zimshan: (SPN - The Distance Between)
[personal profile] zimshan
So, I swore to myself I was done with color meta after that behemoth of a post last Thursday. And then the show had to go and air an episode that cashed in on so much of the season's color interactions...and I just could not resist. :)




'To Keep Each Other Human': The Restoration of Balance (& other color interactions) in SPN 5.18
When I say the color interactions in this were OVERWHELMING, I'm really not kidding. It's hard for me to think of an episode this season that had so much meaningful color interactions going on.

A number of people have asked me, after my first color meta last fall and my second color meta last week, how this color symbolism in season five might apply to prior seasons. Really, I haven't gone through the other seasons with a fine tooth comb like I have in this season, so I'm not sure if I can say past my own shaky memory. It would be an interesting project for others to go back and see. Generally, I don't think this year's scheme applies too far prior. If you watch Season One, you'll notice that red and blue are all over the place in prop and set design. But I really am not sure I can believe they were anything more than two practical colors that were noticeable in the desaturated palette. I believe there were some neat ideas in playing around with red and yellow in Season Three which [livejournal.com profile] hearnosee has theorized on in the past, but they seemed less concrete. The first time I've found any long-term meaning of red and blue was Season Four, when the blue starts being tied to Heaven (to add to the red which was already tied to demons). By the end of the season, they started aligning blue with Dean and red with Sam more specifically (most notably in the opener of 4.21). I kinda think of it like scoring which has grown and made more conscious choices to add meaning to the text year after year as layers have been added.

But even still, I don't think it'd be normal for a cinematographer to be privy to long-term seasonal plot details, and therefore it would have been very hard for him to coordinate with the narrative further than that. It's normal for crew members to only find out about a new script eight days before filming, as Serge in his interview from December 2008 confirmed. This is even the case with Padalecki and Ackles. Yet this year, Serge is credited as a producer. As far as I understand it, the one big advantage producer credits give you is the chance to be privy to long-term story developments.

Now I'd love to hear of a comparable long-term show that's had the same DP for all of its first five years, let alone a DP that scores a producer credit. I've been IMDB-checking a bunch of different 5+ season shows, and I have yet to find one. Add on the show's ever revolving set designs and ambitious, meaty narrative and what you have is a unique opportunity to craft long-term color symbolism into the seasonal arc of an itty bitty CW television show.

Even so, the camera in this episode was especially conscious of showing the color interactions, at almost any turn. It's worthwhile to note that the director of this episode, Phil Sgriccia has served as the on-site supervising producer since the first season on Supernatural. Meaning, if there's one director that's been there with Serge Ladouceur through the last 100 episodes to understand his schematics, it's Sgriccia. In film, you'll typically find that the best cinematography comes out of strong, communicable director/DP teams. I would expect it to be as necessary in television to produce good, meaningful cinematography. But since most directors are like revolving doors in television, it is often hard to accomplish.

I explain all of this only to highlight the myriad of factors that came together in this episode to create a perfect storm of meaningful color interactions. The camera was so active in incorporating and bringing together so many threads of color symbolism this season, in the most distinct and precise fashion, I can't help but think the choice of Sgriccia directing was a large factor.

There's just so many neat things going on in here. I'm sure some of you following along picked up on a lot here already, but I really just wanted to pull everything together in one place, to show how these seasonal color themes all came together here and converged so nicely with the major narrative shift. I'm also sure I've missed things myself, so if you noticed something else, by all means, point it out! :)

ZACHARIAH ESCAPES A DOWNSIZING
The episode first opens on a man in a bar wearing a red tie. Who sits down next to...hey, look it's ZACHARIAH! In case you couldn’t tell, the man's red tie alerts you to it. This isn’t Heaven. Zachariah’s drowning his sorrows with a "filthy" human in a crappy bar. Notice the green stained glass lamp behind him, which reminds us of his inference in 5.16. Seems as though Zachariah didn’t get the memo from his boss that his interference was working fine, since he's all worried he's going to get axed.



A green liquor bottle also crosses the man in the red tie. Who later gets his eyes burned out when Zach's boss shows up to tell him the new plan. Note, the bartender himself, also wearing red, gets his eyes burned out as well. And the green lamp in the background is shattered.

Zachariah leaves the bar behind in absolute destruction, and two bodies to boot. Way to demonstrate the dangerous result of toxic green's conflict with red!

In non-color related news, that little 'picking out the shard of glass' bit was brilliant beyond measure. Oh, Zachariah, I miss you already.

