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:
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:
[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.
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.
Sam in "Meta Fiction"
Cropped and lightened to see Sam's expression:
compared to Sam in "Do You Believe in Miracles":
Yelling, Sam bolts across the room, jumping over obstacles, to embrace his brother.
Sam running to Dean in "Meta Fiction"
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.
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.
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.
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."
· Oh don't show your good episode in the middle of your bad episode. #MST3kquotes
· "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".
· 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.
· "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!"
· 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.
· 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.
· "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]
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.
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.