Supernatural may have surpassed the 250-episode mark (tomorrow’s episode is number 280!), but the show is still finding unique ways to tell stories and entertain its loyal legion of fans. Such as – zoinks! – a Scooby-Doo crossover.
We watched as the demon-fighting duo were transported through a TV into a cartoon world to take on their own phantom menace with a little help from the Scooby gang. Baby and Castiel also made it into the frame.
The episode is, you won’t be surprised to learn, light-hearted, with running jokes like Dean airing his disdain for Fred and his ascot whilst actively pursuing Daphne; Velma commenting on Sam’s shoulders; Castiel being likened to a talking dog and Dean using his vast knowledge of the cartoon to try and solve the case. His simultaneous attempts to avoid exposing his crime-fighting counterparts to “the c-word” (cartoon) are abandoned as things take a serious turn and the Winchesters realise getting hurt is a real possibility.
The show’s writers do not miss the opportunity to use catchphrases like “Zoinks” and “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!’ to Dean’s – and the crowd’s – elation.
However, while Supernatural is used to blurring the lines between life and death and different realities, does this episode mark the point when it has finally jumping the shark? Or Great Dane, at least?
“Oh we jumped the shark years ago!” says Jensen, “They just forgot to tell us!”
He concedes, “It was wildly different, but there have been many wildly different episodes of Supernatural. If I can just stay true to who Dean is then you can put that character anywhere. ‘Mystery Spot’, ‘Changing Channels’, ‘French Mistake’ – any of those crazy wacky episodes that go to a different world – I just think that if I can stay true to Dean, then anywhere you put him, I will be him.”
The idea of an animated episode has been knocking around the Supernatural writers’ room for some time. “Warner Bros. was always behind it,” executive producer Andrew Dabb explains. “Luckily last year we got our pick up early, in January, so we were able to start working on it almost immediately. We saw our first animatic in April, they started animating in July and we saw final animation in January.”
Surprisingly, the animators took the script and made it more gory. Despite the difficulties of animating an hour-long network TV episode, producers ended up with more material than necessary, which they plan to release as DVD extras. “There was a restaurant scene [we cut]. It was a Misha scene so we figured it was losable,” jokes Dabb.
The cast and producers alike do not miss a beat when they see an opportunity to give Misha Collins, Castiel, and Alexander Calvert who plays Jack, some gentle ribbing – something of a pastime on the Supernatural set – which the cast now refer to as “obstacle acting”. “As good as Alexander is in the part, every time he has a scene with Jared he has to put up with so much crap. So if you love his acting know it’s even better than you think,” adds executive producer Robert Singer.
Seeing the episode for the first time, the cast describe their emotional reactions to the script as giddy, surreal and awesome.
Alexander describes his introduction to the CW show as traumatising. “Well you were basically naked for the first three episodes… that was traumatising for all of us,” Jensen retorts.
One of the most popular themes discussed is the ‘apocalypse world’, which was envisioned by executive producers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner. “We were playing with the idea of having our hunters be the hunted, and turning the world upside down. And then we had the idea for doppelgängers… and the idea just started spiralling wildly out of control.” One idea Singer is quick to shut down is the use of an uplifting alternate reality: “Not on this show!”
With regards to the episode The Big Empty, it seems the cast and producers were thrown by Misha’s accent, which he modelled on being on an oil rig in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Singer reveals The Big Empty might be revisited next year.
To address fans’ concerns about Sam’s emotional state, Jared explains, “Sam has a problem where he focusses on his failures. The writers have seen that work for the character, to have a protagonist that beats himself down and doesn’t fully realise his potential. Having said that Sam’s fine and is just at a place where he bounces stuff of his brother and vice versa. We’ve seen Sam go to the nth degree this season to give it all. He’s got to make the world a better place, and to me that’s exciting.”
Singer credits Jared and Jensen with often keeping the writing true to character. Jared discloses that Supernatural operates a “Best Idea Wins” policy on set, allowing all members of the crew and cast to pitch story or character ideas without ego coming into play.
It seems they have enough ideas to keep the show returning for many more seasons, but what keeps the team coming back?
Singer reveals, “Well Jared and Jensen told me they’d kill me if I left,” which Jensen admits is true.
“I don’t know what the recipe is,” Jensen explains, “but I’m happy to have found it. These people keep me going to work, and I love going to work. I just had a birthday party up there, and the whole cast and crew, present and past too, showed up, and it’s those people that keep me fighting every day and getting up and doing what I like.”
“Same,” Jensen adds. “Plus we get to tell a story that we love, and I’m excited to keep telling the story.”
Scoobynatural, the 280th episode of Supernatural, airs 29 March 2018 in the US.