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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Tagline: It’s the 200th episode and we’ve got the Brothers on a very light-weight case involving privileged schoolgirls doing a musical based on the Carver Edlund books based on the Winchesters’ lives. Hunting meets First World problems. Yay.
Recap: Recap that consists of someone typing out the title page to the show’s pilot on a computer.
Cut to Now, over a black curtain that opens up. It’s a living room scene with a very bad young actress reading a book. A “ghost” prop drops to the floor in front of her and lifts up. She screams.
The door busts open and two college-age women dressed as Sam and Dean aim pop guns at the ghost while “Dean” desultorily knocks off a quip. Somebody yells, “Cut!” and a young girl in a red prep school uniform, with an Asian sidekick in similar get-up (I kid you not) starts yelling at the girl playing Dean. “Dean” replies that she’s just doing it for college credit. A shoving contest ensues, whereupon the adult in the group, who is sitting in the seats, yells at them to break it up.
She tells them she’s fed up with all the girly “drama” and she’s going to the dean of the school tomorrow to shut down the production. After she leaves, the preppy girl, Marie, insists they continue until they’re “suspended.”
Outside, the teacher is bitching on her cell phone to some friend about how “Supernatural” is not theater “truth,” and tippling from a flask, when she gets kidnapped by vines in the bushes. A purple flower is left behind on the pavement.
Cue a title card of lit bulbs and Marie stating it’s not quite right – so we get ten years’ worth of title cards, instead.
Cut to Dean cleaning up the Impala, dressed in a dirty t-shirt and jeans. Damn, does Jensen Ackles have a nice ass (sorry!).
Sam exits their motel room, which is #200 (of course). He, too, is in jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. And it’s a nice, sunny day. And a downright slutty Gordon Lightfoot song, “Sundown,” is playing on the radio. Wardrobe just called and said, “You’re welcome.”
‘Scuse me, I gotta go rewatch that.
Anyhoo, Sam comments that Dean is “up early” (hinting that Dean still isn’t sleeping) and Dean cheerfully says he’s got a case. He tells Sam about Doomed Drunk Teaser Teacher. Sam is skeptical, but Dean says he’s going stir-crazy and needs a hunt. So, off they go.
They arrive at the school theater in broad daylight (there’s a nice flower bed next to the parking lot). They’re both in their FBI suits and Sam is on the phone (Dean driving) to a police officer. As Sam brings Dean up to speed on what happened to DDTT and brags about his brief career in high school theater, Dean sarcastically notes that consisted basically of running tech stuff backstage.
The Brothers walk into the auditorium and encounter instant life dissonance. One girl in makeup as Bobby Singer is practicing the word “idjits.” Another, dressed up as Castiel, is imitating Castiel’s suicidal holy oil molotov throw (“Hey, assbutt!”) at Michael in season five finale “Swan Song.” On stage, the girl playing Dean in the teaser is singing a song called “The Road So Far” about the Winchesters’ horrible life (with a heavy emphasis on how speshul Sam is) to a montage of season one, basically, acted in pantomime by other actors while another girl (the second-to-last Person of Color we’ll see in this episode) plays on the piano. Marie and her assistant are sitting in the front row until Marie calls a cut.
Sam looks bemused, Dean utterly horrified. But it does convince Sam that there’s a case here.
Marie comes rushing up to Sam and Dean, thinking they are “from the Publisher” (whoever that is). Sam introduces the two of them as FBI agents, but Dean almost spikes it (or perhaps successfully distracts the girls from the fakeness of their badges) by getting into an argument with Marie about the play being a musical, insisting that if there were going to be any singing in Supernatural, it would be Classic Rock. Marie’s assistant dryly calls the play “Marie’s interpretation” as Marie glares daggers at Dean, but then Marie semi-mollifies him by pointing out there’s a rendition of show signature “Carry On, Wayward Son” in the second act.
Sam then gets them both mad at him when he doesn’t know that song. He mightily drags things back on track by saying they’re there to investigate the drunken teacher (Miss Chandler)’s disappearance. The Brothers quickly get filled in that she’s been drinking a lot since her divorce the previous year.
