Critipeg: Letterkenny

“Sleepover,” streaming on Crave, ★★★☆☆ 1/2

Released to Crave Dec. 25, 2020 (as per Letterkenny tradition on Christmas Day), it will come as no surprise to fans that Letterkenny’s latest season follows the standard formula: rapid-fire wordplay, brawls and one-liner truisms.

That is, save for one episode. “Sleepover” follows the Hicks, Skids and Hockey Players as they engage in sleepover activities: movies, games and girl talk.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Letterkenny follows these three main groups living in the fictional town of Letterkenny in rural Ontario as they deal with day-to-day problems and interact with one another. As the seasons have progressed, other groups have gotten more screen time – not only as useful to the plot for the Hicks, Skids and Hockey Players, but with their own problems and storylines, as well.

This is where the “Sleepover” episode begins to deviate from the show’s standard formula. Alongside the usual parallel storylines following Hicks, Skids and Hockey Players is a fourth perspective showing Gail (Lisa Codrington), Rosie (Clark Backo) and Bonnie McMurray (Kamilla Kowal). The latter two fit with the Hick description, although Gail, for reasons aside from being the town barmaid, really can’t be categorized.

What is this breakaway group? It seems they are set apart from the main Hicks – Wayne (Jared Keeso), Katy (Michelle Mylett) and Daryl (Nathan Dales), with the conspicuous absence of Squirrely Dan (K. Trevor Wilson) – so they can both freely engage in the aforementioned “girl talk” from the episode description. 

That’s the first true deviation from the Letterkenny formula. Although the episode begins with the usual rapid-fire banter, the tone after the intro sequence fits with the quiet feel of a mid-winter sleepover with good friends. The dialogue is deceptively normal compared to the usual pop-culture riffing, characters roasting each other and clever wordplay.

The episode includes a 30-second montage of a mid-winter nighttime Sudbury (where the show is filmed), with scenic shots not typically seen on the show: a side angle of the barn, a quiet railroad crossing, an urban street basking in the glow of a unoccupied convenience store, a snowy residential road at night, an industrial area.

Letterkenny’s camerawork is known for its use of wide shots, although this has evolved to include more character close-ups over the years. The episode typically begins with one of a handful of the same scenic shots, including the sun rising over the barn. Taking the time to show these shots during the actual episode slows down the pacing to reflect the comfortable lull of hibernation, a sleepover among friends.

It’s a comforting episode to watch, although somewhat lacking the show’s usual wit. As well as giving the actors a rest from their usual rapid-fire wordplay, the whole episode feels like a break from the usual story. There is no plot advancement, no real conflict, no chorin’.

Even the Hockey Players take a break from their Tinder activity. The whole episode feels, as Reilly (Dylan Playfair) puts it, like a “well-earned night off, bro.”

Published in Volume 75, Number 17 of The Uniter (February 3, 2021)

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