On last night's Supernatural, "The French Mistake," things got seriously meta. Written by meta-master Ben Edlund, the episode took us where Edlund's previous meta arc, about the Supernatural fanfic-writing prophet Chuck, never could: Right onto the set of the show, complete with grumpy producers and Jared Padlecki's posh Canadian mansion. There was also a lot of Castiel. Fighting the civil war in Heaven - and using Twitter. Like all of the show's meta episodes, though, it was more than just jokey gimmicks. It was also a terrific story about what it means to matter in the world.
As the episode opens, Sam and Dean are at Bobby's place, waiting for their pal to come back from a booze run. Suddenly, Balthazar appears and starts ransacking the place looking for some kind of angel spell ingredients. He explains that they're in the middle of a heavenly version of The Godfather, "and Rafael is in the role of Corleone," coming after everybody with guns blazing. When Rafael's henchman Vergil appears, he gives the boys a mysterious key and then shoves them through a rune-covered window . . . and they find themselves in a pile of shattered glass on a TV set in Vancouver. Where apparently everybody works on a show called Supernatural, which a helpful TV journalist informs them "isn't watched by very many people."
That's right - they've come through into our world, where the apocalypse never happened, and as Dean says later, there's "no hell below us, and above us only sky." In our world, there is no magic, no God, and there are no Hunters. Which means the brothers may not even be able to work a spell to bring them back to their reality (and indeed, when they try to reverse the universe-hopping spell that brought them over, they wind up with broken glass and bruised asses but little else).
Fun with fan service
At first, this just means pure shenanigans and fan service. We find out that Jensen (Dean) has a giant fish tank in his trailer, and that Jared lives in a crazy mansion with his wife - the actress who played Ruby - and several suits of armor. And the producer is grousing that they can't "blow off the scene where they sit on the impala and talk about their feelings" because he'd get too much hate mail. Plus, Misha (Cas) is a dorky guy who wears New Agey t-shirts and is obsessed with Twitter.
But even as the hijinks pile up, we still get a glimpse of what's really going on.
I love this clever scene (see clip) where the brothers see Misha, think he's Cas, and start asking him what's going on. He thinks they're running lines from the script, so he gives them the downlow on how the key is supposed to open up a room where Balthazar has been hiding all the weapons he stole. If Cas can only get his hands on the weapons, he can beat Rafael in the war for Heaven. But then when the brothers refuse to break character, Misha thinks he's been "punked" and starts tweeting everything maniacally.
What really matters
We also get a long, goofy scene of the brothers trying to act like actors who are playing them, in a scene about the key to Bathazar's weapons cache. It all culminates in the producer, Bob Singer, calling up showrunner Sera Gamble on the speakerphone and complaining that the boys are on "some kind of LSD trip." She suggests coming out to the set, but he and the other producers say maybe they should bring show creator Eric Kripke instead - "they'll listen to him."
As Sera chews everybody out for being dicks, she points out that Kripke is off in a cabin somewhere writing his pilot for something called "Octocobra." Wow. Half-cephalopod, half-cobra, all meat? Whatever it is, Kripke should have stayed back at the cabin and the producers should have brought Sera in to cope with the crisis. Because Vergil has come through into our universe too, and he's going to hunt everybody down.
But first he has to get some guns to do it. Like the rest of our world, he has no magical power. So, as Dean says, he's "just a dick" and the Winchesters can beat the crap out of him. Which they do, until Producer Bob pulls them off and tells them not to kill the extras. Finally, after dealing with two days of Jared and Jensen acting like lunatics, Bob pulls them aside and gives them a speech about how they can't take poppers at work, they can't order illegal human organs on the internet (which they did for their spell), and most importantly they can't write their own lines.
And then we get serious for a moment as Dean delivers a pretty great speech (see clip) about how in his world, he is unknown but what he does really matters. Unlike in our world, where all he does is appeal to a bunch of fans. This is an example of what was great about this episode - in among the silly jokes about Supernatural fansites and Twitter and Kripke's latest pilot, there is a genuine feeling of urgency. And regret that in our world the only magic we have is in our fantasy stories. Or, as Bob says, "our psychotic breaks."
At least we made the front page of Variety
Eventually Kripke is pulled away from his crucial work on Octocobra and comes to Vancouver to deal with the brothers. But unfortunately Vergil has gotten there ahead of him. The angel kidnaps Misha and slits his throat so he can make one of those "soul phone calls" to Rafael, then gets some guns and returns to the set just as Kripke is telling Bob that it's really tragic about Misha's death, but hey at least they made the front page of Variety. Just for fun, Vergil opens fire on everybody, killing Kripke in a slo-mo bit that's pure, unadulterated WTF.
Like I said before, they should have brought Sera in to deal with this shit. She would have just kicked the crap out of Vergil and set everybody straight before heading back to her pleasure fortress.
Luckily the brothers escape the weapons keeper of Heaven just in time, zooming back through the rune-covered window just in time to find . . . that they're standing right in front of Rafael, wearing a comely lady meatsack. But before he gets angelic on their asses, Cas shows up with Balthazar and spreads his wings and delivers some badass talk about how he's got all of Heaven's weapons on his side now and Rafael had better stand down.
After Rafael vanishes in a snit, Cas admits the whole thing with the alternate world was just a diversion while he rustled the weapons up and became more powerful than ever. That means that prodigal angel Balthazar is back on Castiel's team, and Rafael has been beaten back for now. Plus, all those heavenly weapons aren't being traded between a bunch of crazy weirdos down on Earth.
And now it's time to process our feelings
This is a Ben Edlund episode, people - we don't get to process our feelings. Instead we just get to ponder all the references. And there is no reference more awesome than the one in the episode's title, "The French Mistake," which alludes to the famous scene at the end of Mel Brooks' 1970s flick Blazing Saddles - not the sexual thing. You know, the one where Dom Deluise is a choreographer doing a number called French Mistake, when the fourth wall breaks - or maybe the fifteenth - and all the cowboys from the previous hour and a half of film come busting in and start fighting and hooking up with the dancers. It's just like when Sam and Dean came to our world for a little while . . .