Supernatural Episode 8-19 Review – “Pac-Man Fever”

After yet another unexplained two week break the Supernatural boys – Sam and Dean are back. With only four episodes left in the season I was expecting to get another episode associated with the shows main arc – the trials, the prophet Kevin Tran, and Crowley as surely there is a lot of story left to tell. However “Pac Man Fever” is not concerned with that instead it acts as a character study for one of series most loved guest characters – Charlie who is once again played by Felicia ‘Day. This is a nice idea but when offered so near the end it comes across as out of place. This is of course not the fault of the actors, who once again have great chemistry and perform well together but rather on the producers who deemed this worth of including at this juncture. It is not a bad episode but if they intended on telling this story surely they could have pushed weaker ones like “Remember the Titans” off the board for it since it was just bad and gave no further plot or character development at all. It is an example of if there are going to continue having episodes that veer from the main arc they should at least fill in the world as “Pac Man Fever” does.

The boys randomly run into Charlie who is apparently in Kansas for a comic convention. However as soon as she speaks with them she mentions that she has a case. A young woman has been found dead in a park with her insides liquefied which clearly sounds like their kind of thing. Not to nit pick but if Sam and Dean are looking for even the slightest hints of other wordly activity around the country they would have found this one themselves since it is in their home state and apparently close to where they live? Well I guess they have other things on their minds. Moving on. It seems that Charlie has taken her obsessive nature and directed it towards the world of monsters because in the months since we have last seen her she has become quite an expert. With Sam sidelined due to “mysterious test disorder”, Dean offers to take Charlie along for the investigation. Seems a little bit of an odd choice concerning how long and hard both boys have worked to keep people out of the “life” but I digress.

Per usual the first stop is the coroner’s office and I have to give the writer’s some credit here the actually have a smart one for a change. Dean and Charlie’s badges and charm cannot overcome her need to have a Chain of Command form, which you would think someone would have asked for at some point. It was rather funny to watch the two of them try to get around this weekly situation and fail only to have Dean slightly surprised and confused it didn’t work. This of course warrants what Sam and Dean do best – breaking and entering at night. They arrive at the morgue later only to find the coroner is still there which leads to a funny little awkward scene as Charlie tries to distract her. While that is going on Sam and Dean find the corpse and get their first clue a blue hand print.

After some research back at the Men of Letters headquarters, we find out that the monster probably behind this is a “bastard off spring of a Djinn” who instead feed off of fear. Sam and Dean have fought against these before and therefore know a ton about them so the process of their investigation is a little less exciting and enjoyable because of it. Later on we see Charlie in a hotel room pulling money from accounts and sending them somewhere else using her hacking skills. Before she can finish the Djinn shows up who is passing herself off as the coroner from earlier (good choice of disguise). Sam and Dean discover that Charlie is gone and find out that she was making a donation to a hospital nearby for a specific patient. They eventually learn that the patient is Charlie’s mom who has been in coma for over a decade and half after being struck by a drunk driver. Following the accident Charlie got in trouble with the law and no one has really seen her since. A tragedy at a young age that forces kids to make life choices they aren’t ready for? I knew her and the Winchester’s got long for a reason.

Sam and Dean rather quickly put together the obvious that the coroner is in fact the Djinn. After a quick web search they learn that she owns an apartment and a warehouse by an abandoned shipping yard. Normally this would be pretty cheesy but Dean’s wonderful reaction to that tidbit make it more of a nod to the fan base than a poor plot point. Fairly soon after arriving they kill the Djinn without much ceremony so the “monster of the week” wasn’t really much of a threat or really developed that much. Once again as if the writers are informing us that – “Charlie is the important one here”. Speaking of Charlie, she is locked in a dream world caused by the Djinn whose goal is to cause an endless loop while the victim’s insides turn to jello. Now normally Djinn send people to their paradise but this bastard version take people to their nightmares. In a rather hilarious bit, Charlie’s endless loop is a video game where super solider vampires keep spawning endlessly.

Back in the real world – Sam is confronted by another Djinn, this one is the teenage son of the coroner. It turns out that the kid made mistake making his first kill and his mother tried to cover it up. After a quick battle Sam kills him without a real moral issue which is not his style. Perhaps the trials are hitting him harder than we think? Regardless I think this is a missed opportunity because you have two mother-son stories that actually have more in common than you think. Two young kids who seek help from their mother only to have it result in their deaths and each seeking forgiveness from the one person they cannot reach. If handled differently this could have been a rather nice tone to leave off on but whatever he is dead so forget it.

Charlie’s situation is that she was staying over at a friend’s house but she got frightened and called her parents to pick her up. Sadly they never made it which is where they got hit by the drunk driver. Charlie has been keeping her alive out of guilt and so that she can do what her mother would do for her when she was sick – keep her company and read to her. Charlie admits that her mom reading her The Hobbit when she was little made her what she is today.  Realizing it wasn’t completely her fault and resigning herself to what had happened is enough to wake her up from the nightmare.

The episode closes with one that every nerd will no doubt confess to making them tear up a little. Charlie sits by her mother’s bedside and after telling doctors who she is and reads the “The Hobbit” to her one last time before presumingly pulling the plug. A bit of a tearjerker to be sure.

In summary, “Pac Man Fever”, is a good and light episode which provides some background on a fan favorite. There are some weak moments , jumps in logic and plot to get us there (Sam being “so overwhelmed” by the trials, taking her hunting, weak monster, etc) but taken as a whole the flaws are not so bad and the trip is an enjoyable one. If Supernatural is going to continue doing “side/road quests” they aim should be something like this episode. A story that fills out the world and therefore further’s our investment as we learn more about our favorite characters and their motivation for who they are and what they intend to do.

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