Vivisecting Supernatural- The Importance Of Kim Manners

I found out how to do big screencaps. So I’ve written you guys a celebratory post about why SPN, and everybody in SPN, and everybody’s clock and lamppost and pet wendigo in SPN, is so pretty.

Kim Manners directed several episodes per season for Supernatural, until he died during the production of Season Four- and the show still misses his presence. The first episode he directed was the sad and lovely Dead In The Water, the show’s third episode, and Manners’ work went a long way towards shaping the look of the show.

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His close-ups are beautiful– Manners often shot Dean with his eyelashes throwing shadows over his face.

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He seemed to operate on the principle that the more emotional the scene, the lovelier the close-up. JP and JA are both very distinctive-looking, but that’s accentuated by the way they’re lit. This close-up from In My Time Of Dying, for example- with the light hitting JP’s eyes just so. I mean, what the hell colour are they?

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His episodes objectified the crap out of JA- Dean is this big toughass manly man, but Manners could bring out a pale, soft look that made him seem very vulnerable.

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(Alas, poor Yorick! But let us not speak of the horror that is Bugs.)

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He looks glamorous, and yet unguarded in a way that he can rarely be after getting out of Hell at the beginning of Season Four. The Dean Winchester of today is nearly always closed-off, and the contrast to these softly lit early season shots is pretty sad when you think about it like that. But even in Season Four’s Lazarus Rising, a Manners episode, that guardedness is there. Dean’s hidden behind a veil of camera flare in this shot.

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The thing is, over all the seasons post-three, Dean’s shell continues to be built on. The first time he truly looks unreachable is when he’s dead, in No Rest For The Wicked- and as Dean’s in Hell right then, and he’s never the same after, it’s pretty apt.

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In that scene, it’s Sam who is the open one, just as when we first see him in Lazarus Rising. And then he’s so open that on this show it feels actually dangerous. You know, as if Sam’s emotional vulnerability gives off some kind of monster-attracting pheromone.

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Manners directed Season Two’s Sam-centric episode Heart, one of my personal favourites. It’s an emotionally grounded episode- we feel such concern for Madison- and some of the shots are overwhelmingly candid. We are right up in these people’s faces, invading their space, even though some of the moments feel so private that I kind of want to make them pull the camera back a bit.

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And the way Sam’s tears make actual glistening trails down his cheeks. That’s all Manners. And it’s freakin’ heartbreaking. He had a way of filming Sam’s emotional beats that was very full-on, like the above close-up- it’s so intense that his feelings actually seem to radiate off the screen.

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(Mystery Spot, you own my heart.)

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It isn’t just the Winchesters that are lingered over, either. Manners filmed everything and everyone with purpose- below we have almost a foreshadowing of Dean’s hand-shaped scar that Cas gave him, with this man’s hand-shaped shadow.

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(I love that shot. I just find it really funny how she kinda looks like a goldfish.)

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I especially love the close-up, below, of John Winchester- we don’t get an establishing shot of his face until later, and so we’re going in practically blind, not knowing where he is or what his face looks like. We don’t know his intentions, and it’s clear from his cryptic words that he’s playing some sort of deadly game- but we have no idea what, because we can’t see his face.

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And I love the way he shot Gordon in Season Three’s dark and unsettling Fresh Blood. Gordon is a character who began as a manipulative almost-ally, and descended into, well… is psychopath the right word here? I don’t think it is, but something close. The scary thing about it is that Gordon is used throughout as a mirror of what the Winchesters could become- he killed his own sibling, he sees his job in black and white- and if this is what he turned into, what stops the Winchesters? (The answer to that, of course, is that Dean stops Sam and Sam stops Dean.)

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So yeah, Kim Manners was unique in his style and good at filming basically everything. But mainly, he was unique at filming Sam and Dean. He heightened their toughness, their intense vulnerability- and at times, their impenetrability. In short, he’s part of the reason we ache for them.

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Disclaimer: I have never studied cinematography. This whole essay is basically me squeeing at the pretty. Also, cut me some freakin’ slack; I wrote most of this essay while washing my hair in a sink. And it wasn’t even a deep sink.

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80 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- The Importance Of Kim Manners

  1. The slack is cut, as that indeed is quite a task to accomplish, but Season Fur ist still an interesting interpretation. 😉 (Just wanted to let you know)

    What is still unclear to me: Do we still get such emotional close ups now that he is gone? Has someone else tried to follow in his footsteps or did they never realize what he did and never bothered? I know there are close ups, but I’m not sure if they are like these ones.

