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In the first part of this profile, we discussed Robbie Thompson's non-Supernatural projects and his debut episode, "Slash Fiction." We examined his ability to tell human stories within the frameworks of the science fiction genre---and how that helped him to write rich scripts for Sam and Dean. In this part, we'll look at his other episodes, talk about how he brought the adorable Charlie Bradbury to life, and look at his best lines and pop culture references.


Thompson's second episode, "Time After Time After Time" continued the witty dialogue and pop culture references while exploring a human story within the supernatural. It also wrapped its story around Sam and Dean's bond in an effective and moving way. The episode throws Dean back to 1944 after he launches himself on the time god Chronos before he can complete his time jump. Unlike previous time travel episodes, there's no definite out---no certainty that Dean can return to the present in 2012. Thompson uses this situation to his advantage to tell a compelling and moving story both for the Winchesters and for the villain, Chronos. As added bonus, we see him throw in a familiar figure from history---Elliot Ness.

Ness2

First, Thompson blends a great deal of current pop culture with 1940s slang. Dean, sticking out like a sore thumb as he chases Chronos into the busy street, quickly ends up captured by the police. There he's accused of being everything from a "Jerry," to a "kraut-muncher." Obviously, they suspect him of being a German spy---which he's not. Luckily for him, someone has taken interest in the stranger that burst onto the scene. It's none other than Elliot Ness, the very man that took down Al Capone. For genre fans, we were afforded the guest star in Nic Lea, known best for his role as Alex Krycek in The X-Files.

Thompson really has fun with this---making Dean's pop culture understanding of the period both endearing and hilarious. He begins to hero worship Ness immediately, quoting with a boyish reverence the movie The Untouchables only to be rebuffed by his hero. We even see Dean mutter to himself after dropping the film's most famous line, "Because that's the Chicago Way," that he'll "Never watch that movie again." When they question the bookie, he tells them he's no "stoolie," or informant, and not to "snap their caps" or get angry. The slang is certainly different. It also clashes with Dean's own slang. It baffles Ness as to why Dean thinks everything is "awesome," and he questions him, "How does that fill you with awe?"

Dean not only has to navigate language barriers. He has to change his clothes. Ness calls him a "bindlestiff," meaning he thinks the hunter looks a bit like a hobo. Dean doesn't get it and responds in a fluster, "Stiff your br bin  what?" The wardrobe change allows us to see Dean transformed. Gone are his worn and faded blue jeans, his t-shirt and green jacket. Gone are his work boots. Instead, he comes out in a proper 1940s suit with shiny shoes and fedora to match. Even his hair is slicked down. It leaves him looking sleek, professional---but still dangerous. In this outfit, Dean exudes elegance that compliments him well. And yet he's still Dean underneath, captured by the novelty of his new clothes. We're seeing just how language and culture shifts over time---how some words and clothing can go out of style and be replaced by new---and how what is familiar to one can be utterly foreign to another.

Dean

Thompson is also pulling from a popular genre from the period: film noir. The episode most certainly follows that pattern. Our villain, Chronos, is a flawed anti-hero in many ways with a fatal flaw in the "femme fatale," Lila. It's this framework that allows for Thompson to make this villain sympathetic for the viewer and give his story humanity that it would otherwise lack. We can't help but feel a bit sorry for Chronos as he is tossed about time like a ship drifting aimlessly in the middle of the ocean. He has no choice in this. As his worshipers have dwindled and he has lost control over his powers, he has become a victim of what was once his gift. All Chronos wants is to be with Lila, and he will do whatever it takes---even killing three people at a time---to do it. He tells her, "I-I used to wander, but now I have you." That doesn't excuse him, however, and we know that much like most film noir lead characters he is doomed.

Thompson also shows us the other side of the story well---pulling the brotherly bond into the equation. The case was originally brought to the Winchesters by Sheriff Mills. She heard about the case and figured it was a "tune you boys tap to?" After Dean disappears, she feels obligated to help Sam get him back, and we're afforded another layer of human story laced with the spell work and time travel in Thompson's script. The Sheriff is an anchor that Sam can rely on as he struggles to get Dean back. Having someone like Jody with him also allows Sam to show vulnerabilities---something he might not have done had Dean remained in the present. Sam drives himself hard, working with little sleep or care for his own well-being to find the information he needs to return Dean to 2012. It takes Jody telling him to go to bed or she'll use her "Mom voice" to make him pause and rest.

