Last night's Supernatural episode, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," gave us a batch of kindly zombies who just want to return to their small town lives. And it showed us Bobby's horrific back story - which may be his undoing.
This was a good post-haitus episode: It was monster-of-the-week enough to make sense to people who watch the show irregularly (or who are tuning in for the first time). But we got some Armageddon Arc in there too.
Zombies are your friends
Five miles from Bobby's South Dakota junkyard, the dead have started to rise. At first it seems like they're out for blood, because Sam and Dean are called in on a job related to one zombie who killed somebody as soon as he dragged himself out of the grave. But when the Winchester brothers try to eliminate the baddie by tracking him down to his old house, they find a sweet guy with a wife and kids who looks just a little gray around the gills. He confesses immediately to the murder, and says in his defense that the guy he killed actually killed him first - and can he just kiss his kids goodnight before turning himself over to the authorities and going to jail?
Nice zombies who try to integrate themselves into small-town life are a staple of neozombie pop culture, but they're new to Sam and Dean. Even more mysterious is why Bobby, just five miles away, seems to have disappeared just as his town is being invaded by dead people.
Bobby's dark secret
After a lot of shenanigans where we find out that Bobby is known to everybody (and especially the sheriff) as the town drunk, we discover what's really going on. Among the dead who have risen is Bobby's own long-dead wife, a sweet, old-fashioned lady who believes it is "her job" to make Bobby happy and bake a lot of pies. Plus, the sheriff's dead kid has also come back, so she's in no hurry to question the situation.
The only people who are suspicious, of course, are Sam and Dean, who quickly figure out that this is a nasty trick pulled by Death, one of the Horsemen roaming the countryside as Armageddon kicks into high gear. Apparently when Death zooms through, people can rise from their graves in his wake. There's just one catch. After a few days, the risen go into a more typical zombie mode, with the drool and the teeth and the eating people.
Though Bobby is a take-no-shit Hunter, and knows things are going wrong, he can't bear to kill the monster that his dead wife is becoming. And we find out why. Years ago, before Bobby went badass, he had to kill his wife because she had been possessed by a demon. She forgives him, but he just can't bear to kill her again after finally getting her back. Finally she starts going all drooly and point-toothed, and she begs him to shoot her. But first she tells him that "a skinny man" gave her a message for Bobby right after she crawled out of her grave.
We never hear the message, and at that point everybody goes into total kill-the-zombies mode because all those friendly undead people have turned 28 Days Later and must be shot.
Death's plan for the brothers
Once the danger has passed, and the expired zombies are being ritually burned, the Winchesters meet up with Bobby again. He's staring moodily into the blaze that was his twice-dead beloved's body, and explains that he now knows the whole situation was Death trying to "get at him."
But why is Death after Bobby in particular?
"I'm one of the reasons you haven't said yes to Lucifer yet," he tells Sam, whose body is supposedly destined to be Satan's vessel once that guy from Lost rots away.
It seems that Death was less interested in killing Bobby than he was in breaking his spirit. The boys' surrogate father seems even more broken than ever, and refuses to answer when Dean proclaims that they'll all keep fighting to matter what.
Looks like the Horsemen are getting craftier with their manipulations. Instead of messing directly with Sam and Dean, they're going after the brothers' true sources of strength: Their friends, and especially Bobby, who is already struggling to deal with an injury he got protecting the brothers. (If you recall, Bobby was possessed by a demon in the season opener. Demon Meg orders him to kill Dean, but Bobby manages to regain control long enough to stab himself and exorcise the demon - but it leaves him paralyzed from the waist down.)
Also: We still don't know exactly what Death said to Bobby. I have a feeling it was more complicated than "I'm comin' to getcha."
So as we get deeper into the Armageddon Arc, the question is not so much whether the brothers can stay strong. It's whether their friends can stay strong with them. Tune in next week when Sam and Dean go to the scariest place in the multiverse: Heaven Itself.