Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review: Supernatural 11x16 "Safe House" - Finding Comfort in the Dead...

-by sweetondean

What an excellent comeback from hiatus. “Safe House” may not have thrown us headfirst back into the season’s mythology, but it did give us an episode that is reflective of season eleven as a whole. An episode that looked to the show’s past, happily bringing back much loved, dead characters as only Supernatural can; referencing storylines from seasons ago to connect to and parallel the present. The way this show embraces and uses its history so affectively is a rare treat. TV shows just don’t do that…but Supernatural is not scared to look to its own past to keep the show consistent and fresh in the present. Supernatural understands that the show’s history is important and season eleven has embraced this in a way that has made the season feel new and nostalgic all in one. Every episode captures an old school vibe, without ever feeling stale or rehashed. Bravo, Show – this season is an absolute treat!

“Safe House” was genuinely creepy. The idea of having your soul sucked out and trapped in an alternative universe outside time and space is hideous! The sad people were horrifying. Damn creepy and damn sad! But it was also a genuinely funny episode! A bright and sassy script from the brilliant Robbie Thompson balanced the horror, pathos and humour so beautifully it was a perfect reflection of what makes this show particularly great. Lovely moments like Dean going for another rock-paper-scissors win, only to see him declare they’re never solving anything that way again - as his winning streak of one came to an end! Hearing Dean bemoan that there must be an easier way to dig graves, only to cut to Bobby and Rufus in the past with an earth excavator! Dean saying, "Come and get me, you son of a bitch" while Bobby said "Stay away from me, you son of a bitch" was beyond perfect. The humour gave what was a dark episode, nice warmth, and the characters we love gave it a powerful heart. For all of Bobby and Rufus’ cantankerous back and forth, it’s still obvious how much they genuinely care about each other. Thrown together through circumstance, they became colleagues and friends – even though they both may be loathe to admit it!

The episode was also incredibly clever with how it tied the two timelines together. The seamless transitions between Bobby and Rufus, and Sam and Dean in the same space, a handful of years apart, were amazing. The direction and editing, of what must have been an incredibly challenging episode, was first rate. I also thought it must have been a nightmare to schedule, and to design. Each set would have to be used for both sets of hunters – scheduling the locations and the actors at the locations must have been particularly tricky – knowing that each set had to be used twice. And each set had to be the same but different. The hospital for example, was totally redressed for the present, but it had to look enough the same to make the concept of the two time periods work smoothly. It was so damn clever. The sharing a hotel room - the looking up the lore at the same table - the cars driving off at the end - even the fact that the first victim served tea to both sets of hunters – a handful of years apart - was a lovely little addition. The mirroring of the scenes was just so good! It was another episode where the creative team pushed the boundaries in all areas of the production. It’s lovely that this show is not content to rest of its laurels.

In Bobby’s time period we were in the midst of season four, in the midst of the Apocalypse looming, of Lilith and the 66 seals. Bobby was worried about “his boys” (heart clench! I literally grabbed my chest and whimpered when he said that), worried about them facing down the end of days. Of course where his boys are now is in exactly the same place! And that was another nice thing about “Safe House”, it didn’t just parallel the case at hand, but rather the season arcs of the two time periods the episode straddled. Once again the boys are facing the end of the world, once again a biblical evil is threatening to destroy everything, once again Lucifer is in play, and once again, one of Bobby’s boys is up to his neck in it! The more things change, the more they stay the will always end up here.... Eeep! Bobby was worried for his boys back then – but that worry is just as relevant now. He’d be worried sick for them, and probably so damn frustrated with how they got themselves into another fine mess! Those boys need Bobby to fill out their world and give them a different perspective. They need his gruff love. It makes me so sad that they don’t have him in their lives anymore…

