[This is a review of Supernatural season 9 episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]

Supernatural spent the majority of its first 9 episodes attempting to reignite its episodic drive –  with a fair amount of success. Now, in the season 9 mid-season premiere, it’s time to take on the seasonal story-arc head-on. Not only did this occur in a spectacular fashion, but it was done in such a way to allow Jared Padalecki to shine as bright as the falling angels. No need to yell “Poughkeepsie” here!

In this week’s episode, “Road Trip,” written Andrew Dabb, Gadreel (through Sam) continues on the murderous path laid out by Metatron (Curtis Armstrong), while Dean (Jensen Ackles), Castiel (Misha Collins) and Crowley (Mark Sheppard) team up in order to figure out a plan to oust the monotone celestial from the younger Winchester. Meanwhile, the battle for Hell heats up and Crowley uses his one true strength to upend Abbadon’s (Alaina Huffman) reign over the damned: personality.

Trips to Oz, talking to the animals and the like were all fun episodic escapes throughout the onslaught of the new television season; however, no matter how entertaining they were (or not), it prevented those wary watchers from being able to intuit the show’s ability to competently drive an overarching plot, in spite of Jeremy Carver and Adam Glass’s continued involvement. After all, losing Ben Edlund to NBC’s Revolution has to have impacted the show in some way, and fans have been attempting to figure out what that way is. Still, even though no answer to that question has been revealed, Supernatural continues onward and, in the case of this episode, upward.

“Road Trip” kicks off 2014 with a juggernaut of a tale, and though immense – not to mention intense – action is displayed throughout, by everyone, it’s really the purpose of everyone involved which makes Gadreel’s (Tahmoh Penikett) journey and attempted redemption so powerful and compelling. Even without ever having a complete breakdown of the character we’re watching make waste of his targets, the series relies on, and makes brilliant use of, established knowledge of the Garden of Eden to allow everyone to easily identify the weight that this complicated and unfortunately-positioned warrior carries around. He was the first of Heaven’s failures, and the world’s pain is truly his responsibility.

Let’s talk about Sam, though, as it’s been a while – and this week the discussion is well-deserved. Sam, or Gadreel – or Samdreel – is much more than a supporting character in this episode, and Padalecki’s performance is much more than Crowley’s “giant baby” description – or previous episodes, really – would have you believe. It just took quite a bit of time to get to this point.

Now that it has, however, it’s exciting to see that when required to carry an episodic weight normally gifted to Ackles, Padalecki has an intensity strong enough to drive the heart of the episode in such a dramatic fashion that, for the majority of the episode, “Soulful Sam” seemingly falls away, revealing a powerhouse audiences truly haven’t seen in many years. Hopefully this will trend will continue now that Sam is, more or less, back his “normal” self.

The question of “why” Supernatural is such a beloved series is ever-present, and it’s something that should always remain (especially now). The show presents a consistent – and more importantly, logical –  mythology tale that painstakingly combines theology with the supernatural, action with heart, and existence with purpose. And yes – “this” episode  highlights that very fact, beautifully.

Will the rest of this season follow suit? Let’s hope so. However, the Supernatural spin-off in episode 20 is still a big question mark to many, as it realistically should be.

Supernatural returns next Tuesday with ‘First Born” @9pm on The CW.