1.22 "Devil's Trap"- The first glimpse of Singer Salvage Yard
"We Need Help"
With those three words, Dean Winchester introduced the Supernatural world to a gruff, lovable, understated hunter named Bobby Singer. With wit, sarcasm and a unique rustic charm, Bobby did more than help the Winchester brothers with their case when they unexpectedly showed up on his doorstep. For the next six years, Bobby was an unrivaled source of supernatural knowledge, an indispensable ally in the fight against evil and a loving father figure that filled a huge gap in their lives. The brothers quickly found out just how much they truly needed Bobby.
Bobby Singer's character was more than just a detail in the Winchester family backstory, though. He became an invaluable tool to the writers of the series, giving them a vehicle to expand mythology, explain storylines and resolve dilemmas. The series also needed a recurring character to relieve some of the screen time for Jared and Jensen. Until Jim Beaver joined the cast as Bobby, these two young actors had been saddled with the vast majority of the dialog, plot advancement and action delivery for every episode. Guest stars were used for developing the Monster of the Week stories, but by definition they weren't useful in a longer term story arc. Meg, John and Mary had been introduced as recurring characters, but could only be used sparingly, as the plots allowed. Another recurring character was needed for both the sustainability of the story and its lead actors.
Looking back, it's hard to believe that Bobby Singer did not join the Winchester saga until the 22nd episode! Even then, Bobby's character was used minimally, seen in only four storylines in the first two seasons:
- "Devil's Trap" (1.22)/ "In My Time of Dying" (2.01) - the story that ended the life of Sam and Dean's real father and introduced their surrogate father
- "Born Under a Bad Sign" (2.14) and "Tall Tales" (2.15) - two pivotal mid-season stories used for character development
- "All Hell Breaks Loose, Parts 1 & 2" (2.21 and 2.22) - the season 2 climatic ending that was the foundation for several of the following seasons' arcs.
These initial six episodes, spanning just one year from episode 1.22 to episode 2.22, essentially created the core of Bobby's character. In fact, most of Bobby's character was established in his very first conversation with Sam and Dean, so this important debut dialog is part of the character analysis we will explore! The remaining appearances strengthened Bobby's importance by reemphasizing his father figure role, and showcasing his ability to expand mythology and explain plots. Bobby's acceptance was so universal, he was soon viewed as a cornerstone of the series.
Jim Beaver's portrayal of this "rough but warmhearted working class man" (Knight, 2008) was at the heart of the success of his new character. Jim seamlessly integrated Bobby into this fledgling series, immediately endearing himself to fans and critics. Blessed with lines that one would expect from their grandfather, such as "Idgit!", "Balls!" and "You boys", Jim's expressive face and disarming voice made his character believable and trusted. No exploration of his character would be complete without a visual journal of these priceless sneers, tears, laughs and looks, hopefully captured by some of the more memorable moments below. So how exactly was Bobby's character created in the first two seasons of Supernatural?
The core of Bobby's character was clearly and strongly established in his very first appearance.
1.22 "Devil's Trap" - Bobby's debut appearance
This is the first shot in the series where we get a good look at the character who would become a pillar of the story. In this debut, Dean and Sam recognized that they had neither the skills nor the knowledge to save their father from the demons who had captured him, so Dean decided to enlist the help of an old family friend. Bobby Singer lived almost as a recluse at his junkyard, Singer Auto Salvage. This new, unshakable character immediately established a reassuring, calming presence for the brothers and stepped in as their substitute family just before their last remaining close blood relative was killed.
With the phrase "the family business" being a prominent part of the show's mantra, establishing Bobby's role as head of the new surrogate Winchester family was the first order of business for the writers. Bobby's character only had two lines of dialog before the following exchange where it was established that he not only knew John Winchester but seemed to have had an extensive history with him and cared deeply about the boys' feelings for John.
1.22Bobby's next few episodes laid more groundwork for this important supportive relationship with Sam and Dean. When Sam was scared and alone in "In My Time of Dying" (2.01), he turned to Bobby, who showed compassion, understanding and moral support by agreeing to Sam's plea to tow rather than junk the Impala (a symbolic gesture of hope as Dean fought for his life in a hospital). In the very next episode, the brothers stayed with Bobby as they grieved for their father and recovered from their near-fatal car crash. Emotionally and physically vulnerable, they both quickly accepted him as the new paternal figure in their lives.
