Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All Writers Are Lunatics* Supernatural Ep. 9x18, "Meta Fiction"

Novels and stories that examine, experiment with, or poke fun at the conventions and genres of fiction itself can all be classified as metafiction. The term "meta-fiction" means "beyond fiction" or "over fiction," indicating that the author or narrator stands "beyond" or "over" the fictional text and judges it in a highly self-conscious way. Patrick Kennedy

Being a writer, I enjoyed “Meta Fiction” on as many levels as the episode provided. It was written by Robbie Thompson and directed by Thomas J. Wright.  Few things make me, as the fans put it, "squee."  Not Dean, or Sam, or Castiel.  But intellectual concepts and realistic touches? Squee!

There was the story, the story-within-a-story, a breaking the fourth wall fake-out, and my favorite, an exploration of what it means to be a writer. Not only a writer of a long-running television show (There is an off-hand joke about “retcon.” Thompson tweeted that ret-con is now canon), but also the writer of stories. There is the deep satisfaction of building your own world, populated by your creations. However, characters are created, but they make decisions the writer never intended. Unexpected plot holes and mistakes occur. Fortunately, there’s rewriting. But is that last a good thing in this case?

"Meta Fiction" tied up many loose ends, and did the impossible: it made the angel war interesting.  As long as we leave Malachi and the others out of it, I'm good.

THEN: A whole lot of stuff, including Castiel stealing another angel’s grace.

NOW: In a quiet library, classical music plays on an old LP, a fire in the fireplace, books on the shelves...and Metatron, in spectacles, a figured silk robe, tapping away at a manual typewriter. I love Curtis Armstrong, and I'm happy I've never seen his other work. I'm unspoiled, shall we say.

SPN_918 Metatron library

This is a deliberate throw-back to Chuck, aka God, at the end of Season 5. He looks at us (his teeth are British, circa 1950. It ain’t pretty) and says “What makes a story work? It is the plot, the characters, the text? The subtext? And who gives a story meaning? Is it the writer? Or you? Tonight, I thought I would tell you a little story and let you decide."

The “SUPERNATURAL” title card is quickly pulled off. Heavenly trumpets blare as:

SPN_918 Metatron title card

Dean is in the shower, and screams of fangirls break the eardrums of anyone in their vicinity. He looks at the Mark and--can it be--a SMALL CUT SCAR below it on his forearm?? For years I’ve wondered why those cuts insta-heal. Squee!  Sam's worried about Dean, and it's a satisfying role reversal from previous seasons.  This time, Sam has to watch helplessly as his brother changes.  Sam is scared and out of his depth.
Meanwhile, Cas is drawn to an empty warehouse by a strange noise. En route, his coat snags on a piece of machinery and the lining is torn (important later, folks). He finds a huge room full of dead angels and the Horn of Gabriel, which has been used as an angel duck call.
spn_918 Horn of Gabriel

The one living angel, Hannah, tells Castiel that Metatron slaughtered all who wouldn’t rally to his cause. She begs him to lead the rebel angels. “I’m no leader,” as he insists multiple times throughout the episode. When Cas returns to his motel room, he calls Sam. Dean listens with a smile as Cas says, “I miss my wings. Life on the smells.” Cas smiles hearing Dean’s voice. It’s a lovely moment, and the only one in the episode where Dean seems at all like his old self. 

Cas's character development is richly enjoyable.  Castiel's experience as a human has opened him up emotionally, leaving him more vulnerable and confused.  He's at a level of vulnerability the Winchesters were many seasons ago.  Sam and Cas are tentatively forming a friendship that is both about Dean and about itself.  Both man and angel have repeatedly had the experience of being controlled by others, and both are similar in nature.  They are both warriors, Castiel instinctively, Sam because he has to be. 

Sam mentions there’s no way back into Heaven--“That’s what Crowley said,” Dean gruffs. Sam remembers a witch boy in Ogden who helped them once upon a time, and drives off.
The witch boy, now a stoner who puts the Big Lebowski to shame, runs a head shop, with a sideline on fairy bones and gryphon feathers. Gadreel comes in. The stoner is adorable, which means he’s about to be doornailed.
spn_918 stoner witch
This guy gets me really hot.  Don't judge me!

We’re back at Castiel’s seedy digs, when the lights flicker and the tv snaps on--to Casa Erotica! And there is GABRIEL!!
spn_918 casa erotica

(Cue yours truly clapping and jumping up and down like a little kid.) He appears in the motel room, older and wearier, but still full of wisecracks.

spn_918 Gabriel
Richard Speight Jr. will now get paid more for convention appearances.

He’s been in hiding in heaven, but got hurt in the Fall. “I used of my juice to get into porn--that came out wrong.” They drive off in Cas’s pimpmobile. I want Cas to own that car for the rest of the season.  Maybe the pimpmobile and the Impala can mate and have...extremely weird little car babies.
Gabriel’s incessant Rat Pack patois wears thin quickly. Half of it could have been cut, which would have improved his conversation with Cas immensely. Gabriel tells Cas they’re rebels and Gabriel will be the new leader. Cas knows this is out of character for Gabriel (squee!). Gabriel points out they’re running out of gas (set-up! Squee!) They pull up at a Gas-n-Sip to gas up, where a gang of Metatron’s angels show up. Gabriel says he’ll hold them off, while Cas escape and be the leader. “I’m no leader,” Cas says for the umpteenth time, reaches for his angel blade--and discovers the lining is untorn.

