Supporting characters on Supernatural are often welcomed with skepticism. Part of that attitude is ingrained in viewers because we have learned that attaching to a character can lead to heartbreak.  The show does not shy away from killing characters and even if it brings them back, such as in the case with Bobby or Rufus, these characters usually are either in flashback or in single episode stories.  But a new generation of characters has emerged in the Supernatural landscape with the introduction of Kevin Tran, Charlie Bradbury, and Garth. And the great thing about these characters? In many ways they tell us something about the brothers without telling us about the brothers…and here's how.

Kevin Tran

First off, Osric Chau was really the only choice for this role. He's managed to create a character that is both inside and outside the world of Supernatural, and to a great degree, he gives us a glance back at the younger Sam Winchester, who was himself brought onto a "path" that he did not choose. Chau's acting choices demonstrate an intuitive understanding of Kevin's situation, especially in the latter half of season eight when Kevin's anger is tangible as is his willingness to use his intelligence as cleverness. Kevin Tran loses a type of innocence to the Winchesters' world; he loses what Sam never had – the ability to not know the world beneath the world.

kevins

When we first meet Kevin he's a smart high school senior who's on his way to college, perhaps reminding us that Sam, too, was like Kevin at one point - before being chosen as Lucifer's vessel, before images of a burning Jessica on the ceiling, just before.  Kevin's evolution, as well, gives us an idea of how this world can affect "normalcy," the ideal against which Sam measures most of his and Dean's lives. Kevin's physical deterioration in Season 8 mimics Sam's own decline as both characters are put in service during this heavenly war. Kevin moves from an innocent looking teenager to a bedraggled, war-ravaged, young adult. It is interesting to note that for both characters, Sam and Kevin, the act of being chosen is disease-like, eating away their mortality from the inside, as if their bodies are too fragile for the work that "God" has given them. 

kevinsam

Their bodies, then, are not so much vessels as they are vulnerable, more vulnerable than other bodies. It is almost fitting that the characters that are driven by intellect, by their minds, are held hostage through their bodies. It reinforces a sense that one can overcome bodily illness with the power of the mind….of the soul.  In season 8, both characters experience the trials of what it means to both be chosen but also to choose. Now the question for the Kevin Tran character is what becomes of him, what next? Is his journey that of a Winchester? Will he be drawn into this life, never to return to the normal that was his world? Will he be sacrificed, as so many others have been, to the cost that is the Winchester legacy?

Charlie Bradbury

If Kevin is comparable to Sam then I would argue that Charlie is Dean's psychological double, in certain ways, or she's the writer's (Thompson) view of Dean through a particularly affectionate lens. When we first meet Charlie, we are introduced to a classic fangirl – a convention going, collectible loving fangirl. Now my initial reaction was hesitation. This show and its view of fandom can be quite troublesome, but both Felicia Day's performance and the narratives within which she's placed are not blatant commentary. Rather she comes into the world much like Kevin does, unsuspecting and chosen, although this time, like Dean, she is pulled into the hunting life by association.  Her quirkiness is a mixture of intelligence and instinct. We find out that she didn't finish high school (like Dean) but that she's built a life full of fun and safe adventures, acting out her life through fan activities but not in an unhealthy or near dangerous way. She enjoys life.

As we get to know Charlie we see that she not only enjoys life but she has a moral core, such as in "LARP and the Real Girl" when she refuses to leave the Moondor game because her "people" are in danger. She shares this no soldier left behind trait with Dean and as we see her evolve we can see why he develops an affection for her. She also has a thread of insecurity, also seen in "LARP" when she doubts her heroic nature, a nature that Dean reaffirms by telling her that out in the "real world" she is, in fact, a hero. But seeing Charlie also allows us to see a side of Dean that is very much a part of his character - the caretaker. He cares for Charlie as he does for Castiel, as he does for Sam.  Dean is both like Charlie but also utterly unlike her. 

