Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.11 "LARP and the Real Girl"

Well that was fun. It’s been a while since we had a fun episode of “Supernatural”. One that took us out of the mythology for a bit. “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” was the last one I could think of and let me tell you, that was 20 episodes ago! I know this because I counted them!

And season 8, well I think we can all agree, it’s been heavy going. Even for those of us that are really digging the season, it’s still been emotionally fraught and somewhat exhausting. So a little respite from the big picture story and the angst…well, that’s not a bad thing. In fact I think “LARP and the Real Girl” was perfectly timed. After “Torn and Frayed” left us, torn and frayed…I think a lot of us were in need of a bit of a break…a bit of fun, just like the Winchesters.

So yeah, I loved “LARP and the Real Girl”. Loved it. Come on, are you surprised?

I love it when the brothers find themselves solving crazy cases, in crazy situations. I love how they simply roll with the punches. I guess in their line of work, they’ve seen most things…so though they always have those little raised eyebrow looks between them; they simply shrug it off and go for it. I’ve always loved that about the Winchester boys, their adaptability.

The first killing…wowsers…nasty! That would be a horrific way to go. Quartering is a rather unpleasant part of medieval justice – hung, drawn and quartered - we’ve all seen Braveheart right? That’s what they did to William Wallace (I watched that scene once, never again). By the way, I don’t think Ed was “drawn and quartered” as Charlie said, because the drawn bit is the disembowelling bit…you know, because the hanging don’t kill you so let’s take your intestines out! Ed was just “quartered”….by invisible horses. I so loved the wall-blood-splatter! It’s almost a running joke now right? No matter what happens – splat on the wall! I giggle every time. I hope I’m supposed to!

The supporting cast in this episode was great. Lance the crying guy was a classic with his, “Those texts weren’t from me. They were from me, but they weren’t from me me” line and the way he looked at Sam when he told him he was a powerful mage, how he waited for Sam to react. I loved Boltar the Furious, though he was a bit of a tool. Talk about taking a game too far. I thought it was hilarious when he called the boys out on their fake ids “Hold” – about time they got busted! And I absolutely loved the Sheriff. How fab was he? Cracker lines. “Twig and berries” “High as balls” and the line of the episode, “Kids today with their texting and murder.” So often the law officials on “Supernatural” are either shown as dolts or they’re wallpaper, so it was cool to have this Sheriff have bit of personality. It was pointed out that the actor who played the Sheriff was also Mike – John’s mechanic partner whom the boys questioned in “Home” – love a good recycled actor. Season 8 seems to be the season for it!

Then of course, there was Charlie. I enjoyed Charlie’s turn in “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo”, but in this episode…she was awesome. Just awesome. What I like about her – apart from here sassy “Smell you later bitches” line, is how she reacts the way you should react when faced with a creature who’s trying to kill you…scared! She doesn’t want to be involved in the fight, but sees where she’s needed so stays to help, but she’d obviously rather be somewhere else! She never feels like a victim, even when in a spot of bother. She misquotes Notting Hill and Star Wars and then makes out with the monster of the week! She’s smart and thinks on her feet and always has an epic comeback…much like our favourite ghost hunting bros. As woman, she’s a character that I feel very comfortable and happy to have on my TV screen. She’s not ball-busting tough, she’s not kick-ass action or any of those standard, stereotypical female TV characters. She’s an individual who is smart and confident and living her life the way she chooses, with a splash of bravado when facing possibly death and a bit of a smart mouth. I like her.

The other thing I like about Charlie, is her relationship with the brothers. With Sam, they’re both computer geeks, they have a mutual appreciation of Harry Potter and Sam protected her and carried her to safety when her arm was broken. With Dean they share a common love of pop culture and all things nerdy. We all know Dean is a massive nerd, a huge movie fan and a pop culture nut. He’s constantly quoting movies and TV, Star Wars, Star Trek. We’ve seen him nerd out before…but never quite like this! So Charlie, for me, is someone who is kind of a balance between both of the brothers. She’s got the brainiac, attention to detail, computer geek thing that Sam’s got going on and the pop culture, nerd thing that Dean’s got going on. She’s a little of both! She’s kind of their perfect girl! Kind of… She's welcome back anytime as far as I'm concerned. Felicia Day rocks.