When he tells his comrade, Gabriel, crestfallen, says, “Continuity errors.” He snaps his fingers and the Hell’s Angels disappear. Castiel pushes his angel blade into his comrade, and it sinks into a hologram. “Are you dead?” Castiel asks. Gabriel, smirking, snaps his fingers--
Castiel is bound and gagged in Metatron’s library. “I’ll let you decide,” he says, rounding back to the pre-credits. He has been our unreliable narrator!

Meanwhile, in the abandoned warehouse du jour, Sam and Dean have trapped Gadreel in a ring of holy fire. The Winchesters are damned lucky our economy is in the tank, otherwise most of those warehouses would be fully operational and they'd be screwed.

spn_918 Sam
"Looks like you traded down, asshole!"

Sam goes into BAMF mode (rowrr) before Dean pulls him off and tells him to go get Cas. Pot, meet dangerously overheated kettle. Dean’s eyes are frighteningly dead.
Metatron is delighted that it was the torn overcoat that gave him away, drawing out the thread and looking at it appreciatively. (Squee!) Metatron gets sick of Cas never getting any references and blams! him with every book, movie and tv show that Metatron has consumed in the past millennia. Cas’s head doesn’t explode, but he can now name-check Muriel Rukeyser! (Squee!) I have a strong suspicion what Metatron just did to Cas is going to backfire spectacularly.

It appears that the stolen grace is burning Cas from the inside. Metatron wants to be the hero of the story, and Castiel the villain. Castiel will rally troops for Metatron to slaughter, providing Cas with an unlimited supply of grace. “I’m no leader,” Castiel says for the 10,001st time. Listen, buster, clam up and accept your fate and we can all go home sooner, okay?
We’re back at the warehouse where Gadreel is chained to a chair. Dean is enjoying this week’s mandatory torture porn. Gadreel taunts him with the EXACT SHAME SHIT WE’VE BEEN LISTENING TO FOR NINE SEASONS.

spn_918 Gadreel same old same old
Something original? "He can't deal with your being bisexual and in love with Castiel!"

As he said to Sam, “you’re a coward.” A) This makes no sense B) He says it the same way, which reminds me that Tamoh Penikett seriously needs to get that stick out of his ass. Dean almost kills him, but instead goes into the bathroom to splash his face with dirty cold water.  Which begs the question--why does Gadreel want to die?  WTF?
Sam goes to Cas’s seedy motel to find him gone, and a cell phone with six unanswered messages from Dean. (Aside: wouldn’t it be hilarious if it said “Dean” with a little heart emoji?) Metatron appears and offers him an even trade, angel for angel. When he’s gone, Sam tries to reach Dean, but Dean has also left his phone in the old washroom and stomped out, murder in his eyes. Seriously, Dean could be the Big Bad right now if he was pointed in the right direction. He is fucking SCARY.

spn_918 Dean Gadreel beat down
"Holy crap, Dean, you're turning into a serial killer!" "Tell me about it."

The next day, everyone shows up at the appointed place. Metatron is trapped in a circle of holy fire.  Only he's not!
spn_918 Metatron blowing out holy fire

He not only blows out the ring of holy fire, he erases the angel warding in the Impala’s trunk and releases the Men of Letters handcuffs from Gadreel. Metatron is now God. He knows the boys will try to take him down. “It’ll be a hell of a show," he says, all but skipping with delight. "I’m going to enjoy watching you try.”   He disappears.

Motel parking lot, night. Sam points out that Metatron is powering up using the Angel Tablet. Dean makes a reference to Star Wars, and Cas sort of gets it. “Did you just understand a Death Star reference?” Dean asks in disbelief.  Castiel looks at him.  "There's something different about you."  Dean gives him a reassuring pat.

spn_918 Dean Cas pat

Cas grabs Dean's arm and rolls up his sleeve.  When he sees the Mark, he quietly freaks and says, "What have you done?"
spn_918 Dean Cas arm
"Now you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery!"

Dean pulls away and gets into the car.  Cas asks Sam to keep an eye on his brother. Sam pats Cas on the shoulder and says, "Be safe."
Gadreel enters Metatron’s study, and Gadreel asks--wait for it--“Is the door secure?”
Metatron smiles and says, “THE WAY HOME IS SAFE.”


Wow, Crowley is one nasty bitch, even when he's not in the actual episode.  Any chance of a Crowley/Metatron face off?

Back in his library, Metatron talks about how certain things did not go according to plan. God’s mistake was publishing the first draft. But Metatron intends to rewrite. "What writer doesn’t love a good twist? My job is to set up interesting characters and see where they lead me. The byproduct of having well-drawn characters is they may surprise you. But I know something they don't know - the ending. How I get there doesn't matter as long as everybody plays their part."

And that begs the question I asked at the beginning: at Metatron's hands, is rewriting a good thing?
There is a chilling montage of Metatron typing in sync with Cas’s actions, as "The Sun Don't Shine Anymore" plays.

Cas creates his own Horn of Gabriel and welcomes his followers at the motel--
spn_918 Cas followers
spn_918 the end

--as Metatron types exactly that! At the end, there is a close-up as he types: TO BE CONTINUED.

"Meta Fiction" left me mindfucked, exhilarated, and strangely angry. Really angry, because now I won’t know how much of what we see is through Metatron’s eyes, and how much he will determine the action through his writing. Metatron is now God. And from now on he is our unreliable narrator. And we won't know when.

And that, dear readers, is a very good thing.

*Quote from Cornelia Funke

All screencaps from

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