Dean: "Bobby, thanks. Thanks for everything. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure we should come."
Bobby: "Nonsense, your Daddy needs help."
Dean: "Well, yeah, but last time we saw you, I mean, you did threaten to blast him full of buckshot. Cocked the shotgun and everything."
Bobby: "Yeah, well, what can I say? John just has that effect on people."
Dean: "Yeah, I guess he does."
Bobby: "None of that matters now. All that matters is that you get him back."
The father figure role was more openly explored in "Tall Tales" (2.15), when the boys asked Bobby to help them with a bizarre case. Quarreling and confused, they called "home" for advice and guidance. When Bobby arrived, he was the exasperated parent who had to mediate a squabble between two siblings:
2.15 "Tall Tales" - Bobby is confused as he listened to the boys' strange story
The next time Bobby appeared was in "All Hell Breaks Loose", when it was Dean's turn to be scared and alone. Sam had disappeared, and Dean desperately reached out to Bobby for help. Eventually, when Sam was killed, Bobby was the concerned family, close enough to Dean to be able to suggest that he bury his brother. Jim Beaver solidified Bobby's place as the boys' family with several stirring reactions to the pivotal events that followed. First, Jim showed that Bobby's heart was broken not only for the loss of his adopted son, but for the pain felt by his older brother.
2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2" - A sympathetic Bobby talks to Dean about burying Sam
Then when he learned that Dean had sold his soul, Bobby was horrified at the fate of someone he clearly loved:
2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2" - Bobby finds out Dean sold his soul
By the end of the second season, Bobby had provided the home, wisdom, guidance and emotional support that upheld the show's foundation of family. His character continually enriched the series with a presence that ultimately was almost more important to the boys' success than their real father.
Besides acting as the head of the Winchester family, Bobby's character was also introduced to provide an endless stream of knowledge on an ever expanding list of supernatural creatures encountered by the two young hunters. Again, the brothers' first conversation with Bobby in "Devil's Trap" was key to quickly establishing that Bobby was an experienced and knowledgeable hunter:
1.22John was the dictatorial force that set the young brothers on the path of hunting all things supernatural. In contrast, Bobby became the compassionate and patient teacher, mentor and ally who continued the boys' hunting education in their adult lives. Bobby's extensive library also supplemented John's journal as the written resource on the supernatural. The journal was a valuable guide to monsters, ghosts, ghouls and other creatures that hunters usually encounter, but Bobby's collection of ancient texts and rare books allowed the story to expand to more epic mythologies, such as angels and demons. Before his first episode was finished, the boys are taught about demon possession:
Sam: "Bobby, this book.... I've never seen anything like it."
Bobby: "Key of Solomon? It's the real deal, alright."
Sam "And these, uh, these protective circles. They really work?"
Bobby: "Hell, yeah. You get a demon in - they're trapped. Powerless. It's like a Satanic roach motel."
Dean: "Man knows his stuff."
1.22[Can you even remember when Sam and Dean were that naive about demonic possession??]
Bobby: "Dean, you got to be careful with her. Don't hurt her."
Bobby: "Because she really is a girl, that's why."
Sam: "What are you talking about?"
Bobby: "She's possessed. That's a human possessed by a demon. Can't you tell?"
Dean: "Are you trying to tell me there's an innocent girl trapped somewhere in there?"
Bobby's presence made it possible for the writers to introduce a larger universe of supernatural foes, and made it plausible for the brothers to battle and prevail against these adversaries. Beside the first episode's introduction of the Key of Solomon, devil's traps and the basic dynamics of demon possession, later episodes used Bobby to further expand supernatural canon. In the episode "Born under a Bad Sign" (2.14), Bobby's experienced hunter instincts made him suspect something was wrong when Sam showed up at his door unannounced and without Dean...
2.14 "Born under a Bad Sign" - Bobby was surprised and suspicious when Sam showed up alone
...then in the next moment, Bobby feigned innocence and lured Possessed!Sam into his home.
2.14 "Born under a Bad Sign" - Bobby's false greeting to Sam
...then he cleverly used concealed holy water to expose the demon.
2.14 "Born under a Bad Sign" - Bobby tricked the demon possessing Sam
Later in that episode, Bobby further expanded canon by identifying a binding link that locks a demon inside its victim, then saved Sam by breaking the link on his arm.
2.14 "Born under a Bad Sign" - Bobby watches the demon fly out of Sam
Then, in a gesture that would later result in some rather epic tattoos, Bobby introduced anti-possession charms to protect the boys from future demonic control (somebody really has to thank him for that!).
The next episode continued Bobby's mythological prowess when he recognized and explained the powers of a new, powerful supernatural foe, a Trickster.
2.15 "Tall Tales" - Bobby explained a Trickster to the boys
In the last storyline of the season, Bobby's impressive knowledge of supernatural lore enabled him to remember the insignia on a legendary possessed town's bell, thus identifying where Sam was being held. So Bobby's character was an invaluable tool for both expanding the stories that were possible and for transitioning the boys from naive, reckless hunters into an elite team armed with the tools necessary to fight the highest level of supernatural beings.
Every story needs some form of narration to ensure that the audience is being pulled along with the plot. This exposition could come from the main characters themselves, asking each other questions, relaying new information or summarizing facts for each other before they make their next move. Sam and Dean do this for each other quite often, but their dialog would get monotonous if they were the only channels through which developments could be explained. A third party, though, can introduce new facts to the plot quite easily, through the guise of information they have always known or have just learned. Bobby filled this role perfectly. His past experience as a hunter and his formidable skills as a researcher made him the perfect vehicle to not only explain things to the brothers but the audience as well (Castiel often fills this role to explain heavenly matters; Crowley explains matters pertaining to Hell). Bobby's first interaction with the brothers immediately showcased this role:
Bobby: "I'll tell you something else, too. This is some serious crap you boys stepped in."
Sam: "Oh, yeah? How's that?"
Bobby: "Normal year, I hear of, say, three demonic possessions. Maybe four, tops."
Bobby: "This year I hear of 27 so far. You get what I'm saying? More and more demons are walking among us... a lot more."
Sam: "Do you know why?"
Bobby: "No, but I know it's something big. The storm's coming, and you boys, your Daddy...you are smack in the middle of it."
Every ensuing episode then included time for Bobby to advance the plot with new vital information needed for the hunt or the myth arc. In the season 2 opener, when Sam asked Bobby for the ingredients on John's shopping list, Bobby foreshadowed that the spell John was planning would summon a demon, not defend against one as John had implied to Sam. A particularly long and vital exposition occurred when Bobby explained his findings about the Wyoming churches and their positions as keystones in a devil's trap.
2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2" - Bobby explained his discovery of the Wyoming Devil's Trap
Since Bobby knew the brothers so well, he was also in a perfect position to expose their character flaws, explain their motivations, or challenge their reactions to events. This intimate relationship gave the audience precious insight into the lead characters of the show. For example, it was through Bobby's angry question to Dean if he "values his life that little" (2.22) that Dean's low self-esteem was first articulated outright as a factor in his demon deal.
2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2“ - Bobby's reaction of anger and dismay when he finds out Dean sold his soul
Bobby's previously established position as the boys' trusted mentor enabled him to not only explain things to them, but also challenge them personally in a way that protected their dignity and was believable to the audience.
So in the first two seasons of his character, Bobby was established as a paternal guide and a mythological treasury. His also gave the story its narrative cohesiveness and provided critical character exposes. Jim Beaver's portrayal of Bobby gave him a charm and endearing quality that was immediately embraced by the story writers and the fans. Bobby Singer was undeniably now a mainstay of the show. The following seasons would further explore Bobby's history, ultimately expanding the essence of his character.
The story continues! Read how Bobby's character changed in season 3 and 4 in Part 2: Expanding Bobby's Character
Do you remember your first reactions to Bobby? Did you like him? Did it take you a while to get used to him? Any other favorite Bobby moments in the first two seasons? Share here!