When Claire was taken off the board last week, Supernatural suddenly had an opening for its token female character. The show wasted little time in filling that void as Charlie returned from Oz in more ways than one. Or, should I say, more bodies than one.

During the battle for Emerald City, the Wizard of Oz used a key to split Charlie into good and bad halves. What I liked about this transformation was that both halves of Charlie were equal – it wasn’t her normal self and a bad doppelganger. Hurting one version hurt the other and they each acted strictly within their “good” and “bad” parameters. I was genuinely confused about Charlie’s abrupt personality shift until the good version showed up. Speaking of which, seeing Sam’s confused expression when he saw Good Charlie was priceless.

Charlie’s episodes have always had surprising depth to them. The episode where her and Dean killed zombie Nazis seemed like superficial fun on the surface, but that hour ended up fleshing out Charlie in a way that we saw continued in “There’s No Place Like Home.” We learned her real name is Celeste Middleton (she doesn’t seem like a Celeste) and met the man who killed her dad and left her mom in a vegetative state. Killing Russell Wellington became an obsession for Dark Charlie, one that she thought would bring her and Good Charlie closer together. It was appropriate to see that rationale arise from the distillation of a person’s “bad side.” It reminds me of a motivation we’ve seen on this show before.

Dark Charlie ultimately ended up killing Russell by playing on Dean’s blind faith in the Charlie he knew and loved. Her dark half knew just how to push Dean’s buttons in that situation. It’s not often we see Sam or Dean fail to save someone, so this episode was an exercise in the unusual, as three different people died as a result of Charlie’s return. Yes, the Wizard of Oz and Russell were unquestionably monsters, but their deaths were still significant. Especially when you consider that killing the Wizard also meant killing Clive. Thankfully, this former Men of Letters member had lived a long, full life.

Each punch that Dean landed against dark Charlie hit like a ton of bricks for the audience. Watching the good Charlie – who’s a closer approximation of the Charlie we know – suffer each blow and broken bone was agonizing. Dean was appropriately horrified when he realized the Mark of Cain had caused him to go overboard against Dark Charlie, thus hurting one of his closest friends. Charlie’s injuries didn’t disappear after her cool-looking reunion with her darker half, forcing Dean to confront his own darkness as he looked at her in the bunker. What I also loved about that final scene was how Charlie called Dean on his typical self-loathing and challenged him to actively fight against the Mark of Cain. Wallowing in despair doesn’t work for Charlie, who departed for Tuscany after giving Dean the wakeup call he needed.

When I saw this episode previewed last week, I’ll admit I was skeptical. This season’s overarching plot has been pencil-thin aside from trying to remove the Mark of Cain. I didn’t want to lose the momentum we gained during last week’s outing with Metatron. Little did I know that Charlie’s return would be exactly what this season needed.

Charlie gave Dean and this show a needed shot in the arm. Now that she’s back from Oz, I can only hope we’ll be seeing Charlie on a more consistent basis. Felicia Day was asked to run the acting gamut this episode and she delivered a standout performance. Now that we know more of her backstory, and Felicia has been given adequate time to live in the character’s skin, Charlie is becoming a fully-developed character that can exist on equal footing with Sam and Dean. As the brothers move to remove the Mark from Dean’s arm, they’ll need all the help they can get.

Lines of the week

“Now all I wanna do is sip club soda and send her to college.” – Charlie

“Dark Charlie just hotwired Baby.” – Dean

Next week on Supernatural

Sam gets to deal with teenage Dean.

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