And That’s a Wrap – On Supernatural the Series

It’s taken me two days, after Supernatural finished filming its last episode ever, to sit down and be calm enough to write about it. We knew the day was coming – in fact, we expected it to happen back on May 18. But then the pandemic pushed it back and I think I got lulled into a sense of complacency, as though now that it hadn’t ended in May, maybe it really wouldn’t end at all. All those years of saying “Supernatural will never end” felt prophetic – or maybe I just needed to stay in denial for a while to cope with everything else going on in the world.

Either way, ready or not (not), Supernatural filmed its last scenes on Thursday, September 10, 2020. As I’ve been doing for the past month, here’s a recap of that memorable day, and the few days before, so that we can always remember.

The cast and crew were wonderfully generous in sharing the end of their journey with us, so there were posts all week – often emotional ones, as they dealt with their own feelings of both loss and pride, in making something that became so important to so many. Fandom emotions also ran high, so there were eruptions of fear and sadness and anger spilling out in sometimes unexpected ways or at unsuspecting targets. It was an odd reminder that no community is a utopia – there are always disagreements, in groups and out groups, jockeying for power. Fandom is a group, after all, and that’s what happens in groups. But in the midst of those things, there was also celebration and support and the validation that comes only from someone else really “getting it”.

Michael Rosenbaum’s InsideOfYou podcast aired his chat with Jensen Ackles on Tuesday, taped during the start of his quarantine in Vancouver (when he still had that glorious quarantine hair!)  The podcast and youtube video were a breath of fresh air, as Jensen and Michael reminisced like old friends and Jensen talked about the end of Supernatural. We were all happily distracted from the looming ending for an afternoon, and I was grateful.

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In their chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Jensen and Jared both talked about how the relationships they’ve made through Supernatural are the most important thing the show has given them. Jensen touched on that with Michael too.

Jensen: I’ve got my friendship with Misha. Jared’s got his friendship with Misha. And then Jared and I have our friendship. But then also we have this kind of triangular relationship as well that’s just works. It works in a public form and works in a private form.

And has been one of the main reasons this show has run for 15 seasons. Lightning in a bottle, and I can’t imagine it ever being duplicated.

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He laughed when Michael asked if he’d ever seen Jared cry.

Jensen: Like for real? Oh yeah.

He said they’d seen each other emotional, in fact, which isn’t at all surprising. My guess is there have been some very emotional moments on that set for the past few weeks.

But it wasn’t all serious.

Jensen: Because of the pandemic, there’s some things we can’t do…

Michael: Like you and Jared can’t make out…

Jensen: No no no, that’s happening regardless, we’re hanging our hat on that. Corona or no corona, we’re making out!

We all needed a little levity, that’s for sure.

Misha gave us some bright spots too, recording the video messages to fans that had been purchased as part of the online Creation con. Since they’re all playing it very close to the vest as to what episodes Castiel is part of at the very end, it just felt good to see Misha, especially when he was smiling.

Since he wasn’t there on the last day (we think), Misha also posted his thanks to Eric Kripke. He’s right, the show has changed all of us – but I replied that I hope Misha knows that he too, personally, has unequivocally changed the world. And I have a feeling he’s just getting started!

Some of the conversation between Jensen and Michael, on the other hand, did make me tear up. Michael asked if they thought about continuing the show, and Jensen said yes – something he touched on in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done too.

Jensen: There’s a possibility of, five years down the road, getting the call — hey let’s do a short order action for a streaming network and bring them back for six episodes! I feel like this isn’t the long goodbye right now. This is, “let’s hang this in a closet for now.”

His chapter in the book is called “I’m Proud Of Us”, and that comes through every time he talks about this show, from how hard he and Jared worked from the start to create a tone on the set that was welcoming and never toxic, to the friendships made in the fandom and among the cast. It helps, knowing how proud they all are of what they’ve created.

The next day was the penultimate day of filming, and the posts started to come in early, the crew sharing where they were filming. It was gorgeous, and somehow that felt both very fitting for the end of this beautiful show, and also made it even more emotional. It felt good to know that the actors would film their final scenes surrounded by the beauty of Vancouver, which has been their second home for so long – and which will always be the sights and sounds of the Winchesters’ home.

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We’re SuperNotOkay – Supernatural Begins Filming Its Last Episode!

