Supernatural 10×21 Review: Dark Dynasty

supernatural1I try to be as level headed as possible with my reviews.  Even when an episode angers or offends me, I attempt to lay out my frustration as rationally as possible.  But this week?  Oh man, this week is hard.  It is taking an extreme amount of restraint to not break the site rules and launch into a long string of profanity, but I want this to get published so I’ve to keep myself at least somewhat contained.  The last time I felt this much anger was way back at the season 7 premiere when Cas turned into a black pool of goo in the lake just a few minutes into the episode.  After that episode I rage quit and didn’t return for many months.  Things are different now, though.  We’re so close to the end of the season and I’m committed to sticking with the show, so rage quitting probably isn’t on the agenda this time, but man I am upset beyond belief.

People die on Supernatural.  That’s a fact.  The Winchesters died. Castiel died.  Charlie died before Wednesday’s episode and was brought back almost immediately, marking her as a true Winchester.  Each death hurt really horribly, but was soothed over by timely resurrections (except for Cas in season 7, anyway, but he did eventually come back).  There’s something very final and very brutal about Charlie’s death, though, that makes it harder to deal with.  The only characters that are truly ‘safe’ on this show are the Winchester brothers, at least until the final episode (and let’s not think about that just yet, okay?) so if a character dies and isn’t resurrected in the same episode, it’s a decently safe assumption that it’s permanent.  There have been very few exceptions to this rule. So at this point, Charlie is considered perma-dead, and our anger is rightly justified until proven otherwise.

The event hurts even more because Charlie has been such an important character to so many people.  This season has been much better than previous seasons in regard to the treatment of women.  Charlie, along with Jody, Donna, and Claire, have all been seen as a great sign for creating a sustaining positive female presence on the show, even inspiring the idea of an all female spin off.  Though Charlie isn’t part of the core group of women brought up in many of the spin off ideas, people have wanted to see her as a guest star.  She’s also added some vital queer representation, which has thus far been very limited on this show.  Let’s be real, Felicia Day is just pretty awesome and fun to watch on screen, so most of us want to keep her around just because we love her as a person, but now much of that good will that’s been building up this season has been undone for so many of us fans.  If any of the other amazing women who’ve taken on a larger role this season die before the finale is out, I will definitely be rage quitting for a while like I did back in Season seven.  Mark my words.  Jody, Donna, and Claire? Please stay far away from the Winchesters until this Mark of Cain thing is fixed.  Thanks.

supernatural2Lying never ends well. Cas knew it. Charlie knew it. But once again there was lying between the brothers, and once again people lost their lives in the process.  Don’t take this as me laying blame at the Winchester’s feet.  They want to save people.  I know this, and I don’t blame anyone except the people who actually murdered them for their deaths.  But many of the people who have chosen to fight alongside the Winchesters have died and a lot of the dangerous situations directly resulted from them lying to each other, so while I don’t saddle them with the blame it is getting really draining watching the same results from the same behavior over and over again.  This was pretty much exactly what happened to Kevin last year.  They need to just stop lying.  It’s not only eliminating many incredible characters, but growing incredibly repetitive and tiring.  Can the writers do something a little different please?

I need to find at least one positive thing from this episode, because otherwise… what’s the point?  Cas and Charlie were great together.  Charlie calling Dean her ‘buddy’ was great.  Her saying she’s not a witch but a ‘nerd’ was also a pretty fabulous line.  Sam and Dean were gorgeous as always, but that’s pretty much every episode so that doesn’t really make this one stand out.  That’s pretty much it.  The rest of this episode?  Nothing redeeming.  Looking back I know what the plot of the episode was, but I can’t even properly analyze it because I was so angry over Charlie’s death.

This is going to be an episode I have to skip on rewatch.  It’s too painful.  It’s not the good kind of emotional pain like ‘Swan Song,’ but a horrible pointless pain like Kevin’s death.  There’s definitely a difference between the types of pain and what they bring to the story.  Killing off a beloved side character to cause the leads pain while recycling the same themes over and over again? Bad pain. It’s pretty straight forward.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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About the author

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She's contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She's written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.

Comments

  1. I agree with all of the above. Of the 2100 people i follow on various social networks, the best (to decribe charitably) reactions i saw were from people openly struggling with their faith in the show, the ongoing communication between storyteller and audience; openly asking for reassurance.

    I’m always going to love Supernatural, and I will continue to watch. But there’s this prevailing sense in fandom tonight that something important just broke.

  2. Very well said. I love Supernatural and will always be a fan, but Charlie’s death hurts my heart. But I keep reminding myself that if the writers hadn’t done such a great job of developing their character and getting us emotionally invested in the show and the characters, we wouldn’t be so upset when one dies. In saying that, I’m going to have to skip the rewatch this week, also.

  3. There was nothing redeeming in this episode at all.

    – The pacing was horrible. It was rather slow and plodding then suddenly everything fell off a cliff into a landfill.
    – The Styne’s being related to Mary Shelley, their bumbling idiot of a cousin who forced their patriarchal family to name chance? Misogynist slanderous maneuver to imply that the woman who wrote the first popularly read science fiction novel (not story) Frankenstein .. And the Last Man. Mary Shelley is a feminist icon, slandering her was not cool.
    – Dean, who read science fiction (Vonnegut) and knows pop culture and knows monsters not knowing who Mary Shelley was, also not believable.
    – Sam, Dean, Cas and Charlie were all out of character continuously.
    – Sam lying so poorly, not having answers planned: stupid. Which Sam never is.
    – Sam having no control over his phone and leaving it laying about while keeping secrets? Idiotic, see above.
    – Castiel was made to look incapable of logical thought. Seriously, he couldn’t come up with anything to say when Dean answered the phone. Talk about a “no homo” moment. (Writers, if Dean is straight then you needn’t worry that Cas will infect him with his big gay love. Sexuality doesn’t work like that! If Dean isn’t straight, then you don’t have to write them talking dirty to one another on Sam’s phone.)
    – Castiel not knowing that Sam was keeping things secret from Dean is a continuity error.
    – Castiel would have brought pb&j fixings, not pork rinds.
    – Charlie having a brand new Surface but an iPhone 4, even Sam has an iPhone 6. The reverse would have been believable but not Charlie having the old phone.
    – Rowena and Charlie fussing at one another was stereotypical, misogynist bs.
    – Charlie, who knew the danger involved in the book wouldn’t have left without a word because, like Sam and Cas, she isn’t stupid either. Minimum, she would have said something. It was a stereotypical misogynist “move woman here to make fridging motivation plot device possible”.
    – Charlie not understanding that the Surface has a solid state drive and that breaking it in the way she did would result in no damage to the harddrive? Out of character and dumb. So dumb it actually insults the audience who likely has had to replace glass covers on phones and computers a few times already.
    – Styne finding Charlie so quickly and easily at the moment of her being alone, practically a deus ex machina moment to fridge to motivate Sam and Dean.
    – Sam and Dean are action heroes, they don’t need Charlie dead, badly injured, or raped (if you recall Styne sexually assaulted the girl whose eyes were harvested) to motivate them into action. Apparently the writers don’t know that about Dean or Sam.

    I feel as if the people who wrote and approved this script actually wanted to abuse the fandom. Why else would they have a rapist kill (grossly injure) Charlie, the character with whom most of the fandom most strongly identifies?

    So I’m angry and I find myself questioning why I want to watch this show at all because of the blatant misogyny in this episode. This is likely the worst episode of SPN and any positive thing about it was strictly the result of the talents actors, set design, costuming, sfx, etc. Such a disappointment.

