sam Winchester is greater than good:D
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-08-30 23:46
https://31.media.tumblr.com/01b7af45ac19e74e99a8b9934d1d84e9/tumblr_nb3spuzoSt1tj2yl4o1_500.jpg I know we aren't supposed to but that must have been one heck of a shower
love2boys
# love2boys 2014-09-03 13:29
YUMMIE! That looks like an AWESOME shower! Thank you for allowing us the post-shower enjoyment once again... mmmmmm...
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-09-03 14:58
My absolute pleasure...;)
Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2014-09-03 13:34
I know he has, that's why my tweet said: "If you imagine" - imagine means "not true" so you have to pretend. ;)