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Missing Ben Edlund Already

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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.

ben_edlundI’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.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • bjxmas

    I complete agree with everything you said. Ben totally gets the heart of the show, the complexity of Sam and Dean and the world they live in. He is a master and his loss has the potential to be devastating and will only make Jeremy’s job that much harder. Carver and Robbie Thompson are our last truly original and great writers, but I have fingers crossed that maybe we have a new unknown writer rising up to the challenge.

    We have other wonderful writers on staff too, but we also have a few that make me cringe when I see they’ve scripted another episode. Not that they aren’t capable as writers (for other shows), but more they just don’t ‘fit’ the Supernatural universe. If Jensen and Jared can’t make a script resonate, then it’s a script that shouldn’t have been sent up north to begin with.

  • Gerry Weaver

    Hi bjxmas, thanks so much for commenting! I agree with you, Jeremy Carver will have his work cut out for him. Even with Carver, Edlund and Thompson writing last season, there was a lot of inconsistent work from other writers. I think it was a great idea for Dabb and Loflin to work separately last season and they now are solid if rarely inspired writers. Adam Glass improved, thank goodness, to also be pretty solid, though it’s hard to forgive Southern Comfort for how tone deaf it was to the subtleties of the relationship. It was an ep I sorely wished Edlund has been allowed to create, because it needed a deft touch.

    I think we all know which writing team needs to be let go from Supernatural, because every season they attain a new low, and it doesn’t feel at all settling that instead of letting this team go, tptb have instead brought onboard another team which has already failed to distinguish itself on this show.

    Why not search for the next Robbie Thompson and mentor him/her on how to enter this world? Do talented writers not want to join a show in its ninth season? I guess that’s possible.

    I hope Ben Edlund sets Revolution back on its axis, so at least one group of fans is happy.

    • bjxmas

      I agree, Dan, Andrew and Adam are solid and they each delivered episodes that I really enjoyed this season. The one writing team that doesn’t thrill me finally managed to give me the ONE episode that totally left me underwhelmed and frankly had me heading to bed immediately after instead of the instant rewatch and discussion on the net. Even after forcing myself to give it another go, I still found Sam and Dean shoehorned into a story that simply wasn’t Supernatural. It is the only time I’ve found nothing of value to enjoy within an episode. I certainly don’t want to ever repeat that reaction to a SPN episode!

      I want the thrill of discovering a new Jeremy Carver or Robbie Thompson. I want a writer that is going to take me places I never imagined I could go. That’s what I’ve come to expect from the writing staff of Supernatural and I certainly don’t want more so-so episodes.

      • Gerry Weaver

        I so agree! I’ve loved that this little gem of a show is able to deliver thrills, chills, laughter, heart, tears and meta and does it so well. There have always been a few so so episodes, but the over all story and the many excellent episodes have been so well done, the so so episodes have never defined the quality. I’d hate to see the balance change on excellent to so so. I wish we had someone new to bring something to the table. Ben Edlund was such an original writer. I already know the writers of Mannequin are not going to fill his space at the table.

        • bjxmas

          What’s really scary to me is that Jim Michaels chose to announce the Mannequin writers were coming back as sort of a consolation to ease the fact that Ben was leaving. If anything, that just made it worse! No one can fill Ben’s shoes, but hoping for new blood and a fresh perspective isn’t unreasonable given the history of our writers room. I want talent to rule in the writers room. Now, if he’d announced that John Shiban or Cathryn Humphris was coming back, that would have helped eased my pain!

          • Gerry Weaver

            John Shiban! Cathryn Humphries! Yes, oh yes. Sigh. The experience and talent those writers would offer would be cause to celebrate. Maybe Charmelo and Snyder will have gained in experience since they left, but they may also just not be a great fit for this show.

          • bjxmas

            I think Supernatural has got to be one of the hardest shows to write for, most especially to write well on. It takes great talent to balance so many elements and a writing team that can churn out scripts for other shows that are more than competent, can easily get lost in the intricacies of SPN. Which is why we need the best and the brightest, the most daring and the truly unique, who aren’t afraid to throw away the rule book and take chances.

            Ben thinks outside the box and while at times Kripke had to rein him in, when he is set free to dream and dare good things happen. I just can’t see his talent being put to good use on a show like Revolution. I can see where they might need his skill, but I don’t see him being satisfied with that kind of storytelling.

            That said, it just might compel me to try Revolution again when he inks his first script…that is if I get over the anger at Kripke’s underhanded theft! Damn you, Kripke!

          • Hellboy

            “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning” (love the title), was pretty bad. But I thought “You Can’t Handle the Truth” was pretty good and “My Heart Will Go On” was great.

  • Hellboy

    I don’t see how “Taxi Driver” disregarded canon, or how John’s fatherless childhood is head-scratching. The biggest problem with “Taxi Driver” is it need to be a two parter.

