The 21st episode of Season 10 of Supernatural, “Dark Dynasty,” lives up to its name. Heed our warning—“Dark Dynasty” is full of gore, lies, and heartbreak. On the fun side, we get a cool literary reference and new monster lore. Not that it makes up for the extremely distressing ending. We don’t normally warn about spoilers because if something is called a “recap” the spoiler aspect is pretty much implied, but here we will warn you: watch the episode, have yourself a good cry, then come back and read this recap.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Who Doesn’t Love Participating in Clinical Trials?
A woman volunteers for a research experiment about eyesight. We suspect the experiment is not what she thinks. As the researcher examines her eyes, the Styne family crest tattooed on his wrist is revealed. That can’t be good. Before the volunteer can sign any consent forms, Researcher Styne slices her throat and then … no! We really don’t need to see a gross eyeball removal. This isn’t Criminal Minds. It turns out Researcher Styne wasn’t sneaky enough, and he has to jump out the third-story window when the janitor comes in.
Researcher Styne, aka Eldon, gets scolded by his father for messing up the “harvesting.” Papa Styne reminds Eldon, “The whole key to our success all these centuries is secrecy.” Eldon hasn’t been himself since his brother Jacob was killed. Now him, we liked. Jacob had an enticing accent and a menacing manner, but these other Stynes have an unpleasant Aryan Nation business club feel about them. Eldon tells his father, “I’m filled with regret, sir.” Daddy is dubious and so are we. Papa Styne tells Eldon to clean up his mess and to track down the Winchesters and the Book of the Damned. Eldon responds, “It will be done.” So formal, these Stynes. Eldon’s cousin Eli wants to get in on the action. Papa Styne, aka Uncle Monroe, directs him to find the red-headed girl whom Jacob was tracking. NO! Not Charlie. Leave her alone, you jerks!
Lies and the Lying Winchester who Tells Them
Rowena is not making any progress on the Book of the Damned and Sam is freaking out. She asks, “You remember the deal, do you not, Samuel?” We love it when she calls him, “Samuel.” Why don’t more villains refer to Sam this way? That’s exactly what we call our brother when we want to annoy him. Sam tells Rowena he’s more than happy to kill Crowley, but it looks like he won’t need to fulfill his part of the deal anytime soon. Apparently the Codex is coded and Rowena can’t crack it.
Sam arrives back at the bunker. Dean asks him if there’s a woman he hasn’t mentioned, since he’s been staying out all night and running off on his own the last couple weeks. Well … sort of. Sam weakly tries to convince Dean he’s just doing his own thing, but no one’s buying it. Dean’s been looking into the Styne family, but can only track them back to the 1800s. While researching, Dean found a case—a woman with her eyes cut out. What a coinkydink!
Welcome to Sam’s Web of Lies
Charlie meets with Sam at the roadside in the middle of nowhere. She asks him why they are meeting in Nowheresville when she could have met him at “the Death Star.” Best bunker nickname ever. Charlie learns that Sam still has the Book of the Damned and has been keeping it secret from Dean. Sam needs Charlie’s help to decode the Codex. He tells her she’ll gets to work with our other favorite redhead, Rowena, whom he describes as “one of the most dangerous witches in the world.” Lucky Rowena didn’t hear that, as her ego hardly fits in her basement prison as is.
Rowena is not excited to have an assistant, and Sam points out that she is actually Charlie’s assistant. Sam explains, “Listen. Charlie has tech chops that’ll speed up cracking Nadya’s Codex. You will spot the ancient curses and spells, and that’ll put this whole mess in context.” Then, in walks Castiel! Is this some kind of joke? (A witch, a hunter, a computer hacker, and an angel walk into a basement …) Rowena asks Castiel if he’s a witch or nerd, and she seems genuinely surprised when he responds, “Angel.” Castiel’s job is to safeguard the work from Rowena. Sam needs Cas because he can’t be there full-time to referee. Castiel asks, Well, what are the rules? If I’m gonna referee, I should at least know them.” Rowena tells Castiel the first rule of smite club is don’t talk about it to Dean. Castiel and Charlie agree that keeping secrets from Dean never ends well. Will Sam never learn the lesson Good Charlie tried to impart? “Dudes. Secrets are bad.”
Rowena and Charlie are not getting along. The ancient witch makes a modern joke by coughing “overrated” into her hand in reference to Charlie’s computer. Charlie asks Rowena about Agnes, the author of the Book of the Damned. Agnes was a hermit nun was mad who burned alive by the church hierarchy. Rowena describes the process Agnes used to undo a curse: “As in any struggle between good and evil, balance is required. To cure one curse, Agnes had to know how to inflict another. They live side-by-side in the magic world. One cannot be without the other.” Rowena tries to convince Charlie they are not so different, both being outsiders like Agnes, but Charlie does not agree. Rowena admits she differs from Charlie when it comes to her “blind devotion” to the Winchesters.
Rowena: “You’ve made them the family you don’t have. Foolish.”
Charlie: “Sam and Dean are like my brothers. I love them.”
Rowena: “I know. And that steadfast loyalty will be your undoing, my girl.”
Where’s Castiel when you need him to make one of his awkward but accurate comments, like: “That’s probably true.”
Where’s my Mummy?
Crowley learns that Rowena has disappeared and tells his minion to find her. So sweet that he cares. Later Crowley interrogates hamster witch Olivette. Crowley gets frustrated with Olivette, barking, “Look, I get it. She’s unpleasant. She’s horrible. She has a messy workstation. What’s the dirt?” Olivette squeaks the beans that Rowena apparently had a demon lover. Crowley gets some more information that we don’t understand because we don’t speak hamster. Crowley calls out, “I need a minion,” and sends a demon on a mission to find someone named by Olivette.
