TV reviewer Katie Young provides her opinion on the latest Supernatural episode There’s No Place Like Home…
This week saw the return of fan favourite, Felicia Day, portraying not one but two versions of Charlie Bradbury, as Supernatural continued to mull over one of its most prevalent themes, that of the darkness which lurks inside us all.
Last seen entering a magical portal in the Men of Letters bunker, Charlie has been in Oz with Dorothy Baum. But Sam’s scan of the news for unusual activity throws up some interesting film footage of sweet, adorkable Charlie (or something wearing her face) beating seven shades out of the district attorney involved in the trial of the drunk driver responsible for the death of her parents.
Hearing that the court stenographer has been similarly tortured, Sam and Dean realise that Charlie is out for revenge, and are surprised when they track her down to the house of one of her victims to find she has been literally split into good and bad versions of herself. Good Charlie explains that a war in Oz meant that she had to seek help from the Wizard who had used some kind of ‘soul key’ to unleash her inner darkness, and enabled her to win the fight for Emerald City single-handedly. With the key broken, Charlie is trapped in the earthly realm with her id running wild, culminating in the murder of the man who crashed into her parents’ car.
Luckily for her, it transpires that the Wizard of Oz is actually the fragmented evil side of a former Man of Letters who is still alive and living in a sort of paranormal witness protection scheme. He mortally wounds himself to summon his evil double out of Oz, and Charlie reluctantly kills him, saving Dorothy and the inhabitants of Emerald City.
While Dean tries to keep his inner demon at bay with a healthy living plan, eschewing alcohol (which he has always used as a crutch), fast food, and fast women in favour of kale and smoothies, it’s not long before the effects of the mark are evident again. With his judgement skewed and his hands shaking, in the violent conclusion, Dean goes to town on Dark Charlie, brutally beating her and snapping her arm, even though he knows any damage he inflicts on her doppelgänger will also hurt his friend.Charlie, in this episode, obviously serves as a parallel to Dean, and the predicament he is facing with the Mark of Cain drawing his own bloodlust to the surface. We’ve seen Dean looking in (sometimes shattered) mirrors a lot this season, unable or unwilling to consider his own image for long, and this episode took the idea of doubling and reflections to an extreme with someone he loves literally forced to confront the worst parts of herself made tangible.
Charlie forgives Dean, vowing to help him and Sam find a way to rid them of the mark. Her ability to overcome her own dark side offers a glimmer of hope, but in doing so, she has sacrificed a part of herself, having killed a man. This loss of innocence – something Dean once said he’d have given anything to prevent Sam going through – can be seen as a victory for the darkness.
I am an absolute sucker for the tropes of doubling and twinning, and the thing I like best about this episode is the way in which the two facets of Charlie interact. While Dark Charlie does terrible things, she is still Charlie, something that Good Charlie is quick to point out whenever someone tries to alleviate her guilt. This echoes Sam in Season 6 when he learnt about what his soulless self had been up to topside. The use of language is interesting too. Charlie believes her dark side is trying to ‘woo’ her. Perhaps this is a reference to the seductive nature of evil, or simply a nod to the fact that the id is the seat of Charlie’s sexual identity. While Good Charlie laments the fact that desire she would have felt for a barmaid has been replaced with the urge to ‘send her to college’, Dark Charlie has no qualms about hitting on her. Charlie also calls her dark side a ‘badass’, suggesting a certain amount of grudging respect, and there is a tenderness between the two versions, best demonstrated by Dark Charlie’s pride that her good self found a way to assimilate them when they are lying injured side by side.
While her case files show a history of troubled behaviour, Charlie is acutely self-aware and able to forgive herself as well as others. Sam too, seems to have come to terms with his own dark past, and the way in which they team up while Dean pursues the rogue version of their friend illustrates this. Dean, conversely, can barely stomach the sight of his own face. The mockery he suffers for his ‘cheap shoes and faded jeans’ by the man who killed Charlie’s parents underscores the lack of self-esteem he’s always shrouded in bravado and whiskey fumes.The affinity between the good and bad ‘twin’ is something that crops up in mythology throughout the ages and across virtually all cultures, and it also echoes Sam and Dean’s relationship. While their roles are reversed this season, generally Sam has been the one with a dark vein running through him (having been fed demon blood as a baby, and singled out as Lucifer’s vessel) while Dean has been seen as inherently righteous. While they are not twins in the traditional sense, it is suggested by Ash in Season 5’s Dark Side of the Moon that they can share a Heaven because they are soul mates – one soul split in two. In the same way the Charlie needs her id for balance, Sam and Dean rely on one another to keep themselves human.
It would be lovely to believe that it’s Sam – Dean’s only real source of self-worth and happiness – who stills his brother’s trembling hands at the end of the episode when he promises they will work it out together, but I suspect this temporary calm has more to do with Charlie’s spilt blood having sated the mark for a while.
I’m still not convinced that the whole concept of Oz being real is entirely successful within the universe of Supernatural, even with the Men of Letters tie-in, but it was good to see a ‘monster of the week’ episode woven into the wider lore of the show. I’m really pleased that Dean finally admitted to his brother that he is not okay, but I’m really craving more in-depth exploration of the boys’ relationship now Sam is the one having to pull his sibling back from the brink. I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a step backwards in terms of emotional weight, and I really hope this ramps up as we enter the second half of the season.