If we didn’t get the hint from the title, the “Then” informs us that Charlie will be back (though I was spoiled, thanks Supernatural Twitter, which I have stopped following) and reminds us that Dean might have to resist the Mark on his own. So it wasn’t a surprise to see that Charlie was the one beating the crap out of the guy who looks like an older version of Edward Norton in the opening. And why do they do this? Why is the reveal obviously set up to surprise us, and then the promo people come along and spoil the fuck out of it?
In the bunker, Dean’s treating the Mark like alcoholism and following a three-step program: cooking healthy food (and yes, that omelet does look like crap), sleeping, and not drinking. And it’s adorable. It’s also nice to see the guys working together and getting along and talking and my favorite, the fact that all of the healthy food Dean makes for himself, he also feeds Sam. It’s just freaking adorable. Adding to this vision of domestic bliss is Dean’s reaction when Sam tells him Charlie is back: “Is she back from Oz? She didn’t call?” Like, their life and their relationships are so normal that people go away on vacation and then call and let them know they’re back.
We get the first of several comparisons of the Winchesters (and later, of Dean alone) and Charlie when Sam shows the video of the beatdown from earlier, and Dean points out that “what we do” looks the same to uneducated eyes. Other examples are when Dean says he can’t blame her for going after the person who destroyed her family, and “if a shrink interviewed us at that age, you think the report would be all kittens and rainbows?” And of course, thinking of little Sam and Dean being interviewed by a shrink just breaks my heart.
As the guys pack up to leave, we see that even a regular old knife gives Dean some bad mojo. So it’s no surprise that when they interrogate Edward Norton Sr. and Dean figures out he’s lying, he goes medieval on his ass (or maybe he was just bad because the guy’s obviously stolen Sam’s arm sling). Sam watches nervously, torn between “I should stop this” and “he might actually get some answers this way.” Other noteworthy things about this scene: “We do our homework at the FBI” (heh), Sam’s red and yellow tie (danger?), and officers Gabriel and Collins (from Genesis, or from SPN angels if you prefer to think of it that way, and I’m sure some of you do.)
(Also. Genesis. Heh.)
When the guys catch up with Dark Charlie, they get new nicknames (Rocket and Groot, which are okay, but will never compare to Moose and Squirrel), and then she’s just downright mean, calling Sam the albatross around Dean’s neck. So, on some level, this is what Charlie really thinks about Sam? Ouch. Anyway. Dark Charlie escapes (after cruelly vandalizing Baby! No, Dark Charlie! No!), Good Charlie shows up, and the new incarnation of Team Free Will (hey, Charlie's in red, and that's a TFW color) heads to the bar to discuss things.
And now we have to talk about something important, because dear God, Sam is so pretty in this scene. Dean looks pretty good too, in the red Demon!Dean shirt, but dammit, Sam. Your face. Your hair. I can't.
The husband was watching with me so I didn't think it would be a good idea to rewind this for additional drooling. So that's what I'm doing now. Bear with me.
Charlie explains that Dark Charlie is her dark side and hey, does that sound familiar to anyone here at the table? She also complains that being good sucks, but she’s not that good – she can’t hack, but she can tell Sam how to do it? That’s a pretty fine line there, "Good" Charlie.
Dean decides to guard Russell, Dark Charlie's target, and Sam knows it's a bad idea but lets him do it anyway, while he and Charlie head back to the bunker to change their shirts for some reason. (Too bad; I love Sam's green shirt.)
Meanwhile, Dean sits in the car, eating almonds and listening to relaxation tapes ("the key to quieting your mind is minding your quiet") and bless his heart, he's trying SO hard, and I love him for it. Eventually he goes in and meets Russell and stalls for time (adorably) and finally tells the dude what's going on, and then completely blows it and dude gets killed anyway. So, I guess I’m supposed to care that Dark Charlie killed the guy who killed her parents, but I don’t. He’s a jerk who decides to show remorse now that he’s being physically threatened. I’m more disappointed that Dean fell for “I just want to talk.” Also, “and then we hand him over to the cops?” He’s already been arrested and not charged, so that makes no sense. It's funny to me that she kills him with his own letter opener, since I assumed she had a knife hidden somewhere else on her person (but then, I have a weird sense of humor). As far as I'm concerned the worst thing she does is steal the Impala.
So naturally, after telling Sam and Charlie that he's "on my way" to their next location Dean blows them off and returns to the bar, where he apparently spends a good deal of time staring at a drink and watching his hand shake. So much for trying so hard. Dark Charlie shows up and says "You lied to yourself. That’s kinda your move." And yeah, it is. In addition to lying to other people (See: Sam. And Charlie. In the scene before this one. And others too numerous to mention.)
At this point the comparisons to Marked!Dean are fast and furious and yeah, kind of anvillicious, but I don't really have a problem with them.
"You know what I’ve learned about being dark? It sets you free. And part of you knows that’s right too."
When Dean told her exactly where Sam and Good Charlie were, I thought he was just being extraordinarily stupid, so I was glad to hear he'd been trying to throw her off track. It didn't work, of course, and Dark Charlie follows him to the house where Good Charlie and Good God You're Gorgeous Sam are meeting up with Good Wizard of Oz. I wonder if Glinda the Good Witch is going to show up here.
Dean hears a gunshot when he gets to the house, but he doesn't go in because Dark Charlie shows up. Seems like he'd be a lot more conflicted about that. For all he knows, Sam and/or Charlie have been shot. Anyway. They fight, and we're reminded that any injuries inflicted on Dark Charlie are also inflicted on Good Charlie. Does that work the other way around? Could they have knocked Good Charlie out to incapacitate Dark Charlie? We'll never know.
Important lines from this fight:
"You hit like a girl who never learned how to hit."
"You know what happens to heroes? They die."
"You hurt my friend." "I learned it by watching you."
Charlie’s arm gets broken once again. And once again, Dean continues to beat the crap out of someone long after it’s necessary. (And also, Sam gets magically tied up and Charlie kills the Good Wizard to kill the Bad Wizard and there's a weird mask and some other stuff.)
Sam interrupts Dean before he accidentally kills both Charlies, and Dark Charlie says "The magic was in you all the time," which reminds me of Ruby telling Sam that he never needed the feather, and damn, I miss those days.
And now that he's beaten the crap out of someone, Dean’s hand isn't shaking. Bad sign.
Afterward, Sam tells invisible, unheard Cas that "He’s calmed down now," which I guess means Dean was not calm after almost killing the Charlies? Charlie and Dean eye each other uncomfortably, and Dark Charlie is "quiet," which I guess means she's not fully assimilated back into Total Charlie? I'm doing a lot of guessing here. Help me out, Show.
Charlie forgives Dean and tries to get him to forgive himself, which isn't going to work, of course. She's sure he'll beat this, even though it took Cain hundreds of years and lots of murders, and tells him "One thing that you have that he didn’t," which is another callback to a great line from the past. Also, she doesn’t seem upset that she can’t return to Oz, so I assume she and Dorothy didn’t have the relationship so many figured they were going to have.
And that's it. I wasn't a huge fan of this one last night, but today, on lunch hour rewatch, it's growing on me.
And it's not COMPLETELY because of how pretty Sam is.