I have to allow that the episode may not have been that strong to a non-fan, though. Casual watchers of the series or people who tuned in because they were hooked by the massive public relations push that surrounded the 200th episode may have seen a show about a rather weak high school play that portrayed a contrived plot about ghosts and demons destroying a family. These simply curious audience members probably saw a shallow story about a not-so-scary muse they were supposed to fear, victims whose only danger was being locked up in a high school basement, and rather inconsistent acting that sometimes took me out of the story. I’m afraid that if these people judge the series on this one episode, they may never return. That’s okay. The episode wasn’t written for them. It was written for the Supernatural family. The episode those unfortunate, confused, uninitiated audience members saw was not the episode I saw.
I saw an opening shot that acknowledged that it all started with Eric Kripke. I got choked up imagining the emotions Eric Kripke must have felt when he first conceived of a show called Supernatural. He clawed and scratched and begged and promoted until the pilot was picked up. The early years were so uncertain that he must be bursting with pride that his idea not only survived but reached a television milestone. I loved that the current writing team tipped their hat to Eric.
Then the “Samulet” was the first thing mentioned by the play’s director, which for me elevated it from a trinket in a trash can to a recognized icon within the fandom. Marie explained to Siobhan that is was “a symbol of the Winchesters’ brotherly love”. When SiobhanDean explained that she didn’t like wearing the Samulet because it kept hitting her in the mouth, this episode bypassed all norms for episodic television and began the journey "through the looking glass". Fandom insiders would know that Jensen had a problem with the amulet chipping his teeth during action sequences. The writers were stepping out of their ivory tower and acknowledging things the fandom knew. That was amazing, or even shocking. On the opening night of the play, Marie explained the amulet’s symbolism to Dean, a description that seemed to surprise and confuse Dean. At the end of the play, when Marie understood and accepted that she was talking to the real Dean, she told him what every fan would want to say to Dean given the chance – “you never should have thrown this away. Just take it.” (just before she got the coveted Jerk/Bitch exchange). That did it - I was getting pulled into the maelstrom of emotion clearly intended to drown the fans in sentimentality.
I loved the fact that it was an all girl’s school putting on the play. I suspect this was a recognition of the largely female demographic of the fandom. It also side-stepped the very real issue of casting young men into the idolized characters of Sam and Dean. If the writers thought about it long and hard, though, it may also have been a nod to the criticism the show has historically endured about not casting enough females into the scripts. Robbie has created some memorable female characters on Supernatural (Charlie and Dorothy to name two), so he could have been doing his part to rebalance the scales just a little bit more. In any case, I went to an all-girls high school (no judgments please!) that put on truly superb musicals (really. First class productions) so I was completely taken in by the premise of this plot.
Then the montage of title cards visually assaulted us with a celebration of all of the seasons that have made up the ten years of Supernatural. It was brilliant to include a visual recap of so much history, while hitting us hard with the artistic symbol that has always uniquely expressed the themes of the brothers’ struggles. The title card of each season is a closely guarded secret; its revelation anticipated nearly as much as the premiere itself. The title card for year 7 was missing. Do you think that was an artistic convenience (it was a boring white) or a subtle recognition of season 7’s status among fans?
Not letting up for a second, we were next given pure Dean, working on his Baby. What really did me in, though, was the pronouncement of “We’ve got work to do”.
That shot from the trunk has been a pivotal moment for both boys, and for the series. It was the symbolic commitment of Sam to leave normalcy and rejoin Dean in hunting down Jessica and his mother’s killer in the pilot; then it was Dean’s renewed promise to keep hunting at the end of 2.22 “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two”. In short, this celebration of the show’s 200th episode was stringing together every iconic, symbolic, pivotal component that has made Supernatural special.
Typical of Supernatural’s best writing, comedy was then inserted to give fans a chance to catch their breath. Cue the shocked looks on Sam and Dean’s faces when they first saw scenes from their life reenacted on stage!
Priceless! Sam stashing his and Dean’s FBI badges, and quickly renaming them “Special Agent Smith…and Special Agent Smith. No relation.” Hilarious (at the time I couldn’t remember where this was used before, but we later connected it to the movie Die Hard)! Marie's use of the term “grown up juice” reminded me of the little girl’s confession (“I drank a grown up drink”) when she saw the shojo spirit that you could only see when you were drunk (“Party On Garth”). Then there was Sam’s quick witted “Jody Mills is great”, acknowledging the fans’ love of Jody. Lastly, there was Dean’s disapproval of Sam’s growing admiration of the production, immediately changing Sam’s reaction and opinion to accommodate his brother. So much packed into one dialog!
