Supernatural 9.18 Review: “Meta fiction”

meta

“It’s because I can.” – Metatron

The problem with this season of Supernatural is that it’s never really been clear on where things were headed. Plot threads have been dangled all over the place; we’ve been watching Sam and Dean fight against Abaddon and Metatron and Gadreel and Crowley and the closing of Heaven and Dean’s Mark of Cain and any number of monster of the week stories. That’s a lot of stuff to cover, and Supernatural hasn’t done a very good job of figuring out what it wants to do. Does it want to adhere to old Supernatural principles and explore brotherly angst while the show revolves around it? Does it want to explore the social-political ramifications of angels falling and forming factions against one another, while Hell does the same? Does it want to deal with Abaddon or Crowley or Metatron as Lucifer and have him/her/it/they be the end-all Big Baddie to help set up what is presumably the last season of Supernatural next year? Oh, by the way, Gabriel’s back, but he’s not, but maybe he is?

This episode made it very, very, VERY clear where we are headed, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Here we go:

The episode opens on a really cool bit involving Metatron. He is staring right into the camera, smiling, seemingly at ease with his situation. He has a typewriter in front of him, and he’s writing what appears to be a script. He asks us, rhetorically, what makes a story good: is it the plot, characters, text, or subtext? Is it the author, or is it the audience. Metatron grins, and says he wants to tell us a little story. We are then treated to the usual opening, with the exploding-outward title card, only to be quickly replaced by a title card with Metatron’s name and a beautiful blue sky with clouds behind it. It’s quite an opening, and it invokes memories of when Chuck was still around. Metatron truly fancies himself God, and it’s hard to argue with him; he has Heaven, and presumably, all the power that goes with it. That’s a lot of souls, and it begs the question of why he’s even letting the Winchesters do whatever they’re doing instead of just going downstairs and finding them and just ripping their guts out through the mouths. It’s because he’s bored. Because he can. Because he’s a raving loony who has in his head the entirety of human culture and entertainment, and he’s simply bored of winning. He wants to set up a story; he wants to be a hero. The hero, as a matter of fact.

Dean is dealing poorly with the Mark of Cain. He is growing quieter and quieter, and look just constantly angry about everything. He’s very much a one-track mind; I don’t think he really has conversations anymore as much as he just talks at people. He wants Abaddon, he wants Metatron, and he wants it now. He and Sam’s relationship seems okay, but only a superficial level; I doubt they’re even talking anymore. Sam notices, of course, but they’re both too wrapped up in dealing with the myriad of problems they have than discussing their own, which is a nice respite. I’m on record saying that I really liked the fact that the show wasn’t punting on the Sam and Dean emotional issues anymore but damn son they are super-uninteresting now. Metatron as a super villain is so cool and ominous that it renders all Winchester problems as selfish and frankly stupid, so the show has wisely moved away from it for now. But all that silence and lack of resolution can’t be good for Dean’s precarious mental health, so I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to push him over the edge into whatever the Mark of Cain turns you into.

Castiel is back in this episode, which is wonderful, because this show only suffers when he’s not in it. Misha Collins is a really excellent actor, and has his character down pat. I don’t think the show utilizes him enough, to be honest; his comedic timing and overall badass quirkiness lends a comfortable dynamic between Dean’s constant self-loathing and Sam’s quiet suffering. He brings out the best in the characters, and no one is happier than I to see how the relationship between Sam and Cas has progressed. While the basically canonical love affair between Dean and Cas has been well-explored, I don’t feel Sam and Cas have gotten enough attention. They’re basically as close as they can be without being lovers, I think; both know each other better than almost anyone, and both are equally equipped to understand one another. Both have had powers they couldn’t control, and let evils lose on the world that they could only fix through complete and total sacrifice. This episode has a really nice moment at the end when Sam kind of hits Cas on the arm and tells him to be safe, and Cas replies in kind and tells him to keep an eye on Dean. It’s a really tender and intimate moment, spoken in quiet tones that only comes with a deep friendship. That’s part of the problem with the Dean and Cas relationship; they are both so in love with one another that they can’t figure out how to talk to one another. It keeps the relationship very stormy in some respects.

