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

Clarissa January 23, 2013 31

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.

 

 

  • kelios

    I was disappointed that Charlie blamed Dean for Sam’s breakup and that Dean accepted it, but hopefully Sam doesn’t actually feel that way. Otherwise, this was the by far my favorite ep this season. I loved Dean’s interaction with Charlie and Sam’s few minutes with Glandriel was better than anything we saw all season with Amelia.

    I really hope this is a turning point in the season; I’d love to actually be able to enjoy the show again.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      That was probably the only thing Charlie said that I didn’t enjoy/agree with. I don’t really see why she would think that when it’s clear that Sam made his choice, unless Dean told the story in a way that made it look like the blame lay on him. Regardless, I don’t really think Sam feels that way since he made a point to include Dean in the fun. I think they’re really working together again and that has be hopeful for the future.

      • Hades

        I thought she was picking up on Dean’s own feelings of guilt on the matter, off course Dean would think that Sam lost Amelia because of him after all he thought Jo was a hunter because of him and Sam left Stanford because of him. He gives himself way too much credit for thinking he has that much influence over other peoples lives sometimes.

  • Jessica

    Hi Clarissa. It’s been a long time, but I’m glad to say that I (almost)completely agree with you about this episode. It was hilariously awesome and it was exactly the kind of episode we needed following the emotional heaviness of last week’s episode. Robbie Thompson has become one of my favorite writers on this show. His episodes always have the perfect balance of Supernatural’s brand of humor and drama. He also does a great job of capturing Sam and Dean’s voices. Someone just tie that man down to a chair in the writer’s room. He’s fantastic.

    I am not at all surprised that Dean was such a nerd about all of the LARPing. Jensen Ackles is such a master of non-verbal communication, and he was absolutely hilarious. I especially liked when he looked at the battle map and was helping Charlie come up with good strategies. Practically every moment that Jensen Ackles was on screen he was being funny. That ending alone was worth the price of admission. I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants.

    Your review also picked up on the one tiny nitpick I had with this episode: Charlie and Dean’s conversation in the tent. It’s not Dean’s fault or responsibility that Sam decided to walk away from Amelia. That was entirely Sam’s decision, and it happened significantly before Dean sent that text. I found it interesting that Dean didn’t correct Charlie about that though. I hope he’s not carrying around guilt about that too because there is no possible way that that’s his fault.

    As far as Dean not telling Sam about ending things with Benny, I don’t think he’s necessarily hiding it. I just think he’s not talking about it. He’s obviously sad that he had to cut ties with someone he cares about so much, and in true Dean form, he just doesn’t really want to talk about it. Quite frankly, it seems to me that Sam and Dean are both going through the same kind of emotional process because of the sacrifices they’ve made and they’re going to need to lean on each other to get through it.

    It’s going to take some time, but it looks like the Boys are well on their way to solid ground in their relationship. Felicia Day is always great and I hope we get to see Charlie in the future. Good review of a really great episode.

    • Loli(“v”)

      I didn’t find the epi interesting .. except for the last scene which was hilarious! And I agree with what you said about Jensen’s physical comedy. I was definitely annoyed by what Charlie said to Dean, blaming him for Sam’s decision to leave Amelia. How in the world is it his fault? I hated that he accepted it even more. I really want him to stand up for himself simply coz he’s not the kind of guy that you’d expect to take any BS from anyone. Now more than ever after what we’ve seen him do in purgatory.. where did all that go? there’s no consistency in this season and it’s really taking the enjoyment out of it for me.. underwhelmed :( I hope it gets better and glad to see a glimpse of repair in the brothers’ relationship.

  • Jane

    What Dean did with that fake text from Amelia was planned out months in advance, that’s why it was so horrible, and it may have prevented Sam from contacting Amelia if he wanted to. Yes, the writers invented “Don” so the audience would find Dean blameless over Sam losing Amelia, but Dean’s been ripping Sam apart for being with a woman ALL season long, as if this would have no emotional effect on Sam. Dean’s been consistently manipulative, controlling, and abusive to Sam for far too long. I’d love to see Sam stand up for himself for once. Sam did, somewhat, but it never lasts, and he always ends up doing what Dean wants.

