Supernatural ‘Optimism’ – Some Laughs, Some Feels and A Bit of Head Scratching

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode, hopefully titled ‘Optimism’, was one of those episodes that fandom didn’t agree on. And that’s okay. Like most episodes of this Show, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I’ll get to the elephant in the room thing in time, but first, a look at some of the things that worked for me and what didn’t.

Richard Speight Jr. directed the episode, and I tend to really enjoy his directing, so that was a point in this episode’s favor. I like his pacing, and his editing, and I really really like the way he embraces the quirkiness of Supernatural that has always been one of my favorite parts of the Show. Writer Steve Yockey is a good partner for that quirkiness and the two worked well together here. From the first frame, the weirdly upbeat music presents the small town as too-good-to-be-true, including Harper the perky town librarian. She’s got at least two quirky suitors, one of whom seems dangerously jealous and slightly unhinged, so we immediately are suspicious that something bad is going to happen to too-good-to-be-true librarian.

Sure enough, it does. Winston, the nice guy suitor who Harper clearly isn’t into, saunters down the street feeling good about himself after Harper agrees to dinner, and the familiar strains of Stayin’ Alive start to play. Speight mimics the view of John Travolta’s iconic walk in the opening of Saturday Night Fever, which comes off as amusingly ironic when applied to Winston.

And also announces to us that poor happy Winston is probably not long for this world. Yep. Splat.

I loved that whole opening, and it had Speight’s directorial touch all over it.

Back to the bunker, where Jack is piling a ton of sugar into his coffee (ewww) and Dean is looking for Sam. We find out that Sam and Charlie have gone off on a stakeout because Dean was somewhere else and that means we’re not getting Sam and Dean hunting together for a little while. Not something that makes me particularly happy, but I’ll roll with it.

Jack about Sam and Charlie: They’re probably doing something really exciting…

Cut to Sam and Charlie, sitting in a truck and looking bored to death.

These are the edits that Speight is excellent at, the juxtaposition and Jared and Felicia Day’s acting skills making just that little bit hilarious. It was the first time I laughed out loud during this episode but not the last.

Back to Dean and Jack. Sam isn’t there, but I appreciate that writer Steve Yockey addresses that fact and the fact that Dean would comment on it.

Jack: Sam wanted someone around when you came back. He’s worried about you.

Dean: (wryly) That sounds like him.

Jack tries to tell Dean what Sam tried to tell him last week – nobody blames him for Michael.

Dean: Yeah, well I blame me.

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That was a poignant line, Mr. Yockey. That’s Dean in a nutshell. He’s not freaking out, he’s coping, but he still – deep down where he has trouble getting to it – blames himself for saying yes to Michael. He may even realize it’s a tad irrational, but it’s how he feels nevertheless. How often do we feel something and know it makes no sense, but it’s stuck there anyway?

Meanwhile, Sam and Charlie are still in the truck and Sam is playing with – a fidget spinner?? I laughed, and Jared did a fabulous job making that scene funny with his great comedic instincts, but I also scratched my head. Sam with a fidget spinner?

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We’ve never seen him struggle with boredom, that’s more Dean’s thing. So while I appreciated the moment and it was well done, I couldn’t help but see it more as Jared than Sam, and I saw a lot of other people comment the same. It threw me out of the story a bit.

Back to the bunker, where Jack has a case and is trying to convince Dean to let them work it.

Dean: Sam’s trying to keep you safe. He’s a smart guy.

Jack: But we could be hunting buddies!

Dean: Don’t call it that.

Jack prevails, though. He’s smart and perceptive, sharing his own feelings of guilt and responsibility for not killing Michael when he had his powers. Jack and Dean are both carrying the weight of that guilt, both feeling stupid for the choices they made. Jack has realized that, and he uses that knowledge to get through to Dean.

Dean: You didn’t do anything wrong.

Jack: Neither did you!

Touche, Jack. (And Yockey and Speight)

Back to the truck, where Charlie gives Sam some background on the people who went missing at the bus stop they’re staking out – and shows him the jar of black goo that she found. (That’s a lot of goo to scoop up from the ground – was it a pond?)

Back to Dean and Jack, who get dressed up in fed suits and head out to Winston’s favorite spot, Dick’s Red Rooster Diner. I burst into laughter when I saw the sign – kudos Richard for that perfect name and for putting your stamp on this episode! (Cue lots of dick and cock jokes…)

They interview the uncooperative (and sassy) waitress while Jack is rather adorably awkward and clueless. Alex Calvert pulls this off perfectly, and Jensen Ackles’ reactions to it are equally on point.

Jack: What is courting?

Dean: What you do before dating.

Jack: And before the sex!

Sassy waitress: Sometimes you just have the sex…

In the middle of this discussion about sex, Dean surreptitiously angles the prominent red cock (rooster, rooster, sorry) in front of him on the counter away from him. I laughed out loud again, because Ackles’ expression and gesture were spot on.

Honestly, the humor was the best thing about this episode. All the actors are more than capable of comedy, and Yockey and Speight together infused little moments throughout the episode that kept making me laugh.

Dean and Jack find out more about the town librarian who Winston was courting; Speight does this in a crisply edited montage of their conversations with townspeople that I enjoyed very much. At one point, Dean looks over to Jack like he so often looks to Sam for corroboration, but Jack is just looking straight ahead.

A little thing, but a reminder that Dean is used to hunting with Sam and misses that familiarity (and I miss it too). Ackles is so good at those small nonverbal gestures.

Back to the truck, where Charlie and Sam are STILL sitting. Sam chews nervously on his fingernail, and Charlie tries to reassure him.

 

Charlie: He’ll be fine….your brother, I mean.

She says he must have other friends who can be his wingman, and Sam responds that she – Charlie – was his wingman.

