- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.01: We Need to Talk About Kevin
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.02: What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.03: Heartache
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.04: Bitten
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.05: Blood Brothers
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.06: Southern Comfort
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.07: A Little Slice of Kevin
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.08: Hunteri Heroici
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.09: Citizen Fang
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.10: Torn and Frayed
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.11: LARP and the Real Girl
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.12: As Time Goes By
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.13: Everybody Hates Hitler
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.14: Trial and Error
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.15: Man’s Best Friend with Benefits
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.16: Remember the Titans
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.17: Goodbye Stranger
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.18: Freaks and Geeks
- Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.19: Taxi Driver
By Paula R. Stiles
[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Recap: Rather boring recap of Charlie Bradbury (the self-important hacker from “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo”), Samelia and Denny.
Cut to Now and a Doomed Teaser Guy declaiming in dramatic style to someone named ‘Lance’ on the phone. They’re arguing. He then hangs up after insisting, “It’s just a game!” Ignoring Lance’s callback his cell phone, he goes to bed. In the middle of the night, he wakes to the sound of invisible horses. A tattoo of the White Tree of Gondor from Lord of the Rings (which is probably a takeoff of the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil) appears on his arm. Then he’s drawn and quartered by said phantom equines. An offscreen blood spatter incident occurs.
Cut to night on the road. Dean is driving and Sam is moping on shotgun. “China Grove” by The Dooby Brothers (which, by the way, references Jared Padalecki’s hometown of San Antonio) plays loudly on the soundtrack. Sam is whining that they don’t have a quick way to translate the tablet. Dean is apologizing one more freakin’ time to Sam for interrupting his adulterous nookie with Amelia. Please stop, show. Please.
Well, at least it’s scored to a nice song. And I’m curious about why Dean is utterly silent about Benny. And I do mean utterly. It’s as if Dean is focusing Sam on his breakup with Amelia to distract Sam from Benny and going after him, or sending someone else after him. That might even explain why Dean feels he has to keep apologizing. If so, Sam is more than dumb enough to fall for it.
Sam then gets a call from Garth Sue. I say “Garth Sue” because Garth not only has a hunt for them, but is able to track them via their cell phones’ gps signals. Worse yet, Dean finds this amusing. Ugh. I do so love when the show shoves stupid characters down my throat and insists they’re geniuses, don’t you?
Fortunately, that’s the last we hear of asshat Garth for the episode.
The case is in Farmington, MI, where the brothers enter the scene of DTG’s drawing and quartering. They encounter a laid-back, rotund cop with a beard who is skeptical of any fantastical explanations for all the blood spatter on the wall and the armless, legless victim looking like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He dismisses the downstairs neighbor who heard horses as her being a whackjob. Seems DTG was named “Ed” (Is that like Ed and Harry, the Ghostfacers, or Mr. Ed the horse?) and was an insurance claims adjuster.
While Dean (“I work alone”) scopes out the rest of the house with his EMF meter, Sam interviews the cop. The cop mocks Ed as a nerd who lived alone with his “toys” and refers to some nearby armor as “chain mail.” A nerdy medievalist’s aside – it’s just “mail” and the fastest way to look like an idiot is to call it “chain mail.” According to the OED, we have Sir Walter Scott of Ivanhoe infamy to thank for that redundant term. Of course we do.
Sam discovers the tree tattoo on one of DTG’s detached arms, while Dean finds no EMF or sulfur or hex bags, etc. in the house. The cop tells them about a lead on the cell phone. Apparently, there were some very hostile texts going back and forth between Ed and his phone-tag buddy Lance, all in high-flown language. The cop figures Lance is the killer. Somehow. And he’s got him at the station. The brothers insist on getting to interview him, first.
The cop, for all his amusing snark, comes off like an Author Insert Character and there is a whole lot of author snobbery about fantasy geeks in this episode. This kind of attitude among sci-fi and fantasy writers has always amused and annoyed me – you write for a TV show about demons and ghosts and monsters, but you make fun of people who like to spend their spare time playing around in the fantasy genre? I.e., your fans? Really? What’s the criterion for making fun of them, here, that you make money off it and they do it for free? So, what?
It’s like writing a show about baseball, but you think fans who go to the games are sad losers. I don’t think the fans are the losers. I do think clutching your pearls over the fact that people like your worldbuilding enough to want to live in it a little is pretty silly (and no, persistently calling it a Crapsack World doesn’t discourage them). Do you want people to like your story or not?
The cop, who is a sheriff, then says, “These kids today with their texting and murder.” Ouch. I’m guessing this episode was written and filmed before the Connecticut school shootings, huh? Because otherwise, that sounds really crass.