It’s the weekend, so I’m sitting down to process everything that happened last week on Supernatural and in the Supernatural fandom (before the next promo trailer hits us and renders all of is incapable of coherent thought for a while). This is installment 3 of my series of articles designed to try to experience fully (and document) every bit of this show’s final filming and airing. I’ve watched Supernatural for fifteen years, and been madly in love with it for fourteen of those years (it took me a while to fall, but when I did, I fell hard!)  I’ve documented that love and the show itself in six books and countless interviews and articles – but these articles are a little bit different. These are the last months in which Supernatural and its iconic characters still exist – and the last months in which the SPNFamily interacts in the way it has for fifteen years. I want to remember – and celebrate – the way it is now, and I want to cherish every single moment.

Spoilers ahead but only to the extent that’s been on social media already. I’m keeping speculation to a minimum so far!

Last week Supernatural filmed the rest of its penultimate episode (Inherit the Earth, 15.19) and on Friday they began filming the first day of the LAST episode – the series finale, Carry On.  The cast and crew, hard at work in Vancouver filming the final two episodes, have been wonderfully generous in sharing some of their experience with us, so it’s been another week of almost constant Supernatural content. Which is glorious! That’s one of the things I’m going to miss the most – being able to hop on twitter and see post and post after post about the show I love.

I’m assuming the actors who are there took last weekend for themselves, to prioritize their emotional and physical health – and no doubt supported each other in dealing with the upcoming end of the show – as they’re hopefully doing right now as well. As they returned to filming last Monday, Donald Painchaud from the Sound Department shared a photo of a small group of fans showing their appreciation for 15 years of the show. (Due to pandemic concerns, fans were asked to stay well away from filming, and from all accounts it seems like most did that).

They filmed some of the penultimate episode (15.19) in Cloverdale, at an iconic looking gas station that Jerry Wanek and his brilliant team constructed just for Supernatural. Its name is a shout out to director John Showalter, as the show pays homage to those who have made it special in its last few opportunities to do so. Paul Orazietti, of the Cloverdale Business Association, posted some beautiful photos of the construction – and deconstruction – of the gas station, along with Baby waiting for her close up. I’ve been privileged to watch the ingenious crew of Supernatural at work as they put up sets and take them down, amazed every time at how they work like a well oiled machine and all get along so well. I swear there will never be a cast and crew like this one ever again, together 15 years and like family.

Photos @Paradeguy

Alex Calvert posted a photo from that location with the message “the end has no end,” leaving fans both perplexed and hopeful.

I desperately want to believe you, Alex!

Jared Padalecki’s tweet that day was not quite as optimistic – and turned out to be prescient, because by the end of last week there were MANY tears as the show wrapped its penultimate episode and began filming of its final episode ever, the series finale of Supernatural.

Excuse me as I go grab a tissue from my very depleted box.

Also last week, Misha, Jared and Jensen joined most of their fellow cast members in posting their support of Samantha Smith in her fight against breast cancer, modeling the Rise tee shirts from Stands charity campaign.  We’re all sending so many good wishes your way, Samantha!

Misha’s was fancy – angel wings and all! You can buy a T shirt and donate at shopstands.com.

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Behind the Scenes of The Last Season of Supernatural with Director Richard Speight, Jr.

Richard Speight, Jr. has a birthday coming up, and that has me thinking about a) how long I’ve known him and b) the incredible impact he has had on Supernatural and on the SPNFamily. In our very first conversation, close to 12 years ago, I was impressed with how smart and thoughtful he was. It wasn’t long before he talked about wanting to direct in addition to acting, and I was not a bit surprised when he added that to his repertoire – and kicked ass at it. He’s come a long way from 2014, when producer Jim Michaels posted a photo of Richard shadowing director Tom Wright on the set of Supernatural, going on to direct eleven episodes and to shape the show in significant ways.

I also knew early on that Richard was an excellent writer, because he wrote a chapter for one of my first books, Fan Phenomena Supernatural. When it came time to write my last book on the show that captured my heart as it went into its very last season, I knew I wanted Richard’s voice in that book too. His chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done is, fittingly enough, a conversation between me and him. Like countless other conversations we’ve had over the past twelve years, in hotel restaurants or convention green rooms or in a taxi so he could show me where he’d filmed in San Francisco, his chapter is brimming with insights and a little bit of his trademark humor. In There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Richard also gets serious about this little show that has changed so many lives. The way he describes Supernatural’s legacy, and what makes it so special, makes me tear up a little every time I read it. He gets it. From Richard’s chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done:

The “Supernatural” take on family ain’t the Lifetime version. It’s dark, it’s rough, it’s painful, it’s broken. It may not be a perfect family, but it’s our family. It may not be a perfect world, but it’s our world. And I think the way Sam and Dean and Castiel choose to navigate that world and how they deal with each other along the way is inspirational to a lot of people and will continue to be an inspiration for a very long time.

