The Super Sleepy Dispatch
Recap and Review: Supernatural 10:5 “Fan Fiction”
By P.S. Griffin
Supernatural’s 200th episode, “Fan Fiction,” was promoted as a love letter to the fans. I confess that I wasn’t looking forward to this episode. I wanted this landmark to be a serious mytharc episode like the excellent 100th episode “Point of No Return”.
Additionally, I have become a bit uncomfortable with some of the adult male writers’ obsessions with writing for the tween/teen segment of fandom. Are tweens/teens less threatening than smart, middle aged broads with opinions? You betcha! More importantly I think that pointed writing for the tweens/teens to create feels and squee has dumbed the show down in the past few seasons. Which makes no sense to me. Seriously, if the critically acclaimed fourth season is good enough for tweens/teens, why can’t the writing remain at that level of quality. And why can’t the storyline remaining consistently dark horror? Why can’t the mytharc remain important to the characters throughout the season?
Finally I was wary of the writer Robbie Thompson tackling this teen meta musical. He’s a clever writer. He writes the brothers well and he’s terrific with the pop culture references, which make his Dean stand out. However, I think sometimes he forgets what show he’s writing for. Especially when young spunky heroines are involved. Personally, I can’t stand Charlie because she has the tendency to hijack episodes from the brothers and if Supernatural were real, she wouldn’t last. She doesn’t belong in their world in my opinion; she’s no Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Felicity Day played a, fledgling slayer on the last season of the show).
Now that my wee rant is over… I wholeheartedly admit that I loved the episode. It was charming, it had great dialogue, real brotherly moments, excellent acting, meta mania, comedy across the spectrum, AND it still managed to subtly touch on the season’s mytharc. I couldn’t have asked for more and my two little complaints are minor in the face of all of the greatness. I am seriously impressed.
I also felt the episode was successful for me because it alluded to the paradigm change in the show that I predicted in my review of “Black” and continue to tout in my subsequent reviews. To wit I feel the brothers roles, are being switched with Sam shifting into the role of caring supportive brother and Dean assuming the supernatural mytharc role. His demon status even potentially reframes him as the relunctant hero, hopefully with Sam’s love and support leading him back to the hunt and the Family Business of saving things and hunting people.
From this standpoint the episode serves as a sentimental “The Road Thus Far”, both illustrating the Winchesters love, and their history and triumphs; but also shifting the action to this new landscape, a brave new world because the brothers have aged and been shaped by their choices and experiences. The brothers become closer together in this episode as they remember their shared history; the triumphs and tragedies and their love ones lost in the fight. Despite it all they still have each other and both brothers need to remember this as the Mark of Cain storyline progresses.
I think because Sam was so actively involved in the show’s grand mytharc, he missed out on the viewer’s perspective of Dean’s role and Dean’s important point of view. He perceived Dean’s concern for him as Dean being bossy or angry or critical. It’s only through episodes like this one or “Bad Boys”, both of which revisit the brothers’ past, that Sam is able to see and the depth of Dean’s love for Sammy, his deeply ingrained protective nature, and the full measure of his sacrifices for his brother.
Enough with my meta!
The plot of “Fan Fiction ” is fairly simple. The Winchesters investigate a missing person case at a private all-girls school and are flummoxed to discover that the drama department is adapting the Supernatural series of books by Carver Edlund, Chuck to his friends, which are also known as the Winchester Gospels. The meta aspect of the episode plays on the idea of fanfiction, where fans explore personal interpretations of Supernatural through their own creative works. The play within the episode is the students’ fanfiction.
The episode opens to the stage production of a student play with an all girl cast following the typed title page for the “Pilot” written by show create Eric Kripke. The fact that feminine young ladies are playing all of the roles is in itself is a hoot, and is probably a reference to fanfiction that depicts the Winchesters as sisters.
Girl!Dean and Girl!Sam burst into a room to save a person in peril, a girl natch, from a silly sheet ghost on a rope.
The Girl!Director stops the action to berate the Girl!Winchesters on their performance. In particular she’s upset that Girl!Dean isn’t wearing the “Samulet”. Girl!Dean admits that she doesn’t like to wear it because it hits her in the chin/mouth. Girl!Director tries to convince her that the meaning of the amulet is too important to omit and tells her that she needs to man up. A girl fight ensues causing their teacher to pitch a fit.
This sequence is so dense with meta meaning that it’s truly funny to a fan in the know. LOL! For instance Dean gets rid of his amulet in season five because he’s lost hope and/or he’s disappointed in Sam. Reportedly, Jensen Ackles wanted to lose the amulet because it hit him in the mouth and he chipped a tooth. Many fans believe Sam retrieved the amulet from the garbage and he will return it to Dean when the time is right. For many fans the amulet, or Samulet, was too important to lose because it represents Sam’s elusive love for his brother.
Kudos to Thompson! This is so on point and sooo funny. Although I can’t help thinking that most of his episodes would benefit if he spent more time researching and writing, and less time reading fanfiction.
Their teacher ends the argument with a quip, “There is too much drama in the drama department.” She tells them she’s going to go to the principal tomorrow to officially shut down the production. She leaves to become monster fodder.
