Monday, 29 April 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.20 "Pac-Man Fever"

So it’s official. Dean’s a hug-monster. The man truly does “wuz hugs” and I’m cool with it! Oh boy am I cool with it!

I was excited for this episode from the beginning. I like Charlie; I like Robbie Thompson’s writing. I was thinking, this is going to be a fun filler! That’s what it looked like in the previews. Dean gussied up in uniform, Charlie by his side. What I wasn’t expecting was an episode that packed an emotional wallop, that worked in aspects of the season mythology to keep us connected to the larger story and that left me in a pool of tears and squees! Simultaneously! Which makes them tees or squears or something! Putting it in language Dean would understand, “Pac-Man Fever” was…awesome.

One of the things that surprised me the most about this episode was that Sam was not “benched” as the synopsis indicated. Far from it actually and I was pleasatly surprised and mighty thankful for that. The brothers have been rocking it of late; bromantically speaking and I didn’t want that put on the back burner no matter how much I like the recurring character. But that’s not what happened, Sam and Dean and their relationship was front and centre and having Charlie in the mix, allowed us and them to see their relationship through her eyes…which essentially have become our eyes. Charlie has become a Winchester fangirl!

This is one of the big reasons I think Charlie has hit a chord with the fandom. She’s like us. She’s geeky and loves genre, she’s a gamer who digs novelty t-shirts. She’s a fan. It was so brilliant of Robbie Thompson to bring this character into our world. Charlie’s a fan but a fan we can openly relate to without any feelings of weirdness or awkwardness.

Fandom has been depicted in “Supernatural” before, mostly with a cheeky smirk from the writers. We “get” the convention folk in “The Real Ghostbusters”. We understand the passion of the cosplaying Hookman and his questioning of plot inconsistencies, character motivation and bungees on weapons. Most of us have read fanfiction, some of us write it, so we understand the enthusiasm of Becky Rosen. We understand her shear delight when she meets her heroes in person. Who doesn’t want to never stop touching the Js when put into close proximity with them! But though these fans were mostly written tongue in cheek and with a good dollop of wink filled humour, they accentuated the aspects of fandom that wig non-fan-type-people out and maybe the things we prefer to keep under wraps. While I think they were written from a place of (mostly) love, they kinda still managed to make fun of us, because they highlighted the aspects of fandom that outsiders make fun of and in doing so, they made us a little squirmy.

But Charlie is written in a way that makes us proud to be a fan. She’s smart and funny. She isn’t secretly enjoying her fanness in the dark, bathed only in the glow of her laptop (not that there’s anything wrong with that)! She’s not closeted about her fanness. It permeates ever aspect of her life and she lives it loud and proud. She’s not all giggly and wide-eyed; she’s all “Whatsup, bitches”. Charlie is cool. Just like we are! Right?! She represents how diverse and interesting we are, not how peculiar. Not only that, now she’s read Chuck Shurley’s books she knows the brother’s story, just like we do and she’s become their cheerleader, just like we are and she thinks they’re awesome heroes and loves them…just…like…us.

Her voice reflects ours. When she says, “There is pretty much nothing the Winchesters can't do if they work together,” we all yell out YES! When she tells Sam just what he needs to hear and what Dean needs to over hear, “...If anyone can get through the trials, Sam, it's you” we all nod and go, yesssss. She wants to see the “broment”. Don’t we all! She thinks they fight like an old married couple. Yep, they sure do! It’s like she’s in our minds! She’s reflecting back at us all the things we love about being a fan, what we love about the show and what we love about the brothers. Plus she promised Dean pie…and never brought it! Ba-dum-tss! And the joke lives on! Ha ha! What a great character.

But Charlie is also a character of her own with a journey of her own that deeply resonates with the journey of the Winchesters. She understands loss, she understands isolation and she understands being an outsider. Fleshing out Charlie by revealing the story of her mother and the sadness that lies beneath Charlie’s bubbly shell, allowed us to connect with her on a new level. We already liked her but now we understand her that much better, as do the brothers. The Winchesters and Charlie both lost their mothers at a young age and it’s driven their lives ever since, influencing who they are, what they do and what they like, down to fantasy fiction and pie. I’m sure Dean’s epic love of pie comes from the fact that his mum used to give him pie… *wibble*

Where Charlie and Sam seem to connect through their obvious similarities in techno-intellectual-geekiness, Charlie and Dean connect on a whole other level, the one with pop culture references and movie quotes. Every moment Charlie has with Dean is a pure joy. She brings out in him a lightness that’s always a delight to see and of course, that adorable big brother thing he’s got going on. He calls her kiddo. Naww. The shopping montage was beyond awesome. Dean sat there making her a fake id as casual as anything, while Charlie paraded outfit after outfit waiting for the yay or nay. For heaven’s sake! Who would ever have thought we’d seen that scene! I also like the way Dean talks to Charlie. He’s pretty matter of fact in his answers. She’s just that little bit removed from the emotion of it all, that she can be a good sounding board without it coming back on him in any way and she’s just that little bit removed from the emotion of it all, that she can say things to him that will make him think without getting defensive.

I wasn’t expecting to cry in this episode, but I cried a lot. I was deeply moved by Charlie’s story. The scene within the dream/game when Charlie spoke of telling her mother one more time that’s she’s loved, started me off. It’s damn good writing and damn good characterisation when a show can dig that deep into your own emotions. We feel for the character but we also relate to their sorrow and relate it back to our personal experiences. We all understand and are familiar with loss; it’s the unfortunate outcome of the cyclic nature of life. Consequently, we can easily relate intellectually with what the character is going through. But it’s when you relate emotionally and in a big way, that you know you’re being presented with something special. I was pretty messy at the end of this episode. It got a bit hurty and it hit me pretty hard. Charlie reading The Hobbit to her mum, one last time…yeah…puddles of tears. Puddles I tells ya!

It was because of Dean, because of Dean’s words and understanding that Charlie was able to let go of her mum. She let go of her fear of letting go. Then she asked Dean...

“What about you, you're gonna let it go?”

“That's my boys.”

Yep…That’s my boys.

I keep harping on, I feel like I’m harping on anyway, but I’m crazy in love with where we find ourselves with the brother’s relationship. Once again, they were concerned for each other, bickering (of course), looking out for each other, teasing each other and actually showing each other that they care.

They were working together like a well-oiled machine. Sorting through research, coming up with solutions, speaking at the same time. The way Sam rushed to Dean when Dean was coming out of his dream-root sleep. Gah! I’ve always love it when they’re all grabby and patty, giving each other a once over check to make sure the other is ok! My Winchester cup runneth over. I feel like I’ve been transported to an alternative Winchester Universe where the brothers actually act like those brothers we once knew! It’s wonderful.

Not only that, they have a home! Did you notice Dean called the bunker, home? My heart skipped a beat when he told Sam to go “home”. Home. The Men of Letters bunker is a haven where they can take stock, do some research, eat some decent food and sleep for days if needs be, which Sam needs be right now.

Sam, oh Sam…how he’s suffering. (Still looks hot though. Sick, bed-headed Sam is hot. Sorry…but it’s a fact.) I admired Sam’s tenacity and strength in this episode. There was part of me that was like Dean - stay home young man and rest! Then there was part of me that thought he was being silly and stubborn going out into the field in that condition, that he could cause harm to himself and possibly others by not being fully up to speed, which nearly happened with the mama Djinn. But, Sam has a trial to do and he’s going to have to do it while he’s not firing on all cylinders. It’s not like the sickness is going to go away (for now) and it’s not like he can just put everything off until he feels better, he’s going to have to get out there sooner or later and launch head on into whatever God’s final Word has in store for him. So wanting to be useful, wanting to feel useful, wanting people to have confidence in him and trying to have confidence in himself is understandable. He had something to prove and not just to Dean.

