Director (and Guest Star) Richard Speight Jr. Brings the Emotions in ‘Unfinished Business’

I am loving the lead up to Supernatural’s Season 13 finale. With four episodes remaining, this week’s ‘Unfinished Business’ kept up the momentum and continued the work of bringing the team together who will try to save the world (from AU Michael or Lucifer or the both of them). We’ve now gotten rid of Asmodeus to clear off the playing field a bit, and by the end of this episode Castiel, Gabriel and Rowena will all be in the bunker with the Winchesters getting ready to save Mary and Jack (oh, and the world).

Richard Speight, Jr. directed this episode, which wouldn’t be OMG AMAZING in itself since he has already directed multiple episodes. What makes it OMG AMAZING is that Richard ended up directing an episode in which he also is the featured guest star! They assign the directing schedule early on, so originally they didn’t know Gabriel would be getting an origin story, or that this would be it. When I sat down with Richard earlier this year after his first directing foray for Season 13, he knew he’d be directing episode 20 but had no idea what it would be. Turns out it’s one that stars his own character, Gabriel! Not one to be easily discouraged, Speight opted to do it anyway. He must have worked his butt off, but he pulled off a tour de force performance as not one guest character, but TWO – Gabriel and Loki!


Two of Speight’s previous directing outings have been favorites of mine, especially Season 11’s ‘Just My Imagination’ and Season 12’s ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. The latter was beautifully directed and scored, the title and the music and the directing choices a loving tribute to Quentin Tarantino’s films. That was writer Davy Perez who wrote the nod to Tarantino, but Richard told me in an interview at that time that he then knew he could pick up the momentum and roll with it.

Richard: …I decided oh, I can totally go stylized with this, we’re gonna go cinematically stylized, and I can dive in and keep fanning the flames in that direction. So that led to a lot of Western themes that I put in there, and to a Western score that got put in…. I’m a big Sergio Leone fan, and it felt like there was a lot we sort of pulled from that.

‘Unfinished Business’ also lent itself to being cinematically stylized, from some of the filming choices to the set dec to the awesome music score by Jay Gruska that really set the episode apart. Gruska apparently composed original music even for Gabriel’s kazoo solo, which was perfect for the alley fight scene – and also worked as an homage to Supernatural actor and Richard Speight good friend Rob Benedict’s band, Louden Swain (fans who love the band join in with a kazoo chorus on one of their best-loved songs). Gruska’s score was integral to the cinematic styling of this episode, making some of the pivotal scenes more memorable.

In some of the previous episodes he has directed, I’ve been impressed with the beautiful cinematography and lighting and asked Richard about it. His appreciation for director of photography Serge Ladouceur’s talent makes their collaboration a particularly striking one. In War of the Worlds, for example, he said that he’d almost over-shot the sequence with Lucifer in the hanging cage being tormented by Michael because it just looked so cool!
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Supernatural 13.14 – Good Intentions!

 

It’s Monday morning and I’m still sitting here pondering the last episode of Supernatural. Make no mistake, my enthusiasm for the Show is as healthy as ever – otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last three days thinking about it! This season has been uneven for me, with some wonderful episodes and some wonderful moments even in episodes I didn’t love, but when I get two in a row that don’t show me as much of the Winchesters’ perspectives as I need to see, I get impatient for more of what drew me into this show in the first place. This week’s episode was written by one of my favorite writers. Meredith Glynn wrote the incredible ‘Regarding Dean’, one of my favorite episodes of the entire series – so I went into this episode with high hopes after being disappointed by the last one three weeks ago. There were definitely things I liked about this episode, and it was indeed well written, but it didn’t leave me jumping up and down and screaming about my love of my Show, which is where I really like to be at the end of a new episode.

Someone on Tumblr wrote a provocative little post after this week’s episode about how Supernatural was never meant to be an ensemble show. The premise that drew me in was the story of these two brothers – two characters who have fascinated me for going on thirteen years. I enjoy Sam and Dean’s relationships with the other important people in their lives, which enriches my understanding of them, but Sam and Dean are my route in, and if I don’t have that route in, I feel too much on the outside instead of immersed like I want to be. The episodes that relegate Sam and Dean to more of a supporting role don’t have the emotional resonance for me that I’ve come to count on with this show. They may be good episodes in the sense of a self contained 42 minutes of drama, but they don’t give me that unique thrill that watching Supernatural does.  I’m the last person to suggest that anyone should keep up the sort of pace that Jared and Jensen have for the past twelve years because I care about them as human beings, but some have suggested that a shorter season would be a win/win alternative and I think I’d be down with that.

Let me be clear – I really liked a lot of this episode. Just not fangirl-thrilled-jump-up-and-down-OMG-I-love-this-Show kind of like, but like nevertheless. I think the scenes I enjoyed the most were the ones in the AU. I realize that seems to contradict what I said before about Sam and Dean being my route in since they weren’t even in the AU, but it’s not just having them onscreen, it’s having an emotional and psychological focus on them, and that didn’t happen in the ‘real world’ portion of the past few episodes either. The AU story was well done, it just didn’t leave me squeeful.

