Supernatural "Southern Comfort" Review: Find a Penny, Pick It Up...

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Nov 08, 2012

Supernatural S08E06: “Southern Comfort”

OKAY FINE, you win. The Amelia/Sam story is that special kind of awful where it’s actually funny if you stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching election coverage on Tuesday and subsequently tuned in to “Southern Comfort” while running on little more than three hours of sleep and a wholesome dinner of sugar-free Red Bull and guacamole. I don’t know if it’s the utter lack of chemistry between Liane Balaban and Jared Padalecki, my ongoing inability to accept Sam leaving Dean to rot (however unknowingly) in Purgatory, or the flashbacks seemingly plunked down randomly throughout any given episode, but Padalecki is channeling Scrubs-era Zach Braff for just the right amount of blissed-out staring into space to go with his artfully tilted head. It’s probably some unholy combination of all three, and while at first I thought that Sammy Winchester’s 129,847th attempt at “being normal” might not actually suck, I’m beginning to entertain the notion that it might... actually suck.

This possibility comes despite the fact that I actually kind of got the relationship I was hoping for. Amelia and Sam are both barely functional war widows brought together by their mutual losses. They have Issues. They take things slow. They get drunk and say things they wish they could take back in the morning. They barely know who they are as the surviving halves of their respective partnerships, let alone what their relationship is supposed to be. This is the kind of relationship I could understand Sam gravitating toward, and in this sense, I am very happy about the Sam and Amelia situation.

It’s everything else about it that just completely implodes, especially the chemistry problem.

We’ve seen Sam in love and in “love” before. Jessica Moore’s place in Supernatural’s mythology is ironclad, not just because she got toasted on the ceiling, Momma Winchester-style, but because the whopping ten minutes during which we saw her interact with Sam felt genuine. Adrianne Palicki brought that same sincerity in all subsequent Jess sightings while, Padalecki reciprocated with good old-fashioned Winchester longing.

Emmanuelle Vaugier brought the same easy believability to her short tenure as the ill-fated Madison, joining the ranks of Sam’s great loves despite the fact that they literally spent maaaaybe 48 hours together before he had to waste her.

Then there’s Ruby, who was a different kind of ladyfriend, but an important and understandable one nonetheless. And sure, we can easily chalk THEIR on-screen chemistry up to the budding real-life romance between Padalecki and future-wife Genevieve Cortese, but hey, it doesn’t matter how it got there. What matters is that it was there.

And it just ain’t there between Padalecki and Balaban. They seem awkward and wooden and honestly, kind of bored. I’m beginning to take a less-is-more stance regarding Sam and Amelia, just because I've found myself cringing through most of their scenes over the past two weeks.

But, Sam and Amelia aside, “Southern Comfort” was incredibly satisfying—yes, even the bro-on-bro smackdown that had me eye-rolling my way through the promo.

DJ Qualls returned as Garth. I unapologetically love Garth, mostly because I love DJ Qualls, but also because his evolution from a lighthearted character to a lighthearted character with substance has been satisfying, and while I wasn’t so sure about his whole “becoming the new Bobby” mission, by the end of the episode, I found his attempts to emulate the late, great hunter touching. He even managed to earn Dean’s blessing, and let’s face is, whomever chose to pick up the mantle couldn’t have done so without Dean Winchester’s blessing.

An apparent ghost possession sent our not-so-merry band of hunters down to the land of Dixie, where the possession in question was a little bit out of the ordinary. While the ectoplasm left in a possession’s wake is typically black, this stuff was green. Additional cases happened randomly and didn’t seem tied to a particular location or person. Nor were they halted by torching the corpse. Some good old-fashioned research (with a side of Bobby ex machina) revealed the true culprit to be a specter—an “avenging ghost” that exploits the supposed betrayals in an individual’s life, including those as petty as a bad call during a baseball game.

Our specter leapt—literally—at the chance to revel in some Winchester resentment (it's like a fine wine), and Dean, still smarting over Sam’s “abandonment” of both him and the hunting life, was ripe for the picking. I knew they were screwed as soon as the research revealed two brothers fighting on opposing sides during the Civil War. Mr. Specter attached himself to a lucky penny traditionally given to the Southern farmboys who made up the bulk of the Confederate Army and traveled from meatsuit to meatsuit as the penny changed hands.

