The CW television series Supernatural follows Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), who lost their mother 22 years ago to a mysterious and demonic supernatural force. Show Creator/executive producer/writer Eric Kripke talks to MediaBlvd Magazine about the thrilling and terrifying season three journey for the Winchester brothers.
Eric Kripke on Supernatural’s New Season
By Christina Radish
The CW television series Supernatural follows Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), who lost their mother 22 years ago to a mysterious and demonic supernatural force. Having been taught by their father about the paranormal evil that lives in the dark corners and on the back roads of America, Sam and Dean spend their lives cruising the highways of the United States in their 1967 Chevy Impala, battling various creatures that most people believe exist only in folklore, superstition and nightmares. Confronting vampires, spirits, revenants and reapers, among other, even scarier things, now that the gates of Hell were opened, letting loose countless demons, the Winchester brothers will also be fighting two new characters, a hunter named Ruby (Katie Cassidy) and a mercenary named Bella (Lauren Cohan).
Show Creator/executive producer/writer Eric Kripke talks to MediaBlvd Magazine about the thrilling and terrifying season three journey for the Winchester brothers.
MediaBlvd Magazine> Can you talk about the arc of season three? Is it the vision you’ve always had in mind, from the beginning?
Eric Kripke> We have a five-year plan. It’s in season six that things will start getting really hinky and there will start being weddings, and Raven-Simone will join the cast. But, we have a five-year plan that, by design, we keep huge gaping holes in the middle of, since you just don’t know how things are going to evolve. You pull up certain story elements and you push down other ones. For instance, the psychic kid storyline was supposed to go deep into season three, but quite frankly, I personally got so sick of it that and said, “I’m getting tired of these psychic kids. You know that story we were going to do in the middle of season three? Let’s go in the finale and just wipe them all out.” But, certain things last longer because you start stretching them out, in terms of conflicts between the boys and whatever else. The general plan of the steps of this season is that we go to war, so that next season, we have an escalation in store. We’re roughly keeping in line with that.
MediaBlvd> Shows like Heroes and Lost have these huge, labyrinthine mythologies, but this show is very low to the ground. Is that on purpose?
Eric> Yeah, it’s a personal preference of mine. I think Lost is a terrific show, but personally my own taste isn’t an endless mythology because the answers are never going to be satisfying, at the end of the day. I promise you, it’s so hard to go season after season of mystery, and then provide an answer that’s going to be satisfying. So, I was much more a fan of the early X-Files structure, and I thought Buffy did it brilliantly, of one mythology a year. Early X-Files is mostly made up of stand-alone episodes, interspersed with the mythology, which is actually probably more our structure. That just works for me. I like people to be able to join the party. I’m not into Heroes. I wanted to be, but I missed it, and now, I’m too intimidated to pick it up. Unless I watch the entire first season DVD, I feel like I’m out of the loop. And, we don’t want viewers to feel like they’re out of the loop, when they’re watching Supernatural. We want them to feel like they can join the party anytime.
MediaBlvd> So, will there be less mythology in season three?
Eric> There will be the same amount as usual. There are three stand-alone episodes in a row, followed by a big mythology episode. But, I think we have a simpler mythology in season three. My own personal hindsight of the first three seasons is that, in the first season, we had a great mythology. It was a two-word mythology: find dad. It was simple, it was emotional, it was clean. Our stand-alone episodes were a little hit and miss. Season two, I’m very proud of our stand-alone episodes. They were unique and they were structurally interesting, and we found our legs. But, I wasn’t as happy with the season two mythology. It was a little too dense and confusing. You needed a flow chart to understand it. We said, “Here are all the psychic children, and here’s the yellow-eyed demon.” For season three, we’re trying to learn from that, and we’re trying to have the intensity of the stand-alone episodes that we had in season two with a simple, pure, emotional mythology like season one. We’re hoping this will be the best season yet.
MediaBlvd> Can you talk about adding the girls to the show this season? How will they be changing things?
Eric> Ruby is a hunter whose moral line is a lot further down the line than our boys. She is pretty ruthless, a little unhinged, very controlling and manipulative. She is not going to be who we thought she was, which will spin her story off in a different direction. Bella is a supernatural mercenary, created by (co-executive producer/writer) Ben Edlund. She is not actually a hunter. She’s in it for the money. All of these talismans and amulets that the boys are always using to stop their monsters are very valuable and worth a lot of money, so she’s interested in the buying and selling of these objects. She’s in it for herself. She’s only on one side: hers. Both of these characters have been introduced to mix things up a little bit, and just to provide trouble for the boys. They are much more antagonists than they are helpful. Expanding this universe is something that’s always been very important to me, and expanding the universe means adding these additional characters, who move in and out of the story. There’s a misconception that it’s going to be the two girls in the backseat of the Impala, and it’s going to be the Scooby Gang, and they’re going to drive from town to town. That’s not the case. These girls organically move in and out of the story, just like the other hunters and characters on our show have done.
