Stars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beaver, Mark A. Sheppard, Osric Chau, Ty Olsson, Amanda Tapping, Assaf Cohen
Writers: Eugenie Leming-Ross & Brad Buckner, series created by Eric Kripke
Director: Guy Norman Bee
Network: The CW, Wednesdays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate: March 27, 2013
An appearance from Jim Beaver as Bobby Singer is always a noteworthy event – to paraphrase Art Mullen on JUSTIFIED, speaking of Beaver’s character on that series, let us take a moment to acknowledge this guy is awesome. Bobby died last season, and the boys even burned his bones when his ghost started turning to the dark side, but this is SUPERNATURAL. Being dead is like having a downed Internet connection – it’s a nuisance, but sooner or later, you’ll be back.
“Taxi Driver” tries to keep us in the dark about Bobby’s participation, to the extent that Beaver isn’t in the opening credits (he gets a quick “special appearance by” in the quick end credits), so that at first we think the main story is going to be the fact that poor Prophet of the Lord Kevin Tran (Osric Chau) is losing his mind. He’s hallucinating about King of Hell Crowley (Mark A. Sheppard) and mostly locking himself in his closet, even when Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) come by with food.
The second trial for Sam is to rescue an innocent soul from Hell and deliver it to Heaven, which means Sam has to bodily go to Hell. A crossroads demon, under torture, says that a rogue Reaper could take them to Hell, so the Winchesters find a rogue Reaper, Ajay (Assaf Cohen), who has a day job as a taxi driver. Ajay agrees to lead Sam through Purgatory to the back door of Hell for a price. He also surprises Sam and Dean by mentioning that Bobby Singer is in Hell, courtesy ofCrowley. It’s on – no way Bobby is staying in Hell. Ajay says he’ll meet Sam back in Purgatory in twenty-four hours.
Angel Naomi (Amanda Tapping) appears to Dean, who is understandably angry with her, seeing she tried to have Castiel kill him. Naomi glosses over this by saying Castiel is unstable – she assures Dean they’re on the same side.
Sam rescues Bobby and the two escape to Purgatory, butCrowleyfinds and kills Ajay for leading Sam to Hell. When the twenty-four hours are up, Sam doesn’t reappear, so Dean turns for help to his vampire friend Benny (Ty Olsson), who helped Dean out of Purgatory when both were trapped there. Dean needs Benny to go into Purgatory to show Sam how to get out, which means Dean will need to decapitate Benny to get him there. This turns out to be okay with Benny, who’s having a very hard time in the world, not fitting in with vampires or humans. Dean promises to resurrect Benny, just as he did last time. Very unhappily, Dean cuts of Benny’s head and Benny appears to Sam in Purgatory.
Sam has distrusted and resented Benny from the moment they met, but when it’s clear Benny is there to help, Sam changes his mind. Benny leads Sam and Bobby to the vortex that can send humans back to Earth, but hesitates when Sam tries to bring Benny along. They they’re attacked by a mob of monsters. Benny says he’ll hold them off and jumps into the fray, and Sam leaves with Bobby’s soul inside him.
Topside, Sam tells Dean what happened, adding that even before the monster attack, it didn’t seem like Benny wanted to come. Dean buries but does not burn Benny’s bones, in case Benny wants to come back. Sam has had a change of heart about Benny and agrees this was the right thing to do.
When Sam tries to send Bobby’s soul to Heaven,Crowleyappears to stop him – and Naomi shows up to stopCrowley, sending Bobby’s soul (represented by a blue light) up to Heaven. Dean and Sam are now much more inclined to trust her.
Crowleyappears to Kevin – we can’t be sure if this is actually happening or if it’s another of Kevin’s hallucinations.Crowleysays that he’s killed Kevin’s mother. Kevin is hysterical with rage and grief.
When Sam and Dean return to the boat where Kevin has been hiding, it is very clean and neat, and there’s no sign of Kevin or the demon tablet he’s been translating.
That’s a satisfying amount of mythology for starters, with the affirmation we haven’t permanently lost Bobby (much as SUPERNATURAL likes its angst, the characters acknowledge it’s unlikely this will be the last time he sees Sam), the proof that Naomi is not on Crowley’s side – albeit it’s still unclear exactly what she’s doing – the possibility that Kevin has been kidnapped, driven mad or just vanished, and the suggestion that Benny may be back later.
Dramatically, we finally get what feels like a long-overdue reaction from someone other than Dean (in this case, Bobby) to Sam’s uncharacteristic acceptance of Dean getting stuck in Purgatory for a year. There may or may not be more to that than initially met the eye.
As for Benny, Ackles and Olsson have strong interpersonal chemistry that makes their friendship and sense of responsibility to one another very persuasive.
Tran plays Kevin’s anger, paranoia and exhaustion convincingly – we feel for the guy and wish he could get out of this unspeakable mess. We wonder ifCrowleyreally did kill Kevin’s mother, as this would destroy rather than create leverage atCrowley’s end. (If this actually has happened, seems like someone didn’t consult the Evil Overlord handbook.) In any case, Sheppard maintains the balance between urbane villainy and vicious street fighter in entertaining fashion.
We are left with the lingering meta question of whether SUPERNATURAL can close the gates of Hell and still have enough monsters for the Winchesters to chase around in Season 9. Of course, the brothers could always be combating demons stuck in this world trying to reopen the gate, so anything is possible. Certainly the Hell and Heaven tablets have provided Season 8 with a good backbone and “Taxi Driver” is a worthy ride along the spine.
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Article: TV Review: SUPERNATURAL – Season 8 – “Taxi Driver”