I liked the opening scene with Jack dreaming of being back “home” with Sam and Dean, even if I recognized it as a manipulated image from the start. The glimpse of what Jack longs for — his fantasy of Dean saying “You, me and the kid, home safe where he belongs” was heartbreaking. It’s so much the theme of Supernatural, that longing for family, the ability to create those bonds both with blood and without, and I was reminded how young Jack is with that glimpse, and how much he does long for that sort of family love and acceptance. For whatever it’s worth, Jack has bonded with Sam and Dean. They are his attachment figures, the first people who protected him and nurtured him. That early bond is powerful, resistant to a lot of outside attacks (as Michael (Christian Keyes) and Zachariah (Chad Rook) are finding out).  Jack’s deepest desire is to do right by Sam and Dean, to save them as they have saved him – I wanted to cry when his cruelly manipulated dream took such a dark turn and he was unable to save them.

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Yep, Those Are My Boys – a Winchester Win in The Scorpion and the Frog

Eight episodes in, and Supernatural Season 13 is still going strong. Last week’s episode, the oddly and ominously named ‘The Scorpion and the Frog,’ which I will probably always refer to as the Heist episode, kept the winning streak going. Some of my favorite episodes of this show are the throwback episodes that feel like the early seasons, especially the “monster of the week” ones that give the mytharc a rest and let Sam and Dean do what Sam and Dean do best – hunt. This episode was still mytharc-related, because Sam and Dean are motivated to undertake the heist in return for a Nephilim tracking spell, but it felt very old school. It was the Winchesters against the bad guys, and that was a lot of fun!

This season has been so dark (albeit with bits of humor tossed in that make it all so much more bearable) – that I think I started to feel a little beaten down just like Dean. So it was nice to see the Winchesters get some kind of win, even if it wasn’t the spell they were hoping for.

Perhaps even more importantly, for me at least, this episode felt like Supernatural. Sam and Dean felt like Sam and Dean. That’s my number one make-or-break point for this show, and Meredith Glynn writes my boys the way I see them. They talk like Sam and Dean, they feel the emotions that Sam and Dean would feel, they act like Sam and Dean. I recognize them; I feel like I know them. And it’s that familiarity that provides the emotional benefit that we get from our favorite shows. Without it, Supernatural is just another genre show. Glynn doesn’t make that mistake, and it makes all the difference.

We start with a little demon theft, and a double-crossing crossroads demon who immediately reminded everyone of Crowley. I’m assuming that was intentional, but I’m not sure it was a great idea – most of the reaction I’ve seen was the same as my own. TOO SOON. We’re all grieving the loss of Crowley and Mark Sheppard, so nobody who seems to be any sort of replacement is going to be welcomed. I’m having a similar problem with Asmodeus, but this character seemed even closer. David Cubitt did a fine job of making Bart a character with personality, and it’s not his fault that I couldn’t stop missing Crowley, but my reaction threw me out of the story a bit.

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Family Don’t End With Blood Book Release Party – SPNFamily Style!

When my agent suggested that I have a party to celebrate the release of Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, I was skeptical. Who does that? Not unknowns like me, that’s for sure. Who would come? Would I just be standing in a Barnes & Noble tossing confetti up in the air in an empty room? But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to celebrate this book that was two years in the making. This book is not mine – it belongs to all 25 contributors who wrote from the heart and poured their genuine emotions into their chapters, both fans and Supernatural cast. For most of them, it wasn’t an easy task. They are students and business women and moms and IT consultants. They are talented actors. But they are not, for the most part, writers. Or at least they weren’t before they said yes to contributing to this book!

I know the process was heartwrenching and intimidating for many of them. They are all people who care a great deal about this show and this fandom, and they didn’t want to let anyone down. Although they didn’t have much confidence about their writing ability, they felt it was important to share their stories – and so they persevered. Through self doubt and starting over and edits and a lot of hard work, they kept going. The result is no less than amazing to me. Every single contributor wrote something that speaks to others – that inspires others. The courage they showed in telling their real truth, in print, for the rest of the world to read, blew me away.

So I decided the wise and wonderful Amy Tipton was right; we would have a book release party. Now to figure out when and where and how. Which turned out to be a story in itself, so I thought I’d share the before, during and after of our rather unique celebration of #SPNFamily.

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Ladies Drink Free! Supernatural 12.16

This week’s episode saw the return of Claire Novak (Kathryn Newton), who is a controversial character for the fandom. I thought Newton and writer Meredith Glynn did a good job with a lot of this episode. It won’t go down in history as one of my favorites, but I enjoyed a lot of it. And yay for Show being back! The opening scene was notable for its scariness factor, and also for the acknowledgment of what everyone is asking the characters in every single horror movie. Yes, why ARE you going off into the woods alone, silly boy?? The explicit question, of course, didn’t keep the brother and sister from being attacked by the creepy mask-wearing werewolf. That’s a new one, werewolves in masks! I guess that’s a smarter than average werewolf.

Soon Sam and Dean are summoned to the Men of Letters headquarters, and I may have squealed a little bit just to have Ackles and Padalecki back on my tv screen, looking mighty fine. Dean is still clearly not really on board, especially not with the whole ‘reporting for duty’ thing. And especially if they keep him waiting! I was glad to hear Dean say that out loud, because we all knew that wouldn’t sit well with Dean. Thanks, Meredith Glynn, for putting it in words. I was also very glad to hear Mick admit that if Mary and Sam hadn’t been there, he would be dead too – finally, someone admitting that SAM saved the day and killed the alpha vampire! More thanks.

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