'Supernatural' Recap: The Road To Hell
April 4th, 2013 9:30am EDT
This season of "Supernatural" has been dubbed "Season Gr8" by fans, and it's not hard to figure out why. The show rebounded from its rocky beginnings to truly live up to its moniker. "Taxi Driver" is yet another example of this season’s ambitious strides in visual effects and sweeping, heartrending plots.
Grab your fourteen boxes of tissues, and let's dive in, shall we?
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" is an old proverb, and apparently the theme for Sam and Dean’s horrific lives. And for poor Kevin Tran (the increasingly impressive Osric Chau) his world-saving intentions have set him on the path to insanity. Crowley, borrowing a few of Lucifer's tricks, has manifested in Kevin's brain or at the very least his dreams. The opening sequence is a bloody one, in which the King of Hell tortures our poor prophet, hacking off chunks until he's just a screaming, bloody torso.
A rule of thumb for "Supernatural," the bloodier the cold open, the better the episode, so I'm positively giddy about what’s in store for our intrepid heroes.
Sam and Dean arrive at Garth's safe houseboat to find a decidedly whole, but terrified Kevin brandishing a cast iron skillet and his best zombie costume, or wait, no, he's just impossibly rundown and/or hopped up on the bath salts Dean left him in "Trial and Error." He has been able to decipher the second trial despite the crazy, and it requires our beloved Sam to rescue an innocent soul from Hell and send it onto Heaven. No big, right?
Having both done separate tours of hell, Sam and Dean take a beat to silently freak out before they trying to figure out how they are would even begin to complete the penultimate trial. They summon a crossroad demon, and after a searing soak in a holy water, he ponies up the information that Sam could be "smuggled across hell's borders" by a "rogue reaper." They find one, a taxi driver named Ajay, who had escorted our very own Bobby Singer into hell himself, because he was on "The King of Hell's No-Fly List." Upon hearing this, Dean’s impulse is to abandon the trials and tear hell apart rescue Bobby himself. It is long overdue that Sam finally pushes back against Dean and shows his dedication as a son an his confidence as a hunter. He vows to bring Bobby back, right Crowley’s wicked wrong. Without so much as a second look, he follows Ajay into an alley that has been covered in awesome graffiti.
In what has to be the most breathtaking visual effect since the first sight of Castiel's wings in “Lazarus Rising,” the colorful painting undulates and vibrates, swelling and shifting as a blue door grows taller and bigger so it’s almost three-dimensional. The music swells until Sam and Ajay are deposited into...a forest that is littered the skeletons and holds a and brutal starkness that’s eerily familiar. Yes, Sam is in Purgatory. Sammy always manages to follow in his brother's footsteps no matter how hellacious they may be.
Before I can clutch my pearls over Sammy being double-crossed, Ajay explains that Purgatory is "hell-adjacent," and Sam has to follow a stream to find the portal to hell, and he has to go alone. He has twenty-four hours to rescue Bobby. Synchronize your watches! It's a little strange that Sam's watch works in the afterlife, right?
Topside, Kevin continues to splinter under the pressure. Dean is back to playing the mother hen; and it’s an adorable color on him. He brings Kevin food, coaxes him out of the closet, and offers some hardknock wisdom: "Other guys got it easy. It's all backyard barbecues and bowling teams. You and me gotta carry a little extra weight. You suck it up and you push through. When you get on board with that, the ride is a lot smoother." It's not surprising that Kevin snatches the food, including Dean's coveted pie, and barricades himself in his room with a mumbled, "let me know when there's a good day." At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hung himself with his filthy hoodie.
Down in Purgatory, Sam’s locked into full-on warrior mode, using a discarded weapon and his own combat skills to fend off a squirrelly little beast with bleached skin. Finally, he finds his way into hell. The Pit looks as one would expect: it's a meandering labyrinth of cages filled with tortured, mangled souls. There's a woman who appears to be freshly peeled, and a man in some kind of medieval stocks. It's gruesome, of course, but not nearly as treacherous as I’d hoped.
Call me a cynic, but I prepared myself for the notion of Bobby being in hell being one of Crowley's many tricks to a lure a Winchester into his turf. I didn't even believe that the figure Sam approached with desperate hope would be his surrogate father, so I was gobsmacked to discover that Jim Beaver had returned to “Supernatural,” and that it hadn’t leaked online.
Sadly, Hell has eroded all of the youth Bobby had stubbornly retained. His beard is scraggly and gray his eyes bruised and bloodshot, but he's just as feisty as ever, punching an arriving Sam in the face because he's been tortured with a stream of "endless Sams and Deans all wearing the same black eyes." Sam has to convince him that he's human by spilling a few intimate and hilarious secrets about Bobby's life: he's a huge fan of Tori Spelling and a free pedicure at the Mall of America "changed his life." I must point out that this is a secret he only told Dean and swore to secrecy, but of course, Dean had to gossip to Sam, because who would ever keep that to themselves?
After a touching reunion that includes a hug and Sam giving Bobby their demon-killing knife, they hightail it out of hell with demonic doppelgangers acting as mediocre obstacles.
