It’s all about the meta. This week Supernatural goes deep into the world of meta-fiction with “The French Mistake,” an episode where Sam and Dean are sent to an alternate universe where they are Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of Supernatural, a TV show in its sixth season. From that simple yet utterly complex premise, Supernatural takes full advantage by poking fun at itself, its stars, its producers, its creator and more.
The result is pure perfection, an episode so rich and detailed that even the most eagle-eyed of die-hard fans might not catch every little detail the first time through. It’s a love letter to the fans who care deeply about the show, the characters and also the team behind it. This is an episode for people who know that creator Eric Kripke stepped down as showrunner this season and that Sera Gamble took over.
The alternate universe adventure is bookended with plenty of angel drama as Balthazar is on the run from Raphael, who has sent out his hitmen to kill all the angels who oppose him. However, Balthazar sends the boys to the other world as a diversion for Raphael so he can collect all the weapons he stole from Heaven and give them to Castiel. By the end of the episode, Castiel has all the power and is ready to take down Raphael, but we still don’t get to learn more about the Angel Civil War. I really hope this story ties in with the Mother of All stuff, otherwise it’s just a big tease.
However, the real action takes place in the alternate universe which is full of inside jokes and references to actual people and relationships. Here’s a run-through to reveal everything you need to know to fully enjoy the episode.
The Production Team
First, it needs to be noted that other than Misha Collins and Genevieve Padalecki, the only person who actually plays himself in the episode is Lou Bollo, the stunt coordinator who breaks up Sam and Dean’s fight with Virgil. While the others are based on real people, they are played by actors.
Director/producer Bob Singer starts off the episode talking to his first assistant director Kevin Parks, who suggests cutting the scene where the brothers talk about their feelings while sitting on the Impala, which is just silly. Then he suggests using a freeze frame (something the show would never do, except later in this episode when they actually use it), which director of photography Serge Ladouceur finds acceptable.
As someone who’s been on set and interviewed Jared Padalecki, I can assure you that this scene was exactly how it works. The reporter stands opposite the actor, who’s seated, and asks generic questions while asking him to be sure to incorporate the question in his answer.
The Episode Within the Episode
After discussing makeup and the Impala, Sam and Dean find Cas and learn about the key, but it’s really just Misha Collins running lines. Luckily, the show doesn’t descend the M.C. Escher staircase that it could’ve. It seems like in this alternate universe, Supernatural is filming an episode identical to the one we’re actually watching, which raises a big question. In this episode, do Sam and Dean get transported to a world where they are Jensen and Jared, and in that world inside a world inside a world, are they also filming an episode about another world inside the world inside the world inside … You see where I’m going with this?
The absolute best part of the episode has to be Misha, who magically transforms from the gravel-voiced Cas to the upbeat and cheerful Misha. His nonstop tweeting and love of awful sweaters is dead-on, and the scene where Virgil hunts him down and slices his throat is both tragic and funny, thanks to Misha’s over-the-top crying. The fact that Supernatural actually killed off Misha Collins is so daring and crazy that it’s impossible not to love it.
The boys find Jensen’s trailer which includes a 300-gallon aquarium, a magazine cover of Jared giving the blue steel and a toy helicopter (which the real Jensen has). They also do research on Jensen Ackles, finding a video clip of his appearance on Days of Our Lives which is easily the most embarrassing thing ever. But I feel like they missed even more opportunities for jokes about his career.
This brings us to a new feature called John Kubicek’s Fan Fic, where I add some dialogue that should’ve been in the episode. This scene takes place right before Sam discovered the Days of Our Lives video.
Sam: “It says you used to be on another TV show called Dark Angel with … Hello! Meet your co-star, Jessica Alba.”
(Sam turns the laptop to show Dean a sexy photo of Jessica Alba.)
Dean: “Jensen Ackles was on a show with her? I hope to God he tapped that.”
This concludes John Kubicek’s Fan Fic.
Jared’s Mansion and Genevieve Padalecki
Sam and Dean decide to crash at Jared’s place, being driven through the streets of Vancouver by Clif Kosterman, who is Jared and Jensen’s actual driver and bodyguard. Jared’s house is a masterpiece of shameless wealth, with a tanning bed (that explains how he was so bronze when he took his shirt off despite filming in Canada) and Andy Warhol-inspired paintings of Jared and his wife, fake Ruby (aka Genevieve Padalecki, nee Cortese).
Watching Sam interact awkwardly with his real-life wife was priceless, as was the fact that Gen was off to a charity dinner for otter adoption, a slight parody of the fact that both Jared and Gen are heavily involved with charity, especially saving dogs.
Sam and Dean also discover that having phenomenal wealth helps in tracking down and buying obscure items to try and recreate the spell Balthazar used to send them to this dimension. While they get the materials (after maxing out several credit cards), the problem is that there is no magic in this world, but that also means there are no demons, monsters or apocalypses.
