Monday, 8 April 2013

Review: Supernatural 8.19 "Taxi Driver"

I liked “Taxi Driver”, a lot. Let me tell you why. I’m not much of a stickler for the nitty gritty. I don’t watch an episode and go, wait, that doesn’t gel with what was represented by canon in episode 5.ticketyboo. I don’t really care if the show takes some libities, it’s cool if you do, it’s just I don’t. It’s not how I watch TV and as much as I can pontificate about mythology and canon as effectively as the next rampant “Supernatural” fan, I just don’t watch “Supernatural” that way.

“Supernatural” to me is an emotional experience. I’m heavily involved with 2 men, who happen to be brothers, which would be weird and awkward if they weren’t fictional characters. I get lost in the moment and if the emotion is gelling, nothing will tear me out of it. That’s how I watch this show. That’s how watched this episode. I was swept up in the emotion. Yeah, there were some weaknesses in the script, these guys are not the best writers on the team, we know that, we don't expect much from them, let’s not flog that dead horse, but I didn’t notice the weaknesses at the time. Because at the time, I was worrying for Kevin, I was hating on Naomi, I was wanting to kick Crowley, I was thrilled to see Bobby, I was sad for Benny, I was freaking out for Sam and I was wringing my hands with and for Dean. I was living in the now and was swept up in the story of these characters that I love and adore and gosh darn it, I guess I was too involved to notice there were any glaring issues. When an episode resonates with me emotionally, I can overlook the odd plot hole.

I’m a fan; I’m not a professional reviewer. There are plenty of bloggers out there who fit that bill. I’m just a “Supernatural” fan who loves to enjoy this show she loves, who loves to write about this show and who loves to talk about this show. I respect everyone has their own opinions, but lately I’ve felt like the show I hold so dear and my enjoyment of it is being systematically stripped away from me and held hostage by anger and negativity and I’m tired of being bummed out by it. So I made a decision, I’m reclaiming my show for me. I'm reclaiming my squee. This show makes me, and so many people I know happy and I’m not going to let anything take that from me. Because “Supernatural” means too much to me. It’s got me through rough times, it’s brought wonderful friends into my life, it’s reinvigorated my love of writing and it’s enriched me in ways I can’t even get my head around. The amount of happiness this show has afforded me outweighs anything else. Plus, it's still far and away one of the best shows on television.

So from now on, I’m watching my show and then afterwards, I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and going lalalalala, whilst I sit back and enjoy the afterglow of the Winchester ride (which sounds awesome and dirty). I'm not letting other opinions dimish my enjoyment. I will happily overthink the show in my own way, with excitement, curiosity and faith. It’s onwards and upwards to season infinity and beyond with my glass forever half full.

Poor old Kevin! You know, Osric Chau, man. How different is this Kevin from the Kevin we first met. He’s such a nice young performer. His deterioration is a physical experience not just for Kevin but also for the audience. And yet, some how the kid still seems to crack out the funny lines and infuse his edgy, tattered performance with humour. I’ve grown to like Kevin. At first I found him a little irritating, but I think by using him carefully and allowing the character to be almost the human representation of the audience, has helped. We’re so used to great big heroes in this show, taking the knocks and remaining standing, but Kevin is suffering, probably like we would!

