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Photo by Alice Jester
(Photo of Ben Edlund by Alice Jester, Comic Con 2011)

A lot of attention, (and rightly so), is given to Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles for bringing Sam and Dean Winchester to life on screen each week. But, before actors ever utter words from a script, a writer has to produce them. Supernatural draws from a stable of writers to bring us the story each week. Let's take a look at those writers, and get to know them a bit better. Let's start with Ben Edlund, shall we?
 
Ben Edlund has written many episodes of Supernatural, from the metaficitional in "Ghostfacers," "Hollywood Babylon," and "The French Mistake," the dramatic in "On the Head of a Pin,", "The Man Who Would Be King," and "Repo Man," the comedic in "Bad Day at Black Rock," and the fantastical in "Wishful Thinking," and "Clap Your Hands If You Believe."
 
Before we examine some of those episodes and his other contributions to the show, let's have a brief look at who he is, and what else he has worked on.  

Ben Edlund was born on September 20, 1968 in Pembroke, Massachusetts. He found great success at the tender age of 17 with the comic book series The Tick, which only ran for 12 issues. It is rumored that he has been working on the 13th installment of the comic for years. It reached cult status and following, and was then made into an animated series. 
 
He has also been involved with another animated series, that runs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming, The Venture Brothers. The show, a parody of Johnny Quest and the Hardy Boys, explores genius Dr. Rusty's difficulties with middle age while raising his two incompetent sons, Dean and Hank Venture---characters that possibly die and come back more than Sam and Dean Winchester.

(See the YouTube Video "The Boys Never Died")



He faces an arch nemesis named "the Monarch." For his protection, Dr. Venture hires Brock Samson, who drives a muscle car and listens to Led Zeppelin (sound familiar?). Edlund wrote three episodes for the parody cartoon, and even gave his voice to one, "Viva los meurtos," as the character Venturestein.
 
In television, Edlund has worked on other cult programs. He has written for Firefly and Angel. His episode of Angel, "Smile Time," earned him a Hugo Award nomination. He also co-produced the short lived Point Pleasant, a series about a girl named Christina---who also happened to be the child of Satan. Seems Edlund was destined to work on Supernatural!
 
His first episode as writer for Supernatural was "Simon Said," in which the boys encounter another special child of Azazel. His name is Andy Gallagher, and he has the ability to make others do what he wants by the power of suggestion alone. There are victims being left behind in his wake, but as Sam and Dean investigate, it comes to light that Andy is not responsible for the deaths. Instead, it is Andy's twin brother, named Ansem, that has been eliminating people close to Andy out of jealousy. He also has the same ability, yet he has managed to cultivate it to be used by simple thought alone. 
 
The episode has some of the funniest moments in season 2. Here, we get to see Sam and Dean visit Ash's room, to be greeted with the sign "Dr. Badass is IN." Sam tries to get Ash to talk to them, but it isn't until Dean says, "Hey, Dr. Badass?" that the door opens. The most awkward and charming moment of the scene is when Ash states, "Well, hell then. Guess I need my pants."
 
Upon meeting Andy, we see Dean do the unthinkable: hand over Baby without a second thought. The moment is freaky yet delightful all at once. We know something has to be going on with Andy, but we can't help but laugh at Dean's baffled expression as Andy drives away. Most memorable is Andy's van. Its entrance into the episode is almost as epic as seeing Baby's revival in the episode "Bloodlust." The song "Stonehenge" by Spinal Tap provides it soundtrack. They start to search the van, Sam and Dean discover that Andy is very smart in his reading choices, "Hegel, Kant, Wittgenstein, that's some pretty heavy reading, Dean." but when Dean picks up the massive bong, and delivers the line, "And Moby Dick's bong." we know that Andy may have some strange gifts, but he's more endearing than sinister. 
 
Edlund also tugs on our heartstrings with his debut into Supernatural. We see Sam and Dean struggle in the aftermath of seeing Andy and Ansem face off. Sam tells Dean, "Right circumstances, everyone's capable of murder. Everyone. You know, maybe that's what the demon's doing. Pushing us. Finding ways to break us." We feel the pain in this simple dialogue exchange between the brothers, and yet there is a tenderness and affirmation of their brotherhood here. Edlund manages to encapsulate the season's goal in one statement from Dean, "Doesn't matter. Look, we've just gotta keep doing what we're doing, find that evil son of a bitch and kill it."
 
