Supernatural returned from mid-season hellatus with a melancholy episode laced with a pinch of humour and lots of foreshadowing. “Adventures in Babysitting” was a fitting follow-up to the beautiful but sad “Death’s Door,” as the Winchesters try to figure out how to go on.
This episode really brought the season’s overall arc for the brothers into focus. Sam and Dean are heroes, as Bobby proudly said, but what does that mean in human terms? Myth arcs are great to read, but what about when you live them? Sam and Dean have lost so much over the years; they are far from the two young men we met in the first season. This season, the loss of Castiel and Bobby has left them no one but each other—and we can’t help but wonder: is that enough?
How do our heroes get out of bed every morning? How do they keep on without the human connections we need to stay healthy? We’ve been shown from the beginning of this show the hunting life is short and hard, burning out those few who survive into middle age. Sam and Dean have no expectations of living a long life, but what will fuel their drive to live what life they are allotted?
As usual with the boys, they have different issues to resolve as they deal with their grief. Dean has been wrestling with depression and alcoholism all season, as he goes through the motions of his life, but no longer feels the fire of saving people. Bobby finally put the issue on the table when he told Dean he had to find a reason, any reason, to get back in the game because he couldn’t be anything but a hunter and an apathetic hunter is a dead hunter.
Bobby had no way to know his own death would light a fire under Dean. Both boys spend the first week after his death in shock, united in grief, but unable to talk to each other or make plans. As the shock lifts, Dean wants to spring into any action which leads to revenge for Bobby’s death. He’s obsessed with Bobby’s clue, which allows him to brush off Sam’s attempts to get him to deal with telling people about Bobby. Dean so badly does not want to deal with the reminders of Bobby, he runs himself ragged focusing on revenge.
Revenge as a reason for living has come up on the show before and it’s never been shown to be a healthy focus. With both John Winchester and Sam, their obsessive need for revenge gave them tunnel vision to the point they hurt the people they had left as they tried to avenge those they lost. Dean knows all too well what it was like trying to live up to standards his father had no business asking of a child. Will he be able to recognize and change the Winchester pattern?