In Memory of Kathy Larsen, With Love

This is not an article that I ever wanted to write – or that I ever, in a million years, imagined myself writing. But I want to say something about the friend that I lost this week, and remember just how special Kathy Larsen was.

I met Kathy through fandom. In fact, she was one of the first people I met through fandom, shortly after I discovered that online fandom was even a thing that exists. We were part of a small listserv, passionate about some of the same rather obscure things – a movie, a band, an actor that not many people had even heard of – and fangirled each other’s writing immediately. Kathy was a brilliant writer, whether it was fiction or nonfiction. She could make you laugh, pull you into a mystery, or absolutely gut you with a tragic ending. She could explain concepts that were difficult to grasp in a way that never felt like talking down to anyone, which I’m sure her students appreciated too.

Once we found out we lived only a few hours from each other, we started driving that two hours often, especially when we fell down the rabbit hole of loving a new thing – a relatively unknown little TV show on the WB called ‘Supernatural’.

Along with two friends, we fell in love with Supernatural together, and became fascinated by the close-knit community we found in that show’s fandom. At the same time, we questioned whether it was really okay for us to be quite so far down the rabbit hole. We were professors, professionals, partners, parents. Was it really okay for us to spend so much time and energy loving a TV show? Maybe because we were both professors and accustomed to research, or maybe because we just needed to prove to ourselves that it WAS okay, Kathy and I set out to find the answer. We would write a book, we decided, that set the record straight about fans and fandom, and especially fangirls. We’d examine it from our somewhat diverse perspectives, me as a psychologist and her as an English professor. But to do that, we reasoned, we needed to dive into Supernatural fandom head first and not look back – and that’s exactly what we did.

We flew across the country on almost no notice to see Jensen Ackles on stage in Fort Worth for A Few Good Men, leaving partners and kids a bit stunned. Especially when we decided one performance was not enough. The personality differences between me and Kathy made our fangirl adventures quite a contrast, and occasionally hilarious. We met Jared Padalecki (who had flown in to see his friend in the production) in the lobby candy line. I marched right up to say hello; Kathy opted not to budge from her spot in the corner and watched from a safe distance.

We needed some margaritas after with our friend Amy.

We flew across the country again all the way to LA for the premiere of the Ackles-laden indie film Ten Inch Hero (starring both Jensen and Danneel).  I managed to tell Danneel how much I loved the film while Kathy once again watched supportively from across the room.

But in other things, Kathy was fearless. We rented a PT Cruiser, figured out how to drive it (mostly) and drove down to San Diego to experience Comic Con and the Supernatural panel for the very first time.

Kathy drove.

Driver picked the music.

Shotgun shut her cakehole (and enthusiastically sang along to the classic rock and a little Steve Carlson).

With our friend Sabrina

Comic Con was eventful. We finally met Jensen Ackles.

I cried.

Kathy watched supportively from ten yards away and then hugged me and patted me until I calmed down.

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Sam Learns the Truth (and has a VERY Close Call) in Supernatural Season 2’s ‘Hunted’

This episode was written by Raelle Tucker, who I really wish had stuck around longer, and directed by Rachel Talalay, one of the first women to direct Supernatural. And they both did an amazing job! Also special shout out to the music cues that make the episode haunting and creepy, as much as its subject matter does.

The THEN reminds us that the Winchesters are still out there saving people, hunting things. That John Winchester knew the truth about Sammy and didn’t tell his sons. That he whispered something to Dean before he died and Dean lied about it. That Sam knows the demon said he has plans for Sam and other children like him. Like Max, like the ‘others’….

I love the huge mystery that the show was spooling out at the time, leaving me always feeling like I was on the edge of my seat desperately wanting to know what the hell was going on, and knowing that my boys were right at the center of it. It was so compelling, it’s no wonder I fell so hard for this show!

NOW…

The opening is a gut punch right away, a psychiatrist talking to his patient, a young man who’s hesitant to confide in the doctor about what he refers to as his ‘ability’.

Scott: When I touch something…I can electrocute it, if I want.

As if that isn’t chilling enough, he gives an example – the neighbor’s cat.

Scott: Its insides fried up like a hamburger.

The haunting sounds of ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane play in the background as Scott tells his disturbing tale, “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…”

Scott knows the doc doesn’t believe him, and holds his hand out ominously.

Scott: Wanna shake on it?

