Boy, did I get an interesting one for what turns out to be the only season three episode I have left to review. "Jus In Bello" is a highly buzzed episode from seasoned writer Sera Gamble, and it ended up being one of the highest rated of the season. As much great action, drama, and character display this episode had though, it wasn't flawless.
This was the only episode to feature both Ruby and Bela. Sadly, both were more irritating than normal. Sam was very dark and moody, and this episode gave us the worst ending of the series (okay, maybe tied with "Bugs"). Despite all this, Agent Henriksen proved to be a kick ass hunter and it was Dean Winchester's finest hour, thrilling us to the point where we overlooked most of the problems.
Kripke doesn't waste anytime getting into the action, so I won't either.
The first scene continues from the standoff from last week. To sum up, angels on one side, Sam, Dean, and Ruby on the other, and Anna hiding in the other room. Anna has to die, Sam and Dean are appalled. Got all that? Great!
Uriel is in a happy killing mood, promising to "kill her gently." Liar! Sam pleads for the innocent girl, but Castiel, after admitting with nonchalance that he and Uriel are smug bastards, claims she's far from innocent. Sam wants to know what that means. Just remember Sam, you set yourself up. "It means she's worse than this abomination you've been screwing." Uriel says while looking at Ruby with disgust. Oh sure Uriel, make it personal!
Uriel again demands the girl, and Sam turns to Dean to communicate his no answer with one cock of the head. Dean agrees, and tells them so. Uriel gets mad and flings Ruby across the room. Hey, what did she do? She gets choked and Uriel readies his own hand of doom, and Sam stands there worried but doing nothing. Great covering your girlfriend's back there Sam, you know THE CHICK THAT SAVED YOUR LIFE.
Dean, apparently the brother with the balls in the family, jumps in to save Ruby by taking a swing at Uriel, who now is really happy he has his reason to pound the hell out of Dean, which he does rather effectively. Sam pleads with Castiel on the other side of the room, even calling him "Cas". Come on Sam, only Dean has gotten far enough in the relationship to call him that. Castiel does his in-between-the-eyes-fingers-of sleep and Sam crashes to the ground. Castiel opens the door to where Anna is, and all of a sudden he and Uriel go flying away in a burst of white light.
Ah, the polarizing episode. I love recapping these. The episode that sharply divides the fan base between loved it and hated it. I understand the hated it part. After all, Dean was relegated to supporting character and there was probably way more Ruby than people would have liked. I also understand the loved it, because that's me. Ruby had to be there, for its not like Sam could pull himself out of that rut. He was too far gone. There were so many great little details on this one, so prepare for the long recap.
For those keeping score, Sera Gamble is the writer, so we know Sam is getting squeezed through the ringer. The director is Charles Beeson, who seems to have found a groove with this one. Guest actor is Julie McNiven (Anna), who apparently is on Mad Men (yes that show is on my list of programs to check out when I have time). Other guest actor is Mark Ralston (Alastair) who looks great for being so powerfully evil.
Its religious overtones galore and I love it. Once the Now fades from the screen, we see Anna, gaze lost upward, and the bright lighting of the room giving the aura around her an angelic feel. Remember though, this is also supposed to be about Revelations (the little known translation anyway), so chances are she's not about to give us warm fuzzies.
Anna has good reason to be disturbed. For one, she's in the exact sanitarium used in Houses of the Holy down to the white furniture, lamp, pure white walls, and of course white top. I've been to a couple of sanitariums (for business!). They're grey and dingy. The only white you see is the pale faces of people that haven't been outside in years.
Back to Anna, she's nuts, but she's not. The end is coming. The apocalypse, she warns. Like in the bible? The sane yet crazy therapist asks. Kind of, I mean, same bottom line. See, they're doing they're own thing! Lucifer will bring the apocalypse¦Smoke em if you got em. I know that last line's been used several times before, but I wonder if Sera pulled if from where I remember it, Spaceballs.
She hears more whispers, and she wisely doesn't say what she's listening too. More doom and gloom talk, and it's interesting from the audience point of view because we know she isn't nuts and we think the therapist is off her rocker. Yeah, welcome to our world. She's a regular apocalyptic encyclopedia though, for there are 600 possible seals and no one knows what 66 Lilith is going to break. That's why she can't be stopped, the angels are losing and why we're gonna die. Oh come on, ye have little faith in the great Sam and Dean Winchester? You know, the guys that are going to save the world?
Interesting how Anna can see the demon faces (like Dean) and has telekinesis (like Sam). Whatever she is, she uses her power to get the hell out of there, which is what either of the boys would have done. I'm still waiting for the day when Sam caves into all his dark powers and pushes locked doors open with his mind. A girl can dream, can't she?