At the station, Lance is a nice, nebbishy guy who is broken up over his friend’s death. Hmm, not exactly necromancer material. After the brothers get him to calm down, they ask him about the texts. He says it was part of a game. He and Ed were LARPers (Live Action Role Playing). Lance says that Ed was “Lancelot to my Merlin,” which I suppose is intended to be a reference to the British show, Merlin, where they are friends (though the main friendship is still between Merlin and Arthur). However, in legend, they’re not close and this statement therefore comes off as rather odd.
Lance says that the RPG they were playing was called “Moondoor” (“Mordor,” har-har). He and Ed were vying for membership in the honor guard of Moondoor’s queen, for a battle that weekend, and Lance was angry at Ed because he thought Ed was cheating. There’s an amusing bit where the brothers try to dope out if Lance is into black magic (He’s not) or even knows about black magic (He doesn’t), without coming off as crazy, and Dean looks heavenward very nervously when Lance starts calling on fake pagan gods in his grief. Satisfied that Lance is just a guy playing a fantasy game, they leave him in the interview room to go have a chat.
Dean figures Lance wasn’t faking the tears and didn’t take the opportunity to magically attack them (Well, Dean did face off against that sorcerer in the clown episode, so he’d expect that). Sam then sits down at a convenient public computer in the station (?!) and looks up the Moondoor site. The brothers immediately find photos of Lance at a banquet the night before, confirming his alibi. Dean thinks it looks like fun (but hides it from a skeptical Sam).
The brothers are in for a shock, though, when they check out a video on the site and find out that the Queen of Moondoor is none other than annoying guest star, Charlie Bradbury.
Meanwhile, in the interview room, Lance gets the tree tattoo on his arm, coughs up some blood, bleeds from the eyes, screams at his reflection, and drops dead.
Later, as Lance is being wheeled out in a body bag, the Sheriff is commenting that he’s going to use a lot of hand sanitizer, after he shows the brothers the CCTV footage of Lance’s violent demise. Right, because the time to start worrying about communicable diseases is after everybody involved with handling the body has stuck it in a bag and rolled right on past without so much as wearing a face mask, let alone latex gloves or Hazmat suits. Though I can understand his confusion. The test results later come back saying that Lance died of belladonna poisoning. I can partly understand both the Sheriff’s paranoia and Dean and Charlie’s assumption that it was the porn star of the same name, since that poison doesn’t cause those symptoms – though Ebola does.
Meanwhile, Sam discovers the same symbol on Lance’s arm that was on Ed’s. So, off they go to Moondoor (which is set up in a field in a public park) to look up Charlie. There, they find a guy in sort-of knight’s gear, calling himself “Baltar the Furious” (“Baltar” as in Battlestar Galactica? Gee, how subtle) and haranguing a guy in plastic ears and teeth in a stocks for being a thief, whom he bonks with a red bean bag, yelling, “Silentium!” when the thief gets to obstreperous. The lisping thief loses his teeth, so Baltar retrieves them from the mud, brushes them off, and puts them back in. This grosses Dean out, though the “Shadow Orc” is grateful and calls Baltar “Jerry.”
Baltar/Jerry immediately figures the brothers for being fake FBI agents because their suits are cheap and the numbers on their IDs are off (Baltar/Jerry must not work for the government if he thinks that’s proof of much). Anyhoo, the brothers smoothly change their con to go along with his assumption that they are cross-genre LARPing and he doesn’t notice. Baltar’s a little slow. And pompous.
He shows off the second trait when they ask where they can find the Queen. He says they’d have to work their way up the ladder, normally, but she’s auditioning new squires down the way. So, off they go.
Cut to a knight kicking some guy’s ass in a (intentionally?) lamely-choreographed swordfight. Short version of why it’s lame: In real swordfights, the combatants tried to hit each other and not each other’s swords, only doing the latter thing when blocking the opponent’s sword. And you don’t do that by blocking edge to edge unless you want a seriously hacked-up sword. In stagefighting, of course, you usually do the opposite because the best way not to hit your opponent is to bash swords with him/her.
When the victorious knight takes off “his” helmet, we see it’s Charlie. Charlie’s defeated opponent declares that he loves her and she just smirks, “I know.” I barf. Maybe it was an early sign of the flu.
Charlie goes off on a little speech about how the characters Ed and Lance were playing are missing, so she has some openings in her “honor guard.” She stops in mid-medievalesque-rant when she sees Sam and Dean. As thunder rumbles, Dean gives her a cold smile. Immediately calling a bathroom break, she rushes off to her tent. The brothers follow her, though Dean stops to admire one of the rattan swords, commenting on its balance. I love me a bladed-weapons-lovin’ man.