Dean belts out, to Sam’s chagrin, “I don’t blame her. I’m gonna need fifty Jello shots and a hose-down to get this stink off me!”
Sam gets the name of the assistant (Maeve) and suggests she give him a backstage tour while Dean deals with Marie. As Marie and Maeve head back down to the stage, Sam comments about how charming the production looks, but trails off when he sees Dean’s look of utter disgust.
It’s a sign of the low stakes in this episode that it never once seems to occur to Sam that it might not be very safe for Dean to be wandering around alone with a kid who is irritating the hell out of him by way of mangling the most painful chapters of his life story. I mean, Dean was a demonic madman just two episodes ago and still has the Mark of Cain at this point. But nope, says Sam, let’s split up and do a tour. What could possibly go wrong?
So, Dean goes backstage with Marie and asks her about the props table (this being Dean played by Jensen Ackles, he naturally starts playing with them, to Marie’s horror). He then spies the two girls playing Sam and Dean, over by the prop Impala. Marie explains that they’re rehearsing the “BM Scene.” Confused, Dean asks if it’s the “Bowel Movement Scene.” Marie says no, it’s the “Boy Melodrama Scene.” You know, when they talk about their feelings.
That’s somehow lots worse, especially when I remember this episode was written by a guy. I’m also reminded that this was one of Thompson’s last episodes for the show and he may have already been on his way out, willingly or unwillingly. This episode has some in jokes that seem mean-spirited at the expense of the cast and crew he was leaving behind, in a way similar to “The French Mistake,” which Ben Edlund wrote when he was halfway out the door.
Dean comments that the two actresses are standing awfully close to each other. When he asks why, and says, You do know that they’re brothers, right?” Marie insinuates that it’s “subtext.” Dean then calls out to the two girls to back it up a step. Yeesh.
In the control booth, Sam is talking to Maeve, who is a little jerk. Sam tries to ask her about “weird noises” around the theater (per folklore, theaters are notoriously haunted) and she just brings up all the FX they can do. When he mentions he did theater tech in high school, she actually cuts him off so she can go answer a call. Woof, Maeve. Rude, much?
Dean, overseen by Marie, is looking around DDTT’s office. He finds a lot of half-empty booze bottles and a weird robot prop. It turns out to be part of the second act, in which Marie (dissatisfied with the way the story went in the books post-“Swan Song”) decided to write her own fan fiction – sorry, “transformative” fiction. Which involved robots. And ninjas. And Dean turning into a girl for a hot minute.
I guess we should be grateful MPREG (the trope of male pregnancy) isn’t involved. I actually wrote an MPREG novella once, but in my defense, it was original science fiction. There’s nothing wrong with MPREG. It’s the way the trope is used in media tie-in fan fiction, with the intent of making grown men act like teenage girls, that is cringey.
I know this is supposed to be a (not so) gentle poke at the show’s fan fiction, but this second act is starting to sound more and more like Act Two of the infamous cursed play The King in Yellow.
Dean then claims to have the inside track on the as-yet-unpublished later books. He basically does a rather heightened rendition of the story up through early season ten. Marie absolutely hates it and makes fun of it as bad fanfic. Dean is (not surprisingly, since it’s his life) pretty offended. Well, can you blame him? The entire school seems bratty and entitled.
Dean then notices that the two girls playing Dean and Castiel are hugging. Seems they are a couple. Of course they are. Marie goes off on a fond little rant about the s-e-x in subtext and how there’s Destiel in Act Two. Apparently, she thinks a thirty-something man who’s seen a ton of bad shit in multiple worlds needs to have gay subtext explained to him by a sheltered teenager in prep school. The straightsplaining in that speech is so nasty that I can’t help channeling Dean’s fourth-wall-breaking look of disgust at the camera.
Outside, Dean meets up with Sam (my, they look nice in those suits) and after some discussion about the weird shipping dialogue, they finally get back to the case. Sadly, there isn’t much of one. There’s no sign of supernatural activity at the theater or in DDTT’s office. Dean speculates she may be face down in a bar or a ditch somewhere. Note that we’re already almost 15 minutes in (sans commercials) and the Brothers aren’t even sure if they’ve got a case, yet. Even though inside, someone is doing a very bad play based on their lives. So, they get in the Impala and they leave.
