Log in

No account? Create an account
25 December 2011 @ 08:53 pm
Supernatural University: Spectral Speculations  

Supernatural University
: Spectral Speculations

I thought Death's Door was a magnificent piece of work, and ranks right up there with Abandon All Hope as one of the best mid-season finales of the series. And while I grieve profoundly for Bobby's death, the story around it was solid and very fitting, and did him proud. Special kudos to Jim Beaver for an award-worthy, totally honest performance, and to the entire company for supporting him in it.

Although I do believe Bobby is well and truly dead, this is Supernatural, after all, and I strongly suspect we haven't seen the last of him. Sam and Dean have died more than once, but are still walking, and even Bobby came back from the dead before, raised by Castiel after Lucifer killed him in Swan Song. Castiel himself was brought back, evidently by God, at least twice after having been destroyed by more powerful archangels, as described or seen in Sympathy For the Devil and Swan Song – and where there's room for one wayward angel, I'm certain there's room for one almost-father and heavenly hero. I think there are some excellent story opportunities that could involve Bobby's eventual return, and I thought I'd explore one here. Welcome to a speculative fiction, cosmology, and mythology class at my little Supernatural University, in which I look to the show's established ghost and spirit lore to ask questions about where the writers could possibly take Bobby's story in the future, based on elements from the past!

Here's my up-front disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation with the show apart from loving it, and I have no idea where this season is going to go. Everything in this little article is my own overactive imagination running down avenues I've dreamed up. The show may – and most likely will! – take an entirely different road, and that's perfectly fine with me; I can't wait to see where we wind up and how we'll get there. I'm definitely along for the ride.

The origin of this article, however, was a recurring theme in Death's Door: Bobby having to choose the outcome of his inevitable death, either to go with the Reaper and be ushered to his soul's proper destination – presumably Heaven, because no way would Bobby merit Hell! – or to deny the Reaper and remain as a spirit, a ghost, on Earth. That choice was presented to Bobby by the Reaper in very stark terms at least three distinct times during the episode, and the question of how Bobby would choose provided all the suspense of the episode's ending.

As that choice kept being raised, however, it occurred to me that Bobby knew a lot more about that decision than any other character we've ever seen confronting it, and I began to wonder just how much of a difference all that knowledge could make in the way that choice played out. My thesis for this class boils down to this: I think knowing the rules in advance might entirely change both the nature and fate of a soul choosing to remain a ghost or spirit, and it's not as cut-and-dried a choice as Reapers have made it out to be. I have to wonder whether Bobby – and the writers – may be planning to explore just how much of a difference understanding the rules could make.

Playing By The Rules

The conventional wisdom about ghosts – which we've heard from Tessa, Bobby's Reaper, Rufus, and even Sam and Dean, among others – is that, no matter what prompted them to remain as spirits in the first place, virtually all of them eventually wind up going mad and violent and need to be put down by hunters. I'm going to start by saying I don't believe that's necessarily the case, based on situations we've already seen, and advocate the possibility of a very different end for someone, like Bobby, who understood fully and from the beginning how to manipulate the results of the decision to remain on Earth as a spirit.

Among the very first things we learned in Supernatural was that ghosts were bound by strict rules making most of their behavior reasonably predictable by hunters. The basics boiled down to ghosts most usually being trapped in the places where they died or where their physical remains were buried, or being linked to some specific physical object. Eventually – according to the lore, anyway – ghosts were all driven mad presumably by outliving everyone who mattered to them and being unable to physically affect the real world in ways that mattered to the people they cared about. Because of that, most ghosts we met were reduced over time to just the single driving force that had kept them in the world in the first place – frequently revenge, guilt, hate, or spite, like H.H. Holmes in No Exit or the psychotic child spirits in The Real Ghostbusters – sacrificing everything else that had made them individual, human, multi-faceted, and unique.

From the pilot, we learned angry spirits were most often born from violent deaths, couldn't cross protective lines of salt, could be temporarily dispersed by iron or salt, and could be permanently banished by salting and burning their bones. We learned some of them – like Constance Welch, a woman in white – could make themselves visible to ordinary people and even affect the physical world around them, from taking over the Impala to reaching into Sam's chest and squeezing his heart to moving furniture with her mind to pin the brothers in place. We saw more of a ghost's abilities to affect the physical world in Dead In The Water, when the spirit of a little boy reached out for vengeance through avenues connected to the lake in which he drowned, and learned that satisfying the reason a spirit remained behind could also put it to rest.

