Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, DJ Qualls, Liane Balaban
Writer: Adam Glass, series created by Eric Kripke
Director: Tim Andrew
Network: The CW, Wednesdays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate: November 7, 2012
Garth, played by DJ Qualls, is one of SUPERNATURAL’s better recurring characters. He’s true to his own wavelength, he’s a hugger, he’s funny and he brightens up an episode. However, it’s pushing it, as “Southern Comfort” does, to insist that he’s the new Bobby, primarily because there was no good reason to get rid of the original Bobby. It was said in interviews that Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) needed to be isolated, but with Garth on tap, they aren’t isolated, so there goes that explanation. It’s a tribute to Qualls’ relaxed conviction that we can accept that he’s picked up the mantle of serving as a clearing-house for information for Hunters everywhere.
Dean and Sam aren’t getting along too well – Sam is pissed off that Dean didn’t mention he’s friends with the vampire Benny (or about the friendship overall, for that matter) and Dean is pissed off that Sam is pissed off. When they show up in a small town inMissourito look into the murder of a man by his longtime wife, they find Garth already at the scene.
After a few more murders, our team discovers that the culprit is a penny stolen from the grave of the Confederate unknown soldier. The ostensible good luck charm causes whoever has it to turn on friends and relatives. When it gets passed to Dean, he has a screaming fit at Sam, angry not only that Sam didn’t look for Dean while he was in Purgatory, but also about older matters like Ruby and not mentioning that soulless period. Garth gets the coin away from Dean and decks him. Since Garth is pretty Zen, the coin doesn’t affect him and he’s able to melt it down. When Garth drives away, Sam yells at Dean, saying that Dean didn’t need the penny to say all those things. Sam is sick of Dean being angry at him for past choices, and if Dean can’t handle it, Sam will quit. Dean seems to take this on board. Sam adds that he may kill Benny should they meet again.
We also get more flashbacks of Sam’s romance with Amelia (Liane Balaban). The sequences are unobjectionable, though so far we still don’t know what happened to Amelia and why, since she doesn’t seem to still be on the scene, Sam is still so determined to have a “normal” life.
Tying Sam and Dean’s issues with one another to the brother-against-brother conflict of the American Civil War is probably reaching a little, but “Southern Comfort” might work better if this aspect were emphasized a bit more. Instead, we get just enough exposition into our angry spectre’s background to know that he was killed by his brother in the conflict. This provides justification for Dean’s total flip-out at Sam, but in terms of the overall story, it could have been any story of fratricide. If SUPERNATURAL is going to invoke a topic as huge as a war that convulsed the entire nation, it seems like more ought to be done with it.
The airing of sibling grievances by the Winchester brothers seems as much a necessity on SUPERNATURAL as, well, the supernatural – it’s the fuel that keeps the characters running. It’s just that the writing is so neutral right now that we can’t tell if we should expect a bigger explanation of why Sam didn’t try to rescue Dean, or whether we’re supposed to accept the reasons we’ve been given. Padalecki and particularly Ackles do some strong work in these scenes, providing an emotional immediacy that is more important (on this show, anyway) than plotting.
Overall, “Southern Comfort” is likely to go down as an episode with fine acting, a great guest turn by Qualls – and a plot few can recall in any detail.
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