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Over the course of four seasons, Sam and Dean Winchester, the protagonists of The CW series Supernatural, traveled across the country and back, saving people from ghosts, demons, monsters and even gods. But then in Season 5 the boys embarked on their biggest adventure yet, to stop the biblical apocalypse. In the finale, they did just that, derailing the plans of Heaven and Hell by sealing the escaped Lucifer back in his cage.
So what do you do after you save the world? When the sixth season debuted last fall, the show’s writing staff set about to answer that question. In the first 11 episodes, they demonstrated that Sam and Dean (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) still had much to do — that although the final battle of the Armageddon never occurred, the world is just as dangerous. Maybe even more so. The brothers also found themselves entangled in a mystery involving monsters and the surviving players of Heaven and Hell, two realms left in turmoil by the averted apocalypse.
Ahead of tonight’s midseason return of Supernatural, Spinoff Online spoke with writer and co-executive producer Adam Glass about working on the series, what happened the first half of the season, and what to expect from the remaining episodes.
Marvel fans may recognize Glass’ name from miniseries like Luke Cage Noir and the recent Deadpool Pulp. He’s not the first Supernatural staff member to have penned comic books, however. His co-workers include Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick, Brett Matthews, writer of Dynamite Entertainment’s Lone Ranger, Andrew Dabb, who wrote a Ghostbusters miniseries and several Dungeons and Dragons comics for Devil’s Due Publishing, and Peter Johnson, who co-wrote a Sub-Mariner miniseries for Marvel and several Supernatural tie-in books for DC Comics.
“We all love this genre, and comic books definitely fit into it,” Glass told Spinoff Online. “Supernatural is just the next natural step. And what a great list of people to be associated with. But I came into things a different way. Most of these guys are comic book writers who came into TV. I was a TV writer who came into comic books. I was a fan always and loved it. I had done Cold Case, The Cleaner and a sitcom I created with Anthony Anderson called All About the Andersons. Through those shows I was able to build enough of a brand that I got my break into comic books with Marvel.
“I think everyone writing for this show are not only great writers, they’re just like me, in that we were all fans of the show before we even got here,” he continued. “So it’s very much a dream come true. You’re writing on a show that you admire and love. Sometimes it occurs to me that I’m writing Sam and Dean and I stop myself and say, ‘Oh, my God! I’m writing Sam and Dean! This is awesome!’ So we were all fanboys coming into it.”
Glass joined the staff of Supernatural this season, and he’s enjoyed the chance to explore the dynamic between the show’s protagonists. “I love the brothers’ relationship,” he said. “They get to live the fantasy. You want to believe you would die for your brother and that you would go to hell and back for him. These guys actually do that [Laughs]! I also feel like Dean especially gets to say everything we wish we could, but can’t in a PC world. He gets to be himself. And that’s really refreshing.”
Glass began working in television in 2004, but he’s found writing for Supernatural to be a new and interesting experience. “I think the reason is that the mythos for it is so big and it’s such a collaborative experience. That’s not to say that other shows aren’t collaborative. They definitely are, but this show the writers are constantly talking with one another and sharing ideas. Both Eric Kripke, who created the show, and Sera Gamble, who runs it now, know the show inside and out. So when they give you feedback your story comes back 25 times better than it was when you first started,” Glass explained. “Then when you’re writing the episode there’s really no limits. I really enjoyed writing for procedural shows like Cold Case, but when you do a technical show like that there are limitations. There are only so many ways to solve a case. In Supernatural you’re dealing with an endless amount of possibilities. So that’s what makes it cool. Your episode could revolve around a variety of things. A demon! A monster! You name it. You can really go into so many different worlds and places. That keeps it fun. I think that’s why we’re in season six and still chugging along. I also think that’s why there are so many stories left for us to tell.”
The amount of variety Glass and his fellow writers have means that Supernatural is a series with a unique tone. It can be grim, intense and hilarious all in the same episode. “When you have a strong hand guiding the show like you do here with Eric and Sera, I think those things become easier. They know this show inside and out. So a lot of the humor is found in the writers’ room,” Glass said. “I can’t tell you how many jokes Eric or Sera will pitch to you while you’re sitting in the room that make it into the script. That’s something you don’t see a lot of. You think a joke is funny for the room where it’s told, but it will never make into the final script. In this show some of those jokes do make it in because they have such a handle on our lead characters.”
While Supernatural lends itself to variety of tones, the overriding feel of Season 6 has been almost noirish. The first five seasons placed the Winchester brothers in a number of ethically unclear situations, but this sixth season has been the most morally murky season so far. In the season’s first 11 episodes, Sam and Dean found themselves in situations where things were never as black and white as they seemed. Often times to do something good they had to work with, or for, someone whose motives were unclear or downright evil.
“That was Sera Gamble’s idea. She took over as showrunner this year and that was her plan from the beginning. She discussed that with everybody from the jump. I wrote Luke Cage Noir and I wrote Deadpool Pulp so I loved the idea of doing something darker and a little more noirish,” Glass revealed. “They had come off of three years of the battle between Heaven and Hell, and stuff like Armageddon and the Four Horsemen. It was just so big. So where do you go from there? What they decided to do, and I think was very smart, was to go back to smaller, character-driven stories. I think it’s really worked well. But that’s all about to change so hold onto your hat.”
Glass’ first Supernatural episode, “Two and a Half Men,” was the second episode of the season. He followed that with the season’s eighth episode, “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Both were “monster of the week” standalone-style episodes, but in keeping with the season’s morally complicated feel, viewers saw many things from the monster’s point of view.
