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Supernatural 8.19: Along For the Ride on Taxi Driver

April 5, 2013

bro hug s8

Lynn’s review of Taxi Driver, which starts out a bit of a rocky ride, but predictably (because Lynn is a sucker for those glorious broments) ends up kinda mushy. Shocking, I know.

I went into this week’s episode completely unspoiled. There’s something wonderful about watching SPN the way I used to, in the days before anyone (including the network) was paying enough attention to the show to leak spoilers. That innocence should have given me some gasp-out-loud OMG moments when Sam really did manage to spring Bobby from hell, or when Benny came running the second Dean asked for his help. Unfortunately, the dramatic potential of those scenes and others was blunted by a script that seemed to pack three episodes into one, and a playing fast and loose with canon that made me a little dizzy. I probably should at least check out episode writers before I turn on the TV, but I’ve been spoiled by this Show in a different way – I trust it. I trust it to ‘know’ its characters and its history, so I can strap myself in for the ride and just let it take me where it wants. Intellectually, I know that every show is gonna have its missteps, but honestly? SPN hasn’t had that many, even in eight seasons on the air. (I love you, Show, never doubt that).

Being a fan is tough on the weeks in which an episode left a significant portion of fandom dissatisfied. Partly because fandom doesn’t do “dissatisfied” the way the customer service folks in your local department store do it. There are no orderly lines and patient, politely expressed complaints. Fandom is passionate no matter what the emotion, so dissatisfaction is loud and uncensored and nowhere near polite – it can be downright rude and inadvertently hurtful. If you’re one of the fans who watched and turned off the television beaming and full of SPN-love, it’s devastating to get online and have someone “harsh your squee” the second you read someone else’s negative comment. There are times I avoid getting online just to hang onto my happy place for a while after an episode. But half the fun of squeeing is having other like-minded folks to squee with, so that strategy is never very successful for me for too long. Last night some of my fellow fans were upset because their squee had been harshed, and others were upset because they felt the Show had let them down. I empathized with both, because both experiences hurt. A lot.

I’m one of those annoying glass half full types most of the time (just ask Kathy, who will no doubt read this after I’ve posted it and glare at me from three states away) – so let’s get the not-so-good out of the way first, and then I can roll around happily in the things I did like about this episode.

I definitely wasn’t bored, but the episode was a bit too ambitious in trying to cover so much ground, especially with a pivotal and emotional event like the return of a beloved character embedded in it. I’ve been missing the Winchesters having a personal stake in what they’re trying to accomplish, so it was a great idea to invest Sam’s second trial with a very personal motivation – get the boys’ surrogate father out of hell. Marvelous idea! Shoehorning it into an episode where dozens of other things are going on? Not so much. Imagine how it could have been: the suspense of an entire episode in which Sam desperately tries to find and save Bobby, fighting his way through attacks by monster after monster, barely escaping with his life again and again, searching the endless corridors of hell, while Dean waits helplessly on the other side, anguished and terrified. Instead Sam easily dispatches a monster or two, steps into hell, wanders down two hallways, and boom! There’s Bobby. Seemingly none the worse for wear after a year in hell, which utterly destroyed the not-exactly-weak Dean Winchester after four months. There was so much potential in this idea, but the rushed execution took the suspense and some of the emotional impact out of it.

The number of “plot hole fill explanations” posted in every corner of the internet after the episode was telling. I don’t tend to be a stickler about details, but even I was scratching my head. There’s so much handwaving going on, fans are going to take flight soon. Why did Crowley bother torturing Alphas for a whole season if he could have just asked Ajay the reaper? Wasn’t the ‘secret’ of Purgatory the plot of the entire season six? Even Cas raising Dean from Perdition seems to have lost a bit of its gravity, since Sam was able to pop in and out within the course of an episode, and apparently without any residual PTSD from his own time in the pit.

The ease with which Sam liberated Bobby also makes the fact that he didn’t try to rescue Dean even harder to swallow. Which, frankly, was already threatening to choke me to death. Bobby is now the fifth or sixth person to take Sam to task for that, which makes me think that Show still has more ‘splainin to do about why Sam didn’t look for Dean. I really want to trust you to tell me something that will make it all make sense, Show, I do. But can I? SPN used to be amazingly, ridiculously consistent and cumulative in a way that television shows can rarely manage. Every episode built on the ones before it, with most of the building blocks fitting together in a way that still made perfect sense three or four seasons later. Admittedly, that becomes harder and harder to pull off as you have eight seasons worth of blocks mortared together. But I miss that continuity, even if that’s an unrealistic expectation to impose. When the show forgets its own history, I don’t feel safe in its world anymore.

