I canâ€™t believe weâ€™re already up to â€œBad Day at Black Rockâ€ in the repeats list. It seems like the finale was just yesterday. Oh, it was, because I watched it again for the hundredth time. Is it September yet? No? Okay, I guess Iâ€™ll kill time with this review.
Be prepared, this is a long one. Why? Because this episode gave me the opportunity to carefully examine all the elements required for compiling a brilliant piece of comedy. Thereâ€™s far more to comedy writing, directing, and acting than we realize. It requires precise timing, proper wording, consistency, expressions that sell the funny more than a piece of dialogue ever will, and a clever plot to weave through all the madness.
I can only imagine that when the idea of a rabbitâ€™s foot as the foil was pitched, the assignment went to Ben Edlund because of his gift for taking something simple and creating a complex situation that spirals out of control (see last seasonâ€™s â€œNightshifterâ€). He must have dusted off the manual â€œHow To Write Great Comedyâ€ because all the rules are here. First rule is to pick the type of humor, and he wisely chose what often works with this show, dark humor, but introduced that in combination with something that had never been done with Supernatural before â€” perfectly timed physical comedy. Granted a writer doesnâ€™t sell physical comedy alone; much of that credit goes to the stunt coordinator, the director, and the actors, but to see this done so well after trying it for the first time, his risk obviously paid off in gold.
The first few scenes of the episode are there for story exposition.
Reviewing episodes after seeing the rest of the season creates an interesting challenge. I try to judge the episode on its merits alone as if I was watching for the first time, but I can't avoid recalling post episode subplots that cleanly tie into the one up for review. "The Kids Are Alright" is one of those episodes. It sets the framework for Dean's season three character development, yet also carries over the sentiments first revealed in "What Is and What Should Never Be". So, forgive me, but this episode is going to be judged on how it bridges the gap between that stellar season two episode and the latter part of season three. It's a key piece to Dean's intense personal struggle, the one he tries to hide from the surface, but one that also defines him.
Before I start plowing through this better than average episode (a huge improvement over the season premiere), I would like to take time to honor this episode's writer, Sera Gamble. I like profiling writers as many of you have noticed from my previous reviews and somehow I've overlooked the show's head writer. As a writer myself I've learned throughout the years how to appreciate the precision and careful crafting that goes into creating a work of art such as a script. There's way more to it than meets the eye, and with a television script in particular, every word counts. There are only 40 minutes to tell the story, thus so much needs to be said with so little.
Sera Gamble is a master of her craft, and has consistently provided one gem after another that upon deconstruction gives us so much to ponder. Her strengths lie in the character development and bringing out the raw emotional elements of the relationship between the brothers. She wrote the tear-jerkers like "Faith" and "Heart", stories that exposed deep inner layers like this episode, "Houses of The Holy" and "Dream A Little Dream of Me", and explored deep character dilemmas in "Salvation", "Bloodlust" and "Time Is On My Side". Remember though, this is also the evil woman that killed Sam Winchester and made him kill his lover after his first hot night of passion in a while, so torture and despair isn't lost on her either. Come to think of it, she came up with the mellon baller to the eye socket too. Seems like she relishes in putting Sam through the ringer. It's all done in love though, I'm sure.
Reviewing "The Magnificent Seven" is weird since I'm going from something unbelievable like the finale last week to this episode, easily one of the worst of the season. Last week I marveled at the awesomeness of the Kripster for his flawless script in "No Rest For The Wicked", and now I get to ask what the hell he was thinking for this season three premiere. I forgave him for this misstep a while ago though since nobody is perfect but still, it pains me to be so harsh. I suppose there are pitfalls to being a critic. Forgive me Master Kripke.
Before I go on, I want to send a huge thank you to everyone that sent a "Damn You Kripke!" in honor of last week's still jaw dropping finale (Dean!). The response was far greater than I expected, and it just goes to show how great this fandom is. I love you guys!
On a personal note, I was able to confirm from Jared Padalecki at the "Salute to Supernatural" convention in Chicago that he does indeed cringe when he sees your name on a script. In his words, he's either "naked, crying, or naked and crying." Do you take some twisted pride in that?
