There’s a hacker that’s here today and they call her…Charlie! She’s acting weird and so not okay, what is up with…Charlie?! Okay, so that snippet of a perfume commercial song parody really dates me, but the point is that I have good news and bad news, and Charlie Bradbury’s return is both. Since this was a single plot episode (thank Chuck!) let’s really delve into the smaller moments of it. Which, of course, include Dean’s eye crinkles and Sam’s hair. Yeah, yeah. You know you love it. Let’s get started.
1. Sensitive New Age Dean
It was not eating a burger that alerted the King of Hell that Dean Winchester had transformed. So if it’s his habits that determine who he is, what do we make of a Dean that sleeps in? That no longer imbibes? That drinks green juice and eats raw almonds and sandwiches made not out of ground grade A prime but…shudder…KALE? No offense to the super-veg (or to kale lover Misha Collins) but that just ain’t right. Dean’s trying desperately to control the Mark of Cain, and, somehow, he thinks that listening to a tape that advises him that “the key to quieting your mind is minding your quiet” will keep him in check. Sam tries to be supportive, especially in the face of “awesome” egg white omelets, but he knows that Dean’s three…I mean twelve…steps likely won’t be enough. And Dean? He just wants his alcohol fueled, cholesterol-laden old life back. “As soon as we get rid of this demonic tramp stamp,” he assures Sam, “I am back on the booze, burgers, and…more booze.” That’s our boy.
2. “She’s kind of like the little sister I never wanted.”
Supernatural has survived (and indeed, gone on to thrive) this long based on the chemistry between Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki and the strong characters they have helped create as the Winchester Brothers. Also contributing to ten years of it-hurts-so-good? Recurring characters like Felicia Day’s Charlie Bradbury. When Sam sees that Charlie, unbelievably, appears to be out on a torture spree and says her name, Dean replies, “She back from Oz? She didn’t call?” and that small moment hit me right in the heart. Dean Winchester is nothing if not loyal, and wondering why someone he cares about so much wouldn’t reach out to him says everything we need to say since “family don’t end with blood.”
Dean’s loyalty is also expressed in his faith in her, despite any and all evidence of her wrongdoings. He doesn’t care what Sam’s computer shows him. He knows that Charlie, whom he says “practically sparkles”, could never hurt anyone. He tells Sam that, taken out of context, the violence they inflict would look just as bad. And he’s going, despite his shaky nerves and even shakier hands, to clear Charlie’s good aliased name. Whatever it happens to be.
3. Just a Job to Do
Ah, the fed suits. Always so delightful. And when we see them, the mind races: which band will our boys honor by stealing their monikers? This time it was one of my favorites of all time, Genesis, which makes them even more swoonworthy. If Agents (Peter) Gabriel and (Phil) Collins showed up on my doorstep? Tonight, tonight, tonight? Hold on my heart! I’d be in too deep. That’s all.
4. Use of Excessive Force
Maybe Dean needs less cruciferous vegetables and more heavy-duty mood stabilizers. When the boys go to investigate the DA Charlie roughed up, Dean is determined to get answers, and he’s not remotely interested in the run around. Sam flinches, watching Dean strong arm the guy until he gets the info he needs, knowing it is literally more pressure than an everyday Dean would apply. Finally, the DA caves. Apparently, the drunk driver who killed Charlie’s parents got away with murder with a healthy application of cash, and now Charlie, too, wants someone to pay.
Later, in the car, Sam reads Charlie’s file from her troubled teen years, learning that her real name is Celeste. He tells Dean of her many social and psychological issues. Dean reminds him of how their files would have looked—that they wouldn’t be filled with kittens and rainbows. He just wants to find her before she does something no one can walk away from. They need to get to the next person on her list before Charlie kills her. A person whose name is…wait for it…
4. Say My Name, Say My Name
Okay. This one is also small and selfish, but permit me the indulgence. You know what was totally awesome about Charlie holding a knife to some women’s throat and punching her in the face? HER NAME WAS BARBARA! (I told you it was selfish.) I have waited ten seasons to hear my name fall from Sam Winchester’s firm and kissable lips, and finally, my dream was realized (four times, but who’s counting?) A friend of mine asked why it was such a big deal since, at conventions, I have heard Jared Padalecki say my first name in person. I tried to explain that while that was wonderful, it wasn’t Sam Winchester saying it. Which is a perfectly sane thing to say. Right? RIGHT?! (Oh, shut up. As they say, sorry-not-sorry.)