As early as Bloody Mary, we learned even a spirit whose body had been cremated could be linked to a physical object – in this case, the mirror in front of which she'd died, on which she'd tried to write her killer's name – and could travel through other reflective materials close to someone who had summoned her, if they were within reasonable geographic range of the original mirror. Hook Man introduced the knowledge that a spirit could be temporarily dispersed by salt shot, but also linked to something other than its physical remains; in that case, to the silver that had formed the ghost's hook hand, even after the metal had been melted once and made into different forms. Asylum's patients, who tried to provide clues to people to stop the mad doctor's ghost, showed that not all ghosts were violent. Route 666 established that a ghost could even animate and temporarily give physical substance to the form of a non-living thing – in that case, the template of the dead man's truck – which continued the spirit's terror campaign even after the man's physical remains had been burned, and was banished only by being seduced into crossing over holy ground. Provenance further played with the relationship of spirits to the physical world by illustrating ghosts who both tampered with and were somehow linked to a physical painting – haunted paintings traditionally being haunted by their subjects – and reminded us that spirits could also remain attached to the world despite cremation through a portion of their physical remains, such as hair placed on a doll. Those themes of ghosts being connected to physical objects were further expanded over time to include ghosts potentially linked to blood shed in a cell in Folsom Prison Blues, to a hand of glory chopped off after a hanging in Red Sky At Morning, to body parts moved to a house in Ghostfacers!, to a lock of hair preserved in a Bible in After School Special, to skin cells remaining in a workman's glove in It's A Terrible Life, and even to a transplanted kidney in Mannequin 3: The Reckoning. After School Special also introduced a ghost having the ability to possess a living person the same way a demon could.

Tessa laid out the terms baldly for Dean during In My Time Of Dying, telling him “Well, like you said: there's always a choice. I can't make you come with me. But you're not getting back in your body. And that's just facts. So, yes – you can stay. You'll stay here for years; disembodied, scared, and over the decades, it'll probably drive you mad. Maybe you'll even get violent. Dean – how do you think angry spirits are born? They can't let go and they can't move on, and you're about to become one. The same thing you hunt.” She also maintained it was a one-time-only deal: “Moment of truth. No changing your mind later. So: what's it going to be?”

As I've pointed out in articles before, however, that last assertion wasn't truly the case. We've seen at least two occasions when a spirit who'd obviously initially refused to accompany a Reaper got a second opportunity to choose, and vanished peacefully into light: Father Gregory in Houses Of The Holy, and Molly in Roadkill. For that matter, we could deduce from Home that Mary Winchester had similarly refused Reaper escort and remained behind in her home after death, departing from Earth only when she used the opportunity to sacrifice herself in order to save her sons from a poltergeist, and we saw John vanish smiling into light after escaping Hell and saving Dean in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2.

I think Mary, Molly, and even the death omen Claire from The Usual Suspects demonstrate that not all spirits are automatically doomed to go insane and become something other than who they were in soul and life. True, most of the ghosts we've seen became only the obsessed fraction of themselves that most adamantly refused to accompany a Reaper upon their deaths: just think of farmer Greeley in Roadkill, who we learned had been a gentle and loving man who'd written eloquently of his love to his wife, but became nothing more than a brutal torturer bent on revenge on his accidental killer after his death; or gentle giant Luther of Yellow Fever, who killed others using the same terror he'd experienced when he'd been unjustly dragged to death behind a truck. Mary, Claire, and Molly, on the other hand, remained behind because they either wanted to protect others or express their love for them, and I think the purity of that motive, while it still bound them to a myopically focused, one-dimensional ghost existence, also helped protect them from fading into the violent insanity we normally associate with ghosts in Supernatural. I think it also played a key role in each of them ultimately surrendering their existence as a spirit once their purpose had been achieved; we have ample reason to believe they each passed on to where they belonged after the haunting stories we saw, although we never actually saw any of them happily in Heaven.

Both we and the Winchesters learned in Death Takes A Holiday that fresh ghosts had no innate ability to affect the material world, but could learn, particularly with sufficient motivation and with help from another ghost who already knew the ropes, how to focus the power of ghostly thought and will to make things happen in the real world. For an additional example, we earlier saw the intern Corbett in Ghostfacers! initially unable to do more than appear as an echo reliving his death, but once made aware of his situation by Ed, successfully attack the ghost of Daggett to save his companions. We saw Dean himself discover In My Time Of Dying – although he didn't remember it for years afterward – that while he as a newly disembodied spirit mostly couldn't affect or be perceived by the material world, he could move things if he focused on them hard enough. I think this learning curve may explain both why it usually took some time after their deaths for most ghosts – who didn't generally have immediate help from others – to manifest in the real world in any meaningful fashion, and why some were more prone to insanity than others – insanity, I believe, most often being linked to long-term frustration at not being able to accomplish the things they most wanted to do, to follow through on their initial choice to refuse to accompany a Reaper.

