Enjoy! – Nightsky
7.06 “Slash Fiction” – Bobby’s roles expanded, literally and figuratively!
Bobby Presence in the Story
The first four seasons of Supernatural celebrated a resourceful, sarcastic, wise old hunter named Bobby Singer. Bobby’s character, masterfully portrayed by Jim Beaver, quickly evolved into one of the most loved characters of the series. Surprisingly, Bobby only appeared in 20 episodes in these early years (approximately one third of the 67 episodes that aired after he was introduced). Acknowledging the inner-geek that analyses the dynamics of a character’s development (sorry, this will only take a minute…), Bobby’s character was concentrated in the “bookends” of each season, i.e. the opening and closing episodes. Surprisingly, he was only seen two or three times in the middle of each season!
As a testament to Jim’s talent, Bobby’s value to the story and his popularity with the fans steadily grew, until he was used in half of the episodes in seasons 5, 6 and 7!
Number of Appearances Each Season:
Even though the number of Bobby’s episodes increased as the show’s story matured, the pattern of when he appeared remained the same, i.e. heavily at the beginning and end of each season, and sporadically in the middle.
Dialog references (e.g. “I just spoke with Bobby”) and one-sided phone conversations were frequently used to make it seem like Bobby was always involved in the storyline, but Jim, in fact, remained a “guest star” on the series. (Okay, geeky analytics concluded. Sorry, I found that interesting…)
Evolving Traits in Bobby’s Character
In the first few years of the show, Bobby was meticulously depicted as a father figure to the brothers, an extraordinary researcher of lore and an accomplished hunter. Seasons 3 and 4 had also carefully introduced vulnerability, human flaws and a complicated past into Bobby’s character. The series’ later seasons continued to develop these roles and character traits, bringing some of them to their ultimate conclusion:
In the very first episode of season 5, Bobby’s love for “his boys” was used to set up one of the most poignant scenes of the series. Possessed by a demon and ordered to kill Dean, Bobby’s love enabled him to overthrow the demon’s control and stab himself rather than harm Dean. Bobby’s choice and willpower precipitated one of the most significant changes in his character (discussed later) and more importantly, foreshadowed the season’s gut-wrenching climax.
5.01 “Sympathy for the Devil” - Out of love for Dean, Bobby seriously wounds himself rather than hurt Dean
Also in this episode, Bobby reaffirmed his love for Sam, assuring him, “I ain’t cutting you out, boy. Not ever.” Bobby again risked his life and endured great pain to save both of his boys in “Frontierland” (6.18), when he allowed Castiel to tap into his soul to bring Sam and Dean back from the past. So there could be no doubt as to his dedication to the brothers.
While the early seasons implied and developed a fatherly connection between Bobby and the brothers, the later seasons evolved the relationship into a more comfortable, accepted and adoptive family bond. In “Appointment in Samarra” (6.11), Sam used Bobby in a spell that required paternal blood, signifying that Bobby now filled the fatherly role fully and completely for Sam. In “Death’s Door” (7.10), Bobby returned the sentiment, telling his reaper “they’re my boys!”. Earlier expressions of love had always been “like family” or ‘like a father” (e.g. in “Dream a Little Dream of Me” Dean told Bobby “I’m not gonna let you die. You’re like a father to me.”). In the emotional exposition of “Death’s Door”, though, Bobby said he saved his best memory for last - a memory of “his boys” teasing each other. From the moment Sam and Dean reappeared on his doorstep, these three people had endured apocalyptic hardships, emotional losses and triumphs that strengthened their bonds into a true family.
