As fans, we invest heavily in our favorite stories and characters, so there’s something comforting about a show we love going into meta territory. It feels like we’re part of the group, one of the cool kids, and we’re in on some grand universal joke. Supernatural seems to take particular joy in acknowledging its fans. Metafiction has been seamlessly woven into the show, so much that the fourth dimension has become a natural part of it that fans don’t question or second guess. It’s the Supernatural writers’ way of telling us they love us, and we keep watching because we love them too. Here are five episodes that gave us metalife.
Episode 4×18: The Monster at the End of This Book
In this episode, Sam and Dean encounter a writer named Chuck Shurley who’s been selling the brothers’ lives as a cult favorite book series. Chuck is first introduced by his pen name, Carver Edlund, a portmanteau of Supernatural producers/writers Jeremy Carver and Ben Edlund.
Chuck becomes integral to the show in the best way, but in this introductory episode he’s basically every fanfiction writer’s dream. We’re taken through a day in the life of Sam and Dean as events play out the way Chuck wrote them, and one scene has Dean sitting in a laundromat reading about himself sitting in a laundromat reading about himself… and his head hurts.
Most meta moment: The brothers discover Supernatural message boards with “Sam girls” and “Dean girls,” and Dean unwittingly asks, “What’s a slash-fan?” Step away from the computer, Dean…
Episode 5×9: The Real Ghostbusters
A season after we discover the boys’ lives are a cult hit book series, the first ever Supernatural convention takes place. Sam and Dean meet a whole lot of people dressed like them, hang out with their superfan Becky drinking themed cocktails, and learn about a panel on the homoerotic subtext of Supernatural. They also get to bust some actual ghosts, with the help of a couple of enthusiastic cosplayers.
Most meta moment: Dean, who’s fed up with everyone cashing in on their lives, goes on a tirade that’s more about his frustration with his job than his feelings about the fans. “In fact, I think the Dean and Sam story sucks. It’s not fun, it’s not entertaining. It is a river of crap that would send most people howling to the nuthouse!” Poor Dean.
Episode 6×15: The French Mistake
It’s not often a show hands its actors the reins to make fun of themselves, but that’s exactly what happens in this episode. To hide Sam and Dean from the angel Raphael, the angel Balthazar sends them to an alternate reality where they’re Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. They’re forced to wear makeup, do press interviews, and learn that Jensen was once a soap star. Jared’s wife Genevieve makes an appearance, which understandably sends a shock through the boys considering she played Ruby, the demon who betrayed Sam in season four.
Most meta moment: The real Misha Collins live tweeted everything the fake Misha Collins tweeted while the show aired. Now my head hurts.
Episode 9×18: Meta Fiction
While this episode focuses on season nine’s overarching story, subtle hints of subtext are scattered throughout, making it the show’s least in-your-face meta episode but possibly the most clever.
It starts with Metatron seemingly breaking the fourth wall by addressing the viewers, although we find out later that he’s actually talking to Cas. Throughout the rest of the episode, he takes several opportunities to discuss the liberties a writer can take with a story. Creating a villain like Metatron is a brilliant move from the show’s writers. Having him wax philosophical about his work gives the writers the opportunity to hash out choices they’ve made and liberties they’ve taken with their own work on the show.
“What makes a story work? Is it the plot, the characters, the text? The subtext? And who gives a story meaning? Is it the writer? Or you?”
Most meta moment: After Metatron’s monologue, the show immediately cuts to a shower scene with Dean, which has no purpose other than fan service. It’s one of the many subtle ways the episode caters to fans—and the most appreciated.
Episode 10×5: Fan Fiction
Fan Fiction is the show’s 200th episode and the ultimate love letter to fans. It takes place at an all-girls school where the theater department is putting on a production of Supernatural. There are so many glorious meta moments that it would take a day to get through them all, which no doubt was the intent. A few of the highlights: a song called “A Single Man Tear,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the term BM or “boy melodrama,” the reappearance of the Samulet in prop form, and a mention of Dean’s hair being blonde—a point of contention among actual fans.
Most meta moment: The girls sing “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas, which is the show’s unofficial-official theme song. Every Supernatural fan can relate to the feels this song conjures when they hear it.