Later that night, a girl named Maggie is bailing on Marie’s “little dictatorship” and threatens to go to the principal in the morning, but then she gets kidnapped by a monster that looks like a scarecrow, but has vine arms like those that kidnapped DDTT. Marie sees it.
The Brothers, having heard what happened, return to the theater the next day and interview Marie. Marie manages to make poor Maggie’s (how many friggin’ girls with names beginning with M are in this episode?) kidnapping about her own humiliation at not being believed. Charming.
Marie describes the monster as looking like the scarecrow prop in their play. The monster dragged Maggie behind a dumpster and then they both disappeared. Needless to say, neither the cops nor the school authorities believed her. She’s shocked to realize that ghosts might be real and Maeve even thinks she wants to believe.
Sam makes a tactical error by introducing himself and Dean. Sadly, Marie and Maeve are Very Very Stupid and respond with laughter and mockery. This makes no sense to me. If I thought someone were playing a joke like that on me after a traumatic paranormal event I witnessed, I might get angry. But I wouldn’t respond like these twits.
I so want to slap Marie and Maeve. Hard. And we’re not even quite halfway through.
Marie’s hung up on the idea that the Carver Edlund books are “works of fiction.” Maeve’s hung up on the idea that Sam and Dean are too old to be … well, Sam and Dean (the ageism in this episode is pretty darned bad). But Dean is finally able to get these two morons back on track by convincing them that he and Sam are Hunters and can help them. Maeve guesses they’re like The X-Files and Sam’s like, “Yeah, we’ll roll with that.”
So, the first theory (remember that we are halfway through and only now taking the MOTW seriously) is that the monster is a Tulpa, since Marie based her prop on a creepy scarecrow outside town when she was a “kid.” Um … she’s still a kid, so what the hell?
The big problem with Sam’s theory (which he himself admits) is that neither the books nor the play are popular, so where did sufficient belief to create the Tulpa come from? Sam is also hung up on the fact that another flower was dropped at the scene, but he can’t recall what it is.
Meanwhile, Dean has Marie take him to the boiler room, where the scarecrow effigy is. Marie is terrified of it; Dean, not so much. Marie helps Dean burn it.
But when they come back to the library, Sam says it’s not a Tulpa. It’s a goddess. A Greek Muse to be exact – Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry. Sam identified her via the flower left behind. It’s a starflower, also known as Borage.
Sam says that Calliope nurtures and protects an author she favors, using manifestations like the scarecrow that kidnapped DDTT and Maggie, until that author has “realized her vision.” Then Calliope eats the author.
Kinda wish Calliope had eaten Thompson before he turned in this script.
So, Marie doesn’t take this well. She freaks out and runs into another room, then hyperventilates into a paper bag. The Brothers and Maeve rush in after her and then Sam abandons Dean to go do research or something, leaving Dean to get Marie to buck up and get the show back on track. The plan is to lure Calliope out and gank her. Because if Marie tries to stop the whole show, more people will just get kidnapped. Or something.
Marie enthusiastically responds to this rousing speech by stating she’ll take her fictional hero – Sam Winchester – as inspiration and play him in the play. Yep. Marie’s a Sam stan, on top of everything else. Oh, and she’s got a version of Dean’s amulet that she calls the Samulet (always hated that name). Dean’s double-take reflects mine.
Marie gives herself a totally self-absorbed pep talk to the mirror that finishes with her saying she’s “gonna Barbara Streisand this bitch.” So much wrong with that. So, so much wrong. She later claims, with no intentional irony, she left Chuck out of the story because an author inserting himself into the story is douchey. Ugh.
The Brothers then change back into their regular flannel and Sam arrives to surreptitiously give Dean a stake of some kind that will kill Calliope.
Dean gives the cast a big backstage speech that actually works. Then they all do a group chant of “Ghostfacers!” that horrifies the Brothers before starting the play. [sigh]
Marie comes out on-stage to give a big, stalling speech of her own to the audience and the Brothers have Maeve bring up the music to shut her up. We get the “Road So Far” montage again as the Brothers roam the backstage, looking for signs of Calliope in the confusing mess of players coming on and offstage in makeup.