Inside the tent, Charlie is packing, the thunder still going (It will be gone by the time they leave the tent again). She’s calling herself “Carrie Heinlein” now and figures that character is now as “dead” as Charlie Bradbury was. She rants that the brothers are bad luck to her and she was making a life for herself post-Dick Roman and now they’ve ruined it for her. This is annoying when you consider that, in her previous incarnation, she started off quite happy to help destroy the brothers and even betray the whole human race to the Leviathans for the sake of her job, so you’d think a broken arm would be getting off light. After boo-hooing about being a “monster magnet,” she sticks her crown on Dean’s head and starts to leave. Dean stops her in her tracks by telling her Ed and Lance are dead.
Later, Charlie admits that she knows nothing about the tree symbol, though Ed and Lance weren’t the first in her “army” to suffer accidents. It’s just that the previous accidents weren’t fatal. As far as she knew, Ed and Lance were both “good guys” and solid additions to her honor guard. She has no idea who would want to kill them. Their only enemies were in the game. Her group is the “Followers of the Moon.” The other groups are “Elves,” “Warriors of Yesteryear,” and “Shadow Orcs.” This weekend, they’re having a big battle to determine who wears the “Forever Crown.”
Dean comments that she should move her archers around to cover her flank and Charlie starts to ask him about her “southern wall” before Sam interrupts their strategy geek-out. He suggests that someone from one of the other groups may be using black magic to win, but Charlie points out that they could have just gone after her. Dean then says they should get Charlie to safety while they investigate, but Sam says Charlie is too good a source of information about Moondoor to stay out of it. Dean points out that Sam is usually the one who wants to get civilians out of the situation. Charlie breaks the deadlock by finally getting a spine and admitting she needs to stay and help them out. The Queen would stay to defend her people and Charlie also decides that she’s grown weary of running all the time. Sam then gets the call that confirms Lance was killed by belladonna, even though there’s none in his system.
Sam decides to do some Internet research, but he has to go to the “tech tent” to do it (Charlie reiterates a Baltar/Jerry rant earlier on about there being “rules”). After he leaves, Charlie tells Dean she wants him to fill her in on what the brothers have been up to, but, if he’s going to walk around with her, he’ll have to lose the suit. Dean smiles privately at the thought of getting into “medieval” gear, of which we soon get a montage.
At the tech tent (“Beware: This is a Gateway to the Future”), Sam encounters a young blonde woman named ‘Maria’ AKA Golandria the Wicked (heh), who is dressed somewhat like a Valkyrie. She takes a fancy to him and has ten times as much chemistry with him as Sam ever had with Amelia. She’s also friendly and smart. I like Maria. She can be wicked on my screen, any time. But all Sam does is pump her for info about the accidents (which are all mysterious, involving things like invisible assailants, and all involve the victims having the same tree tattoo) and then turn down her offer to follow her to her tent. Damn, Sam, you totally should have hit that. I bet Dean would have said yes.
Back in Charlie’s tent, she and Dean are having a conversation that will subsequently irritate a great many in the audience. Dean, for God only knows what reason, has told Charlie about sending Sam a fake text to decoy him off to meet Amelia. He apparently has not mentioned being beaten unconscious or left handcuffed to a radiator, because clueless Charlie declares this a “dick move” that has now separated Sam from Amelia forever (No, sweetie, I’m pretty her husband did that). Dean shrugs and says that Sam couldn’t have a normal life, anyway, and needs to be focused on the job. Well…these things are true, and Sam sure made his bed with the whole Benny thing, so why is this Dean’s fault, again, show?
Charlie at least clues in that Dean is not just talking about Sam. Dean finally decides to stop oversharing and claims he didn’t break up with anybody. Which isn’t true (coughLisacoughcough), even without the obvious Castiel and Benny parallels. One interesting part of this conversation is that Dean says a Hunter can’t afford have any “attachments” – and he doesn’t bring up his brother Sam as an exception.
They leave the tent to scope out the area, Dean trading the rattan sword for a very nice waster (wooden Medieval practice sword that is shaped and weighs just like a real one, and can be quite deadly in practiced hands). A female “subject” bows to Charlie as they exit the tent. While they wander, Charlie admits that she got into LARPing to escape the real world and because being a a fake hero is more fun than the real thing. Ick. She says she got into it while playing tabletop RPGs, via a male friend, and “stayed for the chicks” (Um, what happened to her being lesbian? Is the show now claiming she’s bi?). She complains about being a mundane computer tech in the real world. Episode writer Robbie Thompson is aware that most of the people watching this have seen “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo,” and would recall how venal and cowardly Charlie was in that, right?
We then have Dean stop her and give her a pep talk about how she saved the brothers from Dick Roman. I snort with laughter at this retcon. Bitch, please. Charlie was hired by Dick to crack Crazy Frank’s hard drive and totally screw over the brothers after he caught her using company equipment to hack websites. It was only after the brothers found out and forced her to cooperate with them that she helped them to save her own hide. And after she got off pretty lightly with a broken arm, she boarded a bus, insisting the brothers lose her number forever. Let’s not retcon all that now.
