This review contains spoilers.
9.4 Slumber Party
I was a little wary of what Supernatural would offer me this week after the rather unfortunate episode of last week. Thankfully, Slumber Party was a marked improvement over I’m No Angel, and while it may have had a rather lacklustre plot, it’s a stunning episode in a lot of other respects.
Slumber Party sees the return of Charlie Bradbury, a fan favorite since her introduction on the show (and who doesn’t like Felicia Day?). She always brightens up the show with her geekiness and the quirkiness of her episodes, and Robbie Thompson, who has so far written all of her appearances, really gets her – and us viewers. He’s always managed to use her character to great effect in order to offer clever new episodes that break outside the mold of standard ‘Monster of the Week’ episodes – and standard TV plots, really.
The episode begins with a fascinating flashback to the Men of Letters in the 1930s, offering us a scene with both humour and a glimpse back into history. Stylistically, the black and white beginning immediately marks the episode as something unique and interesting, and the ensuing intertwining of past and present both offers an intriguing narrative and an ‘out of the box’ episode. It’s another instance of Supernatural drawing on other genres and styles to create its own unique fictional hybrid, integrating the familiar Winchester-style hunting with a classic black-and-white film.
Unfortunately, about a third of the way through, the plot loses a lot of its steam. It gets a little too ridiculous, and that’s even by Supernatural standards. There’s a 1951 computer which works by magic – okay, we’ve seen weirder things. But then it turns out that Oz exists (it begs the question… is it a parallel universe? Did God create it? Did fiction literally come to life?). There’s a lot of convoluted myth-making, much of which feels arbitrary: a witch who can turn into demon smoke and possess two people at the same time while remaining conscious, combined with a key to Oz, killer heels (literally), and strange zappy witch magic? Also, if Sam already has an angel in him, how does he get possessed by a witch? It leaves a little too many questions unanswered. Plus, the plot development as the Winchesters, Dorothy, and Charlie chase the witch felt utterly arbitrary, with a lot of turns thrown in for no reason. Charlie really didn’t need to temporarily die, for example. Still, it was an interesting twist to see Charlie and Dorothy (the geeky fangirl and the badass, sassy female hunter) save the day while our hunter heroes were possessed. We may love the Winchesters, but sometimes it’s nice to see other characters win out.
That leads into some pretty amazing meta-fictional commentary on geekiness and stories of heroism. Charlie seems to be Supernatural’s new stand-in character for the fan, and she picks up where Becky Rosen left off with her meta-commentary. The discussion of spoilers and the desire to read the books before watching the show, for example, is something that a number of viewers are doubtless familiar with. But most interesting is Charlie’s desire for a real quest, which she (vainly, it seems) sought out through attempting to hunt. It’s an apt allusion to the fact that half of us viewers would probably drop everything to go hunt with the Winchesters if we could. Here’s a hint: it’s probably not as awesome as it looks. Still, in the end, Charlie did get to be a hero and go on a quest – here’s to hoping she comes back triumphant in another episode. Plus, she also brought up Supernatural’s favorite method of commenting on itself: the in-series Supernatural novels- and now we now have a resolution to the problem of how Charlie has managed to read about Castiel if the Supernatural novels stopped being published at season three. The answer is, apparently, the internet. How fitting.
And, convoluted plot aside, there were a lot of other strengths to this episode. The first one is continuity: it picked up where I’m no Angel left off, to some extent resolving the cliffhanger that was Castiel leaving, as well as dealing with the long-term problem that the angels are after him. There’s also continuity in the emotional and character aspects: Dean is still quite clearly caring the burden of the Ezekiel-related decisions he’s made, which involve both Sam and Castiel. Sam continues to possess the emotional complexity he’s had throughout the season, still longing for a home and seemingly aware of at least some of the burden Dean seems to be carrying. It makes the season feel like a coherent whole, with a storyline that’s not put together from the bits and pieces offered by various writers.
There’s also more continuity in the way the episode delves, yet again, into the Men of Letters. Though their introduction into the storyline created a couple holes in the narrative, they’ve since become a really interesting aspect of the story. I’m loving the concept of the separation between Hunters and Men of Letters: the people who keep the lore and the people who hunt the monsters of lore. There’s obviously tension between them, and it raises the interesting question of what’s more important: to keep the knowledge of the supernatural alive or to kill the monsters? To take on the monsters, one needs both brains and skills, and the tension between the fighters and the researchers continues to be intriguing, especially when one considers that the Winchesters and Bobby Singer have pretty spectacularly managed to encompass both aspects in themselves.
In other news, Dean’s still lying to Sam. His lies are getting less and less believable, while Sam’s credulity continues to strain my own. Really, there’s only so long Dean’s going to be able to keep up the charade before even a willing suspension of disbelief won’t be able to do much for it. I’ve said this before and I say it again: Sam’s not stupid, and he knows his brother well (do we need proof of that?) Of course, the revelation of the Ezekiel secret and the subsequent falling out between the Winchesters would make for a great mid-season finale (that’s what they did last year, after all), but I’d much rather the Winchesters’ characterization wasn’t so dependent on the scheduling of television hiatuses.
Crowley’s role in the episode was also a bit lacklustre. At this point, I’m guessing he shows up every episode or two in order to remind us that he’s still locked up in the Winchesters’ dungeon, or perhaps because a small amount of Crowley sass is a necessary ingredient for episode recipes. In any case, Crowley appeared, he sassed at the Winchesters, he served a minor role in the plot, and he went back to his dungeon. In fact, at this point it feels a little like the writers are too worried to kill off the fan favorite King of Hell, but don’t quite know what to do with him now that Abbadon’s taken over the role of this season’s demonic antagonist.
All in all, what the episode lacked in plot, it made up for in great humour, character development, and respectful nods to the fandom. While I was not as spectacularly enthusiastic about this episode as I was about the first two of the season, it’s definitely restored some of my faith. We’ll see where the season goes from here.
Read Anastasia’s review of the previous episode, I’m No Angel, here.
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