Girl!Director/Marie tells everyone to keep going. She won’t stop until they’re all suspended because “the show must go on.”
Meanwhile their teacher proceeds to dig her grave, calling Supernatural an “awful, unbelievable horror story. Theatre is about life….Where is the truth in supernatural?” And then the supernatural becomes the truth in her life. She has a close encounter of the fourth kind with some sort of sentient vines which are definitely horrifying and not of this world. She disappears leaving only her cellphone and a distinctive purple flower behind.
Now we are treated to one of the best title sequences ever. It begins with the school’s marquis which presents “Supernatural” in lights. As Girl!Director/Marie and Girl!Stage Manager/Maeve discuss improvements to their marquis complete with jittery hand gestures that mimic the phased effects of Supernatural’s title cards, we segue into a montage of every single title card ever used. Awesome! We even see the title cards prepared especially those few very special episodes.
Now we start the episode in earnest with our intrepid heroes. It’s car porn time with Dean Winchester who is tending to Baby slowly and lovingly his muscled arms bared and his jeans and tee shirt perfectly modeling his masculine form. It’s just like the good old days and a reoccurring dream of mine… mmm….
This Dean is definitely in contrast to his demon days; yet somehow I get the feeling that Dean is trying too hard to be normal, perhaps even playing the role for Sam. My feelings are reinforced by the song playing in the background, “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot, hints at an underlying menace; in particular the lyrics speak about an emotionally spent man who is prone to violence to hide his pain.
Sam comes out as Dean fiddles in the trunk, stowing his tools. Dean tells him that he’s found a case and wants to get back on the road. Once again Sam questions whether Dean is ready, asking if he feels more or less normal. Dean replies “Yeah whatever normal is in our world.” Dean tells him, “hunting… it’s the only normal I know.” it’s patently the truth. For now they’re not fighting about hunting and their familial rapport is back In full swing. I find it curious how often the word “normal” is thrown out in this short exchange, especially since the new normal now includes good supernatural beings that live with humans and want to be integrated into humanity.
They stand together as the camera looks up at their faces. In a blatant reference to the final scene of “The Pilot”, Dean closes the trunk repeating Sam’s iconic line: “We have work to do.” The role reversal in this scene as compared to the pilot supports my belief that the brothers’ roles are reversing on the show. Dean is now the brother tainted by the supernatural who needs Sam’s support and the stability, and the structure of working on the Family Business with his brother by his side. This makes me happy. It’s a brave new world.
The brothers arrive at the school and enter moments before the banner announcing the play is hung. LOL! The joke will soon be on them. Of course they’re back to their standard FBI covers. This time they pose as agents Smith and Smith. Is this a Matrix reference? (From Alice – It’s a reference to “Slash Fiction”, another Robbie Thompson script)
As they enter the school they discuss the case. Dean is not thrilled to find out that the case involves “theater kids”. We find out that Sam was a theater geek; this ties in with show canon that Sam was in a school production of “Our Town”.
The first thing they see when entering the auditorium is Girl!Bobby practicing her dialogue, “Idjit”. At the same time another girl wearing a trenchcoat and wings is throwing a bottle and yelling, “Assbutt”. Finally they see Girl!Dean in her too big leather jacket singing a song that identifies her as big brother Dean and tells the family history about Mary and John, the yellow eyed demon, Sam’s demonic apocalyptic role, the fire with Mary burning on the ceiling, the brothers’ emotional distance because of their opposing apocalyptic roles, Team Free Will and the Road So Far. It’s a catchy tune and an amazing summation of their storied lives. Needless to say, the brothers are utterly gobsmacked.
Holy mother of meta! The facial acting by Ackles and Jared Padalecki is worth the price of admission, as a range of emotions play across theirs faces including horror, disgust, denial, regret and resignation. Thompson has trumped “The Monster At The End of the Book” as far as meta, comedic irony… well really all forms of comedy.
When Marie notices the brothers she assumes that they’re the publishers of the “Supernatural” books. They start to pull out their fake FBI badges until Sam notices their doppelgangers, Girl!Dean and Girl!Sam, doing the same thing on stage. He stops Dean and gives Marie verbal identification.
Dean has barely been able to tear his eyes from the travesty on the stage. Indignant and fussy, he yells “There is no singing in Supernatural.” Hey tell that to your demon self.
His passionate response raises both girls’ eyebrows. Maeve explains that the production in Marie’s interpretation of the books. However, Dean is both outraged and disgusted. “If there was singing,” he argues, “it would be classic rock – not this Andrew Floyd Webber crap.” Of course Sam corrects him. However, it’s Sam that winces when they learn that “Carry On My Wayward Son” anchors the second act. Both Dean and Marie have formed a psychic bond that carries through the episode. They respond to Sam’s discomfort at the same time, “It’s a classic.” It’s a classic for the fans too and a fan favorite. Who doesn’t tear up as the song plays across the extended Road So Far sequence at the beginning of all season finales.
In fact I would say that despite being a, staunch Sam!Girl and playing Girl!Sam in the final production, Marie is about as close a match to Dean as a teenaged girl can be. It’s a pleasure to watch their interactions and gradual bonding throughout the episode. Dean has met his match and he knows it. Respect! Is it wrong to ship Darie?
