This is a debate I usually avoid, dismissing it as just a bunch of bored fans stirring up unnecessary trouble. Hell, I even chastised BuddyTV for bringing it up last month. However, two things this week triggered my addressing the issue. First, comments on my review of "Heaven and Hell" on blogcritics have turned into a huge "who's the better actor debate", and it's still going on today. Second, I've been rewriting the recap that I originally posted for "Mystery Spot" (since it was one of my first reviews written and it sucks), so I've been watching the episode again. If anyone thinks that Jared is an inferior actor truly hasn't watched this episode carefully. Or any of the episodes of the past two seasons.

What defines a "better actor"? An actor is only as good as the writers' development of the character. A good actor needs to take mediocre lines and turn them into something incredible as well as sell any dilemma through a series of looks and mannerisms, giving us far more to the story than what's on the page. Match a strong actor with a charismatic character and sparks fly. Those are the combos that end up on Emmy reels. Those are the combos that inspire fans and critics to gush for hours. It's all good, and Jensen Ackles easily fits the bill there.

So, what happens when you match an actor with a dark, brooding character? One that isn't open and often has to sell the internal conflict with tortured looks and nonverbal cues? One that often gives a haunting performance that is mostly noticed by those of us watching carefully and not by those waiting for the "in your face" Emmy submission performance? I'm the first to admit Jared Padalecki was very green when he started. It's been exciting to see him grow as an actor, and the turning point easily was "Born Under A Bad Sign". Since then, he blows me away just as much as Jensen with just his silent gloomy glares and weepy puppy dog eyes. No one sells a troubled Sam better.

The writers are very smart people for they craft their scripts every week to the strengths that their actors provide. Write a long piece of dialogue that showcases an intense emotional breakdown, character vulnerability and a gut wrenching weak moment that makes a viewer curse over why they didn't have a box of Kleenexes nearby and Jensen's your man. Despite all the fantastic emotional scenes from season four, my favorite Dean scene to date still is from "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II", when he delivers his punch-you-in-the-gut meltdown over his dead brother's body.
Jensen excels like none other too as the tough talking, won't take crap from anyone older brother whose confidence in the leadership department has gradually evolved over four seasons, now soaring to dramatic new heights. As Dean's trials grow more layered and complex, we never cease to be amazed over what Jensen brings each week. It's all fantastic, and as fans, we're giddy.

So, that makes Jensen the better actor, right? Did anyone watch the end of "Mystery Spot"? That scene crushes me every bit as the above mentioned scene from "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II", and there's only a fraction of the dialogue. Sam has been through a long ordeal, one that's lasted anywhere from nine months to a year. He finally has Dean back, but his efforts have left him very broken. Sam is so despondent, so crushed by everything and we witness it in the most powerful way just through his withdrawn behavior, his pained and faraway eyes, his faint smile at Dean's joke, and his somber gaze at the motel room before leaving. I have never been more haunted by a scene than that one, for any TV show. It made me worry very very much about Sammy.

Of course, Jared's triumph was "I Know What You Did Last Summer", but many people didn't notice because of Sam and Ruby. Sam the entire episode was raw emotionally, coasting on fumes, and on the brink of total self destruction. I bought every bit of it, and can someone tell me which scene had the big speech where Sam wallowed over his pain? There wasn't one. Again, Jared's strengths were played. Need more proof? The scenes in the motel and the Impala in "Metamorphosis", the end of "No Rest For The Wicked" (he's a far more emotional crier), the scene at the hospital near the end of "Bedtime Stories" and every single minute of "Mystery Spot".

Anyone who partakes in this debate forgets one very crucial thing, the key to this show's success is the on screen chemistry of the two actors together. The show wouldn't be anywhere near as good if it was only Jensen. If anyone doubts that, go ahead and sit through "In The Beginning" again. That was a decent episode that told us some outstanding back story and offered the best guest acting of the series, but come on, it wasn't the same without Sam. There was something missing. I still think both Dean and Sam should have been there together. It would have brought an emotional impact much like their first visit back to Lawrence in "Home".

