Friday's Supernatural, "Clap Your Hands If You Believe," was two things at once: A sendup of scifi conspiracy shows, and a cool tweak on a monster we've never seen Supernaturalized before. But it was also . . . awkward. Spoilers!
Written by Ben Edlund, this episode was one of the ones fans had been anticipating for a while. It had the hilarious X-Files style credits, a guest spot from beloved genre mainstay Robert Picardo, and, well, faeries. What could possibly go wrong? Mostly, nothing.
The episode starts with its X-Files homage: Two people are making out in a field of corn when there's a flash of light and suddenly the young man in the couple disappears. As the woman screams his name, the camera pulls back and we see a huge crop circle has been created in the corn. Cue X-Files credits. Yes, it's clearly a Ben Edlund episode because we're already deep in metaville with these pop culture references - though interestingly, Gramps doesn't appear in the credits, despite being the one actor currently on Supernatural who was also on X-Files.
When the Winchesters blow into town, having heard about four mysterious disappearances, everything seems a little off. They're skeptical about the UFO explanation they hear from "UFO expert" Picardo, but even more skeptical when an old hippie lady tells them that people are being kidnapped by faeries. After all they've seen and done, they're dismissive of the idea that faeries can kidnap people? I guess this sudden burst of skepticism is supposed to be part of the X-Files homage, but it felt a little forced - not so much when it came from soulless Sam, but when it came from Dean.
But Dean's close encounter with the faeries, first in the cornfield and later in the brothers' hotel room, makes him a believer. This scene where he battles a tinkerbell to the strains of classic David Bowie is pure awesome.
Also, there's a terrific trope in this episode where it turns out the faeries have been abducting people for thousands of years but only recently have learned to cover their tracks by perpetuating UFO myths. The head UFO expert, Picardo, is actually a faerie in disguise, spreading UFO propaganda on behalf of the faerie king.
A desperate watch-maker in the town has invited the faeries in with a spell after he becomes sick and his business starts to fail. He strikes a bad bargain and winds up with a booming business but losing his son to faerieland. And then the town starts losing more of their first-born sons as the faeries claim more and more "fat of the land."
As the glittery hippie lady tells the brothers, however, the faeires have a few weaknesses. They can be harmed by metal, and if you spill salt or sugar in front of them, they are compelled to kneel down and count every grain. Sam manages to make quick work of Picardo and crew after a brief fight: He just dumps a bunch of salt on the ground and reads the "get rid of faeries" spell while Picardo is busy counting.
It was a fun, goofy episode with lots of crunchy pop culture references and more development of soulless Sam's character. But it also struck some of the wrong notes.
Edlund just couldn't resist making a bunch of faerie/fag jokes, which I think could have been funny but just weren't. For example: Dean mistakenly attacks a little (human) guy, yelling, "Faerie! Faerie!" I guess we're supposed to think this is a slapsticky, silly version of a hate crime - especially when Dean, in handcuffs, yells at Sam to "fight the faeries!" But it wound up feeling forced and awkward. Same goes for the "I'm not prejudiced against gay little people" moment when Dean is in jail. Maybe the writers should have just stopped after the actually-funny anal probe jokes and Sam's 4Chan-esque quip to Dean: "Did you service Oberon king of the faeries?"
Instead of yet another fag joke, I could have used a bit more menace in this episode. I get that there's an amusing twist in the idea that openly fighting faeries makes you seem like a homophobe - but why not have another twist be that faeries are actually badass motherfuckers who will cut you with their glowing, sparkly wings? We got a hint of that in the microwave scene. And then an even bigger hint when Picardo tells Sam that he and his faerie pals could get his soul back, for a price. Apparently they know some back entrances into Hell, and aren't cowed by what Picardo calls "your" Lucifer. He even laughs at the idea that angels have any power. So now we know that monsters potentially have powers that equal those of angels and demons. More of that, please.
Sadly, however, most of the faerie action involved tiny people getting drunk on cream and Picardo cackling about how easy it is to fool humans with UFO pamphlets.
I guess what I'm saying is that this episode veered between inventively hilarious, and just plain embarrassing. Edlund always aims weird and high with his writing, and it doesn't always hit the mark.