There are so many things that Supernatural does well; character development, cinematography, plaid. But perhaps the best moments of SPN have come from the episodes where they tossed convention and rules right out the window. Episodes like “Fanfiction,” “Changing Channels” and Baby are just downright odd. And on another show, one that perhaps took itself less seriously, they could have flopped. But within the confines of this universe, they just work.
So when Supernatural announced that they were doing a crossover with Scooby-Doo last year, the fandom was ecstatic, and with good reason. Supernatural is at its best when it’s creative bounds are stretched. Everything from the writing, to the filming, to the direction, to the acting – it feels inspired because it’s so fresh. We know from asking cast and crew that they love to do these unique episodes, and the fact that it’s different seems to bring out the best in everyone.
“Scoobynatural” was no exception.
The episode began as Sam and Dean are beating the hell out of what we can assume is Barney the Talking Dinosaurs’ distant cousin. A little explosion goes a long way, and suddenly the brothers find themselves covered in fluff and shaking hands with a very grateful pawn shop owner. He’s being harassed by a skeevy real estate developer, who has nothing but disdain for Sam and Dean. Nevertheless, the pawn shop owner offers them anything they want as payment for saving his life and Dean’s face lights up with the possibilities. (As an aside here, it was just real nice to see the brothers actually get a tangible reward for their hard work for once.) Dean, with the sort of glee and care he only attributes to Baby, carefully selects a widescreen TV.
Back at the bunker, Dean has set up man cave (or, “Fortress of Deanitude”) for his new prize to reside in. (It’s left to the viewer to decide when exactly he had time to put it together, as the only explanation he gives Sam is “When it’s important, you make time for it.”) Once they turn it on, purple sparks fly, and as Dean tilts his head in confusion, they’re suddenly sucked into the television.
Our boys find themselves in two dimensions and in the middle of the woods, and immediately start to try to figure out what possibly could have happened. Dean’s first thought was to blame the Trickster. “He’s dead,” Sam reminds Dean. “Or is he?” Dean counters, his eyebrow raised. Of course, as viewers, we know just how right that suspicion is, being that everyone’s favorite archangel Gabriel was revealed to be alive (albeit beaten, dirty and lips sewn together) in Asmodeus’ dungeon just a few episodes back. Nonetheless, without an idea of why they’ve been transported they decide to do what they do best – work the case. Luckily it looks as if Baby has also been sucked into the cartoon world, so our heroes aren’t without their wheels.
They find themselves pulling up to a diner where they find, to Dean’s utter delight, the entire Scooby gang. This episode featured one of my favorite versions of Dean – fanboy Dean. He’s spent his whole life watching Scooby-Doo episodes, and now he gets to actually interact with them? The only other time we’ve seen him this happy in recent history was the episode Tombstone, where a combination of Castiel’s miraculous return and getting to play cowboy brought us a Dean that was all smiles and hope. Indeed, Dean is quick to draw the parallels of the Scooby-Doo cartoons to what he and Sam do in real life – ride around in a cool car, solve mysteries and help people. (They even have a “talking dog” in Castiel.) Dean can’t help himself to declare dibs on Daphne (even as the supposed age difference there is quite stark, we forgive Dean for indulging a little with his first crush,) and the two brothers join the gang for food and of course, ultimately, a mystery.
Dean, who murmurs early on to Sam that Fred is “a wad,” decides to challenge him in the Mystery Machine to a race to their destination (much to Sam’s dismay, who’s patience is waning thinner with his brother by the minute.) With Dean’s cocky smile firmly in place, we are shocked to watch Baby get left in the dust. They meet up again with the gang at the spooky house where we learn more about the mystery at hand – Cosgood Creeps, a lawyer for the deceased Colonel Beauregard, explains that he has left an inheritance to whomever can survive the night in the haunted house. It’s a pretty standard Scooby-Doo plot and Dean recognizes it early on as the classic episode “A Night of Fright is No Delight.” While Sam, ever cognizant of the fact that they are trying to actually get out of this cartoon, wants to skip to the end – but Dean is significantly less hurried.