Sam and Dean hustling pool? Sam plays the drunk ringer? He's that good at pool? Wow, and here we were always led to believe Dean was the shark. The money is lost though as Ruby is spotted. I can't listen to what Ruby is saying, because I'm too distracted by the white horses hanging above the bar. Shouldn't they be like unicorns or the winged horse Pegasus or something like that? Curious looking shot from the floor to show off that strange bar lit by the bright blue lights.
Dean still hates Ruby and doesn't believe her, while Sam is hanging on every word. They're off in the Impala to check it out and Dean doesn't like it. Sam isn't pleased with the attitude. You got something to say, just say it. Oh, I'm going to say it, this sucks. Don't hold back Dean. He's pissed Ruby gave the tip. This exchange here is priceless and nothing is better than these brothers at each other's throats. I come back and you're BFF with demon. Sam, since he's always so direct with answers, says she helped him go after Lilith. Well thanks for the thumbnail, real vivid. You want to fill in a little detail? Sure Dean, let's trade stories. You first, how was Hell, don't spare the details. Ah, bickering brothers. It's going to be a long 3 day drive!
It's the first of several flashback scenes and each one of them is a gorgeous character examination of our poor tortured Sammy. Six months earlier and Sam's at the crossroads. It is our assumption that this is taking place shortly after Sam and Bobby buried Dean and Sam took off. I still want to know why Sam buried Dean in Pontiac, Illinois, but I'll tuck that away for now.
A desperate Sam digs in the ground with his bare hands, but something about his uncoordinated movements and struggle to do this tells us he ain't right. The camera moves from Sam's hand in the ground to his face, and we see the whiskey bottle in the middle of it. He staggers up and takes a drink. We got it, drunken Sammy.
The camera goes for the overhead shot, and just like with Lazarus Rising with Dean and the cross, we see Sam's shadow along with the crossroads post. He's a man at the crossroads in his life, literately and figuratively. Nice effective visual that I'm sure no one noticed. The directing on this was top notch, as was the camera work.
Sam waits, as is normal with these things, and it's incredible what flashes on his face in this next sequence. First the focus in on those lost puppy dog eyes. He's desperate and so close to falling apart. Still no demon, so that quickly turns to impatience and an outburst of anger. Sam after all is an angry drunk. The demon appears, Sam squints his eyes barely able to focus and staggers over, just in case we haven't picked up on the fact he's drunk. Said demon is a man in a suit this time. That alone tells me Sam ain't getting his deal, because we know they aren't kissing.
This is where the makeup crew deserves huge props, for Sam looks awful. I guess burying your brother didn't agree with you, the demon taunts. I'd say not. Sam holds out those long arms as if he's offering himself as the big prize. Demon doesn't bite, asking for the knife. Sam sneers, pulls it out, and slams it on the table. Sam says there aren't any devils traps either, he's not playing games. The Demon makes the expected observation of round and round the Winchesters go, but says no deal. Sam doesn't like the answer, and lets the demon know by picking up the knife and slamming it through the demon's hand if one fell swoop of anger. Sammy, there are more effective ways to getting what you want. The demon won't back down, probably because Sam didn't say please.
Sam yells louder, letting him know he wants to trade places now. The demon still says no, and now Sam's eyes turn to desperation. He tries the Lilith wants me dead pitch, but the demon reveals something more interesting. Dean's in Hell right were we want him, we've got everything exactly the way we want it. Remember that, it's important for next episode and others to come.
What's fascinating here in Jared's performance is how well he's selling Sam's instability and fragile mind. Sam has this intense rage boiling inside, but didn't go into a full blown fit. He threw out enough small outbursts of fury where it scares us and shows how dangerous he is, but not completely out of control. Not yet anyway. Of course he's angry enough, for after the demon challenges Sam to kill him (Go ahead, I've made peace with my Lord), Sam snarls and the sound of the knife swipe happens right when the camera cuts back to the Impala. Great editing there, for the implication of the act is better than actually seeing it. I think he's also burned all his bridges with the Crossroads Demon.
What's even more jarring is the next shot, as Sam struggles to tell Dean about what happened and then backs off. It's silent in the Impala except for the roar of the engine and the sound of the wipers, while we see the brothers through the glass blurred by the rain. They are caught in their painful world of silence, and it's heartbreaking that they can't open up to each other.
They're doing the cop thing at the sanitarium, and the ties are so much better this week. I love Sam's blue pattern tie and Dean's blue striped one. Those are the colors that should be on those boys. They see Anna's book of doom and don't think she's crazy at all. Maybe because she's pointing out their lives. Since when does the Book of Revelations have jack-o-lanterns? It's a little known translation, Dean explains. If that doesn't tell you right there this show is taking liberties with the apocalypse, nothing will. I don't mind.