We see Edlund continue to bring his own quirkiness and blend of drama and comedy to episodes like "Nightshifter" and "Bad Day at Black Rock." In "Nightshifer," the boys are confronted with the law in the person of Victor Henriksen while trying to hunt down a skinwalker robbing banks. They befriend Ronald, who is convinced that the bank robber has laser eyes. The sweetness of Ronald's interactions with Sam and Dean make his ultimate end all the more tragic. 

 
The episode gets some iconic lines, such as Dean's "I like him. He says "okey dokey."" and Henriksen's "And yes, I know about Sam, too. Bonnie to your Clyde."
 
"Bad Day at Black Rock" follows the tragedy of the rabbits foot. Unfortunately for Sam, it ends up attached to him. Edlund pulls out the best in comedy with this gem, giving us hilarious moments after the rabbits foot is stolen by Bela Talbot. Sam ends up spilling coffee, falling flat on his face and skinning his knees, singlehandedly taking out all of the furniture at the motel room their thieves stay at, starting his jacket on fire and knocking himself out in the process of putting it out, and finally getting shot. The most iconic moment from the episode is when Sam loses his shoe down into the storm sewer and looks over at Dean with a dejected face and whines, "I lost my shoe." The other is when Dean comes to Sam's rescue and takes out Kubrik and Creedy with a pen and quips, "I'm Batman," to which Sam retorts, "Yeah, you're Batman." 
 
From beginning to end, Edlund plays wonderfully with whimsy and delight that offsets the dark deaths such as Wayne's in the kitchen. We also get insight through Edlund's tight writing into the sad childhoods of the brothers. While Sam's memento is a soccer trophy, it is striking that Dean's is a sawed off shotgun he made in the sixth grade. Edlund knows how to tell the story with heart and soul intertwined beautifully.
 
Edlund also knows how to incorporate metafiction into the show's fabric seamlessly. "Hollywood Babylon," "Ghostfacers," and "The French Mistake," are prime examples of how Edlund knows how to make the show self-reflexive. Each episode is daring, outside of the box, and entertaining. 

 
"Hollywood Babylon" explores a movie set being haunted only to discover that the writer of the project had been snubbed, and therefore summoned ghosts to kill. It explores the behind the scenes element in television, from Sam and Dean posing as PAs to producers squabbling with directors over lighting and sound. 
 
"Ghostfacers" removes the viewer from Supernatural by inserting them into a faux reality program. The script, a biting response to the writer's strike that season, has lines such as, "lazy fat cats," in reference to the writers and has the episode appear to be entirely shot on hand held cams ala paranormal reality series such as Ghost Hunters.  It is self-reflexive as well, due to the exploration of former characters in Harry Spangler and Ed Zeddmore, last seen in season 1's "Hell House." 
 
"The French Mistake," is a blend of the first two, as Sam and Dean are transported out of their own supernaturally filled world to one without magic where they are actors on a TV show. They're not just actors---they are Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, making a show titled Supernatural. It is a daring and sarcastic examination of the television business as a whole. And yet, Edlund knows how to make it quirky and delightful as inside jokes about the actors and the show itself are tossed throughout its fabric. The most iconic moment has to be the bad acting scene that Sam and Dean inflict on the crew. Seeing Sam play Jared play Sam while bumbling and staring "anywhere but the camera" and Dean playing Jensen playing Dean staring straight ahead with an exaggerated gruff voice is hilarious. As Sam continues to babble the lines he doesn't know and Dean becomes more and more petrified, the show directors are baffled and press on, leaving the badly acted scene in place. 

 
Ben Edlund states about the writer's strike and the future of media, "We're at a point now where the paradigm for media is shifting. We're going to a new media template - downloads, streaming - I don't really understand the technology, but what I understand is this, that broadcast television isn't going to be the medium of the future, it's just not the way it's going to work. People will still go to movies, but it won't be necessary in the way that it was."
 
Edlund has embraced that clearly with the metafictional episodes he's tackled for the show.

Comments  

Bookdal
# Bookdal 2012-03-14 22:42
Farawayeyes!
Wonderful homage to Edlund. I loved learning about his other projects. And I think your review of his Supernatural episodes show how much he brings to the table. I'll admit he is my favorite writer on the series. He gets the brothers and Cas in ways that make me love them even more.

And his humor? So well paired with his ability to write sadness.

And kudos on choosing the 15 great lines.

Thank you for this!
Linda
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-14 23:36
Linda,

Thanks. This kind of demanded to be written, so I did.

