After taking its foot off the gas with last week’s “Freaks and Geeks” Supernatural was running full throttle again this week, delivering the best episode of this stellar eighth season with “Taxi Driver.” This episode seemed like a culmination of every major storyline from this season. The tablets and the trials, Naomi and Castiel battling against Crowley and his hordes. We even got return appearances from Benny, Bobby (balls!) and the reaper who escorted Bobby off this mortal coil. Not to mention that after almost eight full seasons, we finally got an extended glimpse at Hell, and man, it did not disappoint. Lest I forget, Purgatory also returned and our understanding of the relationship between the four realms - Earth, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory - grew as a result of this episode. We have a lot to touch on, so let’s get started.
Sam visits the sunny little garden patch.
The main focus of this week’s episode was Sam completing the second trial, which involved rescuing an innocent soul from Hell and delivering it unto Heaven (God’s words). The brothers interrogate a demon and find out that rogue reapers will ferry humans into Hell for a price. Sam and Dean track down Ajay, the reaper who ferried Bobby, and buy a ticket to Hell and back for a favor to be named later. The idea of the Winchesters being indebted to a reaper was intriguing so I was sad to see Ajay killed by Crowley later in the episode. Before his grand exit, Ajay takes Sam to Purgatory and instructs him on how to find the portal to Hell. I was thrilled that Sam finally got to see what Dean went through for the past year. Aside from the obvious implications of guilt at leaving his brother in such a place for a year, it also completed the trifecta; Sam and Dean have now both visited Hell, Heaven and Purgatory.
Sam gets through Purgatory with only a little trouble and enters Hell in much the same way he did in Season 5, with winds swirling into a dark abyss. Once Sam arrived in Hell, I don’t know a lot of people who would say they weren’t disturbed by what was down there. We saw mutilated prisoners and heard disembodied screams, and the girl who said she’d been praying was just unsettling. Sam found Bobby too conveniently (understandable though considering the time restraint of the hour) and convinced him he was the real Sam through new fantastic pieces of Bobby trivia: he’s a fan of Tori Spelling and he had a life-changing pedicure at the Mall of America. Damn it’s good to have Bobby back, if only for an episode.
Naomi attempts to win the Winchester seal of approval.
While Sam works his way into Hell, Dean stays with Kevin and gets paid a visit from Naomi, who claims that she and the Winchesters are on the same side. I’m with Dean on this one -- Naomi tried to kill Dean two episodes ago. She might claim that she was doing her job to protect the tablet, but haven’t the Winchesters earned any respect among the angels after the numerous times they’ve saved the world. Besides, trying to get Castiel to kill Dean was a real low blow. Naomi does tell Dean that Ajay took Sam to Hell through Purgatory, so Dean goes to visit Ajay, only to find him dead in his taxi. With Sam’s ride topside out of commission, Dean calls the only person left who can bring Sam back from Purgatory: Benny.
We haven’t seen Benny in a while and I have to say the distance has made me appreciate him more as a character. Benny might be a monster but he genuinely wants to make good choices and not forsake the second chance that Dean afforded him. In this episode he makes the ultimate sacrifice and returns to Purgatory in order to rescue Sam and Bobby. What a gut-wrenching moment that had to be for Dean. Benny agreed to die in order to save a guy who wanted him dead all after Dean stopped talking to him months ago, and Dean has to repay that kind of friendship by cutting off Benny’s head? That might possibly be one of the toughest moments of Dean’s life, and given the screwed up crap he’s had to deal with, that’s saying something. Benny makes good on his word and leads Sam to the exit hatch. He refuses to hitch a ride with Sam, which we knew was coming from his conversation with Dean. It didn’t make Benny’s sacrifice any less noble though. I hope we see this ragin’ Cajun vampire again soon.
Sam returns to Earth in one piece and releases Bobby’s spirit only to have it trapped mid-flight by Crowley. I loved the appearance of Bobby’s soul as a floating, swirling, multi-colored soul. It contrasted nicely with the appearance of demon souls, which are of course black (or red in Crowley’s case). Naomi arrives and saves Sam and Dean’s bacon and releases Bobby to ascend to Heaven. One last note about Bobby: did his comment about being sprung from Heaven seem like foreshadowing to anyone else? I don’t think the show will go there and bring Bobby back after all this time but stranger things have happened on a show where death is only a temporary inconvenience for some.
Kevin is losing his s@#t!
This wasn’t a good week for Kevin. The poor prophet began hearing Crowley inside his head and had a nasty hallucination in the opening scene. Honestly, what other show but Supernatural can pull off a scene where a guy’s hand and legs get hacked off in the first minute of an episode with absolutely no explanation? If there’s a list, it’s a short one. Just as tragic for Kevin was his final scene in this episode where he found out his mom had been killed (RIP Mrs. Tran, the Tiger Mommy badass) and was presumably kidnapped by Crowley after a bit of torture. Sam and Dean are in trouble now with their prophet and their angel in the wind, and their monster friends both dead. Hard times are coming for the Winchesters and that’s not including the third trial.
Line of the week
Bobby: “Took a chance. 50/50.” (Classic Bobby!)
Next week on Supernatural
Charlie is back and she’s playing video games... inside her head? Wha?