Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Warning: If you're a fan of the TV show Supernatural, have not yet seen seasons 4 & 5, and don't like spoilers, then don't read this blog entry. It's a major spoiler.

Supernatural focuses on two brothers - Sam and Dean Winchester - who were raised by their single father to fight supernatural menaces, such as ghosts, demons, and many other things. In that world, most myths are true and out to kill people.

The amazing thing about this show is how well they do the characters. Their psychological reactions are all spot-on, exactly what a real person with that person would feel and do in that situation. It amazes me. I keep expecting them to fall into pitfalls (such as the dead loved one in the first episode being forgotten about) but they keep deftly avoiding them.

The brothers aren't the only ones hunting supernatural beings - there's a loose organization of 'Hunters' - and when their father dies, Sam and Dean form a close bond with one Hunter, a man their father's age named Bobby. It's pretty obvious that Bobby is a surrogate father to those two, and a better father than their real one ever was.

And then, in the midst of a fight, Bobby gets stabbed. He's rushed to the hospital, and once they've got him stabilized, they realize his spinal cord is severed. He'll never walk again, the doctors say.

So, I'm expecting the usual. Either Bobby will be miraculously cured, or he'll die soon - maybe even suicide, or assisted suicide. But neither happens. Castiel, the one character both willing and able to heal him, gets partially depowered before he gets a chance to do so. And though Bobby contemplates suicide, he doesn't act on it.

Several episodes later, they meet a Poker-playing male witch. But instead of betting money, this witch bets years. If you win, you get unaged the number of years you won. If you lose, you age that many years, and those years get added to the witch's lifespan. Considering that this witch is several hundred years old, it's clear that he's good at Poker.

Bobby gets an idea. If he were to unage, he might get his mobility back. Unfortunately, the minimum bet is 25 years, and Bobby's not a young man. He plays the witch and loses, instantly becoming elderly. Dean decides to play for Bobby's sake and gets Bobby back his 25 years, but loses 50 himself. (Dean is 30, so that means he's instantly 70.) He spends a large chunk of time discovering the various unpleasant aspects of being old, until Sam finally plays the witch and wins, getting Dean back to normal.

At the end of this episode, Dean realizes that his stint as an old man has given him a bit of insight into what acquiring a disability might be like. He talks to Bobby about it, and Bobby describes how useless he feels now that he can't fight. At which point, Dean says that Bobby's not useless, admitting that if Bobby were dead, he'd fall apart emotionally.

They laugh it off, but one thing becomes clear. Bobby has decided to live. He's decided to accept his disability and deal with it. It's not cure or die for him anymore - he can live this changed life. He's clearly not happy about being in a wheelchair, and he'd accept a cure if it was offered, but it's not essential anymore.

How many shows have a character, midway through the series, getting permanently disabled and living with it?


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