Soon we learn that the missing teacher had personal problems and drank too much to cope. This prompts Dean to reflect that he will need fifty Jello shots and a hose to get this stink off. Hey, everybody is a critic!
For the record, I love Dean in full blown grumpy mode. Jensen Ackles’ continues to portray Dean’s face showing a range of emotions, primarily anger, annoyance and disgust. His acting throughout the episode is priceless.
Maeve is on the verge of attacking Dean with fury over his tactless criticism. Marie stays her hand and Sam works his charm and people skills to smooth the palpable tension. Sam decides that he will pair up with Maeve and Dean will go with Marie. Good choice.
Dean is full on grumpy as he sincerely declares that he wants to throw up, which earns him a harsh glare from Maeve. Surprisingly, Sam finds the play “kinda charming”. He stops to babble about production values but stops when he sees Dean’s stony visage. He decides to go check for EMF while Dean looks for cursed of objects. Sam is stuttering as he says this because Dean’s face was that scary. The brothers split up. Leaving Sam to disrupt rehearsal by playing with the lights while Dean is scolded by Marie for playing with the props.
It’s time for more meta madness. Dean sees Girl!Dean and Girl!Sam standing really close together by Baby. He asks Marie what’s going on. Marie answers that it’s a “BM”. Dean thinks she means bowel movement and is confused. She explains that BM is a boy melodrama scene. “You know the scene where the boys get together and they’re driving or leaning against Baby, drinking a beer, sharing their feelings. The two of them alone, but together… bonded, united, the power of their pain….” Her insipid dialogue kind of makes me appreciate Glass’ subversion of this trope (“Paper Moon”) even more.
Dean is back to being disgusted when Marie’s answer to his question about why the brothers are standing so close together is a coy “reasons”. Dean sternly says, “You know they’re brothers, right?” Her reply of “Duh. But… subtext.” doesn’t assuage his concern.
Remember that Dean has always reacted badly to people assuming the brothers were lovers and was outraged when he learned about Wincest for the first time. Wincest refers to fans that ship the brothers as lovers, as well as fans who love the dysfunctionally close brotherly bond.
Again I must point out the absolutely terrific job Ackles does of conveying Dean’s head space using facial expressions. His talent and control of his craft never fails to amaze. His performance throughout this episode is Emmy worthy. We haven’t even gotten to the on stage slapstick.
The meta comedy of this scene is enhanced by the fact that young actresses are playing the the highly masculine brothers. Their feminine body language and the easy physical closeness that females share with their girlfriends adds to Dean’s discomfort and the surreal humor of the scene. It’s quite funny and Dean is the perfect straight man to react to this dysfunctional non-canonical nonsense (in his opinion).
At this point, it’s worth noting that Dean’s opinion represents show canon and Marie’s read of the Winchesters’ story is her interpretation, her fanon. She is writing fanfiction. Therefore everything Dean objects to is not canon no matter how many fans believe it to be true. As Dean notes later, fan fiction is valid in its own right even if it doesn’t reflect the intended reality of the show.
Dean feels compelled to direct the young ladies to take a step apart. They do so when Marie says it’s okay.
Meanwhile, Sam interrogates Maeve about odd noises. In reply she demonstrates her sound board, prompting Sam to geek out a bit. Maeve leaves after telling him not to touch anything. He ignores this of course and fiddles with the lights until he realizes that he’s disrupting practice.
Whereas Dean is overly concerned with veracity, and preserving the truth of their story; Sam doesn’t seem particularly concerned. I am not exactly sure why except for the basic fact that Dean was born to play the grumpy straight man to Marie’s fanonical fantasies. I suppose this dichotomy could refer to Sam being clueless about Dean’s current state and how best to support/save his brother. Try acceptance Sam.
Dean is surprised to discover a robot in the missing drama teacher’s office. Marie explains that it’s a prop from the second act. Dean states that “There is no space in “Supernatural.” Marie agrees that canonically there isn’t however her play is “transformative fiction”. Dean smugly calls her out on her fanfiction. Marie, annoyed at Dean’s derision, tells him it’s inspired by the Supernatural books with a few “embellishments”.
She explains that she disliked the ending of “Swan Song” because Dean was with Lisa, not hunting and Sam was somehow not in the cage and not with Dean. “So you wrote your own ending with spaceships” concludes Dean. Marie assures him that there’s also robots, ninjas, and Dean becomes a woman….” When she sees his face she back tracks by saying it’s just for a scenes. LOL! Do you wanna bet those scenes are with Castiel?
The funny/HaHa includes mention of many fans dislike of “Swan Song” as the ending of the show’s big arc and Sera Gamble’s set-up for the brothers in season six, which has prompted some fans to say that the show should have ended with “Swan Song”. Finally the idea of Dean turning into a woman plays on Dean’s caretaker role after Mary’s death and an apparent favorite fanfiction theme.
This exchange really showcases the incredible rapport between the two characters. Marie might be a staunch Sam fan (Sam!Girl) and in fact she plays Girl!Sam in the final production, but the girl has game and can hold her own with Dean. They have the makings of a perfect buddy comedy.
