SPN 9.18: Meta Fiction review
In his third episode of the season “Meta Fiction,” writer Robbie Thompson gives the viewers a story about writing a story and asks who gives the story meaning, the writer or the reader/viewer.
Supernatural has done a number of meta episodes so there’s no surprise there, but the opening scene with Boogertron staging himself with Masterpiece Theater music at a manual typewriter a la Chuck was painful. I suspect that it was meant to be funny, but the contrast between Chuck’s sincere reminiscing about Sam and Dean and Boogertron’s pretentious pseudo-intellectual detachment was sickening. The current crop of writers would do well to avoid making too close of a parallel to classic scenes from the first five seasons. They do so at the risk – in a very direct way here – of comparing themselves to earlier writing teams and showing themselves lacking.
Metatron’s obsession with stories and storytelling was revealed when he was introduced in season eight, and at the beginning of this week’s episode, we see him literally writing a story. When he looked directly into the camera and asked if it is the writer or “you” who makes meaning in the story, he was equating himself with the show’s writers. If it is the viewers, are the writers eschewing responsibility?
Metatron also believes that he is the hero in the story. In the scene where he’s talking to Cas about leading the angel faction against him, Cas said something about Metatron wanting him to be a hero, and Metatron laughed and said Cas is the villain, Metatron himself is the hero. Of course, Metatron is at this point also God – is God the hero or the villain? That’s up to the reader to decide I suppose.
I have to say I’ve never related so strongly to Cas whose being jerked around by the narrative and forced into the role of villain. I mean, look, seeing Gabriel again was kind of fun, but am I the only one who knew that it was some kind of Metatron trick the moment the Casa Erotica commercial started? And Metatron wrote Gabriel’s dialogue so poorly that it kind of ruined having Gabriel back even for those few scenes. I loved Richard Speight Jr. as Gabriel back in the day, but with Metatron’s poor script, he came across as ham-fisted.
I feel the same way with Bobby being brought back repeatedly and given lines that dubiously fit his character. It’s not as though he’s really back anyway, so it ruins it for me. The same goes for last season’s finale with the “sort of” reconciliation between Sam and Dean, only to be undermined immediately in the season nine premiere. It’s like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, leading it on, but never really satisfying its hunger. I’m tired of bitching about the show week after week, but it’s difficult not to when it’s so rarely fun or satisfying.
That being said, did we learn anything new this week? I don’t think we learned much about Metatron that we didn’t already know – he’s an arrogant manipulative creepy asshat who sees humans as nothing more than characters in a story. Sam is concerned about Dean who is having trouble holding on to his humanity. Cas doesn’t want to be a leader despite Metatron’s machinations. I loved Castiel’s response, “Based on your assessment, that doesn’t sound like me.” Would laughter be inappropriate here? Seriously, I don’t know if Thompson is brilliantly skewering himself and his fellow writers or whether he doesn’t understand the implication of that statement – that they frequently and frustratingly write the characters out of character – twisting them into actions and words that aren’t “them.”
The one thing we learned for sure confirmed what I’d suspected about Gadreel – he wasn’t just a dupe in the Garden of Eden. When Dean confronted him about letting the snake into the Garden, Gadreel shouted, “I set them free! I love humanity!” Yeeeeah, maybe. I mean I’ve always questioned whether Lucifer didn’t do Adam and Eve a solid by talking them into eating from the tree of knowledge, so I’m not condemning Gadreel for working with Lucifer here. He may have had good intentions, but then maybe not. We know he is a liar and manipulator not unlike Dean himself, and it calls into question the extent to which Gadreel is a dupe in Metatron’s plan.