Richard understands why the SPNFamily is so important, and why the show and its iconic characters will always be with us, which is what that book is all about. He also gets the show itself. That’s why I couldn’t wait to talk to him about the episodes of the show he directed for Season 15, three of which have already aired. In part 2 of my conversation with Richard, he takes us behind the scenes of those three episodes with so many fascinating insights. And maybe makes me a little emotional again as he talks about the upcoming end of this incredible show.

Part 1 of my epic interview with Richard shared insights into his new film Driven, his hilarious podcast with Rob Benedict, and some behind the scenes stories of directing his first episode of Season 15, Proverbs 17:3. I had a few more questions about that episode, because so much about it was SO good, so we pick up there…

L: Switching gears again, another scene I really liked in that episode was with the actress who played Lilith, who was so good – things very quickly go from all serious and horrifying to this poor traumatized girl falling on some antlers and being impaled, to her just getting up and brushing herself off! How challenging was that kind of split second progression?

R: Let me tell you, first off, Steve Yockey wrote a great script. So clever, the miscues were great. It was like my third or fourth Steve Yockey script, so we work together well. We connect on the material, he likes what I do, I like what he does. As we go through and adjust, we’re always on the same page. But I really really think, to pull that moment off, I give massive credit to Anna Grace Barlow. Finding her was finding Nate Torrence for Sully. I cast her off tape, I never met her. She turned in an audition that she shot in the garage during a short film she was doing that was so fantastic. And she came up and just knocked the leather off the walls. She was so good at every scene, from day one. Day one, her first day of shooting, she was confronting Sam and Dean in a parking lot as Lilith and taking the gun. She was already doing heavy hitting stuff right out of the gate. I thought she was incredibly talented. And she got the character. We discussed the character, she got the beats, and she played all that drama for real. Because you don’t get the joke, you don’t enjoy that moment, if you didn’t buy into everything that has happened before that.

L: Yes, and you really did.

R: You believed that she was in distress, you believed that she was a victim in this scenario, that she was in peril and incapable of doing anything to defend herself. And she’s completely distraught by what she’s witnessed and probably damaged for life, and then she stumbles and dies on those antlers and it’s a WTF moment of massive proportion.

L: Massive! She did a great job there and Jared and Jensen did too, with Sam and Dean’s WTF just happened expressions.

R: They did, they played it like the audience should have been too. But Anna Grace did such a good job and when she makes that turn, she’s Lilith the rest of the time. We had such fun crafting that character. To really go into this episode, I started talking to Jerry Wanek about the episode two weeks before we went up there because he read it and he called me and said “Wes Anderson”.

L: Ohhhhh

R: And I said, you had me at Wes. Because he’s like, I’m trying to figure it out, tonally I don’t want you to hang your hat on the set here but if you’re into it, I’ll lean into it and let’s create that vibe of symmetrical sets and straight on angles. And I said, oh absolutely. Then Carrie at the costume center got on board and that’s why Anna Grace Barlow looks like she’s from Moonrise Kingdom.

L: Yesssss

R:  If you go back to the campsite scene, we used plaids and all these things ala that heightened style. I loved that episode so much, and every set was a meal. It was all stylized. The sheriff’s office, very stylized. We used angles that reflected that kind of style – I don’t wanna say an homage because every shot is an homage because you picked it up from somebody at some point – but nonetheless it was a consistent style thing through the whole episode and it was so fun to do. Anna Grace in her little beret and kerchief being super evil was just so phenomenal.

L: That really added to the character being memorable and full of personality.

R: Everything she does previous to that scene – when she did that hospital scene and expressed her fear to Dean and in the hotel room telling him she doesn’t know what she’ll do now because her friends are all dead? That scene rips your heart out.

L: Yes, you have no idea at the time.

R:  She was shaggin’ flies with every take. Everything was a great take by her, so she gave so many options and choices. And when she went dark, she went dark so well. She was a fantastic villainess. In many ways, I wish it was Season 5 instead of Season 15, because I think we would have seen her many more times.

L: My favorite moment was when she asks them to give her the gun, and Dean says, “the Equalizer?” and she just deadpans “I’m not gonna call it that.” I laughed out loud.