It wasn’t long, though, before the emotional punches resumed. The “family” thematic music played as Dean watched a “brotherly melodramatic moment”. That music always elicits a deeply rooted love for the brothers and the show. It may have only been six notes, but it was included out of respect for its treasured place in fans’ hearts and in the history of the show.
Again, comedy was inserted as Sam played with the tech board. That HAD to be a nod to Jared not being able to sit still on set, always having to find something to do to entertain himself when he’s bored. I’m not sure Jared even knew at the time they were making fun of him.
Then we were treated to pure Jensen with Dean’s look at the camera to express his reaction to Destiel.
Robbie said that was not in the script! To follow-through on the inside joke, Sam says “Of course it’s not my issue” because it’s not Sam’s issue, it’s Dean’s…
...and Sam is the annoying little brother who has to rub it in!
“You guys are way too old to be Sam or Dean”. Again, poking fun at Jared and Jensen! The “boys” are now 10 years older than they were when they starred in the pilot. Neither look the same and they certainly don’t act the same. They have often said they are getting too old for the action scenes, the travel, the long hours and the rookie actors who don’t know their marks. This was, I think, more making fun of Jared and Jensen than Sam and Dean!
Now the nods to the show’s rich history were coming at us rapid fire:
- Marie is a SAM GIRL!! Take that Dean! Perfect!
- The stage’s motel room had wild geometric wallpaper and a matching room divider.
This was a wonderful acknowledgement of Jerry Wanek’s iconic motel rooms that were so much a part of the earlier years of the show (before the bunker gave the boys a home).
- “You know, if you cut your hair a little, you’d make a pretty good Dean”. Isn’t that what Sam has wanted to hear his whole life; that he’s as good as his big brother?
….and nods to fandom:
“I can’t even.”
….and comedic interludes:
The man in the first row puts on his poncho! I laugh out loud every time I see it! Then the audience members freeze, plastered in purple goo, especially this guy:
I’m sorry. He didn’t even have a credited speaking part but he practically stole the show! Absolutely hilarious!!
- “Take a bow, Sammy”. Priceless. Then Dean half bows. So perfectly Dean. That boy is such a closet thespian.
The show was alternating between historical references, emotional tugs at heartstrings and comedic relief so fast it was hard to keep up! Every single line, glance and prop combined into a beautiful kaleidoscope of Supernatural’s ten years. It is simply impossible to mention all the wonderful icons and references that were included because they permeated the scenes and the dialog.
“Fan Fiction” did have serious meta moments as well, though.
Maggie: “If it’s not canon, then it shouldn’t be in the show.”
Marie: “Come back inside. We can make this work.”
Was this a plea to fans to be open to compromise and the writers’ creative license? Were the show runners asking “Come back to us. We’ll make it work.”? Dean later said,
“You are all here because you love Supernatural. So I want you to get out there and I want you to stand as close as she wants you to, and I want you to put as much sub into that text as you possibly can.”
This part of the message was clearly for the fans. Love the show however you want to love the show. Express your vision and believe in your interpretation with everything you’ve got. He later told Marie,
Dean: “This has been educational – seeing the story from your perspective. You keep writing, Shakespeare.”
Marie: “Even if it doesn’t match how you see it?”
Dean: “I have my version and you have yours.”
To me, this was the first serious message of the show. The writers and the show runners acknowledged fan fiction. They acknowledged its transformative nature and its importance to enjoying, understanding and being passionate about the show. They also, though, acknowledged that they can’t and won’t follow or adhere to fan’s visions, but that is okay. It’s how it should be.
The second message from the writers that was delivered through this episode was that they hear and understand what we miss and discuss about the show.
The Samulet, Adam being forgotten in Hell, Chuck (possibly representing all our beloved lost characters) were all included. I have to admit that I was honestly surprised at their awareness of fans’ concerns. I now understand that them not addressing dropped, forgotten or ended paths doesn’t mean they are oblivious to them. It just means that is not where they want or need to story to go. I found that oddly validating and reassuring.
