Last week’s Supernatural episode was one of the special ones – unlikely, risky, innovative, the sort of episode that when you hear the idea half of you is going “What now?” and the other half is immediately jumping up and down and yelling “Hell yeah!”
One of the things I cherish most about this Show that I’ve loved for thirteen years is its fearlessness. It started life on a network that disappeared by the time its first season was over, with a person in charge who didn’t understand what it was or why anyone would like it, managed to get picked up on the successor network that no one expected to make a long-term go of it, sat precariously on the bubble for its first four or five seasons, and half the time since, and yet all that time the show never “played it safe”. As Jensen Ackles said when he and Jared Padalecki appeared on ‘The Talk,’ at their audition the show broke protocol – and they’ve been breaking it ever since!
In the past it’s been an episode that takes place on a television set, with all the meta-commentary that brings. Incorporating Supernatural the book series directly into Supernatural the television show; the boys zapped into sitcom hell by the Trickster; an episode that revolved around ghost sickness and saw Dean screaming in terror over house cats and running from tiny dogs; an episode shot entirely from the point of view of the Winchesters’ beloved Impala; and the meta episode of all meta episodes in which Jared and Jensen play Sam and Dean playing Jared and Jensen.
When it came time to celebrate Supernatural’s 200th episode, they marked that milestone with an episode titled “Fanfiction” which was an homage to every aspect of fandom, even the ones not usually talked about. I don’t think there’s another show that has dared to go so meta so often, and the brilliant writers and actors have pulled it off every single time.
The latest experimental episode, Scoobynatural, was no exception. An epic crossover worthy of the best fanfic, the episode saw Sam and Dean sucked into their brand new big screen TV and right into Dean’s favorite cartoon, Scooby Doo. The episode took over a year to finish, so the anticipation has been building for some time. Warner Bros. did their part lining up some talk show appearances, and the airing of the episode also coincided with Supernatural’s third appearance at PaleyFest, so that meant the fandom has had a veritable feast of Supernatural content for the past month. And it has been glorious!
One of the things you can count on about an episode of Supernatural is that some people will love it and some people will hate it, sometimes for exactly the same things. But Scoobynatural is one of those very rare episodes that most people agreed on – not everyone was over the moon for it, but few had any issues with it, and a lot of fans absolutely loved it. It doesn’t hurt that the cast clearly had a blast making it and as fans of Scooby Doo themselves, their enthusiasm shone through every time they talked about it. Jared, Jensen, and Misha were glowing at PaleyFest, happy to greet the gathered throng of fans and answer questions about the show. Even the Impala showed up, posing alongside the Mystery Machine in anticipation of the crossover.
When Thursday night was finally here, I grabbed a slice of pie and sat down to watch, not really knowing exactly what to expect. The episode started off with a bang – literally. BOOM! Dean Winchester hits the floor, wrestling with….a giant stuffed dinosaur?? BOOM! In comes Sam Winchester, leaping into frame. We have a lovely moment of Winchester teamwork as Dean yells for Sam to roll out of the way and tosses his lighter to send the giant plushie bursting into flames.
Sam to the mystified store owner and his creepy neighbor: Defective product.
I laughed out loud – and that was not to be the last time.
The opening scene was a short one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Winchesters being badasses and seamless teamwork, and then exchanging a look that acknowledges it.
Dean: Pretty satisfying.
The store owner actually thanks them for saving his life, which hardly ever happens to poor unappreciated Sam and Dean, and offers them something in return. Dean picks a big flat screen television because of course he does, and the boys carry it out.
Little things are such nice touches, keeping Sam and Dean in character – Dean’s fussy admonishment to Sam to “Be careful, she’s delicate” and Sam’s exasperated “SHE??”
That’s such a Dean thing – he grew up never having nice things, in fact never having much of anything in the way of possessions, and he cherishes what he does have to the point of anthropomorphizing his favorites. The Impala is his Baby, and also a her; his new beloved television gets the same affectionate reference. I love that even in an episode which will take Sam and Dean to yet another “AU,” the characterization is spot on in these small moments.
Back at the bunker, Sam does research because, of course, he does. Sam and his big brain are not distracted by flat screen television sets; he’s suspicious about why a cursed object actually tried to kill people. Dean, however, is too excited about the tv to stick to research. He wants Sam to come with him, even adding “It’s important.”