The cracks were starting to show when we last saw him and Sam advised him to slow down…something he, and Dean wouldn’t hear of. Now with trial number 2 decoded, Kevin is hearing Crowley in his head…or is he? Was it actually Crowley? Was it Kevin’s imagination? Or was it Naomi, the mind manipulator pretending to be Crowley? Though, I’m not sure why she’d do that, as Kev knows nothing of the angel tablet or Castiel and Fizzle’s Folly is not warded against angels, so she could (and does) come and go as she pleased. Which Crowley, technically speaking, shouldn’t be able to do…which, I guess is why the windows blew out, destroying the demon wards and allowing him to get inside. Crowley seems to be more powerful now than ever before, which is another reason my questions about Crowley are getting louder. But was it actually Crowley? I was saying no. I thought that all of this was inside Kevin’s head. That insomnia, overwork, whatever physical toll deciphering God’s Word is having on him, is making him buckets of crazy and imagining the King of Hell is inside his brain. I mean, when the boys arrived back at the boat, the windows were fixed, which made me wonder if Kevin just had a psychotic break and bolted - or Naomi took him, because she could certainly clean up the joint with a wave of her hand. But then I listened to a podcast with director, Guy Bee who said outright, that it was Crowley. Of course, he could be yanking our collective chains…Lord knows it wouldn’t be the first time, Mr Beaver needs a pair of flame retardant pants these days and I trust Guy about as much as I trust Jim! But, if Guy’s on the level, then Crowley has split with the kid and could now have the entire demon tablet, not just the part with the acknowledgements and about the author, and will get the heads up on what the 3rd trial is and the brothers won’t (well they will, of course, but you know what I’m saying.) It’s all very nerve wracking and exciting…except for Kevin and possibly Mrs Tran! I don’t think we’ve ever seen Crowley that angry and desperate. I loved his line “What you people never seem to understand is you are nothing, fleeting blips of light…I am forever.” Eeeep!

He was pretty pissed at Naomi too! Whatever went on in Mesopotamia…there’s certainly no love lost now. I think my prediction of them working together is, errr, not going to happen! I like it when Crowley is all angry and mean – “Really” – flick – boys halfway up a tree! Awesome. I wonder if they’ll ever kill him. Maybe at the very end? I can’t see it happening any time soon, but then…with this show, who the hell knows huh?

Naomi…yeah, you can try and sweet talk your way into Dean Winchester’s good graces sweetheart, but he ain’t never gonna trust you. There’s only one angel he trusts and even then, it’s up and down. But he’s loyal to Cass and nothing you say will change that, lady!

Pretty much every angel Dean has had any kind of serious contact with has ended up being a pain in his and his brother's ass. Zach (I love you Zach), Uriel, Glenn Close…err Anna, Balty, Raphael, why would Dean think Naomi is any different. Cass is an angel anomaly, an angel with a affinity for humanity, not a robotic, warrior, bureaucrat… Ooooo don’t call her a bureaucrat! Geesh, that one hit a nerve! But somehow, I have a feeling Dean and Sam may end up working with Naomi in some regard, even if they don’t trust her. Because, if she can help get them to their end goal, then it may be worth the risk. Though taking a chance on something all-powerful always has its downside. She was playing her role well, but I don't think the elder Mr Winchester fell for it one little bit.

Freeing Bobby’s spirit was a fortuitous opportunity for Naomi, because that’s something the brothers will remember, even if they see right through it. Maybe Naomi and Crowley faked the trapping of Bobby’s soul…working together to get the Winchesters on the angel’s side…see I’m not giving up on my Naomi/Crowley in cahoots theory!

Ok, let’s get to the really important stuff. How pretty is this screencap!

I like that Sam got a chance to go to Purgatory, see it for himself (and not just because the colour grade on the Purgatory scenes seems to make everyone doubly hot!) Both boys have been to Hell, Heaven and now Purgatory. It seems right to me that they’ve had these shared experiences. Their experiences were different in all places, but the fact that these two share so much can only give them greater understanding of what each has and is going through…which coming from where we’ve been to where we are now, is soooo good. These two finally being on the same page, caring for each other and supporting each other is all I ultimately want from this story…I don’t know if that’s weird or not, but I watch for the Winchesters and their relationship means the world to me. I’ll travel the bumps in the road with them, but in the end, it’s their love that I want to see on the screen.

And the way they’re interacting these days is so grow’d up. Carver promised a more mature Sam and Dean and I feel like he’s delivered on that promise. Dean’s worried about Sam and he’s letting him know. That’s ok by the way. I tell my brother when I’m worried about him and I tell him off if he does something that I think is dumbassed. Doesn’t mean I think less of him, just means I care. Dean cares for Sam, he loves his brother, he’s worried for his health and safety and you know what, so he should be. But the fact that when Sam says, I’ve got it, Dean sucks it up and just makes sure he knows the full story of what Sam’s about to do, speaks volumes to me about his growth as a character and the belief and trust he has in Sam. These two feel much more like equals than they used to. Dean is always going to be Sam’s big brother, Sam is always going to be Dean’s little brother, Dean’s always going to worry about him, that’s biology, that’s history, that’s family but their relationship has grown in leaps and bounds and I like it a hell of a lot.

