No doubt about it, episode ten has historically packed one heck of an emotional punch and this one is not breaking that pattern. Death’s Door was nothing short of perfect.
I’ve broken the two coinciding streams of this episode apart and examined them as whole pieces, rather than intercut with one another, so bear with me through the somewhat recap-esque quality of this review. The episode was so wonderful, that most every moment deserved mention. I’m still reeling from the information and emotion that was rolled into that intense 40 minute episode. I’ve already watched it three times consecutively and it still gets me every time. Everyone have tissue on hand? Okay, let’s get to it.
We start off with Bobby and the boys back in the woods during the Turducken fiasco, before Bobby was shot. This particular scene was only minutes after Dean and Sam reminisced about how Bobby used to take them hunting/camping as children, which is a fitting place to begin this episode that is all about fathers and sons.
Bobby and the boys end up back at Bobby’s house where he realizes he needs to write down these critical numbers (somehow relating to the evil Leviathan endgame) and when he turns around he is another, different memory. This time, we’re seeing life shortly before his wife was possessed pre-hunter life. Bobby knows this memory and Jim Beaver plays the subtle emotions of Bobby so very well. He’s struck by recall of his lovely wife Karen (played again with gentle grace by Carrie Ann Fleming) but he knows that he has to deal with the inside of his scrambled brain, so he can’t stay with her.
Next we flash to Bobby and Rufus working together on a ghost hunt. It’s wonderful to see Rufus again (played fabulously by Steven Williams, who will always be Captain Adam Fuller of 21 Jump Street for me). Bobby follows Rufus into the church and encounters his reaper. Reapers are always colourful, charismatic characters, most memorable of course being Tessa. This reaper is matter of fact, clearly powerful and also impatient. We’ve seen reapers implore their reapee’s in various ways to go along with them, sometimes using a soft-touch approach and others using more straightforward, like this one. Maybe because Bobby is a hunter this reaper has elected the latter approach. Either way, Bobby sneaks away and the reaper promises there is nowhere to hide.
“You got handed a small unremarkable life and you did something with it-you’ve done enough, believe me.””
The next memory we’re dropped into is Bobby and the boys one assumes, during the three week period when the boys were laying low at Rufus’ cabin (I have amended this assumption because Dean has no cast and therefore, it is not during this period – as others have pointed out, this is likely Bobby’s house) and Bobby is asked to weigh in on who would win in a fight, Chuck Norris or Jet Li. Opening a door, Bobby looks in on another, darker memory from his childhood. From his immediate turning away from the memory, we know this is going to be integral and revisited for resolution.
So back to the hunt with Rufus, in which Bobby is called a heartbreaker, burns the bones and gets Rufus to a hospital. Rufus, having handily just survived near death himself, tells Bobby how he managed to “get back”” to the real world and from this point forward acts as a sort of guide through the memories for Bobby. Until this point, none of the memories we’ve seen have been of the stab-you-in-the-heart variety, but we’re really just getting started.
Bobby and Rufus end up back in the bedroom, presumably in few scenes after the first conversation between Bobby and Karen, as it seems she now knows he does not intend to have children because, as we find out shortly, he is terrified of becoming his father. Painfully, Bobby reveals to Rufus that is was only three days after this fight that Karen was possessed and they were never able to resolve this before she died, which stands as the biggest regret he has. Turning from this memory, it is contrasted with a younger Bobby and young Dean playing catch instead of honing hunting skills as John Winchester requested. Present-day Bobby and Rufus watch, Bobby with a grin on his face. Despite all his fears, Bobby was a great father.
The next scene is incredibly powerful. We push back in on Bobby’s parents at the dinner table his father is obviously a mean, horrible human being before we even hear him speak a word. The most intense moment here is when young Bobby knocks the glass of milk to the floor and in slow motion, we all watch with bated breath as it shatters. It seems inconsequential really, such a normal thing: kids knock dishes over all the time. But we know this is a catalyst and can see the storm coming a mile away, which is what makes this a powerful moment. Sure enough, Papa Singer goes nuclear, “you break everything you touch!”, but instead of getting loud and angry, he’s quiet and angry which is worse. This moment has palpable fear of what is to come the danger oozes off this man and he hasn’t done more than utter a few words and pushing a plate to the floor.
