'Supernatural': Slumber Party (9x04)
Okay, I'm happy. Like... I'm really happy. This is one of the only episodes of Supernatural to ever pass the Bechdel test, which is awesome on its own. Then take into account that we get to see Charlie again, and the fact that this episode allowed us to explore the bunker, and that we had a sassy Crowley making Wicked references, and that it addressed some big plot points while still staying light and funny, and that the girls totally save the day, and that Oz is freaking real, and that they watch Game of Thrones together... oh my word. I was just a smiling ball of joy throughout this entire thing.
The plot is as follows: the boys invite Charlie to the bunker because they're trying to figure out a way to get the MoL equipment to track angels. Charlie shows up to go to town on all of this cool old technology, but in the process, a jar is knocked over and out comes Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, who have been trapped there since the '30s.
In a series of flashbacks, we see how exactly Dorothy and the witch got into the jar. Basically, Dorothy is a bad ass hunter who did go into Oz, but the story is very different from what's written in Baum's books. Baum, incidentally, is Dorothy's father. Anyways, some Men of Letters are in the bunker when Dorothy arrives, and she needs their help to try and kill the witch, who seems impervious to all normal methods. Eventually, in desperation, Dorothy devises a way to trap the witch in a jar, but she ends up trapped as well.
In the present day, the Winchesters and Charlie work together with the newly resurrected Dorothy to find and destroy the witch. Charlie, using clues from the Oz books, figures out that using poppies will slow the witch down. She makes poppy bullets for everyone to use, but the supplies are extremely limited, so they have to conserve the bullets at all costs (this reminded me, incidentally, of the Colt from way back in the day, and the very limited number of bullets they had).
Eventually, we learn that the witch plans to bring her evil army into this world and take it over. There's a key in the bunker which can turn any door into a portal to Oz, so Dean and Charlie go to look for that while Sam and Dorothy go and try to track the witch down. Unfortunately, the witch finds Dean and almost kills him. Charlie jumps in the way, and... she's dead! For only a couple of minutes, of course, because this is Supernatural. Sam shows up, then Zeke makes an appearance and saves Charlie. Yay!
The Wicked Witch then possesses Sam and Dean and sends them against the girls, who try and fight back. Charlie manages to get away and she uses the ruby slippers to kill the Wicked Witch, thus releasing Sam and Dean from their possession, which also saves Dorothy from getting killed.
Dorothy then offers to bring Charlie with her on her adventure in Oz, and Charlie excitedly agrees.
Okay, that's just the basics of the plot. Now I'm gonna go ahead and break down a list of elements from this episode that I loved, loved, loved.
1. Exploring the bunker and the concept of "home." This bunker set is awesome. Supernatural has been traditionally a road show with very few stationary sets. There's Bobby's place, the Roadhouse very briefly, a few other places here and there for brief periods of time... but really the Winchesters have only ever had one home, and that home was on four wheels. Now, we've got the bunker. This place reminds me of every fantasy I ever had as a kid about living in some huge awesome mansion when I grew up, with just everything I could ever imagine at my fingertips. There's all of the knowledge you could ever hope to find on hunting, it's a safe place warded against their enemies, and it practically belongs to Sam and Dean by birthright. I love the garage - I'm so happy that Baby gets to have a home indoors. It was also a very good idea to set the entire episode in the bunker without ever going elsewhere. It established this sense of space within the bunker and made the entire location feel just that much more familiar and comfortable. (Although, knowing Supernatural, that might mean they're going to take it away from us at some point...)
Dean feels safe and at home, while Sam thinks of the bunker as a place to work, and nothing more. And the best part, is you can tell that it really bothers Dean that his brother doesn't feel at home. They talk about it a few times throughout the episode, and it's just so amazing to see this tension develop between them. And then the payoff at the end was the perfect mixture of cheesy and deep. As Charlie leaves with Dorothy, Dean asks if she'll become back, and Sam says yes, because "there's no place like home." This is just so tragically adorable. Sam's not quite there yet with considering the bunker a home, but he's telling Dean that he's willing to try. And here Dean is, wanting to be happy that his brother is working on it, but at the same time just feeling the weight of this giant freakin' secret just sitting between them. I think I might know what they're building up to. What if, when Sam finds out about Ezekiel, he leaves the bunker for a while? And maybe it's just after he's finally started to accept it as a home? Ugh, that would break my heart but in the perfect way.