Investigating the Stynes
Sam and Dean visit the scene of the eyeball removal. The building manager shows them a surveillance video that helps identify the killer as a Styne. Those tattoos are a total giveaway. After they leave, Eldon Styne shows up, which is bad news for the building manager. As Sam and Dean drive back to the bunker, they try to figure out why the Stynes would be involved in this murder.
Dean: “All I can say is, I’m glad we burned that damn book. At least they can’t get their mitts on that.”
Sam: “Yeah. Uh, what about you? How you doing?”
Dean: “Oh, you mean the thing? Yeah. Yeah. You know, some dark thoughts, creepy visions, violent urges. Same old same old. I’m happy I got a murder to focus on, though.”
After this awkward conversation, we see that someone is following the Winchesters.
Castiel has never been very good at deception, but when Dean intercepts Castiel’s call to Sam he is even worse than usual. Dean suspects something is going on. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to deceive you. Dean leaves the bunker to pick up pizza and finds himself cornered by hard-to-kill Stynes. Despite this, Dean is able to capture researcher and eyeball scooper Eldon Styne.
Dean brings Eldon Styne back to the bunker for a Winchester interrogation. The hostage sees the Mark of Cain on Dean’s arm and conveys his sympathies. Dean really needs to stop rolling up his shirt sleeves. Eldon goes on and on about his family and all they have done. He claims that their power doesn’t come from the Book of the Damned, which they haven’t had for the last 80 years, but with it they’re unstoppable. When Dean asks Eldon why he took the girl’s eyes, we learn that the Stynes harvest body parts to enhance their physicality. He lifts his shirt and shows Dean his big scar from having a second heart transplanted. Eldon is one chatty Cathy. He tells Dean that their original family is the house of Frankenstein. Whaaa??!!?? Mary Shelley apparently stumbled upon their secret and they had to go underground after she wrote her novel. Dean asks who big daddy Frankenstein is, and Eldon tells him that they do have some secrets. It’s hard to imagine the Stynes are able to conceal anything, with Eldon tendency to overshare. While Sam is out of the room talking to Cas on the phone, Eldon tells Dean that the Book of the Damned cannot be destroyed by fire—it is eternal. Sam’s in big trouble now. Dean goes out to confront Sam, but gets distracted when Eldon rips his own arm off in order to escape. Super gross.
Who Can Concentrate with all that Cackling?
Rowena is not the study buddy Charlie had hoped for: “I am doing my best, but with her criticizing, breathing down my neck, trying to sign me up for team witch—oh, and moaning how the one good year for music was 1723—I am going crazy.” Charlie tells Castiel she’s got a bad feeling and she needs to get away from Rowena for an hour or two to work.
Castiel locks up Rowena in a different room to give Charlie some space. When he returns to check on her, Charlie is gone. Charlie has gone to a motel, registered as Carrie Asimov, for some private time to work on the Codex. The peace and quiet of the Blackbird Motel helps Charlie to break the code. Her alone time doesn’t last for long, because the Stynes have found her.
Back at the bunker, Dean confronts Sam about his lies regarding the Book of the Damned. Before Dean can really tear into him, Cas calls to say that Charlie is gone.
The Stynes start to pound on the door. Charlie locks herself in the bathroom and calls the Winchesters. Dean tells her to give the Stynes whatever they want and she replies, “I can’t do that, Dean.” She doesn’t have the Book of the Damned, but she has her notes. She uploads her notes, sends them, and destroys her computer. Eldon Styne breaks down the bathroom door and Charlie pulls out her knife. The Winchesters frantically drive to the motel, arguing the whole time. They arrive, only to find Charlie dead.
“Dark Dynasty” Review
Just when we were getting used to Charlie as a series regular they had to take her away from us. Sure, there was foreshadowing and precedent, but you never really believe that Supernatural is going to kill off a regular character until it actually happens. And even then you don’t really believe it. We kept thinking Castiel with his newly restored grace would pop in at the motel, but the truth is we haven’t seen much of that kind of thing since the fall of the angels. Though we hope there will be some kind of miracle, we can’t help but feel like this is it for Charlie. We will miss her pop culture references and fun energy. Supernatural will feel the loss of Felicia Day, who has brought so much to the role, particularly during Season 10 with episodes “There’s No Place Like Home” and “Book of the Damned.”
Despite Dean Winchester not being in the main storyline, the subtleties of Jensen Ackles’ acting really enhanced the episode. The looks he gave Sam throughout the episode got increasingly hostile, with a stare of pure indignation toward the end. The show seems aware of how exasperated the audience gets about the Winchesters lying to each other, yet look for new ways to use one deceiving the other as a storyline. In this case, they took a bit of a meta approach by having characters like Bobby, Charlie, and Castiel voice the audience’s frustration about the futility of their lies. It was good to see Jared Padalecki get more of a role in the last few episodes, but we couldn’t have taken another episode of Sam deceiving Dean.
Rowena (Ruth Connell) and Charlie (Felicia Day) were great together, but Rowena really stole their scenes. Best case scenario, Rowena creates a spell to bring Charlie back as her sister witch. Castiel could barely hold his own with these two women. Misha Collins dealing with the two warring women is pretty fun to watch (“She is a wicked witch …”). It was also nice to have Crowley back. Only Mark Sheppard can create such a great scene with only a hamster to converse with.
This heartbreaking episode was directed by Robert Singer and written by the team of Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, who brought us the excellent episodes “Soul Survivor” and “The Hunter Games.” The Season 10 finale is around the corner, and through the tragedy of Charlie’s death in “Dark Dynasty,” Supernatural has let us know they mean business.
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