A Look Back at the Richard Speight, Jr. Directed Episodes of ‘Supernatural’
With Richard Speight, Jr.’s eighth directed Supernatural episode, “Proverbs 17:3,” airing tonight, we thought it would be fitting to take a tour through the man, the myth, the legend’s Supernatural directorial career so far. It’s no secret fans get excited to see that “Directed by Richard Speight, Jr.” flash across their screens, and in season 15 we have not one, not two, but three episodes to look forward to with Speight behind the camera. There’s a certain finesse, art, and voice that is specific to Speight, and it’s been a real treat to watch his work throughout the years, and we can’t wait to see what’s to come.
So without further ado … the (sort of) Speight Supernatural Sizzle Reel.
“Just My Imagination” – Season 11, Episode 8
The one that started it all “Just My Imagination” was Speight’s inaugural episode, and it set the bar really high. The flashback scenes to Sam’s childhood memories with Sully blend perfectly into the episode, the gentle lead-ins making the transitions continuous between the present and the past. The “invisible blood wiped all over the face” scene is iconic — “she’s got Sparkle all over her face …” — aiding this episode in being a perfect blend of humor and depth, and Speight captures all of these realms of emotion beautifully. It was sure to be no easy feat burying a mermaid in your first go-around behind a camera, but he proved there’s nothing he can’t do. The low-ground shot up into Dean and Sully, with the mermaid tail hanging on the left of the screen, was just flawless, it can’t be denied.
“Stuck in the Middle (With You)” – Season 12, Episode 12
“Stuck in the Middle With You” is not only one of Speight’s best episodes, it’s one of the series’ best as well. And even more impressive is the fact that this was only his second return to the director’s chair for Supernatural. Shot in a style akin to the great Quentin Tarantino, this episode is one that hadn’t ever been done, and probably never will again. The whistling, “showdown at high noon” Western music, and simple, black and white title cards — such as “The Wounded Angel,” “Mother Mary,” “Mr. Crowley,” and “A Real Barn Burner” — guide us through the events via the point of view of a few of our main players in this incredible installment of the story. The close-up on Castiel as he gives his heartfelt “dying” speech — telling the Winchesters he loves them — is a particularly emotional moment, and the shot only heightens it. The fights are fluidly choreographed, coming across the screen seamlessly, and those moments that are meant to hit hard, do, thanks to the angles following our team through their ups and downs. All of this, plus the added bonus of his impeccable, well planned shots of the set and scenery, show the attention to detail that goes hand-in-hand with a Speight-led show. This episode needed an artist’s mind, and it’s clear it found its perfect leader.
Find me a more beautifully directed episode of television … I’ll wait.
“Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes” – Season 12, Episode 20
This episode features Sam and Dean helping Alicia and Max Banes as they search for their mother, Tasha. The story moves between Sam and Dean’s, to Mary and the British Men of Letters’. This was the last episode in season 12 that Speight directed, and he did not disappoint. In one of my favorite shots of the episode, you see Mary listening into a conversation that Ketch is having on the phone. The whole scene later in the episode as the two battle it out, had some great camera work and styling as well. As always, Speight has a unique style that moves the scenes along and makes them visually stunning.
“War of the Worlds” – Season 13, Episode 7
In “War of the Worlds”, Speight’s first episode directed in season 13, the episode starts out with some great close-ups of Mark Pellegrino’s Lucifer, which creates an incredibly creepy and eerie feeling. There’s really some great shots that turn up the emotion, so you really get across the feeling how Lucifer is being tormented by AU!Michael. Speight does a great job of visually getting across all of the different plotlines in the show — whether it be Lucifer in the Alternate Universe, Asmodeus in Hell, or Sam and Dean on a hunt. In another signature Speight shot that reminds me of the Mary and Ketch shot from the episode above, I really love the scene where Dean was in the background and Sam in the forefront; it’s creative and unique, and makes Speight’s episodes stand out.
“Unfinished Business” – Season 13, Episode 20
After just four episodes in the director’s chair for Supernatural, Speight took on a monster of a challenge for his fifth directing venture on the show. In an ironic turn of events, he ended up assigned to direct an episode in which he was also starring in — as two separate characters! “Unfinished Business” was something that fans of the infamous archangel Gabriel had been waiting on for many years, so it couldn’t have been more fitting for the man himself to be at the helm of this production. It may have been a long time coming — but it was certainly worth the wait. One of the most fun things about watching Speight’s directing work is peeling back the layers to see where his inspiration came from, such as the downright Kill Bill-esque vibe of the revenge mission that Gabriel embarks upon. Supernatural has done so much (plot-wise) over the past 15 years, and yet Speight makes an active effort to ensure that each episode he has a hand in can confidently stand alone as a unique and entertaining production.
“Gods and Monsters” – Season 14, Episode 2
Speight kicked off season 14 early, directing episode two. He had quite the task as at this point with Ackles portraying AU!Michael in Dean’s body, and the opening shots were beautifully mastered. There was a stark, more confident difference in Ackles’ portrayal of Michael in this episode, and it’s been credited to the direction that Speight gave him for the character. It’s clear that not only the fans, but the actors also trust Speight’s judgement and interpretations as much as their own. There’s also a great part of the episode where AU!Michael is talking to Dean in the mirror, where the camera pans over to the mirror and it’s cracked — the uniqueness is brilliant, and really sets forth the tone and the difference between AU!Michael and Dean at that moment. Again, Speight has a uniquely creative way of leaving his stamp on episodes that keeps fans wanting more.
“Optimism” – Season 14, Episode 6
Right from the opening scene, “Optimism” clearly had Speight’s touch written all over it. His list of directing credits may not yet be robust, but Speight has been in the film industry for a very long time. His years of knowledge, coupled with his unwavering passion and dedication for any project that he’s involved in, are truly the perfect storm. “Optimism” reads as a romantic comedy, laced with the underlying element of horror that Supernatural is known for. But rather than just leaving it to the script to convey the rom com angle, Speight went the whole nine yards and adjusted the whole look and feel of the episode with things like wide camera shots, whimsical music, and spot-on direction for characters like the lovesick Jack. Episodes like this are the reason that fans eagerly look forward to seeing “Directed by Richard Speight, Jr.” in the credits.
You can watch Richard Speight Jr.’s eighth episode tonight at 8/9c.