Misha Collins, who plays Castiel in Supernatural, dropped a bomb at the All Hell Breaks Loose 4 convention in Sydney, Australia. Veteran writer Ben Edlund will be leaving the writing staff to join the second season of Eric Kripke’s new show, Revolution.
Well, there’s no denying Revolution needs all the help it can get in the writing room, and Kripke and Edlund have been close since Edlund joined Supernatural under Kripke’s watch in season two. Ben Edlund is a brilliant writer, and I wish him only the best in his career. But man, as a Supernatural fan, I am devastated at his loss.
I’ve been trying to find the right adjectives to describe him as a writer. Intelligent, obviously—who but Edlund would have made sure to use the Scribe of God as a meditation on the human and perhaps godlike capacity for story telling? His creativity and out of the box thinking are even more obvious. Just a glance at his Supernatural resume shows so many of the boundary-pushing meta episodes that allow the show to include its audience in its conversation about genre, story, theme and anything else Edlund was interested in exploring. “Hollywood Babylon,” “Monster Movie,” “Ghostfacers,” and especially “The French Mistake” set the bar high.
Fortunately, there are other Supernatural writers who have successfully played with meta—Jeremy Carver hit the ball out of the park with “Changing Channels.” Robbie Thompson has shown a lot of promise in his willingness to push creative boundaries in an episode like “LARP and the Real Girl.” But to my mind, no other writer is able to match Edlund’s ability to push the boundaries of Supernatural while at the same time never forgetting the core of the show. He got Sam and Dean, and because he did, he could take them anywhere and the audience followed, even to a fictional set of the show itself.
Edlund’s keen understanding of the show allowed him to excel at writing the tense and moving episodes as much as the funny wacky ones. I think that’s because to him, all episodes need to develop character and further theme, whatever the tone. His episodes range from the drama of “The End” and “On the Head of a Pin” to the humour of “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “Everybody Hates Hitler.” His multi-layered scripts challenged Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles to reveal Sam’s and Dean’s raw emotions as well as use their comic timing. And he can focus—his scripts, with one Grand Canyon shaped exception—were a model of continuity with canon.
The eighth season suffered from inconsistent writing, particularly in regard to canon. “Taxi Driver” was an especially egregious example, but there were other head-scratching moments, such as suddenly giving John an unhappy fatherless childhood, despite what was established earlier in the story. Even Edlund forgot a story point had been made about Dean never visiting the Grand Canyon.
But Edlund did not forget what drives Sam and Dean. He didn’t forget Sam is not a representation of Everyman, but rather someone chosen from birth to be Lucifer’s vessel. He didn’t forget Sam still has demon blood and that terrifies him. And he set up a gorgeous dynamic in “Blood Brother” for Sam to realize he wasn’t as comfortable with his new happiness equation as he thought, because he needs his brother.
I think all Edlund’s scripts this year sought to keep the show on course–and in “The Great Escapist” to right some of the more glaring writing mistakes some other writers had introduced. For example, it was a relief to have Edlund acknowledge how odd it was the boys never brought Kevin to the Men of Letters bunker to safeguard him.
I suspect we’ll not only miss Edlund’s scripts, but also his guiding voice in the writers’ room. With so many writers coming on board later in the run, his understanding of the show had to be a valuable resource. Jeremy Carver is a marvelous writer in his own right, but as a showrunner, he’ll need to up his game on keeping the show focused on what’s important, because losing Edlund is a huge blow. In season nine, the show needs more along the lines of “The Great Escapist” and of course Carver’s own “Sacrifice” and far less along the lines of “Man’s Best Friends with Benefits” and “Taxi Driver.”
The ninth season hasn’t started yet and I’m already missing Ben Edlund. I hope and trust the writing team will continue to tell compelling stories, but Edlund is a true original and his voice will be greatly missed on the show.