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Review: Supernatural 13×16 “Scoobynatural”

When it comes to jumping the shark, few shows have quite the form of Supernatural – the writers even named a pivotal season four episode after the trope. But while this kind of practice might sound a death knell for many series, Supernatural‘s willingness to take risks with meta content, fourth wall breaking, format, homage, and world-building, has played a huge part in its success. However zany an idea might look on paper, fans can generally relax, safe in the knowledge that it will all eventually make sense within the rules and conventions of the Supernatural universe.

This week’s highly anticipated, largely animated Scooby-Doo crossover signalled yet another new and inventive experiment for a show in its thirteenth run, and I’m thrilled to report it was everything I hoped for and more. Eschewing the usual cold open killing, we were left somewhat disoriented when “Scoobynatural” kicked off with the brothers fighting a large stuffed dinosaur which had somehow come to life in a pawn shop. After burning the ‘cursed object’, the boys were given a swanky TV as payment by the owner which promptly transported the Winchesters into an animated world when it was switched on.

After their initial shock, the boys remembered that they’d been trapped in TV shows before, courtesy of Gabriel in season five’s “Changing Channels” and resolved to ‘play their parts’ in order to escape. Things got bizarro when they stopped at a malt shop and found The Mystery Machine parked outside it, and the Scooby Gang inside enjoying some milkshakes. Cue long-suffering Sam trying to work the case while his brother fanboyed and tried to hit on Daphne.

The Scooby scenario the Winchesters ended up in was from a real episode that aired in 1970 entitled “A Night of Fright is No Delight”, and many of the scenes from the original were faithfully replicated here. In the Scooby world, Scooby and the gang had been invited to a spooky mansion to hear the will reading of the late Beauregard Sanders by his lawyer, Cosgood Creeps, as Scooby had rescued Colonel Sanders from drowning years previously and been left an inheritance as a result. Of course, there was a caveat which stated in order to collect their share, each beneficiary must spend the night in Sanders’ haunted house. In the kids’ version, it was Creeps scaring the guests away to collect the ‘fortune’, but with The Winchesters having infiltrated the purity and safety of the Scooby universe, the gang soon discovered that the threat was very real…

“Scoobynatural” managed to preserve the innocence of the Scooby-Do era by having Dean so invested in the show. It was both shocking and funny to have real corpses start showing up in the cartoon mansion, and Sam’s attempts to convince Velma that ghosts and monsters were real were nicely juxtaposed with Dean’s insistence that the gang should remain blissfully ignorant. While the episode was ripe for humour and provided lots of laugh out loud moments, there was a real sadness underpinning the concept. Dean’s declaration that he would ‘take a bullet for that dog’ was heartfelt and revealed so much about the boys’ childhood. For Dean (and Sam, although he was more reluctant to admit it), Scooby-Do meant he felt represented. It was one of the only constants in his nomadic life, and a source of comfort because in the animated world, the things that went bump in the night always turned out to be men in masks.

As the gang slowly came to the realisation that they were in real danger, their innocence was shattered, and Dean’s desire to prevent them from having their eyes irreversibly opened was clearly an echo of the times he voiced his wish to be able to keep young Sam from knowing the truth about their world. Daphne screaming ‘Am I going to Hell?’ and Scooby howling ‘We’re doomed!’ were hilarious moments, but at the same time there was something truly horrifying about Shaggy experiencing a broken arm for the first time. This darkness extended to the real ghost being a child’s spirit, enslaved by a ruthless property tycoon in the ‘real’ world. As well as restoring the cartoon world to a state of oblivion, allowing the Scooby Gang to carry on trauma-free, the boys also had to give peace to the ghost of a little boy who just wanted to see his father again. Villian Jay’s parting shot that he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for Sam and Dean’s meddling belied the horror of his actions – using a terrified dead boy for personal gain.

But the overriding atmosphere of the episode was positive. Sam’s realist pragmatism, and Dean’s overt sexuality ultimately failed to inflict any lasting traces of corruption on the Scooby-verse, and the soul of the dead child was given release and the chance to be reunited with his father. Another detail which could easily have been overlooked in all the madness, was that Castiel was successful in his quest to get fruit from the Tree of Life, which means the boys are a step closer to being able to find Mary and Jack. Rich with humour, affection, and detail while staying true to the darker themes Supernatural is all about, “Scoobynatural” was a resounding win, and a memorable addition to the show’s score of original and innovative mould-breaker episodes.

Final Grade: A

+ I could not have loved Dean Winchester more in this episode if I tried. From his glee at being able to eat a giant sandwich with his cartoon mouth, to his nightgown, to his need to preserve the purity of a cartoon dog, to his adoption of wearing an ascot, to his Dean-cave, to his twin kink, to his swearing, to his disdain for Fred’s Rube Goldberg machines, to his Scooby impression – Dean Winchester was perfect.

+ Aligning Cas with Scooby & Shaggy was a stroke of genius. It reminded me of alternative future stoner Cas from “The End”, and being reminded of that episode is always a good thing.

+ Sam pointing out that splitting up is the worst idea ever when in pursuit of a dangerous adversary was just brilliant.

– The only problem with this episode was how much it made me long for the days when the boys would be on the road solving monster of the week cases, and nostalgic for my own childhood!

Extra Thought: I feel duty bound to point out that Dean referencing Frozen┬ábefore he takes Sam to see the Dean Cave is a beautiful thing because it’s a film about the power of the sibling bond, and even though Dean has made a little sanctuary for himself, it has space and provision for Sam in it. My heart!

What did you think? Was this episode a Scooby-Dooby-Do or a Scooby-Dooby-Don’t? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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