Tangent aside, Castiel is the real mover and shaker of this episode. He’s moving around, trying to figure out what the hell Metatron is doing. Angels are being killed around this symbol, acting as an Angel Siren, as Castiel puts it. Dozens of angels have been slaughtered around this symbol, but, strangely, nobody seems to know what the symbol is. Well, I say nobody; somebody knows. An old fan favorite. The only archangel to side with humanity: Gabriel. He’s back, and asking for Castiel’s help. It’s a big moment in the episode. I wrote on my notepad, in big-ass letters, HOLY **** GABRIEL, and just generally wiggled around in excitement. Gabriel was one of my favorite characters back in the day, and to have him back is like having Christmas come early. Gabriel returns as he died, speaking through a porno. He looks different now; a little older, a little thinner, a little worn-out. He wants Cas’s help in murdering Metatron, because Metatron is using his Horn (the symbol being used to call all the angels) to murder his brothers and sisters. And its awesome.

But it isn’t, really, because from the moment Richard Speight Jr. is on the stage, something is off. Every bit of his dialogue is too forced, and too convenient. It sounds like something the Trickster would say, and the idea that he hid from Lucifer instead of sacrificing himself for the greater good sounds like something Gabriel would do, it just doesn’t jive; it just doesn’t fit. It’s like someone is writing dialogue for Gabriel, and they’ve learned all the wrong lessons about what makes Gabriel Gabriel. It’s like whoever’s writing it missed the point entirely. Gabriel and Castiel get caught in a gas station by Metatron’s goons, and Gabriel tells Cas to run, to lead the angels against Metatron in his stead. Cas figures it out, though, and it’s revealed to be all a ruse by Metatron. Gabriel isn’t real; he’s not there. Or is he? Because when Cas calls him out on being fake, the facade drops, and for the remaining time on screen Gabriel feels like Gabriel again. I think he may be alive, and just in the service of Metatron (by force, of course). But thats basically irrelevant, because here’s the interesting part: if Gabriel was trying to get Cas to take charge of the angels and lead them against Metatron, and he’s just an illusion cooked up by Metatron, then that means that Metatron wants Castiel to lead the angels against him.

And now we’re back to Metatron and him telling stories. He has Castiel tied up to a chair, and he has a proposition for Castiel. Metatron wants Cas to be the villain of this story, this “masterpiece”. He wants to be the hero of this story, and he’s been reading. He read all of the Winchester Gospels and found them pulpy, but he learned things about the boys and their angel. He implants in Cas all the books and movies and television shows he’s ever consumed, and you can see a change come over Castiel. It’s like he’s been punched in the face, and in a sense, he has; all of that human culture and history has to be overwhelming. Hell, I only know human culture in fits and bits; I can’t imagine how much of a weight that much knowledge would be. It’s not all that surprising that Metatron went crazy. Anyways, Metatron wants to set up a story, and he wants Cas to be the villain, and he has a proposition for him: he knows Cas is being burned from the inside out from his stolen grace, and he offers him the powers of heaven (infinite angel juice) if he will lead those angels against him in battle. It’s really quite fascinating; for all of Lucifer’s power or Crowley’s power or even Godstiel’s power, there was always a way to beat them. They either didn’t have enough power to cover all bases, or they were too unstable. Sam and Dean were going to use Death to kill Godstiel, and it nearly worked; Metatron wouldn’t even allow the Winchesters to get that far in their plan. He’s so powerful, he’s bored.

