The 13 Best Meta Episodes of Supernatural
Across its 15-year run, Supernatural delivered fans a number of exciting shifts in genre for the tales of monster-hunting duo Sam and Dean Winchester, but arguably the best was when the series decided to break the fourth wall and get meta with its material and with the long-running series recently coming to a close, we’re looking back and remembering the 13 best episodes that got very meta.
“Hollywood Babylon” — Season 2, Episode 18
After a number of subtle fourth wall breaks in the previous season, including a reference to its X-Files ancestry in the pilot, the series really ramped up its meta nature with the eighteenth episode of the second season, “Hollywood Babylon.” Learning of a death at the hands of a ghost on the set of a horror film, the brother head to Hollywood to investigate the production of Hell Hazers II: The Reckoning, which is being directed by a filmmaker named McG, based on the real-life filmmaker and executive producer of the series. From utilizing real notes the network had handed creator/original showrunner Eric Kripke to poking fun at his own script for the horror film Boogeyman and at Jared Padalecki’s past work on Gilmore Girls, the writers showed early on they were ready to take a stab at everything in hilarious fashion.
“Mystery Spot” — Season 3, Episode 11
We’ve seen time loops in films time and again, but long-running TV series seem more hesitant to explore the formula, but following in the footsteps of the FBI duo this series took some inspiration from, Supernatural dove right in with the season three episode, “Mystery Spot,” which sees the brothers trapped in a loop in which Dean dies every day while Sam is the only one to retain the memories. Though not quite as fourth wall breaking as others on this list, between its self-aware nods to the absurdity of the situation they’re in to references to other time loop efforts before it, this is definitely one of the funniest to watch from start to finish.
“The Monster At the End of This Book” — Season 4, Episode 18
Little did audiences know when they were introduced to Rob Benedict’s Chuck Shurley 11 years ago that they were not only looking at a source of future joy for the series, but also a major point of pain for both the Winchesters and fans. In the season four episode, the Winchesters discover Chuck, going under the pen name Carver Edlund (an amalgam of series writers Jeremy Carver and Ben Edlund) has been writing a series of Supernatural novels accurately detailing the lives and cases of the two. From (initially unintended) foreshadowings of Chuck’s God-like powers writing the brothers’ lives to referencing the various fan fiction spawned from the minds of fans, this is an episode full of rewarding gags for eagle-eyed viewers.
“Fallen Idols” — Season 5, Episode 5
2005 was a big one for star Jared Padalecki as it not only marked his departure from his star-making role of Dean Forester in Gilmore Girls, but it also saw him on the big screen with the Jeff Wadlow-helmed slasher Cry_Wolf and the House of Wax remake — and the premiere of Supernatural, duh. While the latter film initially failed to find an audience, it garnered a cult following in the horror community, namely for the death of star Paris Hilton in it, and fans of both got a real treat when the season five episode “Fallen Idols” premiered, reuniting Padalecki and Hilton. Chock full of stabs at said slasher pic and the actress’ other works, even if her appearance isn’t quite her playing herself, it’s a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek case sure to please fans of all involved.
“Changing Channels” — Season 5, Episode 8
After being introduced in the previously listed “Mystery Spot” episode, Richard Speight Jr.’s Trickster returned in the season five episode “Changing Channels,” which saw the writer’s room looking to one-up every meta gag they’ve delivered as the archangel uses his powers to put the brothers at the center of a number of TV parodies. With everything from Grey’s Anatomy to CSI to a Full House-type sitcom, Japanese game show and Sam being turned into a Knight Rider-esque vehicle, it’s an absolute blast.
“The Real Ghostbusters” — Season 5, Episode 9
Given the fifth season was initially eyed as the conclusion to the series, Kripke and co. kept the meta train rolling after the outrageous “Changing Channels” with the return of Rob Benedict’s Chuck in “The Real Ghostbusters.” Initially being drawn to a hotel in Ohio on a text from Chuck, the brothers soon learn it to be from overenthusiastic fan Becky in an effort to bring the two to Supernatural Convention, only for them to later learn there is in fact a ghost haunting the location. The series’ first fan-hosted convention was held in 2006 under the name WinchesterCon, but the episode has fun with the typical trappings of fan conventions and the questions posed by fans to the creators in letters and at conventions.
