Supernatural (opens in new tab) Season Eight Episode Fourteen “Trial And Error” TV REVIEW
Writer: Andrew Dabb
Director: Kevin Parks
THE ONE WHERE The brothers face the first of three trials required to close the gates of hell – killing a hell hound and bathing in its blood.
VERDICT This is the first episode of Supernatural to get anything less than four stars from SFX since episode six of this season. Not something you would usually shout about, but it highlights just how strong Supernatural ’s recent run of form has been and why, in comparison, “Trial And Error” is a little bit of a disappointment, despite a wealth of strong material.
The opening montage where Kevin finally cracks the tablet’s code is a wonderful piece of visual storytelling. You’re left in no doubt about the toll it’s taking on his body. And there are some nice character moments back at the Batcave, with Dean relishing in the chance to make a room his own for the first time in his life, but things take a turn for the dispiritingly familiar when they reach the farm.
The setting is part of the problem, seems every sci-fi show has to have its “mystery on the ranch” episode, typically with a pantomime dysfunctional family that we actively revile who have betrayed each other in some way. Yawn. Even this episode gets bored with this aspect of the plot, revealing everyone who made a deal with Crowley except the one who made the Cassitys rich (thought you can strongly infer who it is from a line late in the episode). There’s no reason to care about them or their story other than the fact it puts the brothers on a collision course with a hell hound.
It’s this piece of the dramatic pie that really impresses. For anyone who can still remember how they felt when Dean got torn to shreds by a hell hound at the end of season three (honestly, how could you forget?) this episode is so tense it should come with a health warning. By making them visible, and fallible, it makes them less of a threat than they have been in the past but there’s still a genuine sense that things could go horribly wrong at any minute with hell hounds involved.
So despite a case of the week that’s half utter bobbins, the arc plot continues to evolve in intriguing and satisfying ways, and after eight years on the air, that’s no mean feat.
SPECCY FOUR EYES We're liking Sam and Dean's new looks, future Clark Kents in the making.
IT’S WOSSERNAME! If you watched Prison Break you may recognise Danay Garcia (Ellie) as Sofia Lugo who was a regular character in the fourth season.
LORE This episode gives us our first proper look at the show’s fabled hell hounds and they look, er, a bit like big wolf-dog things. Far from ground breaking creature design, but still a nice reveal for long-term fans.
SPECULATION Kudos to Andrew Dabb for Dean’s “You see a way out speech” at the start of the episode’s third act, a stellar piece of writing and one that seems to drop a number of hints about how the show could end one day, with Dean going out in a blaze of glory leaving Sam behind to live his life, raise a family and continue the family business as a Man Of Letters. Or maybe it’s just one big double bluff…
FEATURED MUSIC Ellie is dancing to “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls during her last night on earth celebrations.
BEHIND THE SCENES In what’s becoming something of a trend for Supernatural season eight, this is the first episode directed by another long-serving member of the crew, assistant director (of the odd-numbered episodes) Kevin Parks. Parks was played by Jason Bryden in “The French Mistake”.
BEHIND THE MAGIC During Kevin’s opening montage, actor Osric Chau was eating raw tofu dogs according to his post on Twitter:
Tofu dogs aren't all that bad. I had to eat them raw, so better tofu than raw intestines and rectums. February 14, 2013
“Look, I'm gonna feel dirty saying this, but you might want a salad and a shower.”
Ellie : “And, well, her last album was a bunch of holiday songs for dogs. My favorites were 'Jingle Bark Rock' and 'Don't Pee on This Tree: Happy Arbor Day.'"
Dean : "So she's the Devil?"
Ellie : "Pretty much."
Jordan Farley (opens in new tab)
Read all our Supernatural Season Eight reviews so far here. (opens in new tab)
Jayne Nelson on Supernatural's season eight renaissance. (opens in new tab)