THE DECAY OF DEAN WINCHESTER
This was such a seriously cool piece of visual color continuity, it sounds like most people looking picked up on it, but I can't help but recall it here.

Remember we left off with Dean in the last episode, HERE:


And we come back to Dean in the beginning of this episode with, oh, look, more green:



It reminds us of the toxic interference of the angels that got to Dean, sure. But as the scene progresses, as Dean drowns himself in alcohol, while wrapping up all the things most integral to him? Literally giving up everything that he is and sealing it in a box? This is Dean's lowest moment. Stripped of everything, and ready to give his will over to Michael, it is against everything he ever stood for. And so in this sense also, the green signals decay. The decay of Dean Winchester’s character. I say as I weep, seriously, that scene was put together for maximum tear count! The slow, sweeping camera movements, with the throat-cletching piano & woodwind music and the dying off trumpets? Kripke was snickering, really.

Also, notice the precise way this scene is filmed, so that the only major color our senses hit is green. Lots of closeups using the green curtains behind Dean as a backdrop.

And then the hotel name placard with bold red letters appear. And the camera pans up to a larger red article, and into the mirror to reveal, OH, HI, SAM! Just in time! Give your brother some will to counter that poison already, will ya?

The camera spins around as we’re hit with more red dots, and onto Sam’s standing in the doorway, with one red dot now distinct from the hotel divider beside him [2nd Row, Far Right].


SAM: What the hell, man? This is how it ends? You just...walk out?
DEAN: Yea, I guess.
SAM: "How could you do that?
DEAN: How could *I*? All you‘ve ever DONE is run away.
SAM: AND I WAS WRONG! Every single time I did.

Hear the quick, genuine insistence in Sam’s voice, and then notice how the natural greenery (ivy tendrils around the fence) behind Sam contrasts to Dean’s unnaturally green wallpaper. In my head, I've always equated natural plant-derived green with a honest, genuine quality (when the context warrants it, at least), but [livejournal.com profile] threecatmama suggested that natural green can signal an acceptance of who you really are, which I found to be really interesting in the context of this scene.

NOTE: I know some people have questioned Sam here, that he shouldn't think he was wrong in wanting his own life. My reading of it is that his admission that he was wrong in leaving Dean is not the same as him saying he was wrong in wanting his own life. Because like 5.16 showed, he’d never thought about it from Dean’s POV before. That him looking to get his own life looked like a rejection of Dean simply because of how he did it every time. (I.e. sneaking out, not staying in touch, etc.) I don't think Sam ever got that his need to do something for himself always read to Dean as Sam rejecting him. It was never about Dean, it was about what Sam needed himself, but Dean never got that because of how Sam executed it. Sam remembering their trip to Heaven (God's orders, btw) and his lesson that leaving Dean while asserting his own independence hurt Dean, was absolutely influential to Sam understanding Dean and carrying out his plan in this episode.
SAM: Just please, not now...Bobby‘s working on something

And the shot changes to an angle which captures a much brighter red dot. Yea, Sam, way to be full of shit.

DEAN: Oh really? What?...you got nothing and you know it.
SAM: You know I have to stop you
DEAN: You can try. Just remember, you’re not all hopped up on demon blood this time
SAM: Yea, I know, but I brought help.

UGH, the quiet, calm resolvedness of Sam here is SO SAD, guys, it killssss me. And Dean’s just so defeated at the idea that they have to do this again. His crack at the demon blood mention, ugh, way to be TRAGIC.

Ahem, yes! Red dots! Notice again, how red dot to the left of Sam appears again, just as Cas is revealed.

RED DROWNS TEAM FREE WILL CENTRAL
I love the visual imagery of Sam and Cas bringing Dean back from that motel room to Bobby's red-soaked sanctuary. It’s like detox for the depressed! Notice there's no green in sight. The red is also notable during a scene where Dean lashes out at Bobby. Sam wordlessly chastises him [3rd row]. Bobby throws Dean’s previous will back in this face (a red book comes into frame as Bobby takes out the gun). And Cas’s anger fumes.



Can I talk about Sam’s red shirt for a second here?! Because he wore this thing for the WHOLE EPISODE. The guy‘s got literally two red shirts (one a full red, another a red and blue plaid), I can count on one hand the times he‘s worn them in a season, and never has it been for a whole episode. And it just happens to be an episode where he steps up and takes charge and comes to this whole big revelation on how to deal with Dean. Red points the way anyone?