The brotherly relationship is the core of the show. Not the demons, not the urban legends, not the action, not the secondary characters, not the freaks of the week that either make us cringe, laugh, or scream. The writing is strong, the directing is strong, the special effects and set decoration is top notch, but all that pales in comparison to what BOTH Jared and Jensen bring to Sam and Dean each week. They are the stars. If you doubt that, watch the mausoleum scene in "It's The Great Pumpkin Sam Winchester." Those two pulled off the most dramatic and jaw dropping brotherly moment of the series without saying a word.

Or, take the last scene in "Heaven and Hell", the one that started this entire debate. Raise your hand if you think that scene would have been just as good if we didn't see Sam's heartbreaking reactions in the background. It was Jensen's show for sure and he knocked it out of the park, but often we take those little background moments for granted, the ones that transform something good into something spectacular. That was an important BROTHERLY moment, and we can't forget that.

I'm sure eventually when this show is over both Jensen and Jared will go their separate ways and take new opportunities that will cater to their strengths as actors as well as challenge them in new ways. One will probably end up doing better commercially than the other. In the meantime though, let's enjoy what we've got with them together, for that is where we are truly blessed.

Comments  

Bethany
# Bethany 2009-02-03 15:31
here here! i couldn't agree more and it's nice to hear someone talking sense for once. i've only just found your site but i have to admit it's one of the best, dare i say if not the best. but back to the point at hand. both guys are amazing actors they bring so much to their performances and in different ways. true jensen often gets more lines but that's because dean is a more talkative character, sam internalizes. they make their characters seem real and they don't drop it for a second that is the mark of a truely great actor. yes they portray different characteristics but the show wouldn't work, if hey were doing the same thing. sam and dean are two different sides of a coin and balanceeach other out just like jensen and jared. their two magnificent performances make supernatural greater then the sum of it's parts (of performances) so enough their both brillant sit back everyone and enjoy!
Bethany
# Bethany 2009-02-03 15:31
here here! i couldn't agree more and it's nice to hear someone talking sense for once. i've only just found your site but i have to admit it's one of the best, dare i say if not the best. but back to the point at hand. both guys are amazing actors they bring so much to their performances and in different ways. true jensen often gets more lines but that's because dean is a more talkative character, sam internalizes. they make their characters seem real and they don't drop it for a second that is the mark of a truely great actor. yes they portray different characteristics but the show wouldn't work, if hey were doing the same thing. sam and dean are two different sides of a coin and balanceeach other out just like jensen and jared. their two magnificent performances make supernatural greater then the sum of it's parts (of performances) so enough their both brillant sit back everyone and enjoy!
Sandra
# Sandra 2009-05-16 05:52
Great article, I will reference to it in the future over at the IMDB-board (it's crazy there sometimes, puh). Wish more people could just relax and take it easy. Keep up the good work, I am now awaiting your review on "Lucifer Rising" :-)!
Sandra
# Sandra 2009-05-16 05:52
Great article, I will reference to it in the future over at the IMDB-board (it's crazy there sometimes, puh). Wish more people could just relax and take it easy. Keep up the good work, I am now awaiting your review on "Lucifer Rising" :-)!
loosair
# loosair 2009-05-19 17:13
I couldn't agree more, I think they are both terrific but very different actors. I must confess I was a little worried gong into 'When the Levee Breaks' as addiction scenes can often be truly awful but Jared was gut-wrenchingly fantastic.
loosair
# loosair 2009-05-19 17:13
I couldn't agree more, I think they are both terrific but very different actors. I must confess I was a little worried gong into 'When the Levee Breaks' as addiction scenes can often be truly awful but Jared was gut-wrenchingly fantastic.
Maplelump
# Maplelump 2009-07-31 21:06
I remember ITB, and all we had was Sammy for 30 seconds then it was the Dean and Cas show. It was a good ep, I agree, but the entire time I kept thinking: Where's Sammy?
These actors are so amazing and bring such brilliance to the screen. I've been hooked since the pilot, and honest to my God, I will hurt anyone who tries to talk to me on Thursday nights or take me anywhere. Thursday nights are my time to worship: supernaturaldom.

