‘Supernatural’ Review: “Trial and Error”
‘Supernatural’ season 8 scares up its fourteenth episode of the season with “Trial and Error,” as Sam and Dean attempt to complete one of the first trials outlined by Kevin Tran's tablet decipherment, killing a Hellhound targeting a dysfunctional Iowa oil family.
Last week’s ‘Supernatural’ episode “Everybody Hates Hitler” saw Sam and Dean teaming team with a Rabbi’s grandson and his personal Golem (John DeSantis) to recover a ledger sought after by Nazi necromancers, so what does the latest season 8 episode bring? Will the Winchesters finally be able to rid the world of Crowley’s demonic forces?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Supernatural’ season 8 episode 14, “Trial and Error!”
Kevin Tran (Osric Chau) awakes on his boat, going through his day-in, day-out routine of eating hot dogs, drinking coffee and deciphering the tablet, until many days’ work finally leads him to a revelation, a nosebleed and a faint for his trouble. Elsewhere, Dean happily arranges his new bedroom within the “Men of Letters” complex, even reveling in new-found cooking skills to Sam’s delight. As they eat, a distressed Kevin calls Dean and urges Sam and Dean to come quickly, sending the brothers rushing out.
Sam and Dean carefully enter Kevin’s boat, finding the disheveled young man overjoyed about his revelation how to close the gates of Hell. Kevin reveals that in order to accomplish the feat, a spell will have to be performed after the accomplishment of three specific “trials” of God’s design, the first of which will involve bathing in the blood of a Hellhound. Dean heads out to secure necessary defenses, while Sam urges Kevin to take better care of himself and see light at the end of their ordeal.
Reasoning that Hellhounds would most likely surround someone involved in a Crossroads Demon deal, Sam and Dean happen across a family in Shoshone, Iowa that struck oil ten years previously where no one thought possible, a good sign of a deal with a demon. The brothers travel to the Cassity farm, meeting the farm’s young, beautiful manager Ellie (Danay Garcia), and posing as brothers applying for the job of farmhands. Along the way, the boys meet the Cassity family’s “trophy husband” Earl Granville, who helps them secure the jobs.
Working in the stables, Sam and Dean eye oldest daughter Alice Cassity as most likely to have made the Crossroads deal, but in their investigation they fail to spot Earl being targeted and killed by a Hellhound. As police cart away the body Dean suggests that they blew their chance, but Sam thinks there still might be more in play with the family. Sam talks with Alice, deducing from her strangely vanished affection that Earl made the deal for her love years earlier, but not the family’s inexplicable fortune. Sam theorizes that whatever Crossroads Demon may have made multiple deals a decade prior, and convinces Dean to stick around a few more days.
The next day, the rest of the Cassitys arrive, including its lingerie model-marrying patriarch Noah, faded country singer Cindy, and youngest daughter Margie, all of whom could potentially have made Crossroads deals. Ellie tasks Sam with waiting on the family for dinner, while Dean handles the grill for the night. Listening to them bicker amongst one another, Sam realizes that the demon they inadvertently dealt with a decade prior was actually none other than Crowley himself!
As Sam and Dean plot their next move, Kevin calls with newly uncovered information that objects scorched with holy fire will enable them to see Hellhounds, to which Dean prepares glasses for both brothers. Sam notices Noah and Margie headed out to the woods with rifles to hunt the beast that killed Earl, and offers to lend his expertise in assisting. Meanwhile, Dean tests out the glasses as Ellie makes a pass at him, which Dean regrettably turns down given the situation at hand.
Out in the woods, Sam follows what he believes to be sounds of the Hellhound, but in his pursuit he fails to stop the real creature from attacking and killing Margie, to Noah’s great horror. Sam and Dean gather the remaining Cassitys in their living room and explain the situation, sealing the room with hoodoo powder to keep out the hound, and handcuffing the family until they can identify who made a Crossroads deal. Dean elects to hunt the creature while Sam protects the family, hopefully by killing the beast being chosen as the one to undergo the trials, and not Sam. Dean protests that Sam is the more valuable of the two, and the only one to potentially have a normal life awaiting him after their latest quest, so he himself must undertake the battle alone.
As the Cassitys continue bickering, Dean finds Ellie dancing alone in her room, and enjoying herself with a beer. Dean explains that an evil creature has been stalking the grounds, but Ellie surprisingly reveals that it has come for her, hence the attempted one-night-stand and drinking before she goes. Explaining that she made the deal with Crowley to save her mother from sickness without knowing its full consequences, Ellie sees Dean’s face distort, signaling the proximity of the Hellhound.
Dean dons his glasses and stalks after the creature through the stable, but ends up slashed and flung across the room, breaking the glasses. Sam saves Dean at the last moment by shooting the creature, and drawing it toward himself, struggling with it before slitting its throat and dousing Sam in the beast’s blood.
Setting up Ellie with a hex bag to protect her from further attacks in the interim, Dean tries in vain to perform the spell signaling his completion of the first trial, though Sam was the one marked by the Hellhound’s blood. Rather than find another hound, Sam elects to be the one to undertake the trials, not treating the quest as a suicide mission like Dean would. Sam assures Dean of his worth as a hunter, and expresses his intent that both of them live through the ordeal, and recites the incantation for the spell. Its effects cause him to double over in pain, as his right arm surges with bright light, before he recovers his composure.
Glad as we are to be making progress in the demon and tablet storylines, there can be no ignoring when a 'Supernatural' episode like "Trial and Error" feels a bit too off-tone for the series, or falls prey to the more obvious storytelling conventions. As befell "LARP and the Real Girl," "Trial and Error" leaves little surprise to be found that Ellie was actually the one to make the Crossroads deal, or that Sam would be the one tasked with undergoing the trial despite Dean's intentions. The episode does squeeze in some heartfelt, if bleak drama between the Winchesters and their respective outlooks on the life, but ultimately stumbles with the surrounding Cassity family material.
Did you get your fill of spooky ‘Supernatural’ action? What did you think about “Trial and Error?” Join us again next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘Supernatural’ episode “Man's Best Friend With Benefits” on The CW!