They go to Anna's parent's house, and the Impala is glistening! Dean found time on the way over to have it freshly washed and waxed? Remember the good ole days where the Impala was loaded with dirt and road dust? It made it look mean. I love pretty car but come on, I don't look that beautiful after driving for 3 days, the car shouldn't either.
If there were any slow spots in the episode, this was it. The parents are dead, throats slashed. Sam finds sulfur and a clue. Dean uses the Girl Interrupted reference, and I'm wondering why this show loves Angelina Jolie so much. Or why Dean does. She's not his type. Besides yourself, who should Dean hook up with? I'll have to ponder that.
The pace picks up here, causing fits for the recapper. I've seen that church before. It was either a recent episode of Smallville or Reaper. I think it was the latter. I love the shot of Anna looking through the distorted glass at the Winchesters coming in. Sam calls out, My name is Sam, this is my brother Dean. I somehow laugh, waiting for him to pull a Larry, Darryl and Darryl via Newhart and continue this is my other brother Dean. I know, I'm warped.
Sam Winchester? The Dean? See, she's a fan girl! I don't blame her. She knows them because the angels talk about them. Not surprisingly, some don't like Sam. She gushes over Dean some more (come on, who wouldn't?) and answer's Sam's question. She started hearing the voices September 18th. Yeah, they catch onto the coincidence. Dean Winchester is saved. They figure out why demons want her now, because she can hear the other side. She's 1-900 angel and we slap our heads over Dean and his porn references.
Ruby arrives and Anna can see her real face, so she's freaked. Continuity from No Rest For The Wicked. Dean thinks Ruby set them up, Ruby says they were followed. No time for arguments though, for the eyes on the statue of Mary start bleeding. I'm not sure what that means, but it can't be good. Sam puts Anna in a closet, while Dean ominously stares at the statue. Sam goes for the holy water, but Ruby points out the predicament we know will happen every time now, Sam must use his powers on this one. Even Dean doesn't disagree this time.
Big bad busts in as an older gentleman. Sam puts out the hand, the guy's eyes turn white, then they come back unaffected. That tickles, he tells Sam, just before using his own hand of destruction to fling Sam across the room and down the stairs. Dean pulls the demon killing ginsu and fights with the dude, while Ruby grabs the girl and runs. It seems Dean knows this dude, but doesn't recognize him because he's wearing a pediatrician. Great line! Dean then gets it. Alastair. That must mean he's pretty high on the demon pay scale.
Sam arrives and gets one perfect and quick shot of the knife to Alastair's heart. It slows him down, but doesn't kill him. Okay, so the knife can't kill all demons after all. Sam and Dean realize they have to leave fast, so why not jump out of a large stained glass window and land three stories below? That won't hurt. Okay, so Sam gets a bad cut on his arm and Dean gets a dislocated shoulder. In reality, they should be in the ICU. Ah well, for entertainment purposes, banged up Winchesters in a motel room will do.
Poor babies. Sam stitches up that nice gash in his arm, complete with gushing blood, while Dean spits blood into a sink. I am pleased that both look like they're in pain. At least they're trying to sell that. Somehow, while Sam is wrenching in pain over sterilizing his nasty wound with whiskey, Dean finds its time to get on his case about losing the magic knife. Yeah, saving your ass. Sorry Dean, he has a point. Dean won't say much about Alastair, other than he's no one good. Really? Back to vivid descriptions I see. Dean wants to find Anna, Sam isn't worried. Ruby's got her, they're okay.
There's a pause in the action here for Sam to fix Dean's shoulder. This is where Jensen and Jared are so great together for they've got their timing down pat. Sam says on the count of three. One, CRACK, and Dean reacts a split second later in horrible pain. That was actually quite fun to watch, even if I cringe over the idea of popping a shoulder back into place.
Anyway, back to the plot, Dean still thinks Ruby has taken Anna and brought in Alastair to kill them. Sam insists she took Anna somewhere safe. Dean wonders why she hasn't tried to contact them. Sam's thought that through too, because Alastair is still watching them and let them go so they could led him to Anna again, otherwise he would have killed them no problem. They have to lay low and wait for Ruby to contact them.
Dean's had enough. He wants to know why Sam has so much faith in Ruby. This time though, he isn't being a jerk about it. About time Dean! I suppose these boys grew up without a mother and weren't taught about how effective it is to ask nicely. I need to know more. I deserve to know more. Sam frowns, gets all serious, and goes on. Because she saved my life.
Oh goody! The rest of the flashback scenes. These are really what pushes this episode into the exceptional category. Back tosix months earlier, and the screen is tilted and all out of focus as Sam staggers in. The assumption is this is after the crossroads thing. As the camera is trying to cleverly tells us, Sam is not all there. He moves into the light, and his haggard face confirms that pretty well.
