In The Middle of Sociopolitical Turmoil: Here Comes Supernatural!

This has been a hell of a week. The US election happened on Tuesday and Americans (and most of the rest of the world) waited through constant anxiety attacks to find out who won as results trickled in. Everyone was on edge, tensions were high, and I really needed my number one comfort show, Supernatural. On Thursday, the third to last Supernatural episode ever aired in the midst of all this uncertainty and anxiety – an episode ominously titled ‘Despair’. True to Supernatural form, its third to last episode aired in the middle of unprecedented chaos and caused even more chaos, both in the fandom and more broadly in terms of anyone watching trending topics that night. In fact, #Supernatural not only trended, but #Destiel and #Putin trended – often in the same tweets. Who the hell had that one on their 2020 bingo card??

As Supernatural ends its run, it’s no longer the major player on Tumblr that it once was, but on Thursday all those 2012 Supernatural accounts rose from the dead en masse to comment on whether or not “Destiel Is Canon” with a mind blowing range of unironic celebration posts alongside an equally mind blowing array of shitposts and hilarious memes  making fun of the show for how that possibility played out. I admit I never thought that if Supernatural once again ruled Tumblr memes, it would be for making fun of a scene that was the opposite of intended to be funny.

But it’s been that kind of a week. I have mixed feelings all over the place that I still haven’t sorted out and the US Presidential election was just decided after 987 years, so I’m not likely to sort them out any time soon. Instead, I’ll try to dig into the entire episode, not just those three minutes, and see where it brought us, for better or worse.

The episode picks up right where 15.17 left off, Sam helping an injured Jack. Jack tells them all to leave him, for their own good.

Jack: I don’t wanna hurt you, don’t let me hurt you…

Alex Calvert is so good at making me feel for Jack, that plaintive ‘don’t let me hurt you’ going right to my heart. Dean has changed his tune completely, insisting passionately that they’re not gonna give up on him. Poor Dean must have whiplash with how the writers keep making him change his tune so often.

Billie appears, blaming them for her plan not working and then zapping Jack out of there to the Empty.

Which means we get to see Rachel Miner again, so yay. Jack promptly explodes, though, so boo. The explosion wakes everything up and makes a lot of noise and totally pisses it off. Enraged, the Empty attacks Jack, crushing his head.

Poor Jack, he’s been through a lot in the last two minutes.

Billie gives us some exposition about the Empty being pissed at her too for sending an explosive Jack there, and reminds us that the Empty can’t come to Earth unless it is summoned, which we already knew. And Sam reminds us what we figured out last week about Billie’s plan – that anyone who was resurrected will die, including Sam and Dean. Billie also is pissed that Sam took the God book and wants it back, refusing to return the maybe still alive Jack until Sam gives it to her. Sam finally goes to get it; instead of putting it in her outstretched hand, he drops it on the table instead. Sassy, Sam.

Billie underestimates the Winchesters for some reason and walks away to read the new portion of the God book, her scythe left behind and her back to the Winchesters. She zaps Jack back to them but insists he’s coming with her, since he’s still “useful”, and that’s when Dean has had enough. He grabs her scythe and attacks her, injuring her. She zaps herself out of there, leaving Jack (and her scythe) behind.

Lisa Berry can be very scary indeed and she proves it in this episode, telling the reapers in her library when she returns, clutching her shoulder, that “the plan has changed.”

Uh oh.

That night, neither of the Winchesters can sleep. Dean drinks in the dark, and Sam joins him.

Dean slides a glass and the bottle to his brother and they settle in, mirror images of each other. It’s a beautifully filmed scene from director Richard Speight, Jr. but melancholy as hell.

Dean: Sam, I’m sorry…about everything.

Sam: Dean, you don’t have to…

Dean: I pulled a gun on you! I couldn’t stop… we were so close to beating him… I couldn’t snap out of it.

Sam: Yeah, well, you did. And you’ve snapped me out of worse.

Dean: Mmm

Sam: You have.

Gifs jaredandjensen

Sam is hanging onto hope for both of them, saying they’ll regroup. Somehow.

Dean raises his glass.

Dean: To somehow.

They clink glasses, drink together in the dark.

Read more

Supernatural ‘Unity’ Brings The Team Together – For The End!

Three more episodes of Supernatural to go before the show comes to an end, so my highly emotional investment in every episode continues. Everyone is different in their way of coping with the show ending – some are pulling away, trying to protect themselves from the impending loss. Some are more invested than ever, determined to savor every last moment with their favorite characters. Some are just trying to hang on until the end. I’m clearly doing a terrible job of protecting myself or pulling away, since near the end of this episode I ended up bursting into tears and simultaneously screaming at fictional characters on my television as though they were standing in my living room. With gun drawn.