I also am pretty sure that Charlie has already noticed that, for some strange reason, all of the women around her are going lesbian for the Queen, Dean. It’s less clear why none of them are noticing Dean, who is in pretty obvious medievalesque fetish gear. It’s a shame, because Jensen Ackles and Felicia Day do have some nice buddy chemistry, but it’s awfully annoying that so much of their time together involves Dean propping up Charlie’s ego. This is most painfully obvious when Charlie interviews a cute elf and not only does the girl not show any interest in Dean while she’s winking at Charlie, she doesn’t so much as glance at him. Which is bizarre. I’m pretty sure most of the women in the camp would notice Dean standing right there beside Charlie, if only because he looks like the Jolly Green Giant next to her.
At about the same time in the tech tent that Maria is discovering and telling Sam that the only group not affected by the accidents has been the Shadow Orcs, Charlie and Dean have hit a dead end on all the other groups. Dean then gets the idea of “interviewing” the Orc in the stocks by threatening him with the waster. The guy tells them the tree is the family crest of the Shadow King. But the King is in the “Black Hills” (“the forest behind the playground”) and can’t be found. Dean has an idea how to solve that problem, too.
Once they get to the woods and run into Baltar (Charlie tells Baltar Dean is her new “handmaiden”), Dean gives up the pretence of kowtowing to Charlie and takes over. Baltar protests that the woods are dangerous and Dean agrees. Giving Charlie his cell phone, he sends her back to find Sam. Meanwhile, he’ll go with Baltar to hook up with the Shadow Orcs. Charlie whines that she can “help.” Dean says she already is helping by checking in with Sam.
On her way back, Charlie runs into a Shadow Orc and whacks him with a fake magic bean bag. But a more dangerous assailant then attacks her and knocks her out – a tall, cloaked figure with a deer-skull head mask.
Dean and Baltar (who is almost as tall as Dean, despite being rather less robust) arrive back at camp, frustrated. They can’t find the Shadow Orcs. Baltar gets the idea of using the Orc prisoner for an exchange and goes off, after telling Dean to take care of Charlie’s toiletries. Sam then walks up. He and Dean compare notes. Dean mentions the prisoner exchange and claims it was his idea not Baltar’s (though he does mention Baltar). Sam says the tree sign is fairy magic and fails to mention that was Maria’s idea, or even mention Maria. Classy, guys. Dean then asks about Charlie, but Sam hasn’t seen her.
After checking in her tent, Dean grows concerned. He tells Sam to call her, since she has his phone. Cut to Charlie waking up in a small hunting lodge with a fireplace (It’s later called a tent, but it’s really a lodge), Dean’s phone next to her with no signal. The figure in the mask stands nearby. Charlie nervously tries to make small-talk then flees the tent/lodge. But leaving by one door just brings her back in through another. Charlie correctly guesses that this is “real magic” and is pretty freaked out, but tries to keep her cool. She admits she’s not a real queen and fairly calmly asks the creature not to kill her. This fragile calm evaporates when the monster approaches her with outstretched arms and she babbles out her recent history, ending with: “I just want my old life back!” To her surprise, the creature removes its mask to reveal a beautiful woman, who says in a sympathetic tone, “That is what I want, as well.”
That night, the brothers are out in the woods at the prisoner exchange. Dean tells Sam he’s worried about Charlie and the implication is he’ll put whoever might have hurt her in a world of pain. The Shadow Orcs show up and exchange some newsletter business with Baltar, who shouts, “Silence!” to Dean when Dean tries to move things along (Most likely, this is a reference to Jensen Ackles saying this in the blooper reels). Growing impatient, Dean pulls out his pistol and fires it into the ground to show he means business. Frightened, the Shadow King immediately admits that he got his heraldic symbol from one that appeared on his arm during an illness the month before. Sam points out the obvious: “He’s just another vic.” The Shadow King, who is a lawyer in real life, promises not to press charges if Dean lets him go. With a psycho look to ensure this promise, Dean does.
At this point, they get a surprise ally. The Orc prisoner breaks game protocol. Taking his fake teeth out, he quietly asks if Charlie is in real danger. When Dean says yes, the guy says he saw something odd back down the trail – a tent that he didn’t recognize. When Dean asks why he’s helping them, he says he’s got a crush on Charlie. Well, also, I bet he’s just a nice guy who’s smart and observes his surroundings. One thing he hasn’t caught yet, though, is that Charlie is gay and, as Dean puts it, “not his type.”
Back to Charlie and the woman, who turns out to be a fairy, “Gilda…from the Hollow Forest of Arkmore.” And she and Charlie have the hots for each other. Oh, it’s cloaked in high-flown language, but that’s what it boils down to. She insists she’s the “good kind” of fairy and would never hurt anyone willingly. Unfortunately, it seems she’s been enslaved by a “master,” I Dream of Jeannie-style, and “must do his bidding.” This bidding started with small accidents and has now escalated to murder.