Man and woman step out of the dark and beat up on him. Man holds Sam, woman grabs knife, thanking him for keeping it warm. He immediately figures out its Ruby, ala new meatsuit. She goes into the evil speech mode, Lilith wasn't so easy on her and gave her a chance to come back if she killed Sam. Sam does not take this as bad news at all. As a matter of fact, he's ready. He pushes away from man holding him back, sticks out his neck, and challenges Ruby to do it. He even takes a few steps forward, egging her on. Her tough look all of a sudden changes to one of concern. I do wonder if her next decision was split second or not.
She gets tough again, swings the knife back, and plunges it into the other guy. Sam is shocked and they flee. The Impala zooms by in the dark, Sam's driving and Ruby's in the passenger seat. Sam looks worse here. His eyes are vacant, his stare forward completely lost, and I hope the Impala isn't coasting on fumes like he is. Ruby's all happy, wanting to celebrate with some French fries, trying to get Sam to show her some gratitude for saving his life and going fugitive for him. Sam isn't grateful at all. She's not useful to him is she can't help him save Dean, which she can't.
Sam pulls the Impala over (although if you see the wide shot, it's a shadowy figure of just a driver), and gets on Ruby's case over her possessing an innocent girl. He tells her to leave, and free the secretary or he'll send her back to Hell. So, we see a Jane Doe getting the plug pulled, and a few seconds after the flat line she's revived. It's the Genevieve Cortese Ruby, and she still wants those French fries.
Sam is squatting in an abandoned house, sitting alone at a table cleaning his pistol. Hmm, a little reminiscent of Mystery Spot, huh? Also notice the right amount of light filtering through the broken shutters of the window. That's cool too. I'm not sure if it's meant to symbolize anything, but I like it. Anyway, there's a knock on the door, so Sam puts down the pistol and goes for the shotgun instead. Nothing like greeting your guests with more firepower.
Sam still looks awful here, which tells us he's still drunk. Ruby presents proof that she's in an empty shell, but Sam still isn't happy to see her. The body language says it all, as do the glassy eyes and the rough edge in his voice. He has nothing to live for. So, when Ruby tells him she can help him go after Lilith, he brings up the psychic stuff and wants to start using it right away. Nothing like keeping that self respect and honoring your brother's wishes Sammy!
Ruby warns him that something big is coming, apocalyptic big, and they need to take time to carefully prepare. As soon as they start talking about Lilith, Sam's who cares attitude instantly turns to anger, and if he had his way, they would be storming out the door after her now. Okay, so he does have something to live for. Revenge, just like a Winchester. Ruby demands patience and sobriety as he's swinging more whiskey, and she'll teach him everything she knows. Sam considers the offer.
I pause here, for Sam has changed shirts off camera while talking to Dean. He changes into a lovely pale blue undershirt. Oh, that does him so much more justice than those grey ones. I'm drooling as he tells Dean something, something, he's a bad student, something.
Sam tries his first exorcism, and it doesn't go well. Smoke comes out, then goes back in. Ruby comes around with the knife showing back up and Sam tries again. It results in a mind bursting headache and a nosebleed which debilitates Sam. The demon laughs, and Ruby responds with a quick stab right through the throat. The shot of the behind the head by the way was really cool, for the tip of the knife comes through the back and we see all of Ruby's furious face. Not funny. Ooh, could it be she has a thing for Sammy?
Okay, time for the crucial scene. THE scene. I loved the way this scene was filmed and choreographed. Sam walks in first, and the camera shows him step over the scratched off devil's trap and throw the shovel on the table. A great way visually to show repeating elements in this show. Sam searches his bag while a very concerned Ruby stands behind him. Just give it time Sam, It'll get better. Sam turns around, not at all impressed by her assurances, and man do we see how low he is right now. He looks like he's going to bust into tears, but he's masking all that pain with anger and defiance wrapped with a malevolent smile. What, I need more practice? He pops the aspirin and chases it with whiskey. So, now he's hurting physically as well as mentally and emotionally, and he's drinking again. Not good.
I'm not talking about pulling demons. I know losing Dean- Oops! Wrong thing to say. Now Sam is angry, putting out the finger of don't go there. I don't want to talk about it. He's still mad though and berates her for trying to help, asking her how she would know. She pulls the I used to be human thing, and touches him affectionately. He pushes her away. Don't, I can't. He's coming apart right now. Ruby sees she's pushed a button, and pushes harder. Sam, you're not alone. She flings forward and kisses him. He's so vulnerable right now, so we wonder if what she's doing is helping.
