There isn’t much in the way of coherent thought after an ending like this one. Aside from the image of Charlie’s prone body half-in, half-out of the bathtub, well, the mind is mostly blank. "Dark Dynasty" was all about the family unit, in one way or another and the emotions – and thereby actions – that people are driven to as a result.
The Styne Family: Pride and Disappointment
This family is all about status. When we first encountered this group weeks back, they were arrogant and self-assured – absolute in the certainty of both success and being avenged by the hordes of brothers that would come after them. This week, we open on brother Eldon whom we know, even before catching a glimpse of the crest tattoo, to be an evil Styne based on the accent alone. Eldon is posing as an eye doctor to harvest organs from unsuspecting students because as we will later learn the family is actually descendant from Frankenstein and they enhance themselves through extra organs. Unfortunately Elton’s predilections get in the way and allow her to scream, creating a whole lot of mess and discovery.
All of this leads to a conversation with the head of the Styne Family, who expresses great disappointment for Eldon and implies that he will be demoted from heir, among other things. It is this suggestion that pushes Eldon’s actions throughout the episode, through to and including disconnecting (gnawing?) his arm to escape the bunker and his final encounter with Charlie. The Styne family clearly operates on pride – that is unquestionable. They have a hierarchy, mistakes are punished very harshly and slights against the family are met with extreme retaliation. This latter evidenced in the aggressive pursuance of Charlie, presumably even after knowing she doesn’t have the book. On meeting her he states he is there to retrieve what is his, “Mine and my family’s.”
To that end, Eldon was much more interesting than his deceased brother – perhaps because his arrogance gave him more character to watch and because he had more interactions with the brothers in more interesting circumstances. However, on the point of the Frankenstein connection to the family, I feel somewhat uncertain. Somehow the reveal of that detail felt underwhelming. Though I can’t say what I was looking for, Eldon showing his stitches and mentioning the good doctor as a great, great just didn’t hit the mark 100% for some reason. The Frankenstein account overall was hurried and needed its own time in a separate episode to be properly afforded a story and explanation; in this plot, with emotional significance and dramatic ending, it just couldn’t find appropriate footing. Okay, but not great.
Demon Dynastys and Wicked Witches, Oh My
Crowley returns to the story! Mark Sheppard, we’ve missed you so! Yes, it was wonderful to see our favourite King of Hell again, even in the brief appearances he made. So Crowley has an all-points bulletin out for his mother and a hunt for a mysterious demon lover Rowena once had, information gained from her enemy-turned-pet-hamster. Here’s what we can say about Crowley: enjoyable to watch as always, Mark Sheppard has great acting chops even opposite a hamster and clearly this information about both the mystery boy-toy and search for Rowena are going to tie in to our main game in some way or another so my interest is piqued.
Rowena is more enjoyable as well these days. It seems when now as she’s part of a decent plot, she is far less irritating. One has to wonder – having seen the devastating end of this episode – when Rowena mentioned reading Charlie when she first walked into the room and then commenting that her devotion to the Winchesters would be the end of her, did she mean reading her in a psychic way or when she cast the bones? Rowena’s interest in Charlie seemed genuine at points throughout their time together and it was almost a shame to have it cut short (for many reasons of course) – I bet they could have taught each other some snarky comebacks and respective tradecrafts with a bit more time together.
One question about Rowena: could she truly not recognize Castiel as an angel or at least his power? Somehow, this seems odd.
The Winchesters Clan: Love and Devotion
It’s interesting because for weeks we’ve been hearing Sam, and occasionally Castiel, talk about Dean getting worse or losing control, etc., but more and more it’s Sam who we witness succumbing to his desperation to save his brother. This week that meant assembling a team of Rowena and Charlie (and referee Castiel too) to study the Book to crack the Code to get rid of the Mark. Both Charlie and Castiel were beyond uncomfortable with the idea of not telling Dean about the Book. Charlie reminded Sam that Dean wanted it destroyed and Cas said what many of us think when the boys do these things: it never ends well. There is practically a neon sign flashing at Sam cautioning away from the secret keeping here.
Let’s be clear, there’s no condemnation of Sam’s actions here. Not from this writer. Undoubtedly, the longer we see the calm from Dean - the bigger that meltdown will be (eep!). I’m just identifying the contrast between the two brothers: Sam is caught in distressed love and fear, determined that Dean must be getting worse; Dean may be getting worse though as far as we see so far, he’s calm and very carefully controlled. Where Sam sees this as giving up and it makes him more anxious; Dean is using his energies to focus on a day-at-a-time and hunting strategies perhaps. Furthering their issue is a problem that often hinders these two – silence. While on track in the field for a while, they seem further in their own heads as the situation gets worse. Hopefully, this changes now that there is one less unknown between them. Regardless of the coping mechanism being adopted by either brother, Sam is passionate about his mission and love for his brother drives him.