Okay, that’s as much complaining as I can muster. There were other things that kept popping out at me, but I’m perfectly capable of handwaving most of them. *waves dramatically* There!

There were plenty of things I did like. I liked the ambiguity of the ending, for which I will give the writers some big kudos. I love when Show comes to the end of an episode and I’m asking my television “What? What just happened?” That’s good writing, and respectful of the intelligence of the audience. I like having something to talk about with other fans, hypothesizing, tossing around theories. Did Crowley really take Kevin? Was he ever really there? Was it all in poor Kevin’s sleep-deprived, nutrition-deprived, stress-addled brain? Or was Naomi the one messing with Kevin’s head all along? The place wasn’t warded against angels, after all. And the shattered windows looked pretty damn intact to me. Hmmm. Well played, Show. I love when I can say that!

I was originally going to complain that hell seemed to go pretty damn easy on Bobby Singer, considering Dean was impaled on meathooks and suspended in oblivion and who knows what else. Dean and Sam repeatedly coming to visit you? That’s hell? Well damn, sign me up! Then I thought about some of the best fanfiction I’ve read about one of the boys in hell – what was their most excruciating torture? Being confronted with the person they most longed to see and the hope that they were being reunited, only to be disappointed again and again. So I’m assuming that’s what the writers were going for here, and giving that a pass.

The episode, like so many SPN episodes, was visually stunning. Kudos to the VFX guys, to Jerry Wanek’s amazing production team, and to Serge Ladouceur, who we fangirl unrepentantly. I’m usually in the “don’t try to show what your budget won’t allow” camp, but the depiction of hell really worked here. It was creepy and disturbing, images and sounds woven together to create an atmosphere that left me feeling like I just wanted out as soon as possible.

And btw, Purgatory seems to make everyone look good. Must be the lighting. Purgatory!Sam was just as ridiculously hot as Purgatory!Dean, brandishing his made-for-Purgatory weapons and tossing his glorious looks-great-even-in-Purgatory hair. Also the climb up to that portal inevitably results in fabulous shots of the boys’ backsides, which is much appreciated. Please to never stop shooting Purgatory scenes, Show.

The acting was top notch all around. Jared and Jim struck just the right note for their emotional reunion in the midst of an escape from hell, and it was wonderful to see Sam get some quality time with Bobby – it felt healing, like something they both needed, and maybe I needed it for them too. Guest actor Assaf Cohen made taxi driver Ajay seem real even in the few scenes he had, and Osric has pulled off an amazing transformation for the beleaguered Kevin. His exhaustion, depression, and desperation were literally hard to watch – as they should be. Osric landed the humorous lines he was given perfectly too. His deadpan “Unto….that’s how god talks” made me laugh out loud despite the somber circumstances.

And Jensen and Ty knocked it out of the park in their powerful reunion/goodbye scene. At Jensen’s meet and greet at the last con, he talked about the filming of that scene with Ty, saying “The scene took on this emotion that I had not intended, nor did he, and we kinda laughed about it after we did it the first time.” He looked at Ty afterwards and was like, “Wow, did you mean to go there? I didn’t mean to go there.”

Apparently neither of them did; rather the emotions played out organically between the two characters, with both actors very aware of their history and how it contributed to that moment. Jensen went on to say that once they identified it, they couldn’t help but go there, every time. Guy Bee was directing and he came over and told Jensen and Ty how awesome the scene was, and that he hadn’t even seen it on the page. And Jensen said, “It wasn’t there. Sometimes chemistry happens between two characters, and when that chemistry happens, you need to be available for it.”

It’s the same thing that happens often between Ackles and Padalecki. As Jensen has explained it, some actors are so rehearsed in their heads that they’re not available for it – obviously not the case for many of the SPN cast.

I’m sure you know what I’ve saved for last, right? I can forgive a lot of plot shakiness when you give me a Dean and Sam who feel like Dean and Sam, and the brothers both felt right in this episode. Dean wanted desperately to go with Sam, to be able to protect him and help him through the trial; you could see how much it cost him to not be able to. Sam wasn’t dismissive of Dean’s desire to help – he gets it, but he also knows he has to do this alone. And he’s determined to do it and survive. He’s smart, planful, prepared, brave. I believe in his commitment, because that’s Bobby Singer in there, and if anyone can get him out, it’s Sam Winchester.