Dean remains obsessed with the truth or as I like to call it, canon. So Dean shyly tells her the unofficial and unpublished Supernatural events that have happened since the books were published. He runs through his list of the greatest hits quickly: “Alright Shakespeare you know that I can actually tell you what really happened with Sam and Dean. A friend of mine hooked me up with the unpublished-unpublished books. So Sam came back from Hell, but without his soul, and Cas brought in a bunch of Leviathans from Purgatory. They lost Bobby, and then Cas and Dean got stuck in Purgatory, Sam hit a dog. Uh, they met a prophet named Kevin, they lost him too. Then Sam underwent a series of trials, in an attempt to close the Gates of Hell, which nearly cost him his life. And Dean, he became a demon, a Knight of Hell actually.”
As he ends with Dean becoming a demon and a Knight of Hell, Dean actually sounds proud which is a curious acting choice on Ackles’s part and must certainly speak to Dean’s real feelings on being a demon. I am guessing that telling Sam he was “embarrassed” by his recent history in “Paper Moon” was well a con or cover and therefore that episode title seems especially apropos in retrospect. The movie Paper Moon was a road movie about a con man and his daughter.
Not only does this suggest that Dean is still demonic, the fact that he ends his true account with his status as a demon and knight of hell pretty much shines a beacon on it. Especially considering that Dean being saved by Sam and Cas would be the most squee worthy moment ever to a romantic girl and Sam!Girl like Marie, whom Dean is clearly trying too impress.
This exchange is pretty much screaming at us to realize that Dean was not cured. He is still a demon. After all not only is Dean the episode’s truthsayer and arbiter of show canon, he is the character whose state of being is in question.
Somehow with Marie he is able to be himself, an out and proud geek, occasional curmudgeon, hero and demon. Thompson has brilliantly hidden this revelation in his sweet lyrical farce. It’s pretty daring. Subtextally, this is the reason why Dean was paired with Marie, criticizing and correcting her story. Dean is our truthsayer and what he says is canon. Capiche?
So he’s hiding the truth from Sam. Is it for Sam’s sake because he cares for his brother’s feelings at the moment, the cure having returned a wider range of emotions to his psyche like it did for Crowley. Or is he tired of the accusations, assumptions, torture and prejudice? I tend to think that it’s a bit of both.
Of course Marie laughs in his face and discounts his version of events; after all she is a fan and many fans could not believe that Dean could ever become a demon. I know I resisted it until it happened, and then like Dean I liked the disease. I even like Dean’s quiet pride over his accomplishments. Anyhow, it seems that it’s real folks. In this episode Dean’s words, represent canon. Like the fake cure in “Paper Moon”, Dean’s cure was faked by Dean. Am I the only one that is happy with this version of events?
Of course Marie the super fan and Sam!Girl, worshipper of the BM, calls Dean’s summary “some of the worst fanfiction that (she’s) ever heard.”
Dean is surprised by her rejection, I suppose this is a reflection on vocal online fans’ rejection of entire plotlines, even seasons of the show.
Boo hoo princesses (the writers). I have been a fan of all things Carver, and yet I steadfastly believe that the writers need to up their game to his level. Thompson may have bested the classic episode “The Monster at the End of this Book”; however, he’s consistently not writing at Carver’s level. None of them are. Aspire to be great and develop a thick skin. Stop spending too much time online and more time writing.
Also it’s worth noting that Marie our fanfiction auteur plays Girl!Sam in thefinal production. This is the second illusion to Sam’s version of events being wrong or against canon.
To wit, Sam believes Dean is cured; it seems more and more likely that he isn’t. And Sam believes demonic Dean to be evil like all demons. We know that he wasn’t. Sam doesn’t think he really crossed a line or did anything unjustifiable to save Dean. He did. Sam thinks curing Dean or killing Dean are the right courses of action. They are not. Like Marie, Sam believes his interpretation of events and his opinions regarding Dean are true and valid. However this episode has hammered again and again that Dean is the only champion and purveyor of truth and canon.
And finally we get to the moment that I have been jonesing for. Wherever there’s Wincest, Destiel is surely around the corner. Destiel refers to both the profound bond between Dean and his angelic best friend as well as fans rhat ship them as lovers and/or close friends.
Our straight man Dean notices Girl!Castiel and Girl!DeanGirl embracing. He asks Marie WTF. She is both condescending and snarky with her answer, “Kids these days call it hugging.” Dean wants to know if this is part of the play. It’s not. Apparently the girls are a couple. However Marie adds that they do “explore the nature of Destiel in Act II… it’s just subtext. But, then again, … you can’t spell subtext without s-e-x.” Dean is digesting this as he deliberately gives a pointed look to the camera judging us fans for being into such nonsense. Hey man! I just like the fact that Castiel is there for you most of the time. You need a good friend that gets you and tells you that you’ve done your best and you did good. Just don’t ask me about Deanny and Derowley. You dont ask and I wont tell. I promise! Angry judgemental Dean is scary.
