There are several different layers to each Supernatural episode. Fans can watch the obvious story of the monster hunt, the symbolic story of the myth arc, or the dramatic story of the Winchester brothers’ plight. We almost always notice and comment on the superb acting, and often we notice the sets, but it is easy to take for granted things our eyes don’t initally see. Supernatural has a tradition of superior direction and cinematography. In the episode “Halt and Catch Fire”, the talent for those positions was offered by John F. Showalter and Serge Ladouceur, respectively. Looking at the directorial choices and composition of the scenes, including color, angles, lighting, props and wardrobe, adds a whole new level of meaning to the story.
The first color for the palette of this episode was an obvious choice. The name of the ghost was Andrew Silver, so using silver throughout the episode would subliminally support that character. The ghost also haunted people through technology. Modern technology is often associated or represented by metalic colors, so the use of silver, especially if used in metal, would support the story as well as the character.
Two other colors, pink and white, also appeared throughout the episode. Pink is the traditional color for young girls, and white is the color of innocence (hence the traditional color of bridal gowns). Even though the college coeds in the episode were portrayed as being far from innocent, the colors still help to establish their youth and vulnerability. In this scene, Delilah’s roommate is dressed entirely in pink and white (including her undergarments). Their room, shown in this and the following scene with Dean, is also filled with pink and white. The wall, furniture, door, lamp and pictures are white (including the t-shirt worn by the male pin-up). Even the animated electrical chord is white. There are several pink accessories on her dresser and there is a pink, white and silver poster on her door (better seen in a later shot).
The victim’s computer case was noticeably pink, with white and blue lettering (presumably the colors of the sorority), and her phone (to the right) had a pink, white and silver case.
The brothers first talk to Mrs. Silver as she is removing pink and white flowers from the site of her husband’s death, ironically, a silver metal pole.
In alternate views of the sorority room, pink and white are everywhere, including the picture frame, something to the left of Dean (I can’t tell what that is), the lining of one of the shoes and both chairs. The accent color of blue is also used pervasively in this shot.
Pink is used as a blurred background to Dean’s call from Sam, and there is a pink hue to the light on Dean’s face.
…then pink is the color blurred again in front of Dean in this shot.
The Silvers are wearing only white (or maybe a muted silver/grey?) in the picture that represents their innocent lives before tragedy struck. Their portrait is against a two-tone blue background.
The restaurant scene where Sam and Dean discuss the case is saturated in silver and white. The tables, chairs, pole and even the door handle are all cold, silver metal. Some of the clothes of the patrons are pink, and there are pink reflections both in the glass behind Dean and on the table in front of them. In a rewatch, notice how many of the college students’ clothes are pink, grey and blue. Once you’re aware of it, the colors are everywhere! It’s amazing!
The hard reflective surfaces imply a modern architecture, which reinforces the technology theme. The other colors in the shot are red, brown or blue, which are the complimentary colors that appear in several other scenes as well. It’s interesting to note the the checked shirt of the seated male patron is almost an exact match to the bedspread in the girl’s room (shown below).
In contrast, the fraterniy room is in red, brown and white. Could red be the masculine version of pink? Sam’s tie is red in the restaurant scene above.
In addition to a meaningful and consistent color palette, the episode framed several shots within technical devices to strengthen the technology theme. Individual shots of text messages, phone calls…
and hauntings were shown within phones or computers.
The climactic scene of Dean and Delilah running down the hall unable to escape Wi-Fi could have been a sub-textual message about the trap we all live in with all-pervasive technology (note the pink and red wall hangings again).
This episode included several great close-ups that framed Sam and Dean’s facial expressions. I’m not going to reproduce those here because I’m fairly sure they will be generously used within our various reviews!
Other, individual shots deserve recognition, though, for their photographic composition. This week I picked several notable scenes:
#7 This shot summarized two worlds colliding: the white salt encircling the innocent target (who happens to be wearing silver/grey and sitting on the white chair); the sorority’s colors of light blue and white (the emblem, bedspread, screens) representing the coed’s world being invaded by the hunter holding a tool of his trade.
#6 The show’s early years frequently used the Impala driving down a back, rural road to end the episode. I was struck how the boys’ rural roads had been replaced by a suburban side street for this case. The “810” mailbox is in view, reminding us that the boys returned both this address and it’s surrounding environment back to their quiet, peaceful norm. The pink/white light streaming on the pavement was the proverbial “sunset”.
#5 What a perfect shot for a horror story! Dark road at night. Only the fog is illuminated by silver/white eerie lights from a distance. Coincidentally, The WFB location hunting group visited this exact spot on our Vancouver trip this past August!
#4 For ingenuity, this might be the best shot of the episode. It captures so many themes in a very small frame: the gruesomeness of the ghost, the irony and symbolism of seeing him inside technology (since he was using WiFi to travel); and the hunter clearly being bested in the background by the ghost. It’s not my #1 simply because it’s…gross…i.e. I don’t like looking at it! If I don’t include pleasantness as a criteria, though, it deserves to be #1.
#3 This is a beautiful shot! The fire light reflecting off the boys’ faces frames our heroes. The light reflecting off the smoke, the car hoods and the ground creates silver reflections throughout the whole picture. There is even a silver, metal fence in the background. The flashlight focused back on the camera, though, immediately calls our attention to Sam and Dean, despite a much larger light source right in front of them. Eerie, but the props crew probably found that smashed truck in a junk yard from a real accident. That’s real horror.
#2 Another perfect shot. Dean’s face is lit by the fire. Sam is looking straight at the flame. Dean is so calm and resolved as he holds an entire match book that is lit and burning down. There is silver and red/white everywhere in the scene, from the trashed cars to the smoke overhead. It isn’t as visible in this shot, but Dean’s shirt has a pink stripe in it as well (it can be seen very clearly in the bunker shots at the beginning of the episode).
#1 This shot frames only the fire. To me that epitomized the name of the episode. It is a magnificent story by itself.
It has been so much fun sharing my observations of the cinematography in “Halt and Catch Fire”. Did you see things I missed? What were your favorite shots? What are your interpretations of the use of color? Can you offer different or better captions to my top 7 pics? I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. I was able to enjoy a rewatch last evening. Besides seeing pink everywhere in clothing, signs and room accessories, I saw something new! Yellow seems to be the secondary thematic color. Yellow can represent spring and life and sunlight, but it can also represent cowardice. I first saw it as a pair of jeans worn by a diner at the campus union building. Then I saw it on the yellow and pink striped couch in the sorority basement. The walls in the sorority hallway were also yellow. Look for it as well on your rewatch!
screencaps courtesy of www.screencapped.net