Demon Terrorists and Amoral Women: The Upcoming Season of "Supernatural"
Warning: The following article contains spoilers for the third season of "Supernatural".
"They're hidden among us, they could be anybody, we don't know who they are, they're among the towns in America and they're waiting to wreak as much havoc as possible. "
That's not the latest warning from Homeland Security. It's creator/executive producer Eric Kripke talking about the upcoming season of "Supernatural," a show which he describes as "two brothers battling the things that go bump in the night in a cool muscle car." He's at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss the show, along with star Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and writers Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund. Jared Padalecki, who plays younger brother Sam Winchester, was filming in Vancouver all night and missed his flight down to San Diego.
The show's season finale saw hundreds of demons escape from Hell. "It's been a fun and chaotic time in the writers' room of 'Supernatural,'" Kripke says. "We finally ended our two-season storyline which was the search for this yellow-eyed demon who killed their family. And it ended flowing organically into this war that's now begun."
Kripke continues, "We got to wipe the slate clean and move on to the next escalation which is, it's a world at war. It's this secret war that's going on and we try to actually draw as many modern day parallels as possible because the demons operate in a very terrorist-cell model."
"This is not a particularly political show or anything," says Ben Edlund, "but there's a lot of ground-level feelings that we're all sharing that are applicable."
In the season finale, Dean sold his soul to save Sam's life. By the terms of the deal, Dean has only a year left to live. "We're going to see the implications [of the deal] immediately," says Sera Gamble. "It's especially foremost on Sam's mind, because if Dean goes, then Sam will be all alone. But it's a huge central part of season three. Each brother, in his own way, dealing with that." When prodded for more information, Gamble would only say, "I can tell you that it's difficult to impossible to get out of that deal. And they're being craftier than ever and we're not going to let them off easily."
The Winchesters' demon-fighting adventures had the FBI on their tail last year and that will come into play this season as well. "We can't avoid it. If we keep avoiding it, the show's going to start shooting in Mexico. Solving crimes down there, moving slowly towards Tierra del Fuego. Or Canada - well, they already film in Canada. Shh! Did Eric say I could give that one away?" Edlund laughs. "There's a certain point where they just cannot credibly show their faces. We're probably dancing on that thin ice now, but there are also ghosts in the show, so I think we get a certain amount of license. There will be chases. To within an inch of their lives, I do believe."
We'll see more of the Winchester family friend Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver). "We’re really exploring Bobby this season. We’re telling his story for the first time," says Gamble. Antagonistic hunter Gordon Walker (Sterling K. Brown) will be returning as well. "You’re going to see Gordon again. Gordon is... Bad things, bad things are in store for Gordon!"
"For us, the best episodes are the ones about shades of grey. And it's always the ones where the decisions the boys have to make are really morally troubling," Kripke says. "In Gordon Walker we had that hunter who was taking it to that level of being a facist or in a way, like we sometimes like to call him, a 'human supremacist.'" He adds, "The demons in our show, since they're always possessing other people, raise those moral questions of how much collateral damage are you willing to take, in the battle to fight evil? [The Winchesters] should continuously be running across hunters whose moral line is much further down the line than our boys."
Two new characters are joining the cast this season. "The specific term is "recurring regulars," says Kripke. "We've always discussed that we think the show is Star Wars in truck stop America and expanding the universe is something that's always been important to me. And expanding the universe means these additional characters who move in and out of the story."
Kripke says, "Bela [played by Lauren Cohan] is a supernatural mercenary - created by Ben Edlund, by the way. And she's actually not a hunter. She's in it for the money. All these talismans and amulets these guys are always using to stop their monsters are all very valuable and so she's interested in the buying and selling of these objects since she's in it for herself."
"Bela is a pretty cool character," says Edlund. "I like her because she brings in a different point of view, a very selfish, end-of-the-world point of view. Basically all the characters we've been dealing with, if they're not bad, most of them are really good. They might be hardcore, they might be dangerous, but they serve a cause. The idea that this person is causeless gives us something to play with and that's pretty cool."
"I read her for her audition - her network test," says Jensen Ackles. "It was neat because Dean is this motorhead, blue-collar, Southern, gunslinging cowboy guy and Lauren is this refined English person and it was like, two totally [different] ends of the spectrum, in that opposites attract - or they may not, I don't know - it definitely lends itself to possibly having some interesting dynamics."
But before Bela arrives, the boys will meet up with Ruby (Katie Cassidy). "Ruby is a hunter, she's a hunter whose moral line is a lot further down than our boys," says Kripke. "She's pretty ruthless, a little unhinged, very controlling and manipulative and as early as episode two, there'll be a big twist on Ruby and she isn't going to be who we thought she was, which will spin her story off in a different direction."
When news of the new characters was leaked on the Internet recently, some fans expressed worries that these women would change the dynamic between the brothers. Ackles admitted he had similar fears. "I was a little concerned at first, like, how were they going to fit into a show that is truly only about these two characters?" But after reading the scripts and meeting the actresses, he was excited about the additions to the show. "I mean, you look at 'X-Files' and it was always about David and Gillian's characters, but they had characters surrounding them that supplied critical points of the story. You had the Smoking Man and the FBI agents and stuff like that were permanent fixtures of the show but didn't necessarily take away from the two leading characters. Hopefully this will still keep the show very much about what it's always been about and just add more dynamic to the show."
"I know our fans are suspicious of women - of the new women on the show," says Gamble. "But I think these women are really cool and unexpected and I've been having a great time writing both of them."
"There's a misconception that it's going to be the two girls in the back seat of the Impala and it's going to be the Scooby Gang and they're going to drive from town to town and Mama Cass is going to be in one episode," says Kripke. "But that's not the case. These girls organically move in and out of the story just like the other hunters and other characters in our show."
The writers try to use as much real-life mythology as possible. "The mandate to all the writers which we've continued is the show has to be Google-worthy," says Kripke. "We try very, very hard, and I can't say we're able to do it 100% of the time, but certainly a majority of the time, that the references in the show are accurate, that the legends that they deal with do exist out there somewhere. Even the throw-away references that the boys are always just saying as part of their dialogue, 'Oh, this reminds me of this case here' - those are always accurate and real stories that you can look up as well. It's only when we're backed in the ugliest of story corners that we find ourselves forced to fabricate something."
Kripke has a personal concern about the show's realistic mythology. His son was born on Sam's birthday and the Winchester family was attacked on the day Sam turned six months old. "We're going to be very very cautious in exactly six months. November 2nd's going to be a very nervous day in our home," he says. "It's really troubling and weird. Sometimes we worry that we're Satan's writers' room, you know, because every so often we'll come up with something then it'll happen in reality. Like, killer bees were happening just as we were doing [first season episode] Bugs. And every so often - we have the troubling theory that we're coming up with ideas for Satan. I hope not. I hope we're working for the forces of good."
One of the distinctive features of "Supernatural" is its classic rock soundtrack, which comes directly from the show's creator. Kripke says, "One of the best pleasures I've had about this show, one of the most gratifying moments - I was online, you know, checking out the blogs, and there was a 14-year-old who said 'What is this band Foreigner? And what is this song "Hot Blooded"? I really liked it, and I went out and bought the Greatest Hits of Foreigner.' Like, I'm doing God's work." He laughs. "Yeah, I'm introducing people to Foreigner. Now if only I can get more people on board with Triumph. To be able to spread that sort of sick obsession of mine has been very gratifying."
Kripke talked a little about his storytelling influences. "I was wondering if it was possible to meet Neil Gaiman [at Comic-Con], because Neil Gaiman is a huge influence on 'Supernatural'. 'American Gods' and 'Sandman' and then the 'Hellblazer' comic," Kripke says. "The idea is that we took a heroic structure, the Joseph Campbell hero structure and crossed it with American Werewolf in London and that's the closest way to describe the tone of the show."
In fact, one of the second season episodes had Sam falling for a woman who turns out to be a werewolf. "Behind the scenes we laughed that that was 'Supernatural''s version of Old Yeller," says Kripke. "You know, because it's like, 'I love her!' 'You have to take her out back and shoot her, son!' 'Okay!' And then there's that gun shot. But I was very pleased with that episode."
"There are ideas that I've carried around for a while and it tends to be a right place, right time kind of thing," says Gamble. "For a long time I had been pitching stories about making deals with the devil - throughout season one and through the beginning of season two and it wasn't until mid-season two that the mythology sort of caught up with the idea and we were able to do 'Crossroads Blues' and it made sense to do it at that time because Dad had just made this really horrible deal." She adds, "On the way over here I was driving with a friend - he's an art director - and we were talking about how we're never not working. If we are awake, we are in some ways thinking and synthesizing and trying to incorporate what we see around us into what we do. And in that way, I think I have the best job on the planet."
"It's the best fans in the world," Gamble says. "My friends who are writers who don't write primarily genre shows, they counseled me before I took this job that generally these shows will never be hits on the level of a 'Grey's Anatomy', but to me, the fans are so much more invested in the show like this and it's for the good, but it's also for the ill, 'cause if you f**k up, they're right there."
Kripke echos that sentiment. "We have the best fans in the world," he agrees. "I want to get the message out to the fans that we want to mobilize that army of 'tell your friends'. We want to come back for season four but that's far more in the audience's hands, the fan's hands, than it is in ours. So, uh, 'Tell your friends! Have parties!'"
Even though the show has ongoing story arcs, it's designed for people to be able to tune in and watch without knowing the entire mythology. "We still really want people to join the party, 'Come on in, the water's bloody.'" Kripke says. "If you want to understand the show, here's the show: two guys with chainsaws in their trunk fighting monsters. Got it? Okay, let's have fun."