Profile on "Supernatural" Writer Robbie Thompson Part 2
We left of last time with Charlie Bradbury's introduction. Thompson made the character endearing and memorable from the very start---and it only made sense to make her into an ally for the Winchesters. We'll look at how she evolved into that during "LARP and the Real Girl" and how that only strengthens in "Pac Man Fever." We'll also have those promised fifteen lines and pop culture references along with that Twitter Interview. Onto Moondoor!
With her second episode, "LARP and the Real Girl," however, we see that Charlie has bonded much more with the Winchesters than she was willing to admit. Thompson also puts her into a much more comfortable environment. The brothers are tipped off about a hunt by Garth that leads them to a LARP game called Moondoor. The first victim on their radar has the misfortune of being drawn and quartered by invisible horses and rope. It is gruesome, violent, and bloody. Their suspect tells them the angry texts exchanged between him and the victim "were from me, but they weren't from me me." Instead, they were from his character, Greyfox the Mystic to Thagrim the Difficult.
Sam and Dean are skeptical of all of this LARP business, but they visit the website the suspect, Lance, tells them about. There, they see photos of Lance in character at the feast the night before, corroborating his story. Thompson has fun with this introduction to Moondoor. He plays on Dean's tendency to fanboy, and as they watch the video about the game, Dean remarks, "It actually looks kind of awesome." In this way, Thompson links the MOTW story with the brothers as they try to get back to being a partnership---and as Dean tries to help Sam remember that hunting can be fun, too. It's a brilliant way to tie everything together and lays the groundwork for the feel good moment at the end of the episode.
However, as they're watching the video, they spot a familiar face: Charlie Bradbury. She's the Queen of Moons. Now the brothers have someone they can go talk to, someone they don't have to hide their identities from on the inside as they investigate what is happening. Before they can go there, though, their suspect Lance dies bloody while waiting in the interrogation room. It eliminates him from the suspect list automatically. After all, it couldn't have been that easy.
When the brothers arrive on scene, Thompson shakes up their usual FBI introduction. They had been welcomed with open arms from the sheriff, but as they approach a scene in progress at the stocks, they run into Boltar the Furious, who demands the scene "hold" as he explains to them that their badges are, "very good, but, um, well, the I.D. number shifted to 10 digits with, uh, two letters mixed in at the end of the year, and, uh, the seal's from last month. Really good work." It's not often---and it has been awhile---since the Winchesters have been questioned this way. Thompson shows this situation not to embarrass the brothers nor just for the amusement---but to show us how they adjust quickly. They realize it's pointless to continue claiming to be real FBI and accept Boltar's invitation to see the queen overseeing new squires. After all, they have a job to do---and they'll take any method to see Charlie.
Thompson plays again with a grand entrance for Charlie, showing us two squires in the midst of combat. They parry swords until one yields on their knees. One removes their helmet, revealing Charlie shaking out her brilliant red hair with a pleased smile. The squire looks up in adoration and says, "I love you," to which Charlie responds, "I know." It's a brilliant pop culture moment subtly slipped in---in particular from Star Wars. Thompson wisely shows us Charlie in her element, confident and full of charisma before Sam and Dean can shake up her world again. In this way, he allows us to see both elements of her character. As she starts to tell her people about Greyfox and Thargrim's disappearance, she falters and a wild look of panic crosses her face. She spots the Winchesters in the crowd and realizes what was once pretend has now become quite serious---and therefore dangerous.
She makes a hasty exit to her tent, the brothers hot on her heels. Thompson doesn't let the moment pass by, however, to have Dean stop and test out the fake swords. He twirls one, remarking, â"Nice balance." Dean may be there for a job, but he's indulging in the fun all around him without much shame. That doesn't stop once he enters the tent---even if they are telling Charlie about what is really happening. He looks at her battle plans laid out on the map and starts to move them around, telling her, "move your archers back and your broadswordsmen to the west..."This all exasperates Sam to no end, and it is this aspect of the script that allows Thompson to connect this case to the brothers on a personal level. They are there to stop this, certainly, but it is also about having fun and enjoying what they do---something that Dean is trying to instill in Sam---and indulge in for his own sanity.
