Monday, 12 November 2012
Review - Supernatural 8.06 "Southern Comfort"
Ouch. That smarts. This episode made my stomach hurt. Then I realised I’d eaten a whole box of Anzac cookies out of nerves! So maybe the tummy ache was too much sugar. But the heartache was certainly Winchestery.
I’m not much of a fan of Adam Glass, he’s a patchy writer whom for me, has seldom delivered and consequently, I have little faith in him. Garth is a character that I've not been enamoured with. He's been too clownish and two-dimensional. He's been comic relief and I wasn’t interested in him in any way in either of the episodes he was featured in (neither of which I particularly liked). But, both of these things changed with “Southern Comfort”.
For once I think Adam Glass got a good deal right. It wasn’t perfect, there was a little too much procedural goings on for my liking, the spectre story at the centre was a little….meh and rather heavy handed in its parallel between the Winchester brothers and the two waring brothers on opposing sides of the civil war, but then, the spectre story wasn’t the real story was it? The brother stuff, which I feel Glass has failed abysmally at in the past, was what elevated this episode and had me, well, eating too many cookies out of angst! I found the brother stuff to be right on the money.
Garth. Garth was a little breath of fresh air. I liked his sincere attempts to emulate a man he obviously loved and respected. That he stepped in to fill a roll, left empty by the death of Bobby, in support of his hunter community. He got a lot wrong. I laughed every time Dean corrected him. That’s not how you wear the hat, say balls, use idjit. But in the end, I think Dean saw that where Garth was coming from, was honest and heartfelt and he wasn’t trying to replace a man that Sam and Dean care about and miss deeply. This Garth can come back, not too often, but I’d be cool if we saw him again this season. He’s smart and sensible, sweet and perceptive, gives good advice and is so trouble free that he could pick up that penny. That was my very favourite part. Oh, and he’s a hugger. Naww.
So yeah, I enjoyed this episode a lot more than I expected to. I was very pleasantly surprised to say the least. For me it continued what I think is an epically good run of strong episodes and a rocking start to season 8. It was as painful as hell in parts, but it was that good pain that I kind of like, because I’m weird like that.
So let’s get to it huh? Those ghost hunting bros….
It makes my proud of this show that 8 seasons in, I can still get so upset over the emotional struggles of Sam and Dean Winchester. That I’m that invested. That I’m still there with them, exploring their relationship, their issues past and present, their individual characters and the differences between them. That they can still infuriate me to the point of very bad language, but that I can still see through my frustrations to their love and to my love of them. Both of them. It’s got to a point that they pretty much need a Sherpa to carry their baggage, but I’m willing to help them lug it and hopefully watch them unpack it and toss some stuff out as the season progresses. Geesh, I think I over did that analogy!
I’ve been waiting for this blow-up…for a few seasons actually. It was TIME! There’s been so much unsaid and shoved down deep between the brothers. There’s so much they haven’t dealt with and all of that crap is affecting what’s happening in their world right now. Neither has told the other much about their year apart, even if they think they have, so they’re both in the dark and muddling their way through this latest murky emotional terrain and doing a piss poor job of it I might add!
Sam says to Dean that he’s been straight up with him from the jump and told him why he didn’t look for him. But has he? Has he really? No. He told Dean he found something, something he's never had before, which to Dean means I found something better and I chose that over you. I’m not saying in any way that’s how Sam feels, you all know my ideas around Sam this season, lord knows I’ve pontificated enough on the matter, but Dean is a bundle of insecurity who has always felt like everyone leaves him and that he’s not worthy of love. John Winchester has a lot to answer for (I really must get on that new thread about him). Even right back in “Skin”, the shifter inhabiting Dean’s fine form said, “Sooner or later everybody’s gonna leave me.” I don’t think Dean’s thinking on this has changed. I think he’s still terrified Sam will leave him. So Sam saying, “I found something” doesn’t cut the mustard. What he should be saying is what he said to Amelia, “It felt like my world imploded and came raining down on me and I ran.” This is what Dean needs to hear. This and more. I applaud Sam for reminding Dean of Amelia’s name, I think that was all about stopping Dean calling her, "a girl", she was more important to Sam than just "a girl" and I'm glad that he told Dean that they'd lived together. Good. That’s a start. But that’s still not letting Dean know that HE was missed and that it messed with Sam’s head. That’s what Dean needs right now. He needs that reassurance that he’s still important to Sam and that he wasn’t forgotten, simply left behind or replaced.