That was probably the most well thought out review I've read in a while, so props. And sorry for my odd digression.
Maplelump
# Maplelump 2009-07-31 21:06
I remember ITB, and all we had was Sammy for 30 seconds then it was the Dean and Cas show. It was a good ep, I agree, but the entire time I kept thinking: Where's Sammy?
These actors are so amazing and bring such brilliance to the screen. I've been hooked since the pilot, and honest to my God, I will hurt anyone who tries to talk to me on Thursday nights or take me anywhere. Thursday nights are my time to worship: supernaturaldom.

That was probably the most well thought out review I've read in a while, so props. And sorry for my odd digression.
Megan
# Megan 2009-08-01 13:53
Nice article from someone with an obv Jared/Sam bias. Lets face it IKWYDLS was shit. Think of how much better Jared could've been if they'd actually given him decent material to work with. Instead with got the Ruby's Awesome hour. :roll::
Megan
# Megan 2009-08-01 13:53
Nice article from someone with an obv Jared/Sam bias. Lets face it IKWYDLS was shit. Think of how much better Jared could've been if they'd actually given him decent material to work with. Instead with got the Ruby's Awesome hour. :roll::
Alice
# Alice 2009-08-01 15:44
I often hear that about IKWYDLS. I was just the other day discussing with someone why I found that episode so fascinating. Please allow me to share.

Sure, Sam's character fascinates me, thus a bias. Why? There are so many mysterious layers underneath and as a viewer you have to work a bit to get even a glimpse of them. Just when you think you have this character figured out, he throws you for another loop. Ruby was a distraction in that episode, but keep in mind, if she hadn't been there, Sam would have destroyed himself. That was the point. I LOVED this episode by only watching Sam and seeing how broken he was over Dean's death. If you really pay attention to Sam and what Jared brings to this performance and tune out all other distractions, it's truly incredible. It's a side of Sam we never got to see before.

But, to each his own. I'm curious, what did you think of When the Levee Breaks? Was that better? I wrote this article before that was aired so I haven't had the opportunity to debate the merits of that episode with others.
Alice
# Alice 2009-08-01 15:44
I often hear that about IKWYDLS. I was just the other day discussing with someone why I found that episode so fascinating. Please allow me to share.

Sure, Sam's character fascinates me, thus a bias. Why? There are so many mysterious layers underneath and as a viewer you have to work a bit to get even a glimpse of them. Just when you think you have this character figured out, he throws you for another loop. Ruby was a distraction in that episode, but keep in mind, if she hadn't been there, Sam would have destroyed himself. That was the point. I LOVED this episode by only watching Sam and seeing how broken he was over Dean's death. If you really pay attention to Sam and what Jared brings to this performance and tune out all other distractions, it's truly incredible. It's a side of Sam we never got to see before.

But, to each his own. I'm curious, what did you think of When the Levee Breaks? Was that better? I wrote this article before that was aired so I haven't had the opportunity to debate the merits of that episode with others.
donilou
# donilou 2009-10-22 14:49
I believe the Emmy-worthy writing goes to the Emmy-worthy actor, and I believe the writers agree with this.
Of course, miles will vary with the viewer's personal biases.
donilou
# donilou 2009-10-22 14:49
I believe the Emmy-worthy writing goes to the Emmy-worthy actor, and I believe the writers agree with this.
Of course, miles will vary with the viewer's personal biases.
Chris
# Chris 2009-10-26 14:25
I do agree that the brothers' relationship and interactions are the heart and soul of this show. I don't really understand the need for a Jensen vs. Jared argument by fans. Hopefully fans appreciate both actors, but I have no problem if some prefer one to the other.

However, I am a bit confused about this statement:

"The show wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it was only Jensen. If anyone doubts that, go ahead and sit through “In The Beginning” again. That was a decent episode that told us some outstanding back story and offered the best guest acting of the series, but come on, it wasn’t the same without Sam. There was something missing."

From a bi-bro perspective, I do understand this. I did really enjoy ITB because I thought it was extremely well written and well acted by all, but I agree that it would have been nice to get more Sam in the episode, maybe before or after Dean's trip to the past or maybe show a few Sam and Ruby scenes? What I don't understand, however, in light of this comment, is your more recent comment about IKWYDLS:

"I LOVED this episode by only watching Sam and seeing how broken he was over Dean's death. If you really pay attention to Sam and what Jared brings to this performance and tune out all other distractions, it's truly incredible."