The third serious message of the show was about the boys’ mission, and the direction of the series’ future. “There is no other road, no other way, no day but today. Now you get out there and you kick it in the ass.” Was Dean talking to the fans still, or was this one of those parallel messages for the brothers? Sam seemed to be taking it to heart. There is no other road for the boys. There is no other way. Get out there and kick it in the ass, Sam and Dean.
“Fan Fiction” also included one or two tiny threads of the season’s arcs going forward. I may be reading too much into this, but I think this episode realistically portrayed the characteristics of a Dean who still bears the MoC.
Sam: “Hey. How long you been up?”
Dean: “Long enough to find us a case.”
Dean was evasive about being awake before Sam. We all know from the first time around this block that the Mark of Cain keeps Dean from sleeping. His insomnia started out inconspicuously enough, with small references to him not sleeping well, being up before Sam, not wanting to go to bed right away, etc. I propose that the same thing is happening again, and again, he just doesn’t want to admit this to Sam, or himself.
I may have also cringed that Sam got captured…again. For such a big boy, he sure does get overpowered a lot! Notably, Sam killed the monster of the week, though, with Marie killing the on-stage manifestation (underpinning the strong, female role). Dean hasn’t yet killed anything or anyone since his soul was restored. Something is brewing here; it isn’t mere coincidence. His first kill will begin to change him again, increasing the pressure to find a cure for the MoC. My prediction is that ticking time bomb will be the dramatic piece of season 10. Will the theme become “Sam, don’t let me turn back into what I was. I just won’t become that again.”
I also detected a repeated theme of “You were right.” In the dialog quoted below, both brothers acknowledge the other’s point of view (albeit one acknowledgment is from the surrogate Dean). I seem to remember this strategic phrase being used in the past few episodes as well. This season is supposedly about the brothers coming to a new understanding of each other, so this recognition of the other brother’s wisdom seems appropriate.
While the serious messages were undeniably present in “Fan Fiction”, clearly at its core was an homage to what has made the show a success, including the fans. The writers showed us, the fans, that they understand what we love about this show. The brother’s music, the brotherly bonding scenes, the title cards, the classic rock music. Even the fact that the episode was a musical was an acknowledgement of something the fans have wanted for a long time. Dean said, “There is no singing in Supernatural” yet its success is deeply rooted in music. Robbie, Jay and Christopher honored that legacy by turning it a bit sideways. They captured and immortalized the Supernatural story with the song “The Road So Far”.
“I’ll Just Wait Here Then” honored Castiel’s character by singling out a moment from “The End” that so perfectly depicted the angel’s naive and awkward acceptance of humanity’s frailties. “A Single Man Tear” paid tribute to the brothers’ love for each other and Sam’s admiration of Dean. It even snuck in the Latin exorcism, another iconic piece of the show’s canon. The second half of “Fan Fiction” delivered one emotional punch after another.
Dean: Well I guess we can go back to staring at motel room walls.
Sam: You know what, Dean? You were right. Staying cooped up isn’t helping us…
MarieSam: We need to be back on the road Dean, doing what we do best. Saving people, hunting things. You know. The family business.
SiobhanDean: You’re right, Sammy. Out on the road. Just the two of us.
MarieSam: The two of us against the world.
Sam: What she said.
The emotional climax of the show was a heart-stopping, “Carry On Wayward Son”.
Tears were flowing down my face listening to that touching version of the show’s theme song (even after several rewatches). Dean’s reaction....
Both Jared and Jensen tweeted that they cried listening to this symbolic bond between fans and show. To deliver the knock out punch, Dean hung the replicate Samulet from the rear view mirror. Listen to the solo piano background music for this, though. It was conspicuously close to the most recognizable measures of the song “For Good” from Wicked (which had been previously referenced in the episode).
“Because I knew you…
“Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good.”
“Supernatural has everything. Life, death, resurrection, redemption, but above all, family. All set to music you can really tap your toe to. It isn’t some meandering piece of genre drek. It’s epic.
...or as Chuck’s dimples and smiling face said, “Not bad.”
Yeah, full out tears rolling down my face. That’s the emotional impact I get from this show. “Fan Fiction” was written for the fans, and this fan loved it.
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com.
Factural references confirmed with www.supernaturalwiki.com.