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TV Review: Supernatural – “Taxi Driver”

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Supernatural left fans with a very uneven episode as the show breaks for a mini-hiatus. “Taxi Driver” is the latest script from Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming, a writing team which continually underwhelms. Though this effort is a cut above the terrible “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits,” it’s a case of damning with faint praise. The damage the plot holes do to this story is matched by the damage the story as a whole does to Supernatural’s canon. The saving grace of the episode is the power of the acting from the key players.

The premise of “Taxi Driver” is so flawed, it’s hard to know where to start. Apparently, Crowley can hijack whichever souls he wants, whether or not they belong in Hell. That this goes against the fundamental order of Heaven and Hell and has never been hinted at before doesn’t bother the writers, but does bother me. In other seasons, the King or Queen of Hell couldn’t snatch whoever he or she wanted. People actually had to make poor choices in life or deals with Crossroads demons to end up down under. If Crowley is something other than what has been established about him since his entry in the story, it’s time to make that canon instead of just dropping bombs that go against story logic.

Sam, Dean and the reaperThe next issue is how easy it seems to be to break into both Hell and Purgatory. The idea of rogue reapers is a cool one on the surface, but given they work for Death, the writers do need to establish why Death is fine with some of his minions breaking the rules and working as free agents. Death is a greater force of the universe than Crowley, equal to or greater than God in power. Yet his coyote reaper is more afraid of Crowley. In season six, Death quite clearly was not in favour of Crowley and Castiel finding Purgatory or messing around with souls that didn’t belong to them.

Speaking of finding Purgatory, if Crowley knows about rogue reapers who know where Purgatory is and how it connects to Hell, why was he bothering torturing Alphas? Why not just torture a reaper or two? If a mere Crossroads demon in this episode knows the secret of Purgatory, it makes the entire plot of season six ridiculous.

The story ramifications don’t stop there. Castiel grabbing Dean and raising him from Perdition has been a powerful element in the story since season four. But it seems a little less of a big deal now, given that Sam trots in without much incident and without a trace of PTSD, easily locates Bobby and leaves without much more effort than he expends in a typical demon encounter topside. Maybe it’s time to seriously think about rescuing poor Adam.

Of course, Crowley made it rather easy for Sam. I find it very ironic that Crowley starts a scene with one of his demons by growling, “Am I the only one to see the urgency of this situation?” Yet it’s not so urgent that he returns to Hell to find Sam. Nor does it seem to occur to him Sam’s sudden desire to visit the place of his torture might be connected to Bobby Singer, though the hunter is an obvious connection to Sam.

These issues have major story implications; they are well above nitpicks. The story had plenty of nitpickable moments, too, of course. Why would Sam risk leaving his watch as a marker when he needs to know the time to the minute to catch his ride home? Why not something that isn’t crucial to the mission? Why not block the rabbit hole to Hell when he’s done with it? Or is access to both territories now not a big deal? And is Kevin no longer a vegan?

Jim Beaver as Bobby SingerFortunately, the writers did create moments that allowed the actors to make the most of them. Bobby is a beloved character, and it is wonderful to hear him grumbling away to Sam again. But the episode is so jam-packed with story, Bobby’s plot had to be hustled along, so some of the emotional impact of his return is lost. That’s a shame, given how powerful his death scene was. The writers already made the mistake of bringing Bobby back to diminishing returns in season seven. They need to make the most of Jim Beaver while they have him, which means giving his story room to breathe. So much went on in this episode, it should have been a two parter.

Bobby does make a comment to Sam about his decision not to look for Dean, emphasizing how out of character it was for Sam not to feel the need to investigate his brother’s disappearance. I’ve felt that from the get go. It’s a constant irritant in the development of the season. If there’s more to Sam’s year off, it’s more than time we knew, and if there isn’t, the show should refrain from scratching that itch.

Dean and Benny’s reunion is more successful. Ty Olsson has been a great addition to the cast. A charismatic actor in any scene, he has especially good chemistry with Jensen Ackles. The two actors make the most of that connection as Dean has to ask his friend to sacrifice his life on earth at the same time as he admits he let Benny down when Benny asked for help. Ackles and Olsson beautifully convey the mix of emotions their characters feel.

Ty Olsson and Jensen AcklesBoth Benny and Dean acknowledge Sam’s uncharacteristic death wish for Benny—and both acknowledge the power of family. Benny understands Dean has to protect his little brother, which makes the vampire family in the way that matters most to Dean. The elder Winchester is a little more resistant to understanding Benny wants to return to Purgatory. But given how much loneliness plays into the vampire’s feelings, Dean’s guilt is understandable. He wants to atone, not say goodbye.

The writers have not used Olsson as much as they could have, which makes it a shame they send him back to Purgatory in “Taxi Driver.” Benny was a welcome addition to Sam and Dean’s expanding world. I’d much rather see more of the vampire than Garth. But at least the door is left open for Benny to be able to return in the future. I hope the writers take advantage of it next season.

