Everything in Supernatural has a consequence. At the end of "Death's Door," we were left to wonder Bobby's choice. At the end of "Party on Garth," we saw that he had chosen to stay. In "Of Grave Importance, we---and Bobby---learn what those consequences might be.
The boys receive a call from a fellow hunter named Annie. She expresses her condolences, but also mentions that she has a few of Bobby's books. She sets up an exchange, and they decide to meet. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it to that rendezvous. Annie is working a job, and in the process, ends up getting herself killed. Sam and Dean are left in the lurch, worrying that something might have happened to her.
They head to the site they know she had been working her job at, and set out to investigate. Unknown to them---as he has been for some time---Bobby is also tagging along. He runs into Annie's spirit, confirming the fears that the Winchesters already have. Upon return to the hotel to start piecing the case together, Bobby desperately tries to communicate. He writes in a mirror that Annie is trapped in the house---and Dean is stunned. Once Sam enters the room, Bobby writes his name to confirm to them that it is indeed him.
Once they return to the house, Bobby in tow connected to the flask, he and Annie try to work the case from their side. They also desire a way to reach out to Sam and Dean, and so they watch another spirit---Haskel Crane---easily manage to move a chair and sit down at the bar. He scoffs at them for being novices---and forewarns both of their future as spirits.
Crane tells them there are two ways to move objects---through calm or through extreme anger. Most spirits on Supernatural favor the latter---bringing hunters to vanquish them often. As a spirit gives into that anger to move objects, it changes them, and as they stand talking to him, another spirit flies at them in a powerful rage. She screams and speeds at them. Her expression is marked by vast fury. Whatever semblance of sanity she may have had has long gone. The spirit explains that this house has numerous spirits---and that spirits decay at different rates. Some become vengeful quicker. Others turn more zombie like---as the other spirit they see stands still and vacantly staring, the flesh on its spectral face rotting away.
No matter what, much like a star burning through its fuel, this is the fate of all trapped spirits on the Earthly plane.
Someday Bobby, too, will have to face these consequences. His choice is rife with good intentions---but as good intentions often go on Supernatural, they always seem to bite one in the behind. Sam learned the hard way in his pursuit of Lilith. Castiel faced the same fate upon releasing the Leviathan from Purgatory. Now Bobby must deal with the consequences of his good intentions.
Yet, despite this dire future prediction, there is a layer of hope. Dean expresses his fears to Sam, stating, "It's not the natural order," and while it isn't, Bobby has so far beaten the odds against him. He doesn't seem trapped in any death echoes. He's not fixated on someone who had done him wrong---only to turn that outward on all that resemble in any way his killer. Certainly, Bobby wants to destroy Dick Roman, but so far it seems that his goal is more to stop a monster instead of avenging his own death. Most importantly, Bobby's fixation is that on helping his boys---something he did in life.
His boys. That's the only reason Bobby chose to stay at all. Annie even reminds him of it when she states, "You have the boys," after she expresses her desire to be put to rest. They were the last thing he saw in "Death's Door," and they are the reason he still remains with them on earth. His reaper told him that he had done enough---but Bobby feels that there is too much unfinished business for him to simply move on. He doesn't want to leave his boys behind to deal with this alone---and it is that love that shines through this episode beautifully.
Even while spectral, Bobby does all he can to guide and support Sam and Dean. He wants them to have all the clues they need---but he needs a way to give them to them. He wants to be a part of this fight---as much as he's always wanted to be a part of this fight. Being left behind by his boys is not something he desires. We've seen it time and time again throughout the series. When Dean tries to leave Bobby behind to go after Lilith before his deal is due, Bobby quips, "Do I look like a ditchable prom date to you?"
Bobby wants, more than anything, for Sam and Dean to know that they are not alone in this fight. Be it Azazel, Lilith, Lucifer---or now Dick Roman, Bobby won't abandon them. This could be in part due to his witnessing John doing much the same to the boys---or it could be connected to his guilt for not giving Karen children. He is determined to aid them, to guide them, and to support them in any capacity that he can provide. As a spirit, that directive has not changed---and that is a good thing.
Certainly, Bobby will have to let go---if he's not returned to the living of course---and move on. Sam and Dean will not live forever, and when they die for good, Bobby could potentially be left behind to morph into any of the vengeful spirits he encountered in the house.