Sam: That guy was you.

Charlie: No. It wasn’t.

Me: Huh?

That made no sense to me from what we’ve seen of Charlie and Dean’s history. It’s not like they regularly hunted together, and Sam himself is Dean’s wingman the vast majority of the time. I really don’t know what to make of that conversation, which left me scratching my head.

However, I really liked part of Charlie and Sam’s conversation, because it addresses one of the elephants in the room of this season – that the familiar people from the AU are not, in fact, the beloved characters who were killed off. I’m glad the Show decided to acknowledge that and appreciate Yockey’s dialogue that tackles how difficult it is for Sam and Dean to not treat them as if they’re long lost friends instead of strangers. It’s also difficult for Charlie and Bobby, who keep getting treated like people they are not.

We get a little AU!Charlie backstory, including that she was also a programmer and lived with the love of her life, Kara. The original Charlie Bradbury, created by Robbie Thompson and beloved by most of the fandom, was important as a queer character as well as a hero, so it’s nice to have clarification that this Charlie is as well. Felicia Day is a wonderful actress, and she makes you feel for this Charlie as she tells the story of what happened in the AU. I find apocalypse stories like the one she’s telling truly terrifying – the reality of what would happen to a society if the food and energy and water did run out – so again I appreciated Yockey’s dialogue here. Charlie paints a Revolution-esque picture, perhaps as an homage to creator of both shows, Eric Kripke.

That said, this is still not our Charlie, and I still don’t feel the same about her. Perhaps I’m not supposed to, but it also means I’m not as thrilled to have her on the show as I was about the original and I don’t care about her as a character the same way I did the Charlie I fell in love with. She gets some good lines though.

Charlie: It all falls apart.

Sam: Not here.

Charlie: Not yet.

Loved those lines. Nicely done. Nicely written, acted and directed.

Back to Dean and Jack, with Dean in full dad mode reminding Jack that pie is important and promising to give him “the talk” when they get back to the bunker.

Dean and pie, OTP.

Dean concocts a plan to get romance-novel-fan Harper (well played by Maddie Phillips) to see Jack as a romantic hero, but Dean gets more than he bargained for as Jack responds to Dean’s “back off, kid” with “No you back off – old man!”

Clearly this wasn’t part of the plan, and Dean’s reaction is priceless. Ackles nails the comedic beats of Dean’s reaction, surprised and slightly hurt by Jack’s low blow.

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He goes out to the car and immediately inspects himself in the rear view mirror, muttering “Old man, my ass”.

Gotta say, I agree.

Jealous Miles confronts Harper and Jack as they leave together, and Dean follows Miles while Jack goes to Harper’s apartment. This whole Harper and Jack romantic interlude could have been played seriously, and I think that would have turned my stomach. Instead, Speight plays it tongue in cheek and a bit over the top, with cheesy music and an apartment decorated with a gigantic ‘AMORE’ sign on the wall. Jack is adorably awkward once again, spilling holy water all over as he plants a silver coin on the floor to test her, and then mutters “Christo” under his breath.

Entire fandom : WHAT THE HELL, DID HE JUST SAY CHRISTO?? FROM SEASON ONE??

I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, the fandom has been asking why the hell they don’t ever use that anymore ever since Phantom Traveler. On the other hand, the fact that it’s now back on the show makes it difficult to explain why it took them 13 years to remember to use it!

Meanwhile, STILL in the truck, Charlie tells Sam she wants out of hunting. She hates it, only did it because she had no other choice. She tells him this is her last case, that she plans to get away from both monsters and people and live on a mountain top somewhere.

Personally, I don’t blame her one bit after what she’s been through! The post-apocalyptic disaster, Kara’s death. Why would she want to stick around and keep risking her life? It’s not hunting that the AU people really are driven to do, it’s killing Michael. For them, it’s personal.

Sam and Charlie somehow figure out that what they’re hunting is a “Musca”, a man-fly hybrid  male who abandons his nest when he can’t find a mate, which makes him sound like some incel weirdo – and oh yes, he uses human bodies to nest. I’m not really sure how they figure that out from what they know, but okay. And just at that moment, up to the bus stop strolls a man in black with a giant box on his head. Sam and Charlie stare … and do nothing.

Me: Ummm, guys, that looks kinda suspicious, don’t ya think? And also oddly amusing.

Weird guy intimidates two elderly women into getting up and leaving, then strolls away. Sam and Charlie …. Do nothing.

Me: WTF?

More head scratching. Head scratching is usually not a good thing when I’m watching Supernatural.

Back to Jack and Harper, who are bonding over their shared trauma history and attempts at staying optimistic nevertheless. Dean keeps calling Jack on the phone, because when he followed Miles it was to find Miles dead (Weirdly, when Dean first hears Miles scream, he starts to walk away instead of going over to investigate. Head scratch.)

Calvert and guest star Maddie Phillips had great comic rhythm together. They both do awkward and quirky so well, and their (faked in Harper’s case) earnestness is the icing on the cake.

Harper: Do you believe in love at first sight?

Jack: Do you … mind if I use the bathroom?

This is one of my favorite moments, Jack holed up in Harper’s bathroom telling Dean that he thinks Harper is in love with him.

Jack: So I need to know everything about sex. Go!

I laughed out loud again. Alex Calvert has a real flair for comedy, as does Speight for directing it. Their phone call gets interrupted when Dean gets attacked, and Jack reappears from the bathroom. More awkwardness ensues, then Dean comes bursting in the door followed by a Riverdale-esque zombie (also Harper’s ex boyfriend).

Jack and Harper make a run for it, while Dean confronts the zombie dude (who he calls Archie, because Riverdale…)

Dean: Let’s dance.