    SPN Season 10, overall, has shown that the writers and TPTB know how to avoid such poor scripting. Other CW shows, such as The 100 proves that it’s within CW’s abilities to provide content that is enthralling but not misogynistic or homophobic like this episode was… Just as there was no excuse for Claire being left homeless in The Hunter Games, there is no excuse for this episode being released the way it was. At minimum, they shouldn’t have had Charlie killed/injured by a rapist. And truly, if Charlie isn’t dead, I almost don’t want her back because she is likely to be mistreated again if CW keeps those writers/approval staff on without additional training or additional oversight.

    1. All excellent points. Thank you for being more level headed than I am right now

      1. Any level headedness that I’m currently grasping is related to the slim hope that Charlie was injured rather than dead or will be instantly revived during next episode … and the even slimmer hope that we will get a retcon portraying Mary Shelley as a hunter/woman of letters who was a Styne saboteur.

        Sadly, I can’t bring myself to re-watch the tub scene yet to examine the scene more. Maybe later when I don’t feel personally abused as someone who identifies as a female geek/nerd.

    2. I have four words for you: Ross-Leming and Buckner. I don’t think I need to say anything else. The pacing and overall bleh of this episode all boils down to the writers who penned this episode. These two are the worst in the SPN writing team, and I would say there are quite of number of people within fandom that feels the same way. I am always wary when I see this team as writers for an episode and go into my viewing with skepticism. Yet, nepotism is at its best where these two are concerned and this pair always seems to get big, important episodes, of which they botch completely. The show would be much better off if these two would stop writing and just fulfill their EP roles. OR, if they don’t have them stop writing, at least don’t let them write such important episodes, leave those episodes to someone else.

      All the points you listed are very interesting and I do agree with many of them. However, I don’t see what Styne did to that girl as sexual assault and calling him a rapist is a little extreme. Lastly, I know a lot of people adore Charlie. I like her, and I question her death in this episode. I felt it was useless and not needed to get Dean to the point they wanted to get Dean, but I am not one of those people that are devastated with this loss. I am sad she is gone, but I will get over it. And to say that fandom strongly identifies with her – don’t lump all of fandom into that statement because that is not true. I do not identify with her and I know a lot of people within fandom that feel the way I do, so please, when generalizing about a group of people, please don’t include “all” of fandom, because that will just not be true. And I, for one, don’t appreciate being lumped into that category.

      1. 1. the Styne villain looked as if he was leaning in for a kiss as Eileen started screaming no’s at him. This was followered by a hallway shot of janitor and sounds of gagging, thumping, and more screaming.

        2. The Styne family scene has the eldest saying this:

        Monroe: “Astounding. Astounding and disappointing. There was a time, Eldon, when I would call you our most promising. You ask your brothers and cousins.

        “But clearly, you have been spoiled and over-indulged, and the result is arrogance. The utter lack of judgement… You thought you’d take the time for a little quickie with that girl before you harvested her.”

        Since I’ve rarely to never heard the term “quickie” used as anything other than a reference to quick sex, I interpreted this conversation as the Stynes allowing Eldon to indulge himself by sexual assaulting his victims while harvesting. His serial rapist practices were allowed because Eldon was promising but this time he left a witness and witnesses are a punishable offense.

        While I doubt that Eldon would have felt inclined to molest Charlie with a freshly ripped off arm, I still don’t see the point in making Eldon a rapist. It’s the sort of misandrist ” cheap heat characterization of “bad guys” that is born in misogyny and due to laziness, never grows up into a character that you’ll love to hate. A “bad guy” doesn’t have to be evil filth or a bully to be a “bad guy”, s/he can be a respectable opponent who has different or conflicting motivations and practices.

        The Stynes have a motivation: get the book so the family can retain power. Sam has a reason to keep it: get Dean cured. The conflict was there already. So why was the double implication of Eldon raping then killing victims needed unless it was to make the show more hostile for real life victims of rape and women? (Aside, I don’t think that was the writers’ objective, I think it was lazy writing. Which is why I think whomever wrote and approved this script needs additional training or additional oversight.)