Also notable is that Dean is wearing that same bright royal blue shirt he wore in 'The End' [5.04] during his trip to the future. It's a grave reminder of the horrors that he faced there which no doubt plague him continuously in this episode, as well as a stark contrast with the red on Sam.

A FAMILIAL REMINDER
Castiel kills three angels in this episode, two here when he first finds Adam, and another in the warehouse. All of which, again, wear blue ties, signifying their role as servants of Heaven. Notice also, the deliberate shot of red blood on knife which as [livejournal.com profile] sockkpuppett aptly remarked, *zings* against the white and black! Exerting will against Heaven, eh?



I do love the image of the boys red and blue selves coming together in one shot as Adam appears. Sort of a microcosmic metaphor for the whole episode, eh? And the foreign way Cas looks at him, hee!

A GOLDEN CLARITY OF MIND
SAM: No, look, no way, after everything that’s happened?? All that crap about destiny, suddenly the angel’s have a plan B? Does that smell right to ANYBODY?!
*Adam tries to get up and leave*
SAM: Nonono, sit down.
SAM: Please, just listen for a minute…..Now the angels. Are LYING to you. They’re full of CRAP!
ADAM: Huh. I don’t think so.
SAM: Really? *Laughs amusingly* Why not?
ADAM: Um...because they’re ANGELS.
SAM: Really? They tell you they’re gonna roast half the planet?
ADAM: They said the fight might get pretty hairy but it is the devil, right? So we gotta stop him.
SAM: Yea. But there’s ANOTHER way.
ADAM: How?
DEAN: ...Well, we’re working on the power of love.
ADAM: How’s that going?
DEAN: Hmm, not good

Hee, yes, I'm snickering about how the episode's conclusion retrospectively validates what was earlier merely Dean's idea of a joke.

I think it's notable here, in retrospect, that Sam was the only one to question Adam's story. Probably the most memorable light usage of the episode is this strong bright illuminating light on Sam here [4th, 7th, & 9th Row below], as he insists on the illogicalness of the angel‘s story and takes charge in making Adam listen. I friggin adore Padalecki’s inflection and intonation here to sell home Sam's insistence, and the lighting perfectly supports this performance. Later on, these lights serve as a background for Cas and Bobby but nothing as distinct as this here.



What's more, this usage reminded me of the golden light that swept across Sam's face in 5.04 when he first claimed his pursuit of redemption. Then I had suggested it was used as a very 'clarity of mind' moment, and in fact, a warm, golden light can indeed be used to symbolize 'of clear mind or purpose'. Here, it also happens to illuminate the red wallpaper behind him, and gives a very fire-like connotation. All of which is perfect for the depiction of Sam's insistence here.

As someone who never cared for 'Jump the Shark', I was quite impressed by the very Winchester-ness of real Adam here. The very stubbornly hard-nosed and bitter edge Jake Abel added, along with the John Winchester-esque blue shirt, and camera choices, all made him come across as very Dean-like. That is, if Dean had never had Sam to watch out for while growing up. (In fact, there was a small something that was very, dare I say, 2014!Dean about him?). I found I was surprised by that nuance, and yet from the beginning, I noticed later, surprise! They align him with blue.
SAM: Look, Adam, you don’t know me from a hole in the wall, I know, but I’m begging you. Please. Just trust me, give me some time.
ADAM: Give me one good reason...
SAM: ...because we’re blood.

Hey, look at that, blood! In case you're counting, that's the second mention in the episode so far!

ADAM'S ACTION
You can even set you watch on the little details. When I first watched this scene, I noticed the red behind Adam, who had up to this point been filmed only with his blue shirt against the cream window curtain. And I thought, 'huh? Red? Is he gonna try to escape?' And then Adam had his light bulb moment. He goes to run out the door. But red-shirt wearing Sam stops him.



It made me chuckle. Also nifty is how the appearance of Adam gives Sam the opportunity to practice his big brother skills. Perhaps also a hand in Sam's Role Reversal Plan?