I guess I don't understand this comment, Alice. Because it seems to suggest, to me, that while there was something missing in Jensen's performance (although you did praise the "guest" acting) in ITB because "it wasn't the same without Sam" you did not feel the same about watching "only" Jared as Sam in IKWYDLS. Watching Jared/Sam on his own is "incredible", however watching Jensen/Dean on his own is only "decent"?

Again, I don't have a problem if people do prefer one character or actor over another, however, if the point of this article is to tell us how much better the show is when it showcases BOTH brothers and BOTH actors together, then I think it's rather unfair to Jensen to actually call him out and say that the show is not as good with Jensen/Dean on his own (i.e. ITB)... however, Jared/Sam on his own is "incredible!".

That doesn't really go over well with my own bi-bro point of view, I have to say. It's not my intention to create a fuss here, but I'm just now getting to read all of these articles and I felt the need to comment. Thanks.
Chris
# Chris 2009-10-26 14:25
I do agree that the brothers' relationship and interactions are the heart and soul of this show. I don't really understand the need for a Jensen vs. Jared argument by fans. Hopefully fans appreciate both actors, but I have no problem if some prefer one to the other.

However, I am a bit confused about this statement:

"The show wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it was only Jensen. If anyone doubts that, go ahead and sit through “In The Beginning” again. That was a decent episode that told us some outstanding back story and offered the best guest acting of the series, but come on, it wasn’t the same without Sam. There was something missing."

From a bi-bro perspective, I do understand this. I did really enjoy ITB because I thought it was extremely well written and well acted by all, but I agree that it would have been nice to get more Sam in the episode, maybe before or after Dean's trip to the past or maybe show a few Sam and Ruby scenes? What I don't understand, however, in light of this comment, is your more recent comment about IKWYDLS:

"I LOVED this episode by only watching Sam and seeing how broken he was over Dean's death. If you really pay attention to Sam and what Jared brings to this performance and tune out all other distractions, it's truly incredible."

I guess I don't understand this comment, Alice. Because it seems to suggest, to me, that while there was something missing in Jensen's performance (although you did praise the "guest" acting) in ITB because "it wasn't the same without Sam" you did not feel the same about watching "only" Jared as Sam in IKWYDLS. Watching Jared/Sam on his own is "incredible", however watching Jensen/Dean on his own is only "decent"?

Again, I don't have a problem if people do prefer one character or actor over another, however, if the point of this article is to tell us how much better the show is when it showcases BOTH brothers and BOTH actors together, then I think it's rather unfair to Jensen to actually call him out and say that the show is not as good with Jensen/Dean on his own (i.e. ITB)... however, Jared/Sam on his own is "incredible!".

That doesn't really go over well with my own bi-bro point of view, I have to say. It's not my intention to create a fuss here, but I'm just now getting to read all of these articles and I felt the need to comment. Thanks.
Yvonne
# Yvonne 2010-05-21 02:02
Preach it!!!
I'll admit there was a time I thought Jensen was a notch above Jared (while loving them both) But that is past. WAY in the past. Born Under a Bad Sign changed my opinion and that change has been validated several times over, but I'll mention The End.
Jared practically was absent the entire episode yet the scene that stands out in my mind was him playing Lucifer. At first I HATED that scene. Actually couldn't watch it straight on. Took me a while to figure out that the reason for my dislike was the total absense of Sam. Jared played pure Devil on a set he was Sam on. With an actor and character he was Sam with but there was no Sam.
Now I love that scene as a tribute to his versitility. I mean wow. Just Wow.
Yvonne
# Yvonne 2010-05-21 02:02
Preach it!!!
I'll admit there was a time I thought Jensen was a notch above Jared (while loving them both) But that is past. WAY in the past. Born Under a Bad Sign changed my opinion and that change has been validated several times over, but I'll mention The End.
Jared practically was absent the entire episode yet the scene that stands out in my mind was him playing Lucifer. At first I HATED that scene. Actually couldn't watch it straight on. Took me a while to figure out that the reason for my dislike was the total absense of Sam. Jared played pure Devil on a set he was Sam on. With an actor and character he was Sam with but there was no Sam.
Now I love that scene as a tribute to his versitility. I mean wow. Just Wow.
sojourner
# sojourner 2010-08-05 23:25
"The show wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it was only Jensen. If anyone doubts that, go ahead and sit through “In The Beginning” again. That was a decent episode that told us some outstanding back story and offered the best guest acting of the series, but come on, it wasn’t the same without Sam. There was something missing. "

I didn't miss Sam there at all. ITB was one of the most brilliant episodes of SPN and Jensen was outstanding in that episode. It was Dean's journey and I enjoyed that look into his psyche. And it's a bit presumptuous of you to state 'something was missing' as a fact. That's your opinion, not a fact.

Same way as I enjoyed Mystery Spot, because it gave me a look into Sam's psyche.

I am a bi-bro who loves both the brothers and that's why I enjoyed reading your articles sometimes.

But your JP/Sam bias has killed all the credibility that you had for me. I honestly, can't take the views of someone who is so biased towards one character, seriously.I really wish I hadn't come across this article. But whatever, it's my loss.
sojourner
# sojourner 2010-08-05 23:25
"The show wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it was only Jensen. If anyone doubts that, go ahead and sit through “In The Beginning” again. That was a decent episode that told us some outstanding back story and offered the best guest acting of the series, but come on, it wasn’t the same without Sam. There was something missing. "

I didn't miss Sam there at all. ITB was one of the most brilliant episodes of SPN and Jensen was outstanding in that episode. It was Dean's journey and I enjoyed that look into his psyche. And it's a bit presumptuous of you to state 'something was missing' as a fact. That's your opinion, not a fact.

Same way as I enjoyed Mystery Spot, because it gave me a look into Sam's psyche.

I am a bi-bro who loves both the brothers and that's why I enjoyed reading your articles sometimes.

But your JP/Sam bias has killed all the credibility that you had for me. I honestly, can't take the views of someone who is so biased towards one character, seriously.I really wish I hadn't come across this article. But whatever, it's my loss.
digyd
# digyd 2012-03-06 14:08
I enjoy them together, despite preferring Dean. I think they are at their most entertaining for me when they are playing off each other. But I LOVED The Mystery Spot. I loved seeing Sam working so hard to save his brother and then Dean went and died on Wednesday anyway?! I wanted to hug Sam. I equally loved In the Beginning. I liked seeing Dean learn all he did about his family and about Sam's predicament. Besides, they both got a chance to go back in The Song Remains the Same, so Sam did get some time there.

Only one time so far have I watched this entire series start to current finish. (I am now buying the DVDs so I will do it again as soon as they start arriving.) I have no clue how many times I have seen each episode on its own. (not enough yet to quickly catch every acronym ya'll use ;-)). What I learned after watching from start to finish is now I have to watch the background. When one brother speaks, I focus on the other. I have caught all kinds of non-verbal reactions that way and it's been a joy to discover those. Yeah, Jensen is the one I am following when Supernatural comes to an end, but Jared is a necessity. Shoot! They even balance each other well in real life, from their positions in their families to just how they relate. I can't even imagine how things would be if Jensen had gotten the role of Sam as he was originally auditioned. Who would Dean have been then? Parallel universe. I don't even want to go there. :-D
digyd
# digyd 2012-03-06 14:08
I enjoy them together, despite preferring Dean. I think they are at their most entertaining for me when they are playing off each other. But I LOVED The Mystery Spot. I loved seeing Sam working so hard to save his brother and then Dean went and died on Wednesday anyway?! I wanted to hug Sam. I equally loved In the Beginning. I liked seeing Dean learn all he did about his family and about Sam's predicament. Besides, they both got a chance to go back in The Song Remains the Same, so Sam did get some time there.