Sam then gets grabbed by the scarecrow, right in front of Dean, and disappeared into a wall. Dean runs frantically after him backstage, but isn’t in time to stop it.
Sam wakes up in a cellar with DDTT and Maggie. He still is holding his goddess-killing stick. It’s the school basement. Calliope shows up and TK’s Sam around a bit.
While the girl playing Castiel sings a lonely solo onstage (remember that “The voice tells me I’m almost out of minutes” scene from season 5?), Dean tells Marie to “stick to the plan” and keep going until the goddess shows up.
The goddess, meanwhile, is monologuing to Sam about how Marie’s play is terrible (especially that second act), but there’s something special about this opening night. Perhaps it’s because the real-life inspirations for the story are here (yes, she recognizes Sam as a Winchester). She guesses she’ll “just have to find out” by killing Sam and Dean.
Upstairs, during a montage recreation of Dean’s deal to resurrect Sam in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” at the end of season two (yes, I know that’s out of sync with Castiel being in the play at all), Marie sings “A Single Man Tear.” That is truly an obnoxious song that sends up toxic masculinity without actually critiquing it. The only good thing about the song is the juxtaposition with Dean, who is so intently looking for the MOTW that he doesn’t notice or care about the song’s lyrics or message, and there ain’t nearly enough of that.
Near the end of the song, Dean spots the scarecrow again and runs across the back of the stage, in full view of the audience, to tackle the scarecrow while Maeve fires off instructions to the crew.
Downstairs and stalling, Sam is getting Calliope to monologue about why she chose this story, in some of the most annoying on-the-nose dialogue ever about the greatness of the show. I mean, I love this show, but that kind of infodump doesn’t belong in the dialogue. Subtext, my ass.
Anyhoo, Dean’s fighting the scarecrow and getting his ass kicked, while downstairs, Maggie and DDTT come up with a pretty decent plan to distract Calliope (by whacking her over the head with a heavy book) and kick the magic stick back to Sam. Sam stabs Calliope in the back, right at the moment Marie gets into the fight upstairs and stabs the scarecrow, shouting “No chickflick moments!” The scarecrow staggers back, arms outstretched, then bursts into blue goo right at the moment its mistress dies in the same manner downstairs. The startled (and goo-covered audience) gives her a standing ovation. Dean tells her and the “Dean” actress to take a bow. The curtain closes on this.
Afterward, Maeve comments to Sam that this is usually when the Brothers exit stage left in haste. Sam agrees. Maeve then says he’d make a pretty decent Dean if he cut his hair. Sam looks exasperated.
Dean, meanwhile, is talking to Marie during the intermission about how they just have different interpretations of the same story. Marie gives him the Samulet prop and calls him “Dean,” making it pretty clear she’s finally figured out who he really is. Dean’s not sure how to deal with that late-hour validation. So, he just comments that he never needed the Samulet as a symbol for his love for his brother (though she does get him to take it), and goes to stand next to Sam in the wings.
As the curtain rises, Sam is startled to find the words taken right out of his mouth by the dialogue on-stage about how staying “cooped up” in a motel room or the Bunker or wherever isn’t such a hot idea and they belong out on the road. Turns out it’s the BM Scene.
The play continues with the cast singing “Carry On, Wayward Son.” One of them, according to Maeve, is playing Adam. That one sure makes the Brothers uncomfortable.
Finally listening to the song and music, Dean and then Sam are emotionally affected by it.
At the very end, in the real Impala, Dean puts the Samulet prop on the rear-view mirror as they drive off into the sunset. Or the sunrise. Take your pick.
In the coda, Maeve comes running down from the balcony to Marie to say the ticket they left for the “Publisher” was picked up. After some momentary confusion over whether Calliope came for her or the Publisher, Marie runs up to meet him. It turns out to be Chuck, whom we haven’t seen since the end of season five.
Review: So. This is the episode for which the show spiked the Demon!Dean storyline.
