[Big-time spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Friday's episode!]
Supernatural returned from its winter hiatus on Friday with "Adventures in Babysitting," answering the question of whether or not Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) is dead or just nodded off in the hospital bed at the end of the midseason finale. Answer: He's dead. Until Sam or Dean dies (for real), Bobby's passing will be the series' biggest casualty. So why did the impact of his death feel so... blah?
Was his fate dragged out for too long? A cliffhanger gunshot, an entire episode with him lying in a hospital bed, and a full month-plus break with no definitive answer probably hurt the emotional impact of the death of the Winchesters' surrogate dad. Was the way he died an unfair send-off for such a grizzled badass? Bobby is the man, so I'm a bit ticked that he was offed by a stray gunshot when he was already in the getaway car. This is Bobby! He deserved to be sent to Hunter Heaven while killing a swarm of Leviathans or vampires or werekittens! Or blowing himself up along with a bunch of baddies via a homemade bomb he made out of potatoes! Or even by drinking himself to death. But to me, the biggest offense is that Bobby was killed by Dick Roman, Supernatural's most laughable bad guy ever. I wanted Bobby to get a proper hero's sendoff, and I don't think he did.
Anyway, after a "time passes" montage that showed us three weeks' worth of Sam and Dean being sad and trying to figure out the meaning of the numbers Bobby uttered, the series wasted little time in replacing Bobby. Added to the mix were Frank Devereaux, the basement weirdo we met a few episodes back, and Krissy, a teen girl whose hunter dad had gone missing, thus igniting the fuse on the monster-of-the-week case and giving the episode an even split between helping her out and using Frank to unlock the mystery of Bobby's numbers. It also separated Sam and Dean from each other for most of the hour, with Sam helpeing Krissy rescue her dad from a group of Vetalas and Dean investigating the numbers with Frank.
To be perfectly honest, neither of the storylines were particularly interesting. But I was intrigued by these two potentially recurring characters. It was kind of like having some friends of friends over for dinner unexpectedly. Krissy, who backs up her steely gaze with tons of sass, is a new version of a character we've seen countless times. But in the world of Supernatural, she's a decent fit, and her move to kill that she-bitch Vetala was sweet. Methinks the actress needs to settle into her character a bit more and the writers ought to lighten her up a bit, because it's Sam's job to be the resident brooder, not hers. Frank is no Bobby, but he was way more tolerable in his second episode than he was in his first. And he talked like Frank from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (or Danny DeVito in general). And he bore more than a passing resemblance to Fringe's Walter Bishop (LSD!). Adding new characters to a show like Supernatural is dangerous and difficult, but I'd give these two a satisfactory grade with plenty of room for improvement. I'm sure we'll see more of Frank. As for Krissy, maybe, maybe not.
In the end, with the Vetalas dead and more clues to the Leviathans unearthed, Sam and Dean drove off as they do at the end of almost every episode, and there was a long, lingering head-on shot of Dean smiling, or half-smiling, or attempting to smile. And it hearkened back to some advice Frank gave Dean: No matter how much shit you go through, the professional response is to put it behind you, smile, and do your job. That's the lifestyle. The question is, was that good advice? And how long can Dean fake it?
– So, what was up with the missing beer early in the episode? The popular theory is that the ghost of Bobby is swiggin' the boys' suds. Is it an ode to Bobby, or something more? Or is Dean such a raging alcoholic that he can't remember when he pounds a beer?
– Dean and Frank as phone repairmen was kind of pointless, but damn funny.
– For once, I'd like to see mysterious numbers NOT be latitude and longitude coordinates. Who the heck uses latitude and longitude coordinates anymore anyway?
– I don't think I'm macho enough to prove to someone that I'm not a Leviathan by slicing my arm open. Tough guys! Couldn't they just sprinkle some borax on their skin?
– Jim Beaver may be gone from Supernatural (or maybe not?), but he'll be featured prominently on another one of my favorite shows, Justified.
– "I'm a fun guy. I'm actually awesome." - Dean
Supernatural Season 7 Power Rankings
"Adventures in Babysitting" was good by virtue of it not really being bad. The story structure was a bit all over the place, but was any part of it really boring? No. Jensen Ackles is getting some good material in what is clearly a Dean-heavy season. A solid comeback from the winter break, but still not up to par with episodes from the show's early seasons.
2. "Death's Door" (Episode 10)
Bobby fought for his life and delved into his past as he tried to deliver a message to Sam and Dean from beyond the plane of the living.
3. "The Mentalists" (Episode 7)
More standalone fun as the brothers investigated murders in a town full of psychics.
4. "Meet the New Boss" (Episode 1)
Castiel got all righteous on those who didn't respect The Good Word, and it was great.
5. "Adventures in Babysitting" (Episode 11)
Sam and Dean coped with Bobby's death and met a fellow hunter's young daughter.
6. "Slash Fiction" (Episode 6)
Two Leviathans disguised themselves as Sam and Dean and took off on a cross-country shootin' spree!
7. "Hello, Cruel World" (Episode 2)
The Leviathans set up a buffet at a hospital after spreading into the water supply.
8. "How To Win Friends And Influence Monsters" (Episode 9)
Hyperadrenalized cannibals and stoner sandwiches! Dick Roman's plan was sort of unveiled! And Bobby got shot!
9. "The Girl Next Door" (Episode 3)
Via flashback, we saw Sam's first kiss... with a monster! Then Dean killed her.
10. "Defending Your Life" (Episode 4)
Dean went on trial before Osiris because of the guilt he carries. Jo came back to blow him up!
11. "Season 7, Time for a Wedding" (Episode 8)
Too. Much. Becky. Larson.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom