Review: SPN 7.10 - "Death's Door"

At this point, I've gone through 100+ episodes of Supernatural, screen cap by screen cap, and this is the first episode where I can actually feel myself physically reacting in a negative way. Not by the visuals--Robert Singer made it beautiful, as he almost always does, and the only technical bobble is the ghost's very obviously painted-on wrinkles--but by the repercussions of this episode. If I could go back and undo an episode entirely, this would be the one. Forget "Bloodlines": that didn't have any repercussions on the show as a whole. Forget "Dark Dynasty": Charlie's death was necessary (it was! and clearly signalled by "Book of the Damned") in order to trigger the climax. (Without it, Sam and Dean wouldn't be able to meet on semi-even footing in the finale. There had to be personal consequences for Sam's blind determination to save Dean--not just some nebulous doom-to-the-world blackness. Sam going behind Dean's back had to matter--just as Kevin's death made the whole Gadreel thing matter. Because without that, how could there be a genuine reconciliation at the end between them?)

But Bobby's death? Bobby's death had one single purpose, as far as I can tell: to destroy Dean and thereby Sam. All the stuff that's messed up between them in seasons 8-10 is basically because Bobby's not there to call them on their behavior, to remind them what really matters, to serve as a sounding board for their more desperate ideas, to provide some kind of emotional stablity. It's perhaps telling that while Gamble killed Bobby, Carver's brought him back somehow in every single season. (Why don't all the people who've flipped out over Charlie's death consider that a little? Also that Carver's the one who turned Charlie into a recurring character instead of a one-off guest?)

It is also the only episode I can remember feeling indignant about while watching, because it's so blatantly manipulative. Sure, "Bloodlines" is trying to sell you a cast of characters for a show that (thank goodness) didn't happen, but it's pretty cheap stuff in comparison. Killing Bobby, and killing him this way, dragging the audience through it, is like smashing family heirlooms for fuel because you didn't lay enough wood away for the winter. This didn't have to happen. Seriously, how would the whole Leviathan arc have gone differently with Bobby still alive? The only arc his death enabled, as I said before, is the utter emtional destruction of Dean and Sam. (Also, his backstory wasn't bad enough? In addition to making him kill his demon-possessed wife and have a hinted-at bad childhood, they had to take it that extra step further? (And you couldn't find a better kid actor for Dean? Seriously?)) People joke about the beginning of season 8 feeling like a soap opera--well, this is what sent things in that direction.

But of course, no one ever talks about this. They just blame Carver for destroying the show, instead of praising him for salvaging it and dealing with the repercussions of such a damaging death in a realistic but slowly positive manner. *is a bitter Carver fan*
We should start a club. The Bitter Carver Girls Club. :)

I completely agree about the manipulative character of the episode and Bobby's death - and, what makes it even worse, it didn't even work properly, because it still failed to make the whole Leviathan storyline more personal and engaging. (And it's a complete soap opera. The thing with the father - I remember how I just wanted it to be over when I watched it. It was almost unbearably klutzy. One of the weakest scripts on the show, if you ask me.)

Oh, and what was even worse: Making Bobby return as a ghost and thereby completely ruining a beloved, fabulous character.

I still miss Bobby a lot, I agree that a lot of what happened between Sam and Dean wouldn't have happened the way it did if he were still alive. (Which means - kudos to Carver and his team for portraying things in a realistic way, namely that without Bobby, things don't run quite so smooth!) I keep seeing people on Tumblr complaining about the bunker and how Sam and Dean are no longer constantly on the road together, sleeping in separate rooms etc. etc., when essentially the bunker is a necessary replacement for Bobby's house (and burning it down was another terrible decision imo!), which has functioned as some sort of home for the boys at least since the beginning of S3. Man, I don't get it.

I was so grateful when I finished S7 and started watching S8 and actually got my show back!
We should start a club. The Bitter Carver Girls Club. :)

Ha! I know a couple of people who would probably happily sign up. But I suspect the healthiest way for me to cope is to wallow in screen caps and provide a small visual reminder that at the very least the show is still darn pretty, despite what some people say. Accentuate the positive, and all that.

It was almost unbearably klutzy. One of the weakest scripts on the show, if you ask me.