“What makes for great horror, sci-fi and fantasy is that things are not so black and white. Everything is gray. Monsters aren’t necessarily bad,” Glass said. “The dog episode is a perfect example. We have this skinwalker and he’s sent there to do this job, but he falls in love with the family he infiltrates. So now he has quite a predicament. He’s basically stuck between two families. He has a Sophie’s Choice: Do I kill the people I love, or do I lose the people who made me? Those types of stories always fascinate me and I think they’re very interesting to write because they examine the human condition. That’s what make these stories work. So the long and short of it is I’m glad I got to start off that way before I jumped into a huge mythos episode because it allowed me to get to know the show and the characters a little better. It’s a good thing. You can come in and think you know all that stuff, but when you actually have to sit and write it it’s a different story.”
It wasn’t just monsters that had interesting points of view in the first half of the season. In the Season 5 finale, Sam sacrificed himself to return Lucifer back in his infernal prison. This allowed the crossroads demon Crowley (played by Mark Sheppard) to take the throne of Hell and, in one of his first acts as ruler, to liberate Sam from Lucifer’s cage. The rescue mission was only partly successful, though: Crowley returned Sam’s body, but his soul was left behind. So the resurrected Sam emerged as a emotionless hunter without a moral compass. In the climax of Episode 11, “Appointment in Samarra,” Dean was able to get his brother’s soul back into his body. So while Glass is enjoying the chance to write a restored Sam, he relished being able to depict the character as soulless in his first two episodes.
“It was fun because here you thought you knew who Sam was after five seasons,” Glass said. “This was basically a chance to let Sam swing for the fences. With no soul and nothing to hold him and ground him he could be whatever we wanted him to be.”
Sam wasn’t the only character who returned to the world of the living: This season also saw the resurrection of the boys’ maternal grandfather Samuel Campbell (Mitch Pileggi), who was introduced, then promptly killed, in a time-traveling Season 4 episode. When Glass wrote Samuel in the season premiere, the character was still an enigmatic figure. Now at the season’s halfway point he’s less mysterious, but more emotionally complex.
“It was hard for me to write Samuel,” he confessed. “I tried to really find him, and Sera was great at helping me with that. She had a great sense of who he was. He’s family and this is a show about blood, and brothers and family. The boys don’t know him, though. So there was a lot of room for good melodrama to be drawn out there. There were all these questions. It was like who is this guy? He’s our grandfather but we don’t know him. Is he good? Is he bad? Is he on our side? So over the course of the first part of the season Samuel turned into a real interesting character. There’s a typical way you can go with someone like that, but I thought Sera and Eric made the great decision of making him a little more benign so we’re not sure where he stands. We’ll see where he ends up landing in the second half of the season.”
At the end of “Appoinment in Samarra,” the physical embodiment of Death told Dean that he and his brother had stumbled onto a mystery and that they should keep digging. The best detective stories generally involve flawed protagonists searching for an elusive truth in an attempt to bring down enemies more powerful than themselves. Glass feels that Supernatural has all those elements in spades, and much of the second half of the season will involve Sam and Dean’s struggle with their mysterious and powerful enemies.
“I think for guys who have been through so much, Sam and Dean are going down a curvy road,” Glass explained. “What’s coming will test everything they’ve learned up to this point.”
The second half of the season begins with the airing of Glass’ third episode, “Like a Virgin,” which finds Dean Winchester teaming with family friend and surrogate father Bobby Singer to investigate a rash of disappearances in a small town. “This episode was a load of fun and introduces a new monster that we haven’t seen yet in the Supernatural,” the writer said. “And this was my first chance to write Bobby. I love the character. One of my favorite episodes this year was ‘Weekend at Bobby’s.’ I thought Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin did such a great job with that script. It was fun to see the B-side of things from Bobby’s point of view. Jim Beaver, who plays Bobby, is such a great actor. I’ve met him a couple of times. He’s a great guy. So writing for him was awesome.”
The season’s remaining episodes will be the usual combination of standalone, mythos-heavy and occasionally comedic stories that fans have come to expect. “You’ll see all of that, but you’ll also get some big surprises,” Glass hinted. “Like I said, everything Sam and Dean believe and know will be tested. So there’s going to be a lot of twists, turns, and surprises, which will make our audience want more.”
This season Supernatural moved to a new time slot at 9 p.m. Fridays, which appears to have been good for the show, in terms of ratings. However, network executives have yet to greenlight a seventh season. “There’s been no commitment yet, but we all hope it comes back,” Glass said. “We love the show and want to keep doing it, but we haven’t gotten any official notice yet. I think there are a lot of reasons people love this show. There’s obviously some great acting and great directing, and we’ve got a super talented group of writers. We’re all fans of the show so we’re really happy to be working on it. I hope it can go on as long it can and I hope to keep writing for it.”
For Glass, one of the best parts about the job has been connecting with fans. “I’ve been on a lot of shows, and Supernatural is the first one that I’ve been on where you’re just sort of amazed at who’s a fan of it,” he said. “Some might think, ‘Oh it’s The CW. It’s just 16-year-old girls.’ I have an Uncle Lamar who runs a pawn shop in Georgia and is about as Republican, Southern and pro-NRA as you can get. I just saw him recently when I was visiting family and he’s such a huge fan of the show. He was like, ‘Me and my friends love Sam and Dean and all the demons and monsters!’ This is a 60-year-old guy that I never would have thought would be such a fan of the show and he just loves it up and down. He reminded me of things I didn’t remember about the show. So I think the fan base is much bigger than people even realize. I think Sam and Dean touch a chord that’s very Americana, and I think people really respond to that.”
Supernatural returns tonight at 9 ET/PT on The CW.