I think I started screaming NOOOOO don’t do it the first time I saw this, as the doctor calmly asks why he wanted to kill the neighbor’s cat, but Scott says he didn’t – that “he” wants him to.

Doc: Who?

Scott: The yellow eyed man. He comes to me in my dreams… he has plans for me…

Everyone watching: OHMYGOD

I can’t even describe now, almost 15 years later, how chilling that reveal was. How just the words “yellow eyed man” struck fear into our hearts as viewers, because we knew Sam and Dean were in serious danger and we didn’t yet know just what it meant.

Scott leaves the doctor’s office and walks out into the dark, clouds of mist hanging over the deserted street as he rushes down a hill, hunched over, looking scared.

He looks around, calls out “Hello?” thinking someone’s following him, as the music grows louder and a train rushes overhead. We see the shadow of a man behind him in his car window as he finally gets there and then he’s stabbed, brutally. Blood spills out of his mouth as he dies and it’s brutal, graphic, so much more sinister because of the cinematography and the music and damn this show is so well done.

From that disturbing beginning, we’re back at the iconic fence with the Winchesters, Sam and Dean drinking beer next to the river.

Dean: Before Dad died, he told me something. Something about you.

Sam: What? Dean, what did he tell you?

Dean: He said that he wanted me to watch out for you, to take care of you…

Sam points out that their dad said that a million times, but Dean insists this time was different, increasingly agitated as he tries to confide in Sam this burden that he’s been carrying.

Dean: This time was different. He said that I had to save you…that nothing else mattered, and that if I couldn’t, I’d…

He falters, anguished, and Sam presses him, fully aware that this is bad, very bad.

Sam: You’d what, Dean?

Dean is looking at Sam almost begging him to make this all go away, and yet he pushes on, knows he has to come clean to Sam.

Dean: That I’d have to kill you. He said that I might have to kill you, Sammy.

Sam looks as anguished as Dean, the two of them facing off in this beautiful spot over this horrific reveal.

Sam: Kill me?! What the hell is that supposed to mean?

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The Mystery of the ‘Special Children’ Deepens in ‘Simon Said’ – Supernatural Rewatch

The fifth episode of Supernatural’s second season is a Ben Edlund episode, which means it has memorable characters (introducing the adorable Gabriel Tigerman as Andy), dark and disturbing themes, and some laugh out loud moments. Edlund was a perfect fit for Supernatural, because the show combines those kind of things seamlessly – something that not every show can manage.

The recap reminds us of Sam’s visions, and that the Yellow Eyed Demon said he had plans for “me and the children like me”. Sam worrying that he’s some kind of monster is a theme that runs throughout the entire series, and it’s prominent in this episode. Once again, we end with Sam’s question to Dean as they burn their father’s body.

Sam: Did he say anything to you?

Dean: No. Nothin’.

NOW

Close up of that distinctive clock tower that I think is in Delta, because we visited there on one of our Vancouver find-the-location trips. Creepy music plays while a man answers his cell phone, saying “yeah, all right.” He walks along, smiling, and enters a gun shop and asks to look at a gun. The store manager thinks he’s kidding, but shows him one. The guy – ‘Doc’ – proceeds to load it, all the while chuckling and saying not to worry, guns make him nervous.

Manager: No no, you can’t load a gun on the premises, it’s illegal!

Doc: No, it’s okay, it’s okay…

He shoots the man, then turns the gun on himself, still calmly saying “It’s all gonna be okay” as he blows his brains out. Blood splatters, then water’s running.

Sam splashes his face after the vision. Dean walks in on him impatiently, something that doubtless happens all the time.

Dean: C’mon Sam, zip it up.

He stops when he sees the look on Sam’s face.

The Impala zooms through the night as Dean tries to calm Sam down, telling him to chill out and think about this. Sam insists it’s a premonition and could be tied to the demon.

Dean: That’s my point. There will be hunters at the Roadhouse. Announcing you’re some supernatural freak with demonic connections…

Sam: So I’m a freak now?

Dean plays it off as a joke, not wanting to hurt Sam’s feelings or let him see just how worried Dean is after what John said to him.

Dean: You’ve always been a freak.

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Everybody Loves A Clown – Except Sam Winchester (Supernatural Rewatch)

The second episode of Season 2 starts out with a bang – or rather a tick tock tick tock. The haunting lyrics ‘Tick tock tick tock time has come today…’ mark the recap montage and remind us of the great loss that has just happened to the Winchesters. As the ticking of the clock slows down in the song, we hear “Time of death, 10:41 am…” and then the last word of the song, ‘Time.’

