Supernatural 8.19 Review: Hell’s Bells

SPN Taxi Driver 1Hello my Supernatural Junkies! This episode of Supernatural left me with mixed feelings. We covered a lot of ground with “Taxi Driver.” Sam completed the 2nd trial, Naomi introduced herself to Dean, Bobby made a re-appearance (yay!), and Benny broke my heart yet again. My feelings are mixed because I really loved the character development displayed in this outing, but I wasn’t really a fan of much of the execution. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the episode because I did. But some of it just felt a little off. Let me not get ahead of myself though. So let’s discuss “Taxi Driver.”

Guy Bee is one of my favorite Supernatural directors, and he did some really great work on this episode. Kudos must also be given to the special effects team. The way that Ajay and Sam entered Purgatory was wonderfully done. The major problem with this episode was the writing. That’s where it all begins and ends for me, and the duo of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming are far from my favorite writers. I’ve liked some of their episodes (I’m in the minority that actually enjoyed “Route 666”) but most of their episodes have been on my ‘that wasn’t one of Supernatural’s better hours’ list. Namely “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” and especially “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits.” The Buckner/Ross-Leming scripts usually suffer from pacing problems and rather heavy-handed dialog. The pacing wasn’t really so much of an issue for me in “Taxi Driver” as the dialog. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was godawful, but some of it was pretty close. For instance, Benny told Dean that he wasn’t doing so good up top and Dean’s response was, “Has it really been tough?” I wanted Benny to say, “Dude, did you hear the words that literally JUST came out of my mouth?” It was pretty bad. Thank God for the actors though. The strength of their performances and their on-screen chemistry are really what saved much of this episode. These writers also don’t seem to have all that firm a grasp on the characters voices and the pop culture infused dark humor unique to Supernatural. With such important subject matter to be covered, this episode really could have used the talents of Ben Edlund or Robbie Thompson. The Edlund and Thompson scripts do a much better job of balancing the drama, action, and humor while also moving the overall mytharc forward. Despite the overall not so great writing on this episode, they did provide a few powerful emotional moments. Especially the Dean/Benny parts.

SPN Taxi Driver 2The last time we saw Benny, he was in a pretty bad way. The thirst was hitting him hard and Dean had just told him they had to cut ties. I felt really bad for him back then because he was literally all alone in the world. He’d been shunned by the other vampires and abandoned by his only friend. I expected him to fall off the wagon and start killing people again, but he didn’t. When we caught up to him in “Taxi Driver” he was still drinking donated blood and living out of his old beat up pick-up truck. Benny has perhaps been one of my favorite additions to the Supernatural universe. They have tried on several different occasions to portray sympathetic monsters, but they’ve only had limited success. Lenore and Madison from S2 come to mind as successful attempts. But with those two exceptions, for the most part the monsters have just been monsters. Enter Benny. Admittedly, I didn’t initially trust Benny because he’s a vampire and (except for Lenore) vampires have never meant good news on this show. But Benny actually turned out to truly be a good guy and was exactly what he presented himself to be. He obviously had something horrible happen to him, but at his core he was still a good person. Despite how lonely he was and how tempting it was to succumb to his bloodlust, Benny fought against the monster inside him. Benny is perhaps the first time that Supernatural has been able to create a truly sympathetic, well-fleshed out monster. Unlike Lenore or even Madison, we got a chance to really explore who Benny is. Over the course of 7 episodes we found out a lot about his backstory and why he wanted to get back to Earth so badly. We also got a chance to see Benny just be Benny so we could form an opinion about him for ourselves. The character of Benny was wonderfully written, but Ty Olsson has just been phenomenal in the role. His eyes are so very expressive and he did a wonderful job of conveying Benny’s inner conflict without saying a word. Not to mention that he had wonderful chemistry with Jensen Ackles. Their scenes together in “Taxi Driver” were some of the most powerful of the entire episode. I have no doubt that it broke Dean’s heart in ways he’ll never talk about that he had to send Benny back to Purgatory.  Although I’m really bummed that we’ve lost Benny, his story ended in the only way that does justice to the character. I was a bit concerned that Benny would start hurting people and Dean would have to take him out at some point, but I’m really glad the writers decided not to go that route. It was important for Sam to be able to see for himself the kind of person Benny is.

I remember thinking at the beginning of the season when Sam was so angry about Dean’s relationship with Benny, that the primary reason for Sam’s anger was that Sam truly could not understand where Dean was coming from with Benny. Sam wasn’t in Purgatory. He didn’t understand what it was like down there, so he could not understand the bond that Dean and Benny formed. It didn’t matter how much Dean tried to explain it to him. I was kind of glad in this episode that Sam got a chance to get an extremely small taste of what Dean went through in Purgatory. He was only in Purgatory for a few hours, but I think even that short amount of time changed his perspective. It’s one thing to hear stories from a warzone. It’s something entirely different to experience it for yourself. Purgatory also gave Sam a chance to see for himself the kind of guy that Benny is and why Dean trusted him so much. I was so angry with Sam at the end of ‘Citizen Fang’ because a lot of what happened was a result of Sam’s unwillingness to trust Dean about Benny. I understand that Sam didn’t know Benny, but Sam knows Dean. He knows the kind of person Dean is and he knows that Dean doesn’t trust easily. Sam was possibly jealous of Dean’s relationship with Benny, but mostly it was that Sam truly did not understand how Dean could trust Benny so much. At that point, I don’t think he really wanted to understand. He’s in a different place now though and it’s just sad that Benny had to die (maybe?) in order for Sam to see that Benny really was one of the good guys.

