Friday, January 6, 2012

Season 7, Episode 10: Death's Door

I know—once again, there's nothing quite like waiting until just hours before the next episode to review a prior episode. But this time, can you blame me? “Death's Door”, the last episode of Supernatural before holiday hiatus, was one of the most powerful hours of television I've seen. It takes time to properly mull over.

In the episode, a dying Bobby Singer, trapped within his own mind, flees a Grim Reaper. He's knows his time is limited, but he has to get back into his body just long enough to give important information to Sam and Dean. The deceased hunter Rufus is in his mind with him. Rufus explains to Bobby that “the only way out is though”--he has to go through his worst memories to get back to his body. In this way, we learn that Bobby and his late wife had a heartbreaking argument about raising children just days before she was possessed by a demon, and that Bobby killed his own father to defend his mother when he himself was just a child

There are just two things that bother me about this widely-loved episode.

The first has to do with Rufus. I love Rufus as much as anyone, but I always had a problem with the way he went out. In Season Six's “...And Then There Were None,” Rufus tells Bobby that he will never forgive him for what went wrong on their hunt in Omaha. (Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting indicates that Bobby was responsible for the death of Rufus's daughter.) This angry assertion is jarring, because it runs counter to the jovial banter that the two had been enjoying. Moments later, Bobby, who is possess at the time by a parasitic monster dubbed the Khan Worm, murders Rufus.

It felt like the subtext of Rufus's death was that Rufus doesn't have a right to his opinion about Bobby, This becomes even more uncomfortable when you consider the racial dynamics involved,. Race is also why—as happy as I was to see Rufus again—I cringed to see him bending over backwards to help the person' who's body killed him. Don't get me wrong, Rufus is a great character—funny when need be, badass when need be, as all the best Supernatural characters are. That's part of why he deserved a better story arc. And while I love the fact that he's a Black Jewish redneck, I feel like the show asks us to laugh at that, as if there weren't probably people who were all of the above (okay, at least two of the above.) I'm not even sure how Bobby is able to interact with him, since Rufus's spirit has moved on and they never discussed Rufus's near-death experience in life.

My other complaint is with the way Dean Winchester is being written at the moment. This is not a complaint about Jensen—he will always make the most of whatever he's given. But the losses have been mounting up for Dean—Lisa and Ben, Castiel, even the Impala. If he was ever going to break down, I would think it would be now. We have seen him cry before, and those have been some of Supernatural's most moving moments, in large part because of their rarity. Bobby has earned Dean's tears, but what do we get in “Death's Door”? Dean punching the wall when a guy tries to talk to him about organ donation. Let's face it, at this point, Dean punching a wall is just another day in the office...and this is not another day in the office.

Worst of all, when Sam tries to get Dean to talk about how he's feeling, Dean shuts him down. This leaves Sam hanging, with no one to talk to about what he's going through. I actually felt sorry for Sam, and that's not something I could have foreseen ever happening at the end of Season Four.

None of these concerns, however, dull the overall power of the episode Bobby is able to face his own demons, and revives long enough to give Sam and Dean a series of numbers that will prove a key to the Leviathans' plans. I can't imagine any Supernatural fan who didn't tear up as Bobby confronted his projection of his father, challenging the idea that he breaks everything he touches. 'I adopted two boys, and they turned out great. They turned out heroes.” Sam and Dean also have some hilarious walk-ons, bickering with each other about the relative merits of different action heroes and movie foods.

As “Death's Door” winds down, the darkness encroaching on the landscape of Bobby's mind mirrors the shutting down of his body, in a poignant metaphor about the death that comes to all of us. The Reaper who's been hounding him asks him if he wants to stay or to move on, but you get the idea that it's the equivalent of last call at a bar: “you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.” As Bobby's memories fade, his last pleasant memory is of Sam and Dean, at home with him on a rare night of relaxation.

We're left not knowing how Bobby answered the Reaper's question. Presumably we'll find out soon enough. The show tends to bring back whoever they want, whenever they want, but as several friends of mine have stated, Bobby's departure feels more final. I honestly think that would be a good decision for the show; but if that happens, I still believe that Castiel needs to come back, or someone else needs to step in to help the Winchesters with their formidable foe. Castiel needs to come back at least once, in any case, for closure's sake.

If this is, in fact, Bobby Singer's final call, he is sure to live on in the hearts of Supernatural fans. Thank you, Jim Beaver, for years of top-notch acting (even though I still expect flashbacks), and thank you Bobby for all that you did for our boys.

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