I’ve never loved a show that I knew so well that I had different expectations for an episode depending on who its writers were – until Supernatural. I like Meredith Glynn’s writing a lot, so I was already emotional knowing this was her swan song episode for Supernatural (though I’m excited she’s joining the SPNFamily who are over at The Boys next season!) Of course it’s not the writer who decides where the story arc goes, though, especially at this point in the series. I guess all that is to say I went into this episode with both anticipation and trepidation – and came out with a lot of feelings (and also profoundly emotionally exhausted). Mostly the episode worked for me, even if I had to do a fair amount of thinking about it to be okay with all of it. But I used up a lot of tissues in the process.

The episode title (“Unity”) tells us what will happen in it, which was inevitable considering there are only three episodes left. On each side, those who were ostensibly on the same team but at odds needed to come together so we could go into those final episodes with the battle lines clearly drawn. Sometimes that means plot comes before character in order to get from Point A to Point B, and that never makes me the happiest, especially with a show that I watch for the characters more than for the plot. Ideally the two goals aren’t antithetical. So with the title, we already knew where we were headed – it was just a matter of how to get there and would I enjoy the ride?

The first scene was very pretty. Amara in a pool in Iceland (which according to Emily Swallow was filmed in frigid weather, so argh poor Emily). Shooting stars fill the sky, reflected in her eyes as she looks up, and she says softly, “Welcome home, brother.”

Supernatural really is a sibling story, and Amara’s feelings for Chuck are as deep and complicated as Sam and Dean’s for each other. She’s a sympathetic character in this episode, which made me feel very bad for her throughout.

Much of the episode unfolds simultaneously, so they used chapter title cards of ‘Dean’ ‘Sam’ and ‘Amara’ to let us know that – which hasn’t been done before, so it pulled me out of the story momentarily. I don’t think we needed them, but I guess I see what they were going for.

At the bunker, Sam calls Cas, both of them frustrated at running into dead ends as they desperately try to ‘find another way’. Sam gives Dean the cold shoulder, things between the brothers strained and chilly after their car argument last episode.

Dean: So this is how it’s gonna be, you giving me the silent treatment?

They fall right into another argument, Dean insisting that “this is the only way” and Sam snapping back, “Don’t you ever get tired of saying stuff like that? Our last chance, our one shot…”

He’s so angry he’s ridiculing Dean, making fun of him for his sincerity and insistence.

Although both have a point here,  really, since other times when they’ve let themselves be talked out of making a sacrifice, there have certainly been consequences, whether AU hunters being slaughtered by Michael or releasing the Darkness or Billie becoming Death or whatever. There are no simple answers on Supernatural.

Dean insists that they don’t have to like it – and he clearly doesn’t like it –  but “you and me, we gotta get it done.”

The “you and me” theme runs through the episode, for both pairs of siblings, as they struggle to get back on the same page. I really like Meredith’s examination of the bond between siblings and how deep it runs, and how complex it can be – something the show has always had as an underlying theme.

Amara interrupts their argument to let them know Chuck is back, and to ask how they’re planning to cage him (which of course, they aren’t.)

Amara: When God caged me, he had four archangels. Do you have four archangels?

Dean: No. We’ve got one Jack.

It was possibly the only humorous beat in the episode that made me snicker – much of the episode was more about reaching for the tissues than laughing. Emily Swallow can pull off both the snarky and the sad, and she does both in this episode.

Read more

It’s Gonna Take A lot To Drag Me Away (From Supernatural)

I love the title of this episode (thank you, writer Meghan Fitzmartin). In fact, I’m listening to Toto right now as I write this review. ‘Africa’, the lyrics of which inspired this episode’s title, is a pop culture phenomenon, but it’s also special to the Supernatural fandom, and nobody knows that better than Meghan. It’s so special that I broke my ‘don’t let yourself get onstage for karaoke at a Supernatural con’ rule and joined my friend Alana and her cousin for our karaoke version of Africa along with Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Matt Cohen and Richard Speight, Jr. – who were all dumbfounded that I was up there doing it. That’s the power this song has over me! Chris Schmelke plays it in photo ops regularly, and I’ve witnessed all sorts of people succumbing to its power, including Jared and Jensen and impromptu waltzes. After ‘Carry On’, it’s one of the songs that is most reminiscent of this wild ride I’ve been on for fifteen years with this show, and it’s always going to bring both smiles and tears every time I hear it. So thank you, Meghan.

