‘Supernatural’ Writer Spotlight: Andrew Dabb
Supernatural has had many writers over the last 14 seasons, but Andrew Dabb is one of a handful that have remained with the show and continue to write kickass episodes week after week. He joined the show in season 4 and became the showrunner along with Robert Singer at the end of season 12. He is also one of the executive producers. Dabb has written or co-written over 40 episodes during his tenure so far. That is a lot of writing!
Trying to narrow the scope of this article to three episodes was a big challenge. Dabb has given us so many wonderful episodes chock full of drama, suspense, and occasionally humor. Before I enlighten you on the episodes I have chosen, let me list a few of the episodes Dabb has worked on, and you will see my dilemma.
- Season 5, episode 16, “Dark Side of the Moon“: Co-written with Daniel Loflin, Sam and Dean are shot and sent to heaven with the angel Zachariah hot on their trail. This is where we learn that Dean “wuvs hugs,” and we get glimpses of the boys’ younger years.
- Season 6, episode 7, “Family Matters“: Also co-written with Daniel Loflin, Castiel examines Sam and determines that he has no soul, confirming Dean’s suspicions that something is very wrong with his brother.
- Season 12, episode 1, “Keep Calm and Carry On“: Written by Dabb, Sam is held hostage and tortured by Woman of Letters Lady Tony Bevell, while Dean is reunited with their mother, Mary.
- Season 13, episode 10 “Wayward Sisters“: Co-written with Robert Berens, Sam and Dean are missing in Apocalypse World and a team of badass female hunters led by Sheriffs Jody Mills and Donna Hanscum come to their rescue and save their bacon. Oh, and bonus: there is a flame thrower.
So let’s have a look at the episodes I chose to highlight.
Season 6, Episode 18, “Frontierland”
In this episode Dabb co-wrote with Daniel Loflin, Sam and Dean are looking for a way to destroy Eve, the Mother of all Evil. To do this, they need phoenix ash. Never having heard of a real phoenix, their research leads them to Samuel Colt’s journal where they find that Colt faced and killed a phoenix. The only way to get the necessary phoenix ash is to go where they know one will be: Sunrise, Wyoming, in 1861.
With the help of Castiel, the boys travel back in time to the Old West. Sam is less than thrilled with the idea of time travel but Dean is absolutely ecstatic with the plan. He has always loved the idea of the west, of cowboys and Indians, heroes and villains. It’s like Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one fantastic trip for Dean.
This is the reason I like this episode so much. Dabb and Loflin let us see the child inside the hunter. Dean never had a childhood. From the moment his mom died, Dean became an adult and a surrogate parent to Sam. Birthdays and holidays were spent somewhere on the road. Maybe their dad would be there but most likely he wouldn’t. Dean’s job was to take care of his little brother. He tried to make sure that Sam had some sort of childhood while giving up his own.
Seeing Dean’s absolute joy when they arrive in Sunrise just makes this episode for me. It has everything a western should have: cowboys, horses (or rather, Sam on a really small horse…or did he just make the horse LOOK small?), saloon girls (the reality is something much less than Dean dreamed of), a bad guy (the phoenix they’re looking for), and a gunfight where the hero saves the day.
If that’s not enough for you, we get Dean saying to Sam, “Cause you know me, I’m a posse magnet. I mean, I love posse. Make that into a T-shirt.”
Season 4, Episode 6, “Yellow Fever”
My next choice is a firm fan favorite. “Yellow Fever” is a Monster of the Week episode that has Sam and Dean investigating mysterious deaths in a small town. The episode opens with Dean running for his life from a ferocious, bloodthirsty, tiny Yorkshire Terrier.
As the episode proceeds, we learn that the victims apparently died from extreme fear; they were literally scared to death. While attending the autopsy of the last victim, Dean is inadvertently exposed to what is causing these people to die: ghost sickness. As time goes on, Dean’s behavior becomes more erratic, and it becomes obvious that the boys must destroy the ghost responsible for spreading the sickness before Dean succumbs to it himself.
This episode gives us something that we get all too infrequently in the Winchesters’ world — laughter. While the story behind the history of the ghost and his victims is tragic, the comedic moments with Dean are absolutely hilarious. Who could forget that scene in the mill when Sam opens the locker and the cat jumps out? Dean’s scream and mad dash out of the mill still make me laugh. Or when Sam finds Dean in the front seat of the Impala rocking out to “Eye of the Tiger”? Priceless.
A good writer can sprinkle comedy into the midst of tragedy without losing the suspense or the drama. Dabb and Loflin achieved this brilliantly in this episode. They left us in no doubt that the consequences for Dean were dire if the boys didn’t succeed in disposing of the ghost. But they also made us laugh. These lighter moments only enhanced the darker aspects.
Season 13, Episode 23, “Let The Good Times Roll”
For my final episode, I wanted to focus on a story that was written solely by Dabb. I also wanted an episode that showcased Dabb’s dramatic writing talents.
Unlike the title suggests, this episode is not full of “good times.” AU!Michael has partnered with Lucifer to open a portal allowing him to follow the AU refugees and the Winchesters back to their timeline. There is a confrontation at the bunker that ends with Lucifer stealing Jack’s grace and fleeing with Sam and Jack. What comes next changes everything. Yes, we finally get the death of Lucifer, but to accomplish this and save his family, Dean makes the ultimate sacrifice. He fulfills his destiny as Michael’s vessel.
When Dean unfurls Michael’s wings in that church, we are witnessing one of the most dramatic scenes of the entire season. At the end, after Lucifer is defeated, Sam and Dean are smiling. They realize that it’s over — the enemy that has been a part of their lives for so long is vanquished and, for a moment, they are happy and hopeful for the future. Then that hope is ripped away as Michael takes control of Dean and disappears. The episode ends with Team Free Will facing an uncertain future as Michael!Dean walks freely around town, on his way to who-knows-where.
For me, this episode was an emotional roller coaster. This is what excellent writing can do. It gives the actors the tools they need to keep us on the edge of our seats, constantly wondering what will happen next. I’d imagine that for a writer, working on a show like Supernatrual for years is both a blessing and a curse. Keeping a show fresh and the audience engaged while respecting what has happened to the characters in past episodes is a large undertaking.
Andrew Dabb heads up a group of amazingly talented writers that continue to surprise and amaze me and keep me tuning in week after week. It’s the art of storytelling, and the writers of Supernatural do it very well.
Thank you for reading our Writer Showcase series – we hope you enjoyed it! Please give your favorite writer some love in the comments below!