Like any TV series that produces 22 episodes a year, Supernatural’s writers grew real tired of the format pretty early on. Urban legend re-creations and ghost procedurals quickly gave way to experimental, self-reflexive commentary on horror, TV tropes, and Supernatural itself. There’s the in-show “Winchester Brothers” book series (with accompanying conventions and stans), the monster movie parody, the ghost-hunters parody, and of course there was “The French Mistake,” in which Sam and Dean were transported to a parallel universe known as “Canada” and were referred to as “Jared” and “Jensen.” So for an episode of Supernatural to have the audacity to call itself “Meta Fiction,” it was going to have to really impress with the meta-commentary in order not to disappoint.
Would it be a commentary on meta-commentary? Would it be a Tim & Eric–style, postmodern audio-visual meltdown? Unfortunately, aside from a few tossed-off speeches about story mechanics and character arcs (plus a special title sequence!), “Meta Fiction” was way more conventional than it was meta. Which is honestly pretty fitting for an episode centered around Metatron. The guy makes big claims about being the next God, but he’s actually just a grand high dick wizard. Ohhh, I see what you did there, Supernatural. That is pretty meta come to think of it, presenting both Metatron AND the episode as an emperor’s-new-clothes situation. Well, regardless of just how next-level meta “Meta Fiction” was or wasn’t, it was still a very solid episode in what’s shaping up to be the best post-Kripke season yet.
“Meta Fiction” began and ended with Metatron, which was just how the aspiring god wanted it. Cold open found him sitting in for deceased prophet Carver Edlund, just frantically raking his fingers back and forth over a typewriter only to pause and speak directly to the camera about storytelling. Disconcertingly presentational for a cold open, the scene was later rendered disappointing when we found out he was merely speaking to a bound-and-gagged Castiel. But the theme was still clear: Much like the writers of a ninth season TV series, Metatron was looking to set loose a bunch of well-defined characters into unpredictable narrative mazes with only one endpoint in mind. In his case, he believed the endpoint was his ascension to God’s throne. In our case, we knew the endpoint was the Winchesters standing victorious (with one of them self-sacrificing and getting swept to hell, as always). But of course there’s a chance this episode served as a warning that things might not always go how we expect. If that proves to be true, “Meta Fiction” will become very genius in retrospect.
So Metatron’s plan was fairly simple: He enlisted Gadreel to recruit an army of angels and to destroy those who refused to join his cause. At the same time, he tried to manipulate Castiel into forming his own army so as to become the villain in Metatron’s Hero’s Journey as transcribed in his newer testament. Or something like that? Okay, I guess Metatron’s plan wasn’t all that simple or maybe my brain is too addled from years of candy dinners to have fully understood the schemes at play here. Still, it meant that Gadreel was using a special angel sigil to attract hordes of stray angels to warehouses where he’d slaughter most of them. Not a very cool thing to do, in my opinion. Even less cool was Metatron conjuring a vision of Gabriel/Loki to manipulate Castiel. For one thing, it brutally got our hopes up that the late, great trickster was still alive (alas, he was just one of Metatron’s fictions), but also it worked. By episode’s end Castiel had been sufficiently roused from his Swiss-like neutrality and used a sigil to attract better and cooler angels to join his army. Will he be leading them toward certain death? This season’s epic conflict was finally picking up steam.
As for the Winchester bros, the first thing you need to know is that Dean began the episode with a shower scene. Aside from the obvious reason why that’s important (Dean in the shower), it had been implied that Metatron was “writing” the episode we were watching, so uh, great job, Metatron! Couldn’t you have throw in a bit of slashfic also? Anyway, the brothers mercifully kept their bickering to a minimum this week so they could team up to trap Gadreel. After successfully snaring the rogue angel hunk, the Sam was forcefully dismissed from the scene on account of his too-personal feelings of animosity toward his former non-consensual invader. But the twist was Dean was arguably even madder at Gadreel and it looked very likely that he was going to straight-up murder him, a problematic situation in that Metatron wanted to trade Gadreel for a captive Castiel. From there the episode became a tense, Heat-esque standoff as the two sides traded their men. Were you aware of how much more powerful Metatron was than normal angels? In addition to having some Professor X–style telekinesis, he simply blew out his ring of holy fire and also erased the angel-trap in the Winchesters’ trunk. Like I said, Metatron seems more like an evil wizard than a god, but either way he’s way more formidable than he used to be. (Special credit to Curtis Armstrong for walking that line between light-hearted and intimidating. For a minute there, I almost forgot about Booger. Just kidding, I did not forget about Booger and I will never forget about Booger.)
By episode’s end, we didn’t learn much other than Metatron and Castiel are now building armies, Dean’s Mark of Cain sorta burns still, and Abaddon is still out there probably being very mean to everyone. It was a classic setup episode for the upcoming season finale. But seeing as next week’s episode appears to be a backdoor pilot for an impending Supernatural spinoff, it’s sliiightly worrisome that Supernatural may not be able to sufficiently bring closure to all these season-long arcs in time. However, if “Meta Fiction” is to be taken as meta commentary (because otherwise, what is the point?), the best storytelling can’t be predicted. Do your thing, storytellers!