A Night of Fright Makes ScoobyNatural a Delight

Joint review written by Meg Griffin and Kelsie Newman.

Image courtesy of CW/Warner Bros

One of the skills the Supernatural writers room has is spades is the ability to take even the most seemingly ridiculous premise (I’m looking at you, musical episode epidemic) and somehow make it not only work within the Supernatural universe, but still feel somehow grounded in reality, which is an impressive feat for a show that deals with monsters, demons, and the idea that a ‘67 Impala is a practical choice for crossing the country multiple times (honestly, I hope they have fuel perks or some shit, because WOW that’s a lot of gas). ScoobyNatural is no exception, and as someone who was never a huge fan of the cartoon , the writers were able to not only bring me into their two-dimensional childhood fantasy, but somehow make me feel nostalgic for a show I never thought much about.

I’ll be honest: I did not understand all the hype about ScoobyNatural when it was first announced. My jaded side looked at it as something of a stunt episode crammed in to give Jared and Jensen some time off mid-season. Clearly, I was wrong, and the episode was such a delightful (if at times problematic) break from some of this season’s more intense storylines. The basic premise is that Dean and Sam, after fighting a giant plush dinosaur in a pawn shop, are gifted a TV by  the grateful shop owner and, upon installing it in Dean’s secret entertainment suite (which has had more written about it by fans than any other piece of set design), the two are sucked into a cartoon by some purple, sparkly light, and that’s when, ZOINKS! Our mystery begins!

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What follows is a fun romp with the Scooby gang that is spooky in the only way ScoobyNatural can be: just the right amount of Scooby-Doo camp with just enough edge to remind us we’re watching Supernatural. One of the most interesting parts of the episode was the fact that while Dean, Sam, and Cas were thrust into this cartoon, they weren’t actually brought into the Scooby-verse; rather, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby were thrust into the Supernatural universe, which is a much more dangerous place and makes for much better storytelling. The choice to bring those meddling kids into a universe that looks like their own, but which has actual monsters (and actual death) was a brilliant move, and did a lot to showcase Dean’s affection for the series. Dean is a lifelong fan of the show, and it’s poignant and somewhat sad when he declares to Sam that he’s not to tell the gang anything about the real monsters that haunt their world. Dean’s protecting his own childhood innocence as much as he is the gang’s.

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This only makes sense when you think about why Dean Winchester, Badass Hunter and Righteous Man, would want to protect this little cartoon. Dean and Sam had a hard childhood, to put it mildly, and oftentimes it’s mentioned how much harder it was for the eldest Winchester son. Between knowing the truth about monsters, and trying to protect his brother from that very same truth, while dealing with his obsessive and often absent and abusive father, the idea of the Scooby gang must have been appealing to Baby Dean. Just like him, it’s a bunch of kids solving mysteries and hunting monsters, but unlike his own reality, the monsters are never real and no one gets hurt.

Unfortunately, as things always do for Team Free Will, shit goes south fast. Dean excitedly recognizes the plot of this particular Scooby mystery and feels comfortable enough in his knowledge of the show’s canon that he kicks back with the gang, settling in for a sleepover and donning a pretty comfy-looking sleeping gown.

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He theorizes that he and Sam simply have to go along with the plot and “play their parts” like they did way back in Season 5’s Changing Channels and, poof! They’ll be back in the 3-D world, and all will be right with the world. The illusion is shattered when one of the animated side characters actually dies  and Shaggy breaks his arm, and the boys find themselves having to divulge the truth to the gang after all. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well as Fred curses himself for not hunting real monsters this whole time, and Daphne has her own existential crisis, thinking about an afterlife and the possibility that she’d be going to Hell. Dean interrupts their nervous breakdown with a rousing speech while Sam tries to weaponize the gang’s assets. Then the team gets to doing what they do best: solving the mystery and setting up elaborate and ineffective traps! Eventually, Dean, Cas, and Sam trap the phantom who turns out to be the ghost of a little boy who was being forced to kill and hurt people by Jay, the creeper who “happens” to be the owner of several shops in the same plaza as the owner of the Pawn Shop of Possessed Stuffed Dinos we met in the beginning of the episode. Once they promise to help the boy cross over if he helps them get back to their own world, the three check in on the Scooby gang who, left to their own devices, have fallen back into full on meltdown mode. Deciding they can’t leave their favorite cartoon characters with crippling PTSD, Team Free Will asks the little boy to help them make things right. They bring the gang back and show them that Velma was right all along, and it wasn’t a real ghost. They unmask the “villainous human,” and the team is back to their former innocence. The young ghost takes the boys back to our universe, and they release him before bringing the shady real estate developer to justice.