I never thought I’d see the day when Supernatural had an episode in which only the MOTW died (It wouldn’t really be a Supernatural episode at all if nobody died). And I certainly didn’t expect that episode to be the show’s 200th, not after the high-ish body count for the 100th.
For those wondering why I’m about to body-slam “Fan Fiction” when it’s just supposed to be a flaky lark, there are two reasons. First is that screwball comedy and farce of this episode’s type are difficult precisely because they’re supposed to be light. But if a souffle falls flat, it falls flat, and that’s a fail. Gordon Ramsay isn’t going to take pity on you and call it a nice try. He’s going to call it a hot mess. That was “Fan Fiction.”
Second, the episode itself is intended to be a milestone meta commentary on the show itself and how it’s perceived by the fans. This makes it, by its very nature, analytical. Analysis is designed to be itself analyzed. The funny thing is that the show itself has always been intended as a meta commentary on the horror genre, anyway, like its spiritual predecessor, The X-Files. So, there’s double the reason to take this puppy down to the studs and see how it measures up.
This was a bantam weight entry at best. It wasn’t the worst they’ve ever had (perhaps because there’s heavy competition for that spot), but a classic it also was not. And that’s too bad, though yay for the show making it to 200 episodes in the first place (and this week, it’s the 300th). Very, very few shows have managed it. In fact, only 40 scripted primetime shows out of over 120 thousand shows in U.S. history had reached 10 seasons (2 of them, Supernatural and Bones, were in their 10th season) the year this episode came out. Supernatural is currently one of only 14 scripted primetime shows to make it to 15 seasons. If it makes it to 16 seasons, that number will drop under 10.
That said, this came off like a rather lazy and self-indulgent effort, as well as yet another reason for Robbie Thompson, like Adam Glass, to stay far away from writing young female characters, especially female LGBT characters. ‘Cause he sucks at it and the result seems more like soft-core porn than flying the Rainbow Flag.
Also, the young actresses they got weren’t the greatest, even allowing for the fact that they were playing teenage girls, some of whom were playing (very badly) two grown-ass men.
What was especially disconcerting, in light of its total reversal on the show’s basic premise, is how it wanted us to sympathize with a bunch of privileged young (mostly) white girls who were appropriating the life stories of two white guys – who also happened to be poor, marginalized, underprivileged and – until recently – homeless most of their lives. Two people who also happened to have been brought up in an atmosphere where they lived in violence the way fish live in water. And who had made out of that unfortunate circumstance a heroic profession.
And on top of that, not only did these spoiled little brats think they had a right to critique those lives, they also felt they could rewrite the story any way they chose, which also meant making it as girly as they chose (keeping in mind that this script was written by a grown-ass white man, so the female characters were themselves walking stereotypes of Clueless Female Writers who couldn’t get inside the head of a man enough to write him well. O the irony).
It came very perilously close to the kind of cultural appropriation that makes blackface or running around in an “Indian” headdress with a tomahawk at Halloween offensive. About the one thing that “saved” it (more or less) was that the culture was a fictionalized version of many different bits of world folklore and the two protags having their lives appropriated were white. And male.
Even so, fictional as they are, I found myself feeling sorry for Sam and Dean Winchester. Dean, especially, got set up for a lot of mean-spirited laughs. Ackles dealt with it by just going out full-throttle goofy, while Padalecki went Giles-levels of deadpan. I’m not at all surprised that both of the leads were more than a tad horrified when they first got the script.
I’d say that this wouldn’t have ever flown with two minority protags, but then I’m reminded of how many times this kind of story has used minority protags in exactly that way. Somewhat dopey white characters getting life lessons from Wise Old Ethnic People while appropriating the WOEP’s life stories? Tragic Gay Best Friends for the Rich Girl Who Has Everything? Very common event in Hollywood. Hiyo, Silver.
This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if this viewpoint were simply presented as is, or even satirically, but it’s really not. By the time Dean is head-bopping at the end to a song about his mother being torched on a ceiling, it’s pretty obvious these kids are supposed to be imparting some kind of wisdom to Dean, and to Sam, after appropriating the story of their lives and rewriting it in a really crappy and self-indulgent way. The viewpoint itself is intolerant. Either you’re with the writer’s pseudo-PC beliefs or you’re a bigot.