Sam and Dean Can’t Act
Finally, to get through everything, Sam and Dean have to take over Jared and Jensen’s roles and “act” like Sam and Dean. You’d think being yourself is easy, but Dean has the most ridiculous grimacing face. The real star, however, is Sam, whose total inability to read a line about a lock and a key without sounding like a second-grader reading Shakespeare is hilarious. I guess these guys are no Dean Cain.
The alternate universe gets shaken up when Raphael’s top angel hitman Virgil, the keeper of Heaven’s weapons, shows up. He’s supposed to be a bad-ass, but if he’s the keeper of the weapons, why was it so easy for Balthazar to steal them in the first place? Maybe he’s kind of like the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Disney version of Robin Hood, sleeping on duty while Balthazar used a giant stick to steal the key ring from his pants.
When Virgil arrives he tries to attack, but he has no power or magic in this world either, so a good, old-fashioned fist fight breaks out. The show’s actual stunt coordinator Lou Bollo (who, as I mentioned, is playing himself) steps in to stop him, but Virgil uses it as a chance to take the key and escape.
We Need Kripke
After the dust-up, Bob Singer and producer Jim Michaels call up showrunner Sera Gamble, who is out of town as usual. She offers to come up to help, but since she’s new and no one really knows her, Bob thinks it would be better to bring back the original creator Eric Kripke to solve the problem. Kudos to Sera Gamble for being willing to look like an ineffective boob who pales in comparison to Kripke, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. We also learn that since leaving Supernatural, Kripke has holed himself up in a cabin writing his next TV pilot, Octocobra. Sadly, we don’t know what this show is, but I have two ideas.
Octocobra #1: A science team in Miami successfully creates a killer octopus that has cobras for tentacles, but when it escapes, it’s up to the team to capture the deadly abomination. The only problem is that the octocobra is spraying its ink and venom all over the college kids in town for spring break. The only problem is that this sounds more like a Syfy channel original movie than a TV series.
OctoCobra #2: This live-action reimagining of G.I. Joe tells the story through the perspective of eight new recruits at Cobra headquarters. We’d see the rather ordinary but complicated lives of these new villains as they try to find love and purpose in the evil organization. To be honest, I think this is an awesome idea and, if it’s not what OctoCobra is about, it should be.
Sam and Dean Quit
Later the boys have a chat with the director, who they learn is named Bob Singer, and Dean is offended that this douchebag would name a character after himself. Bob wants them to focus on acting, but Dean gives a passionate speech that emphasizes the entire point of the episode:
“We’re not actors. We’re hunters. We’re the Winchesters, always have been and always will be. And where we’re from, people don’t know who we are. But you know what? We matter to that world. In fact we even save the son of a bitch once or twice. And yeah, OK here maybe there’s some fans who give a crap about this nonsense, but, Bob Singer, if that even is your name, tell me this: what does it all mean?”
Misha Collins is Dead
Virgil has the key, but no way to leave this world, so he captures Misha Collins (who he thinks is Castiel) and slits his throat so he can use his blood in a goblet just like the one Meg used back in season 1. He uses it to communicate with Raphael to find a way home. On the one hand, maybe the goblet of blood is just a universal communications device for supernatural beings. However, I suppose, in theory, it’s possible this is a bit of retcon, leading up to the reveal that, somehow, Meg and Azazel were working for Raphael.
Eric Kripke is Dead
With all the madness going on, Eric Kripke finally arrives on set to fix the situation. The entire time he’s nervous, a little twitchy, and my guess is that the fake Kripke might have a coke problem. He’s also laughably cruel, talking about how Misha’s death, while sad, landed the show the front page of Variety. It’s kind of like the opposite of an M. Night Shyamalan movie, because here the creator is being made to look like a total jackass instead of the savior of all mankind.
When Kripke sees Virgil (the alleged extra Jared and Jensen were beating up), he goes to talk to him, but instead, in a glorious piece of overly dramatic slo-mo, Virgil pulls out a shotgun and blows Kripke away.
Do you remember how Balthazar opened the episode by talking about the final scene of The Godfather when Michael Corleone has everyone killed? Well, that’s what this is, because Virgil kills Kripke, Bob Singer and then goes on a shooting spree, killing as many Supernatural production team members as he can before Sam and Dean show up to take him down, save the down, and use the entrance Raphael made for Virgil to get back to the real world.
What Does It All Mean?
Like any good episode of Supernatural, all the silly fun of the alternate universe actually meant something. In the fake world, Jared and Jensen weren’t friends, they weren’t even talking. And even though they made a lot of money and had expensive things, there was no magic and no real purpose. They weren’t even brothers.
But in Supernatural, they matter. They may not be famous, but they love each other and they selflessly save others. After last week’s depressing episode where they started to question the effectiveness of their lives, “The French Mistake” served as a way to remind them why they do what they do.
So sure, it was incredibly ridiculous, over-the-top and wildly amusing, but it also meant something. That combination is what made this episode my favorite one of all-time. That and the fact that they actually killed Misha Collins and Eric Kripke.