Sam pushes at first accepts the kiss, and his hands move upward as if he was going to touch her. Then his common sense kicks in and he pushes her away. He walks across the room and takes a seat on the couch, and now he's really bothered. Sam, it's okay. That is anything but okay, he yells. He knows how wrong it is and is still pulling on what little self control he has left. At this point, I think Ruby persists not only for Sam's sake, but her own. They're two very broken people right now, and she thinks both need that physical contact, right or wrong.
Ruby comes over, slides her body in between his legs, moves his hand all over her bare midsection, and Sam has no self control left. We watch him crumble as he grabs her and kisses her hard. He picks her up, clothes go flying, they're going at it rough and animal like and I need a shower. Especially after those back shots of Jared. Man is he built like a tank.
It's all interrupted by Dean, Sam, too much information! Dean takes this all in, brain stabbing imagery aside, and still isn't convinced about Ruby. Sam says there's more to the story. Just skip the nudity please. Speak for yourself Dean!
Sam said they found signs of Lilith, and we're back to flashback mode. It should be noted the weaving between past and present is done very well in this episode and was easy to follow. The constant six or five months earlier really wasn't needed.
Sam has those angry crazy eyes, the ones that always mean revenge is his only goal. Ruby is very worried, and her concern for Sam really comes through here. Maybe their little one on one surfaced some stronger feelings. That makes for an interesting situation since she's a demon and all. Ruby also points out that Sam is the only one that can kill Lilith. That's interesting too, and I'm sure will be very important later in this season or next.
Sam doesn't take her warnings seriously at all, and that's when Ruby sees the writing on the wall. He wants to die. If you kill her and you survive this, then you have to go on without your brother. Sam won't listen so she throws herself in front of the door. This isn't what Dean would have wanted. This isn't what he died for. Sam isn't buying any of this, and responds by flinging Ruby against the wall and putting the knife to her throat. So much for their night of love. Sam gets all crazy and looks like he wants to kill her, then he leaves.
Sam spots the girl in the window, cautiously walks in with knife ready to kill, and slowly works his way to the dining room. The girl turns around, begging to go home, and that means it's not Lilith. Of course by the time Sam figures this out he's ambushed by two big demon guys. It's a trap. His knife falls to the floor and he's slammed against the wall in a choke hold. Focus on the knife on the floor, which Ruby picks up, and she takes out the other guy with a swipe. She gets other dude off Sam and tells Sam to take the girl outside.
Exciting fight ensues in which Ruby is clearly overpowered by this other guy. He gets her in said chokehold, and is delighted over what's going to happen to her when they get her back down in the basement, aka Hell. Dude all of a sudden starts choking himself. Sam's there with his arm out, then other guy puffs out black smoke. Sam's nose starts bleeding and its clear he's in pain but he doesn't let up, and other guy falls to the ground as the black smoke seeps into the floor.
Ruby is freaked out and very concerned about Sam, who lets her know he's okay while he pulls himself together. Something's suddenly different about Sam, like he has a new lease on life. He goes onto explain to Dean, he has a new lease on life. He defends Ruby for saving him, but more important, she got through to him. She said the same things Dean would have said. Yeah, but I'm not sure Dean would have attacked you and spurned some hot demon monkey sex. That tactic alone belongs to Ruby, and thank heavens for that (quiet slashers!).
Large black maid interrupts brotherly chat, rudely barging in, closes the curtains (if they're laying low, why are they open?), and then hands a sheet of paper to Sam. He still hasn't caught on. Go now, go out the bathroom window, don't stop, don't take your car, don't pass go. There are demons in the hallway and the parking lot. Sam finally figures out its Ruby. So I'm possessing this maid for one hot minute sue me. Coma girl is rotting on the cabin floor, so she has to get back. She breezes out, and Dean gives us the best perplexed look of the episode. That's exactly the look I'd expect to see if he saw Sam and Ruby having sex.
They meet up with Ruby and Anna at the cabin, and Anna has praises for Ruby. I hear she does that, says Dean, now reluctantly accepting that Ruby is a good guy. He can't find the right words to say so though. I guess I uh¦ya know¦I guess I owe ya, Sam¦I just, ya know. Don't strain yourself, Ruby tells Dean, and he takes that to mean he's off the hook. Good, cause that was awkward.
Anna asks Sam about her parents again, and Sam breaks the news. She doesn't have time to cry much though, for she senses something's coming. Sam takes Anna to the back room and closes the door, while Sam, Dean and Ruby dig in. Ruby sees the knife is gone and Dean blames Sam. Thanks a lot Sam sarcastically remarks. The door flies open, and we wait until commercial is over. Except me, since I have TiVo.
In storms Castiel and Uriel. Uriel calls Ruby that stain in the room, whose eyes turn black in their presence. They reveal they've come for Anna. Are you gonna help her? Sam asks, for they all don't like the looks on the angels' faces. No, she has to die, Castiel says and we fade out to those gorgeous yet firm eyes of his. That's a great way to go out, except for that damned To Be Continued¦ that flashes on the screen. That's something a fan never likes to see.
So, what have we learned other than demon sex is hot? Sam hit rock bottom, and Ruby saved him. If she hadn't, he would have died on any type of kamikaze mission. Granted her methods were unconventional, but hey, they worked. We also learned that whenever you're on a street corner and some wacko tells you that the end is near, he just might be right. Part two next time!
This is the article that started all this. My life as a blogger. Since I'm reposting it here, I'll also share the story about this article.
Right around late January, my husband and I finally caught up with all the Supernatural episodes. We watched seasons 1 and 2 through all of October and November, and caught up with season three by mid December. Then, we watched it all again, for we knew we missed many things. After going through that long exercise, I was ready to take on the online community. I started lurking on the fan sites, and one repeated discussion caught my attention everytime. Why doesn't The CW promote this show? I spent hours reading the threads, posting a few comments here and there, and then I did my own research.
A few weeks later, I typed up a rougher draft of what is below and posted it on my livejournal. Crickets chirped as about three people I think read it. I gave it some more polish and then I found blogcritics through someone on the House fandom. I contacted the editor and linked the article. He loved it and next thing you know, I was sent a user id and password to post it on blogcritics. A day later it was published, and I was not prepared at all for what happened next.
The article was a HUGE hit. It was one of blogcritics top articles for two weeks. It was linked to many sites all over the world. Then it got picked up for newspaper syndication. I was flooded with comments and emails from people all over the world, all sharing their love for this show. I went on fan forums and found actual threads about the article and read pages of their praise of it. Needless to say, I rode the wave of euphoria.
So, once that excitement calmed down, I had a choice. Walk away, especially since I knew that it would all be downhill from here (how could I top that type of buzz?), or start a Supernatural feature on blogcritics, who were very open to the idea. I went with the latter obviously. When I first started writing fanfiction a few years ago, I always had the attitude that I would be happy if two people read my stuff. I went into this blog with the same attitude. I was doing this for the love of my show, and if I managed to get one or two people on board, my work was done.
The regular feature has been slow in building, but its been a blast. In June I got to do a Sera Gamble interview, which thrilled me to no end. It's taken me almost a whole season to find my groove with episode reviews and recaps. The first ones I ever did were "Malleus Maleficarum" and "Dream A Little Dream of Me". Those are very rough compared to what I do now. In September, I found the Warner Brothers contact and got on their distribution list. When the critics package for "Lazarus Rising" hit my doorstep two days before the premiere, I knew I'd made it. Still, that doesn't top finding out this weekend from both Jensen and Jared they read the below article, even thought the publicist had told me that Kripke read it too. I figured there was a huge distance between LA and Vancouver.
Anyway, enough rambling, here is what was published in March, and here is what changed my life.
Building a following for a TV show in its third season isn't easy - especially if the show is part of a paranormal genre containing a mythology arc that has been slowly developing since season one. Another obstacle would be if it's on a low-rated network that many people have either never heard of, or forgot was there. So, when a hidden gem that fits into both categories exists, it's up to loyal fans to get the word out. So far, that has been the main key to this show's success.
I'll admit, this time last year I heard of the CW, but never thought to give it a try. After all, it was a network that aired soapy teen dramas and bad reality shows. In September, while hopelessly flipping through the channels of endless reruns, I stumbled upon a show I'd never heard of, and on that network I chose to ignore. I saw a scene where two brothers were facing the epic battle of their lives and how they dealt with the emotional ramifications afterward in front of one really cool car (I'm a bit of a car buff, being raised in Detroit). I had no idea what was happening, but the chemistry between these two actors instantly sucked me in.
Once I got the name of the show, "Supernatural," I rented the first few episodes on DVD from Netflix and was so impressed I went out and bought the first two seasons. Considering my previous love of sci-fi shows like "The X-Files" and "Star Trek," I don't know how I missed it. My husband and I went through six thrilling and entertaining weeks of getting to know this show's history on DVD. It's easily one of the best television series I've ever seen. I launched a full scale investigation as to why I'd never heard of this show before now. The results were revealing, but not that all surprising given today's state of network television. First, go to any website that gives the brief synopsis of the show. The general concept doesn't sell it. Read this one from Yahoo TV:
Though he wants nothing to do with his family's paranormal investigation business, a Stanford junior pairs up with his estranged brother on a road trip from the Bay Area to Los Angeles when their father goes missing. Along the way, they encounter mysterious people and situations from American myths and legends.
