I can’t wait to buy season nine of Supernatural on Blu Ray—first because I’ll finally have all the episodes commercial free and in crystal clear HD—but secondly because I’ll have the gag reel. I have a tradition during Summer Hellatus of watching the show from the beginning, and as I finish each season I conclude it with the gag reel. It’s a nice way to bridge the seasons and get in a few laughs—especially after all the tears finales make me cry. This year, however, I’ve found myself digging a little deeper. I’m watching the other special features—the other extras that I’ve just not taken the time to watch before. I’m going “Beyond the Gag Reel,” so to speak.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Note: All special feature screencaps are credited to @Valerie316/Raloria
The first extra I encountered after the gag reel was the feature “A Day in the Life of Jared and Jensen.” This little feature shows us—in crunched down time—the hectic schedule that Jared and Jensen endured during their filming of season one. We see them go from wake up calls to getting a dinner break to getting their hair and make up ready. Second to the gag reel, I think this is perhaps one of the most watched extras on the season one set—with good reason. It’s cute, fun, refreshing, and shows us a small glimmer of Jared and Jensen off camera. And there’s an eerie prophetic phrase uttered by Jensen—when Jared’s asking the hairstylist how long she’s been doing their hair, Jensen quips, “About nine years.” How did he know? This is perhaps one of my favorite feel good extras after the gag reels simply because I get to appreciate how hard these two work and enjoy this glimpse of their friendship.
I have a few favorite moments—from each guy.
I adore how Jared seems to be a bottomless pit while on set. His off-hand remark that his heaping plate of food—one that I’d struggle to finish—is his “appetizer,” always makes me smile. He also seems to throughly enjoy showing off his huge amount of food—and some of it’s even healthy! He’s got zucchini and rice and chicken and steak. I also love that he has a whole plate of chocolate waiting. His sweet tooth seems to be as large as his frame! Of course, who can forget his eating the gummy worms in the trailer while being made “pretty.” He seems so happy to eat those gummy worms. He declares it his favorite past time, and watching him scarf them down proves his point beautifully. Jared comes off as a little boy in that moment, putting on a little show—and then a food fight breaks out between him and Jensen and the make up artist. His cry, “Where are you aiming!” is perfect. It’s so spontaneous, funny, light, and carefree that I can’t help but giggle.
On the other side, there’s nothing like watching Jensen practice his knife/dart throwing for his portrayal of Dean. What I love about this, though, isn’t just watching him in action. It’s seeing under this quiet and playful moment all the dedication he brings to his work every day. He’s committed time off camera to making those weapons and skills real so they’ll show up that way on screen. We’re also afforded seeing where he missed, given by all the scratch marks and holes. Jensen’s almost boyishly shy when he has to show them off. It’s endearing and such a great glimpse behind the scenes. I’m always taken back by how special that really is.
And then there’s the moment they share together that’s one of my favorite—the two of them being the boys they are riding those snow mobiles. There’s just something so wonderful about how they cavort and get excited about riding them that makes me giddy. The very idea that two Texas boys are that excited about snow and snowmobiles is hilarious to me as a born and bred Minnesotan. There’s also this innocence in their joy about this that I think most of us who live with snow winter after winter no longer have. It’s nice to see someone still have that! This impression is only bolstered by the snow ambush they endure towards the end.
If I need a pick me up, I know I can always rewatch this gem of an extra and get a smile.
After “A Day In the Life of Jared and Jensen,” I turned my eye towards all the deleted scenes. Season one seemed to have a number of them. I found some of them to be enriching. They added something to the episode and while they were cut originally from the broadcast version, having them on the DVD/Blu Ray set filled in a couple gaps. Others gave us new angles or views on scenes we’ve seen before. And others yet were great little slices or moments that just added something extra about the characters as a whole.
I particularly liked the “Pilot” deleted scene. It’s often been questioned as to why Dean knew to go back and burst in just in time to save Sam from the fire. We see that in this deleted scene in clear contrast. What I really enjoyed about this cut scene, however, was how seamless it seemed to fit in with the footage we’ve all seen countless times before. We see Sam on that bed, relaxing with his cookie only to look up in horror—but here we also see Dean driving down the street, the Impala’s radio going on the fritz and various street lamps flickering. To anyone else, it wouldn’t mean anything, but to Dean Winchester he knows it means danger and that means to rush back to Sam. It filled in that gap nicely and settled that debate for me.
“Phantom Traveler” has a rather nice character cut scene as we see the brothers squeal into a parking space quite literally in their haste to stop Amanda from getting on the plane. Sam, however, has enough mind to remember that they are going into an airport and convinces Dean to dump his weapons. It doesn’t really change the story or Dean as a character, and yet seeing him have to begrudgingly open the trunk and declare, “Now I feel naked” is worth the watch. The way Ackles delivers the line is just golden, capturing the petulant little boy inside.
