Just looking at the previews told us that "The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" would not be an angst ridden, gut wrenching, emotional powerhouse while finally unfolding the long stagnant Leviathan plot. It even hinted that Sam and Dean would have to surrender a lot of the spotlight to this week's guest stars. Previews set the expectations, and I do have to admit my expectations were very low. I'm kind of shocked that the episode wildly exceeded them by many miles. I'm thrilled actually.
I absolutely loved "The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo." Pleasant surprises have been few and far between in "Supernatural's" season seven. For one, the stunt casting of a big named guest star has usually not worked in this show's favor. If you recall in the past, big named guest stars have not been treated with the greatest of care. "Shut Up, Dr. Phil" was lackluster and not something brilliant that James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter could sink their teeth into (even though they were very fun to watch). DJ Qualls brought a lovable character to life in Garth, but the two episodes he was part of were easily two of the season's worst. I remember Michael Shanks' nonexistent role in "99 Problems" and we won't even talk about Paris Hilton.
"The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" was the best use of a big named guest star ever in this series. I'm not very familiar with Felicia Day's work, although I did see Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog and loved her in that. Perhaps it's personal preference, but I love geek humor. I do work in IT after all. Robbie Thompson got it pretty much right. Cubes decorated with all sorts of geeky pop culture objects, posters, and yes, even Batman and Wonder Woman mugs. Believe me, they weren't overdoing it. The dorkier references were plentiful and they were dead on each time. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, and my husband really geeked out over the WarGames reference. Those brought back serious memories for him.
It isn't just the geek stuff, which is what made me a huge "Chuck" fan from the word go. Charlie was written as smart, quirky, a quick thinker, and had a real strength of character. I love her quick realization that she had to help everyone she knew. "What sort of a douchebag stands by for that?" She was real though. She did quiver in the presence of Dick Roman. He frightened her. She had real fears before breaking into his office, but one recollection of her hero Hermione Granger fixed all that. Come on, who hasn't drawn inspiration from a pop culture hero to get through a crisis? Lord knows enough of us think of Sam and Dean overcoming odds during times of strife.
I've only seen one episode of "Leverage" but it was enough for me to get why that show would be compared to this episode. I was thinking a scaled down version of Ocean's Eleven myself. "Supernatural" has had a lot of success in trying to pay homage to genres that are not the norm, and this episode is no exception. It was brilliantly done at all levels, very slick, and there was an amazing attention to detail. I loved it when Sam took a small moment to mention that all that fancy surveillance equipment was setup by Charlie. I smile that the writer Robbie Thompson imagined all the discussions that could have happened on the boards suspending disbelief that Sam and Dean would know how to do all that just by watching Frank.
Speaking of Sam and Dean, I've read the complaints of disappointment that the boys were once again pushed to supporting characters. That's true, but you do have to remember the premise here. They were out of their element. They still brought their strengths, and that was finding Charlie and convincing her to help. They do have some powers of persuasion! They also had her back and were there to protect her. And that's where Bobby came in too. His smile while riding the elevator with Charlie was so wonderful to see. He did his part and kept that watchful eye, getting Charlie out of that jam in Dick Roman's office.
They were all team, and that's what I loved the most about this episode. It's exactly why I've been groaning a lot this season that Bobby and Castiel have been missed. When those four work together as a team, each bringing their A game, it's usually awesome. I don't mind Sam and Dean playing supporting players once in a while as long as I'm entertained. Too often lately, I haven't been.
Come on, admit it, you laughed at Sam and Dean in the van. The humor was back! I absolutely loved Sam channeling his inner Harry Potter fanboy to help Charlie through her fear. I really died when she tried to go into the rant about how Hermione ended up with Ron and Sam shut her down. Spoken like a true fan girl. Dean's reaction, "You go Dumbledork," made me very glad I wasn't drinking anything at the time. There would have been a huge mess. But I don't think you'll see anything more priceless than Dean talking a lesbian through flirting with a guy over the phone, all with Sam laughing right next to him. When Charlie repeated Dean's, "Shut up Sam," I did lose it. I saw it before on the preview clip, and it's funnier in full HD.
It wasn't just Sam and Dean making me smile though. Dick Roman was at his snarkiest and I loved it. There was his "Good talk!" to Charlie after threatening to fire her if she didn't decrypt the drive, his comment that the world is his dinner plate, and his line to the courier that was afraid that he would bib him. "Why would I waste a perfectly good meal?" CHOMP! So perfect. And Charlie's tattoo is Princess Leia riding a 20 sided die? Why didn't we see that! Comic Con is a perfect excuse. I'll tell you one thing I definitely appreciated in the humor, thank you for ditching the dick jokes this time around. They were getting stale.