2. Speaking of Ezekiel... Dean is going to get caught, and it's going to be soon. His lying is getting really hard to believe, and sooner or later Sam's going to start questioning why he keeps blacking out and then suddenly everything's fixed. This is just such a delicious conflict and it's building to such an amazing climax, I just cannot wait. Again, praising Jared's acting here... when he slides into playing Zeke, it's absolutely phenomenal. This dude has serious acting chops.
3. Charlie's death scene. I was not even a little bit scared that they were going to kill her off for real. Not even for a second did I consider that to be a possibility. What's great is that the show isn't trying to fake you out. Dean asking Zeke for help is the perfect way to propel his character's arc this season. He is already growing very dependent on Zeke's powers. He even asks the angel for help at the expense of getting him out of Sam faster. Obviously, Charlie is very important to Dean. But very quickly I believe we'll start to see Dean leaning too heavily on Zeke to help him out of every sticky situation. This is going to be amazing. There's also the delightful fact that Charlie is a bad ass who totally sacrificed her life to save Dean. You go, girl. And there's the fact that Dorothy makes a little joke about how commonplace death is on this show. Now, Charlie can consider herself an official hunter, since she's kicked the bucket!
4. Dorothy. What a great character overall. This was an episode of Supernatural with two female characters (three if you count the witch, I guess), and yet there was not a single element of romance in the entire thing. Dorothy, even back in the 1930's, was a competent woman and an amazing hunter in her own rights. She wasn't the stereotypical "I don't need no man" type of character either, because she didn't hate Sam and Dean on principle for being men. No, in fact her and Sam are very similar in many ways, and they formed a bit of a platonic connection over their attitudes about the idea of home. Dorothy also represents this very interesting attitude about Hunters vs. Men of Letters. Earlier, when we first met Grandpa Winchester, we got this prejudice against the Hunters as just being grunts, and now we see Dorothy representing a prejudice against the Men of Letters just being pencil pushers. Since Sam and Dean are pretty much both Hunters and MoLs, they show the balance between these two worlds. What an amazing setup!
5. Dorothy and Charlie's relationship. I said just a minute ago that there were no romances set up in this episode. And I meant it. Of course, that doesn't stop everyone from already scrambling to come up with a good shipping name for Dorothy and Charlie. And who the hell could blame them? These two actresses have great chemistry together. But here's why it's better that they aren't going to start a romance immediately: they're going to go off and kick ass on an adventure together. Just two girls, fighting monsters and going on a quest. With no men. And no romantic motivations. Yes! Go, go, go! I am so happy about this. A part of me thinks that it would be very natural for a romance to grow out of Charlie and Dorothy's already present friendship, and that it would be a beautiful thing to see. (Don't you wish the spin-off was about Charlie and Dorothy in Oz? I would watch the hell out of that.) But the absence of flirting between these two girls was actually a strength in the episode. Charlie admires Dorothy, and Dorothy gets Charlie as her first example of how women are treated in this new time period. The dynamic between the Winchesters and Charlie here becomes really important, because Dorothy sees how the boys treat Charlie with respect and affection - Charlie's a lot more tech savvy than the two of them, and they acknowledge that vocally and often. It must be such amazing shock to Dorothy.
6. The pop culture stuff. Yeah, you probably saw this coming. Watching Game of Thrones together in the bunker with Charlie? I've legitimately read a fan fiction where that happened. Every Charlie fan (aka everyone who watches Supernatural pretty much) has been waiting to see her chill out in the bunker and geek out with the boys. I was so unbelievably happy to see this. I also really appreciated how sparse they were with the Wizard of Oz references. It wasn't overdone. Nobody said anything about not being in Kansas, there weren't constant callbacks to the movie... we had ruby slippers as weapons, a witch who was very much not painted green, and one line quote from Sam at the end. Crowley was the main bringer of the Oz related sass. I loved it when he whistled "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and especially when he referenced Wicked. God, Crowley is amazing. I will make one point that sort of annoyed me, though... clearly they were playing with the idea that this was Dorothy from Baum's books, not from the movie or anything else. In the books, the slippers are silver, not ruby. I know it's a nitpick, but it did stand out to me. And then there were also the meta references, particularly with Charlie bringing up the Carver Edlund books. Apparently, the unpublished works are also available online, thanks to a certain superfan named Becky. Sam's reaction upon hearing that name was priceless. The attention to detail in this episode was really lovely, such as Charlie's tablet having a Lord of the Rings related home screen, and an icon linking her to the Supernatural comics. Fourth Wall what?
7. Crowley. I don't even need to say more, do I? The guy's a total sass master. I also love that Sam gave him a crayon with which to write. Those Winchester boys are smart cookies... don't trust someone as crafty as Crowley with a potential lock-picking writing utensil! I love that although they do unchain him momentarily in exchange for information about the witch, they keep him firmly in their control. Crowley has been severely de-fanged here, and it's a joy to see what Mark Sheppard does with this role. I can't wait for him to kick some ass later in the season. As long as he's not too successful, that is.
8. The mentions of Castiel and Kevin. Poor Kevin dear apparently needs a bit of a break, so Dean drove him to a secure motel room somewhere so that he could have some time away from trying to translate the angel tablet. Kudos to the writers for not just dropping important characters when they're not actually present in an episode. I like the subtle undertone of the angel tablet plot line. Obviously this will come back in a big way, but at the moment it doesn't need to be the focus. And then of course I'll squeal a little bit about the look on Dean's face when Sam mentions Cas... "no one wants him here more than I do," says Dean Winchester about the ex-angel he is most certainly in love with. My shipper heart was happy. My story-structure heart was also happy, because we're keeping this story going. We still don't have the cliffhanger from the last episode fully resolved - we don't know exactly what Dean said to Cas after he told him to leave. But we do know what Dean has been telling Sam - that it was Cas' choice to go. That's just another lie that's going to blow up in Dean's face at some point.
9. Charlie's search for a quest. I like how she's been hunting on her own. I like how Dean and Sam both react to this news like disapproving fathers. I love how Charlie feels unfulfilled by this lifestyle. She's a girl who knows what she wants, and is able to admit quite readily when she doesn't have it. In this way, she's very different from Dean and Sam, who both have a very difficult time figuring out what they want, and with being happy when they have it. Charlie wants fantasy. She wants a journey like what her mom used to read to her as a kid (sob!). And guess what? She can have that now. She gets to go to freakin' Oz, for goodness' sake. This was also a great way to leave Charlie's ultimate role in the show loosely defined. Depending on Felicia Day's availability, it would be really simple to bring her back. But, if she doesn't come back for some reason, they've given her a legitimate sendoff. Although, come on, they would be nuts not to bring Charlie back. She's been a ridiculously successful character up to this point, and Felicia ain't no movie star. I'm sure she can take time away from being an adorable internet celebrity to come back on the show.
10. Men of Letters flashbacks. I'm putting this at the end of my list, because actually this was probably the one element of the episode that I take some issue with... it wasn't a problem of content or anything, more just one of pacing. Some of these flashback scenes dragged a bit, and I think it was simply because I was much more interested in seeing Charlie. These other MoL characters weren't bad, but I had nothing invested in them. It's hard to be invested in characters from 80 something years ago when you know they're all dead anyway. Still, I liked the black and white, and I liked the way we see Dorothy come into our modern world with all of the prejudices and understandings from the past world. She adapts quickly, and it works well to show the contrast between the two realities she's had to face.
Alright, so this has been a really long review. More of a really disorganized meta/review where I spew my feelings plus some half formulated thoughts all over the page. Regardless, I loved this episode. For a C-plot, it was really compelling. Every time Charlie is on the show, it counts as a win for me.