huggy

But also there is the mother issue – the dying mother trope that Charlie shares with Dean. Having lost my own mother this past December, this storyline thread affects me in a very personal way. Charlie, for all of her carefree love of the world and humor in extraordinary circumstances, is still a daughter at heart. She's still a child in so many ways. The final scene that we see of her in Season 8 is heartbreaking, as she shares one last visit with her mother, opening the book they shared as a final goodbye. The brilliance of this scene is that it humanizes Charlie and pushes her back from the edge of caricature she was perched on. In a strange and comforting way, she comes into Supernatural to remind what there is to love about Dean and also how Dean loves others. 

Garth Fitzgerald

If Kevin and Charlie give us new perspectives on Sam and Dean, then Garth reminds us of the world outside the Winchesters. Like Charlie, Garth is carefree, fun-loving, and capable, but unlike Charlie, he seems to lack a tragic past. While on the surface Garth appears to take Bobby's place after the older hunter's death in season 7, he is more than simply a replacement. He understands the life in a way that Bobby and the Winchesters don't and he actually reminds me more of Rufus than Bobby.

Garth provides comic relief but he also gives us a touchstone for the hunting life, again reminding us that this is not just a Winchester story. Hunters exist. Hunting is work and not just a destiny or a heritage. While Garth appears in a handful of episodes, he is mentioned in many more. He's charged with protecting Kevin during Crowley's hunt for the young prophet. He's the person who assigns cases to hunters, including the Winchesters. The show moves him from a jester type character to a serious figure in the hunting world, allowing us to witness someone's evolution to expert in this world. 

fizzles

Just like with Chau's and Day's portrayals, Qualls gives Garth a sense of humanity through humor and sense. In the confrontation scene between possessed Dean and Sam in "Southern Comfort", Garth is the one who breaks through the emotional tension and confusion. He tries to reach Dean while Sam grapples with the trauma of the fight. Qualls brings to Garth a level of authenticity that makes us believe in Garth's sincerity and courage – he is the everyman who deals with the extraordinary, but instead of being overwhelmed by this fact, he embraces the path that life has put him on. What a refreshing figure in an often dark and hopeless landscape. 

I, for one, am happy that all three are in our lives. Thank you, show, for bringing them here. And thank you, Osric, Felicia, and DJ, for giving them life with your voices, minds, and bodies. 

Comments  

Prix68
# Prix68 2013-09-09 17:20
A nice article Bookdai and a really interesting point of view. I am a big fan of Charlie and Garth and Kevin is starting to grow on me a little. I, too, am thankful to the show for these characters and I hope they stay around for awhile. Thanks.
novi
# novi 2013-09-10 03:45
Isn't it interesting that all the three characters were introduced in so-not-okay season 7! The ones (except maybe Aaron) who appeared in S8 were either got rid of with their stories sadly unfinished like Alfie and Naomi, or turned out forgettable, lacking potential, or worse... But it's true that in season 8 Kevin, Garth and Charlie became fully rendered characters and many fans' favorites. And I wouldn't be surprised if Garth, too, has a couple of skeletons in his wardrobe, he has this look about him. I like the parallels between scholarly Kevin and Sam and living in the moment Charlie and Dean, that was very spot-on! Thank you!
mick
# mick 2013-09-10 06:20
Hey! Just found out Alaina Huffman is coming back as Abaddon.

