Supernatural ‘Beat The Devil’ – Yes, I’m Still Emotional!

 

This week’s Supernatural episode was one of those episodes that everyone had a strong opinion about – but, as often happens in this fandom, not necessarily the same strong opinion. The one thing that everyone did agree on was that the acting was off the charts incredible – and nobody was left unemotional, that’s for sure.

For me, I think the emotions were especially complex because I was fortunate to be able to watch some of the episode be filmed, including some of the most intense moments. I thought that maybe, since I had already watched those horrific moments when Sam dies and Dean has to watch it, maybe it wouldn’t hit me so hard when I saw it onscreen. But no. It just meant that I got all emotional watching them film it, and then got emotional all over again watching the final product. I knew that Jensen and Jared had killed it in those scenes, but I don’t even have words for how much they broke my heart now that I’ve seen the episode.

So I agree with everyone else – the acting was off the charts. There was plenty to love about this episode, but there were also some things that bothered me, so here’s a bit of both along with a few behind the scenes tidbits.

The opening scene starts right in with the heartstring tugs – a scene of domestic family bliss, Cas and Jack and Mary and Sam around the table and teasing Dean about eating too much pizza, Mary saying she and John called him “our little piglet”. (This is Sam’s perspective, so it makes sense, but I’m pretty sure Dean’s love of food is a result of the deprivation that came after Mary died). Then Sam and Mary having the heart to heart that Sam has longed for, finally hearing Mary express her faith in her sons, how she knew they’d save her and they did. It’s Sam’s most wished for fantasy come to life – and of course it’s a dream.

Break my heart right at the outset, why don’t you? I sort of wanted to employ my dream interpretation skills, because that’s what psychologists do sometimes, but I’ll try to stop myself (would I just be psychoanalyzing writer Robert Berens? Hmmm. Tempting, Bobo…). I did love that in Sam’s fantasy, everyone is teasing Dean – it’s such a little brother fantasy. And everyone is together, family by blood, family by choice. Everyone is safe and happy. Oh Sam.

First quibble though – does Sam really sleep fully clothed in a long sleeve shirt even?? Really??

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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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Behind the Scenes of Supernatural with Director Richard Speight Jr.

I’ve known Richard Speight Jr. for a long time – a decade in fact! I loved his portrayal of the Trickster and Gabriel on Supernatural, and I’ve always loved talking to him. About the show, about the cons, about the fandom, about the business – Richard has always had the most fascinating insights. He wrote a chapter for our third book, Fan Phenomena Supernatural, which I love. And it’s always just plain fun to sit down and chat with him, especially as a wonderful way to end a hectic but fun con weekend. Richard talked about wanting to direct early on, so it’s been truly awesome to watch him pursue that dream and be successful thanks to determination, talent and lots of hard work. We don’t get to sit down and chat at the end of cons nearly as often as we used to, but we did in San Francisco. And yes, Richard still has the most fascinating insights – this time all about directing his most recent episode of Supernatural, and the incredible collaboration with cast and crew that has ensured the show’s success.

Lynn: War of the Worlds was a huge episode – It seems like (writers) Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner often get these episodes where they tie all these plot lines together.

Richard: Right.

Lynn: What is it like directing an episode like that, with three big reveals and so much plot movement? Does it feel as unmanageable as it sort of seems?

Richard: Well, it’s interesting, there’s a double whammy. I mean, Eugenie and Brad write phenomenal scripts, I think they’re very smart writers and they’ve been doing it a long time, they’re very experienced writers in the field.

Lynn: Which may be why they give them these complicated episodes.

Richard: Yeah, and I dig what they do so I was intimidated by getting one of their scripts. I’m intimidated by all scripts, to be honest…

Lynn: Well you haven’t been doing this that long!

Richard: Exactly, so everything intimidates me. But especially since Bob Singer is a mentor of mine, they’ve been together for a long time doing great work, so that’s intimidating. And the size of the script was huge in terms of what was involved. This was very challenging because every day was chock full and we moved like a freight train, but I felt like the story was in great shape when I got the script. We didn’t have to have a lot of conversations about ‘what about what about what about’. It didn’t need much massaging, it was kinda ready to go, so I could start working right out of the gate on what I thought the show should be from a shooting standpoint.