Thompson takes it even one step further, putting Dean into a LARP outfit. Instead of complaining or protesting, Dean puts it on with satisfaction, showing us in simple gestures that he does enjoy the perks of his job---and the escapism Moondoor obviously provides. As he accompanies Charlie around the grounds, Dean picks up a bit more swagger that comes with the change of clothes, slipping into the play surrounding him. He taunts the same Orc in the stocks that Boltar had, forcing him to talk. Thompson plays down the silliness of this situation---after all, Dean's sword is wooden---by amping up how funny it can be. He has Dean protest Charlie's disapproval by stating, "Well, there's no laptops in Moondoor. There's no Geneva Convention, either."
Dean isn't the only one to have "fun" on the case in Moondoor. Sam ends up in the "tech tent"to figure out what the connection might be to the two victims. He ends up next to Maria or Gholandria as they partake in a "genre mashup." Thompson shows us that Sam is uncomfortable with it at first as he isn't certain about talking with her. He tries to brush her away by saying, "It's--it's all just part of the game." But by the end, we see Sam almost sucked into it. He may be actually working while Gholandria thinks its part of Moondoor, but the exchange was also fun, with a bit of play acting to make the mundane tasks of investigating less like a chore and more like a game. Thompson puts this into the script with great subtly that makes it work on multiple levels. It sets up the end scene well, as Sam rethinks â€œall work and no playâ€ as a philosophy.
Thompson also builds into the story how one taking the game too seriously can lead to trouble when Boltar is exposed as the master of the fairy responsible for the deaths. Unlike Sam and Dean---and Charlie, who sees Moondoor as an escape---Boltar takes it extremely seriously, wanting to become the King of Moons alongside Charlie. To do so, he will go as far as to buy a real spell book on "Ebay" and enslave an actual fairy for his ends. For crossing these lines---taking play and turning it into vicious reality---he must be punished. After the spell is broken by Charlie destroying the book, we know that he will be.
Thompson explores Charlie's vulnerability and sorrow in "Pac Man Fever." Up until now, he's allowed her to be the adorable and fangirl character with some kick---here we get to see underneath that to the true Charlie, the one behind the many aliases and disappearing acts. Charlie ends up in the area nearby to the Men of Letters Bunker---and notifies the Winchesters that there's a possible monster hunt in the area. When they meet up, however, something seems different about Charlie. She's always been a bit guarded as a character, but this time she seems not quite alright---and when she tells them that she's in town for a comic book convention "on a Wednesday" they start to worry about their friend.
The hunt is a djinn---with a twist. With Sam under the weather, however, Dean will need someone to pinch hit, and Charlie volunteers. She proves her worth by firing two perfect shots at the target---both head shots---and Dean relents, allowing her to come along. They encounter the monster under the disguise of coroner, and run into more red tape than they're used to. Charlie had managed to get a hold of the Carver Edlund book series online, and she says with a pout, "That never happened in the books." They're going to have to go with a plan B---meaning physically breaking and entering, not mere computer hacking. It's a bit more than Charlie gambled for.
At the fresh crime scene, Dean and Charlie run into Sam, who is already a step ahead of them. He tells them that the body was liquified---and that a blue handprint was on it, something new and worth looking into certainly. Even so, that doesn't stop Dean from chastising Sam for joining the hunt while sick. Needing a moment with his brother, he dismisses Charlie to question the witnesses---even though she protests missing the "broment." Thompson knows that this is the real heart of the show, and he puts us into Charlie's shoes as she has to watch it from a distance. Sam and Dean argue about what to do next. Dean demands that Sam go back "home" to do some research, and storms off to the Impala, leaving both Charlie and Sam behind. It's alright, since Sam stole her car, and now they can once again get ahead of Dean by rushing to the morgue to see the second victim.
