Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Michael Blackman Beck, Jennifer Spence, Jakob Davies
Writers:
Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin, series created by Eric Kripke
Director:
Mike Rohl
Network:
The CW, Fridays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate:
February 10, 2012

Often, SUPERNATURAL runs into problems when it tries to be deliberately funny, instead of just mixing the humor in with the horror. However, in “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magic Menagerie,” the script by Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin strikes just the right notes of both humor and terror as Dean (Jensen Ackles) and especially Sam (Jared Padalecki) encounter a situation that’s bizarre even by their standards.

The episode begins with Sam being attacked by a pair of malevolent green-haired circus clowns. We then get flashbacks, starting a little over two days earlier (the time code telling us when we are in relation to the opening incident is a running gag), to Sam and Dean checking out the death of a man in a small Kansas town who appears to have been killed by a giant octopus. When another man is killed by a unicorn, the brothers find a pattern – fathers who weren’t attentive enough to their kids. The respective kids attended birthday parties at the local Plucky Pennywhistle’s pizza party restaurant, catering to children.

Plucky’s is noisy and (Sam tenses up before he gets there) full of clowns. The chain has instituted a presumably therapeutic activity where children are invited to draw their worst fears in order to banish them. Sure enough, the pictures drawn by the kids whose fathers died are missing from the display wall.

Sam and Dean start talking to the employees, trying to find out who is getting the drawings to come to life long enough to kill. Dean also befriends young Tyler (Jakob Davies), whose harried mom works at Plucky’s and makes him spend time there. When Tyler draws a picture of a giant robot shooting lasers from its eyes, Dean steps up efforts to find the culprit while Sam goes to protect Tyler’s mom. Dean tracks Plucky’s greeter Howard (Michael Blackman Beck) to the restaurant’s sub-basement, where Howard is working out his own guilt about his brother’s death and subsequent disappointment in his parents with black magic.

Howard sends the killer clowns after Sam. They chase the poor fellow into a confined space and beat him up clown-style. Dean manages to summon the ghost of Howard’s dead brother, who causes Howard to drown the way the brother did as a child. The clowns cease to be in a shower of glitter, which lands all over Sam, much to Dean’s amusement. Sam says he’s now over his fear of clowns – but refuses the toy clown memento Dean tries to bestow on him.

The clowns, which bear some resemblance to those of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE with their pointed teeth, are utterly creepy and yet fully clownish. Most viewers won’t blame Sam for his phobia one bit. Of course, Sam lasts a very long time with them – giving him a few more clown-combating moves of his own would have been a nice touch, but the sequences work fine as they are.

The whole premise is nicely spooky. Line producers everywhere will applaud the fact that we don’t actually see any of the harder-to-produce monsters. A shark attack has the creature lurking unseen beneath the balls in the bounce chamber and Howard is defeated before the giant robot has a chance to arrive. As for the unicorn, the rainbows streaming out of its butt as it runs off are classic SUPERNATURAL.

Apart from Dean’s bonding session with Tyler, where both relate to being left somewhere crappy by a stressed-out parent, “Plucky” is largely angst-free. It works – the guys are sufficiently bewildered to have all of their conscious thoughts filled with simply trying to get to the bottom of the case, so that we don’t wonder why they aren’t more concerned with this, that or the other. What’s also refreshing here is that the jokes aren’t hit too hard, unfolding naturally within the context of the episode.

Altogether, “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magic Menagerie” is an effective lighthearted episode of SUPERNATURAL that still remembers to throw in some pleasingly unnerving concepts.

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with SUPERNATURAL star Jared Padalecki on Season 7

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: TV Review: SUPERNATURAL – Season 7 – “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magic Menagerie”

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