Supernatural, Ep. 7.10, “Death’s Door”: A fitting tribute to the man of the hour
This week, on Supernatural: Bobby’s a die hard, Rufus goes along for the ride, and Dean loves licorice
“Death’s Door” begins right where “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters” left off. Though this scene was ineffective last time due to previous telegraphing, here it works perfectly, instantly setting the tone for the episode to come- a good one, built around a strong, simple premise. It’s Bobby’s journey to self-acceptance and peace. The shot that would kill him may have been botched (see the last episode’s review for more on that), but his swan song is well handled.
The episode starts strongly, with Sam and Dean rushing Bobby to the hospital. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles sell the moment, exuding frightened helplessness as they rush to do all they can. Then it quickly cuts to the three of them in the woods, a scene from the previous episode, throwing viewers off balance- is this a flashback, a memory, or a dream? In fact, it’s none of the above, or all three, as we realize along with Bobby that he’s in a coma and we’re inside his head. Setting this episode away from the main action (in the hospital) is a wise choice- that would have sidelined Jim Beaver. Instead he gets the episode mostly to himself. The last time this happened we got the excellent “Weekend at Bobby’s” from season 6. This isn’t quite as successful, but it’s still pretty darn good.
For much of the episode there is little doubt that Bobby will manage to get out of this somehow. Wisely, Sera Gamble places Dean in the role of the viewer, unwilling to accept any possible outcome besides Bobby’s miraculous survival, allowing her to use Sam to prepare “Dean” for what’s to come later. The cuts back to the outside world are sparing and well timed. They ratchet up the tension and stakes and remind the viewer that Bobby really had better get a move on. They also show just how lost the brothers will be without Bobby, reminding us, subtly, of Sam’s Lucifer issue and Dean’s increasing withdrawal. Another smart move is bringing back Steven Williams as Rufus to act as Bobby’s sounding board and guide. Giving this role to Bobby’s reaper would have been too much of a retread of Dean’s season 2 near-death experience- with Rufus, we get more humor, we get history, and we get a sense of the generational shift, as it becomes wholly Sam and Dean’s time. They’re the Old Guard now; Rufus and Bobby are gone.
Bobby’s journey, like the episode itself, succeeds by keeping things clear and direct. Rather than giving us new insights or revelations, Gamble instead spends the time making what has always been character subtext text, and bolded text at that. We’ve seen from Sam and Dean that they consider Bobby very much a father figure; we’ve heard lines like, “he practically raised us” for years now. But while we know how they feel and that Bobby obviously cares for them, we’ve never seen his view of their relationship as clearly as we do this week. They are his sons- it’s as simple as that. Yes, the backstory with Bobby’s abusive father adds layers to the character, but nothing we couldn’t have pieced together ourselves. It’s the delivery, the execution, of this somewhat obvious story that makes it the successful, moving episode it is. It’s a story about Bobby, and what’s important to him, told in his voice and style. You couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.
Right up to the end, it seems possible that Bobby will escape and survive, and there are those who may argue that the episode ends on a cliffhanger. As soon as he hands over his cryptic, essential clue to the overall mystery, however, and as soon as he says, “Idjits” and smiles before collapsing again, we know that’s the end. There’s no better final word for this character. Barring reincarnation and heavenly visits, Bobby’s gone. The progression of this, the timing of the audience’s realization, is very well handled from Gamble and Singer and seems very much planned to help viewers come to terms with and accept the loss (and, perhaps most importantly, not fly into Geek Rage over it). Ending with Bobby’s choice of a final memory, a seemingly meaningless moment of banter between Sam and Dean, is a nice touch that allows viewers to remember Bobby’s final moments as happy ones, unlike so many of the Winchester’s allies.
This review has focused mainly on Gamble’s script, but Robert Singer does a good job as well, getting mostly strong performances from the cast and knowing when to step back and let Beaver do his thing (and how fitting it is to have Singer direct the final major episode for his namesake). One particularly effective moment is a conversation between Sam and Dean in the hospital- Singer cuts back and forth with tight closeups, cutting off part of their faces, not allowing them to be comfortable in the frame. The music in the episode is also well handled- towards the beginning it feels a bit over the top, but by the end, it feels completely appropriate. The music hasn’t changed- the audience has just come to understand what it represents.
This isn’t a perfect episode. It’s not action-packed and it’s certainly predictable. However it does what it intends well- giving the audience an opportunity to go on one last adventure with one of their absolute favorites. For this Bobby fan, that’s enough.
What did you think of the episode? Were you surprised? Just how much of an idiot will I look like if he somehow pulls through? Post your thoughts below!
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