It is in this that Thompson slips in subtle humor. Dean arrives in a huff to find that he's been beaten by Sam and Charlie. He quips, "I stopped for gas," a line Thompson states Ackles adlibbed into the episode. While not written in, it certainly added to what Thompson had put down already. Before the brothers can stop her, however, Charlie rushes to see who is crashing their party. It is the coroner herself, there to tie up loose ends about the bodies her son has left behind. Thompson puts a nice sweet awkwardness on the exchange as Charlie tries to stall her. In a way, Thompson is mirroring her interactions with the guard in "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo," and it works well. She drifts from the "officialâ€ business of getting a copy of the form to asking Jennifer about her pants suit. What works best about the exchange is Charlie's sincerity. She may be trying to buy Sam and Dean some time, but she is serious in her line of questioning.
Thompson again puts Dean in uniform---as the elder Winchester wakes up in a pseudo version of 1951. He faces down vicious zombies and encounters Charlie clad in a black outfit holding a machine gun. This is a video game---and there's no level 256. Unlike the djinn dream world Dean experienced in "What Is and What Should Never Be," this isn't her happy ideal life. This is her worst nightmare. She is trying to save the patients---particularly her mother---and when she gets to that point it starts over. The zombies are faster, she has less ammo, and she has less chance to win than ever before. Dean realizes, when the reach the room with the patients, what this is really about.
He doens't forget about the brothers in this equation, either, showing Dean's worst fear in the same room. He draws back the curtains on another bed, this one occupied by Sam. It is his fears for Sam and the Trials manifesting here in his little brother's reposed body. It is the fear of losing him, of having to do what Charlie is doing that is embodied in this one moment. Thompson makes it all interconnect in such a way that it leaves a deep impact on us, drawing out our emotions and reminding us of what is important in life: those that we love. Sometimes we need story to do that for us, and here it does so with warmth, sadness, humor, and a tangible love for the characters contained with in the story.
Once Charlie and Dean emerge from the djinn world, we see just how hard this is for Charlie. She must now make the hard choice of going to the hospital in an official capacity and do the one thing she's avoided all this time: saying goodbye. In one more moment of beauty, Thompson has Charlie sit down by her mother's bedside and pull out The Hobbit, and begin to read. It cuts through us and shows us the humanity that this show contains in one image. For the Winchesters, he also pulls the same strings. Dean has let Charlie go to do what she must, and as he enters the Bunker, Sam stands to apologize for taking the risk of joining the case. Dean doesn't admonish or argue or belittle here. Instead, he simply enfolds Sam in a big hug, with no regard of the "chick flick moment" he's just created, and holds what he fears losing most: his brother. This show may deal with demons and angels and creatures of every stripe, but Thompson proves to us here that it is a human story---and in particular about two human brothers that love one another very much.
Robbie Thompson may have only written seven episodes for Supernatural thus far, but he has proven that he is a worthy addition to the writing team. He remarks about his place on the team, "i'm very lucky to have the job i have and i hope to keep at it as long as i can [sic]" It's safe to say a lot of fandom agrees!He has a firm understanding of the story, of the characters, and of the world they exist in. He knows how to take the genre and tell compelling, rich, complex stories that linger with the viewer. He also knows how to put in enough great one liners, great pop culture references, and human scenes that make us care deeply about what is transpiring on the screen. As we enter season 9 this fall, we can only wonder and wait in anticipation just where else he may take Sam and Dean---and us.