Which brings me to our bros. Here’s something I love. Throughout this series, the brothers seem to bounce back and forth between roles. Neither is great at talking, but sometimes you have Sam reaching out trying to push Dean to talk, sometimes it’s the other way around. “LARP and the Real Girl” started with the classic Impala scene – boys driving at night (BTW loving that every episode this season seems to have a classic rock song). Sam has his head buried in something looking for clues, when Dean asks him if he’s ok. Sam then talks about how frustrated he is that they have this powerful weapon but they don’t know how to use. Pretty sure that’s not what Dean was asking. Sam was reacting how Dean so often does, not wanting to talk, shutting down, just wanting to do the job. Dean reaching out to Sam and acknowledging that he knew what Sam gave up wasn’t easy, was a real step forward for Dean. The end of last week’s episode and in this week’s episode, I was impressed with his interactions with Sam, his attempts to talk to his brother – or allow his brother to talk. Sam can be just as guarded and closed off as Dean but Dean was trying to understand.

I felt like this episode saw a definite shift in their relationship. As the boys worked the case, they seemed to actually enjoy themselves and enjoy being together. Dean all goofy in his LARPing getup and Sam trying not to smile and looking at his brother with that look only Sam can do, when he can’t believe what Dean just said or did. That…oh Dean look. There were lots of raised eyebrows, little nods and nonverbal exchanges between them. They worked great as a team, Sam taking on the research role while Dean played dress-up to canvas with Charlie – I mean, it couldn’t be any other way. It definitely seemed like a little weight was lifted off their broad shoulders…or maybe, a little weight was lifted off ours, or both. After last week’s “Torn and Frayed” just to see them do the ‘nearly smile’, was enough. But of course we got more.

I totally appreciated Dean’s acknowledgment to Charlie that the text thing was not his finest hour. Though last week he told Sam he knew he was wrong, it was part of a fairly heated exchange. So though I believe he meant it, to some, the anger in the conversation could make the words appear to lack a bit of resonance. But here, I believed that Dean knew he was wrong and that it was not the way he should have gone and he seemed accepting of that. I figure how he gave Charlie the wiki, he must have put the blame for Sam deciding to give up Amelia at his own feet – being as that’s how Charlie seemed to interpret it. I could see Dean wording it as such. Of course, the Amelia thing was not Dean’s fault as I’m sure he knows, that was Sam’s decision and Dean, in a moment which made me proud of him, allowed his brother to make that choice himself.

But you could see, as the boys worked the job, there was definitely a lighter air. Maybe somehow they both felt a little better, knowing that they no longer needed to worry about those other responsibilities. I still can't tell if Sam's aware or not of Dean's decision regarding Benny. If he isn't, then his actions at the end of the episode are even more awesome.

So then it was Sam’s turn to reach out to his brother. I think seeing Dean actually have a pretty good time, helped Sam come to the absolutely fantastic place we all found ourselves at the end. When Dean continued to try and build bridges, repeating that he got it, that Sam had given up something very important and that he needed time, I was super proud of him again. I felt like my baby is finally growing up and allowing his baby-bro to do the same. But I never saw Sam’s reaction coming...and oh my gosh…if I could have leapt through the TV screen and hugged Sam Winchester tight at that moment, I would have (I’d give Dean a squeeze for good measure while I was there). Sam recognising that Dean was making an effort and trying to get them to have some fun together, recognising that Dean was being understanding and supportive by allowing Sam time to grieve…and then returning the favour and doing something for Dean…for both of them…something for their relationship…suggesting they both have fun…well, it made me go eeeeee! The whole conversation made me clap my hands with happiness!

I might be wanting to read more into this than maybe I should, but that little exchange, that little grown-up bro exchange, felt a bit like a game changer to me…it’s like I felt something give. I just cross my fingers that this, right here is the turning point for the Winchester brother’s relationship. They’ll always butt heads, they’ll always fight, they always have…but to rekindle some of that warmth and fun in their relationship, which has been transient at best for a while now…well that’s all we want right? I’ve never doubted for one second their love for each other and when push comes to shove, their devotion to each other, I've never doubted their bond, but they’ve lacked that warmth, that joy they used to have in each other’s company. They’ve lacked it consistently since the end of season 3 to be honest. Too much crap they’ve had to wade through. I don’t ever expect it to be the same, they’re different men now and I’m cool with that, more that cool. I’ll be happy with a new kind of relationship, a more mature kind of relationship, if it’s one where they seem to enjoy being brothers again.

