Hellatus Is Over! Supernatural Returns with Stranger In A Strange Land

 

Full disclosure: I saw the season premiere episode for the first time two weeks ago at the Entertainment Weekly sneak peek screening in New York City. But somehow I was still entirely caught up in the excitement of Thursday as premiere day – there’s something energizing about an entire fandom all over the world all online and watching in some way, shape or form and all bouncing from anticipation! At the EW event, I got to watch the episode with Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Danneel Ackles, which was an amazing experience. None of them had seen the episode either, so I got to see them react at the same time as I was reacting – and at times got to see them react to the fans in the room reacting to them. It’s French Mistake levels of meta!

(You can read all about that experience here – Sneak Peek at Supernatural Season 14 in NYC)

That experience colored my rewatch when the episode aired live on Thursday night, and only made it better. There were things that didn’t 100% work for me in the episode, but those were largely overshadowed by the things that very much did. I’ve been waiting two weeks to be able to talk about the episode, so here goes!

The recap reminds us that last season saw Dean Winchester expressing a rare optimism about being able to actually rid the world of bad stuff – a tiny bit of hope that maybe they really could create a better world. That idea of “a better world” gets an entirely different spin in Season 14, beginning with the premiere. Meanwhile, recap music is blasting as we review all the incredible things that happened last season.

Me as the recap of the Road So Far plays: MY SHOW IS SO EFFING BADASS!!!

Supernatural is also creative; the opening music bleeds into an AC/DC song on the Impala’s radio, and a bearded stern-faced Sam Winchester turns it off. Nice touch, and it immediately lets us know that Sam Winchester is not in fact okay. That’s Dean’s music, and it must be incredibly painful to be driving his brother’s car and listening to his brother’s music when Dean himself is not there. Jared’s face also lets us know that Sam is very far from okay – the actor doesn’t need any dialogue to show us just how upset and how driven Sam Winchester is right now. (Make no mistake, I’d LOVE for him to have more dialogue that also shows us that though!)

Just the fact that Sam is alone driving the Impala was incredibly painful to see – I miss Dean Winchester like a missing limb.

We jump from Jared to Jensen, but not to Dean from Sam. Instead it’s Michael, interrupting a holy man’s prayers. This is the scene we saw at Comic Con many months ago, so it’s a familiar one, but no less chilling for its familiarity. Ackles invests Michael with so much quiet, understated menace, it gives you goosebumps. He’s soft spoken, the cadence of his speech slower than Dean’s, more deliberate. He pronounces every consonant because he’s in no hurry; he’s an all powerful being so he has all the time in the world. All those conscious choices make Michael an entirely new character even as he’s played by one of the lead actors we know and love.

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A Few Non-Spoilery Thoughts about Supernatural “Stranger In A Strange Land”

 

It seems like the usual suspects who got a screener of the Supernatural Season 14 premiere to review are posting their thoughts about the episode now, so let me add to the anticipation with a few thoughts of my own. How and where and with whom you watch an episode has a significant effect on the emotional impact of what you’re watching, so it’s possible the season premiere was even more powerful than it would have been otherwise for me – after all, I was watching with a couple hundred passionate fans and Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles themselves (at the EW screening in NYC a week ago).  If watching with the show’s stars doesn’t make you emotional, I don’t know what will!

The fact that Jared and Jensen also had emotional reactions to what they were seeing definitely increased my enjoyment. The day before, Jensen had told me that neither he nor Jared had seen the episode before, so they were experiencing it just like the rest of the fans. When the actors got to react to the fans’ reactions to their acting performances, that was icing on the cake (and kinda meta…)

I still won’t give actual spoilers for the episode here of course, but there are three things I can say in the spirit of anticipation, to whet your appetite even more for the Thursday premiere. (If you’re absolutely a totally spoiler phobe, these are very general spoilers at worst, but read at your own risk!)

First, Ackles embodies Michael in a way that leaves no doubt that Dean has left the building. I talked with him about this after seeing the episode clip at Comic Con, about how difficult it is to play an entirely different character when all the visual and relational cues around you are telling you to fall back into playing the familiar one – Dean Winchester. The set is the same, the crew is the same, the other cast is the same. Just traveling to Vancouver, at this point, is likely to pull Jared, Jensen or Misha to settle into their familiar characters.  Like I told Jensen, it’s particularly difficult because those cues are largely unconscious, which means we’re unaware that we’re responding to them. So he has to be aware of the unconscious pull to be Dean, and then go against it enough to be someone else, and then come up with some consistent characterization for Michael. No mean feat! (Yes, he loves it when I put my psychologist hat on. Okay, maybe not always – but this time I was slightly helpful).

Here’s how I know he did an amazing job of being Michael – I missed Dean like hell. It’s the first time there has been an episode that Dean Winchester wasn’t in (at least I think that’s true). Sure, before maybe it was Demon Dean in the episode, or Mark of Cain Dean, but it was still Dean. In this episode? Dean is not there. There’s no trace of him in the character that Ackles has created. And that both makes me in awe of his acting and his ability to thwart those unconscious cues and very very sad because I miss Dean Winchester like I lost a limb. When they let us know that Dean wouldn’t be gone too long, I thought oh that’s good, but I didn’t really grasp just how gone he would be. It’s not Supernatural for me without Dean Winchester, so I can’t wait to get him back!

Second, I knew I loved Sam Fucking Winchester being Sam Fucking Winchester, but maybe I didn’t know just how much I needed that on my screen. Jared talked about Sam stepping up to the plate and taking on a leadership role at Comic Con and I thought, oh that will be good, but once again, I underestimated the impact that would have – and how powerfully Padalecki would portray it. In the premiere, we get to see Sam desperate and sad and angry and all the things we knew he would be at losing his brother. But we also get to see him take charge and take no shit and effing take no prisoners and OMG did that do my heart good! Maybe it’s the feelings still left over from Season 13, from the time Sam bled out in that cave and had to give in to Lucifer. Maybe it’s from the season when Dean was lost to him and he hit a dog and gave up. Whatever it is, it just did my soul good to see Sam be the badass we know he is, and Jared killed it. The fact that Jensen burst into applause while watching that scene only made me all the more excited and joyful – apparently Jensen needed to see Sam Winchester (and Jared) kick ass too!

Third, there’s dramatic and exciting and kicking ass in the episode, but there’s also emotional beats that were subtle and nuanced and well played by everyone. Castiel’s desperation to find Dean and his devastation weren’t glossed over either, and there were moments I won’t spoil when I really felt for him. In a different way, he’s just as take-no-shit as Sam in this episode, and just as determined, and Misha Collins brings that through loud and clear. There were bits of that Cas and Sam bonding that we keep hearing about, and there were moments between Sam and his mother (Samantha Smith) that also tugged at my heartstrings. Alex Calvert and Jim Beaver as Alex and AU!Bobby also brought the emotional beats, which means we got a good balance of fighting and feeling in a single episode (and just a dash of humor and a pinch of surprise). Just the way I like it.

I don’t know where we’re going in Season 14, and I can’t promise that I’ll love every episode (though I can promise that I’m a fan of this show until the end). But the fact that the cast is bringing their A games so strongly in the first episode bodes well for what comes next. I can’t wait to do a proper review of the premiere on Thursday – and hear what everyone else thought of the episode!

What are you anticipating and what are you hoping does NOT happen in the premiere or the new season?

–Lynn

Stay tuned for more! And for more Supernatural,

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written by the cast, links on the home page!

Supernatural Celebrates 100th Creation Convention in New Jersey!

 

Happy 100th Con Supernatural! Part Two of my NJ/NYC adventures (you can also read about EW’s sneak peek Season 14 premiere party and Jensen and Jared on Live with Kelly and Ryan in Part One here)

EW Supernatural Season 14 Sneak Peek and Jared and Jensen on Live!

The Supernatural New Jersey con is the closest I get to a “home” con – a less than two hour drive from Philly. The key word there being “drive” – as in, no airfare! Woohoo!! I packed up my car with many boxes of books and headed out on Thursday up the NJ Turnpike to scenic Secaucus, happy not to have to deal with airport and parking and TSA. Apparently I got a bit too cocky though, because no sooner had I arrived at the vendor section of the gigantic Meadowlands convention center than I realized that I hadn’t brought my usual backpack for flights to cons – so I had only part of what I needed for my vendor table!

NOOOOO! Luckily the convention center is adjacent to a giant Walmart, so I trekked over and had my promo pics reprinted, then trekked back to finish setting up. (My friends and I returned to Walmart later that night to stock up on supplies for the con weekend, which included an alarming amount of Beefaroni and ramen noodles,  bags of chips and possibly some Lunchables but hey, con weekend!)  We love Embassy Suites with their mini kitchens in the room and free breakfast buffet every morning – between that and the Walmart, we were set. And it’s a good thing, since I was on my own in the vendor room – luckily fandom is always wonderful and generous, with fellow fans offering to grab me drinks and pretzels or time for a bathroom break.

This con was special because it was the 100th Creation Supernatural convention – also christened Schmelke Con for the one person who has been at all 100 and taken over 250,000 photo ops to prove it — the one and only Chris Schmelke! There’s no overestimating the difference Chris has made to these conventions – photo ops are a special thing and nobody knows how to make them more special than Chris. We interviewed Chris for one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, and it was immediately obvious that he truly cares about fans’ experience – he gets it. And so he does everything necessary to make sure those few moments allow a genuine connection. Chris will be the first one to say that Supernatural conventions are unlike any other, and in part that’s because these actors also go out of their way to make the photo ops special.

There were all sorts of special decorations celebrating the 100th con and Creation even handed out bracelets to commemorate the occasion, so it was very cool to be there!

Nothing says happy 100th like this!