Obviously, Dean’s worried sick. Worrying about Sam is one of the things Dean does best. There’s no hiding that Sam’s not doing so good. It’s not like he can pretend. He looks awful and it’s right under Dean’s nose. Cass’ words about Sam being damaged in ways that even Cass can’t fix must have been playing on his mind, because Dean repeated those words to Charlie. Dean’s at his worst when he can’t help and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t help Sam. He just has to try and be understanding and supportive and that’s not necessarily easy for Dean, especially under these circumstances. He’s scared for his brother and he’s scared of losing his brother and that fear is impeding his ability to be what Sam needs right now. Dean’s hanging on so tight, he can’t do anything else.

Then this happened…

The hug. It was Dean letting go and not letting go all at the same time.

“What about you, you're gonna let it go?”

Let’s face it, no matter what, Dean will never let go of Sam, it’s not in his biological makeup, Sam is part of Dean and Dean will always hold on to him, but the hug…that out of the blue, surprised the hell out of Sam and the rest of us hug…that was Dean letting go of his fear. Because Charlie was right, there’s pretty much nothing the brothers can’t do, as long as they face it together. They’re better together. They need to get this trial done. Sam needs to do it. Sam needs to know that Dean thinks he can do it. Dean needs to let go of the fear of losing Sam and stand alongside his brother and show him that he has the faith in him. That’s the only hope they have of getting through the final trial. Together. This shows such growth on Dean’s behalf. I’m as proud as punch of him. For me that hug said - I will never let you go Sammy and I’m thankful that I have you, man…but I believe in you, I believe you can do this. So you and me, let’s go do what we gotta do. I got your back -“What d'you say we find our prophet”. Dean put his fears aside with a hug of love, appreciation, acknowledgement and faith. Dean spoke volumes with that hug and Sam, albeit a little bewildered, heard every word. I think Surprise-Hug may be the best hug ever.

These really are my boys… I may be tearing up a little… Again…

Oh yeah, and there was a couple of Djinn, and exploding human guts and dad’s journal beats out app and the MoL bunker has a firing range, Hicks and Ripley, I love you - I know... and you know…other awesome stuff…but… Surprise-Hug!

A good filler episode is one that doesn’t forget that it’s actually part of a bigger story. It’s not this isolated 42 minutes, it’s 42 minutes of 23 episodes worth of 42 minutes. It’s ridiculous to be brought into the brother’s world and not have them at least discuss what’s happening in their world, what they’re going through, what’s currently on their minds or where we all left off. They don’t live in some bubble; we don’t live in some bubble! These things don’t go away when they’re on a non-related case. Just as their history doesn’t go away, or their wealth of knowledge and experience doesn’t just suddenly evaporate. A good filler episode will recognise all of this.

“Pac-Man Fever” was a good filler episode – in fact it was a great filler episode, or maybe it was the filler you have when you’re not having a filler! Because not only did it reminded us of the big picture, it cleverly used the history of the show, recognising that we don’t forget, just as the brothers wouldn’t forget, what has gone before. Plus, it gave us a neat story, which enhanced a cool character and allowed the brothers to grow and move forward and it wrapped it all up in a great big emotional bow.

“Supernatural” has always been about the people, the story has always been about the relationships and the best episodes reflect this. This isn’t a show about monsters. This is a show about heart. It’s a show about family and what we’ll do for those we love. A wise old dude in a trucker cap once said, “Family don’t end with blood”... “Pac-Man Fever” was a great example of this. Thank you Robbie for sharply written script and a beautiful episode and welcome to the family, Charlie.

And…did you think I would leave you without this? Lord have mercy, Dean Winchester….(and your green eyes and freckles). 

As always, thanks for reading.


sweetondean is Chief Editor and 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 love Dean and charlie its like they get along like brother and sister and i felt really bad about charlie saying goodbye to her mom and letting go for her mom because or they won't get out of the game and i thought that was cute with dean and charlie hugging together and charlie saying i love you and dean saying i know and dean kissing charlie on the forehead