Bobby can’t watch anymore, instead electing to use a reaper trap to slow the reaper down and give him more time to get out, or back I suppose. We begin to see more things fade or blank as Bobby and Rufus go about gathering ingredients for this spell and we know that his brain is slowly dying, memories are disappearing. The reaper shows up and much like Tessa and Dean in the hospital all those years ago, tells Bobby that he’s done enough, he deserves to move on now and if he doesn’t, he’ll become the thing he hunts. Rufus echoes this sentiment, suggesting Bobby maybe accept it and move on. Bobby says he doesn’t care if he’s “finished”” because they’re his boys and he won’t leave them blind. Bobby knows that he needs to get the information to the Winchester boys so he takes a deep breath and dives back into the horrible kitchen memory of his father.
“I was a kid! Kids aren’t supposed to be grateful. They’re supposed to eat your food and break your heart, you selfish dick.””
In this memory, we see Bobby’s mother blaming Bobby for provoking his father, and his father accusing him of being a bad kid. But present-day Bobby finally gets to exchange words his father, calling him out as being a bad dad. And he finally admits that though he didn’t have kids of his own, he was a great father: “As fate would have it, I adopted two boys and they grew up great. They grew up heroes.”” This was a beautiful moment, Bobby finally able to stand up to his father and openly claiming the Winchester boys as his own. Jim Beaver is a powerful actor, as we know, especially in moments like this because while his character is gruff and tough, without breaking this character, Jim Beaver gets across so many emotions and puts the audience right there with him.
Young Bobby returns to the kitchen with a gun, ready to face his father and defend his mother, in the end he kills his father. Ironically, as the reaper points out, with the same gunshot would he is currently suffering from. Bobby’s mother tells him God will punish him and present-Bobby explains what happens next, that young Bobby buries his father’s body outside and that this is where he learned people aren’t grateful as a rule.
Bobby manages to break out – wake up – briefly, before returning for one finally memory: he saved the best for last and it is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking ““ only on Supernatural. No other word for it. He watches Sam and Dean squabble affectionately about liquorice. And then, in one of the quietest moments of the series, we are left with a heart pounding cliff hanger ““ “Well Bobby, stay or go, what it is going to be?””
The episode opens where we left last week, with Bobby shot and Sam and Dean in the van. Dean is demanding to know if Bobby is dead and both boys are quickly unravelling, snapping at one another in their panic. Dean drives like a madman to get Bobby to the trauma centre. Once there, we watch the boys panic over Bobby and Dean ask, not for the last time, when are they taking the bullet out.
The doctor reveals to Dean and Sam that Bobby is stable for the moment and it’s a game of wait and see from here on out. In this moment, the boys say nothing to one another but the looks they exchange don’t need words. Sam is leaning against the wall, unable to hold himself under the weight the dawning realization that Bobby may in fact die and Dean just looks lost, unable to process this reality. Both are devastated, and I’m right there with them.
The doctor talks to the boys again, and Sam realizes that in most cases the patient dies. Another hospital staffer approaches to speak to the boys and Dean pulls him aside to deal with what he thinks is an insurance issue. Actually, they want to harvest Bobby’s organs while their viable. I don’t envy the people who actually have to do this in real life. It must be an incredibly difficult position: on one hand there is grieving family and you know you’re going to cause further heartache with these questions, but on the other, it may save several more lives. That said this poor guy really took his life into his own hands by talking to Dean about organ donation. And poor Dean ““ it was just too much for him. He cannot accept that Bobby will die, because he’s always fine and doesn’t understand why the doctors can’t just do their damn jobs and save him. Dean puts his fist through some glass and advises the man to walk away, immediately.
When Dean walked outside the hospital, I had a few things crossing my mind. First and foremost, when we see Dean this desperate about a loved one, he likes to trade his soul and I though a call for Crowley may be forthcoming. What we got was actually better. Dean recognized Dick Roman’s car outside the hospital and takes his anger out on him. Dick says few words, smug and smarmy as always, but Dean has the advantage that Dick is famous and people all have cameras, so he’s feeling pissed off, bold and protected enough to share some thoughts with the Leviathan chief. He tells Dick that they are coming for him in no uncertain terms: “You’re either laughing because you’re scared or you’re laughing because you’re stupid. I’ll see you soon, Dick.”” I got chills at this threat promise from Dean. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I sensed a slight creeping of pause on Dick’s face as he considered Dean’s words. Be afraid, Dick, be very afraid.