Sam was in Purgatory for about 7 hours before he got to the gateway to Hell, according to what Ajay told Crowley, so I’m sure he saw plenty of action, even if we didn’t. I kinda loved that he got to grab one of those rockin’ Purgatory weapons too. It suited him and he looked awesome swinging it (as did his hair!) As time moves differently in Hell, I made the assumption that it took a lot longer for Sam to find Bobby than we saw, I mean, we can't see every second. The watch at the doorway out was such a nice touch - marking the spot, but also being a reference to time and the nature of time in this plane.

I like how the show depicts Hell. I’ve always thought Hell was kind of like Heaven, in the way it’s different for everyone. Dean’s Hell saw him hung on meat hooks and ripped to pieces over and over until he broke and became something he never wanted to be. Bobby’s Hell was seeing the two people he loved most in the world, his boys, every minute of every day, taunting him. Sam’s experience, of course, was a different ball of brimstone altogether, because he was in the cage, which I’ve always assumed is not the same as Hell.

Maybe this corner of Hell we saw in this episode is more how it really looks (obviously Crowley changed up the d├ęcor again – frustrated hairdresser come interior designer), because Sam was just a visitor, not a tenant and so would see it how it is, not how it would torture him the most. The rambling halls and the tormented souls (creepy chick was creepy), for a show that operates on a minimal budget, they sure know how to make something look expensive. Hell looked great, as did the doorway portal in the alley.

BOBBY. I wasn’t sure it was going to be Bobby. It looked like his back in the preview, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a trick or if Bobby would turn around and look at Sam with black eyes or something. But it was BOBBY! I was so glad to see him. He looked pretty good for a guy who’d been in Hell for a while! But he’s a strong old dude and I can just imagine him cussing out everyone down there who got in his way. Also, as Bobby was not corporial - he was a spirit of sorts - the level to which he would carry trauma is debatable. Maybe if he ended up coming back to his body on Earth, we would have seen a very different Bobby. 

Oh, but I loved seeing him again, I really did and I loved that it was Sam who saved him and got to spend time with him, because Bobby’s spent more time with Dean, so it was nice for Sam to have that moment. And speaking of big mouth Dean…I laughed so hard at the thought of him telling Sam about Bobby’s Tori Spelling and pedicure secrets! Little bastard! Just shows you how tight those brothers are!

The Sam not looking for Dean thing came up again. That seems to have been happening a bit of late. To tell you the truth, there was a moment at the end in the car where I thought Sam was about to say something. But nope. Like I’ve said before, if we never hear anything more, I’m cool…I’ll survive and I won’t rage about it, but I’m certainly curious, so I’m hoping that something more is revealed and I'm hoping it's by Sam. With so many little mentions, it feels like it might be going somewhere.

Bobby is... such a Bobby! He can’t help but tell Sam off for reneging on the “non-agreement”, then having a dig at Dean about his vampire friendship and then saying that without him the brothers really went off the rails! Awwwww bless his heart. Of course they’re doing fine or as fine as they ever are, but I’m sure a bit of Bobby wisdom and a kick up the pants would do them both good, every once in a while.

Bobby was sad and beautiful, as was Jim Beaver's performance. Bobby said he wanted to stay to fight, though I’m sure he probably wanted to stay just for his boys, but you could tell that he knew it was impossible. I’m glad he’s in Heaven and I’m glad we know it. He should be there. He has friends there, a wife. I hope he’s happy and I hope, somehow, we get to see him again. Bobby and Sam’s reunion hit all the right notes. Just the right level of emotion for a couple of hunters in a sticky-wicket and this is where this episode soared, emotionally it was a cracker.