And that’s the thing. To Dean, his new Dean cave – the Fortress of Dean-i-tude – really IS important. There were so many important things snuck into this episode that on the surface seems like filler. It’s a standalone, for sure, but it’s rich in context for the show’s canon. The bunker has always been important to Dean as the home he never had, the stability he longed for growing up. He decorated his bedroom, made it his own, the simplicity of a mattress that remembered him rendered meaningful. His new Dean cave is another step in that direction, a glimpse of how much the bunker means to him. It’s a space where the Winchesters can step away from saving the world and just engage in the simple act of watching a television show or a favorite movie and having a beer.
It’s a physical acknowledgement that there is more to their lives than just fighting monsters – it is Dean allowing himself to HAVE more than just being a hunter. That is something that has always been hard for him, because it’s not how he was raised or what he was raised to value. He was raised to find purpose only in hunting, and while transient pleasures have been allowable in between cases, actually putting time and effort into a permanent space devoted to kicking back and relaxing? That has not been something Dean has allowed himself. I felt like this was a big step for Dean, and his encouragement to Sam to join in is also an important message to Sam that it’s okay to kick back too. Don’t get me wrong, Dean gives lip service to wanting to do that ever since Season 1, but it’s been a temporary thing, not permanent.
So much of this episode was about what entertainment affords us and why that is important in itself. A lot of my research is on the shame we sometimes feel about unabashedly loving a television show or a book or a film or a band or whatever it is we love, and how much we struggle with whether that’s okay. Scoobynatural allowed Dean to indulge his fanboy side – to literally slip into a world he’s fantasized about – and makes that okay. I loved the meta message of that, and ended up grinning my way through most of the episode as a result.
Big kudos to writers Jeremy Adams and Jim Krieg, who are Scooby and Supernatural fans respectively – I’m sure that contributed to getting this so “right.” And to Supernatural composers Chris Lennertz and Jay Gruska too, as well as the actors and Phil Sgriccia for his good natured direction.
Back on the screen, we get a lot of brotherly banter, and a lot of Sam being incredulous at his brother – again, right on target for characterization.
Dean, telling Sam to let it go: Be like Elsa.
Sam: Be like Elsa??
Dean is shamelessly letting his pop culture passions be visible, and Sam is playing the skeptical and perhaps slightly judgmental rest-of-the-world – but he eventually reveals himself to be a Scooby fan too, just not quite as open about it.
Dean dramatically turns on the new television, only to have a purple light come flashing out and zap them into the set, and into cartoons.
Here I have to give Jared and Jensen so much acting credit, because they turned those animated versions of themselves into Sam and Dean flawlessly.
Dean: Maybe this is an angel thing ….or the trickster…
Sam: He’s dead.
Dean: Or is he?
The behind the scenes video released after the episode aired shows Jared and Jensen rehearsing and recording this scene, with Jensen trying multiple ways of saying that provocative last line. I love the one they settled on, and even more fascinating was finding out that at the time they recorded it, nobody even knew that Richard Speight Jr. would be back on the show! Subconscious foreshadowing??
“Or is he??”
Dean and Sam are once again very much Dean and Sam. Sam questions how the Impala got there, always the researcher.
Dean: We’ll figure it out just like we always do, so let’s work the case.
Dean: Same as always…. We drive.
I felt just as emotional watching the animated Impala roar up the road as I would have in ‘real life.’ And soon enough, the boys discover the Mystery Machine and realize: We’re in Scooby Doo!
There’s a contrast between the traditional animation style of the Scooby Gang and the way Sam and Dean (and later Castiel) are animated, but I felt like that worked as a subtle reminder that this was indeed a crossover. The animation was brilliant, though my first thought about Dean was that he wasn’t quite good looking enough (though the interview with the animator on the behind the scenes featurette had him commenting on Jensen’s full lips, so that part came out well…) Sam’s broad shoulders and lovely hair and Castiel’s hair and eyes and dramatically flowing raincoat also came out well.
And we got a new title card to add to the impressive collection!
Dean and Sam find the Scooby gang in the Malt Shop (naturally), and I loved Dean’s reaction – he literally gasped out loud and grabbed onto Sam as he exclaimed: “That’s the Scooby gang!”
I couldn’t help but compare it to the zillions of times I’ve seen a fan lay eyes on Jared, Jensen or Misha for the very first time at a convention. It’s the same gasp, the same grab-onto-the-nearest-person, the same weak in the knees feeling. It was perfectly done.
