Warning: contains Fan Fiction references, Samulet squeeing, and a totally gratuitous ABHL gif.
One of my favourite things about Supernatural is the way it always surpasses its own craziness. I mean, who thought that the meta episodes would get better than The French Mistake? But then Fan Fiction came along and all the fans drowned in puddles of their own tears.
The meta episodes are fairly rare, coming along maybe once a season.They’re always funny, and of late surprisingly emotional- who didn’t shed a tear or two when Dean hung up the Samulet?
The meta episodes shift the spotlight onto the Winchesters’ journeys, but for once we can be reasonably confident that no-one will be dying. The Real Ghostbusters and The French Mistake were pure crack; The Monster At The End Of This Book, Chuck’s first episode, started bewilderingly comedic and became serious. Hollywood Babylon was just silly. They reflect Sam and Dean’s past stories, but in a way that they don’t sound one hundred percent man pain.
Not only that, the meta episodes give the characters contact with the fanbase- for better or for worse. Admittedly a good chunk of Tumblr seems to have taken offence at the portrayal of Becky in Season Seven, Time For A Wedding!, and there’s been some groaning over the fact that nearly all the fans in The Real Ghostbusters were male- though I always took that as a snarky joke concerning the expected mostly male viewership verses the actual, mostly female viewership.
Fan Fiction, however, seems to have paved the way for an even greater relationship with its fans than SPN already had. The fans in that episode were young girls who were at once critical, pedantic and head-over-heels in love with Supernatural- a pretty good summary of most fan sites I’ve seen, possibly including this one. Better than that, Fan Fiction’s fangirls did a pretty good job of befriending the Winchesters- effectively saying to us, look, guys! The boys like you!
And with the Samulet fix-it (possibly my favourite moment of the whole episode), we were shown that yeah, SPN does understand what we want from the show, and it is able to give it to us in unexpected yet satisfying ways. I mean, before watching Fan Fiction I’d actually gone round my more up-to-date friends asking whether Dean got the Samulet back. I was hopelessly confused when one of them winked and said ‘oh yeah’ and the other, looking doleful, said, ‘no, he doesn’t’.
And both of them were kind of right. The actual Samulet wasn’t seen again, but a symbolic replica came along, accompanied by Dean saying, ‘I don’t need a symbol to tell me how I feel about my brother’. It took the pain away without resorting to the pandering that the recovery of the actual Samulet could have been seen as.
That, my friends, is how you achieve catharsis. Now all we need is a voicemail fix-it.
It’s also fun to see the generally (generally) competent Winchesters uncomfortable, and in a way that isn’t irritating.
(Yeah, I’m giffing the crap out of this one.)
Fan Fiction, in its own Andrew Floyd Webber way (sniggers), was also a homage to the music. It began with Dean seductively cleaning the Impala to Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown, and continued with these songs in the musical- and didn’t the girl playing Cas have a positively angelic voice? Which, you know, makes sense. The Road So Far, A Single Man Tear, I’ll Just Wait Here Then and the haunting cover of Carry On My Wayward Son all made inside jokes and traditions canon.
Yeah, Dean, whatever you say.
Best of all, though, the meta episodes show Sam and Dean the worth of their own story. In The Real Ghostbusters, Dean refers to their story as ‘a river of crap that would send most people howling to the nuthouse’. (Ahem, Dean, most people? And this is where I restrain myself from citing The Born-Again Identity for the hundred and second time.) However, Demian and Barnes, dedicated LARPing fanboys, jump in.
‘You’re wrong, you know… our lives suck, but to be Sam and Dean, to wake up every morning and save the world, to have a brother who would die for you… well, who wouldn’t want that?’
Obviously, a lot more crap has happened since then. Ellen and Jo died, Sam went to Hell, Bobby died, Dean got the Mark, Charlie died, the Darkness… you name it. But I still think it’s applicable, and maybe Sam and Dean still do too.