The Characters on Walker ‘Dig’ Deep with Episode 1.17

Believe it or not, it’s already time for the penultimate episode of Walker’s first season! This was another episode that was well paced, with a lot happening but not so much that it felt jampacked or overwhelming. Jared Padalecki’s former Supernatural costar and frequent director, Richard Speight, Jr., joined the Walker family to helm this episode, with many of his signature striking shots enriching ‘Dig’.

In addition to the main characters, Stan (Jeffrey Nordling) had a roller coaster of an evolution, from feeling on top of the world and confident of his success and power, to all his deceptions and shady alliances coming down on him by the end of the episode. Nordling is talented enough to let us see Stan as not just a stereotypical villain, but a man who longs for the family bonds that the Walkers have and the resilience those relationships give them. Instead of using that as motivation, however, Stan is envious and bitter – and ultimately dangerous. Nevertheless, especially in a few scenes with Abilene, we see that Stan has a human side too, and Nordling makes me wonder what went so wrong that he ended up in the position he’s in now, harmful to the people around him and tied to North Side Nation whether he likes it or not.

The episode begins with Stan reinstating Walker with the Rangers – and warning him that they don’t need “some new breed of Ranger in touch with your feelings or whatever.”  Stan at times seems like the embodiment of toxic masculinity beliefs and an example of what those beliefs can shape you into. Walker, however, has come to realize that he doesn’t have to embrace anger and aggression as the only acceptable emotions.

Walker: Well, Stan, maybe it’s time we embraced some change.

Stan is unconvinced, warning Walker to “color inside the lines” – that is, don’t stray from those traditional values especially when it comes to masculinity or law enforcement. He knows how to play on the norms that we all absorb, Cordell included, to push him back into that ‘box’.

Stan: I’m hoping for both our sakes, you won’t have to take orders from your kid brother.

That was a good example of how we all police each other to stay inside those lines, with reminders of the consequences if we don’t. It’s all about competition and winning in Stan’s book, with relationships taking a back seat in importance.

Stan pins a ‘Vote for Stan’ button on Walker, as Cordell tries not to grimace.

Stan: Welcome back, Ranger.

Even that is a reminder – I’m the one in power, giving you back the position you want. That means you’ll support me, that’s the way the game is played.

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The Music of Supernatural – Composer Jay Gruska on Scoring the Emotional Series Finale and More

I have long said that the music of Supernatural has had a significant impact on the show – making it memorable and especially giving it the emotional resonance that it had for all fifteen seasons. That’s not something that every genre “horror show” can say, and I’m not sure any can say it with as much pride as Supernatural. The music added so much to the emotional impact of the series finale, so I was excited to talk to composer Jay Gruska about scoring that episode and the emotional episode ‘Despair’, as well as his fifteen years working on my favorite show.

As with many of the  people working on SPN (and another thing that made it so unique and wonderful), the same two composers worked on the show for its entire run – Christopher Lennertz (now working with Eric Kripke on ‘The Boys’) and Jay Gruska. I’ve talked to Jay several times over the course of the show – he contributed to ‘Supernatural Psychology’ for the chapter on music in the show – so I know how insightful he is about how music is used on the show. Chris and Jay tend to alternate episodes, so Jay scored all the even numbered episodes of Season 15, including the final episode, ‘Carry On’, and episode 15.18, Castiel’s goodbye episode, ‘Despair’.

The week before we spoke, I had done a Supernatural music panel at the Southwest Popular Culture Association conference with two friends and colleagues devoted to the most recognizable musical theme in the show, ‘Americana’, which Jay composed. We had invited him to do the panel with us, but he was unable to make it due to a family party. Luckily he and I were able to coordinate our schedules for a phone chat afterwards though.

Jay: That’s amazing about the panel, and kinda flattering and sweet. I’m so bummed that I missed it, I would have loved to share my experience from my end.

Lynn: I don’t think that many composers get an entire panel devoted to one single piece of music at an academic conference – but that’s how important ‘Americana’ is to Supernatural fans.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of ‘Carry On’

Lynn: I know you read my review of the series finale so you know that I loved the barn scene even though it was incredibly painful to watch, but it was such a masterful scene. I was talking to Jensen about it recently and said that he and Jared killed it, and also that the music makes it so much more emotional. That whole piece, the piano then the strings, and then the most familiar part of Americana in the middle…

Jay: Right. As you know more than anyone, I try my best to not use Americana just at the drop of a hat. I try to really respond to when a scene is asking for it. I’ve probably made a misstep or two along the way as far as some fans are concerned – I used it once with Jack, but boy, I heard from people right away like hey, he’s not family! And I was like well yes he is to me! But don’t mess with the Supernatural fandom.

Lynn:  So true. We’re passionate, that’s for sure. And some people would definitely agree with that and some wouldn’t.

Jay: But let’s start with those performances (Jensen and Jared). Because I’m gonna be crude right now and say that without performances like that, which don’t come along often, if there’s a scene where someone is not pulling it off? You’re basically polishing a turd with the music.

Lynn: lol

Jay: My job and particularly that scene, which I count as in the top two or three if not the most emotional, well acted, just hearts-on-their-sleeves as actors and as humans moments in the whole run of the show…

Lynn: I agree!

It’s okay, Dean, you can go now.

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Supernatural Spring Break – Photo Post No. 3 of Kim’s Favorites!

For our final photo retrospective for Supernatural Spring Break week, Kim has put together her thirty favorite photos from Supernatural cons over the years. I have no idea how she was able to do this, because narrowing it down to 30 from so much incredible beauty? I would give up. If you’ve ever stood behind her and looked over her shoulder in a convention hotel room at 2 am and watched while Kim edits her shots and tries to decide which of the hundreds (from one con) to post, then you get what I mean.