While Sam is gone, my heart goes out to Dean. If you’ve ever sent someone you love off to do something both important and dangerous, unsure whether they’ll come back (or if you have a child, because it goes with the territory….), you can relate to the anguish on Dean’s face when he lets Sam go. How many times has he lost his little brother, and how much has it cost him? Sam is brave to go in; Dean is brave to let him. I’m afraid for them both, which is exactly how I should be feeling.

Because Jensen makes me believe 100% in how terrified Dean is, the scene between Dean and Benny becomes emotionally gut-wrenching for me as a viewer, just as it is for Dean onscreen. Asking for help is the last thing Dean Winchester ever wants to do – certainly not from someone he pushed away and let down – so I believe in his desperation. I was sure that a tear was about to escape at any second the entire time Dean and Benny were talking – that’s how on the edge Ackles portrayed Dean. That’s the emotional ride I count on this Show to bring me, and it didn’t disappoint.

Nobody will be surprised that the reunion between Sam and Dean when Sam returns safely with Bobby’s soul was the scene that made the entire episode for me. When Ackles and Padalecki are given the opportunity to show the emotion between the brothers openly, they never fail to leave me in tears. It’s the little things both actors do that sell the emotional intensity. The way Dean looks absolutely wrecked when Sam finally appears, like he can’t believe what he’s seeing, that Sam is really back – the way he just stops and looks him over, eyes darting frantically from head to toe, assessing. Is there blood? Is he okay? Anyone who has been through the close-call almost-loss of someone beloved has done that very thing. And then Dean just launches himself at Sam, sweeping him into his arms and clinging so tightly it’s probably hurting the bruised and exhausted Sam. The relief – and the love – are palpable, obvious in the way Dean’s fingers clutch at Sam’s back, the way they both close their eyes to ground themselves, reassurance that they’re really there, back together.

And now I’m sitting here smiling and teary-eyed and madly in love with the Winchesters and their epic love and wondering if we’ll get to see Benny again and if Naomi really was the one who took Kevin, and hmmm. Maybe I liked this episode a little more than I thought. I’m just gonna go watch that hug scene a few more times. Just a few.

What did you think, fandom??

39 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2013 10:03 pm

    I loved this episode immensely, it was gripping, emotional, heartbreaking & just plain awesome. There were some great scenes, sets & incredible CGI I don’t how people could even find something to complain about. But as we know they are entitled to their opinion as we are, just sometimes wish they didn’t have to be so vocal & in-your-face about it. I love this review! Nice work Lynn :))

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:24 am

      Ah, the passion of fandom. No one can accuse any of us of not caring!🙂 Thanks!

  2. Patricia (Jensenfan1978) permalink
    April 5, 2013 10:13 pm

    I would agree one hundred percent on this episode. My main complaints were too much too little time and not knowing the history. Maybe someone needs to put a notebook in the writers’s room with all the history in it.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:25 am

      Great idea! Or just leave the superwiki tab open on their laptops🙂

  3. Kami permalink
    April 5, 2013 10:16 pm

    I agree with so much that you have said here and it is so refreshing to see it stated in a review that doesn’t feel like bitching for the sake of bitching about every little thing. You make some great points. Overall, I was very happy with this episode, and not bored at all. I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

    Also, Sam’s hair forever. I would also like purgatory lighting to follow me around all day everyday.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:25 am

      Right? I absolutely want purgatory lighting for my hair every day, so it can look as gorgeous as Sam’s did down there🙂

  4. April 5, 2013 10:18 pm

    I really loved this episode & count myself in the ‘beaming and full of SPN-love’ category. The first comment I read definitely ‘harshed my squee’. But I wanted to chat about Sam going back to hell and ending up in purgatory *cry*; finding Bobby *more tears*; Benny and Dean *sobbing*; that wonderful HUG *I need a new box of tissues*; and poor Kevin and Mrs Tran. Oh lord!!

    But, after reflection, I do agree that it was very rushed and would’ve been much better served if this had been a 2-part episode. I can totally imagine what you’ve described where it was much more difficult for Sam finding Bobby, plus I wanted to see a bit more anxiety from him about being back in hell. But there simply wasn’t time for any of that. I did appreciate that it took Sam seven hours to find the portal into hell (which we know thanks to the taxi driver telling Crowley he had 17 hours left), so, for me, it was only the ‘hell’ scenes that were too rushed. Also, time is supposed to be longer down there, but we didn’t really get that impression. Is that why Sam left his watch behind?