Speaking of chemistry, Ackles and Padalecki of course have it in spades. Sam’s successful escape from Hell and Purgatory leads to a wonderful hug between Sam and Dean. The embrace is very different from the one when Dean returned to earth, which has its own issues, but the moment is heartwarming and helps sell that Dean would ask what he did of Benny.

Sam admits to Dean Benny was different from the way he had imagined. He doesn’t apologize for forcing Dean to choose between him and Benny, nor explain why he imagined the worst when Dean said he trusted Benny. His attitude to Benny was such a turnaround from his usual stance on monsters, including Kate this season, more exploration wouldn’t come amiss. Sadly, the writers waste the opportunity.

The stellar acting in “Taxi Driver” rescues the episode from being a write off, but the lack of respect for canon or emphasis on story logic in the writing room this season is hurting the integrity of the overall story. I don’t want to have to dismiss the story so far to accept the story now. To quote Crowley, “Am I the only one to see the urgency of this situation?”

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Gerry

    Hi Alice! I love when we see much of the same things, as well. I wish this time it was because we were both jumping up and down in delight (well, we both were about Dean/Benny and the Hug!).

    This season has been such a mixed bag. Some truly wonderful moments mixed in with truly headscratching moments. The biggest issue for me is when those headscratching moments affect the integrity of the story rather than being something annoying but forgettable, like Henry Winchester not being around for John.

    I still love this series dearly, because the story foundation is so strong and because Jared and Jensen (and supporting actors like Misha and Ty) take what ever they are given and make it work.

    But the show can’t take many more hits to the core of its story or the fabric of its world without suffering. Please let Jeremy Carver be on a learning curve on what is most important as a showrunner. Story integrity is on that list.

  • Gerry, I so love when your perspective and mine are in sync. There’s so much to love with this episode, yet the blatant disregard for continuity in the script just ruined my ability to enjoy it.

    How can so many glaring errors and disregard for the show’s history happen in one script? Why do Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming forget that there is a Men of Letter’s library at their disposal? It’s not rocket science, new mythology can be written by using new resources that are only now available to Sam and Dean. Why just make up what you want and trash what was already done as if it didn’t happen? Using a crossroads demon to find out how to get into Hell, one of Crowley’s own people, pretty much invalidated all of season six.

    Ah well, I’ve ranted enough. That’s the trouble with television production, things get crunched at the end of the season and sometimes they get desperate just to do something. As professionals though, a quick rewrite at least was in order. Fans deserve that much. The script was clearly too ambitious for writers of such low skill and caliber.

  • Gerry

    Hi all, thanks for reading and commenting! I agree that having no respect for canon damages the show because it damages the world.

    A fantasy story requires a suspension of disbelief from the get go, but a well realized world which establishes and follows its own rules welcomes its audience in.

    Any time a writer tears a hole in that reality, it should be knowingly done for a specific purpose. “The French Mistake” exposed the bones of the show for the audience–but crafted in a way that fit with the show’s reality and left no story dissonance behind, unless a viewer absolutely HAS to know where Jared and Jensen went. I didn’t because I’m in Sam and Dean’s story and I understand their journey. Ben Edlund is a writer who always cares about canon, about characterization and about plot.

    I will say the actors really brought their A game. The Jensen/Benny scene was wonderful–it engrosses me every time I watch it. Dean’s hugging of Sam plays really well, too.

    I wish Bobby had had more of a story. The show really just trotted him out onto the stage to say, “Here he is!” and then trotted him off again. Not much was asked of Jim Beaver, which is such a waste. It’s diminishing returns every time we see him again for not much impact and that’s just wrong. Jim B did fantastic work this year on Justified–Supernatural should be able to use him well.

  • Tina

    It does seem has if someone needs to get a tight hold of the story. I know Jeremy Carver has decided to pretty much bypass Sam’s history on the show but to try and change cannon of the show is a dangerous game. These arent very good writers with no disrespect to them and the episode felt rushed .

  • Laurie

    I’m too furious at the raping of canon to comment on anything else.

    Carver seems to care for nothing but his own navel, or this wouldn’t have passed with all these holes. Is he afraid of Singer, whose wife wrote this blech? This was dreck.

  • Sheri

    This was a very fair and justified review. As a viewer who has not missed an episode since the Pilot, I was disgusted and offended by the complete trashing of the show’s own established canon and mythology. If viewers cannot trust canon, then the show turns into a virtual fanfic episode by episode, characterization is harm, plotting and pacing will make no sense, and the story simply becomes dishonest. It surely cannot go unnoticed how just much this 42 minutes damaged the franchise.

    I agree that the acting was the only saving grace. JA and Ty O. were superb in their one scene, and Ty again in his Sam/Bobby scene, and I really like what Amanda Tappings in bringing to the Naomi character. Jim Beaver is always good, but they took two episodes to kill him off, so doing it a third time held no emotional resonance for me.

    Shameful effort all around, writers. Just shameful.