This has been an exciting season of Supernatural so far. We started out with a very funny, and slightly mysterious, episode with “Black.” Then we had a couple episodes of Dean being absolutely terrifying in “Reichenbach” and “Soul Survivor.” Then last week we enjoyed a refreshing change with “ the traditional Monster of the Week format of “Paper Moon.” There hasn’t been a moment when we were bored or an episode where we didn’t laugh out loud. Sure there been aspects we haven’t liked this season, and by aspects we mean Cole, but overall Supernatural has kept us engaged and expectant of what the next week will bring. In terms of being expectant, our hopes were high for this week’s “Fan Fiction” and we were not disappointed.
The students at St. Alphonso’s Academy, a private girls’ school, are putting on a musical. It’s not just any musical, it’s Supernatural! The piece is a work of “transformative fiction” based on the Supernatural books by prophet Carver Edlund (aka Chuck Shurley). Writer and director, Marie, seems to have a very clear vision for the performance, even if some of her peers are only there for the college credit and would rather be doing a different play.
In an attempt to convey her vision, she rebukes the student playing Dean, Siobhan, for not wearing the “Samulet.” Marie points out that “This scene takes place before the events of Carver Edlund’s unpublished masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon.” She adds, “That amulet is a symbol of the Winchesters’ brotherly love.” Marie is reminiscent of that other prep school director Max Fischer from Rushmore—clearly it’s a sense of privilege: the ‘tude, the glasses, and, of course, the beret.
As the girls fight on stage, the drama teacher, Mrs. Chandler, decides she just can’t take it anymore. She tells the girls that she is going to the principal in the morning to have the play canceled, saying, “There is too much drama in the drama department.” As Mrs. Chandler leaves the school, she complains to a friend on the phone about how awful the play is. There seems to be something in the bushes watching her. The last thing she says is, “Where is the truth in Supernatural?” before vine-like arms pulls her into the shrubbery.
Student Director Marie is still inside critiquing a marquee sign for Supernatural, saying, “I mean, it’s close, but it just … it needs a little more …” and she waves her hand dismissively. Then we see many of the opening title sequences from the Supernatural series, including special one-time opening titles from various episodes such as “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” “Frontierland,” “Changing Channels,” “Monster Movie,” “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!” and “Metafiction.” Seems like we’re off to a great start. Or several.
Dean and Sam are at a hotel. Dean is outside working on the Impala. It never seems to snow in Supernatural, despite much of it taking place across the Midwest. Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” plays in the background, putting us in a relaxed state, although with potentially significant connotations. Dean has already found the case about the missing drama teacher in the newspaper. Dean loves his old-school tech. They head off to St. Alphonso’s. While getting out of the Impala Sam reminiscences about his own theater days, referring to himself as a “theater kid.”
Dean: “Barely. You did Our Town, which was cool. But then, you did that crappy musical.”
Sam: “The – Oklahoma ? Hugh Jackman got cast off of Oklahoma.”
Dean: “You ran tech, Wolverine.”
Sam: “Shut up.”
As they walk in the door of the school they not only miss the sign about the pancake breakfast, but also fail to notice the huge Supernatural play banner.
The Winchester boys walk into the auditorium, see someone dressed up as Bobby Singer practicing saying “Idgit” and a student in a tan overcoat with wings rehearsing the line, “Hey, assbutt!” Then they hear a song about their own lives. Anyone would find such an experience astonishing and surreal, even the Winchesters. Sam and Dean quickly surmise the case they read about in the newspaper must have something to do with this musical. Thinking they are publishers, Writer/Director Marie and Stage Manager Maeve come over to talk to Sam and Dean.
Sam flashes his fake FBI badge, but when he sees the actors on stage flashing their own fake FBI badges, he quickly puts his own away. Sam tells the girls they are FBI agents and Dean interrupts, “There is no singing in Supernatural,” to which Maeve responds that it is Marie’s interpretation. Dean points out that if there was to be singing in Supernatural, it would be classic rock. He is clearly flustered. Sam asks the girls if they had any idea where Mrs. Chandler would have been heading, and Maeve responds, “A bar. Or a liquor store. Both?” Sam asks Maeve to show him around the set while Marie takes Dean to search Mrs. Chandler’s office. These girls are almost stealing the show, but the boys manage to hold their own with Jensen Ackles being as comical as ever while Jared Padelecki plays the role of straight man.
