Supernatural “Safe House” Review (Season 11, Episode 16)

It’s been a long time since Supernatural legitimately scared me. I’m excluding all the episodes they’ve done with clowns because I agree with Sam Winchester. Clowns are freakin’ creepy. No. I’m talking about a truly creepy, makes me want to go buy a nightlight because I don’t want to sleep in the dark kind of scared me. Well, apparently Supernatural accepted that challenge because I was legitimately, unashamedly scared during last night’s episode. Well done, Show.

Let’s go ahead and start with one of the most awesome aspects of this episode: Rufus and Bobby. I’m still devastated over Bobby’s death and angry about the ludicrousness of Rufus’s death, but all of that aside, one of the great things about Supernatural is that death doesn’t actually mean gone. The very nature of the show means that we can have ghost appearances (as happened with Bobby) or what I like to call “in your psyche” appearances (as happened with Rufus) or what we had here which was basically a flashback. Aside from Sam and Dean, Rufus and Bobby were two of my favorite characters. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Dean’s first meeting with Rufus back in season three is one of my favorite moments is that, even before Rufus said anything, I immediately recognized that he was what Dean would become if Dean lived past fifty. That’s also probably one of the reasons Bobby was so fond of Dean.

At any rate, getting Rufus and Bobby together always means that there will be a lot of grumping and name calling back and forth, but it also means there will be no shortage of laughs either. Seriously. Watching them work a case is nothing short of comedy gold. Their first run in with the neighborhood crime watch lady literally had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. Not to mention Rufus’s repeated attempts to sidestep all the heavy lifting i.e. digging up the graves. But underneath all of the humor and the grumpy, there was also respect and love. Not that either Rufus or Bobby would admit it. Even though Rufus pretends that he would just move on if something happened to Bobby, it was pretty clear that wasn’t actually the case. Rufus continually reminding Bobby that rule one of the hunter life is that you can’t save everyone really felt like Rufus trying to remind himself of it. Not necessarily because he’d forgotten it, but because he was trying to shore up his own defenses. He was worried about Bobby, but in true Rufus fashion, he was trying not to show it. Kudos to Steven Williams for such a wonderful performance.

Then there’s Bobby. One of the reasons I’ve always loved Bobby so much is how much he loved the Boys. Don’t get me wrong. Bobby was fantastic and compelling in his own right. He was smart, resourceful, brave, and (beneath all the gruffness) a big teddy bear. But I really loved what Bobby was for Sam and Dean. He hugged them when they needed it, but would just as quickly kick them in the rear if they needed it too. He was a safe place for them to go when they needed to regroup. He was the voice of reason when they were spinning out of control. He understood them in a way no one else did, and he loved them with the kind of ferocity and unconditional love only a parent can give. That’s why watching him be so terrified of what was going to happen to them was so heartbreaking. I was telling a friend of mine that sometimes we forget that the Apocalypse was just as hard, if not harder, on Bobby as it was on Sam and Dean. The Boys felt guilty for their part in starting it, but Bobby was stuck watching events unfold that he felt powerless to stop and which were in all likelihood going to cause him to lose his Boys. I can’t imagine how frustrating and frightening that must’ve been for him. Unsurprisingly, Jim Beaver did a fantastic job delivering a nuanced, layered, compelling performance. Honestly, it kind of made me miss Bobby more than I do already.

It wasn’t lost on me either that even though Rufus and Bobby’s case took place “a handful of years ago,” it was still the same fight the Boys are fighting today. A few details are different, but it’s just a variation on the same tune. Something is threatening to destroy the world, and the Winchesters feel like it’s their sole responsibility to stop it because of the guilt they feel for unleashing it in the first place. It may sound like that’s a bad thing, but it’s not. Not really. Basically, that was a harsh reminder that nothing in a hunter’s life ever changes. It doesn’t matter how many times they avert the apocalypse, there will always be another one on the horizon. It doesn’t matter how many demons they exorcise or monsters they kill, there will always still be the fight. As horrible as that sounds, it actually can hold a bit of comfort. It provides clarity and purpose in a life that could otherwise become too much to bear. Especially for someone like Dean who finds much of his self-worth through his ability to help and/or save people. Yes, there’ll always be another battle to fight. But today, Dean and Sam saved a family.

Since Ben Edlund departed Supernatural (I still miss him SO much), Robbie Thompson has become one of my favorite writers. He’s a fanboy and sometimes he goes overboard with it. But for the most part, he does a good job of capturing Sam and Dean’s voices and the overall cadence of Supernatural’s drama, action, and humor. This was no exception. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m generally not a fan of time travel. Well, that’s not entirely true. There have been many times in my life when I wished for either a TARDIS or a Delorean. Mostly a TARDIS. What I mean is, Supernatural is supposed to take place in a real world that runs parallel to, and occasionally intersects with, our world. Or, more accurately, the civilian world. It’s not like Doctor Who, for example, which is a universe that exists throughout all of time and space. Supernatural exists on one plane of existence in one established timeline. Therefore, having the characters go back and forth in time tends to be problematic because it creates unexplainable paradoxes. That being said, Thompson did a good job dealing with that issue. It’s not that there weren’t any paradoxes. There were. How was past Bobby trapped with the Soul Eater at the same time as current Dean? If the sigil Bobby and Rufus put up in the house trapped the Soul Eater, why wasn’t Bobby’s soul and the soul of the mother and son still trapped there too? Thompson addressed some of that within the narrative mostly by declaring that the Soul Eater exists outside of time and space. It’s a bit simplistic, but it was still sufficient enough explanation to allow me to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy what was playing out on screen.

On a more technical note, I was really impressed with the way the time shifting was done. In some of the show’s past episodes, cutting back and forth between time periods has been kind of clunky. For example, in season eight’s ‘Southern Comfort’ Sam’s flashbacks to his time with Amelia were done in what I like to call soap opera style. Sam saw and/or heard something that reminded him of Amelia, and Sam stared wistfully away and got a faraway look in his eyes while the scene slowly materialized before us. I kind of hated that because it’s entirely too sappy for Supernatural’s tone. That’s more something you would expect to see in a Lifetime movie. In contrast, all of the shifts to flashbacks in this episode were instigated by movement. For example, Dean is walking through a door, but as the door opens, Bobby’s coming out in the past on the other side. It was all quite seamless and was much more in line with the overall tone of the show. Most importantly, though, I was never confused which time period I was in. Kudos to the director and the editors for top notch work.

This was another solid outing in what has been a pretty solid season thus far. Although I am a fan of the monster of the week episodes, I must admit that I’m itching to get back to the main storyline. I need to know what Amara has been doing since we last saw her. I need to know what Crowley has been up to since he escaped from Casifer, and what Casifer is doing to hunt down more Hands of God. In the meantime, I’m not going to complain about the MOTW episodes if they continue to be as well done as this episode. I was awesome to be scared by the show again. And of course it’s always delightful to watch Rufus and Bobby work a case together. I’m kind of bummed that we can’t have more. Technically, we of course could have more, but you know what I mean. If the powers that be are looking for a Supernatural spin-off, I would totally watch the Rufus and Bobby show. Just as an aside, can we all stop and talk about the beautifully heartbreaking, soul-crushing moment when Bobby and Dean saw each other in the Soul Eater’s nest? Seriously, Supernatural. I really need you to stop crushing me with all these feels. I still have to survive the season finale.