Supernatural – On the Road, urban fantasy style
The staying power of CW’s cult urban fantasy show is truly impressive. Even The X-Files is only on its 11th season — albeit on an on-again, off-again basis.
Following the adventures of the Winchester brothers set to a classic rock soundtrack has been an amazing experience. I’ve been a fan of the show since the beginning, and while the quality was up-and-down in the early years, the writers and show runners have found a formula that works. Lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have grown into (and up with!) the roles.
Gimmick episodes are nothing new in the world of television. From the Murder, She Wrote crossover episode with Magnum, P.I. to all the celebrity visitors to Gilligan’s Island, we’ve seen it before. Supernatural is no different, but the dramatic weight given to the mainline plot has allowed for some great risk-taking. Whether it be the season 4 episode where a cursed Dean is afraid of everything, or the season 3 episode where Dean repeatedly dies, a la Groundhog Day.
“Growing up on the road, no matter where dad dragged us, no matter what we did, there was always a TV. And you know what was always on that TV? Scooby and the Gang. These guys, they’re our freaking role models, man. Except Fred, he’s a wad.”
“Scoobynatural,” is, in a sense, not dissimilar from the season 5 episode where their universe’s version of Loki traps them in a series of television shows. The writers refer back to it with wink-and-nod. What makes this episode one of the show’s true classics is the nature of the crossover. After a strange encounter, a cursed televisions zap Sam and Dean into an episode of Scooby-Doo.
What happens next is predictable, but there are also some great twists along the way. Dean, predictably, has long had a crush on Daphne. He proceeds to do everything in his power to insert himself between her and Fred, to hilarious effect. Particularly funny is the moment when Daphne informs him that there’s just something about a man in an ascot. Sam, meanwhile, is his normal, focused self. From the very first episode, his character has served as the audience surrogate, and its no different here. He’s not nearly as excited about their predicament as Dean, who doubles-down on cartoon gluttony between attempts to woo Daphne.
“It doesn’t matter if we die. Scooby Doo could die. And that’s not happening, not on my watch. I’d take a bullet for that dog.”
The reactions of the two as they navigate the episode with the Scooby Gang are a highlight. The humor really takes off once the angel Castiel is also pulled into the show. He is decidedly unhappy to work with a ‘scruffy Philistine and a talking dog.’ At this point, the normal flow of a Scooby-Doo episode turns onto its ear in favor of a true Supernatural episode. Fred, Daphne, and the rest of the gang are initially unperturbed by increasingly brutalized cartoon corpses. The moment when they realize that this ghost is real, and the ensuing existential crisis each suffers at that revelation is flat-out hysterical.
Working together, the Scooby Gang and Winchesters are able to capture the ghost. In a nice twist, the real ghost is being used by an unscrupulous real estate developer. And yes, he would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids. The Supernatural Gang returns to the real world, but not before Daphne rebuffs Dean one more time. Velma, meanwhile, has developed a bit of a thing for Sam along the way. She sweeps him literally off of his feet and plants a romantic farewell kiss on his lips.
“I should’ve known Velma was good to go. It’s always the quiet ones.”
Even if you haven’t kept up with the show over the past few years, this is a great one-off episode. There are some hilarious character moments, and while there are a few mentions of the current ongoing storyline, there’s nothing you need to be aware of to fully enjoy it. Except, of course, for some familiarity with Scooby-Doo – but if you don’t have that, what have you been doing with your life?