Now, as this is going on, Sam and Dean (especially Dean) are beating the shit out of Gadreel, who they captured in a town in Colorado. Gadreel was in Colorado to get ingredients for the Angel Siren spell, and they capture him. Dean sends Sam off to go investigate on why Cas hasn’t returned, and Dean goes about making Gadreel talk. Dean and Gadreel have a really awesome conversation, too, because we learn so much about both characters. Dean, of course, is very methodical, though imprecise. This is a change from the last time he tortured someone; when he took apart Alastair, he was precise in his pain. He wanted to damage him, but only as a means to an end. But not this time. Dean’s a brawler now, a drunk tending bar, and the Mark of Cain and his own anger at Gadreel hurting Sam and killing Kevin and hurting him has given him the power he needs to beat the everloving piss out of this angel douche. And he does. He cuts him up real good. But gets nothing. Dean takes a moment for himself, in the bathroom, and then goes to kill Gadreel. But he doesn’t. He just beats him with his bare hands, bloodying his knuckles and leaving Gadreel looking like a really pretty sack of meat.

As this is going on, Sam is trying to find Cas at his hotel room. Cas isn’t there, of course, but Metatron is, and he offers a trade: Gadreel for Castiel, straight up. Sam returns to wherever Dean and Gadreel are, and they formulate a plan to trap Metatron and kill him. Now, as I’ve already explained to you, Metatron is basically God. This plan is doomed to fail, and it does; when Metatron appears, he’s late to his own party because he wanted to give Sam and Dean time to set up their trap, which he indulges. He pretends to be scared by the holy fire encircling him, and even fake-gurgles as if he was being burned alive. But, of course, he isn’t. He giggles and laughs, really laughs, at the Winchesters. He blows out the holy fire, wipes out the angel warding on the truck, and plucks out Gadreel. He then gives them back Castiel. Why not just kill them, Sam basically asks. Metatron laughs. It’s like I said above; it’s because he can. He’s not worried about these three and their history; he’s God himself, for Christ’s sake. He has no real fear. He doesn’t have power, he is power. He doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle. Nobody can touch him, truly. Metatron is invincible, in every sense of the word. Metatron then takes Gadreel and poofs away, leaving the three standing alone, clearly befuddled, unsure of what to do.

Later on that night, as Sam and Dean prepare to leave, Castiel discovers the Mark of Cain on Dean’s arm. Cas disapproves, as he should, but Dean blows it off. Dean is losing whatever battle the Mark is fighting, and doesn’t really seem to care anymore. He only wants Abaddon to die. Dean gets in the car, and Sam and Cas have the moment I described above, and then they are gone, driving off into the night.

The scene cuts to Metatron and Gadreel discussing what happened, and if the door to Heaven is safely closed again. Gadreel is understandably angry that Sam and Dean captured and tortured him, and he asks if that was all a part of Metatron’s plan, but it wasn’t. Metatron is still giddy, though, saying that “well-drawn” characters sometimes surprise you. But it doesn’t matter, really, because Metatron knows the ending of the story. All they have to do is play their parts. This was really awesome to me, too, because it invoked in me (along with the Winchester Gospels) memories of the possible 2014 ending teased back in season five. Perhaps, as Lucifer said, we would end up there. Maybe the Mark of Cain turns Dean into Future!Dean, and Lucifer is set free and takes over Sam again or, more interestingly, Sam goes darkside for real, and it all plays out like before. How cool would that be? I don’t know about you, but I am hella excited.

This was the best episode of the season so far. We now have a clear path to where we are going, and I hope that all the dangling plot threads continue to coalesce into a really exceptional tapestry. Supernatural has no more breaks, so you’ll be getting reviews for me for the next five or so weeks (sorry). Man, I can’t wait for next week.

See you then.

[Photo via Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved]

Hunter Bishop is an aspiring television writer and novelist who spends too much time on the internet. Come visit him on Twitter @Hunter_Bishop!
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14 thoughts on “Supernatural 9.18 Review: “Meta fiction”

  1. Wow, I TOTALLY disagree! I think SPN has suffered, precisely BECAUSE they have thrown the Winchesters, whose relationship the show was built on and what first drew in the majority of fans, and any chance of decent storylines about them to the dogs in manufactured conflict and angst, while writing whole independent arcs for Cas, who is NOT the star, but a supporting character whose arc should always be in support of the larger Winchester story, if they only would actually give them one that is. What a biased review.