Dean is compelled to share his newfound knowledge of Destiel and SubtEXt with his brother. We see them leaving the building both clearly flummoxed. Sam says that he doesn’t understand and Dean agrees. Dean what show have you been watching? Nearly every angel you meet and Crowley have mocked the profound bond and the obvious love between you and your angel. Does your desperate search to find Cas in Purgatory ring a bell? How about your year of mourning in season seven. The standing close… the eye sex… I know. It’s only a bromance… er good friendship. More funny/HaHa shenanigans ensue as Sam teases Dean mercilessly and with great affection. Apparently Sam buys the concept. He’s having issues with the familiar fan portmanteau for the relationship. “Shouldn’t it be Dea-stiel?” Dean can’t even react before Sam wonders about he and Cas. “How about Sastiel? Samstiel?” Dean is just done with the subject. “You know what? You’re going to do that thing where you just shut the hell up forever.” I imagine a million hearts broke at Dean’s reaction to their beloved ship.
The joke is over so they discuss the investigation. They agree it’s weird, Charlie Kauffman weird in fact (writer of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation). However on the surface there appears to be nothing supernatural about Marie’s all girl production of “Supernatural”. As if this is even possible. Surreal yes. Supernatural? Apparently no.
Suddenly Sam turns to Dean and blurts “Casdean?” prompting Dean to practically growl “Shut your face! Get in the car!” It’s nice to see the brothers enjoying each other after last week.
However the brothers don’t escape their story that easily and providence intervenes with another abduction. This time Marie’s a witness to the supernatural shenanigans as Original!Girl!Sam disappears after arguing with Marie about her interpretation (“If it’s not canon, it shouldn’t be in the show.”) and quitting the play. Silly girl! We all know the show must go on.
According to Marie, the defector was abducted by a scary scarecrow that left a flower behind. Marie tells the Winchesters exactly what she saw, despite the fact that she’s already been burned by the other adults for her “overactive imagination”. She’s adamant that “it’s all real: ghosts, angels, demons.” Maeve replies softly, “I want to believe.” a direct reference to Supernatural‘s genre predecessor, the occult/FBI mash-up The X-Files.
Marie and Maeve have been initiated in the supernatural so the Winchesters decide to come clean. The own up to being the real Sam and Dean prompting a peal of giggles from the girls who refuse to believe that because Supernatural is a work of fiction and they’re way to old. It’s implied that they’re probably too old to be a believable Bobby and Rufus. Dean recovers from his surprise, at their diss by smoothly explaining that they’re real FBI hunters. The girls believe this because… duh… it’s the friggin’ X-Files and they want to believe. It’s the show’s famous tagline after all. Of course the Winchesters penchant for their FBI guises is a longstanding in-show meta reference to the iconic Agents Mulder and Scully.
I really enjoyed this brief yet meta rich exchange, and yet I shake my head at the blindness of these two young ladies. Girls open your eyes to the wondrous men in front of you. Dean is a bona fide virile manifestation of the divine. Mmmm. And Sam is both Samson and Goliath with his height and that hair What else are they if not big brother Dean brother and “little” brother Sam, the Winchesters. They head to the library to research whether the Scarecrow is a tulpa (“Hell House”). I am leaning towards a pagan god because of “Scarecrow”. Sam doubts that there’s enough psychic energy to generate a tulpa, but Dean and Marie decide to burn the prop scarecrowbut anyway to be safe.
I like how smart Sam is being in this episode. Actually I think Thompson excels at highlighting a lot of the standard Dean and Sam tropes in this episode. Sam is smart, a technogeek, a bit of a stuffed shirt, a person in peril and ultimately a hero. Dean is a curmudgeon, snarky, fabulous at relating to kids, a genre geek, protective of his character (a known tendency of his actor), a fearless warrior, a sensitive leader, a bit of a buffoon, and a true hero. Thompson really gets the show, the character and it’s intricacies when it interests him.
Marie has told Dean the prop is terrifying. Actually it’s comically lame like the ghost on a rope. Dean beats it to bits and burns it old school.
Meanwhile, Sam and Maeve discover that the flowers that were left are starflower associated with Calliope, the Goddess or muse of epic poetry.
I like that the plot recognizes that Supernatural follows the epic structure on many levels. There is the extended journey to reclaim home interrupted by sirens, witches, monsters and the whims of largely absent gods per the “Odyssey”. The show at various points has borrowed the heroic trappings of tragic heroes like Oedipus who continues on a tragic path because he’s blind to his family history. Or Achilles who is reluctant to join the fight. Or the heroic buddy pairing of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Or the horrors of being born into a cursed family like the extended saga of the House of Atreus that’s told through the works of several authors. Even the idea of Team Free Will is a subversion of the epic hero’s struggle against the gods to shape his own world. The comparison is apt.
Anyhow, the fictional lore has the goddess protecting the author until the vision is realized, at which point she’ll literally consume the author. Ahem. Actually Calliope is protecting the author’s epic vision but whatever!
Marie concedes defeat and tells Dean that he has gotten his wish. She’s canceling the production. However Sam sadly explains that the Goddess has been abducting the opponents to the play. To catch and defeat the monster, the show must go on.