The “Nightmare” cut scenes had much more to do with what they couldn’t show on broadcast. This cut scene gets so much attention in the other extras that I knew I had to pay close attention to this one. The set up, dialog and result were all the same, but it was apparent watching it that this is the scene they had originally scripted but couldn’t get quite past the network censors. There’s certainly more blood spatter, making the moment a bit more gruesome. It was neat to see the work the crew did here, too, even if it didn’t really change or deepen the overall episode.
The next extras that I dug into were the commentaries. Oh boy. These are perhaps some of my favorite things about the extras. Watching the episode while the writers, actors, or directors tell you details really gave some of these episodes a fresh look and feel. It really made me appreciate more than ever the collaborative nature that is television. There may be a single vision driven by a show runner or creator, but there’s so many more people than that that influence that final product we actually get to see. In the commentaries, we hear about everything from the drafting of scripts to how a shot was lit or the music was chosen. We’re told about camera angles or prop choices. It’s a brief glimpse behind the curtain to see how it makes the whole. The commentaries can take us from the pitch to the finale episode we see and just about everything in between.
The “Pilot” commentary stuck out for this very reason. Hearing Eric Kripke and David Nutter talk about what lead to the actual pilot we know and love and how it was shot really made it that much more real and powerful for me. We heard about how many drafts it took, what lead to the actual ending of the episode, how the casting was done, and how the look and feel was chosen. There were several funny and lighthearted moments in the commentary that countered some of the serious tone of discussing the show, too. I rather enjoyed them playing a game of “spot the baby” and counting how many different ones were used to represent Sam at six months old.
The “Pilot” commentary also let me get a real feel for how long and hard a road it was to get Supernatural from concept to screen in the first place. I think this is perhaps true for most shows that we actually end up seeing, but I really took it to heart just how hard it was to pitch, develop, write, cast, and eventually present the final product that we’ve all come to love in our own ways. They discussed how casting was super important, how they loved paying homage to shows that came before them, and how it took several attempts to get studios—particularly Warner Brothers—to sign onto the project. The amount of work that went into just getting the pilot and first season off the ground all happened in that pilot episode. It really made the final product I’ve watched so many times all the more special. We’re also given another glimpse into how dedicated everyone that’s been involved with Supernatural truly is and has been and continues to be. As passionate as they are, it’s clear in these commentaries that they are, too.
The other commentary for season one is done by Jared and Jensen—their first commentary on the show. It was light hearted, funny, and full of friendship—and yet they also gave great insight not only into how they see Sam and Dean and the show at this stage but into how filming works over all. It was fascinating to hear them have to remember how filming a certain moment went—particularly the fact that they filmed so out of order on the script depending on location. It was also intriguing to hear that they had to go back and shoot some of this episode while shooting another. Their discussion on this made me think about how hard it must be to get into the mindset of the characters as time is not linear when shooting scripts by any means. Hearing Jared and Jensen discuss the fact that they were meeting the guest star for the first time and sharing that moment that we see at the end of “Phantom Traveler” really made me appreciate all the work they and the guest stars do on this show more. They really make it so believable that they’ve already gone through the case—and yet that hadn’t been shot at that point.
Jared and Jensen also made it seem like they were not only seriously invested into Supernatural or working, but that they also had a ton of fun doing it. There’s an ease with the way they joke and tease and compliment one another. Jared would be saying something silly while Jensen would stick with dry wit and it made their commentary all the richer. If you haven’t taken the time to watch their first commentary, I suggest you do. It may be only their first time talking together about an episode, but it’s so apparent from the very start how easily they fit into each other’s lives and made their friendship bloom from the beginning here.
Since buying the show on Blu Ray, however, I’ve noticed that there are extras on it that just aren’t included on the DVD sets. One of these was the Paley Fest panel from season one. It’s almost a bittersweet panel as we see Kripke, Singer, Jared, Jensen, a few of the writers on staff—and Kim Manners—take part in one of the first panel discussions about Supernatural. The panel ranges from what led to Jared and Jensen’s casting to how the show was developed in concept to how Robert Singer and Eric Kripke differ on their view on storytelling. It’s another slice into the work behind the scenes that lead to the show we see each week and how it happens.
Seeing Kim Manners talk about his involvement at the time was also a treat. He had only been hired on to direct “Dead In the Water” and joked that he was pretty much in retirement when they asked him to join full time as a producer and director. He even joked that he had auditioned for the role of Sam—and really, who hadn’t? Kim Manners has been a favorite director of mine since his days on The X-Files, so having him involved with Supernatural almost from the very beginning made the show all the more special for me for that reason. Seeing him talk about his time on Supernatural in season one in this panel was also enriching to me. He had a great sense of humor, a way of making me sit up and pay attention to what he had to say, and a great way of teasing that made him endearing immediately. If you do happen to have the Blu Ray set and haven’t taken the time to watch the Paley Fest panel, do it now. It’s worth the watch just for Kim alone.
