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Supernatural - Slumber Party - Review

Charlie returned for a fun, lighthearted excursion into the magical world of Dorothy and Oz in the fourth episode of the ninth season. With the exception of some movement in the Dean/Zeke/Sam possession storyline, the mytharc was put on hold as we learned more of the Men of Letter’s history, saw Charlie head out on a magical quest, and explored Sam’s and Dean’s different thoughts on home.

Unlike last week’s episode, which I had to watch three times in order to get a mangled mythology around angels and reapers straight in my head, this week’s episode was cleaner and moved along smoothly. But I still had to watch it an extra time to nail down what happened because I got bored about halfway through and started playing a word game on my phone.

The Highlights

We start off with black-and-white flashbacks of two men of letters from the 1930s, which apparently is when the batcave was built. They are James Haggerty, a seasoned, cynical pro (presumably the Dean in this story), and Peter Jenkins, a younger rookie excited about becoming a man of letters (presumably Charlie).

They’re visited by Dorothy, a hunter straight back from Oz, who is the daughter of a man of letters and the author of the Oz books. Dorothy is looking for help in killing her captured witch. The witch escapes and kills Jenkins/Charlie, and Dorothy and the witch are magically bound together in a gooey liquid in a jar, which is accidentally let free decades later by Sam and Dean.

Charlie, who is brought in as IT support to turn a cool-looking ‘50s sci-fi looking computer into an angel locator, teams up with Dean, dies, is brought back to life by Zeke, and runs off to Oz with Dorothy after slaying the witch with the stiletto heal of the ruby shoe.

The Good

The idea was cool! Dorothy was a hunter. Ha! While an episode so far into the fairytale realm has a danger of coming across as hokey, making Dorothy a hunter from a previous era and looping in the Men of Letters bunker connection worked. The actress who played the role of Dorothy delivered her performance with the right amount of hunter-seriousness to ground the story. Supernatural has delved into bizarre alt realities before, so that part didn’t feel too off to me.

Bringing Crowley into the mix was a good move. “Love your work!” Awesome line. While the episode stopped short in making clear a connection between demons and witches (season 4 mythology in which we learned witches get their powers from demons), the fact that the witch seemed to be reporting in to Crowley makes me give Robbie Thompson, the writer of this episode, the benefit of the doubt and assume that connection was intended.

I thought the duotone flashbacks to the '30s when Men of Letters were building the complex worked very well. It was nice to learn more about the history of the place – and, oh, and we learned there’s a garage where Baby is being well cared for!

Crowley refers to Sam and Dean as the scarecrow and the tin man. Are we supposed to infer that he thinks one doesn’t have a heart and one doesn’t have a brain?

We saw Sam’s room! And we learned that he hasn’t really moved in yet. This contrasts well to what we’ve seen of Dean, who has been nesting since last season and cooking up a storm. I’ll admit, I’ve done what Sam’s done before – started a job that I always considered a temp one, and three years later, still hadn’t decorated my work area. This isn’t going to end well. Dean considers sharing the bunkers with Sam home – the best they’re ever going to get – and Sam still considers hunting a temp job.

Nice music picked for the ending, with had Dorothy and Charlie setting out into the magical world of Oz to the tune of AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock.”

The Bad

Charlie has come across as likeable to me in the past, but all of her talk about being wanting more magic in her job felt whiney to me. It’s called a job. Most people have them, and most people’s jobs don’t include magical quests. Which brings me to the next point. This episode was written by a writer who seems to have all but given up writing Sam and Dean (he does write Charlie and Dean though) and appears bored with Sam and Dean’s non-magical life of hunting things and saving people. Instead he keeps focusing on Charlie and magical fairies and worlds like Oz. Channel much?

Why is this a problem if the occasional episode focuses less on Sam and Dean and more on other characters and worlds? Because this isn’t occasional anymore, and it’s not just Thompson. And because Sam and Dean carry this show. If the writers become bored writing for Sam and Dean, we get bored watching what they write for Sam and Dean. That’s how it works.

Next issue under the “Bad” heading is that this is the second consecutive episode in which one of Dean’s best friends died and he had to use Zeke to heal her, making Zeke weaker and prolonging the time Zeke will stay in Sam and continue whatever leaching he’s doing while in there. While there are a lot of deaths on SPN, people that important to the Winchesters don’t really die that frequently, so this felt like a heavy-handed way of shifting Dean’s actions away from choice. The set up in the season’s premiere, which showed Sam and Dean viewing death and resurrection differently, felt like an organic source to the conflict. Showing Dean being forced down a path, rather than choosing it, weakens the story.

Next, there are occasional episodes in which everything seems a little over exaggerated.  It's not just one actor over-acting, it's all of them, which leads me to think it's the directing.  This was one of them.  Whenever this happens, it always bugs me because the dialogue doesn't flow naturally and I'm pulls me out of the moment.

Charlie has an annoying habit of turning away from Sam and talking mostly to Dean when she’s supposed to be talking to both of them. Frankly, unless Dean and Charlie are in a much more intimate relationship than what has been suggested, it’s inappropriate and just rude. I’m not sure I would have been as nice to Charlie as Sam was to her if someone was being that rude to me.

Finally, why is a powerful angel like Zeke talking like Dean is his boss? They started this partnership as a mutually beneficial arrangement, but now Zeke is letting Dean make the big decisions, and answering with “as you wish.” Last week’s Zeke, who set down some ground rules with Cas, seemed more realistic.

The “Huh?”

Dorothy’s line that you’re not a hunter until you’ve died at least once and come back felt like a violation of canon for me, considering that in the earlier seasons, people weren't routinely brought back from the dead. Other than through demon deals, it was unheard of prior to the pre-apocalypse arrival of angels.

The Speculation

Did anyone else get the feeling that Crowley’s request to stretch his legs was a trick that we’ll see come back on Sam and Dean later?

What are your thoughts on this episode?  Hit or miss?  As a note, I'm not expecting to have much TV time next week, so you probably won't get a review from me for the next episode.

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