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SPN 9.18 - Metatron does Fahrenheit 451

​SPN 9.18 was directed by Thomas J. Wright.  He's done six episodes now including Bitten and Repo Man.  The episode was written by Robbie Thompson.  I usually like his episodes and look forward to them as a bright spot of writing particularly since Ben Edlund left the show.  Instead, this episode left me really irritated (except - water drops on Jensen's eyelashes, for all love).  I've tried to keep my comments here more focused on the look of the episode though.  More fun, less cranky.  What I did write about why it got to me is at the end so you can skip it if you want or just look at the caps.  There were some lovely shots and while soggy Dean is appealing, there was a lot more to like with the filming than just that.

The episode started with music that might be familiar because it's also used as the theme for Masterpiece Theater.  That show used to start with a slow close-up look at items in a posh study, particularly books.  We got a bit of that here.  One of the things most interesting about all of the stuff we see here is that none of it is from the digital age.  Vinyl phonograph albums, a record player and a manual typewriter.



American History and Encyclopedia of Music



Two of the Supernatural books, A Very Supernatural Christmas (episode written by Carver) and Tall Tales (episode by John Shiban, probably here because of the Trickster connection.)  More on this a bit later.





I've watched Alistair Cooke, Metatron, and you're no Alistair Cooke.  Metatron has a lot of globes in his study.  Two on his desk and one on the back window ledge.  We see globes a lot when the show sets something in an alternate universe or when they've gone to a different time.  An example would be a globe in Jensen's trailer in the French Mistake.



He also has an hourglass that has run out of sand.  Time's up.  There are lion book ends.  Lions are king of the jungle and predators up at the top of the food chain.



Later, when we see Cas tied up in Metatron's study, he's sitting by a statue of what looks like it might be an impala or some kind of antelope.  Whatever it is, it's at the bottom of the food chain and typical lion dinner which doesn't bode well for Cas.  I like that they gave him an ashtray but no cigar.



In his real motel room, there are 'no smoking' cards all over the place.



Drinking is encouraged though.



Cas seems to be using the Winchester Wall of Weird™ method for solving a case.



He's making some headway and we get some nice shots as he goes to find the angels.  I like the angel lights here.



This one sets off the beacon symbol nicely.  At the end of the episode, the song playing is The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore) and there are several places where we get images of the sun rising or setting. I think the angel beacon fits in pretty well.



I have to wonder what CSI folks think of the charred wing marks at the mass murder sites.



I like this creepy shot of bloody hands reaching for the exit but looking like they've been dragged away.



When Cas gets back to his room, he gets a visit from a brother he thought was dead.  This shouldn't surprise us anymore.  Dead brothers return all the time on this show.  Then they go road tripping, looking for adventure and whatever comes their way.



On the way, they stop at a gas station with a sun rising.  Even though the store has an open sign on it, it looks closed.



They head inside where it is pretty brightly lit so I guess it is open.  It's full of red and yellow.



The angels on the way in to fight don't have the black suits that Bartholomew's crowd do.  This one has pink.  Cas does have the dark suit though and Gabriel is in black too.



Gadreel gets black leather.



Earlier, he paid a visit to this unfortunate dude.  Plenty of red and yellow here including on the victim.  Hard to know where this all fits in with the 'no smoking' theme.  Don't inhale?



When Sam and Dean get to the shop, the sign says open but it really is closed this time.



I really like this shot of Dean with all the red and yellow lights in the background.



They find the remnants of a feather collection, including some from Big Bird.



There are some more great shots when Sam and Dean go to trap Gadreel.  Angel lights in this one.



Nice red light everywhere.







When Dean headed into the bathroom, he set his angel blade to rest in the sink.  He deliberately flips it so the hilt is in the sink and the blade is out.  I never gave it any thought before but I suppose you'd want to keep the blade sharp and dry.  It was a nice attention to detail and I wonder if it was something Jensen just did automatically or if they talked about it when they set up the scene.



Then he went back out to Gadreel and I really want to know if it is the Mark of Cain making Dean strong enough to beat an angel unconscious or if Gadreel is very much weakened even after spending all that time riding Sam.  My flist thought it was a bit of both but mostly the MoC with a hint of retcon.



Dean just looks so incredibly lost.



The boys head off to trade Gadreel for Cas and trap Metatron.  I liked this shot, especially with the tree shadows on the car.



