Louden Swain Rocks Austin!

When Louden Swain announced two shows in Austin, Kim immediately suggested we go. It was two days before the new semester started, but on the other hand they were playing on my actual birthday, so – what better way to celebrate! Great music and a much-needed weekend away with lots of my favorite people. So off to Austin we went!

Kim and I have been there a few times before, once for the first Supernatural Day and once for our friend Alana’s birthday (Austin seems to be the SPNFamily birthday destination in my little corner of the fandom). This was the first time Louden Swain would be playing there while we were there, though! What I didn’t count on was injuring my back – and then my knee because of my back – long story, but suffice it to say my doc and PT person said “no long flights, not too much walking or standing, no uneven ground.”

Errrr….okay? So I flew to Texas, went to two back to back concert shows, and walked all over Family Business Beer Co, which happens to have pathways made of rocks and uneven ground with tree branches everywhere. Everyone SHHHHH. The things you do for fandom….

Kim and I met up at the Austin airport and our friends Bev and Betty picked us up before we headed out to FBBC to squeeze in a delicious gyro before the Shawarma food truck closed – yum!

Then it was on to the spacious house a whole bunch of us were sharing – gotta love Airbnb! Eight fangirls, a fully stocked fridge, mimosas and pan fried bacon and eggs in the morning and good company – does it get better than this?

Alana and Liz picked us up after breakfast and we headed out to FBBC again – if in Austin, there is no better place to hang out. It was a beautiful day, and we sat under the trees and did some filming that you’ll see on Alana’s youtube channel very soon announcing what we both hope is some exciting news. Kim played director (watch out, Ackles and Speight and Cohen, Kim is good at this!)  I also filmed a little “Who wrote this” video for the #GuessTheSPNScene youtube. Well, Alana filmed it, I just read a passage from Family Don’t End With Blood.

We chatted with the many other fannish friends who were there, had some more delicious food, took alot of selfies and generally enjoyed having lots of Supernatural inclined folks all in the same place. It’s a luxury and I relish it every single time! What better way to spend my birthday?

Then we drove into Austin and to The North Door to wait for the doors to open. Doors opened a bit late, so there was alot of standing in line in the alley, which of course was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. For a while, I sat on the wall beside the door, only to realize that was a dangerous spot to be in – there were HUNDREDS of birds perched on the scaffolding right above my head, and they were doing what birds do when they’re above you. Everyone covered their heads and tried to get out of the way. A few times, a loud kazoo chorus scared them away temporarily, but they figured out pretty quickly that kazoos were not dangerous and returned to stalk us all.

The Birds!!
Photo Liz Madsen

Finally the doors opened for the VIP meet and greet – yay! I had made arrangements to be able to sit up in the balcony because of my injuries, so I hobbled up the stairs and pretty much stayed there other than a few trips to the ladies room. It meant we couldn’t stand close to the band to ask questions, but it also meant my injuries didn’t worsen too much over the weekend.

Anticipation was building!

Pre Show – Photo Liz Madsen

Someone reminded the band it was my birthday, and they were sweet enough to wish me a happy one. The questions were good ones and the band’s answers were sometimes insightful and sometimes downright hilarious. I particularly enjoyed Rob’s blow by blow story of how they got into the wrong Uber, loaded ALL their gear, found out it was the wrong one, got into another IDENTICAL vehicle, and somehow all their gear no longer fit.

Rob is a gifted story teller – if you haven’t read the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood that takes you moment by moment through the time he had a stroke at a convention and how he survived with the help of his fellow actors and the fandom, you’ll be shocked at how compelling a read it is. And he’s always hilarious doing ‘stand up’ whether at a meet and greet like this or onstage with Richard Speight at a con (or doing Kings of Con, for that matter!)

Jensen Ackles joined the spectators for the meet and greet portion of the show, standing on the balcony right across from us and waving to the crowd in greeting. He seemed to be enjoying Rob and Billy and Stephen and Mike’s answers as much as the rest of us, and the fans just let him be a part of the audience as we all focused on Louden Swain. The green room and backstage area was also across from where we were, and Jensen headed there after the meet and greet to chat some more. At some point, Jared and Gen Padalecki also arrived – it made me all kinds of emotional seeing how much this group of actors supports each other, always.

Read more

Supernatural Wins with ‘The Gamblers’ 

 

It feels SO good to sit down to write a review of my favorite show and be overflowing with love for it, like I’ve been so many countless times over the past fifteen years. We have nine episodes left of Supernatural, and all I want is to feel like this – grateful, inspired, in love, dreading the end. The relief is like a physical thing, to feel this way right now, as melodramatic as that might sound.

So, let me do some squeeing, because I’ve missed it!  I enjoyed this episode by Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn so much that I just want to go scene by scene and savor it all over again.