Charlie admits that the fantasy trappings here are part of a game to escape the grimness of her own world. The fairy explains that she can’t break the spell herself (“PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS – in an itty-bitty living space!“); a “hero” must break it for her by destroying her “master”‘s book of magic. Charlie immediately volunteers.
Outside, Dean spots a small tent. Upon entering, they find it is the lodge (Like the TARDIS, it is larger on the inside than the outside) and discover Charlie and the Fairy Gilda snogging. Charlie is annoyed by the interruption, but the fairy declares in horror that her “master” has arrived. Not a single Battlestar Galactica fan will be surprised to hear said bad guy is Baltar – or that Baltar is bonkers.
Baltar AKA Jerry is convinced the game is real, so real that he had to summon a fairy to eliminate the competition. He wants to win tomorrow and become Charlie’s King. The brothers pull out their guns, but take a little too long to shoot (Never mind that both have killed human practitioners in black magic without the least hesitation in the past). Baltar orders the fairy to take care of it and Gilda reluctantly turns the guns into feathers with a cluck.
Baltar then orders Gilda to turn his rattan sword into a real one and has Sam grabbed from behind by a suit of armor (Sam does try to talk Baltar down, first, but…well, the guy’s in-game name is ‘Baltar the Furious’). This leaves Dean to fight Baltar with a waster and a tin shield. Charlie tries to get involved, but gets knocked back onto the bed.
Despite not having a really good sword, Dean is still a much better fighter than his opponent and punches him in the face at one point. This knocks the book of spells from Baltar’s belt onto the floor. Gilda urges Charlie to free her by destroying the book, which Charlie does so by stabbing it after some speechifying. Even though there’s a perfectly good fireplace nearby. Yeah, I know – Harry Potter, horcruxes. It’s still dumb.
When Baltar’s sword turns back into a waster, Dean easily disarms him and punches his lights out. Freed, the fairy fails to turn into any kind of horror twist and proves to be Good, after all (Dullsville). She says she’ll bring Baltar with her to face fairy justice and then kisses Charlie goodbye. She and Crazy Dude disappear.
There remains, however, the matter of the Battle for Moondoor. Charlie realizes she’s gotta stop running sometime. Now’s as good a time as any. Unfortunately, that means she’s also date-free and is about to lose her crown in the upcoming battle. Oh, well.
After she leaves, Dean wistfully reflects on when he and Sam used to have fun, asks what they’ll do next, and tries to commiserate with Sam on his recent loss (of a woman who was willing to cheat on her war vet husband. No great loss, methinks). Sam then realizes that maybe “fun” isn’t a dirty word, after all, and they both could use some. Small steps, Sam. Small steps.
Cut to a field of Moondoor and two small armies facing each other. On Charlie’s side, her army is being harangued in true Braveheart fashion by a maniacal-looking Dean in facepaint and a long, blonde wig, essaying a sort-of Scottish accent. Which begs the question of whether Dean won the Kingship by true valor and pants-wetting intimidation, or whether he just pulled a William-Wallace-style coup.
In the back of the army, Charlie asks Sam (also in facepaint. And leather pants) if that’s the speech from Braveheart. Sam says Dean doesn’t know any others (Which reminds me of this scene from Animal House). After a brief frisbee mishap interrupts the proceedings, Dean leads his troops into battle, his tree-sized brother by his side.
And the portentous (or is that pretentious?) voiceover and scroll inform us that the Brothers Winchester did kick mighty ass that day.
Review: I’ll start with the good (okay, classic) – the Braveheart coda was hysterical. That movie is stupid and is right up there with Kingdom of Heaven and Pillars of the Earth on the medievalist’s MSTK list. Still, the speech is a quotable feast and the frisbee-interrupted takeoff of it in the coda reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a great way. Also, nice bagpipes and voiceover/scroll at the end and the set design was lovely, as usual. I especially enjoyed eyeballing the Queen and the Fairy’s respective lodgings. Perhaps they were a bit rich for the actual setting in the first case, but no big.
Sadly, the previous forty minutes were not so great. Even if Dean was hot in faux-medieval gear for much of it and I happen to own, not only one of those rattan swords, but a waster, a couple of bokken, and a jo. As well as a real, honest-to-goodness Fulani sword.
Let’s get the big reason out of the way. The timing of this episode, right after “Torn and Frayed,” was a serious misstep. Its pointlessness and off-the-chain Guest Character worship might have worked better somewhere else in the season. Anywhere else. Despite all the attempts from the show to make this character sound like the Second Coming of John Winchester, Charlie is really more like Garth – a Mary Sue who generates mixed feelings, at best, among the fandom.