Metatron blows out the angel fire.  No smoking.  Metatron gets Gadreel out of the trunk and they head back to Metatron's lair.  Gadreel goes to talk with him and when he shows up in Metatron's study, we get a bit of a look at the wallpaper behind him and a marble column.



I wonder if it is a reuse of the column from Magnus's house.



Sam and Dean take Cas back to the motel and that night, we get Sam and Dean heading out.  Dean with the green and yellow.



They end up driving through a rainstorm at some point during the night.



So evening came, and morning followed.  Cas suits up to go find the angels.  I don't remember seeing Cas in the dark suit without his trench coat very often.



He lights up the angel beacon.  I like its placement next to the emergency exit map.



Here's the sunrise.



This group isn't so recognizable as angels.  No dark suits here.  Maybe this group will be able to weather free will a little better.  There's a bit of red and blue in the crowd.



Dawn comes for the Winchesters.  The rains have finished.





Dawn comes for Metatron too and he continues rewriting his screen play.  I wish something big and scary would come for Metatron.  I've had a rough time with this season and I feel like Metatron, and by extention the show, rubbed my nose in it this episode.  Metatron had the nerve to ask me what I thought made a story work.  Dude!  My normal reaction to something like this is to get sarcastic and snarky but with the flammable nature of fandom these days, I was trying to limit that.



But this episode even gave us a riff on continuity errors.  Unless this is humor that is supposed to be a send-up of the last couple seasons of writing, it went over with me like a Led Zeppelin.





Even within the episode, they are using continuity to tell the story.  Continuity matters. (Mirror image.)



Another mirror image.



And then we see from Cas's perspective.  Continuity matters and it's one of the things that helps to make a story work.



Metatron held a book from Kripke's run of episodes (but not a Carver episode) and pronounced it pulpy.  So?  It's a genre show about hot guys and monsters.  If I wanted astronomy, I'd be watching Cosmos or Nova.  Then Metatron crossed a line he should have stayed behind.



He burned it.  If I cussed in these entries, this would be the place.  He BURNED it.  The only way to have this be more painful for me would be to stick it on the ceiling while it was burning and listen to it scream.  Cue getting in my classic car and going on a lifelong revenge quest.  Metatron is lucky I had to go make my family dinner.  What happened to the no smoking?  Ok, so he is wearing a smoking jacket.  To have a Metatron literally burn the existing canon (noteably not the episode by Carver) that I loved and perform a software upgrade on the pop culture knowledge of our favorite clueless angel thus basically changing his character with a bonk on the head just adds fuel to the fire of my irritation with the writing in the last two seasons.  (I will be livid if the solution to any of this season's big problems are learned from that info upload.)



We've been given a couple of episodes over the seasons that work as meta about writing, fiction, and TV.  We've heard from several storytellers through the seasons like Chuck, Becky, the Hollywood Babylon screenwriter, Gabriel, and now Metatron.  I've always felt like Chuck was Kripke's way of representing himself in the story during his run of episodes.  Because that's how I ended up looking at Chuck, Metatron became the Carver stand-in for this run with the way this episode was handled, whether that was his intention or not.  Right now Metatron is a Big Bad and I'm not comparing Carver with him in that sense, but more in the way that he relates to the characters in his story.

Chuck was a confused, often drunk, overwhelmed writer who seemed to like his characters.  He was recording their history even though he didn't realize it.  He wasn't controlling the characters, just writing them as they were.  When it came down to it, he was on the same side as his main characters.  He was also writing books, not a screenplay like Metatron.  The author of a book can provide more information about the internal landscape of the minds of the characters and isn't constrained by trying to fit their stories into 42 minutes and 36 seconds.  Kripke created the characters, knew them well, and cared about them.  He did the original world building and knew how things like gravity and demons worked in the context of the show.  He didn't have to worry about what characters might have done in the past.  He also generally had an idea about where the story was going.  Even when he had to adjust for the writers' strike, added angels late in the game, or we jumped the shark with Adam, there was still the feeling that the storytelling was going somewhere and we didn't have to guess which story he was trying to tell.  S4 Sam was headed for trouble and the audience was concerned about the fallout, not bogged down wondering about why Sam was acting so weirdly.

As a contrast, Metatron isn't personally attached to any of these characters other than how they suit his story needs.  The way the story is being told now, he's their adversary.  He's also got a world that was created by someone else and he has to make his story work within that, something fan fiction creators work with all the time.  Metatron is concerned about the big archetypes in storytelling, the villians and the heroes.  I feel like the SPN characters have become caricatures of their original, more fleshed-out versions and have been manipulated and molded to fit the plot requirements.  They serve the plot rather than having well-developed characters drive the plot.

