I don’t care what anyone says, I am thoroughly enjoying Supernatural’s eighth season. I have always liked the MOTW format, so I really dig that we’re getting back to that. I have also said that Supernatural works best when Sam and Dean’s relationship is the focus of the season, and I think it is certainly the focus this season. However, one of the side effects of the Boys relationship being front and center is that the Supernatural family becomes very, um, vocal about how each character is being written. Inevitably Samgirls feel like Sam is being demonized; Deangirls feel like Dean is being demonized; Casgirls feel like nobody respects the profound bond that he and Dean share; and Bobbygirls just sob because they miss Bobby so much. I can’t blame the Bobbygirls on that one actually. At any rate, let me be clear: I am not a Samgirl, Deangirl, Casgirl, or Bobbygirl. I am a Supernaturalgirl. I love all of these characters and I think they each add something to this story. That being said, there are a few things I want to mention about “Southern Comfort.”
Supernatural has the tendency to hit the audience over the head with the Boys’ issues by having their case of the week directly deal with whatever is bugging the brothers this week. Some people have a problem with this, but I don’t. I think sometimes life works out that way, so I don’t mind it working that way in the Supernatural universe. I especially don’t mind it when the case/monster/whatever is engaging which this spectre was. The only thing I didn’t particularly care for regarding the case was showing us how the possessed penny got from the Confederate soldier’s grave into Dean’s hand. Once they told us it was the penny, it doesn’t really matter how it got passed from person to person. It only matters that it got passed around and, believe it or not, I think we’re smart enough to figure out how it got from point A to point B. Another little issue I have is the soap opera stares off into the distance every time Sam flashes back to his time with Amelia (who I’ll discuss in a minute). I don’t know if they intended those scenes to be as hilarious as I find them, but they need to just stop. The transitions are much more effective when one of the characters walks toward the camera and we disappear into a flashback. For example, in “Blood Brother” after Dean takes out a vampire in the hallway, he walks toward the camera until he blocks the shot and that’s the transition into a Purgatory flashback. Much more effective and much less comical. Speaking of Sam…
I’m…confused about Sam. On the one hand, I can understand why Sam ran. Dean is the rock that Sam leans on. With all the loss the Winchesters have suffered over the years, Dean was always there to hold Sam up and vise versa. After Dean disappeared at the end of last season, the earth shifted out from under Sam’s feet. The one constant in his life was gone to parts unknown. He had no one left. So yeah. He ran. Sam has always dealt with things (or rather doesn’t deal with them) by running away, so his explanation here that that’s why he ran makes sense. It’s true to Sam’s character. What doesn’t make sense is how Sam doesn’t understand why Dean won’t kill Benny. During that first conversation about Benny, Sam said he understood that Dean had to team up with Benny to survive Purgatory but now that they’re topside and Dean doesn’t need Benny anymore he should’ve killed him. That’s just not the way Dean operates. It’s never been the way Dean operates, and Sam should know that. One of my favorite characteristics about Dean is his loyalty, and that’s not something he just hands out like Halloween candy. Once you’ve earned it, he will move heaven and earth for you. Dean is right that Sam can’t possibly understand Purgatory. It’s not like Hell. It’s not like being stuck in the cage. Purgatory is its own experience, and it’s an experience that Dean and Benny shared. Benny is, for the moment at least, the only person topside that can truly understand what Dean went through in Purgatory. I honestly don’t understand how Sam can’t recognize that. Furthermore, Sam comparing Benny to Amy isn’t a fair comparison. Benny hasn’t killed any people. He’s drinking donated blood to survive. Amy, on the other hand, had killed 4 people. I’ve always believed that Dean made the right call on Amy, and Sam just threw that in Dean’s face because he’s angry about Dean lying to him. As far as Sam knows, Benny hasn’t done anything to anyone so why is he so gung ho to kill him?
