For those of us that follow and watch Supernatural this season has been a rather rocky ride with dazzling highs and lows often coming within mere episodes of each other. Looking over my past reviews and shows I noticed that there is a predictability factor in quality and that is staying on story. The show has faltered when it drifts off “message” and deals with the worlds of Roman gods, teenage monster hunters and some rather forgetable characters just to name a few. In the early seasons these “side quests” were needed because we got to explore the world of Supernatural in an organic way and provided character development that would pay off years down the road. However in the last two seasons they have found their story and it is a great one. We are invested so there is no need to veer off into these now filler episodes because they are a waste of time. There is truly much more interesting material waiting out there and along with the characters we as the audience know it too. Therefore there is no need to have a 23 episode long run. I think Supernatural can work at a lean mean 14 or 15 and kick ass the whole way through to the finish.
The reason for the rant above is because this week’s installment “Taxi Driver” gets everything right. Which proves that these writers, producers, directors and actors know exactly what they are doing but the gap between which they are allowed to do it can drag them and the show down. This episode also does what Supernatural does best – delve into the ambugity of the war between Heaven and Hell. In fact one of my favorite bits gets mention again – the fact that both Angels and Demons know that there was a God but he has left the playing field so long ago that belief in him is essentially faith as it is to us humans. Some believe he truly is out there, while others think that his existence is either a lie or he truly is dead and never returning. On both sides of the line each hold their own values and are not truly evil or truly good in keeping them.
We start off this episode with just such a character, Ajay, a “rogue reaper” posing as a taxi driver. For the right price he can get you across to Heaven and Hell.. Sam and Dean seek him out because the Prophet Kevin Tran has decoded the second trial which is to visit Satan’s lair and free a pure soul from torment and raise it to paradise. Ajay mentions while talking with the boys that he had met them before when he was the reaper that brought Bobby Singer to hell. In a wonderful bit of writing Ajay informs them that Bobby’s soul was not allowed to pass unto Heaven because Crowley placed a high priority on it for his own and just took it. “It depends on who you know and what palms get greased” Ajay says almost as if it was regarding a parking ticket. This arbitrary nature is what really attracts me to the show’s mythology as if the Angels and Demons are just as petty as humans can be and are victims of all the flaws that come with it. For example when Sam is taken to Purgatory instead of Hell all Ajay can say is “Well its Hell-adjacent” a perfect mix of disinterest and a slimy broker sales pitch.
Now the boys have their challenge – rescue Bobby from hell. Since Sam is the one doing the trials he opts to go alone. Usually these “part quests” can really bring a story down but in this case each of them is given something of substance to do and with good dialogue and screen time featuring a great supporting cast. Almost immediately after taking Sam, Ajay is confronted by Crowley who kills him for helping the Winchesters, which effectively cancels the ride back to the surface that was expected. Dean blissfully unaware tries to boost the spirits of Kevin Tran who is having nightmares of Crowley coming for him which has essentially left the prophet a bit of a mess. When Kevin storms away Naomi appears and tries to get them to see they are on the same team, which we know for certain is not the case. Dean manages to hold strong in a great scene until Naomi mentions that Ajay likes to take his “fares” through Purgatory, a place that Dean knows all too well.
Meanwhile back down under, Sam has found his way into Hell. Supernatural has portrayed the fiery pit in many different ways however this may be one of the best. A relatively empty hall full of people trapped in cells calling out for loved ones and praying for God or anyone to save them. Dean is forced to look these people in the eyes, knowing he cannot help them and nothing in the universe can. It is a powerless situation and one that is underscored with joy as he finally reunites with Bobby Singer. Any fan of this series – knows, loves and adores this man. I am not ashamed to admit that when his character finally shuffled this mortal coil that I was a little sadder and for way longer than I would freely admit. In Bobby’s short amount of screen time you can see why he was so badly missed. He is funny, smart, endearing and a bit of the taskmaster that is needed from time to time.
Dean tries to confront Ajay but finds him dead. This leads him to calling Bennie, his vampire friend who rescued him from purgatory. He asks him as a favor to go in and pull out Sam. I am not going to spoil this for people but this scene is one of the best Supernatural has ever done. There are so many varying emotions and motivations at play in this scene and both actors play it off flawlessly. Underscoring the entire thing is that they both know to do this Bennie will have to die and not only die but have his head cut off. It is not a simple gun shot you have to look him in the eye while you do it. I am not going to waste any more time trying to put this into words. Just see it.
Bennie ends up in purgatory and rescues both Sam and Bobby. As you might expect when the final moment comes to return Bennie decides to stay and sacrifices himself so they can make their escape. Back on Earth, Sam and Dean release Bobby’s soul only to be confronted by Crowley who obviously wants to keep it. When all looks bleakest Naomi appears and does a bit of a “face turn” in the eyes of Dean when she scares off Crowley and lets Bobby go. Obviously knowing how devious Naomi is we can tell already this is a plan between her and Crowley to further win Dean’s confidence for a betrayal down the road.
“Taxi Driver” is one of the best Supernatural has ever done and that is because it fully encapsulates the world that the creative staff has spent all these years building – mythology, lead characters, secondary characters and story lines. It may not seem as such because I have stripped it to its bare bones but upon watching I am sure you will find the same. Part of me wants to keep going to type on and on about why this works so wonderfully and the depth that is explored in this little show but I am not sure if it is worth the time spent reading to you. So let me just put it simply – It would be easy to say that this show is weakening in its many seasons but that is not the case. There is still plenty of gold to mine here but as I mentioned before, they literally have to “cut the crap” and let the story shine and do the work.
Tags: CW, Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, Supernatural