Asylum is a pivotal episode – I feel like I’m saying this about every Season 1 episode as we do this rewatch, but it’s true! It’s also the perfect time to post this rewatch review, because I just finished posting an interview with the episode’s director, Guy Norman Bee. This is his favorite episode of all the many Supernatural episodes he’s directed, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s beautifully directed, gorgeous to look at, and deft in its exploration of the growing tension between the Winchesters.
It’s also one of the scary episodes, which Season 1 had a lot of. Just the idea of a deserted dark asylum with a disturbing history is scary enough, but Serge Ladouceur’s brilliant cinematography and Jerry Wanek’s set design make it even creepier. The episode starts out with the Asylum’s Keep Out sign and cops realizing that some local teenagers have ignored it. The place is apparently haunted with the ghosts of the abused patients, and if you spend the night, the spirits will drive you insane.
Of course, that has never stopped adolescents.
The cops explore by flashlight.
Cop #1: Let’s split up.
All of us watching: MISTAKE!
The first cop ends up in the boiler room because of course he does, and finds the kids – the requisite horror movie false alarm. Meanwhile, cop #2’s flashlight goes out and that is never a good sign.
Then a door opens by itself – also not a good sign.
Sure enough, cop #2 goes home to his wife and blows her away.
Meanwhile, the Winchesters. Sam calls around – and we hear names that will become familiar, like Caleb and Pastor Jim – but no one has heard from their Dad.
Sam: Maybe we should call the Feds…
Dean says no, Dad would be pissed if they did. Sam is angry, though, saying he could be dead for all they know. Dean insists he isn’t, but that leaves Sam even more frustrated.
Sam: So, he’s what? Hiding? Busy?
Dean’s phone rings at that moment, and he smiles – it’s a text message with coordinates, which means John Winchester is alive. In fact, the place he’s sending them, the Roosevelt Asylum, has an entry in John’s journal.
Sam: This is a job. Dad wants us to work a job.
He’s bitter, resentful that their father is ignoring them and staying away, but makes contact just to send them on a mission. He seems more drill sergeant than dad, and Sam isn’t willing to gloss over it like Dean is.
Dean: Maybe he’s there…
Sam: Maybe he’s not…
This episode is written by someone who I think was a one time writer, Richard Hatem. He gets the complicated dynamic that’s already there between Dean and Sam though, as Dean retorts that their Dad wants them there, and “that’s good enough for me.”
It is not, however, good enough for Sam. And that’s becoming increasingly obvious. Sam goes along, but not all that willingly.
The Winchesters pull a rather brilliant good cop/bad cop thing on the actual cop whose partner died, which works like a charm. It involves Sam giving the asshole reporter (Dean) from the Chicago Tribune a shove and telling him “hey buddy, why don’t you show the guy a little respect”.
Guy Bee has always been one of my favorite directors on Supernatural, directing some of the pivotal episodes, starting with ‘Asylum’ in the first season. I met him a long time ago (which he for sure does not remember) in the green room at an early Supernatural convention. I was waiting to do an interview and he was chatting with some of the actors and I remember wanting to compliment his directing but feeling too shy to do that. This was also the time I was so nervous that I poured myself a very large glass of what I thought was wine from the carafe in the back of the room – except it was very expensive bourbon and that much would likely have left me on the floor. Luckily Kathy intervened. With an eyeroll.
That’s our storied history, Guy Bee! I’m grateful I didn’t embarrass myself, at least. Since then we’ve shared some zoom hello’s and some less fraught convention hello’s, but that first “meeting” will always stick with me.
Fast forward to the present. There’s an online book club that some fans started to discuss the two books that I edited that have chapters by the cast and the fans of Supernatural – Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. They often invite the actors and fans who wrote chapters to drop into the book club on Discord and answer some questions about their chapters, and I drop in too when I can. And because the Supernatural cast and crew is like no other, they actually do drop into the book club and join in the discussion of their book chapters and the show!
Rick Worthy (the Alpha Vamp on Supernatural) dropped in a few months ago to discuss the chapter he wrote in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, and the conversation turned to Rick’s collaboration with director Guy Bee in creating the memorable character. Rick mentions working with Guy and becoming good friends in his chapter also. The book club was so intrigued, they invited Guy to come chat with them the next time they met. I was excited to join in too, because directors always have some fascinating insights and I will never ever get tired of hearing about Supernatural. Maybe especially now that it’s ended – having some new insights feels like an incredible treat!