Summoned spirits presented a departure from all the accustomed rules on ghosts. I submit that wasn't a mistake, but was due instead to the power of the summoning spell that drew back the spirits of souls who hadn't chosen to become ghosts. Specific examples include the Hollywood ghosts compelled to do the frustrated writer's bidding in Hollywood Babylon; all the spirits forced to rise and kill hunters under the compulsion of the Raising of the Witnesses from Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester; and the return of Jo and others at the behest of Osiris in Defending Your Life. In all of those circumstances, the ghosts who were brought back had an immediate, full understanding of what they could accomplish and how to perform effectively in the material world, something other ghosts apparently took years to learn, if they ever did. Jo in particular betrayed what a hunter could do as a ghost with full knowledge of ghostly abilities when she used her ghostly cold to shatter a glass window and cause a breeze to break a protective salt circle she wouldn't otherwise have been able to pass.

Breaking All The Rules

You might well ask what this all has to do with my ideas on what might happen with Bobby following his death by gunshot to the head in Death's Door. I'm thinking we might see an entirely new take on a ghost that nonetheless builds on all that has gone before, in the person of Bobby taking on the afterlife as his self-contained and complete soul – not just some one-dimensional remnant – remains on Earth after his body's death and likely cremation.

I'm going to start by saying that, had Bobby died three or even two years ago, I suspect he'd never even have considered there being a choice to make. Bobby was nothing if not ruthlessly practical, and knowing the typical fate of ghosts, I doubt he'd even have considered for a moment becoming one, knowing he'd likely have forced the brothers to hunt and destroy him. Had he died before this, I think he'd have gone with his Reaper willingly, once he'd finished fighting to pass on the information he felt it critical for the boys to know.

Now, however, I think the situation is very different. Through Dean's and Sam's firsthand descriptions, Bobby knows quite well what Heaven and Hell are like in Supernatural's cosmology, and understands that souls are nothing more in the great scheme of things than power sources to fuel their destinations. To my mind, anyway, that removes a lot of the incentive for seeking to go to Heaven. I suspect Bobby's reaction to learning of Heaven being Memorex – simply reliving favorite memories with no real substance – would be much the same as Dean's dismissive attitude on display in Dark Side Of The Moon. I think Bobby would rather remain in connection with Earth and his adopted sons, if he had any way to ensure he'd remain himself and sane in close proximity to them and possibly be able to help them sometimes. And if he wound up in Heaven after all, he'd definitely be hanging out with Ash.

Here's where I think Bobby's knowledge and understanding might make all the difference in both the material and immaterial world: I think Bobby might be able to remain himself, sane, and effective even in spirit form precisely because he understands what, how, and why he could do certain things as a ghost, and might be able to arrange his post-death existence accordingly. And if the writers intend to explore that idea, I believe we could see Bobby again in the not-too-distant future and for a long, long time to come. Part of me earnestly hopes that may be the case, because I love Bobby in his own right, grieve for what his loss means to the Winchester brothers, and personally want to be able to continue to see Jim Beaver excelling at his acting craft (and getting paid!) bringing Bobby to vivid life on screen. Another part of me wants Bobby's loss and absence to stick simply because I wouldn't want to see his death and sacrifice cheapened by an easy out … but I don't think a ghost-Bobby would necessarily constitute an easy out.

Whatever your own personal preferences, just take a moment here to think along with me and see possibilities through my eyes. I dare to hope you might enjoy the experience, at least a little.

For the sake of this argument, let's suppose Bobby would choose to deny the Reaper and remain on Earth as a spirit after his physical death, considering that existence more meaningful than simply reliving memories as a soul in Heaven. How might Bobby make that work and avoid the trap of ghost insanity that would force other hunters – particularly the brothers – to destroy him?

For this exercise, I'm going to assume the brothers shared their various Heaven, Hell, and ghost experiences with Bobby so he had the same knowledge we do of Supernatural's cosmology and of events in ghost-related episodes, in addition to whatever other lore or personal information he may have amassed. Bobby was a meticulous and methodical researcher who created contingency plans to deal with potential threats: just look at his construction of the panic room, first introduced in Are You There God? It's Me, Dean Winchester; his addition after Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid of a trapdoor in the floor just outside the closet refuge where he and Dean had been trapped by zombies, which he later used to escape from soulless Sam in Appointment In Samarra; and his foresight in making and distributing to safe caches copies of his essential research materials, which we learned about first in Let It Bleed and more fully in The Girl Next Door. Bobby made practical use of virtually every piece of information he uncovered in his life, learning caution from experience and linking concepts together into physical constructs he could use in hunting.

I think it would have been perfectly in character for Bobby to have studied ghost lore to try and figure out how and why certain ghosts seemed bound to things – like a mirror, a silver hook hand, or a painting – rather than just to the place where they died or to their physical remains. In the case of Bloody Mary, a reasonable explanation could have been that she was focused so totally on the mirror as she died trying to write her killer's name on it that her spirit imbued the glass. The Hook Man had considered the silver hook a part of his body. The best clue we were given about why the ghosts in Provenance were invested in and traveled with the family portrait was the suggestion that Isaiah Merchant, dying and knowing he would be blamed for the killings committed by his adopted daughter, had been desperate for a way to warn people about her murderous nature, and focused his attention on changing the details of the family painting. I'm not clear why the little girl herself was similarly linked, unless she was aware of what he was doing and was fully as committed to stopping him.

Either way, those cases in particular suggested that a strong enough focus by a dying soul on a personally important physical object could be enough to anchor the ghost's spirit to the object, rather than leaving it trapped in its place of death or just tethered to its physical remains. If that's the case, and if Bobby drew the same conclusions I did, I think it reasonable that, if he chose to refuse the Reaper even as he died, he might have consciously focused the last of his will and all of his essence on an object both meaningful to him and highly likely to remain in close proximity to Dean and Sam. If he did that, he might remain a viable ghost even if the brothers gave his body a proper hunter's cremation, and his link to something also linked to them could ensure that he could stay with them, not be trapped and alone in a place they left behind. My two top suggestions for a suitable vessel for Bobby to haunt would include (1) his personal hunter's journal – remember Dean retrieving it from the mantelpiece hiding place in The End? – which I'm betting would have been with Bobby in the van, not in his destroyed house; or even (2) – wait for it – the Impala. If the object had to be physically close to him when he died, the journal would be the more likely, and I believe Dean would keep it as close as he has always kept John's, but there would be spiritual poetry in Bobby investing the car, which has always been a symbol of family for Dean and which he had helped Dean rebuild more than once.

Whatever the object he used as a focus, making it something close to the brothers would help bypass two of what I think are the major contributors to the insanity that usually afflicts ghosts: Bobby wouldn't be lonely, isolated from the people he loved, and wouldn't be trapped in one place, helpless to move around or make a difference.

Given that Bobby's focus in remaining on Earth would have been a consciously positive one – loving and wanting to help his boys – rather than the typical spur-of-the-moment choice born of fear, pain, anger, hate, or the desire for revenge, I think the emotions he carried into his afterlife could also help insulate him from a ghost's typical tendency to narrow into a single obsessive drive, just one small piece of a total human soul. I further think that his direct experience of what ghosts could accomplish in the physical world, combined with his knowledge of what Dean and Sam learned in Death Takes A Holiday about how to manipulate matter while in spirit form, would give him a distinct advantage over most new ghosts and dramatically shorten his learning curve on becoming effective in the material world, eliminating a lot of the practical limitations and attendant frustration that seemed to drive other ghosts over the edge.

Mind you, I don't think a ghost existence would be entirely rosy or without problems for Bobby. From what we've seen of ghosts and souls, there seems to be a definite bias in favor of souls that don't go to their appropriate destination, whether Heaven or Hell, either immediately forfeiting or gradually losing aspects of themselves over time, perhaps because they have to expend energy from their own essence in order to remain where they don't belong. It may be that as time progresses, a ghost naturally begins to lose dimension until it becomes nothing more than the most basic drive within itself that refused to accompany the Reaper in the first place. If that's the case, then it would be true that every ghost would eventually go mad, becoming something much less than the complete person had been, unless – as Father Gregory and Molly seemingly did – the ghost found a second opportunity to choose before that process was complete, and this time went on to where it truly belonged. I would hate to see Bobby diminished that way over time, if he chose to and succeeded in remaining now as a ghost; I think it would feel exactly like watching a parent being stolen away by Alzheimer's, something I personally know all too well. Based on all we've seen across the last six and a half years, however, that's exactly the kind of painful twist I think would fit the tradition of the Supernatural writers' room. And that's part of what makes me think this really could happen, even though I also think it's not truly likely. (Can you tell I'm REALLY conflicted in terms of what I desire?)

In any case, if Bobby indeed chose to become a ghost rather than going with the Reaper, I wouldn't expect him to appear on-screen to the brothers any time soon. First off, while I do believe he would have a major advantage over a run-of-the-mill new ghost in terms of learning the effectiveness ropes at record speed, I also think he would still have at least some learning curve to surmount to convert his currently theoretical knowledge into actual practice of effectively affecting the physical world. Second, understanding so thoroughly how they think, there's no way Bobby would choose to appear to Dean or Sam without first laying the groundwork to allow them to accept him without feeling the need to hunt him down and eradicate him. If I thought all this might really happen, I would look for Bobby to manifest at first in very small things for a while: the unexplained sound that alerts one of the brothers to an enemy attempting a sneak attack; the breeze rearranging papers on a desk to uncover the important clue; the startling flash of light that pulls Sam out of a Hellucination; or the car (we know Dean won't remain apart from his beloved Baby for long!) either braking sharply or refusing to start just long enough to prevent the brothers from being hurt or caught by Leviathan. I would look for Bobby in the still, small voice, exactly as I would look for God; I would expect circumstantial evidence of a guardian spirit benevolently watching out for them and intervening subtly on their behalf long before we would see the image of Bobby smiling wryly and lovingly calling the boys “Idjits” to their faces.

Perhaps my Supernatural University classroom has been infected with sentimentality at this holiday season, the benevolent ghosts of Dickens' A Christmas Carol taking over from the usually blood-spattered sensibilities of Supernatural, the television series. If so, I welcome the invasion this time. I would hate to bid a permanent farewell to Bobby and to Jim Beaver, who portrays him so very honestly and well. And in this holiday season, I am inclined to believe in miracles and to hope for the best for all of us, real and fictional characters alike.

Happy Hanukkah, Good Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, and Blessed Whatever-You-Celebrate to all the world, with special love and best wishes to the fans, crew, writers, and cast of Supernatural. May all your wishes come true – but only in ways that benefit you, no legal demonic or fairy fine print attached.

Peace and joy to all, and to all, a good night!

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Current Music: "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling
borgmama1of5borgmama1of5 on December 26th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC)
Fascinating theory, very thoroughly laid out. (Sometimes the show doesn't extrapolate the ramifications half so well as you just did...)

I am also conflicted, I don't want Bobby to be dead, but I don't want a revival that cheapens the emotion of the last episode. Your take on him appearing as 'signs' is perfect.

Seriously, SPN fans have produced some damn fine scholarly articles like this one!
bardicvoice: BobbyDean by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on December 27th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and glad you enjoyed!
blackcat333_99blackcat333_99 on December 26th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
I really like and appreciate the theory you posit here. And fully agree that you present a credible theory for how Ghost!Bobby could be a very real possibility.

I do think he is dead and put so much energy into getting those numbers to Sam and Dean pre-death because he expected that to be his final communication with them -- which is a large part of what makes me think the idea of him actually lingering as a ghost is a longshot possibility. However, you appear to allude to the possibility of Bobby hanging around as a spirit for a certain period of time -- for Sam and Dean... and then it's an open end for a possible change in choice for Bobby. Now that too is an interesting and viable possibility.

Playing Devil's Advocate for one tiny second, I argue against my own fondness for Bobby when I look at two moments of SPN's history concerning references to spirits and their afterlife:

Tessa: Look at her, Cole. Do you see how unhappy she is?
Cole: That's why I want to stay with her.
Tessa: As long as she can feel you, she'll be in pain, because she can't let go. Because you won't let go of her.
Cole: Why won't anybody tell me what's on the other side?
Tessa: Maybe nobody wants to ruin the surprise.
Cole: That's not an answer.
Dean: She won't answer you, Cole. Reapers never do. But trust me. Staying here is a whole lot worse than anything over there.
Cole: Why?
Dean: Because one day, your family will be gone, and there'll be nothing left here for you. (4.15)

This reference seems to argue in two possible directions for a spirit to make a decision: once their family is gone there will be nothing left for them to remain sane for.

But there is the other possibility Tessa mentions: that the very act of trying to hang around to comfort a grieving family member was actually causing more pain than just moving on.

I end up with such a mixed and divided reaction to that possibility -- because we've seen how hard it is for Dean in particular to let go of a lost family member, and the idea that Bobby hanging around, intending it to be a comfort and help -- actually exacerbating the pain... that is a rather disturbing thought to me. Haven't the Winchesters experienced enough pain and loss? Bobby lingering as a ghost presents quite the conundrum: would it comfort or hurt the boys if he were to not move on but rather anchor himself somehow to them? Best of intentions, road to... well. We've been there before, haven't we?