        —-

        Regardless, I’m sorry for making the mistake of including you (and others) in my statement about most people identifying with Charlie. Obviously, I was over generalizing because many people (at least one whole fansite hated all female characters if I recall) hate Charlie. So it is reasonable to assume that there will be some people who fall in the middle even though almost every person with whom I regularly speak to about Charlie likes her and identifies with her (as a geek and a nerd who feels outside mainstream society if not as a woman or as queer).

        Regardless, obviously some love her, some like her, and some hate her. And there will be some with their own unique blend of feelings about her. Unfortunately, I cannot edit my post to add some exclusionary modifier. Sorry.

        Personally, I can deal with the idea of Charlie dying (if she’s dead), I am more offended by the out of character stupidity from Cas, Sam, and Charlie that brought Charlie to that point and the rapist thing than the actual death. Oh and Im beyond angry about the Mary Shelley slander. I expect a retcon of Mary Shelley as a deliberate saboteur …

        1. You know, I watched this episode twice and each time I missed the comment from the Elder Styne saying that about Eldon. I stand corrected. Although, in this instance, I do not think that Eldon went any further with the girl given the interruption by the janitor. He had barely enough time to take her eyes and get out of there. I presumed that the noise we heard was the shuffle that accompanied such a horrific act of taking the eyeballs. I couldn’t help but think of S3’s Time is On My Side. I actually thought that that was where they were going until they took a left turn and made the from the Frankenstein family, while interesting, I think it’s silly and stupid to bring that mythos into the Supernatural mythos. I hope they don’t bring this family into the next season. From numerous comments I have seen about the web, a lot of fans would not be happy if they are the big bad’s next year. I tend to agree with that. As for Eldon, if he indeed did take women against their will, then yes, I agree with everything you said about him.

          As for Charlie, a lot of women fans do identify with her. I most appreciated her for her strength and confidence in herself, because there are so many out there that don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, so I really did like that. I also most appreciated what she was to the brothers Winchester. She was a reasoning voice, someone who heard what they said and didn’t mock or make them feel stupid for the wrong steps they took. She accepted them wholly and totally, was unconditional in her love towards them, and that is the main reason I liked her. All the other things about her, I didn’t really identify with her about. The boys really do need someone like her in their lives and to kill her off in such a stupid inane way is a slap in the face to her character (and fandom-IMHO). Mostly, she was a well-crafted character and to see her killed off – I will get over it. Her death doesn’t bother me as much as it does other people, I am already over it. I just find that her death was unjustified for storyline purposes and that they could have done something different with her (that kept her alive) and still get Dean to the place they wanted him to go. It was senseless.

          1. I only watched once and miss d it but I don’t think I can stomach watching it again. Knowing this implication is in there makes me glad I won’t be giving it a second chance.

    3. Agree so much – reducing characters we’ve been led to believe were intelligent to horror film stereotypes doing the dumbest things possible simply to advance the plot was inexcusable, and Cas would SO have brought pb&j.

  4. All of the above!
    I am so so tired of losing beautifully crafted and well loved characters to fuel the bro pain train.

    Charlie was important in so many ways and her death feels like Supernatural took a step forward, only to retreat two more steps.

    The entire episode made a mockery of all the characters and quite frankly of the viewers. I’ve never seen such a poorly executed pile of poop in ten seasons.

  5. Excellent review. This episode is a travesty and I’m reeling from it. Bad enough to kill Charlie but they had to use pathetically poor writing to do it?! Even if they bring Charlie back alive, I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about the show again. I thought I would always keep watching as long as Castiel was on the show but now I don’t know if even canon Destiel would be enough to make me happy. I’m not watching these remaining episodes live myself, and I can’t stomach seeing the Winchesters do this same song and dance number as they mourn YET AGAIN for a friend and get mad at each other for the lies. Been there. Done that. I may only fast forward to the Castiel scenes.

    Charlie deserved than this. We fans deserved better than this, and Buckner/Ross-Leming have proven themselves to be horrible writers who shouldn’t be working on the show.

  6. I’m having extreme difficulty parsing how deeply unpleasant and badly crafted this episode was. What has happened to this show?

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