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

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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!

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