    Dean’s done nothing but rip Sam apart all season long, that’s half a year! Imagine being constantly berated and insulted for half a year, and then having your “brother” use your love as “bait” to get you away from his vampire pal. Seriously. What Dean did was beyond the pale, and he got off easy for it.

    • roxi

      Jane, WTF? It’s SAM that has been treating Dean like crap since he got back from Purgatory! Dean wasn’t mad that Sam had a girlfriend, he was hurt and angry, and rightfully so, that Sam just forgot about him and left him to die! Also, Dean has to constantly apologize to Sam for this text, but what Sam did to Dean was far worse! Not only the above, but also letting Martin knock him out, and leaving his own brother bleeding and handcuffed to a radiator!
      And it WAS NOT Dean’s fault that Sam chose to give his married girlfriend up! Last episode, Dean encouraged Sam to go back to her! The decision was SAM’S, and SAM’S ALONE! And of course, Sam NEVER has to apologize for any of the awful crap he’s done to Dean this season.

      • Hades

        What awful crap has Sam done to Dean this season? What thinking he was dead? How about not trusting Dean’s vampire buddy? Wanting a life away from hunting after they’ve closed the hell gate?

        • Lia

          How about leaving a knocked out and unconscious Dean locked to a radiator (when there was a killer on the loose!) while Sam, not trusting Dean about Benny, went off to kill Dean’s friend? How about going behind Dean’s back and sending mentally unstable Martin to stalk the person who SAVED Dean from Purgatory? And then going after him despite Dean telling them that it wasn’t Benny doing the killing? NONE of those actions by Sam warrants an apology to Dean?

    • Liz

      Charlie blaming Dean for Sam’s actions tainted this episode for me. Dean already acknowledged the text issue in last week’s episode. Yet, we still have not had Sam acknowledge and admit his mistakes from 8.09. Dean is the only one who has done so. Until Sam owns up to his actions and decisions, like Dean has, the relationship between the brothers will be fraudulent because it’s one-sided.

      • Hades

        Yes obviously it makes sense for Sam to apolgise to Dean for not trusting Benny?! Sorry but Sam was right, Dean didnt ask Sam to trust HIM he asked Sam to trust BENNY and why the hell should he when he’s constantly being told that his choises to trust monsters are wrong?

  • Roxi,

    And you think it’s Dean that has been abusive? Are you serious? Dean has ALWAYS looked out for Sam, loved him, and sacrificed for him, while Sam has run off in hissy fits and stabbed Dean in the back repeatedly.
    I love both characters, but when Dean is wrong,I see and admit it, while for some Sam fans, they refuse to admit to the fact that Sam CAN and HAS done wrong to Dean, as well as to Kevin, Martin, and Don.

  • Liz

    Charlie blaming Dean for Sam’s actions tainted this episode for me. Dean already acknowledged the text issue in last week’s episode. Yet, we still have not had Sam acknowledge and admit his mistakes from 8.09. Dean is the only one who has done so. Until Sam owns up to his actions and decisions, like Dean has, the relationship between the brothers will be fraudulent because it’s one-sided.

    (sorry, this is where I meant my previous post to go, not in response to anyone else’s comments)

    • King B

      i don’t think we the viewer were supposed to take charlie’s comment as her blaming dean for breaking up sam and amelia.

      my read on it was that we are supposed to believe that DEAN thinks that way. because dean was the only one there giving his side of the story, and this season has been very heavy handed with the theme that dean blames himself for things that aren’t his fault.

      the way i saw it was dean gave his version of what happened that placed him as the bad guy. but that is a false recounting because dean can’t break up sam and amelia. sam is a grown ass man *hoyt fortenberry’s voice* who has shown he has no problem walking away from dean when he wants/needs to. dean was feeding off that guilt and so his attempts to cheer sam up were having the opposite effects.

      so when dean stepped back from that and just let sam be, sam in turn stepped forward and tried to make dean happy by doing the whole larp bit at the end.