THEN:  (Moment of inappropriate giggling because they actually used the vampire Dean hiss in the ‘Then’ montage. Ahem. Okay, sorry.)

The opening is another musical montage, which seems to be a thing now for the Show, but it works especially well because the song is so damn fitting. “North to Alaska” is exactly where Sam and Dean are headed, and the song actually starts off with the lyrics “Big Sam left Seattle…” and something about his brother, and how perfect is that? Meanwhile, some poor guy named Leonard is losing at pool and losing his cool and clearly about to die. He loses, gets kicked out of the pool hall, falls in the dirt and can’t find his now-broken glasses ala the Lord of the Flies scene I’ve never gotten over and then gets run down by an 18 wheeler. In other words, quintessential Supernatural beginning.

As Sam and Dean make their way to Alaska, Sam texts with Eileen and Dean snarks about turning off the sound. Eileen is skeptical about this trek they’re on and so is Sam, but Dean insists they need to try, and is hanging onto hope.

Dean: It’s there, it’s gotta be. Chuck wants us weak, because he’s coming for us, Sammy.

So on they go (Baby might be down on her luck but apparently she can still drive all the way to Alaska, and the Winchesters are a whole lot better at getting through those Canadian border stops than I am most of the time even with their currently shitty luck!)

Sam’s asleep in the car like he often is in the best fanfic, and Dean of course wakes him like any big brother would, with a slap and a ‘Hey!’

Brothers.

Dean’s stopping for food, because he ate everything they had in the cooler while Sam slept.

Sam: (affronted) We’re on a budget!

Gifs sasquatchandleatherjacket

Jared Padalecki has such a knack for making even a simple line so funny and so Sam, and I laughed out loud at that. The Winchesters are down to their last $4.60, so all they can get is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie.

Dean: Two forks?

I laughed again, realized I was thoroughly enjoying the episode, and became practically euphoric at the realization.

Gif sasquatchandleatherjacket

Sam gives Dean grief about not being able to have cheese and Dean gives him an affronted look right back.

Dean: Dude, Lactaid!

Me: This episode is everything!

Much of the episode – dialogue included – really did read like fanfic, and that is my highest compliment. It means the writers get the characters as well as we do, and that feels incredibly good. Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack were Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack!

Dean turns his 1000 watt smile on the waitress and they find out there’s a “magic pool hall” in the middle of nowhere and that people like poor Leonard don’t come back from it.

Sam: Now we know the down side – it might kill you.

Dean is much more optimistic.

Dean: This is my game – hell, our game!

He reminds Sam of all the memories they have of playing pool.

Sam: (frowning) Yeah, because we had to eat!

Me: Yep, definitely have read that fic.

Read more

Supernatural ‘The Heroes’ Journey’ – Sort Of?

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode, the ironically titled “The Heroes’ Journey”, was one of those episodes that made me laugh at first, but then kind of disturbed me. Not simultaneously, luckily. I was tempted to just write up the things I giggled at when they were happening and try to shut off my higher cognitive functions to prevent any other feelings, but it turns out I’m just not built that way. So to everyone on twitter who advised me “not to think too deeply about it”, my apologies. Maybe just read the first part of this if you don’t want to think too much and just enjoy the amusing parts.

I really enjoyed the first part of the episode; I went into this one just looking to be entertained.  Most of us knew the premise was something about Sam and Dean having “normal people problems”, which sounds pretty innocuous and has the potential to be funny. After all, Jared and Jensen are gifted at comedy, so maybe this would be a chance for them to exercise those comic chops as well as a chance for me not to gnash my teeth. And for a while, that worked. My first tweet of the night was “OMG I’m loving this episode!”  Jared and Jensen were clearly having a good time with it, and just that is enough to make me happy too. They have always loved the humorous moments, and they play off each other seamlessly.

The beginning cage match sequence was unusual. It was impressively choreographed by the brilliant Rob Hayter, and the music and slo mo and direction were interesting. The problem is, it was three whole minutes long out of the 42 we get in an episode, and I don’t give a damn about whoever those two monsters are, so I got antsy even as I could appreciate the artistry of the scene. With less than 8 hours left with the Winchesters and company, I selfishly want every moment!

Then we’re following Dean to the Quik Mart with jaunty piano music that lets us know things are going to be weird (My guess is that the awesome Jay Gruska had alot of fun with this episode too). It’s clearly a terrible horrible no good very bad day as Dean’s Charlie-guaranteed credit card doesn’t work, he’s got a toothache that prevents him from enjoying his usual fare, and he gets a traffic ticket at his habitual spot. Meanwhile, Sam is cooking dinner for them at the bunker and burns the whatever in the oven and then inexplicably tries to pick up a pot of boiling pasta without oven mitts and spills it all over. Dean comes home calling for Sam, and Sam trips up the stairs to the kitchen. Then starts sneezing his head off, snot everywhere.

I mean, it was alot! Jared and Jensen cavorted through it looking like they were having the time of their lives.

Also, I love domestic Sam cooking dinner in the bunker’s amazing kitchen.

Gif jaredandjensen

Jared and Jensen pull this off like you’d expect, as in they’re hilarious, and I was amused – I thought it clearly must be a curse since it was so over the top, one thing after another and certainly far outside “normal”. Garth calls and asks for their help, and they start driving to his house – and Baby craps out. Noooooo not Baby! Dean, who it’s established knows how to take that car apart and put her back together again, seems to flood her and then doesn’t even look under the hood, which is….weird.

Me: I guess that’s part of the curse? Weird.

They get to Garth’s, and he and his wife have an older daughter and young twins (sort of like Ackles in real life!)  Garth hugs Dean, saying “you smell so good” (this nod to Dean’s attractiveness  seems like a bit of a meta commentary – since it’s what everyone who has ever had a photo op with Jensen Ackles walks away saying!)  It also ties into some of the more thinky thoughts I eventually let into consciousness about the episode.

Read more

Supernatural Returns From Last Mid Season Hiatus with ‘The Trap’

 

Supernatural returned from its very last mid season hiatus with an episode that fans waited for with a wide range of emotions, which is probably going to be par for the course for the last eleven episodes of the series. I have mixed feelings every time an episode airs, because it’s one episode closer to the end, and because it’s one more chance to take the show somewhere I may not want to follow, knowing there’s no time for that to change anymore. This is not an easy thing, staying with a show you’ve loved for fifteen years to the bitter end! It feels like an emotional and psychological risk, which is something I’ve never experienced before with television.

I’m actually really looking forward to next week’s episode, which will be a ‘funny’ one – at least in parts. I feel like I need a break from all the angst and stress! To think, this used to be my stress reliever!

So here are the things I liked and the things that didn’t work too well for me. It was a kickass ‘The Road So Far’. I watch those beginnings and am always in awe of just what a remarkable show this is. We also had an amazing Shaving People Punting Things video the week before, which made this next string of episodes look truly epic. I think sometimes those editors get the show better than anyone!

Anyway, the episode was split into two story lines, as it so often is. Sam and Eileen wake up tied to chairs, captured by Chuck. I’ve said before that I thought Chuck had a hand in manipulating Sam and Eileen and it turns out that yes, he put her in Sam’s path and made that spell fall out (that was obviously too much of a coincidence) and let Sam being a good person do the rest. What an awful thing for Eileen and Sam to find out. How do you have any hope of sorting out which of your feelings are real and which aren’t? Worse yet, did you really have agency (and the capacity for any kind of consent) when you acted on those feelings? Chuck really is a bad bad guy. I’m still confused as to why Sam looked so conflicted about his relationship with Eileen the entire time, though. Side effect of Chuck’s “nudges”? Was he somehow sensing the interference? We may never know.

Chuck’s explanation is particularly cruel.

Chuck: I couldn’t see you. I needed eyes and ears on the inside… well, eyes.

Ouch. If you wanted to turn Chuck into an irredeemable villain, Show, that’s a good way to do it. So vicious and pointed. Rob delivered it perfectly; I could appreciate that even as I literally cringed hearing it.

I love that Eileen shot back, “Screw you.”

Shoshannah Stern delivers the line with all the venom and badassery it warranted.

Yeah, screw you, Chuck! (But not you, Rob, I still adore you)

Meanwhile, Dean is worrying about not being able to reach Sam, not knowing that Sam and Eileen are captured. I also love that Eileen almost did screw Chuck over by managing to place a call to Dean (more badassery). I’m assuming her phone has a convert to text feature because Dean kept yelling “Eileen?” into the phone.  Unfortunately, Chuck realizes and picks up.

Dean: Chuck, you dick!

Chuck: Bye, Dean.

Dean tracks Sam’s phone, and smart Winchesters make me happy. Cas is also doing something smart – making Leviathan bullets out of Borax.

Dean: We need to go!

Cas: To Purgatory.

Not what Dean meant; he’s understandably focused on saving Sam and Eileen. They argue, and Dean says he’s not leaving Sam, because he’s Dean.

Cas: Stop being so stupid!

I was taken aback by that. Castiel in this episode is written as had-it-up-to-here, bristling with anger and resentment. We don’t always see Castiel’s emotions come to the surface, but I think he’s every bit as angry as Dean has been, to the point where he’s harsh and sometimes cold. It’s not the “badass Cas” which we’ve seen before, it’s as though he’s so angry that he’s put up a wall.

The episode had a lot to say about anger, but not all of it was easy to decipher. We saw Dean’s anger come spilling out in his initial fight with Cas, in which he lashes out with some hurtful things. Everyone expresses anger differently, and in this episode we saw Castiel’s anger too. I think he walked out on that fight with Dean because it was just too painful, but it was also clearly because he was angry. Otherwise he would have picked up Sam’s phone calls. His response to anger is to withdraw and then to put up a cold shoulder and refuse to be reached, literally or figuratively. Maybe I can’t stop my psychologist brain from kicking in, but this is a familiar pattern. One person goes on the attack, spewing hurtful words, then the other withdraws and puts up a wall. Both are expressions of anger and intended to hurt. Often one of those people is very afraid of abandonment; in this case, that applies to both of them, so the withdrawal and stonewalling is an effective counterattack (that probably impact Dean’s later breakdown).

Cas points out that they have no way to kill Chuck and that going to Purgatory and doing the spell is the way they’ll save Sam – and the world.

Surprisingly, Dean goes along fairly quickly, which I didn’t expect. I had a little trouble with that instant capitulation, much like the scene in the tunnels in Season 13 when Dean tries to go after an in-peril Sam and Cas stops him. Dean seemed a little too easy to convince here too. However, Cas does have a point, so maybe Dean just reluctantly agreed. The pacing (or the editing?) was wonky in this episode, so perhaps some things that were meant to be conveyed just didn’t come through.

Back to the casino (isn’t it interesting that Chuck has taken up residence at a casino? He loves rolling the dice and playing the odds, especially when it’s with other people’s lives.)

Chuck does a lot of dialoguing in this episode, which Rob Benedict pulls off quite well. He decides to dig out the god bullet in Sam’s shoulder that he realizes is keeping him weak, but hesitates. (I at first thought it was because it would hurt Chuck too, because isn’t that exactly what we’ve been told in canon? But no, that’s apparently been discarded, because Chuck calmly plays guitar while Sam has a knife dug into him). For some reason, Sam thinks it would be a good idea to taunt God while he’s holding a knife to him, ridiculing Chuck for not being able to get his hands dirty.

Sam: You just like to watch.

Oooh, Sam. Good one. But still not sure it’s a great idea…

Read more

The Last Supernatural Con of the Decade – Jacksonville 2019

 

Jacksonville is a great venue for a con, with the vendor room in a gigantic brightly lit room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I was fortunate to have my friend Christina with me at the vendor table all weekend, along with other friends who stopped by to chat or bring food and a latte or give me a bathroom break. I always leave conventions feeling so warm and fuzzy about this fandom, and this cast, and this show. Maybe because we all knew this was the last con of the decade, there were even more warm and fuzzy feelings than usual – along with some anticipatory sadness, knowing the end of the show is coming.

The con kicked off, as it often does, with a panel by Rachel Miner. Rachel always makes me smile, so it’s a good way to start the day.

One of the things I love most about Rachel is that she’s a bona fide geek, just like so many of us are. She spent a few minutes sorting her colleagues ala Hogwarts.

About Billy Moran?

Rachel and Rob: Slytherin for sure!

Rachel: I’m a big Dr. Who fan. I’d love to be on that crossover. I feel like that’s why we all connect, because I’m such a nerd.

She’d also love to see Meg team up with Rowena.

Fan: Double sassy!

Rachel: Meg and Dean are also alike in some ways. Snarky and afraid of their feelings.

I also love that Rachel is a proud shipper – of Meg and Cas – but also a vehement supporter of ship and let ship (or don’t ship at all).

Rachel: Everyone should ship who you want, but I ship Meg and Cas and in my fanfic version she would never turn on him.

Rachel l had some kind words for Rob and the work he’s doing as Chuck.

Rachel: I think Rob is doing such a great job. We should all be extra nice to him, because he’s still a great guy – he’s just a good actor!

She also had nice things to say about the Supernatural set, and how special it is.

Rachel: I’ve never had that feeling of being taken care of on another set, and that feeling like you’re doing something important, but not self important, as on the set of Supernatural.

She’s also very excited to have Shoshannah Stern back. Shoshannah has written another project for her and Rachel, which is doubly exciting!

On a more serious note, Rachel acknowledged that life is sometimes hard.

Rachel: It’s okay to feel like life is really hard because sometimes it is, and don’t beat yourself up about feeling that. And then you can move on and notice what joy there is right here. It’s work to find that joy, though. It’s not easy. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and also take time to find the joy in even moments that are difficult.

How can you describe the SPNFamily?

Rachel: We take care of each other, and that’s a model for the whole world.

Jason Manns did his traditional “quoncert” next, playing some tunes and answering some questions.

Someone asked him how he got Jared Padalecki to sing on his Christmas CD.

Jason: I was up in Vancouver recording Jense, and Jared was hanging out and I was like, well, you’re here if you want to record a song…no pressure…

Good job, Jason!

Read more