Supernatural delivered one of its strongest episodes to date when it returned last week with “First Blood.” Was it their best mid-season premiere ever?

To answer my own question, quite frankly: yes. “First Blood,” written by showrunner Andrew Dabb — his first writing credit since the season premiere — is note-perfect. An action-packed episode that left plenty of time for critical character-study moments, it dealt directly with the fall-out from “LOTUS” — not Kelly and her devil-spawn baby (presumably we’ll catch up with them later) but the incarceration of Sam and Dean in an off-the-grid government prison.

Rather than being saved by Mary, Castiel, Crowley or the Men of Letters, the boys actually manage to get out of the facility themselves, though we don’t discover how until the end, and the mystery of it was actually quite gripping — perhaps others got the picture immediately, but I, possibly a simpleton, was madly theorizing about intense yoga breathing comas, dead shifter body-doubles dragged in by Crowley, or a special Romeo and Juliet-esque poison brewed from bologna and corn. After six weeks of isolation – a beautiful montage showing how each brother copes, or doesn’t cope, with their situation (Dean, one of the neediest characters to ever appear on television, later declares it to be worse than his time in Hell) the boys are found dead, at the same time, in their separate cells. Supernatural must be the only show in history where the two leads can be declared as medically deceased half-way through an episode and have the audience just collectively shrug, but once they’re free and left alone in the morgue, they make a run for it.

It’s no surprise that “First Blood” surpasses most episodes in quality, as it’s somewhat of a milestone – the show’s 250th. It sticks tightly to the one story, honing in on the importance of every moment, and it continues to remind us of the scope of the Supernatural universe. The inclusion of a phone call from Alicia Banes, the young hunter we met in “Celebrating The Life of Asa Fox,” and of Man-of-Letters-Mick pitching his whole Special Relationship offer to another random American hunter, who’s having none of that, were both very nice touches, and also, I believe, big clues as to where the season might be headed in regards to Sam and Dean’s place in the hunter network. It showcased the best and truest elements of every lead character — even Crowley, who may have only appeared in one scene, but through his refusal to worry or help, reinforced his utter faith in the Winchesters and the fact that he’s still betting on them to come out on top every single time. And he’s right.

The scenes in the woods, with the boys on the run from the military squad, are a fitting tribute to their skill, competence, ruthlessness, ingenuity, teamwork and general badassery, with Sam every inch the survivalist and Dean’s focus as pure as it was in Purgatory. The pair working near-wordlessly in tandem was an elegant reminder of just how goddamn good they are at their job — only thing missing was that their booby trapped cabin didn’t freakin’ explode behind them as they walked away with Sam’s “we’re the guys that save the world” mic-drop. Given that their defeat of the troops also highlighted their compassion — they cemented their innocence in this scenario by killing no one, even when lethal force was being directed towards them — that may have been a little inappropriate. But still.

Most striking, perhaps, and certainly most unexpected, as this was not promoted as a “Cas-centric” episode, was the importance of Castiel’s arc — his grief and depression was palpable, and exacerbated by Mary blaming him, in the heat of the moment, for losing Sam and Dean. His hopeless mental state, his view of himself as expendable and incompetent is thrown into stark relief as he explains his failed attempts at hunting in their absence — a marked difference in tone from the way that Cas’s odd questions and inability to blend in on cases are usually played for laughs — and his count, down to the hour, of the time passed since he last saw the brothers, is a classic signature of someone wrecked by loss and guilt.

But the episode’s crux: the reveal of how they’d actually gotten out of the prison, Mary’s offer to take their place, Castiel slaying Billie in order to free the Winchesters from their deadly deal, and his impassioned, furious, frazzled speech about why, all genuinely shocked me. In the most loving way possible, Cas is 10000% done with their self-sacrifice bullshit, and he isn’t afraid to say so anymore. This is not an angelic warrior working for the greater good. This is a man with selfish wants and needs, and while the audience has been somewhat aware of that for a while, Cas’s emotional state, and the depth of his attachment, seems to have left all three Winchesters utterly shell-shocked. The cards are on the table, and there’s absolutely no going back for him now. We have absolutely no idea what the consequences of this act will be, either on a cosmic level or on a relationship level, but it floored me, and I’m more excited to find out than I have been about the plot of any TV show in quite a long time.