Here’s the Book Club conversation, with some wonderful memories of Supernatural and some interesting thoughts on directing too.
Book Club: Rick Worthy was here at our last meeting and talked about the two of you collaborating to create the Alpha Vamp character. You seemed to work very well together. Is this kind of collaboration common between an actor and a director to flesh out a character? What made Rick great to work with?
Guy: I remember having some suggestions for the part (Brad Dourif) and we auditioned my pal Nick Lea [SIDEBAR – Nick Lea played Alex Krycek on the X-Files and was eventually on Supernatural in the ‘Time After Time’ episode] who lives in Vancouver, but when I saw Rick’s audition tape I knew he was the only guy to play the Vamp! That Voice! One of the joys of directing is working on subtext and a motif, (collaborating) with the actors and finding subtleties that aren’t necessarily “on the page”. Rick is a consummate actor who thrives on that kinda stuff. He’s a director’s dream because he ALWAYS elevates the script from just ink on a page to a fully realized, believable character!
[SIDEBAR – Rick Worthy enjoyed filming that episode as much as Guy did, and it sounds like Jared and Jensen did too. Here’s what Rick Worthy had to say about the episode: When Sam and Dean come to his house there is this big long Citizen Kane table where the Alpha Vamp presides, and it was just awesome, a beautiful set design, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. And then Dean attacks and comes after me and I have to hurl him, just toss him over the table like he’s paper! It was one of those really cool stunt scenes and I love to do those. I remember Jared got very excited and came up to me and said dude, you should totally record this on your iPhone! So I gave him my iPhone and he said I’ll record it for you. When the director Guy Bee called ‘Action’, we do the stunt and then I just toss Dean (I believe it was his stunt double) over the table. I think we did it in two takes, and I remember looking back at Jared and he gave me the thumbs up like, yeah that was really cool! I love working with actors who enjoy what they’re doing and have respect for the process. How many times has he done this kind of shot? Dozens and dozens and dozens of times, maybe hundreds since the pilot. I really loved that.]
[And on his friend Guy Bee: He’s a great guy. He’s like the one director who goes to conventions and does karaoke. He does “Dirty Deeds and They’re Done Dirt Cheap” and sings his ass off. He’s a fun guy to hang out with.]
It’s the second to last day that Supernatural is airing, and I woke up extra emotional and thinking, for the millionth time, about how special this show is and how much I love it (and how much I’m gonna miss it!) So I’m going to continue celebrating my favorite show of all time today with more exclusive interviews with its cast and directors, and more original articles (if I can see clearly enough to actually finish them). I want to smile today too, remembering how much Supernatural has meant to all of us – the actors and the fans.
One of the things that makes Supernatural so unique is that even its one episode or briefly recurring characters are sometimes so memorable. That was the case with the Alpha Vamp, brought to life by the very talented Rick Worthy. I loved his character on Supernatural and I also loved him as Dean Fogg on The Magicians, so I was elated when Rick agreed to write a chapter for There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. We wanted that book to come from all kinds of diverse perspectives and to include all sorts of characters – even scary but charismatic vampires!
As the show comes to an end, I caught up with Rick again to ask him a few questions about how he’s feeling about Supernatural and being part of the SPN Family now as he looks back.
Lynn: How are you feeling about Supernatural now that it’s coming to the end of its run?
Rick: I’m happy that they have decided to end it, and by they I mean Jared and Jensen, because I think that they were ready to say goodbye to Supernatural. I think they could’ve ended the series earlier or they could’ve chosen to keep it going to Season 20 if they wanted to — I really think it was up to them. They both have done an amazing job with handling being TV stars on an enormously successful American TV show and they are, I think, exemplary actors in terms of their handling being on a hit show with such a massive global fandom in the millions. I admire them so much. I also admire the writers and producers and directors – everyone who was involved with making the show happen. The teamsters, the craft services team, everyone who works on the show to make the show a day to day event.
Lynn: It really is a team effort.
Rick: I admire them all and from what I understand, they have pretty much kept the same people in place over a number of years. That’s always a good sign that people like the show that they’re working on, when they come back the following year. I’ve heard that about Supernatural and I think that’s indicative of the tone that Jared and Jensen set for the show. I think it sort of trickles down, you know? And that’s a wonderful thing.