This was one of those episodes that kicked up a lot of divergent opinions in the fandom – some people loved it, some people hated it, and a lot of people had conflicting emotions. You can probably guess that I’m one of them, as this show often leaves me feeling that way recently. There was a lot I enjoyed, and then there were a few things that drove me crazy.

I’m glad we got one more flashback episode, because frankly I could watch Weechesters for an entire spinoff tv series and be ecstatic about that. Amyn Kaderali always does a great job directing this show, and he did so here, setting up some truly scary moments while at the same time showcasing Jerry Wanek’s iconic motel décor beautifully.

There were scenes I loved and dialogue I loved. There were also a few things that made me jump up and down and start yelling at my tv screen, which is never a good sign when I’m watching Supernatural. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – every episode matters now. Every scene, every interaction, every moment, matters now. We have FOUR episodes left. Once again, that makes me cherish just having time with the Winchesters, but also grow frustrated quickly when something doesn’t quite work. Let me start from the beginning, which happens to be in the present.

The Rooster’s Sunrise Motel is quintessential Supernatural. “If I Didn’t Care” plays as adult Travis (Ryan Alexander McDonald) checks into a particular room – 214. Interesting song choice – If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be trying to get past this trauma? If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t lie to you to try to protect you?  There are a lot of options.

Anyway, the opening scene was scary as hell, Travis trying to talk himself into being calm and facing his fears, while we see the closet door slowly opening behind him. AAHHHH!!! A ghostly kid taunts and attacks him. Poor Travis.

Read more

Matt Cohen Directs! Supernatural’s Gimme Shelter

This was a noteworthy episode for a number of reasons. A) There are now only five episodes of Supernatural left, so EVERY episode is noteworthy.

B) This is Matt Cohen’s first time directing an episode of the show that has impacted his life so much. Matt has memorably played young John Winchester and the archangel Michael on the show over multiple episodes and seasons, and he’s been a beloved fixture at the Supernatural conventions for almost a decade. Matt wrote a very personal chapter about how his experience on the show changed his life in Family Don’t End With Blood, so I know how important the SPNFamily is to him and I’m beyond thrilled that he got to direct an episode before the show ended. It’s a testament to how much the cast and crew and everyone involved love him, and a vote of confidence in his substantial talent. So proud of you, Matt!

And C) This is Davy Perez’s last episode of Supernatural. Davy is one of my favorite writers, and the only writer to contribute a chapter to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, about what this show and this fandom has meant to him personally, so he has a special place in my heart. I’m genuinely sad that I won’t hear his evocative words from Sam or Dean or Cas ever again.

I knew these last episodes would be emotionally fraught for me, but I’m not sure I could have anticipated just what that would mean. I didn’t know that there would be an incredible media blitz around the show’s end run, which has been both heady and wonderful and also made the sadness of losing the show somehow even more poignant. It IS this special, and some of us have known that for a very long time. Now it seems like the rest of the world has caught up, only for the show to be ending. I’m thrilled that Rolling Stone and Glamour and CNN and so many other publications are covering the show now, but I’m also a little bit like, where were you a decade ago?

All that is to say that I’m going into these last episodes with a lot of mixed feelings. I desperately want to just cherish and enjoy every minute of what we have left, and at the same time, I desperately want these last episodes to be GOOD. There’s no time left to waste time, and it’s a lot harder to hand wave and say well that one wasn’t my favorite, but maybe the next one will be. That’s a lot of pressure to put on the little show – or, more accurately, that’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and my own expectations. The show is filmed and done and it is what it is, and I’m very aware of that. Now it’s on all of us to draw from it what we can – but damn it, I really hope it’s going to go out in a way that everyone can be proud of!

I did like quite a bit of this episode, which had some of Davy’s emotionally genuine dialogue and which showcased Matt as a director who knows how to get the best performances from his cast – maybe especially because he knows them and they trust him. There were some scenes that were incredibly beautiful, which is something that I think we saw more often in the early seasons, and something that made me fall in love with the show. There were also some scenes that made me tear up unexpectedly because they just rang true, and in each case the actor inhabiting the character was clearly feeling that too. Good job, director Matt!

Like the best Supernatural episodes, there was a fair amount of humor, and Cohen managed to mix that in organically with the grab-the-tissues scenes and the scary/gory/horror movie vibe that is also quintessential Supernatural. I also felt like the episode moved the story ahead, with some reveals and some hints of what’s to come next, so that was satisfying.