Interrogation and Confrontation
From the top of the episode, Dean suspects something is happening with Sam: he’s been gone all night, he’s shifty about his phone calls – something isn’t 100%. Then there is an odd call from Castiel, who try though he might, just can’t smoothly cover it up. The tipping point is when Eldon mentions the Book can’t be destroyed because it’s protected and Dean realizes what happened that night.
The confrontation with Sam and Dean was a great conversation, because it’s been building since Sam made the switch. Dean approaches it with a slow lead up and we can feel the tension fill the space, watching as Sam gets more uncomfortable because he knows absolutely where the conversation is leading but has nothing to say to explain besides what actually took place. The final moment on this exchange is Sam’s phone ringing and Dean daring him to answer – which Sam does to learn Charlie’s gone missing. Jared and Jensen do a wonderful job in this scene: the quiet anger, the nervous expression, everything is just perfect conveyance for Sam and Dean and the circumstances that have led to this particular discussion. Of course, the epilogue to this is the frantic car ride, Dean is even more upset having learned Charlie was pulled in and is now missing and Sam is upset too but trying to explain himself to Dean. He says: “Charlie loves you, Dean. We all love you.”
This is the last conversation the boys have before discovering Charlie. I can only imagine that the words they shared will weigh as they move forward and each will stew in their own guilt over what has taken place – as will Castiel for not keeping her properly secured with Rowena. The conversation was different from their typical “secret-keeping-and-discovery” patterns, as neither left the other and though angry, Dean wasn’t indignant or enraged. By the same token, Sam is apologetic but still believes in his mission. It’s a more mature approach than we’ve seen in previous years – and very refreshing.
Charlie Bradbury: Lost Sister
Since we first met her all those year ago Charlie has been one of the Winchesters without question. She fit into the world and brought a new element to the boy’s old school research as well. Never truly a damsel and always ready to get her hands dirty, Charlie had a hunters spirit and a Winchester kick-it-in-the-ass attitude. So, I guess we should have known this day was inevitable. Charlie told Rowena what we already knew, that she loved Sam and Dean like brothers, Rowena said she’d made them the family she didn’t have – so deep down, we knew we couldn’t keep her.
Determinedly, bravely Charlie defied orders and took her research back to the Blackbird. She cracked the Codex just in time and sent it off to the boys before destroying her laptop (and revealing her hiding spot in the process). Pulling out her knife, Charlie stood against Elton and probably knew she’d die.
The final moments in the hotel were dramatic, touching, intense and wholly ideal. While Charlie is in the bathroom and on the phone, afraid but resolute, sending the last of the research with her signature on the computer a cat contrasted by Eldon crashing through the room, dripping rain and sweeping the books off the table against a backdrop of lightening and midnight blues and streetlight. When the two finally meet in the turquoise bathroom, Eldon is finely dress, despite the blood, and offering a nasty looking smirk to Charlie’s sweet auburn bob, plaid over-shirt and smiling clown-faced T-shirt as clutches the knife boldly.
Finally, the last moment of Sam and Dean finding Charlie: Sam gags and covers his mouth, while Dean simply says her name: “Charlie?”
It’s not new to state that while the Stynes are about pride, the Winchesters are loyalty and love. Nor is it new to say that the Winchester family is beyond the limits of Winchester blood. And just in case that needs to be re-illustrated, Charlie was happy to get her sketchpad out.
Strong episode at parts (thank goodness Dean is finally in on the Book thing - and I did love their conversations about the Book too as I mentioned), but lackluster in other areas. What can I say - the Styne family are disappointing villians. I said it before and I'll say it again - there isn't room to deal with them properly at this point, so they should have been left alone. Frankenstein lineage just isn't...awesome - at least not from where I'm standing and from what we're told. I’m devastated that Charlie is gone, but then as Sam told Claire just last week – goodbye isn’t always final in this business. That feels like a pat on the head and a cookie for the kids at this point maybe too, but it's something to hold on to that maybe, just maybe we'll see her again in the future. Did she have to die? Nope. But she did - so let's be damned sure it gets us somewhere significant. Is this the tipping point for Dean and the Mark? What did Charlie crack exactly and where will it take us? This feels like the first part of a trilogy for the conclusion of the season now, so the real question is where do we go from here – and do we brace for worse yet to come?