Combining filmic cinematography, eminently quotable dialogue — everything from Dean’s animalistic threat over the comms (“We’re not trapped out here with you. You’re trapped out here with us.”) to the leading agent’s quip of “That is totally mentally normal” (I’ll be stealing that for my day-to-day life, thanks Dabb) to Cas’s shocking closing monologue — and burning hints of what’s to come, including Mary taking an interest in what the Men of Letters have to offer, this is one of the best kick-offs to a winter back-half ever, and a complete and utter payoff for having us muddle through the whole POTUS plot. It now feels like that entire arc, which could have been overblown in and of itself, was a means to and end — to getting us here, to that bridge, with Mary with a gun to her head, and Cas breaking a blood pact without knowing the ramifications. I am, as the kids say, so here for this. But some of the Supernatural mid-season finales of yesteryear have also been pretty great. Let’s count them down below.

11) Season 10 — ‘The Hunter Games’


This rather unpleasant episode picks up right after Dean’s massacre of a house full of human criminals, and focuses on his determination to rid himself of the Mark of Cain. Castiel organizes to “borrow” the despicable Metatron from Heaven’s jail in order to get information, a plan that goes sideways when Dean relishes in torturing him. Cas also still has the errant Claire Novak to deal with, and she very stupidly hooks up with some drifters and organizes for them to attack Dean, a plan that goes about as well as one would expect. It’s extremely Sam-lite, and there’s also a ton of Crowley and Rowena double-crossing drama in a time period when we didn’t really care about their personal beef. The episode does set us off on a new arc, thanks to the information that Metatron reveals, and gives us the lovely bit of angel lore about prayer and longing, but overall, meh.

10) Season 3 — ‘Malleus Maleficarum’


I truly can’t believe I’m ranking any Ben Edlund episode this low, but this one just isn’t that captivating, especially for a mid-season premiere. The dialogue and the characterization are on-point, but the plot — about a coven of suburban witches who are unknowingly performing much darker magic than they realize, thanks to a demon among them — is not. This is actually be the first truly witch-centric episode of Supernatural, so there’s some important discussion of the ethics of killing them — they are just people, after all – but the real value lies in Dean’s first meeting with Ruby, and their frank discussion of how a human soul becomes a demon and what will happen once Dean goes to hell. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Edlund episode without a nice bit of homoerotic tension — in this case, between Ruby and the demon possessing one of the local women.

9) Season 8 — ‘Torn and Frayed’


Following on directly from the “Citizen Fang” cliffhanger, Sam considers his options when Amelia tells him that if he wants to stay, she’ll choose him over her back-from-the-dead husband. When Dean follows him to town, Sam forces a “me or Benny” ultimatum on him, so Dean peaces out. They’re reunited by Castiel, who enlists Dean’s help to rescue an angel being tortured by Crowley, and eventually pulls Sam in too, forcing the brothers to interact on the job. It ends with the boys choosing each other over Benny and Amelia, and while I understand that Sam’s life with Amelia certainly was an all-in or all-out scenario, I still think poor Benny, who just wanted a support network and could have been a great hunting ally, got a raw deal, and that Sam’s mistrust of him was extremely out of character. Cas also had a particularly nasty time in this episode, as he starts to get flashes of awareness about the reality in Heaven and being tortured himself. His brainwashing starts to take hold, causing him to kill the angel he was trying to save.

8) Season 4 — ‘Family Remains’


After the mid-season finale “Heaven and Hell,” which was the second half of a two-parter dealing with a whole lot of angel nonsense, “Family Remains” is a pointed return to form, incorporating some of the biggest urban legends ever in a Monster of the Week episode, as if to reassure viewers who may have been reeling from the total regime change that was the introduction of the divine plan that yes, not to worry, this is still the same show. This episode is Supernatural with a vengeance. Dean, now that what he did in Hell is out in the open, is trying to make up for that by taking every job he possibly can, which leads the brothers to a haunted house in Nebraska for what should be a standard salt-and-burn. However, this is one of the few Supernatural episodes with a human monster. what they assumed was a ghost was actually a pair of feral children, the children and grandchildren — products of an incestuous rape — of the former owner, who were trapped and tortured their whole lives. The writing, directing and cinematography in this episode is all extremely high quality, but the content is more commentary on Dean’s emotional state than the introduction of a big new plot for the back half of the season.

