Tonight’s episode is devoted to restarting the Dick Roman/Leviathan plot and getting it up to full speed now that we’ve only got three episodes left to tie it up with a bow. In the opening scenes, Bobby tells the boys that he understands that they’ve had to take the eye off the ball lately because they’ve been so busy fighting ghosts, and then he turns into a full-bore exposition dispenser. He explains that he’s been waiting for the right moment to tell them that, just before he died, he found out what Dick Roman is really working on. To the surprise of no one, Dick is looking to “get into the Soylent Green business” by turning the human race into a Leviathan livestock pin, so “they can live here forever, one-percenter style.” (This colorful speech also boasts maybe the single worst attempt at brash comic slang in the series’ history, when Bobby refers to the night he was shot in the head by Dick Roman as that time when “he Lincolned me.”)
Roman’s plans involve curing all major diseases, in order to maintain a healthy food supply, a detail that I didn’t really get—how old do you want your people to get before you send them to the abattoir?—and lacing the humans’ food with chemicals designed to make them more docile, so they’ll stay fat and non-combative, which would seem to mean that Dick Roman has a higher opinion of non-drugged human beings than, say, the makers of WALL-E. But just because Romans’ scheme seems both unimaginative and kind of leaky doesn’t mean the boys don’t need to gear up to fight it, and they decide that what they most need to fight it with is a computer geek,
Using computer geeks to fight supernatural forces is more The X-Files’ territory than Supernatural’s. There’s nothing wrong with the idea, on the face of it, but it flies in the face of the Winchesters’ bare-knuckled, old-school approach to both monster-hunting and technology. The show’s first try at teaming the brothers up with a 21st-century hunter was Ash, who, with his cracker accent, mullet, and homemade laptop, was very much of the white-trash mad-genius variety. Frank, who managed to get a couple of memorable appearances under his belt this season before the show (seemingly) killed him off, was like Ash after a couple of decades of social maladjustment: an angry, paranoid, middle-aged wreck who seemed to live in the static between talk-radio rants.
Charlie, the title character of tonight’s episode, seems to come from another world entirely. She’s a geek girl, meant to be weird and a loner but also enticing, and also a genius. (Dick Roman, who has her on his payroll, tells her repeatedly that he admires her “spark” and describes her as irreplaceable to her boss, who he’s just about to have replaced—literally, by one of his shapeshifters, after giving the fellow permission to eat him. Roman tells her that he knows he could duplicate “every fact in your brain” and imprint them on the brain of someone else, and “they still wouldn’t be you.” “I guess you can’t clone me,” she says, with a laugh. “Don’t think,” he says, “that doesn’t piss me off.”)
Charlie is played, in a rare coup of stunt casting, by real-life geek goddess Felicia Day, the creator-star of the webseries The Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption. The role was tailored to her, which may not have been such a great idea; it just seemed to emphasis how much she was a visitor to this show from a different corner of pop culture, observing the rules for as long as it took her day pass to run out. There’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Jay Sherman, the hero of the short-lived animated series The Critic, pays a crossover visit to Springfield. At the end, when he’s about to leave, Jay says something about how maybe the Simpsons can come visit him sometime, and Bart says, “No, we’re not gonna be doing that.” That was sort of how it feels at the end here when, as they prepare to go their separate ways, Charlie assures the Winchesters that their paths will not cross again.
The lines that stand out the worst come when Dean insists to Sam that he likes Charlie. She’s spunky and fairly game, but she also seems meant to have at least a faintly dangerous, living-off-the-grid edge that just isn’t there. You can believe that Dean and Sam would feel protective toward her, and when Sam bonds with her by asking her who her favorite character in Harry Potter is, Dean’s look of disgust is pretty convincing, too. But she isn’t really Supernatural’s kind of heroine, and the show further undercuts her with too many close-ups of her twisting her face in dismay or terror and at least one badly botched piece of staging. (Charlie is in the parking garage when Dick Roman sics his minion on her boss, but instead of creating suspense by letting us know she’s there, her presence isn’t revealed until she’s running toward the camera after seeing the monster in big-mouth feeding-frenzy mode.)
Most of the thrills in tonight’s episode come from Bobby. Naturally, he wants some of his own back from Dick Roman, the monster who killed him. Not at all naturally, the Winchesters discourage this; they react with horror to the very suggestion that Bobby might even wind up in the same place as Roman, for fear that he’ll turn into a “vengeance” ghost and come out of the experience scarred and twisted. Apparently seeking vengeance against the one who wronged you in life is the worst thing you can do, if you’re a ghost, in terms of the effect on your mental and emotional health and control over your own abilities. I would think that it would be worse on your stress levels to be within ass-kicking distance of whoever was responsible for putting a tag on tour toe and not do anything about it, but Supernatural takes great stock in these rules that it pulls out of its ass.
The fact remains that the most exciting part of tonight’s episode comes when Bobby makes his presence felt to Roman, first by shattering a window to help his friends and then by throwing the smarmy bastard through the air and against a wall. This troubles the boys greatly, and is seen by them as evidence that dead-man’s vengeance is more trouble than it’s worth, but I was still disappointed when the Winchesters and Charlie piled into a van and sped away, and then we saw Bobby with them, instead of seeing how many heavy objects could be bounced off Dick Roman’s forehead before it began to affect his speech patterns. Will Bobby end up getting benched for the finale? I hope not, not even if it turns him into a sputtering banshee. Some things are worth enduring a graceless afterlife for.
- In theory, the inclusion of a fake commercial for “Sucrocorp” was a nice touch. In actuality, it was disappointingly bland and pointless, as if the writers were so tickled with themselves for having run with the idea that they saw no need to make it either funny or frightening. (Ideally, it should have been both. Better Off Ted used to pull that combo off, in its own parody commercial bumpers, practically every week.)
- Explaining to the soon-to-be-eaten department manager the difference between himself and someone like Charlie, Roman compares Charlie to Bruce Springsteen and Eli Manning—those who are irreplaceable—and tells the manager that he’s more like Tim Tebow and Joe Biden. I don’t know enough about football to have a dog in this fight, but I sort of appreciated the show’s willingness to piss off what I’m guessing must be a pretty fair-sized part of its viewing audience just to get in a gratuitous slap at a sports celebrity who must really get under one of the skin of one of the writers.
- Charlie on her wild weekend: “If you can’t score at a reproductive rights function, you simply can’t score.”
- Dick Roman’s Sheen-esque computer password is “w1nn1ng”. Charlie’s “Ewwwwwww!” in reaction to this is probably her most endearing moment.