MediaBlvd> How authentic do you try to get everything that you use on the show?
Eric> Whenever we can, we attempt to be as authentic as possible. The mandate to all the writers, which we’ve continued, is that the show has to be Google worthy. We try very hard, and I can’t say we’re able to do it 100% of the time, but certainly the majority of the time, the references in the show are accurate, and the legends that they deal with do exist out there, somewhere. Even the throw-away references that they boys are always saying, as part of their dialogue, are always accurate, and are real stories that you can look up as well. It’s only when we’re backed into the ugliest of story corners that we find ourselves forced to fabricate something. But, we try to keep that to a minimum, as much as possible.
MediaBlvd> Do you ever take anything out of the headlines for stories?
Eric> Every so often, we’ll come up with something, and then it will happen in reality. Killer bees were happening, just as we were doing “Bugs.” We have this troubling theory that we’re actually coming up with ideas for Satan. I hope not. I hope we’re working for the forces of good.
MediaBlvd> Are we going to see more of the demons that were released at the end of last season?
Eric> Yes. It’s been a very fun, chaotic time, in the writers’ room of Supernatural. We finally ended the storyline that was our two-season storyline, which was the search for this yellow-eyed demon that killed the boys’ family, etc. And, it ended, flowing organically, into this war that’s now begun. It’s exciting because we got to wipe the slate clean and move onto the next escalation, which is a world at war. It’s this secret war that’s going on, and we try to draw as many modern-day parallels as possible because the demons operate in a very terrorist cell model.
MediaBlvd> Does that mean the end of Sam’s ability?
Eric> For the foreseeable future, yes. He’s no longer physic. The yellow-eyed demon is dead. He’s not having visions. He doesn’t have powers. He feels he’s in a safe place. But, we have these demonic terrorist cells because 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. You’ll get to see how Sam and Dean react to that, and the secrets that are hidden among that. That idea of this world at war — of hunters versus this demonic presence — is a much cleaner mythology, so we’ve had a lot more fun exploring it. Quite frankly, by the end of the second season, I was really worried that the mythology was becoming too confusing, so I was really happy to end it in a, hopefully, satisfying way, and move onto the next story.
MediaBlvd> How do you balance that mythology with your weekly stories?
Eric> We really want people to join the party. Come on in, the water’s bloody. For us, the sell has always been, “If you want to understand the show, the show is about two guys with chainsaws in their trunk, fighting monsters,” and we have fun. That’s really the idea. The mythology has always been designed to come in every four or five episodes. Our bread and butter are stand-alone episodes of these two brothers, battling the things that go bump in the night, in a cool muscle car. It’s very much early X-Files, in that way. You could tune into any of the first three or four seasons of The X-Files, before it really started to get hinky, and pick up the show, and then pick up the mythology, once you got involved with the characters. And, that’s our same formula here.
MediaBlvd> Would you ever explore an option where Sam and Dean meet a team that is the anti-thesis of them, who are killing the good spirits and the people who are possessed by angels?
Eric> That’s certainly a really interesting idea. For us, the best episodes are always the ones that are about shades of grey, where the decisions the boys have to make are really morally troubling. We’ve had a hunter who was taking it to that level of being a fascist, who we sometimes like to call the human supremacist. The demons on our show, because they’re always possessing other people, always raise those moral questions about how much collateral damage you’re willing to take, in the battle to fight evil. They should continually be running across hunters whose moral line is much further down the line than our boys. It’s certainly an idea that’s sin the right real estate of the kind of stories we like to tell, for sure.
MediaBlvd> Who or what inspires you?
Eric> Beyond classic rock, which inspires me, my Midwestern roots are very prevalent in the show. I’m from a medium-sized town in Ohio. I’m from Toledo. Creatively, Neil Gaiman is a huge influence on Supernatural, with both American Gods and Sandman. And, the Hellblazer comic had a big influence on Supernatural. And then, movies like Poltergeist and American Werewolf in London were influences. The idea is that we took a Joseph Campbell hero structure and crossed it with American Werewolf in London. That’s the best way to describe the tone of the show.