Sure, she has fans (Some of them aren’t even Felicia Day fans). Every character on this show, however unpopular, has fans. And she’s no Ruby in the fanhate department. But she’s no John, either. She’s not even an Ellen. And one such problem shows up in her sexual orientation. I’m sorry, show, but I have yet to meet a girl who likes other girls, fictional or real, who prefers to spend most of her time around admiring ugly fanboys. Or who treats other women basically like sex objects and nothing else. I’m sure such women exist, but those BPD kind of gals don’t strike me as heroic or sympathetic or even particularly watchable. So, that just screams, “Mary Sue!” to me.
Also, as someone pointed out on TwoP, why does she keep using male surnames? She’s gay not transsexual. And why is she the only butch girl with lines in an episode littered with adoring, one-dimensional femmes? In fact, why does she sound more like a geeky fanboy than a geeky fangirl? I mean, how many women talk about hitting on “chicks” all the time? Being a lesbian doesn’t mean you’re a guy in a woman’s body.
All the male side characters had far more dimension (or, for that matter, lines) than any of the female characters who weren’t named “Charlie Bradbury,” with the sole exception of the fairy (who was a Jeannie-style Damsel in Distress) and Maria (who existed to be an Exposition Fairy and to get turned down flat by Sam). It wasn’t quite as bad as the female-free “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo,” but it still was not good. Charlie comes off as a male geek fantasy of a lesbian, not a real female character, to me. Is this really the writer who gave us Ezra?
Not helping are Charlie’s narcissism, stupidity and cowardice, all on full display in this episode. First, there is her questionable backstory. She supposedly is a mistress of disguise and disappearing, yet she blathers out her entire backstory to a complete stranger whom she believes is about to kill and eat her. Then there’s her hiding in plain sight as the most prominent character in the game – which happens to feature her a lot on its website. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. I’m sure Dick Roman never would have found you there.
Second, she basks in the attention of false heroism, having fled with no remorse from an actual chance to save the world (No, Dean’s reassurance that she helped the brothers bring down Dick Roman doesn’t give me story-induced amnesia about the fact that she started out trying to cook their goose, simply to keep her own job). It’s not until she hears that two people from her little group have died, and after she’s strongarmed into “helping” the brothers with their research, that she is willing to stay. Even then, the “help” the episode’s writing has her lend is embarrassingly coincidental and has little to do with any inner worth. These are not the contradictions of a “real” character, but feel more like the kind of inconsistencies you see when a writer doesn’t think through his/her character properly.
And the joke about her being irresistible to every woman and man in the place is just…really? Charlie is no more likely to turn a straight woman gay than Dean is likely to turn a gay woman straight (and the latter implication would be superoffensive). Sexual orientation is hardwired. Yes, there’s experimentation, but good God. Most of the women in a medievalesque setting like RenFair are expecting to get with men, both because most people are straight or at least bi, and because the medievalesque setting is usually about exaggerated gender roles – tall and strong knights, fair and hapless damsels, that sort of thing. They are not generally what you’d call progressive in that area. Yes, some women dress up as knights and fight in battles, but, in my experience, they are the exception to the rule. It’s only been fairly recently that women in general have been allowed to dress up and fight as knights, just as guys weren’t exactly welcoming toward girls playing D&D and other RPGs until the past decade or so.
Plus, Moondoor appears to be full of geeky straight men and attractive gay women, which strikes me as a recipe for misery for everyone. Really, not one girl -hell, not one guy – found Dean attractive? I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that. Felicia Day is sweet and all, but she is no female Jensen Ackles. Making Charlie such a gay Mary Sue doesn’t make her as different from Becky Rosen as the writers think. She’s still skeevy and not in a good way. Something about her just screams, “I can’t be trusted to respect personal boundaries!” to me.
Maybe I’m just jaded from watching Torchwood and Lost Girl, not to mention Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but I get the impression the show writers thought this mere idea of this character was a lot more groundbreaking than it was and, thus, didn’t bother to put in the necessary work to make her a living, breathing character that people would like, above and beyond the stuntcasting and stunt sexual orientation.
It would be really nice if this show started portraying its side characters with a little more heroism and a little less Mary Sue. More Mama Tran, less Garth. Just sayin’. It might also help to not try to shove characters down the audience’s throats. Just introduce them and see how they go. The ones people seem to like, keep. The ones they don’t, don’t. Simple.
And even if the CW promo department hadn’t given away the villain in the promos for that fight scene involving Dean, we probably should have realized he was the baddie when he – gasp! – spotted the brothers’ fake IDs (Forsooth!). Not to mention his Captain Obvious in-game avatar name. Somehow, I think he wouldn’t have noticed a thing if he hadn’t already been primed to believe they were LARPing. And that joke was lifted straight from the beginning of season four’s “The Monster at the End of This Book,” anyway. Come on, show, you’ve been down this LARP road at least twice, already. It’s not new. Come up with some fresh jokes or stop doing it. And while you’re at it, this is a horror show, is it not? Well, a little gore in the beginning and some swashbuckling at the end are not very horrific.
