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Supernatural 8.19 "Taxi Driver" Review: Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

     This week’s episode of Supernatural, “Taxi Driver,” was written by the team of Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner and directed by Guy Bee. As usual, Bee gets some spectacular performances from the entire cast.This episode finally sees the brothers faced with the second trial. More importantly, it features the return of one of the most missed and beloved characters of the series, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver). It will also be remembered for the episode during which the Supernatural version of the Harlem Shake was shot.
    This episode had a number of wonderful scenes and will also be remembered as having a high body count, even by Supernatural standards. We lost Bobby – again – and also lost Mrs. Tran (Lauren Tom) and Benny (Ty Olsson). But this is Supernatural and there were obvious loopholes left for each character. Bobby promises to try to come back to help, we don’t see Mrs Tran’s body, and Dean (Jensen Ackles) didn’t burn Benny’s bones. I’m sure there will be much debate over Mrs Tran’s death in particular. If like me, you were confused by Ajay (Assaf Cohen) being called a coyote, the term is a slang term for people who smuggle people out of Mexico.
    The VFX team of Mark Meloche, Grant Lindsay, Ryan Curtis and Adam Williams deserve particular praise for this episode. Really, they’ve been killing it all season, and I’ve been remiss in commenting on how spectacular the effects have been all season. This episode featured a number of great effects, but my favorite was the graffiti morphing into Purgatory. No doubt the art department is also due some high praise for that as well. Bobby’s ascent to Heaven, which is interrupted by Crowley, was also a spectacular effect – it looked great, but it also evoked a real emotional response.
    Having commented on some of what I really liked about this episode, I also have to say that the episode also suffered from a number of very large plot holes. One example that really jarred for me was that suddenly it is really easy to get into Purgatory. What happened to Crowley (Mark Sheppard) not even knowing where it was and how difficult it was to get in and out? It suddenly makes Sam not even trying to free Dean even more problematic. Also, it took Benny, Cas, and Dean a very long time to get to the portal, but Benny is able to take Bobby and Sam there immediately? There is a rabbit hole into and out of Hell that Crowley didn’t even know about? It took an army of angels to free Dean from Hell, and now a mere mortal can simply walk in and walk out with a soul? What are the odds that that portal into Hell is right where Bobby is being held? Really? Hell consists of four hallways? And why wasn’t Bobby’s cell locked? Don’t get me wrong, Hell looked great and the inmates were spectacularly creepy, but I was distracted by the logic problems.
    Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, a word about the really great performances in this episode. Osric Chau as a very tormented Kevin Tran delivers his best performance yet. It’s almost impossible to tell if Kevin is just losing his mind due to the pressure of translating the tablet and being hunted by Crowley or whether Crowley really has managed to get in his head. I’m going to assume that we, as the audience, aren’t supposed to be entirely sure by the end of the episode to continue the suspense. Tran’s performance is excellent, and if we are supposed to know more than Dean and Sam at the end of the episode, I would be more likely to find fault with the script not giving us enough clues. Regardless, we see Kevin falling apart in this episode. Kevin, of course, is a lot more like Sam (Jared Padalecki) than he is like Dean, so it makes sense that Dean’s pep talk to just suck it up and accept that it’s never going to be over isn’t as effective as the ones Sam gives him that reassure him that at some point he’ll be able to get out and have a normal life. As per usual, Dean doesn’t get to eat his pie. I also noticed that the food he brings Kevin is from Biggerson’s.
    Sam’s reunion with Bobby is poignant. Padalecki and Beaver give great performances. I was not a fan of the Bobby as a ghost storyline at all. I felt that it cheapened his death in the first place. Bobby of all people would have known to go with his reaper. I still think it was a misstep to have him stay as a ghost. This felt like a much better send off for the character. I loved how Sam used facts we only found out about Bobby in “You Can’t Handle the Truth” to convince him he was really Sam. Of course, these were all confidences he shared with Dean. I was disappointed that Dean had no meaningful final moment with Bobby. Singer gave us vintage Bobby, and I feel the character has finally been put to rest. When he tells Sam he’ll likely see him again, it’s seems more a promise that he’ll see them when they make it up to Heaven themselves. Padalecki and Singer nail it in the scene where Bobby has to knife demon!Sam – the looks on both their faces are priceless.
    We finally get to see Amanda Tapping really get some meaty scenes. Naomi comes to Dean, playing good cop. But she also knows all the buttons to push. She offers him help and says she wants to help Cas. Then she tells Dean that Sam and Bobby are in Purgatory – she knows that will freak him out and spur him on to get them out. Her best moment is squaring off against Crowley, however. I loved how offended she got at being called a bureaucrat. 
She certainly seems to be on the right side and seems genuinely pleased to be able to release Bobby’s soul to heaven. Of course, maybe once he’s there, she has plans for him too. Maybe we’ll get to see Ash (Chad Lindberg) come to Bobby’s rescue to hide him from Naomi the way he hid Dean and Sam from Zachariah (Kurt Fuller). If we hadn’t seen her torture Cas and Samandriel, I’d believe that Naomi was actually a good angel.
    Mark Sheppard as Crowley was also terrific in this episode. It’s really great to see Crowley actually becoming a sinister, evil enemy again and not simply comic relief. His final scene with Kevin is particularly chilling. I’m really looking forward to getting more information on his past with Naomi.
    Finally, we see the end – at least for now – of the Benny and Dean storyline. Benny quickly agrees to sacrifice himself so Dean can get Sam back. Dean is feeling guilty for having abandoned his friend, and he’s determined that once he gets back from Purgatory, he’s going to be a better friend to Benny. Benny, however, knows that Sam is always going to come first for Dean, and it was clear to me that Benny had no intention of coming back from Purgatory. Both Ackles and Olsson deliver spectacular performances in this scene, and Ackles, in particular, gives arguably his best performance so far this season. Benny finally seems happy and at peace as he sends Sam back, and it felt like a fitting send off for the character. I think a lot more could have been made of the friendship between he and Dean, however.
    The brothers manage to finish the second trial, and Sam is obviously hurt again by it. Now that Kevin has hidden the tablet and either Crowley has taken him or he’s run away, it’s hard to see how they are going to complete the third trial even if Sam is physically able to do it. Dean is convinced that Kevin has simply bolted, and that will make finding him even harder if Crowley does have him. I hope that we will see Dean have a more active role to play then simply gripping Sam’s shoulder and looking worried. While I want them to finish the trials, I don’t want to lose Crowley as their adversary. It’s going to be interesting to see what role Naomi plays going forward. I’m happy to see Felicia Day back next episode, but it looks like a filler episode again, and it feels like we’ve had too many of those already. What did you think of the episode? Were you happy to see Bobby again or just sad to see him go again? Do you think we’ll see Mrs Tran or Benny again? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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