Jody also can address some of the grief that the brothers haven't quite about Bobby. She finds a bottle of liquor that Rufus left for Bobby after losing a bet, and Thompson gives her one of the most human lines in the episode, "It's weird, huh? It's like their life's a big puzzle. You just keep finding pieces of it scattered all over the place." It allows for Sam and Jody to bond, to become something more than partners trying to figure out how to save Dean. They form an emotional, platonic connection that takes the story to a human height, reminding us that we can't face the most difficult tasks in life alone---nor should we.

As Sam tries to follow Jody's order, he gets down on the floor and fluffs his pillow---only to spot his name etched into the woodwork within eyeshot. In 1944, Dean decides to pull another Back to the Future trick, and tucks a letter inside behind the crown molding he popped off. That's of course after he's done some fast talking to the home owner to let him in. He uses the ruse of being part of the “Department of Homeland Termite Invasion,” which might be a nod to Thompson's work on Woody Wood Pecker! With the letter safely tucked, it's in Sam's hands to find it. He does, and he rushes down the stairs with boyish glee. The brothers may be years removed from one another, but they're still working together. Dean has provided the date they need and information on what Chronos is doing in the past---and with who. He tells Sam that Chronos is "banging some chick named Lila Taylor" and they now have a lead to follow, someone to ask.

The joy Sam experiences is short lived, considering Lila tells him and Jody that Chronos---or Ethan as she knew him---had "choked the life out of that man," meaning Dean of course. They may get him back to the present, but would they get him back alive?

Dean, meanwhile, must continue to work the case alongside Ness. They need to find a weapon to kill Chronos and they must stop him from killing his third victim before it is too late. Thompson makes use of Dean and Ness's time together well---they have a conversation about why they do what they do. Dean asks Ness, "So, now, w-who died in your life and made you a hunter? " Ness scoffs at this and retorts, "Who died? Nobody died, you morbid son of a bitch. I started doing this 'cause vampires were turning folks in Cleveland. " Dean admits that he's not sure why he's doing this anymore---that he used to do it because his father did it and then because it was the family business. Ness pooh poohs that, telling him "So enjoy it while it lasts, kid, 'cause hunting's the only clarity you're gonna find in this life. And that makes you luckier than most." It's perhaps what Dean needed to hear, even if it took time to sink in.

Once they track Chronos to Lila's house, they end up separated, Ness facing the time god first. Dean enters the house, trying to find Ness only to encounter an angry Chronos. Ness holds Lila hostage, forcing the time god's hand. He either is exposed as the monster he's become and stops killing or Ness will kill Lila. Unfortunately, Dean doesn't have such leverage, and it is Dean that Chronos turns his vast anger on---choking him. But it is also the very thing Dean needs so he can follow the summoned god back to the present. Once back, Sam and Jody start to attack, getting Dean away from Chronos until Sam can deliver the killing blow.

Thompson had fun with various pop culture, film noir, and witty dialogue in "Time After Time After Time," but what he did best was tell us a moving story about two brothers.

Comments  

Prix68
# Prix68 2013-07-27 07:42
Thanks for part 2 on Robbie Thompson. He definitely has a knack for bringing more depth to characters in subtle yet profound ways. He's definitely become a favorite writer for me.
debbab
# debbab 2013-07-27 22:46
RT has made Charlie(along with Felicia Day's portrayal) an iconic character in SPN. She plays so well off of Dean's character and in some ways she is Dean with a woman's perspective now that she has more hunting experience and yet she has such emotional depth which she tries to cover..Uhhem..a deanism. I have revisited Bitten and with your help I better appreciate the writing, but still not loving it since the Winchesters were written so light but not disliking it as much.
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2013-07-28 17:57
I am LOVING your profile of Robbie, Allison! He's rapidly climbed to the top of my Supernatural writers' chart because of his positive gift for blending strong characterizatio ns into solid stories, while always keeping Sam and Dean true to themselves. Other writers should learn from him - and especially from his choice to watch the entire show when he was first hired. He respects the show canon and I could kiss him for it. :)

Looking forward to part three!
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-07-29 19:58
Another great analysis. Robbie Thompson was a great addition to the show. I've pretty loved all his episodes. Though not Bitten, but I didn't hate it either. My lack of adoration didn't have anything to do with the lack of Winchester's. I just didn't connect with the kids. And since it was their story....

