Sunday, 4 December 2011

Review - Supernatural 7.10 "Death's Door"

Warning: contains spoilers...

“Well Bobby, stay or go, what it is going to be?”

Supernatural has always had an underlying theme of family, but beyond that, it’s also been about fathers and sons. Our four main characters over the past six and a half years have all dealt with their own issues around their fathers. Since losing John, the Winchester brothers have struggled to come to terms with who their father was, how he raised them and their relationship with him. Sam grew to understand their father more, where as Dean seemed to understand him less. Castiel felt deserted by his father. He was hurt and angry at what he saw as being let down by God, the one ‘person’ he always had unquestioning faith in. Now in Death’s Door we discover that Bobby had an abusive drunk for a father. A father who scarred his son so deeply, that he grew up not trusting in his own ability to fulfill that role. He chose instead not to have children, breaking his wife’s and consequently his own heart in the process. But, without even realising it, Bobby Singer rose above all the deeply flawed fathers that came before him and grew into the kind of father you could look up to. Without even realising it, he became the kind of father you could trust and respect, one who guided and taught with kindness and love. Without even realising it, he became a father to two boys, who grew into remarkable men. Death’s Door led Bobby Singer on a greatest hits tour of the memories he never wanted to face and in doing so, helped him to understand who he really was. Bobby Singer was not just a cranky old hunter helping out a couple of rag-tag orphan boys, as they fought to keep the world and all its inhabitants from driving off the cliff. Bobby Singer was a father. And a damn good one.

I must admit I've been sort of dreading writing this. The heartbreak and devastation I felt immediately after Death's Door and for some hours following it, left me feeling shaky. The thought of having to revisit the episode and in detail, made me nervous, but I guess what I really felt was fear. I’m scared by where we go next. I’m scared that when left with the choice to ‘stay’ or ‘go’ Bobby’ll choose to stay and become a spirit, or choose to go and we’ll lose him forever. I’m scared with how this loss will impact Sam and Dean. How will Sam’s fragile grasp on reality cope with an emotional blow this big? How will Dean’s fragile grasp on existence cope with this latest hit in the guts? I’m scared of what will happen to Sam and Dean’s world if they’re left with no one and nothing but each other. And if faced with it, I’m scared with how I’ll deal with saying goodbye to Bobby Singer. But more importantly, with how I’ll deal with saying goodbye to Jim Beaver……..

Death’s Door picked up where How To Win Friends And Influence Monsters left off, with Bobby with a bullet in his custard and Sam and Dean unraveling as they realise the gravity of the situation. Sam in the back of the van trying to triage Bobby’s wound, Dean yelling at Sam to talk to him, Sam yelling at Dean that he’s not an idiot and Dean swerving all over the road as he drives like a bat out of Hell to get Bobby to the hospital. Around this moment I'd already chewed off all my nails. As we CSI’d it into Bobby’s brain we witness a familiar scene, with Bobby and the boys walking through the forest and coming across the hanging body of Deputy Ranger Phil. Something’s not right here and Bobby knows it. It only takes him a moment to realise he’s inside his own mind and it takes him even less time to realise, no matter what happens, somehow he has to get the information about the Leviathan’s end game to the boys, before he fades to black forever. Around this moment I remembered I had to breathe. In the waking world, Sam and Dean have made it to the hospital and wait anxiously, hoping against hope that the bullet in Bobby’s brain can be extracted and he’ll be okay, but in the dream world, or the world inside Bobby’s slowly dying brain, we see a different picture. We see a Reaper and a ticking watch and we realise, that quite possibly, Bobby’s time is up. Around this moment a pit in my stomach, about the size of the one in Stull Cemetery, opened up. Not Bobby. Please, not Bobby.

As much as this episode ripped my heart to shreds, I loved it. I loved every, single, painful moment of it. It was a beautiful ode to a man who we have come to love as a hunter, a hero, a friend and a father. To travel through Bobby’s memories with him and his buddy and old partner Rufus, played with such verve by the magnificent Steven Williams, felt like an honour. We discovered so much about him. About his wife Karen, about his deepest regret, not that he had to kill her but that he broke her heart and never got a chance to make it right. We discover Bobby lived in his childhood home, until the Leviathan burned it to the ground. That his family life was miserable, with a drunk for a father who beat him and his mother. We discover that while protecting his mother, Bobby killed his father by shooting him in the head, ironically, or probably not being as this is Supernatural, in exactly the same spot where Bobby received his fatal blow. Instead of thanking him or consoling him, his mother told him, “God will punish you.” As Bobby said to his younger self, this is where he learned that they pretty much never say thanks when you save them.