“The French Mistake” — Season 6, Episode 15
Kripke might have been gone, but that doesn’t mean the writer’s room headed by Sera Gamble were unable to churn out some meta-heavy outings, most notably with the season six episode “The French Mistake,” arguably also the greatest episode of the series. Transported into an alternate realm by the angel Balthazar for protection, Sam and Dean find themselves in a world in which they are actually Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki and the world of Supernatural is a television series. Featuring semi-fictionalized versions of Misha Collins, Genevieve Padalecki and stunt coordinator Lou Bollo, as well as depictions of Kripke, Gamble, frequent series director and producer Bobby Singer and more, it’s an episode that revels in the bizarre separation of fact from fiction, most notably in the vocal work Collins and Ackles put into their characters.
“Slash Fiction” — Season 7, Episode 6
There’s no denying the seventh season of the series was a much rockier affair, but it still wasn’t without some truly entertaining outings, namely its sixth episode “Slash Fiction,” which sees Sam and Dean framed for a series of murder-robberies by a pair of Leviathans. Every robbery features references to past movie robberies and couples, namely Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers, tapping into the title’s history as a sub-genre of fan fiction in which two characters of the same genre are paired together in a sexual relationship. Though the episode doesn’t cross that Game of Thrones line — thankfully — it still toys with audience expectations and proves to be a self-aware blast.
“Meta Fiction” — Season 9, Episode 18
Part of the necessity for breaking the fourth wall is to for a character to talk directly to the audience and not only does the season nine episode “Meta Fiction” have that in droves, but it takes it a step further by breaking down the relationship between author and audience. While Castiel struggles with whether to lead the fallen angels against the God-like figure, Curtis Armstrong’s Metatron offers monologues and narration throughout the episode that practically puts him in the seat next to the viewer with philosophical explorations of the nature between audiences and creators of their favorite works and the very structure of the story itself, including its twist ending.
“Fan Fiction” — Season 10, Episode 5
After years of establishing Chuck’s series-based novel franchise within the show, the tenth season of Supernatural added another meta level as the brothers investigate teacher’s disappearance in Michigan, only to discover the drama club is putting on a stage production of Chuck’s novels. With teenagers dressed up as characters from across the series, including seasons three and four villain Lilith and the Winchesters themselves, it’s a self-deprecating stab at the long-running series and its fan-favorite roster that makes for a hilarity-filled episode.
“Scoobynatural” — Season 13, Episode 16
Unlike many other long-running series of the same ilk, Supernatural almost completely avoided fans’ desires to cross it over with other characters until the arrival of its thirteenth season when they finally found the ultimate property to cross paths with in the form of everybody’s favorite mystery-solving gang from Scooby-Doo with “Scoobynatural.” Centering on the Winchester Bros. as they are sucked into an episode of the classic Hanna-Barbera series with a twist on the season one episode “A Night of Fright is No Delight,” only to find they are all at odds with a ghost capable of actually murdering people, the episode takes plenty of jabs at each series and offers plenty of nostalgia for fans of the latter that makes for one of the best outings of the entire show.
“Atomic Monsters” — Season 15, Episode 4
Sam and Dean head off to Iowa to investigate a series of high school cheerleader deaths seemingly at the hands of a vampire to keep their minds off the season’s looming big bad. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a tale as old as time for Supernatural, but rather than lean into the old-school nature of it, writer Davey Perez and director Jensen Ackles — yes, THAT Jensen Ackles — offer a meta twist on the formula as the driving force behind the story is actually a desperate Chuck returning to superfan Becky and enlisting her help in getting his creative juices flowing for charting a future path for him and the Winchesters. From Becky straight up pointing out the flaws in the story’s structure to Chuck outright changing the ending at the very last minute, it’s a fourth-wall breaking shocker of an episode that sets up an exciting remainder of the final season.
“The Heroes’ Journey” — Season 15, Episode 10
Despite their various ups and downs and occasional shifts of good and evil, Sam and Dean’s status as the protagonists of the series made them seemingly unstoppable heroes, but what if they suddenly weren’t the protagonists in the eyes of the guy writing the universe? That’s the question the season 15 episode “The Heroes’ Journey” poses as the Winchesters suddenly find themselves plagued by a number of normal people problems, including cavities, car problems, the sudden inability to throw a powerful punch or pick a lock. With conversations directly addressing this issue, it breaks down the dynamic nature of the characters in the most delightfully meta way possible, making for a riot of an episode.
What’s your favorite meta episode of Supernatural? Are there any that aren’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below!