“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” Those were my first words to Eric Kripke, the creator and awe-inspiring genius behind the hit CW show Supernatural, at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. This was my first time meeting the master but after suffering all summer along with millions of other fans with another one of his grueling, season-ending cliffhangers, I needed answers. Lucky for me and the other bloggers at the table, he and his executive producers Ben Edlund and Sera Gamble had some.
So what did Zachariah’s words, “God has left the building” mean? “God, in the mythology of our show, God has gone missing,” Kripke answered with his normal wicked enthusiasm when talking about Supernatural. “God is missing, he’s not in Heaven. There is a bureaucracy of angels who don’t necessarily have the most benevolent intents, who are running things in his absence, and that’s sort of why Zachariah and his ilk have jump-started the apocalypse. I think they just got impatient and there was no one telling them not to.”
In other words, season five has taken on one hefty mytharc. It has to though, considering how high the stakes were raised in the epic season four. After the writers' strike which shortened season three, Kripke and his creative team decided to hit the ground running for season four and the action didn’t stop until Sam and Dean were bathed in white light watching Lucifer rise at the end of the season finale.
One way to certainly amp up the action is to do something Kripke once swore he’d never do — introduce angels into the show. “I’d be lying to say otherwise, you can back to interviews I gave where said I’m not putting angels on this show, screw that, I don’t want angels on this show. The angels kind of evolved because we started to realize we needed that in this cosmic battle. We had the empire and we didn’t really have the rebellion and that we saw that missing. Then we started talking more and more about angels, we wanted to open the door to whole new real estate and it has. It’s triggered all sorts of stories."
Of course, it helps when the angel storyline is bolstered by the genius casting of Misha Collins as Castiel, an angel long out of touch with humanity who forms a bond with Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles). According to a recent preview clip, Castiel is supposedly blown to bits by the archangel. Or better put by Chuck The Prophet, he explodes like a water balloon filled with Chunky soup.
Since Misha has been signed on as a regular, it’s a forgone conclusion that Castiel somehow comes back. After that's revealed, what's in store for our favorite angel? "Well, he’s taken up crochet. And he’s learning to ride a bicycle so he’s got a lot going on," Collins jokes, referring to his own bicycle accident a few days earlier. "I think he’s got his own agenda which will be revealed in episode two. Very big stuff I have to say. Epic. You look incredulous but I’m telling you it’s huge. It is huge.”
Jim Beaver's role as Bobby is stepping up too. He expects there will be more of Bobby this season than any other. "There’s something pretty big with Bobby that happens in the first couple of episodes, really big, and it’s going to have a huge impact on his relationship with the boys. But I don’t know what that impact is because I’ve only seen the first three scripts. But, I know there’s no way around this being a pivotal, pivotal event and what it does to their relationship I don’t know. Eric has certainly given me the impression that they’re gonna explore it and explore how it affects the relationship with Sam and Dean."
Oh, poor Sam and Dean. Things weren't exactly looking rosy for them at the end of season four, despite the reunion. Sam (Jared Padalecki) still had a nasty demon blood addiction going and was tricked into starting the apocalypse, something that will be hard to live down. Dean's situation was hardly better, being a pawn of the angels, betrayed by his brother, and pegged as the guy to kill Lucifer.
"There’s a lot of fallout," said executive producer Ben Edlund, one of Kripke's closest advisors on creative direction. "They really harmed each other’s sense of family. It would be irresponsible for them to just go 'Okay, we have this problem, let’s band together and move forward.'"
Newly promoted executive producer Sera Gamble adores the possibilities for the characters. I asked her what more she could possibly do to these boys, especially Sam, who she well tortured in "When The Levee Breaks."
"You know, there are limits to what you can do to their physical self. I mean we’ve killed them and put them in Hell and that sort of thing, but psychological torture, there’s no end. Our bread and butter is psychological torture of the Winchester boys. Now we have Castiel on a fairly regular basis and he is present in the boys' life enough that we see a little humanizing of him and when an angel becomes more emotional and more human that maybe become easier for psychological torture. There’s plenty of that to go around."
