Don’t watch this video unless you’ve already seen this week’s episode of Supernatural, since it’s mega-spoilery. And somewhat upsetting, as well. Why did Supernatural have to go down this road? Just... ugh.
So there’s a running debate over whether Supernatural kills off more female characters than male ones, and it’s easy to get bogged down in statistics and subjective impressions. Supernatural kills off a ton of characters, full stop. But some of the most pointless deaths have belonged to female characters — particularly thinking of Jo and Ellen, way back in season five — and the show has never really had a lot of female characters in general.
Few deaths, though, could be as pointless as the one handed to Charlie (Felicia Day) in last night’s “Dark Dynasty.” The episode brings back the evil Stein family from a few weeks back, and is mainly structured around the revelation that the Steins have been around for 1,000 years and were originally known as the Frankensteins — because they experiment on human bodies and transplant other people’s organs into themselves. So, in other words, it’s a pretty campy story. Also campy: The other half of the episode, in which Rowena and Charlie team up to decode the witch codex and the Book of the Damned, with Castiel nurse-maiding them. (And a further campy subplot involves Crowley torturing people and then interrogating a witch-turned-mouse for information on his mother’s weaknesses.)
There’s nothing wrong with a random, shocking death every once in a while — when Derek got his brains blown out in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, we applauded once we were done gasping. And I’d never argue that female characters should be exempt from that. (Although, if anybody brings up George R.R. Martin, I’d like to point out preemptively that he generally kills characters in a methodical way that makes their deaths the results of their own decisions, as a general rule.)
The problems with Charlie’s death, though, are two-fold: First, she dies in an idiot plot. Charlie, who’s always been shown to be quite resourceful, gets herself killed really stupidly. Castiel tells her that she can’t go outside because there are men looking for her, and in fact she’s already encountered those men and been horribly stabbed by them, the last time we saw her. So what does she do? Sneak off and go back to the motel, so she can sit and work on decoding the codex in peace. Then she gets herself trapped and decides to sacrifice her life to keep her mostly not terribly valuable research out of the hands of the Steins.
And the other problem with Charlie’s death is that it’s entirely about the Winchesters — and yes, they’re the main characters of the show, but it cheapens them to be surrounded by walking plot hammers and lame ciphers. The mistake that gets Charlie killed is Sam’s — he lies to Dean, pretends to have burned the indestructible Book of the Damned, enlists the aid of the evil witch Rowena, and steals another dangerous book for her, and then ropes in Charlie, thereby putting her in danger. And now, the story is going to be about Sam’s remorse and — more likely — Dean’s rage and thirst for vengeance.
I guess I wish Charlie had died in the service of a better story than this.
I haven’t recapped Supernatural in ages, although I’ve been watching it faithfully — I just haven’t had much to say about it. This show is endlessly rehashing its old formulas (one brother is doomed or cursed, and the other brother is searching for a cure) with an ever-diminishing feeling of urgency. It’s like that Bruce Springsteen song about rehashing your glory days. The Steins appear to be one more attempt to give this show a worthy villain to restore some urgency, but the reveal that the show is just doing one more tired Frankenstein riff has probably taken a lot of the wind out of those particular sails.
So the death of Charlie feels like a bit of a hail-mary throw from a show that’s two episodes from the end of its season, with no sense of rising action or increased urgency to speak of. Until Charlie died, all of the show’s threats boiled down to “Dean might go postal, Metatron will be a dick at some point, and Crowley is going to be sardonic.” We’ve squandered a whole season on the Rowena-and-Crowley show, and now it’s the homestretch and there’s no particular sense of excitement going into the final hours.
And that, sadly, is why Charlie had to go.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.