Edlund, by far, is my favorite writer of the series. He has enough sense to be well rounded and not box himself into either comedy or drama or bizarre. He knows how to mix each one in just right.

I was really pleased when I found out he had been involved with The Venture Brothers. Back when I stayed up late I used to watch that show quite often. I knew about his involvement with Firefly and Angel, but not Point Pleasant. I kind of want to do these profiles to learn more about them. We see a lot about actors or Kripke or Gamble as showrunners, but we don't really get to hear nearly as much about the writers who produce the scripts. So, I hope this series will expand knowledge.

I hadn't had the lines in there originally, but in a rereading I thought that it made sense, considering a script is all dialogue with vague action cues mostly. And I went for the ones that stuck out to me and touched me. The ones that long after the episode has ended come back and haunt me in my daydreams or whatever.

I also learned, as a writer myself, about how much Edlund has influenced me in the last year and a half or so. I can see it now in the text I'm producing, and while he's not the only influence there I can sense his stamp on my own writing. That's pretty damn cool.

I hope to tackle Jeremy Carver next. I know he's not writing for the show, but those that enjoy his writing might like to learn about his non SPN projects, too.

Thanks again for teh wonderful comment. I had a lot of fun with this and I hope to continue it.

Far Away Eyes
KELLY
# KELLY 2012-03-15 01:54
LOVE LOVE LOVE Ben Edlund. He's fantastic! Great profile. He deserves an Emmy several times over. The French Mistake especially because it was so orginal. And a lot of times when shows try strange ideas they end up jumping the shark. But FM weaved so wonderfully the hysterical and the "reality based" that it just knocks it out of the park. It even had some poignants moments. "We're not even brothers here" and Gen's affection with Sam (he gets so little).
You did miss some of my favorite lines. But he has so many great ones I'm not surprised.
I look forward to your profile on Jeremy Carver.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 07:16
Thank you for the response.

I agree. Edlund knows how tackle so many strange or unusual story that keep it from going too far into left field while embracing the wacky and weird. It's a fine line and Edlund certainly knows where that line is.

As for lines, please, share yours. It was hard to keep it to just 15. I had started with just 10 and I just kept going "OH YEAH that line and THAT line and THAT line." I decided to keep it to 15 so it wouldn't go on too , too long. I also had inserted them into the actual text that I didn't want to repeat. So please, share your favorite Edlund lines. I'd love to see what others love.

I enjoyed learning about this writer and getting to know the others in SPN Staff Past and Present.
sweetondean
# sweetondean 2012-03-15 02:44
Ahhhhhhhhh. Thank you! I'm in love with this man.

I have "We keep each other human" tattooed on my arm. 1. Because for me it represents not only the brother's relationship but also who Dean is, that when faced with everything they were faced with, he made the choice of family, he chose to put everything behind him for Sam. 2. Because well, it's a lovely sentiment we all should remember and 3. It comes from Edlund.....and it reminds me of what I want to be.

He makes me want to write, he makes me want to be a better writer, he makes me want to be a great writer.

Thank you so much for this. He is one of my idols and I'm as much a fan of Ben's as I am of Jensen and Jared. Seriously.

:-)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 07:22
You're welcome and thank you for the wonderful comment!

I am an Edlund girl. Last year I went to my first convention, and while no writers were there, I think I would have fangirled had Edlund been there. I told my friend that I'd kill to go to a Con and meet Edlund and a few of the other writers just to talk writing with them. Not about just the show, writing in general, to see how they do it. I'm a geek, I know.

I loved that exchange between Sam and Dean as well. It allowed them to know there's things to work on, but that they're in it together through it all, and I think Dean's actions in season 6 concerning Soulless Sam proves this line well. And yes, it is something we should all remember.

I got into this show for its writing, (though the pretty boys didn't hurt!) and the deeper I went down the rabbit hole and the more I started to notice writers names the more I realized Edlund was writing my favorites. And much like you, he makes me want to be a great writer---though I am a fiction and he's a screen writer.
Yirabah
# Yirabah 2012-03-15 07:48
This is a wonderful idea to get us some more info on the writers. I really enjoyed that. Ben Edlund is my favourite writer on Supernatural. I love his episodes.

I am not sure, but isn't My Bloddy Valentine a Ben Edlund ep also. Always thought he wrote that one too.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:28
I'm glad you liked this profile and I really do hope to write a few more. I think it's nice to see what the writers are about, too.

