“Safe House” hails the return of Supernatural’s favorite father figure, Bobby Singer. We look forward to what has become Jim Beaver’s annual appearance in the series and appreciate the creative ways the writers find to integrate his character into the story. Supernatural gives us an episode full of mirrored moments as Sam and Dean investigate a case that Bobby and Rufus Turner (Steven Williams) were involved with years earlier. We’re reminded that the Winchesters have faced down an end-of-the-world scenario in the past, though it came at a great cost. As Rufus tells Bobby—the oldest rule in hunting is “you can’t save everyone.”
“Safe House” was written by the talented Robbie Thompson, known for his ingenious, humorous, and emotional stories like “Baby” (S11E04) and “Fan Fiction” (S10E05). The task of bringing this dual tale to life fell to director Stefan Pieszczynski. Pieszcynski and editor Don Koch used the movement between the parallel timelines to alter the pace and enhance the drama of the story.
The use of sound was an interesting element throughout: from the ghostly cries quietly accompanying the approaching footsteps, to the owl and train horn sounds while Rufus and Bobby were in the cemetery, to the echoing voices in the nest. The music in “Safe House” was restrained, heard mostly during the attack against the Soul Eater. Instrumental music was used beautifully to highlight souls being freed from the nest. As Sam/Dean and Rufus/Bobby study the lore, “Night Life” by Willie Nelson plays, because you can’t have a research montage without a soulful song to accompany it. The echo between the two narratives is reflected as “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band plays on both Bobby’s and Dean’s car radios as they drive away from the house.
There were a lot of well-done effects in “Safe House.” The eerie looking souls trapped in the darkened and sparse nest, as well as the creepy Soul Eater, made a very scary episode that much more terrifying. The visual and special effects teams on Supernatural do outstanding work, but these effects were much better than most on television. “Safe House” had the feel of a well-done horror film.
In “Safe House,” Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) realize that they’re working on a case that Bobby and Rufus had pursued years earlier. The Winchesters’ knowledge that they were following the same path made the story more interesting. They stay in the same hotel room, refer to Bobby’s hunting journal, and end up having to follow up leads they know that Bobby and Rufus probably already pursued.
The differences between the two stories allow for some great moments, including seeing Bobby use a backhoe right after hearing the hand-shoveling Dean complain, “There’s got to be an easier way to dig graves.” With some inside information from the Men of Letters library, the Winchesters take a different approach to the hunt. This leads to a comical parallel scene in which Dean declares, “Come and get me, you son of a bitch,” while Bobby utters, “Stay away from me, you son of a bitch.”
When the Soul Eater possesses the victims in its nest, we get intercut scenes of the Winchesters fighting and the battle between Rufus and Bobby. Normally, we aren’t fans of the fight scenes in Supernatural, but when Sam and Dean go at it (no matter who’s possessing them or what state they’re in) we’re always enthralled. Fight scenes between the brothers are always brutal, but the clash between the possessed Bobby and Rufus shows that these seasoned hunters are tough.
There was a lot that contributed to the success of “Safe House,” but what stood out was the performances of Jim Beaver and Steven Williams as the “Grumpy Old Men of Letters.” Their characters get great lines, and these actors know how to deliver. Watching Bobby by himself is always fun, but pair him with frenemy Rufus in a good story—now that’s something to watch. Ackles and Padalecki gave us some quiet emotional moments when Dean saw Bobby in the nest and then when Sam held his brother, saying “I got you.”
In “Safe House,” Supernatural gives us a spine-chilling stand-alone Monster of the Week episode. Rather than move the Season 11 story arc along, “Safe House” offers a connection to the overall series. The story provided a parallel narrative, while also reminding the audience that the boys have faced the impossible before by placing Bobby’s timeline sometime during Season 4. That being said, the ominous warning by Rufus about sacrifice and not being able to save everyone doesn’t bode well for the Winchesters as they face their biggest challenge since the Apocalypse.