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Supernatural ‘Destiny’s Child’ – Some Fun and Some Tears Before A Last Hiatus

I honestly did not think it was possible to be even MORE emotional and off balance while watching the last episodes of Supernatural – but for this week’s episode, that turned out not to be true. Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic and in the last eight episodes of the series, we learned shortly before the new episode aired that it would be the last one to air for an indeterminate amount of time.

Showrunner Andrew Dabb broke the news, saying that while they had filmed through episode 18 of 20, the post production was only finished through this week’s episode, 15.13. So Monday’s episode, Destiny’s Child, will be the last episode of Supernatural to air in its regular planned manner. The last one perhaps to air in this season, with no clue when it will be safe to finish the ones that are filmed or to film the ones that are not. Dabb, along with producer Jim Michaels and Misha Collins by video yesterday, did reassure the stunned fandom that they would, at some point, return to “finish what we started.”

A fandom that was already dealing with a lot is now dealing with a lot more! All those things made watching this week’s episode a different experience than it usually is for me. I was incredibly grateful to HAVE a new episode to watch, to pull me out of that always lurking anxiety that keeps threatening to overwhelm me, and to give me a healthy and welcomed escape for an hour. Supernatural has been both an inspiration and a healthy escape for me for going on fifteen years, and once again, I was acutely aware that I need it more than ever. There was a little bit of panic at the thought of not having it anymore as we go through this very difficult time in isolation, I’m not gonna lie. New episodes are all encompassing for me in a way that rewatching old episodes is not, though rewatches are definitely going to be part of my plan going forward!

Destiny’s Child was a mixed bag, as pretty much of all Season 15 has been, but there were quite a few parts that I thoroughly enjoyed – enough to pull me out of the present reality and make me forget for some precious minutes that we’re living in a real life apocalypse! I’m so grateful for that.

So, let’s wade in. The THEN included both Rachel Miner as Meg and Gen Padalecki as Ruby. The entire fandom knew that Gen and Danneel would be in this episode thanks to tons of promotion, but huh, why was Meg in there? I was not spoiled for that return at the start of the episode, so I just filed it away as maybe. I adore Rachel Miner and have wanted her to be back for a while. Also there was a whole helluva lot of pizza in the THEN, which made me kinda hungry. (That’s a good sign that you don’t have COVID19, so yay)

As the episode begins, Sam and Dean are startled out of doing research by a weird noise, so they run down the hall to see what’s going on. As they open the door to the Armory, a bright flash of light appears, and then a lovely little Fiat. And Savage Garden’s “I Want You” starts to play!

This is an idiosyncratic detour, but I LOVE that song and it is, for me, a Supernatural song. That’s because it was the music to one of the very first Supernatural fan vids that I discovered when I first fell down the rabbit hole of loving the show way back circa 2006. I had a youtube playlist of maybe 20 videos that I used to watch over and over and over, and that was one of them. (As I recall, it was pretty much still photos of Jensen Ackles that someone had collected and put to music. As you do.)

I sat there grinning happily at just the music cue, and then it got better. Close shot of one sockless ankle in a snazzy shoe stepping out of the Fiat; close shot of yet another snazzy shoe stepping out of the other side. Pull back to AU Sam and Dean from another universe (which we were all also spoiled for but I didn’t even care because I was just GIMME!)

AUSam to AUDean: Bro, we did it!

The two fist bump – which made me grin even more because that’s what Jared and Jensen do after every joint convention panel they do in real life, so it seemed like a little meta nod.

Actual Sam: Dean?

AUDean: Sam?

Actual Dean: Sam?

AUSam: Dean?

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It was a Rocky Horror Picture Show moment, so I expected a “Rocky?” “Uh” but honestly, it was just a wonderful little moment thanks to the comedic talents of both these actors.

Actual Winchesters: What the hell?

AU Winchesters simultaneously: What the heck?

Then poof, they’re gone.

Me: Noooooooooooooooooo bring them back!

I have a conflicted relationship with the writers of this episode (Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner), who have written some things that make me furious but who also have written some solid episodes – or parts of episodes. This scene and its dialogue were A+, so credit where it’s due. (That won’t be the case for all of the episode, alas). But I’m all for what some of my timeline was calling the “Fancychesters”.

Sam and Dean run off to tell Castiel, who responds with a very understandable response: I’m not understanding you.

One of the things I loved about this episode was that it gave the cast the opportunity to really show off their considerable gifts for subtle humor. Misha Collins, in just that one line, made me laugh out loud. They are all SO good at it, with their facial expressions and delivery. And credit too for the writing that gives them the chance.

