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just enough to make us dangerous
Cinematography 10.09 (The Things We Left Behind) 
15th-Dec-2014 10:34 pm
Geeking Out
I was going to post a couple of my favourite shots from the episode and as I was looking for the screen caps I noticed a visual theme running through the episode. I've always like Guy Bee's visual story telling. He made some wonderful choices in the way he framed his shots and used a recurring visual element.

Geometrical visual themes can often be seen in Supernatural. We often see the use of circles (Dean crawling out of hell, Sam falling into hell, the ceiling fan in Bobby's panic room, to name a few. Lines are also often used - I particularly love how the bunker is full of crossing lines.

This episode also used a lot of lines, this time in the shape of bars. At first I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary, but the more I looked the more I came to realise the deliberate choices the director had made.

We open with Dean's nightmare. During the episode the bars behind Dean aren't particularly clear - it all goes by so fast. But looking at a still of the scene we can see that Dean seems to be trapped in a room that there's probably no escaping from. Strong visual meta, considering the nature of the Mark.


It really wasn't until I spotted this cap (below) that it became clear that bars (and prisons) we've being used to tell the underlying story. It's interesting that of all the scene that could have been selected from The Three Stooges, one featuring a room with bars was chosen.


The establishing shot for the Youth Centre shows long, bar-like windows. Naturally, there are bars on the windows, but I find it particularly cool that the long windows create very large bars.


I love this shot. The composition is beautiful. Claire is made to look very small in this sparse space. The punching bag is the only splash of colour. I love the pattern on the wall created by the windows.. There's not only bars on the windows, but on the walls and the floor. She's surrounded by them. Many of the scenes in the youth centre capture the shadows created by the bars beautifully.


Even the office has subtle bars in them.


This is probably one of my favourite shots in the episode. I adore the way its framed, the use of light and colour, and the window full of bars behind Sam. Very noir-ish.


The bars in hell are very curious. The pattern that appears in the cell is a mess of scattered lines. We never see the source of this light, so I am assuming it's above them. It seems to be an outside light source but I'm not sure how that would work in hell. Either way, it's gorgeous.


Love how the patterned light separates the prisoners.


The stairs in the background add another layer of lines - enhancing the sense of being trapped.


Crowley's window has bars and so does that chair in the background.


Even the costumes feature bar-like patterns. It might suggest that this character is as trapped as the other characters we've seen behind actual bars.


Checked tablecloths are not necessarily an unusual choice for a restuarant, but I think it's a deliberate choice here. They could have had bare tables or used plain tablecloths. Even Castiel a tie had stripes. I wonder if Claire's hair is making a statement also?


This scene doesn't particularly feature obvious "bars", but I had to include it because it's such a great shot. It could be argued that the posts on either side on the room and the wood paneling add to the feeling of the prison that the episode seems to have been making. The front door of this house also feature bar like windows.


We can each read into that what we will. Personally, I think it's a statement about how each character is trapped by circumstances that were initially outside of their control, but during the course of their life's journey they made choice that have brought them to a place of being trapped in some way. Or it might simply create a subtle statement about the lack of freedom many of the characters experience in this episode.
15th-Dec-2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
Very interesting- I love how you picked up on all the subtle bar theme's through out the episode. I'll definitely have to look for that when I rewatch. :)
16th-Dec-2014 08:19 am (UTC)
Thank you. :) There were some more in there - mostly created by shadows. And the bunker always has some sort of bars visible.
15th-Dec-2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
Bee's direction is always enjoyable to me! He's killer with composition, angles and tangents. Love it.
16th-Dec-2014 08:20 am (UTC)
Me too! His episodes are usually visually satisfying. :)

ETA: oooh, I just noticed you posted a tag (and some thinky discussion). No idea how I missed those! Will be checking 'em out. :)

Edited at 2014-12-16 08:23 am (UTC)
15th-Dec-2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
Beautiful observations! *hearts the geek in you* ♥ :)
16th-Dec-2014 08:23 am (UTC)
Thanks honey! Geeking helps me stay positive! :)
15th-Dec-2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
I love how you call all that detail the brain actually did make note of to the fore and acknowledge it. The room in the end scene was obviously a deliberate overlay of the prison in Dean's mind; the vertical lines repeating at the same spacing, his body occupying the same location in both places, on his knees. That was obviously intentional. But I wasn't conscious of the verticals and bars repeating all through the episode until you pointed it out.