With Naomi coming to Dean to tell him about Purgatory, Dean discovers Ajay dead and realises his little brother is now trapped with no way out. It must have taken a lot to ring Benny, but then again, it probably didn’t. When it comes to Sam, Dean will do whatever it takes to keep his brother safe, including asking a friend one hell of a favour. This scene between Benny and Dean is the scene Jensen told us about in his meet and greet at VegasCon. While discussing a question regarding directing actors, he spoke of how sometimes, if an actor makes themselves emotionally available for a scene, it can go an unexpected direction. This is what happened with this scene between Benny and Dean. It wasn’t written with so much emotion, but something in the two actors took it to that place. Both were surprised. Neither of them saw it coming. They had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards, but once they’d identified it, it went to that place every take. Guy Bee was as surprised as Jensen and Ty; he hadn’t seen the scene like that on the page. Jensen said it was because it wasn’t on the page; it was just one of those magical moments that sometimes happens. What we got as viewers was a performance so raw that, I don’t know about you, but it stopped my breathing. Dean’s need for Benny to say “Yes” was etched into every line on his beautiful face. He was in a state of desperation and despair.

The words may have never come out, but we all knew what was being said. Dean was asking to cut off his friend’s head, a friend who means a lot to him and who’s shared a lot with him, to save the brother that is the world to him. Benny’s struggles topside probably made it easier for him to say yes, but I have a feeling the vampire would’ve said yes anyway. Dean thought Benny would come back with Sam, or at least hoped he would. The sheer devastation on Dean’s face as he pulled Benny into a hug before throwing his arm back and in a one swipe, killing one of the few friends he’s ever had in his life, was, well…*sob* 
What a scene. Jensen is the master of emotion. The chemistry between Ty and Jensen has always jumped off the screen, but this scene was something else. I hope it's not the last we see of Benny, but if it is, it was a worthy exit.

I’m glad Sam got to see the side of Benny that Dean connected with. I always considered it strange that Sam, of all people, wrote Benny off without a second thought. The fact that Benny’s sacrifice allowed Sam to return to his brother, release his father figure to Heaven and finish the 2nd trial shows that Benny was on the up and up and I’m glad Sam now knows that. I don’t think he’d ever really accept Benny, which is fine, but I do think being in Purgatory and seeing that Benny was a “man” who could be trusted was another important step forward for the brothers and another step to putting past hostilities behind them. Admitting when you’ve misread a situation doesn’t make you less of a man, in fact it’s the opposite, it makes you more of a man. 

For the audience, allowing a monster to be a friend, to be someone who can be trusted and to be someone we can care about adds to the wonderful level of greys in this show. It shows a maturity in the story telling to allow something we'd traditionally fear, to become something we end up crying for. 

Which brings me to what was my favourite part of the episode (can you guess what it is?) When Sam returns to Dean. When Dean is pacing and waiting for Sam, Bobby and Benny to emerge from Purgatory, he looks terrified. Then when Sam comes out of the light…oh Dean’s face… Then Dean pulls his jumbo sized little brother into a hug that actually looked like it hurt it was so powerful. A powerful hug, eyes closed, brothers wrapped around each other in relief. A great big Winchester love filled hug. If there’s anything better, I don’t know what it is.

The way Sam tells Dean about Benny choosing to stay behind is so gentle. I loved that moment. I loved Sam for being so gentle with his brother’s feelings. I loved that Dean tried to correct his disappointment over Benny with happiness for Bobby, “I mean, that’s fantastic about Bobby.” You can see he’s on the edge of a thousand emotions. You can see Sam is reading every one of them. These guys, seriously, Jensen and Jared, give them a scene together like this and it’s jaw droppingly good. They’re so damn GOOD. Will somebody give them a bloody award or something! Man.

Then, finally the Winchester brothers watch as Bobby’s soul soars to Heaven. Beautiful.

If there was one criticism I'd make about “Taxi Driver” is that it felt a touch rushed and I would have happily seen a "to be continued" but, the episode hit so many perfect emotional notes for me, any criticism of it was rendered meaningless. Even just writing this and going back and checking through scenes and dialogue as I go, had me feeling all the feels. Like I said, it’s why I watch the show and when a show gives me a punch in the gut as good as this…well then, I’m going to sing its praises loud and proud.