Doesn't sound very exciting does it? Another "X-Files," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Roswell," "Everwood," etc ripoff, right? All anyone has to do is watch the pilot to realize this show's main feature isn't really about hunting the paranormal. That's just the backdrop. The show turns out to be a compelling family drama about the relationship between these two brothers and their very damaged lives as sons of a demon hunter. The main actors, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, have huge chemistry and sell the brother act extremely well. On top of that, it turns out the show's writing is top notch, offering a brilliant mixture of witty dialogue, action, paranormal lore, humor, and many heartwarming moments between two brothers who have seen a lot of crap in their young lives. The directing is great also considering they snagged Kim Manners, an "X-Files" alum and Robert Singer, who has a long and impressive resume as director and producer of a variety of shows in this genre.
The show also celebrates the great American road trip. These brothers criss-cross the US hunting supernatural phenomenon in a black 1967 Chevy Impala (the unofficial third main cast member), finding adventures in just about any Godforsaken spot in the country. Another unofficial cast member, the hideously decorated and delightfully tacky motel rooms they stay in each week. My favorite is the Schlitz themed room in Milwaukee. Second place, the hunting lodge in Michigan (I've actually stayed in a few of those). So why have so few people heard of "Supernatural?" My investigation found the other big reason.
The CW. To give a brief history, the CW was formed in 2006 by merging the UPN (United Paramount Network) and WB (Warner Brothers) networks. Both networks were formed in 1995 for the same purpose, to target younger audiences and to build a catalog of shows the studios could sell for syndication (and later DVD sets and iTunes). In the eleven years of their existence UPN reported losses of $1 billion, while the WB reported $700 million. These studios chose to fold their networks and create a new one in a joint partnership in hopes of cutting losses and building a stronger network with less overlap and competition for a smaller segment of the total audience. In its second year, the CW has gotten off to a rough start. Ratings in the 18-34 demographic are down 21 percent, while ratings in the 18-49 demo are down 50 percent. The expected losses this year are in the $50 million range. When UPN and the WB started back in 1995, there wasn't competition with over 250 cable channels for original programming, as well as other platforms such as iTunes, DVRs, and the Internet. Despite all that, the CW was formed with notion it could find an audience.
When the CW was formed, they started with a lineup of established shows with set production contracts, so that left them little money for expenditures like promotion. In the second season, a few of those expensive established shows like "The Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars" are gone and have been replaced by three new critically acclaimed scripted shows, "Gossip Girl," "Reaper," and "Aliens in America," but there is still only a small amount of money available for promotion. Most of the budget goes to promoting these new shows and cheaper reality series, so the older shows must thrive by word of mouth from the fans.
Believe it or not, many CW shows have been getting a good audience, but it's in a way the network doesn't want to see. The primary target demographic for the CW is the 18 to 34 age range. In the advent of DVRs, online streaming, and iTunes, this age group doesn't turn on the TV at the scheduled times and instead watches their shows when they want at the click of a button. CW shows usually rank higher in DVR time shifted percentages and iTunes downloads. That's great for the shows, but bad for networks that want to attract advertisers.
Despite all the efforts to build up the new shows, the top three rated scripted shows are "Smallville," "Supernatural," and "One Tree Hill," all leftovers from the WB. "Smallville" is in its seventh season and creatively is in decline, and many are surprised "One Tree Hill" has made it this long, thanks to a season five creative surge. Of all the existing scripted shows, only "Supernatural" and "Gossip Girl" seem to be shows that can bring the network steady viewers beyond the next season.
"Supernatural" is a weird fit for the CW, and it often is perceived not to get a lot of support from the top ranking people at the network. For one, their viewing audience skews higher, more in the 18 to 49 range, which isn't as appealing to advertisers. The show also airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m., going against shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI," "The Office," and for right now, "Lost." To a show trying to find an audience, that slot is often labeled the "time slot of death".
However, despite its network, the show thrives. "Supernatural" pulls in a consistent three million viewers every new episode, and around two million with repeats. The numbers for their repeats beat many of the existing CW shows first run numbers. All this happens in the so called "time slot of death". Three million once upon a time at the WB would have gotten the show canceled, but at the CW, it's a bona fide hit. "Supernatural" also does very well for Warner Brothers television, who owns the show. It's proving to be very popular internationally and is syndicated right now in almost fifty countries. In many of those markets it gets consistently good ratings. For example, "Supernatural" is one of the top shows in Russia right now, where unofficial reports have the ratings there higher than the US. It's also a big hit in many Asian countries and Australia, and does well in bigger countries like Germany, Italy, and England. The DVD sales have been strong, as well as the iTunes downloads.