Indeed as the night goes on with few exceptions (like Dean suggesting that perhaps he and Daphne could bunk together, which she so hilariously shuts down with “Silly Dean, boys and girls don’t share bedrooms!”) the brothers let the events play out as spectators. (Dean in a nightgown was a particularly favorite moment of mine, as he declares that “It’s like being wrapped in hugs.”) That is, until the first “murder” is discovered not to be fake, but an actual murder. Real pain and death do not exist in the Scooby-Doo universe, and the brothers are horrified to discover that the cartoon they’re in is actually haunted.
While Sam is (appropriately) worried about their safety, Dean is quick to want to protect the gang, not only from being murdered (“I’d take a bullet for that dog!”) but also to keep them in the dark about the existence of the true supernatural world. As they work with the Scooby gang to search for clues, they run across something else unexpected – Castiel! Upon the angel’s return from Syria (fruit from the tree of life in hand, and possibly married to a djinn) he looks for the brothers throughout the bunker, finding himself in the Fortress of Deanitude before himself being transported to the Scooby-Universe.
It should be noted that major props go to the artists that drew this episode, but especially those that came up with Sam, Dean and Cas. Their likeness is at times uncanny, and it really added to the feel of the episode.
The gang decides to split up to search for clues. While Dean predictably pairs off with Daphne (and also gets a Fred for his troubles,) Velma drags Sam to the attic, which leaves Castiel with Shaggy and Scooby. While each group has their fun moments, my particular favorite was watching Velma hit on Sam as she kept insisting (despite his protests) that there was no such thing as the supernatural.
This theory falls flat of course as the gang meets up again against the ghoulish phantom and suddenly, every member of the Scooby gang gets physically hurt. (As an aside here, as much as I hated to see Scooby and Shaggy in any kind of real danger, getting to watch Castiel fly to save them was really cool!) Original brand Team Free Will is forced to explain that the world is actually full of vampires, ghosts, demons – everything that goes bump in the night. To which our Scooby gang has a full on existential crisis.
As hilarious as it was to watch that, our boys are quick to arm the rest of the gang with tools from Baby’s trunk and form a somewhat elaborate plan to apprehend the ghost. (As if there are any other kinds of plans in Scooby-Doo!) Where plan A epically fails, plan B succeeds, and Sam, Dean and Cas learn that the ghost is actually the spirit of a young kid which is tied to a pocket knife in the real world. The unscrupulous real estate agent from the beginning of the episode has been using him to scare off local businesses so he can get the property on the cheap. They agree to help out the kid if he promises to return them to the real world, but after one look at the Scooby gang still in full crisis mode, they ask the kid to pretend to be Cosgood Creeps, the lawyer from the beginning of the episode. The Scooby gang are relieved to be told that Sam, Dean and Cas had been wrong all along, that all of the murders and ghouls had been nothing but wire, christmas lights, and corn syrup. They go their separate ways after that, with Dean sending Daphne off with a wistful “We never know what might have been,” Castiel thanking Scooby and Shaggy for teaching him about laughter in the face of danger, and Velma (who is truly all of us) pulling Sam into a dip for a smooch.
Supernatural has a great knack for switching seamlessly between ridiculous and sad moments, and once the guys find themselves back in the bunker, they send off the spirit of the young boy, who just wants to see his dad again, with a blowtorch and melancholy smiles. They return to the pawn shop, stopping the owner from selling off his property just in time. While the real estate agent can’t go to jail for the real crime he committed, Sam has done some research into his tax history and the police show up to cart him away for fraud. “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” he shouts as he’s lowered into the squad car. Dean’s face lights up with glee, as with that line, the episode of Scooby-Doo is complete.
This episode was an absolute treat (a scooby-snack, if you will.) Next week will find us back into the bigger story arcs of the season, and it seems like we will be ramping up the stakes and the drama from here to the season finale. For now, the fandom is settled with the knowledge that Team Free Will 1.0 got a little repreve, even if it was just for an episode.