“You know, the scene where the boys get together and they’re… 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 is…”
Dean interrupts to express his concern that they are standing so close together. “You know they’re brothers, right?” Marie’s Supernatural interpretation, and its subtext, is making Dean increasingly uncomfortable.
Sam is with Marie in the production booth. When he asks her if she has heard any strange noises, in a deadpan manner she responds, “You mean something like this?” and plays him a series of special effect horror noises from the sound board. Sam mentions his own experience as a drama tech in high school but is quickly dismissed by the derisive Maeve. She uses her glasses to great effect, adding to her look of scorn.
Marie and Dean are in the drama teacher’s office, where a robot/spaceman helmet is sitting on the desk. Marie says it’s a prop from the musical.
Dean: “There’s no space in Supernatural.”
Marie: “Well not canonically, no, but this is transformative fiction.” Dean: “You mean fan fiction.”
Marie explains that since the Edlund books ended with Swan Song, she felt she just couldn’t leave the story as it was. There were too many loose ends and objectional outcomes. Her version contains spaceships, robots, and ninjas, with Dean becoming a woman for a few scenes. Dean does not seem impressed. Dean proceeds to tell Marie what really happened with the Sam and Dean characters, claiming he has access to unpublished stories but in fact recapping the main events of the last few seasons.
“So, Sam came back from Hell, but without his soul. Then Cas brought in a bunch of Leviathans from Purgatory. Uh, 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… well, Dean became a demon. A knight of hell, actually.”
Marie thinks it sounds like fan fiction garbage—some of the worst she has ever heard. Well Marie, we think it sounds hilarious —one of the best descriptions of five seasons we have ever heard. Although it probably helps that we’ve actually seen the episodes.
Dean sees the characters that play Dean and Castiel hugging and asks in an annoyed tone, “Is that in the show?” Marie explains that the girls are a couple in real life, but that they “do explore the nature of Destial in Act 2.” Reference to Supernatural fans’ fascination with slash fiction was initially mentioned in “The Monster at the End of This Book,” though this episode provides another opportunity for a nod and a wink to this hardcore group of fans.
Sam and Dean meet at the Impala to discuss what they’ve found so far. Though there is no B.M., Dean expresses his irritation about the misconstruction of their story. In general, Dean seems much more concerned about Marie’s interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the lives of the Winchester “characters,” while Sam comes off as more indifferent. Sam is vaguely intrigued about how certain aspects of their story have been rewritten: “You know, how about… Sastiel? Samstiel?” but he is more interested in
the production from a theater geek perspective. Sam and Dean decide that there is no evidence of any supernatural connection to the teacher’s disappearance. Sam says, with a nod to the director of Adaptation, “Other than the Charlie Kaufman of it all, I got nothing.” So they take off in the Impala.
Back at St. Alphonso’s, Marie is fighting with Maggie, the student actress who plays Sam. Maggie says:
“Everyone else is willing to follow your little dictatorship, but not me. I’ve been telling you all along, Marie… if it’s not canon, then it shouldn’t be in the show. You know we should’ve just done ‘The Outsiders,’ like I told you.”
Is this really what private school girls are like? Maggie tells Marie she is going to go the principal to do what Mrs. Chandler was too drunk to finish. Maggie storms off, only to be grabbed by a super-creepy scarecrow looking a little bit like Oogie Boogie with extending vines for arms. Marie hears Maggie scream and comes back in time to see Maggie get dragged away. Is it us, or did it seem like maybe she wasn’t going to do anything about it? Despite our misgivings,
Marie apparently did call the police, as well as the Winchesters (Agents Smith and Smith). Marie complains to the Winchesters that the police told her that she just had an overactive imagination, but that now she knows it’s all real. Sam tells her that she should believe:
“You both should, ’cause it is all real. And so are we. I’m Sam Winchester. That’s Dean.”