    • Gerry Weaver

      I agree about it needing to be a two parter to do what it set out to do. (: The canon issues included disregarding every bit of reaper lore established on the show. Only dead or dying people should see reapers. Reapers are not corporal; they do not possess bodies, so they don’t eat. They serve Death, who is a fan of the natural order, so it’s difficult to see why one would be more afraid of Crowley than Death. Also, it is supposed to be difficult to enter and traverse both Hell and Purgatory, yet Sam’s trip had no major difficulties, making the raising of Dean from Hell and the saving of Castiel from Purgatory seem oddly difficult. Naomi said she lost many warriors springing Cas.

      Why both Crowley and Naomi didn’t just use a rogue reaper to gain access to Purgatory is a mystery. Taxi Driver really made all of season six seem ridiculous, if ordinary crossroads demons know about Purgatory and reapers.

      I also find it very hard to believe Sam went right to Bobby’s cell, which wasn’t locked, and that Crowley, the King of Hell, didn’t go back himself to find Sam, since he was worried what he was up to.

      So many issues for me in Taxi Driver. Loved the Dean/Benny scene and the final hug, though.

      • Gerry Weaver

        Oops, forgot about the John issue. In “In the Beginning,” Young John and a family friend have this exchange:

        MAN

        Son of a bitch. How you doing, Corporal?

        YOUNG MAN

        Hey, Mr. D.

        MR. D.

        I heard you were back.

        YOUNG MAN

        Yeah, a little while now.

        MR. D.

        Good to have you home, John, damn good.

        DEAN

        Dad?

        MR. D.

        Well, say hello to your old man for me.

        JOHN

        You got it, Mr. D.

        Mr. D’s impression is John has a father with whom he has a good relationship. There has been nothing in any of the seasons prior to “As Time Goes By” to suggest John did not have a father growing up or that he had major issues with his dad, even though we spent quite a lot of one season with John. I think it’s a classic case of a retcon. Fortunately, the MOL story line was worth it, but relying on a retcon to introduce it was weak writing.

        • bjxmas

          I heard a few grumbles at the time about them changing John’s backstory, but honestly, with the introduction of so much yummy goodness in Henry, the Men of Letters and that awesome Batcave, not to mention again seeing Dean supportive of his dad and understanding of the underlying issues that caused John to not be ‘father of the year’ in many ways, for me it was a non-issue. I always manage to fill in my own blanks on what Show doesn’t explicitly detail, so for me it was simply a case of John’s mom finding a new man in her life, someone who raised John and who John had as a positive influence in his life.

          It also fit in well with Mary’s view of John, that regardless of what bad things happened in his life (possibly feeling abandoned by his dad as a young boy —-marking a certain parallel story with his own young kids and why perhaps John never agreed to leave them and NOT raise them, despite the danger he was putting them in) and then of course surviving the horrors of war, John still saw the good in people and was a positive upbeat person. Which is why Mary dying as she did and John descending into the darkness of hunting and losing that hope is all the more tragic.

          I’ve always thought Kripke was brilliant to show us that young family, full of love and bliss, in the opening. Little Dean had such a bright future, as did they all, and yet one terrible night changed everything. It’s also why I’ve always been a supporter of John, because that dad before the fire was an awesome, loving man and what happened after could never negate that. JDM always managed to convey his deep love in the few treasured speeches he had with his sons before he left the show.

          • Gerry Weaver

            I agree that the MOL story was worth the canon-twisting, but to me it is canon-twisting, because “As Time Goes By” portrays Dean and Sam as being very aware their dad had huge issues with his dad and felt abandoned, which doesn’t really fit well with John being raised by a step dad he had a positive relationship with. John had to be still carrying a huge amount of resentment to allow his kids to see his anger.

            It also didn’t fit that well with John walking out on his own family, as we saw in Dark Side of the Moon, because he was having a fight with Mary. John may not have intended to permanently leave, but he did see leaving the house as a way to fight.

            I agree John was loving and did the best he could, but even before Mary died, the marriage had issues, as Dean noted. It was only perfect in John’s mind after Mary died.

          • Hellboy

            John holding onto his resentment for his father kinda makes sense, I mean he’s not really one to let things go.

          • Gerry Weaver

            But if he had the positive long established relationship with a step-father implied by the family friend, there’s little reason for him to have such anger he made sure Sam and Dean detested their absent blood related grandfather, even if he had some buried issues. Young John easily and cheerfully accepted the family friend calling his dad or stepdad “his ol’ man.”

            I also think anger of the magnitude to turn Sam and Dean against their grandfather should have come up in the story before season 8–we met both young John and older John. The story’s assumption that the boys knew all about this family anger when we’d never heard of it before doesn’t seem like strong writing to me. But I do like MOL, so it’s one of the less bothersome examples to me.

