Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 6: “Southern Comfort”
Written by Adam Glass
Directed by Tim Andrew
Airs Wednesdays at 9pm (ET) on CW
The universe of hunters that Supernatural has created was certainly an impressive one, with a slew of allies helping Dean and Sam with varying degrees of capability, and even the inexperienced ones such as Jo Harvelle making major contributions. As the years have worn on, however, the various battles have taken their toll, with Bobby being the latest casualty of Dick Roman and the leviathans in season 7. The question of who shall replace the fallen soldiers is one that has yet to be asked, despite its importance, and it is this issue that the show begins to tackle this week, leading to a humanising of a minor supporting player in the process as well as tackling the episode’s larger ideas of legacies and surrogates.
The most interesting aspect of the episode was watching Garth take up the mantle of all-purpose help to the hunting community that Bobby previously occupied, as well as Sam and Dean’s reaction to this new development. Garth is, in many ways, the last person one would expect to be an adequate replacement for the grizzled veteran (the Garth anecdote that springs to mind whenever the character is brought to the audience’s attention is one where Bobby advises him by phone to contact the FBI about his latest case. A split second after Bobby hangs up, the phone rings with Garth on the other end, leading Bobby to exclaim “Not me, the real FBI. How are you still alive?”). Yet, in an odd sense, he’s the right fit for the part. Not only does he have the vast knowledge of monsters required, which he proves at various points throughout the episode, he is also more reliable and dependable than either of the Winchester brothers, traits which were integral to Bobby himself, as well as calm and level-headed. It will be fascinating to see how this progresses, as seeing Garth take on the mentor role that Bobby previously occupied goes a long way towards closure for the latter character, as well as establishing a new generation of hunters, which may mean Sam and Dean will have more allies in the coming months to help them find Kevin and fight Crowley. How Garth grows into the role, and whether he ends up as just like Bobby or whether he continues to add that intangible Garth factor, remains to be seen.
Another interesting aspect of the episode was the exploration of surrogates. While not overt, the episode dealt a lot with how people replace the ones they miss with others. The replacement of Bobby with Garth was the biggest example, but this episode also dealt with Benny and Amelia, showing how they took the place of the missing brother for Dean and Sam respectively. The writers continue to add interesting dimensions to Amelia, and having her as the person Sam begins trusting when Dean’s gone is intriguingly similar to Ruby’s role in Sam’s life during Dean’s time in hell. The key difference, of course, lies in the fact that Amelia, so far, has no ulterior motive in helping Sam cope, in stark contrast to Ruby, and that difference alone should make the path the two follow distinctive enough to be unique. Likewise, the strong bond between Benny and Dean that was evidenced last week is verbally solidified this week by Dean, who declares the vampire to be the last trustworthy ally in his life and leading to questions once again about the potential for Benny to take Sam’s place in the Impala at some point.
Overall, this was a strong episode, and one that managed to raise some interesting overall points while still keeping the monster-of-the-week mystery intriguing. The insight into Garth’s character is a welcome addition, as he continues to be an oddball among hunters with his carefree, happy-go-lucky persona. His statement to Dean about everyone having lost Bobby is unexpectedly poignant and adds a larger sense of perspective to Bobby’s death that the show previously lacked. Sam’s flashbacks are also an interesting way to display why he wants to step out of the hunter’s life once the gates of Hell are closed, as well as the longing he has for the year just passed and his first taste of normalcy since his days with Jessica. The acknowledgment of Kevin’s whereabouts still being unknown indicates an eye towards the larger arc that has been missing in standalone episodes over the past few seasons, and how the show chooses to eventually tackle this arc makes next week’s episode worth tuning in for.