There is one other random thought that comes to mind. I admit do not have any idea how it could fit into the scheme of things or possibily play into any choice Bobby makes about moving on, but our last Bobby-centric episode was 6.04. And that episode featured the Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler", which featured the chorus words repeating:

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

And in this same episode we had Bobby's memorable rant to Crowley about being a demon:

Bobby: You demons - you think you're something special, but you're just spirits. Twisted, perverted, evil spirits, but end of the day, you're nothing but ghosts with an ego.

Would Bobby choosing to stay risk the possibility of turning himself into a ghost with an ego -- because he has so much more knowledge about what being a spirit is/means, and all the possibilities. Yes, Bobby wouldn't be one of those souls tortured and twisted into a perversion/worst possible manifestation of what a soul can be converted into, but I find it an interesting thought nonetheless. Can it play into knowing when to hold on, and when to let go... and gambling that that is the right time?

Oh dear, I just cut loose all over your journal. Thanks for putting up with my own speculation and for feeding different avenues of thought. I really am not too confident of any outcome at this point. Hopefully January will begin to answer some of our questions. :)
bardicvoice: BobbyDean by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on December 27th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
Please don't apologize for having commented at length; I enjoy a conversation, at least on the (now admittedly rare!) occasions when I can converse back!

About your point: "... the idea that Bobby hanging around, intending it to be a comfort and help -- actually exacerbating the pain... that is a rather disturbing thought to me. Haven't the Winchesters experienced enough pain and loss? Bobby lingering as a ghost presents quite the conundrum: would it comfort or hurt the boys if he were to not move on but rather anchor himself somehow to them? Best of intentions, road to... well. We've been there before, haven't we?"

I'm definitely betting that if Bobby remained around as a spirit, it wouldn't be all cookies and puppydogs; the writers would manage to turn the knife somehow! But I think the situation is different than the one between Cole and his mother, precisely because Bobby and the brothers understand life and death very differently than any other mortals. They're unique in having gotten a glimpse behind the curtain. Cole's mom, like any normal human, believed death to be final; she hoped her son would be in a better place with no suffering, and being able to sense him still on Earth, feeling unhappy, made her unhappy in her turn, unable to accept his death, leave it behind, and move on.

I dare to think the situation between Bobby and the brothers would be different because their expectations and understanding are different. They know what Heaven is and I don't think any of them would be content there, not as long as any of the rest of them remained alive and engaged in the fight; they'd rather be able to support each other, I think. Were they confined to Heaven, I think they'd be joining with Ash in searching for a means to subvert the system rather than remaining happily in their versions of Winchesterland or Singerland! I think, if they had reason to believe that a friendly spirit was *intentionally* remaining in the vicinity and was happy to be there, still able to affect events, they wouldn't be sad to know he was hanging around and wouldn't be focused on getting past his death to deal with whatever else life had to offer. They would have to get to the point of accepting that he wanted to be there, however.

Would that be healthy? Nope. Not particularly. But it wouldn't be precisely unhealthy, either, because it would simply be recognizing their peculiar reality, one in which death wasn't necessarily either an end or a permanent condition, and one in which Heaven and an afterlife weren't necessarily preferable to being an empowered and self-aware ghost. *grin*

To me, understanding the whole cosmology is the key to succeeding as a ghost: not getting impatient with the time and effort it would take to learn to communicate effectively with the material world; knowing that you could still choose to pass on (as Molly and Father Gregory did) in your own time when you'd either achieved your intended purpose or seen those you loved pass on in their turn and had no more reason to remain Earthbound; and understanding and being comfortable with what you were foregoing by remaining tied to Earth rather than shifting to Heaven (or Hell).

All this blather aside, I'm not predisposed toward any outcome. I'll accept whatever road the story chooses to take and will wait to see what's around the next bend and the one after that. However much I may sometimes choose to speculate, it's not my story to tell, and I'm content with that ... and dying to see where the brothers' story will go!

Really looking forward to January and beyond ...

Thanks for coming by and commenting!! It's been fun!!
tabaqui: bobbyglyphbyangstpuppytabaqui on December 27th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, i love this! I love your breakdown of ghosts of episodes past, what motivated/held them, what banished them, what they could do. Just - amazing!

And your speculation - it's so spot on. So many reasons for Bobby to stay! But...as blackcat333_99 says...it could backfire.

In my heart of hearts, Bobby is dead. He knows better than to try to stay, to make Dean suffer over his ghost, to try to linger when the possibility of becoming something bad/monstrous is too high.

I will grieve for him, but i can't convince myself that him coming back to Show would be handled with the delicacy it would need. I don't want his epic struggle and death to be just shunted aside.

(Unless we get a whole-universe reboot and start all over again in the nursery with Mary blowing the YED away and nobody dying ever....)