Yes, Edlund did write "My Bloody Valentine," too. I kind of picked a few of the episodes from each season he's written for when I put this together. It's a great one in many ways, too!
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-03-15 11:13
Thank you so much for this article. Like everyone in the Supernatural fandom, I love Ben Edlund, definitely my favourite writer. I can watch "On the Head of a Pin" over and over again and still find so much hidden in that little gem of a script. He can bring the pathos along with the comedic so darn well. I get all tingley when I know the script is from him. It was really interesting to learn the other things he's been involved in. Along with Jared's and Jensen's career post-SPN, I will be following his also.

I will be looking forward to your article on Jeremy Carver, and hope that you tackle other writers as well. I love Sera Gamble's writing so much, sometimes I'm sorry she's the showrunner and too busy to write as many episodes as she used to, "Appointment in Samarra" is one of my all-time favourites. And I sorely miss Kathryn Humphries (she deserves better than "Ringer" IMO) and Julie Siege also.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:34
Glad you liked this look at Edlund. I really loved "On the Head of a Pin," too. I think it's one of the first episodes of his that I really sat up and paid close attention to the fact that he was the writer for it and then I went back and looked at some past episodes to find that he had written those, too. He has a way with bringing the human condition to light in either comedy or tragedy or a mix of the two. It's so amazing to me and I often go back to his episodes to hear great lines.

I do hope to make this a series. I think we don't hear enough about the writers, so hence why I kind of came up with this idea. Edlund is just my favorite, so my starting point. Outside of reviews and responding to an episode's story, we don't often really focus on the writers that put those scripts together, so here is that shot.

I like Ringer, but I agree, the weakness in the show at times drags down the really hard work Humphris and others put into it. I miss her scripts on the show. Hopefully I'll get to the Carver profile soon!
suzee51
# suzee51 2012-03-15 12:26
"I love Sera Gamble's writing so much, sometimes I'm sorry she's the showrunner and too busy to write as many episodes as she used to . . . And I sorely miss Kathryn Humphries"

I would like to strongly support this opinion, Sylvie. I think Ben Edlund is completely brilliant and I miss having Jeremy Carver writing for SPN. But nobody writes more emotionally devastating episodes for Sam and Dean than Gamble and Humphris. Following one of their episodes, I am absolutely devastated, a pool of roiling emotions that leaves me ruminating for days on end. IMO nobody does it better.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:38
Thanks for the comment!

I have to agree. Gamble has written some of my favorite episodes, too. "Faith" was the second episode I saw and it really helped hook me on the show. Only reason I didn't start with her or Kripke is because we hear an awful lot about both as show runners, either current or former.

I do intend on covering her at some point, though!
digyd
# digyd 2012-03-15 13:57
Thank you for this, Farawayeyes. I've been paying more attention to the writers and directors - which I guess you do after you've watched each episode a million times. I didn't realize Edlund was the one to do The Tick. I used to love that show! Back when I was single, childless and worked from 5 pm to 1 a.m., I'd come home and put on Cartoon Network so I could catch that show. It was so witty. And he was 17 when he originally wrote the comic? Color me impressed.

It's so great going deeper into all these aspects of the show and learning about things from all these perspectives. Can't wait for your next one!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:42
Thank you for the wonderful comment!

As much as I love learning about Jared and Jensen's careers and other cast members, I like to learn about the behind the scenes people like the writers and directors, too. Guy Norman Bee is awesome, finding out about his camera work before getting into directing is just cool.

I have to admit I hadn't really seen the Tick, but having found out that Edlund wrote/created it, I'll have to go back and look at it.

Hopefully, as I do more of these, we'll learn more about the writing staff, past and present.
Bevie
# Bevie 2012-03-15 14:17
I stand completely in awe of the awesomeness that is Ben Edlund! May he continue his magic with this show until it ends!

This article was completely awesome! 8)

Hey, I'm no writer! :D
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:43
Thanks!

I agree. I hope Edlund continues to write for this show. He is brilliant and one of my writing heroes, for sure.

I can't really claim the awesomeness when it's all his, though.
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2012-03-15 15:28
Thanks for this homage to Edlund. The man is truly a genius. I would so love to meet him, talk to him, and interview him about his creative process. But, much like Misha Collins, I doubt he gives straightforward answers. I don't think his brain works that way.