Image courtesy of CW/Warner Bros

Overall, I really liked this episode, my absolute favorite moments being all of Cas’s time with Scooby and Shaggy, a pairing that surprised me with how much I liked it, Sam trying to educate Velma on what does and doesn’t make a good real estate scam, and the fact the Cas is now somehow married to a Djinn Queen, which, please please PLEASE give me that episode. And I have to say how happy I am that my expectations of Gabriel being the catalyst for this episode were wrong, which makes it much easier for non-Supernatural fans to follow along without feeling lost in the larger myth-arc of the season. Hoowever, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention something that felt off and wrong to me, and it’s gotta be said that Dean was a pretty huge douchebag this whole episode. I’m not upset or even surprised that Dean hit on Daphne. If I were thrust into Anastasia or Aladdin, you bet your ass I’d be wagging my eyebrows at my cartoon crushes. What pushed Dean from cute fantasy fulfillment to full-on creeper asshole was the fact that he literally never let up. Daphne is clearly in a relationship with Fred and in no way interested in Dean, and while I believe actual real-life Dean wouldn’t spend an entire hour forcefully making his interest in a woman known, cartoon Dean had no such qualms, much to the annoyance of his brother, the obliviousness of Daphne, and the disappointment of me. You’re better than that, Mr. Winchester.

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Now, as I said before, I was not a huge fan of Scooby-Doo as a kid, and didn’t really feel right reviewing the episode as a Scooby-Doo episode, so below is Kelsie’s review of the crossover from the perspective of a lifelong Scooby fan!

Hi, my name is Kelsie and I am a huge Scooby Doo fan. I grew up on the cartoons. From the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? To A Pup Named Scooby Doo, I have loved them all. It had everything I wanted out of a show: mystery, a hint of the supernatural, and a talking dog.  I even had a dog named Scooby Doo growing up. He was a Chihuahua, it’s ironic. Velma was the first cartoon character that I really looked up to as a role model. She was smart and spunky; everything I wanted to be.

When I found out that the Winchester gang were going to be animated alongside the Scooby Gang I was giddy, to say the least. I have also been a fan of the Winchester boys since they first aired way back in 2005. Despite the fact that these two groups are so vastly different, with the Scooby gang being mostly wholesome, and the Winchester boys being, well, not, the merging of the two just really seemed to fit nicely.

The way Dean acts like a giddy little kid when he finds out they’ve been animated into the Scooby-verse truly made me grin like a sappy fool. I would most definitely be acting like Dean, despite the whole hitting on Daphne constantly … maybe.

Image courtesy of CW/Warner Bros

I felt that making Dean such a superfan of the Scooby Doo cartoons really helped tie the two worlds together. It allowed for Supernatural fans who may not have been fans of Scooby Doo growing up get an idea of what Scooby Doo is all about. Like I said, despite the whole solving mysteries bit, these two shows couldn’t be more different. Scooby Doo is a show about a group of teenagers who look monsters in the face and unmask them for who they truly are, which like Dean says in the show, are usually shady real estate developers.