It’s kind of sad that the only way we can get some honest discussion about FEELINGS is when one of Winchesters is possessed. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. Dean let it all hang out: Sam should have looked for him in Purgatory, Sam’s laundry list of screw-ups is extensive and impressive, and the icing on top of the resentment cake reads, “I never once left you to die.”

Ohhhh snap. Sammy’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Actually, he tried that. Dean “died.” Sam’s world imploded. He ran away. I’m trying REALLY hard to buy what Sam’s selling, but mostly, what I hear is “blah blah blah Jeremy Carver hated Season 7.” I’m holding out for more information, but I did that with Amelia and it backfired. I’m also chalking that whole BENNY IS MY BFF rant up to ghost possession because shut up, Dean.

Garth took one for the team and broke his hand on Dean’s face, jarring him enough to drop the penny and deflate his inner rage balloon. He subsequently melted the penny down because his super-chill demeanor made him immune to the specter’s machinations. Sam, who was quite sassy throughout much of “Southern Comfort” and seemed to have a perpetual bitchface in place except for when we were in flashback mode, told Dean to “move on” from his self-rightous guilt-tripping, “...or I will.”

Can you feel the brotherly love? CAN YOU?


CASE NOTES


– “Bobby belonged to all of us, not just you and Sam.” PREACH IT, GARTH.

– Ohhh snap, Sam brought up Amy. It went better than I thought it would, mostly because no one got punched.

– Sam also basically promised to waste Benny, nullifying the semi-decent argument he had going about Dean’s habit of indiscriminately killing his monster pals before giving them a chance to prove that they don’t eat people. These boys will never learn.

– As much as I generally hate the Winchesters Divided storylines, I can honestly say that this is the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, that the strife feels “right.” A lot of the issues that Sam and Dean are currently fighting about are old, but have never been adequately dealt with before. “Sam Winchester’s Greatest Hits” may be mostly old news, but I fall in with Sam here, and his argument that even though Dean may have been under the specter’s influence when he said those things, the fact that he said them meant the resentment was there. Garth’s immunity to the penny pretty much confirmed this—he didn’t harbor any “betrayals” for the ghost to feed on.

– Did anyone get a Sam Winchester bitchface count? I lost track.

– Was it just me, or did the Impala look uncharacteristically dusty in a few scenes? BLASPHEMY. BLASPHEMYYYY!

  • Comments (96)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • GreyMinerva Nov 14, 2012

    No Castiel? Nooooooo! :'(

  • coolhandkate Nov 12, 2012

    I like that this episode felt traditional - the hunt for a ghost lends itself to character development. That said, a lot of this episode felt very stiff and awkward. I'm on board with the Amelia sentiments - their lack of chemistry and awkward flashbacks contributed to the stiffness, but other elements of this episode didn't quite click. Maybe it was Garth.



    With the others who say I'm not buying that Sam would give up on Dean. Episodes like Mystery Spot confirmed Sam loses his shit when Dean's not around. He's grown, yes, but I'm starting to lean toward the "something's not right" with the time he spent with Amelia. They're also focusing a lot of time and energy on flashbacks for this relationship, and they've never done that before with the years the brothers have spent apart. Here's hoping it's gearing to lead up to something big when she (inevitably) returns in Sam's life.



    P.S. - Am I the only one who wouldn't mind seeing a rock salt gun again?

  • tmarie75 Nov 11, 2012

    I like this epside, except for the Sam/Amelia flashbacks. I love DJ Qualls as Garth! So glad they brought him back. I hope he returns soon. I find it interesting that he's being touted as "the new Bobby". I'm still not ready to say goodbye to the old Bobby yet. Hopefully Sam and Dean will resolve their issues soon so Sam can stop giving the now popular and perpetual "Bitchface" :)

  • makuyi Nov 10, 2012

    Can't we just have Garth show up once a month? He's the best.

  • dazednconfuuzed Nov 10, 2012

    I have been enjoying this season for the most part, although the Bitten episode I didn't think was so great..I do applaud them for trying that whole "found footage" thing (which I normally like) but it just didn't work for me.. This episode I did enjoy, even if it kinda has been done before (siren anyone?)

