After the 200th episode of Supernatural aired, the reaction online was pretty much the polar opposite of what I was expecting it to be. In the months leading up the episode, the lack of Misha Collins or Mark Sheppard made many fans of theirs not want to tune in to the episode at all. It made them feel that this supposed “love letter to fans” was going to read more like a letter to only certain fans or, worse yet, turn out to be more like hate mail. Some accused the people that were upset about the lack of Misha or Mark of not being “true fans” of the show, but when word began to get out that the popular pairing Destiel would be mentioned, those same fans also began to consider not tuning in. I’ve been trying to remain neutral myself, as Robbie Thompson has been my favorite writer on the show for a long time and I really wanted to give it a chance, but even I was beginning to grow iffy about how it’d turn out. Tackling topics like shipping isn’t something that’s easy to do in a non-offensive manner, so I was prepared to go in with the expectation of getting laughed at and belittled. When I hopped online shortly after the episode aired, I was truly surprised to see the outright joy on my Twitter timeline. ‘Fan Fiction’ was clearly far better than many of us thought it would be and I’m grateful that it didn’t turn into the absolute train wreck that so many people in fandom were expecting. It was fun, in tune with much of online fandom culture, and generally an enjoyable hour of TV.
This episode once again proved that Robbie Thompson has his finger on the pulse of fandom. Within the span of a couple of minutes we got a nod to the Samulet, the line “we’ve got work to do,” and a montage of all the title cards the show has used thus far. This could have played out like pandering to the fanbase, but instead I felt like it acknowledged us and set the episode off on the right foot. It was a way of establishing some of the major markers that have led to this point in the show as well as using fandom jargon to let us know that we’re part of this too. This isn’t just a celebration of the show, but a celebration for all of us. The fact that the writers even know the term “Samulet” proves they’ve at least been reading our tweets and tuning into our conversations. We might not always get what we want, but they are listening and dropping that jargon in the first few minutes drove that point home. Within those few minutes the tone of the entire episode was set.
The understanding of the inner workings of fandoms continued throughout the episode, but was most notable by the use of the term “Transformative Fiction.” This is a term applied to fan made stories more commonly known as Fan Fiction, which is exactly what the play at the core of the episode is in essence. While adding ninjas and robots to the Supernatural universe might seem ridiculous, being a creator of Fan Fiction means that you have the power to express yourself in whatever way you so desire. To outsiders, this seems like a weird hobby, but for creators and consumers of Transformative Fiction, it’s an important outlet for expression. No matter how ridiculous your idea may seem, you have a space to do it. Even cooler still, your weird and off the wall idea might find an audience that appreciates it.
To put this in perspective for those who don’t dive too deeply into Fan Works, I once read a story where Dean was turned into an octopus, which is absolutely bizarre and unexpected concept that I’d never even considered before. Yet I found myself fully engaged in a surprisingly well-written story that seemed like an incredibly strange concept. Had Fan Fiction not given that author a chance to put out such an off the wall idea, I and many others would have been deprived of a wonderful story. There are no limits to one’s creativity. Whether it’s used to take an off the wall idea and share it with the masses, or to take a more serious topic and explore it on a deeper and more poignant level, Fan Fiction has become a cornerstone to creative expression in online fandom.
The show also made nods to both of the two biggest slash ships in the Supernatural fandom, which is another popular route that many creators and consumers of Transformative Fiction choose to take their stories. There has already been nods to Wincest (Sam/Dean) in the past, but the original pairing of the show got another nod this time around. Dean is initially reluctant to the idea of “subtext” between the brothers and tells the actors to take a “sub step back.” It seems that Marie, like Becky before her, is a Wincest shipping Sam Girl and has no problem slipping that subtext into her work. I wonder if some far corner of the Internet Marie and Becky have long drawn out discussions about their pairing. They probably, at the very least, follow each other on Twitter. To get extra meta here, I kind of want Fan Fiction of these two fans interacting. We’re getting to some inception level meta here, but that’s sort of half the fun here.