Anyway...yes. Loved this, am going to bookmark and save for future perusal/reference.
bardicvoice: BobbyDeanFatherbardicvoice on December 27th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you VERY much - glad you enjoyed!!

I don't really think we'll have ghost-Bobby, but then again ... What can I say? I'm conflicted! I love Bobby and want to keep him as much as the Winchesters do, but I wouldn't ever want to cause him or them more pain than they already have. Aaarrgh! Rock, meet hard place ...

Thanks for stopping by!
tabaqui: s&d&bbyneversincetabaqui on December 27th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Having Bobby back would be wonderful, but ghost!Bobby would be sheer torture for the boys and, i suspect, for him eventually.

Oh, Show - you'll be the death of me.
annspalannspal on December 28th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
So glad to find this (through the newsletter)!

Do you have an interpretation for the way the show deliberately and progressively blanked out Bobby's experience of the world on his way to a final memory? I (pessimistically) read it as qualitatively different from Dean's experience in 2.01 In My Time of Dying. We've had canon explanations that becoming an angry spirit (or demon!) is due to forgetting who you are. If some part of Bobby does stick around, maybe that will be one of his issues sooner rather than later?
bardicvoice: BobbyDeanFatherbardicvoice on December 28th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
Glad you found your way here, and welcome!

I do have my own explanation, and it's not as pessimistic as yours. :) The way I see it, Dean's and Bobby's dying experiences were very different in large part because Dean's spirit was already roaming outside his body, only loosely tethered to his physical being, while Bobby's was still firmly in physical residence and thus experiencing as a physical thing his body and mind shutting down from the inside. Dean couldn't figure out how to get back into his body, while Bobby, still connected, was resisting being evicted, and was taking refuge inside his own memories to evade the Reaper.

I don't think the bodily loss of access to his memories as his physical brain shut down - the process we were seeing as he lost places to hide from the Reaper and saw the world outside going dark - would have had any effect on Bobby's soul or spirit. Yes, our current understanding of thought and memory is built around electrical impulses traveling through our physical brains, but Supernatural's cosmology has already established that our memories and reasoning capabilities are also both integral to our immaterial souls, and therefore not reliant on anything physical; were that not the case, souls in Heaven couldn't be reliving their best memories since those memories would have died with their physical bodies and brains, and Ash couldn't have learned to manipulate his Heavenly existence to be able to travel freely through others' Heavens. So I read the darkening and diminishing of Bobby's world purely as evidence that he was perceiving in a very tangible way his physical body becoming increasingly untenable as a house or hiding place for his soul, not as any indication that Bobby was burning through the actual power and substance of his soul and thus truly losing himself. For a soul to be stripped, I think something more than simple physical death would have to be involved; for example, endless torment in Hell, the mounting frustration of being a ghost unable to do meaningful things, or the kind of total destruction apparently wrought by such things as Ruby's knife, angel swords, or the Colt.

Hope that idea cheers you up!!
annspalannspal on December 28th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)
It does and I thank you for that.

Of course, though, it leads me into wanting more of your thoughts on the concepts of knowledge and memory within the show. If you've already written about it and have a link handy, I'd jump right into it!

As has been pointed out, we've had spirits who don't know what they are. Molly believed she was still human and the priest from Houses of the Holy believed himself an angel. But, Ruby claimed (to Dean) that she was different from other demons because she REMEMBERED being human. Heck, Anna was an angel who understood herself to be a girl until she REMEMBERED her fall. Where do false, repressed, or shifting memories come in?

The show has certainly made memory an ongoing issue with Sam's wall (which in itself isn't new since young Sam was also kept from the truth). The idea has been broadened to include actions like Dean asking to be wiped from Lisa and Ben's history. We also had Zachariah sticking traumatized Dean into the Terrible Life AU and trusting Dean to eventually REMEMBER his calling as a hunter.

It's practically a show mantra that the boys excuse each other with "You didn't know" even while they did know - perhaps not the specific consequences but definitely the morality of their choices.

Right now, I believe a LOT of the story revolves around the concepts of who knows what when and who gets to say what it's okay to know. As much as the guys have reversed roles over the seasons, I think Dean remains the "Bury it!" champion of the entire universe and Sam has to dig until he knows.
bardicvoice: BobbyDean by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on December 29th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
Hmm; don't know that I've written specifically on memory and knowledge, although I do know concepts have come up in certain episodes and I've played with them there at least in brief. Big problem is, I've written so much over the years that it's hard even for me to track one thread, particularly since so many of my meta pieces got wrapped up into my episode reviews. Oopsie! If you'd like to check for specifics on an episode, I've got a master list of links to all my reviews pinned near the top of my journal, and I've also got a master list of my freestanding meta. And I'm unfortunately typing this on the new iPad I haven't fully figured out how to use, so I can't stick in the links right here. Sorry!

