This episode looked like it was going to be so, so good. A Supernatural take on The Wizard Of Oz should have been lighthearted, goofy fun to alleviate the cold, dour chaos that’s set in as the dominant mood for this season so far. It should have been mostly standalone, giving us some breathing room from Zeke, Bart, and the power struggles over in the afterlife. And to top it off, it seemed like we’d get a great showcase for Felicia Day’s Charlie, one of the show’s strongest recurring players at this late date (and one of its only good female characters pretty much ever). Instead, we got maybe half of one of those things in what will hopefully, when all is said and done, be the nadir of the season. I might have preferred watching Dean react to Kevin endlessly saying “falafel.”
It’s almost too easy to make fun of “Slumber Party,” starting with the snooze of a first act (sorry) that seems mostly designed to justify the presence of black-and-white flashbacks, no matter what they were. Those scenes, focused on the original Men Of Letters staffing the compound and Dorothy’s first attempt to kill the Wicked Witch Of The West, start off fun (the Men Of Letters’ transition from initial excitement at the headquarters to boredom was funny in spite of its predictability). But when it becomes clear the flashbacks aren’t going to add any new information beyond literally just showing Dorothy and the witch get trapped (and especially after Dorothy explains that anyway, just in case), the episode is unable to build any momentum. That’s especially disappointing considering how good the show’s last crack at a Men Of Letters flashback episode was, featuring a time-traveling(ish) fish out of water.
The black-and-white bits seem to serve mainly to flesh out Supernatural’s version of The Wizard Of Oz, which has more of the Zooey Deschanel super-grim Tin Man miniseries in its DNA than the original film (or books). It turns out Dorothy (Tilo Horn) was a hunter who ventured to Oz (which is just part of the fairy world) to take down the real-life Wicked Witch, who doesn’t have green skin, but does have an abundance of mediocre glowing green-eye effects. Horn’s Dorothy is supposed to be a kickass version of the character, but doesn’t really do much besides glower and spur Charlie to be more active. The idea that L. Frank Baum is Dorothy’s father and one of the Men Of Letters is kind of interesting, but winds up mostly servicing a tossed-off D-story about Sam being unwilling to call the compound “home.” It probably would have been a lot more expensive, but the glimpse we got of Oz (and the flying monkeys!) suggest that an episode just set there would have been way brighter, intriguing, and fun.
Worse still, the version of Oz we get in “Slumber Party” takes the witch super seriously, but she’s a non-threat. The witch (who doesn’t seem related to the previously established Supernatural witches) has immense powers ill-defined beyond possession and “evil gas thing,” which is too bad considering one of the show’s better skills is coming up with bizarre, specifically detailed rules for what monsters can and can’t do and what can and can’t kill them. In this case, a magic stiletto to the back of the head, I guess? Mainly, Maya Massar is on screen for way too long—much of that time spent standing around hissing without being menacing or even threatening anyone’s little dog. Actually seeing the monster (particularly the borderline all-powerful kind) is the easiest way to immediately make something not scary—imagine a version of The Blair Witch Project where the witch looked crappy and just flew around a bunch, hissing.
It doesn’t help that “Slumber Party” puts way too much emphasis on one of the season’s worst plots so far—Dean keeping Ezekiel’s presence secret. Dean keeping it quiet at all is starting to get quite frustrating after the whole “no secrets” thing, and his awful attempts at lying about it have just gotten laughable—Sam literally asks who Zeke is, as if the show is flaunting how long it’ll take to resolve this. Dean and Zeke have a bunch of arguments about what Zeke does and does not have the power to do, and how long he’s going to stay in Sam. And in an exact repeat of last week’s episode, Zeke brings an ally of the Winchesters back to life (this time Charlie). Having an angel directly on hand who can revive dead people multiple episodes in a row is insanely damaging to the show’s stakes. Sure, there have almost always been angels, but they’ve never been used to this extent as a blatant plot device to dangle the prospect of lasting character death.
Pretty much the only saving grace of “Slumber Party” is Day. In the past the Charlie episodes have been a bit sluggish, as if the writers know that Day can elevate whatever material they throw at her, so why bother? That’s not necessarily a bad calculation, since Day is so good and Charlie such an enjoyable character, but “Slumber Party” comes dangerously close to ruining her. One of her first lines is “So I took a WikiLeak all over that,” which, no. And Charlie’s mini-arc in the episode involves her burning desire for a destiny and some sort of high-fantasy adventure, which makes sense if you think of her as a collection of stereotypes as opposed to someone who has primarily been concerned with helping people beyond herself. Her boredom with hunting makes a certain amount of sense, but mainly comes off as an excuse to send her off to Oz, which she’ll hopefully return from sooner rather than later.
Thankfully, once the witch possesses the Winchesters (which seems complicated with Zeke still in Sam’s meat suit), “Slumber Party” gives Charlie and Dorothy an opportunity to be awesome in their own right, something that rarely happens with the female characters, sans Winchester. Their fight with the possessed Winchesters is the best scene in the episode, even with Charlie’s “Now heel” one-liner. Once the witch is dead (ding dong, etc.), Charlie and Dorothy leave to adventure in Oz, setting off on the Yellow Brick Road backed by “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You),” for some reason. One of the Men Of Letters tells the other “There’s nothing worse than adventure,” but even if that’s true, at least Charlie and Dorothy got themselves the hell out of this episode.
- Okay, I lied. My favorite scene from tonight’s episode was the Padalecki/Ackles PSA about texting and driving.
- Crowley has actually been pretty solid this season. His continued insistence on stretching his legs made me worried this would be the episode where he escaped, but Mark Sheppard is perfect in small doses as the Winchesters’ prisoner.
- There’s some really odd camera work for Supernatural in this episode, including a shot of Dorothy talking almost directly to the camera and some slow-mo when Dorothy throws one of the slippers to Charlie.
- Next week: Dean turns into a dog!