Lynn: That makes a lot of sense yeah.

Richard: And so to me it was as daunting as anything else is, but I think the thing that was most daunting were the fight scenes, because I had several. I had Castiel in the park and then I had the big fight scene in the bar, so those are the ones I kinda obsessed about alot – especially when I had the boys being thrown around in the bar, and Asmodeus throwing Lucifer and Castiel around in the bar. So those massive moments take a lot of energy and time and stunt work.

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It’s Hellatus – So Of Course Supernatural Leaves Us In ‘The Bad Place’!

 

 

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I LOVED last week’s episode of Supernatural, so I went into this week’s with high expectations, especially because this was the lead-in to the Wayward Sisters pilot episode that happens when we return from Hellatus. ‘The Bad Place’ turned out to be a wild rollercoaster of a ride that kept me on the edge of my seat – it literally looked and felt like a feature film crammed into 42 minutes! That’s not to say I loved all of it, but it definitely did a great job of setting up the possible spinoff while simultaneously entertaining me throughout.

So, what I liked?  Well, I really liked Jack. It was nice to meet Alexander Calvert at last weekend’s Supernatural convention and to be able to tell him in person what a fabulous job he’s doing on this show, because DAMN. I have been rooting for Jack since the beginning, which says a lot about Calvert’s acting and the way he’s been written considering he’s Lucifer’s son. I didn’t think I’d like him at all before Jack was born, so I wasn’t even prepared to care about the character – but I do.

We open with a young Native American artist, Derek, and his girlfriend discussing the difficulties of making a living through art, which, YES.

Enter Jack, a prospective buyer.

Derek: You’re young.

Jack: I am.

I laughed out loud at Calvert’s delivery, and the fresh faced expression on Jack’s face. He manages to make Jack entirely likable while also playing him with a hint of wait-is-that-a-menacing-look so I’m always a little off base and unsure. I was so horrified when we thought that Jack killed Derek, it actually made me a little sick to my stomach. I don’t WANT Jack to go dark side, Show! And that says something very good about how the character is being written and acted, because I actually CARE about him.

Writer Robert Berens does a good job of incorporating a bit of Native American lore and casting does a good job as they almost always do with finding an actor  (Nathaniel Arcand) who makes us care about him even in the four minutes he was in the episode! Arcand is not just very good looking, he invests Derek with personality too.

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Five for Five? Supernatural Advanced Thanatology

I was once again at a convention for last week’s Supernatural episode, so that meant trying frantically to set up the Family Don’t End With Blood vendor table and then running upstairs to borrow a friend’s hotel room to watch the episode. But this time, the hotel actually had the CW – yay!! So I was sitting perched on my friend’s bed watching all by myself, which didn’t stop me from making a lot of noise at times. Sorry, neighboring hotel rooms!

‘Advanced Thanatology’ is an unusual title for an episode, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Season 13 has been making me pretty happy so far, which means I now go into every episode with all my fingers and toes crossed because I desperately want them to keep the quality up. It’s nervewracking to be a fangirl, what can I say? This episode was written by one of the newer writers, Steve Yockey. And guess what? My finger and toe crossing worked! This is the fifth episode of the season, and the fifth one I liked. Woohoo!

We start with an unusually long opening sequence, in which a few foolish kids play out the horror film genre stereotype of ‘never do this unless you want to die’ behaviors. It was scary as hell, so I appreciated that, even though I admit that part way through I started mumbling ‘where are Sam and Dean, come on!’ I know, spoiled Supernatural fan. I just want my boys!

The actor playing Shawn, Seth Isaac Johnson, did an amazing job portraying his character’s terror though – and Alisen Down as his mom totally broke my heart. Someday I really am gonna send a gigantic fruit basket to Supernatural’s casting agency, because not only are the regulars incredible, most of the guest cast is too! The mom and son pair who were this week’s side characters served as the emotional push for Dean’s building sense of failure to go over the edge, because they portrayed fear and grief and loss so vividly. Shawn initially escapes, but he makes the other stereotypical horror film mistake of bringing home one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen – a plague mask from the haunted house of a deceased demented doctor. I was honestly afraid I’d have nightmares that night! Kudos props department, kudos.

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