    That said, Supernatural has a habit of cramming a lot into the final episodes. Remember Season 5 when they still had to get two horsemens’ rings and put Lucifer back in his cage, with only 2 episodes left.

    Looking forward to the rest of the season🙂

    • Andrea permalink
      April 6, 2013 9:50 pm

      I thought leaving the watch behind was probably so in case someone saw him, they didn’t automatically realize that he was a human. I liked that detail.

      • Teresa permalink
        April 6, 2013 11:37 pm

        I think he was just marking his exit because they all looked the same. If you see his response when he sees the watch, he tells Bobby this is it and grabs the watch. : )

      • April 8, 2013 2:39 am

        Yes, I think it might’ve been put in there for a few reasons as you and Teresa have mentioned. I still think it was a subtle way to make the viewer think about Hell-Time. Would the watch even work while he is in Hell?

        Also, I think it was a risky way to mark the exit because it could’ve been found by demon (which may have alerted them to his presence). It would’ve been better to scratch a recognizable mark on the wall, don’t you think?

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:27 am

      Yes! I do remember that rushed season end – it’s like the Show develops so much momentum, it starts tripping over itself a little bit. I’m hanging on for the final episodes, box of tissues at the ready!

  5. BennyFan permalink
    April 5, 2013 10:21 pm

    I have to disagree that Sam wasn’t dismissive of Dean’s desire to help. He was. Because when they got to purgatory, He specifically asked if Ajay was coming with him. Why, if he can’t have help. Shouldn’t he have told Ajay to wait there. Why is it okay if Ajay accompanies Sam through purgatory and not Dean? Plus he did have help from the stunt demon who told him how to get into hell. He handed the knife to Bobby to help watch his back against demons. If Bobby can do this why not Dean? Bobby helped watch Sam’s back in purgatory. Benny was responsible for getting them out of purgatory and Naomi played a big part in getting Bobby’s soul back to heaven when Crowley blocked it.

    The only help Sam actively rejected was Dean’s.

    If Sam has to do these trials solo what exactly is Dean’ purpose? I don’t find him cooking and worrying about Sam to be a storyline. The character needs more to do and right now there is nothing. This episode had the perfect way to include Dean but Sam didn’t want it, but apparently it was okay for everyone else Sam came across to play a part.

    • April 5, 2013 10:54 pm

      I disagree. It was hell that Sam had to enter alone, not purgatory. Also, he was only questioning the taxi driver as to why he wasn’t going to guide him through purgatory to the hell portal because that’s what he’d paid for. I don’t think he was expecting the guy to enter hell with him.

      Once he found the hell portal, Sam went in alone to retrieve Bobby’s soul. Bobby may have helped fight on the way out but he was still the one being rescued, so I don’t believe the completion of the trial would be influenced by that at all. Ultimately, Sam led him out on his own.

      In regard to your comment about Dean’s purpose… the part that both boys play comes in ebbs and flows throughout the entire season. So, Sam had a more active role in this episode, but two weeks ago Sam was left outside while Dean went in to retrieve the angel tablet. The show is about both brothers (not Sam vs Dean, if that’s what you’re implying).

      Regardless of that, Dean was an integral part of this episode because without him Sam would still be in purgatory. And, if he’d gone with Sam they would’ve both been stuck in purgatory without a way out. Finally, the scene between Benny and Dean was one of the highlights of the episode for me.

  6. Liorah permalink
    April 5, 2013 10:37 pm

    I’m glad you discussed at some length the good things about this episode, because as you know, I’m all like, bitch bitch bitch about the plot holes and inconsistencies of this episode. I’m still very irked by them, but it is good to remember that there were some extremely fine scenes here. The Dean-Benny interaction was perfection. Absolutely the right play of emotions on both sides. Really magical. And yes, Osric is doing very good things with his Kevin — I think this is the best acting he’s done with the character, as well as some of the best writing and direction he’s been given.

    It hadn’t occurred to me that Naomi might have taken Kevin. That’s a very intriguing possibility. I was maybe too busy hating her for trying to make Dean doubt Cas’s sanity to think of that theory. We shall see.

