Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Dean?

In Season One of Supernatural, even though Jared Padalecki started out with top billing, and the story was purportedly about Sam, both Sam and Dean really had pretty equal screen time. They were almost always together until "Scarecrow," when they split for the first time. Even then, we saw them the same amount. "The Benders" gave us a little more Dean—logical, with Sam locked in a cage...*pauses to remember Sam in a cage*

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Fairly even screen time, alternating focus on the two main characters, like "Something Wicked" was redemption for wee!Dean, then Sam got some action in "Provenance".

Season Two launched the same way and stayed fairly even until "No Exit," when we got very little Sam. Of course, that's because of that foron playful Padalecki requiring surgery on his broken hand, so not exactly story-driven. And I thought "The Usual Suspects" made up for it, demonstrating how the boys play off each other, practically sharing a brain, even though they weren't together. (I know MJ doesn't agree—no need to say so, MJ! LOL)

The brothers started to separate in season 2, with Sam going off on his own all the time ("Hunted," "Born Under a Bad Sign") and the boys realizing some of their fundamental differences ("Houses of the Holy"). But still...equal screen time.

Perhaps season 3 broke the Js. They were consistently together throughout the season, united in a common goal, sharing the camera. Interviews and articles talked about how the two main actors had such a demanding job, being in nearly every scene. They tried to bring in some new recurring characters to share the load, with mixed/debatable results.

Then came season 4, and an unprecedented event.

Jared got to go to Hawaii.

In the amazing episode "In the Beginning," Castiel sends Dean to the past. Sam is only seen in the opening shots, going off with Ruby to do something we know he shouldn't be doing. Then Jensen Ackles knocks it out of the park as Dean trying to save his family from events that can't be changed.

So wouldn't it have been fair for Jensen to get a vacation while we get an episode that focuses on Sam? If the goal was to give the guys a break so they didn't, you know, break, then we'd expect an even distribution of episodes or scenes focused on one character. Flashbacks in "After School Special" helped, and we saw a little bit more of Sam, but not enough to send Jensen out of Canada during filming (or at least not further than LA).

Season five, then, right? It's all about Lucifer wanting Sam's body. So we must get an episode with mostly Sam. Poor Jensen needs time off that doesn't mean hiatus for us! But even though the boys break up and go their separate ways, even though we see lots of Sam in "Free to Be You and Me"...*pauses to think of lots of bed...shirtless...*

Don't worry. I remember where I left off. And I DO have a point, I promise! (I can't help rambling a little as I work my way up to it. It's such delicious territory in which to ramble.)

Arguably the best episode of the first half of season 5 is 5.04, "The End," where Zachariah sends Dean forward in time in an attempt to convince him the only way is to say yes to being Michael's vessel. And not only is there very little Sam in that episode, we get DOUBLE Dean.

Now, honestly, who's going to complain about getting double Dean? Except the Samgirls. The rabid ones. But that's beside the point.

I think this episode explains exactly why Dean gets all these solo turns.

Even though Jared Padalecki is a good actor and has made huge strides since his earnest Gilmore Girls days, he still drops back into the flared-nostril school of acting from time to time. I'm going to toss out a highly unscientific stat and say that in roughly 50% of his scenes, he still strikes me as putting on the character.

In contract, I almost never feel that way about Jensen. I always feel that he has fully embodied Dean, that the character is being projected from inside himself. Sure, he hardens/deepens his voice a little, but that's an element of character, not a mask or prop. In "The End," we not only saw Dean confront himself, he was two totally different people. The same guy, but tempered by different experiences, living different lives, making different decisions. And I never, ever confused the two. It wasn't just that Future!Dean wore the Army green of war while Present!Dean got to wear hopeful blue. It was the look on his face, the way he held himself, the way he spoke. Technology made it seem like they were in the same room, interacting with each other, but acting made us believe it.

So bottom's how I see it. I don't think the writers deliberately choose to showcase Dean because Jensen is a better actor. But I do think Jensen being a better actor gives the writers freedom to showcase him.

What do you think? Agree, disagree, think I'm off my nut? Do you have a different theory? Post in the comments! Help us get through the homestretch to the return of season 5!


siv said...

