Every year, Supernatural goes all meta on us and plays with its fans. This season, “Time for a Wedding!” pokes some fun at online fandom while taking Dean’s arc out of subtext and into the narrative. I have no problem with teasing the online fan base, of which I am a member, and I giggled through much of this episode. However, it’s not as successful as past meta entries like “The French Mistake” and “The Real Ghostbusters.” The problem is the story tried to service too many storylines, rather than committing to the comic set up.
I’ll start with what didn’t work well, so I can end on the positive note the episode deserves. Becky the SuperFan is an enjoyable over the top character who has worked very well in past episodes like “The Real Ghostbusters.” The writers use the character to poke fun at fandom, which is a risky business. But Becky has always been so over the top that though she’s an avatar for fandom, she’s clearly meant as a tease, not an actual comment on the show’s fans. In this episode, it’s not as clear what Becky represents.
She’s just as over the top in her desires and mannerisms, which generates laughs, but also reminds me that I prefer her in a smaller role. Becky’s more irritating in large doses. The increased exposure also means the writers decided to make her more three dimensional. And that’s a bit problematic, given what she’s up to.
The writers start the episode using Becky as an avatar to have some meta fun, and in that context, I can laugh at Sam being essentially roofied and tied up. Tongue in cheek teasing about the slippery line between fan and fanatic falls well within bounds for me. The homage to Misery is clever and I laughed at being to understand Sam’s muffled conversations through his gag. Jared Padalecki was a hoot when Sam growls, “F**k you!” only to have Becky cheerily respond, “I love you, too!”
I also adored Dean’s many expressions of goggled horror as he tries to get Sam to see reason. Jensen Ackles pulls out the stops as Dean demands to know why no one asked his permission and finally turns up at Sam’s door with a waffle iron as a peace offering. The writers run some nice character development through the comedy, as Dean tries his best to give Sam space and waits to be asked in to work on the case. His method contrasts with the way he insisted Sam work with him in “The Mentalists.” Dean has a lot of worries about his brother, but he’s trying to use a lighter touch.
We soon get more of a peek into Becky’s psyche, showing her to be a victim of bullying that robbed her of self-esteem. Those scenes are well done and the actress generates sympathy for why Becky is so fixated on trotting Sam around her school reunion. But getting a more realistic picture of Becky works against the mad cap antics with Sam, because if I have to take her more seriously, then I’m also going to take her roofying Sam more seriously. Changing the tone means the writers do not commit to the comic set up they start with and that’s a problem.
“The French Mistake” is my favourite meta episode to date, though “The Real Ghostbusters” runs a close second, and both of those shows committed to the set up for the entire story. We never had to step out for more realistic fare and then step back in. Having to do so in “Time for a Wedding!” weakens the comedy hijinks, because I can’t feel sorry for Becky without also having to care what she’s doing to Sam. The two tones work against each other, rather than enhance each other.
Not content with Becky’s narrative warring with itself, the writers also introduce a new hunter to partner up with Dean, presumably testing the water for a new recurring character. DJ Qualls plays Garth, a hunter who could not be more opposite to Dean, but who shows he’s got something to offer the Winchesters. Or at least, I’m pretty sure that was the intent.
In practice, Qualls was given very little story space to establish his character. He was not allowed to be part of the final take down scene because Becky was given the role of surprising helper rather than Garth. Qualls was fun in the space that he had, but I didn’t end the episode being able to see what he offers to the Winchester team, especially since he spent the climax unconscious.
I think it was a shame to try and service a meta episode, Becky’s personal story and the introduction of a sidekick in the same episode, because all of the elements suffered. However, though the entire narrative did not play together well, the individual stories all had enjoyable moments. The episode was far from a failure. It just wasn’t as successful as it should have been. I laughed at many of the moments between Sam and Becky. Dean’s reactions alone were worth the price of admission. Crowley’s appearance was both entertaining and a nice way to embed this mostly stand alone episode into the Leviathan arc. We now know why demons have been scarce this season.
One of the more successful plots for me was the continuation of Dean’s personal arc. We’ve seen since the beginning of the season that Dean is struggling with some internal demons he doesn’t want to admit to himself, never mind talk about. He is very unhappy at losing Castiel, especially since he had refused to forgive Castiel just before the angel died. He’s scared he can’t fix Sam and he’s equally scared Sam somehow doesn’t need fixing and no longer needs Dean.
And if Sam no longer needs Dean, then who is Dean? Dean was taking care of people even before his mother died, cleaning up his father’s emotional messes by the time he was four. John charged his oldest son with Sam’s care, blaming him for what went wrong and never recognizing what he did right in creating a family life for his brother. Although it’s tempting to want to reach through the screen and shake Dean when he takes on too much guilt, it’s his father’s voice he’s hearing in his head, judging him.
The end of “Time for a Wedding!” makes the same point the beginning did: Dean does not want to face himself now that Sam seems to be in such an unexpectedly good place. I think Sam is being set up for a fall and will soon see how much he still needs Dean, but the opportunity for growth between the brothers is also welcome. I suspect Dean will need to face his father in some form to really move forward. Sadly, I doubt Jeffrey Dean Morgan will be available to guest star—but man, I hope he’s been asked. If we’re looking into Dean, we need another look at that relationship.
Oh, and how cool was that wedding cake?