  • Harika Mohan

    I literally ROFLed during the braveheart speech in the end. What an amazing episode. It showcased the brother’s relationship, addressed the fans (the LARPers), was hilarious and brought back one of the most likable characters – Charlie. I totally agree with you. Charlie is so ‘real’. It is official now, I love Felicia Day and I would gladly go on a date with Charlie any day of the year. I figure, I am her type ;)

  • Amy

    I think what JAne is sort of responding to is the writer saying how Dean fits into the Larping world. Dean also fits into the prison life, he fits in the hunting worlld.

    Sam howwever doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t fit in prison, normal life, the hunting world, the larping world.

    Where does Sam fit? I’d like for show to show me where exactly Sam fits.

    • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

      I’m not sure if by “writer” you mean me, the writer of this review, or the writer of the episode, but if you did mean me I don’t see why you would say that Sam doesn’t fit in anywhere. I thought that it’s been made clear over the years that Sam has embraced hunting as a way of life and is a very good hunter. Like Dean, I think he still clings to the idea of a normal life, but his decision not to reunite with Amelia was clearly him embracing hunting. As for prison, why is it a bad thing that Sam doesn’t fit in in prison? Why must Sam fit in everywhere that Dean does? Why can’t the boys be good at different things? That way, they tend to compliment one another instead of being identical.

      And Sam obviously fits into the LARPing world. He might not have embraced his inner-nerd as gleefully as Dean did, but it was *his* suggestion that they join in at the end.

      • sam

        Sam doesn’t need to fit in everywhere Dean does. But if Dean fits into every situation the writers dream up then where does that leave Sam? Why can’t Sam fit somewhere that Dean doesn’t? Why can’t Sam have a bonding session with a guest or recurring charector? Why is it ALWAYS Dean who gets these interactions?

        • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

          I don’t know why you would insist that Sam doesn’t fit in anywhere. By Dean’s own admission, Sam has generally connected a lot more to their victims of the week and finds it a lot easier to talk to victims. He’s very sympathetic when it comes to that type of work. If you feel that Sam doesn’t fit in anywhere that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it, but I don’t think the show supports that theory.

          And Sam has connected very well to a lot of guest stars. He bonded very nicely with Jodi when Dean was stuck in the past, for example.

          • Amy

            Apparently the writers dont agree with Dean since Dean is the one who bonds with all recurring charectors as well as the victims while Sam is ‘researching’. Jody was two years ago in showtime and there is no evidence to suggest she will be returning anytime soon.

          • http://www.tvovermind.com Clarissa

            Alright, I’m bowing out of this Sam vs. Dean debate since it’s clearly never-ending and neither side is prepared to entertain the possibility that the other side might have a point. I’m sorry you feel that Sam is a victim of the writers’ choices or Dean’s “superiority” or whatever, but I’ve never seen Sam as a victim of anything other than some terrible circumstances that have befallen both him and his brother.

          • roxi

            As for Dean bonding with more guest stars well, Sam is the only one SPN feels deserving of real romances, so it’s a tradeoff. I guess Dean isn’t supposed to have anything of his own. Sam should have all the love stories, all the best story arcs, AND bond with all the guest stars. And Dean should be? Off the show I guess, since SPN doesn’t think his character matters except to look after/be resented by Sam, and be a foil, for Cas.

  • King B

    to me that whole exchange at the end was setting the stage for the slow rebuild of their relationship. because right now sam isn’t ready to listen but is willing to talk, but dean’s isn’t ready to talk but is willing to listen. which doesn’t really work for the issues they have between them.

    but here you had sam listening to dean and dean talking to sam. it wasn’t the BIG talk they undoubtedly need to have, but it’s these small moments that allow for them to organically come to the point where both are ready to talk and listen. possibly without either of them being backed into a corner facilitating the conversation.

    so you need to have dean letting go of unnecessary guilt that chokes him up and makes him pull all his emotions inward rendering him silent. you need anvils dropping in front of sam about “running/fighting for the life you have” to keep him from bolting when it’s his time to listen. you need the small moments to set the foundation of the big ones.

