Welcome to the second of my cinematography-based metas; the first is about Kim Manners and can be found here.
I first noticed Wright’s unusual style during a rewatch of Season Ten’s episode Reichenbach, the second in the Demon Dean arc. In the early seasons, Supernatural had a much darker style- not dark as in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dark as in Kripke, pay the goddamn electric bill– and Sam and Dean looked as pale as Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow. The shadows were velvety and dramatic.
That look faded out in later seasons (yeah, Leviathan season, I’m looking at you). But it seems to have made something of a comeback with Season Ten- Wright’s episodes in particular. (And I loved JA’s direction of Soul Survivor, but that’s a subject for another time.)
The Wright-directed scene between Sam and Crowley in The Prisoner, for example, was particularly shadowy.
However, it isn’t all shadows. Wright seems to have directed scene by scene, since each looks entirely different from the next; choosing a different, but equally distinctive, look for each section. In the same episode, while Crowley waxes sentimental and spares Sam’s life (because come on, we all know that’s what really happened), Dean is turning the tables on the Stynes.
What a great closeup. You’d expect to find it in a futuristic sci-fi show, but it works here, in the context of the Stynes.
All the Styne scenes in this episode have that same white-and-green look to them; it’s appropriate. The upside-down close-up of Dean fits right in. That’s clinical-looking too, and the Mark was turning Dean colder every day.
As a total opposite, the scene where Charlie’s body is on the pyre is filmed with a flickering warmth. It’s an absolutely beautiful-looking scene, but Dean is closed-off throughout, pulling back, and it’s Sam who gets the close-up in the firelight.
Then we have these shots of Dean.
Wright’s smart enough to let JA’s acting do most of the work here, instead of making an elaborate shot like the upside-down one above to drive the point home. But still, Dean looks practically unearthly here- like a vengeful spirit himself.
But I find the cinematography of Reichenbach even more interesting. There’s a few shots that remind me of Kim Manners’ style- the way the stripper was introduced, for example.
That technique of filming the reflection in a mirror and then moving the camera to catch the real person was a stamp of Kim Manners- citing Houses Of The Holy and Lazarus Rising. It’s an interesting choice for our first Demon Dean scene of the episode; like the first shot, the scene, which involved the song Cherry Pie, was an inverted version of one in Season Four’s The Song Remains The Same. The shot may simply be a clue to the inverted nature of Dean’s Demon personality, which only becomes really apparent in Soul Survivor.
This scene between Cole and Sam was also in Reichenbach.
It’s not realism by any means, but there’s a grit to the look of this scene, with the bones of Sam’s face thrown into sharp relief. It’s at once stark and noir, painful yet glamorous. Sam is the chief protagonist at this stage, thanks to Dean’s temporary demonisation; he may tower over Cole, but here we worry for him. It’s a nasty, nasty scene. (Also, Cole beating up Sam is intercut with Dean beating up a bouncer, which makes it look like it’s Dean hitting Sam. A great tie-in to Brother’s Keeper, quite aside from the brother feels).
In total contrast we have the episode’s climax, with this scene.
It’s like something out of a comic-book, and they couldn’t have picked a more fascinating location. Appropriate too- for Dean, the whole fight is about as entertaining as a comic. Cole’s romanticised his ideas about how it’ll play out, making the location even more fitting. (Dean basically summed it up with my favourite reference ever on SPN- ‘What did you think was gonna happen, huh? You just stroll up here and say “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” and I’d just roll over?’)
The episode is rounded off with the scene that drew my attention in the first place, just for the pale sheen of everyone’s faces.
And then the deep shadows here.
Here, have some other shots that I happen to like.
(And I know this is a very serious scene and all, but all I see is the flamingo.)
Pointless as I found Hannah- they didn’t seem to know what to do with her at all- this shot is gorgeous.
Gratuitous duckface screencap.
Silence Of The Lambs, anyone?
I feel like there’s an insinuation somewhere in this shot, but maybe that’s just my teenage showing.
And what a stunning shot, with the sunlight slanting down.
Wright’s style is not realistic in the slightest. Why should it be? The show has no need of realism. Instead he gives each scene a distinctive look of its own- sometimes one to fit thematically, sometimes just to liven up something expositional. They’ve given him some juicy material in Season Ten, and I hope they continue to do so- I think he’s one of the most imaginative directors working on the show currently.