ROCK BOTTOM
DEAN: That kids not taking a bullet for me.
SAM: Dean...
DEAN: I’m serious. I mean, think about how many people we‘ve gotten killed, Sam. Mom, Dad, Jess, Jo, Ellen, should I keep going?
SAM: ..It’s not like we pulled the trigger.
DEAN: We might as well have. *pauses* I‘m tired, man. I‘m tired of fighting who it is I‘m supposed to be.
SAM: Well, you think you could take a half second and stop trying to sacrifice yourself for a change. Maybe we could actually STICK TOGETHER?
DEAN: …I don’t think so.
SAM: Why not? Dean. Seriously, tell me, I want to know.
DEAN: I just...don’t believe...
SAM: In what?
DEAN: In you. I mean, I don’t know whether it’s gonna be demon blood. Or some other demon chick. But...I do know they’re gonna find a way to turn you.

It's hard to think it could get much worse than this moment. As Dean lashes out at Sam, telling him he has no faith in his brother to resist Lucifer (ironic considering he's locked in an ironclad room so he won't say yes himself), notice how black floods Sam's face. This is the one time in the episode where Sam looses this new-found rational composure. Dean got to him all right. His response is a repeat of the words before the honeymoon fight of 4.21, "Don't say that to me, not you".



But thankfully, things don't go the same way as that honeymoon suite scene. Notably Bobby and Cas later lash back at Dean immediately after Dean cuts them. Instead, Sam simply turns away and leaves. And as he comes back upstairs...

THE THIRD LASHING
...he regains his fire-y background.



Here's another one you can set your watch on. Cas walks downstairs to check on Dean. Sees a desk and red book thrown on the floor. An action for blue Dean? Seconds later, Dean reveals himself and the sigil drawn on the door, which he uses to banish Cas and escape Bobby's basement out into the blue.

ADAM'S CHOICES
This one is really nifty. A look into Adam's dreams shows him sitting on a bench staring at a playground full of different colors. During a time when he's being pulled in different directions, different stories, unsure of who to believe or who to trust, the idea that he's fenced and surrounded by colors red, blue, green, and yellow is certainly interesting. Who should he trust? Zachariah? Dean? Sam?



My favorite is how he zeros in on the blue swing, and stares longily at it. Like it's the chair of Michael, symbolizing the choice of saying yes to Heaven. He knows, if he chooses the swing, he'll have someone to push him in it (Zach will bring his mother back). Though, you know, he might have trouble fitting in it. ;)

GIVING YOURSELF UP TO THE BIG BLUE
If you had still been skeptical on this whole red and blue thing, the next scene should have sold it to you. Where the evangelist standing in front of a bar with red and blue neon signs, kneels underneath the blue one. I also really love the shot of the Bible (The Symbol of God's Words) held up in front of the red, white, and blue colors. God rooting for Team Free Will, perhaps? [More on red, white, and blue possibly a patriotic emblem for Team Free Will, below]



When Cas turns up to deliver his lashing back moment at Dean, it's an all blue-dretched scene. But as Cas realizes himself and uncletches his hand, a very guilt-striken image is created with a red dot appearing over his shoulder and a sign's red letters coming into view [Bottom Right].

'BECAUSE YOU'RE STILL MY BIG BROTHER'
Do I really have to have any excuse to picspam this scene? The calmness of Sam here as he unfetters Dean and cooly tells him the plan. The total and complete confusion of Dean at why Sam is doing what he is doing. I LOVE IT.



But beyond the surface, what is notable is a plan that otherwise at the time sounded, well, INSANE. Bringing Dean right into the place where Heaven wants him to be (not to mention exactly where Dean wants to go) is not at first glance the smartest way to keep Dean from saying 'yes'. And yet, while watching for the first time, I noticed the bright blue plastic box in the shot with red-shirted Sam. And later the blue-backed chair in frame with him. And I sat back and said to myself, 'Relax, yo. Sam's got this one.' XD

The last frame of the scene [Bottom Right], with the blue hint by Dean and the red hint on the desk next to Sam, really just tells it all.

TEAM FREE WILL
In my last color meta post, [livejournal.com profile] hugemind asked about the flags and prevalent patriotic theme we've seen present this season. And she suggested that perhaps it's a symbol of Team Free Will, three colors, Red (Sam), White (Cas) and Blue (Dean), all working together. I thought it was a brilliant suggestion, especially since it's hard to see a solution for this season that isn't about these three putting their heads together. But I wasn't sure about Cas being denoted by white. Maybe white symbolized humanity? Earth? That between heaven and hell which Team Free Will is fighting for? White is always pictured between the red and blue when in light form. Maybe it was God's interference?

Then this scene happened, where all three were filmed in front of this red, white, and blue graffiti'ed wall. With Sam in his red shirt and Dean in his blue shirt. And then Cas, while admitting his loss of faith in Dean (coming on the tails of his loss of faith in God), takes off his blue tie. And strides into the warehouse in his crisp white shirt.



