TV.com Q&A: More Supernatural talk with Eric Kripke

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While lots of shows have dried up their reserves of fresh episodes, The CW's Supernatural has a quartet of hour-long shows left to go--which is practically an eternity in this strike-shortened season. The thriller, which stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as the demon-hunting Winchester Brothers, is a cult favorite and is known to bring the whole package of action, drama, and comedy.

This is a show that is obviously a work of passion, and no one is more passionate about Supernatural than its creator, Eric Kripke. Kripke was kind enough to sit down with us for another chat--his first chat with us went so swimmingly, we had to have him back--to talk about the remaining four episodes, the latest on the writers strike, and his new time slot neighbor...a little show called Lost.

Spoiler warning: Eric discusses the next four episodes of Supernatural in some detail, but doesn't go into great deal about the major plot points. If you prefer you Supernatural completely unspoiled, scroll down about halfway.

TV.com: Hey, how're you doing?

Eric Kripke: Pretty good, man.

TV.com: So I wasn't really given any guidelines for this... [laughs]. How about we talk about the rest of the season?

Eric Kripke: Sure. There are four episodes remaining [this season] and I can talk about those. We can both wing it.

TV.com: [Laughs.] Let's do that. Quickly, I just wanted to say our last interview went over very well. The fans really appreciated it.

Eric Kripke: Right on. Yeah, you know we have our, we have sort of our remaining four episodes that come back on January 31st, and then air four in a row. And they were the last burst we have until we got sidelined by the writers' strike. Hopefully we'll be back for more this season, but we're not entirely sure yet, obviously. This could be the last Supernatural people have for a while, so we really want to encourage them to tune in and enjoy. They're all pretty big episodes, and I'm pleased with all of them. And I'm pretty honest when there are episodes that I'm not so pleased with.

But these four I think are actually really good. We were just getting to a point in our storyline when we were really starting to ramp up the mythology and really ramp up both the pace and the size, the story events that happened, both in terms of the mythology and in terms of the lives of the characters. We started rolling with that, and you'll see the increased momentum and increased intensity in these four episodes. We come back with episode nine, that's on the 31st, [which] delves into the world of witches; like covens, hexes, and nasty curses put on people. It's really scary and gross and gory. We have a great sequence involving--I won't give everything away--it involves a hamburger and about 10,000 maggots!

TV.com: Awesome.

Eric Kripke: And the consumption of said hamburger. So that was really fun. Bob Singer directed it and did a great job. And in that episode we really learned more about the character Ruby than we ever have up to this point. We finally reveal why she is fighting, why she is a demon fighting on the side of good. We also learn of some reveals about all demons everywhere on our show. So there's sort of an interesting kind of mythology revealed that's sort of serieswide, that we [expose] in episode nine.

In episode 10, the battleground is entirely in dreams and in people's heads. There's a killer who's killing people in their dreams. And Sam and Dean manage to figure out a way to chase him basically into dreams, sort of my homage to Dreamscape.

TV.com: Yeah, I was about to ask if Dennis Quaid makes a cameo.

Eric Kripke: Yeah, Yeah. People would say The Cell. I'm like, The Cell? Screw you? Dreamscape. And I really dug that; that was a great movie.

TV.com: That had that scary snakelike villain that scared the crap out of me as a kid.

Eric Kripke: Yeah, there was that creepy snake-man...that was good. If you look back now, which we did, it doesn't hold up at all [laughs]. But at the time that cobra monster was pretty terrifying.

That's a really important episode because that's probably the biggest turning point in Dean's character so far this year. What he sorts of faces in that nightmare realm really forces him to reconsider what his attitude's been for the entirety of season three in that he's had this death wish and he's going to die. He doesn't seem to care about stopping it. And something happens to him that really changes his point of view on the subject.

And from there we go into an episode called "Mystery Spot," which is sort of our version of [the 1993 Bill Murray movie] Groundhog Day. Sam falls into this time loop, where he's reliving the same Tuesday over and over and over again. And at the end of the Tuesday, no matter what he does, or no matter how much he tries to stop it, Dean dies.

TV.com: Oh, the fans are going to have a field day with that.

Eric Kripke: Dean dies over and over and over again. It's actually funny. [We tell the executives it's like Groundhog Day], but in reality it's sort of Run Lola Run; where whatever Sam does, whatever sort of maze he goes through to try to avoid Dean's death, he just can't stop it. And he goes through like a crazy amount of Tuesdays. He goes through like a hundred Tuesdays.

TV.com: That's a lot of dead Dean!

Eric Kripke: It's an emotional episode, kind of par for the course for us. But it's also pretty funny, because there's only so many times you can kill Dean before it starts to get a little absurd. So we had some fun devising all the different ways Dean was going to die over and over and over again. And there's one sequence where I think he dies something like four or five times in about a minute.

TV.com: [Laughs.] But was it that fun to shoot?

Eric Kripke: Yeah it was [laughs]. It was fun coming up with all the different ways--he could get hit by a car, he could get shot, he could have botulism, he could get electrocuted, he could slip in the shower [laughs]. I mean, you just start coming up with all of them and we ended up with this blooper reel of all the different ways that Dean dies. There are moments of the episode that are very funny, but there's moments of the episode that are really sort of moving and dark too, because you really get a glimpse of what life would be like for Sam without Dean; and it ain't pretty.

