The hilarious title of tonight’s episode refers to live action role-playing games. I figure the best way to spare myself any embarrassment here is to concede up front that I know nothing about this particular activity and the thrillingly vibrant subculture that I assume goes with it. So I may have failed to appreciate many thoughtful nuances and cutting in-jokes regarding the scene that were carefully embedded in the episode, which would help to account for why I found much of it so boring. Nor am I the right person to tell you that this was a baseless slander on the LARP-playing community, because if it was, I just don’t know. All I can say is that, as depicted in this show, a gathering of live action role-playing enthusiasts looks a lot like a Renaissance fair where people may—the show seemed vague on this point—actually whup on each other. The people themselves seemed nice enough, intelligent and friendly and just looking for a chance to blow off some steam on the weekends with other people who were intelligent, friendly, and nice enough. This did more to increase the boredom than alleviate it.
Watching “LARP And The Real Girl,” I was reminded of one of the all-time great episodes of The X-Files: “Humbug,” the Darin Morgan-scripted episode that goofs on sideshow performers, and that even drafted a couple of well-known sideshow figures, Jim Rose and The Enigma, to make rather broad fun of themselves. “LARP” might have been conceived as an excuse to bring back Felicia Day, who turned up on the show last year as a lovable, geek-girl tech wizard. I have nothing against Felicia Day, but she’s not exactly a high-intensity actress, and she dragged that earlier episode down a bit; reacting convincingly to scenes of gory horror just doesn’t seem to be her thing.
She fits in better here, because “LARP”—again, remember the hilarious title—is one of the more light-hearted, dare I say, whimsical installments of Supernatural, and so it’s not as if her mild screen presence is standing in the way of a tidal wave of white-knuckle suspense that the show is trying to set off. But the fact that she fits in just underlines how mild this episode is. It’s not terrible, and I’ve seen much worse episodes of Supernatural, but it’s never quite as much of anything as you’d like: not funny enough, not lively enough, and for damn sure not scary enough. It feels as if the writers wanted to tap into something, and have some fun with its potential to be ludicrous, but didn’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. Say what you like about Darin Morgan and his incredible disappearing career, but whatever problems that man may have as a writer, letting undue concern about giving offense get in the way of his showing the audience a good time was never one of them.
The plot itself is one that the show has done a thousand variations on: one of the players involved in the game that Felicia Day is part of has gotten to taking it all a little too seriously, and used magic to summon up a creature to smite players he feels he can gladly do without. (The magic involved a symbol that appeared on the bodies of the victims. Day’s best line came when she identified the image: “It’s a Celtic magic symbol. At least, it was in my favorite video game.”) Once the set-up was clear, the pieces fell into place so predictably that even the most promising joke—Dean deciding that live action role-playing is bitchin’ and jumping at the chance to get into costume—felt muted. That said, there are some things that you just can’t screw up, and the ending, with Dean, in face paint and long blond wig, delivering the battle speech from Braveheart to an army of zonked gamers, was one of them. Jensen Ackles—I can’t stay mad at this guy!
- In the first season, a man is talking on the phone, and we hear him say, “Lance, we both cut corners to get close to her, but that wasn’t cheating.” I guess I knew there was no way he was supposed to be talking to Armstrong, but it was still disappointing when it was confirmed that he wasn’t.
- How hard was it to guess that the bad guy was the dude who, when asked if he was a gamer, replied, “I prefer the term ‘interactive literaturist?’”
- The bad guy was also the first character in eight seasons to immediately recognize that the brothers’ FBI badges were fakes, and even lecture them on what was wrong with them. This was almost Darin Morgan-esque.
- The creature brought to our reality to do the bad guy's bidding ("His bidding," said Day, "that's never a good thing.") turned out to be a beautiful fairy, with whom Day's character had the privilege of making out. It came at the climax of an episode in which the character, having been established as a lesbian, went on to further establish that she was apparently the horniest human being alive, making eyes at chicks until I almost expected Dean, of all people, to advise her to take a cold shower and focus. I'm all for lesbian characters on TV, but when a character who happens to be lesbian is this driven by her libido when some supernatural entity is murdering her friends, maybe it's really the writers who are having trouble focusing.
- At one point, the writers are so desperate to just fill up some time that they have Felicia Day say, “Great. Now the worst period of my life comes to an end. I saw my boss get eaten by a Leviathan, broke my arm, was living on the run, finally got it all back, and now a monster in a stag mask is going to kill me.” Maybe this wouldn’t have seemed so funny to me if I hadn’t seen last night’s Raising Hope, where Jimmy’s tendency to narrate his life this way was used as a plot point, and an illustration of how annoying he could be. The difference is that, on Raising Hope, it wasn’t just funny-peculiar but actually funny ha-ha, partly because Lucas Neff deployed a goofy voice, and Shannon Woodward was onscreen, conveying aggravation by staring into the camera in that way she has that makes me worry about the camera operator’s sperm count.