Charlie’s back! Guest star Felicia Day returns for the twentieth episode of Supernatural season eight, “Pac-Man Fever”.
While holed up in the Men of Letters’ bunker waiting for Sam to recuperate from the second trial, the boys receive a mysterious e-mail from their friend Charlie, last seen in the episode “LARP and the Real Girl.” Charlie, who just so happens to also be in Kansas, says she’s got a case for them, but Dean decides Sam needs to sit this one out, so despite his brother’s protestations, Dean takes Charlie on as a hunter-in-training.
Dean and Charlie, as “Agent Ripley”, enter the crime scene only to find Sam waiting for them. “What took you so long?” he asks. Charlie questions two boys who discovered the body at the crime scene while Sam and Dean hash out how this case is going to be solved. Dean leaves, prompting Charlie and Sam to drive to the morgue together, arriving before him. Once again, Sam asks, “What took you so long?”
Unfortunately, they can’t take a look at the bodies since the coroner asks for a form from their FBI superior, which has never been an issue before. Dean decides they’ll wait until she’s gone and break in, but it is discovered that the bodies have been burned by the coroner. Surprise, surprise, the coroner is a Djinn, an off-shoot of the regular kind. It feeds on fear, which Dean and Charlie provide in abundance.
Charlie is kidnapped by the Djinn, who says she’ll provide a “meal for two”. Dean tracks Charlie via her phone’s GPS and confirms his suspicion that she is hiding something from them. He tracks her movements to a hospital, where it’s revealed that her mom has been on life support for over a decade, after a car wreck that cost Charlie’s dad’s life.
Later, Dean and Sam discover the Djinn’s lair, and Charlie, who is unconscious. The Djinn has sedated her, sending her on a hallucinatory trip to her worst fears, which she must experience again and again. In order to break Charlie’s fear loop, Dean drinks a concoction that will allow him to hallucinate and enter Charlie’s recurring nightmare.
When he arrives, he’s dressed in a 1950’s era soldier’s uniform. He quickly locates Charlie, who divulges her secrets as they mow down monsters. Her mother is on life support because when Charlie was small, she went to a slumber party and became scared. She asked her parents to come pick her up and they were hit on the way to get her. The guilt Charlie feels is compounded by the fact that Charlie can never tell her mother she’s sorry, or even that she loves her one last time.
Dean and Charlie both learn they have to face the fears in order to stop the hallucinations, and just in time, too: Dean must rescue Sam, who is weaker than he cares to admit, from the second Djinn. Dean and Sam say goodbye to Charlie, who reminds them that they can overcome anything. After all, she’s read the entire Supernatural series. Dean gives Charlie a hug and a kiss. “I love you,” she says. “I know,” he replies.
Sam is also wrapped in a bear hug by Dean, who realizes he can’t keep his ‘little’ brother cooped up anymore, even if he isn’t at full capacity. They must continue the hunt for the prophet if they’re going to find a way to close the Gates of Hell. While they renew their search, Charlie goes to see her mother for the final time.
This episode is even nearer to the feel of the early seasons than previous season eight episodes. The boys are fighting a legendary monster which was first encountered in season two, there’s the reference to the Supernatural book series, and the classic Dean and Sam relationship where Dean tries to be the responsible father figure and take care of his little brother, who he still calls “Sammy”.
I also really appreciated what this episode was getting at: that fear holds you back, and even though your fears may be for someone else, they can’t keep your loved ones safe. Eventually, like Dean, we have to let them go, often prompting the response, “What took you so long?”
While I’m thrilled that Charlie has returned, making me wonder if she’ll become a recurring sister type character to the Winchesters, I am worried that this means we’ll eventually have to suffer through her death, since every female character attached to the brothers is likely to meet a gruesome end.
And I wish I could shake my fearful suspicion about the finale’s episode title, which is cryptically named “Sacrifice”…