Supernatural, “There’s No Place Like Home,” was written by Robbie Thomson and directed by Phil Sgriccia. It marks the return of Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day) from her adventure in Oz. The plot was perhaps a little heavy-handed, hit-you-over-the-head, and I was prepared not to like it, but after my second time through, I have to admit that maybe I needed to be hit over the head. While there is some very obvious plotting, the episode does really highlight what’s been going on this season, and in fact, helps to crystallize it. The episode also features the return of two well-known Canadian actors: Paul McGillion as Peter Harper (also in “Fallen Idols”) and Barclay Hope as Russell Wellington (also in “Tall Tales”). Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Day really make the episode by delivering outstanding performances.
The flashbacks show Charlie eager to take up the mantle of “Saving people, hunting things, the family business.” In the bar scene with Dark Charlie, she says to Dean, “I’m not the monster here. He was. He got what he deserved. You know I’m right. You know what I learned about going dark? It sets you free. And part of you knows that’s right too.” Dean does know because when he was DemonDean he was set free from his Super-ego – his conscience. Both Dark Charlie and DemonDean aren’t stupid, so they do maintain at least part of their Ego, but they have lost their inhibitions or feelings of guilt.
Being all good isn’t a picnic, either, however. It’s actually pretty amusing when Good Charlie can’t even hack into the Council Woman’s bank accounts. But it’s also an interesting throwback to how resistant Sam was in the first season about credit card fraud and the other shady things that Dean and John did to get by.
Dark Charlie tells Dean, “There’s no right or wrong. Just us and them.” Dean tells her there won’t be a “her” for much longer and then she questions if he really wants her back in Charlie. Later he tells Dark Charlie that he won’t let her corrupt Charlie. Yet, in the end, she is part of Charlie. No one can be purely evil or purely good. Another parallel between Charlie and Dean is that they both knowingly and intentionally splintered themselves for the greater good. Charlie let the Wizard release her darkness to save Oz and Dean let Cain give him the Mark to kill Abaddon.
Charlie’s reference to “Saving people, hunting things” also underscores another theme we’ve seen this season that helps to explain the lack of actual monsters of the week. The show has clearly been examining the human monster. This actually dovetails nicely with the theme of monsters who aren’t monsters like Sheriff Cuse in “Hibbing 911” or Kate in “Paper Moon.” It’s that gray area that Dean has hated and struggled with since meeting Lenore in season two’s “Bloodlust.” Jeremy Carver has stated that the story this season is an internal one as the boys, and Dean in particular, has to struggle with the monster within himself and that is certainly, glaringly even, reflected by Charlie in this episode. I’ve been struggling with this slow slide in the brothers’ code for some time. At some point they went from ‘we don’t kill humans’ to having no problem doing so. The Wizard of Oz (Carter Kinsella) tells Sam that heroes die, but they can also fade away when they fail to live up to the standards they’ve set for themselves.
The title of the episode is also significant. On the face of it, it’s a cute reference to Charlie’s return from Oz, but there is also a deeper significance. Dorothy’s repeating that “There’s no place like home” three times while she clicks her heels together is what sends her home at the end of the movie. You can also read the symbolism that she re-integrated the parts of herself – her intellect, her courage, and her heart (id, ego, and super-ego again, anyone? Especially in the formative years) – in order to draw upon her own inner-power to come home. Dark Charlie tells Good Charlie, “You did it didn’t you? You killed the Wizard. I knew it. The magic was in you all the time.” Good Charlie can’t kill Clive (Duncan Fraser – who also played Odin in “Hammer of the Gods”) until he forgives her for doing so from both his halves. Is it possible that Dean must kill Cain in order to free himself? Cain did tell Dean he would need him to do something for him and that Dean would have to heed his call. Dean is already drawing on his own inner power to control the Mark.
Home has always been a powerful talisman for the Winchesters and Dean, especially. Home is often equated with the Impala, and Charlie flattens her tires and then hotwires her! Both leading to “Son of a Bitch!” moments from Dean. But now the Bunker is also home and where the brothers go to regroup. More than that, however, for Dean, home is where Sam is. Charlie recognizes this when she tells him “There’s one thing that you have that he (Cain) didn’t. You’re a Winchester.” Dean has Sam and that’s underscored by the brothers’ final conversation.
Sam asks Dean if he’s good. In fact, he asks Charlie the same question and she says that she’ll settle for “balanced” – perhaps the best any of us can hope for. When Sam puts the question to Dean, it’s a classic moment for Dean to lie and say no, but he doesn’t. He says, “No.” And that may be the most honest he’s ever been with his brother. Sam isn’t hammering away at Dean’s weaknesses causing all the problems, nor is he looking to leave Dean’s side – when Charlie mentions the retirement option, Sam just shrugs – he isn’t angsty about it like he resents having to be there. So Sam replies to Dean’s honest reply with “She’s right, Dean. You can do this. We can do this.” And Dean then responds with “Then let’s get to work.”