On rewatch, this wasn’t as annoying as it was on first run-through, but the first ten minutes were still unnecessarily tedious set-up. I also thought they could have done a lot more with the LARPing beyond rehashing previous episodes. Sometimes, this show lays out just the right details to put us in that setting (such as a previous entry by this episode writer, “Time After Time,” which evoked the 40s exceedingly well). Other times, that setting never really comes alive. This was in the other category.
I was looking forward to the medievalesque sendup, but I found it a bit disappointing, aside from the coda. As in her previous episode, Charlie’s shallow geekery smacked of trying too hard and many opportunities were lost. I expected, for example, a whole lot more Monty Python references (What, no coconuts, cute and scary bunnies, or glossalia spoofs?). Someone on the boards mentioned a Robin of Sherwood ref (The fairy’s disguise, I’m guessing), but there should have been shoutouts to the legend of Robin Hood all over the place, not to mention Richard Lionheart and Ivanhoe, more C.S. Lewis than just a few red tabards, the Brothers Grimm and Disney. You know, instead of super-obvious Tolkien ripoffs that, in all fairness, should have got the show sued if Dungeons and Dragons hadn’t beaten them to it by about three decades.
Similarly, where the hell were the more obscure references to the SCA (the Society for Creative Anachronism, for those of you who don’t know), King Arthur, chansons, Shakespeare…come on. They could have done so much more with this. I knew this wasn’t going anywhere good when the second victim claimed that Doomed Teaser Guy was “Merlin to my Lancelot.” Seriously? Merlin’s attached to Arthur not Lancelot, dumbass. Lancelot’s all about Guinevere. I think there are even stories where Merlin has left Camelot by the time Lancelot arrives, especially since Lancelot’s a rather late addition to the legends. My best guess is that this was supposed to be a reference to the British show, Merlin, in which Merlin and Lancelot were friends, that missed how the endgame bromance was Merlin and Arthur, even in that version of the story.
The mockery of LARPing struck me as unkind and rather ignorant. It’s been called “reenactment” for a lot longer than it’s been called “Live Action Role Playing.” Similarly, people were dressing up as Captain Kirk and the Borg (or, if we really want to take it back, as saints, spirits, gods, goddesses, and demons) long before anyone coined the term “cosplay.” Are we going to make fun of Kabuki and Javanese shadow plays, next, show?
My cousin and I used to run around in the woods, bashing each other up with sticks and bicycle chains and plexiglass light sabers our grandfather had made by wrapping electrical tape around one end (He even made one that lit up by fitting them with a penlight, but they weren’t as sturdy) and pretending we were amnesiac pirates running from evil empires. Didn’t make us weird or unstable. Just made us kids with healthy imaginations.
About the only good thing with that was the ease with which Dean fell into the medieval role play and how happy he seemed to be doing it (Note that Sam didn’t. Perhaps the show wanted us to make fun of Dean by having Sam play the straight man). In fact, he seemed more at ease with it than Charlie, even discussing Dungeons & Dragons-style military strategy with her. This reminds us both that Dean is a real warrior and that he is also an unabashed geek. I’m surprised he never corrected Charlie on her rather sloppy Vulcan hand greetings. The dude’s a total Trekkie.
I don’t believe he was actually wearing hose, there. Those looked more like trousers to me. This is hose. And this. And, uh, this. In modern times, when portraying men’s medieval clothing on TV and in film, the costume designers usually “butch” things up by turning hose into trousers, but hose was a different thing. And, in large part, that was because medieval clothing for men involved long tunics as the main garment over the hose, like this for quite a long time (though the length did vary over the centuries and from place to place or station to station. For example, monks, like women, kept it floor-length). Toward the Renaissance period, shorter, more scandalous tunics so as to show off a certain part of the male anatomy became popular among the rich, culminating in a relatively short period when codpieces and merkins became all the rage.
The episode also fell into the usual traps with medievalesque settings – it had to be magical fantasy, because most Americans can’t connect to realistic fiction about the Middle Ages unless it’s in the mystery field (I run into this a lot when trying to sell science fiction stories set in that period). And everybody involved with a speaking part was a knight or royalty or a non-human brigand. While that certainly occurs in these medievalesque reenactment groups (“RenFair,” by the way, is inaccurate as a term, since these fairs are usually a takeoff of the Middle Ages rather than of just the Renaissance, as the name implies), some SCA groups do try to have a more realistic view of the Middle Ages – you know, where 99% of the society wasn’t noble, wasn’t involved in the military culture at all, and didn’t care. Others continue the 19th century lords and ladies thing. I guess the show just went with the latter. Boring.
