Many TV shows have gone on long past there being any reason for them to still be on the air. Supernatural certainly numbers among them. As is not uncommon, the show has starting repeating its plot-lines, but still is capable of showing flashes of the charm of its early years. Where one might find Supernatural unusual is the way that both the repeating and the charm seem to be amplified. It had been a while since I last checked in, but it felt like I’d never left. The brothers were still keeping secrets from each other. One or both of them is traumatized by something we as an audience do not give a crap about. There was some vague ongoing plot instigated by an unseen third party that was hand-waved away in a single scene (“there’s no new information, so we might as well go do something completely unrelated”). But at the same time, few genre shows can throw caution to the wind and really have fun the way Supernatural does, and since the show only really needs its two main cast members, which it has now retained for eight seasons, the show has no trouble putting together a random episode in season eight that makes one forget it’s not taking place in season three.
Having only seen bits and pieces of the last year and a half or so of Supernatural, I was drawn in for a recent episode that promised LARPing and Felicia Day, called LARP and the Real Girl (If there was one thing this show has always been able to do, it’s name an episode). My wife is not a huge fan of Felicia Day, commenting that she never plays any role other than herself. I fully concede this, and but I find that I vaguely enjoy her one character, and I tend to enjoy things Day chooses to be involved with. For those not familiar with her, she is the creator and producer of the successful web series The Guild, and in addition to her involvement in other web projects she has appeared in recurring roles on series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, and Eureka. This was her second episode of Supernatural, having apparently debuted her character (Charlie) in an episode last season called The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.
For those who don’t watch anything on the CW and don’t go on Tumblr (and I fully admit those two might have a high corollary relation), Supernatural is essentially the story of two gruff, manly brothers, Sam and Dean (played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki), who drive around the country in a muscle car listening to hair metal and fight monsters and ghosts. On this hook the show has hung an awful lot over the years, most famously a great big apocalyptic angels and demons plot-line that took over the show’s middle years. Now all that’s mostly behind us and there’s some background thing involving demons but and Purgatory and some other stuff but that is almost entirely not relevant to this particular episode.
At the start of an episode, two geeky guys argue and then one of them gets drawn and quartered by an invisible force in his sleep. Sam and Dean are “assigned” by somebody off screen to investigate what’s going on. There is lots and lots of CGI blood, but what seems weird about the whole thing is that the entire apartment is full of toys and the guy’s cell phone is full of threatening messages. There is a standard Supernatural gruff sheriff who essentially turns the case over to the brothers when they, as is traditional, pretend to be FBI agents with vaguely classic rock-based names. He actually says “These kids today, with their text messaging and their murders.”
The brothers talk to the leaver of the text messages, who tells them all about “Moondor,” a LARP game they were both involved with. For the uninitiated, LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing. Think D&D, only instead of rolling dice you’re actually dressing up, playing the part of your character, and hitting each other with foam weapons. But you knew this. Anyway, the guy says he sent the messages in character… and then promptly starts throwing up blood and dies. Sam and Dean investigate the Moondor website and Dean, initially skeptical, comments that it looks “kind of awesome.” They decide to go to the LARP and investigate. Of course, before long they meet Charlie, who is basically Felicia Day’s usual rambling-but-charming geek girl character, with the vague twist that she’s a lesbian. They are very surprised to find that Charlie is the current Queen of Moondor and basically runs the place. Of course this results in the brothers having to go under cover as LARPers themselves, and eventually there are some hi-jinks involving Dean giving the speech from Braveheart and Felicia Day making out with a fairy.
I had fun with the episode, but when it ran into trouble it started coming dangerously close to the dreaded “mainstream show gawks at a niche subculture” episode, like when CSI did that episode on furries. The LARPers tended to be little squirrelly guys and girls with low social skills, at least at first. But as the episode goes on, Sam spends a while investigating mysterious tattoos with a beautiful blond LARPer who we’re meant to believe is exactly his type (I would disagree, since she wasn’t particularly boring), and then the head of the Orcs breaks character to reveal he’s an attorney. In the end Sam and Dean decide it all seems so fun that they stick around and participate.
Overall, the episode was a bit slight, but I had a good time with it. Supernatural seems to understand what people want out of it at this point in its life. I couldn’t really tell you if this is particularly relevant to where the show is right now as a whole, but I have a feeling it probably is. If you were only going to watch a few episodes of this show, this would not be on the list (Mystery Spot and The Monster at the End of This Book are two of my favorites). But if you were just hanging out and wanted a fun genre hour, you could do way, way worse than LARP and the Real Girl.