Episode 14.6 ,Optimistic, is artistically directed by Richard Speight Jr, is smartly penned by Steve Yockey, and the actors do an acting clinic showing several sides to their characters. Audience:heart tugs, gasps, smiles, belly laugh or two, and fear. The script calls for Dean and Sam to be on separate hunts in order for the characters of Jack and A/U Charlie to be developed, and it works. Both hunts are parallel as they involve romance gone wrong, and each has as its result positive growth for characters. Speaking of romance- Mary and Bobby are still together in Donna’s cabin and Dean has checked up on them- that is why Sam went off with Charlie. So now, on to the hunts.
Jack shows his smarts as he gets Dean to go out on a hunt and work through his guilt at letting Michael use him. Jack also shows his “innocence” but is a quick study. Self loathing and then forgiveness is a path Jack knows well and he guides Dean through but, not before there are suspenseful turns involving a high school romance gone awry leading to a sort of zombie like creature and a necromancer who now knows where to find her next “boyfriend” Jack , in Lebanon, Kansas.
Meanwhile, Sam and A/U Charlie stake out a monster, called a Mosku, which has the head of a fly. ( Jeff Goldblum where are you now?)It appears this fly creature has struck out in the romance department among his own species and is therefore taking humans to make his own nest. While waiting for the right moment to tackle this monster, Charlie discusses her life in A/U and her intention to stop hunting and isolate herself. Sam has the opportunity to explain that he tried to leave hunting, but did not and eventually he makes an analogy to the fly creature(which is full of holes and the script tells you that it is), that humans need each other. Charlie agrees to try to stick around
While the hunts are going on, there are plenty of lighter moments. The upbeat nature of the librarian and her insistent date, is funny as he walks along feeling he is going to score with her to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive’ and suddenly he is ambushed and not so alive. Supernatural’s type of humor of course. Sam’s playing with his fidget toy and biting his nails to pass the boredom, while Charlie “researches” in a pick up truck, show how easy it is to annoy another person in a small space with lots of time. Director Speight makes you feel the tight space with use of the close up shots. Sam’s explanation of this world’s Charlie’s relationship to Dean is touching and the audience is poignantly reminded this is a different Charlie. As a good leader, Sam lets Charlie call the shots for the hunt so she can develop her skills.And he has already done the research but lets Charlie do her thing. with almost disaster-like results-but saved once again by quick action and improvisation.
There is humor in this hunt as the fly creature is wearing a sort of black bee keeper’s device to hide its face. The remark about making sure it is not just a bad fashion, coupled with the signage for insect spray on the bench where the monster finds his victims is smile worthy. Neither Charlie nor Sam have the sugar water to kill the monster, but Sam improvises-he is smart. As Sam and Charlie follow the monster, flies buzz around Sam as he walks to the cellar. Whether this was an intentional shout out to ‘Bugs” from the first year or not, it was creepy, but the decay in the lair is almost “smell-o-vision “worthy and yet one feels for the isolated fly-man. Pathos.
Meanwhile Dean and Jack attempt to find out what is killing people in a small town and why a cute, seemingly innocent librarian has such bad luck with boyfriends. The monster is the zombie boyfriend of the librarian, who she could only keep in town by killing him and turning him into a loyal, but jealous zombie. She is a necromancer. He is her victim-again one feels pathos for his situation.
But, humor seeps through this story as well. Dean eats a spaghetti taco in the bunker, he utters the line,”Pie is important” as he instructs Jack on technique, and in a fight scene, tells the zombie, “Let’s dance” so gleefully- Dean is in his lane. Jack calls Dean an “old man” as part of his ruse to be chivalrous to a suspect in their case- the whole scene is funny. Jack’s testing of the librarian for supernatural allergies is funny but plays into his inexperience with woman and may have dangerous implications in the future. The use of “Christo” takes me back to “Phantom Traveler” when Dean was a younger hunter testing for demons, and the topic of romance and “the sex” takes me back to the time Sam and a teenager switched bodies. Intentional writing? And so, the monsters are taken down, but the human is once again worse than either monster, both of whom are victims of their own desires.And the human escapes. Tuck that away for a future episode perhaps.
Other humorous Easter eggs appear throughout such as the name of the cafe where Jack and Dean have pie and question the town’s folk is Dick’s Red Rooster- surely a decision made by the director knowing Speight’s sense of humor. The typical techniques of bribing townspeople to talk is classic SPN. Even the sappy love letter the necromancer librarian writes to Jack is so sugery that one laughs until the realization that Jack has told her his real domicile and her intentions bubble forth. So the Winchester continue to get mail at the Lebanon Post Office- remember Eileen’s letter to the brothers? There are other echos of older episodes.
There are so many high moments that optimism floods the screen despite the horror. Only when the librarian targets Jack with her letter does the crash at the end start to take its toll. Even the fly creatures retrieving one of their own evokes sadness. When Dean understands that Jack has manipulated him so well into forgiving himself for the Michael choice, optimism floods the kitchen, Jack coughs and Dean offers to get a load of cough drops- it still feels light. Suddenly, Jack spits up blood and collapses. Dean yells.”Jack”. Optimism destroyed.
Such an effective episode. It takes the audience form concern, to humor, to optimism, to death, to the self realization of needing each other, to fear, to growth, to despair. Now one could complain that the boys were not together in this episode, but it has to be that way for each character to expand a bit. One could complain that the Michael arc is absent except for Dean’s guilt. It needs to not be central if Dean is to be fully in his lane. One could complain this is a one-off episode and yet it fleshes out the characters so we care even more about their future and Michael’s plans. One could even argue the costume of the fly creature is not the best, but consider the budget and the attempt at humor and it works. We do get good music and that costs a few pennies. This viewer is not complaining and remains optimistic about the remaining 14 episodes. Michael will return.
What did the episode make you feel?