    I am concerned overall with the departures from the show’s established rules and its history this season. Sam not trying to find Dean is the most egregious violation, but there are many irritating small sins. Someone pointed out somewhere that when we first see Naomi and Crowley together, she mentions something that happened between them in Mesopotamia; but Crowley is nowhere near that old. In Taxi Driver there were some serious breaks that seemed completely unnecessary to me, such as having Ajay be a reaper as opposed to, say, Charon the Ferryman to Hades. As Charon or equivalent he would have transported Bobby’s soul; reapers, as Tess tells us, don’t know where the soul goes. And indeed, the whole of s. 6 WAS about finding the precise location of Purgatory, which as it turns out was about as hard to find as a Wal-Mart in the suburbs.

    With these sorts of problems, I’m wondering whether the writers have been negligent or just don’t give a crap. They should probably have a fan review every script. Your vision of Sam’s time in Purgatory and Hell would have made a much better episode, and given me somewhat less to bitch about.

    • Liorah permalink
      April 5, 2013 11:51 pm

      I should add that I do LOVE the show; I can’t envision a time when I would stop watching it, or an episode that I wouldn’t watch multiple times. It is the best show in the history of ever. If I didn’t care about it so much I wouldn’t be disappointed when it didn’t live up to its full potential.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:29 am

      Another great idea – have a fan review every script! Who better to be the continuity expert than a fan?? I’m not even kidding🙂 Some of the writers do seem to care quite a bit, so I’m hanging my hopes on those episodes as we come to the end of the season. *bites nails*

  7. Joy permalink
    April 5, 2013 10:52 pm

    It was so sad and I was glad to see Dean get help for Sam, he and Bobby needed it sorely. Now how will Sam complete the 1 trial left to close the gates of hell? At least Crowley didn’t always get his way this time….and Bobby did enter Heaven. And Sam came back with Dean,
    there are just no words to describe it. But Benny did not want to return, it was harder for him on earth. Deans purpose was too help Sam in this epsoide. I am sure there are many more for him to help in ====

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:30 am

      I’m a sucker for Dean helping Sam — or for Sam helping Dean, for that matter. As long as the boys are on the same side, a big part of me is smiling (or possibly reaching for the tissues….or both simultaneously…)

  8. Dean Grimly permalink
    April 5, 2013 11:22 pm

    Cannot read or give any time to reading complaints about this episode. To me it was wonderful, giving us everything we have come to expect from a first-rate, epic, SPN episode in what is a GREAT season. I am just going to spray on some OFF! to avoid the pesky plot-holers and canon-eers and enjoy watching “Taxi Driver” again. The greatness of this episode beats down any of its weaknesses, as far as I’m concerned. It felt too short; but then I usually feel that each episode is never long enough!

    The melting wall to Hell covered with street art grafitti (VFX/CGI/SFX) and the awesome rabbit holes everywhere were great. Guy Bee’s direction was awesome, and why not? He is! The sets were frightening, as were their denizens. The acting was superlative in every way. The emotions between and among all the actors were palpable; they shot out of the screen and seriously rocked viewers.

    In the end, my small TV expands magically somehow to hold the depth, breadth, and nuances of this series. It carries its important load as best it can, as the Winchesters do theirs.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:31 am

      That is an absolutely beautiful sentiment — well said🙂

  9. Teresa permalink
    April 5, 2013 11:58 pm

    I really enjoyed the episode and of course the acting was top notch. I agree with your comments about the reunion scene with the brothers! I was in tears. I also wanted to add what a great job Jared did when Sam was telling Dean that Benny didn’t come back. He seemed on the verge of tears, scared to tell his brother that his friend was gone!

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:32 am

      You’re right, Jared did a great job there – you could tell how reluctant he was to tell Dean the truth, to see him hurt. *sniffles*

  10. Jair101 permalink
    April 6, 2013 12:28 am

    Very nicely done review! For me, the lack of respect for canon or sometimes coherent plotting this season is getting me down, as it makes the world as a whole less believable, but I did love the Dean/Benny scene and The Hug.

    For me, if a current episode contradicts in important ways an earlier episode without adequate explanation, it’s the current episode’s writing that’s lacking. This one contradicted an entire season, not to mention every scrap of reaper and Death lore we’ve been given. Supernatural came right out of the gate in the pilot with a beautifully and believably realised world. I resent that world being taken lightly and poked through with holes. I want Jeremy Carver to take as much care as Eric Kripke did with the over all story. When Carver sent Kripke his script for In the Beginning, Kripke said he went over it with the pilot playing in his office, so he could check for any inconsistencies with canon. And that level of care showed.