The other popular pairing of the show, Destiel (Dean/Cas), also got a shout out when it’s revealed that the two actresses playing Dean and Castiel are actually in a relationship with one another. This is the first time this pairing has been acknowledged so blatantly, though many can argue that the subtext and dialogue cues (I’m looking at you “Profound Bond” line) have already quietly introduced the concept into the show. This is the first time a meta episode has paid attention to the pairing, though, which is definitely a milestone. Sam and Dean then debate the correct pronunciation of “Destiel” and Sam even name drops the other ship that sails in the Supernatural waters, Sastiel (Sam/Castiel), clearly showing that he’s having a lot of fun with the idea of “shipping.” While Sastiel isn’t as popular as the two other ships in regards to the amount of Transformative Works available online, it was still a fun nod. The discussion of ships ends with Sam joking that maybe Dean/Castiel could be called “CasDean,” which Dean responds to with “shut your face.”
While Dean’s reluctant to a lot of the fan created work and shipping discussion at first, unlike Sam who seems to be getting a kick out of it, Dean eventually comes around to accepting their interpretation in his own way. He flat out told the creator of the play “keep writing, Shakespeare.” I see this as explicit permission from the show for the fandom to keep on doing what it’s doing. Dean follows it up by acknowledging that he doesn’t see eye to eye on their version of things, but “I have my version and you have yours.” This last line caused a bit of a stir for those who want their ships to be depicted as canon on the show as it felt like it was once again dismissing the subtext that exists within the narrative, but the line actually made me pesonally pretty happy. The entire dialogue with Dean and the girls made it feel like the showrunners were talking directly to us, approving of our activities, and telling us we should keep on going. How many shows get that sort of permission within the text itself? This type of acknowledgement isn’t going to make everyone happy and I understand that many feel like they’ve been belittled by that bit of dialogue. For those that have been hoping for a more explicit textual acknowledgement of their ship, that could sting a bit. I just happen to fall on the side that appreciates the acknowledgement and encouragement to continue.
Another acknowledgement towards the fanbase that shouldn’t go unnoticed is the demographics of the fans. In the previous meta episode where a Supernatural convention was depicted, it seemed like they assumed the fanbase largely slanted towards men. This episode, however, was mostly women. It even included at least two queer women, which I know is also a pretty significant part of the shows demographic that doesn’t often get acknowledged. As this takes place in a high school all the women are depicted as very young, but still highly intelligent and creative individuals that goes against the typically shallow depiction of teenage women in a lot of media. While I’m at least a decade outside of this particular age bracket, I’m happy that the younger fans were depicted in this way. These girls were smart, creative, driven, and brave. Not a bad way to be depicted, honestly.
There were other minor references in the show that were subtle nods to us such as the lines “idjits” and “hey assbutt!” We even got a long overdue textual acknowledgement that Adam is still in the cage, which is something most people had assumed the writers had forgotten about. To wrap things up with a nice little bow, we got the return of Chuck, which, not going to lie here, made me tear up a bit. It also makes me want to shout “what does it mean?!?” at the screen because really, what was that? We pretty much know Chuck is God at this point, despite the lack of contextual confirmation of that popular fan theory. But why is he back? Was it just a nod to the fans and an intentional poke to get an emotional reaction from us? Or does it MEAN something? Come on, guys. We need a showdown between Chuck and Metatron, like, yesterday.
Waiting for this episode to arrive has been an emotional roller coaster. Trying to head into this without a preconceived opinion about what was going to happen was next to impossible, but with the rapid shift in fandom atmosphere over the past few days I was at least able to head into it a bit more open-minded than I was just a few weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised and I’m glad this episode played out the way that it did. Robbie Thompson remains my favorite writer on the show and my faith in his understanding of the fandom is stronger than ever. This doesn’t mean he’s perfect or that there weren’t any flaws with the episode, but of all the writers on the show at the moment, I’m grateful that they trusted him with this concept. It was a fun reference packed love letter to the fandom. They chose the perfect writer for this extremely difficult task. Thank you, Robbie. I’m glad to know you’re hearing us.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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