Way to bowl me over, show!

Of course, then we have Cas exerting his downright suicidal dedication to the Team, by revealing his blood-soaked, sigil-drawn chest to banish the angels. Way to be absolutely BADASS Cas! It will be interesting to see what happens with Cas's tie from here on out. It was a nice metaphor at the time, and yet I sort of selfishly don't want him to lose the blue tie for good. He really doesn't look like Cas without it!

It's probably also interesting to see that twice a sigil is drawn in this episode, one which might be the most will-filled episode so far, the boys screwing up Heaven's plans left and right. GO TEAM FREE WILL!

MOMENT OF TRUTH
The Green Room had the red and blue paintings this time! This was the first set of paintings in the room in 4.22, before they had changed over, once Zachariah told Dean the truth.



Mostly, I just picspammed the hell out of this scene because Ackles face change here is brilliant. And you know, it is the big moment of the episode and all. But in case you were scared Dean was actually going to say 'yes' (because Ackles' face totally sold it home that he was going to) notice the red and blue from the picture was still in frame even after he had given himself up [3rd Row].

'WE KEEP EACH OTHER HUMAN': A BALANCE RESTORED
SAM: “So…”
DEAN: “So?”
SAM: “So, I saw your eyes. You were totally rocking the yes back there. What changed your mind?”
DEAN: “Honestly? The damnedest thing. I mean, the world’s ending, the walls are coming down on us, I look over to you and all I could think about is, ‘this stupid son of a bitch BROUGHT me here’....I just didn't want to let you down.

In case it was hard to catch, if you were fistpumping into the end of the century during this scene like me, notice the fire-y orange and light blue lights, both of which pop up behind Sam and Dean individually at least once. Some water for Sam's Fire, and a little fire for Dean's Water. A balance restored. For now, at least. This is Kripke, after all, no way he's not ripping our hearts out for the next four weeks, with this happy ending gift! But I'll take it where I can get it!




SAM: “You didn’t. You almost did...*smiles* but you didn’t.”
DEAN: “I owe you an apology”
SAM: “Aw, no man, no you don’t”
DEAN: “Just, let me say this. I don’t know if it’s being a big brother or what, but to me, you’ve always been this...snot-nosed kid that I’ve had to keep on the straight and narrow. I think we both know that that’s not you anymore...I mean hell, if you’ve grown up enough to find faith in me...least I could do is return the favor. So screw destiny, right in the face, I say we take the fight to them, do it our way.”
SAM: “Sounds good”

How fabulous is it that our show, which tackles religion, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, and GOD, ends up coming to this conclusion. That the faith that really matters is the faith amongst yourselves. Whether they knew it or not, that's what God through Joshua was trying to tell them. The answer is not so much in looking for a higher power to bail you out, as it is amongst yourselves. God gave you everything you needed to win this. And Team Free Will is just starting to discover it all.

The illusions to 5.04 are inescapable. There, Dean met back up with Sam upon his revelation from his future trip that they kept each other human. But really, what Dean believed in was the power of his presence in Sam's life. That if he was there, with Sam, Sam would never say 'yes' to Lucifer. The underlying subtext of this episode in the end, why Dean finally had decided to say 'yes' to Michael [note the rack focus of Dean's glance at Sam in Bobby's house during his 'that's on me' line] was to prevent Lucifer from wearing Sam, because he'd not only lost the faith in Sam to say 'no'. He lost faith that the power of his presence in Sam's life was as strong as the power of Sam's presence in his (re: Sam's heaven).

And yet. The ironic thing is HERE, at the last second? It was Sam being there that prevented Dean from saying 'yes' to Michael. Just like how Sam's faith in Dean could restore Dean's faith in Sam.

OH, BOYS, WAY TO BE TRAGICALLY WONDERFUL.

So, once more, I'm still standing by my original equation for the season: RED + BLUE = SAVES THE WORLD!


*falls down in EXHAUSTION*

I'm serious now, that really is it for me on meta picspam for awhile, I think I've OD'd on colors at this point. Other neglected projects and RL are calling. But please, by all means, take a stab at it amongst yourselves! I'm sure there's more I've missed here, previously, and in episodes that remain! For what it's worth, I've figured out a super-quick method of capping and picspamming, which I'd be happy to share with anyone curious. It's really not all that time consuming. :)
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