MediaBlvd> With a lot of the episodes being named after songs, which comes first, the title or the idea?
Eric> A lot of times, we’ve come up with the episode idea first, and then we pick the title later. Yes, a lot of titles last season, and a lot of titles this season, are going to be based on classic rock songs. My own personal preference is Led Zeppelin songs because that’s my obsession. It’s just because we love that music and because classic rock is such a part of the show that it seemed like a natural to name a lot of titles after those songs. Our titles were much better in season two than they were in season one. Season one, they were all one word titles, like “Bugs,” or “Scarecrow,” or “Nightmare.” And, season two was more like, “Houses of the Holy,” “What Should Never Be” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” We got a lot more relaxed about our titling.
MediaBlvd> What is Sam’s problem with Dean’s music? Given the opportunity, what would Sam play?
Eric> We have interesting debates about that all the time. Sam probably listens to whatever the cool modern music is. But, I don’t know any of it because I don’t listen to anything after 1980. He probably listens to Green Day. I don’t know what’s cool. Is Green Day cool, these days? Are Red Hot Chili Peppers? He listens to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fall Out Boy, and maybe The Killers. I am such a stranger in a strange land, when it comes to those bands. That’s why you never hear Sam’s soundtrack. I don’t know that music, and I would choose the wrong songs. All my friends call me Old Man Kripke because I don’t listen to a band past 1980. That’s why Dean’s music always wins out. I hate so much modern music that I just can’t bear to listen to it in the editing room.
MediaBlvd> Do you have songs that you’d like to use on the show that you either haven’t been able to get, or haven’t been able to find a place for?
Eric> There’s a lot of classic rock that’s too expensive. My dream of dreams, because classic rock is my obsession and it’s the reason I care so much about it on the show, is Led Zeppelin. I’d love to use anything from Zeppelin, like “Traveling Riverside Blues” or “Ramble On. But, Zeppelin will not sell their songs to anybody except Cameron Crowe because he traveled with them when they were on tour, and they’re also a billion dollars a song. That’s just a rough estimate. We’ve tried to get Aerosmith, and Aerosmith is actually a little expensive. And, there have been a couple others. But, the songs that we are able to get, that are within our budget range, are songs that I grew up on and loved. There’s nothing better than finding an obscure Foreigner song. One of the best pleasures I’ve had with this show, and one of the most gratifying moments, was when I was when I was online, checking out the blogs, and there was a 14-year-old kid 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.” I feel like I’m doing God’s work. I’m introducing people to Foreigner. To be able to spread that sick obsession of mine has been very gratifying. This music isn’t disposable. I hate every other song that’s on every other show on the network. I like music that stands the test of time. It’s cool, and cool is undeniable. People will hear it and, wherever they’re from, they’ll think, “That’s cool. That’s got soul to it.” I think that adds to the texture of the show. I hope it does.
MediaBlvd> Supernatural has always been up against very rough competition in its time slot. When you set up the new mythology for the finale, did you know that the show would be coming back for another season, or did you set it up with the hope that it would return?
Eric> We did not know if we were coming back. We were hopeful, but season three was not a sure thing, by any means. Quite frankly, behind the scenes, there was some fighting going on, to make sure we came back for season three. But, you can’t let that affect your storytelling. I can’t say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m coming back, so therefore, I’m going to wrap this up, or not wrap that up.” I just have to tell the story I want to tell, at the pace that I want to tell it, and hope for the best. Very shamelessly, that’s why I want to get the message out to the fans. We have the best fans in the world, and I just want to mobilize that army. We want to come back for season four, but that’s far more in the audiences’ hands and the fans’ hands than it is in ours. So, tell your friends. I believe there have to be people out there who don’t want to watch doctors banging in hospitals (like on Grey’s Anatomy), or an endless procedural (like CSI). I know I’m in the minority of America, but I don’t get those shows, and there has to be people like me. We’re trying hard to live up to shows like Buffy and The X-Files, and we’re trying to be a worthy show to these predecessors, and we think we’re doing it. I just don’t think a lot of people know that this show happens to be on the CW Network. We have a show that, in our opinion, is as cool as Battlestar, with an interesting and involving mythology, and we try really hard. We all care about the show and are passionate about it, we just happen to be on the same network as America’s Next Top Model. But, tune in because we are there, and we’ll have interesting conversations about death, revenge, immortality and suicide.