I thought we might take a closer look at gender in Jeremy Carver’s episodes to dispel some of the – frankly – mistaken impressions people have about his writing. I’m going to review the episodes he wrote during seasons 3-5 and then compare this with the themes in the show during his time as showrunner.
When we look at his episodes, it becomes apparent that violence against women – and especially eroticized violence against women – was never really on his agenda. When one is writing supernatural murder mysteries, characters must die. But most of the characters that are killed in his episodes are men. In fact, often the characters that suffer violence in his episodes are Sam and Dean (he famously killed Dean over a hundred times to create manpain for Sam). He also has created suspense e.g. by killing a dog.
When Jeremy Carver has killed women, he also usually kills men at the same time – this is a running theme in his episodes that I’ll discuss in more detail. The one time that he killed off a prominent female character was in Death Takes a Holiday, when Pamela Barnes the blind psychic was killed.
The villains in the episodes of Jeremy Carver are usually men or, and this is a curiosity of his, a male-female pair. We see this in the demons Casey and Father Gil, Madge and Edward Carrigan the pagan gods, the sister and brother in the walls (both human), and arguably John and Mary Winchester in In the Beginning (regardless, they do form a pair). We also see him pit male and female antagonists together in the crocotta and Lanie’s mom (Lanie’s mom is the Crocotta) in Long Distance Call, Karen Singer and Jody’s son in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Alistair and Tessa in Death Takes a Holiday, and in a sense, Raphael with Lucifer as Jess in Free to Be You and Me.
His episodes Mystery Spot and Changing Channels don’t really have a villain but an antagonist (male-ish), and in The Rapture, a demon and an angel both possess female and male vessels. In not a single episode is a female villain pitted against Sam and Dean as the primary antagonist – with the exception of The Rapture in which the demon is possessing Amelia Novak during the final struggle but who is not killed wearing her meatsuit. None of his episodes contain eroticized killing of female characters.
This might be taken as indication that female characters just don’t feature in his episodes, but this is not the case. His episodes do feature female secondary protagonists who are usually not pitted as love interests for Sam and Dean. We have Casey the demon, Lanie, Susan Carter (one of my all time favourite female characters in the show), Mary Campbell and her mother, Tessa and Pamela, Amelia Novak, Lindsay the bar owner, Jody Mills. These are all strong female characters, and not strong in the ass-kicking Barbie sort of way. Out of them, Casey the demon and Deanna Campbell are killed together with their significant others, and Pamela Barnes is killed solo. You could argue for Casey, Tessa, and Lindsay as love interests, but it’s only really fair as an assessment of the last one.
The only episode he’s written that does not feature a prominent female character is the myth-arc episode Point of No Return, although even in this episode the impact of Adam’s mother can be felt.
What we can deduce from this is that Jeremy Carver enjoys writing strong female characters and not killing them off, kills men (especially Dean Winchester) by a large margin, and when a female character either is a villain or is killed, this is mitigated by a male villain or character of similar stature being killed alongside the female character. This suggests the seeking of a balance in representation of gender in his episodes, with erring on the side of caution.
So, when we look at the show under Jeremy Carver, the following characters could be seen as companions or mirrors of one another in function to the narrative:
The only recurring characters for which I couldn’t readily assign a companion of equal stature are:
Amelia Richardson (her story does run parallel to Dean and Benny in the season, but Charlie and Benny fill a similar role as foils for Dean) Samandriel Tessa (she is paired with stunt angels in her episode) Linda Tran
From this data, we can look at the survival rate of recurring characters, how often a gender is pitted as villain, the kind of functions they play in the narrative. I’d also very much like to point out that the longest surviving female characters on the show, and hugely loved by the fandom, are his original characters: Jody Mills and Claire Novak.
I’m not writing this as an apology for problematic things that have happened on the show or to suggest that he should get a free pass. But I do see a man that is really trying hard to take gender into account in his writing and who is not, as popular opinion would have it, the worst offender either on this show, or to come out of Hollywood in general.