http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00064019.html
LEAH
# LEAH 2013-09-10 06:58
oops Mick, careful about spoilers!
E
# E 2013-09-10 13:10
I agree that both Kevin and Charlie in particular mirror traits in Sam and Dean (respectively) that are very interesting and help create layers to the supernatural world and in turn reveal more about our main heroes. I just wish TPTB would allow Sam to participate in this obvious connection with Kevin more thoroughly the way that they have had Dean connect with Charlie. Charlie and Dean's friendship has become, over the course of several episodes, very layered and detailed and emotionally satisfying. He's confided in her about Sam, related to her about loosing one's mother, she has turned to him in her moment of pain and sorrow. But Kevin's obvious connection to Sam has not been so nicely fleshed out despite their incredibly similar stories and experiences: both were reluctantly pulled into this crazy supernatural world because of an unusual ability that others want to exploit; both have had their girlfriends murdered before their eyes because of their connection to the supernatural, both have lost their mother because of this "talent" that they possess, both are fighting tooth and nail to not loose themselves to the evil they sense around them. You'd think that they could have had any number of good scenes as they connect over their similar situations and I think Sam in particular could have benefited by being nurturing and protective over Kevin they way Dean is with him. But the show hasn't and probably won't go there.

Dean's relationship with Charlie has revealed quite a bit about Dean's character, which is pretty much what a secondary character's purpose in a drama is supposed to accomplish, and I love the way Dean and Charlie connect. But why set up a similar situation between Kevin and Sam and then go nowhere with it? More's the pity. Some fans have been saying that Sam needs a friend and a confidant, someone to connect to, and other fans say that they don't understand Sam, can't see why he does what he does and so can't root for him because he's inexplicable. And yet there is a character who seems tailor made to connect with him in Kevin, and yet we've seen only one small (unsatisfying) scene in episode 1 of season 8 and nothing since. Why? Why is Kevin not utilized to reflect on Sam the way that Charlie is used to reflect on Dean; or Garth or Krissy or Cas or Benny or all of the other characters that Dean has connected with in season 8 that have helped to round out his character and explain his motivations and POV? It was like when Henry Winchester and Sam had that scene that wasn't a scene? I kept wondering during the episode "shouldn't these two guys have plenty to talk about?" "why aren't they having a conversation?" "why are we shown nothing about what is so obviously something that should be discussed between these two characters?" "Why doesn't Sam ever talk to ANYBODY, even those people who seem to have so much in common with him?"

I know that this is a tired old argument and your lovely article isn't about this issue, but this is where my mind went immediately upon reading it. Perhaps this should be moved to the bitterness thread?
Dark Maiden
# Dark Maiden 2013-09-10 13:30
What is with ppl liking these three ppl?

Seriously, they are the epitome of the screen versions of 'Mary-Sue'. Charlie goes from being a hacker to being able to shoot better then Dean. Garth goes from being a F-up, to the new Bobby, of all things, and Kevin Tran goes from being a nerd high schooler, to out witting the top demon of the moment; Crowley. And all this in the space of a friggin year!!! Come on. Jo grew up in the life and she was still wet behind the ears when she died. Sam and Dean still get one upped by stunt demons and they've been at this since they were kids.

None of these characters feel like they fit in supernatural, they are the guest stars you can sort of like, in doses, but to be treated on the same level as Ellen, Jo, Ruffus or Bobby, is insane, to say the least. So far, the only thing done right with any of the new characters introed in season 8, was the killing off of Mamma Tran and finally closing the book on Amelia.

The fact of the matter, these 3 ppl, water down, an already watered down, show. Supernatural used to have a gritty and dark aura about it, (occasionally broken up with humor, which, in its way, enhanced the darkness of the show) now, there is a level of camp that is highlighted, and enhanced, by these three characters. Plainly put, the only new addition to the show that has not negatively worked against the feel of the show has been Benny.

If the new writers want to bring in new supporting characters, fine. But please make them fit and not try and reinterpret this great show, just to make it more palatable to some geeky new audience that would not understand it anyway.
eilf
# eilf 2013-09-10 13:59
On third thoughts ... all of these characters have great potential and I am willing to wait and see what the writers do with them before judging any further :P

But Kevin is far and away my favorite.
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-09-11 00:41
First, very nice analysis, bookdal. I loved the parallels and agree. And I loved all three of these characters, although Charlie the most. Garth I wasn't a huge fan of at first but he really grew on me, so I'd be happy to see him back. And Kevin just breaks my heart. And so feel for him.

