Supernatural 8.11 Review: ‘They’ll Never Take Our Freedom’ And Other Things LARPers Say

SupernaturalSupernatural often does one-off episodes very well.  But every once in a while it gives us an episode that becomes an instant, hilarious classic.  “LARP and the Real Girl” may not be as brilliant as “The French Mistake”, but it’s the kind of Supernatural episode that you will want to watch again and again, not only for the amusing jokes, but also for the sheer adorableness.

Sam and Dean were first exposed to LARPing back in season 4’s “The Monster At the End of This Book”, but they’ve never quite seen LARPing on the scale of the Moondoor game.  After the death of two LARPers with spontaneously appearing tattoos on their arms, the Winchesters decided to take a trip to the local fairgrounds after spotting their old friend Charlie on the Moondoor website.  Naturally, Charlie has quickly figured out that trouble always follows the brothers and wasn’t happy to see them there.  As Sam headed off to investigate a poison found in one of the victims, Charlie had Dean suit up (thank you, costuming department) so they could interrogate the other players.

Dean and Charlie separated and she stumbled upon a tent with a real fairy who revealed that she had been summoned by a “dark master” who was compelling her to kill and hurt people.  After the Winchesters tracked Charlie down (and found her making out with the fairy), they realized that one of the players had summoned the fairy in order to pick off those who threatened his position in the game.  A Harry Potter move by Charlie and a wicked back-hand from Dean cleared that situation right up and off the dark master went to face a fairy tribunal.  Charlie bid the brothers adieu, but Sam suggested they stick around for the big battle between the kingdons.

And so Dean Winchester paraded in front of the brave men and women who were about to set off to battle and roused them with a moving rendition of the Braveheart speech.  Then, gripping his sword tightly in his hand, and with his ponytailed brother at his side, Dean Winchester screamed his way into the fray, living to fight another day.

In other words, I laughed until I cried at the end.

Jensen Ackles is skilled at conveying a treasure trove of emotions with a simple lift of his eyebrow or twitch of his lips (he has one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen), but he was in top form as Dean in this episode.  At every moment that the boys were being exposed to the LARPing, from the video on the Moondoor website to meeting the other players, Dean’s derision and slight nerdiness always came through.  Like he wanted to make fun of these “losers”, but he also sort of wanted to join in.  Dean was also in fine form with his pop culture references tonight, even throwing in a mention of “Fifty Shades of Grey”.  I am both fascinated and horrified by the possibility that Dean might have read that atrocious book, but I’m hoping he just knows about it because it’s basically porn.

Felicia Day is and always will be a delight in everything she does and her role on Supernatural is no different.   The nice thing about Charlie is how “real” she is.  She’s clearly frightened by the monsters that seem to follow in the Winchesters’ wake, but she’s also determined to play her role of Queen and remain behind to help when she would rather run from danger.  Plus, her quips in this episode were priceless.  From “Call me…maybe?” to “Smell you later,”, you have to admit Charlie has a way with words.

Perhaps my favorite part of the episode (besides Sam’s ponytail) was the recently repaired relationship between the Winchesters.  I read some comments from fans after last week’s episode and it seemed people were of the opinion that the truce between the boys seemed hard-won and slightly depressing.  Nothing I saw in this episode indicates that the steps they’ve taken to reunite is anything more than genuine.  Sam is clearly feeling a bit sad about giving up Amelia, but Dean began the episode trying to cheer up his brother with  a suggestion that they take the night off to have some fun.  Later, Dean acknowledged that Sam gave up a lot and said he understood that “fun” won’t necessarily help the situation and that he just needs time.  Instead, Sam suggests that the two of them suit up for battle, saying that “Having fun won’t help me.  It’ll help both of us.”

It feels like it’s been a long while since we saw the Winchesters acting silly together.  But it also feels like something that was bruised and broken is back on track.  I do find it curious that Charlie picked up on Dean’s sadness when he told her about what happened with Sam and Amelia (Dean is such a gossiper! ;) and asked whether he broke up with someone too.  Despite laying out the story, he neglected to mention that he also broke off his friendship with Benny.  Does that mean that Sam still doesn’t know about that?  If he doesn’t, I like the fact that the brothers are growing closer again even when Sam doesn’t know that Dean also got rid of his outside relationship.  But at the same time, I worry about the fact that Dean is keeping this a secret.  Why, Dean?!  Nothing good comes from secrets!

LARP and the Real GirlCharlie’s comments to Dean in the tent were also quite interesting and, from Dean’s perspective, I don’t really think they’re cause for concern or blame.  To be honest, I feel that Charlie’s remark that Sam’s normal life with Amelia is gone “thanks to [Dean]” was incorrect.  Sam was already broken up with Amelia before Dean returned from Purgatory.  If he had never gotten the text from Dean, he likely would never have returned to her and she would have lived out the rest of her life with her husband.  Of course, he did get the text, but the relationship with Amelia ended the same way it was always going to end.  If Dean and hunting are in Sam’s life, then he’s never going to be living a normal life.  And that’s not because Dean forces him to hunt, it’s simply because the two of them know that they belong together doing this job.  Not only that, but both of them have shown us that living normal lives isn’t something that lasts.  If Don had never returned and Sam had remained with Amelia, would he have been happy?  Perhaps.  As happy as he could have been thinking that his brother had died again.  I think the only thing Dean’s text did was make Sam confront what he really wanted to do with his life and, in the end, Sam made the choice that made sense for him.  This time he wasn’t trying to be the good guy or step out of the way for Amelia’s husband, this time he got to choose.  You can bring up Sam feeling an obligation towards Dean or wanting to see this particular mission through all you want, but the choice is that Sam knew what he was giving up and he chose to walk away from it.

As for Dean’s reaction, he admitted that the text wasn’t his finest idea, but seemed positive and slightly resigned about the fact that Sam is now committed to hunting again.  It seems strange to say “positive and slightly resigned”, but I think it’s the truth because Dean knows the price that is paid by the outside attachments to the brothers and he’s tried to live a normal life too and found that he simply couldn’t do it.  Not only that, but Charlie didn’t seem to deliver the line in a way that was judgmental.  Her statement was just matter-of-fact and, frankly, it didn’t seem like Dean took much offense to it.  Not only that, but Dean was the person who recounted the story to Charlie and we know he has a tendency to be hard on himself, so who knows whether his description skewed that way and that’s why Charlie made the statement she did. Still, no matter what was said in this particular conversation, I thought the episode made it clear that Sam and Dean are well on their way to repairing the fractures that have built up between them.

This week’s Supernatural was a breath of fresh air.  Next week’s trip into the Winchester family history seems to be an episode that isn’t to be missed (watch a preview), while a upcoming episode from Ben Edlund and some development on the tablet story have me enthused for the second half of the season.

 

 



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