Episode Title: "Southern Comfort"
Writer: Adam Glass
Director: Tim Andrew
I’ve had a hard time staying invested in “Supernatural” this season, but we’ll get to that in a minute. But first, I want to get to the Garth (DJ Qualls) problem and ask “Supernatural” fans: is this guy popular? Were we really clamoring for Garth to make yet another return appearance… as the new Bobby?
The creative team behind this series may be in love with Garth, but I can’t stand him. For a while in this episode, that seemed to place the audience in Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean’s (Jensen Ackles) shoes as Garth has beaten them to the punch on their latest case while masquerading as a Texas Ranger… far outside of Texas jurisdiction.
It’s almost offensive that the episode tries to set up a Garth as “the new Bobby” story as a redemptive arc for Garth. The one really good line that Garth has is when he points out that Bobby didn’t just belong to Sam and Dean alone. But watching Garth mangle Bobby’s catchphrases was painful, not funny. He’s like the male Bela Talbot in terms of his ability to be annoying.
Garth’s reappearance was indicative of the eighth season as a whole (to this point): it looks familiar, but it just doesn’t feel like “Supernatural.” The writers seem to realize that they can’t keep Sam and Dean apart for any length of time without the audience getting restless. But the flashback structure of Dean’s time in purgatory and Sam’s yearlong romance with Amelia (Liane Balaban) is not really working for me. Dean’s purgatory plot moves in very small increments, but it still hasn’t really addressed how he and Benny the vampire became true friends. We see it in the present, but that relationship still doesn’t seem earned yet.
Even so, it’s far more convincing than Sam’s relationship with Amelia. There’s also this unintentionally hilarious motif of Sam staring off into space while thinking about his time with Amelia… in almost every episode this year! If anyone was looking to do a “Supernatural” season 8 parody, those moments are ready made for it.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of Sam falling in love with a woman and falling out of the life of a hunter. But so far, Amelia is so bland that it’s difficult to see why she and Sam stayed together so long. Yes, they’ve both had tragedy in their lives. But it’s still not a very convincing courtship.
The ghost MacGuffin this week is a cursed coin from the Civil War that allows the phantasm of a vengeful Civil War veteran to inhabit the body of anyone who holds the coin… before compelling them to murder the person that they have the largest grudge against. Naturally, it ends up being placed forcibly on Dean, setting the stage for a Winchester brother showdown.
Or at least it should have. Instead, Garth gets between the Winchester brothers and he saves the day. In return, Dean allows him to keep Bobby’s old hat and he doesn’t murder Garth when the ring tone for one his cell phones plays an M.C. Hammer song.
On a side note, the Civil War soldier was one of the more insidious monsters this season because his coin compelled its victims to commit horrible crimes which they can’t take back. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Sam and Dean show real compassion for the victims of the monsters they hunt. This one was a particularly screwed up case as all of the victims killed people close to them and they can’t exactly cite the cursed object in court.
As for Sam and Dean, this episode did remarkably little to settle their differences. Sam even threw poor dead Amy in Dean’s face as Dean explained why he won’t kill Benny. And Sam rightfully called out Dean on his hypocrisy.
I like “Supernatural” and the Padalecki and Ackles dynamic is still the best reason to stick with the show. But for now, I’m watching more out of habit than anything else.