'Supernatural': Does Meta Better Than Anyone

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Works of fiction on stage and screen have been known to break the fourth wall, like Shakespeare's soliloquies spoken directly to the audience, or the semi-break of characters taking part in a documentary about their lives on "Modern Family." Over its six seasons, "Supernatural" has had fun toying with the fourth wall, adding walls within walls, and then jumping out of them entirely. It's all very meta, and mind-blowing, and usually hilarious.

"Supernatural" has a particularly enthusiastic fandom, the sort that knows every facet of the story timeline and character arc and isn't afraid to point out any discrepancies to the writers--the sort of diehard viewer that large-scale fan conventions were created for. While many popular shows will throw in a references or in-jokes for the fans, "Supernatural" has devoted entire episodes--entire story arcs--to the cult of "Supernatural."

Starting with "The Monster at the End of this Book," Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) discover that a small-time writer has published books about their lives. The author's pen name is Carver Edlund, which just happens to be taken from a combination of "Supernatural" executive story editor Jeremy Carver and co-exec producer Ben Edlund. Turns out the real guy is Chuck Shurley, who fears that he's a god who's been manipulating the Winchester brothers' lives, ala "Stranger Than Fiction." In a jab at themselves, the "Supernatural" writers have Chuck apologizing for trapping Sam and Dean not only in horrible situations, but also "bad writing."

"The Monster at the End of this Book" acknowledges the intensity of the real life "Supernatural" fandom, as Sam and Dean discover the fan sites that praise and diss them in equal measure, and the joys of "slash" fiction: "They do know we're brothers, right?" Dean asks, horrified. "Doesn't seem to matter," Sam replies. The show also showed the fannish publisher of the books, getting practically orgasmic over Sam and Dean's knowledge of the books--aka their own lives.

The Chuck storyline continued for several episodes, as Sam, Dean and angel Castiel consulted with Chuck on his visions of their future. We also got revisits to the fandom, including episode "The Real Ghostbusters," where the Winchester brothers attend a fan convention and are confronted with several role-playing Sams and Deans--complete with rumbling, ridiculously deep voices. Two of these doppelgangers are named Demian and Barnes, who are apparently the "Supernatural" recappers and moderators over at Television Without Pity.

"Supernatural" took the meta to new heights in season 6, however, with the episode "The French Mistake." In it, Sam and Dean are catapulted by angel Balthazar into an alternate universe where they are actors on a TV show called "Supernatural." It's pure self-referential comedy as Dean groans over their ridiculous names, "Jensen Ackles" and "Jared Padalecki"--"What, you're Polish now?" Genevieve Cortese, the actress who played demon Ruby, plays Jared's wife in the alternate universe--as she is in real life. Confused, yet?

Brian Doyle-Murray plays producer Robert Singer, which Dean instantly points out to viewers at home who might not have realized--is the same name as fellow hunter and father figure Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver.) "What kind of a douche-bag names a character after himself?" Dean growls. As the brothers attempt to navigate their alternate world, we get to see them trying to act the way the actors act them out. Try to say that three times fast. Dean's intense glare and attempt to find his mark as Sam stares aimlessly at the ceiling to avoid looking into the camera has to be one of the funniest things "Supernatural" has ever done.

The meta goes to new heights as the actors encounter Castiel on the lot, and he plays along with them until it's revealed he's just another actor. As in real life, Misha Collins tweets everything that's going on, including what the thinks is a "Punk'd"-style practical joke that "Jared" and "Jensen" have just played on him. The beauty of this moment? Check out actor Misha Collins' Twitter page on the day the show aired and you'll find the same tweets you just saw him type, like: "Ola mishamigos! J2 got me good. Really starting to feel like one of the guys." It's enough to make your head spin.

So what will "Supernatural" do next? The show is due to go at least one more season. Perhaps the finale will include the guys finally breaking that fourth wall completely and addressing the fans directly, rather than using the characters for the brilliantly indirect jokes and jabs at the cast, creators and crew. What are you fans hoping for? Is there any aspect of the show you wish they'd poke fun at, or a corner of fandom they haven't lampooned? What were your favorite in-jokes in the meta episodes?

Watch "Supernatural" on the CW, Friday nights at 9 pm ET.

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