I liked that scene, and that was a typical Dean thing to say. Dean smashes him with a chair, but zombie dude just turns and leaves, clearly more focused on Harper and Jack than Dean.

Meanwhile, Sam and Charlie are STILL in the truck.

Sam is oddly focused on trying to convince Charlie not to be a hermit.

Sam: You can’t just go live on a mountain. People need people. It’s not so easy to walk away.

It’s clear to all of us watching that Sam is in a sense talking to himself. There was a time when he thought he could walk away and he wanted to walk away, but that time is long past. Sam has come to terms with being a hunter and accepted that as his identity, and it gives him pride and satisfaction and a sense of doing good in the world that’s of utmost importance to him.

That part of it I get, and it’s nice to get that confirmation about Sam. But it rubbed me the wrong way that Sam tried so hard to talk Charlie out of leaving the hunting life. It works for Sam and Dean, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. They were happy to see Jesse and Cesar retire from hunting – why isn’t it okay for Charlie? She’s been through a lot, maybe she deserves time to heal. She certainly deserves to make her own decision about it. I just didn’t feel like Sam would try to influence her like that.

Box-on-head guy in black returns to the bus stop, and once again Sam and Charlie do nothing.

Me: WTF? No really, WTF??

I also don’t think Sam would let box-on-his-head guy just sit there on the bench while a bus came by.

Sam: We don’t wanna tackle some guy for his weird fashion.

Charlie (and me): Don’t we?

I mean, YES! Is there really a chance this could be a coincidence that he’s at this very bus stop with a box over his giant head when they’re looking for a fly-man??

Of course not. They belatedly get out of the truck and run after fly-man and the hapless guy at the bus stop who he took thanks to Sam and Charlie waiting so long.

There’s a search by flashlight scene and a tiny discussion of how a brass nail dipped in sugar water will kill the fly-man, but they don’t have that, so they’ll have to “get creative”. What?? Getting creative turns out to be stabbing and then shooting the fly-man, which seems way too easy. What’s the point of lore if you can just blow something away with bullets?

This episode was two separate story lines and two separate cases, and Sam and Charlie’s was definitely the less fleshed out one. There wasn’t enough build up for me to feel much sense of fear as they tried to find it, and when the fly-man himself finally popped up, instead of being scared I burst into laughter. It was a little too B movie and camp for me to take seriously – I’m not sure if that’s how I was supposed to feel? Maybe, because it’s also sort of amusing when Sam gets gooed on and then when he blows its head off, Charlie gets splattered with a ton of the black goo. Ewww.

This is the scene that Jared talked about at a convention recently. He has a thing about spit and can’t stand being spit on, so he had to have a stand in do some of this scene for him. Can’t say I blame him – it was pretty disgusting!

The other story line plays out with Harper opening the library door to let zombie dude in, which I didn’t see coming until a little while before that point. Dean and Jack get much longer to wrap up their case, with a nice scene of zombie dude chasing Jack through the library while Harper waxes poetic about love (and makes a confession in the process) on the PA system. Seems she’s been the mastermind all along, a necromancer who killed her boyfriend to keep him with her and then brought him back so he can kill her other suitors and eat them. Lovely. Dean hatches another plot to try to make Harper fall in love with Jack so that zombie boyfriend will turn on her. It doesn’t entirely work, but Dean gets zombie dude restrained in silver handcuffs anyway. Harper escapes.

In her final scene, we see her writing a love note to Jack and planning on coming to find him – so I guess maybe Dean’s plan worked a little too well? Also I find it hard to believe that Dean didn’t try harder to find her – she was pretty much the evil mastermind here, so….. yeah. Head scratch.

Sam and Charlie are back in the truck and have a little more conversation, feeling good about saving bus stop guy.

Sam says he feels kinda bad for the Musca, that he didn’t have to go out on his own…

Charlie: Your nifty metaphor has holes.

Me: I’ll say!

While they talk, we see the rest of the Musca come and scoop up fly-man’s body. I assume this is supposed to be a commentary on community, but it’s also just plain B movie weird.

Sam: Not all people are good, maybe not even most of them. But if we help people, then maybe they’ll help other people…  it’s worth it.

Again, he’s talking to himself and about himself as much as to Charlie. This has been Sam’s journey, and he 100% believes it now.

Charlie: Let’s be clear. I am not like the fly monster. But I’ll think about staying.

I’m not sure how I feel about that, because I don’t think she should stay if it’s not what SHE wants. I think the Show has decided that it should bring back some of the popular characters it killed off because it wants to make Supernatural more of an ensemble show, and that worries me. That’s not the show I particularly want to watch, no matter how much I love Felicia Day or Jim Beaver or DJ Qualls or whoever.

At any rate, that ends the Sam and Charlie story line of this episode.

Dean and Jack are back at the bunker, once again sitting across the table.

Dean: You did good, kid.

I do love the way Dean has taken to calling Jack “kid”. He’s a natural nurturer, drawn to kids and to mentoring. He likes to use nicknames, same way he calls his 6’5” brother “Sammy”.

Jack: I was right (about hunting).

Dean: It’s not about being right. You’ll make mistakes, I make them all the time. It’s how you learn from them.

Jack: And how to not beat yourself up for them.

Dean: Jack, you’re pretty smart sometimes.

It’s true. Dean gives in, promises that when Sam gets back, they’ll talk about some hunts.

Nice moment over, Jack has a coughing fit and collapses on the floor, bleeding.

Dean drops to his knees, looking up helplessly like he’s done many times before over a fallen Sam or Castiel.  (Speaking of Cas, I’m confused as to why Cas hasn’t noticed Jack’s illness, since they’ve been hunting together?)

