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Supernatural - Optimism - Review

Supernatural “Optimism” was written by Steve Yockey and was directed by Richard Speight Jr. The episode features popular guest star Felicia Day back as Charlie Bradbury – thank God for alternate universes, am I right?

The episode begins in the McCook, Nebraska library and the music and nerdy love triangle between Miles (Eanna O’Dowd), Winston (Amitai Marmorstein) and Harper (Maddie Phillips) makes it seem like we’re in for a more light-hearted episode – to go with the title. Phillips puts in a solid performance, keeping us guessing. Winston thinks he and Harper are going on a date – and Harper is clear it’s just dinner. I did really like this opening sequence, ending with a jaunty “Staying Alive” strut by Winston – ending in Winston’s very much not staying alive!

Sam (Jared Padalecki) teams up with Charlie in Memphis. This does not seem like the Charlie we know at all – she’s definitely no conversationalist! It’s a nice opportunity for Day to create a new character. However, she’s gathered some clues and is reading through books to figure out what they are dealing with – which Sam has to be on board with – even if he is stuck on a boring stakeout.

Back at the bunker, Jack (Alexander Calvert) fills in on the brotherly duty of checking up on Dean (Jensen Ackles). Jack is a little like a bull in a china shop – ah, the innocence of youth. He simply blurts out that no one blames Dean for what happened with Michael – but Dean blames himself. On the other brotherly end, Dean is concerned about Jack’s cough – which he hilariously attributes to sitting around doing nothing! What Jack wants to do is hunt. Dean knows that Jack’s been hunting with Castiel (Misha Collins) – but that’s to keep Jack safe. I loved them cutting from Dean calling Sam a smart guy for teaming Cas with Jack to Sam playing with a fidget spinner!

Jack has found the hunt in McCook – there were human bites on Winston’s body – and he wants to check it out. Dean shuts him down, saying that Sam won’t like it. Dean is ready to check it out himself, and Jack says that the new protocol is to always hunt in pairs! Finally! Jack wants to be Dean’s “hunting buddy” – Dean, of course, doesn’t like any of it.

And of course, Jack confesses that he feels just as responsible for everything Michael has done as Dean does because Jack could have killed him when he was at full strength. Dean tries to dismiss Jack’s culpability in the same way Jack tried to dismiss him – and Jack throws that back at him. It’s not helping to sit in the Bunker all day thinking about what he could have done – he needs to hunt – to try to do some good – and it’s exactly the way Dean thinks too.

Dean and Jack start their investigation at the diner Winston used to eat breakfast at every morning. We get some awkward moments with the waitress, a glass rooster, and Jack’s superficial knowledge of the dating world – but she does point them in Harper’s direction. Everyone tells them Harper lead a charmed life until her boyfriend ran off and since then she’s been bad luck – losing all subsequent boyfriends.

Charlie tries to reassure Sam about Dean, after all, he has to have other friends, right? Sam says she was Dean’s other confidant – but Charlie quickly points out not her. This Charlie was also a programmer and Roman Enterprises – but she lived with the love of her life. I really like how there are these little details that are different. Of course, they’d be like ripples in a pond – the butterfly effect – which should mean that at some point these universes would be drastically different – like the apocalypse, of course – but the logical flaw here actually runs pretty deep if you want to focus on that. Let’s not…

Charlie tells Sam about her Cara – who ran a cupcake bakery and smelled like peaches – something out of a storybook. Yep. That’s our Charlie too, right? Then she goes on to tell Sam about the apocalypse – how Michael and Lucifer set off an EMP or something over North America and fried all the technology. At first, they banded together, thinking someone would save them, but no one ever did. Things got violent when the food ran out – and people – like Cara – died. People are always the same when things go wrong. Society falls apart. This Charlie seems to have lost her optimism. Sam tells her not here – and she answers not yet.

We get a classic pie scene in the diner with Dean and Jack. I loved Dean calling Jack Mighty Mouse – and very Cas-like, Jack doesn’t get the reference. Jack wants to know more about courting, but Dean puts of “the talk” until they get home. There are some nice touches by Ackles here – including smelling the coffee before drinking it. It’s bad, but not too bad to drink. I also liked the little throwaway to Gabriel (Richard Speight Jr) and Rowena’s (Ruth Connell) little tryst in the Bunker. Meanwhile, Dean wants Jack to focus on the hunt – and Harper Sayles – that’s just too much bad luck for one person.

Dean goes into the library as FBI and Jack comes in to save Harper from him – I loved Dean’s plan of using Harper’s obsession with romance novels to get to her. There’s also a nice bit of comedy when Jack calls Dean “old man” – and it clearly hits a real nerve with Dean. It works as Harper is clearly smitten with Jack.

Harper takes Jack to her apartment to get her favorite book – and Miles follows them out of the library to object. Miles tries to stop her – she doesn’t even know this guy! And he refuses to shake Jack’s hand. Miles throws out the garbage – and as Dean is following Jack to see where they went, he hears Miles scream – and finds his bloody corpse.

Charlie complains that she hates hunting. Sam remarks that she’s awesome at it – clearly admiring her ploughing through so many books! Just like our Charlie, she wonders who would want to be a hunter? Just a lot of tears and death. Charlie tells Sam that this is her last hunt – her plan is basically to become a hermit on a mountain top – as long as it has good wifi.