Jared is hilarious. The thing I actually do take pride in is writing to our actors' strengths. The reason I can write Jared and Jensen such emotionally demanding scenes is that I know they'll nail them. They're victims of their talent. And before people make the joke, I am so not talking about the naked thing. Come on. In all seriousness, our show isn't even in the running when it comes to the implied-nudity competition on network television. We're positively restrained. All right, now that I've said that you're all free to go ahead and make the joke.
Is approval of what goes into the mythology happening by panel, or from Eric Kripke himself?
Mythology arcs are mostly hashed out in brainstorming sessions, headed up by Eric. As for approval-- creatively, the buck stops with Eric. Thus has it ever been.
Eric Kripke. Madman or evil genius?
Both of these seem kind of negative to me. I wouldn't say he's entirely mad... or completely evil. He is, however, utterly dedicated to his work. Did you see Twilight? You know how Edward is with Bella? That's how Eric is with Supernatural.
Great comparison! I should explain that question. It came to me after watching Mr. Kripke with cheerful delight reminisce about creating "the most violent, brutal, anti-holiday holiday episode ever" in his closer look at "A Very Supernatural Christmas" on the Season Three DVD set. I do so love his mind (and that episode). Thank you for pointing out how dedicated he is to the show, for often some fans forget that.
As someone who has been there since the beginning, have you seen his enthusiasm increase throughout the seasons? Have there been times where he's questioned why he does this to himself?
I don't know what happens when it's just Eric, a bottle of whiskey, and a long lonely night. But in the writers' room he's always been into what he does. I think what's happened over the seasons is that all of us have relaxed. We're more confident with the voice of the show. I think at a certain point everybody said, "Fuck it. Let's have fun with this." That kind of attitude always comes from the top down.
The Fan Questions
Erin from Nevada asks:
Hi Sera! "I Know What You Did Last Summer" is such a pivotal episode that I'm sure you're inundated with questions about it. My questions are:
First: What are some theories you and the other writers have, addressing how Ruby could reanimate, maintain, and possibly heal a dead body so that it functions as if alive?
Demons on our show possess dead and injured bodies all the time. That's why you have to exorcise them, deliver a lethal stab with Ruby's knife or shoot 'em with the Colt. Regular killing methods don't even slow them down. The demonic force animates the body and keeps it together. But as soon as the demon evacuatesâ€”if the body was thrashed, it'll drop. The rule has been consistent since Season One, but if you want to hear a moment we say it out loud, check out "Jus In Bello." If memory serves, there's a Demon Rules 101 convo in there.
Second: It seemed to me that when Ruby first appears to Sam (riding the body of the blond secretary,) she is caustic and sarcastic as before, but when she returns as "coma-girl," her demeanor is markedly milder. Was this difference scripted to be intentional, as if Ruby rethought her behavior towards Sam, or was this just an accident of casting and/or directing?
The first time Ruby reappears, she's got another of Lilith's demon with her, so she's got to keep up appearances - until she kills that demon. That scene is the most "Season Three Ruby;" we calibrated it carefully, and discussed it with Charles Beeson, the director, who did a great job juggling all the levels and all the Rubys in that episode without ever missing a beat. That Ruby is a little more vulnerable once she's alone with Sam in the car. Every actress is different, of course, so they'll feel different onscreen. But by the time Ruby is in the body we've seen her in for most of this season, Genevieve's, she's dealing with Sam in a very different way that before. The choice is intentional.
Hi, Sera! On your website, you note that you broke into the Hollywood writing scene as a finalist for "Project Greenlight." That documentary series was backed by some powerful names in the industry. Can you tell us a little more about the process that led you to participate, what impressed you most and least about the competition, and what you learned from the experience?
My writing partner, Raelle Tucker, and I had been trying without success to get an agentâ€”to even get agents to read our work, actually. We had a vague notion that if we made the finals of a competition, it might help persuade a few people to crack open our screenplay. Greenlight was the first one we entered, so we were a little shocked that everything went so well, so quickly.
What impressed me least was having a camera follow me around while I "acted natural." That was ridiculously stressful. Definitely worth it, but I learned that I am not career reality-show-contestant material.
