There is no doubt that Supernatural’s mid-season finale, “The Executioner’s Song” was a masterpiece. The script, acting, music, sets and direction all combined to create a stunning example of television artistry. The visual and cinematography choices that presented the characters’ conflict were masterfully woven into the story, yet they immeasurably added to the story’s impact.


In part 1 of this visual review, I presented 30 images that focused on specific parts of the human body. I looked at how these images evoked emotion or tension, and foreshadowed the climactic battle between Cain and Dean. In this article, I will examine the use of unusual camera angles, symbolism and desolation to create atmosphere and meaning. 

Diverse Angles, Isolation and Being Trapped

Numerous shot of the prison showed us the subject behind bars, i.e. trapped by their fates. Tommy’s tattoo showed an animal caged behind barbed wire just before we saw his face behind bars:

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In essence, Dean and Cain were trapped on their own "Death Row". Cain was dually the executioner to so many victims, and the executed, at Dean's hands.

Diverse angles, i.e. shooting up or down at a subject often suggests that we judge the person (looking “up to them” or looking “down on them”), or elicits empathy for their dramatic situation. Viewing a subject on a slant creates the impression that something is drastically wrong. This episode used both tactics generously and strategically throughout the story, as shown in these few closeups plus several of the best shots (shown below). All of these shots, plus many others, contained only one subject, emphasizing the foreboding isolation faced by all of the story's characters.

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ES 14

Notable by their absence were any angled or skewed shots of Sam. Images of him were all straight, direct shots, visually giving him the role of grounding the chaos, or being the only "level head" among confused and lost comrades.

ES 9

Many of the scenes were desolate or abandoned (e.g the school house), just as so many of the episode’s characters must have felt about their lives. Each had to carry their own burdens, unable to escape or transfer their fates.

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Setting the mood for the episode, most of the prison shots combined the emotion of angled and desolate shots with the symbolism of bars:

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All these cinematic techniques make an audience feel the pain of desperation, isolation and loneliness in facing our inevitable fates, and eventually, our deaths.

Honorable Mentions

Orange seemed to be the only color that symbolically appeared throughout the episode. Notice the inmate's clothing and Andrew's basbetball (both behind bars),

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Sam’s shirt,

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and the candles in the foreground of “hell”:

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Cain’s fatal dagger/knife was also prominently shown in several shots, perhaps suggesting its importance to the plot:

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Best Shots

One of the reasons this episode was a masterpiece was because it was filled with so many exceptionally good shots! It was very difficult to pick just a few! Here are my choices, though.

#10   The broad shot of the barn enveloped the strength of the epic battle's climax. Notice how many "bars" are built into the barn's sidings and roof.
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"The Student Becomes the Master"
                                                          

#9 & 8  The superb lighting and set design framed each of the epic warriors' singular figures.
                         03            08
                                                                                                   "Lone Warriors"

#7 Cain's longing for the Blade and the burning in his heart for its violence was captured in this close-up.
normal SPN1014HD2150                                                                                   "The Look of Murderous Intent"                                                     

#6  The figure of Cain completely blocks any vision of Dean, showing the ominous inbalance of experience, strength and power of the ancient opponent. The same technique was used at the end of the episode when Rowena's figure blotted out any view of Crowley, emphasizing her current dominance over his personna.
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#5  Dean's descent from the battle in which he had just become the sole bearer of the MoC is framed by nooses in all directions.
normal SPN1014HD2350                                                                                             "Your Fate is Sealed""
             
#4 Surrounded by death, in both nature and human life, Castiel tried to understand Cain's intentions. The fog added an eerie quality to the forest setting. 
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#3 The lighting and composition of this still shot of the barn wonderfully set the mood of the showdown.
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#2 There was so much meaning in Dean positioning himself outside a supernatural "ring". He even used the metaphor of stepping into the "ring" earlier when talking to Sam, Cas and Crowley. This was a very powerful shot of Cain locked inside the Devil's Trap just before Dean also had to take the step into the supernatural world to battle the Father of Murder.
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#1 I just love this shot! Two extremely powerful supernatural beings looked insignificant and small amid the vastness and scale of destruction of human life and nature.
ES 4                                                                                                  "Death"

