Devil's Bargain

Once Kripke realized that brothers were the key to his story, he was off, determined to deliver something truly scary. "At the time, The Ring and The Grudge were huge hits in theaters," Kripke recalls to EW. "We said, 'We're going to take that experience and we're going to put it on TV,' and the initial goal was to be scary." But Kripke's first draft, which he's called "uptight," might've taken that goal a bit too seriously.

"There's a very particular tone to those movies. They're quite serious, and that was what we sold," says Kripke. "I was a young writer, I'd had a couple failed shots, and I really felt the weight of: This is my chance. So I was very consumed by it, which isn't always healthy, and in this case it wasn't. So I thought and rethought and pored over every detail and tried to make it as absolutely scary as I could and did not have a particularly breezy sense of humor in it. It was just all very heavy and probably, looking back, just needlessly complicated."

Some of that complication came from Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean's (Jensen Ackles) story. Originally, Dean was the only brother who knew about monsters growing up, bringing Sam up to speed later in life. "Dean was always the troubled kid who went out and found and is now bringing Sam back in it," says Kripke. "[It was] so stupidly complicated, and it was all super-dull. So then I turned it in and at the time I was like, 'Nailed it!'"

Kripke got the call from Warner Bros. right after Thanksgiving: They weren't taking the pilot to the network. They gave Kripke the option of trying again or parting ways. But like the characters he created, Kripke was going to go down swinging. He canceled all his Christmas plans and, after spending months on the first draft of his story, wrote the second draft in three weeks. "That was when the show got its sense of humor, because I was locked alone, over winter break, in my office," he says. "I couldn't do anything fun, so I started entertaining myself."

That's when it all came together. "To me, the moment when the show locked into place was the notion of, 'Oh wait, both guys grew up in this world and this is just the world they know,'" Kripke says. "The minute that happened, the show snapped into focus because then they have long histories with their father, they have long histories with each other, but most importantly it was this idea that they viewed the supernatural as blue-collar exterminators. That was a really important difference because they just viewed it as another pain-in-the-ass job they had to do. Because then they could be funny because it was something they had seen their whole lives, they didn't have to go mad with horror every time they saw a ghost, which is what the old draft was. Like, every time Sam saw a ghost he was like, 'What the f---?!' They could still be scared and there could still be tension because their lives were on the line, but it didn't blow their minds every time they saw it, and that gave Dean more room to make a smart-ass comment and it made room for Sam to have a dry response. That to me was like, 'Oh, now I understand who these guys are and how to balance the humor and the horror.'"

Fifteen years later, Dean's made more smart-ass comments than we can count as the brothers have gone up against every scary thing you can think of, plus a few we guarantee you can't.

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Devil's Bargain

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.

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