Researcher and Hunter
By the beginning of season 5, Bobby’s formidable skills as a researcher had “saved the day” so many times his knowledge was now an indispensable component of almost every hunt. In “Abandon All Hope” (5.10), Bobby deciphered clues and determined that raising Death, the horseman, was the cause of the town’s demon activity. In season 6, Bobby taught the boys about Skinwalkers, dragons and the Mother of All, Eve. Since Bobby had extensive skills as both a researcher and a hunter, though, his assistance often now alternated between providing “behind the scenes” help and joining the team in the field. Late in season 5, Bobby committed everything he had to the cause when he followed in Dean’s footsteps and sold his soul, in his case to gain critical information to avert the apocalypse (i.e. the location of the last horseman). He was on the team that attacked the warehouse where the Croatoan virus was stored and he later fulfilled his “all in” commitment by sacrificing his life in a vain attempt to stop Lucifer with a bullet. Seasons 6 and 7 included him fighting Khan Worms, Eve, Crowley, vampires and ominously, Leviathans. He was never portrayed as a fifth-wheel or a hunter past his prime. On the contrary, he was respected and always equally contributed to or in some cases surpassed Sam and Dean (they were pretty impressed when he shot a zombie out of a tree by aiming at the sound!). His vast hunter network also continued to add to the story, significantly introducing the boys to Frank Devereux. Bobby’s research and hunting prowess grew in importance and significance to the story, culminating in the ultimate categorization from Sam in “The Slice Girls” (7.13) as a “crazy, drunk, old genius”. Quite a compliment for a character that initially appeared to be a recluse buried in the dust of a lot of old books!
Season 5 continued to explore the vulnerability that had been introduced into Bobby’s character in the prior two seasons. Almost as a reminder of Bobby’s helplessness in “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, season five’s first episode “Sympathy for the Devil” put Bobby back into a hospital bed, this time immobile from physical vs. mental injuries. The parallel images connected the two timelines.
5.01 “Sympathy for the Devil” - Bobby back in hospital after stabbing himself
The next time we saw Bobby, he had been transformed into the “injured warrior”, confined to a wheel chair from his stabbing wound.
5.03 “Free to Be You and Me” – Bobby contemplating his new role as a hunter confined to a wheel chair
Bobby’s despondence and abrupt physical confinement diminished his image as untouchable and indestructible, and suggested the he might not always be the brothers’ emotional or physical refuge. Following through on this theme, Bobby’s depression triggered another degradation of his character only a few weeks later. In “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester” (5.07) Bobby’s age was accelerated by 25 years, literally and symbolically compromising his strength even further.
5.07 “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester” – Bobby aged 25 years, and was more vulnerable than ever before
In this episode, Bobby confessed that he had felt useless since being injured and had contemplated suicide because he couldn’t hunt anymore. To dramatize his limited accessibility, Bobby could only continually call Dean’s name as Dean lay dying of a heart attack in the adjacent high rise apartment. Dean’s response at the end of the episode reestablished Bobby’s role in the hunt, though:
Dean: “…You’re not useless, Bobby.”
Bobby: “Okay. Good Talk.”
Dean: “No, wait a minute. Listen to me. You don’t stop being a soldier ‘cause you got wounded in battle. Okay? No matter what shape you’re in, bottom line is, you’re family. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but me and Sam, we don’t have much left. I can’t do this without you. I can’t. So don’t you dare think about checking out. I don’t want to hear that again.”
Ironically, Bobby chastised Castiel for lamenting his “uselessness” in 5.21 with much the same speech that Dean gave Bobby (only shorter and a lot less empathetic!). Although Bobby regained the use of his legs at the end of season 5, the brothers had to learn how to survive with Bobby compromised. His frailty had been emphasized throughout the season, symbolically stripping him of his indestructibility and foreshadowing his ultimate downfall.
Bobby’s increased screen time in seasons 5 through 7 gave the writers the freedom to experiment with his character. Fans were rewarded with some interesting and dynamic changes. The first expansion of Bobby’s roles occurred immediately at the outset of season 5, when Meg orchestrated Bobby’s possession to get close to Dean. Although not a new concept in the story line, possession had previously only been a danger to the brothers, who projected a much higher profile in the battle against evil. Bobby’s increased role as both a front line hunter and an indispensable ally to Sam and Dean elevated his exposure to supernatural threats, however.
5.01 “Sympathy for the Devil” – Bobby possessed for the first time
Season 6 had Bobby “possessed” by a Khan Worm in “…And Then There Were None” (6.16). Then almost humorously, Bobby was cloned by a Leviathan in season 7’s “Slash Fiction."
