“You’re gonna make mistakes. Hell, I make them all the time. But it’s how you handle yourself once you make those mistakes and you learn from them.”
There’s nothing like a bit of levity sprinkled around a tale of zombie boyfriends and human/fly hybrids. Fact is, Supernatural has made a living off interspersing lighthearted beats within the structure of some nasty happenings and “Optimism” falls right into that particular wheelhouse.
Harper Sayles is a sweet gal; everyone in the small town of McCook, Nebraska believes it. She works at the library, has the most naturally friendly disposition but has a bit of bad luck when it comes to guys. Her story is a sad one, where her high school sweetheart Vance, left town after graduation and, ever since then, Harper’s bad luck has infected the men around her. After Jack gets wind of the case, he convinces Dean to be his “hunting buddy” on the trip and they both realize that looks can be quite deceiving.
Halfway across the country just outside of Memphis, Sam and Charlie are on their own hunt. They’re searching for a Musca, a most unusual human/fly hybrid beastie. Though these creatures of lore generally keep to themselves, the rumors are that, ever so often, when a male Musca is unable to find a mate, he goes about massacring the innocent, using them to create his own nest. As sad a life as that isolation may be for the Musca, there’s only one way for it to end.
Two basic monster hunts aside, “Optimism” focuses more on the two hunter teams than furthering the season’s end game. The episode marks this season’s first appearance of Charlie. While on the Musca stakeout with Sam, she admits that this life of hunting is no longer for her. In a quiet moment, she opens up to Sam about her experiences during the apocalypse on her earth brought about by the battle between Michael and Lucifer. She lost everything; her job, her life…her love. And seeing how people could so easily turn on one another when the chips were down, has soured her to humans as well. Playing on the episode’s title, Sam, while acknowledging the jerky behavior of people, points out that helping people is worth it; not just in saving them but maybe, just maybe, they’ll pay it forward. It’s an amazing attitude in Sam, especially considering all the horrid things he’s seen perpetrated, both by monsters and men.
On the other end of that spectrum is Dean and, to a lesser extent, Jack. Promises of the birds-and-the-bees talk aside, their adventure is light but shadowed in guilt. Dean still can’t let go of the blame he feels at Michael roaming free but he’s not alone. Jack feels a very similar guilt, knowing that he could have ended the archangel’s reign when he had the power but distraction cost him. These two have come a long way since, at the beginning of last season, Dean wanted nothing to do with Jack. It’s funny now that, after their road trip, there’s probably no one Dean can relate to regarding his guilt more than Jack.
For the third week in a row, Supernatural has given viewers filler episodes. Thankfully, each week has been better than the previous one. “Optimism” is such a fun time—not only for the Warm Bodies-type love story between zombie boy and girl but also the camaraderie between Sam, Dean, and their respective partners. Though not the most fantastic, there are fun moments but also seeds for the continued development of our characters, primarily Dean and Charlie. Throw in the hints of Harper’s return and “Optimism” does a fine job giving fans a filler episode with a relevant narrative progression.
- Any Supernatural that has Felicia Day in it is a good one. A favorite guest character of the show, Day’s Charlie has always brought an energetic and upbeat tone. While she was more subdued this week, there were still glimpses of the old Charlie’s pep. The added layer of somberness only deepened her character. Now, let’s just hope she returns for a good handful of episodes this season.
- Harper was another fun part of “Optimism”. She was the quintessential definition of ‘all that glitters ain’t gold’. So sweet and earnest, it turns out that she’s a crazy necromancer who’s also a hopeless romantic. It’s a dangerously fun combination and it looks as if she’s set her sights on Jack, meaning a potential return down the road.
- Despite the fun present in “Optimism”, that’s still three weeks in a row of fillers. Yes, this was definitely the best of the three and though it did touch on an important aspect of the season—Dean’s guilt—it does nothing to further the story of Michael’s plan or how Nick (Lucifer’s meat suit), Dark Kai, or her spear fit into the archangel’s end game.
- Just when I think I’ve seen every type of beastie, the writers introduce the Musca. One of the more grotesque creatures to hit the Supernatural screen, the writers do a good job making its story parallel Charlie’s own thoughts of isolation. It also reminds us that while some of these creatures are evil, sometimes their actions are more about instinct and self-preservation that causing destruction. Intentions or not though, the hunters have a job in protecting those that can’t protect themselves. And, despite the often disappointing nature of people, helping others “is worth it”. To paraphrase Giles’ (for you Buffy fans) philosophy on forgiveness; you don’t always do things because people deserve it…you do it because they need it.