A swan song is a farewell. Swan Song is also the name of Led Zeppelin's record label.  That's so Eric Kripke.  Nothing has ever been as it seems with his scripts and "Swan Song" is no exception. The episode took on the ambitious task of closing out a mushrooming mytharc in one fell swoop and has sparked plenty of fervent fan debate. In other words, mission accomplished.
 
This is not an easy fandom to please. Eric Kripke went into this season five closer with the hardest task a creator and showrunner has to face. He had the pressure of trying to satisfy one of the most outspoken fanbases in the world. What he delivered was nothing short of a miracle. This episode is Kripke's love letter to all those fans that have stuck with him this long and taken his pet project farther than anyone ever thought possible. It's also for those fans that have constantly been a pain in his side demanding closure. 
 
Chuck the Prophet, who is known to be the voice of Kripke being interjected into the story, couldn't have said it any better. "Endings are hard. Any chapped ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch, there's always going to be holes, and since it's the ending its all supposed to add up to something but I'm telling you they're a raging pain in the ass." That sounds like projecting to me, but no one has earned that right more. No one has deflected more hits for so long.  No one else though loves the fans more.
 
Out of all his scripts, "Swan Song" was written with the most heart.  Kripke wanted to deliver something memorable, something the fans would cherish for years to come. He's approached all his scripts like that though. The fan experience has always been a priority, but he also had an epic tale to share. I don't know of anyone who has done a better job of maintaining that balance of staying true to the story while keeping fans actively engaged.
 
I had the immense honor in March to write an article in Variety for the "Supernatural" 100th episode feature.   I went into that piece with the idea of exploring what made Eric Kripke's relationship with this fandom so unique.  The focus ended up falling on "The Real Ghostbusters." I got to ask Mr. Kripke the burning question, what inspired him to write such an offbeat episode about the main characters attending a fan convention for books about their lives? He started first by giving credit where it was due, because this man couldn't be more proud of his team and all they've contributed. 
 
"The idea for "The Real Ghostbusters" came from our brilliant and talented writer's assistant, Nancy Weiner.  She's the one who first came up with the notion of a 'Stranger Than Fiction' writer who was detailing the boys' adventures in a series of books, which ultimately evolved into our Prophet Chuck character.   And she came to me with a simple concept: if there's fans of the books, they might have a Supernatural convention.  And the attendees could LARP-- live action role play-- as Sam and Dean. And the episode just took off from there.  Because obviously, we were well aware of the real-life Supernatural conventions, and how ardent and passionate the fans are, and that seemed like too good an idea to pass up."
 
Considering conventions are a fan's shrine, breaching that territory was indeed a bold move. It worked though. I remember attending the Salute To Supernatural convention in Chicago right after that episode aired. It was Rob Benedict's (Chuck) first fan convention and he found comparing that experience to the fake one that just aired very surreal. For him, it was indeed a "Stranger Than Fiction" moment. He was in awe though how gracious and welcoming the fans were and actually found the "fans" in the episode more intimidating. His praise of Kripke was high as well, for he loved how someone would be bold enough include the fans in the story. Plus filming the episode was a lot of fun, especially all the one liners included at the end.  There were about twenty of them in the script.  Kripke wasn't sure what lines would make the final cut, but they filmed them all anyway for some were bound to please the fans.   
 
When writing that episode, Kripke relished over the opportunity of turning things around for the fans. "As Ben Edlund and I were breaking (The Real Ghostbusters), we got more and more excited.   It allowed us to make fun of ourselves.... to parody some of the more absurd elements of the show (which believe me, we're aware of), but also gave us a way to let our main characters see their lives from a new angle-- from the point of view of the fans themselves.  For example, the fans enjoy watching our main characters' lives, but the main characters themselves view these exact same lives as tortured, painful, and certainly not entertaining."
 
What a unique point of view that was! Sam and Dean learned fans are crazy, over-the-top in their role playing, but at the same time have a lot of heart and strive to be heroes too. Just as the German fan though, despite having an intensely loyal love for "Supernatural," when given the chance fans will speak out. I've shared stories with other media folks about how we run into the same issue when asking "Supernatural" fans for questions for upcoming interviews. Often there are good questions, but fans also send strong commentary and critical feedback to pass along. It's often not kind. Fans feel they're a vital part of this show and know they aren't just watching a TV show. They're engaging in a total fan experience. It's rather unconventional compared to most shows.
 
Then again, this show has always been about being unconventional and going large. Kripke did after all take on a team that conformed to his offbeat way of thinking and propensity for grand plotting, not to mention tackling the intense emotional element. Lucky for us, this is the same team that will be driving the new direction forward in season six.
 
Kripke closed his comments with what I think is a most fitting observation about his work in general, not just the one episode. It's about taking risks. "Ripping down the fourth wall, and exploring some of the uneasy issues and conflicts that arise between fictional subjects, their creators, and the fans who enjoy the work, has been great fun for us, and something most shows don't get the opportunity to do-- because they're generally not as insane or stupid as we are." 
 
I'm sure its no secret to Eric Kripke that we fans are pretty insane ourselves. At this moment we have no idea what role he will play in the continuing story. I hope he at least continues to write for no one is more committed to delivering a great story.  Even though he once described his relationship with the fans as "tempestuous," he's never given up trying to deliver something extraordinary and entertaining. He's well aware that fans drawn to this show are curious, inquisitive, passionate, loyal, and have plenty of hours in a cubicle each day to ponder details.
 
No matter what happens in the new chapters forward, thank you Eric Kripke for not only your boundless energy and total commitment in sharing your grand vision with us, but doing so with knowledge that we fans can be pretty intimidating at times. We just hope this doesn't end up being your "Supernatural" swan song.