I’m not just picking on Sam. Dean hasn’t told Sam anything about his year either, so how’s Sam supposed to understand. It’s bitchy to say “I highly doubt you get anything about Purgatory” when you haven’t offered anything. But I get that, it’s Hell all over again and who wants to rehash that kind of pain, but Benny is another issue. He hasn’t told Sam why he’s friends with Benny. He hasn’t told him Benny saved his skin more than once, or that he also saved Castiel. He’s said he wouldn’t be topside without Benny, but he hasn’t explained the hows and whys. Sam’s been open to monsters being friendlies before, right back to season 2’s Lenore, so it’s not like if it was all lain out for him, he wouldn’t be open to it.
Dean’s tirade under the influence of the spectre lacked resonance for me because it was just that, under the influence of the spectre. Bummer. The spectre caused white-hot rage, so we don’t know to what level his feelings were enhanced. I don’t doubt that Dean still has issues around the whole Ruby thing and Sam being back for a year without telling him thing…though I think any anger over anything Sam did when soulless needs to be let go of immediately, even if the hurt can’t be. I think these are things we all know he's hung on to, but do I think that he believes what he said about Benny being a better brother than Sam ever was? Absolutely not, he's just super mad now at Sam for the whole not looking for him thing and this is how that's coming out. He's seeing Benny as having his back for the past year and Sam not and those feelings were released under the influence of the spectre. I think Sam has proven his love for Dean, just as Dean has proven his love for Sam and I think they're still proving it. In the past, they've both been there for each other over and over. The fact that Dean is so hurt by Sam’s actions while Dean was in Purgatory, proves how important Sam and Sam’s love is to him. This kind of anger is born of love. The worst and truly hurtful arguments are ones you have with those you love most. I don’t think Dean would say any of that stuff if he wasn’t possessed by a spirit or something – whether that’s good or bad I can’t decide. It’s a bit sad that he needs to have that kind of push to open up I guess. But then as I said, we can’t be sure to the level of amplification of those emotions. Obviously they're there, but are they there to that extent? I mean, Mrs Lew was pretty surprised her husband's highschool fling was brought up all these years down the track. I'm not sure that the feelings that made her kill her husband were feelings she was even aware of. Are we to believe that her resentment of Ms Allcott outweighs the love she feels for her husband after 34 years of marriage? Hmmm. The spectre grabbed on to your resentment, obliterating everything else. The resentments are there, but so is the love and other feelings, it's just under the spectre's influences only the resentment can be felt. At least that's my take on it. So though there's truth to the feelings, they're not the only feelings, just the only one's that can be felt while possessed. It's the big, a penny for your thoughts thing right? And I guess maybe, the penny dropped.
Next time Dean get's a chance to lay it on the line, I’m hoping it just comes from inside him with all his emotions intact, so he can at least say his piece rationally and not because of some supernatural influence that highlights just one side.
So, though all sorts of other crappy issues were raised up by that damn penny, the two that are at the heart of the matter are the two from this season and it’s the brother’s lack of sharing of their individual experiences that has got them to this point. I think, when you look at both of these issues, it may boil down to one thing for both brothers, Sam feels Dean is choosing Benny over Sam, Dean feels Sam chose a girl over Dean. Dean has issues around abandonment and his own self worth and Sam’s always worried his brother couldn’t love him and would only see him as a monster because of his demon blood. It’s not about jealousy it’s about insecurities and I think both the brothers are currently playing into each other’s dysfunctions astoundingly well. Nice job boys.