You're bang-on in pegging Dean as the burying champion and Sam as the champion digger, though!
primrose_1primrose_1 on December 28th, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Bobby, however, many times said that he was tired, old, done, whatever. It could be that he was serious about that. He gave the boys the information they needed with the Leviathans, and he might just consider his job finally done. I'm not sure which it's going to be. I'm just willing to let the show surprise me either way.
bardicvoice: BobbyDeanFatherbardicvoice on December 29th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
Like you, I'll wait to see what happens and roll with it. And I certainly wouldn't grudge Bobby his well-earned rest and peace, if he chose to go!

I just ... love Bobby and Jim Beaver, and hate to contemplate saying goodbye fully as much as Sam and Dean. :)

Thanks for coming by!
i dream of colors that have never been seen: pic#79898807dean sleepetoile444 on December 31st, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Beautifully argued, but I want Bobby to be dead. Not that I hate him,I don't. I just feel anything other than death and eternal rest would be disrespectful to the character.
bardicvoice: BobbyDean by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on December 31st, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
I can appreciate that, truly! As I mentioned more than once, I'm conflicted. *wry grin* This was my attempt to have my Bobby cake, and eat it, too; to not lose Bobby (and with him, Jim Beaver!) even if we did lose him.

I wish ... but if wishes were horses, I'd be riding this gorgeous Friesian mare.

Thanks for coming and commenting!
jo_anne8: Sam andDean peak - wishvillejo_anne8 on December 31st, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
Hi!! Happy Holidays to you too! This is JoAnne who gets to see you and say hi when I get to a con! LOL!
I always love your metas and the depth and history you give to each one.
I loved this episode as well. Sera wrote a wonderful story with Robert Singer's beautiful direction. Jim, Jared and Jensen always knock it out of the park for me. The tears in Bobby's eyes as he savored his last fading memory of the boys being his "idjits" that he loved so, tore at my heart.

Dean pondering the choice Tessa gave him in IMTOD vs Bobby pondering the same choice with his reaper were as different as night and day given the knowledge Bobby gained through Sam and Dean's heaven and hell experiences. Even as I watched as a viewer, for Dean I was talking to the screen, not wanting Dean to die, but not wanting the alternative Tessa was painting for him either. When this same scenario was given to Bobby, I watched Bobby's reaction. I'd like to think like you said regarding how knowledgeable Bobby is, that the brothers' ornery, curmudgeon (real) father would want to hang back and try to be there for Sam and Dean working out the kinks of being a ghost along the way.
IF this is the path the writers have chosen, I was concerned like Blackcat was, with his lingering hurting Dean and Sam even more. Sam is fragile with good ol' Lucifer tumbling around in his head, but, this season, Dean's armor is peeling away-slowly and painfully. People and yes, even an angel that he loved and depended on are gone,and the slow realization, repeated at the end of "Time For A Wedding" that his beloved brother is all grown up now and really (despite Sam's protestations) doesn't need him to do what has been his only purpose in life, which was watch Sammy's back. Now Bobby is gone. The potential final straw, which the thought of just a couple of episodes ago, had Dean thinking of driving off a cliff. If Bobby hung around as a spirit for the sole purpose of being near and hoping to help the boys, by doing this would he magnify Dean's despair and Sam's inner turmoil?

For levity in those humorous stand-alones, I can see Bobby teasing/playfully moving objects to let the brothers know he is there. The writers can also have him help solve an outworldly problem because of what he has become.

But, this can also bring Dean and Sammy to more hurt, pain and unrest. Great storylines can be written with this mixture, but could you imagine Bobby's spirit finally turning to an angry, vengeful one that sadly could become a very, very painful hunt for Sam and Dean?

Thank you again, as always for your clear thoughts and wonderful detail! I am also on this ride for as long as they go and I am enjoying each and every second of it! :D
Take care, M!!!!

JoAnne :D
bardicvoice: BobbyDean by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on January 3rd, 2012 03:30 am (UTC)
Hi, JoAnne! Good to see you again! *grin*

I have no idea where the writers will take the brothers' story following their loss of Bobby; all I'm sure of is that it's going to hurt. My speculations on Bobby potentially electing to become a ghost were purely designed to explore how it might be not a totally bad thing. I really do think that Bobby could avoid becoming a vengeful spirit, it he winds up as a spirit.

But I'll be along for the ride wherever it goes!