We next watch Dean shakily get a cup of vending machine coffee and head back to Sam, where he spares Sam a bit by telling him that organ donor guy was just after insurance information. Sammy, for his part looks very “little brother”” as Dean walks over but gets his alert face on when Dean informs him of Dick Roman’s presence outside the hospital. There is a little moment in here that is really catching for me. Dean asks Sam for an update on Bobby and Sam turns to look at Bobby, but not before casting his brother a concerned sideways looks. From the conversation that follows I think this look is also measuring, because Sam is more willing to accept the reality that Bobby may in fact die, where Dean is fighting strongly against it. Dean is again after the bullet coming out but Sam tells him they aren’t doing that yet. Sam takes Dean aside for a difficult conversation and Dean won’t entertain it, stating that they’ve been through enough before walking away. Poor Sam looks just wrecked as he sits down and tries to gain control of his emotions. It’s brief, but we see him pressing on his hand wound again and this is telling: Bobby’s condition has both boys unravelling, piece by piece.
The doctor tells Sam and Dean that they should see Bobby now, because they are taking him for surgery. Sam clasps his hand, holding back tears, and tells him thanks for everything. And then, Bobby’s eyes open. He tries to talk, but Dean gets him writing materials instead. Weak, but determined, Bobby writes the numbers down on Sam’s hand and utters just one word: “Idgits” and that’s when the ugly cry started. Bobby flat lines and boys are removed the room, watching, devastated, as hospital staff rushes past them trying to save Bobby.
I don’t often talk about the mechanics of the episodes in my reviews. Usually the lighting, make up, set design, etc. is very well done, but every so often an episode comes along where it is particularly phenomenal and all the elements come together in perfect harmony. This is one such episode. The scenes in the hospital are cast in grey, muted tones. It’s sombre, it’s a bit gritty and the world around Sam and Dean is seen with grieving eyes.
By contrast, Bobby’s memories take on softer edges and more dynamic lighting. We see candles, bright moonlight and warm sunlight as well as deep shadows. It creates a subtly ethereal quality about the dream state in Bobby’s head. Even the scene in the kitchen, while a harsh memory, maintains the dreamscape element. To me, one of the most beautiful scenes is at the end, when the reaper, cast in hazy light, aims to convince Bobby one more time to come with him and Bobby takes a wander through his last memory.
The script in this episode was grade A. Everyone was in character, the reaper was written equal parts impatient business man and sympathetic neutral player. Dean and Sam reacted exactly as you’d expect Dean and Sam to react, given everything, and even Dean’s threat to Dick wasn’t overbearing, it was exactly right. The interchanges between memories in Bobby’s mind and real life were well paced and the whole episode clipped along at a beautiful pace.
As always, the acting was phenomenal. The heavy emotion was not overdone anywhere and drew the audience in at every turn. Jim Beaver was principally wonderful, given the range of scenes he had to play with here. All around, the cast of this show is always amazing to watch, particularly with the more difficult episodes such as this one, where the words they speak have to communicate so many meanings and the words they don’t say hold even richer emotion.
Favourite Moment: “All right, scoot, jerkface. Show your elders some respect.” “You scoot, asshat.”
Again, I don’t usually give a favourite moment in the episodes I review. That said, this scene struck me so much that I had to give it special mention. The final scene, watching Sam and Dean fight about licorice as Bobby sits back and enjoys the final, favourite memory of “his” boys was just such a breathtaking, quiet moment. We had some humour, a great Sam/Dean brother exchange like we haven’t seen in a long, long time (the name calling was reminiscent of the classic “jerk/bitch” exchanges of yore) and a loving Bobby looking on with a gentle proud smile – these were his greatest accomplishments in life: his boys.
If you can’t tell, I loved this episode. Every piece of it was so perfectly meshed with the other pieces, how could I not? The second half of the season, building from this should be explosive and I’m looking forward to January when it returns. That being said, I’m also somehow okay with the breather we have to process to headiness of this mid-season finale. It was so powerful, that letting it stand for a while seems like a reverent move. The cliff hanger we are left with is, in true Supernatural fashion, cruel but I liked the note we ended on despite that. I would like to say with confidence that Bobby will survive, but I can’t. He was able to deliver the information to the boys, he seems to have accepted that they’ll be okay without him and looked ready to move on with the reaper at the end when that ominous ticking took us to the end credits.
So, what did you think? Were you in ugly-cry mode too? Ready for Winter Hellatus?