7) Season 2 — ‘Hunted’


I’d actually forgotten how good this one was, as season 2 really began to explore what was going on with Sam and the other children that matched his circumstances and were developing a variety of psychic powers. First of all, we learn that John must have known something was up, because his deathbed message to Dean was that if Dean couldn’t save Sam, he’d have to kill him instead. Naturally, Father of the Year John Winchester doesn’t put much stock in free will, but whatever. Sam sneaks away from Dean in order to investigate the murder of another one of these kids, and is found by Ava, yet another one of the bunch who had come specifically to save Sam, as she had psychic dreams about his death. Her visions transpire in reality when fellow hunter Gordon Walker — This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown — decides that Sam needs to be taken out, as the demons speak of him leading their army. Between the conversations that continue the dismantling of John Winchester, the everyday heroism of a character like Ava, the brilliant escape Sam pulls off in the booby trapped house, the extremely clever trap that the guys lay to get Gordon taken into legal custody, and Dean’s refusal to accept Sam’s apparent destiny, this is a really solid little hour of television.

6) Season 6 — ‘Like a Virgin’


Quite a fun episode, actually, that deals with a creature that even Bobby had relegated to the realms of legitimate myth inside their universe — dragons. The balance between the monster of the week plot — slay the virgin-stealing dragon with the magic sword in the stone — and the overall season arc regarding Sam’s soul is pretty perfect, and the dialogue is razor-sharp as Sam wakes up good as new and keen to work jobs, with no memory that he’s been soulless for eighteen months. Dean is thrilled to have his brother back, but Sam suspects that not all is as it seems and kind of tricks Cas into revealing the truth. The new lore that the gang discover while hunting the dragon-people hints at the bigger picture of what’s to come — that the various monsters are trying to access Purgatory, and end up raising a being known as the Mother of All. Later on, we find out just how much the opening of Purgatory will affect many aspects of the show to come, but at this point, it’s just kicking off – a brand-new game changer for the Supernatural universe.

5) Season 1 — ‘Scarecrow’


Setting the scene for Sam and Dean’s first break-up, “Scarecrow” introduces a ton of new factors into the show’s first season. For starters, there’s the reveal, to the boys, that their father is alive — something the audience already knew — and the tangible difference in how Sam and Dean each respond to him. Instead of giving them any assurance or understanding of what he’s up to, he gives his sons a random case to follow up, and it’s due to this – Dean’s obsequious obedience vs. Sam’s headstrong defiance – that they have their first ditch-each-other blow-out, with Dean going to work the job as requested and Sam heading to California to track down their father and join him in hunting the demon that killed their loved ones. On his journey, Sam also meets Meg — one of the show’s most important demons — for the first time. Ultimately, Sam decides to re-join Dean after he worries about him not answering his phone — a good thing, because it turns out that the case Dean was following up involves the townsfolk offering up a human sacrifice in an orchard to a pagan god, and he’s on the menu. I’ll just outright admit it: Dean’s pissy, helpless “I hope your apple pie is freakin’ worth it!” to his captors as he’s left tied to a tree is the moment I knew this show had me by the metaphorical balls forever.

4) Season 7 — ‘Adventures in Babysitting’


“Adventures in Babysitting” is a moment where Supernatural really takes time to breathe in the aftermath of probably its most significant permanent death — that of Bobby Singer. As the boys spend weeks quietly recovering in Rufus’s cabin, they’re eventually spurred into action by pursuing different branches of Bobby’s legacy — Dean obsessively trying to decode the meaning of the numbers that Bobby spent his last ounce of strength sharing with them, and Sam rushing out to the aide of a hunter’s child looking for Bobby. This episode has a bit of everything — a monster-of-the-week (Vetalas) inside the bigger picture, a continuation of the Leviathan plot as Dean and the fantastic Frank Devereaux discover that Bobby’s numbers were coordinates to a location and begin surveillance, a deeply crucial emotional arc which spotlights Dean’s deep depression throughout all of season 7, and the introduction of a terrific new character in Krissy Chambers, the teenage daughter of a hunter who’s more than a match for Sam and Dean. I’ve written before about why Madison McLaughlin is one of my favorite Supernatural guest stars of all time, and all the small factors of this episode combine to make it stand out as more than the mere sum of its parts. The closing scene, of Dean following Frank’s advice and forcing a smile as he drives through the night, soundtracked by Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” is one of the show’s most wrenching.