    • Hades

      I’m not sure I agree that Sam is ready to talk, I think Sam is ready to just move on. I dont see him opening up to Dean or anyone else any time soon. My guess is he’ll be back to normal next week, just doing the job and making appropriate faces when ever Dean or a guest star have something to say.

      • King B

        sam is ready to talk in that he has been vocal about his life in dean absence and also his reactions to dean’s attitude/actions this season.

        it’s been that way since the first episode from his “free will” comment, him being honest about not looking for dean, him talking about amelia to dean, talking about benny, talking about his boundaries in regards to benny, talking with kevin, talking dean about cas, laying out his boundaries in regards to dean, vocalizing his fears in regards to amelia, vocalizing the 7+ year long guilt connected to jess’ death, and just talking just in general.

        the hitch is that sam isn’t really all that ready to listen right now. for example he’s willing to lay out his feelings in regards to benny but he is closed off from listening to dean’s reasons for the friendship and why it’s important. which is mostly fed by dean not being open to talking about it until forced. which is conversely fed by sam not being open to listening.

  • lpili13

    I love reading your reviews right after i´ve seen the episode! I completly agree with your review, btw.
    I´ve enjoyed this episode so much: it was fun, emotional and its been great to see Dean and Sam (though its still a way til we get to see normal again) laughing and taking a break from everything happened in last episode.
    I would have prefered a tiny mention to Castiel, but i hope it happens in this Castiel hiatus at some point,probably in an episode more mithology related.

    And i want to add that Charlie was a great character. I really enjoyed her last season, and im delighted to see her again. Its not usual to see an LGTB character such well and nicely treated (and Spn has been guilty sometimes of doing the opposite) but yeah, they did it great. So kudos to the actress, writer and everyone for Charlie and this episode.

  • Annie

    I thought this episode was great. The last scene was really funny. I think episodes like this are needed. It gives the guys a chance to take a break from hunting “the big bad” of the season. To get back to the saving people, hunting things aspect of the show.

  • joanie

    I enjoyed the episode but the tent scene left me perplexed. First of all, I can’t see Dean talking about such sensitive personal issues like Sam’s love life with anyone but his nearest and dearest. Dean might like Charlie but he barely knows her. And I really don’t understand why any of this even needed to be revisited, given the issue was resolved last week: Sam said his piece about the text, Dean apologized, Dean acknowledged it was Sam’s decision to stay or leave, Sam stayed, end of story. To bring all that up again and suddenly have Dean feel guilty and blame himself after he’d already recognized it was Sam’s choice made no sense. I’d even go so far as to say it regressed his character – I thought Dean’s willingness in “Torn” to let Sam totally own the choices for his life showed real growth and maturity. Why the writer went back on that in this episode, I just don’t know.

    • Loli(“v”)

      I perfectly agree with you joanie except that I didn’t love the epi. Totally off track and boring

    • Jessica

      Dean told Charlie about all of that because she asked him to. She said she wanted to know what Dean and Sam had been up to since the last time she saw them, and Dean laid it all out for her. Since the entire conversation happened off-camera, we don’t know how much detail Dean went into about his experience in Purgatory or Sam’s romantic escapades, but I don’t think it’s too far off to believe that Dean would tell her about all of that. He likes Charlie and although they don’t know each other terribly well, they connected and he cares about her. But even more than that, I think Dean needed to talk about all of that stuff. The entire episode he was trying to make Sam feel better, but Dean was also mourning his own loss and he needed some encouragement too.

  • Lia

    “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.”

    Agreed. Jensen was superb in this episode, and Dean was ADORABLE in his eagerness to participate in LARPing. I thought this episode was loads of fun. Hopefully we’ll get to see Charlie again. I liked the way she and Dean bonded, it was cute.