Safe House was a great welcome back after a long hiatus when it first aired. It offered old friends, a fresh case, interestingly transitioned flashbacks and simple but unique Monster of the Week all for a good story and a perfect, timeless spotlight on the connection between Bobby Singer and his boys.
So how does it hold back looking back at the season as a whole? As with many of the stand-alones throughout season eleven, Safe House had a lot to offer as an individual episode: a serviceable monster of the week, a plot that moved along and, most significantly for this episode, a unique way of telling the story with old friends to boot. Yes, Safe House stands as a decent episode and a nice break from that whole “darkness” storyline.
Jim Beaver and Stephen Williams are welcome to visit Supernatural any day – past, present or future days; and together is even better. Watching these two team up again was a treat – gruff and gruffer. If we thought Bobby was a curmudgeon, Rufus taught him a thing or two and with a sprinkling of sass of for fun. Quite apparently the parallel meant to be drawn was between these two and the Winchester boys and while there were certainly similarities, the writers did a good job of ensuring this relationship had an entirely unique flavor unto itself.
Despite the constant bickering between Bobby and Rufus, the friendship is old and the trust is solid, very necessary things in their line of work. This is especially apparent in how much Rufus focuses on Bobby’s nap in the car, knowing it to be indicative of something and pushing for just what that something is. Sam and Dean have a similar style of back and forth and a like ability to read each other, knowing that the things someone else might brush off casually as a nap in the car after a long drive – are indicative of something else more serious.
Truth be told, the monster story itself doesn’t have much meat to it – but it didn’t need to. The beastie was simple enough, a soul-eater feasting on people as they passed through the house. Bobby and Rufus managed to trap it in the purgatory where it builds its nest, and some years later Sam and Dean finally manage to kill it. The irony of a soul-eater at this point in the game, not to mention the apocalypse scenario in both times that each involve Lucifer and evil women (Amara and Lilith, depending what year you’re in) and particularly a soul-eater that goes on to offer “protection” from Amara is too blatant not to mention.
In either year, it’s a matter of chasing every lead and the risk of who gets left behind. Of course, Bobby’s time – Sam is the one tempted by the evil woman and now we have Dean being enticed by Amara. It’s quite a balanced book of seduction and evil by this point. However, the real story wasn’t about the monster, it was the relationships: an area where Supernatural consistently excels.
Hunters can’t possibly get it right every single time – so inevitably they’ll stumble over one another’s old thought-to-be-taken-care-of situation, and have to redo it. Why not turn it into a new way to bring back long deceased friends for a visit? One of the benefits of a show like Supernatural is that dead never really means gone forever (see: Mary Winchester). Of course, summoning, ghostly appearances and even visits to Heaven have been a touch, well, common place in recent years so offering this double-sided storytelling was a great new perspective. The episode was clean, smooth, steady and consistent without overplaying overdone emotional tropes or lacking in any action, humour or even the depth of relationship between Bobby and boys that we’ve come to love.
The tandem scenes and transitional flashbacks throughout the 42 minutes alongside a simple – though not lacking in purpose – MOTW allowed an excellent delivery of story with old friends, light on angst and spotlighting the connection between Bobby and Sam and Dean. There are no scenes between Bobby and Sam and Dean in this episode directly; nevertheless, the relationship is ever-present and the bond just as strong. Bobby’s growing concern for his boys and the thought that he may lose one or both of them as he discusses the Apocalypse situation with Rufus at the graveyard is a quiet and rare grief from Bobby. The foreboding of season five hangs very heavy – even knowing how it all ends as we do, it’s still a heavy exchange.
“Been burning the midnight oil, last couple weeks…Sam and Dean are right in the middle of this thing. I’m worried about my boys, Rufus.”
Beyond just the concern and emotional connection, but the clear impact in other ways that Bobby has had on the boys. We were never unclear about this of course – we aren’t idjits after all – but an onscreen reminder is always fun to witness too:
“Come and get me, you son of a bitch.”
“Stay away from me, you son of a bitch.”
Finally, one of the great moments: when we have Dean interrupting Bobby’s journal entry about the entire situation and it is this journal entry he will later look for and be disappointed to discover wildly inadequate and of very little use.
Ah, Dean. If only you knew.
“Even if we find a way to keep the world spinning’ not everyone’s gonna be on that bus ride home. Sacrifice, greater good, all that jazz…. Oldest rule in hunting, Bobby. You can’t save everyone.”
Throughout the episode, there is focus on this idea that not everyone survives and of course, that as a Hunter you must accept sometimes you will not make the save, sometimes your coworkers won’t survive – that’s just how it goes. As Bobby famously declared of Rufus, he knew his friend was dead the day they met; it was just a question of who would go first.
Naturally, this statement is apropos in nearly every season, though for season eleven, at this point in time, it could have been indicative of not being able to recoup Cas from Lucifer’s grip or foreshadowing Dean’s sacrifice with the soul-bomb later on. There are several interesting applications of this message, depending on the perspective from which it is considered: Bobby’s later reflection when Sam dies at the end of season five, for example.
Of course Rufus does retract his statement – “forget the oldest rule” – and in the end, everyone does survive this time through. Foreshadowing or happenstance of word choice? Certainly there have been a great number of casualties in the years between Rufus and Bobby’s conversation and Dean and Sam’s arrival at the same house (including Rufus and Bobby themselves), so the oldest rule is not untrue as we know.
The point in the end, which is the unspoken part of the oldest rule of hunting, but keenly illustrated throughout the episode, is that, you can’t save everyone…but you fight to the death to try anyways. We witness Bobby and Dean sucked into a Soul-Eater den in an effort to stop said beastie; in Dean’s case it’s by choice, Bobby less so. And Sam and Dean argued about who GOT to go in – because both wanted to be that person. Inside the den they each push past the suffering images dead loved ones and work to complete their missions. Outside, we have Soul-eaters tempting hunters, with promises of that beautiful thing – everlasting safety:
“You know, your bother wants to go to the Darkness; he needs to go. But I can keep you safe, both of you. Forever.”
In either timeline we have a collection of the hunters against impossible, world-ending odds that will, by all counts, wipe them out before they succeed in saving the World (a largely ignorant and/or ungrateful world in any time). Plus the pain, suffering and loss of friends in both times. Despite this, we have fighting and, as we the audience knows of course, success (with great cost though) for the most part.
Yes, Safe House was a perfect illustration of the way our boys, then and now, have tried to operate in the hunting life style – and the who they’ve learned from along the way as well.
It’s a sincere episode with heart and humour and solid, if simple, story. We learn the answer to Bobby’s bet with Rufus from way back when and at it’s foundation the episode seems to be about the family core that is Supernatural.
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