“Supernatural” has always been admirably diverse, but around the fifth season, hunting became a good old boys club. Granted, those boys were equal parts pretty and goofy, but I was still perturbed by the severe lack of female hunters, angels and key players. So I wished, prayed and may have even written a few angry emails begging for a decent female character that wasn’t a damsel in need of rescue or charmed by Sam and Dean’s spectacular faces, had no problem fighting for the greater good and maybe had a few awesome one-liners. The answer to my prayers came in the form of Charlie Bradbury, a Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings lovin’ hacker who dared to complete an impossible mission even with the “Eye of Sauron” watching her every keystroke.
“The Girl With The Dungeons And Dragons Tattoo” is as slick and fun as “Supernatural” has ever been. It was like my favorite show had a baby fused with my other favorite show, “Burn Notice.” It begins with Dick Roman’s endgame. Bobby, still recovering from his ghosty escapades last week, popped back in to finally tell Sam and Dean what he’d seen in Dick’s office, the information he’d ultimately taken to his grave and beyond. It was here that the tidbits of intel scattered throughout the season came together to form an grotesque picture: The coordinates that led to the empty plot of land in Wisconsin will soon be a “state-of-the-art slaughterhouse, and we’re the beef. They’re engineering the perfect herd” by curing humans of pesky cancers and diseases, and then drugging and fattening them up with his tainted meat now being sold in thousands of outlets. “This is about knocking us off the top of the food chain, about Levis living here forever one-percenter style while we march our dopey fat asses down to the death camps on every corner.”
To sum up, Dick’s doing to humans what humans do to chickens and cows. Is that karma? You decide.
As Bobby yammers about doomsday, Sam gets an auto-email from the long-dead Frank Devereaux. The email informed him that someone was trying to hack into Frank’s hard drive, which contains compromising information about Sam and Dean’s aliases, hang-outs, and where Dean had stored the Impala. “Baby?” Dean gasps, petrified. Being a raging conspiracy-theorist and more paranoid than Bobby, Frank had put a tracking device on his hard drive, and it was located at Richard Roman Enterprises in Chicago aka “the middle of the death star.”
Five hours earlier, a spritely young redhead named Charlie dances into the very secure Richard Roman Enterprises in Chicago to beat of Katrina And The Waves, “Walkin’ On Sunshine.” Her cubicle looks like Comic-Con puked all over it as it’s positively littered with Wonder Woman pez dispensers, the "Star Wars" posters, and a Hermione Granger bobblehead lovingly placed between both of her monitors. This the desk fit for a sci-fi queen played to adorkable perfection by Felicia Day. In 30 seconds, I already want to go to a midnight screening of the “The Avengers” with her and be geeky BFFs, because she can type faster than my 87 WPM; she hacks into conservative Super PACs to donate thousands to liberal causes—something that would give Newt Gingrinch a stroke—and she says things like “Pics or it didn’t happen” and “Is this real life?” I wish it was, Charlie.
Dick Roman requests Charlie’s mad hacking skills for a special project of hacking into Frank's hard drive and giving him the files. I’ve been underwhelmed by the Leviathan’s this season, but James Patrick Stuart’s Dick Roman is always entertaining and unnerving. As he inches closer to creating a human holocaust, he’s growing all the more monstrous. He doesn’t blink. He doesn’t smile so much as bare his teeth. He speaks in thinly veiled metaphors that belie his desire to sop us up with a cheddar bay biscuit.
He asks her how she has become one of the brightest minds at his company. “Historically I’ve had this problem with authority—no offense. So I realized that the only way I could get away with being me was to be as indispensible as possible,” she rationalizes. “You’re kind of completing me right now, Charlie,” Roman coos.
He gives her three days to produce the files, which brings us back to square one with Sam and Dean preparing to head to Chicago to protect their precious secrets and, more importantly, the Impala. Bobby brainstorms a brilliant plan of mailing the flask into Roman Enterprises, so he can steal the hard drive. Sam, however, is worried that if Bobby is around the monster that killed him, he could turn from friendly, monster-fighting ghost to violent, vengeful spirit. So he’s benched, and pissed. No one puts Bobby in a corner!
