Felicia Day returns as Charlie Bradbury in “There's No Place Like Home.” Twice. Day makes each role---one good and one dark---distinctive. Even without the drastically different outfits and hairstyling, we can tell which one is which simply by movement and facial expressions. Her dual performances allow us to slip into the story, connecting with each character in different ways.
Day makes her voice slightly lower when speaking as the Dark version of the character, giving her a menace we've never quite seen in Charlie before. She carries that over into her gestures, making the character stealthy and sleek. We see this in the way she sidles up to Dean in the bar or in how she delivers the line, “If you're not going to ask her to dance, I will.” Day also shows off her ability to pull off fight sequences, something we've only seen hints of in other episodes. She makes it look natural and believable that this side of Charlie could stand up well in a fight to the likes of someone like Dean---at least with the element of surprise at her disposal. Day executes the triangle lock beautifully, setting up a humorous ad-lib from Ackles. When we see the character arrive to confront her parent's murderer, Day shows us there's more to Dark Charlie than bravado, dark wit, and menace. She puts a lot of heart and grit into the moment when she tells Wellington that he took everything from her---and that she forgives him. There's a current of grief underneath the anger that courses through the character, and Day makes this evident best in the way she delivers these lines and in how she carries herself in this scene. We can almost see it radiate off of her character in waves. Even though she's Dark and is a cruel version of Charlie, we can't help but sympathize with her in this heartbreaking moment. She conveys so well the inner pain that Charlie hides about the death of her parents. Dark Charlie, in many ways, becomes the unspoken pain that we've only seen Charlie express under moments of extreme duress. In the second confrontation, Day shows that Dark Charlie is tough even if she's well outmatched.
For the Good Charlie, Day shows us the character lacking most of her strength. She seems more mousy and awkward. The edge that gives Charlie her gumption is simply missing. Day captures this brilliantly in how she carries herself, glancing often away from those she's talking with or in how timid Charlie is when asked to hack the bank account. Good Charlie is all sweetness with no spice, and it works in Day's performance to convey just how much of an imbalance this is---and a stark contrast to the Dark Charlie.
Day has great chemistry with both Ackles and Padalecki. With Ackles, we can see her playing off of him to amp up her Dark character, feeding on the tension. This chemistry also gives great depth to Dark Charlie, tugging out deeper nuances in both the character and in Day's performance. We can see them building tension together---from Dean's growing inner turmoils to Dark Charlie's outpouring of grief and desperation. With Padalecki, Day shows how Good Charlie is a good match for the younger Winchester. In her performance, we can see her drawing out Sam's protectiveness. It's in how they interact both verbally and through body language. Day keeps Charlie close to the younger Winchester, and often gives Padalecki side glances as if Charlie's asking for reassurance from Sam. Now that Charlie has been restored to her balanced self---and has been given the task of finding a book for the brothers---we're left to wonder when we'll next see the honorary Winchester sister.
Jensen Ackles gives us a conflicted Dean in “There's No Place Like Home.” From the start, as he delivers the egg white omelets to the last moment, we can see the battle raging within the elder Winchester. Ackles shows us this in so many non verbal cues this episode. As they prepare to find Charlie, we see Dean's hand shake as he packs a knife. Ackles puts a lost look on his face, showing us how much the Mark is affecting him more and more.
As they trace Charlie's footsteps, Ackles shows us how Dean's anger is also a symptom. The way he loses patience with their first witness conveys this so well. Ackles lets this scene build slowly, keeping it strictly business as he puts forth their routine questions. When he doesn't get the answers he seeks, Ackles shows us Dean starting to become tense in body language. He purses his lips, his eyes narrow, and we can see it building before he truly explodes. When Dean finally pushes the witness physically in his chair, we see that explosion in all its glory. Ackles makes Dean intimidating here, making use of his frame to tower over the witness.
When they meet up with Dark Charlie for the first time, Ackles shows us some humor in the fast fight sequence that takes place. While we're nervous that he may unleash the temper we saw earlier, instead we see him taken by surprise. It leads to a great ad lib thrown in by Ackles as Charlie manages to get him into a pretty effective leg lock. The expression he uses is also quite funny as we see him trying to get out of this. This isn't Ackles only use of humor in the episode. He manages to make us laugh when we see him listening to the self help tape and when he eats the Kale sandwich. The way he tosses the tape and the way he says the line, “What is kale anyways?” captures so much of the Dean we've come to know through the years. As he stalls in Wellington's office, we also can't help but laugh at how ridiculous Dean sounds babbling about his “dream home.” The subtle humor Ackles uses in the line, “I'm willing to buy if you're willing to sell,” just seals the deal for this scene.
