A few edits have been made. Originally I was going to just post it as was - originally, I did - and then this happened anyway.
One day I might write an addendum to this about the ghost of Ray Vecchio's father. Because: wow. There's a lot going on there.
A list of ideas, thoughts, and questions, not an essay but making gestures towards one:
1) What do ghosts mean? What do they signify? Do they want anything? Why do ghosts exist? Are they borne of violence, or of uncertainty?
2) Is the only reason Bob Fraser sticks around, then, because he needs to see justice done? And not for his own murder, but for his wife’s murder? Think of the ending of his plotline – when Caroline comes to take him – home, to the other side, to the afterlife or whatever you’re interested in calling it. And how Fraser says – I thought you were permanent. But he wasn’t. His presence was a rupture, not a final state.
3) In what sense is Benton Fraser a ghost, or can we understand him to be a ghost? I don’t mean that he’s dead. I mean – he is out of place, out of time (the show determinedly shows us how much of an anachronism he is). He is in Chicago in the first place because he has to right an injustice; he then sticks around until he solves the other, submerged, hidden other half of the injustice. The final act which frees his father’s ghost is also the act that allows Fraser to return home. father and son both cross borders; they’re just borders on different planes.
4) So then in what sense can we understand Fraser as a spirit – of justice, mercy, kindness – who haunts Chicago, who haunts this particular group of people? The mechanism keeping him there is obscure, but strong. He interferes in other people’s lives, and his own life is rarely affected. Think of the scene in They Eat Horses, Don’t They? When he and Ray are in the dumpster, and Ray asks why none of the gross dumpster dirt is sticking to Fraser, and Fraser is like oh, I don’t know, it’s always been this way. Fraser is alive and physical but oddly unstuck. Things slide off him (except for when they don’t). And so he is something of a rupture in the physical, realistic world. He doesn’t operate on a realist plane of reality. He changes the world around him as he passes through it, but nothing sticks to him, and he doesn't stick to it. This is ghostly.
5) What does a ghost want? A ghost traditionally wants something intangible, an act rather than a thing. And so here Fraser wants justice, just as his father (the actual ghost) wants justice. And when they get it, they are both able to return from exile to their true home – the land of the dead vs Canada. Yes, they cross borders. And both also voyage out with a person they love – Caroline vs Ray Kowalski.
6) There is something here about people not being things, and about voyaging out into the unknown with another person as an act of radical love. There is something about how ghosts are spirits who hold on perhaps for too long; about the value of the next move, the journey...
7) The end of Due South then is both a return home and a voyage out, a journey into the unknown. For both Bob & Benton Fraser. One of them a ghost who has been haunting the land of the living, and one of them – who has been out of place in Chicago, haunting a series of friends and acquaintances in order to make them better people, without truly leaving much of himself behind.
8) Fraser is most at home in the journey, in the voyage, in the discovery, in movement, in being un-stuck.
9) Fraser taking another person with him on the voyage is an intimate, loving act. I think Ray understands this; and I think Ray sees love as an adventure. Yes: to Ray love is an adventure; to Fraser, adventure is love. They meet in the middle.
10) Think of ray saying that when faced with death he sang. Think of Ray, faced with death, saying he regrets not going on an adventure when he had the chance – and that now it might be too late. And then when his life is saved, he actually decides to act on this impulse. He has been changed by that moment; by facing death, and singing in its face once again. He has been changed by coming close to that spectral border. By facing death. it’s a moment of clarity: what he wants most is adventure and love. Please note that the mention of ABBA spoiling the “romantic effect” of the gesture is not a throwaway line; for Ray Kowalski adventure and risk are romantic. They are the stuff of love.
10) Hart Crane, from voyages:
And so, admitted through black swollen gates
That must arrest all distance otherwise,—
Past whirling pillars and lithe pediments,
Light wrestling there incessantly with light,
Star kissing star through wave on wave unto
Your body rocking!
and where death, if shed,
Presumes no carnage, but this single change,—
Upon the steep floor flung from dawn to dawn
The silken skilled transmemberment of song;
Permit me voyage, love, into your hands …
11) from the devil’s backbone:
What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.
12) Think, then, of Due South as a ghost story which ends with the end of that instant of pain, with that emotion un-suspending itself. Think of it as a loop of thread which is finally tied into a knot and cut off, an insect which is allowed to rot. It is an exploration, a descent, a meditation, and there is a final confrontation of what was hidden.
13) Think of how the show’s final episode acknowledges, no, confronts the unstable state of the ghost. It reveals the original trauma/pain which caused the ghost to exist; it ends by showing the true beauty of moving on. The ghost was not permanent; nothing is. It was a rupture. It was its own exorcism.
14) voyages, again:
Your eyes already in the slant of drifting foam;
Your breath sealed by the ghosts I do not know:
Draw in your head and sleep the long way home.
15) Think again of Fraser in the dumpster, clean. Think of what does not stick to him – and think of what does. The relationships, the people. The bullet. And how he is a ghost because of how he functions in the story, because of his story, because of how he mirrors his father’s own journey. Think of how he’s a ghost who can affect those around him without, necessarily, being affected back. When he is affected, at first it's sickening, wrong. It's the bullet, it's blood, it's breaking. Everything else he can bounce back from, but not that. And then as the show goes on... we see something subtler, internal, hidden almost, playing out. Think of how: at the show's end, he is in one sense unchanged – he is almost going back to where he started from. But it is the kindness and love which has been repaid to him that has changed him; he has changed spiritually. He is going to the same place, perhaps, but not on the same leg of his journey. It is different, even as the traces of his past are underfoot. Ray Kowalski is a symbol of this. But he’s more; he’s also himself, and he’s also an ongoing love.
16) The ghost does not have to be avenged. Loving it is enough.