Last night Supernatural did what it does best – it broke our hearts.
MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW.
Last week, when I saw we were getting our third Charlie episode this season, I made a joke-y “prayer circle for Charlie” reference at the end of my recap. It’s pretty much a go-to phrase whenever a fan favorite character comes back to the show. And it’s used ten-fold if said character is a woman. The women of Supernatural are few and far between; mainly it’s because of the fact that our two leads are male and the two recurring leads are also male. So because a good chunk of the revolving door characters tend to be women and a good chunk of revolving door characters tend to be killed… you see where I’m going with this right?
So last week I just had a *feeling.* Charlie was coming back for a third episode in a season – which is the most she’s been in since her introduction. It was the first time a Charlie episode wasn’t being written by Robbie Thompson. (Instead this one was written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the duo responsible for, among other things, Season 9′s “Holy Terror.” You know. The one where Kevin is killed. But we’ll get to that later.) Charlie, who had previously been featured in monster-of-the-week episodes, was suddenly an intricate part of this season’s plot. Charlie was showing up very close to the end of the season. And, most importantly, Charlie had already died and been revived once before.
The nerd part of me wasn’t as worried. After all – Charlie very quickly became a fan favorite. She’s played by the geek first lady Felicia Day. She’s only in a couple episodes a season so she’s really easy to bring in and out without having to worry about what she’s doing off screen (a problem that ultimately is what got Kevin killed in the end.) And, here’s the important part, she’s one of the few inner circle women on the show.
But then there was another part of me. And that part of me is what wrote the #PrayerCircle joke. And that part of me is what winced when Rowena said “that steadfast loyalty will be your undoing.” It’s that part of me that narrowed my eyes when Castiel, of all people, was put in charge of babysitting. And it’s that part of me that felt sick when we heard Bobby’s voiceover: “…sometimes the bad’s real bad. And the good, it can come at one hell of a price.” I just knew. I knew that price would be Charlie.
When Kevin died last season it was shocking. It was so sudden. It was brutal. And it seemed to be done for two reasons: 1. to punish Dean for screwing up and 2. because the writers were unsure of what to do with Kevin next. Kevin, from his introduction onwards, was always integral to the story. He was a prophet and a font of information for the boys. Kind of like Bobby if Bobby was a baby brother figure instead of a father figure. But in the episodes leading up to his death, Kevin was missing from a lot of scenes. He was sleeping off a hangover in a motel after partying. He was on the other end of the phone line; we just couldn’t hear him. Kevin had to go away in order for Dean to be alone by the middle of the season. He’d driven away Cas, he’d turned his brother into a puppet, he ignored his little AP prophet of a brother. Dean messed up. He lied to too many people. He trusted the wrong ones. He believed that his idea of lesser of all evils was good enough to act on. The writers needed to hand Dean a giant pile of consequences. Kevin died.
Now. Let’s look at what happened last night.
Charlie, from her introduction onwards, wasn’t always integral to the story, but she was immediately integrated into the world. She was a hacker and a font of information for the boys. Kind of like Bobby if Bobby was a smart alec sister instead of a father figure. Charlie started appearing and being referenced more frequently leading up to her death. But Charlie needed to go away in order for Sam to realize just how wrong he’d been. Sam messed up. He lied to Dean. He kept that lie up even when those closest to him told him to stop. He believed that his idea of lesser of all evils was good enough to act on. The writers needed to hand Sam a giant pile of consequences. Charlie died.
Were Supernatural not a work of fiction, were it instead someone’s reality, we wouldn’t have this problem. Charlie was a smart woman. She was clever and adventurous. She loved fiercely. She wanted to help. She worked in an extremely dangerous job. Charlie, as a person, could more than conceivably go down protecting Sam and Dean. It’s one of the reasons why I loved the calm in her eyes right before the final commercial break. She knew that the boys were too far away to save her. That the work she was doing could save Dean, whom she loved. And that there was no way that she could allow the two men in her hotel room to see what she had worked out. So Charlie was very very aware of what was about to befall her. So she stands and faces her death armed as best she can.
But Supernatural is a work of fiction and it’s one that has existed for nearly a decade. Whenever the stakes have to be upped, someone gets killed. Whether it’s one of the boys or one of their friends or one of their paternal figures or one of their wards – someone kicking the bucket is the only way Supernatural seems to know how to make everything more “important.” (The one exception belongs to my favorite season finale: “Sacrifice.” No one died and it was the most intense the show has ever been. Interesting, isn’t it?) Supernatural is a work of fiction with very few recurring women and even fewer LGBTQ representatives. Charlie was both of those things. And that she had to die to teach Sam that “lying is wrong” is a big ol pile of bullshit. Sorry. It just is.
Fans, especially female fans, related to Charlie because of how much she was like us. She was a nerd and an outsider and she loved the boys. She was quirky and wore geeky t-shirts and made pop-culture references. She wasn’t afraid to call the brothers out on their idiocy, nor was she afraid to tell them just how special they were if they needed that boost. She was a depiction of a nerd that *finally* was not an obnoxious stereotype. Is it any wonder why so many fans are distraught today?
I hate the expression “lazy writing.” Who am I to call the legitimate work that writers do “lazy?” I have two half finished novels, one play outline, and a mountain of unfinished fanfiction on my computer. *I* am a lazy writer. The second I don’t know how to move forward I give up. It’s a gift. So for me to cast the same descriptor on these professionals does not seem fair. But it’s the best expression I can think of at the moment. Whenever the Supernatural writers don’t know what to do they kill someone. Old school fans had a bad first reaction to Ellen and Jo – they wrote them out and then eventually killed them. They needed the big emotional moment in the middle of a mediocre season – they killed Bobby. They couldn’t figure out just what to do with Kevin – they killed him. They needed some way to punish Sam and to send Dean into his final killing spree – they killed Charlie. These writers are better than this. I know they are because this show is a decade old and is still putting out immensely entertaining hours of television. So I can only call this move lazy and hope that they work hard to fix it. Because this time it wasn’t just lazy, it was irresponsible.
Two seasons in a row now they’ve killed a fan-favorite minority character (one Asian, one gay woman) simply to up the stakes for Sam and Dean. That’s enough. Surprise, producers, but it’s season 10. You’re not going to gain a ton of new viewers any more. But you should be working to keep the ones you have. And, I can tell you without hesitation, I’d 100% prefer my cast to be a little bigger and a little more diverse, than to have you chopping up characters just to get the man tears going.
That’s just… you know… something to consider.