One of the reasons why Hollywood TV writers doing riffs on their shows’ fan fiction almost always goes horribly wrong is the unexamined misogyny of a bunch of (mostly) sheltered white men whose main experience with writing women is action shows and superhero comics. I remember writing fanfic on Usenet in the 90s for Star Trek, Queen of Swords and Highlander (you can find it all here if you’re curious), and woof, was the “official” attitude horrible toward fans back in the day.
On the surface, it’s improved to where they now actively woo certain fans (while still freezing out others, thus creating fandom gatekeepers for the extra lulz). But the subtext is still one of condescension and mansplaining because you’re still stuck with the writer’s male gaze. Even women who write for television almost always do so according to male producers’ and showrunners’ specifications, and for a male audience.
The thing is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with fan fiction. Hell, a huge amount of historical fiction was nothing more than religious fanfic for a very long time (Biblefic, baby!). Sure, most of it sucks, but that’s true of most published writing, too, and some fan fiction is actually very good.
Writing in a preexisting universe, like any other writing exercise, can help you become a better writer. It can give you some extra space to learn other skills besides original worldbuilding. Plot, for example. Writing a good fan fiction story means learning to research canon and write convincing characters who give readers the same thing they look for in those same characters onscreen. That’s harder than it sounds. It’s about so much more than just filling in the gaps between scenes or episodes, or retelling a story when it turned out a way you didn’t like, or writing shipping porn.
But then you get into the part where so many of the fans writing and reading media tie-in fan fiction have been women (probably because not being the intended audience means you’re less satisfied by what you get from the canonical story), and the nasty attitude of showrunners toward those fans. And this episode, while purporting to be a love letter to those fans, too often crosses the line into mean-spirited mockery. It even commits some of the sins it mocks them for, distorting the Brothers’ characters and story to fit Thompson’s little segue into Meta Land. Apparently, if you are a “real” (read: usually male) scriptwriter on the show, you can write as much shitty fan fiction as you like. But little girls writing it for free? How dare they?
Fanshaming’s not cool, writers, especially when you get the fans in on it and internalizing it and turning on each other. These people keep your story alive and your jobs in play. Show a little respect.
Now I get that the basic structure of the MOTW episode is that the protagonists of the story (Sam and Dean) roll into town and must learn a new lesson every week while killing monsters. So, they’ve got to learn something, as well, from someone re-telling their story, however horribly. But that doesn’t mean that they should be getting lectures from civilians who have no clue what their lives truly are like. It seems to trivialize the risks of hunting monsters, as well as the tragedies.
Many fans have complained about this over the years. Yet, the show continues to do it as if the writers haven’t heard anything to that effect. I suspect that has a lot to do with network pressures to introduce characters who bring in a younger audience. Why do I think this? Why, because the show has done this before and so has the network.
In season three, the CW insisted on the show introducing two young (and attractive, it almost goes without saying) female characters as recurring guest stars. The show already had one introduced in the form of Ruby, the demon who would eventually lead Sam to start the Apocalypse. Under the gun to bring in another female recurring lead, they took a one-shot, Bela, and turned her into a recurring.
Personally, I liked Bela’s potential, if not the execution, until “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” when she tried to kill the Brothers by stealing the Colt and giving it to Lilith. This was solely to save her own hide. Even that could have been written more sympathetically, but the writers, by their own admission in the companion book for season three, hated having the character imposed on them. So, they did their level best to sabotage the writing for her from the get-go.
Ironically, the character that they really did like, Ruby, who also happened to be a Creator’s Pet, was even worse than Bela because her creator was so obsessed with her. She was so roundly hated that they had to recast her because Eric Kripke refused to write her out until the end of season four.
I was therefore unsurprised to see the network doing this again in season ten, by introducing – or should I say, having the showrunners introduce – a slew of new, young, female characters. After all, it is not the first time they tried this (“Ghostfacers” and, ugh, “Bloodlines”). And it wasn’t the last time, either, though “Wayward Sisters” was a hell of a lot closer to the original show’s concept than this episode. At least “Fan Fiction” wasn’t the (bad) sign of things to come that it looked like when it first came out. So, there’s that.
There is somewhat of a mystery about why they introduced these characters in the 200th episode (we never did see them again). I say this because the episode went to great lengths to introduce all of them (even if Marie was the only one who got any real development). Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of plot gas in terms of recurring characters for someone like Marie. Okay, so she’s doing a play about Supernatural. Great. But then what? It’s not as though she is going to become a Hunter. And there are only so many times a haunting can occur at her school before it gets sillier than season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Hellmouth and bad guys constantly coming to her town.
So, perhaps Marie and her little girl gang were not ever intended to be recurring characters, let alone the backdoor pilot material the network so desperately desires. It makes you wonder, though, why they were introduced in the first place. The very last people I’d think would be obsessed with the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester would be a bunch of sheltered prep school girls.
In addition, there are a few problems with the logic of the situation. Let’s all cast our minds back to the fact that the Brothers have been on the run from the law for most of their lives, almost as long as Bo and Luke Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard. In addition, Dean had been a wanted serial killer for nine seasons to that point. Not to mention when both he and Sam were framed as spree killers by Leviathans who looked just like them in season seven. These two have been on America’s Most Wanted list more times then Ted Bundy.
It is therefore a bit of a stretch to expect that a prep school for sheltered young girls would have no objections whatsoever to a bunch of their students doing a musical about these two serial killers. Even worse, they are two serial killers who are heavily into the Occult. It all defies suspension of disbelief just a tad in this post-9/11 world. I mean, would you really expect to see the same bunch of girls allowed to do a play like Springtime for Hitler or a sympathetic musical about the life of Charles Manson? Try so not.
The writing tries to both dodge and handwave this with a rant by the drunken schoolteacher, who is supposed to be the girls’ after-hours chaperone in the teaser, about how they are doing a musical based on a bunch of badly written books. Which is all very nice, except that the Brothers are real, and their reputations as wanted, vicious criminals are also quite real, within the context of the Supernatural universe. So, even if the teacher is mainly focused on the badly written books, she’d have to have been living in a cave not to have noticed that Sam and Dean, on whom the books are based, are very bad men, as far as she knows.
One could argue that because Chuck never uses Sam and Dean’s last names, it doesn’t matter and nobody is going to put two and two together to realize they are one and the same. However, in America’s litigious society, which is also very paranoid, the teachers would probably object amply because the Sam and Dean of the books could be confused with the “real life” Sam and Dean on the Most Wanted list.
Speaking of the teacher, we are apparently supposed to believe that she can just walk off and leave a bunch of teenage girls all alone in a theater in the evening with no chaperone. Never mind that she’s kidnapped while she’s leaving them alone; she should not have left them alone in the building in the first place. This, once again, shows that the writers of Supernatural, including Robbie Thompson, don’t always know what they’re talking about when it comes to some basic real-life situations. Certainly, it gives the impression that neither Thompson, nor anyone who vetted this script, has ever been a teacher.
I have to say that Marie is a truly irritating character. I could handwave a lot if she were more fun. Instead, she is an uptight little rich bitch who spends a great deal of time yelling at everyone else. To make matters worse, we are apparently supposed to believe that she is on a Hero’s Journey and that we are supposed to root for her. I so don’t want to root for her. I was rooting for the MOTW to eat her.
The episode also really, really tries to be PC, but fails miserably in a couple of places. For a start, what is with the token Asian character of the young woman who is Marie’s assistant? Also, to make matters worse, she just happens to be revealed at the end of the episode as the token Dean Girl.
Also, what is up with all the lesbian characters who are 1. lipstick lesbians, and 2. engaging in relationships with each other as part of a lifestyle? It makes you wonder just how hip Thompson really is to the LGBT community when he takes the number one accusation that is used against them – to whit, that they choose to be gay or lesbian or transsexual or bisexual, rather than that they are born that way and therefore can’t just stop doing it – and makes it sound as though choosing to do it is a great fashion statement and a growing phase.
Thompson honestly seems to think he is striking a great blow for LGBT representation on television by having two teenage girls who happen to be playing men – hot teenage girls, I might add – also be in a relationship with each other, on top of playing two men who are in a relationship with each other. I get that it’s all supposed to be very Victor/Victoria (which is a wonderful and very funny film on my short “I feel like crap; what shall I watch to feel better?” list), but even in Victor/Victoria, the characters who are gay are born that way and can’t help it. In fact, some fairly major plot points in the movie revolve around how incredibly dangerous it was to be gay in certain parts of the world in that time period.
Victor/Victoria makes no bones about showing how terrible and destructive homophobia was in the early 20th century. “Fan Fiction” does not make any effort whatsoever to show the equivalent for the 21st century. Apparently, the episode exists in a world all to its own where young women can choose to be lesbian with no societal consequences whatsoever. Can I live on that planet? Because it is not Planet Earth.
It doesn’t help that all of this is meant to be a goof on Destiel. On top of that, we have Dean being lectured by Marie on how to treat his brother. Never mind that Marie seems to be convinced that Dean and Sam are in an incestuous sexual relationship with each other (can’t leave out those Wincest jokes). So, I am pretty sure that Marie does not know nearly as much as she thinks she knows, not least because she has to be rescued from a pagan goddess who, up to that point, she had no idea even existed.
That said, I sort of liked the return of the Samulet. I didn’t like hearing it referred to incessantly as the Samulet. But I liked that it came back because I really hated the way they wrote it out in season five. I get that it was causing Jensen Ackles a lot of pain, but I wish it had been written out better, even if it did get a somewhat nice coda to its story near the end of season 11.
Before I wrap up this rant, I want to add a couple of things that are more positive. For one, the sets were really nice. I mean, they were really, really nice. This show’s saving grace has often been the crew who work tirelessly to make it look good on a low budget. It is rare that they screw things up. Granted, there are times when the writers write checks the crew’s talents (and budget) cannot cash. But in this case, they really came through.
For one thing, the sets look like the kind of thing you would see in a high school musical. Having played orchestra in the pit for a few high school musicals (bass clarinet, in case you’re interested), I can tell you that the sets often have to be the saving grace. Even cheap ones can look great if you have someone with a little artistic talent behind the scenes. In this case, the crew obviously did and they made it look as though Marie had a theater crew she did not deserve.
Second, while I did not care for most of the songs, I did think the voices, in general, were pretty good. And some of the young performers did quite well. I liked the girl who played Mary, for example, and the girl who played Castiel was also decent.
I didn’t care so much for the actresses who played Sam and Dean. I know they were supposed to be playing young college girls doing summer stock theater, but that doesn’t mean that I particularly liked their performances. And I also did not find them at all convincing playing men (contrast them, for example with the Hillywood sisters, who are much better at it).
It made me wonder, in fact, if the script itself had directed them to play Sam and Dean as stereotypically “girly” as they possibly could. In an episode where all of the guest characters were female, and we were supposed to have some pro-female Gay Pride theme going, it was disappointing to see all of the girls be frilly stereotypes. Once again, that is the kind of thing that can happen when a male writer thinks he knows women better than women know themselves and proceeds to mansplain feminism to them. Gee, that’s not condescending at all.
Finally, the stuff where the Brothers are getting ready for the hunt, and after they leave the hunt, is really quite good. I loved the use of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” (he’s one of my favorite singer songwriters, going back to my childhood). Baby has never looked better. I’m not sure Sam and Dean have looked better than in that scene, either. I also liked the final shot of their driving off into the sunset. Yes, it looks unreal, even stylized. But I’m pretty sure that’s the intent. I still liked it.
I wish they had done the Monster of the Week better. You would think that they could’ve written her as less underwhelming. I also wish that Dean had gotten the kill. I get, in retrospect, that they were drawing out the suspense of Dean’s first kill after being a demon. That doesn’t mean that tactic was satisfying in “Fan Fiction.” There were some good moments of Dean rushing around backstage during the climax where Jensen Ackles makes frantic work of it. But it doesn’t make the general proceedings any less silly.
Dean [to Sam]: We got work to do. [slams the lid of the Impala]
Dean [to Marie]: There is no singing in Supernatural! If there were, it would be Classic Rock, not this Andrew Lloyd Webber crap!
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years