Some of the gravity of that scene was also impacted by the stories I’ve heard Jared, Jensen and Misha tell about how when Alex had to collapse, they all dogpiled on top of him – and then Ruth Connell climbed on top. Poor Alex!

So that’s where we end. I was hoping for an ending scene that wrapped up the two story lines and brought their messages – and the brothers — back together, so I was a bit disappointed.  I’m not averse to Sam and Dean spending time with other characters, since that’s part of how we get to know them better, as Eric Kripke explained early on in one of our first conversations with him. But Kripke also wrote the Winchesters as each other’s hunting partners who always have each other’s backs – that’s the show I fell in love with and that’s the dynamic that has kept me watching. Will they sometimes hunt with someone else? Sure. But when that happens, it doesn’t feel as much like Supernatural to me. I miss the dynamic that hooked me on the show and keeps me watching.

People watch the show – any show – for different reasons. For some viewers, Sam and Dean not hunting together or interacting during an episode was a change – that part is just a fact – but not an unwelcome one. Maybe you have a favorite character and as long as that character is onscreen and you’re getting some insight into that character, it’s all good. Maybe you love being scared so you watch for the horror, or you love having to think hard about a complex mystery so you watch for the make-you-think twists and turns. Maybe you like to imagine a romantic relationship between two characters and that’s the lens you watch through. Maybe you like the dynamic and chemistry between two characters and that’s why you watch, so of course you want to see that. For that last group, if those two characters are Sam and Dean, the change in this episode was a bit difficult.

Here’s why. When you find a show that ticks whatever psychological and emotional boxes that need ticking, you understandably don’t want that show to change and those boxes to become un-ticked. That takes away the very reason you enjoy the show so much. If you watch for the dynamic between the brothers and it doesn’t happen, un-ticking happens! Nobody likes un-ticking.  On the other hand, if a show only ticks your boxes every now and then, you understandably want more of those box-ticking times, so you’re all for change when it makes that happen more often. None of those feelings are incorrect or bad or wrong, they’re just different. They are also sometimes mutually exclusive, or at least they seem that way when you’re very passionate about getting your own individual boxes ticked (and we all pretty much are).  Wanting change isn’t wrong. Not wanting change isn’t wrong. Change in and of itself isn’t always good or always bad, even in real life. Sometimes it’s healthy, sometimes it’s regression or dysfunction or avoidance. In fiction, even that consideration isn’t relevant. There’s no right or wrong, there’s only what ticks your boxes. So all those invectives hurled around of wise up or grow up or shut up make no sense.

I’m well aware I have my own boxes that want ticking, and anyone who’s going to review the show should probably do some soul searching if they aren’t aware that they have them too. We all do, or we wouldn’t be fans. It’s a lot easier to understand someone else’s box-tick-driven emotions (and not lash out) if you’re not defensive about your own. I started watching Supernatural when the show was all about Sam and Dean Winchester. That unique relationship and the chemistry between Jared and Jensen hooked me on the show and has kept me watching for 14 years. I don’t want it to change; it doesn’t feel like Supernatural to me when it’s not about Sam and Dean working together to save the world.

That said, there are other characters who I’ve come to love and who enrich the narrative and deepen my understanding of Sam and Dean as Kripke intended, especially Cas and Jack (and Rowena because look, she just ticks my boxes, okay?). In a practical sense, I’m also well aware that there are real life realities that sometimes don’t line up with my desire for fiction that ticks my boxes. A writer gets a cast of characters to play with for an episode, and actors who are only available for X days, and you do what you can with the chess board within those parameters. So I’m not going to judge an episode solely on whether or not Sam and Dean had any interaction, but I’m also well aware that I didn’t feel as satisfied as I do when I get to see the Winchesters hunting together like they have for fourteen seasons. Your mileage may vary!

So congrats to Richard Speight Jr. on another well-directed episode and to writer Steve Yockey for some priceless scenes, and to the best cast ever for always bringing it. I did enjoy this episode, despite some lack of box-ticking, and am hoping for more of that when we return in two weeks!

Caps by kayb625 – many thanks!

–Lynn

Read more from all the Supernatural actors in

the chapters they wrote in Family Don’t End

With Blood, info at links on the home page.

Makes a great holiday gift for a fan on your list!

 

 

38 thoughts on “Supernatural ‘Optimism’ – Some Laughs, Some Feels and A Bit of Head Scratching

  • Box ticking is now a thing! I need Sam and Dean together hunting things, saving people, the family business. I hated the guest star. I think I was actually jealous of her big role in an episode of my show! I also don’t feel for au Charlie and Bobby the way I did about the original characters. But I know I’m not supposed to. I adore Jack. Alexander moved right In and took his place in my heart. Ketch too so I can absorb new characters. But I agree with you. It’s Sam and Dean that makes this my show and having a whole episode without them sucked rooster cocks. Also I’m missing a Castiel. Glad he’ll be back ne t episode. Kudos to my man Richard Speight, jr for an excellent directing job. Just wish he’d have had different material to work with

  • Personal opinion. I do not demand to agree with him. I looked 14×6. That’s bullshit. Giant fly-man in a mosquito net, zombie, necromancer. What was that? Charlie and Sam’s reasoning about loneliness and persuasion to stay. What for? Strange Dean, who does not run when a man screams, but just slowly goes to the crime scene. What is going on? Where are the vampires, gins, ghouls, werewolves, demons of crossroad, damn things at last, same angels? The only one who was organic here – is Jack. I do not know what to think. I hope this will be the last worst episode for me this season. I apologize if it was said sharply. This is just the first sensation of viewing this ep.

    • I felt the same. Spent the whole ep just waiting for it to get better! Jack and Dean scenes were the only part that worked for me.

    • There definitely was alot that was strange here – and don’t apologize, we all have strong feelings when it comes to this show!