What impressed me most was the genuine intention behind the project. They - Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris Moore - really were all about helping young writers and directors who didn't have the benefit of connections within the industry. This wasn't profit-driven or a vanity project for them, they could have been doing something else with their time, for a lot more money. It seemed clear to me that they were motivated by generosity and a sense of gratitude for their own success. And it worked: they helped launch several extremely solid careers.
Also from your site, I see that you are a fan of Frenchies. Do you have any of your own? If so, which character(s) from "Supernatural" do(es) he/she/they most resemble, and why?
Yes, I have a French Bulldog. His name is Mojo. He is super chill but occasionally spazzes out with awesome power, so I'm gonna go with Uriel.
1967chevy (Jane from Colorado) asks:
I love your work and enjoy all of your scripts. I also love Raelle Tucker and miss her "voice" on the show terribly. What is it like for you now that she's no longer around?
Raelle's hands down one of the most talented writers I know, and her departure was definitely a loss for Supernatural. But I'm thrilled that she was hired to work on True Blood and feel her voice adds hugely to that show. My own adjustment had little to do with her being around our show, actually, writers come and go; it's the way of TV. She and I were writing partners for many years before we started work on Supernatural, and had decided it was time to dissolve the partnership and pursue separate projects. So the weird thing for me was about moving into the next stage of my life as a solo writer. It was a big step for both of us, and it has helped me tremendously to watch her do so well. I'm one of her biggest fans.
Yasmine From Jacksonville FL asks:
In "I Know What you Did Last Summer", Ruby said "We need you to take the bitch out." So who's we? I know you guys don't do much by mistake so who's we?
Ruby and Sam.
Will we ever find out what happened between Dean and Bobby to make Dean see him as a father figure as opposed to an uncle or family friend?
A flashback episode revealing more backstory is always possible. But also, Bobby has just consistently been there for the boys. And he's certainly stepped up since John died. Filled the father role in many ways. For my money, better than John did.
Will Sam ever realize how much he is following in his dad's footsteps in the obsession department?
Very much so.
Will Dean ever recover from his PTSD? Will he ever get a more positive self worth?
Dean will certainly try to move forward from his hell experience, but we'll provide him with some setbacks. In general, yes, I think this season brings Dean a more positive sense of himself. Or at least a less crushingly negative one.
I see from your bio that you love discovering new music, as do I. I know that it is not Supernatural-related, but I'd love to know any new bands/artists you have recently discovered.
This happens to be a terrible time to ask me this question, because when I'm working on a project, I tend to listen to the same music over and over. And over. Not while I'm writing, but while I'm driving around brainstorming (which, since I live in LA, amounts to a couple of hours a day). Eventually, this becomes a curse. Say, around month five. But it cannot be helped. Right now, I'm working on a screenplay that calls for Jacob Golden's "Revenge Songs". And I'm writing a slightly sci-fi cable pilot that mostly demands Radiohead (not new, I know, but at least they have a more extensive discography than Jacob!) with some Sia and Great Northern thrown in.
When I manage to stop thinking about work, I've lately been digging on Amanda Palmer's new solo album. Also Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Raphael Saadiq, and Glasvegas.
You seem to not write a lot of the stories dealing with Urban Legends and such. Is there a reason for that or does it just happen that's the way the stories work out?
We all pitch urban legends. I end up writing whichever episode I get assigned; it's usually a matter of scheduling. But from inside the show, it doesn't feel like I'm separate from episodes I'm not writing. We're all helping each other out.
If you were to write the very last episode of Supernatural, how would things end?
I'm so glad I don't have to figure this out. Also, I like Eric's ending.
Thanks again so much to Sera Gamble for taking time to answer these burning questions, and we can't wait to see what the writers have in store for us for the rest of the season. January 15th can't get here fast enough!
A seven week hiatus can be rather maddening. Given Supernatural's explosive season four and the mind boggling material that's been presented for ten episodes, this time to reflect has left me with more questions than answers. I'm sure I'm not alone.
Thankfully, Sera Gamble, Supervising Producer and Writer for Supernatural, an instrumental player in developing the show's story lines, was generous enough to answer some questions during this long break about season four as well as address a few of my other curiosities. She even opted to tackle a few fan questions I sent her way.