Marie panics at the thought of being eaten. Sam wins by saying that he will go outside and bless the stakes before Dean can open his mouth, leaving a, slightly panicked Dean to deal with the hysterical girl.
Dean quickly regroups by heroically manning up, and successful calms the girls and inspires them to fight. He reassures Marie, calling her “champ.” She rouses at that and begins to blame herself calling the play dumb. He assures her that it’s not. “I thought you didn’t believe in this interpretation,” retorts Maeve. Dean agrees. “I don’t, like… at all. But you do. And I need you to believe in it with all you got so we can kill Calliope and save your friends.” Marie is inspired by the heroic natures of the Winchesters, drawing strength especially from the example of her “sweet, brave, selfless Sam.” Dean’s eyes roll at that and he is clearly disappointed and miffed. He really wants to be Marie’s hero I think.
Dean’s reaction is funny. So is the fact that this unrepentant Sam!girl! has been bonding with the other brother all along and they are truly two peas in a pod. Then we learn that she’s the understudy for Sam and as the writer, director and actor she’s “gonna Barbara Streisand this bitch.” Oh what are we going to do about Marie? She’s a deluded Sam!Girl playing Sam in a play who’s really a female Dean to a tee in real life. Oh the humanity!
A cute scene follows with Dean helping Marie with last minute preparations. He hears Marie talking about Girl!Dean’s amulet, calling it the “samulet”. Dean’s confused until Marie explains that it’s “a symbol of the Winchesters’ brotherly love.” Dean is humbled by the revelation and for once he doesn’t disagree with Marie’s interpretation.
Sam brings the stakes and surreptiously hands one to Dean. The cast is assembled prompting Sam to wonder why Chuck is missing. It’s deliberate on Marie’s part.“The whole author inserting themselves into the narrative thing it’s just not my favorite. I kind of hate the meta stories.” The Winchesters respond ensemble, “Me too.”
Now the thing is Chuck only wrote himself into the story when he met the Winchesters and they dragged him into the story as a character. I hated Kripke’s usage of Chuck as the author and God of the written story and/or the character of God within the story from “Swan Song”. However, I hated his use as the callous monster at the end of this story even more. It’s a gratuitous cameo that doesn’t mesh with show canon and current world building.
If he’s GOD why the hell is he showing up in “Fan Fiction” to see a school play? After all the Winchesters have been literally killing themselves to save the world again and again. Doesn’t he even care about the innocent souls that cannot enter heaven because of Metatron’s machinations? If he’s just a nebbish author and prophet he’s still a jerk for leaving Becky without a word. His appearance is a sentimental gesture that goes against the show’s current and post “Swan Song” plots. He’s simply out of context. It’s an atrocity. Sorry to jump the gun on this rant.
Before the curtain opens Dean gives a rousing speech to the girls that reminds me of his fabulous Braveheart speech from “Larp and the Real Girl”. “I know I have expressed some differences of opinion… but tonight it’s all about Marie’s vision. This is Marie’s Supernatural… Put as much sub into that text as you possible can…There is no other road, no other way, no day but today. Now you get out there, and you kick it in the ass.” As Maeve notes the italicized line is from the musical “Rent” a modern adaptation of “La Boheme.”
Then both brothers are annoyed by the group huddle and homage to the Ghostfacers.
Marie welcomes the audience and directs the front rows to the ponchos under their seats. Apparently these rows will experience some of the special effects from the performance which is very meta because it breaks the fourth wall by including the audience in the play.
The play begins and Dean and Sam watch with interest and emotion even though they’re in high alert and the play is truly awful, albeit very charming. Luckily we get the choice highlights sans those quirky embellishments.
Dean watches, completely geeking out to the music of “The Road So Far” opening montage. He very cutely stops when he sees Maeve watching because it’s so not cool.
Meanwhile Sam is cursorily watching the performance and investigating weird phenomena, thus far all play related. He and Dean are opposite each other exchanging looks when the Scarecrow manifests behind him. He misinterprets Dean’s frantic gestures and turns around a moment too late to fight. He disappears prompting Dean to charge behind the scenery to look for him. Marie is freaked by this, however, Dean assures her that he will take care of the Scarecrow. All she needs to do is keep on singing.
Sam finds himself in the basement with the other two abductees. Thank Thompson that he’s not tied up. Whammo! Presto! Calliope appears and grandstands as villains are prone to do. Back on stage the play is showing a charming montage from “The End”. Then Castiel gets off the phone with Dean and stands under a lamppost and patiently waits for morning singing a lovely, wistful tune “I’ll Just Wait Here for You,” about Castiel’s devotion to Dean. The moment captures the essence and longing of their profound bond as well as Castiel’s unfamiliarity with human behavior and the modern world.
Back in the basement Calliope is monologuing. “I’ve consumed many authors, many stories… I knew something special was brewing with this one. Maybe it’s because the stories’ actual inspiration was here… Guess I’m just going to have to kill you and your brother to find out.”
Amusingly, Calliope hates the second act embellishments as much as Dean. She even is grumpy about it. “There’s robots and tentacles in space. I can’t even.” Tentacles are a veiled reference to Dean’s interest in hentai or cartoon tentacle porn. I can’t even..
