How cute is Charlie Bradbury? “Pac-Man Fever” saw the beloved IT nerd with a flair for LARPing return to help the Winchesters with a case involving mutated djinn and liquefied insides. After seeing Charlie this season in “LARP and the Real Girl” I didn’t think we’d see her again until Season 9. Given the lack of females on Supernatural I was thrilled to see her this week and I’m glad the writers chose to tackle what makes Charlie tick rather than just exploring another facet of her quirkiness. Of course, we got plenty of Charlie quirkiness, from her pantsuit montage to seeing her walk out of the elevator uttering the famous line from Terminator. But “Pac-Man Fever” was about exploring Charlie’s backstory, which was surprisingly tragic considering how strong Charlie ended up being. Although this was a standalone “case of the week” episode, it did advance the season-long arc in a minor way: Sam’s body is breaking down from the strain of the trials. Dean, understandably, is a wreck over it. Something tells me we’re headed for a finale that’s going to be very unpleasant.
Charlie went from scared at a sleepover to super hacker.
When she first arrives in Kansas, Charlie tells the brothers that she was attending a comic book convention. When Sam and Dean find Charlie’s base of operations, they discover that she was actually in town visiting her mother, Gertrude, who’d been in a vegetative state since being hit by a drunk driver when Charlie was kid. Charlie carries an enormous amount of guilt over the accident since she called her parents to come get her after getting scared at a sleepover. I was moved by the tragedy of Charlie’s situation and how it tied into Sam and Dean’s backstory without being too forced or obvious. Charlie sneaking into the hospital to read Gertrude The Hobbit was also a nice touch since, as Charlie told Dean, her mother used to read her that book and it helped form all her geeky interests. We saw Charlie come full circle as a character in this episode and form what is arguably the best-developed female character in Supernatural history. Some people would argue for Meg and I would’ve agreed with them before this episode. But Charlie’s backstory was just so tragic and intriguing that I’m putting her on top for now.
That being said, “Pac-Man Fever” did have some problems. The teaser, although cool, felt so far removed from the episode that by the time it resurfaced I’d almost forgotten about it. There was also the odd contrast between Charlie’s heartwarming moments and the “dream” portion of the episode after the djinn attack. The whole scenario made sense but still felt convoluted, like a bastard version of Inception mixed with Call of Duty. Speaking of the djinn, the reveal of the coroner somehow caught me off guard (after eight seasons I should just suspect anyone else besides Winchester and Friends) but the showdown between her and her son (the other djinn) and the Winchesters was underwhelming and predictable. Just once I’d like to see an extended fight scene where Sam and Dean are truly challenged by an opponent and have to use their cunning wits to kill the monster. What we got here was the typical monster monologue that resulted in both (both!) the djinns being stabbed. Finally, that scene with the two kids playing videos and finding the dead body was just atrocious. Awful acting and awfully clichéd.
Sometimes the little moments mean the most.
Season 8 has been full of callbacks to previous seasons and “Pac-Man Fever” contained our biggest one thus far as Charlie referenced the Supernatural novels written by Carver Edlund, better known as Chuck the Prophet, who we haven’t seen since “Swan Song” when he vanished into thin air. How fun was it to hear that Charlie had caught up on the Winchester history through these intrusive novels, which chronicled the heroic exploits of the brothers and Sam’s lack of success with the opposite sex. These nods have reopened the show to its own rich history and have added up to help make the eighth season the best since Season 5. But Charlie’s mention of Chuck wasn’t the best moment of this episode. That came during the penultimate scene, when Charlie said, “I love you” to Dean. I wrote “Cutest moment ever?” in my notes and I think it might be my favorite. Considering the heart to heart Charlie and Dean had in the dream world, this moment felt well earned. Dean helped Charlie let go of her guilt and return to the hospital for one more reading session with her mother. It was a poignant ending to an above average filler episode, and I’m just fine with that.
Line of the week
Charlie: “I love you.”
Dean: “I know.”
Next week on Supernatural
The mythology is back in full swing!