But the most important thing that we discover is how he feels about Sam and Dean. His boys. It was the first time we ever heard him refer to them as his boys, his children. “Well as fate would have it, I adopted two boys and they grew up great. They grew up heroes!” His happy memories were of Sam and Dean. Of tossing a ball with young Dean and hanging out with two brothers being the idiots we know them to be. And we saw his final memory, the one that he saved to last. The grown up Sam and Dean, bickering about Chuck Norris and Jet Li, about licorice versus peanut butter and banana sandwiches, calling each other jerkface and asshat. In Bobby’s favourite memory, as everything else dimmed and disappeared around him, he was with his boys, they were a family and they were home….

I couldn’t decide whether to smile or cry. I think I did both at the same time. Supernatural is so brilliant at making you experience a myriad of emotions tumbling over each other. And all through this, Bobby is running, running from the Reaper (great Reaper by the way, impatient but compassionate), trying to find the door out of his coma, not so he can live, but so he can deliver a final message to his boys, a series of numbers that might help them destroy the Leviathan threat.

In the waking world, Sam and Dean can only watch on as Bobby tries to cling to life. Sam is quiet. He’s trying to come to terms with what’s happening, silently pressing his palm as he chases away the hallucinations threatening to over take his emotionally fraught mind. Dean is in denial, pacing like a tiger. A ball of nervous energy, he won’t accept that they might lose Bobby, it’s just one bullet, he’s gonna be fine because he’s always fine. Sam tries to reason with him, Dean won’t have any of it. In a fit of rage he punches out a glass case above the head of the poor hospital staff member who had the misfortune to try to discuss organ donation with him. In Dean’s mind, Bobby will not die, he can’t even entertain it, so why discuss it “Walk away from me. NOW!” 

In a scene that made every hair on my body stand up, Dean walks outside and finds Dick Roman gloating at the chaos he has created. In true Dean style he lays down a threat and when Dick laughs in his face, through gritted teeth Dean says, “You’re either laughing because you’re scared or you’re laughing because you’re stupid.” I swear Dick Roman’s smile froze on his face and I swear I saw the smallest chink in his over confident armor. The whole exchange reminded me of when Dean threatened his grandfather through the cell door in Caged Heat. When will the evil sons of bitches learn? When Dean Winchester says he’s gonna kill ya, you better be worried. I loved this moment. I saw a fire in Dean’s belly that I’d been missing. I also loved that when he came back inside and Sam, all puppy-eyed, younger brother asked him what the hospital official wanted, Dean saves Sam the pain of hearing it was about organ donation and fobs it off as some insurance thing. Forever protecting each other. 

Though they don’t talk all that much through the scenes in the hospital, the looks the boys give each other speaks volumes. It’s the lack of words that hold the most power. They’re scared. They’re desperate. I thought the characterisation of Sam and Dean in these scenes was absolutely spot on. Both reacted exactly how I would expect them to. Dean never wants to hear bad news. Sam is always willing to entertain the worst and try to make some peace with it. Sam always tries to reason. Dean always storms off. But their faces. The look Dean throws back to Sam as he’s leaving the room after Sam tries to have the difficult conversation is pure devastation and the look on Sam’s face as he pitifully presses his palm is pure fear and confusion. 
When Bobby came to just for that moment, my heart sank. I just knew it. I said out loud, to no one in particular, “Oh God, he’s going to die.” With Sam and Dean around his bed, I had the distinct feeling that it was all over. As Sam thanked him for “everything” and Dean looked on frozen in fear and grief and hope, Bobby opened his eyes. He was awake just long enough to get the message to his boys. He was awake just long enough to tell them he loved them. “Idjits.” The little smiles on all their faces, the pure love pouring out of all three of them. I just knew then and there, even before that flat-line kicked in, that this was the end. And as Bobby watched his favourite memory disappear before his eyes, and as we saw Sam and Dean watch in horror as the hospital staff rushed to try and revive the one person, other than each other, that they have left in their world, I cried more tears than I thought was possible for a character in a TV show. I cried for Bobby Singer, I cried for Sam and Dean and I cried for all of us, because God damn it, we’re going to miss him.