Below is part one of my two part interview in which Sera gives her thoughts on the introduction of angels to the mythology, the introduction of Castiel, Dean's faith issues and some tidbits about Sam and Ruby. Heck, she even talks about the life sized teddy bear.
This is where I must offer the standard spoiler warning, but I wouldn't call them heavy spoilers, more like teasers. If you don't even want hints though, stop right here.
First, congratulations on season four so far. It's been generating some big buzz and the increased ratings are proving that. How happy is everyone about that?
We're happy. Also surprised. Eric (Kripke) emailed us the day after the premiere and I marched into his office holding my bowl of cheerios like, "You're lying. We did not pick up a million viewers." He just shrugged and said he was a shocked as I was.
You guys went there! Just when everyone had written off the idea of angels appearing, we get not only one but two badass angels in the most spectacular way. When it was pitched in the writers room that angels would drive story line this season, was it obvious from the start that they would be wrathful, unfeeling and flawed in their blind obedience, or did that evolve over several episodes?
Angels weren't pitched in the writers' room. Eric started talking to me about them just before hiatus. They'd sorta been in our hip pocket, but I don't think the show was ready for them before now. I've discovered, working on Supernatural, that a lot of good ideas don't work at all until the time is right. And then they just slot magically into place. This was like that.
Our notion of the angels has evolved a bit, yes. Less that they're different in their construction, more that we've become more thorough and creative in developing them as individuals and weaving them into the story. There's an episode coming up that opens in Castiel's point of view. That's a strong indication of how central the character has become this season. It was an organic evolution; we discovered that we were just unexpectedly inspired by these creatures. It was clear to us that when they were in the sandbox, cool stuff happened on the playground. And it's interesting to me, by the way, that you call the angels "unfeeling" and "wrathful," because I don't see them that way. Castiel wrestles hard with his obedience. Turns out it's really hard for angels to walk among humans and not get kinda... involved.
The best horror I’ve ever seen were psychological thrillers, where some twisted bastard skillfully freaked me out with mind bending twists as opposed to a hockey mask and a chainsaw. So, I had to admit the idea of Supernatural tackling such a concept in “Dream A Little Dream of Me” was pretty intriguing. How could I not embrace a story that involved the Winchester boys doing a little mind screwing of their own? The show didn’t disappoint me, delivering a thriller with a strange combination of vivid imagery, a very creepy yet believable villain, shaman folklore involving Silene Capensis, big character development, a shocking look into Bobby and Dean’s heads, and a scarier glimpse of what Sam can do if in one’s head.
So, yesterday I'm doing the usual rounds, checking out BuddyTV to see if anything is new. I click on a link for an Eric Kripke interview done by CW Connect in the videos section, thinking it was new. I soon discover the interview is from September, right around premiere time. I'm scratching my head, wondering how in the world I missed this. Then it all made sense, it was premiere week, I was blogging, actively doing my bit to promote the show, so somehow this got lost.
I settled in to hear the wise yet probably dated answers from the master himself, and around the 58 second mark my jaw hit the floor. The question, "Which role do you prefer, Executive Producer, Director, Writer or Show Runner? Are there some days you wish you were one over the other?" Great question I thought. Then I saw the screen name of the person asking the question. Jesterznet. That's me!!! I don't exactly remember when I typed that question on a thread somewhere on the CW boards, but it was so long ago I forgot about it. That thread has hundreds of questions on it, and there were 4 answered in this clip (which is part 2). Mine was one of them???
Wow, wow, wow. Eric Kripke, my dream interview, actually answered a question I'd been dying to ask him since I started blogging for this show. The answer is awesome too. Check it out! He likes Director best. I so love this show.
Sorry to leave everyone hanging! As promised, numbers 1-6 of the Top Ten Brotherly Moments.
#6 - Sam hugs Dean - "Mystery Spot"
There are three brotherly hugs in the series. The first is when Dean hugs Sam after he's resurrected in "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II". "Mystery Spot" is the second, and the third is the mutual hug while reunited after Dean is sprung from Hell in "Lazarus Rising". All three are great, but the one in "Mystery Spot" delivers the most impact.