Even confronted with her violence face-to-face, and even after she calls them Rocket and Groot (ha!) Dean refuses to believe Charlie’s snarling insults and right hooks. He taps Sam’s arm to alert him to stand down and puts his own gun away, trying to talk her…or whatever it is that looks like her…down. Turns out, though? She’s something of a ninja, and, after a tussle, he ends up squeaking “Crap!” from a strong-legged chokehold.
(Can’t fault any version of Charlie for this one. Even if she wouldn’t, most women would give anything to wrap their thighs around Dean Winchester.) The one thing Dean can’t forgive? When she lets the air out of Baby’s tires. As we all know from Season Two’s “Tall Tales” it damages her rims, and that? The Dean will not abide.
But before he can cross her off the Christmas card list for her transgression she pulls up in her sunny yellow hatchback with a cheerful, “What’s up, bitches?” A question Dean does not, in that moment, have a prayer of answering.
5. Hair Apparent
I know, I know. I have a likely unhealthy fixation on Sam Winchester’s swinging chestnut locks. But COME ON! Did you see them when, after making sure Barbara was okay (swoooooooooon,) he dashed out of her house and ran for the street? Sigh. I think in the now confirmed Season Eleven they should get their own credit. I’m just sayin’.
6. It’s Black, It’s White
Dean, Sam and good Charlie go to a bar, and she explains that there was a war for Oz—one that she and Dorothy were losing. In order to win, she had to release the darkness inside her. Literally. She is now good Charlie and the little sword wielder? Dark Charlie. Dark Charlie, who broke the key to Oz to remain independent, is a badass and able to do terrible things without thinking about it and good Charlie wants nothing to do with her. Good Charlie? Can’t even drink, or check out the waitress’ ass, or, GASP, hack! Still, Charlie knows what she owns, and drops an anvil about Dean himself, natch. “I keep calling her she, but she is me. I’m the one doing this,” she admits. “It’s not who you are,” Dean says. “It’s a twisted version of…” “Me,” Charlie interrupts and Dean, understanding her in a way no one else could, has nothing to say to that.
Charlie wants to lock her evil twin (?) up for good, but Sam knows it won’t do any good. They need to reunite both sides of her into one being again, and to do that they need to find her alter ego. And to do that? They need to find the drunk driver that ruined Charlie’s life. Sam and Charlie decide to head to the Bunker to figure out how to follow the yellow brick road, and Dean will watch over the drunk driver and find Dark Charlie, even though he “can’t believe he has to protect that piece of crap”. As he leaves, he is reminded that the two Charlies are physically connected: you hurt Dark Charlie, you hurt good Charlie, too.
7. Every Time Two Fools Collide
(Recapper’s note: I love this shot. This episode was filled with tons of cool POV camera angles and I enjoyed them all. Nice job, guys.) Back at the HuntCave, Sam and Charlie figure out that there was another resident of Oz that made it back to earth besides Dorothy. Man of Letters Clive Dillon was kidnapped there, rescued by L. Frank Baum, and has been in a sort of “witness relocation” program ever since. Even though it happened decades ago, there is a chance he is still alive since time passes differently in Oz. Sam and Charlie set off to find him, hoping he can tell them how to get back.
Dean, meanwhile, has been watching over the drunk driver, Russell, who is a prominent real estate magnate. He tries to stall, but ends up adorably having to tell Russell about his dream home, which involves a Jacuzzi and bubbles and I drifted off into fantasyland at the thought and kind of missed the rest. Finally, after being insulted by the snotty jerkwad, Dean confesses who he is, clearly hateful at the thought of what Russell did to the kiddo he loves so much.
And Dark Charlie? She comes, naturally, killing the lights and convincing Dean with her tears that all she wants to do is make Russell face her and then turn him over to the cops. Dean, desperate for both her and himself to believe she can stay in control, takes her sword and allows it. Despite Russell’s tearful apology and vow to pay for what he’s done (and Charlie’s promise of forgiveness,) Dark Charlie runs him through with his own letter opener, killing him.