Marie and Maeve crack up. Though they are willing to believe in monsters, they are not willing to believe that Winchesters are real, particularly since they are so old. All the kids are harassing Dean this season: first getting called “Grandpa” in “Reichenbach” and now the girls telling him and Sam that they are more of a Bobby/Rufus duo. Sure Sam and Dean don’t look like the image on the fist Supernatural book, but they still look pretty darn good.
They decide that the creature is a Tulpa, a monster created by intense focused energy on an idea or story—in this case the scarecrow legend Marie is using in the play. They have a description of the Tulpa in one of the school library books. That must be one well-funded library. We love that they are referring back to Hell House, their first meta episode.
Dean asks Marie to take him to the boiler room where they keep the scarecrow used in the play—a prop that Marie describes as terrifying. Dean takes the blanket off the not-nearly-as-terrifying-as-expected scarecrow and throws it in the Nightmare on Elm Street-style boiler. They triumphantly return to the library, only to have Sam tell them that it’s not a Tulpa.
Sam is sitting at the little student-size table with Maeve, where they have been doing research in the school library. Given his height, that could not have been comfortable. It turns out the monster villain is Calliope, the goddess of epic poetry. She uses manifestations like the scarecrow to protect the author’s vision, and once that vision is realized she enjoys a yummy snack when she eats the author. This is a monster with a plan, which in this case ends with Marie being eaten.When Marie suggests canceling the play, Sam points out that trying to stop the play is why Mrs. Chandler and Maggie disappeared. Dean shares that old chestnut—that the show must go on.
They all go back to the auditorium, heading backstage, where Marie starts to hyperventilate. Sam is smart enough to walk away first, leaving Dean to comfort her.
Marie: “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t written this dumb play, none of this would’ve happened.” Dean: “Okay, well, first of all, uh, the play’s not dumb.” Marie: “I thought you didn’t believe in this interpretation.” Dean: “I don’t. Like, at all. But you do, okay? And I need you to believe in it with all you got so that we can kill Calliope and we can save your friends. Can you do that?” Marie: “Yeah. You’re right. If Sam and Dean were real they wouldn’t back down from a fight. Especially my sweet, brave, selfless Sam. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
A true Sammy fan. Marie is the understudy for Sam’s role, now vacated by Maggie, so she puts on her Orphan Black wig so she can get into Sam mode.
The cast members are standing backstage waiting for the play to start. Marie reminds Siohban to wear the Samulet. Dean asks about it and Marie explains that its a symbol of the Winchester’s bond, to which Dean shakes his head. Dean gives the cast a rousing speech—not his best skill, but it works, mainly because he’s quoting from Rent. After the speech, the cast gets in a circle and does a little “Ghostfacers” call out. Sam asks where Chuck is, and Marie says she “kinda hates the meta stories,” with which Sam and Dean quickly agree.
The play begins, and Sam and Dean watch backstage for the scarecrow or Calliope. While Dean gives confusing hand signals of warning, the scarecrow manages to capture Sam. Sam ends up in a locked basement room with Mrs. Chandler and Maggie. Calliope walks out from somewhere and says, “You’re going to miss the big show.” Sam immediately tries to kill her, but she pushes him back. Calliope tells Sam she will have to kill him and Dean to see if having the inspiration for the story there in person is what makes it so good. When Sam asks if she has to wait until the vision is realized, she says:
“Oh, Gods. If I have to sit through that second act one more time… There’s robots and tentacles in space. I can’t even…”
Through all of this, the songs about the Winchester family, Cas waiting for his cue, and Dean’s single tear are fantastically comical and refer to many of the things that fans love to talk about. Sam asks Calliope why she chose Supernatural. She replies:
“Supernatural has everything: Life, death, resurrection, redemption. The stake. But above all… Family. All set to music you can really tap your toe to. It isn’t some meandering piece of genre dreck. It’s… epic.”
