I’m trying like mad to suppress my outrage, the bitter screaming fan girl right now, so I can deliver a more balanced review. It’s awfully hard. I’m insulted. Just plain and simple. I’m insulted that Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming are still permitted, after a wealth of pitiful, poorly written, canon trashing scripts, to write for this show and continue to do further damage. I’m insulted that anyone thought that “Dark Dynasty’s” twist of events brought any excitement or shock value. I’m insulted that there’s little respect anymore for the legacy of this show. Most of all, I’m just insulted that my hour was wasted on this crap.
(Deep breath…happy place, happy place…everything will be okay…) There. Better now. Time to digress and break out for you my likes and dislikes of the episode with all four letter explicatives removed. It’s better this way.
Crowley had a conversation with a hamster. Granted its transfigured Olivia hamster and she was giving him some pretty good dope on Rowena, but still, the King of Hell was talking to a hamster and liking it. You've got to admit, she looks might dashing in the red necklace. I'd like to know how the prop people got a tiny necklace on a hamster of that size.
Dean and Sam’s conversation near the end. Not the car. While that was alright, it was way too short. Sam should have had a chance to say way more than “we all love you.” No, I’m talking about the one in the MOL bunker library after Eldon escaped. The scene where Dean confronted Sam about supposedly burning the Book of the Damned. It was creepy as can be. Dean with his angry restraint was super scary, while I was nervous for a guilty Sam sitting there knowing he’s busted, not admitting he didn't burn the book. It was all very well framed and acted. It’s also ideal foreshadowing as to how bad this rift between Sam and Dean is and what could possibly push Dean to killing Sam. I thought he would kill him right there. Now that is Dean getting worse!
Everything else. Where to begin.
Let’s start with the Styne family and their “big reveal” about their lineage. I don’t…buy it. Why did the Stynes have to be tied to the Frankensteins? Does that make them more special? No, what it does is take the believability of the villain away. Now this has become a bad B-movie. Suddenly I’m nostalgic for the Leviathans. All is forgiven season seven.
I could accept that the Stynes were an extraordinary family that got into genetic engineering long ago or whatever strange crap they were doing, coupled with the power of one nasty book. They did what they did for profit and possibly world domination. You know, normal motives of bad guys. They could have been one of those fringe elements under the radar like the Judah Initiative and the Men of Letters - a nice secret society. But this script made them larger than life for no good reason. Now they’re responsible for all the world’s misfortune like the Nazis and the financial crisis and 9/11…oh and they’re everywhere? Great. Way to take credibility away from your villain. That kind of mythos has no place in the “Supernatural” universe. If they become the menace for season 11, I’m out.
I also didn't care for Sam and Dean’s interactions for most of this episode (save for the above mentioned scene). Sam is obviously sneaking around and Dean asked him about it. Sam didn’t even try to come up with a good lie. “I do that.” Awful, awful. If I were Dean, I would have walked out of the bunker and not come back. Plus we could see from a mile away as soon as Charlie and Castiel both objected to Sam’s plan something tragic would come of it. The whole episode felt awkward. Awkward makes episodes far less enjoyable.
I’m also tired of glacial pacing, over the top dialogue and poorly done scenes with characters that have long worn out their welcome (I’m talking to you Rowena). Why was Crowley AGAIN having a typical day at the office with dumb minions? Remember when demons were smart? Then there's, "Let’s put Rowena, Charlie, and Castiel all in a room and see what happens!" Nothing unfortunately. Just Rowena being a bitch and Castiel calling Sam every five minutes like the teenage baby sitter that doesn’t know how to handle conflict. This is the same guy that once upon a time told Sam and Dean to stow their crap when they were fighting! Why wasn’t Castiel in the heart of the action where he belonged? And yes, why couldn’t he find Charlie? Because that would have ruined the contrived ending.
I swear, ANY TV writer should be fired for using the “let the good guys leave the villain alone so he can escape” trope. It’s old and diminishes the characters. It happened only so they could setup the ending scene, which was even more unbelievable. Why would Charlie, knowing first hand from “Book of the Damned” how ruthless and vigilant The Stynes are, go off from the safety of protection of a powerful witch and an angel to a seedy motel room where she could easily be found? By the dude nonetheless who escaped the MOL cave because Sam and Dean had one of their brain farts. It’s lazy plotting, always has been, and Buckner and Ross-Leming aren't the only ones guilty of it.
