Supernatural: Death’s Door
Apologies for the delay in posting this. I made the mistake of reading too many fan comments (on other sites) after the airing of the episode and found myself a bit disheartened by the proliferation of people emphatically stating that they would NEVER watch Supernatural AGAIN because of Bobby’s death. I have now pledged NEVER to read the internets until after I write reviews. So I took a break, stopped taking Supernatural hatred personally, and re-watched the episode.
After watching “Death’s Door” (multiple times), I was left with two thoughts. One, that Sera Gamble knows how to deliver an emotional, powerhouse episode, and two, that this was Jim Beaver’s finest hour. Combine these two things and you end up with the strongest episode of the season, if not one of the strongest of the series. It also highlighted how much Supernatural would benefit from Gamble writing more episodes. I know that’s impractical, given her role as showrunner, but her episode draws unintentional attention to the weakness of some of her current writing staff.
“Death’s Door” was a heartbreaking episode, but a perfect way to send out a character who is beloved in Supernatural fandom. Of course, we never saw Bobby’s answer about whether he would stay or go, but it would be a grave misstep to have him remain behind. Bobby knows, as all hunters do, what happens to those people who make the choice to remain in limbo, trapped between worlds, forever. It makes little sense for him to make a decision that transforms him into that which he hunted. If he does, then it better be for a damn good reason. There’s been a lot of backtracking in good television shows lately, as they refuse to commit to the hard path of killing off a character. Bobby’s death is a bold move and this should stand as his final hour.
It’s an episode that dissects the emotional life of Bobby Singer. We see his close ties to Rufus, which was wonderful to watch. We’ve seen them in tandem before, and it’s always been entertaining, but it was nice to see Bobby with his hunting partner. So often we see Bobby only in relation to the Winchesters – keeping them in line, guiding them down the right path, providing information gleaned from his books – and it was good to see him in action with the person who was probably the closest thing to his best friend. And in an inversion of the typical Bobby Singer experience, it is Rufus who helps guide Bobby towards a resolution — who explains that to find his way out of the darkness, out of dying, he must find a door, and that door will be in his most traumatic memory. Oh, and also, Bobby needs to evade the Reaper who is trying to collect his soul.
Every memory that Bobby experiences in these last life moments in some way involve fatherhood. Whether it’s a fight with his wife, who he desperately loved, a memory of the Winchester boys, or a glimpse back into his dark childhood, everything intersected around the concept of, the struggle for, what makes a good father.
One would imagine that Bobby’s traumatic memory of his wife, which Rufus even mentions, would be the moment he had to end her life. It isn’t. It’s a fight — a fight in which Bobby confesses that he doesn’t want kids because he breaks every thing he touches. This is immediately negated by a memory of taking a very young Dean out to play a game of catch when John had instructed Bobby to make Dean practice shooting. It’s the type of moment that plays out in different iterations throughout the episode, as we see Bobby playing the role of father to the Winchesters. And it’s not that the audience didn’t already know this, but seeing the trio in moments of peace, acting like a normal family, this is what makes Bobby’s death even more tragic — even more poignant.
It’s also no surprise to discover that Bobby’s most feared memory involves the boy (a young Bobby) who has been tailing him through his various recollections. Taking a page out of Flatliners, Bobby must relive the darkest moment from his childhood, where he saves his mother from his abusive father by killing him. His mother, unable to support the act of the child who protected her, condemns him.
Even with all of this, what truly stands out in this episode, as one would expect, is the tie between Bobby and the Winchester boys. We watch as Dean and Sam struggle with the news that Bobby is on the brink of death. Sam, who realize that survival is unlikely cannot do anything but mourn and try to make his brother understand the bleakness of the situation. Dean does what Dean does best — pretends that everything will be fine — that Bobby can fight back. Yet cracks show. When a hospital administrator approaches Dean about organ donation he almost gets a punch in the face. The pain in this scene is palpable — far beyond the broken glass and bleeding knuckles. A pain that feeds into Dean’s subsequent interaction with Dick Roman, who is lurking outside of the hospital in his Towncar, pleased with the outcome of his gunshot. Assuming Bobby does die, this is our first glimpse of what vengeance looks like — our first glimpse of a Dean recharged, with a mission, with a new found purpose beyond just saving the world. Dick laughs off Dean’s threats, reveling in his seeming immortality, but there is a moment, when Dean spits out “you’re either laughing because you’re scared or you’re laughing because you’re stupid,” that Dick looks nonplussed. He seems taken aback and just slightly scared.
Yet, it’s Bobby’s episode and his love for the Winchester boys shines through in almost every scene. Even as the Reaper explains that Bobby’s brain is dying, that the bullet is destroying him, his goal is to get to Sam and Dean, to tell them what he found in Dick Roman’s office. So as Bobby works through the trauma of his youth, we are given a scene with the boys, where they say goodbye in case Bobby doesn’t make it through surgery. Well, Sam does. Bobby revives, and it seems that he might recover, and in these final moments he does two things — gives them the numbers from Dick Roman’s office and calls them “idjits” one last time. Then flatlines. (sob)
It’s powerful stuff — sad, traumatic, painful. It’s a glorious send-off to a beloved character. And Sam and Dean look broken, just broken in the hospital. It ends with Bobby’s final memory — the last thing saved in a dying brain — it’s a scene of peace with Dean and Sam, as they gather to watch a movie, drink some beer, eat some popcorn, and bicker over licorice, “little chewy pieces of heaven.” We’re left with the Reaper asking Bobby whether he will stay or go as the credits rise. So yes, there is a possibility that he will choose to stay — and it’s the one false moment to the episode — leaving the viewer on a cliffhanger.
I guess we’ll see what the new episode brings. . .
Possibly the best moment of the episode — this scene with the Reaper trying to convince Bobby to give in to death:
“Bobby. . .you’ve helped. You got handed a small, unremarkable life and you did something with it. Most men like you die of liver disease, watching Barney Miller reruns. You’ve done enough. Believe me.”
“I don’t care.”
“Because they’re my boys.