Season seven of Supernatural has had its ups and downs and - for lack of a better word has been relatively... average. Sure, it's had fantastic episodes such as "Meet the Boss," Bobby's final hurrah in "Death's Door," and The Untouchables-themed "Time After Time."
Yet, for the most part, there's been a littering of episodes that haven't been bad, but haven't possessed the spark that makes any truly standout.
And on some level it's understandable, after seven years I imagine it becomes harder to find a way to keep a show fresh and at the same time still hold onto all the qualities that made it entertaining in the first place. Perhaps the fact that the "big bad" hasn't been all that big or all that bad adds to the problem, especially when an enemy like that should drive the show forward with its intensity and fear inducing qualities.
It's possible that the final stand off between the Winchester brothers and the Leviathan could reach epic proportions, blowing away any aforementioned concerns and my oftentimes boredom with the bad guy. And I hope that's how it all works out.
But I don't feel as if Supernatural is simply on its last legs, particularly because of "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie." It was great.
More often than not, mythology heavy episodes are typically the strongest and most memorable because they drive the story forward and provide a dramatic context for the characters. Yet this particular hour didn't worry about that and came through as a definite highlight of the season, in part because it felt exactly like an episode from season one or two.
I haven't laughed as much this year, but the clever one-liners, the fantastically entertaining banter and the brothers being their typical selves in this episode hit at the heart of what made this show so good.
The perfect combination of hilarity between Sam and Dean mixed with the scariness of their supernatural case was enjoyable from start to finish.
Sam and Dean have had such an emotional back and forth recently that to watch them truly work together was refreshing. Additionally, both characters managed to garner their own funny, scary, and dramatic moments without one overshadowing the other.
I couldn't help but laugh at Sam's discomfort when surrounded by the clowns, even though the clowns were tremendously creepy. Simply watching this giant of a guy break down at the mere sight of them, even after he's faced horrendous and evil foes, illustrated a perfect throwback vulnerability and moment for Sam to not be so serious.
I even loved the bringing up of Sam's past issues with clowns and using the "previously on" to reiterate his fear. Man, how young did they look in that "Then" sequence? Wow.
Sam got to interrogate the workers, but his tough guy routine was so overdone that it was more comical than intimidating. Plus, it was hard to take him seriously, as he slammed his hands down on the table and demanded answers from a guy dressed in a lion costume. It was a great way to break for a moment from Sam's usually ever so serious tone without making him campy or straying away from his character.
Of course, Dean managed to get those great quips like "Yeah, a guy in his thirty's hanging out at Plucky's alone. That's normal. That's not pervy at all;" or simply cracking up at Sam covered in glitter. Let's not forget Dean playing skee ball and wanting to win the slinky. It really is hard not to laugh at Dean being Dean.
The sharp writing and perfect playing off each other of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki made this a top notch episode. It was as out there as the time that the brothers dealt with the suicidal teddy bear including just enough scare and the perfect amount of charming humor, even without any larger mythology Leviathan plans.
And the perfect way that the brothers laughed off their experience at the end, while giving Dean a chance to reflect on leaving Sam alone when he was younger, without making the moment melodramatic, was true to the characters. It was fun seeing them have fun.
The switching back and forth between "now" and a digital countdown like 24 was probably unnecessary. Although I have a feeling that the writers simply wanted a way to throw in the amusing "RIGHT FRIGGIN' NOW" because it just added to the extreme factor of unicorns with rainbow tails and glitter exploding clowns.
In the end, what many could call a filler episode reignited the spark of what makes this show standout offering an hour of unadulterated enjoyment. This is what Supernatural is all about.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.