SPN Taxi Driver 4Another welcome return was Bobby. I’m not ashamed to admit that I totally screamed like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert when Bobby appeared. Some folks may have guessed that Bobby was returning for this one, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I figured Crowley was just screwing with the Boys and didn’t really have Bobby’s soul in Hell. But I’m so glad it was the real Bobby and that his soul was able to be freed from Hell. I have always loved Bobby and I’m not entirely over his death. I don’t think I’ll ever really be over it. It is no secret that I really hate the way the Supernatural universe has been systematically wiped out over the years. It started with the destruction of Harvelle’s Roadhouse back in S2 and culminated with killing Bobby in S7. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that we need to lose people along the way. I don’t really have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is wiping out the ENTIRE supporting cast in the name of “raising the stakes” for the Winchesters. Removing all the Winchesters’ friends and family actually lowers the stakes and takes away a lot of the dramatic tension of the show. If the Winchesters don’t have anyone or anything (other than each other) that they care about on Earth, then why sacrifice so much to save it? Furthermore, supporting characters are necessary to peel back the layers on the main characters. That’s why Bobby was such a wonderful addition to the Supernatural world. Bobby was already a fully realized character when we met him in “Devil’s Trap,” but it was apparent that he had a long, complicated history with the Winchesters. It was wonderful exploring the ins and outs of that relationship over the next seven years, but it was more than just getting to know Bobby. The Boys’ interactions with Bobby over the years have given us a deeper understanding of who the Boys are, not just as hunters, but as people. It seems to me that TPTB are having a bit of remorse about killing off Bobby. In addition to Jim Beaver being such a wonderful actor, that character was just so great. He was solid ground for the Boys and gave them a swift kick in the butt when they needed it. He obviously loved both the Boys, but his relationship with Dean always seemed to be closer than his relationship with Sam. So it was nice in “Taxi Driver” for Sam and Bobby to have such a wonderful and intimate moment. The only sort of negative thing I have to say about the Sam/Bobby scenes is bringing up the fact that Sam didn’t look for Dean. I get that this is the first time that Bobby confronted Sam about it, but they’re really beating a dead horse. Sam didn’t look for Dean. Some people had a problem with that (I didn’t) but we’ve moved past it. So unless the show has something else they want to tell us about Sam not looking for Dean, just let it go already.

Dean finally met Naomi, and I’m with Dean in not trusting her. She lied when she told Dean about what happened with Cas, and she’s going to continue to lie. She helped Dean and Sam free Bobby from Crowley, but that was more about gaining their trust than actually trying to be helpful. They need to keep a close watch on her. I also think she’s the one that was in Kevin’s head. Kevin had the houseboat completely warded against demons, so there’s no possible way that Crowley could’ve gotten to him there. Furthermore, if Naomi could mind-control Cas then it would be pretty easy for her to mind-control Kevin too. It would serve her purposes pretty well to have the prophet with her. She’s a control freak and she wants to get as many high cards as possible. The other possible explanation is that Kevin has just had a psychotic break. He’s been under a great deal of stress, he’s not sleeping, and he’s absolutely terrified. The voice in his head could’ve just been a result of that.

SPN Taxi Driver 3Despite the rather poor writing, I enjoyed this episode. I really love the current state of the Boys’ relationship right now. It’s been a long time since they’ve been this honest with each other. We also got a really wonderful brotherly moment when Sam walked out of Purgatory. Oh how I love the brotherly moments. I will say that I’m kind of (ok, VERY) concerned about what the next trial is and whether Sam will be able to make it. Some folks have had a problem with Sam being able to enter Purgatory and Hell so easily after Crowley and Cas spent so much time trying to find the door back in S6. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with that though.  It’s not unreasonable to assume that back in S6 when Crowley and Cas were searching for Purgatory that they wouldn’t know all the ins and outs of how to find it. Furthermore, it’s also not unreasonable to assume that even now Crowley doesn’t know all the back doors and rabbit holes to get into and out of Hell. And I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily easy to get into and out of Purgatory either. Reapers can do it because, well, they’re Reapers. They are the only beings that can easily move between dimensions. It’s also not unreasonable that Cas and Crowley wouldn’t have called on a rogue Reaper to help them out back in S6 because they didn’t just want to get into and out of Purgatory. They wanted to find Purgatory, round up all the souls there, and bring them back to this dimension. I just don’t think it was all that major of a plot hole. Or at least it doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother some other members of the fandom. We’ve only got 4 more episodes left in this season, and it’s hard to believe we’re wrapping up. Supernatural is going to be on a break for the next 2 weeks, but Felicia Day will be back when the show returns. That episode looks like fun. Really looking forward to the last of season GR8. That’s all for now Junkies! Until next time: peace, love, and joy to all. 🙂