Supernatural has a history of going full bore against the fourth wall, as well as doing their best to translate deus ex machina into English. This episode does mess with what's real and what's not, focussing on the much-neglected angel plotline. Here there will be spoilers.

Further muddying the water, we are greeted by Metatron (literally, *we* are greeted by Metatron—the fourth wall is taking a nap this episode) who looks as comfortable behind a typewriter as the evaporated Chuck. Hindsight shows us he's typing dialog at about the 19:24 mark. More on that, clearly, later.

"What makes a story work? Is it the plot, the characters, the text...the subtext? And who gives the story meaning? Is it the writer, or you? Tonight I thought I'd tell you a little story, and let you decide."

He's oily, he's unctuous, he's smug (and he's drinking—what's WITH that (paper to be written later)), and to the show's credit, he's not the same sort of the above characteristics as, say, Lucifer or Dick Roman. This is coming from a man with a lot less presence (remember when he was Viola on Moonlighting? Okay, perhaps not). It's played as the slightly creepy uncle with the smoking jacket who pulls you close to tell you another story that ends up weirding you out as much as anything else.

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Homeslice is high on himself, replacing the ragged angel wings of our S9 opening with flighty airy classical music and dulcet pastel tones.

His plot for the episode is to get a villain for his stories. Supernatural made itself markedly about narrative as soon as Chuck was introduced and they have done nothing but intensified it since—introducing fanfic, an alternate universe where their lives are acted out, and now they are making it the final conflict of the season. Metatron was absorbed by stories when he was on earth, consuming them frenetically, and his orders to Castiel before he cast him out of heaven was to live a life and die and come back up with a good story for him.

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Heaven must be boring when it's empty, because Castiel is up for a promotion. Metatron does his best to convince him to play along, playing a wild card and inserting him into a Casa Erotica-triggered scenario with a very muted Gabriel who works the brotherhood angle hard, stating that either of them are the only people qualified to lead the angels. In the middle of a conflict when they've been pinned down by Gadreel's angel goons Castiel agrees to run while Gabriel holds them off (this is the script Metatron was typing at the start). But in a moment Castiel realises it's not real by virtue of the editor's nemesis—the continuity error. There used to be a rip in his jacket...

Although Gabriel takes responsibility for the scenario, Castiel is continually skeptical. Had Gabriel really not been killed by Lucifer? Does his story of having been hiding in Heaven until everyone was cast down really make sense? He's desperate to know if he's not alone, but Gabriel is trying to convince him Metatron is helping him out, and disappears, leaving Castiel bound in Metatron's office, no questions answered.


Ă—

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Gadreel has been leaving a trail by using a very specific spell to call angels to him "Sounds like heaven," says Hannah, the angel unknowingly planted to survive Gadreels opposing angel cleansing and draw Castiel into the fray. Gabriel lately explains this is his namesake horn, a spell using fairy bones and griffin feathers, that Gadreel is obtaining by the very mundane means first introduced to us by Henry Winchester—going into stores with the Hunter mark and asking for the special merchandise.

The boys track him down this way, and angels are still falling for the bait and burn—he's soon trapped in holy oil, and the boys are trying to extract information from him. They can't reach Cas to get help with the interview, so Dean sends the very angry Sam to find him, taking him out of the confrontation with his former rider.

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There's no good hunter/bad hunter schtick. It seems Dean is scratching a Mark of Cain/Alastair's protege itch and offers Gadreel the option between a quick or slow end. Gadreel tries to enrage him by stressing that Sam doesn't care for him, but Dean doesn't fall for it, and realises that Gadreel would rather be killed than left alone, so that's just what Dean does—or starts to do. After taking a break to clean up (torture is a messy business) he seems to zone out, and is later found dazed against a wall next to an unconscious angel. Cue Mark of Cain worries.

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Cas continues to resist Metatron's pitch to engage with him, to lead the other hapless angels and become an antagonist worthy of a great story. Even though he's been offered endless grace to replace the mismatched one he stole (and is given knowledge of all the stories Marv has read), he doesn't want to lead, and he doesn't want to be part of Metatron's plot.

Once Metatron learns that Gadreel is being held, he sets up an "even trade" with the boys to get his lieutenant back. They try their standard trick, but Metatron not only knows the holy oil is coming, he lets them light it and then blows out the flame. How is a former member of the angelic steno pool able to all of this? Just because he took over heaven and locked the doors? Nope, seems the angel tablet is a source of great personal power.

The trade happens without further ado, and Cas is back. And worried about his friend—he senses the Mark, and is angry enough to instruct a willing Sam to look out for him.

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We learn about a Door to Heaven once Gadreel is back in Metatron's office. It's still secure—Gadreel took a lot of punishment, but he didn't talk. Metatron reveals that characters can do things that aren't written, that the Winchesters weren't following a script when they grabbed him. His job, he says, is to set up interesting characters and see where they lead him. He assures Gadreel the ending will be the same no matter what. This knowledge seems to affect Gadreel, and there's an odd light in his eyes as he goes on his way.

Back at his motel room, Castiel destroys a very Winchester-esque research wall, and executes the spell. Without the power given to him by Metatron, he still accepts the role of a leader and calls his flock to him—all as Metatron types this very thing, Hannah beaming at Cas as he comes out of his room.

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"God watched over them, smiling at His good works."

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*Ding*

Narrative and playing your part are either callbacks or retreads, depending on your enthusiasm for the season. I'm not excited about the literal requests for people to play their parts, but at least the Winchesters are wild cards—none of the typing we saw was directing their actions, and they surprised Metatron to some degree. I think the tension between them is a good randomiser, although that subplot is unevenly played out. Their goal to wipe out the leadership of hell could also provide a potential wrench for whatever Metatron has in mind.

It *is* clear that Sam cares about Dean, that he still feels the bonds of brotherhood, but he is firm in trying to get Dean to detach some. And Dean is firm in not talking about it. It's a fair guess that Dean needs to be rescued by Sam to see that he feels normal levels of attachment, but does that just enable Dean to go on with his hyper-love? Would he learn anything from it?

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And it seems that the thing Dean will most need to be saved from is the Mark of Cain. We'll see. Four more episodes, including the backdoor pilot. Abaddon, Crowley, Mark of Cain, angel tablet, Gadreel, Metatron—this seems a standard pile of conflicting characters to take us into the last stretch. I have found the writers very able to hit poignant notes this season (this episode's off topic exchange between Dean and Cas as they just chat was quite lovely in its quietness), and provide a calm sort of tension. There's not time for that now. We need a sense of urgency and excitement, and it doesn't even look like next episode is particularly arcy—but it does have Jody Mills in action, so I'm not going to complain.

Yet.