Review of Episode 8×20: “Pac-Man Fever”
Overall: Despite a few minor plot quibbles, this episode won me over with some great performances, a very welcome visit from one of my favorite guest stars, and a healthy dose of Supernatural’s own version of chicken soup for the soul: those wonderful brotherly love moments that will always keep us coming back for more.
Sam: Oh, poor baby. He’s a total mess right now, isn’t he? I could feel my mothering instincts shooting into overdrive when Sam wandered out of his bedroom all sleepy and sick, with his hair mussed up. All he needed was a pair of footie pajamas and he could’ve passed for a four-year-old. An enormous, mutant four-year-old, but still. I do have to agree with Dean on the clippers, though. You need a haircut, Sammy – like, two weeks ago. When I watch old Season Four episodes, I think to myself, “Wow, Sam – you weren’t too nice in this season…but dang, your hair looks good!” A few snips go a long way, buddy.
Rapunzel issues aside, though, it’s hard for me to watch Sam suffer like this. Why would the trials cause so much damage to the person trying to complete them? What would be the point of those spells debilitating the person so badly that he could not complete the final task? Is it another form of test – like, you have to be strong enough to overcome the illness and still manage to complete the third task? Or is it something else – something that has to happen in order for Sam to finish the trials? Whatever the answer is, I have faith that the storyline is going to make sense, and it’ll be a good payoff. Supernatural doesn’t hold back when it comes to payoffs…they just like to torture me in the weeks leading up to those moments. (And in the summers, and on hiatuses, and…)
So, we will get our answers, but in the meantime, I’m left to fret alongside Dean. I have to love my guy for how hard he tries to take care of his brother. Dean made the right call, telling Sam to step back from the fight. And Sam made the worst call in the history of calls by ignoring Dean’s instructions. The logical part of me wanted to scold Sam for going into the field in such a debilitated condition. If you can’t see straight enough to shoot a stationary paper target, then you have no business hunting living, moving, blood-slurping creatures. Sam put himself, Charlie and Dean in danger by insisting on joining the chase. I wanted to stay mad at Sam for this terrible decision. Honestly, I did. But the truth is, he did take down a young djinn. He did save Dean and Charlie’s lives. And Sam did apologize for the error in judgment. In the end, all I could feel was what Dean felt – grateful that things ended the way they did, grateful Sam was still standing there, grateful that after all they’ve been through, these two brothers are somehow – against all odds – still together. I love you, Sammy!
Dean: I don’t know what’s harder: watching Sam suffer, or watching Dean watch Sam suffer. I’m leaning toward the latter. When that djinn said Dean “reeks of fear,” nothing could be more true. You can just feel it rolling off of him. Even when he’s being bossy and controlling, you know it’s just covering up the terror that’s threatening to consume him. It’s like the mom who chews the kid out for running in the street – all that yelling is really code for, “OMG, I could have lost you. I could have lost you…”
As always, though, Supernatural kept the humor flowing just enough to take our minds off the boys and their imminent peril. I was snickering at the clipper comment, but I laughed out loud at the punching scene – Dean: “I need you to punch me. I know you don’t want to, but—” WHAM! Too, too funny. Note to Dean: I’m guessing Sam doesn’t like to be bossed around and fussed over and babied quite so much. Note to Sam: Unresolved anger issues, much? Brother-punch scenes are almost always either heartbreakers or comic gold, and this one went platinum. Great stuff.
Charlie: Loved, loved, loved getting Charlie’s backstory. The actress’s performance had me blinking back tears when she talked about how her parents’ accident was her fault, and how her mom was the one who got her interested in fantasy fiction. And the ending scene, when Charlie took out the book and began to read The Hobbit? Cue the waterworks. Big time. It really was a beautiful, emotional story that came full circle.
Charlie the hunter-in-training was interesting to watch. I would love for her to work some more cases with the boys in the future – just as long as she doesn’t get killed off. Many of her scenes had me chortling – the upside down badge, the power suit conversation, the “future therapy” moment – but I was scratching my head a little about the numerous IDs and passports at Charlie’s place, as well as her general secretiveness during the first part of the episode. I don’t quite understand: is Charlie still on the run from the law because of her arrest when she was twelve? I thought she forged a new identity for herself after the Dick Roman thing. Were those fake IDs somehow related to how she pays for her mother’s care? I needed just a hair more explanation on that front. Also, I’m not sure why she wouldn’t just tell Sam and Dean about her mother, but I guess that could be chalked up to simple guilt. She did feel responsible for the accident, after all.
Re: Djinn: I like the idea of a djinn that sends you to your scary place instead of your happy one. That said, those fake-looking CGI tattoos don’t hold a candle to the real ones on the djinn in Season Two. That guy gave me goosebumps just looking at him. His eyes, his tatts, his whole demeanor just screamed “blood-drinking freak.” The way djinn were portrayed in Season Six and in this episode – they’re almost too cool. Too sleek and slick. Not as grubby and dirty and creepy as I would like them to be. Also, if we’re doing djinn comparisons, I was fully expecting Charlie to have to die in her dream in order to wake up. Isn’t that how Dean pulled it off, back in the day? I guess I just needed a bigger moment, before Charlie came out of it – I needed to see in some major way that she really had let go of her mother, let go of her fear. I halfway thought Dean was actually going to kill the mother in the dream, just to force Charlie to let go. As it was, the “letting go” scene in the dream was a bit anti-climactic. However, I think the writers were trying to save the “big moment” for the Hobbit scene at the end, and I can get on board with that decision.
Re: The Dream Root: Although the punching scene gets an A+++ in my book, I did wonder why it was necessary to knock Dean out in the first place. Didn’t he and Sam like instantly slump unconscious after drinking it in Dream A Little Dream of Me? I just remember the image of them both sprawled across the beds in the motel room, completely unaware that they had already passed out and entered Bobby’s dream world, because it happened so fast. Why wouldn’t the potion have a similar effect in this case?
Re: Saying Goodbye: Once again, Sam said his goodbyes with Charlie, and then retreated to allow Dean and Charlie to have a private goodbye. This is like, the third time Sam has felt the need to leave when Dean’s saying goodbye to someone. The folks over at Supernatural Fans Online brought this to my attention, and I have to admit that I’m not sure I like the trend. It’s almost like the writers are saying, “Dean has a more special connection with people than Sam does.” Sure, in this case, Dean and Charlie had gone through something private in Charlie’s dream world, but it was still nothing that Sam should have to leave for. If the writers are going to make Sam leave every time Dean says goodbye to someone, then we’ve got a problem. It’s not fair, and this is coming from a Dean Girl. If Dean’s going to have private, special goodbyes with some people, then I would ask that Sam get the same opportunity. Sam forms special bonds with the guest characters just as often as Dean does, and that is something the writers should recognize.
Re: Brother Hugs: Another episode, another brother hug! Is anyone out there complaining? **crickets** Yeah, didn’t think so. 🙂 As much as I adored the hugs in the season opener and in “Taxi Driver,” I have to say that this most recent hug may have been my favorite. So unexpected, so spontaneous, so…joyful and painful at the same time. It twisted my soul up in all the right places and left me feeling happy, hopeful, and ridiculously high on brotherly love. As Charlie pointed out, these guys have been through so much, it’s hard to believe there’s anything they can’t face, as long as they’re together.
Final Thoughts: In the world of Supernatural, love trumps fear. I will hang onto this thought as we swerve onto the bumpy road ahead going 90 MPH. They’re our boys. They’re Sam and Dean. Somehow, some way, they’re going to make it.