It was a delight to have Bobby and Rufus back revelling in their particular kind of relationship. We never got enough of them back in the day, because Rufus was taken from us too soon, and then of course, we lost Bobby. It was a joy to see them working the case, bickering back and forth; Rufus using the Sabbath to eschew any heavy lifting in the hunt, the obvious bond these two gentlemen had, the way they worked as a team, while fighting that at every turn! But all those wonderful moments also brought so much sadness, because we know what their futures hold in the not too distance future, we know the sacrifice they would ultimately make in the fight against evil, in Sam and Dean’s fight… And that sadness is compounded by the loss of what we could have had…and what the boys could have had. Wouldn’t it be nice for Sam and Dean to still have these elder statesmen of hunting in their lives? The isolation of the brothers seemed even more profound knowing that the two men, whose hunt they were following, and who meant so much to them, were gone…memories and over exaggerated journal entries all that was left behind to hold on to. Epic sadness. I never realise how much I miss Bobby, and how much I miss him in Sam and Dean’s life, until we get him back for a bitter sweet, brief moment. But thank Chuck we have a show where the much loved dead can return in an effective way that doesn’t minimise their sacrifice or demise.

I couldn’t help but feel nervous about the continued use of the term “oldest rule”, that rule being that you can’t save everyone. With what the boys have in front of them, with Cas currently inhabited by Lucifer, with Dean tied to the Darkness, with Sam the only thing in the way of the Darkness claiming his brother, the “oldest rule” felt like horrible, terrifying, stomach churning foreshadowing! The boys have sacrificed themselves before. Both have died for the cause. Who is it this time that they won’t be able to save…is it Cas, or is it each other? Or was Rufus’ final words, “Forget the oldest rule, Bobby”, another show of defiance that goes hand in hand with the, “We’re going to win this” attitude that kicked into gear at the end of the last episode; that the brothers will not let anyone die in this fight, for the greater good or otherwise – that they will save Cas and they will save each other… It’s on the table, they will both do anything, over and over for each other…is it going to come to that…again? When something is said so many times that you start to break out into a flop sweat of worry….that usually means something on this show. This show does that stuff for a reason. So consider me officially panicked!

There was something weirdly comforting about Sam being comforted by Dean seeing him dead! They’re right…their lives are ridiculously screwed up! But Dean seeing Sam means that Sam is still his number one priority – that the Soul Eater showed Dean the most important person to him, dead, and it was Sam, is comforting all around! God forbid that it was Amara! I’m pretty sure that’s where Sam was coming from (internally) when he was comforted by Dean’s vision…and also coming from the fact that he’s still Dean’s number one concern. That’s gotta feel nice, even if you get there in the weirdest of ways! Personally I loved it and I loved that Sam got it! The brother’s relationship this season is a thing of magnificence – that they can even have a conversation so strange, yet so filled with an undercurrent of love and acknowledgement, is a wondrous thing. 

The way Sam held his big brother and told him he had him at the end of the episode, made me make involuntary squeaky noises of pure unadulterated joy! Dean needs that, he needs to feel that his brother has his back…after everything, through all the lies and hurt that came before, Sam is still and will always be, there for Dean. This is why Dean can be so open and vulnerable with Sam, because Sam is openly and honestly showing his love and support for his brother at every turn. This is why they can be who they are this season, because those doubts and fears have been put to rest – through words and actions, they have both recommitted themselves to their brother, leaving no doubt where either of them stand. Man I loved Sam holding Dean like that. I loved it with a powerful Winchester kind of love! I’m so thankful for where the brothers are, it’s my favourite thing about the season…the brothers’ obvious love, the brothers being stronger together than ever before; and I’m totally thankful I got to discuss with Jensen Dean’s openness and the brothers' relationship, in the couple of meet and greets I’ve just done! That was an unbelievable treat. Talking to Jensen about Dean is my favourite thing to do. Ever. 

I always say this – but it’s worth repeating - Robbie Thompson gets us. No one writes a broment like he does. No one taps into the show’s history like he does – the addition of the bottle of Johnny Walker, with the note from Rufus…that’s the bottle Sam and Jody drank in Bobby’s honour, when Dean was in the past with Eliot Ness. That touch alone made this episode soar to the heights of one of the best of the season. And Dean and Bobby seeing each other in the nest, that moment where they locked eyes – my God Robbie, you kill us with moments like that. I’m super glad they saw each other, even if they weren’t sure what was happening…it was a moment Dean at least, can hold on to…as can we…

“Safe House” was a snatched instant in time with lost loved ones, alongside another beautiful expression of this new and improved Winchester bond. It’s an instant favourite in a season of favourites. I absolutely loved it. "Safe House" felt like a warm hug.



