This past week on Supernatural, the series paid homage to The X-Files. Both series have a lot in common. They were both based in Vancouver. They both dealt with the paranormal and the both had the honor of being helmed by Kim Manners for a time. So it was only a matter of time before the Winchester brothers discovered that the truth was out there, only it wasn’t the truth they were expecting.
We thought we were getting UFO’s but we were really getting fairies. That’s the mind of Ben Edlund for you. You know, the man who gave us the life-sized, suicidal teddy bear and a shapeshifter with a love of old Universal monster movies.
“Monster Movie” was one Supernatural’s best homage episodes, followed closely by “Changing Channels.” Unfortunately, “Clap Your Hands if You Believe” didn’t hit the same high note. There was a lot to like in this episode, including some imaginative special effects, Jensen’s classic comic timing and some great brother banter. They also get points for “Ground Control to Major Tom,” but as an X-Files homage, it didn’t quite click.
It all began with a very X-Files teaser and an inspired credit roll that really captured the feeling of the show. But after that, it was only the UFO storyline that kept the theme going. And when Mitch Pileggi, one of the stars of the original series wouldn’t make sense to use him, even in a short cameo? The main problem is that The X-Files is a very dark and serious show so it’s hard to pay homage with a comedy episode, even when Supernatural does comedy so well.
There were a few very nice directorial moments in this episode thanks to John Showalter, and kudos again to the lighting department and special effects departments. They both had their hands full on this one. Let’s take a look.
First off, the corn field shots were done at the Bose Corn Maze (or so said the Twitter reports at the time.) Filming in the maze must have been very tricky for the camera operators and the lighting guys did a fabulous job with the warm, enveloping glow of the “space ship.” (“The Event” did a cornfield chase this week, too. Must be the season.) Yes, that’s a screenshot of a lit cornfield sans Dean, but check out the misty glow. Much more powerful on screen than a screengrab, but you get the idea.
The scene where Tinkerbell attacks Dean was another opportunity for the crew to play with light. I don’t know how they did the effect but they may have done it with a ball on a stick so Jensen would have something to play to and then all of the lighting effects were done in post. Feels like some of the lighting was natural, though. Maybe the Tink on a stick was a maglight with a yellow gel? If anyone worked on this episode and knows the answer to how Tinkerbell was done, I’d love to know! Leave me a comment or drop me a line. Either way, it’s harder than it looks, folks, and it looks great.
Here’s the glow on Dean’s face and my favorite shot of the week. Do you know why this image shouldn’t be possible? Because Dean is leaning up against the motel room door as if he’s banging his head against the wood. So to get this shot, the camera had to be where the door should be and Jensen had to act like the door was still there. Cool, huh?
Showalter used another unusual angle when Sam and Dean visit the watchmaker. Instead of keeping the actors in the foreground as usual, he pushed them to the back forcing the audience to peer through the clutter of the shop. It frames the scene nicely, don’t you think?
The second shot is of the little people themselves, hard at work. The special effects crew did an excellent job creating this effect. It was like watching Santa’s elves hard at work.
The last unusual shot baffles me a little. It was during the scene where Dean is being followed by the man-fairy. Dean is nervous, glancing behind him as he walks faster. Suddenly it appears as if he’s floating, ala The Gentlemen of Buffy. Dean’s face becomes distorted and the movement is shaky which usually means he’s wearing the camera. Think about all the first person camera shows you’ve seen like Blair Witch and some of the Ghost Hunting shows. The ones where they are wearing a camera that is aimed back at their own faces to catch their reaction. That’s the only camera trick I can think of that would give them this look. Why they bothered though, I don’t know. It only goes on for a half a minute or so. Maybe it was longer before the show was edited.
The screengrab doesn’t give you the full effect. You’ll have to rewatch the episode to see what I mean. It’s just before he turns the corner and ends up tackling the little person.
Before we put this closer look to bed, I’d like to offer up one more screengrab because it’s something you rarely see on Supernatural – Sam and Dean outside in the clear, bright light of day.
Let’s end with a bit of Supernatural trivia. Linden Banks, who played Mr. Brennan, the watchmaker, was on the show before. Without checking IMDB (they have the character name wrong anyway) can you name the episode and the roll? I’ll give you a hint. “Picture” him helping our boys finger the real killer.