Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Felicia Day, Linda Boyd
Writer:
Robbie Thompson, series created by Eric Kripke
Director:
Robert Singer
Network:
The CW, Wednesdays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate:
April 24, 2013

Given the entirety of SUPERNATURAL’s seventh season, one might be forgiven for guessing in advance that an episode titled “Pac-Man Fever” would involve the return of the Leviathans. It turns out that “Pac-Man Fever” instead is a loose reference to a videogame that isn’t really a videogame, but rather just a djinn-created offshoot of a recurring nightmare had by Charlie (Felicia Day), which winds up also engulfing Dean (Jensen Ackles).

This is only really confusing if you think the title indicates much and/or if you’ve been watching the episode promos. Viewers going with the flow shouldn’t have a problem.

Dean wakes up to find himself in an office. It’s 1951 and when he gets out into the hall, he sees lots of dead people in lab coats.

Flash back to what led up to this. Prophet of the Lord Kevin is missing and Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) haven’t found him, despite a search. Right now, Dean has decreed a break, because Sam has been weak and fatigued since completing his last trial. Then Charlie (Felicia Day) shows up with a case for the Winchesters – people have been turning up in Kansas (where the Men of Letters hideout is) with their insides liquefied and a blue mark on one arm. Charlie has also read all of the books about the Winchesters’ adventures by previous Prophet of the Lord Carver Edlund, much to Dean and Sam’s horror.

The boys do some research on what Charlie is really doing in the neighborhood and discover that her mother has been comatose in a local hospital as the result of a car accident when Charlie was twelve years old. Charlie got frightened at a slumber party and her parents were coming to pick her up when the accident happened – Charlie’s father died and her mother has been unresponsive since. Charlie, however, has paid for her mother’s medical care and occasionally comes in to read to her. Of course, Charlie blames herself.

Dean and Charlie confront the djinn (Linda Boyd) who has been posing as the new coroner while she feeds on the fear of her victims. The djinn is responsible for the corpses with the liquefied insides. The djinn traps both of them in Charlie’s recurring nightmare, which is a videogame with super-vampires rampaging through a hospital. (Hence “Pac-Man Fever.”)  Charlie isn’t afraid of the vampires, but rather of failing to protect the patients in the hospital, namely her mom. Dean sees an unconscious Sam in a hospital bed, and realizes he and Charlie are both paralyzed by fear of losing their loved ones. Dean exhorts Charlie to acknowledge that her mother is gone, thereby conquering her fear.

Sam kills the djinn, but is then confronted by her teenaged son. Sam also kills the younger djinn. This, combined with Charlie’s willingness to let her mother go in the dream state, allows Dean and Charlie to wake up unharmed.

Charlie hugs both of the boys and tells Dean she loves him; Dean says “I know.” Don’t worry, Charlie is gay and that’s a reference to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (for those of you who can’t easily quote it) – it’s just a sign of friendship. Dean, having conquered his own fears about Sam lying in a hospital bed – surely this can’t be permanent or the show would implode – and tells Sam it’s time for them to resume the search for Kevin.

Charlie goes back to the hospital, signs the paperwork to have her mother taken off life support and reads to her one last time from THE HOBBIT.

This last bit is a nice touch, ending as it does on the word “comfort” from the HOBBIT text. “Pac-Man Fever” actually achieves a nice balance of hurt-comfort, angst and pop culture fun. Charlie is an enjoyable companion and, because Day has such a strong persona in the well-tailored role, she doesn’t feel like a Mary Sue. (It probably helps that the writers aren’t straining to make her romantically attractive to either of the boys, nor vice-versa – on this show particularly, the best connections are the ones that are made without hard work.)

The videogame aspect is done well, albeit relatively briefly. It lets Ackles and Day run around with heavy weaponry and shoot up monsters, though we’re not for one moment worried that they might succumb. (To a nightmare, maybe, to a cursed videogame, perhaps, but not to a combo of the two.)

As for the angst, people with relatives or other loved ones in critical condition will be able to relate to Charlie’s pain, which is drawn concisely and compassionately. Dean (and the djinn) butting in is a little inappropriate – yes, the main character is supposed to have impact on the guest character in a TV series, but Dean is overstepping boundaries. Then again, if having her mother on life support is creating dread at the core of Charlie’s psyche, maybe she does need some outside help after all. As for Dean’s concerns about Sam, this is SUPERNATURAL – as the Impala runs on gas, so the show runs on this.

The Carver Edlund books allow for some meta-jokes, but also make us wonder what’s going on here. Yes, only one Prophet of the Lord is supposed to exist at a time, but if Sunnydale can get two Slayers, surely it’s possible for the return of Prophet Chuck Shurley (Carver Edlund’s real name), which would be swell. Given that the Winchesters are searching for the current Prophet, and given the reminder about Carver Edlund, this seems within the realm of possibility.

Meanwhile, “Pac-Man Fever” is a solid episode, not scoring at the top, but a winning round nonetheless.

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Article Source: Assignment X 
Article: TV Review: SUPERNATURAL – Season 8 – “Pac Man Fever”

 

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