Today was a big day for fans of The Boys and Supernatural – and all fans of Jensen Ackles! After he teased that there would be a reveal of his new character Soldier Boy’s ‘supersuit’ today, just about everyone in the fandom was glued to their social media this morning. I had a dentist appointment, but I confess I kept my phone in my pocket on vibrate, knowing that if it started blowing up, I was missing the big reveal – it actually turned out to be a pretty good distraction for the dental work!
Shortly after I got home, the big reveal happened – and yes, my timeline exploded. And it felt SO GOOD! As a Supernatural fan for the past 15 years (and The Boys for two), I’ve really missed my timeline going nuts over some new information or new photos. There’s nothing that brings fandom together more than having something new to savor, and today was all about that. Fannish differences were put aside and everyone just squeed together over finally seeing Jensen suited up as Soldier Boy.
First we got one photo, with some backstory from articles in Variety and Entertainment Weekly. The suit was designed by Laura Jean “L.J.” Shannon and concept artist Greg Hopwood. Shannon called Soldier Boy the original bad-ass and said her goal was “to highlight a bygone era of overt masculinity and grit.” So they included “an all-American quality grounded in a military soldier’s practicality with a heavy dose of old school cowboy swagger.” Shannon also commented on the casting that they were counting on to do the suit and the character justice: “We knew that the actor had to have Steve McQueen looks and chops with a John Wayne attitude — luckily Jensen Ackles embodies all of that.”
Damn right he does!
LJ Supersuits, the suit designer, posted an additional close up on their Instagram and sent another wave of euphoria and excitement through the fandom, with this message:
“LJ Supersuits presents SOLDIER BOY. This suit was an incredible team effort that required hours and hours of research, planning, and detailed craftsmanship to get it right. We always start with the concept art, and Soldier Boy’s concept was created by @greghops, along with all of his hard surface sculpting. The concept then gets translated into a physical suit by our incredible team. We are so proud of how epic Soldier Boy is and couldn’t be more excited for @jensenackles to take on this character and The Boys Season 3!! Suit sculpting by @cce_inc”
When some of my friends decided that the best way to cope with Supernatural ending and having no more new episodes was to just go back to the beginning and start a rewatch with the pilot, I honestly wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to do that. I was still grieving the ending of this show that has meant so much to me for fifteen years, and just thinking about it brought a fresh round of tears every time my favorite fictional characters crossed my mind. Could I really go back and see where it all began? Remember a time when I had 326 episodes to look forward to and had no idea where the story would take Sam and Dean – and me?
It was one of those decisions that you make and then second guess immediately, but luckily for me I wasn’t watching alone – I was on a zoom call with three friends who share my love of the show and my grief that it’s over. Who wouldn’t make fun of me if I started to tear up or got emotional over a scene in the pilot that had a call back in the finale. Who get it. If there was any way to dare to do a rewatch, it was with these people. So we made drinks, chatted about the pandemic and the weather and life in general, and then we dove in.
Although I’ve been watching Supernatural from the beginning, I didn’t fall madly in love with it until the beginning of Season 2, and I didn’t start writing reviews until Season 8, so as long as I’m doing a rewatch, I figured I might as well catch up on those reviews I missed. The first seven seasons will be reviews with the benefit of hindsight, while the last eight will be fresh from a first viewing – but maybe that will be an interesting diversity of perspectives. So, from an emotional state still raw and grieving from the finale, here are my thoughts (and a whole helluva lot of feelings) about Supernatural’s very first episode, Pilot.
(Because these reviews are with the hindsight of the rest of the series, spoilers ahead up to and including the finale)
It took me approximately .5 seconds to get overwhelmed by emotion. Toddler Dean leans over his baby brother’s crib and gives him a kiss on the forehead, saying with so much affection, “Goodnight, Sam” and I am immediately thrown back to the finale, grown up Sam leaning his forehead to his brother’s as Dean says a final “Goodbye, Sam” with just as much love, after all these years and all they’ve been through together.
The first time I watched the pilot, this was just a tender scene, a happy family with a baby in a crib and a young boy in his father’s arms, everyone safe and warm and together. I had no idea what was to come, either in the next few minutes of that episode or in the next fifteen years. I had no idea how much the Winchesters would come to mean to me, or how excruciatingly painful it would be to lose them.