Most of the time, my contribution on those late night editing sessions is to periodically distract her by exclaiming OMG GUH!!! when she gets to a particularly gorgeous one. Kim, for some reason, does not appreciate this.

So I’m paying her back by NOT rearranging these photos before this posts. You’re the photographer, Kim, so you get the final say on which of your photos bring you the most joy. I’m just grateful for every single photo you’ve taken, and that you put together the color photo spreads for both Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. The books would not be nearly as pretty if it wasn’t for your contributions, and the photo and art contributions of other talented fans you coordinated too. (Also you wrote a powerful chapter!)

So here, in order of ability to spark joy, are Kim’s Supernatural cast faves – along with her commentary below and some of mine I couldn’t resist adding. Enjoy!

#30 – Misha at the convention in Jacksonville 2016.

Lynn: And Misha Collin’s blue blue blue eyes too!

#29 – Nashville 2019. I love their riffs.

Lynn: Me too. And their smiles. Jensen Ackles and Rob Benedict aka Robsen definitely sparks joy.

#28 – Louden Swain concert in Austin, Texas, 2020. I’m pretty sure this is “Rock Song.”

Lynn: The Swain show in Austin as 2020 began was one of the last times we got to see them play and be with our fellow SPNFamily. It was a charmed trip in so many ways, and the Swain show on my birthday was the perfect way to celebrate. And, I’m in my feelings already…

 

#27 – Saturday Night Special, Nashville 2019. She just has so much fun at these concerts, and it shows.

Lynn: Kim Rhodes putting her inner rock star out there at the Saturday Night Specials is one of the best things to come from Supernatural conventions.

#26 – Literally the best emcee Ever. Dallas, 2019.

Lynn: Hands down. I remember Richard Speight, Jr.’s very first con and how his personality came through loud and clear. When Creation had an actor cancel for their next con and were wondering who could replace him, I said they should call that Richard Speight guy (who we’d interviewed for our first book) because he was a natural for the convention stage. They did, and the rest is history. And the conventions became something they might not have without Richard’s guidance and incredible ability to improvise onstage at the drop of a hat.

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Supernatural Spring Break – Photo Retrospective Part 2

Continuing our week long spring break celebration of that little show we miss, here are some memories of the Supernatural cast over the years, seen through the lens of Kim Prior’s trusty camera – and her photographer instincts!

First up, some pics from Vegas Con 2015. I remember the first time Gil McKinney stepped onstage and started singing and everyone kind of stopped and went WHAT? Because damn, can he sing! The song he wrote for his dad is a favorite of mine – if you haven’t heard it, check out his album with that beautiful song and more.

Rob with the perfect tee shirt and almost clean shaven at that con!

I can hear the harmonies on Seven Bridges Road just looking at this photo…

“Seven Bridges Road” with Louden Swain, featuring Richard Speight, Jr. and Jensen Ackles.

Jensen looks as excited as all of us were to have both Winchester parents onstage at the same time with him!

Here are a few from Jacksonville 2016 – Ruth Connell and Kim Rhodes with smiles that light up the room, and Mark Sheppard doing one of the things that clearly makes him happiest – playing drums.

Nashville 2016 Matt Cohen when his hair was really long, which I’d almost forgotten. Matt can pull off any look, and I love how much he’s bringing to Entertainment Tonight these days – all his experience helping host cons with Rich and Rob have been put to very good use!

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Looking Back on Supernatural – A Chat with Writer Davy Perez

It’s no secret that Davy Perez is one of my favorite Supernatural writers. If you read my episode reviews regularly, you’ve heard me say that more than once, and he’s the only writer who wrote a chapter in the new book There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural, all about his journey as a writer and his experience on the show. There’s an online book club that’s currently reading Peace, and they’re inviting the contributors to join in their discord chat when they’re discussing that chapter. I pop in when I can, so I joined them when Davy’s chapter was the topic of conversation – and so did he!

It was Davy’s first time using Discord, so the only emoji he could find to try to express himself was the watermelon – which has remained the Book Club’s favorite emoji and is now used for all kinds of positive expressions in Davy’s honor.

The book club always has great questions and Davy had some great answers, so I’m sharing them here with the rest of the fandom (with Davy’s permission of course).

BC: What was it like to write an episode for Supernatural?

DP: I used to watch a lot of shock horror (in the) 80’s and kinda channeled that.

BC: How much influence did the network or the studio have on the writing?

DP: The network and studio give notes, but don’t mandate or dictate anything.  They are more there to
guide you toward the ideals that they want the show to always be (striving) for.  The writers/producers are still in charge of the story in the end.

BC: You said in your chapter that you had only watched a few episodes of Supernatural when you were hired, so you were not overly influenced by what had come before and had fresh takes on the characters and story line direction.

DP: In general, writing an episode is a lot like doubting yourself every step of the way (while also having
to) believe in your own genius. Also, specifically with SPN and with any show, you always do the work, from beats on the cards, to outline, to then just working on the scenes.  I aim for an act a day when
(working) on a script.  I actually found that whenever I watched an old episode, I found inspiration for
bringing something back, or looking at something from a new angle.  I was hired to bring in fresh ideas, for sure, but I like innovating from existing stuff vs. just fabricating from thin air.

BC: What do you think have been your most significant contributions to the characters’ development?

DP: My most significant contribution might be either the glasses or the sweaters (in Mint Condition and American Nightmare).

gif itsokaysammy

(Me: mm hmm)

DP: Maybe the cowboy hats too  (in Tombstone).

BC: (wholeheartedly agreed on all of the above)

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