The boys, meanwhile, deal with their father figure possibly being still with them. Dean still clings to the flask that connects him to Bobby, by holding it up and proclaiming, "Here's to ghosts that aren't there." They know they gave Bobby a proper hunter's funeral, and so it is merely wishful thinking---or so they try to desperately convince themselves. Sam coaxes gently, "Why don't you just pack it away for awhile. All it does is remind us of him, you know?" Dean nods, responding that he had thought of that, but finishes, "Just a little while longer."
It is obvious that they are still grieving, and the fact that Bobby can't seem to reach them frustrates him almost as much as it breaks his heart to see them hurt so. We can see how it pains him to see their anguish over him in the sad expression on his face in the back seat. Bobby is desperate to reach them, and demands that they look at the right time. After all he had just made that "curtain shimmy."
The bonds these three share are strong and have only been muted by the barrier of death. Even so, they are unbroken on both sides. It is no more apparent than how the brothers react to Bobby's message in the mirror. Slipping into old habits, they follow the lead that their beloved father figure has provided, making their way to solve the case.
The case itself had its own twists. The groundskeeper convicted for murdering the owner's fiancee had been framed. This is a meta reference to the storyline found in "Yellow Fever." There, too, the vengeful spirit the boys hunt has also been framed in life for a murder he did not commit. The vengeful spirit in the house that controlls everything had once been that owner---and he had been the one to kill his own fiancee. Van Ness has an interesting ability not seen in other ghosts thus far on Supernatural---he seems to be able to absorb other spirits into himself and grow more powerful.
Not unlike the fire that consumes a spirit upon a salt and burn, as he would shove his hand into their chests and squeeze their hearts, they would light up and the energy that flowed off of them would be absorbed into him. Upon discovering that Annie and Bobby had found his stash of bodies and had begun the process of burning them, Van Ness shoves his hand into Bobby's chest, trying to do the same to him.
Bobby is succumbing quickly, but the boys have discovered Van Ness's body and quickly set to work---all without knowing that they are saving Bobby's spirit from destruction. As they start to search the house afterward, they stumble across a familiar face. Somehow, in saving Bobby from being destroyed they have made him visible. They are stunned to see their old father figure---and he is just as stunned that they can see him. He whispers in disbelief, "You can see me?"
After they help Bobby and Annie put the other spirits to rest---including Annie herself---they prepare to leave the house behind. Dean and Bobby get into a conversation about the situation, and he expresses his concerns for Bobby's future. He wants to know why Bobby stayed instead of going to Heaven and drinking at the Roadhouse. Bobby remains adamant that there is too much to be done yet and that he had chosen to stay, despite the "hunter's funeral" Sam and Dean had provided. Bobby retorts, "We have work to do," a blatant shout out to the pilot when Sam says the exact same thing after Jessica is killed.
Ever the optimist and hopeful about shades of grey, Sam muses, "I mean, do you think it's possible, I don't know, we could make it all work somehow?"
It's very possible that it could. Bobby has the resources and information to manage it. He has been hunting for an extremely long time and has acquired a vast amount of information that he could tap into now as a spirit. It's good that he is now able to fully communicate with his boys---as they will need his guidance.
The episode had a serious flavor with a sweet undertone. Questions about life, death, afterlife, and the natural order of things percolated throughout its fabric, but what makes Supernatural stand out time and time again from the pack of other genre shows is the heart that beats soundly at its center. The ghost hunt that took place on the surface only gave the real story underneath: that of love.
Bobby loves his boys---and they in turn love him. Its tangible in the fabric of the scenes they share together---and those they don't. Bobby hated being left behind in the motel room, until Dean remembered his jacket holding the flask. The love here flows both ways. Sam even expressed an almost relief when he realized that the reason his spirit board hadn't worked is because he had done that without Dean---and the flask. The living and the dead missed each other here, all the while being together all along.
Really, when it comes down to it, this show is more about love than it is about monsters or demons or angels. It is more about the human connections we possess with our families---and as Bobby famously stated, "Family don't end in blood, boy." Each person in their close family is connected to them deeply, and Bobby is closer to Sam and Dean than anyone else. "Of Grave Importance" proved this again and again, showing it in little actions from Bobby writing on the mirror to his affectionate "Idjits" when the boys took a bit longer to figure out a clue.
Love is the thread that ties them together---and it is that love that will keep Bobby sane.
