Mark Watches ‘Supernatural’: S08E06 – Southern Comfort

In the sixth episode of the eighth season of Supernatural, a series of violent grudge murders compels Dean to air out all his grievances with Sam. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.

Trigger Warning: For talk of racism (relating to the Confederacy/slavery), grief, PTSD/trauma.

WELL. I certainly got what I wished for AND MORE.

This is a deeply complicated emotional issue, and it’s one I want to be careful with because it’s clear that these two brothers have a lot of longstanding issues that continue to plague their friendship. I’m also glad that this is what I get to talk about in this review because I was so, so worried that this show was going to do some sort of repeat on the Racist Ghost Truck. I mean, THIS GOT CLOSE. I thought this was going to be an episode about a Confederate soldier wanting revenge for the loss of the war, and I REALLY DID NOT WANT TO SEE THAT SORT OF RACISM ON THE SCREEN. (I’m still sticking to my assertion, though, that this is a perfect example of a person who would develop a bitter hatred over the years in spirit form. Who is more bitter in America than those who supported the Confederacy and lost? This episode GIVES US MODERN-DAY EXAMPLES OF SUCH PEOPLE! If that doesn’t make it clear how I feel about the Confederate flag, then allow me to spell it out: you are a racist if you still want to fly that wretched thing.)

So, Winchester angst: The Return. Truthfully, though, I don’t think it’s fair to poke fun at this issue by calling it angst, because it’s not like what we see here is some sort of teenage tantrum. Dean’s issues with Sam, even if some are a tad harsh, are still problems that I think are pretty damn legitimate. Look, I sympathize with Sam a lot. (Zero people are surprised that I just typed that sentence.) But that doesn’t mean I can also empathize with Dean’s expression of betrayal. Even if Sam has a totally justifiable reason for running away from the hunting life, it doesn’t negate or alleviate the pain that Dean feels after having spent a year in Purgatory. It doesn’t! I think anyone would feel betrayed if their best friend or brother (or both, obviously) didn’t do anything at all to save you or rescue you. Does the spectre of Vance enhance Dean’s own anger towards Sam? Sure. That’s why I think it’s important to acknowledge that his excoriation of Sam is harsh, particularly when he brings up things that happened years ago and casts them upon Sam all over again.

Of course, that’s part of this reason this is so complicated. I honestly thought that opening scene was the only part of this that would address this season’s arc concerning Sam and Dean, but N O P E. Not even close! I feel like that scene alone provided me with enough material to talk about the Winchester’s emotional state! We’ve got Dean admitting that Purgatory changed him. (Though I did notice that he hasn’t brought up the “purity” of Purgatory in a while; I think you could read that in “Blood Brother” during the sequences where he kills the vampirates, though.) It’s a huge admission, and yet it’s couched in fury and indignation instead of being the kind of thing you say to someone as an honest concession. These two aren’t on the type of ground where they can have a conversation that isn’t tinged with anger.

Look what they’re in the middle of. No one knows where Kevin Tran is; both Winchesters were separated for over a year; Dean’s standards are changing; Sam is longing for a life that’s different than the one he’s been living for nine years; and here’s Garth, constantly reminding the Winchesters that Bobby is gone. Garth plays such a fascinating role here aside from being funny because he’s evidence of how tragedy affects people differently. I don’t think we should be comparing tragedy in a way that estimates who has it worse, as that often leads to unnecessary messiness. Garth was affected by the loss of Bobby in a profound way, and yet he doesn’t react to it like Dean does. That doesn’t mean any one person’s way of dealing with trauma is more valid than another; I’m glad the show is demonstrating the numerous ways all three men have dealt with loss. Sam, to put it succinctly, ran away. Garth began to imitate and co-opt Bobby’s mannerisms and behavior as if Bobby was his guide. And Dean? Well, he made a friend. And that sounds so trivial to say it like that, but COME ON. WHEN HAS DEAN EVER MADE A FRIEND ON THIS SHOW LIKE HE HAS WITH BENNY? Not since Castiel, right? (WHERE THE HELL IS CASTIEL, Y’ALL?) It’s a direct result of his traumatic experience in Purgatory.

The point of all of this is that in another world or another life, one where the Winchesters were not constantly fighting and chasing shit, I think Sam and Dean could react more like Garth and less like they are here. It’s just that they don’t have the space (or the time, frankly) to have any sort of meaningful progress with one another. That makes me feel pity for both Sam and Dean. What they need is a year off from hunting together, to begin to repair their relationship in way that isn’t going to be sidetracked or further complicated by what they’re doing.

BUT WE ALL KNOW THEY’RE NOT GOING TO GET THAT. So how do they get past this? I don’t feel like we’ve gotten very instances where the trust dynamic between Sam and Dean has been reversed like this. Now, Sam is the one who is looking upon Dean with mistrust, at least in terms of Benny. (I also suspect that he’s a bit perturbed that Dean hasn’t told him what happened to Cas or how he got out of Purgatory.) Which isn’t to say that Dean is at all ready to move beyond his feelings of betrayal, either. Nope, both men are steaming angry at one another, and there’s no end to that in sight.


The video for “Southern Comfort” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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