Which I was surprised by, given that her previous episodes tended to be fair strong. (Although--she is the one writer where I pretty consistently would wonder partway through, 'Is this a Sera Gamble' script?' and find that it was. Can't put my finger on why, but 'tis true.)

And the whole ghost!Bobby thing--haven't watched all of the relevant episodes yet (have to space them out with ones from other seasons, and honestly, I'm watching them out of loyalty, not actual desire), but yeah. It feels more like "another way to emotionally destroy Dean!" than anything. It's interesting to compare it with ghost!Kevin in season 9--there was plot stuff and emotional stuff, and it let them send Kevin off in a slightly better light than his initial death: gave his story something of a resolution, while leaving the writers a way to bring him back if they wanted. Is it how I would have done it? Probably not, but it didn't feel manipulative in the same way. (BTW, just realized that "resolution to character's story, but option to bring them back if we want" seems to be a recurring pattern in Carver's run.)

necessary replacement for Bobby's house (and burning it down was another terrible decision

Man, season 7 really was "let's destroy the boys!", wasn't it? They lose their friend, their surrogate home, their mobile home, their anonymity, their surrogate uncle (I think Sam actually calls him that in "Ask Jeeves"), their sanity, their friend's sanity, their surrogate uncle again, and finally each other. Honestly, Sam basically shutting down during Dean's stint in Purgatory is pretty damn plausible--as is his inability to explain that to Dean. And I find the idea that he basically constructed the whole Amelia thing really appealing. Have to rewatch those eps to see how much it can be squared with canon, but it's a fun possibility to play with.
I think Gamble was a terrible showrunner, and as a writer she evokes really mixed feelings in me. She wrote several amazing episodes, such as The Kids Are Alright, Jus In Bello or It's A Terrible Life, not even to mention Houses Of The Holy, which is one of my top ten favourite episodes, because it's just so unbelievably good. I never liked Faith though, found Heart extraordinarily cringeworthy, and I will never forgive her for what she did with Anna and Uriel in The Song Remains The Same, which has always been my least favourite episode on the show.

And I find the idea that he basically constructed the whole Amelia thing really appealing. Have to rewatch those eps to see how much it can be squared with canon, but it's a fun possibility to play with.
I'm sorry, but I loathe that idea. There are way too many Sam!girls who keep spouting that nonsense (the same ones who like to bitch about "Carvernatural"), because even after ten years they still think everything Sam does should be compared to what Dean does. (So if Dean saves, Sam needs to save, and preferably better, too... *rolls eyes*)
I've spent a lot of time thinking (and writing) about Sam's Amelia storyline, and to me it is actually perfectly plausible and in character that it happened the way it did. (Which doesn't mean that Amelia is a great character. She's really not. But honestly, why would it bother you that Sam's too self-centered to have a real relationship with a real, multidimensional female partner, unless you insist that he's the most precious cinnamon roll of all times and a closet feminist to boot? - Oh wow, I hadn't fully realised this before, but maybe my crazy conspiracy theory now is that Sam!girls hate S8 because they don't want to admit that Sam treats women just as badly as Dean does...)
td;dr - don't actually think Sam made up Amelia
Sorry, didn't mean to touch a nerve!

I'm mostly in the "Sam went crazy" boat because of how luridly vibrant the flashback scenes are, honestly--visually they feel like dream sequences (and the heavy-handed parallel in "Hunteri Heroici"). And really, I'm not in the boat so much as interested in playing with the idea, like I said. Would it work? Could it work? Probably not on watching all the episodes in sequence, but I'm dragging my way through the fullblown trauma of 7 and it's a way of distracting myself. I strongly suspect it's not a theory that holds up on complete consideration of the evidence, but I haven't yet watched all those episodes yet--I've seen nearly the entire second half of 8 but only a couple eps from the beginning (although I read detailed synopses of everything this past winter when I was trying to decide whether to spend $400+ to buy all 10 seasons).

(What I predict, in all serious consideration of the rest of canon, is that Sam a) was emotionally exhausted and b) thought Dean was dead and in heaven, not purgatory. So why not settle down with someone who could at least partially understand his damage? I need to just marathon the remaining episodes of 7 and get it over with so I can go back to enjoying the rest of the show.)