Meanwhile, Dean is still trying to deal with the scarecrow. He tries to kill it, but fails and gets knocked over—this all happens on stage in front of the audience. The scarecrow goes for Marie. In the basement, Maggie hits Calliope on the head with a book and Mrs. Chandler kicks the wooden stake to Sam and he charges Calliope. On stage, Marie picks up Dean’s stake and she stabs the scarecrow, which then stumbles back to the edge of the stage. Sam stakes Calliope and both she and the scarecrow explode in a mass of purple goo. Only one audience member had the common sense to wear his poncho. Maybe he had been to a Gallagher show.
Alas, we never see the robot or the tentacles from space.
The first act of the play is over and Sam is talking with Maeve. She tells him that this is where Sam and Dean leave before anyone asks questions. She thanks Sam and tells him,
“You know, if you cut your hair a little, you’d make a pretty good Dean.”
Sam, always playing the straight man, even with a guest star. Dean is having his goodbye with Marie. He acknowledges that it has been educational seeing things from her perspective: “I have my version, and you have yours.” As he begins to walk away she calls out, “Dean,” and when he turns around she gives him the Samulet, telling him he never should have thrown it away. He tells her that he doesn’t need a symbol to remind him how he feels about his brother, which is an excellent response, but takes it anyway.
Sam and Dean are backstage watching the second act begin. Sam starts telling Dean that maybe he was right and that they need to be hunting, when the Sam and Dean characters, who are sitting in the cardboard Impala start having pretty much the same conversation. The real Dean explains to Sam that it’s the B.M. scene. The Dean character says, “Out on the road… just the two of us. The two of us against the world.” Sam looks at Dean and says, “What she said.” We love it when Sam and Dean have these moments and we don’t care who knows it. In fact, we are appreciative that the writers have such a clear understanding of why people watch the show.
They watch the final song in the play. We see Sam, Dean, and their parents, and then Bobby joins them. Another character walks up and Sam asks who it is. Maeve answers, “Oh, that’s Adam, John Winchester’s other kid. He’s still trapped in a cage in Hell with Lucifer.” Sam and Dean look at each other regretfully. Is this just a reminder of their losses or foreshadowing what might come next?
The final scene in the play reminds us of how much they have lost and what they have been through together. Watching Sam and Dean, they seem to be thinking this as well. Back in the Impala Sam and Dean are silent as they drive. Dean hangs the Samulet on the mirror. They don’t say anything, but drive off into the sunset. At St. Alphonso’s Academy, Marie and Maeve are standing in the empty auditorium enjoying the success of their play. You get a reminiscent feeling at the close of the play that reminds you that most of the people who work on Supernatural were likely to have been involved in plays in high school and college, whether it was as actors, stage hands, or
tech support. The frequent shots of the family members proudly watching from the audience, close-ups of the beautifully done program, and the cast talking excitedly after the show makes you feel the nostalgia of the high school drama club, all grown up. There were so many shots of the audience, we wondered if they were Supernatural crew or their family members.
Maeve sees a figure standing in the auditorium and reminds Marie about the ticket she had left for a publisher. She walks up to the person and asks, “What did you think?” We are holding our breath in suspense. We see the figure and it’s Chuck! He responds, “Not bad.” The fact that earlier Marie had said, “Does that mean that Calliope came for me or for…” and that Maeve calls her a fangirl, makes us think that Marie knows that he is the Supernatural author.
Regardless, we are super excited to see Chuck. As many Supernatural fans suspect that Chuck Shurley is actually the ultimate author, it leaves us wondering, and hoping, if we will see him again and in what context.
Since Dean was pummeled by the scarecrow, Marie had to jump in do the killing. Dean also didn’t kill any of the werewolves in “Paper Moon.” This means that Dean has not killed anyone or anything since he became a human again. We have a suspicion that once Dean kills that we might see the return of Demon Dean. The idea makes us sad for Sam, but happy for us.
“Fan Fiction” had a lot of hype and expectations to live up to. Unlike Marie, we love the Meta episodes, but a Meta episode with a scary monster, a god (or two), humor, and B.M.—who could ask for more? If we are being honest here, we were pretty moved at the end of the play—there might have even been a single sister-tear. As discussed in our “Supernatural Starter Guide,” brotherly love, scary monsters, heaven and hell, and witty metafiction is what Supernatural is all about. This story had all those aspects to it. We agree with Calliope—Supernatural is epic.