Paired with Day's Dark Charlie, Ackles gets to show us more of Dean's struggle with controlling the Mark of Cain. As he's pursuing and keeping her from harming anyone else, we can see him wavering in their encounters. It's in his facial expressions and his body language as he almost seems to lean towards her. At several points, we see his hand shake or him ball his fist close to his body, silently showing us that he's teetering closer to an edge. Ackles also makes it clear that this conflict is waging within when we see him glance at himself in the mirror at the bar. His best scene for this, however, is when we see him sitting outside the office as Dark Charlie confronts Wellington. The way he is focused on handling her sword from Oz shows us that his mind isn't on the situation at hand. His expression takes on a faraway cast, and we know that he's utterly distracted by the Mark's whispering yet again.
In the second confrontation, we see Dean's fighting skill come to the forefront. Without any of the surprise of the first fight, it's clear that Dean has the upper hand. It's in how Ackles seems to tower over Day, and in how he's decisive in delivering all of his stunt hits. Ackles shows us that Dean means business here, quickly finding a way to overpower his opponent as efficiently as he possibly can. That comes out clearly in the way Dean pins Charlie to the ground to break her arm. And while we know this is Dean's skill at work, Ackles shows us that Dean isn't nearly in control as his actions make him seem. He shows this in his cold expression as he relentlessly punches---well after the fight has been won and Dark Charlie's threat neutralized.
The little boy we know so well comes out in the last few minutes of the episode. Ackles shows us all of Dean's guilt as he stares in horror at Charlie---both of them---before the merge. His expression as he sits in the Bunker radiates even more guilt as he knows what he's done. Ackles makes us feel for Dean here as he tells Charlie, “I'm so sorry.” There's a heartbreaking look that crosses his features when Charlie tells him that he's a Winchester and can do this. Ackles shows us that Dean so badly wants to believe this---but just isn't sure he can.
Now we're left to wonder if Dean will actually follow through and prove it to Charlie.
Jared Padalecki plays a confident and patient Sam in “There's No Place Like Home.” He captures all of Sam's drive to continue the search for something to either neutralize the Mark in his conversations with Castiel via phone and in the research montage. Padalecki makes it clear that Sam is focused on the task at hand as they page through the various volumes yet again. He also provides a bit of levity when Ackles sets down the egg white omelets and lists his 12 step program. The way he delivers the line, “That's three steps,” is subtle and warm, showing us that while Sam is supporting his brother at every turn, he's still the little brother who will tease his big brother when the opportunity arises.
When he finds the case surrounding Charlie, we see Padalecki shift gears to serious and business. He's concerned for their friend, particularly after she seems to have come back without telling them---and the video of her actions raise his alarm even further. Padalecki conveys this well in concerned expressions---and after they acquire the file on Charlie, he shows us all of Sam's compassion for their friend as he looks through the various disorders they attribute to the teenaged Charlie. The way he says her real name---Celeste---comes off soft and gentle, as if he's just meeting her for the first time again.
When it comes to Dean, he watches his brother carefully as they interrogate their first witness. The more Dean ratchets up his anger and pressure, the more we see Sam want to intervene. Instead, he waits, holding still and watching closely. Padalecki's expression conveys how tense this moment is for Sam---and while he doesn't want his brother to go too far, he's not going to jump in too soon and make it worse. Instead, we see him provide the patient and quiet presence that he hopes will balance his brother's tense and angry actions.
Padalecki builds on his chemistry with Day as they are paired together for the remainder of the episode. He brings out Sam's protective nature when dealing with Good Charlie, and we see it in how he keeps close to her or how gently he speaks to her. No scene shows this best than when he suggests that he'll be the “bad” one and follow her directions on how to hack the bank accounts. We see it again when she asks about Dean's situation. Padalecki smiles gently and tells her warmly, “I'll tell you on the way.”
When they find themselves confronted with Clive and the Wizard, we see Padalecki first use his tall frame to his advantage. He remains standing as they start to ask Clive about what happened to him in Oz, as if he's silently warning him that he'll keep Charlie safe. Once the Wizard has arrived, we see Padalecki show Sam's silent protection turn to words---especially as he begs, “Let me help my friend!” He puts every ounce of Sam's concern, compassion, and determination into this line.
Padalecki's best moments, however, come in the final minutes of the episode. The way he cradles Day after Charlie is made whole captures so much of his performance in this episode. He is the kind and compassionate protector, going to her when she needs him the most. And when the dust has settled some at the Bunker, we see Padalecki show us all of Sam's hope when he delivers the line, “She's right, Dean. You can do this. We can do this.”
Now that they have new found hope in the search for The Book of the Damned, we're left to wonder how Sam will face these challenges.
Best Lines of the Week:
Sam: She's right, Dean. You can do this. We can do this.
Charlie: Good? Bad? I think I'll just settle for balanced.
Dean: What are you saying Charlie tortured someone? Our Charlie, yay high? Wouldn't hurt a hobbit, practically sparkles.
Dean: What is kale?
Next week, Dean gets to relive his teenage years.