It's kind of funny, now that I'm thinking about the subject, how often what seems like a cool and plausible piece of meta winds up disintegrating when you actually hold it up to the full stretch of canon. Suggests that what a lot of fans watch isn't so much the show as their idea of the show. But the vast majority of the time I find that I prefer what the show actually does to the fans' versions.

And my scattershot method of initially watching seasons 1-9 means I can entertain pieces of meta for a while until I get around to filling in the gaps--which probably winds up making me look sort of wishy-washy from the outside. It's just that I convinced myself to work my way systematically through all 9 back seasons by watching the shiny fun episodes first.

My dad's a textual scholar, and I've had it practically embedded in my bones that you have to take the entire text into account when making an interpretation, even the bits of it you really don't like. And SPN, the further I watch in sequence, really does deserve to be treated as a single text. Even the awful bits, like season 7, are made use of down the line, and at least partially redeemed.
Re: td;dr - don't actually think Sam made up Amelia
I hope I didn't come across as too brusque or anything. But somehow the Amelia storyline is a touchy subject for me, closely followed by most brothers fans' constant whining about how the writers' strike prevented Sam from saving Dean from Hell. Sorry.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts once you've seen the rest of S8 - lots of interesting stuff waiting for you, I think, especially in the context of S7. :)
Re: td;dr - don't actually think Sam made up Amelia
Well, I was initially taken a little aback, but then realized it was probably just a knee-jerk reaction on your part. ^_-

Story-wise, I think the repercussions of Dean actually dying and going to hell are much more interesting than Sam being successful. I've read a couple AUs that take that route, none of which managed to go in a direction that could have opened up more story possibilities for an ongoing serial. Could it have been done? Probably, but it would have been very, very easy for the balance between Sam and Dean to have gone completely out of whack. And having the demon blood (and Ruby) as an external trigger keeps Sam salvagable in a way fullblown Sam-the-Boy-King might not have been.

(BTW, you may have noticed that I dropped your Tumblr; please don't take it personally--I dropped everyone who reblogs anything at all connected to SPN. I'm down to the single MCU writer I follow, a handful of original-content-only SPN blogs, and a couple of screen cap places. I'm an inveterate link-clicker, so Tumblr Savior can do only so much, and I'm trying the approach of simply removing all forms of temptation from my dashboard.)
Re: td;dr - don't actually think Sam made up Amelia
Re: Tumblr. That's perfectly okay, no worries, I can really understand your need for positivity.

I'm so sorry for my little outburst, I feel like I've been abusing you because you're one of the few people I know who can actually understand and make an effort to see something positive in S8-S10, ranting at you about everything that's annoyed me in fandom these past few months, even though you're so lovely and none of this has anything to do with you. I'll try not to do that in the future.
Re: td;dr - don't actually think Sam made up Amelia

Really, it's quite all right--I feel a bit like I've done the same to you, so no worries at all. Sometimes it's just such a relief to find someone who more or less agrees with you when it seems like no one else does (or no one else who's talking about the subject), that it's hard to know when to rein yourself in.

Here's a positive for you that no one talks about: how good Serge Ladouceur and his lighting crew is, and how he's been so content with working on SPN that he hasn't taken any outside gigs since 2006. The consistency of how beautiful the show is comes down largely to Jerry Wanek and him--they're the reasons nearly all the close-ups in dialog scenes could be used as portraits.
Thinking about Gamble--I think what's going on for me with a lot of her episodes is that they verge on feeling like fanfiction that got incorporated into the show. Though I still can't quite put my finger on why that's the reaction they get from me. Maybe it's how she uses tropes?

Hm. Yet another topic for a paper I'll never write. (Previously considered: "Dean as the Righteous Man")

(But seriously, as a post script to my previous comment, I should probably append "but don't listen to me, I still have ~30 episodes left to watch from seasons 7-9" any time I write something meta-ish.)
Visually, it's beautiful. Story-wise, though, the only aspect I actually liked was that Bobby's best, most treasured memory is of grown-up Sam and Dean sitting on his sofa, bickering with each other about movies and candy. (Well, and Rufus. I liked him--or 'him', I guess; Bobby's memory of him? Whatever it was. He was the only thing that made it watchable for me, aside from Robert Singer's gorgeous visuals.)

But like I mentioned above somewhere, Carver has brought Bobby back in each season since then (and each time in a way that's connected to the plot, even, not just fan service), so we haven't lost him entirely.