Supernatural, S8 Ep11 – LARP and the Real Girl

Sam, Dean, Charlie, and Gilda in some weird tent

Last week’s episode was heavy in emotional distress and unnecessary pain to this fangirl’s heart (Samandriel! *sob*). This week’s episode was different. Very different. While Sam and Dean were recovering from their respective break ups, they ended up on a new case thanks to Garth, aka The New Bobby, a case that took them deep within the sacred circles of LARPing.

The preview for this episode looked brilliant, but I was also wary about the inevitable nerd jokes. Supernatural has referenced fandom before with Becky the Wincest-writing fangirl, and with another set of LARPers, ones who role-played as Sam and Dean. I’ve always had mixed reactions to it. Sure, it’s funny and there is that sense of “hey, they’re winking at fandom,” but it can also some off as insulting. I was afraid there would be something similar happening here, with lots of pointing and laughing at how nerds are such losers who have no lives. But this episode surprised me. There were still laughs about, “oh those crazy LARPers,” but there was more to the episode than that. Plus, the very end more than made up for any cracks at my nerd brethren’s expense.

Celtic Tree of Pain symbol on victim's arm

Seriously, no Lord of the Rings jokes here? Come on!

Over the past few years, monster-of-the-week episodes like this have been hit or miss, but the funny ones are almost always good. This episode wasn’t just funny and filled with great one-liners, (“Kids these days, with their texting and murder”), this episode was on crack. But the good kind of crack. Something was hurting and killing players of a live-action role-playing game called Moondoor.

Sam and Dean had their usual let’s-take-on-a-regular-case-since-nothing’s-going-on-this-week-related-to-the-season’s-main-story-arc conversation. They investigated the death of one guy who was apparently torn apart by invisible horses. On his arm was a strange symbol, a Celtic-style tree. I was a little disappointed that no one suggested it looked like the White Tree of Gondor symbol used in Lord of the Rings, but oh well. Sam and Dean headed off to Moondoor, where this guy had spent most of his free time, and surprise! Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) was the Queen of Moons!

To refresh your memory, Charlie helped the brothers fight Dick Roman last season, but then had to go on the run to protect herself, changing her identity and trying to stay out of the way of any Leviathans. Obviously, she was reluctant to help Sam and Dean on this new case, but she teamed up with them anyway, because as Queen she had to protect her people. She also got to make out with a hot fairy woman, and it wasn’t exploited as lesbian kisses usually are on TV. Four for you, Supernatural! You go, Supernatural!

Charlie and Dean wearing the same crown, a comparison

Who wore it best?

This episode may have just been a fun romp with little plot or character development to sink my reviewing teeth into, a reprieve from the never-ending angst that Supernatural does so well, but there are a few things that I’d like to focus on in a somewhat serious way. First of all, this episode did something that I really liked with how it handled nerds. Yes, it made fun of us, but it also had a realistic view into the nerd world. People weren’t saying things like that they thought it was real, and when the bad guy was revealed as one of the LARPers desperate to become Charlie’s king, everyone was like, “but this is just a game!” It was about how it’s all just for fun.

The real world can be harsh and boring for some people, and they need an escape. This episode didn’t say that it was wrong to seek escape through this stuff, just that taking it too seriously to the point of killing people was wrong. Even Sam and Dean got in on it. Dean especially had fun dressing up to walk by the queen’s side and he gave her tips to help in the upcoming battle against the other factions of Moondoor. They didn’t say that being a nerd is bad. In fact, they made it look pretty awesome. Most of us don’t have really cool jobs full of adventure, so sometimes we need to lift the boredom with a bit of play, and the message of this episode wasn’t, “what a bunch of losers,” but, “have fun and rock on!”

Charlie in role-playing outfit and giving Vulcan salute

She’s giving them the Vulcan salute, how can you not love her?

Another thing that I loved was Charlie. This show doesn’t have the best track record with female characters. They can make some pretty cool ones, but they always end up under-utilized and, eventually and inevitably, dead. Though considering the fact that most of the characters end up dead on this show, that’s not really saying much. But Charlie is a great character. She’s smart, she’s passionate about the things she loves, and she can be a bit awkward at times but she always stands up for what she thinks is right.

It also helps that she’s played by Felicia Day, the great Geek Goddess who made her own web series, The Guild, inspired by her love of and addiction to gaming. Charlie’s no superhero, she’s a normal person dropped into a crazy situation. Yet, she she still manages to stand tall and I like that. Female nerds, especially of the well-adjusted sort, aren’t something we tend to see much on this show or TV in general. Please bring her back! (And don’t kill her!)

Sam and Dean charging into battle


Lastly, let’s talk about the brothers. Sam and Dean were both recovering from the personal decisions that they made last episode. Sam broke up with Amelia and Dean broke up with Benny (Charlie said it! It’s canon!). This case was supposed to be a way for them to get back in the saddle and move on, and it worked. Dean was having fun for the first time in a long time, and even Sam managed to drag himself out of his despair to join in. The last couple minutes of this episode may be one of my favorite moments on television, ever. Sam and Dean fought in the battle of Moondoor alongside Charlie, and Dean gave the Braveheart speech to rally the troops. It had me crying with laughter instead of just the usual crying I do with this show, and it apparently wowed EW enough to make that scene the entirety of their review.

But it wasn’t just that it made me laugh and launched a million gifs, it also featured something we don’t see very often, especially in recent years: Sam and Dean having fun. Dean said at the beginning that they should take the night off and have some fun. “You remember fun, don’t you, Sammy?” This episode took place mostly in a different reality, a fictional reality, a world of escapism. Sam and Dean have hard lives that they have never been able to escape. In fact, Sam just gave up possibly his last chance at a normal life with Amelia. This episode gave them a chance, however briefly, to get away from that. Getting too caught up in a fictional world is unhealthy (as shown by Boltar, the crazy bad guy for the episode), but sometimes what you need is a break from reality. And that’s what everyone got in this episode. A break from demons and evil angels and what have you. Anything that can let them actually drop the weight of the world from their shoulders and just enjoy themselves with mindless amusement can’t be bad.

There’s not much else I can say about this episode. I could quote every part that I loved, but then I might as well just copy and paste the entire transcript. Just watch it. Even if you’ve never seen an episode, at least watch the last minute or two, you will not be sorry.

Next week we have “As Time Goes By.” Cue time travel high-jinks! Sam and Dean’s grandfather travels forward through time to prove that the Winchester bloodline actually is just really, really ridiculously good-looking. Oh, and there’s some hunting stuff despite the fact that John Winchester wasn’t supposed to have a hunting background. Let’s see how they pull that one off!

Henry Winchester