3) Season 11 — ‘The Devil In The Details’


Like “First Blood,” and similarly penned by Dabb, this episode gets into the heart of each character much more deeply than expected, be it Sam’s trip down memory lane and Lucifer’s harsh but kinda fair dressing-down about how the brothers are going to doom the world by choosing each other over the greater good, Dean’s deeply troubled conflict over his uncontrollable draw to Amara and his ingrained nurturing side coming out to play, Cas’s self-loathing and perception of himself as expendable, leading to his decision at the end of the episode, and even Crowley’s forcing of a confession from a supernaturally controlled Rowena as to why she hates him so much. After “O Brother Where Art Thou?” left everyone confused and stressed, I’m sure that the absolutely insane cold open to the second half of season 11 – a lavish Christmas scene featuring Crowley in footie pyjamas, brandishing a Sam Funko Pop he’s just unwrapped at his mother Rowena — had people scratching their heads, but there actually was a brilliant point to this, in showing how Lucifer made contact with Rowena in her dreams and brought her on board to help with his plan to get Sam into the Cage. Culminating in a literal cage-match between Team Free Will and Lucifer, Sam refuses to consent to being Lucifer’s vessel at any cost, and in a shocking turn of events, it’s Cas who secretly agrees, due to Lucifer’s conviction that he can beat the Darkness. The audience is left aware of this, and get to witness a small snippet of Misha Collins’ Lucifer (killing Rowena!) but the Winchesters have no idea. Talk about edge of your seat stuff!

2) Season 5 — ‘Sam, Interrupted’


Quite a few of these mid-season premieres deal with the aftermath of the death an extended “family” member, and this one was a double-whammy. In “Abandon All Hope…” the boys lost Ellen and Jo, and faced Lucifer in person for the first time. It’s a lot to cope with, but is it really enough to have Sam checking into a civilian mental health facility? …Of course not, but that is where the episode opens, with the brothers telling the whole truth of their circumstance to a doctor in order to get themselves admitted to a psychiatric hospital undercover, to help out a troubled ex-hunter who’s a genuine patient there. The monster, killing patients and making it look like suicide, is a special kind of wraith, but the story offers a goldmine in terms of character exploration, as Sam and Dean, both affected by the wraith early on, both lose their coping mechanisms in very different ways — Sam lashing out in violent rages and Dean becoming insular and paralyzed with anxiety. Given that the wraith claims to just turn up the dial on crazy that’s already there – makes the brains tastier, mmmm — we can take this as a truthful glimpse at the brothers’ psyches, which is beyond fascinating. A particular highlight is Dean’s mystery psychiatrist — his frank conversations with her are an embarrassment of riches, but her last appearance is a hallucination, and it’s uncertain if she was ever real. Again, this is showrunner Dabb’s take on the Winchesters, as is my number one pick, coming right up.

1) Season 9 — ‘Road Trip’


This episode is not only top of the list here — ironic, as its precursor “Holy Terror” came in very last place on my mid-season finale list — it’s also my go-to pick if you asked me to name my very favorite episode of the entire show. This episode is so fulfilling and so focused: in the wake of Kevin’s death, “Road Trip” features the Winchesters and the show’s two secondary leads, Castiel and Crowley, all taking part in the same singular story as allies and basically operating, for once, as a pitch-perfect ensemble cast — a rare jewel among the show’s 250 episodes, which often tend to divert screen time from the Winchesters in order to tell a separate story about what’s going on in Heaven or Hell. In the last golden days before the Mark of Cain takes hold of Dean, he attempts to discover the identity of the angel possessing Sam and get rid of it, calling in first Cas, and then Crowley — a prisoner in the Bunker at that point — to help with the situation. Every beat of this episode, from the quiet rage over Kevin, to Jared Padalecki’s unrecognizable performance as Gadreel, to Dean’s apology for kicking Cas out of the bunker, to Crowley’s scathing critique of the ridiculous pimped-out Continental, is flawless, and it sets up the chain of events that will eventuate in the actual crux of the season — yet another break-up between Sam and Dean, once Sam discovers the truth, and Crowley’s liberty being restored, allowing him to challenge the rise of Abaddon. Look, it’s just really good, okay.