          • Hellboy

            Though the “old man” that gets referenced, could just as well be a grandfather.

          • Gerry Weaver

            Not just as well, I don’t think. (-: It’s very well known slang for dad.

          • Hellboy

            Mostly, but it can be used to reference a grandfather.

      • Hellboy

        One can assume since a reaper can alter perception, that maybe they could become corporeal just like Death can (and eat junk food, just like Death). Also, the jogger in season one was able to see the reaper, and she wasn’t dead or dying,

        I see Death as being less worried about if a soul is getting into Heaven or Hell, than that the soul gets reaped. I mean reapers give the soul a choice to either stay or crossover – that appears to go against the natural order, as well Death letting Adam rot in the cage, even though he clearly doesn’t deserve to be locked in there.

        Sam’s entry into Heaven and Hell were easier because he went through a reaper, and as a reaper they should have easy access to Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, as well as the back doors and all that, instead the frontal assault approach that Castiel and the angels used to get Dean. With Naomi you never know, she may have used a rogue reaper to get into Purgatory, she never mentions how she got in, only that Angels died to save Castiel, and since Purgatory is crawling with Leviathans, and Leviathans can kill angels, etc…

        As for why Reapers weren’t used in season six, you’d have to ask Kripke and Gamble about that, all I have is the fanwank answer of maybe there weren’t rogue reapers at the time, post averted Apocalypse the natural order crumbled, the rule book went out the window.

        But I do agree on Sam finding Bobby too quickly, which is again an issue of condensing a story that should have been told in two or even three parts into one 45 minute episode.

        • Gerry Weaver

          For me, it’s up to the season 8 writers to comply with canon, not season six writers to anticipate season 8 episodes. (-:

          Everyone of course can have head canon to make an episode work. But I still have issues with the episode.

          Reapers aren’t Horsemen, they are something completely different, so there’s no reason to expect they have Death’s capabilities. Tessa made a point of saying to Dean her persona was just her altering his perception–her form was the hazy ghostly spirit he first perceived. Altering perception to me is distinct from inhabiting a corporal body.

          Can you remind which jogger? The only one I remember is in Faith, and all the people who saw the Reaper were about to be killed by him.That was why they saw him.

          In Supernatural, souls getting to choose is part of the natural order, since it was established in season 2 and didn’t contradict anything earlier. The rules of the universe are what the writers establish for the universe. But once they are established, they need to follow them.

          And we know Death has firm opinions are following the natural order and that his Reapers are not free agents to decide whether they will make alliances with Crowley or not.

          But if the episode worked for you, that’s great. We all have different experiences watching the show. (-: To me, it remains a canon-busting mess.

          :

          • Hellboy

            Natural order to Death is that a person dies when they are supposed to, they’re was a whole episode about the repercussions of Dean not following the design. A rogue reaper taking Bobby to Hell doesn’t contradict anything that’s been set, just for the fact that if Death cared about the destination of a soul, he would just have the reapers force them into moving on, not letting them choose, and again I bring up Adam, and the fact that Death is letting him rot in the cage, a place he certainly doesn’t belong in.

            The metaphysics/philology of a reaper is a bit of a quandary. Because I mean their natural form is wraith/spirit like, and yet Azazel was able to possess Tessa. How does that work?

            I just don’t see it as a big deal that reapers can make themselves corporeal. Is it a bit of a retcon? Sure. But it’s no more egregious than anything done during the Kripke years.

          • bjxmas

            Taxi Driver is one of those episodes where I simply suspended my disbelief. I’m always a little predisposed to liking an episode directed by Guy Bee and his enthusiasm for the script had me fooled into believing it was going to be a good one. That lasted until I determined Ben or Robbie hadn’t written it and it was written by a certain pair of writers who don’t really have a handle on canon or who the Winchesters are.

            It also had the emotional wallop of giving me back Bobby, who I love and honestly, having him back was worth all the inconsistencies, even if they are annoying and detract from the strength of the season.

            Then it had the awesome moment between Benny and Dean. And Sam FINALLY got to see that Benny was different and well…tragic end that wasn’t what I was hoping for. My hope now is this means Dean has a reason to go back to Purgatory and we’ll get more of those awesome fight scenes and a reconciliation between him and Benny.

            The whole quick jaunt into Purgatory, the secret entry into Hell and the easy finding and rescuing of Bobby…well, that’s the stuff that comes from deciding what you want to happen and making it happen, whether it makes sense or not. The lack of reference to Crowley’s previous goal of finding Purgatory and then his lead feet about stopping Sam, just more issues with the logic of the story.

            Guy did a great job directing it, the sets were stunning, the Js gave their all and well…it is what it is. Something I can enjoy for the small bits that brought joy and then the rest is piled into the whatever column.