    However I totally, wholeheartedly agree about Sam and Amelia having ZERO CHEMISTRY..actually I think I've taken a moment to bitch about her every review I've commented on this season. Totally not buying that Sam would just ditch Dean like that.. I mean maybe if Dean had been gone for like 5+ years or something and Sam had just kinda fallin into the Amelia thing...that I could believe more then this... And can I just say again that REALLY?...they couldn't have found anyone else to play Amelia better, someone hotter, who's a better actress....I really miss Jess, she was my fav..so cute she was!

    Please Supernatural, prove the part of me (and other fans who have some hangups about where this season is going) wrong..blow our minds, pretty please???

  • Aesandil Nov 10, 2012

    If I had a penny every time someone claims that "X and Y completely lack chemistry"... It's the one argument that gets kind of tiresome. Especially when it's being thrown around randomly more often than not.

    Now, I do agree that the whole subplot with Sam and Amelia is pretty weak. Most of the flashbacks feel rather meaningless. And like many others, I just can't get over the fact that Sam didn't look for Dean. You would really have to try hard to come up with even more unbelieveable development for Sam's character than doing this.

    I appreciated the fact that Amy was brought up during the argument Winchesters had. Dean does seem less judgemental nowadays. But I won't be the first to point out that Sammy's problem with Benny has no real grounds.



    Ah, well. At least Garth grows on me more and more with each episode he shows in. He even managed to make the ridiculous idea of him being "the new Bobby" seem almost plausible towards the end.

  • 2muchbadTV Nov 10, 2012

    Purgatory is not a place between heaven and hell.....it's the limbo us viewers are stuck in who wish they could stop watching this show but can't. I have a weird fixation, I'll never let any show go that I once really loved, and because of that I'm going to watch Supernatural to the bitter end. But since season 5 this show has steadily declined in the writing and directing. Those facets, once so well done, are now kinda cheesy. The acting is still good--the main actors sans Bobby are still the same after all--but they're being given crap lines to work with and poor directing will ruin anything. I didn't mind the story arcs of seasons 6 and 7, it's just that they were so poorly done compared to the show's first 5 years. This season 8 story arc....I just don't know where it's going, but even the stand-alone nature of each episode isn't getting me by anymore. And truthfully, probably any story line was destined to be a letdown after the overall story arc of the first 5 seasons. Mother of All and Leviathans are all well and good, but let's face it, nothing can ever top God, the devil, and the Apocalypse. I hate to say it, but this show should've probably ended after Kripke's 5-year vision was complete. Watching this show has become more of a chore, rather than something I used to look forward to.

  • I_M100 Nov 10, 2012

    Jensen Ackles has been basically carrying this show on his own since season 7. I can't remember when exactly I fell completely out of love with Jared's character but its been a while now. Please can you stop make Sam suck so much?!

    Also is it just me or do you feel like you've watched this episode at least 25 times before? (yet another ghost case and another brotherly fight about one letting the other down) Seriously if the show has nothing new to say about its characters and the world they live in then why say it all???

    Thank goodness for Dean he really is the only reason I keep tuning in every week.

  • GabrielLoki Nov 10, 2012

    I wish I could "Sam and Amelia aside" find the episode "incredibly satisfying" like you, but but Sam's storyarc is getting in the way of my enjoyment of the show. I would start enjoying it, then there would be a chick-flick flashback that would annoy the hell out of me, and by the time I de-annoyed enough to get back to enjoying the episode there would be another chick-flick flashback. Also, I hated the fighting, because of what they were fighting about. It is so out-of-character for Sam to not even look for Dean and to have a problem with Benny being a good vampire. (Hello, Lenore!)

  • coolhandkate Nov 12, 2012

    Agree with all about Sam - but I think Sam's less pissed about Benny being a good vampire than realizing Dean's essentially replaced him with one.

  • AgentSkinner Nov 09, 2012

    You're my hero, MaryAnn! Other reviewers have been pussyfooting around the issue, only saying things like "We have concerns about Sam not looking for Dean" and "We're not warming up to Amelia yet," just glossing over it and putting it aside and writing about other things. Thank you for having the courage to go at the issue head on and just come right out and say what so many fans have been feeling. This story arc is not working on any level. Even the people who are still enjoying the show (God bless them, wish I were too), I have never seen them say they're enjoying Sam's arc. They talk about the other things they do like and ignore that aspect. (Wish I could do that too, but it ruins the rest of the show for me.) I hope you keep reviewing Supernatural, I will definitely be back for more!

  • See More Comments (36)