“It feels good just to be back in action again,” says Bobby Singer as he and Sam stumble through the color-desaturated picnic spot that Supernatural is bound and determined to sell as what Purgatory looks like. Hey, it’s good having you back! Just yesterday, some mouth-breather at The A. V. Club was writing that if the makers of Supernatural “have any sense, they’ll let [Bobby] stay gone and not sully his final sacrifice.” No doubt the idjit had his reasons for thinking this, but with this episode, the show did manage to contrive a valid excuse for bringing Jim Beaver back for one more final bow.
They were even able to link it to a worthy sign-off for Dean’s vampire buddy, Benny, in practically his first appearance since New Year’s. The combined weight of these emotional guest-star turns made it easy to glide past the shakier elements of the episode, such as the fact that Kevin Tran is in it at all. This is not meant as a knock on Osric Chau, who continues to work his ass off in a role that requires him to be humorless, miserable, and increasingly strung out, as a guy who got the weight of the world hoisted onto his shoulders without ever having asked for it. Virtually alone of all the recurring characters on Supernatural, he literally never gets to have any fun, and it’s no fun watching him.
Kevin is needed to explain that he’s finally translated far enough into the tablet to send Sam on the second trial he needs to complete: “An innocent soul has to be rescued from Hell and delivered unto Heaven. ‘Unto’—that’s how God talks.” In an inspired touch, the Winchesters head for the seamy side of town and track down Ajay (Assaf Cohen), a taxi driver who is actually a reaper and a “coyote” who ferries souls to their destination in the afterlife. He immediately solves the mystery of which innocent Sam should liberate when he brags that he is “the reaper who took Bobby Singer to Hell.” You might think that Bobby would have made it to Pearly Gates, but Ajay explains that internal politics, graft, and favoritism hold just as much sway in the afterlife as anywhere else. “If you’re on the King of Hell’s no-fly list,” he smirks, “no way you cruise the friendly skies.”
Ajay drops Sam off in Purgatory, which he points out, is “Hell-adjacent.” He then journeys alone down into the bowels of Hell itself—i.e., a catacombs-like set that looks as if it were snapped together for a Game Of Thrones-themed S & M birthday party. Those last-minute deathbed confessions must work better than I’ve always assumed, because there only seem to be half a dozen people in Hell, and Sammy is able to find Bobby almost immediately. Almost as immediately, Bobby punches him, but not because he regrets not having done it often enough when they both topside. It takes him a minute to realize that this is the real Sam. “That’s how they screw with me. Just endless Sams and Deans, all wearing the same black eyes.”—another nice touch. On their way out of the castle, they encounter a Sam doppelganger, and although things get chaotic, Bobby quickly wastes the phony. Sam compliments him on having been able to tell that the Sam he butchered wasn’t the real one. “Took a chance,” Bobby shrugs. “50/50.”
Unfortunately, Sam no longer has his exit plan firmly in place, because Crowley has tumbled to what Ajay has been up to and fatally smote, or smitten, or whatever, him. (“Patience,” he croons as Ajay tries to play for time, “is not one my virtues. I don’t have any virtues, but if I did, I’m sure patience wouldn’t be one of them.”) Dean has to track Benny down and ask him to die so that he can wake up in Purgatory—conveniently enough, just a few inches away from where Sam and Bobby are in urgent need of backup—and lead his brother and surrogate father back to the land of the living. Yeah, the plotting could have used another couple of drafts, but the way it plays, it’s pretty ridiculously moving, partly because Jensen Ackles gives it his all in scenes where Dean has so many powerful conflicting emotions that he’s on the verge of imploding, and partly because both Bobby and Benny are allowed to be so completely who they are.
As soon as Sam is able to get Bobby out of Purgatory, he’s fated to turn into a Spielberg-esque light show and zoom straight up to Heaven, which means that his last moments there are really his last moments with Sam, and there’s so tearful reunion with Dean at all. Yet this doesn’t stop him from being so ornery that he makes no attempt to conceal how pissed off he is to learn that the boys have been consorting with vampires; his farewell to Sam is borderline unpleasant, and he doesn’t pass along any last words to be given to Dean. He can’t even see what Sam, finally, can see: That Benny, whose kindnesses to the Winchesters have made him a pariah among vampires, is on a kamikaze run. “I was never any good up there anyway,” he says, as he wades into a pack of attacking monsters so that Sam can get himself and Bobby to the door marked Exit. Those are pretty fair last words for any Supernatural hero.
- Kudos to whatever team of agents, lawyers, network executives, and Navy SEALs who saw to it that Jim Beaver’s name was absent from the opening credits. In this world where every movie trailer amounts to the Cliff’s Notes version of the movie, it’s nice to actually get a happy surprise out of something that the promotional department could have done something with.
- In the end, Kevin, who is suffering paranoid visions of Crowley inside his head, up and splits his safe house. “The little geek made a run for it,” says Dean, thus confirming that the toughest little geek on Wednesday nights is Cochran on Survivor; not only does he stand and fight, he eats beetle larvae. For those keeping score, this means that, as the season winds down, Supernatural has two, count ‘em, two deranged supporting characters alone in the wind, each packing a sacred tablet.
- I was sorry to see Asaaf Cohen's hell coyote check out so early. Cohen seemed to be enjoying the role, and he could have made an entertaining addition to the ranks of recurring characters on a show that's really tearing through the ones it already has.
- Can there really be only three or four more episodes to this season? It seems as if there are more loose ends to be tied up than there usually are at this point. And yet, if the end-of-show teaser is any indication, the next episode is some goofy-looking standalone story involving a lethal video game, just like last week’s Grimm. And that episode of The X-Files in the ‘90s. And wasn’t there a episode of Kojak in the mid-70s where a serial killer was terrorizing his victims by luring them inside the violent, surreal dreamscape that was the arcade version of Pong?