Two-week hiatus, people. BOOOOOOOO…and then...DEAN IN UNIFORM! YAYYYYYYY! I knew there was a reason I loved Robbie Thompson! I have a feeling it’ll be another play, pause, rewind, play, pause, rewind, play kind of episode…

Thanks for reading, see ya later.

sweetondean is Chief Editor and writer for The Winchester Family Business.

For all the latest Supernatural info and article links, follow The Winchester Family Business on Twitter at @WinFamBusiness

Personal note:
Constructive, thought provoking, criticism is always welcome and enjoyed. I'll often raise contentious issues myself. Lively debate can be fun and that's certainly not what I'm talking about when I discuss the anger and negativity I've been witnessing in the fandom.

I've been facing each episode with trepidation, not because I'm worried if I'll enjoy it or if it will let me down, but because I dread the outpouring of anger that nearly every episode seems to get these days. Having issues with canon and the writing, I'm interested in discussing and debating those thoughts rationally, but the bitterness and toxicity of some dialogue is soul destroying and discouraging. Especially when it seems to happen week in, week out.

This week was my line in the sand. Had it not been for Alice, my fearless leader at The Winchester Family Business, I would not have been writing ever again. That's how disheartened I'd become by what I was seeing. But she reminded me, that there are a lot of people whose dialogue is well thought out and passionate without being soley negative and that there are a lot of people that are enjoying the show, but don't feel the need to yell it from the mountain tops and so their voices aren't heard. As one of the most read reviewers on the site, my posts are a place where these later fans come and feel safe, even if they don't comment.

So I had to take emotional stock and I had to make a choice for myself. I had to seriously look at why I watch this show, what it means to me, what I get out of it and whether or not I wanted to continue to share my perspective on it. 

I came to the decision, that "Supernatural" and this fandom mean too much to me to walk away. But to continue to write and be involved in this community, I could no longer let other people's opinions affect how I feel about this show and the fandom. Consequently, I'm choosing to focus on my enjoyment of the show; remembering that this is something that I love, it's the only way forward for me. 

This doesn't mean I will never find fault, but if I choose to celebrate an episode and wave my hands at inconsistencies, I will and I won't feel less of a fan for doing so, because I'm not less of a fan for choosing to focus on what it is I love about this show and not what disappoints me.

At the end of the day it's just a TV show, albeit, a damn good one...


  1. Completely enjoyed this review of Taxi Driver. Thank you. And on a side note, I am with you on stepping back and not allowing others negative opinions affect me anymore about the show. I'm not sure why there has always been so much negative about this show. I became a fan mid way through Season 5 and immediately noticed the bickering...Sam girls vs Dean girls and this brother has no storyline, etc. I've left several fandom sites, just stopped going there, because it all got to be so negative and then S8 came along and it seemed to get even worse. I guess it's too much to ask of people...if you dont enjoy the show anymore, stop watching. So much negative, so I've been hunting around looking for areas where there is more positive happening for this show. Found your reviews and love them. Looking forward to seeing your writings for Season 9!

    1. There's that nutty user name again! :D

      It can be hard to seperate yourself from all the negativity and seriously, I don't get it. I understand people may have issue with certain plot lines, but to get all up and angry about it makes no sense to me. I watch this show for enjoyment, if it was making me so batshit crazy with angry feels, I'd stop. Picking apart a show I love is just not my bag.

      I work for a big fansite (but also post my reviews here on my private blog) and sometimes some of the commentary can be disheartening, but for the most part, it's well thoughtout and respectful, otherwise I wouldn't be so involved there. Some of the commentary from the fans is downright brilliant! But It still hurts when you feel really at a loss as to why people are disliking something when you aren't. I came to the conclusion that the happy fans just don't feel the need to comment, because they're happy. We run weekly polls and they are nearly always overwhelmingly positive. When I posted this review, people who'd never commented before suddenly did because they felt the same way about the negativity and wanted to show solidarity. I got about 60 all positive happy fan comments. It made my fangirl heart all warm and fuzzy!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!