Friday, April 26, 2013

Supernatural Season 8, Episode 20: Pac-Man Fever

 In an extra-special confusing beginning, Dean wakes up behind a desk, with annoying old timey music playing (that doesn’t stop playing when he turns off the record player), wearing an old army uniform (I’m guessing from some of the insignias it’s a medical corps but I know nothing about US military uniforms). And his office door has a table rammed against it – like a barricade.  Outside there are many many bodies piled around quite messily and unhygenicly. On one is a newspaper announcing that Truman is apparently denying military experiments, unethical ones at that. Methinks the surroundings suggest Truman is a naughty naughty liar – and the paper is dated 1951. Just in case you couldn’t read it and the hair, clothes, music and president picture didn’t give it away, Dean repeats the date as well – because subtle implication isn’t in the writer’s toolbox. Then a shadow approaches, growling.

Switch to 24 hours earlier.

AAAAAAAARGH, words cannot express how much I hate hate hate this tool. Tell the story in freaking order. Include flashbacks if you really really must, but kill prologue flash forwards! It’s annoying and an almost open admission that you think the opening scene of the show is going to be boring.

To the Winchester cave with an awake Dean and a half-asleep zonked Sam. And his hair – Sam’s bed-head hair is well worth mocking and of course Dean comments on it. And again when he throws Sam a beer and he misses the catch.

Sam wants to go looking for Kevin but Dean tells him all the things he and Garth are already doing and Sam needs to get better. Sam protests that he’s good to go and Dean drags him to the shooting range to show that Sam can’t hit the broadside of the barn and the second trial has well and truly wiped him out.

And they get an email from Charlie – she has a case for them in their area. Well as close as she thinks since she can only track their cells within 20 miles of the Winchester Cave before it cuts out. Such is the awesomeness of the Winchester cave.

Time to invite Charlie in (she’s in the area for a comic’s convention). It seems when the Winchesters left last time she has been doing some major research into monsters (since she’s a teeny bit obsessive) and found a case of a local guy who got his insides liquefied.  Oh and she found the books by Carver Edland – yes, the Prophet books, written by Chuck and shattering the Fourth Wall. Also they’re online now so they can’t hunt them all down and burn them. Dean plans to go check out the case, Sam again tries to stagger along despite barely being able to stand. Charlie insists on coming and since she easily passes his target shooting test, Dean ends up taking her.

Well after he takes her clothes shopping for something fake FBI appropriate – and derails her fashion montage. He also fills her in on what’s been happening and his worries while we learn a little about Charlie feeling alone with no connections.

To the medical examiner with a very nervous Charlie who isn’t as used to impersonating FBI agents. And we actually have a ME who follows actual police procedure and doesn’t just let random people in suits examine the corpses! She wants paperwork, how pesky.

Meanwhile, 2 teenagers find another body. That explodes when the poke it with a stick. When Charlie and Dean arrive, they find that Sam is already there and names the victim as Jake Hill, a librarian, cutting off Dean’s complaint. Deans sends Charlie to talk to the witnesses to try and make Sam go home which he won’t do. Charlie, bonding with the kids through computer games, learns the body had a blue hand print on it and remarks that Sam and Dean fight like an old married couple (can we not? It’s not like Supernatural hasn’t played that joke 11 times already).  Dean drives off in a huff, to Charlie’s surprise and dismay but that’s ok. Sam stole her car. Great… uh… ish.

Which means they arrive at the coroner’s office first when they break in and all get to look at the body together. Except a car pulls up – it’s the coroner. Charlie rushes to distract her while Dean and Sam find that the bodies are gone – burned already, signed off by the CDC; they take photographs of what they can and it’s back to the Winchester cave.

For research and Charlie’s nifty monster app (Sam hates that thing and wants one). Dean counters with a special kind of Djinn that leaves victims with jellies insides and blue hand prints (Charlie hates the supernatural library and wants one). Charlie goes on a food run while they plan to kill the Djinn, but when she leaves Sam and Dean both comment on how odd she’s acting

In her own place, Charlie grabs a handful of fake IDs (her fake British passport doesn’t look much like mine) and starts transferring money in online bank accounts in a very nefarious fashion before she’s joined by the coroner. With glowing blue eyes, like a Djinn.

Sam and Dean check up on Charlie and find out there was no convention in the area she claimed to attend. They track her down and find the flat in disarray and all of her fake IDs.It seems she has been using her aliases to make donations to a patient in a hospital in Topeka – called Gertrude Middleton.