Of course, the other implication of “being a Winchester” goes back to John and the family business. Dean’s sense of self – the super-ego – is classically tied to his father. There’s a nice scene in the Impala when Sam is going through Charlie – Celeste’s file. He sees psychological reports that indicated that she had anti-authority disorder, clinical depression, and violent outbursts. Dean points out that “if a shrink interviewed us at that age, do you think the report would be all kittens and rainbows?” Dean has clearly been demonstrating these same traits pretty much for as long as we’ve known him! Something else that stems from Dean’s driving need to prove himself to his father is his massive guilt complex.
There are two fantastic scenes between Day and Ackles. The first occurs between Dark Charlie and Dean in the bar. Dark Charlie is astute and calls Dean on lying to himself – “That’s kinda your move.” She also notices that something’s not right with him, and you can see Ackles recoil – just with his eyes – he doesn’t want Charlie to know what he’s done and what he’s become since she was in Oz. He tells her that “I’ve made mistakes, but I’ll pay for mine and you’ll pay for yours.”
The second scene is the end scene between Charlie and Dean and this may be their best work together. Both are clearly riding an emotional edge. Once again, Charlie speaks some hard truths. Dean tries to apologize to Charlie – after all, it was easy to beat up and break the arm of Dark Charlie who was giving almost as well as she was getting, but quite another to see the Charlie he thinks of as a little sister in a pink cast that he put her in. She tells him though that “We are going to fix this. I’m not letting what happened to me, happen to you.” But Dean feels that horse is already out of the barn – “It’s already happened.” Just as Clive forgave her, she forgives Dean, but he can’t forgive himself. And Charlie replies, “Yeah, kinda your move. How’s that working out for you?” Dean finally manages to say, “I’m so sorry, kiddo” and hugs her. Charlie tells him to “prove it.”
Calling Charlie “kiddo” also underscores that he thinks of her as family – it’s what John used to call him. It also underscores that he thinks of her as a little sister to be protected – something he’s completely failed at. Dean consistently refuses to believe that Charlie could be doing the things that Dark Charlie is doing. When Sam first sees Charlie on the Internet, Dean is clearly hurt that she’s returned from Oz and not called them. He also insists that she “Wouldn’t hurt a hobbit” and “practically sparkles”! Dean says to Sam, “Look at what we do. Taken out of context. She could be hunting.” Like her juvie file, Dean sees her as one of them. Dean also insists, “she’s a good kid. There’s gotta be an explanation for this.”
When Sam and Dean finally come face to face with Dark Charlie, Dean insists, “this isn’t you!” I loved that she called them Rocket and Groot – from The Guardians of the Galaxy (spoiler alert! Jump to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie!). It fits from the physical joke of it – like Moose and Squirrel – but even more importantly from the entire discussion of Id and Ego. She accuses Sam of being “all good-guy code. No bite!” and accuses Dean of “always letting this albatross hold you back.” In the movie, Rocket has no filter or self-control, and Groot sacrifices himself for the others. It’s the perfect, throw away nickname!
Whew! All that said, there were a number of other things in the episode that I just plain enjoyed. Dean’s 12 step program is both hilarious and poignant. He seems to be adopting a lot of Sam’s behaviors in order to control himself. After all, Sam is no stranger to the dark side. I loved how much he hated his egg-white omelet and kale sandwich! The kale is definitely a shout out to Misha Collins (Cas), who once again fails to meet Charlie. Of course, he vows to go back to booze, burgers… and more booze as soon as possible. What? No Broads, Dean? I wasn’t sure if that was left off to be more politically correct or whether that was because he isn’t swearing of women or whether that was because he’s not going back to women… I loved him trying to listen to the meditation tape and finally just ripping it out. Did anyone else recognize EP Bob Singer’s voice?
I loved the use of the aliases Gabriel and Collins. As rock aliases, this is a clear reference to Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins of Genesis. And of course, given their obsession with Cain right now, Genesis is an excellent reference! But, in the context of the show, I have to admit that my first association was with Gabriel the angel played by Richard Speight Jr and Misha Collins. And of course, there are fans who ship Sam/Gabriel in addition to Destiel. I suspect that the real reference is simply the rock reference, however.
I loved having Charlie back. Day, as I keep saying, does a terrific job, playing Dark Charlie, Good Charlie, and Balanced Charlie – all in the same episode! She also did some great fight scenes – loved the leg lock! I always love Charlie’s “What’s up, bitches!” There is a great VFX sequence as Dark Charlie is reintegrated to Good Charlie.
What did you think of the episode? Were you happy to see Charlie back? Do you think Dean’s plan to control the Mark will work? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!