I do love how, in the sidewalk scene, Cas seems imprisoned in his narrow column of horizontal bars--I did notice that. Thanks for this!
16th-Dec-2014 08:25 am (UTC)
Hi. Yes! I love the way Cas has been framed around that light and next to those bricks. That scene is littered with lines - including the pavement. :)

15th-Dec-2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
These are really cool. I like how the diner has blue checked table cloths and the paper with the food has red checks. The gas station Claire goes to rob keeps the same theme.

The other thing that's cool is the flash back to young Claire with Cas. There's the same shadowed barred look then. Guy is going to be interviewed on Winchester Radio, I think. It will be cool to see if he talks about any of this. He really has a good eye for shots.

The other thing that is interesting about these shots is that so many of them are symmetrical.

16th-Dec-2014 08:27 am (UTC)
Oh yay! These two shots are great. I did notice the bars in the shop - not idea why I didn't post one. The one of young!Claire I missed - but how awesome! I love the way it fights so well in the visual theme he's working with. Thanks so much for this.

I would love it if he speaks about this and talks about how much through was put into creating these shots.
15th-Dec-2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is cool! All of it went right over my head when I watched the episode, so thanks for pulling it together.
16th-Dec-2014 08:28 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked! :)
15th-Dec-2014 10:51 pm (UTC)
I love this -- thank you for pointing out all the bars and the prison theme. I'm particularly fascinated by the chaotic pattern of the shadowed "bars" in Hell's prison cell, maybe suggesting how chaos and lack of order are the reigning principles in Hell, although Crowley does seem to run a tight ship! :)

Edited at 2014-12-15 10:52 pm (UTC)
16th-Dec-2014 10:52 am (UTC)
Oooh, great interpretation. And damn it! "chaotic" is the word I was looking for. I keep trying to think of that word and it never came to me. Chaotic is exactly the way it looks and I love that it could symbolise the lack of order in hell. :)
16th-Dec-2014 01:18 am (UTC)
I'm more verbally cognizant than visually so, so I love you pointing out these elements. Thanks for taking the time to do this! It gives me a whole new way to see the episode.
16th-Dec-2014 10:53 am (UTC)
My pleasure. I really enjoying doing this stuff and I love it when they give us great visual themes to explore. :)
16th-Dec-2014 01:29 am (UTC)
Ooooooh, I love when you notice themes like this and bring them to my attention (since I never notice them myself, except perhaps subconsciously) :)
16th-Dec-2014 10:55 am (UTC)
I confess to not seeing them myself to start with. It's only when I went searching for a couple of moments that I noticed when watching the ep that I saw the pattern. I love it when they give us this stuff. :)
16th-Dec-2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Love when you point out the visual stuff I miss!
16th-Dec-2014 10:55 am (UTC)
Glad you like it! :))
16th-Dec-2014 09:59 am (UTC)
Is it just me or does the window behind Dean in his dream scenario (your first picture) seem to echo the shadows cast in hell, as though Dean is so close, just the other side of the wall? I thought so at the time, but now looking at the stills maybe not so much.

Great post.
16th-Dec-2014 10:04 am (UTC)
Actually, that's a good point. There are definitely bars there but I wonder what's behind them? Looks like it might be trees - but I agree it could be mirroring the shadows cast in hell - they are crisscrossed. The room certainly looks like it could be hell (a cell of some sort).

Thanks! :)
16th-Dec-2014 10:20 am (UTC)
Very cool!
16th-Dec-2014 10:57 am (UTC)
Show gives us some great visuals to enjoy! :))
16th-Dec-2014 12:24 pm (UTC)
How cool is that?! I love it when people pick up on things that my eyes have missed, so thank you so much for drawing my attention to this.

It's things like this that I love about our Show, because the creators etc obviously put a lot of effort into these touches and themes and it's nice to see that it doesn't go unnoticed.

Thanks again :)
17th-Dec-2014 11:48 am (UTC)
It's very cool! The creators go to a lot of trouble to give us these great visuals. We're very lucky! Glad you liked it. :)
16th-Dec-2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this, because I wouldn't actually have noticed a couple of these they were that subtle!
17th-Dec-2014 11:50 am (UTC)
They are very subtle and I can't say I saw them immediately in the episode (save a couple of the more obvious shots like Claire's room), but looking through the caps it became more obvious.
16th-Dec-2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
Look at you, with the director himself tweeting a link to this post!
17th-Dec-2014 10:46 am (UTC)
Ha! I know! I'm pretty thrilled about that I have to confess...:DDD
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