Dean goes to the hospital and learns that Gertude has been in a persistent vegetative state for 16 years after being hit, along with her husband, by a drunk driver. Their 13 year old daughter disappeared after the accident. It seems Charlie supports her surreptitiously and even visits her incognito. Dean promises Gertrude he will find her daughter

While the djinn starts draining Charlie, she says she prefers people who are afraid and tracked Charlie through hers – enough for 2. Back at the Wincester Cave, the brothers realise the coroner has been covering up her own kills – but that she has become more sloppy recently after 9 years of being careful. They also track what property she owns and find a warehouse. An abandoned one.

To the warehouse where Dean finds Charlie – unresponsive and with a blue hand print – and Sam finds the Djinn, who prepares to drain the very weak Sam – until Dean arrives behind her and stabs her. Now that was an easy kill.

Returning to Charlie she doesn’t wake up when given the Djinn antidote – different kind of Djinn. But since Djinn put their victims into a dream state, Dean decides to use dream root like they did with Bobby to enter her mind and try and bring her back. Then have Sam punch him unconscious to put him to sleep quickly

And he wakes up in that prequel we saw at the beginning of the episode. Rendering the whole foreshadowing thing ridiculously deceptive and pointless. Not amused. What was the point? Yes the hospital is apparently Charlie’s dream place. And has feral humans in army costume advancing to be taken out by Charlie, decked in combat gear, with an eye patch and a combat shotgun. This isn’t her happy place, this Djinn feeds off fear, this is one of Charlie’s recurring nightmares from a computer game. Turns out she copied the game, the Red Scare, before it was released, edited it to reflect her liberal politics and then released it for free. She was 12 and has been on the run from the authorities ever since. Dean doesn’t know how they get out since he killed the Djinn. And Charlie asks “both of them.”

Sam outside is confronted by teenaged Djinn

In the dream Charlie says she’s stuck on the same level, every time she frees the patients she gets looped back to the beginning – but with less ammo and faster monsters. What patient? Gertrude of course; Dean tells her he knows about her. And next to Gertrude is Sam.

Outside Sam realises it was the kid – having just come of age – who screwed up, not covering up his kills as well as his mother. And while he expositions, Sam gets to stab him.

In the dream Dean tells Charlie the only way to get out is to stop playing – stop providing the dream with the fear that fuels it. Charlie’s fear of losing Gertrude. Dean tells her she needs to let it go and she lowers her gun, no longer fighting the monsters which disappear, along with the patients.

Charlie and Dean wake up. Much crying and hugging and it’s denouement time and Charlie leaves.

And Dean goes back into the Winchester cave and hugs Sam then says they go find a prophet. I think this is Dean speak for accepting him back into the hunt while still worried about Sam.

Charlie visits her mother – legitimately this time, signing in.

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie… I like this character, she’s fun, she’s geeky and the show certainly needs more women and more GBLT characters who aren’t dead (and every time I watch I do wait for her to die). I like her character, rather a lot, she’s free from stereotypes, she’s fun, she’s capable in many ways and now she has a little depth added (well, a tragic past taped on)

And she’s a distraction. And I think that’s what she’s cast as. She’s the new Chuck episodes. She’s the fun, geeky shout outs to fans, she’s the deviation from the metaplot, she’s the slight sillness. Which means, while I like Charlie, I don’t like the episodes she’s in very much, especially the last 2. They feel like breaks, deviations, side issues and, especially in this season, we need a lot less

And unless they change that character, add more depth and involvement to her, she’ll always be the side distraction; and I think that’s how they intend to use her. She’ll never be a Kevin or an Ellen or a Jo, or even a Lisa, Meg, Samuel or Benny – and certainly never a Bobby or a Castiel. She will be a Garth. She will show up, have a random episode that’s ever-so-slightly (or not so slightly) silly, focused more on humour than action, with a few issues touched on tangentially, then will disappear again until the next distraction.

On the plus side that means she will probably live. But it also means she’s unlikely to get involved more – unless she changes or how they use her changes.

And that pretty much sums up this episode as well. I’d probably be much happier with episodes like this in season 5 or 6 which had a coherent, well maintained meta plot. But this season doesn’t. Season 8 is all over the place and has bounced from topic to topic constantly and only belatedly finding its meta which it then sorely neglects.