Take a look at the ratings for the Dean show. 'Nuff said.

MJFredrick said...

That is the one scene I like, Natalie ;)

I agree, Jensen is more talented. Compare his performance in "The End" to Sam's in "Red Skies." Good Lord, I hated the dance scene. Same expression over and over. I would like some more Jared-centric stories, though.

Anonymous said...

I agree on all the Jensen stuff. He is the best Ive ever seen and I watch alot. I disagree about Jared though. Sam is a totally different character at this point than season 1. Jared has grown as Sam has grown. Granted Jared doesnt have the expressions that Jensen has and uses so well, but Jared is a different type of actor. Jensen is definitely the better actor but I think Jared is really good too.

Glittermama said...

I agree. I think Jensen's a big part of the reason this show has continued as long as it has, truthfully, and I think the people behind Supernatural know that. Jared's serviceable, and he's much better than he was in season one, but Jensen's the one who has done the heavy lifting over the years to make all this feel like it matters.

hermit said...

I agree completely. I feel Jensen is what made this show. He was good in the beginning, but I feel this show has given him a chance to create a very iconic actor and the writers seem to understand that. Jensen gives life to their scripts.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, but I'm so waiting for all the Sammygirls to come out of the woodwork. LOL.

Very well done, Nat!

Barbara said...

Fingers crossed that Dean takes his shirt off next after all it is his turn. Oops I just got distracted by the thought although I did enjoy Sam taking his off. Where was I?

Jensen is the better actor. I just don't think Jared could pull of doing twins like Jensen can. There's never any confusion about who is who even when he's doing both roles. Of course I might be a bit biased but I don't think so. But I do think Jared's gotten better.

I've adored him since his Days on Days. I'm just glad I finally figured out the mystery of why Jim Beaver always seemed so familiar. He was Father Jansen. I'm so used to him wearing a hat that I never connected it until by chance I happened to be looking at a cast list for Days that included past characters.

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It's not politically correct to say it in this fandom, but Jensen is the far superior actor.

I think Jared was better during seasons 2 and 3. In season 4, with the advent of the Hand of Ipecac, he started to do too much acting with his face and body. That is dangerous when you don't have the mastery of your facial expressions that Jensen has. So all we get from Jared, is nostrils flaring, heavy breathing and head rolling violently sideways. That's how he portrays fear, tiredness, sadness, anger, disappointment, etc. Hell, I can mention virtually every emotion in the book here, except happiness. Then at least he just smiles or laughs.

I really miss the Jared that didn't annoy the hell out of me. He is such a BUSY actor now, that I can hardly focus on the scene. It's distracting, to say the least.

The simple truth is that Jensen can carry an episode on his own, and Jared can't. He's simply not a good and compelling enough actor to do so. As much as I love the brothers, I find myself more and more focused on Dean and Cas. Misha Collins is, at least, up to the challenge in the acting game.

@Star - First of all, the ratings are misleading. Lots of people DVR the show, because they want to watch it again. Many others watch online. So the show may have lost viewers, but it's hardly because Jared isn't numero uno. Fact is that the show has lost viewers due to its take on religion. Some people are offended, pure and simple, and have stopped watching.

MJFredrick said...

Bard Girl, I want to see a picture of Bobby as Father Jansen! I've watched Days forever but forgot that character.

Lee, Hand of Ipecac? That sounds hilarious. What does it mean?

Unknown said...


LOL! Ipecac is a homeopathic remedy/medicine used to induce vomiting. The "Hand of Ipecac" has been used on some message forums to describe Sam exorcizing demons with that hand "thingy". But I don't know who coined the phrase. :)

hermit said...

Lee, I do not think it's the religion aspect of the show. Many shows have the religion aspects, and are ok.

I think Kripk's desire to make everything gray is the problem. The angels, instead of being ruthless warriors, come off as whiny children missing daddy. The demons are ok, they are what they are, still evil.
I think most of the problem is the lack of good writing and plots for this season. It's focused mostly, so far, on Sam's redemption and Lucifer, but even those have been glossed over in favor os metas, comedies and grand speaches that are supposed to tell us everything is solved.
This season is lacking in imagination and good stories. That is why I think the ratings are falling. As for Dean, we've only had one episode that was Deancentric, The End, and that one has been the only one that critics and most fans have considered the best episode of the season so far.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

@Star, I'm not sure what that means. Are they up or down?