I didn't truly appreciate the depth and brilliance of the cinematography of "The Executioner's Song" until I put together this series of articles. I hope they have also helped you see and appreciate another aspect of why this episode so powerfully impacted its viewers. Our sincere appreciation goes out to the amazingly talented Director, Phil Sgriccia; the Director of Photography, Serge Ladouceur; the Location Manager, Russ Hamilton; and the Production Designer, Jerry Wanek. 

I would love to hear your interpretations as well! Do you have alternate captions for the best shots of the show? Are there other shots that particularly struck you? Did you perceive the themes discussed here? Please share your thoughts!

- Nightsky


Screencaps courtesy of www.screencapped.net





Comments  

AlyCat22
# AlyCat22 2015-02-28 23:48
Just an observation but am I crazy or was Dean wearing the same red shirt he was in the DemonDean blood cure episode? Soul Survivor? Do you think that there is any meaning to this? Of all the shirts he could've worn...
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-03-01 19:16
It looks like the same shirt... I'll leave it to you to go into our s10 photo gallery and compare!;)
Jen
# Jen 2015-03-01 02:53
Again I really don't know what to say your in depth coverege of the episode is incredible - It makes you stop & look & think Thanks again
I intend to watch the show again looking at both your visual & camera angle observations and I will deffinatly get back to you on my thoughts.
I also pinned some of your comments and photos on my Pin Board - but I did give you due credit so hopefully you may get some comments from their Thanks again for helping us see past our NOSES Jenny
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-03-01 19:10
Jen,
I'm so glad I gave you an "excuse" to watch it again!:)
Actually, it is nice to watch it with a different perspective. I think it enables us to enjoy its different layers.

Thank you SO MUCH for pinning the article. I've looked at Pinterest but I am so busy with the site, and our Twitter and FB accounts that I simply don't have time to expand to Tumblr or Pinterest. I have been trying to find a way to reach those audiences and bring them to this site!
Jen
# Jen 2015-03-01 20:59
Happy to could pinning for you & recommending the Winchester Family Business- I will make a special board for you .
I do enjoy reading all info on the show from everywhere but find this site more mature I don't much like or really undertand Fan Fiction ?? Thanks Again Jen
Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2015-03-01 03:59
These were awesome. One thing that struck me though was in the ending. It is sort of combined with with extreme close up plus sound. Alycat mentioned this before and I thought too that the sound of Sam pouring the coffee cup was loud compared how it normally is. Dean drinking from the cup and staring at Sam as pouring of the coffee came. It is like an echo as the room is otherwise quite. Echo is also adding a feeling of isolation and loneliness and Dean's look is pretty blank in that moment. You can also hear the finger tapping on the mugs and it clings because it is porcelain of some sort. Also Dean's slurp of the coffee is loud. When Sam is talking to him the look of Dean's face changes. Also the cups they have are white but the up part is red. It looks like blood or a blade.

Also like in the scene before this with Crowley and Rowena we can hear the sound of Rowena's and Dean's walking when they leave the scene and it is still heard as on echo when the camera stays on Crowley and Sam and Cas.

What do you think about it? Do you see a meaning to the sound?

- Lilah
nightsky
# nightsky 2015-03-01 19:16
My attention was also drawn to the sound of the coffee pouring, footsteps, etc. I noticed it every time I watched the show but I dismissed it. If several of you noticed it as well (it wasn't "just me"), maybe they were trying to imply that Dean was hyper-aware/hyp er-vigilant (like when light and sound bothered him when he was a vampire or in "Yellow Fever") and that the sound of Sam's voice brought him back again. I only ever noticed sound (vs music) once before. I'll think about that interpretation next time I watch the ep!
dan
# dan 2015-03-05 18:36
just enjoyed your point of perspective, really awesome, both show and your perception.
tnx