I think I can count on one hand the number of TV episodes that have actually made me cry. I’ve had the feels plenty of times, to be sure, but outright crying is pretty rare. And yet the 200th episode of Supernatural left me sitting at my desk, listening to ’80s rock, with tears streaming down and a gigantic smile on my face. If that’s not an indication of a good episode, I don’t know what is.
Supernatural’s fans are passionate, to say the least. They’ve been instrumental in keeping the show alive for ten seasons–they fill seats at conventions year round (and attend repeatedly!) and they have created an inescapable cult of love, support, and portmanteau-filled inside jokes. The cast and crew have always had a close relationship with these fans, and have included good-natured digs at some of the quirkier aspects of fandom throughout the show. The 200th episode, “Fan Fiction,” is no different. Scattered with references and in-jokes, “Fan Fiction” is a love letter to us, the people who have made Supernatural into a decade-long phenomenon.
Back in Season 5, Supernatural engaged in some meta-narrative by introducing a prophet named Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict). He had written a series of pulp novels called “Supernatural,” which chronicled Sam and Dean Winchester’s adventures in stopping the apocalypse—an in-universe version of the show, complete with fans who wrote weird incest stories and cosplayed at conventions. After many years without a reference to the Winchester Gospel, “Fan Fiction” centres around an all-girls school musical based off of the books, written and directed by a student named Marie—a piece of fan fiction brought to life onstage. Unfortunately, the goddess Calliope has tuned in, kidnapped several people who have attempted to compromise Marie’s vision, and plans to eat her after the show concludes.
Sam and Dean come in to investigate, and are shocked by the teenage, homegrown depiction of their lives (especially the brand new second act, which involves robots, tentacles, and outer space). Most of the episode follows the boys as they explore Marie’s unique, all-female vision of Supernatural’s universe. The episode touches on the sexual subtext between Dean and Castiel, jokes about a continuity issue from way back in Season 5 (hi, forgotten Winchester half-brother still trapped in the pit of Hell!), and generally celebrates the kooky imagination of us, the fans, and how we’ve made the show our own. It even pokes fun at itself. “I kinda hate the meta stories,” Marie says at one point. “Me too,” the brothers answer in unison.
There are tons of highlights throughout “Fan Fiction.” The music is catchy and well-written, and all the play performers are fabulous—and a great nod to the fact that most Supernatural fans are women, and a lot of them do indeed cosplay as the male characters. The opener is also a lovely touch. After a “Previously…” flashcard, the only thing we see is a screen with “SUPERNATURAL PILOT BY ERIC KRIPKE” typed out, followed by an epic montage of all the Supernatural title cards we’ve had so far. Jensen Ackles also gets a hysterical (and unscripted) look straight into the camera after a conversation about Destiel. A gorgeous, heartfelt cover of “Carry On Wayward Son” serves as the climax to both the stage show and the episode, and as the cast members sing, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki’s emotion-filled faces say more than any dialogue ever could. After a few years of meandering and some slips in quality, “Fan Fiction” is a nod to everyone who’s helped bring the show this far. We’ve been there on the road with the boys, and we’ll be there with them to the end.
The thing which brought me to tears, however, is a cameo which occurs in the final few seconds of the episode, and which was kept under wraps so well that it genuinely surprised everyone: the return of Chuck Shurley, who was heavily implied to be God himself. He comes to see the play and, when asked his opinion, smiles and says, “not bad.” What makes this so amazing is that it effectively signs off on everything the fans have made and created (as Dean concedes, “I have my version, and you have yours”). Instead of squashing the existence of fan works or treating them as stupid or immature, this last moment says, “Your imaginations are part of why Supernatural works the way it does, and we love that you’ve made it your own.”
Supernatural is, at heart, about two brothers hunting things and saving people. But it’s also about the people who love those brothers, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that relationship than “Fan Fiction.” As an episode, it’s dorky, entertaining and sweet. As a love letter to the fans, it’s absolutely perfect.