But the rest of his have been fantastic. I've quibbled with a scene here or there but nothing that doesn't make really excited to see his next episode. I ADORE his Dean. I think he writes him really really well. His Sam is a little more hit and miss for me this season but his Sam in Time After Time is one of my favorites. And I freaking love his interactions with Jody as well as Dean. And he wrote them both really playfully at times last year, it is one of my favorite things about the season.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2013-07-31 20:54
Quote:
Thanks for part 2 on Robbie Thompson. He definitely has a knack for bringing more depth to characters in subtle yet profound ways. He's definitely become a favorite writer for me.
Thank you for enjoying it so much. I loved delving into his episodes and seeing how he told these character's stories. It's one of his best gifts. He's probably at the top of my list for the current writers on the show, that's for sure!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2013-07-31 20:58
Quote:
RT has made Charlie(along with Felicia Day's portrayal) an iconic character in SPN. She plays so well off of Dean's character and in some ways she is Dean with a woman's perspective now that she has more hunting experience and yet she has such emotional depth which she tries to cover..Uhhem..a deanism. I have revisited Bitten and with your help I better appreciate the writing, but still not loving it since the Winchesters were written so light but not disliking it as much.
I adore Charlie both for Robbie's writing and for Felicia's acting. She is truly one of the best characters the series has ever produced and I certainly hope we get to see her come back for season 9---especially if Robbie gets to write her episode again. I'd have to say those episodes are some of my favorites of his.

As for "Bitten," I'm glad I could give you a fresh perspective on it.

Thanks again!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2013-07-31 21:04
Quote:
I am LOVING your profile of Robbie, Allison! He's rapidly climbed to the top of my Supernatural writers' chart because of his positive gift for blending strong characterizations into solid stories, while always keeping Sam and Dean true to themselves. Other writers should learn from him - and especially from his choice to watch the entire show when he was first hired. He respects the show canon and I could kiss him for it. :)

Looking forward to part three!
Thanks, Mary! I'm glad you enjoyed the final product after the month or so of talking about it on Twitter. It's been a lot of fun to write and now see everyone's reaction.

Robbie certainly takes advantage of having watched the show from start to finish and I love that most about his scripts. I think it's what allows him to pull in moments from the past, revisit them and make them bigger and more emotional.

I also love how personable he is with us fans on Twitter. Makes this profile all the more special. I hope you'll enjoy part 3 as much!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2013-07-31 21:07
Quote:
Another great analysis. Robbie Thompson was a great addition to the show. I've pretty loved all his episodes. Though not Bitten, but I didn't hate it either. My lack of adoration didn't have anything to do with the lack of Winchester's. I just didn't connect with the kids. And since it was their story....

But the rest of his have been fantastic. I've quibbled with a scene here or there but nothing that doesn't make really excited to see his next episode. I ADORE his Dean. I think he writes him really really well. His Sam is a little more hit and miss for me this season but his Sam in Time After Time is one of my favorites. And I freaking love his interactions with Jody as well as Dean. And he wrote them both really playfully at times last year, it is one of my favorite things about the season.
Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you like this indepth look at his episodes. I agree with you about his Dean. He really captures both sides of Dean well---that tough as nails guy that does what he has to in order to save his brother and live---and the guy who is still that four year old boy looking to have fun deep inside. It's a nice blend and he makes Dean all the more real for me in his script. I think his scripts really allow Jensen to show us that, too.

I certainly hope we'll get to see them play more in season 9 and that Robbie will get to write some of those moments for us.