Once again, we get some insight into Dean’s passion for the television show that was a rare source of stability in his chaotic childhood.
Dean: It’s like a dream come true.
(And really, it is – how many of us would like to be sucked into Supernatural?? Maybe without the whole Lucifer or Asmodeus or demons and vampires and ghosts are real thing though….)
Dean: No matter where Dad dragged us, there was always Scooby Doo… They’re our role models.
Sam points out that no matter the similarities, they do not have a talking dog.
Dean: Cas is kinda like a talking dog…
More lol from me.
Dean, undeterred, prepared to go say hello – especially to his childhood crush, Daphne.
Dean: How do I look?
Sam: (deadpan) Two dimensional.
It’s a running joke throughout the episode that Dean tries to hit on Daphne and she consistently rebuffs him, but so innocently that it’s like she never even realizes he’s trying to hit on her at all. I love that they kept the Scoobies innocent because that’s what they were for all of us when we watched as kids. I didn’t even mind that Daphne was a little curvier than I think she was back in the day, because in a way it was Dean seeing her through his adult eyes now, perhaps exaggerating her appeal a bit.
I also liked the way Dean’s initial dislike (jealousy) for Fred evolves over the course of the episode – he can’t hang onto any negative feelings because Fred, like Daphne, is a genuinely good person. An innocent, no matter how good looking he may be animated into being. His relationship with Daphne is portrayed as sweet and genuine, and that was just…. Awwww.
Dean, well-versed fanboy that he is, figures out what episode they’re in pretty quickly – though there’s an immediate twist into some unanticipated darkness when Fred notes that Colonel Sanders died … of cancer. The Winchesters decide to follow the advice they learned in ‘Changing Channels’ – when you find yourself sucked into a tv show, you need to play your parts. It’s off to the haunted mansion, but not before Dean joins Shaggy and Scooby for some road food. There’s a nice call back to ‘Changing Channels’ again, where Dean kept saying “I’m gonna need a bigger mouth” to eat the giant sitcom sandwich.
Dean: (eating a foot high sandwich): Sam, Sam! Look how big my mouth is!
This scene was included on the behind the scenes video too, with Jensen saying the line with his mouth open and Jared cracking up, then both of them dissolving in laughter and Misha joining in too.
Dean gets competitive with Fred and tries to race Baby against the Mystery Machine, and is completely dumbfounded when the Impala gets left at the starting line. Poor Baby!
At the mansion, the Scooby Gang and the Winchesters join some of Colonel Sanders’ other relatives at the reading of the will and of course they have to spend the night in the haunted house. (I couldn’t help but giggle at the Col. Sanders reference, by the way, because all I could think of was Asmodeus…)
Sam almost gives away that they’re in a cartoon, but Dean stops him, slapping a hand over Sam’s mouth.
Dean orders him not to say the “C word” (that is not what that means, Dean, just saying…)
Dean: We’re not gonna tell ‘em. They’re pure and innocent and good.
This again was a small moment that says a lot about Dean, and felt very in character. Dean, the big brother, who desperately wanted to protect his little brother from knowing about the reality of their life – of what their dad did, of what was really out there. We’ve heard him confess several times that he didn’t want Sam to know, that he wanted to prolong Sam’s innocence as long as he could. Dean knew firsthand what it costs you when your innocence is stripped from you too young, and he desperately didn’t want that for his brother. This episode, with the Scooby gang, was another opportunity for Dean to protect someone from that knowledge – and he is very serious about doing so.
Sam reluctantly agrees, and Dean points out that the very suspicious looking attorney who’s currently cackling about how maybe none of them will survive the night turns out to be the bad guy.
Sam: (deadpans) You don’t say.
Me: lol once again
Jared NAILED every one of those deadpan lines, with Sam’s long-suffering grimace and internal eye roll. These guys are all so damn good at comedy, and I love that they got to flex those muscles in this episode. And the animators nailed their expressions every time!
Dean suggests that he and Daphne bunk together to be safe, and she shoots him down with an incredulous laugh.
Daphne: Oh Dean, boys and girls don’t sleep in the same room!
Fred: Guess you’re with me, Slugger.
We then we get treated to fanboy Dean buying into the whole Scooby Doo thing 100%, dressed in a nightshirt and nightcap.
Sam: (in very attractive pajamas): Are you wearing a nightgown?