Then there was the fairy. She was problematical in several ways. First, since when are Supernatural fairies sweet and moral and caring about human body counts? The fairies we saw in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” were vicious, cunning, pernicious, and all about screwing over any humans with which they dealt – up to and including murder. Which fits the old Celtic legends quite well. If she’s a “good fairy,” a clear reference to the “bad” fairies of the previous episode would have been nice. Ignoring the previous episode as if it had never existed was not so nice.
Second, the spell used to bring the previous fairies to earth was completely different from the one used on the fairy in “LARP and the Real Girl.” It was a deal between them and someone who summoned them; they were under no compulsion to leave (In fact, they had to be forced by a reversal spell to go back); and they took firstborns in payment. Here, firstborns weren’t even mentioned (Neither was Dean’s ability to see fairies, not so much as a word); the fairy girl was upset about being “forced” to kill humans; and there was no deal between her and Sir Dork. I kept waiting and waiting for some kind of twist to occur where we’d find out the fairy was in it with the dork, but, nope, straightforward as an episode of Merlin.
Third, just what kind of fairy was she? The fairies in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” were clearly defined types from folklore. What the hell was this chick even supposed to be? Her Herne-the-Hunter-by-way-of-the-Knights-Who-Say-Ni getup was promising, but it went nowhere once she unmasked herself and became just another Damsel in Distress with powers and a pretty frock.
Fourth, what happened to spilling salt or sugar in front of a fairy to subdue him/her? Did Robbie Thompson even watch “Clap Your Hands If You Believe”? I think the only thing he picked up from that episode was the whole fairies=gay joke, which wasn’t any classier this time round.
I’d like to believe Charlie’s “lesson” in this one about no longer running away from her problems is foreshadowing for Sam down the road, perhaps even that the fairy’s imprisonment and love for Charlie is a parallel for Castiel and Dean, but I’m not holding my breath. Not only did we have Dean apologizing to Sam again about Amelia, and Sam bemoaning his fate (and Charlie insisting that Dean has ruined puir Sammy’s life, ’cause I guess Dean doesn’t deserve a life of his own), but most of Charlie’s interactions were with Dean. And if there’s one thing Dean doesn’t need, it’s lessons on not running away. No, really, when did he even ever do that?
Since Sam wasn’t around much for Charlie deciding not to flee reality, I don’t see how he could have taken that lesson to heart. And Castiel? Wasn’t even mentioned (unless you count Charlie’s perfunctory love affair with the fairy as an anvil for Dean and Castiel). You’d think he hadn’t just gone back to Heaven for more lobotomizing last week. And I doubt we’ll ever see Dean and Castiel snog on this show. Though, if they do, I trust they’ll show a bit more enthusiasm than Charlie and the fairy did. That makeout session was pretty silly.
Speaking of which, is Dean aware that Amelia’s married? To a war vet, no less? I don’t recall it even being mentioned. If not, is it that the writers honestly don’t have any problem with such a despicable thing Sam and Amelia were doing behind her husband’s back, or is there a huge soap revelation down the road when Dean finds out what Sam did and blows up at him (Doesn’t help that Sam had more chemistry with Maria in one scene than Amelia in ten episodes)? Much as I’m tired of Samelia, it would be a relatively clean way of bringing up Dean’s bitterness about Sam ditching him in Purgatory, which has gotta be still percolating around down there somewhere. Come on, show, don’t tell me you’re going to forget every bit of continuity from the past eight seasons but Samelia and that stupid text.
Lance: I told them when they brought me in – those texts weren’t from me.
Sam: Well, your phone and Ed’s phone say otherwise.
Lance: No, I mean, they were from me, but they weren’t from me me!
Dean: Did you really think that sentence was gonna clear things up?
Lance: He was Lancelot to my Merlin.
Dean: This could be 50 Shades of Greyfox, for all we know.
Defeated Knight: I love you!
Charlie: I know.
Dean: Sam, I think we can take care of a bunch of accountants with foam swords.
Dean [to Charlie]: You take my phone; find Sam. We’ll find the Shadow Dorks.
Charlie [to the MOTW]: Look, I am not really a queen. I’m just an IT girl. Standing in front of a monster. Asking it not to kill her.
Charlie [after being caught snogging the fairy]: Dudes! If the tent is rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’!
Charlie: I gotta face reality from now on. Sadly, reality includes monsters, but what are you gonna do?
Dean: If dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance…
Charlie: Is that the speech from -
Sam: It’s the only one he knows.
Dean …just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take -
Guy Retrieving His Frisbee: My bad!
Dean – OUR FREEDOM! [with the whole army, charging] HAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!
Voiceover: This episode is dedicated to the men, women, elves, demigods, magi, druids, and chamber pot servants who gave their lives fighting and winning for the Queen of Moons in the Battle of Kingdoms. Go bravely into the next world, fallen soldiers…
Next Week: The brothers’ paternal grandfather appears from fifty years in the past in their motel room, demanding to see their father.
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