After a day, Charlie finally breaks into Frank’s hard drive and she’s intrigued by the files labeled “March of Dimes” and “Clones.” Her spirit animal, the intrepid witch Hermione, inspires her to open the files, and she’s immediately downloaded on all of the information about the Leviathans, from their cloning abilities to Borax being their only kryptonite. Charlie rightfully thinks she hacked “into a loony bin” and goes to find her boss, Pete. She does so just as Dick Roman and Henchman No. 3 corner and clone him. “You’re more a Tim Tebow, Joe Biden type. You got no spark in you. There’s nothing in you, except dinner.” After seeing poor Pete devoured whole, Charlie does what any genius would do: bolts like hellhounds are chasing her. At her apartment, she furiously packs, but she notices her Darth Vader bobblehead is rocking as if its been recently nudged. Charlie lunges for the door, but before she can get there, it’s slammed shut. “We’re not going to hurt you.” Dean promises softly. Wielding a replica of Sting from “Lord Of The Rings,” Charlie screams, “Get away from me you shapeshifter!” Sam un-wedges himself from a cabinet and looms behind her in such a way that I can’t blame her for taking a swing at big, scary ass. The cheap sword breaks across Sam’s chiseled back.
Sam and Dean douse themselves in Borax to prove they’re not Leviathans. After being filling her in on Dick Roman’s plan to turn humans into extra value meals, Sam wonders if Charlie can hack into his email account. She could, but it’s kept on a private server in his office and cannot be accessed remotely. Charlie thinks that if she erases all of the information about Sam and Dean from Frank’s hard drive, she can go back to her old life, but she’s “on Dick’s radar” and in great danger.
“It’s okay if you can’t do it,” Sam says, giving her a very clear way out, “you didn’t volunteer for this.” “Totally, but now I volunteer,” Charlie shrugs. Apparently Katniss Everdeen is her spirit animal too. “I gotta go back in anyway to wipe Dick’s drive, so I may as well break into his office too. These things are going to eat everyone I know. What kind of douchebag stands by for that?”
Except her spy skills don’t extend beyond binary code, so Sam and Dean park themselves at her kitchen table and a hatch a plan.
The plan is simple: Charlie has rigged the building’s security cameras to play on a pre-recorded loop, which will buy her 15 minutes to break into Dick’s office and retrieve all of his emails about the archeological digs he’s been funding for months, and then she’ll go to her desk to wipe Frank’s hard drive of any evidence of Sam and Dean and Frank's intel on Leviathans before she skips town for Middle Earth or Hogwarts. The only problem? Bobby shoved his flask into Charlie’s bag, hitching a ride into headquarters.
When Charlie’s rendered frozen with fear, Sam gives her a nerdy pep talk, revealing just how many times he’s read all seven Harry Potter books. What is he supposed to do when Dean is always driving? “Did Hermione run when Sirius Black was in trouble or when Voldemort attacked Hogwarts? She kicked ass, right? So what are you doing to do?” “I’m going to kick it in the ass.”
The caper scenes are punctuated with snappy music, slick split-screens covering all angles of action in quick cuts, and they're nearly perfect. It’s a first for “Supernatural,” because the action is centered on Charlie, not Sam and Dean, who are giving her the play-by-play through a Bluetooth earpiece while they’re safely stowed in a van. It’s Dean’s turn to exploit his...special talents as he has to coach Charlie through flirting her way past the security guard outside of Dick’s office, because Charlie is gay, and doesn’t know how to flirt with men. She approaches him with a jittery smile as Dean sets the mood. “Relax, Charlie, you just got home and Scarlett Johannson is waiting for you.” Dean’s essentially seducing a man, saying things like “You ever do anything else with your free time like take a girl out of a drink?” And it’s glorious. Sam finally breaks and nearly ruins the whole mission when Dean bleats, “Stop laughing, Sammy” and Charlie blurts it out, too. She recovers and manages to slip by the security guard with the promise to meet up for drinks later and a coy hair twirl. I’m not surprised that the password to his desktop is “w1nn1ng.” I wonder where Dick keeps his tiger blood.
Unfortunately, the security guard isn’t as dumb as assumed, and he heads back to find Charlie after just a few minutes. Bobby mindfreaks the door shut and locks it, giving Charlie time to duck into Dick’s bathroom while the emails are finishing copying. She stalls with more unsupervised flirting, and stealthily pockets the flash drive. Mission accomplished.
In the van, Sam and Dean are waiting impatiently, unused to being sidelined. “This is awesome. From now on we’ll stay in the van and send in the 90-pound girl.” Thankfully, Charlie’s already back at her desk, forwarding Dean the flagged emails. The files indicate that the archeological digs stopped days ago because he'd found what he'd been searching for, and Dick is having it chartered to Chicago. It’s landing via private airport within the hour, but Charlie hacks into the courier’s email and gives Sam and Dean more time to get to the airport and intercept it.