This was a Cas and Jack heavy episode, and I thought both of their story lines worked well – and that both Misha Collins and Alex Calvert nailed their characters’ emotional journeys perfectly. The confrontation between Dean and Amara also was outstanding, with Jensen and Emily Swallow making me believe every second of it. The fact that I haven’t mentioned Sam yet is my biggest problem with the episode – I don’t have a very good idea of where Sam’s head (or heart) is at right now during the events of this episode, and I want to!  Especially now, with five episodes to go, I need to know exactly what’s up with the Winchesters every step of the way.

I just finished my customary rewatch, and here are the things I liked and the couple of things I questioned. The opening scene delighted me more than usual, not because of anything that happened, but because I found myself asking out loud, ‘wait, is that Dr. Sexy MD???’

It was! Both Steve Bacic (the pastor) and Nicole Munoz (playing the pastor’s daughter) have been on the show before, so it was nice to see them back. I saw a post shared by my friend Amy Hutton about meeting Steve at an Aussie con. He did a double take when she asked him to sign a photo of the Impala. When she informed him, “But you’re Dr. Sexy MD – you’re iconic!” he was dumbfounded, since he had no idea. He told her how great the guys were and how much fun he’d had doing the episode – and that she’d made his day!

Supernatural really does cast the best people.

Read more

Supernatural Returns with Episode 15.14 Last Holiday

The two days leading up to Supernatural’s return – for the very last time – were a whirlwind the likes of which I have never seen in fifteen years of Supernatural fandom. For years, in the early seasons, the fans spread the word about the show and advertised it as best we could, sending postcards of support and starting online campaigns when the internet was still relatively new. In 2020, after an unexpected hiatus, Supernatural made its triumphant return with dozens of major publications and seemingly every CW local outlet covering the first new episode in six months – and the beginning of the show’s end run. I’ve been writing a weekly wrap up of everything Supernatural related, so I spent two days running between my laptop on which I was teaching my classes to the other laptop where I was frantically trying to keep up with the Supernatural news. I’m exhausted, but it was exhilarating – if someone had told me fifteen years ago that everyone from Variety to CNN would be celebrating this little show, I wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s Supernatural. It’s special.

More on that in my weekly wrap up article, with links to most of the coverage, but for now, I want to talk about the return episode, Jeremy Adams’ Last Holiday, directed by Eduardo Sanchez, who has directed some of my favorite episodes.

I really really enjoyed some of this episode, and part of me wants to just wallow in that joyful celebratory portion – just like the Winchesters wanted to do. In the midst of a seemingly endless pandemic, without our favorite show, I think we all desperately needed a feel-good episode, and I’m incredibly grateful that we got part of one at least. It felt so good to see Sam and Dean smile and laugh and enjoy their lives. They have had so little of that, their entire lifetimes, and they so richly deserve some happiness. Jack, in his short time alive, has had very little of that too.  So, while we knew from the start that things would inevitably go south, I enjoyed every moment of Mrs. Butters taking care of ‘her boys’. And Meagen Fay was awesome.

The THEN segment reminds us that the Men of Letters weren’t all good guys, especially the problematic Cuthbert Sinclair. Jeremy Adams has said that he wanted to dig into the MoL history a little before the show wraps, so this episode did some of that. Though, as we all know, sometimes when you dig into things you don’t like what you find…

We get some lovely domestic Winchesters to start, Sam researching and Dean coming up from the kitchen, be-aproned.

Sam: What’s with the apron?

Dean: Burgers!

Unfortunately the power, the water, and eventually the air conditioning aren’t working right, so the boys go downstairs to fix the pipes. Oddly, they don’t seem to be very familiar with the control panels etc., which I find hard to believe. Yes, they’ve been busy, but who decides to live in an underground bunker without thoroughly exploring it and making sure you know how to keep it running? Dean especially is mechanically inclined, so his cluelessness is a little annoying. His impulsivity is more Dean-like, I guess, as he hits the giant Reset button while Sam expresses his doubts about that being a good idea.

Everything seems fine until Dean returns to his room with his burger and finds an older woman folding his Scooby Doo boxers (a little shout out to Jeremy’s first Supernatural episode)

Dean: SAM!!

They meet the wood nymph folding Dean’s “underthings”, Mrs. Butters.

Dean: Uh, then shouldn’t you be in the woods?

Sam: Underthings?

It’s the little things that make me smile.

Read more