Lynn: It is, and they’re proud of that. They talk about that in their chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, in fact.
Rick: It is sad for me personally because the show meant so much to me. It came at the right time in my career – it jump started my career in enormous ways and I’m incredibly grateful to God for that. But all good things come to an end, and I think if they’ve decided to end it, that’s their choice and I wish them well on their next adventures, whatever that may be, the next chapters in their lives.
Lynn: Looking back, do you have a favorite behind the scenes moment?
Rick: I remember in the episode ‘There will be Blood’, when Dean tries to attack the Alpha Vamp and they basically come to his house. And there is this big sorta long Citizen Kane table where the Alpha Vamp presides and it was just awesome. It was a beautiful set design, just perfect in every way. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, it was incredible.
Rick: And then Jensen – Dean, sorry – he attacks and comes after me and then I have to hurl him, just toss him over the table like he’s just paper! And we did the whole thing and it was just one of those really cool stunt scenes and I love to do those. It was a really cool stunt set up and I remember Jared got very excited and he came up to me and said dude, like you should totally record this! (laughing) On your iPhone. So I gave him my iPhone and he said, I’ll record it for you.
Lynn: That’s really the kind of actors they are.
Rick: So we did. When the director, Guy Bee, said ‘Action’, we do the stunt and then I just toss Dean over the table, although I believe that part was his stunt double if I remember correctly. And I think in about two takes, we had it, and it was pretty cool. And then I remember looking back at Jared and he gave me the thumbs up like, yeah that was really really cool! It was his enthusiasm about the shot that was so fun to me. I love working with actors who enjoy what they’re doing and have a respect for the process. How many times has he done this kind of shot? Dozens and dozens and dozens of times, maybe hundreds since the pilot, you know? So I really loved that and I haven’t forgotten that.
Lynn: I love that story so much. It really does show how they never lost their enthusiasm for the show or the characters, never started dialing it in, as they say. Is there a favorite moment with fans that stands out as you look back?
Rick: Wow, so many. I always think about the cons. Last year I gate crashed, totally gate crashed, the Supernatural con in Rome. I decided to make it a vacation. I didn’t just go to Rome, I went to Ireland and London and Paris and then to see a friend in Spain. When you’re in Europe, everything is just a 2 or 3 hour flight, it’s not that hard, and really cheap to fly. So I popped in to the Rome con even though I wasn’t officially invited. I of course had friends there and we hung out and just had such a wonderful time. And just hanging out with my friends , my American friends here in the states and then seeing them in Rome and hanging out with them there, they’re like a second family with me. And us hanging out together in Italy was just wonderful. I won’t mention names because I try to give people their privacy but I had such a wonderful time and it’s memories that you’ll never forget. We had a lovely time and sadly it was a short trip for me because I had to get back to London for a few days and then back to Vancouver to go back to work. But it was amazing and I had a lovely time.
Lynn: Thank you so much, Rick. I’m so happy to have your beautiful chapter in the book. I hope we get to say hi in person again soon!
As mid season finales go, last night’s episode wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but I did enjoy it. And once again, the moon was blue, because my daughter did too. I really hope all these blue moons aren’t a portent of some terrible evil. Oh wait, that’s a good description of mid season hellatus, isn’t it?
Fandom is split on its thumbs up or thumbs down of “The Things We Left Behind”. Some fans were ecstatic to have a Cas-centric episode and others were disappointed that there weren’t enough Winchesters in the mid season finale. I was happy with much of what we got when it comes to Sam and Dean, but there probably will never be an episode where I think it’s “enough.” I have a feeling I could have Sam and Dean on my tv screen 24/7 and still be wanting more of them, so I’m really not a very reliable barometer. The first segment (pre commercial no. 1) was noticeably Winchester-light, which didn’t make me a happy fangirl. On the other hand, the few minutes we got were, in true Supernatural style, first horrifying, then heartwarming and ominous. Simultaneously.
Vegas Con is like a Supernatural con on steroids – it’s an over-the-top, nonstop, emotional rollercoaster of a con, with fans sobbing with joy leaving the photo op room or hugging friends they haven’t seen all year or collapsing in exhaustion on a conveniently placed bench. Of course it is – it’s Vegas!
We live tweeted the entire con (except for the beginning, thanks to an airport shuttle that took the scenic route to the Rio…) but we thought we’d share some of our favorite con moments here.