That leads us to the elephant in the room. TV writing 101, you do not piss off your viewers for the sake of “shock value.” For one, deaths on this show aren’t shocking anymore. When they happen, they have to mean something other than being the token death that the network loves publicizing for sweeps. Second, Charlie’s death didn’t inspire or emotionally grab us. It angered us. It’s a very weak setup for Dean to go off on his Mark fueled spree now. A contrived situation created just so we could go down the predictable path of Sam’s deception coming back to bite him. There were so many different and clever ways to do this. What we got was…well…rudimentary and predictable. Charlie suffered for that?
I get exactly why they killed Charlie. She sacrifices herself to save Dean by staying behind to send her code breaking key to Sam, all because she loves Sam and Dean like brothers and would die for them. That’s our hero Charlie. Looks good on paper, huh? That’s also exactly the reason why she shouldn’t have died. What if she survived but learned an awful secret and had a big disillusionment with Sam and Dean? The kind that causes one of those character rifts that this show seems to love digging into all of the time? Maybe something that puts her into harms way even worse for season 11? That would have been way more interesting than the predictable outcome we got here. It was a missed opportunity in a very long line of missed opportunities. The poor writing and plotting from beginning to end made the whole mess more infuriating than poignant. This production and writing team really, really needs to put some better thought and care into their creative decisions. Remember Jo, Ellen, and Bobby (even though I’m still pissed). That. Their deaths served a purpose.
The Red Headed Monster
I want to quote EP Robert Singer from my interview with him at Comic Con just before season nine. With the writing team of Brad Buckner and Singer’s wife Eugenie Ross-Leming in mind when I asked this question, especially after “Taxi Driver”, here’s his answer regarding fan outrage over creative direction:
Alice: How challenging is it going into the new seasons, and we saw a bit of this in season eight, maintaining the continuity especially when you’ve got a fanbase that gets vocal when something goes wrong?
RS: Years ago there’s a director who said he makes film like he’s cooking dinner for friends. He hopes they like it but if they don’t, he’s fully prepared to enjoy it himself. We try to tell the best stories we can, we try to come up with stuff that gets us excited and we hope the fans come along. I don’t think anybody anticipated that when we started this show we’d be looking at season nine. I’m actually the only one left from the beginning in terms of the writing staff that are left.
The fact that we do manage to keep it fresh is why I keep coming back. If I felt we were getting cookie cutter and retreading stuff I’d say then we would need someone else to help because I’m burnt out. I think we’ve done a really terrific job of keeping it fresh. The only thing about doing a show this long with these same characters is that when you’re starting a show you really don’t have any character history. You’re kind of creating it out of whole cloth and inventing it as it goes along. You go through the years, they have a history that you bring forward that you go back to develop. In terms of the boys, it makes it easier to write for them because they have such a rich history we’ve seen. The guys are great and they’re game for anything as Jensen said. We consulted them once and that was on “The French Mistake.” We rarely set up one of these off the wall things that get any push back from them. They just go, “We trust you guys and let’s go for it.” It’s a great working relationship.
So, what have we learned from “Dark Dynasty?” They’re keeping it fresh guys, even though it seems “keeping it fresh” is code for “we can do any random thing we want.” I suppose that is creative license and is their right. But I still question, and this is true for any show, where the fun is of killing popular characters? Does a mandate come from the network that says X number of characters must be killed every year during sweeps? For "Supernatural" though, this really stings, because female characters, let alone strong ones, are non-existent on this show. Why can't "Supernatural" have it's version of Felicity Smoak? They finally find one, but no they needed another target for a sensational death.
Sacrifice is a theme of this show, but how many times is it supposed to be delivered to fans like an anvil dropping on our heads before we realize we don't like getting hurt like this anymore? That's where I question creative license and think that the feelings and sensitivies of fans need to be considered too, especially when the majority of the audience is female. Also, don't drop anvils with a weak story. The backlash and ill feelings will only come back to bite hard. This is especially true now that more deaths are rumored. Oh, but don't worry, if anything TPTB can fall back on the old, very overused and completely infuriating line, “nobody ever dies on Supernatural.” Yeah right. Tell that to Bobby and Kevin.
There’s another quote I’d like to bring up too, this one from this season’s brilliant “Fan Fiction.” Imagine what would happen if you told Marie that the latest clan of big bads are the Frankenstein’s and the “shocking reveal” for a crucial episode was another senseless death of a fan favorite.
“That is some of the worst fan fiction that I have ever heard.”
Overall grade, an D-. Honest, it was spared an F for fail because of Crowley's bonding with a rodent. Still, this is episode 21 and it should have been far better. I would have upped this to a D if it had been episode 13. Yet another stinker for Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming. Charlie deserved better. We all did.