@MJ, yeah, that dance scene was painful in the repetition. His performance can vary so much I wonder if he's more susceptible to direction. Like certain directors can get a better performance out of him.

@luvn, I definitely agree with you that Jared has grown and not just in size and hotness. LOL He's MUCH better than he started out, and I think he can kill a scene, too (in a good way). I think he's best the more interactive he is. Like he tunes in to the actors around him. But if he's doing reaction stuff, or it's just him and the camera, he's thinking too much about it and doesn't do as well. It's almost like me and my singing. With the right singer, I can nail the notes, but alone, I'm almost always off key. LOL

And I have to say this observation doesn't mean I want Jared's role to diminish or anything. The show is obviously still at its best when it's both of them!

*beams at all the people who agree*

*laughs at Terri's comment on Sammygirls*

@Bard Girl, YES! Have we seen Dean shirtless since Lazarus Rising? So not fair. *pouts* I agree, I don't think Jared could sustain a long-term (like, a full episode) double role. But I'm not sure, because he did channel Meg really well--I think his best performance is still "Born Under a Bad Sign."

You know what I DO think he could do well? Being Dean in Sam's body. :)

@Lee, I think that "acting with his face" thing is part of what I said above about interaction. He had to do a lot more solo stuff in season 4, so that could explain it. Though...he was pretty good with the demon rehab episode...

As for the losing viewers thing...

I don't think it's any one reason. If we were going to lose viewers over the religious aspect, it would have happened much earlier. I'm sure we've lost SOME, of course, and I'm sure some expected more focus on the apocalypse and left because they didn't get it. But if they'd been all apocalypse all the time, we'd have lost different viewers. I don't happen to agree that it has lacked imagination and good stories--I think it has had them in spades. But that's just me. :)

AWESOME discussion you guys, thanks so much for commenting! *beams more*

Anonymous said...

You are a brave, brave woman.

But truer words were never spoken.

While I don't want the show to end this year because I'm selfish and want as much Dean Winchester as possible, I am very curious to see what heights Jensen can reach career-wise once he is free to pursue other interesting projects. This guy is as or more talented than most of the A-listers out there and I think it's just a matter of time before some big time director, figures that out.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

LOL, lonetiger, it's brave or stupid. :) No, our readership here is awesome, we can have debates without flaming or anything. :)

And I feel the exact same way you do. I never want the show to end because I never want to be without Sam and Dean, but I also think he has potential to do fabulous things.

I tell you, though, the actors who have tripped my trigger the most always fall hard. My first celebrity passion was Brendan Fraser, and I just saw a trailer for his next-next movie (not the one with Harrison Ford next month) and it looks like the stupidest thing ever made! LOL

Barbara said...

I'm just glad my favorite undead brothers don't have this shirtoffaphobia but yeah Dean is long overdue for taking his shirt off or maybe a shower scene.

Unknown said...

@Natalie and Carm - On my first try, I think my comment got lost. Please forgive me the double-posting if it appears later.

What I meant about the religion aspect, is that the show's SPECIFIC take on it, may have alienated viewers. The "The Bible gets more wrong then it gets right" comment and the idea that God could be dead, are good examples of this. And, of course, overall the angels have not exactly been depicted as "good".

On the message board that I frequent, I know of two people who quit the show because of this take on religion. These were dedicated, "obsessed" fans, so I can just imagine that for casual viewers who are offended, it's even easier to quit the show.

It doesn't bother me personally (I'm an agnostic anyway), but this is just my observation and speculation.

And hell yeah! When are we getting another Dean shirtless scene. We only saw his back in Heaven and Hell. Not that his back is not a thing of beauty, but some frontal exposure wouldn't hurt. :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I'm sure you're right, Lee. Even though I find their take on the mythology of everything very interesting, I can understand how someone with very strong certain beliefs would take offense. Ideally, most people would be able to separate their own views from this fictional exploration, but...

They'll hate Legion, won't they? LOL

Anonymous said...