    Thanks goodness the show has actors of the calibre of Jared, Jensen, Jim and Ty–they elevated what they were given and saved the episode. I believe they’ve elevated scripts before, but this one was egregious in the canon-smashing and plot holes. I don’t want Supernatural to turn into a series where I have to shrug about major inconsistencies because I shouldn’t expect the story to hang together. I don’t want the writers to harsh my squee. (-:

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:34 am

      Kripke set a very high standard with his concern for continuity – this is his world, and being a fanboy, he totally understand how important it was for everything to hang together. I think I got pretty spoiled for those first five seasons, so sometimes it’s hard now not to want that same level of continuity sustained. it’s true about the acting – sometimes I think Jared, Jensen, etc. can make me cry even if I’ve just been scratching my head and going, huh? They’re amazing like that.

  11. Kathy permalink
    April 6, 2013 1:01 am

    Great review. I think it was honest and spot on. Yes, there were some inconsistencies. I don’t ignore them per se, but I can usually read somewhere an explanation I can accept. And I have for this episode as well. Mainly that after 8 years their knowledge keeps opening up new ways for the show to do things. So, done with that.

    I’d much rather squeee over the great things. Half full here also. What’s the point in watching if you’re half empty? Just don’t get why some ‘fans?’ keep watching if it makes them so miserable. Life is too short.

    It was a LOT for one episode and I certainly could have gotten more kleenex to make it two episodes. I could watch HOURS of the great visual effects, broments, love and BOBBY that were in this episode!

    I loved all of Bobby’s comments about wanting to come back. Just like Jim in Vegas!!! BTW, what a sneak! And pretty much hinted at seeing Sam down the road. Here’s my theory: Bobby in heaven is going to turn out to be useful in S9 when they are dealing with the angel tablet!!!!! Bets anyone? I told my friend early on in S8 that Benny was going to be the key to something later regarding helping Dean because he knew about the portal in Purgatory. And I even said it would have something to do with the flash in the arm thing. Don’t doubt me.🙂

    J2’s knocked it out of the park. Those two are just incredible. The HUG! I felt like I was transported back to S2 or 3. And Jensen and Ty were just, just, man I am going to cry. AGAIN! I had heard about what Jensen said in Vegas about the scene so was anticipating something, but this was even more. And having talked with Ty in Vegas out of the arena, in a casual setting, I was just plain heartbroken for Benny and him!!! Out of respect for Ty I won’t say anymore, but I just adore him. During his panel, saying he almost was going to cry, and explaining the depths of Benny, I just lose it!!!

    Thanks for your review. I was hoping you would do one for this episode. Thanks again for the critical eye, but positive overtone. Still bummed I never met you in Vegas.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:36 am

      Good job in calling it that Benny would be the key to something important in Purgatory – I agree, Ty and Jensen were amazing in that scene. I like your S9 theory about Bobby too….hmmmm…. Also, the next con you’re at, we’d better do a better job of saying hi in person!

  12. April 6, 2013 2:10 am

    What you said, Lynn. I’m one of those who will be creating myriad No-Prize explanations to cover all the gaping plot and logic holes Ross-Leming and Buckner (my LEAST favorite writing team) left behind, once I get the time to write my REALLY, REALLY LONG meta on this episode – but at the end of the day, the actors delivered so brilliantly on all the emotion that I couldn’t help but be swept along, especially given the tight direction and big-screen-quality visual effects. Ho-lee-CRAP, this production was on fire!

    I do wonder if there were explanations that got left on the cutting room floor because there was no way to fit so much into 43 minutes. This should have been at least two episodes, not one; had it been done that way, I think the holes might have been filled. This was just too ambitious to be able to be complete.

    I still love my show, and always will!

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:38 am

      I’m with you, Mary — I can’t always ignore the plot holes, but everything else about this Show is so incredible, that I’m still left madly in love with it time after time. The brilliant acting and visual effects made up for alot. Especially that hug🙂

  13. herdrakness permalink
    April 6, 2013 7:49 am

    I love this show, but this episode was ridiculously bad. It had plot holes a semi could fit through and took no note of previous cannon. I did enjoy the emotional beats throughout the episode, particularly the Benny/Dean scene, but it was let down by being in such a badly written episode. The bare bones of the story were interesting, but they really should have spread it out over multiple episodes, entire sections needed to be rewritten and they needed to have the episode truly mean something at the end. Sam should have learnt how awful purgatory was for Dean and apologised, and should have admitted he was wrong about Benny, instead of half-heartedly saying he wasn’t as bad as he thought. Come on Sam – I really expected better of you!