Here's Thompson's 15 Best Lines:
15 You don't have a clue how to kill 'em or slow 'em down, and your plan is, what? Go right at 'em? Genius. ---Bobby Singer, "Slash Fiction"
14 You know, it's bad enough that they're ganking people, wearing our mugs, but now this? Have us driving around in this... this caboodle while Baby's on lockdown. ---Dean, "Slash Fiction"
13 What, you going to look at more anime or are you strictly into Dick now? ---Sam, "Time After Time After Time"
12 How does paper beat a rock? It's stupid. ---Dean, "Time After Time After Time"
11 So what bucket of syrup did you two idjits step into? ---Ezra, "Time After Time After Time"
10 This is about knocking us off the top of the food chain. This is about them Levis living here forever, one percenter-style, while we march our dopey, fat asses down to the shiny new death camps at every corner. ---Bobby, "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo"
9 It means the Eye of Sauron is on me ---Charlie, "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo."
8 Hey, I didn't eat at Big P's for at least a year, okay? Clear eyes and clogged arteries--can't lose. ---Dean, "Bitten"
7 These kids today with their texting and murder. ---Sheriff, "LARP and the Real Girl"
5 You saw the chain mail. This could be "Fifty Shades of Greyfox" for all we know. ---Dean, "LARP and the Real Girl"
4 Crowley's idea. Just another reason I want to stab him in the face. ---Meg, "Goodbye Stranger"
3 I still don't know who Clarence is. ---Castiel "Goodbye Stranger"
2 Holy awesome! Too bad they got wiped out. Though that is what they get for the sexist name ---Charlie, "Pac Man Fever"
1 If it's any consolation, having read your history, there is pretty much nothing the Winchesters can't do if they work together. ---Charlie, "Pac Man Fever"
And Thompson's 15 Best Pop Culture References
15 Leviathan Sam and Dean "Pumpkin and Honeybunny-ing" the diner in St. Louis, reflecting Pulp Fiction.
13 Dean pouting about Baby being "put in a corner" with "All Out of Love" playing.
12 Charlie giving the brothers a Vulcan Salute as farewell.
11 Dean telling Sam that the Rudy Hobbit always gets a pass.
10 Charlie Bradbury's ailiases, Christine Le Guin (from the car in the novel "Christine", and writer Ursula Le Guin - US Passport), Annie Tolkien (Annie Wilkes from :Misery" and JRR Tolkein from The Hobbit - British Passport), and Susan Asimov (Susan from "Salem's Lot", and author Issac ASimov).
9 Castiel telling Meg that he still doesn't know who Clarence is.
8 Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger" closing out the episode by the same name.
7 Charlie's Princess Leia tattoo---while never shown, the reference to her drunk moment at Comic Con is delightful.
6 Frank calling Sam and Dean "Psycho Butch and Sundance" in "Slash Fiction."
5 Dean sending the letter to Sam in "Time After Time After Time" using the "Biff Strategy" out of Back to the Future III.
4 Dean quoting The Untouchables in "Time After Time After Time"
3 Dean and Charlie thinking that the poison belladonna was actually the porn star in "LARP and the Real Girl"
2 Dean's Braveheart speech at the end of "LARP and the Real Girl." Wigs, face paint, and Sam in a ponytail. What's not to love?
1 Dean telling Sam, "Listen, I may not be able to carry the burden that comes with these trials, but I can carry you." Otherwise known as the Rudy Hobbit moment.
And as promised, both Twitter Interviews in their entirety:
June 3, 2013
Question 1: You've written exclusively for Charlie Bradbury since her introduction in "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo." How was her character created and what do you love most about writing for her?
Thompson's Answer: began with a pitch for a Roman Enterprises whistleblower story and evolved from there. best part? writing for @feliciaday
Question 2: Other than Supernatural, what is the favorite project that you've worked on/written for?
Thompson's Answer: i can't choose! each job was an awesome learning experience, and this one is too.
Question 3: When you joined the Supernatural writing staff, the show was in its 7th season. Was that intimidating? Your episodes make it seem as if you've written for it all along. How do you get into Sam and Dean's headspace so well?
Thompson's Answer: yes, there's an aweomse history to the show that has to be respected. but it was fun, too: got to binge watch 6 great seasons
Question 4: "Bitten." This episode is very controversial within the fandom. How did you approach this script, considering how little the two leads appear, but still make it feel like Supernatural?