I agree that there has been a lot more Dean-centric episodes but think that the show is still just as much about Sam as it is about Dean. However, while the story lines are pretty even, there is a whole lot more Jensen. I would love to see an episode with mostly or even just Sam. Maybe this year? We still have another 12 or so episodes to go!

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

You're right, there's still plenty of time to get a Sam-only ep! And who knows? Then I might eat my words! And be happy to! :)

Anonymous said...

Awww I heart Brendan Fraser but yes, his taste in movies is very hit and miss. I am curious to see if Jensen will go the indy route or go for the action/adventure/blockbuster-wannabes. I hope he goes for the former even if it means he doesn't get the widespread recognition quite so quickly.

RE: A Sammy-only episode: AHBL1 was practically all sam, all the time and it bored me to tears until the last minute or so.

Of course I'll watch if there is a JP-only epi but I also am not sure if he can really carry an episode on his own, though he has improved quite a bit since the early seasons.

But I still find him very inconsistent as an actor and I also don't find him particularly interesting to watch in his scenes with people other than Dean. Sam and Ruby, for example, should have set my screen on fire and yet, I mostly just wanted them to stop talking and go away.

RE: the religion issue, I remember reading a couple of Christian websites that quite liked the way they tackled the angel/Revelations storyline in season 4. But that may have changed with the revelation that God is on walkabout.

Still I think people quitting the show because of religious offense, would likely be a fairly small number of people.

I think the biggest reason that ratings have dropped this year after the unprecedented highs of last season, are because of Fringe. There is a huge cross-over audience and both shows' ratings have suffered. Also ratings are down across the board for all shows so in terms of total live viewers, the drop really isn't that surprising. I believe SPN is still doing extremely well when you add the DVR numbers.

Anonymous said...

DEFINETELY!! Not only I agree completely (Jensen is way a better actor than Jared is at this point in time) but, I also think that watching Jen make your script glorious, entices writers to focus on Dean. I also think the only reason Dean is today the interesting,fascinating,complicated character he is, is due exclusively to the fact that is Jen playing it. (And no, I'm not a rabid one).

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Poor Brendan, I think it's more that he's just not offered good stuff, and if he has to work, he has to take crap most of the time. Not fair--he's a superb actor.

ANYway, that's off topic. :)

I would like to see Jensen do both indies and blockbusters. One supports the other.

I liked Jared in AHBL1--don't get me wrong, I don't think he's a weak's just that Jensen's better.

I can't wait to see what the truth is about God's whereabouts. I mean, all we have are assumptions by the angels. AuthorM once said she thinks God is orchestrating everything. :)

Good point about Fringe! And the DVR numbers, though I found out those stats are STILL based ONLY on the very, very few Nielsen families, and I find the whole system antiquated and ridiculous. Not that I have a better solution...

Crypto, I think you're right about the synergy between actor and writers creating Dean's character. He'd be very different in someone else's hands. Of course, that could probably be said about any character... LOL

Unknown said...

Kripke said it himself, Jensen is a victim of his own success.He gives everything consistantly week after week no matter what the writers give him and often adds far more than the written words would indicate.He's young yet and I believe we haven't begun to see the work he is capable of.
To me Jared is hit and miss and he tried harder in the early seasons that he does now although I always thought his range was rather limited- the nostril flaring and gigantic forehead scrunching are two examples. I also think that overall there's been very little outstanding writing for Sam, and I don't why that would be when it's supposed to be his story.
I'm hoping the second half of the season will finally get to the meat of the story and things will move quickly now, otherwise this show will be relegated to my DVR and I'll be watching something else "live".

Anonymous said...

You are so right! Love your point of views! Jensen really is superb actor and can do magic with scripts. Without him as Dean, I wouldn`t be wathing the show! - I do hope for more Dean and Castiel in future episodes!

Trish Milburn said...

Interesting post, Natalie. I kind of look at it like secondary characters in books, though Dean is definitely not a secondary character. Sometimes they just take over, they are so powerful and real, a living, breathing person. The writer doesn't mean for it to happen, but it often does.

Now, you know I'm a Sammy girl, but I agree that Jensen's acting is phenomenal. When the SPN days are over (whimper), I hope he (and Jared) will get some good, meaty roles that aren't just the typecast horror types.