Now. Dean. DEAN. Yes…this is where I gush. I try not to do that here. I mean, we all know I’m a Dean girl – name is a bit of a give away – but I do try and stay pretty balanced, as we’re all fans of the show first and foremost, so I try not to let my character partiality bleed through too much. But this week….I can’t contain myself! He was just too beautiful.

Just when I think I can’t love Dean more…I love Dean more. He's such a kid a heart. He missed out on a lot growing up, having to take on so much responsibility for his family at such an early age. Seeing him let loose like this...he looked full of glee. The way he tried so very hard to hide his eagerness for the LARPing. Even when looking at the website at the Sheriff’s office, his little boy enthusiasm was showing through. Then when they got to Moondoor, he couldn’t resist picking up the sword “nice balance”, and Sam cracked me up…arms out stretched, “Dude!” Ha!

Then fixing Charlie’s army on the model battlefield, the way he didn’t blink or miss a beat when Charlie popped that crown on his head, happily donning the LARPing outfit. The way he looked in the mirror, you could see he was feeling pretty happy with himself right about there! Just, his ridiculous, adorkable, boyish excitement for the whole damn thing! It was so lovely to see him having a good time and letting his inner child shine on through. He's so precious.

Then the pièce de résistance, his Braveheart speech – “It’s the only one he knows!” Bless. I wonder how many times Sam's heard Dean say that speech! Ahhhh the whole thing was pure joy. My face was aching at the end of that scene! And of course, he looked smokin’ hot in his chainmail and LARPing gear…smokin’ hot! For heaven’s sake…dress that boy in anything and he’ll smoulder up the screen. Also, epic bowlegs…epic.

And I have to say, Sam with that chick in the IT tent. Seriously, that boy can be clueless! Hello! You’re gorgeous! Of course that chick would fancy you! I really loved that scene – thinking on his feet with the mash-up line. It was lovely to see him doing what he does best, getting people to help him and open up to him. Pulling all those, I can't believe I'm seeing this, did I hear that right faces. I absolutely loved his reaction to Dean and Charlie both thinking belladonna was the porn star! The silent stare. Cracked me up! Jensen’s known for his comic turns, but Jared as the straight man…his timing is perfection. And that ponytail…he should wear his hair like that all the damn time…justsayin’ (maybe without the cape though).

Robbie Thompson is fast becoming my favourite writer on “Supernatural”. Ok, Edlund will always be my favourite, but Robbie is a close second! I’ve dug all the episodes he’s done since joining the show (yes, even "Bitten"). But “LARP and the Real Girl” really showcased his talent. Not just with the comedy and pop culture references, but by giving us a couple of really good, poignant and important brother scenes. I seriously can’t wait for his next scripts (8.17 and 8.20).

So this was the episode I needed and I think a lot of us needed. It was so nice to see mostly positive feedback, something we haven’t seen for a good while. It felt like a large part of the fandom sighed a little sigh of relief as the stress of the last week drained away! Fingers crossed the brothers are headed in the right direction. There’ll be more bumps…there always are…but I feel a little less scared of them now. All because of a couple of ridiculously gorgeous, big hearted boys, dressing up like idjits and charging, shoulder to shoulder into fake battle.

Gotta love this show.

Thanks for reading! See you next time.

P.S. - can't wait to hear what the Js have to say at Vegascon about doing this ep!

sweetondean is Chief Editor and a writer for The Winchester Family Business

For all the latest Supernatural info and article links, follow The Winchester Family Business on Twitter at @WinFamBusiness

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand the need for the show to have Dean bring up the text in two consecutive episodes and accept admit it was a mistake (and have a third party blame Deam for Sam's decision) and yet Sam hasn't admitted to his mistakes and his role in the events of 8.09. Sam put an unstable hunter on Benny (Sam may not have known how unstable Martin still was, but he was just recently released from a mental hospital, so Sam should have known there might be issues and Martin wasn't ready), Sam believed Martin over Dean, Sam handcuffed an unconscious Dean to a radiator so that he and Martin could go kill Benny, who was innocent of the charges being claimed against him.

    Sam's anger and resentment of Benny goes beyond Benny being a monster because Sam has had no issues letting other monsters go, including Lenore, another vampire, and Kate, the werewolf from this season's "Bitten." Dean has admitted he was slightly jealous of Sam's being able to separate hunting from other parts of his life, and Sam needs to admit his jealousy of Benny.

    Until the show has Sam admit his mistakes, his role in the tragic outcome of 8.09, and Sam's jealousy of Benny, the relationship will be one-sided with Dean being the only one to be conciliatory and the relationship will never get fixed.