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It's hard to believe that Robbie Thompson has only written for two seasons of Supernatural. His episodes are full of pop culture, heart, soul, and brotherly moments that make it seem as if he's been writing for the show since the beginning. Thompson has managed to grasp the core of the story easily and has written some of the most memorable episodes in the past two seasons. Episodes such as "Slash Fiction," "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo," "LARP and the Real Girl," and "Pac Man Fever," are full of such great moments and characters that they have become fan favorites from start to finish. Thompson also shows that he is willing to be brave by tackling controversial episodes by writing season 8's "Bitten," an episode that featured very little of the show's leads, all while managing to maintain the tone and flavor of the show. Let's get to know him a bit better, shall we?
It was an honor to conduct a couple interviews on Twitter with Mr. Thompson, and I will be using his answers throughout. A complete version of the interviews will appear towards the end of the second part of this profile.
Before we discuss his episodes for Supernatural, let's find out a bit more about Robbie Thompson's career.
As any writer will tell you, they were bit by the writing bug early---probably in childhood. Something about story and characters and the "what ifs" that surround it compel some to explore it for life. All writers got started somehow, and Thompson says, "I wrote comics and short stories as a kid. All sci-fi. Comics helped me learn to read-- they were and are a big influence. [sic]" It would seem he would be destined to eventually end up writing for a little show that could.
Thompson was a staff writer for The New Woody Wood Pecker Show (Cartoon Network 1999). For two seasons of the rebooted cartoon, Thompson wrote a handful of segments. Sharing writing credit with Travis Clark and Richard Pursel for the segment "Electric Chilly," we see a prime example of the humor and tight writing we've come to expect from a Thompson script on Supernatural---but in cartoon form. The short cartoon follows Chilly Willy, a penguin that doesn't handle his frigid climate particularly well. He is shivering as he watches TV when an infomercial selling an electric blanket "so hot it can cook breakfast in bed" catches his eye. Chilly orders it and in cartoon fashion it arrives instantaneously. The penguin quickly makes use of his purchase---but there's a minor problem. He has to unplug the TV! Which one does he sacrifice? The TV or the new warm blanket? Neither. He promptly makes use of the neighbor's electricity, taking their TV out in the process. Chilly doesn't have any lines, but there are some great zingers for the perturbed dog neighbor, Smedley, such as "That's the problem with penguin meat. It runs right through you," and "Frigid Winter! That got a five ice cube rating!" and "Now this here is the flake that broke the snowman's back."
For the segment Thompson wrote alone, "Woody and the Termite," we are treated to some of his science fiction savvy as he unleashes a genetically altered termite on Woody's forest. Woody, behind on his woodpecker duties, needs help to reach his goal of "5,000 peck holes" or face demotion by Mother Nature. The solution to his problem is this termite, but it ends up being way more trouble than its worth as Woody learns the hard way. Not only is the termite a scientific marvel that consumes wood at record pace, it is also a childish monster. The segment has the great whimsy and hilarity of cartoons, but the sophistication to be entertaining and subtle in its humor and twist at the end.
Thompson's first foray into prime-time television drama comes in the short-lived Jericho ( CBS 2007). The show was a science fiction series that revolved around a town dealing with the fallout of nuclear attacks on major cities within the United States. About writing for the genre, Thompson says, "huge sci/fi fan-- it's all i've ever wanted to write [sic]." He only wrote one episode for the series, "A.K.A." The storyline is complex, centering on the truth about the nuclear attacks that struck the country. In the episode, Jake Green breaks into Robert Hawkin's house, after he discovers that the F.B.I. Agent's badge matches the fake ones being talked about in connection to a terrorist cell. It would seem that this isn't Thompson's first show with characters using faux government I.D.s!
It's a tight and suspenseful episode, sharply written with the threads of its story weaving into a mystery that reveals big answers and raises more questions. It is subtle in its nature, too. Alongside the standoff between Jake and Robert, we are shown the humanity that has become a hallmark for Thompson in his episodes for Supernatural. We are shown a mother struggling to feed her family---and to kill one of the family chickens for dinner. We also see a wife try to make her husband come home for dinner, to spend time with her, rather than camping out in the deer stand futilely. There's also a school teacher trying to engage kids in learning---despite the change in the country since the attacks---only to lose all her students but one to more pressing needs. It speaks enough to the human condition and makes these characters richer within their apocalyptic settings, and it is this trademark of Thompson's that makes us invested in the story here.
He hasn't given us a lesser episode, instead always raising the bar and giving us what we expect from the Winchesters and yet surprising us in delightful ways with more than we ever dreamed of. He is the master!
Thanks for spotlighting his talent. I always get excited when I hear we are being blessed with another one of his scripts! Oh, and I would be remiss to fail to mention one of my fav things about Robbie! Like Ben Edlund before him, he knows how to dress our hero Dean! Yes, LARPing Dean is a fav! But that crown belongs on Robbie's head too!
With Edlund now gone, Robbie is my favorite writer on the staff and I cannot wait to see what he brings for us in Season 9. I agree. Robbie does know how to dress Dean. We've had a couple great uniforms that make Dean real pretty. And one that makes him look silly!
We'll get to "LARP and the Real Girl" in the third part of this Profile. I hope you'll enjoy my take on that, too.
I do appreciate that he took time to watch all the episodes. On this show I don't know how you can write a episode without doing so but I think at least a couple have. It shows in Thompson writing.
Look forward to the next part!
I was really happy to hear he had watched the series in full, too. It makes his scripts all the richer for it!
I've enjoyed most of his work, so I'll forgive him for Bitten.
Looking forward to Part 2!