      • It came across as one big Cas lovefest to me. For me, and a good many fans, the whole problem is that the writers stopped writing decent stories about and involving the Winchesters and their shared experience and how that bonded them. Now, it seems to me that the writers, as well as bloggers like yourself, have fallen in love with Cas and want him to take over as star with the original stars(and the original reason the majority of the fans were drawn to the show) being demoted to supporting characters for HIM. Dean, who for so long has been regulated to having a storyline with nothing to do but worry about, take care of, and exist for Sam, was finally supposed to get an important story arc this season, and all we’ve gotten was lip service about it. Even Sam, who almost always got most of the major season arcs, has no story this season. They are the two leads, NOT Cas, so yeah, I take exception to the fact that they are relegated to B plot status while the supporting character gets the A plot.

        • Cas had a huge arc this episode. The author here is praising Cas/Misha Collins (as he should be) because he was prominently featured in this episode. He’s been absent from half the episodes this season, though, so I don’t really understand where you’re coming from. I think the back and forth between the Winchesters was a little tired and featuring Cas is helpful at times. I wish they had done a little more of this with Bobby, too.

          • The Winchester’s story has been taking a back seat to Charlie, Garth, one off MOTW episodes and Cas’s angel storyline, none of which has anything to do with the possession issue or the consequences of the MOC. It’s irrelevant whether or not Cas is in half the episodes or not, his arc has still been given more care and importance than the two leads, and yes I’m sorry, but as a longtime fan and one who was drawn in by what used to be a compelling family storyline about them, their shared experience, and their bond, that bothers me. Yes I agree that the current angst between the brothers is tiresome but that is my point: the writers don’t seem to care enough about them, the two LEADS, to write any good stories for them, while giving Cas, the supporting character, his own important arc. I like Cas, but his and the other recurring/supporting characters should be in support of what should be the bigger, main Winchester story, NOT the other way around. Bobby was so effective because he was a part of THEIR story.

          • Well I mean it’s obvious to me that the other characters are taking center stage but the Winchester story is still there. Like Dean killing living people in two different episodes? That’s not Dean. And he fought the Mark of Cain by not killing Gadreel, even though he (clearly) wanted to. I understand that you’re bothered by their story played out in the background (ish) but I don’t understand why. It’s important to give screen time to these characters so that we care about them when they die, like Kevin.

          • I guess I feel that the main characters have been put in the background too much this season and much of last season. That doesn’t mean not giving any screen time to these other characters or having the Winchesters on screen 100% of the time, it just means remembering what the show was built on and try to respect that by giving them the main season arc, and an actual GOOD one. You can still care about the supporting characters, as I certainly cared about Kevin and was very impressed with how much Osric developed that character, but it doesn’t have to be done at the expense of the story about Sam and Dean.

          • Apparently so. You seem to think that it should be a big ensemble show, I feel the show was created about The Winchester brothers and the writers should remember that that is what drew maybe not all, but certainly the majority of it’s viewers in to begin with, and go back to caring enough about them to write an actual decent main season arc for them where they work together and aren’t constantly in conflict. Of course it can’t just be them only all the time; they do have to have other interesting characters, but those characters should be there to enhance what should be the central, Winchester story. Sam and Dean, their family history, their shared experiences, their own individual human struggles, and their bond are all what the show was created on, now, since Jeremy Carver took over in season 8, he has been bound and determined to destroy all of that and has done a pretty good job of it.

  2. I liked this episode a lot. I was disappointed about Gabriel not actually being back, but they left that door open which is cool. This episode was definitely not seasons 1-5 good but, on the whole, Season 9 has been a huge step up from the Leviathans and such. Really fun.

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