Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 11: “LARP and the Real Girl”
Written by Robbie Thompson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on CW
Throughout the years, the Winchester brothers have encountered numerous individuals who have turned to malevolent entities or otherworldly forces to gain the upper hand, be it preachers’ wives harnessing Reapers for their own benefit, or numerous individuals making crossroads deals, the Winchesters have more than once found themselves cleaning up a mess left by others. The issue with such an approach, after eight seasons, is that it can begin to come off as stale, or at least over-familiar. Keeping the story beats while still making the episode seem fresh is a balancing act writers are often saddled with, and this week was no different for Supernatural. Fortunately, they rose to the occasion, delivering a breezy episode that brought back a previous guest and revealed a new side of Dean.
It was quite fun to watch Dean slowly find himself drawn into the LARPing environment. Dean is someone who gets attracted to situations that mirror his hunter’s upbringing; as was seen most prominently in the season 4 episode “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and more recently in Dean’s stint in Purgatory, situations like that remain attractive to him despite, arguably, his better instincts. So it makes perfect sense that an environment where people hunt monsters and good and evil is clear-cut, such as the LARPing environment, would appeal to Dean, and to watch him initially try to deny that, then finally admit to it and go along with it was quite amusing. It also brings up a question, however, of what Dean’s place would have been in medieval society; some interesting parallels can be drawn between the Winchesters of today and the tales of legendary knights from the Middle Ages. Both fought terrors that most never saw, and laid their lives on the line for strangers, both live a sparse life out of necessity, and both are skilled fighters by experience, rather than training.
It was also good to see Charlie back, and her offer to the brothers at the end of the episode seem to leave the door open for further appearances by her as well. With most of the former generation of hunters, from Bobby to Rufus to Ellen Harvelle to John Winchester himself now having succumbed to the perils of their chosen profession, it would make sense for the next group of hunters to begin taking their place. The biggest example of this so far has been Garth taking over Bobby’s old role of alibi-provider, advice-dispenser, and as of this episode, case-assigner, for hunters, and hopefully Charlie’s increased presence means that she can provide whatever computer support would be needed, both to the Winchesters and to other hunters, much like Frank used to provide. If nothing else, it would be fun to see Dean and Charlie reprise the easy camaraderie that is on display this episode
The show’s portrayal of homosexuality, however, continues to be an issue, and one that reared its ugly head prominently in this episode. Charlie being a lesbian is something that was established during her last appearance, but it was simply an observation about the character that presented a minor obstacle; this episode, on the other hand, decides to put a major focus on this aspect of her, which would in and of itself be a positive point rather than a concern, except that the show chooses to do so in what appears to be a very fetishistic manner, having Charlie flirt with numerous attractive women, and make out with one in a scene where the camera lingers. The focus doesn’t add anything to the character, or give us a better understanding of who Charlie is as a person, instead leading to a baffling decision where Charlie, who has been portrayed as someone who is a problem solver and is eager this episode to quickly apprehend whoever has been hurting and killing her fellow LARPers, does a complete about face to make out with another attractive woman until the solution to the issue practically falls into her lap. The emphasis on her homosexuality this week seems to exist only to serve as a titillating point to the episode, and sticks out even more sorely when put against the show’s earlier depictions of male homosexuals. Should Charlie become a recurring character, hopefully this issue will be addressed.
Overall, however, this was another exciting episode, with plenty of trademark Supernatural humour sprinkled around it. The reaction of the shadow orcs to Dean’s gun is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as is Dean’s rendition of the iconic Braveheart speech. The idea of escape to a different life and excessive investment in something was an interesting point to raise in light of the sacrifices both brothers made last week, although the episode did not delve very deeply into it. Felicia Day is a welcome addition to the show, and this episode displays why in fine fashion, as she fits into the Winchester universe quite capably. Supernatural’s ability to pull off both standalone and mythology-heavy episodes has always been a strength of the show, and this episode proves the writers have not lost their touch in that regard, and make it worth tuning in for next week, no matter what direction the episode chooses to take.
– Deepayan Sengupta