Episode 10×11 or “Good Charlie v. Bad Charlie”
So far this season: Dean’s been cured from demonism; Crowley was his BFF; Cas was losing his grace until Crowley saved him; and Sam has done his best to reign in Dean’s homicidal tendencies. Claire Novak has also reappeared and swears she doesn’t need a father figure. And Crowley has a mother?
*Spoilers ahead, darling*
“There’s No Place Like Home” lights up on fan-favourite Charlie Bradbury kicking some serious butt. She’s not like any Charlie we’ve seen, however, and the Winchesters are quick to find footage of Bradbury seriously laying into some dude.
Sam and Dean, currently stalled for leads on how to rid Dean of the Mark of Cain, set out to find, and stop, Charlie before she does something they know she will regret. After a little investigation, the Winchesters discover that Charlie is attacking anyone connected to the unsolved case of the drunk driver who killed her parents. She’s uncovering a dark trail of bribery and deceit that ultimately leads to a rich man who didn’t want to go to jail for manslaughter. Charlie’s returned from Oz a little different than when she left, however, and the boys are surprised to discover Charlie’s been split in two by releasing her “inner darkness.” There is Good!Charlie, which is the Charlie that the boys identify as the “real” Charlie, and there is Dark!Charlie, who will do anything to avenge her parents. Including murder.
Good!Charlie and Sam learn that there is a surviving member of the Men of Letters who may be able to help the Charlies return to Oz and be fixed by the Wizard.
Dark!Charlie isn’t so keen on the idea, and though Dean does his best to misdirect her, she steals the Impala and manages to find her counterpart and Sam. Clive, the former Man of Letters, confesses that he’d once done the same magic that Charlie had–that his darker self is now the Wizard of Oz. The only way to summon the Wizard, he tells Charlie as he hands her a gun, is to put him in mortal peril. Good!Charlie goes against her moral instincts and shoots him, deciding that it must be the “good” thing to do. The Wizard is summoned, defeated, and his keys are taken and the Charlies merge into the Queen of Moons we know and adore.
The Big Picture
This was not a plot-heavy episode, and honestly? I’m kind of grateful for that. Part of the reason I love Charlie’s presence on the show is that she presents such a bright contrast to the Winchesters. We’ve seen that Charlie did not have an easy childhood (this episode continued that subplot) but has continually approached life as something that can be conquered. She wanted an adventure, so she went to Oz and had one. She wanted to be a hero, so she split herself in two and helped decide the turn of the war in Oz. Her presence in this episode represents the dichotomy of humanity. She is good; she is bad. Good!Charlie is perhaps more recognisable to us: she’s cute and smiley and nerdy–all things we’ve come to expect during her time on the show. Dark!Charlie also represents qualities of Charlie that we’ve seen before: determination, strength, intelligence, and intuition. The Winchesters initially are only willing to see Good!Charlie as the “real” one, but Charlie eventually accepts that the darkness is her.
She may be dark, but she’s still a part of you. -Sam
The truth strength of this episode is the writing (four for you, Robbie Thompson). The boys are at a crossroads, have been for a while. The Mark of Cain has irrevocably changed Dean, and, like Charlie, Dean’s inner darkness has been unleashed. Although Charlie has the initial inclination to lock away her bad self forever and forget about her, to do so would be to ignore the problem, and potentially exacerbate it. In fact, it was Good!Charlie’s dismissal of her dark side that prompted Dark!Charlie to begin her campaign of vengeance. “Being dark sets you free. Part of you knows that’s right too,” Dark!Charlie tells Dean. She’s right, but not in the way she thinks. This episode is a clever harbinger of the season. Charlie is more powerful once she’s embraced both sides of herself: the good Celeste and the vengeful bad ass Charlie. When she can balance both of them, she is more capable than she’s ever been before. The Charlie that leaves for Italy at the end of the episode is a Charlie that is on the path to achieving a level of self-awareness most of us wish we had. She knows what she is capable of, and her limitations, making her a woman who can kick ass, take names, and maintain a moral compass.
So what does this mean for the Winchesters?
At one point in the episode, Charlie refers to Sam as an “albatross.” The literary nerd in me immediately began drawing connections to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in which the albatross is viewed by the ship’s crew as an omen of good luck until its untimely demise. Charlie’s usage of the metaphor was bitter and derisive; the albatross has a long history of being a metaphor for psychological burdens, torture, and penitence. By referring to Sam as the albatross, he could be the physical manifestation of Dean’s psychological burden, and the visible reminder of his need to repent. Read: Sam’s presence is a constant reminder of Dean’s guilt. Or, on a more positive note, Sam as the albatross could be an omen of smooth sailing for the Winchesters, a promise of positive change.
The interpretation, however, depends on Dean.
Simply put: Dean needs to learn from Charlie’s example. His “twelve step program” of healthy eating and no booze will never defeat the Mark’s power so long as he continues to ignore his capability for darkness. Dean is so deep into self-loathing, a 0.57 second glance at the mirror behind the bar is more than he can stand to look at himself. Sam and Cas, and indeed Cain’s storyline with Collette, suggest that the force more powerful than the Mark is something a lot like love. Perhaps the love Dean needs to achieve to control his dark side isn’t the same that Cain did; perhaps Dean needs to accept, and to love himself. When Charlie tells Dean she forgives him, she knows he can’t forgive himself. He says “I’m so sorry, kiddo.” She says, “Prove it.”
The lady has issued you a challenge, Dean. It’s time to rise to the occasion.
Until next week, SPN family. For now: blah blah blah repressed feelings blah blah blah passive aggression.