Self-awareness in fiction is a bit of a cheat. Referencing the cliches in a story that the audience has already recognized makes the audience feel smarter, and makes those cliches seem fresh, but if that's all you're bringing to the table, it's not really changing anything. The cliches are still cliches, the plot-holes are still hole-y. That's not to say it isn't fun. Supernatural has been growing more and more self-aware as the seasons go on, and while it's always enjoyable to see, it can sometimes become frustrating. Too much of this sort of thing, and the strings start to become too obvious. Besides, if the writers are smart enough to know they're ridiculous, maybe they could try not being quite so ridiculous for a while.
"The Real Ghostbusters" manages to land on the safe side of meta yet again, although it's gets close to overplaying its hand. The ghost threat, Leticia Gore and four dead children, is something that could easily have come out of the first season of the show—and while the twist keeps it from being a complete cliche, and while you can argue that the context makes the familiarity part of the joke, it still feels old. I mean, we have the Apocalypse coming, right? The Devil is actually wandering around in a meat shell, it's the End Times, cats and dogs living together, etc. While it's believable that Sam and Dean would come running when they thought Chuck needed their help (although why the hell they wouldn't try calling him after the text, I'm sure I don't know; maybe Becky turned off the phone), that they'd stick around for as long as they do once they realize there's no problem is a stretch. Plus, the whole idea of a real ghost showing up at a convention for fans of Supernatural doesn't really work without some extra edge to it.
If it sounds like I didn't enjoy "Ghostbusters," that's not actually true; it wasn't a bad episode by any stretch. Chuck is always a welcome presence, and his awkwardness handling fan questions was entertaining enough, even if it did have me thinking about that Simpsons' episode where Homer deals with the hardcore "Itchy and Scratchy" fans. (But since Simpsons has done everything, I'm not taking off points. Although—quick aside—Simpsons is a great example of how the self-awareness gag can ruin a show in the long-term. You can't start getting material out of how your show's internal reality doesn't hold together and expect people to keep investing emotionally in that reality when you go back to it with a straight face.) The raspy voice jokes were good for a laugh at first, as were the utterly weak fake names the fans made up for their fake FBI agents.
And the fans themselves… Well, Becky, I can take or leave. She's one note, and while it's a funny note, it's something on the piercing side. Nice to see her finally moving beyond her Sam obsession, but it's disappointing that the only three female characters with lines in the episode are either psycho-crush girl, Hooters waitress, or dead. Barnes and Demian are pleasant enough, and I liked how they were able to save the day (one of the better things about "Ghostbusters" is that Sam and Dean's biggest direct contribution to the case is burning the wrong bones), but neither of them were that interesting. The most striking thing about them is that they're a couple—which we don't find out until the end, so it's less a piece of character development than a gag, meant to riff on the "Homoerotic Subtext of Supernatural" joke earlier in the ep. Which is another joke that needs to be retired at this point. Sam and Dean are brothers. We out here in real life can make Wincest jokes, but it's just a creepy, weird thing in the context of the actual show, and acknowledging it repeatedly is like having someone pause the action every few minute to remind us of the presence of cameras, boom mics, and lighting.
"Ghostbusters" is mostly frustrating to me because it has the series falling back on what had been a very smart concept when it was first introduced—ie, the idea that somebody in the Supernatural world was writing Supernatural books—and turning it into a crutch for an okay, but not all that great, hour. Yes, there's a lot if reflexive giddiness at the idea of a Supernatural con with Sam and Dean actually attending (Squee!), but for a show that's been flirting with making the transition from good to really, really good, this just seemed like so much wheel spinning. Put this back in the second season, it would've looked like genius, but now, there are so many other, more important things we could be doing with our time.
- In case you didn't know, The Real Ghostbusters is the name of the cartoon series spun off of the movie in the mid-eighties. It was pretty sweet.
- Sam and Dean's insistence that Chuck stop publishing books about them doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But then, neither does Chuck at this point. He's a Prophet of the Lord, but the whole point of a Prophet is to spread the Word of God to gain more followers. For a while, I thought the episode was going to go in that direction, and have Barnes and Demian be the first of a new breed of hunters who learn the trade from Chuck's novels, but there was no sign of that by the end. Thankfully, Chuck's writing (and Becky's obsessive memory of it) points Sam and Dean in the direction of the Colt, so it's still somewhat useful, but it could've been more. (Wow, somebody mentioned Bella's name!)
- "How do you feel about angels? They're not as lame as you think!"
- "It's not jumping the shark if you never come down."