          • Gerry Weaver

            I agree the episode had a couple of scenes the actors made work, not the writers. The Benny/Dean scene was wonderful. Both Jensen and Ty mentioned they took it to a place not visible on the page. That scene is what makes this episode not in my bottom three eps for the season. So gorgeous. And I loved the hug between the bros at the end.

            Oddly, though I love Bobby, his scenes do not make the ep for me. In fact, I was a little disappointed that they brought Jim Beaver for such a slight role. It felt like fanservice to me–hustle Bobby onstage for a moment, wave at the crowd, hustle him back offstage. I’d like Bobby’s return to mean something and offer Jim Beaver a meaty role to play. So far, to me, every time they’ve brought Bobby back it’s to diminishing returns. I don’t want him back unless there’s a good well written part for him to play, well integrated into the over all story.

          • bjxmas

            I know the story of Jensen and Ty’s scene and that’s why writers on this show have the actors to thank for not only delivering when they are given a brilliant script, but also for punching up a script and making it work!

            Totally agree on the Bobby thing, which leads into my disappointment with how the season ended. I just KNEW Bobby being in Heaven, adjacent to Naomi, was going to come into play and mean something. Otherwise, why bring him back?

            So like Benny ending up back in Purgatory, I’m hoping Bobby in Heaven will come into play and have deeper relevance in S9. Jim Beaver deserves better and the fans and the boys deserve for him to be back as more than a convenient plot point that really doesn’t have a point.

            As a general rule, I kind of dislike the writers bowing to fan pressure and giving in to demands. I want to know the story they want to tell and be taken on a wild ride, not fed the checklist of fan wants….not that I don’t harbor my own list of wants. I just don’t always expect them to deliver, aside from giving me an awesome story and keeping the characters true to who they are. Oh, and surprising me and yet making it fit, giving me that ‘I knew that, even if I didn’t realize it’ satisfaction.

          • bjxmas

            Just rewatched Taxi Driver to see what I really thought and despite all the plot issues, I actually do really like it because of the characterizations and dialogue. These writers can miss the mark so terribly in eppies like the dog one, but here, the voices rang true and the dialogue worked. I suspect other writers helped out, but whatever the reason, the emotional impact was there. They covered a lot of ground (probably too much) plot-wise and set up some interesting avenues that haven’t planned out, but bottom line, Sam and Dean were present and resolved a few issues. I can forgive a lot as long as I have those emotional truths.

          • Gerry Weaver

            For me, it will always be a problematic eppie rescued by two good scenes. Besides the plot and canon issues, I thought it was also the most egregious example of Dean not having a lot to do. As I said, I loved his scene with Benny, but I didn’t love that he essentially spent the episode wringing his hands without anything to do himself. I love emotional scenes, but I also expect some degree of agency for the leads. I didn’t think these writers handled that aspect well, either.

            I think this episode hits me much like another eppie by these writers: Route 666. A plot so dumb I never recommend watching it to anyone wanting to try out the show, but some necessary emotional elements covered for Dean that add to our understanding of his character. I love what we found out about Dean’s ability to commit, but I’ll never love the episode as a whole.

          • Hellboy

            Yeah, it was a great idea, it just lacked a bit in execution. This needed to be Sam Winchester’s Divine Comedy, set over 2-3 episodes..

          • Gerry Weaver

            Agree to disagree, which is fine. (-: The universe rules were set in season two to allow staying put and turning into a ghost, so that’s part of the natural order in Supernatural. But Reapers are only visible to the dead or about to die and are not flesh and blood entities. Until this episode.

            Adam’s fate was not handled well, I agree. I hate the thought of him in the cage. But in terms of fairness, he chose to become Michael’s vessel, and the fight with Lucifer was part of the natural order–it was ordained by God. So sad as it is, it’s not different than Sam’s supposed fate when he jumped in the cage, to Death. It was an allowable option.

          • Hellboy

            That’s what I’m saying though, that reapers allow souls to choose, that to me means that Death ultimately doesn’t care about where a soul ends up, just that it’s reaped when the time comes. So long as souls are being reaped, Death doesn’t have to worry about the natural order of things getting screwed.

            So that’s how rogue reapers could come about.

          • Gerry Weaver

            I don’t think a soul being allowed to remain on earth and become a ghost means Death has no concern about the way his reapers do their jobs and who they serve.

            I think Death cares what his reapers are up to–that was the message to Dean–improv is not allowed. Death cared if saving one soul meant another soul died prematurely, even though the number of souls being reaped was the same. And he’s no fan of Hell getting all up in his business–he was outraged Lucifer would dare bind him to his will. So why would any reaper make a pact with Crowley to subvert the heaven/hell system? Besides the issue of what a reaper would get out of it, Death is a lot scarier than Crowley.