Thompson's Answer: that was actually the appeal, trying to do an ep from the monster's pov. they made a cool video about the ep for the dvds
Question 5: Supernatural has a very passionate hardcore following. What are your impressions of it? You've interacted with fans on Twitter this season---what do you enjoy about it the most? The least?
Thompson's Answer: i love the passion. it's an honor to work on a show with such amazing fans. no least for me!
Question 6: What brought you to Supernatural? Have you always been into the science fiction/fantasy genre?
Thompson's Answer: they had a slot open and i was lucky enough to do get it. huge sci/fi fan-- it's all i've ever wanted to write
Question 7: Your scripts often are riddled with pop culture references---in line with the history of the show. What is your process for writing them in without them overwhelming the story? How do you make them fun and more like Easter eggs for the fans to catch?
Thompson's Answer: i'm not sure i have! The Carver/Showrunners always make sure the story is clicking along.
Question 8: Supernatural's genre is over overlooked or frowned upon. How do you overcome that? There is a lot of heart and soul in your episodes---especially the latest "Pac Man Fever." You tell very human stories with your episodes. How do you use Supernatural to tell such compelling stories?
Thompson's Answer: for SPN, i think it all starts with character-- Sam and Dean are so well portrayed that you can go anywhere with them
Question 9: You've written "stand alones" and "myth arc" episodes. Which one do you prefer and why? Do you have a favorite of either that you've written?
Thompson's Answer: love both. standalones are more open but myth eps carry a lot of weight. can't choose a fav, too many! Mys Spot, The End, etc.
Question 10: Your dialog is razor sharp. How many drafts do you normally write? How do you make each characters words so crisp, yet distinctive to each one.
Thompson's Answer: as many as The Carver lets me write! as for voice, i always go back to the source, rewatching eps and reading scripts
Question 11: For Charlie, how much of her character is influenced by Felicia? Has she suggested anything for her (ie t-shirts, geek refs)?
Thompson's Answer: (1 of 2) i think it's a collaboration. i'm pretty specific in the script, w/ the references (and the Lying Cat shirt), etc. (2 of 2) but she brings so much to the character, depth, timing. PacManFever wouldn't exist w/ out work she did in prev. eps
June 11, 2013
Question 1: What inspired you to create Ark and do you think you'll ever have the chance to continue it?
Thompson's Answer: LOST was the inspiration. i wanted to do a mystery box sci fi show.
Question 2: You've written for comics/cartoons and live action TV. Which is harder for you?
Thompson's Answer: all of them! comics i have limited experience with and hope to do more-- it's a real challenge but v. rewarding
Question 3: Ark was a webseries. Do you think the internet will ever be a major TV platform?
Thompson's Answer: i think it already is!
Question 4: You've written w/other writers on other series. Do you prefer writing solo or w/a partner? Would you write w/Adam Glass?
Thompson's Answer: solo, but it's a lot of fun to write with a partner. i'd write anything with Adam Glass
Question 5: Why did you choose "Walking on Sunshine" for Charlie and why did you have her read the Hobbit?
Thompson's Answer: The Hobbit was read to me as a kid. Walking on Sunshine is actually a favorite "c'mon, get happy" song of mine / using the song in the montage was a callback, but also an in-joke with some old co-workers
Question 6: What were the 1st stories you wrote and how does the comic genre influence your writing?
Thompson's Answer: i wrote comics and short stories as a kid. all sci-fi. comics helped me learn to read-- they were and are a big influence.
Final Question: What other things do you still want to write be it other TV shows, webseries, or comics?
Thompson's Answer: all of the above! i'm very lucky to have the job i have and i hope to keep at it as long as i can
I hope you enjoyed this indepth look at one of our show's writers. Who knows who I might decide to profile next!
A great read here. Totally enjoyed it!