We first find the gang in the episode hanging out at the local malt shop celebrating after solving another mystery. The malt shop is such a main location for the gang, as the show originally aired in 1969. Much like Dean, I knew which episode they had been transplanted into almost immediately when they mentioned that they were traveling to a house so that Scooby could receive inheritance. As a lifelong Scooby Doo fan, I really appreciated that Dean felt so passionate about keeping the gang in the dark about the true monsters in the world. Scooby Doo is built on the idea that all monsters can be unmasked, and therefore, the scary aspects of them are taken away. The Winchester brothers know that there is true evil out there that doesn’t need to hide behind a mask, but Dean wants to make sure that the gang can keep their sense of the world.

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They followed the original episode very closely with the gang, plus the Winchester brothers, gathered around to hear the terms and conditions of the inheritance. Spend the night in the haunted house and a portion of the money is all yours. I remember the creepy lawyer from the original Scooby Doo episode being much more … creepy. The animators of this episode did a really great job with sticking to the original animation style throughout the episode. Both shows utilize a lot of darker colors during filming to really set the spooky mood. This episode was not any different in that aspect.

When the group stumbles across the first dead body, I wasn’t sure how the Scooby gang would react. Obviously, there were never any real dead bodies in Scooby Doo, it was a kid friendly show! I felt that the way the gang reacted, just brushing it off by convincing themselves that it was somehow a prop, really speaks to the almost naive nature of the group. In reality, they are just teenage kids who have spent their entire lives solving mysteries that never result in any real tragedy. I also felt that this really drove home the idea that these are characters from a cartoon. They have been created to fulfill a certain role, and that role doesn’t involve dealing with real dead people.

This episode, like most episodes of Supernatural, was full of witty one liners, usually from Dean. My personal favorite was when he referred to Cas as their “talking dog”, because, well, it is kind of true, isn’t it? I loved that they brought Cas into the show with the Winchesters. His character always adds just that little extra something to the show that makes it special.

Damn, Nailed the landing! Image courtesy of CW/WB

When Scooby jumps into Shaggy’s arms while scared, and then Shaggy, while holding Scooby, jumps into Castiel’s arms is such classic Scooby Doo antics. There were various different allusions to the original show throughout this episode. Such as Scooby, Shaggy, and Castiel creeping around looking for the phantom while the Phantom is actually creeping behind them without their knowledge. This sort of oblivious nature of both Scooby and Shaggy is so prominent in the original show. I am glad to see they included it in this crossover episode. Also, the scene where everyone is running through the different doors in the hallway while being chased and also chasing the phantom is such a classic Scooby Doo scene. I was grinning from ear to ear during that entire scene. It made me feel like a kid again watching Scooby Doo before going off to bed.

When the gang is finally convinced that ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and everything else that goes bump in the night is actually real and the all begin having nervous breakdowns, I couldn’t help but chuckle slightly. How else would any sane person react? I would assume in a very similar way, especially if you’ve been living your life unmasking supposed supernatural beings. Another witty quip from Dean is when Freddy’s outrageous trap fails, and Dean says that “his traps always fail” because where is the lie? Freddy always made these insane traps, and they almost never worked, but the gang still always managed to capture the bad guy. This episode just happened to be the Winchester brothers who capture the bad guy.

Image courtesy of CW/Warner Bros

The fact that Dean gets the true ghost to pretend to be the creepy lawyer in a mask to put the minds of the Scooby gang at ease really proved that Dean is such a true, loving fan of this show. He doesn’t want to leave these characters, even If they are simply cartoon characters, with their entire world view turned upside down really speaks to the care the whole Supernatural crew took with this episode. They knew that they would have to bring in true monsters, because it wouldn’t be an episode of Supernatural without some kind of actual horrifying creature. I thought that they did it in such a respectful way. They were able to bring these two worlds together for a moment, but ultimately, they are leaving the Scooby-verse still wholesome.

All in all, this episode had everything that a fan of both Scooby Doo and Supernatural would love. There was plenty of wit and sass from the Winchester boys and lots of hilarious, naïve goodness from the Scooby gang. And the way Velma kisses Sam at the end? Yaaasss queen!

Image courtesy of CW/Warner Bros
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