It's what's fun about Supernatural--you're laughing one minute, you're crying in the next, and you're scared the next. And it's just a really fun Cuisinart of tones.

TV.com: It sounds like you changed the order of the episodes.

Eric Kripke: We actually flip-flopped the order of our last two episodes. "Jus in Bello" is the one that's going to premiere last. So "Jus in Bello" is going to be on the 21st, and "Mystery Spot" is going to be on the 14th. We moved "Jus in Bello" to last because it's such a big episode for us. And Phil Sgriccia, who directed some of our best episodes, like "Hollywood Babylon," he's directing this episode and it's just has an epic sweep to it. It's really on point with the demon mythology that we said we should slug this last and use it as a jerry-rigged season climax, in case we don't come back this season.

So basically it climaxes the Agent Hendrickson storyline; he finally catches up to the guys and we end that storyline once and for all. This FBI guy's been after the boys for two years now, so that's a big move. All season we've been promising this demon war, but due to the fact that we don't have $20 million dollars an episode, we really have to pick and choose when we're going to show the battles of that war. And this is one of them. This is one of the really first skirmishes of that battle, and as we were planning our seasonwide strategy, we were planning to get more and more into the war in the second half of the season. And "Jus in Bello" will be a taste of that. Of course, little did we know that there wasn't really going to be a second half [laughs].

But there are four really big and fun episodes, and I definitely send out the encouragement to the fans to watch it; watch it live, don't TiVo it. And if these are our last four episodes, let's kick ass with numbers and viewers and make sure that we're back comfortably for season four.

TV.com: Which is your favorite of the final four?

Eric Kripke: I'd have to say the climax, I'd have to say "Jus in Bello" is my favorite, because it's so big and action-packed. I think they're all really good, with a close second being "Mystery Spot" because it's so funny and odd. But "Jus in Bello" really feels like a feature film. It's got the same production value and kind of epic sweep that the bank-robbery episode last year had. So that's an episode that you just kind of watch and undeniably say, "All right, that kicked ass!" [Laughs.]

TV.com: Given the way things could have gone, was the last episode--"Jus in Bello"--a satisfactory time to end the season?

Eric Kripke: No man, I'm pissed! I mean, you know, I'm certainly not going to mince words. I'm pissed for a lot of reasons. I mean I think I mentioned to you before, like I'm pissed that my crew is out of work, most of all. But I'm pissed because we had and continue to have such big plans for the season and we never really got to execute them.

TV.com: Right.

Eric Kripke: There were some really big cards we had up our sleeves, and still do, that I think the audience would find really surprising and satisfying. And we were just starting to get the momentum to build into that direction. And then all of a sudden we--you know what we've been saying among ourselves is, we've been increasing momentum that took us right into a brick wall [laughs]. And then now we're just dead stopped.

Even if we do come back this season [it will be] with four episodes, maybe five episodes; I don't even think there'll be that many. I think three to four is a realistic number. And I have a story that I need 10-plus episodes to tell. So people have been asking me, "Are you going to rush? And if you do come back with a couple more episodes, are you going to squeeze the rest of your mythology into those episodes and just burn it off?" And my answer is, "Absolutely not." I'll find a way to climax the season in a satisfying way. But this is a story that requires time to tell, and it deserves the time to tell it. And so I will, I'm not going to short shift any elements in our show. If we get a couple episodes left we'll find a way to go out with a bang this year. But then pick up in season four and continue; but basically turn off the pause button and continue with the mythology.

TV.com: What are your thoughts on the recent updates with everyone--the WGA and the studios--going back to the bargaining table?

Eric Kripke: I'm optimistic. I hope and pray for a lot of reasons that the worst is behind us, and that this will be over soon. I mean it's hard to say, but I think [a resolution by] Valentine's Day isn't unrealistic. I don't think this is going to be over tomorrow. There's a procedure that it has to go through. But the general vibe seems to be that people seem to have hope that we're at the tail end of this thing.

TV.com: Yeah, it looks like everyone is trying to get everything done before the Academy Awards. Have you talked to the cast about the strike? What are they doing? How they're handling it?

Eric Kripke: I haven't spoken to them in a little bit, a few weeks. But I talked to them at the beginning. They're obviously very concerned with the crew--I mean that's sort of where everyone's energy is. Because the cast and the writers, we're all making reasonable money. And the crew members are working their asses off, and they all have families and they need their paychecks. We [talked to] Jared and Jensen on a conference call, and their first questions were about the crew, and what do we do [to help them]? But now, I think they're chilling out. Last I heard, Jared is somewhere in Europe; I think Jensen is kind of splitting his time between Texas and Los Angeles. I think they're resting.

[If] there is one silver lining to all of this, [it's] that everyone, the writers, the producers, and the actors, are able to recharge their batteries. We've been going so hard and so fast for so long that everyone was sort of feeling the stress and tension of just how hard we've all been working for so long. I talked to [producer and director] Kim Manners about a month after the strike and I asked, "So what have you been doing this past month?" And he said "Sleeping. What have you been doing?" And I said, "Yeah, I've been sleeping too." [Laugh.] And for everyone it's just charge up and rest.