Dean: It’s a sleeping robe! I feel like I’m wrapped in hugs…
Oh Dean, how I love you.
Meanwhile, Daphne calls Velma on her attraction to Sam, who she insists on calling “that big lug”. Velma blushes behind her glasses and most of us watching are really just Velma right now.
The episode takes a further turn toward the dark when the first victim is killed and it turns out it’s not a fake body but a real – very dead – guy.
Sam: He’s dead! Like really actually dead.
That lets everyone say their signature lines, which was glorious.
Jinkies! Jeepers! Zoinks! Ruh roh! Sonofabitch!
Sam (always thinking): If that guy can die, we can too…
Dean: Never mind us, Scooby can too – I’d take a bullet for that dog!
Again, we’re reminded of the importance of Scooby Doo and all the characters in it to Dean. In Family Don’t End With Blood, I wrote about how important fictional characters and television shows can be to us – there’s research that shows that we experience nearly the same emotional reactions to “spending time” with our favorite fictional characters that we do spending time having dinner with our closest family or friends. That’s how Dean felt about the Scooby gang. He didn’t have a childhood spent with a bunch of relatives or friends gathered around the dining room table – but he had the Scoobies. Their familiarity, for him, served that purpose. And he isn’t kidding when he expresses the depth of his loyalty to them.
While everyone struggles with the fear that comes with having a dead guy down the hall, a dark figure approaches the window and bursts inside. Sam and Dean tackle him, but it turns out to be a flustered Castiel, who came looking for them at the bunker with his find from the holy land – only to be sucked into the television too.
Dean introduces him to the Scoobies, who comment: Castiel? Sounds like a great Italian pizza place.
(Was this a Meg shout out? Hmm.)
Misha Collins immediately dives into the humor, with Castiel’s trademark deadpan comments even more hilarious in cartoon form.
Cas: Dean, this dog is talking.
Team Free Will consults about what the hell is happening, mentioning the killer stuffed dinosaur, when the Scoobies overhear and react with alarm.
Dean: Oh no, we…we’re writing a book, it’s called…
Cas: Killer Stuffed Dinosaurs…. In Love.
Me: lol lol lol
What follows is a classic Scooby Doo episode with a Supernatural dark twist, as the phantom finally appears and everyone tries to avoid being killed by him. All those familiar tropes were there – Scooby jumps into Shaggy’s arms when he’s scared. And then the twist – Shaggy jumps into Castiel’s arms, still holding onto Scooby!
As soon as the immediate danger is over, Cas drops them on the floor without fanfare, leaving me giggling once again.
The next victim they find takes the darkness a few more notches up – he’s not only beheaded, but his headless body is strung up on the ceiling!
Fred: That’s not good.
I couldn’t help but laugh again omg.
Meanwhile, Sam and Velma are exploring the attic. Velma, ever the voice of reason, is trying to explain to Sam that monsters are real – and constantly admiring his shoulders. I mean, who can blame her?
Velma: I wouldn’t expect a big broad shouldered guy like you to be as scared as Shaggy…
Sam: Why do you keep talking about my shoulders?
Their conversation eventually prompts Sam to try to tell her the truth, and to work in a classic Buffy line.
Sam: We’ve saved the world. A lot.
(One of the writers confirmed that he is indeed a Buffy fan).
Cas, meanwhile, is teamed up with Shaggy and Scooby.
Cas: I once led armies, and now I’m paired with a scruffy Philistine and a talking dog.
The phantom eventually gets the drop on all of them, and in the dark, Dean mistakes the phantom’s glowing eyes for Daphne’s after a scuffle.
Dean: Daphne, you okay? Maybe I should just give you a once over, make sure…
The lights come on, Dean jumps back, and then we got one of my favorite scenes of the episode – the classic Scooby Doo montage of running between the doors of a hallway scene, complete with the theme music. Even Scrappy Doo made an appearance! Once the phantom has temporarily disappeared, they regroup and resolve that they have to stop him.
Daphne: Dean almost did – he had him by the thigh!
Cas: He what?
Things are a lot more dire than they get in the cartoons though. Fred is bleeding, and Shaggy has a broken arm. That prompts the Winchesters and Castiel to finally tell them the truth, that he’s a real ghost. That monsters are real.
The result was unexpected, and I love when Show can surprise me! The Scoobies don’t take the news well at all. Fred bangs his head against a tree; Daphne goes into an instant existential crisis, ranting about the existence of Heaven and Hell and then lamenting ‘Am I going to hell?’
