Monday, November 9, 2015

It's only natural that Freddie would end up on Supernatural

When I finally got through watching all six seasons of Lost on Netflix last year, I was hooked on binge watching and decided to flip through the other TV fair that Netflix offered. The synopsis for Supernatural seemed interesting. It sounded a bit like the X-Files but more occult-oriented. Okay, I’ll give the pilot a shot and see what happens.

The first thing that stood out for me was the use of classic rock music to help tell the story of the Winchester brothers. The references were not limited to just the musical score, though, as the names of classic rock musicians are frequently woven throughout the storylines, usually as fake identities that the hunter brothers use when playing FBI agents working on a case.

When I first heard Sam introduce the two of them as “Agents Bachman and Turner” to a local sheriff, my immediate reaction was to laugh out loud. As a Canadian, I immediately got the Bachman Turner Overdrive reference. BTO was well-known in Canada in the ’70s, and now Eric Kripke, the show’s American creator, was showing the range of his classic rock taste which, to my delight, was the beginning of a larger, tongue-in-cheek Canadian connection to the show.

So with Kripke’s fondness for classic rock — Led Zeppelin being one of his favourite bands — I wondered if or when Queen might make an appearance. Surely he’d find a place in one of the storylines to capitalize on Queen, one of the biggest bands from that era. Kripke is on record saying that the cost of licensing a Zeppelin song for the show was too steep but he did manage to include them in the characters’  dialogue or even within the episode title instead of music. Perhaps he’d do the same with Queen.

I do recall “the show must go on” and “another one bites the dust” being used in dialogue by Sam or Dean at one point, but those idioms are so common it’s difficult to say with certainty that Kripke wrote them as a subtle nod to Queen or simply as a reflection of pop culture.

The episode that I am fairly certain contains a cleverly disguised Queen reference was Hammer of the Gods (S5E19). Sam and Dean get called out to a convention of gods, so to speak, and there is a smattering of pagan deities from several cultures all discussing what to do about an impending showdown with Lucifer. One of the pagan gods present is the messenger god, Mercury (above). Obviously, this is the same Roman god that Freddie adopted for his last name, but who outside of Queendom and history buffs, would know that Mercury is the messenger god? Nonetheless, this is a perfect mix of story character and classic rock so I’d be surprised if Kripke chose Mercury for some reason other than it references his beloved classic rock. There is no Queen music featured in this episode but Mercury is actually the host of the god party, so we should be flattered that Kripke gave Freddie the top spot.

As an aside, this episode is a great example of the level of religious criticism and self-reflection inherent throughout the show’s storylines. The fact that a gathering of gods from different cultures and eras are all arguing over who’s the most powerful god is both funny and scathing since they all come off as absurd when compared with each other.

So I’ve watched up to the end of Season 10 (they’re currently shooting Season 11 in Vancouver), and I still haven’t encountered a Queen song in the soundtrack. I’m starting to think that the royalty fees are too high to include Queen tunes, just like Kripke stated was the case with Led Zeppelin.

But Freddie finally makes an appearance (in name, anyway) in The Prisoner (S10E22). Once again, Sam’s fake ID cards are being questioned by a local sheriff: “Ozzy Osbourne,” “Lemmy Kilmister,” “Freddie Mercury.” Ha! It’s official, Kripke is a fan. Wait, maybe not since this episode was written by Andrew Dabb and not Eric Kripke. Maybe Dabb is the bigger Queen fan and used this opportunity to get Freddie to the front of the line. But if that is the case, why is Freddie’s name spelt wrong:

Personally, I think it’s an inside joke with a double entendre. Queen fans know that Freddie’s name is misspelt a lot so having it wrong on the fake ID might be an acknowledgement of this. Maybe Sam got the name wrong, just like lots of others do.

I did a Google Map search for the address indicated on the license. Nothing. Too bad, it would have been a neat tie-in if there was a Queen reference of some kind at that address.