  • I really liked this episode. The humor worked for me as well as Speights faced paced direction. Dean and Jacks story worked better than Sam and Charlies. I’m not sure if S&C’s hunt was boring on purpose as contrast or parts were edited out. It wasn’t a total failure just not as fun. Alex was the standout performance. He went toe to toe with Jensen and that isn’t easy to do.
    Sam has played with stuff before…the squeezy thingy. I didn’t quite get why Sam of all people was trying to talk Charlie out of quitting unless it was a set up for the future when AU Charlie is killed. I said this elsewhere Sam isn’t Dean’s wingman and Charlie is just one of many…Cas, Crowley, Benny etc. Sam is Deans brother and his partner in the Winchester Family Business of Saving People Hunting Things. I never considered Sam a wingman but that might be just me.
    I think the main plot was Dean and Jack bonding over Michael and Hunting.

    • I never considered anyone Dean’s wingman, but certainly not Charlie as his ‘customary’ wingman. That just came out of nowhere. And it struck me so wrong, what Sam said to Charlie about quitting hunting. I do agree about Alex, he’s a wonderful actor and like Jared and Jensen and Misha, great at the comedic elements!

  • What’s the point of lore is right. Last week Dean bashes in the head of a Djinn and then unloads a clip into the body (head) to kill it. No bronze blade dipped in lambs blood there… Now this week we see them reading the lore and explaining that abrass nail dipped in sugar is required. Ten minutes later AUCharlie runs BugBoy thru and Sam unloads bullets from his gun into it to end its life and that’s improvisation? And Michaels Uber monsters who are so strong and hard to defeat can be tanked by beheading. This has been so odd that you have to wonder if it is intentional?

  • The Winchesters are currently on their own separate journeys this episode, much as it we are sad to see them apart, it is an important one, I think all the little niggles will make sense in time.

    Sam was dealing with his own undressed emotions regarding Charlie, his Charlie. The fidget spinner made sense in the context of his journey for the season, he was using it as a distraction to fill the space between himself and the AU Charlie, whom he doesn’t really know and who does not know him. Primarily the awkwardness came, not because they were bored, but because their hearts and minds were elsewhere, Charlie in mourning for her losses and Sam, missing and worrying Dean.

    Sam issues with Dean’s current situation are how to protect and care for his currently very wary and vulnerable brother, whilst giving him space to deal. Honestly I think he took off on this hunt whilst Dean was with Mary and Bobby overnight, to avoid making Dean feel compelled to come along, there is definitely something going on with Dean that’s starting to form a pattern and I’m sure Sam has picked up on this. Sam is also aware that Dean struggles to make friends, the last one was our Charlie.Dean has few people he trusts enough to allow himself to get close to, to be able to confide in outside of Sam, not that Sam isn’t his brothers best friend (that is never in doubt,ever ! ) but Sam is smart and knows Dean well enough to know that Dean can’t always say stuff outright to him, sometimes he needs someone else as a sounding board . Charlie was that other person he could go to . ” Wing-man ” may have been too strong phrase, but close enough, the two had shared history, a shared vulnerability that allowed Dean to open up, so her absence is keenly felt by them both. Sam knows Dean lost a person whom he could communicate with, who could have helped draw him out of the things that scare him, help him cope better. AU Charlie reminds Sam of everything that they lost when our Charlie died and it still hurts.

    Which brings me to Dean, who is coping,although still very shaky. Its very apparent he is not wanting to hunt, the last few episodes he either been persuaded to join the hunt, or felt compelled; take the Maggie rescue mission, he jumped on it, but he did it for Sam, because Sam was worried,exhausted and down. Last week he jokingly called Sam “Camp Councillor” in fact, perhaps subconsciously, its actually a role Dean is drawn too and could eminently well suited too, as beautifully illustrated by his growing relationship with Jack. Dean was able to use all of his most positive qualities, mixed with his own experience, to give Jack what he needed to boost his confidence. Jack, in return, gave Dean what he needed, someone who didn’t judge, whom he could share the burden of guilt with and not have to put it under a microscope (which we all know he hates) who trusted and believed in him. All good things because right now Dean is still looking over his shoulder and he doesn’t quite trust himself.

    All in all this episode had much deeper undercurrents, a lot of character progression,communication and heart. In my opinion worth a re-watch . Oh, and well done Dean for checking in with your brother, so he wouldn’t worry!

    • I agree about Dean’s journey in this episode, but less about Sam and Charlie. Yes, Dean felt close to original Charlie, like a little sister, but not like anything close to a “wingman”. I’d like to buy into your explanation of what’s going on with Sam here but I’m fearful you might be giving Show a little too much depth credit. However, I will hope that you’re right and I’m wrong!

      • Maybe its just Jared, giving the whole thing more authenticity, so we can read more into a not too exciting stake out!

  • I’ve started writing notes (a few words really) during episodes, then I rewatch the episode to see if whatever it is still bugs me. So, fidget spinner-it annoyed me, made Sam look immature, but maybe it was just supposed to be a funny moment? No, still didn’t like it, especially with all those books in the back seat that I think Sam would read instead.

    Sam’s relationship with Charlie. Sam knows that “their” Charlie is dead, he probably has nightmares about it. I totally understand that it would be awkward but he didn’t have any problem distinguishing between Charlie and “dark” Charlie, and he’s smarter than that. I don’t like it when writers make the boys look dimmer – especially in the name of humour.

    Sam convincing Charlie to keep hunting (as mentioned before) seemed wrong- the only thing I can come up with is that he doesn’t care enough if she gets killed hunting which is not Sam. It was out of character and it bugged me.

    I didn’t mind the boys not hunting together but I really missed them not being together at all! No conversation (phone calls don’t count), no teasing, that I missed.