For me the only bit that really irked me was right at the end of the brother’s fight outside. Sam had every right to tell Dean to stop rubbing his face in “the year off” and get off his “high and mighty.” Dean was continually getting in his little jibes and that can get old real quick, but Dean said, “Ok, I hear you” and it should have ended there. But Sam had to say that line about Benny and flare the whole fight right back up again. I literally yelled at my TV. I know he was hurt and over it and drawing a line in the sand and all, but It was just…ugh. If he really needed to say it, he probably could have framed it better. Dean said he killed Amy because he knew Sam couldn’t. Whether that’s true or not, I’ve long ago stopped caring. Amy had killed, four times that they know of and Dean put her down and he says it’s because Sam couldn’t. Fine. If Sam had not phrased his statement about killing Benny through narky anger, maybe it would have been taken in a different way. He could have said, “Ok I get it, if he messes up, you won’t be able to kill him, so if it comes to it, I will.” But you know what, no, because in reality, he should have just left that one at Dean’s “Ok, I hear you” and given Dean a chance to prove that maybe he did hear Sam instead of throwing Benny all up in Dean’s face again. It was like; I gotta get in the final word. I don’t care how frustrated he is with his brother, to me that undermined everything Sam said to Dean prior to that. I think Sam’s way more of an emotional mess than Dean at this point and he’s way more angry. To be honest, outside of Dean's rehashing of stuff while being inhabited by the spectre, I'm kind of at a loss why Sam is quite as angry as he is. I get why Dean is up in arms, but surely the Benny friendship is not the worst thing that Dean's ever done. It seems odd for Sam to not at least have a little leeway with that one. He just seems angrier about it than he should be. I guess it's more about the lie, I think that's why he was angry about Amy, more the lie than the act, or maybe Dean was right, maybe he does blame Dean for dragging him back to the life…if not the first time around, maybe he does this time around.
This fracking Amy thing man. When will it end. The only good thing about it is that at the end of all this, I’ll be able edit together all the uses of the name Amy and make it into my ringtone! Silver lining.
Neither of the brothers is a saint and neither is sin free. I don’t point the blame at either of them for past choices and by the way, I loved that that word was used in this episode, “Choices.” They live in an extreme world and they can’t always make the right call. They are very different individuals who have always approached things from different angles and who have always wanted different things. Their flaws, of which they both have plenty, is what makes them so very beautiful. It’s because of their flaws we love them more right?
The bottom line here is about communication and they’ve always been shite at it. Obviously nothing’s changed but then, how much do we really change once we get to a certain age and who ever really tells the complete truth to family members, or is that just me? Who amongst us hasn’t omitted something because we know someone isn’t going to like it, or it’s going to hurt them, or change how they see us, so we bury it? These guys are like everyone else as far as I can see, it’s just, this is a TV show, so it's amped up!
I don’t mind the conflict if I feel it can help them move forward. I wish Dean had remembered what he said, but then, he could always get Garth on the blower and ask him, though Dean being Dean, I think he’d rather forget. I don’t think this is the last of this kind of ‘conversation’ they’ll have, I don’t think it’s going to be put on the back burner, I think this is the first step in bringing these guys to a more healthy, grown up place, towards accepting each other’s choices, mistakes and differences. I think we’ll see more of this before it gets better. It feels like it’s just the start. It feels like this is the first chapter. Let’s just keep airing those grievances boys, though I better make sure I’m stocked up on cookies!
If I could sit these two in a room, this is what I’d say…
Dean, you need to let this stuff go. Yes, you’ve been hurt, yes you’ve been disappointed in the past by Sam’s actions, but your brother is still here by your side and he obviously loves you, so why don’t you look at that, instead of everything else.
If you want to know why he took a year off, why he didn’t look for you and he’s not opening up, damn well make him. Say, “Ok Sam, explain it to me, tell me what happened.” Then…LISTEN. If Sam doesn’t want to tell you, well then, you have every right to be pissed, but instead of just feeling abandoned and angry, ask him….maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t, but you’ll never have a hope in hell of understanding unless you hear the story and if Sam’s not going to offer more than he has off his own bat, then you’re going to have to ask him to open up.
While you’re at it, tell Sam about Purgatory, tell him all the stuff he doesn’t know. That you were alone and on the run from every monster in the place until you met Benny. That the vampire saved your hide more than once, that you might not have survived without him, that you’d never have made it out without his help. But beyond that, he proved to be loyal to you, even looking out for Castiel. That Benny was a friend to you when you were in desperate need of one. That yeah, it’s weird that you’re pals with a vampire, you get why Sam’s baffled and mad, that it seems like double standards, but Benny opened your eyes to the possibility that not all monsters are evil, everything isn’t black and white and that Sam should be happy that you’re learning that lesson. If Sam still doesn’t understand or still won’t try to understand, you have every right to shut down on the subject….but if you don’t at least try and explain it, well you don’t have a leg to stand on against Sam’s confusion and fury. Maybe you’ll get through to him….you won’t know unless you try and he won’t understand unless you explain it. (PS....you're smokin' hot...whatchya doing later).