Gadreel did his best in “Meta Fiction” to sow the seeds of doubt in Dean’s mind about Sam loving him and being willing to do anything for him. But Dean had learned from experience that Gadreel is manipulative, and he didn’t fall for it. He realized that Gadreel preferred to die rather than being chained forever. He didn’t fall for it much as the Mark of Cain called to him to do it. The scene where Sam returned to find both Gadreel and Dean lying on the floor as though both had been beaten was interesting. Gadreel was still handcuffed, and it appeared that Dean did battle with himself. He admitted wanting to kill Gadreel but resisted.
Another remark of Gadreel’s that was interesting was when he said to Sam, “I have been you, Sam Winchester, and your insides reek of shame and weakness.” While I’ve no doubt that Sam harbors shame for the things he’s done, I’m certain that Sam isn’t weak at all. He might think he is. Perhaps he thinks of the way he broke down after Dean disappeared into purgatory as weak or the fact that he fell for Ruby’s manipulation or that he can’t walk away from Dean for good, but Sam isn’t weak. The fact that he is alive and moving proves that. I wonder though if Gadreel’s statement isn’t more of an interpretation based on his own feelings about himself. Gadreel after all is weak for agreeing to become Metatron’s attack dog just to make himself look better in the eyes of his fellow angels. Compare that to Castiel’s unwillingness to lead his fellow angels despite their faith in him.
Continuity errors aside because, yeah, there’s that, here’s what makes Metatron a bad writer: He doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions. He was frustrated that Castiel didn’t get a Sherlock Holmes reference, so he downloaded all the books and movies that he’d experienced over the past few millennia. It didn’t occur to him what kind of advantage that might give Cas in writing his own story. Cas now has millions of plots and characters in his head. Just as living briefly as a human gave him an insight into humans that he hadn’t had before, so do all those stories if he learns to put them together with real world experience. He hasn’t yet as evidenced by his inability to see how storming the Deathstar might relate to the current situation. As Dean said though, it’s a step. No writer can imagine all the possible implications of an action or plot device, but this one was obvious.
Castiel also learned in “Meta Fiction” that Dean had taken the Mark of Cain. He was unconvinced as Sam was by Dean’s assurance that he’s fine. Pretty clearly from Dean’s mirror-gazing and behavior with Gadreel, he isn’t okay. While Cas didn’t see what we did or what Sam has, he probably knows a lot more about the Mark of Cain, and he implored Sam to watch out for Dean. In the ep, Sam merely returned a concerned expression, but Thompson said in a Tweet that a line was cut in which Sam said, “I’m worried about him.” I’d like to think that whoever cut the line thought it was unnecessary because Sam’s expression was enough, but I don’t. There seems to be an intentional attempt to create some ambiguity about whether Sam is as loving and concerned as he ought to be about Dean.
At the end, Sam and Dean drive off together in search of Abaddon, while Cas returns to his motel room where he tears down his “hunter” wall and begins replacing what was there with the angel beacon sigil. As the sun came up, the boys were still driving and Cas left his motel room to find a crowd of angels outside looking to him for leadership.
Metatron then narrated that “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.” The thing is he is a character in the story, and there’s no reason that other characters can’t surprise him by wrestling the narrative from him. There’s no guarantee that Cas plans to be the leader that Metatron expects or that Gadreel is the pawn he plans on him being, and Sam and Dean have proven in the past that they are more than capable of rebelling against the roles that fate set for them. After all, God wrote that the apocalypse would happen, but two boys, a drunk and a fallen angel stopped it. Three-fourths of Team Free Will is still around, and if they work as a team again, they could stop Metatron.
But I think that will be really be Metatron’s undoing is his arrogance. He proved himself to be a lousy writer in “Meta Fiction.” He over-estimates his skill, and that will be the weakness that brings about an entirely different ending than he thinks he’s in control of. What does that say about the show writers? I’ll let the readers be the judge.
This entry was posted on April 16, 2014 by spnmonster. It was filed under Episode Review, Episodes, Opinion, Reviews and was tagged with Castiel, dean winchester, Gadreel, Meta Fiction, Metatron, Robbie Thompson, sam winchester, SPN9.18.