Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Remember when Supernatural was a mini-movie every week?

I was doing some screen caps of the pilot and noticed something that others have brought up, which is how the style of filming has changed on Supernatural, particularly the last two seasons. So, I went through season 1 and just grabbed some random screen caps that I thought represented this change.

Sam in the pilot

The first is from the pilot, and it’s just Sam listening to a voice mail from Jess in the motel room. Look at the way he’s seated though and the light coming in the window. It’s representative of the action in which Sam is in the shadows and Jess’s voice is like the light from the window. Directed by David Nutter.

Night scene from Scarecrow

This one’s from Scarecrow, and it’s gorgeous, so atmospheric and creepy. It reminds me of how proud they were on Supernatural to be making a little mini-movie every week. Some fans talk about ‘monster of the week’ episodes with derision now, but that’s what got a lot of fans into the show. It used to be scary; nowadays, not so much. Directed by Kim Manners.

Rainy scene from Faith.

This image is from Faith and shows the care with which scenes were set up. The two women with umbrellas have just crossed in front Sam and Dean. The angle from behind the fence is wonderful. Dean is slowly dying, fading away, and the colors are all washed out and muted, even the red of the woman’s sweater. Again, it’s reflective of what’s happening in the scene. Directed by Allen Kroeker.

Dean and Cassie in Route 666.

The fourth is from Route 666 and the scene is just awesomely set up here. This is the first time Dean and Cassie have been alone since he got back to town, and it’s brilliant the way they are directed to stand facing each but separated as far as they can physically get, leaning away from one another. The camera watches them from a distance, which reinforces the distance between them. Directed by Paul Shapiro.

Dean in basement scene in Hell House.

In the fourth frame, we see Sam and Dean hunting together in Hell House. We don’t really see this much anymore. I can think of a number of times in S7 where they were on the same hunt but they were separate in the building or wherever. That’s a problem others have noted too. I love this shot though just for its beauty. It’s like a painting with the lighting picking up the edge of Dean’s face and making the jar in his hand glow and colors of the jars and angle from behind the shelves. Again, gorgeous. Directed by Chris Long.

John drives away in Salvation

This last shot is from Salvation. It’s John driving off in the truck to go meet Meg, and what you can’t see from a screen cap is duration of this shot. We see the truck move from the bottom of the screen to the top. This long shot allowed the viewer time to feel the distance that was being placed again between the boys and John. For all they knew he might not be coming back. Like them, we watched until he was out of sight. Awesome use of a shot to convey the characters’ POV. Directed by Robert Singer.

Another thing I noticed in the first season was how different the pace was. Much more care was taken with each scene. The pacing was more varied, and time was spent conveying mood and atmosphere through camera work, lighting, and editing. The show had much more the look and feel of a conventional TV series in Season 6 and 7, and Season 8, the colors became even more saturated and there were fewer night scenes. It frequently looked like comic book. In Season 9, there’s been a bit of a return to the atmospheric scenes of the earlier seasons. I’m thinking specifically of the barn scenes in Bad Boys and the subterranean scenes in A Rock and a Hard Place.

The pacing still isn’t what it once was. I sometimes feel as though they are trying to cram too much into each episode, but there have been baby steps in terms of bringing back a scarier feel to the cinematography and I hope that continues.

Thoughts?

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6 responses

  1. “Some fans talk about ‘monster of the week’ episodes with derision now, but that’s what got a lot of fans into the show. It used to be scary; nowadays, not so much”

    Yes! You really hit the nail on the head here, I deeply miss the gritty Americana and old horror movie cinematography the show used to have and the pacing was definitely better.

    I am reminded of the opening of Skin where they speed out of the parking lot and the camera pulls back to show the sign “Drive carefully(safely?) America.”

    Also, remember how they used overly saturated color in It’s A Terrible Life to signify something wasn’t quite right? As soon as Zachariah returns Dean’s memories the color went all washed out again.

    I’m sure a lot of it comes down to budget and time restrictions. I miss the classic rock soundtrack too.

    December 28, 2013 at 12:45 am

    • Yeah, in a lot of little ways — from writing to cinematography to soundtrack — it just isn’t the same show. I miss it.

      December 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

  2. andi nichols

    i AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT WITH YOU- THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE BEEN MORE LIKE EVERY OTHER SERIES- JUST A STORY- NOT A MINI MOVIE- LET’S BRING BACK SEASON 1 THRU 7 AGAIN- AT LEAST THE WRITING, PATHOS, WHAT EVER IT TAKES- THEY ARE GREAT ACTORS AND LET THEM BE THE BOYS WE SAW A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO-

    January 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    • I’m hearing that a lot of fans feel this way. I don’t know what it will take to get them back on track.

      January 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

  3. supernaturallydevoted

    I too miss my mini horror movie of the week. I miss the grit and saturated/muted visuals. I’m still excited for sn10. After all these years, I’m still watching Supernatural. Congrats to the show.

    September 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    • The set up for season ten looks really promising, and Jared and Jensen seem really happy with how it’s going. I hope this is the best season in years.

      September 24, 2014 at 6:46 am

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