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!

Ten Things The Hillywood Show Got Right with Supernatural Parody 2!

I’ve been a fan of the Hillywood Show since I discovered their parody videos with their first Supernatural video several years ago. Hannah and Hilly Hindi, the sisters behind The Hillywood Show, were kind enough to chat with me about that video and to also contribute some insights to the documentary film on fandom I co-wrote, Squee! I’ve been eagerly awaiting their second Supernatural parody with high expectations, but the reality surpassed them when it was released last week – Supernatural Parody 2 is a loving tribute to the show, its amazing cast, and its incredible fandom. As I took some notes on why I was enjoying it so much, I realized it’s because once again, they totally got it right – even for someone like me, who adores Supernatural and has written five books on the show and the fandom!

I was at the Supernatural convention in Denver last weekend, and there was quite a bit of talk about the new parody, which both fans and Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles had high praise for. Jensen in particular was impressed with the production value and the professionalism of the set and the shoot, and especially with the realistic proton packs that he and Jared got to wear – they sometimes had to take them off between takes because Jared kept bumping into the door and other things. Jensen seemed excited that the blasters really worked too, which I think means they were having a lot of fun playing with them! I shared those reactions with Hannah and Hilly when we chatted.

Hilly: He did keep bumping into the door, we can confirm that one. Hannah: I just know that Jared really likes to push buttons!

Lynn: Boys…

Hilly: The pack, though, really was the coolest toy. They were like the real deal, so it’s the ultimate toy and Jared was like, yes! I could just see his eyes light up.

[There’s a great moment on the behind the scenes feature where Osric shows Jensen how to pull out his blaster, and he does. Then Jared pulls out his, with significantly more flourish, and Osric grins and whispers to the camera.

Osric: The gentle giant…

Jared makes the blaster light up and then asks, with his eyes all hopefully lit up, “do you want this on?”

Hilly: No, cuz that means you’re killing us…]

I laughed out loud at that.

Cap sabalovesdean

Hilly: We haven’t been able to talk about it or hear from them since the shoot. They asked, “When can we mention it?” I told them you can’t until the video is out. So, weeks down the road now, it’s really cool to hear them talk about it.

Lynn: They definitely enjoyed it. So, after thinking about this a bit, I’ve identified ten things you got very right. I’m gonna go through them one by one, and you can comment, okay?

Number 1. One of the things that makes your parodies so brilliant and so loved by fans is that you really GET the show you’re parodying, maybe Supernatural more than even the other shows you’ve parodied. You were able to reproduce the show itself with the level of detail that fandom relishes – the kitchen set from Changing Channels, the library in the Men of Letters bunker, the proton packs with Dean’s little army man and the Colt and Sam’s with Ruby’s knife. Some of the scenes looked so eerily similar, like that iconic moment when Dean fires the Colt and kills Azazel in slow motion. How do you decide what scenes and what details to include and how much detail to put into it? It must take so much time!

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Back To Where It All Began – Supernatural Chicago Con 2018!

 

Chicago Con is always special, because it was my very first Supernatural Creation con. That was now over ten years ago, which is kinda hard to believe because it seems like a second ago, and yet it also seems like a long long time ago. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same. I’m incredibly grateful that so many of the people I met at that very first con – on both sides of the stage – are still there. It says something about the loyalty of both the fans and the cast to this show that continues to inspire us. And more than ten years of cons later? That’s pretty special.

Rob hosted Friday, since Richard was up in Vancouver preparing to direct Supernatural.

Rob: Richard’s not here because he’s in Vancouver directing Supernatural. Which is kinda fun, because I get to tell you that guess what? I love Perth!

The audience roared at the long-standing in joke.

Rob reminisced about doing his very first Supernatural convention right here in Chicago – immediately after filming the convention episode of the show! I still remember how blown away he was that day. He kept exclaiming, “this is so weird, this is so weird”. It was all kinds of adorable. And I love that Rob and Rich are two of the people who can look back on so many years of cons, and on their evolution from simply guest performers doing one panel to the linchpins of the entire convention weekend. I’m 100% sure that one of the reasons the cons have continued for so long is because Richard Speight Jr. is the consummate host and Rob Benedict and Louden Swain are the most kickass “house band” you could ever wish for.

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ALL the Scoop on Supernatural at Comic Con 2018 – Part Two with Exclusive Video Interviews!

 

After thoroughly enjoying the Supernatural panel in Hall H (see part one of my epic Comic Con report here – Part One) we had an hour to rush to the press area and download some photos and eat a hot dog (you eat WAY too many hot dogs at Comic Con, just saying…). Then it was off to the Hilton Bayfront for the Supernatural press room. This is my second year in the press room, so I wasn’t quite as nervous about my technology failing me (though it did…) and more able to just enjoy the chance to chat with everyone. We had a great table of press, some of whom I already knew, and everyone had great questions. Press rooms can be stressful things, since there’s a very limited amount of time and no guarantee that every cast member will get to your table – which means I actually did get anxious anyway. But big kudos to Warner Brothers’ Holly Ollis and Nikki Calderon, who managed to make sure that every single table got some time with every single one of the cast and producers. Phew!

Executive producer and showrunner Bob Singer was the first to come to our table – which is why I was so nervous I didn’t even manage to take a picture of him!

Our table asked what he could tease about Season 14?

Bob: Oh nothing, we have strict instructions…

We laughed, but he relented.

Bob:  I think Season 14 is gonna be a little less broad in scope and a little more emotional, with more personal stories about the guys. We’ll look at what Jack’s going through with losing his powers, and if and when Dean comes back from Michael, what it will be like with his relationship with Sam. We also have a lot of fan favorites who will be back – Bobby, Charlie.  I think it will be a little more low key but it will still be Supernatural, just more personal and emotional.

(That literally had me bouncing with happiness because yay for more personal and emotional! Okay, maybe not literally bouncing, but it was a near thing)

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