The episode also harkened back to "In My Time of Dying," several times. We see it in Dean echoing Bobby's spirit. While at the hotel, Bobby tells the boys, "Let's get rolling," and Dean says a second later, "I say we get rolling." It comes again after Bobby writes on the mirror when he says that they need to get back to the house and Dean echoes the same sentiment a moment later. It's not unlike when Sam mirrored Dean's statement about "finding a hoodoo priest and laying some mojo" on him in that earlier episode. Sam admitting to attempting to contact Bobby through a talking board also brings back the scene in that episode where he used an Ouija board to do the same with Dean, a spirit at the time.
Antonio Cupo played a sinister but suave Whitman Van Ness. He seemed to be the good ghost admonishing the bad ghost when he shouted at Dexter, but as it was revealed that he was truly the villain here, all of that fell away. Cupo showed Van Ness's relish in destroying those that threatened his secret. As he would attack another spirit---or the living---a wicked smile would cross his lips to make his actions that much creepier. Cupo showed Van Ness's cunning in slipping the key into Sam's pocket and the glee upon seeing Bobby and Annie trapped in the house as he rode away. His smiles were chilling and cold, amping up the effect. When he is snapped back to the house by the boys, his anger is in his face and it is a frightening moment when he shouts, "Is this how you repay my hospitality!"
Elysia Rotaru played a convincing Victoria Dodd. Her "fancy lady," stayed trapped in the time period from which she died. Rotaru kept the mannerisms in place well, showing distaste at the word "hooker" and stating calmly that in her day they partook in "polite conversation." Rotaru made Victoria sympathetic. She also showed how accepting she was of her fate---and how even in death she valued her survival, even if she lost it in her desire to gain freedom.
Jamie Luner played Annie with a tough as nails and sophisticated flair. It's a shame Annie met her end so soon. Her no-nonsense air and can-do attitude made her instantly likeable. One couldn't help but feel sad for her when she came across her own corpse and realized that it was true. A look of sorrow crosses Luner's face, drawing the viewer instantly in to her pain. Luner knew how to make Annie shoot straight from the hip. She played off well against Jim Beaver's Bobby as their chemistry belied the friendship---and more---these two characters had in life. Annie also showed acceptance, and Luner provided that in facial expressions and soft vocal tones alone.
Jensen Ackles showed a grieving Dean well. He has been reeling since "Death's Door." Ackles shows it in the way Dean handles the flask. It is with a strange reverence and love in the action. He also shows Dean's struggles with Bobby haunting him. Convinced by Sam, Dean feels that it is mind tricks and nothing more. He believes this until Bobby writes the message. Ackles has Dean switch gears, then, almost enthusiastically following the clues his father figure has provided. After the case, we see Dean's grief flare into a different light when he expresses his concern for Bobby's future. His voice grows soft as he talks to Sam, and Ackles makes it vulnerable. We also sense an uncertainty from Dean in that last scene. Sam's hopeful question plants the seed of doubt and nags at him. And yet, he can't accept the hope with the final line of "It can't end well." Something says that Bobby may just accept that challenge and prove him wrong.
The gentle and hopeful side of Sam emerged in Jared Padalecki's performance. It came in facial expressions and tone of voice. As the brothers debated about Bobby's possible presence, it is Sam that gently tries to coax Dean into the long process of letting go. He urges that Dean put the flask aside, that it is only causing Dean pain. Padalecki makes sure that Sam comes off as soft spoken and unobtrusive on Dean's grief, yet full of concern. He expresses hope, even if he knows the truth before they learn it, about Annie. Padalecki's performance is subtle. He makes each line land with impact. He also provides one of the comedic moments as he reveals that he and Annie had "gone Hemingway" while he hadn't had a soul. Padalecki makes it come alive with an uncomfortable facial expression and awkward tone.
Jim Beaver shined in this episode. He showed all of Bobby's feelings effortlessly, with simple vocal cues and body language. We saw his frustration when Sam and Dean didn't respond. Familiar catch phrases that are dear to the fans rolled off his tongue with ease. Beaver makes Bobby real. As the episode progressed, we saw Bobby's doubts about his choice, only to be refuted by his firm statements that he had to help Sam and Dean. Beaver demonstrated Bobby's tenacity and drive. Even in death, Bobby couldn't "quit the life." Beaver also showed Bobby's love for Sam and Dean in simple gestures. Upon realizing that the vengeful spirit had slipped its keys into Sam's pocket, therefore tagging along, while his flask was left behind, Beaver shows Bobby's anxiety. He isn't concerned for himself---it is his boys that he worries about. More than anything, Beaver takes a gruff character and makes his inner truth shine through brightly.
Looks like next week the Winchesters will make a stab a playing match maker for none other than Dick Roman!