This episode for me though finally addressed something that honestly should have been revealed episodes ago. Heck, this should have kicked off the second half of the season. The Leviathan are building a bio chemical plant in that empty field in Wisconsin. Their intent is indeed to turn the entire human race into soylent green. They want to cure people from all the big diseases and then send every human to slaughter so they can eat well and take over the earth. Given all the clues that have been dropped and the time wasted not telling us this, fans long ago pretty much figured that out. As a result, this wasn't that shocking a reveal. Dare I say it but I must, another missed opportunity. This really could have been a great plot to ride with the entire second half of the season. It was almost an afterthought making it the teaser in this episode, though none of that blame falls on this episode's writer. That sequence set the fast paced tone for this ep early and it never let up.
It's intriguing to see Dick Roman himself noticing the flaw in the plan to wipe out the entire human race. They can copy a human, steal the memories, but they can't replicate the abilities. The human spark that makes people unique. I absolutely love the conversation between him and Charlie when he was trying to figure out what made her tick. "I guess you can't clone me," Charlie told him. "Don't think that doesn't piss me off," replied Dick. What will his world be like without the Bruce Springsteens and Eli Mannings (he should have said Peyton too!). He's learned to really appreciate finer things in this new world of his. This is consistent with his love of classic firearms from "How To Win Friends and Influence Monsters."
Dick's lament also compliments the dissent among the ranks too that we saw in "Out With the Old." Dick Roman has created a tyrannical hierarchy because he does think so little of his people. That's bound to lead to some rebels who have that instinct of self preservation on their side. If he keeps bibbing and eating enough of his subordinates, there's going to be no one left! Dick's dissatisfaction with his own race is just another hiccup in this grand plan that will likely work to Sam and Dean's advantage in the end.
Going back to Sam and Dean, who didn't love them posing as baggage handlers at the airport! They cleverly switched the packages and calmly walked away with Dick Roman's valued possession. I was so happy I didn't even question how they were able to throw together a borax bomb so quickly. This is the Sam and Dean I remember from prior seasons. These weren't the FBI guys doing the standard line of questioning. They're professionals adapting to the situation and look damn good doing it!
The only headscratcher I have in the episode was Sam and Dean's treatment of Bobby. It did seem harsh but upon reflection, it does make sense. These are guys that have been hunting ghosts their entire lives. There's just that inbred knowledge and bias that ghosts usually end up going bad, no matter what. I don't know how many of you are "The Vampire Diaries" watchers, but they played out that conflicting dilemma well with Caroline's dad. He was a lifelong vampire hunter and had to live with the fact that his daughter was now a vampire. He didn't take it well and he did some awful things to her to make it right in his eyes. In the end, after a lot of strife, he had to accept who she was. I see this sort of process happening with Sam and Dean right now.
I think Sam and Dean are very afraid of Bobby at this time. He's not stable, that's for sure. He doesn't have control over his ghost abilities and they were right that the natural framework triggered those vengeful spirit tendencies. I do wish that at the end Sam and Dean acknowledged that Bobby did help by cracking the glass, but it is always possible that fact wasn't given to them or they didn't see it. Sam brought up the problem if anything to make sure he and Dean were on the same page. I was really glad to see Dean back to not wanting to let go. That made more sense to me that his reaction last week.
I would be really remiss if I didn't mention what an amazing job first time director John MacCarthy did with this episode. He's been a First Assistant Director for several years on "Supernatural" and did he run with his big break. I'll probably end up doing a full recap on this episode later this week to point out all the amazing goodness in both the direction and the dialogue (the ep isn't available on iTunes yet for me to dissect). Even the editing was awesome this go around. The most stellar technical scene that comes to mind is the montage of Charlie reading the info about the Leviathan once she cracked Frank's hard drive. So well done and a very interesting way for someone to catch up on a lot of backstory in a short time.
I do have a few random notes. First, I'm on the train that Frank is dead. Eaten. If he does show up somewhere, he's been replicated and that won't be good. Also, what did you think of the teaser for Sucrocorp? I do believe we have another Niveus Pharmaceuticals on our hands. More to come for sure on that. For those wondering about the car of the week (yes, still not loving this concept), it was another very shameful POS (piece of *fill in the blank*). The AMC Matador, which is of the same vein and era of the equally as shameful Chevy Vega and Ford Pinto. Poor boys. Baby needs to come back soon.
Overall grade for "The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" is an A. A very enthusiastic A on my part. This episode reminded me of the high I got from watching "Slash Fiction." I'm sure its no coincidence they both came from the same writer. Next week, Ben Edlund writes and directs what seems to be one very intense angel story. I cannot wait.