    About time that Jack’s health was being noticed and addressed.

    Nothing original in my notes I know, but I watched it 3 times to see if it was maybe my mood or something first. No. Not going in my favourite episodes list. I thought the monsters were interesting though. Weird but that’s Supernatural, we eat weird for breakfast, right?

    • Agreed on all your points. I did think the fidget spinner was a funny scene, and Jared can do humor so well – but it also threw me out of the episode because it just didn’t seem like Sam on a stake-out. LIke you said, books maybe. Or maybe not looking down at all, since it’s a stakeout!

  • Thank you so much Lynn, for articulating exactly what I was feeling about this episode. I was messaging with SPN friends afterwards and they were just plain delighted with the whole thing. I kept saying (especially about the Sam and Charlie scenes) that it just didn’t feel right, just not like a proper Supernatural episode. The Jack and Dean humor, and the bonding scenes at the end were the only thing that really rang true to me as being typical of the show.
    I also didn’t find the antagonists in either story particularly scary, compelling or even amusing, so that was a real weakness too. And it was disappointing because when I saw the Staying Alive scene (which I could see had RSJ written all over it ❤ ) I got really excited that we were in for a real treat!
    And the fidget spinner, I immediately said out loud (alone in my living room!) Sam would never do that! That is definitely a Dean character trait, picking up random things and messing around.
    I feel the same way you do Lynn, I LOVE Cas, Jack, Gabe, and a few other characters, but the brotherly bond is the heart and soul of this show. I hope they don't keep straying too far from that.

    • I hope so too! There were moments (the Staying Alive opening was one) that were so great, and I do love Richard’s directing touches, but there was also so much that just hit me as not Supernatural. And I watch for it to be Supernatural!

  • Count me in as one who really liked the episode. The direction with close ups of Charlie and Sam in the truck are so effective as to the tightness of the space and the boredom. Not every hunter is a hero and not every hunt is exciting. Perhaps, Sam is more anxious as leader and that is how the script depicts it: fidget spinner, biting nails. The episode is full of humor- did you catch the pest exterminator add on the bench where Moska sits? Jack superbly manipulates Dean into self forgiveness. There had to be two hunts to give Charlie an opportunity to distinguish herself from our Charlie. In fact, the differences in A/U characters is deliberately pointed out ex.-a/u Bobby and his a/U son Daniel as part of the fiber of season 14. The second hunt gives Dean and Jack some bitch/jerk moments again stressing that “family don’t end in blood”. Both stories had the theme of romance attempts gone bad and as it turns out the human is the worse villain the the fly. The moskas usually do not bother people, but this isolated one seeks to nest on instinct whereas necromancer librarian made choices to murder people to protect her love in a selfish and sick manner and she is still out there.
    There were many Easter eggs to previous seasons: Bugs- but now Sam just flits them away,Phantom Traveler’s Christo when a young Dean tested for demons, Fate the “innocent”librarian during the Titantic episode, referring to romance culminating in “the sex”, the spaghetti taco and the pie scene, and several other goodies.
    Most disturbing is Jack coughing up blood- in Supernatural it usually means something is wrong on a cosmic level. And improvising how to kill a monster is something that Dean did last week with the Djinn, so maybe this is going to play into the bigger arc as both brothers have had to improvise. And after some great comedic moments to see Jack collapse is one of those suck in air moments.( I too thought of the group jumping on Alex). The optimism of the episode crashes in one giant collapse. This is effective writing, acting, and direction. As to why Cas did not notice Alex’s cough- two episodes ago he did notice it and made Jack some soup. Alex is also good at covering in front of Cas. Cas does not seem to be all that together- he had trouble curing the girl under the witches spell and mind melding with Dean among other lack of powers. And well, Cas does not always pick up on the obvioius when it comes to humans. I want to see if any of these threads play into the larger arc. So, I felt like we were owed a good one after Mint condition which was just okay.

    • I adored Mint Condition! lol it’s always amusing how one episode is one fan’s utopia and another’s eh. And that’s perfectly okay! I did enjoy the humor in this episode, and both the actors and the writer and director gave us some great comedic moments and set ups. I forgot to mention the pest control ad behind the fly-man at the bus stop, but I laughed out loud when I saw it. I still have some big problems with the episode, but the humor was not one of them 🙂

  • Loved your review as usual!

    My two cents on why Sam wants Charlie to stay in hunting: he still feels guilty for getting our Charlie killed. If she stays in hunting, she may become what our Charlie was to Dean. And we know Sam would do anything for Dean.

    • I like your hypothesis and I’m sure you’re right that Sam does feel guilty about original Charlie’s death. But I almost thought that would make him more likely to want this Charlie to get out of hunting to stay safe!

  • I enjoyed the episode, though there were a few misses. (I also would’ve titled it, “Adorable Awkwardness”)

    I can see Sam sending himself out with Charlie because he feels a strong need to bond with her…but having no idea how to do so. No, I don’t think Charlie was Dean’s wingman (you look like that, you don’t need a wingman), but I enjoy imagining Dean/Chalie going out and appreciating hot women together in scenes we never saw. To me, it was more Sam’s attempt to connect with her. I didn’t like him trying to talk her into staying a hunter. If she dies, he’s going to hate himself for putting her in that position instead of somewhere safe. Again, I think he’s just trying to keep her in their life. Selfish, which is not Sam’s usual setting.

    What I loved about the Sam/Charlie storyline was actually getting to see some of the struggle of the disconnect between AU!cast and our cast. It’s what’s been sorely missing with Bobby. Could not have cared less about the fly monster, but getting to see this disconnect fleshed out and getting to see Felicia Day stretch her wings was more than worth it.