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Supernatural Returns For Its Final Run with Galaxy Brain 15.12

 

I’m in an entirely new headspace for watching the last episodes of Supernatural, which is making writing a recap and review an entirely new challenge. There’s a big part of me that just wants to watch and drink it up, absorb every last morsel of experience with my favorite fictional characters and savor it, no matter what. I am acutely aware, every single second that I’m watching, that my last minutes with the Winchesters and company are ticking down. The other part of me is aware of the same thing but reacts instead with “omg please don’t waste a single moment of these last minutes!” That part is more likely to get frustrated when it seems like those precious moments are indeed wasted.

That’s complex enough, but I am also acutely aware that there are competing motivations here. As a fan, I want the last eight episodes to be satisfying – to continue the story that has meant so much to me and to wrap it up in a way that makes sense and honors the characters I love. For the people who actually make the show – the cast, the crew, and the writers – the motivation is different; more personal, more idiosyncratic. I value the fictional story and characters; they value their workplace and their colleagues and perhaps their legacy with this show. I’m most concerned about wrapping the story; they may be most concerned about saying goodbye to friends and coworkers, or about wrapping their own part of the story instead of the holistic one. Nobody is right or wrong, but it means we’re going to want different things and respond to things differently as we head toward the end.

And as if all that wasn’t complex enough, COVID19 has changed the entire landscape of the world and made Supernatural ending even more emotional than it already was – and much more complicated. Some days, it seems like the world is crumbling around us, and I realize that I need Supernatural more than ever. Yes, I know it’s “just a television show”, but it has been a lifeline for many fans for a decade and a half. I don’t know when we’ve ever needed that lifeline more than right now, in the grip of a global pandemic that is attacking people’s health, safety and livelihoods. When this beloved show is gone, the world will seem that much colder and scarier. I think we’ll make sure the lifeline is still there in terms of the fan community and continuing to engage with the cast in whatever they’re doing, but we won’t have the ongoing story itself to immerse ourselves in. That just means my emotions are running higher than ever about Supernatural ending!

And finally, the ending itself is all up in the air right now. Filming was suspended at the end of last week, as it had just begun on the penultimate (I know, nobody says penultimate…) episode, 15.19. The last one to finish filming was 15.18, which likely left us in a cliffhanger situation without an end. Yesterday producer Jim Michaels reassured a worried fandom that once it was safe to resume, they would “finish what we started” but the uncertainty just adds to the anxiety of impending loss. Will the crew who has been a part of this family since the start be able to be there to resume too? I’m trying to take heart from what Michaels said and not worry, but it seems like worry is a lot of what I’m doing right now!

That said, I was glad to have Supernatural return on Monday night with episode 15.12, Galaxy Brain, written by Robert Berens and Meredith Glynn, and directed by Richard Speight, Jr. It wasn’t a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your seat episode by any means, but its last scene did set up the foundation for how the rest of the series will go. I didn’t jump up and down and scream about how much I love this show as I was watching, but it had its moments that were satisfying – as well as a few head scratchers.  Mostly, it made me aware that we all participate in this show for different reasons and have different motivations, so for some, this episode satisfied, and for others, it frustrated.

I had a few emotional moments, so I always count that as a win.

Rob Benedict returns as Chuck on ‘Earth 2’ as the episode begins, in a Radio Shed with a hapless and very relatable employee trying to sell him a universal remote. I had to laugh at how right they got it, memories of once-beloved Radio Shack stores making me all kinds of nostalgic.

I enjoyed the nod to Rob’s actual band, Louden Swain, as one of their songs plays in the store – with a lyric that includes “I had a dream that I ate your heart” that is just too perfect considering Jack’s charge from Billie this season. In fact, the fake store was so well done by Jerry Wanek and his amazing crew that director Richard Speight, Jr. tweeted that a few people came in off the street to try to buy a phone!

Chuck then goes full on meta – a little too on the nose for me at this point, even though I usually enjoy the meta. I enjoy it less now that we have so little time – I just want episodes that focus on saving people, hunting things, the family business. And I find myself wanting to stay ‘in the story’ more, knowing I have so little of it left.

Chuck: It’s monologue time.

Me: Okay, Show. We get it.

Employee: Sir, this is a Radio Shed.

That was one of the best lines in the episode and it made me laugh out loud. Kudos to Nicco DelRio for that delivery and Speight’s directing.

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