Meanwhile, at the safe houseboat, an unstable Kevin announces that he hid the demon tablet. As soon as he disappears, ignoring Dean's half-hearted threats, Naomi pops up to plead her case. Dean's angry, of course, but Naomi is convinced that they are actually allies, even though she trained Castiel to gank him. “When I learned of the angel tablet, I did tell Castiel to get it at any cost. That’s my job, to protect Heaven. Now Castiel is in the wind with a hydrogen bomb in his pocket and I’m scared for all of us,” she confessed.
Dean admits that he doesn’t trust angels, but he has neglected to ward the houseboat against them, probably because he's hoping Castiel will return. She offers him a gift before she leaves, letting Dean know that Ajay took Sam to Hell via the Purgatory exit.
As soon as Dean finds Ajay dead—a consequence of Crowley's spies and "non-patience"—he calls his other boyfriend Benny to beg the ultimate favor. As soon as they're face-to-face in the alley, the tone veers into the bizarre and and melodramatic, especially with the maudlin piano and Benny's trembling voice and despairing expression. It felt a little like Jensen Ackles' other gig on "Days of Our Lives" until I realized exactly what Dean was asking of Benny. To get back into Purgatory and rescue his little brother, Benny has to die and Dean has to do it. Thanks to the big heart behind those fierce fangs, he knows he doesn't belong topside anymore. They end it with a little testosterone over tears, "Come on you wimp," he laughs before Dean lops off his head.
Back in the wilds of Purgatory, Sam and Bobby catch up, and it's frustrating and kind of awesome that Bobby is giving Sam grief for not trying to get Dean out of Purgatory. "I taught him that agreement. It's a non-agreement," he says when Sam mentions the deal they made not to save each other from death.
Thankfully attacking monsters interrupt all of the angsty guilt that’s being piled onto Sam’s shoulders. Just like Dean's scenes early this season, the combat is majestically filmed, including a slow-mo money shot of Sam's glorious hair whipping in the wind. Benny arrives to for a last-minute save. As he spits out blood and chunks of monster, he looks unburdened and almost happy to be unleash a year of pent-up vampy aggression. And it's abundantly clear that he never intended to go back. Bobby is gobsmacked that Dean's friend is "a friggin' vampire," and wonders just how far off the rails his boys had gone since he left.
Sam barely has time to do anything other than glare hatefully at Benny before they have to perform the ritual and haul ass back to earth. A hunter beyond the end, Bobby vows to do his part, but promises that "if they give me a rockin' chair up there, I'm raisin’ hell." We expect nothin' less. With Bobby's soul safely nestled in his arm, Benny offers himself up as bait to encircling baddies to ensure that Sam can make it to the portal.
Sam lands back in Maine’s wilderness, and barely staggers over a hill before he’s tackled by a relieved Dean. Sam regards Dean with an broken, mournful expression, and explains that Benny’s absence. They quickly set Bobby free, and his soul, a comet-like orb of blue light, ascends only to be trapped by Crowley's menacing power. Just when all looks to be doomed for Bobby's afterlife and Sam and Dean mortal ones, Naomi tags in. She sets Bobby free, offering Dean a soft smile and yet another reason to trust her.
To complete the trial, Sam has to recite the same bit of Enochian he did after the first and its effect is instantaneous and excruciating. He screams from the pain, collapsing as his right arm begins to immolate. Dean can only watch horrified. I believe that this strange force is infusing Sam with some kind of supernatural power that his body doesn't know how to tolerate. Sam bleats out that he's fine, but it doesn't look like he can take much more. It’s too bad because I’m praying that the other half of the tablet reveals that the boys have to complete 57 more trials.
Even if you're emotionally done, "Supernatural" still isn't over. Crowley, played with sinister British swagger by Mark Sheppard, is finally showing us how he earned his title as the King of Hell. After toying with Kevin for most of the episode, he arrives in a tornado of broken glass and the horrific confession that he tortured and killed Mama Tran to procure his location. "What you people never seem to understand is that you are nothing but fleeting blips of light. I am forever!" And with that Kevin follows in his mother's footsteps, screaming in agony as Crowley messily and mercilessly kills the Winchesters' pet prophet. Crowley has also sealed his status as my favorite “Supernatural” villain ever. Sorry, Yellow Eyes!
When the Winchesters arrive to check on Kevin, it appears that he simply ran away. The houseboat is scrubbed clean, the notes are gone and Sam and Dean are royally screwed.
"Taxi Driver" was a suspenseful, action-packed adventure of an episode that felt cinematic in scope and season-finale good. As a fan of the show, I’m proud of the top-notch work the writers are put in and the excellent performances the cast repeatedly turn in week after week. From A to F, “Repo Man” to “Bugs,” this installment earns an epic A+.
What did you think of tonight's episode? Did you wish Sam and Benny had a longer scene together? Was it the best ever? Hit up the comments section below!
How will this second trial effect Sam's health? What exactly are they going to do now that Kevin hid the tablet and was either dragged to hell or dead? Where is Castiel? We’ll have to wait until April 24 for the answers, but at least then Felicia Day is back!
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Photo Credits: The CW Television Network