    It’s by the way great that you included shots of non-people, the one with the full moon is just stunning…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 and in answer to your first question, let me direct you to this link- http://screencapped.net/tv/supernatural/displayimage.php?album=1703&pid=1905711#top_display_media
      Yes. Yes we do. Just not as often, which is a shame, but there are other directors with different but equally interesting styles.
      As for the really close close ups, how about this- http://screencapped.net/tv/supernatural/displayimage.php?album=1539&pid=1689909#top_display_media
      And just for good measure, this- http://screencapped.net/tv/supernatural/displayimage.php?album=1512&pid=1798284#top_display_media
      And what can I say. That stuffed deer was pretty.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Lol! You have my admiration for writing a moose story that does not include the words ‘Jared’ or ‘Padalecki’.
          And yeah, there aren’t nearly as many but they’re still there. And there’s other stuff, too- like the last couple of seasons have had this red lighting thing going on which I kinda like, especially in Dean’s death scene and that scene in Brother’s Keeper.

          Liked by 1 person

              • I had somewhat expected that name to read “Squirrel” I think and was a bit disappointed when it was simply “Not Moose”, as if Dean was less important than Sam, which he definitely isn’t and from Crowley’s perspective he shouldn’t be either. But maybe he just didn’t change the contact data after adding them first and back then Dean probably was less important to him than Sam (what with Sam being Lucifers vessel and the whole Demon blood deal and Dean only later being involved more with “his” demonic side…)

                Liked by 1 person

                • I never found ‘squirrel’ as funny as ‘moose’, simply because ‘moose’ is more accurate. I once saw a comment where someone said that maybe with Crowley ‘Dean’s the one you fuck and Sam’s the one you marry’. Which made me snigger and fit with my interpretation. Pre-s9 he seemed to prefer Sam- with the flirty comments and the nicknames- but then his epic bromance with Dean began. And then the dumping in Season Ten. Hilarious.

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            • Really? I liked it on the whole. I really didn’t like the fact that they introduced two new characters just to kill them off- that was just bad writing- and I thought the whole vamp-case thing was unnecessary- I was already convinced that Dean needed to be stopped, ever since the creepy speech he gave to Sam in Dark Dynasty when he found out Sam hadn’t burned the book. Ugh, so predatory.
              But I really did love the scene with Death. JP’s frickin’ acting. JA’s frickin’ acting. JR’s frickin’ acting. I mean, wow. And I liked the motel-trashing scene. And I liked the Rowena stuff, but I always like the Rowena stuff.
              As per the Darkness: I really don’t give a crap about it. I didn’t give a crap about the demon unleashment at the end of s2, and I didn’t give a crap about the leviathan, and I didn’t give a crap about the angels falling (beyond it looking so beautiful. I love that shot of them all plummeting from the sky). I don’t care about the Darkness beyond what it does to the characters, so I’m totally fine with the repetition.
              All in all, I’m really excited for s11- Cas is going to be in zombie dog mode for a while, there’ll be an Impala-centric episode, Sam’s having a love interest, there’ll be a femme fatale, and past crap will come back to bite them in the ass. So I’m totally good with the Darkness if we carry on with the interesting character stuff.

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              • The central scene with the removal and the speeches where great, but the other stuff surrounding it just didn’t fit into the narration of the Season.

                But if Death is really dead – as I have hear – than they have not just to deal with all of the stuff you mentioned but also with a similar scenario as in “Death takes a Holiday” and that will make the whole thing even more awful for them. (I’m still trying to finish a post on comparing that episode to Torchwood’s Miracle Day and Terry Pratchett’s Mort)

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! This post was absolutely wonderful and pretty technical when it came down to it. I agree, Kim Manners did an amazing job of working with the right light at the right angles to depict emotion that the boys were feeling or the intensity of them or the scene itself. His directing was amazing to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great work Wren….!!…..Such a connoisseur you are ….And this post brought back a lot of old memories…….Ah!! Dean.. ❤ …I miss the carefree Dean so much …Post Demon-Dean was never so blithe….. 😦 ….Let's see what season 11 has in store….*eagerly waiting*

    A big thumbs up for your work .. …!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: My Top Five Episodes Of Season One | A Blog devoted to "SUPERNATURAL"

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