I cannot remember the last time Sam and Dean used costumes on a hunt, so it was a welcomed and awesome sight as the camera panned down a private hanger past a freakishly large and a oddly bowlegged airport workers, who always managed to keep their faces hidden, unloading the planes. On a closer look, it's actually the brothers! Sam swapped the suitcases and Dean carted it away. Once Dick’s Henchman No. 4 took their booby-trapped package, Sam and Dean headed to their purloined car of the week to investigate the contents, which appeared to be a hunk of red clay. Score?
Back at Roman Enterprises, Dick arrives to see what Charlie had found on Frank’s drives. Luckily she’d already wiped it, so there was nothing about Dick’s master plan or the Winchesters. Behind them, Bobby’s spirit loomed, vengeance overtaking him so powerfully that even Dick could feel the drop in temperature. Dick ruminates on how special Charlie is, and it’s more than just a hungry monster marveling at how tasty its food is. Dick seems frustrated. “You’re spark—it’s one in a million. When you got it, you invent guns and viruses and iPads. What is that, Charlie? I can feed every fact in your brain to someone else and they still wouldn’t be able to be you.” Apparently, Dick is baffled by human condition or, in reality show terms, the ‘X’ factor that separates humans from cattle. He’s probably tried to clone Charlie before, by lifting her DNA, but even that hadn’t produced a replica with her talent. It was just a crappy knock-off, just like the useless copy of Sting. It looks lethal, but it couldn't thwart a giant human, let alone attacking monsters.
Sam and Dean, those hot, clever little criminals, planted a Borax-bomb in the suitcase they'd intercepted. It explodes, melting off the face of Henchman No. 4, who Dick probably used as a shield. Face still smoldering, Dick orders a building lockdown, which is enacted a second before Charlie reaches the lobby. Frak!
There’s an upside to having being haunted by a ghost even if you don’t know it. Bobby uses his powers to shatter the glass lobby doors, essentially giving Charlie an exit. As soon as Dick comes within a 50-foot radius, the vengeance blackens Bobby’s intentions and all he can focus on is the monster who killed him. Enraged, he shoves Pete aside, who crashes into a fleeing Charlie and sends her careening into the unforgiving, marble-lined wall.
Just as an invisible Bobby hurtles Dick backwards, Sam and Dean sommersalt through the spiderwebbed glass like the badass superheroes they are. They make quick work of the other henchman, borax in the face for one, a pistol whip for the other, and Sam scoops up a seriously injured Charlie as Dean covers him. But Bobby protects them all, appearing long enough so Sam and Dean know to bolt. He gives Dick a few good slaps before everyone retreats.
As they race out of town and probably towards the nearest hospital, Bobby’s overcome by guilt, because he’d hulked out, and gotten Charlie hurt.
At the bus terminal, Charlie’s sporting a new cast and identity. “Good luck saving the world. Peace out, bitches!” Charlie leaves in style, and very much alive. And Sam and Dean don’t have to worry about her because she’s disappeared before. “She’s like the little sister I never wanted,” Dean admits fondly. But Sam’s very worried about what Bobby’s becoming. “Charlie got her freakin’ arm broken. He’s not in control. That was vengeful spirit crap.” If Bobby becomes uncontrollable, they’re faced with the unthinkable responsibility of hunting him, and sending them to whereever vengeful spirits go after they're released. Unable to deal with that, Dean just wants to figure what the item they stole is. But I think Charlie had already nailed it: “The really evil ones always need a special sword,” she’d blurted out when Sam had told her they didn’t know how to kill Leviathans. I bet that the clump of dirt taken from the Middle East, essentially where humanity began is the key to vanquishing the big bads.
I’m too thrilled to focus on that now because Charlie’s still alive and has gained the respect of both Sam and Dean in her own geektastic way. Some fans were offended by Becky, the crazy fangirl of the “Supernatural” books who was so captivated by Sam’s cheekbones and sideburns that she dosed him with love potion, but I wasn’t. She’s not a representation of “Supernatural” fans; Charlie could easily be and more than that, she's a breath of fresh air for the testosterone-heavy series. She’s sweet, nerdy, brave and special, and while society might say she’s undesirable or weird, her originality is one and a million, and it's important.
“The Girl With The Dungeons And Dragons Tattoo” is definitely an instant classic and has earned place in my Top 12 Favorite Super Episodes of All Time, slightly above “The Monster At The End Of This Book” but not before “Born Under A Bad Sign.” While I’m confident that the rest of the season could be a nail-bitting angst-fest, I’m content to bask in the awesomeness of this episode. I do hope that Felicia Day will be back for at least two more episodes because any geek knows that greatest sagas are always trilogies.
What did you think of this episode? Are you worried about Bobby's ghost going darkside? What did you think of Charlie?
Here's a promo for next week and the rest of the season: