This truly is the golden age of television. Between network TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and more, there’s never been a more diverse and rich offering of stories being told. But oftentimes, when we take a moment to honor some of these great shows, we forget to praise the real heroes of these stories – the writers. Nerds and Beyond has put together a series to showcase some of the best in the business – the writers of Supernatural. This group has taken Team Free Will through some amazing character arcs over the years, all with paying enormous respect to the fourteen years of mythology building. It’s quite an undertaking, but these folks make it look easy!
Today we’re celebrating Steve Yockey. Since he joined the Supernatural writers in 2016, he’s responsible for penning some of the best episodes of the last few seasons. Indeed, when I sat down to decide which few to showcase, it was really difficult to make a decision. Each of the eight episodes he’s written (to date) all have two things in common. First of all, they take existing female characters in the Supernatural universe (such as Mary, Jody, Billie, Rowena and Charlie) and give them even more dimension. In a show that has at times been criticized for lacking in female representation, this was a pretty critical addition to the last few seasons. And secondly, each episode features a different pain point for the Winchesters, something essential for growth. Whether it was Dean breaking down to Sam about his current emotional state after losing his mother and Cas, or Sam breaking down to Rowena the trauma he felt post Lucifer possession, these were the brutally honest sides to our boys we’ve been waiting years to see.
Lets dive into a few of Yockey’s great episodes!
Season 12 Episode 6 – Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox
I remember when I watched this episode live, I was so impressed with its nuance and complexity. When reviewing Yockey’s episodes for this piece, I was floored to realize this was his first episode! Talk about kicking the door in on your first try. This episode centers around the death of Asa Fox, a man who became a hunter after Mary Winchester saved him at a young age. Dean and Sam end up accompanying Jody to his funeral, and for once we see the Winchesters interacting with other hunters without being overly suspicious or watching their backs. They even seem to get along with all of them as the evening progresses. As a side note here, each of these side characters is really fleshed out, but none more so than the Banes Twins, Alicia and Max, which are showcased in further depth later in the season in Yockey’s “Twigs and Twine and Tasha Banes.” These two are deliciously complex, being that they’re not only good witches, but we see some LGBT representation with the sultry Max Banes.
While there are many powerful moments in this episode, the one that struck me the most was when Mary arrived at the funeral. The last time the brothers had seen her was when she left abruptly a few episodes earlier, really needing space (and to figure out where she fit into the world decades after her death) but leaving a gaping hole with the brothers in her wake.
Sam and Dean respond pretty standard – Dean is hurt and angry, while Sam attempts to ensure everyone is getting along. Jody is overjoyed to meet Mary, but quickly picks on the animosity between the three. She leaves them to talk, but meets Dean at the door when he’s trying to go outside for some air. Here is where Yockey’s writing stood out beautifully for me – Jody can relate to Dean so much in this moment. She’s lost her husband and child, she knows that pain and she would do anything to get them back. But within her also is that fear that even if she did, would it be the same? Would they love the person she is now, post all that trauma? And that’s the kicker for Dean – he isn’t mad that his mother left. He’s worried she won’t really love the person he became. Man, that’s deep. It’s just impressive to understand those characters on such a deep level right out of the gate.
Season 13, Episode 5 – Advanced Thanatology
While most of Yockey’s episodes revolve around one of the wonderful characters in the Supernatural extended universe, I also wanted to highlight the one that really didn’t. Of his episodes, “Advanced Thanatology” was as close to “Monster of the Week with Sam and Dean” format as you can get. This episode centers around a ghost, Dr. Meadows, who tortured and lobotomized his patients. Of course some young kids get caught up in it and start to go missing, so despite the fact that Sam and Dean are still reeling from the loss of Cas and Mary (and dealing with a baby Nephilim), Sam insists they go on a hunt.
The bulk of the episode focuses on how disconnected to the rest of the world Dean feels. Sam practically falls all over himself to ensure that Dean is having a good time, from letting Dean have the preferred agent name, to suggesting that they go to a strip club (and checking Yelp for the best one) to sneaking him some booze for some hair-of-the-dog for Dean’s hangover the next day. There are two parts to this that really spoke to me. First of all, that so much of what Sam was providing for Dean really spoke to how well Yockey had researched Dean’s character. Sam was attempting to provide things to Dean that used to cheer him up. Had this been the Dean from season four, some of these tricks might have worked. Secondly, that none of what Sam tried did work, because Dean is a different man. There’s a part of Dean that thought getting older meant that these losses would hurt less, when in effect, they’ve eaten away at him more and more. And it’s evident throughout the episode, the loss of his family has made him reckless, even to the point of taking a very stupid risk to help the trapped souls in the hospital.
But the most telling moment is afterward. So much of Dean and Sam’s story lines in the past have been driven by their lack of communication. At this point in their character development, it just doesn’t make sense to do that anymore. Dean confesses to Sam just how depressed he is, and that while he appreciates Sam’s efforts, no amount of bullets, bacon, and booze is going to pull him from this deep spot. This is a vulnerable side from Dean rarely seen, and Yockey writes it and Sam’s reaction, with such perfect respect to the core of their characters.
Season 13, Episode 12 – Various and Sundry Villains
I’ll admit that it was incredibly hard to choose between “Funeralia” and “Various and Sundry Villains,” because both in my opinion showcase some of the best moments we’ve ever seen from Rowena. Ultimately, I think “Various and Sundry Villains” also crafted a clever cautionary tale that’s a bit too tongue-in-cheek to pass over.
This episode features a pair of murderous siblings. No, not our dear Winchester brothers, but a pair of witch sisters, who use love spells and blunt objects to assist them in their ultimate goal – acquiring the Grimore and using it to bring back their deceased mother. Premise sound a bit familiar? It should. These two sisters throughout the episode demonstrate an unhealthy attachment to one another, something that has been a common critique for many years of the Winchester brothers. Ultimately what makes this episode so great is that is shows the stark contrast of these sisters’ relationship with Sam and Dean’s. Have there been many years that Sam and Dean have quite literally murdered their way to saving each other? Absolutely. But as their circle of family has grown, so has their character development. They have a deeper trust and respect for one another now more than ever, as well as a grander world view. These sisters, unfortunately, do not, and it leads to their downfall.
But perhaps the most striking moment of the episode is in the Impala with Sam and Rowena. She’s fresh from her resurrection after she’d been horribly murdered by Lucifer, and she’s trying to locate the Grimore to use magic to ensure she’s strong enough if she ever has to face him again. Alone with Sam, she breaks down and confesses how the trauma of her death haunts her – especially the knowledge of seeing Lucifer’s true face. Only, Sam’s seen it too. He’s probably one of the only people alive who can relate to her, and in this moment they find this beautiful kinship in shared trauma that is so rarely seen in Supernatural. While the show often deals with the trauma of whatever horrific event happened to a Winchester in the few episodes afterward, they often neglect the fact that the breadth of events would really take a toll on these boys. It was a fantastic treat (in a morbid sort of way) for the longtime viewers of the series, who remember how hard that time was for Sam. Plus, this scene added a completely new dimension to Rowena, who in the past has hid her vulnerable side, now shows it to Sam in a potentially dangerous move. It was brilliant!
I only hit the surface of some of the best parts of Yockey’s episodes, because I could write a dissertation on what a wonderful job he’s done with our favorite universe. What are your favorite Yockey moments? Let us know in the comments below!
Stay tuned for the next in our series tomorrow, where we’ll be showcasing some of our favorite moments from Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Lemming!