“Well Bobby, stay or go? What’s it going to be?” I want Bobby to stay. I mean, obviously. But this episode was so powerful, was so profoundly moving, would turning around and having him be revived by the hospital staff diminish it? If Bobby has to go out, I can think of no more fitting ending. He was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life. He died an ordinary death, but in the midst of it, showed extraordinary fortitude to make sure, one final time, he would help humanity survive. He died a true heroe's death, putting his own desire for life behind the desire to help those he loves. It was perfect. So if he is miraculously revived, via medical or supernatural means, does that defeat the purpose or the poignancy of this episode? I love Bobby Singer and I want my memory of him to be heroic. I want my memory of him to be of his love for his boys. So what does that mean? I guess it means, whatever the outcome in January, I want it to do justice to the man Bobby Singer was and is and to the character and the show I adore.

You know, when Sera and Bob said at the beginning of this season that they were going to strip everything from Sam and Dean, I didn’t think they meant everything. I wasn’t surprised by Castiel, because, if I’m honest, I was surprised he came back after the end of season 5. I think his disappearing from the Impala with Dean’s “You really suck at goodbyes, you know that?” line was a perfect exit for Cas. I think the writers struggled to know what to do with an Angel once that plot line was finished and I think the writing was well and truly on the wall all throughout season 6, that Castiel was a goner, at least for a while. But Bobby? I’m not sure I saw that one coming! And is it necessary? Well I don’t know, because I don’t know where this season arc is heading. But one thing is for sure, a true hero shows his or her metal when faced with the toughest situation and Sam and Dean have now been thrown in to the toughest situation they have faced for a very long time, possibly ever. They are facing a foe that can't be killed and if in fact Bobby is dead, they're doing it alone. Their reality has shrunk to two. They’ve lost everything except each other. They will have to rebuild their relationship and the trust in each other, that for a while now, has been patchy at best. They will have to be each others stone number one. They will have to rise above their own pain, their own anxiety, their own personal demons and be the heroes we know them to be. And I will look forward to that. I’m one of the fans who is here for the Winchester brothers, their trials, their tribulations, their bond, their journey. But, surely they need other people in their lives? There are a lot of fans still hoping that Castiel's not dead and I know that as we go into the hellatus there are a lot of fans hoping and probably assuming that Bobby’s not dead. But, I don’t know people. I just don’t know........

Death’s Door, is not only the best episode this season, it's one of the strongest episodes Supernatural has ever delivered. Sera Gamble is roundly lambasted for everything from destroying the show to melting the polar ice caps, but one thing’s for damn sure, whether you like the direction of the season or not, the woman is a bloody good writer. Personally, I’m a huge fan. This was a truly complex and beautiful script. It was a masterpiece. An extraordinary tour de force from the cast with everyone turning in the most gut wrenching, emotional performances. Jim, Jensen, Jared, everyone, they were all flawless. It was a superbly directed episode with gorgeous cinematography, lighting, set design and editing. It was perfect. Perfectly heartbreaking and effective. Kudos to each and every member of the cast and crew involved in making this show and kudos to Ms Gamble for reminding us this show is and always will be about heart.

So here we all are in the hellatus, nervous, worried, frightened, sad, enraptured, engrossed, lucky. Lucky to be fans of a show that continually challenges us, makes us want to discuss, share, write and create. Lucky to be fans of a show that has a cast that is honestly thankful for our commitment and support and a crew that is happy to talk to us and answer our questions. Lucky to be fans of a show that can create a character like Bobby Singer, a character that we feel so strongly about that we shatter into a million pieces at the thought of losing him. Whatever comes our way in January, we're pretty lucky to have a show like this.

Thanks for reading....I really don't think I could ever do this episode justice, there's just too much in it, too many layers and quite frankly, it's still too raw. Maybe I'll revisit it, when I can see through my tears.....

Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and here's the promo for next freakin' year! - Amy

*Dec 7 - Post note...with the recent information that Misha is coming back later in the season, I'm feeling a little more optimistic about Bobby's outcome. Now the initial sting has warn off...almost...


  1. Oh Amy this is the most amazing heartfelt review! I think you are right on the money. I agree that this was he most fitting tribute to Bobby's character & significance to the Winchester boys & the story @Deanie_24

  2. I dont think that if Bobby is brought back it would change the impact of this episode, just like how knowing the boys would come back doesnt change the impact of any of their death episodes. Or the flashback episodes of Mary and John dont change the impact even though we know they are as dead and worms are playing in their ashes. I think we as an audience needs to understand where Bobby is coming from and where he has been and what he thinks - much like the Dream a Little Dream episode - the first time we knew about why Bobby became a hunter to begin with.
    Totally agree with you Amy, one of the best episodes of Supernatural full stop. BTW did you notice that young ball throwing Dean looks like a young Adam?
    Awesome review like always

  3. Beautifally written, and very moving, Amy. I don't even want to think about what happens next.

  4. Thank you for this beautifully written article. It reflects my feelings. What other show now on TV has this kind of fan base, the devotion, the many diverse and heartfelt opinions...Supernatural has brought me hundreds of hours of viewing and reflection. I am grateful to the cast and writers for this immensely satisfying show.

  5. Beautiful! Your review and the episode...that is all..::DDD

  6. What a wonderful review, Amy. Best I've read yet. You have truly captured the essence of this show - thanks for that!

  7. Back in Seasons 1-3 just Sam and Dean on their own was fine. Back then they were strong both in emotions and in belief. But now, there are too many things piled on top of one another and I, too, am not sure that the boys are going to be able to cope with the loss(?) of Bobby.

    I just LOVED having Rufus back – can we please have a spin-off called ‘The Adventures of Rufus and Bobby’? Oh, and that earring!

    How great were the brotherly scenes with Sam and Dean. I think I can safely say that every single person in the entire fandom just wants this. For the boys to be happy and relaxed (and, of course, for some of the fandom throw in some gay sex scenes too - you know who you are). I think it was scenes such as these that pulled the episode together. Had the ENTIRE episode made us bawl our eyes out none of us would be willing to come back and risking more next episode!

    I think, for me, the point where Bobby flatlined that was it – I just couldn’t hold back anymore and cried. And cried. And cried.

    I love Bobby and I LOVE Jim Beaver but if this is how Bobby leaves the show then I'm okay with that. 'Deaths Door' is potentially the best way possible that any character on Supernatural can be sent off with no lingering questions, no feelings of being short changed by the writing staff. I like to believe that one day when Supernatural does come to an end the boys will be sent off in a similar way and I have no doubt that the writers will make it even better because that's just what they do.

    Once again Amy great review and thankyou for writing how lucky we are. That's exactly how I feel too.

  8. Awesome review Amy! I am speechless when I finished watching the episode. I am too sad. Like.. on one hand I wanted Bobby to live. But I kinda think this could be it. I think because it was set to be the like a hero send-off, I really don't know what to expect next. Will he come back? How? What's gonna happen, exactly? Ah! I am too sad to think.

    I agree with you.. I love the script. I love the writing.. I love the complexity. How many shows can display such quality week-in week-out?

    *Sad face*


  9. Your review gave the show justice. Even reading it had me tearing up. If in fact Bobby is dead, then yes, it was the most beautiful send off SPN has ever had. And I absolutely agree with you about Sera Gamble, she excels at these kinds of episodes. People grumble but they seem to forget that she is the best writer, along with Ben Edlund, that SPN has ever had.

  10. beautiful job Amy! such an amazing episode. You did a wonderful job going through it. it is so hard to talk about. all the father and son emotions we have seen throughout the seasons. And Bobby, most petrified to turn into his father, making the best father of all. We have become so invested in Bobby over the years, we have taken him for granted, believed that he would always be there like Sam and Dean have. maybe, like Sam told us, we should be bracing ourselves for the inevitable...but it is so hard. we want so much for Sam and Dean to have someone in their lives that understands them...and Bobby was that person...But the episode was amazing! so well written, so well acted...the pace was perfect, and the feelings were captured magnificently.