  1. O.M.F.Chuck!!!
    This ep was AWWW-SOME.
    I totally am there with you about the Feeling of "the oldest rule"...that made my guts clinch.
    But I gotta believe the Boys will "keep on grinding..."

  2. Spot on review! It was another lovely episode. So many moments where I just wriggled with delight, and then watched it all over again. I have friends just discovering the Show (maybe on season 6?) and they're amazed when I explain that Season Freaking Eleven is so incredibly good. It's a delicious nearly edible season. Thanks for sharing your view (I saw you at SeaCon but never mustered the right mood to say hello)!

  3. Great episode and great review. I cringed each time they said 'oldest rule' I'd also like to know if Jared ad lib'd the 'I'm getting too old for this.' or if it was scripted. I know the boys love this show, but I just have an eerie feeling 13 might be it. sorry to even bring it up! :( Jared's M&G comment about 13 seasons and I have to admit, 13 just seems like a 'supernatural' number. LOL.

    I loved that Sam was cradling Dean. So often we see Dean cradle Sam, but not the reverse. I mean it's happened, but not enough! Sam just enveloped him. God I love those boys.

    The excavating cracked me up. I'm thinking why hasn't show done THAT before. And I could barely get my fingers to type fast enough when the Johnny Walker bottle showed up. I didn't have to read it cuz I recognized it right away. Got Robbie T is a genius. How many eps has he written this season? 3? 4? Love him. Always a throwback in his episodes somewhere.

    The transitions were so damn cool!!! And Bobby and Rufus were so awesome I didn't feel like I had less time seeing Sam and Dean. So often this season I've found myself saying, "Oh this is my new favorite!" S11 is so strong.

    OK, enough rambling. Thanks Amy and glad you had fun on your holiday. Can't wait to hear all about them on next WOL.

  4. But thank Chuck we have a show where the much loved dead can return in an effective way that doesn’t minimise their sacrifice or demise.

    Yes--that's something I deeply appreciate. Aside from Sam and Dean, when people die, they stay dead. But they don't necessarily stay gone...

  5. Brat, your comment reminded me of one thing. I thought it was such a super creative way to bring Bobby and Rufus back. Plus it was more than just a couple of minutes, which is often the case. LOVE Robbie!

  6. Dean and Bobby on the staircase. Dean hadn't seen or talked to Bobby since he burned the flask. That moment just brought me to tears. I just love love love Robbie's scripts.

  7. Loved this episode! It was creepy and funny at the same time, does that sound weird? Having Bobby and Rufus back was amazing, I love their little cranky conversations. I agree the foreshadowing for future episodes is starting to get me worried. Jensen's acting as evil, soul catcher Dean, amazing! Makes me wonder why the writers don't give Jensen more of this material to work with he's so good at evil. Dean seeing Bobby on stairs in that split second, I teared up. Robbie T is amazing, he so knows us and what we want, Sam and Dean hug, brotherly feels. This season, the brother's working together as a solid unit is making me so happy, finally no secrets yay!! All I can say about the oldest rule is damn the oldest rule, they don't know the Winchesters!! As you can see I sometimes ramble when I start talking Supernatural, but I love these boys, sorry lol! Can't wait to see what happens next! :)

  8. I got the sense of foreshadow as well, but not in a bad way. The whole Dean being in the Nest with the Soul Eater (Amara anyone?), Dean's bond with Sam still forefront and stronger than even Amara herself.....then we see Sam cradling his brother, telling him "hey Dean, you're good, you're good, I got you....Perhaps the message here was that Sam is Dean's Safe House.....

    I don't know, but I felt a twinge of hope in the air.