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:39 am

      I do think that’s a large part of the problem with this episode, trying to cram too much into 42 minutes. It almost felt like Sam didn’t have *time* to really experience the horrors of Purgatory the way Dean did! Fingers crossed for the final episodes to fill in some of the gaps for us…

  14. Nightsky permalink
    April 6, 2013 4:50 pm

    Lynn, loved your review. It is great that you are a glass-half-full person, because I know that you will always find the silver lining! I count on that from you!

    Here is my take on this episode. When I first watched it, I was dumbfounded with the gaping plot holes (Fans that are tired of complainers, don’t worry, I saw good as well as bad.). Every few minutes I was thinking, “That’s not the way that works!”, “Wait, what?”, “He can’t do that!”, plus many other furrowed brow looks and comments. The episode was moving at break-neck speed! I absolutely agree that it could have been drawn out over 2 episodes. I WANTED it to be 2 episodes (Lynn, I LOVE your version of the way Sam’s trip to Hell could have been portrayed! I was running that fiction through my mind as well!). So many important things were happening! I don’t think anyone can say they were bored with the writing! It was one of those breathless, on-the-edge-of-your-seat episodes. When it was over, I urgently wanted to watch it again, but I’m not sure if it was because I needed to check my sanity that there really were so many questionable jumps in logic or if it had some other pull on me.

    The next day I read two excellent, balanced, respectful reviews from Laura and Gerry (don’t want to plug other reviewers on your site!). They each enumerated the many canon leaps that I had seen (in fact, I think there were even more than the two of them together listed!). Ok. Other people, professional viewers, were calling foul on the writers. I could relax. The problems with the canon were out in the open and being discussed. So as soon as I was free I watched the episode again. This time was different. I knew the plot holes were there and I could breeze past them. I believe that during the first watch, my mind was so busy absorbing the enormous events that were taking place in the story that I wasn’t registering the emotional impact it was having on me. I found that I loved it the second time I watched it! and the third time! and I can’t wait to watch it again. If I didn’t have to be polite to the other people in my house, I think I would be watching this episode all day long, over and over and over! My bottom line on the episode: the emotional impact, the Benny/Dean, Sam/Bobby, Dean/Sam moments pull at my heart and draw me into the Show’s best moments. Love. This show is about Love. Yeah, courage, good vs. evil, hot (hot, hot!) guys, etc. but what I felt in this episode was love. Love for the characters and love for the show. The love the characters showed for each other. I can’t stop watching.

    Ok, so I have a few separate observations. First, when Benny explained that he “wasn’t a good fit in this world… That he didn’t fit with the vampires nor the humans…and that after a while that wears on a guy.” Dean had an *aha* moment of understanding. My first thought was not that Dean now understood Benny’s situation, but rather, that Benny had explained to Dean how SAM has felt all his life. Sam certainly doesn’t fit in with the demons because he is too good of a person, but he doesn’t quite fit in with the humans because of his demon blood. It looked to me that Dean was thinking, “wow, I finally get how that has worn down my brother all these years”. Probably reading too much into it, but for me, it was there.

    Secondly, my comments on the past few episodes have noted the references to Sam’s lost year (Amelia and not looking for Dean). With Bobby making a big deal out of Sam’s questionable move to not look for Dean, I am absolutely convinced the writers are planning a big explanation or a big reveal for us on this. I know several people accused me of wishful thinking the first several times I harped that this wasn’t a dead issue, but I believe very strongly now that it is purposely and systematically being reintroduced into the story so that it can be exposed.

    The VFX in this episode were superb. I am now wondering if the music I have been missing this season has been traded in for a larger budget on sets and VFX. I am Ok with that because of the outstanding results they have achieved.

    Lastly, I will also rewind and rewatch that Hug over and over. To me, Sam wasn’t really hugging Dean back (because he was weak or exhausted). Am I wrong on that? If that was the best Dean hug ever, I am left wanting for the payback from Sam. But Lynn, as you said, a good ending always leaves you wanting for more.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:43 am

      I do think this episode is one that will stand up to repeated viewing, for the emotional moments that I agree are the heart and soul of the show. I can get past the plot holes (though I haven’t mastered actually not noticing them….) as long as I’m emotionally connected to the characters and *care* about what happens to them. And as long as they care about each other.

      I’m hoping, like you, that there’s more to Sam not looking for Dean – the repeated references to that by more than one other character seem quite intentional, so you would think that’s the case. Oh please please….

