Supernatural season 11 episode 16 review: Safe House

A new foe allows Supernatural season 11 to play with some classic and more recent horror references...

This review contains spoilers.

11.16 Safe House

Returning after a few weeks’ break, Sam and Dean find themselves investigating a mysterious house in which a young girl was attacked by her mother. It turns out that the house has been investigated before by none other than Rufus and Bobby. The two investigations play out in parallel as what seems to be a regular haunting but actually turns out to be a soul eater. Of course, Rufus and Bobby don’t leave many notes behind to help out Sam and Dean, so the brothers have to piece together what they can to help out the current victims.

Having the two investigations is a clever way of bringing back beloved characters, especially Bobby, without having to get too heavy into lore or disturbing the peace we know Bobby has achieved now. We get lots of great little character moments in there; Dean embellishing Bobby’s heroics in the first soul eater hunt because he idolises his pseudo-father whilst Bobby’s telling of it to Rufus is markedly done with less gusto.

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It also gives the show’s technical side a chance to show off as we flit between the two timelines, matching the experiences of the two hunting partnerships to each other as we move through the episode. The research montage is a particularly good example, even down to the different foods they’re eating, but it’s the climactic fight that’s really impressive as the soul eater possesses Bobby/Dean to fight Rufus/Sam. The camera whirls round the two fighting pairs, cutting back and forth with a good precision, adding an extra thrill to a fairly standard final clash.

The “A Handful of Years Ago” caption is a funny visual joke and it’s a thrill to see see Rufus and Bobby back again, working together on a case, looking all snazzy in their FBI suits and pretending to be Riggs and Murtaugh (note Sam’s “I’m getting too old for this” later in the episode too). They also happen to be in the middle of attempting to avert the Lilith apocalypse at this point. As Rufus says to Bobby, the first rule of hunting is that you can’t save everyone and there is always someone to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

The soul eater is a new foe (it’s always surprising when that happens so late in the game) and one which allows the episode to play with some classic and more recent horror references. The soul eater nest, a space between worlds, has got some Insidious style vibes going on as well as showing Dean and Bobby, as they make their way through the nest, their worst nightmares. For Dean, it’s obviously losing Sam, but for Bobby, it’s seeing Sam and Dean beaten and broken once again. Whether it’s intended as foreshadowing for the remainder of the season won’t be confirmed until later, but it builds into that general sense that Sam and Dean may not make it out together this time, just like Rufus and Bobby.

Placing the two stories in parallel illustrates how the hunting experience doesn’t really change, even down to the seemingly required uniform of plaid shirts, jeans and boots. It’s a never-ending battle that always has a new enemy to contend with, or sometimes the older ones who get to return once in awhile, particularly relevant with Lucifer coming back. It’s one of many meta nods to Supernatural’s formula that has appeared throughout the season so far, that nothing ever seems to change no matter how hard they fight. They just have to save as many people as they can along the way.

Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, Beyond The Mat, here.