Review of Episode 8×06: Southern Comfort
Overall: Honestly, it’s hard to know what to say about this one. There was so much in it that I loved: the main storyline, the performances, heck, even the dead soldier (he looked great!). I loved how this episode dealt with Bobby’s memory, and I loved the flashback showing how the old penny changed (<-unintentional pun) hands. There was just one piece that didn’t fit – one element that ruined an otherwise excellent episode, and it’s the same thing I (and numerous other fans) have been complaining about all along:
After weeks of holding out hope that there was something more to the story, that the writers wouldn’t treat a beloved character so badly, that surely, any episode now, we would see the one flashback we’ve all been waiting for: Sam, scouring the Internet for clues to Dean’s whereabouts, calling up random people in Bobby’s journal who might be able to supply a lead…after all that, it looks like the show is going with the version it gave way back in 8×01. AKA, the ludicrous, completely unbelievable version: Sam really, truly did not look for Dean.
My response: ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?
Dean: I thought he was pretty straightforward in answering Sam’s questions about Benny. I could understand Dean being annoyed when Garth kept saying all those Bobby quotes (and even wore one of Bobby’s hats!), but Garth did not deserve Dean’s too-harsh, emotionally-charged reactions. I felt for poor Garth when Dean finally pushed him to tears. He was absolutely right that Bobby belonged not just to Sam and Dean, but to an entire community of hunters, who relied on him for everything from Wendigo advice to FBI credentials. That was something Dean needed to hear, and Garth (in all his Bobby-ishness) was the perfect person to knock Dean back into line. The ending, with Garth saying “idjit” and “balls” in proper Bobby fashion, and Dean placing the hat on Garth’s head, was a perfect conclusion to this little storyline between the two of them.
As far as the “main” storyline, it made perfect sense that the spectre was attracted to Dean: the soldier’s feud was with his own brother, and Dean has brother issues to the moon and back. I didn’t really have too much of a problem with what possessed!Dean said, except for the parts where he blamed Sam for soulless-Sam’s actions. I don’t know why he’d still be holding a grudge after he found out it wasn’t really Sam who did those things. I guess grudges don’t necessarily have to make logical sense all of the time. Dean spent a year thinking Sam was dead (and yes, Dean did try to bring Sam back during that time), settled into a life with Lisa, and then had everything ripped away when Sam popped back in to say “hey,” so I guess that would be a hard series of events to get over. Still, not Sam’s fault.
Of course, it was difficult to hear Dean say, “Benny’s been more of a brother to me than you’ve ever been” – a line no doubt designed to provoke outcry from the fans – but knowing all that these brothers have been through together, the sentiment just doesn’t ring true. This whole storyline of “Sam didn’t look for Dean. Now, Dean is back and he’s pissed. Cue: Brother VS. Brother” – has the same contrived feeling that much of season four did. Back then, I felt like the writers were forcing the characters in an unnatural direction, rather than letting Sam and Dean lead the way, and that was the first time I ever distanced myself from the show. The performances in that season were excellent. Even the episodes, on an individual basis, were pretty darn awesome. But the growing rift between the brothers, leading to an eventual knock-down-drag-out-Sam-half-choking-Dean fight, just didn’t quite have the level of emotional believability that had made the show one of my favorites. I remember watching the fallout between the bros and thinking, “I don’t completely buy it.” At least I was close to buying it, though. It was almost purchasable. What the writers seem to be selling now, with regards to Sam’s character, isn’t something I would pick up out of a “FREE” bin at a garage sale – but more on that when we get to Sam.
As for Dean, I think we were all wishing that he would overpower the spectre and save Sam himself, without Garth having to intervene, but it wasn’t to be. The spectre was too strong, or Dean has too many issues. Assuming all of those things he mentioned are things he still holds grudges about, then Dean does, indeed, need to “own up to his crap” and sort things out, just to avoid another dangerous incident like this in the future.
Sam: His anger over Benny – understandable. Comparing Benny to Amy – also understandable. Saying he might just be the hunter to chop Benny’s head off – a little on the cold side, but he was mad. The very notion that he would do jack squat to find his missing brother – not remotely plausible.
The writers have done this character (and his fans) such a disservice with this storyline. In 8×06, Sam said to Dean, “I told you why I didn’t look for you.” Actually, Sam, you didn’t: you said you panicked after Dean disappeared (okay), drove away (okay), hit a dog (not okay, but it happens), and then…settled in at a motel with the dog, eventually accepted that Dean was truly and forever gone (based on no evidence that we’ve heard so far), and proceeded to enter into a relationship with a girl named Amelia (?????). I’ve already repeatedly stated that this in no way fits Sam’s character, so I’m not going to say it again. Instead, for the very first time ever, I will be rewriting canon:
From now on, in my head, Sam spent his time at the motel doing research while he watched over the recovering dog. He called Joshua and a bunch of other people, and they did their own research. Eventually, one by one, all of the contacts called him back with the same conclusion – the powerful God weapon that destroyed Dick, also destroyed Dean and Cass. Their earthly bodies had been incinerated away to nothing by the blast, and there would be no bringing them back. Ever. Sam cried as the overwhelming evidence began to sink in. The dog limped over and licked his hand. Sam made the decision to give up hunting, and tried to figure out what to do next. He got a job as a repair man, and crossed paths with Amelia again. Their losses gave them a common bond, and they hooked up.
This way, when Sam tells her that his whole world shattered at the loss of Dean, I can believe him. He tried, he failed, he had to move on. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
Garth: This actor did such a great job in the episode. I wasn’t a huge Garth fan before this, but I am now. His emotion when talking about Bobby, his sensitivity when speaking to possessed!Dean (“You don’t want to hurt Sam…You’ve been protecting him your whole life – don’t stop now.”) were just so right on the mark. He was far and away the best thing about the episode, and I look forward to seeing him (and hearing him say “Balls!”) again in future episodes. The decision to give this actor some serious, emotional material to chew on was excellent. Five stars and a round of applause.
Amelia: I still like her – she was fine in this one. (It’s not her fault Sam got a stupid storyline). I even thought she was pretty funny, with the line “Now I pity you.” I’d still like to know about whatever break-up/parting-of-ways thing happened between her and Sam. I’m sure they’ll show it eventually, unlike the Sam-looking-for-Dean flashback, which now seems like a long-shot. My only issue with Amelia’s story in this ep was her husband enlisting out of the blue without telling her. Who does that? Is there something more to that story, something possibly related to the current story? I’d like to think so, but I don’t have a ton of confidence right now.
Looking ahead: I hope the writers surprise me and make me eat my words with regards to Sam’s storyline. I would grin like a fool. I’m still excited about Benny, and the possibility for future run-ins with the brothers. After the last ep, Benny was awfully sympathetic. Methinks he has probably either done something bad that Dean doesn’t know about, or is about to. I’m looking forward to learning more about what happened to Cass, and I’m eager to have the Sam storyline either corrected, or left in the dust. Amelia is welcome to come join the current timeline and stir things up a bit (the actress is probably sick of shooting flashbacks by now) and Garth is MORE than welcome to come back anytime, every time, and talk some sense into our two favorite idjits.