Metatron: What writer doesn’t love a good twist? My job is to set up interesting characters and see where they lead me. The byproduct of having well-drawn characters is they may surprise you. But I know something they don't know - the ending. How I get there doesn't matter as long as everybody plays their part.

With a show that I'm attached to specifically because of the complexity of the characters, their choices, and motivations, I would argue that it does matter how he gets there.  I have things that I've come to expect from these characters in specific situations. When they go in unexpected directions, it's important to clearly see how they ended up at that point or it is hard to believe that it is a truth in the storytelling.  The reason for the behaviour change doesn't have to be immediately revealed but it can't linger to the point that the confusion or feeling of wrongness outweighs the suspense.  When I commit to a story, I'm allowing myself to believe in the characters and their circumstances while I'm interacting with the story.  This feeling of wrongness causes me to step back from the story and think and by doing that, it breaks my connection with the characters.  In a way, breaking the fourth wall can be as much of an interruption as discontinuities or the feeling that something is off with a character.  I don't want to be reminded that this is a story or a TV show or even that there is a storyteller.  I'm watching because I want to visit this other place and these characters and believe in them for a while.  I have to believe that the storyteller wants an engaged audience that is willing to enter this story's world and follow these characters on their journey.  If I'm so busy trying to figure out why the characters feel wrong, the basic plot of the overall story gets submerged.  It's there but it takes a lot of work as a viewer to stay focused.  By having unexpected character behavior dropped into the story abruptly rather than having the character arrive at that place through progression we see on screen or a peek into the character's head, it is easy to think that the action is only happening in service of the plot, not because it is any kind of character development.  Any conflict that arises as a result of the unexpected behavior feels manufactured for the sake of drama, rather than as a natural evolution of the overall story being told.  I'm reminded that there is a storyteller and the real world breaks through.

Big changes have been made to the show's universe over the last couple of seasons.  Some have been successful additions to my enjoyment of the story such as the Men of Letters and the bunker.  Others such as the easily-made waltz into Hell to rescue Bobby have pulled me completely out of the story for not only the episode that they occurred in but subsequent episodes as well.  Some seemingly important characters and story lines were dropped or changed mid-season without any clue to the viewer as to why. What's most frustrating for me is that these story lines could have actually worked really well if they had been presented differently and allowed to finish. I feel like I've been led on a grueling journey only to find that I spent all that time slogging up a mountain that vanished like Brigadoon.  It really doesn't help when the set designers, actors, and directors are walking ahead of me down the same path leaving me breadcrumbs thinking we're supposed to be going that way too. The writers are my guides and I should be able to trust that they know where we're going. That trust is damaged when prior bits of world building have been ignored, contradicted, or rewritten by the show's writers over the last couple of seasons.  How can I trust them with these characters if it doesn't seem as if they know them and the world they live in and in some cases, don't really seem to care? Like with showing a progression for characters so that changes in behavior seem plausible, it doesn't take much to reconcile the new world order with the old, even if it is the dreaded exposition.  The change needs to be acknowledged.  Like with writing a mystery, the seeds for the solution need to be present as the story builds, not introduced three pages from the end or it loses credibility.

I'm not a fiction writer or a storyteller and I realize that crafting a story or writing one is hard and I mean that without a hint of sarcasm.  I also know that when it comes to SPN, I'm the viewer, not the creator and I can choose to watch what they put in front of me or I can turn it off.  Carver and his writers are free to put together whatever show they want as long as the network keeps paying.  That being said, as a long-time fan with years of time invested in this show and keeping it in business and as a consumer who spends money to watch it, I want to see the best piece of work that they can put together. This is one of those your-mileage-may-vary kinds of things.  I know some folks really liked the episode and are having a good time with the season.  I think it has a lot to do with what drew you to the show in the first place.  I do know for me that if I came across SPN for the first time sometime in the last two seasons, I wouldn't have watched more than an episode or two.  The canon that Metatron burned is the solid character building and world creation that formed the bedrock of my love for this show.  Despite that, I'm hoping that as S9 comes to an end, I can still find reasons to stick with SPN and look forward to S10. Fortunately, taken in total, the beauty of this show is more than skin deep.  It has good bones and a strong heart.






All caps from homeofthenutty

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