      Hmm. I’d better go watch The Hug again to see if what you say here is true. Such a hardship….🙂

  15. Andrea permalink
    April 6, 2013 9:47 pm

    I love this show. And since 1st season I don’t thinks there’s one episode that I didn’t like -sure, I like some more than others, but I can’t pick one that I actually disliked.

    What happened to me with this one is something similar to what you explain here, but to me there was this one thing that just… And it’s that the boys seem to have forgotten how things work in their world. Sam makes a comment when they’re told that Bobby is in Hell that left me ‘aaahhh..What?!’. He says something like “we burnt his bones and that was it” and they both look surprised that Bobby could’ve gone to Hell. Like they didn’t know that was possible. Like they forgot about John Winchester and how they burnt his bones and how he still spent a year in Hell. Seriously, show? They’re the Winchesters, I’m sure they know better than that. I’m sure they didn’t suddenly forget that burning someone’s bones only keeps their soul from becoming a vindictive spirit?

    I still liked the episode and I still love the show but I just couldn’t really get past that one.

    • spnfans permalink
      April 8, 2013 2:43 am

      A few comments here have suggested that we leave The Winchester History in the writer’s room, just in case they forget some of their own canon. Eight seasons in, maybe that’s a good idea🙂

  16. Patsy permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:51 am

    Wow not use to so many negative comment’s, I love each and every episode, call me crazy but up thru the end of Season 7 I have watched every episode at least 3 to 4times. It’s my favorite TV show, actors, crew and most of the time the writers.

  17. April 8, 2013 3:42 pm

    I don’t know, I wanted to love it. I really did. This type of carelessness with script construction though, it irks me. Given how much I’ve invested in this show, it actually offends me now. It’s writing 101. And from what I’ve perceived from the writing the last three seasons, there isn’t really a master in charge that stresses or cares about strict continuity. I know it’s super tough when you’ve got this long and detailed mythology, so occasional slip ups are understandable, but this episode was a blatant slap in the face to those that value continuity. It practically invalidated all that happened in the first seven seasons! I’m sorry, but if Eric Kripke was still in charge and let this happen, I think he’d be issuing a full letter of apology to us by now. Sadly, I think the current team doesn’t see that anything was done wrong.

    I saw this happen to Smallville in season 8, and they eventually pulled things together in seasons 9 and 10. When you violate a viewer’s trust though, it’s hard to win that back easily. Fans can get pretty bitter. I know Smallville season 8 still stings to many of the loyalists, and sadly I fear that Supernatural season 8 is going down the same way for me. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of season 7 that still stings for me, so this is most disappointing.

    But I do sympathize with those that tuned in for just the emotional beats and loved. At least that part was there in full strength. I don’t want to trample on those fans, for they are entitled to bask in their happiness too. Happy medium is hard in this fandom. We are all or nothing kind of people! To those that enjoyed, I’m pleased and very happy. And envious. I wish I had that type of filter.

  18. Hope permalink
    June 15, 2013 6:02 am

    I was taken aback by how easily Sam found Bobby. I mean, do you know how many souls he would have to search through and he just happens to run into him in pretty much no time, and with no problems? I thought that was a huge blunder… they could have at least explained something to make that kind of ease plausible. I think there are probably different “levels” of hell (in the show), whereas dean was basically highest security which was why he was so tortured and so hard to get to…. so maybe bobby wasn’t high security… but even so it still should have been much more difficult to get to him…. and why on earth did he look so good? How many years had he been down there? Egh… just that whole sequence irked me, and I’m usually a pretty permissive person when it comes to this show. Still, I think the Benny scene made up for it.

  19. February 9, 2016 5:26 pm

    I enjoyed the review tremendously as well as the comments section to-date. One of the recurring criticisms of SPN during its run is on occasion episodes are wide-open, Impala-screaming full-throttle runs. Let’s (excuse pun intended) play Devil’s advocate for a moment…what a thrill ride when a couple of twenty-some episodes in a season go full bore with non-stop action. Not knowing when that might happen may bring a subconscious happy anxiety and anticipation to each and every episode prior to its view. Story boarding entire seasons juggling monster-of-the-week eps with season long arcs isn’t a perfect science. Sometimes the writers have to look at how much time they have to get where they want to be before season’s end and have to mash the gas pedal to do so. I admittedly often turn a blind eye to occasional acceleration of story. Plot holes and inconsistencies are indeed another matter and I respect fans who don’t choose to separate that from rushed story-telling. I do separate it and don’t enjoy when the Show doesn’t follow previously established “rules of The Road So Far.” It’s great to read multiple viewpoints…all from a passionate view.

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