    I loved seeing Dean and Jack’s storyline. To me, “Christo” is the ultimate sign of a novice hunter. It’s unnecessary once you’ve done the holy water, but it’s probably in some beginner hunting manual that everyone reads when they first start.

    I loved the humor brought by Steve’s script and Rich’s directing, amplified by talented actors. I love that someone finally noticed that Jack isn’t well. I hated that there was no mention of where Cas was. But it’s one of my favorite eps of the season. Yes, I wish there’d been a wrap up scene with Dean and Sam at the end, but I’ll take it.

    • I just have to pop in and say, I don’t think Sam meant wing man in the sense of picking up dates in bars together. That has never been mentioned on the show when Dean does go to bars. I think Sam meant wing man as a companion, hunting pal, someone who has your back.
      That is how Lynn interpreted it as well, “That made no sense to me from what we’ve seen of Charlie and Dean’s history. It’s not like they regularly hunted together, and Sam himself is Dean’s wingman the vast majority of the time. I really don’t know what to make of that conversation, which left me scratching my head.”

    • It really does depend on what you’re watching for and I did love the humor, totally agreed on that – and Richard’s directing too

  • I personally think there was a bit of an artistic direction in the writing. Andrew Dabb had shared on his Twitter some pictures of romantic novels, which was humorous. I think it was the story of a romance between Jack and the librarian, who works with books. Some interesting twists with the humour of presuming that everything Sam does is full of action, as he sits quietly in a car with Charlie.
    2 separate stories of love and loss (except no love more loss for the fly monster) and the addition of what will happen with this weird girl who has a penchant for zombies.
    The ideas are interesting in this episode, with the Supernatural twist.

    • I did like that juxtaposition of Jack imagining an action-packed hunt for Sam and Charlie, and them sitting there for hours in a car lol

  • This episode felt wildly out of balance for me between the Dean and Jack half (which I absolutely loved) and the Sam and Not-Charlie half (which I absolutely hated). It wasn’t simply that the Sam & Not-Charlie story wasn’t as well plotted out as the Dean & Jack story, it was that it couldn’t seem to decide what it wanted to *be.* Was it supposed to be light and funny with Sam playing with the fidget spinner and the two of them doing literally nothing beyond staring at a bus stop? Was it supposed to be filled with pathos at the discussion of Not-Charlie’s perfect life that got destroyed in the apocalypse in an attempt to make us care about her? (Sidenote – still don’t.) Was it supposed to be B-movie camp with the ridiculous monster that died a ridiculous and disgusting death? Maybe they could have mixed these three different thrusts together into something coherent if it took up the entire episode, but there wasn’t enough time given to the side-story for it to come across as anything other than poorly thought out.

    While I like Yockey as a writer on the series, the whole “Charlie was Dean’s wingman” thing felt incredibly forced just to give Not-Charlie a chance to underscore that she’s not Charlie, something Sam is clearly struggling with because he’ll never forgive himself for how Charlie died (his words, not mine). They way it brought up the discussion of the old Charlie also made me feel like it was a bit of a throw-away, since Charlie’s question of “doesn’t Dean have any friends” made me immediately think of the fact that no, Dean really doesn’t at this point besides Cas. Benny is dead. Crowley is dead. Bobby is dead (Not-Bobby in no way counts). Charlie is dead. Kevin is dead. *All* of Dean’s friends, practically are dead. Sam’s too, for that matter, and to have it boiled down to “Charlie was his wingman” just felt cheap.

    I also was terribly put off at the brothers-together-against-the-world box not being ticked in this episode. The fact that Dean remembered to pick up a phone to call Sam about taking Jack out on a case but Sam couldn’t remember to pick up a phone to tell Dean he was headed out with Not-Charlie, leaving Jack to play messenger boy, was very off-putting. Especially when the two of them have been split up so frequently with other characters already this season, even when they’re on a case together. I can accept that they’re not always going to be attached at the hip like they were in earlier seasons, but it’s starting to feel like this is the norm, not the exception. Next week’s episode Dean is again headed off with Jack, which I get and I like (few people are going to understand looking at a clock ticking down to the exact moment you die better than Dean), yet it still feels very much like the current showrunner doesn’t understand what Supernatural is *about.* Dabb seems to have taken the whole “family don’t end with blood” thing far too seriously and is trying to focus on all the other relationships in the series except for Sam and Dean! Sure, family may not end with blood, but if you want me to care about Great Aunt Martha or Jonathan, my third cousin twice removed that I only see once a year at the family reunion, over my brother and sister you’re going to have to make Great Aunt Martha and Cousin Jonathan a helluva lot more compelling than just saying, “But you’re related!” Having one of the main characters sit in a car with a reboot of a dead fan favorite who is NOT actually that dead fan favorite is a waste of that main character.

    • Some of the same concerns I have, and expressed very articulately! I’m now going to want to refer to any character they’re trying to make me care about but not doing it as Great Aunt Martha 🙂

      • I haven’t trademarked Great Aunt Martha (yet) so feel free to use liberally if they don’t get rid of these AU hunters soon!

    • I also need to add that it felt out of character to me that at the start of the episode Dean had been off visiting Mary and Bobby, and that’s why he wasn’t around when Sam left. Mary has consistently disappointed Dean since her return. She has consistently left them both behind, and though he’s much better now one of Dean’s core characteristics from literally the pilot are his abandonment issues. She left them to “find” herself after barely having returned in Season 12. Then she left them again to hunt with the BMOL. Then she left them *again* when she got pulled into an alternate dimension. Then when they found her in said alternate dimension, she told them to their faces that she would rather stay IN AN ALTERNATE DIMENSION with a bunch of random strangers than come back with them, even though Sam died – for real, died – trying to get her back.