You have to wonder what it is Daphne has done that makes her so worried about that, but suffice it to say the Scoobies are losing it.
Dean jumps into action, ever the protector – and always up for a motivational speech. He reminds them that they’ve fought monsters and won. Showing off his encyclopedic knowledge of Scooby Doo, Dean recites their victories so they’ll be empowered and remember their own strength. Sam jumps on the bandwagon too, finally owning up to his own love of Scooby Do by adding some of his own examples.
Dean: I knew it! You love the show too!
Well of course he does, Dean. It was his childhood too, after all.
Dean still insists on boundaries, refusing to hand over guns to the Scoobies.
Dean: That’s a Scooby Don’t!
Fred steps up to the plate and insists on helping, and isn’t shy about voicing his admiration for Sam and Dean and Cas.
Fred: You guys are amazing. But I can help!
Dean: F—king right you can. (Jensen apparently said that, and they kept the take – with a strategic word bleeped out of course)
And we get the iconic Supernatural ‘we’ve got work to do’ scene too, with bonus added Scooby Gang.
Fred, of course, helps by building a trap – a super complicated one.
Sam: (ever the skeptic) Where’d he get coconuts?
Cas and Shaggy and Scooby act as bait, and somehow end up getting caught in the trap instead of the phantom, which was frankly hilarious.
Dean: Fred’s traps never work.
Plan B, however, works like a charm. The phantom falls through the trap door (I guess because he was weighted down by the books he was holding?) and is captured in a salt circle so they can finally figure out what’s going on. Turns out it’s a ghost kid, who claims forlornly that he never wanted to hurt anyone, but the bad man made him.
I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a bit of foreshadowing of what will happen when Jack meets Lucifer….
The ghost boy is tied to the bad man by the pocket knife his dad gave him; the Winchesters convince him to let them return to the real world, where they’ll finally set his soul free. But first, they realize they have to do something about the very traumatized and no-longer-innocent Scoobies. (Daphne is currently yelling hysterically “Kill it with fire!”)
They tell the Scoobies that they were wrong and Velma was right all along, Cas heals Shaggy’s broken arm, and the ghost kid helps make it believable.
Velma to Sam: So I was right, ya big lug…
She grabs Sam and dips him, planting a big kiss on him – and once again in that moment, we are all Velma, at least in our dreams.
Velma, as she walks away: Those shoulders, jinkies!
Dean: Shoulda known Velma was good to go…it’s always the quiet ones…
Cas to Shaggy and Scooby: I’ll miss your wise words and gentle spirits. You showed me the value of laughter in the face of danger.
That’s part of what made this episode work so well too – Supernatural has a uniquely effective way of blending humor with danger and outright horror. Not many shows can do it the way this show does, and it makes the darkness of the show bearable because it’s broken up from time to time with out and out laughter. I so relished that in this episode.
Back in the real world, Dean proclaims the whole experience one of his best times ever, maybe even better than what he did with the Cartwright twins.
Cas: What did you do with the Cartwright twins?
Sam: I don’t think I wanna know.
And just like that, we’re back in Supernatural. Sam burns the pocket knife.
Dean: Time to go, kid.
The ghost kid is gone, presumably reunited with his dad, and all three of Team Free Will look pretty emotional about that.
Cut to the Winchesters saving the nice store owner from signing away his store to the bad man.
Nice owner to Dean: Is that an ascot?
Dean: (fingering his ascot) Why yes, yes it is. (That was way too hot, btw…)
Bad guy gets led away by the police (who apparently will come pick you up for tax evasion with sirens blaring…).
Sam: Velma was right, it was a shady real estate developer after all!
Shady real estate developer turns back from where he’s being loaded into the cop car and exclaims: And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
Dean: (gasps) He said it! He said the line!
And with that, he turns into the camera and does the “Scooby dooby dooooo” ending, much to my delight.
Ackles, you nailed it.
Cas: Dean, you’re not a talking dog.
Dean: I know that.
They walk away from poor Dean in his decorative ascot (which frankly Ackles is totally rocking).
Dean: I do look cool in this ascot, right? C’mon guys, red is my color….
Yes it is, Dean.
I thoroughly enjoyed this little interlude – next episode (The Thing) I’m sure it’s back to bloody and brutal and Omg what is going to happen leading up the season finale!