Dean has so many pent up emotions I’m surprised that he hasn’t given himself an ulcer by now. He never really confronts his feelings so much as he pushes them to the side so he can keep going. Since he never confronts them, he’s never able to work through/get past them. So even when he says that he’s over something, he’s really not because all he’s done is put a pin in it. So in this episode when he got possessed and unloaded on Sam, that was years of feelings of betrayal, disappointment, resentment, and anger coming out of him. Everything Dean said needed to be said, but it was still painful to watch him hurt Sam like that. Everything that Dean said was true (with the exception of the stuff from when Sam was soulless) and it’s stuff that he really should’ve said a long time ago. Sam and Dean’s biggest problem is that they really do not communicate. They talk AT each other instead of TO each other which leaves each of them feeling like their voice hasn’t been heard. So nothing gets worked out because they haven’t ever really talked about it. It also doesn’t help that every time they get into an argument, Sam threatens to leave Dean. He knows that’s Dean’s greatest fear, and he regularly uses it to make Dean fall in line. So whether Dean is in the wrong or not (and he wasn’t wrong here), he apologizes so Sam won’t leave. I also thought that Sam’s threat to kill Benny was completely unnecessary and it was his effort to “win” their argument. It doesn’t make sense to me that Sam would set up a situation where Dean has to choose between him and Benny. Especially when he knows that he’s been the center of Dean’s universe their whole lives. Something that struck me about that scene was Dean’s reaction to Sam’s threat. Dean gave him the ice cold stare that he usually only reserves for monsters and other creepy crawlies. I don’t recall ever seeing Dean look at Sam that way, and I’m not entirely sure what it means yet but it can’t be good.
Now let’s talk about Garth. Some folks don’t like his character, but I love Garth. I didn’t love the episode in which he was introduced. As a matter of fact, I’m still trying to pretend that S7, TFAW didn’t actually happen. But I digress. I liked Garth from the beginning. He’s an efficient enough hunter (as evidenced by the fact that he’s still alive), but he’s also extremely adorkable and hilarious. Introducing him as the “new Bobby” was a bold step to take. And it worked for me. We learned from S6 “Weekend at Bobby’s” just how much the entire hunting community depended on Bobby, so it stands to reason that his death (*sob*) would leave a massive void. Just as an aside, one thing SPN hasn’t ever really done is show us just how broad the scope of the hunting community is. But the fact that Bobby was obviously the go-to guy for most of them lets us see just how important he was. But anyways. Back to “Southern Comfort.” When I first heard that Garth was going to be the “new Bobby” I was concerned because you can’t just replace Bobby. However, after watching this episode I realize that Garth isn’t the new Bobby. Garth is still Garth. He’s just the guy who stepped up to the plate when no one else would. Why? Because that’s what Bobby would’ve done. He had a lot of respect for Bobby and, in his own way, he’s trying to honor Bobby’s memory. Garth picking up Bobby’s job and catchphrases is much like Dean dressing and talking like John. I can totally understand the Boys’ (especially Dean’s) reaction to Garth’s new job responsibilities, but I really liked that Garth reminded Dean that he and Sam weren’t the only ones who lost Bobby. If Dean had had time to properly mourn for Bobby, maybe he wouldn’t have been quite so hostile toward Garth. Ok. Maybe he would have because he’s Dean, but the fact remains that Dean hasn’t really had time to properly grieve Bobby whatwith going to Purgatory and all. But I don’t think he’s ever considered that other hunters might miss Bobby just as much as he does. I like that Garth is now the hunter giving out advice and I really like DJ Qualls’ chemistry with Jensen and Jared. Also, I have been saying for years that the Supernatural universe needs to be repopulated, so it’s nice to have a recurring character show up from time to time.
Now on to Amelia. You know, I am really trying to like her. I mean I REALLY am, but the writers aren’t giving me much to work with. Last week, they did an ok job of softening her for me. They gave her a little depth, but even then she came off as kind of self-righteous. This episode didn’t do anything to quash those thoughts. It’s totally understandable that she would want to leave the place and the people the reminded her of her dead husband. But what I didn’t get was her hostility toward Sam after they slept together and she told him about her loss. Before Sam could say or do anything, she jumped on him about pitying her even though he wasn’t. Empathy and pity aren’t the same thing and he was empathizing with her because he truly understood what she was going through. Then when Sam came back and tried to explain to her that he didn’t pity her, she snarkily said that now she pitied him. Once again she came across as mean-spirited and self-righteous. Very unlikable. And because Amelia is so unlikable, that made the Sam/Amelia flashback parts of the episode tedious. My friend Katrina suggests I just give Amelia a little more time to grow on me, and I’m trying. But unless there are drastic changes in her character, she’s going solidly in the ‘don’t like her’ category.
Despite my couple of nitpicks, I enjoyed “Southern Comfort.” I have enjoyed season 8 thus far. As much as I hate to see my Winchester boys fight, they absolutely needed to. And unlike the Amy storyline from last season, I feel like this conflict is organic to the story and makes some sort of sense given everything they’ve gone through. All in all, very solid episode.