Not on the Winchesters’ side.

And then: NOW

In Medford, Wisconsin, kids enjoy an old fashioned fair and carnival that’s come to town, laughing at a sword swallower and fire breather and some clowns.

A very relatable dad: God, I hate clowns, they always creep me out.

All of us watching: SAME.

A young girl (though not young enough to be acting the way she is, actually) sees the creepiest looking clown in the history of ever, and for some unknown reason happily waves back at him. Then it disappears.

I guess I’m glad the show didn’t hire five year old actors to be traumatized for life by being in this episode, but that girl was definitely old enough to realize there is something very off about this clown! (Interestingly, she was played by Nicole Munoz, who returns as an adult guest actor in the final season)

Driving home, she looks out the window and sees the creepy clown standing on the side of the road, and all of us watching start exclaiming ‘child, you’re old enough to know that’s just weird!”

Alas, she does not.  Instead she wakes up in the middle of the night and sees the creepy clown outsider her window, smiles and goes downstairs to let him in. What the hell??

Intro over, we switch to our boys, and instantly I’m emotional.

One of the most memorable and heartbreaking scenes in the series is in this episode, as Sam and Dean give their father a hunter’s funeral. Sam is sobbing, tears rolling down his face. Dean is stoic, eyes shining with unshed tears.

Sam: Before he… before he… did he say anything to you?

There’s a long beat. We know he did, though we don’t yet know what.

Dean: No. nothing.

A single man tear rolls down Dean’s face, and breaks all our hearts.

This is a Phil Sgriccia directed episode, and it shows. The shots are gorgeous, and full of emotional impact, with early seasons Supernatural trademark close ups on strikingly beautiful Sam and Dean (ditto young Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles).  Director of photography Serge Ladouceur once told us that they were so attractive that he could light them like he would light a beautiful woman, and this episode really shows just how true that is. The close ups allow the emotion to come through loud and clear, and director Sgriccia is as talented at showing us what the brothers are feeling as Jared and Jensen are at showing it.

The episode was written by John Shiban, who came from the X Files along with Kim Manners (Mr. Cooper in this episode was also a character from that show, which many Supernatural crew members also worked on).

That scene hits harder now than ever, after having to watch Sam Winchester build a similar pyre for his brother in the series finale. There’s something in my eye now and it isn’t smoke…

One Week Later.

As Three Dog Night sings about the road to Shambala and what the Winchesters would give anything for right now, to ‘wash away my troubles, wash away my pain…’, Dean works on the broken Impala. The brothers can’t fix that their father is gone, or that the demon is out there, so Dean works on what he can.

Throughout this episode, the Impala stands in for so many things, and if we all didn’t realize she was special to us before (we did), we would have known with this episode.

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Remembering Supernatural and the Magic of the Mullet – with Chad Lindberg

Chad Lindberg is one of the first Supernatural actors that I got to know well, way back in the early seasons of the show. When Kathy and I were researching and writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, we sat down with Chad to chat one day at a very early convention, and immediately hit it off. In fact, in the middle of our interview, after we’d gotten into a deep discussion of fandom and why it’s so compelling, Chad jumped up and said “You have to meet my friends – they’re making a movie about the same thing you’re writing about in your book!”

That’s how we met Tony Zierra and Elizabeth Yoffe, the filmmaker and producer behind the film “My Big Break,” which starred Chad Lindberg and Wes Bentley among others. We partnered with them and Chad to screen the film and share our thoughts on fandom and stardom in multiple cities, which meant some wonderful dinners and a wild time on Bourbon Street and lots of great conversation. Some of our adventures with Chad are in the pages of one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. On occasion, he’s even helped us out at convention vendor rooms and with impromptu livestreams!

So let’s just say, I really miss Chad! He contributed a chapter to the new book by the actors and fans of Supernatural that celebrates the legacy of the show, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, which was released in 2020. I hadn’t spoken to Chad since he put that chapter together, so we connected by phone near the end of the year.

Chad: Good to hear from you!

Lynn: OMG you too! When I talked to you last year about writing your chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, the world was a completely different place.

Chad: It certainly was. Every day continually astonishes me. And not in a good way.

Lynn: I know what you mean. I’m wondering, because you wrote your chapter a year ago and it’s about your personal journey with Supernatural and how it impacted you, how has your journey continued over the past year?

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