Back to the show! Girl!Sam/Marie is singing “A Single Man Tear” whilst Girl!Dean is in the background, apparently summoning and exorcising the Crossroads demon from “Crossroad Blues”. Later on Dean sells his soul to the same demon to save Sam, kicking the mytharc into high gear (“All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2”). “…underneath the manly sheen is my brother, a boy named Dean.”
Sigh. It’s a beautiful song about a beautiful man, Dean of course, and his propensity to show a single man tear. I think that the actual fanon term is OPT (one perfect tear) but I won’t quibble about Thompson’s faux-pas. Frankly his phrase is more lyrical and speaks more to the awesome character of Dean who embodies the Masculinity of an alpha male hunter with the sensitivity of a beautiful soul who is too precious for this ugly world. Sniff. This folks is why I am an out and proud Dean!Gal.
The scarecrow appears again after the song ends whilst Girl!Dean sings about his brother. The real Dean runs across the stage and tackles the Scarecrow. The play continues around the two as Dean and and the Scarecrow contnue to rumble, Dean’s physicality in this scene borders on the slapstick.
Girl!Dean is really a trooper because she manages to continue to sing despite the supernatural spectacle. As this plays out Stage Manager Maeve astutely notes, “We’re through the looking glass here, people.” It’s an astute observation and comment on both the meta shenanigans and the general surreal hijinks of the episode.
At the same time Sam is stalling Calliope. He asks her why she chose this particular story. Her reply is pretty hokey. “Supernatural has everything – life, death, resurrection, redemption. But above all, family. All set to music you can really tap your toe too. It’s not genre dreck. It’s epic.” Clearly Dean agrees.
The three Sams are the ones to get the kills in this story. It makes sense in the big picture because they are playing coy about Dean’s cured status at the moment, which apparently includes him just missing out on the kill. Remember “Paper Moon”? Dean gets thrown a final time, leaving Marie/Girl!Sam to pick up the stake and stab the truly scary scarecrow screaming Dean’s mantra “No chick flick moments!”
At the same time Original!Girl! Sam and Real!Sam duke it out with Calliope. Real!Sam stabs her at the same time as Marie stabs the scarecrow. It’s Sam, Sam and Sam for the win! Both The goddess and her avatar explode into purple goo which rains over the front rows of the audience as promised, fulfilling their role as characters and spectators to the action.
The audience is shocked and astounded. The one guy that actually put on his ponch stands up and begins a standing ovation. Marie is happy to be alive and delighted at her play’s positive reception. Dean gestures to her to come forward and take a bow. He actually calls her “Sammy.” That is a huge win for Marie. Dean shyly bows a little himself without stealing the spotlight.
Maeve and Sam walk and talk during Intermission. Maeve comments that “Usually this is where Sam and Dean take off before anyone asks any questions.” Sam admits that it sounds like a good idea. Maeve tells Sam that he would be a great Dean if he cut his hair. She’s wrong of course. Sam is no Dean, however he takes it as a complement, sort of. At least he realizes that Maeve meant it that way.
Meanwhile Dean is chatting with his girl Sam. He tells her that “This has been educational – seeing the story from your perspective. You keep writing, Shakespeare.” Her embellishments don’t bother him any more because “I have my version; you have yours.” Ergo, the writers don’t care if you interpret things differently than show canon. It’s your show too.
As he starts to walk away Marie calls out to “Dean”. He turns aeround in surprise to see her holding a prop samulet. She gently chastises him, “You never should’ve thrown this away.” She gives him the trinket. He tells her wistfully, “It never really worked… I don’t need a symbol to remind me how I feel about my brother.” Marie totally channeling Sam tells him “Just take it. Jerk.” He responds without thinking, “Bitch”, realizes his crass faux-pas and looks apologetic before she starts to laugh. Dean pockets the trinket and heads to backstage. Obviously Marie knows her Winchesters. She recognized Dean in the end. Smart Girl. When will she realize that she is the feminine manifestation of the divine Dean!
The zany meta mayhem quiets down as the brothers manage to catch a little bit of the second act. They see the infamous BM scene which Sam musunderstands and Dean declines to explain, shushing him instead so he can watch the play he’s come to love.
Sam admits hunting is the right move for them as Girl!Dean and Girl!Sam are knee deep into the BM scene. Girl!Sam states, “We need to get back on the road, Dean. Doing what we do best. Dean agrees saying, “You’re right Sammy, out on the road, just the two of us.” Girl!Sam looks at Girl! Dean with obvious affection before agreeing, “The two of us against the world!”
Real!Sam is equally moved as he tells Dean, “What she said. …The two of us against the world.” Dean silently agrees. Sigh. I am verklempt, experiencing a single female tear myself. It’s an emotional scene that resonates with both brothers. It’s a callback to their shared history and the history they are making now despite the changes that the years have wrought, even the supernatural changes. They may not be comparable any longer to those boys from ten years ago but they are still brothers with an unbroken love and an unnaturally close friendship.