Only one time so far have I watched this entire series start to current finish. (I am now buying the DVDs so I will do it again as soon as they start arriving.) I have no clue how many times I have seen each episode on its own. (not enough yet to quickly catch every acronym ya'll use ;-)). What I learned after watching from start to finish is now I have to watch the background. When one brother speaks, I focus on the other. I have caught all kinds of non-verbal reactions that way and it's been a joy to discover those. Yeah, Jensen is the one I am following when Supernatural comes to an end, but Jared is a necessity. Shoot! They even balance each other well in real life, from their positions in their families to just how they relate. I can't even imagine how things would be if Jensen had gotten the role of Sam as he was originally auditioned. Who would Dean have been then? Parallel universe. I don't even want to go there. :-D
Amruta Karve
# Amruta Karve 2013-04-16 09:20
I know this is so late to comment on the article which you have written ages ago. But i read it only recently. Anyway... my thoughts....
In my opinion Jensen is better actor. The fact that he always finds great chemistry with all the co-stars gives him extra point. He has had some great chemistry with Castiel. Benny, Bobby, Krissy, Charlie, Young John, Old John, Young Mary, Old Mary, Crowley, Jo, Ellen, Meg(both), Tessa and of course Sam. Of course the actors were also talented. But finding the chemistry with one co-star and maintaining it can be a tough job and Jensen has found it with so many of his co-stars. And that gives him extra points. Also Jensen brings some different charm on screen. When he is in a particular scene it feels lively.
And honestly I sat through "In The Beginning" just fine. And I can watch it many times. It's actually one of my favourite episode. I never felt that Jared should have been there with Jensen. Jensen has some outstanding scenes with Cass, Young John, Samuel Campbell and especially Young Mary.
And that Dean and Benny scene from s8e19 "Taxi Driver"...... Man it's awesome! Like Jensen said at his meet and greet at VegasCon he and Ty Olsson were surprised too at seeing how that scene pan out differently than they had thought. It was outstanding. That's talent. And Jensen has it in loads.
Jared's a good actor too. His Lucifer act in both "The End" and "Swan Song" were amazing. But Jensen wins for me.
But hey I am a pure Jensen fan at heart. So I'll always put him first before anyone else. But i really believe Jensen is more talented than Jared.

And from what I've observed from your reviews so far you are a Jared fan at heart.

But like you said:
Quote:
In the meantime though, let’s enjoy what we’ve got with them together, for that is where we are truly blessed.
I agree. :-)
I completely admire and love the chemistry both Jensen and Jared has with each other and sometimes it just amazes me. It is a gem they have struck with it. Because the bond between the brothers is what makes the show worth watching and is the core part of it and for that to work lead pairs surely needed to have and fortunately has the best chemistry.
Amruta Karve
# Amruta Karve 2013-04-16 09:20
I know this is so late to comment on the article which you have written ages ago. But i read it only recently. Anyway... my thoughts....
In my opinion Jensen is better actor. The fact that he always finds great chemistry with all the co-stars gives him extra point. He has had some great chemistry with Castiel. Benny, Bobby, Krissy, Charlie, Young John, Old John, Young Mary, Old Mary, Crowley, Jo, Ellen, Meg(both), Tessa and of course Sam. Of course the actors were also talented. But finding the chemistry with one co-star and maintaining it can be a tough job and Jensen has found it with so many of his co-stars. And that gives him extra points. Also Jensen brings some different charm on screen. When he is in a particular scene it feels lively.
And honestly I sat through "In The Beginning" just fine. And I can watch it many times. It's actually one of my favourite episode. I never felt that Jared should have been there with Jensen. Jensen has some outstanding scenes with Cass, Young John, Samuel Campbell and especially Young Mary.
And that Dean and Benny scene from s8e19 "Taxi Driver"...... Man it's awesome! Like Jensen said at his meet and greet at VegasCon he and Ty Olsson were surprised too at seeing how that scene pan out differently than they had thought. It was outstanding. That's talent. And Jensen has it in loads.
Jared's a good actor too. His Lucifer act in both "The End" and "Swan Song" were amazing. But Jensen wins for me.
But hey I am a pure Jensen fan at heart. So I'll always put him first before anyone else. But i really believe Jensen is more talented than Jared.

And from what I've observed from your reviews so far you are a Jared fan at heart.

But like you said:
Quote:
In the meantime though, let’s enjoy what we’ve got with them together, for that is where we are truly blessed.
I agree. :-)
I completely admire and love the chemistry both Jensen and Jared has with each other and sometimes it just amazes me. It is a gem they have struck with it. Because the bond between the brothers is what makes the show worth watching and is the core part of it and for that to work lead pairs surely needed to have and fortunately has the best chemistry.