And I can see why you didn't mention her since she was so briefly in the episode last season -but where's the love for Jody Mills?! :lol: Seriously I think I might even love her more than Charlie. Though it'd be close. I also wouldn't mind seeing Benny again.

E, we once again agree. In the first episode of the season, we they were sitting in the Impala after his girlfriend got killed. Dean has a PTSD moment, I'm assuming, and goes off on Kevin because he's not over a few hours later and leaves Sam in the car with Kevin. So I'm like cool they're going to bond over this but it immediately switches to Dean talking to Benny. WTF! To me they've alluded to how similar they are on several occasion. But it has not really gone anywhere. I still don't understand why Cas and Sam don't talk considering they've both made similar mistakes and have been comrades in arms for several years. Why does Sam not speak to people more? It's kind of frustrating. Maybe it'll happen this year.
Dot
# Dot 2013-09-11 06:57
SPN's low retention rate on supporting characters has been frustrating and often heartbreaking, and it made me wary of attaching to any newly introduced characters. But I'm delighted to see how Kevin, Charlie, and Garth have developed. It's taken me time to warm to Garth, but Kevin and Charlie have both become among my favorite supportings on the history of the show and all 3 add interesting shadings, as well as being appealing in their own right.

Despite doing very well by the supportings, sadly S8 also perpetuated some frustrating patterns. :/ But the field of recurrings isn't anemic and the characters we've kept are being fleshed out and are believable and appealing.

I'd love to see Sam connecting more with these other characters--I agree with the above commenters that Sam and Kevin seem to have a connection that could be developed and also we need more Sam and Cas scenes (we're told they're good friends but we don't get enough scenes with them). I think SPN is richer for Sam and Dean having meaningful relationships outside of only each other, and these characters add a very necessary richness to the world of the show.

Nice article! I'm looking forward to seeing where these characters go in S9 (and crossing my fingers they'll have longevity).
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2013-09-12 15:38
Quote:
... It was like when Henry Winchester and Sam had that scene that wasn't a scene? I kept wondering during the episode "shouldn't these two guys have plenty to talk about?" "why aren't they having a conversation?" "why are we shown nothing about what is so obviously something that should be discussed between these two characters?" "Why doesn't Sam ever talk to ANYBODY, even those people who seem to have so much in common with him?"
....
E - don't know if you caught the S8 deleted scenes but there was a deleted scene that occurred right after Dean left the room. - Sam and Henry did have a brief conversation and, IMO, that alternate take made a LOT more sense then the awkward silence that ended up in the episode. In the scene, Henry asks Sam if Dean was close to his father - Sam said, yes, they were very close. Henry then asked Sam about his relationship with John ; Sam said it was very complicated. Henry commented something to the effect that he was surprised because he thought Sam was just like John and Sam commented that he though Dean was just like his father, not him. It ended with Sam telling Henry that, if he wants to really understand his son, read the journal.

That being said, all three characters are welcome additions to the show; Kevin has really developed a lot since his introduction in S7, where he was a bit shrill and annoying. Charlie is great and hope to see her a few times in S9.
E
# E 2013-09-12 19:25
#10Hi njspnfan, no, I hadn't seen the deleted scene... very interesting, it sounds from your description to be quite a key bit of info. I can see though why it might be cut if they needed to shave time off, because its more detail (really lovely, crucial, and layered detail) but it's not plot. I am sure they end up taking off 15 seconds here and 45 seconds there in final editing and this was a casualty of the time constraints. Thanks though; I am off to scour the internet for the missing scene!
anonymousN
# anonymousN 2013-09-15 00:10
Thank you for this good article..It was welcome as I am trying to remain spoilerfree.
About the three characters
Kevin mirrors Sam but has zero scenes which tell us about what Sam went through this season..all these characters are a waste in my eyes if they are used only to give us insight about Dean.