Kripke took the blame for keeping the show leads away from Comic-Con this year because he put them to work. Misha Collins, though, let us know that despite the heavy apocalyptic theme and long hours, things were still pretty loose on the set. "We were shooting a scene last week where Jared and Jensen were standing on either side of a doorway and I had to walk between them to talk to Bobby. And every single time we shot, every time Jared did something to me as I was walking past him but right below where the camera would see so it just looks like I was fucking up [laughter]. It would be he tripped me, he would grab my ass, he dug his thumb into my ribs, and I was just trying to keep it together [grits teeth], keep it together. So yeah, that’s kind of the tone, the ambient tone."
When is it hardest for Castiel to keep that stoic demeanor? "When Jared is grabbing my ass," jokes Collins.
Season five no doubt will take us through the end of days. Lucifer has risen, he's taking a host in the form of Mark Pelligrino (Lost), but just as everything else Supernatural, there's a twist.
"Last season was so dark, it was suicidal in many places, especially Sam went to this very very dark place but apocalypse has been surprisingly amusing," said Sera Gamble. "We are having a great time with it. We are going into the future, the horsemen have a sense of humor, Lucifer is a nice guy in many ways. I mean he’s dangerous, everything is dangerous, people are dying by the thousands, everyone on planet Earth could die, but maybe its gallows humor."
Ben Edlund certainly sees writing for Lucifer as a challenge. "For us though, he’s an antagonist. One thing I’ll say about him is writing for him is hard. He’s supposed to be wicked smart. He’s the oldest being we’ve written words for and stuff. We’ve mostly decided to make him nice as possible. That’s the solution. Speaking of nice, he might actually be nice, if you get away from the human centric point of view, he’s actually not a villain at all."
Gamble points out that despite being a sympathetic character, Lucifer will still cause trouble. "He’s definitely the big bad of the season. I would compare it to Lilith in that you saw her sometimes, you heard about her a lot, you met her minions, you met her right hand man. You might actually see Lucifer a little more than you saw Lilith. We have a great actor cast, Mark Pelligrino. I don’t think he wants to go back to Hell, I think that’s the last place he wants to go, so he’s walking the earth and causing trouble."
Eric Kripke dropped the biggest bombshell though, for after all, where there's bad, there must be good. "God will be a character on Supernatural this season. Which has led to no end of hilarity in the writers' room of Supernatural trying to break God’s motivation. And we’re like 'What does God do? What’s his motivation in this scene?' Then we start laughing and we say Gossip Girl doesn’t have these problems. But he will be a character. I’m not going to reveal how or where and he’s not going to thread in anytime soon but this is the big season and we felt you know we couldn’t bring on the Devil without bringing on God too."
Kripke maintains that this season stays with the core mythology that's always served them well. "If you look at what the main thrust of mythology is it’s always what the demons are up to and now the Devil’s bringing about the end of the world and all that was going to be true. That the fifth season was going to be the apocalypse just as the beginning of last year we said we should probably have warriors fighting the apocalypse and so that’s how that sort of evolved.”
Kripke himself admits the original five-year “cocktail sketch on a napkin” seemed out of reach when first conceived. "We never dreamt it would go five years. At least I didn't.” The first four seasons offered constant challenges to maintain the grand vision with tight constraints on time and budget. Thanks to the crafty creative team, those limitations didn’t seem to affect the quality in season four, with the exception of the often missing classic rock that defined the earlier seasons.
Ben Edlund remains optimistic about season five quality. "I think that one thing that’ll be interesting this season is the apocalypse, and we’re dedicated to that, which is a hard thing to pull off on CW dollars.
We’re, you know, working it out. Considering the Supernatural Complete Fourth Season DVD set has been a top seller at Amazon.com since its release, I'd say it's working out indeed. The apocalypse has never been more fun. Supernatural season five premieres Thursday at 9pm on The CW.