Welcome back, Bobby.

Ever since Dick Roman put a bullet in his melon, Bobby’s spirit has loomed large over the seventh season. In “Party On, Garth” we learned that was true in more ways than one as Bobby’s spirit finally revealed itself in a hotel room where Dean had left his flask. Thankfully the show wasted no time in addressing the presence of ghost Bobby in this week’s episode, aptly titled “Of Grave Importance.” When a fellow hunter named Annie goes missing in the infamous Van Ness house, Sam and Dean show up to investigate. Unbeknownst to them, Bobby also shows up and finds that Annie has unknowingly joined the spirit community, having been murdered earlier in the episode. Thus we get a split episode – one part Bobby and Annie uncovering the mysteries of the house and one part Sam and Dean searching for Annie.

Bobby gets an invite to the ghost party.

It was great to see Supernatural return to its bread and butter with a ghost story this week. The show has gone to some wacky places in its seven seasons – some of which yielded brilliant results – but the core of Supernatural has always been the spirit world and its tendency to spill violently into the world of the living. That’s exactly what we got in “Of Grave Importance” as two teens met their demise in the opening, followed quickly by Annie and the two other teens later in the episode. The sky-high death toll made the Van Ness house a pretty popular hangout for the dearly departed, not all of whom were friendly. As Annie found out with help from Victoria, an older ghost in the house, it was actually Whitman Van Ness committing the murders and not Dexter, the rotund groundskeeper who was framed for the murder of Whitman’s fiancé.

Part of what made this episode so fun was its use of dramatic irony. With Annie and Bobby as our entry points into the spirit world, we were able to see the half of the mystery that Sam and Dean weren’t able to see. The result was some real tension, especially when Bobby and Annie were able to see Whitman in the back seat of Sam and Dean’s car but were powerless to help. The boys handled their uninvited guest and were able to salt and burn his bones before Whitman – who was powerful enough to feed off the spirits in his house – could zap Bobby into nonexistence. With the murderous Whitman out of the picture, Bobby was able to burn the bodies of those remaining in the house and put their spirits to rest. That included Annie, who wisely concluded that she had no good reason to stick around. It was great to see the flip side of the survival coin here. Sam, Dean and Bobby have demonstrated that they’ll do whatever it takes to keep living and fighting; Annie just wanted some peace. Good for her, I say.

Is it asking too much just to say goodbye?

Way back in season 3, Ruby dropped a bombshell on Dean – humans who die and go to Hell can eventually become demons. Her revelation helped define demons in the world of Supernatural and opened the door for future stories of humans turned demons (think Crowley). “Of Grave Importance” will go down as the episode that greatly expanded our ideas of ghosts on Supernatural. We learned that there’s a learning curve to being able to interact with the living world. We discovered that ghosts eventually begin to deteriorate and end up as crazy spirits. We also learned that ghosts as powerful as Whitman can “kill” other ghosts and absorb their essence. These were some groundbreaking revelations and it will be interesting to see what new stories spawn from the ideas put forth in this episode.

I said in my recap of “Adventures in Babysitting” that I wasn’t crazy about the idea of ghost Bobby, and my feelings remain unchanged after this well-done episode. Part of my trepidation lies in the handling of Bobby’s decision to become a ghost – what should be treated as a tragic decision by a man desperate to stay with his surrogate sons is instead played mostly for laughs. The only time his choice was handled with the appropriate level of concern was at the episode’s end, when Dean expressed his unhappiness at Bobby staying behind. I have to agree with Dean on this one that Bobby is disturbing “the natural order of things.” As a fan of the show, I like having Bobby around, but Supernatural can’t have their cake and eat it too. Bobby died. The toll his death took on the brothers was tremendous. I can’t help but feel that the writers are undermining the death of a beloved character by trotting him out as a ghost.

I want to believe the show can bring this storyline to a natural conclusion before it becomes overwrought and tiresome, but much like Dean, I have serious doubts that everything will turn out OK.

Line of the week

Sam: “We ended up on the same case. She was stressed and I … didn’t have a soul.”

Next week on Supernatural

All I could gather from that bizarre preview is that the next episode involves Dick Roman and a lesbian.

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