Richard introduced Friday’s first guest panelist, Rachel Miner, by giving her well deserved props for her work with Random Acts. She was asked about her initial reaction to her character Meg, and said that she got to read her audition scene with Jared and Jensen. Eric Kripke was there too, and they both ended up laughing; she knew right away that she loved the character.

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Supernatural Hits New York City For A Sneak Peek at Season 14!

 

It’s been a whirlwind and very Supernatural-centric week – which is of course the very best kind. First the 100th Creation Supernatural convention in New Jersey (lots more about that soon) and then a wild and wonderful Monday in New York City to celebrate the Season 14 premiere of the show — with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles!

For once living on the East coast was a benefit instead of a liability, so I went all out to try to get tickets to Entertainment Weekly’s screening of the Season 14 premiere and to Live with Kelly and Ryan for Jensen’s appearance on that show. Getting tickets to both NY events was a lot like the early days of Supernatural cons, where fandom would wait hovering over their keyboards (yes, at the time we didn’t use our phones for everything) constantly hitting refresh waiting for tickets to go on sale so we could grab the best seat. When Entertainment Weekly announced that they would be hosting a screening of the Season premiere episode on October 1 in NYC, and that it would be offered only to existing subscribers, I was ecstatic. I’ve been a subscriber since before Supernatural was on the air, and I’m within driving distance of the Big Apple, so I eagerly awaited my email on the day they were to go up for grabs – and waited – and waited. Nothing! I’ve lost none of my fangirl propensity for getting emotional when it comes to my favorite show, so I promptly freaked out and started frantically tweeting the universe trying to figure out why I hadn’t gotten an invitation when I was seeing people happily proclaiming that they already had their tickets! It was like fangirl hell for a while there – but the lovely Sam Highfill replied and an equally lovely person from EW helped me out as well as several of my awesome fellow fans and all was well eventually. Phew!

Next announcement was that Jensen Ackles would tape a segment of Live with Kelly and Ryan that same day – cue another adrenaline-fueled OMG how do I get tickets panic on my part. Some of my fellow fans were kind enough to give me instructions on how to set up an account, but by the time I figured it out, I didn’t get tickets. Instead I was waitlisted, which meant more constant refreshing and lots of freaking out. Do some work, hit refresh, nope, still waitlisted. Do some work, hit refresh, nope, still waitlisted. Do some work, hit refresh, no….wait! It says ‘Available’!!!! I’ve never typed my information in faster to snag those tickets before it magically turned back to ‘Waitlist’ once again!

My friends Liz and Kristen and I got approximately 2 hours of sleep on Sunday night after working our butts off at the con, but getting up at 4:45 am is a lot more doable when you know you’re going to see Jared and Jensen and the premiere of Season 14 if you do! We headed out into the dark and made it into the city by 6 am, where we joined a small group of fans to wait for the Live show to let us in. We weren’t lucky enough to be Priority, which meant we had no idea if we would actually get in or not – there were no guarantees for us general admission folks. But there was a Starbucks a few blocks away and lots of fellow fans to chat with, so the wait wasn’t too bad. We watched the sun come up over the city, and even got to tape a little promo with Ryan Seacrest. No clue if it ever aired anywhere, but it was fun anyway.

I didn’t actually relax until we managed to get inside the studio, and even though our seats were way off to the side, I was incredibly grateful just to be there. (I also haven’t done the whole studio audience thing, so the experience was fascinating). We were right by the entrance door to the studio, so we saw Clif appear and knew the fun was about to begin! Danneel and JJ came through the studio first, Danneel holding JJ’s hand as they crossed over to the other side to watch the taping, and that got a huge ovation from the Supernatural contingent of the audience. We were coached on hand signals that meant “clap” or “clap more” or “add some hoots and hollers” but when Jensen finally appeared, we didn’t need any coaching – our section of the room burst into screams of joy.

Photo: Paleonut

Jensen high fived fans as he came in, and clearly we were all VERY happy to see him!

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Happy Birthday Matt Cohen!

This is birthday month for the OG’s of the Supernatural family – and today is Mr. Matt Cohen’s turn! We first met Matt shortly after he appeared on the show as young John Winchester, and were enamored of him from his very first con. He didn’t know how conventions worked and assuming there were thick boundaries between the actors and the fans just wasn’t on his radar, so Matt wanted to hug each and every person he met that weekend. His down to earth personality and infectious genuine joy made him a fan favorite from day one. The first time we sat down to chat with him, we realized there was so much more to Matt Cohen than a pretty face or an incredible physique. (Not that we didn’t already know that)

The first time Matt shared the stage with Richard Speight Jr, his frenetic energy and rapid fire improv style were a bit of a contrast with Matt’s more laid back approach. We watched as Matt and Rich found their rhythm together, both in panels (later joined by Rob Benedict for the now iconic R2M) and in Friday night karaoke. Matt and Rich together spearheaded the evolution of karaoke into a few fans taking the mic in a hotel bar to a crowd of fans singing along and batting a hundred balloons in the air as actors and fans share the mic onstage. It’s been a wild ride, and one that Matt has been an integral part of.

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