I will repeat my controversial opinion that I have presented in my reviews this season, especially those for “Black” and Reichenbach” and also earlier in this review. Sam needs to support and love Dean not change him. Sam needs to help Dean/demonic Dean realize that the Family Business is the perfect means to do good and satisfy the Mark’s bloodlust. Dean can be a, dark night like Batman or his gunslinger avatar epitomized by Clint Eastwood in any number of spaghetti westerns or modern neo westerns that Eastwood is famous for.
With Sam’s help Dean can learn to control the darkness to do good for the world. After all, hasn’t been this Sam’s role from the “Pilot” on. Dean has always been the true inherently dark one and his relationship with Sam has always anchored him to his humanity. To me it’s perfection, a, return to darker horror themes, and beautifully acknowledges the lessons learned, changes earned and choices made on the Road So Far.
Seriously. I don’t want the Mark erased because I want there be real consequences. Real consequences make their battle scars well earned and their collective angst meaningful.
Also, I am in love with the idea that the show is rebooting their mytharc by reversing the brothers’ roles. As I preached extensively in my review of “Black” a reboot such as this is fresh and has the potential to knock the problems that have built up over time with the writing because the plotting and characters have stagnated. I am just so excited by the hope that just maybe the writers have the cojones to carry this off. Certainly the upcoming second half of the season will be proof of their success or failure, as well as the worth of my mad rantings.
Next we are treated to a melodic choral version “Carry On Wayward Son” with the entire cast coming on stage to perform. It’s truly lovely.
As Dean and Sam watch, we see Dean react emotionally to Girl!Mary’s solo and both brothers reacting to the sight of Girl!Bobby, Sam with fond rememberance and Dean apparently overcome by loss, multiple incipient tears of his colossal man pain forming in his eyes. There’s a hardness to Dean’s face as well and I suspect he’s thinking of the certain hardship of the immediate road ahead as the Mark of Cain and demonic Dean rear their beautiful heads once again.
The song even includes mention of Adam the third Winchester brother who according to Maeve is still in the cage in hell with Lucifer and Michael. Thompson needs to rewatch “Swan Song” I am pretty sure that Michael intones that Adam is not present well before the ridiculous pit jump. Still Sam and Dean look guilty about Adam which is lame writing considering it’s highly doubtful the writers care enough about him to stage a rescue. It’s a cute reference, like the heinous Chuck cameo, and yet it has no place in the script because it ignores canon and world building logic.
The Winchesters leave before the performance is over neatly sparing us those wild “embellishments”. Back in the Impala, Dean pulls the faux-Samulet from his pocket and hangs it from the rearview mirror. For me at least, its meaning is different now: I read it as a symbol of the brothers’ shared past and the circumstances that positioned the two of them against the slings and arrows and monsters of this world. Hanging it on the rearview makes sense, as a reminder of where they’ve been. Dean hits the gas and the Impala races down the highway on to wherever the brothers go next. I’d like to think that we’ll see the brothers’ friendship back on track and Dean’s mastery of demonhood and the Mark progress because of what they were reminded of in this episode.The Winchesters’ story is over for now but Marie’s story continues. She’s in the nearly empty auditorium thanking her fans when Maeve runs up excited that the Producer cane after all. Marie wonders which of them Calliope had really targeted as she walks down the aisle to Chuck. Really no surprise. Who else would it be. I will admit that it’s sweet but I hate it for the above mentioned reasons nontheless. She greets him, blurting out, “Hi! Thank you so much for coming. I know the second act is a little wonky and the first act has some issues. But what did you think?” Chuck smiles wryly and says “Not bad.” Not bad indeed Robbie Thompson
Additional Thoughts: Everyone involved brought their A game. Cue the Applause sign and take your bow. Philip Sgriccia directed Robbie Thompson’s true masterpiece. The episode hinged on the performances of Jensen Ackles as Real!Dean, Jared Padalecki as Real!Sam, Katie Sarita as Marie/Girl!Sam, Writer/Director/Actor and Sam!Girl, and Joy Regullano as Stage Manager and Jody Mills’ understudy. Personally I think Dean and Marie stole the show. They were the stars. No disrespect to Sam or Joy since their characters were clearly there to support Dean and Marie. Of course Sam x 3 got all of the kills.
Throughout the play Dean repeatedly refers to Marie as Shakespeare. It’s a sign of their growing bond, an ironic criticism because she’s clearly no Shakespeare, and a riff on the subversion of Supernatural’s typically male dominated cast in the play. In Shakespeare’s day all of the actors weremale. Shakespeare also appropriated existing literature for his own use and made the stories thoroughly his own through his genius. Marie’s no genius however her unique vision charms even Dean to champion and dance to her play. Brava Marie. Bravo Thompson.
Of course Shakespeare penned the famous “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts….” for his comedy “As You Like It”. It is meta commentary on the fact we all play our assigned roles throughout the play of our own lives. The sentiment is apropos particularly for the brothers whose “real” lives comprise Marie’s play, Chuck’s books and the television show of which they are blissfully unaware. They play their respective roles of big brother, little brother, leader, hunter, Man of Letters, Knight of Hell, Hero…
My review is interspersed through the Recap as densely as Thompson parcels his meta throughout the episode. I hope y’all appreciate my personal meta and musings.