I also loved hearing from John Shiban about how he approached writing for the show. Another X-Files staff writer, he brought many of those sensibilities with him and hearing him talk about how approaching things in new ways on this show as to how he’s done so in the past really got my attention. Between him and listening to Kripke talk about how it’s managed to get to this stage with one season nearly being filmed and the second being prepared—and at that time a three year myth-arc planned out—made the first season seem a bit richer for watching the panel. I also loved that Singer and Kripke really seemed to mesh well on stage as they fielded questions and discussed elements. I couldn’t help but laugh that Singer really enjoyed the end of “Faith” while Kripke was all about the guy’s hand in the garbage disposal in “Home.”
Most of all, this panel really let me see how intelligent we fans were from the very beginning. The panel took questions from the audience, and we had discussions about casting, direction, and writing. They were thoughtful and deep, digging into the many layers that make up this show. It really made me proud to be a fan of the show simply to know that fans have been that invested and intelligent since it started—asking about topics that ranged from plot and character to general questions about the television industry as a whole. It took the panel onto a whole new level, showing me how special this show was from the start and still is heading into its tenth season.
The other big features on the season set were the Tales from the Edge of Darkness and the Devil’s Road Map.
The Edge of Darkness took us through a beautiful summation of Supernatural from its conception to the first season as a whole. It captures what makes this show so special, endearing, and powerful for us fans as an audience. We hear from everyone from Kripke to Manners to Jared and Jensen to Sera Gamble and David Nutter. We’re given, even more than the “Pilot” commentary, an idea of just how hard and long a road it was to get Supernatural off the ground. The Tales from the Edge of Darkness also gave a us a glimpse even more into the behind the scenes as we heard special effects discussed.
I have a few favorites from this special. I love how enthusiastic everyone is in discussing the project, how they came to be involved, and why they are so committed to working on Supernatural. I especially enjoyed hearing that from Kim Manners and Ivan Hayden. It really captured so much of the collaborative effort—highlighted by the comment that it’s a positive atmosphere to pitch ideas and that Kripke often allowed them to explore these myths, legends, and the growing brother relationship that formed the backbone of the show. I absolutely adored Kripke’s enthusiastic telling of how he chose the car. His story about his neighbor that builds custom cars and how he told Kripke to pick a 67 Impala always makes giggle. If you ever are trying to show someone new to the show why it is such a special project, show them this special. It most certainly captured everything that makes Supernatural what it is.
The Devil’s Road Map, a feature only on the Blu Ray set, has a high quality interactive feature that allows you to see even deeper into every single episode. It’s split into three major parts. The first appears in short commentaries on each episode. They gave us an inner look at the writer’s room, the production aspects, the story challenges, and a behind the scenes look at what led to the various myths and legends tackled in season one’s episodes. Seeing these really enhanced season one all the more because it gave deep insights into the complex episodes already there. It also built more on that understanding of how collaborative television really is—how a pitch can be altered in the final concept into something different or richer for instance. The short commentaries also allowed each episode to get its moment in the sun, giving us a little extra information we might not have had otherwise.
The second part has factoids on the map about the town that episode is set in—a supernatural sighting or myth that they didn’t use for the episode for instance. Some are tied directly to that particular town featured in the episode while others cover the state the episode takes place in. This one takes some reading, but it’s worth doing simply to see some of the other stories that connect to a major theme of the show: urban legends. Flip through it for each spot on the map. You never know what you might learn!
The third part of the Devil’s Road Map is perhaps my favorite. It has a trail to follow about John’s journal. The short feature about the journal really made that prop—already special—all the more beautiful. We see how it was conceived from idea to final product that is continuing to always evolve. We’re shown snippets of additions, of reasons for why this particular prop, and a deeper look into how the prop department went about making it into a reality. Of any prop on this show—aside from the car itself—it is perhaps one of the most iconic. We continue to see it appear well into season nine and more than likely into season ten.
The Devil’s Road map has so many features to explore and to cover that you can get lost in it as you follow each episode. Explore. Play with this feature and let it open up more layers of the show. You won’t regret it for a moment.
If you haven’t taken out your season one set in a while—or you haven’t taken the chance to watch these extras in your Summer Hellatus rewatches, I recommend it. Go “Beyond the Gag Reel” and explore the inner works and behind the scenes of Supernatural season one. It has so much to show you—and I promise you’ll have a much more enriched experience when watching the show through again.
In the next installment of “Beyond the Gag Reel” we’ll look at the season two extras.