Sam, I know you were devastated by the loss of your brother, but Dean doesn’t. All you’ve told him is that you found something and it was a girl. All he’s hearing is you found something better. You know your brother. You know his insecurities. You know he fears that everyone will leave him. You know that that’s how he’s seeing this. Right or wrong, that’s who he is and after all this time, you should know that. So, don’t just tell your girlfriend, tell your brother that your world imploded on itself and rained down on you when you lost him. Tell him how you felt, tell him you ran, you were lost, you didn’t know what to do. Tell him about how meeting a kindred spirit helped you find your way back to the world, that with her, you no longer felt scared every day. That you understand Dean’s hurt, but you just couldn’t see the hand in front of your face for a good long while. Dean loves you above anything else, maybe he’ll see the pain that his disappearance caused and it’ll help him understand your state of mind and the choice you made. But you HAVE TO TELL HIM. You haven’t.
And stop threatening to walk away, because that’s just freaking Dean out even more. You have every right to want something else and I get that you want Dean to understand and appreciate that and be prepared for the possibility that you won’t always be riding shotgun with him, but by threatening to leave him out of anger, you just exasperate an already volatile situation. Those threats just validate Dean’s fears of not being loved enough, of not being needed enough. You’re a bright and empathetic boy; use that big brain of yours. (PS...do you think I've got a shot with your brother).
Sam and Dean, you boys, you’ve been through more than should be asked of any human being and you’ve been through it TOGETHER. You obviously love each other deeply; otherwise you wouldn’t be able to push each other’s buttons so effectively. But you’ve never, ever been able to really talk. Here and there, little pieces have leaked out and been shared, but by and large, you bury everything until it explodes outward. You can’t expect your brother to understand how you’re feeling if you don’t tell him. You can just say, “He’s my friend” or “I found something” and expect your brother to understand unless you give these statements context, history and reason. Just….be the amazing men I know you to be, be the brothers I know you are. Tell each other the full story, because only then can you be justified in having any expectations that your brother should or could give you some slack and empathy. But above all, stop the lip service when it comes to each other’s choices. If you don’t “get it” don’t say it, if you don’t forgive, don’t say it. Everything rings hollow when you say one thing, then say another in anger. Stop it. And please, truly forgive each other, you both deserve it.
Now get out of here and go be awesome. Idjits.
I’m confusing reality with “Supernatural” again aren’t I?
(By the way, I love that photo of them in the diner. Look at their elbows. They're touching. Now, I know logicially this is because Jensen and Jared are big units and they need to squish in close to both fit in frame, but the forgetting that part of me goes, if I was hating on my brother, I wouldn't be sitting that close to him! Reality/Supernatural.... yeah I know).
We really are in a spot of bother with these two aren't we…but I kind of like it. Don’t hate!
I guess my biggest fear is where this is going, that both boys will be forced to make a choice, though me being me, I’m confident that they'll choose each other. It might look a bit touch and go for a while, but ultimately Dean will always choose Sam and Sam will always choose Dean. Just call me sweetondean, the eternal optimist.
So I dug this episode a lot more than I thought I would. It was hurty goodness. I enjoyed, if that’s the right word, all the brother’s angsty scenes. I’m glad they’re starting to get some stuff out. Sam has finally lain out how pissed off he is to Dean. Dean, unknowingly, let Sam know that his choices have affected and continue to affect Dean. Maybe something clicked in one of them, even in just one, that’d be a step in the right direction. I even got a bit more of a sense of what drew Sam to Amelia. It was the conflict scenes that had me though. The final scenes of the last two episodes have been absolute corkers. It’s good stuff.
So what did you think? What’s next?
Until next time just remember, we’re “Supernatural” fans, we’re Tonka Tough!
Now hurry up next episode!
Thanks for reading!
sweetondean is Chief Editor and Staff Writer for The Winchester Family Business