TV.com: I'm sorry to have to do this, but I've got to ask you what your initial thoughts were once you found out that Lost was moving into Supernatual's time slot.

Eric Kripke: Oh, I can sum it up in two words: Oh, crap! We feel like we're in the Murphy's Law time slot a little bit. I mean we love our lead-in and there's no other show on that network that we feel is as appropriate a lead-in as Smallville. But 9:00 p.m. Thursdays is brutal, man. It's just brutal. We've been dealing with Grey's Anatomy and CSI for all this time and feeling like the Tokyo businessman in the middle of Godzilla and Mothra.

TV.com: [Laughs.] And with J.J. Abrams' Lost, you can add the Cloverfield monster to that.

Eric Kripke: [We're] just trying to dodge debris. And finally we [thought] we could air our original episodes and [Grey's and CSI will] both be in repeats and we'll get a sense of the playing field, and everything's great! And then we click on the remote and it's like "New episodes of Lost premiering!"--the same night we're premiering. It's like, oh gosh, we just can't catch a break. And it's a genre show; I'm sure we share similar fans. We have a very dedicated group of fans who've been hanging in through even more extreme competition than this. So I think we'll be OK.

But this is always a message I'm always trying to send out to the viewers: We are a bubble show. And every year we have to fight for our survival. And the biggest determinant of whether or not we come back and really tell the story correctly is in the hands of the fans. It's "How many viewers can show up, and can they spread the word?" I can only do so much, and the biggest power of the success of the show really lies with them. So I can only encourage them as much as possible to watch it, watch it live, tell your friends, and let's make sure we can come back for another year.

TV.com: You're segueing perfectly for me. I was just about to ask you what you think about your fans 'cause it's such a dedicated bunch. I'd go to Comic-Con, and girls would be wearing Supernatural shirts and love the show.

Eric Kripke: I love them, you know. I mean I love them, and I'm sort of overwhelmed, but overwhelmed and humbled by them. We have such an intelligent fan base. We have fans from all walks of life, and [they're] very opinionated and very educated. And when you go online and you check the boards and the references they're using in the discussions of the show, they're talking literature--everything from literature to graphic novels, to foreign films, to... They're just all over the place. It's a really intelligent group of people. And I take that as such a compliment to know that we're appealing to that class of people. I'll be honest--sometimes they drive me crazy because they're so hard on the material [laughs]. And they're so hard on elements that sometimes don't go well or they're so hard on the new characters, the girls, and then they're just brutal on certain episodes [laughs]. It's absolutely impossible to nail perfection 22 episodes a year. It just isn't possible on the schedule you're on. You're cranking out a new script every eight days, and you're doing the best you can.

So sometimes I wish they'd go easier on me; but then you step back and you realize you don't, because it's the fans--and I really do mean this--they always challenge me to make the show better and better. Really in a large part because of them, I'm always trying to figure out how to cut what's bad and accentuate what's good, and rethink it, and redevelop it, and always push. And I think the show's quality has improved as a result. So they drive me nuts, but I still appreciate everything they do.

TV.com: [Laughs.] Eric, I'm looking over the comments from the last interview we did and there are a lot of personal messages for you.

Eric Kripke: Oh yeah?

TV.com: Like 99 percent adoration as well...

Eric Kripke: Oh, wow! [Laughs.]

TV.com: But speaking of that, do you ever go online to check out who's saying what, or look at the fans' input that way?

Eric Kripke: I read a lot of different boards. I can't say that I spend a lot of time digging in specifically to what any one person says. I do a lot of scanning. When an episode comes out I'll scan the pages. It's almost like a real-time audience testing. Like what's the overall opinion? 'Cause you can't focus on any one opinion, 'cause then that'll really, you know, make you suicidal.

You have to pay attention to the overall sweep of it; do they like it? Do they hate it? If they do hate it, what do they hate? If they do like it, what do they like? So I go, you know, so I just kind of cruise different boards. I do check out TV.com. There's a fan site called Supernatural.tv that I think is very well run. So that's kind of where I am.

TV.com: Whoa! I just checked the clock. I actually took up a lot of your time. I apologize.

Eric Kripke: No, it's cool man. It's all good.

TV.com: Is there anything else you want to say? One last parting message for Supernatural fans?

Eric Kripke: Yeah, tune in, watch it live. Oh, I'll say this. After we air our four additional episodes, they're putting us on hiatus. While they certainly assure us we'll be back and it's nothing to worry about, it certainly makes any executive producer nervous to be on hiatus. So I'm officially nervous, and I think we'll be back. I think we've been doing solid numbers. And I think we're a good companion to Smallville. But I really want to slam dunk these last four episodes to really show the network they have no choice but to bring us back. And again, that lies in the hands of the viewers.

TV.com: Thank you very much for talking to us again.

Supernatural returns Thursday, January 31 at 9 p.m. on the CW. For more on the show, check out TV.com's previous coverage.

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