Disagree? Vote below to help create a definitive ranking as decided by the fandom. You can also check out our ranking of the Supernatural mid-season finales, including season 12’s “LOTUS.”

‘Supernatural’ airs Thursdays at the new time of 8/7c on The CW

Here are the 2017 Oscars winners and losers

8:25 pm EST, February 26, 2017

The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

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The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

Related: We asked our parents to describe the 2017 Oscar nominees

Below is a complete list of Oscar winner and losers.

2017 Oscar winner list

Note: The final winner of the night was originally announced to be La La Land, but the announcement was actually an error — Moonlight won Best Picture. Awkward.

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land

Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Fences – August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Lion – Luke Davies
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Manchester By the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Original Song:
“Audition” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Cinematography:
Bradford Young – Arrival
Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Grieg Fraser – Lion
James Laxton – Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence

Best Live Action Short Film
Timecode
Sing
Silent Nights
Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV

Best Documentary, Short Subject:
4.1 Miles
Extremis
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Animated Short:
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine, Denmark
The Salesman, Iran
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
Tanna, Australia
Toni Erdmann, Germany

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Documentary Feature:
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad
A Man Called Ove

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Tags: 2017 Oscars

Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

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Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

It should come as no surprise that Arrival is being considered for Best Picture in the upcoming Academy Awards. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a name for himself with movies such as Prisoners and Sicario, known for combining raw humanity with breakneck intensity. But although Villeneuve is an extremely talented director, and is accompanied by an excellent cast, it’s Arrival’s score that succeeds in bringing all the delicate pieces of the film together in one cohesive whole… and drawing the audience in.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer that has collaborated with Villeneuve repeatedly, and received Academy Award nominations for his work on movies such as The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Unfortunately, Arrival’s score, although arguably his best work yet, is not eligible for nomination this year. In an exclusive report, Variety explained:

“The Academy’s music branch ruled unanimously that voters would be influenced by the use of borrowed material in determining the value of Johann Jóhannsson’s original contributions to Denis Villeneuve’s alien invasion psychodrama.

“Per Rule 15 II E of the Academy’s rules and eligibility guidelines, a score ‘shall not be eligible if it has been diluted by the use of pre-existing music, or it has been diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs or any music not composed specifically for the film by the submitting composer’”

With the director choosing to place Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” in the beginning and ending sequences of the film (a song which was also a part of Shutter Island’s score), Jóhannsson’s work sadly lost its chance at an Oscar nomination. According to Variety, “it was determined that there would be no way for the audience to distinguish those cues, which bookend the film, from Jóhannsson’s score cues.”

In an interview with Slash Film, Jóhannsson said that he initially wrote his own alternative to the track, while knowing that Villaneuve was considering “On the Nature of Daylight” as well, although it was very different, as he didn’t “really want to do a knock-off of the music.” Ultimately, Jóhannsson says that he supports the choice, because it “works beautifully and it supplies a very strong contrast to the rest of the score.” But it’s a pity that artistic decisions like this one can cost an exceptional composer an Oscar.

For Arrival, his ability to grip the listener with only a few sounds and rhythms, gradually building up to something of massive proportions, was perfectly harnessed once again to create something truly new. The composer told the Guardian: “People are hungry for new sounds, and for the experience of listening to unfamiliar music that you don’t hear on commercials and in every TV show.”

Composers for sci-fi movies tend to favor epic soundtracks to draw audiences into the scene and make them feel the full blow of the story’s emotions. Jóhannsson, however, entirely avoided using orchestras and sounds in the way that we’re familiar with. His quiet buildup is much more powerful. The track “First Encounter,” for example, is mysterious, ominous, and ultimately overwhelming when the sound suddenly comes to life.