      And this season not only did she leave them *again* in the last episode to go hang out with Bobby but she has shown absolutely no concern for Dean whatsoever. She has had no meaningful interaction with him this season outside of saying, “Yeah, so, me and Bobby are gonna split. Call me maybe!” There has been no, “I’m so glad you’re home,” or “So how are you doing?” or “Here, I made this pie for you,” to indicate she even cares that he’s back. *All* of her interaction to date has been with Sam. It’s a severe overcorrection that I’m fairly certain they chose because of Sam’s whole, “At least you had a relationship with her!” complaint from last season, even though Dean demonstrably did not have any kind of relationship with her, and still doesn’t.

      It would have made a lot more sense to have Sam off visiting Mobby (or Bary – whatever, I couldn’t care less about the pairing, it’s just awkward and awful) and calling in to say, “Hey, Charlie rang me up so I’m going to stop by to see what she’s doing before I head back.” Mary has proven to Dean time and time again that she is not the unconditionally loving mother he remembered from his childhood (and idolized, I might add) and no matter how many chances Dean gives to people I just don’t buy that he would put himself out there with her when he’s still struggling with saying yes to Michael. Meanwhile, we have seen that Sam has been spending time with her and while their relationship is still very weird and doesn’t read to me as mother and son, they have at least established that the two have been actively getting to know each other for weeks.

      Dabb and his staff can *tell* me all they want that Dean has the kind of relationship with her that would make him go out of his way to try to connect with her despite the fact that all she’s done is actively reject him, to his face, on numerous occasions. It will never override what they’ve *shown* me of their relationship, which is that she just fundamentally doesn’t care about her oldest child’s need for affection from her. Not her doing his laundry or making his bed or cooking his dinner – just some sign that she freakin’ cares whether he lives or dies. I’ve yet to see that.

      It’s just one more of those things that indicates to me Dabb doesn’t understand who the two main characters are or how they would realistically react to given situations, based on thirteen flippin’ years of screentime. It’s like he’s taken one or two bits of Sam and Dean that stuck with him from earlier seasons and is latching onto them as “this is who these guys are” without having paid attention to the entirety of their characters. Dean may be eternally forgiving (sometimes overly so) when it comes to his loved ones, but he is also extremely emotionally aware, despite how many people try to reduce him to “no chick flick moments.” He knows when he needs to guard himself and when it’s safe for him to open up, and Mary has done *nothing* that we’ve seen to make me believe he feels safe opening up to her. Her just being “mom” wouldn’t cut it for him at this point, not after how guarded the goodbye hug was between them in Nightmare Logic. Dean is holding himself back from her because he realizes he must. Whether that’s what they writer intended or not I couldn’t say, but that’s how Jensen played it as the actor who *knows Dean inside and out.* The writer’s room should perhaps watch some of the dailies to see how the two men who know Sam and Dean better than anyone are interpreting the text and maybe taking that into account when a one or two line change to the script would clear these kinds of things up.

      “DEAN: Have you seen Sam? He should be back from visiting Mom and Bobby by now.

      JACK: No, you just missed his call. He got a text from Charlie and she needs some help on the case she’s working so he’s going to touch base with her before he comes back.”

      Fixed. Short, sweet, and everyone stays in character (though obviously it should take a little more word-smithing than the 30 seconds it took me to type – maybe it might take a whole minute to really get the character nuance). It’s the little things like this that are becoming frequent irritants during the Dabb era, and this season in particular, that are really upsetting me about the direction the show is going.

      • I think part of the problems that crop up with this show is that they actually do NOT have a “writer’s room” like most other series, where all the writers for the show get together and discuss story arcs and scripts for the season. As far as I have read in the past, they get directions for the main story of the season, but they are all left to write it on their own, independently. Lynn may know better than me here. I am paraphrasing from memory something I read a couple years ago. I think it is why canon or other plot lines are sometimes inconsistent.
        I am not saying the show runners never check on anything or ask for changes, they do. And I know they check back to old episodes for canon stuff. But some things do slip through the cracks! And I think things like Charlie as wing man is one of them, as are many other issues you bring up, like the boys’ relationship and the way they are writing Mom.

      • I know they don’t have a typical writer’s room, but to me that just underscores to me that the problem is with the captain of the ship and not the crew. If one or two things slip through that’s completely understandable in a show that’s been on this long and has this much canon to pull from. But when things or being retconned multiple times throughout a season, or they resort to quick fixes like just filling a fly-man with bullets even though they know exactly what will kill it and Not-Charlie has done *nothing* but sit in a car for days and read up on this thing only to abandon the lore (she had access to at least one jar to collect the goop; you really want me to believe she couldn’t have found time to get some brass nails and soak them in a jar filled with sugar water just in case the thing showed up?), or they ignore the fact that Crowley basically rebuilt Nick as nothing more than a vessel, so once Lucifer was killed there shouldn’t be a “Nick” in there anymore in theory, tells me that Dabb is too busy trying to decide which of his 15 different plot lines is going to be the one to follow that he doesn’t have the wavelength to think through anything else or whether it actually makes sense. At this point he’s Oscar Madison throwing linguine against a wall to see what sticks, and there’s no Felix Unger in the room with him to scream about the mess.

      • I agree with you. Although I am interested in the storyline of Nick, the first thing I thought of was what Crowley did! And I had a lot of issues with this episode. So much of it, especially the Sam/Charlie plot, felt wrong on every level. It just didn’t feel like Supernatural
        And yeah, I was disappointed when I first found out that they have no writer’s room, but then I thought to myself, it does explain a lot!

      • I also think the Nick story line could be interesing in the hands of someone competent, but my fear is that they brought him back so he can be Michael’s vessel. And if they do that after Jensen was so excited to play him, and the powers that be DON’T fire Dabb afterwards, it will be clear they don’t actually care about the show or the leading actors.

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