Harper suddenly realizes it’s a bit weird that she asked Jack back to her place and assures him that she’s not “putting the moves” on him – which all goes completely over his head. I loved how he cleverly tested her with silver, holy water, and Christo. Dean calls and Jack ignores the call. He explains his wet hand as his being nervous, and Harper invites him to sit down.

It was fun having someone point out lore to Sam – instead of him doing all the leg-work for Dean. Charlie has determined that they are after a Musca. And of course, Sam has read all the books, so he knows about a Musca, but the clues all point to the giant human fly – and the all black costume with a huge veil covered head isn’t at all conspicuous… I did love the two older ladies who immediately get off their bench to get away from him!

Jack tells her that he’s from Lebanon – aw! Harper tells Jack that she’s the last one of her family, who’ve lived in McCook for generations. Jack notices the picture of Vance (Sam Robert Muik) and Harper and asks if he’s her boyfriend. She tells him that he was but after high school, Vance wanted to see the world. She told him that they could do it through books. But he left anyway – Jack is surprised that he left without her. She confides that that was the beginning of her bad luck – but she tries to stay positive. Jack says he tries to stay positive too – but it can be hard.

When Dean calls again, Harper asks if Jack believes in love at first sight – and Jack excuses himself to go to the washroom to call Dean. He’s sure that Harper is in love with him – and Dean assures him that she’s not. I loved Jack telling Dean that he needed to know everything about sex – “Go!” Oh, if only it were that easy! While Dean and Jack are brainstorming on the phone, Dean is attacked.

Harper is worried that she’s freaked Jack out, but she’s freaked out when Dean bursts in and blockades the door. Jack and Dean assure her that it’s ok. He’s not FBI – he’s there to save her from whatever it is that’s on the other side of the door… Dean thought it was a ghost until it punched him in the face. Dean sees a picture of Vance and asks how he died. Harper says she thinks that he lives in Connecticut! Jack finally gets his zombie. But Dean sends Jack to take Harper away and fights the zombie himself.

Sam tells Charlie that she can’t just walk away. People need people – and it’s not that easy to just stop hunting. And then the Musca shows up. I liked the way they intercut all three action scenes as Sam and Charlie run after the Musca, Jack keeps Harper moving, and Dean fights Vance – except Vance isn’t too interested in fighting!

Sam and Charlie – theoretically – need a brass nail dipped in sugar water to kill the Musca. They don’t have any of those things, so Sam says they’ll just have to improvise as the Musca has dragged off a victim. Charlie finds the victim unconscious and is then grabbed by the Musca and ends up falling and hitting her head. Sam and Charlie get creative and end up slimed. But they do kill the Musca – without having to resort to the lore solution. Speight does the classic lots of cuts fight scene to help disguise the rather lame looking fly head.

Naturally, it turns out that Harper knows all about Vance and lets him in to the library. He’s still her boyfriend and this is just a little game they play. She knows that Jack is a hunter – and she comes from a long line of necromancers! Dean arrives in the nick of time and explains how they have to kill Vance – he needs to go back into his grave and have a silver stake driven through his heart – we’ve seen this before! Remember Dean’s great slide into the grave in “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things?”

Jack and Dean double team Vance into silver handcuffs. Meanwhile, Harper takes off. She stops to write a love letter to Jack. She thinks their love is real – she’ll have to kill him and bring him back to life… but she’s ok with that. The fact that she gets away makes me think that we'll be seeing her again, and I'm ok with that as Phillips put in a solid performance here.

Sam and Charlie head back – the victim from the bus stop will be alright. Sam feels sorry for the Musca, who would have been alright if he’d just stayed with his people. This Charlie is also too clever for metaphors – she gets it – she shouldn’t go off on her own. But Sam asks her not to go. The guy they saved has a wife and kid – if they help people, maybe those people will help others. For Sam, that makes it worth all the tears and death. Charlie agrees to think about staying. It’s also a nice shout out to the charity work that the cast on the show does – such as Collins’ Random Acts charity that is all about paying the kindness forward.

Dean and Jack get the last scene back at the Bunker. Dean tells him he did good, so Jack wants to go out hunting. Dean wants Jack to be ready when he makes mistakes – it’s how you handle the mistakes and learn from them – but Jack is one step ahead of him. Dean acknowledges that Jack is smart. He’ll talk to Sam about getting Jack out on more hunts, but he’s still concerned about that cough. Jack tries to brush it off again, but he ends up unconscious and bleeding from the nose and mouth. This storyline has definitely gone on for long enough.

This was a pretty solid episode. Neither hunt felt very rich – the problem with splitting the hunts up – but I did like how the stories were woven together. This was definitely Speight’s most solid outing as a director. I’m betting that things ran more smoothly on set with Padalecki paired with Day – and who did give him that fidget spinner? I’m still going to harp on the fact that lore seems completely unimportant anymore. Why do the research when it seems that everything can just be solved by the seat of their pants? While most of the episode was lighthearted, their was an emotionally deeper core to this episode. I’m interested to see where they take what’s happening with Jack – and how they will attempt to solve it. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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