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-05-17 16:24
Alice, this is both - a wonderful hommage to the creator of this show and a critical view of the fandom in general. Thank you.

I have also admired Kripke's facets of venturing into the world of the Supernatural fandom in episodes crossing over like 'The Monster At The End of This Book' and 'The Real Ghostbusters', also with the character of Becky...
I never had the impression that he did it with malice or intending to patronize the fans. I think it was a loving wink at us.

I know that some fans tend to comment on the show (and probably to Kripke himself) in an insolent way, sometimes in very bad taste, forgetting their manners entirely. I hope that those will begin to treat the people behind the scenes with more respect. They are putting countless hours into creating an amazing and multidimensiona l show. It deserves respect, even when we don't agree with every turn the show takes.

As Kripke is passing on the torch to someone else, I hope to be able to enjoy more fruit from his creative, sick, bright mind...

This was a great read! Jas
Freebird
# Freebird 2010-05-17 17:36
Thank you, Alice, for this article. Well said and agreed :-)
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-05-17 18:49
Thank you Alice, that was great!

I bow down before the great Kripke for giving me the most enjoyable involving emo fest television show I have ever seen, and I've been watching TV since "Howdy Doody Time". :shock:

And kudos to the two most awesome actors ever, Jensen and Jared, and their co-stars along with the marvellous other writers and crew, especially the lighting guy, Serge Ladouceur. We are so lucky they all came together at just the right time to make this gem for us to love.
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-05-17 19:21
Good article. Kripke does have an interesting connection with the fans, and it will be interesting to see where it goes in season 6, whoever the showrunner is.
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-05-17 19:30
Kripke is indeed a genius. (Stands up and applauds). We owe him and everyone else behind and in front of the cameras a big thank you for bringing us 104 episodes of pure, wonderful, funny, heart wrenching and exciting entertainment these last 5 years. Here's to at least 1 or 2 more years of continuing entertainment from these brilliant individuals.
joelsteinlover
# joelsteinlover 2010-05-17 21:20
Kripke is a genius. If there's one person I would love to meet from all of Supernatural, it would be him. He's pretty much my idol, as a hopeful screenwriter.
ElenaM
# ElenaM 2010-05-18 01:11
Gotta love Eric Kripke!!! I don't know of any other creator/showrun ner who cares as much for the project and the fans as he does--TV's craziest fanbase at that :D Sincere, passionate, enthusiastic as we are--and hilarious. I think at one point he talked about how Sam and Dean and their world had come to feel real to him, kind of like they do to us, and I thought his love for the characters and Supernatural really came through in Swan Song, so aptly titled. Thank you so very much, Mr. Kripke, and thank you Alice for this article. You said it perfectly.
Lisa
# Lisa 2010-05-18 01:33
So much of what made Swan Song a wonderful episode and a fitting finale was how clearly Kripke's voice came through. And you could clearly tell where his voice ended and the baton was passed. For me, if Kripke isn't leading the parade, I am content to close this chapter on Supernatural. We are all crazy and passionate about this show, and fans WILL always bitch, but we will also always discuss and re-hash and speculate because this world, this family and these brothers have been so completely realized. I don't know where the show will go now without Kripke. I will always watch, but I'm not sure that I will have the same investment - and some people are breathing a sigh of relief here! My husband and I are both academics - I've given numerous papers on Supernatural - and we've had many pithy discussions about this show. More than about any other show or movie. I owe Mr. Kripke a debt of gratitude for making me think in addition to entertaining me and opening my life to friends I would not have made if not for this crazy fandom. Thank you seems like too little, but then endings are hard...
Michael from Australia
# Michael from Australia 2010-05-18 02:17
Great article Alice. Eric Kripke has done a wonderful job with Supernatural and Swan Song was fitting finale. Great finale, great show and well written and directed.
Suze
# Suze 2010-05-18 07:19
It's going to be well strange to watch the same characters doing their stuff with a different hand on the tiller ... :shock:
Randal
# Randal 2010-05-18 08:48
I second (well, at this point, fourteenth) everyone else. Couldn't agree more with your words, Alice. Now, the burning question far beyond all this Sam-this, Bobby's soul-that, domesticated Dean, is with Kripke out of the day-to-day, does this mean less stories set in our picturesque Ohio? 8-)
Karen
# Karen 2010-05-18 09:38
Hi Alice
Wonderful article. Kripke is definitely my hero. Anyone who could make me fall in love with fictional characters and turn me into an obsessed fan over a TV show, is a genus (evil genus as my husband would say).
It’s funny but Swan Song felt like a Series finale instead of a Season finale to me. I guess after five years following the Demon/Angel mytharc, always wondering where story was taking us and what’s going to happen next to our beloved brothers, to have it finally wrapped up, made it seem so final.
So is Kripke stepping down and handing over the Gauntlet, or are we still waiting to hear the official word. I’m a little slow on these things.
Suze
# Suze 2010-05-18 13:24
Randal, never mind Ohio, picturesque or no ( look, Karen ... I can do it too! Um, or not, whatever ... ) Set one in Biggleswade, then we're talking! :lol: ( probably about sudden mid-season cancellation, mind you ... ;-) )
ElenaM
# ElenaM 2010-05-19 23:22
Ha--bet Randal's right, if Krip's decided he doesn't want to be grand poobah anymore, I guess we'll see a serious reduction in Ohio moments... Hopefully the boys didn't put a down payment down already. Wonder if that's why he squeezed a few more in at the end there, which is why it makes me inordinately, ridiculously geek-happy that Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus have had their moments! :D :geek: :D :geek:

Bring on Biggleswade.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2010-05-20 12:22
Wow, Alice this was great.

I gots nothing to add that haven't been said before.

Just WORD :-)