“In mainstream cinema, there’s usually too much music,” he said. “In Arrival, the use of space and silence is extremely important. When music is needed, it’s really there and it serves a purpose.”

The music fits in so well that it becomes hard to know when you’re listening to the score, and when you’re listening to the scene. Both elements mesh so well together that they become nearly indistinguishable. And the quietness that is the underlying current of most tracks is a marvelous replica of human emotion — in the case of First Encounter, of what a mind in shock feels like when faced with an experience it can’t understand.

To achieve the unfamiliar sounds that surround Arrival’s alien ships and their mysterious passengers, Jóhannsson brought together vocalists and choirs, to experiment with what could be done with voices, and combining them with cellos, horns, and wood sounds. He explained to Slash Film:

“The reason I wanted voices was really motivated by the script and the story. It’s a story about communication. It’s a story about language. It’s a story about communicating with an alien species. How do we communicate with an intelligent species with who we have no common point of reference? It was this anthropological aspect, this linguistic aspect, that really influences my choice of orchestration and instrumentation.”

It makes for a truly fascinating combination of sounds. Jóhannsson somehow manages to make simple vocal exercises into music that can be anywhere between heartbreaking and heart-wrenchingly hopeful, turning vocal harmony into something almost tangible, and shedding a small ray of light into the mystery of achieving unity in diversity.

This isn’t a horror-movie score — it’s something transporting, yet ambiguous; a difficult task to achieve nowadays. With decades of listening to scores with similar patterns, it takes a lot to leave audience members in the dark about what is about to happen. We’ve become used to screeching violins meaning impending terror, to drums meaning action scenes, to lengthy orchestra pieces surrounding the climax of the film.

We’re used to hearing Hans Zimmer and John William’s epic orchestras, and while beloved and immortalized for their loveliness, they are no longer as revolutionary. We know the swelling sound of strings and the beating of drums, and we have learned to associate certain sounds with victory, and other sounds with fear.

With Jóhannsson, on the other hand, we don’t know what to expect — is the thrumming noise and the horns in the distance leading us to a scene of horror and destruction, or are we about to discover something beautiful? The score leads us into the ship itself, into the arrival, and poses the same questions with music that the movie does with words and breathtaking cinematography.

And yet, despite the unfamiliarity and ambiguity, the result is still something that feels inherently personal. It’s an emotional experience, even in the silences — a difficult task to achieve with such a minimalist style as Jóhannsson’s — and it’s marvelously memorable. It manages to do exactly what Arrival did for us as a film: draw us in with the promise of alien appearances on Earth, and then steal our hearts with the uniquely human experience of choice, trust, love and death.

Interstellar has tried to do this before — melding human vulnerability with world-defining stakes — but critics are split on whether or not it was a success. With Arrival, however, there’s no doubt that the balance between the intimate and the epic was perfectly reached; and it was because of Johann Jóhannsson.

Arrival has been nominated for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Mixing – the closest we’ll get to a soundtrack Academy Award — as well as Best Picture, and many others.

Jóhannsson is currently working on the score for Blade Runner 2049 (also directed by Villeneuve), which is expected to premiere this October.

Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

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Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

No word on if the U.K. will be seeing the same air date but it’s more than likely they will since it’s been like that in years past.

This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor, along with Steven Moffat’s last season running the show. After this we’ll be seeing Chris Chibnall taking the reins with a clean slate, and we’re so curious about how the series will go. How will the Doctor regenerate? Will this be Bill’s first and last season on the show as well? Who’s going to be the next Doctor? We’ve got so many questions! But they’ll all be answered in due time… we hope.

And that’s not all! Fans in the U.K. have already had the chance to enjoy the brand new spinoff series, Class, and after Doctor Who premieres on April 15 Americans will finally witness it as well.

Set to air directly after Doctor Who at 10/9c, Class is helmed by award-winning YA writer and executive producer, Patrick Ness. The series follows a group of students at Coal Hill School as they deal aliens, invasions and awkward social dilemmas.

Having seen Class in its entirety we can tell you that it’s got the perfect Doctor Who vibe and should fit in perfectly after you watch the season 10 premiere. Although not everyone loved the premiere, the series as whole definitely grows on you. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

Are you excited for ‘Doctor Who’ season 10?