So why is this show holding its own in this time of declining ratings for all networks? "Supernatural" is the type of show that because of its cult status doesn't attract casual viewers, and the people who do watch are extremely loyal. The rabid and active online community promotes the show in huge ways that the network couldn't possibly do. For example, recently new episodes of "Lost," which is a similar genre show, were scheduled to air opposite new "Supernatural" episodes. The fans launched an online campaign urging people to watch "Supernatural" live and tape "Lost." The message was, "Don't let Supernatural get lost." A network can't beg for that type of publicity. It seemed to work too, as the most recent episode pulled a season high in both key demographics.
Studios like Warner Brothers like having cult shows in their catalog because the fans assure the show sells well on DVD, can go for years in syndication, and the studio can make a lot of money on fan conventions and merchandising. Fans will keep buzz alive with a cult show for years. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Star Trek," and "The X-Files" are prime examples of how a cult show will last long beyond the last episode. The latter has even ventured into feature films, with a new one due to shoot soon.
Finding this show by mere accident has given me a huge lesson in TV viewing habits. I can't turn on the TV every evening now and check the TV guide to see what's on. I need to seek out shows in other ways, via Internet buzz, Netflix rentals, iTunes, or just checking out episodes on websites. TV viewing habits are changing, and my choices are no longer limited. I found a hidden gem, so I challenge people out there to do the same and forget about the bad reality TV that has been dominant of late. Oh, and give "Supernatural" a try. You won't be disappointed.
This is the Sera Gamble interview that was published on blogcritics in June. Since I've mentioned it in a few of my most recent articles, I thought it should be here. This was a true thrill for me to do, and I hope to get the opportunity again someday. I'd love to pick her brain on this whole angels and demons thing.
This is why I love Supernatural. There's so much more to this show than the entertaining and thrilling episodes we get each week. There are people behind the scenes that are never too busy to take time to share the love of their work with nosy interviewers like me. I was very fortunate recently to touch base with Sera Gamble, Senior Writer and Producer for Supernatural, who kindly answered via email my prodding questions about the show and even humored my strange curiosity about melon ballers to the eye socket (all done in fun).
Sera Gamble has been with the show since the beginning and has written some incredible episodes, including landmark ones like "Faith", "Heart", "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1", and "Jus In Bello", and two of my personal favorites, "Houses Of The Holy" and "Fresh Blood". For season three, she took on the role of Producer and is again playing an integral role in mapping out the plots for the coming season. In this interview she talks about preparing for season four, her feelings about season three, what's involved in the writing process in general and what incredible things Jared and Jensen do with a script, even ones that involve extreme torture.
For those worried about spoilers for season four being revealed here, a couple questions elude to already leaked spoilers, but they aren't very specific. The answers dodge specifics as well (which actually pleases me very much), but a couple of answers should be considered light teasers. If you want to remain completely in the dark, this might not be the interview for you (although remember to come back later, for Sera gives us some awesome stuff in here).
I've never been what you call a "fan girl" in the true sense. I've never gotten excited over the whole celebrity thing. The way I see it, they're normal people doing jobs like you or me. I haven't met a lot of celebrities in my lifetime but when I have, I've treated them like normal people. So, heading to the "Salute to Supernatural" con this weekend, I wanted to find out what drove fans to mind blowing crazy every time Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were nearby. I wanted to understand what this phenomenon was all about. After all, I couldn't comprehend how people could spend so much money on gold tickets and photo ops for a quick fan experience. I didn't get how people started getting weak in the knees and all teary as they inched closer to their turn to have their 20 second quick shot with J2.
Day two got right back down to business. Of course that was after a small amount of excitement at the hotel involving slow service in the restaurant and a broken elevator. It's amazing how two minor little things can just throw off a morning for people, but it did, big time. I'll have to admit, the staff here at the Wyndam O'Hare weren't exactly well prepared for the masses of fans coming to their facility. Probably every time the word "Supernatural" was mentioned to the staff, I saw a lot of blank stares.
Here is the much anticipated day one report from the "Salute to Supernatural" convention in Chicago. I must say, so far it's been quite an event and it's only getting started.
This was a surreal experience from the word go. The day started by me getting up at 4:30 am. Considering I'm a night owl who rarely turns in before 1 am, I only see one 4:30 a day and AM isn't it. Fueled on a coffee and power bar high and armed with well loaded iPod, I made it to the hotel 7 1/2 hours later, an hour of that easily in Chicago traffic.
Check in was easy and while waiting I talked to James, one of Creation's faithful volunteers. He's done about nine or ten of these events for Creation in Chicago, and does a great job of not letting the riff raff in. He mentioned Fangoria so far has been the craziest (about 1,000 people winding through the hotel in line), but Sunday here will be pretty nuts too when Jared and Jensen are here. He also said there's no Star Trek convention this year because people have lost interest. He hoped for next year though, when the new movie comes out. I must say, that news surprised me.