I think Edlund is truly brilliant because of his ability to perfectly mix comedy and tragedy. In that mixture, he always deliver some new insights on what it really means to be human.

Science fiction (and that's pretty much the category Supernatural falls into) is often seen as one of the lesser lights of literature. Much like comedies never get Academy Awards, science fiction rarely gets much widespread critical acclaim and praise. (Has a sci-fi ever won a big prize like the Pulitzer, the Man Booker, the Governor-Genera l's Award in Canada? Don't know, but doubt it.) Sci-fi is generally viewed as geek-lit.

But really good sci-fi examines the world we live in now. It may use spaceships, or time travel, or a fight between angels & demons, but it's always just a metaphor for what's happening in the here & now.

The really brilliant sci-fi writers, like Edlund, have some profound things to say about where society is today, where we're heading in the future, and how human strengths and frailties may alter both the journey and the destination.

That's why I think Edlund's episodes continue to have resonance, and just staying power.

Long may he write. Long may we benefit.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 17:46
Thanks, PD!

I, too, would LOVE to take the time to talk with him and talk craft especially. Unfortunately, I think you're right. I have a funny feeling he'd not be exactly straight in his answers, but who knows what great kernels we'd get!

I absolutely agree with you on science fiction getting looked down upon by the hoity toity in the writing world. Too often they dismiss it as silly or bad or lazy, when in reality so much of it is more current than other literature on the market.

Edlund shows the best of this genre and proves that he can write a sci fi show that will touch on the human condition and society as a whole. Anyone who disputes that should sit down and watch "The End."

May he continue to write for Supernatural till it is over and write for many years after that.
buffsgirl
# buffsgirl 2012-03-15 17:26
Thank you for this article about my favorite writer on the show. We get to learn a lot about Jared and Jensen but, the show is SO much more than just them. The exceptional writing, the lighting, the art department, etc.... It is nice to delve a bit deeper into one of the "behind the scenes" members.

I used to watch The Tick cartoon and, although I haven't seen if for years, I still regard it as one of my favorites of all time. So to see it was a creation of Ben Edlund actually made me squee a bit. :-)

Thanks again and I am looking forward to your next installment.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 18:18
You're very welcome. I'm glad you liked this look.

It's one reason I chose to do this. I am very curious about the behind the scenes people, and while I don't know about other aspects such as lighting or directing, it might be something I'll consider tackling once I am don with the writers.

I really didn't watch the Tick, but I will now just to see something Edlund did outside of SPN---as well as anything he does after. I squeed over his small involvement in The Venture Brothers, though. Such a funny show.

I do hope to do another one very soon. Thanks again for the wonderful comment.
RGNYC*
# RGNYC* 2012-03-15 18:31
Love love love this! I loved Jared's delivery and timing of the line "I'm not supposed to laugh, right?" After Dean said the fairy hit him. Hilarious!

Thanks for the awesome essay! I look forward to the rest.

Cheers, -RG
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 18:43
You're very welcome.

I also loved Jared's delivery of that line, too. It is a big portion of how the writing comes to life.

I do hope to eventually talk about other behind the scenes folks, too. Russ, the Location Manager, would be an awesome and fascinating one to tackle.

Thanks again!
Ginger
# Ginger 2012-03-15 19:12
Recognizing the writers is an excellent idea. I absolutely love BE's dialogue, for it's efficiency and for his warped, a little off color humor. Just love it. I, too, get all excited when I see hear about an upcoming episode by Ben.

With others, I wished Catherine Humphris was still with us. I really like her, too. The new ones I am liking is Dabb and Loflin. While On the Head of a Pin was powerful and remains a favorite of mine, Dark Side of the Moon and Point of No Return rival it for being powerful, so I'll be looking forward to your articles on them.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-15 19:52
I'm glad you liked this idea.

I think it's a neat thing to look at this show through each script writer, and while I'll cover those no longer involved with the show, I think some newer ones are proving to be good, too. Robbie Thompson comes to mind.

I hope you'll continue to enjoy the series as we get further along. I like learning a lot about the behind the scenes people of the show, and I think it's only right to share what I learn!
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2012-03-16 09:55
Yes, Robbie Thompson for sure! Let's hope he's with the show until the end (snif). I'm going to my happy place, I don't want to think about the end yet.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2012-03-16 18:30
Thompson's Slash Fiction really sold me, and then I saw his Time After Time and I KNEW they had found a great writer for the show.

I'd love to see more from him for it, too. He's witty and really gets these characters.
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