'Supernatural' Review: "Meta Fiction"

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Supernatural’ season 9 summons its 18th episode of the year in “Meta Fiction,” as Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) approaches Castiel with an offer, and Sam and Dean try to learn what they can from a captive Gadreel (Tahmoh Penikett).

Previous ‘Supernatural’ installment, “Mother's Little Helper,” saw Sam discovering Abaddon's plan through a decades-old Men of Letters case, while Dean struggled with his newfound impulses from the Mark of Cain. So, what does the 18th season 9 episode bring? What strange and unexpected challenges will the Winchesters face next?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 18, “Mother's Little Helper”!

Metatron types in his study, pausing to ask the camera what makes a story work, and deciding to spin a tale to judge for ourselves. Meanwhile, Castiel follows a unique hum in an industrial complex to find multiple murdered angels, and a mysterious sigil that stops its hum on his approach. A surviving angel named Hannah explains that Gadreel offered them the chance to join Metatron and return to Heaven, killing those who refused. Castiel sends a photo of the sigil to Sam and Dean, who find reports of similar crime scenes and extrapolate that Gadreel will next strike at one of two locations in Utah.

Gadreel arrives to a store that secretly deals in occult ingredients, looking to recreate the spell, while Castiel returns to his hotel room and finds the lights strangely flickering. The TV turns itself on as the deceased angel Gabriel reveals his deception and asks for Castiel’s help. Gabriel admits to faking his death previously, though he’d been drawn out of hiding by Metatron’s use of the Horn of Gabriel, the sigil that lured all the angels to slaughter. Gabriel proposes that they unite the surviving angels to finally kill Metatron, installing himself as the new leader.

While Sam and Dean stumble upon the murdered shop dealer, Castiel and Gabriel pull into a gas station rest stop shortly before a cadre of Metatron’s forces follow them. Gabriel insists that he can fend off the angels to allow Castiel time to escape, thereby forcing Castiel into a leadership position, at which point Castiel realizes the entire scenario to be another of Gabriel’s tricks. Metatron reveals himself to have orchestrated the deception, as Castiel awakens in Metatron’s study, and the villain begins his monologue from the top of the episode. Elsewhere, Sam and Dean finally find Gadreel and manage to lure him into captivity by holy fire.

Metatron attempts to impart to Castiel that the entire universe Is made up of stories and that every hero needs a villain. Drawing inspiration from the “Winchester Gospels,” Metatron attempted to use Gabriel to teach Castiel a lesson and push him to assume a leadership position, thereby becoming the villain to Metatron’s hero. Meanwhile, Sam and Dean attempt to beat Gadreel into giving up information, though without any luck, Dean sends Sam to find the absent Castiel. With Sam gone, Dean turns his attention to extracting revenge for Sam and Kevin, influenced by the Mark of Cain.

Metatron admits to liking Castiel, offering him an endlessly renewable source of grace if he would but play his part, before one of Metatron’s subordinates interrupts with news of Gadreel. Meanwhile, Dean brutally tortures Gadreel, who in turn uses his inside knowledge of Sam to egg Dean into killing him, espousing Dean’s father issues and pathetic desperation not to be alone. Dean realizes that Gadreel wants to be killed, and instead leaves him to rot in chains. Elsewhere, Sam arrives to Castiel’s hotel room to find his missing phone before Metatron appears and offers a trade. Unable to reach his brother, Sam races back to Dean to find both he and Gadreel bloodied, but neither dead.

The next day at their meeting place, Sam and Dean attempt to trap Metatron, only to find that the villain has become immune to the normal angel wards. Retrieving Gadreel and producing Castiel in return, Metatron admits that he enjoys watching the Winchesters attempt to stop him and will continue the story as such. Afterward, Castiel notices that Dean’s aggression stems from the Mark of Cain, though Dean insists that he needed to obtain it in order to vanquish Abaddon.

Metatron admits to Gadreel that his story hadn’t turned out exactly as he intended, particularly with Gadreel nearly ending up dead by Dean’s hand, though he explains that good characters always find ways to surprise the writer who created them, so long as they play their part until the ending. Meanwhile, Castiel returns to his hotel room and clears his tracking board, reluctantly placing a Horn of Gabriel sigil that draws surviving angels to him. Castiel accepts his role as their leader, just as Metatron types in his script.

OUR REVIEW:

‘Supernatural’’s higher-concept episodes always prove a bit risky, particularly when they arrive late in the season, and the idea of Metatron telling a tale to the audience ran the danger of running fairly flat, especially if we consider Metatron an unreliable narrator. Thankfully, “Meta Fiction” really only toyed with the idea of breaking the fourth wall this time out, instead affording us the chance to see most of the story from Castiel’s perspective, allowing some much-needed insight into Metatron’s worldview as the villain (or hero, in his own mind), something we’ve only partially been able to touch on since the previous season

“Meta Fiction” also had the fun and unexpected distinction of returning Richard Speight’s Trickster Gabriel to the fold, even if we’re meant to derive from the appearance that Gabriel remains deceased and only came back for the purposes of Metatron’s story. Still, Speight has always been among the better recurring guest stars and characters, with just enough mixed derision and gravitas to sell some of ‘Supernatural’’s more out-there hours. It was nice to see an increasingly human Castiel reluctantly thrown into a leadership position again, at least this time with some self-awareness of the ways it could go wrong.

As has tended to be the case this season, the Sam and Dean drama proves somewhat less effective, Dean’s affect from the Mark of Cain providing yet another macguffin in a long line of Winchester divisions to keep the drama rolling. If nothing else, it certainly helped to have Tahmoh Penikett back as Gadreel full time to twist a few of Dean’s screws, though it wasn’t really anything new to the season, or series in general.

In the end, “Meta Fiction” moved a few pieces around to prepare us for the final episodes of the season, proving fairly low-risk as concept episodes go. The ending too proved a pleasant surprise, with just a bit of stylistic flourish to wonder if Castiel, Sam or Dean can make their own decisions going forward, or if Metatron’s powers really have grown past the point of fallibility.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of scary ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about the scope of Metatron's plans? Give us your take in the comments, and join us again next Tuesday for an all-new recap of ‘Supernatural’ season 9 episode 19, “Alex Annie Alexis Ann,” on The CW!

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