7.06 “Slash Fiction” – Jim in dual roles, as Bobby and as a Leviathan
All of these character changes gave Jim Beaver an opportunity to explore different aspects of Bobby, just as Jensen was able to experiment with talking to himself in a dream state or in the future; or as Possessed!Sam and Soulless!Sam gave Jared a chance to play different versions of Sam. These roles also allowed Jim to shoulder more of the dialog and gave Bobby an expanded presence in story lines.
Although Bobby’s earlier marriage had been mentioned, he had never really been portrayed as a romantic ladies’ man. The later seasons introduced this new side of Bobby, allowing more interaction between him and some interesting female characters. Appropriately, Bobby is first shown cleaning up for his wife, Karen (albeit when she is a zombie!).
5.15 “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”- Bobby cleaned himself up to impress his wife
In season 6 (6.12 and 6.21), a prior object of his affection, Dr. Eleanor Visyak, plays a pivotal role in the Purgatory myth arc (again proving the importance of Bobby’s character in expanding mythology and story lines with his history). Then an alternate time line tantalized fans by showing Bobby happily married to Ellen. Besides showing a life lost due to Ellen’s sacrifice for hunting, it also gave Samantha Ferris a chance to reprise a great character.
6.17 “My Heart Will Go On” – Bobby is the contented husband, married to Ellen in an alternate time line
Lastly, in what might have had a flicker of hope for the future, Sherriff Jody Mills surprised Bobby with her offer to clean house and her accidental discovery of a weapon against Leviathans, but he had the last word!
7.06 “Slash Fiction” – Bobby made a surprise move on Sheriff Mills
Bobby as a Leading Man
Given all of the ways that Bobby’s character had been expanded, the logical next step was to give him the leading role in several episodes. “Weekend at Bobby’s” (6.04) was a brilliant culmination of everything that had been building into Bobby’s character in the prior seasons:
- Researcher – Providing critical information on a Lamia for Sam and Dean;
- Hunter - Killing a demon, summoning a ghost, burying then tracking and killing an Okami, answering his phone bank for other hunters, and outwitting Crowley for the return of Bobby’s soul;
- Hunting History - Helping his old hunting partner Rufus;
- Ladies Man – Being the object of attentions from his neighbor Marcy;
- Father Figure - His priceless, epic tirade to Sam and Dean about being the “taken for granted parent” that they ran to for help
Bobby: “Sam, Dean, I love you like my own. I do. But sometimes you two are the whiniest, most self-absorbed sons of bitches I ever met. I’m selfish? Me? I do everything for you. Everything! You need some lore scrounged up, you need your asses pulled out of the fire, you need someone to bitch to about each other, you call me and I come through every damn time! And what do I get for it? Jack! With a side of squat!”
Dean: “Bobby –
Bobby: “Do I sound like I’m done? Now look, I know you’ve got issues. God knows, I know. But I got a news flash for you: you ain’t the center of the universe. Now, it may have slipped your mind, but Crowley owns my soul, and the meter is running, and I will be damned if I am gonna sit around and be damned! So how about you two sack up and help me for once?”
Appropriately, at the end of this episode the leading man is shown trying to enjoy his just desserts. In Bobby’s case, it happens to be peach cobbler instead of pie (who could we be thinking of??), but it will have to do!
6.04 “Weekend at Bobby’s” – The hero tries to eat his reward of Peach Cobbler
In season 7, Bobby was also showcased as the leading man of a story. The episode, “Death’s Door” (7.10) gave audiences more insight into Bobby’s life than perhaps all of his prior episodes combined. It was a remarkable tribute to the character that had been built, expanded, loved…and lost.
Okay. The subject can’t be avoided any longer. To the shock and dismay of Supernatural fans everywhere, Bobby was killed off in Season 7. According to published interviews, the idea was to remove all of Sam and Dean’s support systems so that they would be completely and utterly alone facing the Leviathans. One by one, their sanctuaries were taken away from them. The Impala. Their long-standing routines of rock star aliases, road side hotels, and any and all hunting allies, including Bobby.
Removing Bobby as a safe haven began with the destruction of his home. In a clever play on words, the episode “Hello, Cruel World” (7.02) ended with the vision of Bobby’s house, the only permanent structure the boys had repeatedly retreated to, reduced to smoldering ashes. Besides the impact on the boys’ story, Bobby was now symbolically and literally without a home base. This was perhaps a foreshadowing of his ultimate vulnerability. The next episode showed him briefly retreating to Rufus’ cabin, but he soon began his untethered wanderings to reassemble his library. 7.04 showed him roaming, 7.06 back at the cabin, 7.09 travelling with the boys and staying in an abandoned house to hide from Leviathans. Then in the tradition of so many before him, Bobby was killed by the supernatural epitome of evil that he was hunting. It was shocking. It was painful. Fandom cried along with Sam and Dean. How could Bobby be gone?
Since this aspect of Bobby’s story upset almost everyone in the Supernatural family, his death didn’t last long. It might have been in the plan all along, or it might have been sparked by the universal outrage at the lost of a beloved character, but it led to the last aspect of Bobby’s character that was introduced. It wasn’t without precedent, but still it was a little surprising….
Lazarus!Bobby (Bobby as a Ghost)
Although Bobby almost died hunting several times, in 5.22 “Swan Song”, Bobby joined the elite ranks of characters who were thoroughly killed dead then brought back to life. Without thinking about this too long, up to this point Sam and Dean were the only humans who could previously claim the honor of having their bodies revived. Mary and John also had their spirits revived once their corporeal bodies had died, so there was definitely precedent for Bobby’s return to the story. After Bobby was resurrected the first time, though, his revivals became almost as common as Sam or Dean’s!
5.22 “Swan Song” – The first time Bobby is resurrected by Castiel.
In “And Then There Were None” (6.16) Bobby presumably died by electrocution of the Khan Worm and is resuscitated by Sam and Dean. In “Death’s Door” (7.10) Bobby’s body dies but his spirit starts to attach itself to the brothers almost immediately. Then in “Party On, Garth” (7.18) Bobby’s ghost finally becomes visible and begins a journey of its own.
7.19 “Of Grave Importance” – Bobby experiencing the perils of being a ghost
Through the next few episodes, Bobby’s ghost becomes vengeful, however, until finally in the climax to season 7, Sam and Dean released Bobby’s spirit from this world.
So that would be the end of Bobby’s story in anybody’s sane expectation of a plot line. Then, in what has to be a reflection of Bobby’s stature as a truly beloved leading character of the series, his soul accomplished something that had only been done previously by Sam, Dean and John – his body/spirit/soul is rescued from Hell. In his only appearance in season 8, Bobby is found in Hell by Sam in “Taxi Driver” (8.19).
8.19 “Taxi Driver” – the last shot of Bobby, as his soul is being absorbed for transport to Heaven
Bobby is rescued, brought back to Earth and his soul is released to Heaven.
8.19 “Taxi Driver” – Bobby’s soul is put to rest in Heaven…or is it?
So Bobby’s journey from a single episode in season 1 to a resurrected character that survived seven years made what appeared to be its final transition. Is it reasonable to assume that this, finally, is the end of Bobby’s storyline? Will the fans let him go? Will Sam and Dean? Will the writers? John’s spirit went to Heaven and hasn’t been heard from since, but then again, John wasn’t in 55 episodes before his demise. The only other supporting character that has had that level of impact on the show is Castiel, who ironically, also has been in exactly 55 episodes. As Jim Beaver has said so often, “This is Supernatural. Anything is possible.” One can only hope…
I hope you have enjoyed this photographic journey through the character of Bobby Singer. We started with the first picture of Bobby in the series and we ended with the last picture (so far!!). Please share any favorite moments that I might have missed. Are there special shots of Bobby that weren’t included in the photos? Are there aspects of his character that you perceived that I didn’t mention? I might do a follow-up article on “Things I Have Learned from Bobby”, but I think I’ll give Bobby a rest for a while. What are your thoughts? I promised that the article would be spoiler free, but I make no promises about the comments, so proceed at your own risk!
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