Dean heads back to the bar, tempted to drink, miserable. Dark Charlie sees him there and she tells him she didn’t so much lie to him as he lied to himself about her ability to change, which is kind of “his move.” They check out the utterly “delicious” female bartender while Charlie talks about how being bad is being free. Dean, silent and defeated, doesn’t disagree. He does, however, lie to her face for a change, telling her that Sam and good Charlie are off finding the key to returning to Oz, giving her the wrong town as a location. Dark Charlie heads off to try to score some hot bartender action. Or, you know, to figure out Dean’s play, steal Baby and head for the right place after all.
8. We’re Off to See the Wizard
Charlie and Sam interrogate Clive. He tries to lie but good Charlie sees through it, and he confesses that his personality, too, has been bisected. Since hurting himself means hurting the wizard, he is willing to mortally injure himself to cause the wizard to come and save him. Another anvil drops as he says “What he has done is my fault. After all, he is me. And I am him.” And we get it, show. I promise. Charlie doesn’t want Clive to do it, and she tries to find another way, but in the end? Clive knows it is the good and right thing to do. He shoots himself and it’s not long before the excellently cast wizard arrives, looking exactly as he should as a younger version of old Clive, pissed off at having to save what he thinks of as the dumbest part of himself so he can survive.
Sam tries to stop him, begging sadly for his friend, and it kills me to see how desperate they are to protect and not lose the few friends they have left. He ends up bound and choked for it. (Sam? Tied up? Must be Tuesday.) Clive wants Charlie to shoot him and she tries to resist, but they agree it is the good end via terrible means. “I’m sorry,” she says, in tears, and Clive forgives her. “We both do,” he says, and he dies for the cause.
9. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
And good Charlie? She feels Sam’s pain. Truly. Because Dark Dean is outside, and he, under the guise of saving all that is good about the “sister” he loves, is outside, kicking Dark Charlie’s ass and making good Charlie bleed in the process. I must say, until this point I was struggling with Felicia Day’s performance as Dark Charlie a little, maybe because I never saw her play someone so twisted. Here, though? Felicia finally sets into the role with relish, giving as good as she gets and showing Dean what he would look like as an evil little redhead. Dean gets the upper hand and breaks Charlie’s arm. She screams and it is clear. He has lost it. Again. Because if he can look at any version of Charlie’s face and not feel protective? He’s out of his mind with rage.
Sam tells good Charlie to hang on and carries her outside, where Dean is beating Dark Charlie to death. Sam screams his name, and Dean stops, looking at the good Charlie in Sam’s arms and realizing what he’s done, trying to emerge from his fog of violence. Sam lays good Charlie down, now matching her evil self in a volume of blood, and the two sides of her talk. “You killed the wizard,” Dark Charlie says. “I knew it. The magic was in you all the time. Celeste.” At last, in an incredibly cool special effects shot (nice work, VFX team!) the two Charlies merge.
Sam goes to Charlie, holding her and telling her it’s okay while Dean looks at his knuckles, covered in her blood, utterly sickened and full of despair.
10. There’s No Place Like Home
Back at the Bunker, Sam calls Cas, telling him they need to help Dean more than ever. Charlie emerges from a two day nap, and says that she is “balanced.” Sam tells her has found a lore book in Italy that might help, and Charlie, who says they all just need to move forward, tells Sam she will go retrieve it now that Dark Charlie is quiet. She goes to Dean and tells him she will help him fix this—that she forgives him—and he tells her he won’t forgive himself. “I know,” she says sadly, echoing her dark self. “That’s kind of your move.” She reminds him he has a strength even Cain doesn’t have: he is a Winchester. Dean, rolling his eyes, seems to think that won’t help a bit.
Charlie, after her brotherly hugs, leaves the bunker with an “Arrivederci, bitches,” promising that if the book doesn’t pan out she will keep digging, because there is no way she will let Dean go darker than he already has.
After a fond smile for her, Sam turns to Dean and says the only two words he can. “You good?” “No,” Dean replies, being honest with Sam for a change. Sam tells him Charlie is right. Dean can do it. “We can do it,” he adds, and there are my boys, working together, united just the way I like them. “Then let’s get to work,” Dean says, holding out a finally steady hand that he curls into a fist, trying to fortify himself for the fight of his life.
The mangst returns, folks! Will Dean be saved? Or will he just turn into a younger version of himself somehow as a delay tactic? That’s what happens next week, when the excellent Dylan Everett from Season Nine’s “Bad Boys” is back for episode 12, “About a Boy.” See you then!