There’s such a sense of innocence now, watching the pilot – my own innocence reflected in the innocence of those two little boys, that short-lived peaceful moment before Sam and Dean’s happiness was shattered. From the first five minutes, Supernatural has never been a show about happily ever after.
I remember thinking that the Pilot was scary as hell too, as I sat in my dark living room watching with my three closest friends, one of whom had already decided Supernatural was the next thing we would all be fannish about. She was so sure about that, she brought VHS tapes of the show to our get togethers (yes, VHS videotapes. That’s how long this show was on the air). One of our foursome pronounced the Pilot “way too scary” and stopped watching halfway through; the rest of us stuck it out. Fifteen years later, that scariness still holds up. The show is so deliciously dark in the pilot episode, shot so beautifully, dimly lit by moonlight or flashlight.
We also get so much background in the pilot episode, although it takes barely any time at all to convey and at the time, we don’t realize just how devastating it will be to know what the Winchesters’ life was like before the event that changes everything. We get little glimpses that seem innocuous – toddler Dean’s love for his daddy, the family’s joy in new baby Sammy, John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) a loving father, the sheer normalcy of their lives with hugs and goodnight kisses in a nondescript house in suburban America.
We have no idea that we’re seeing the origins of the trauma that irrevocably shaped Dean Winchester’s life, yanking away his happy childhood and loving family at a time when he was just old enough to always remember, but not old enough to ever make sense of it without heaps of undeserved guilt and unacknowledged longing that would plague him almost his entire life.
Even 15 years later, knowing what’s going to happen, the opening sequence works to put you on edge – the ticking of the clock, the slowly spinning crib mobile, the baby monitor crackling and the hall light flickering. We don’t know what that means yet, but watching it now? It’s all I can do not to yell at Mary, “you know what that means!!”
At the time, we had no clue that she knew (and neither did the writers or Samantha Smith, whop played Mary, so her lack of suspicion about the flickering light seems logical then, but odd now – Mary grew up a hunter, we now know, so she might have been a little more alarmed). Even with that knowledge, the scene works so well, building up the suspense and letting the viewer know that something is just not right. And that terrifying moment after Mary sees “John” leaning over Sam’s crib and starts down the stairs, when she rounds the corner and sees the real John sitting in the living room watching TV and OMG THAT ISN’T JOHN IN SAM’S ROOM!
The pilot is brilliant in its rollercoaster of ups and downs, the look of terror on Mary’s face as she realizes someone else is leaning over her baby – and then John’s pov as he hears her screams and runs up the stairs, bursting into the nursery to find it quiet, Sammy in his crib. For a moment we sigh with relief along with him – even now, even knowing. John looks down at his son, Jeffrey Dean Morgan showing us all the tenderness that will soon be wiped away in John Winchester’s quest for revenge.
The past two weeks haven’t been quite as full of constant new Supernatural content as the ones before – and many of us, especially here in the US, have a lot else on our minds — but it has still been a good time to be a Supernatural fan. I’m grateful for all the coverage we’re getting, with newly released photos and videos and articles just about every day, because we know we only have a few more weeks of the show being on the air and that happening. Most of the coverage has been about the show itself, but the Supernatural cast has also been very involved in the American elections. This is a group of people who take seriously the Supernatural mantra of ‘saving people’ and they are all using their platforms to carry that out however they believe will be the most effective. Article and video links included below so you can check out more coverage details.
At the start of last week, the SPNFamily got some long hoped for and very welcome news — after years and years of pleading, Supernatural now has its very own Impala hashtag emoji! I will admit, I didn’t have on my 2020 bingo card sobbing with pride and joy and anticipation of loss over a Baby emoji, but here we are. I’m beside myself with pride for our little show – it may not seem significant to people outside the fandom, but it’s so significant to the SPNFamily. (It’s not a regular emoji, so it won’t appear forever, but I’m still very happy to have it for the show’s end run at least).
As we’re all preparing to grieve the loss of Supernatural, we’re also looking forward to the new projects that the cast and crew will be working on, which helps at least a little. TVLine kicked off last week with some good news about Jensen Ackles’ new project, The Boys.
TVLine reporated that Ackles’ Soldier Boy will play a pivotal role in Season 3.
Showrunner Eric Kripke: With him comes the big season mythology that he threads all the way through. The season is sort of about him.
They also had some news about the fate of Castiel, which many of us are trying to steel ourselves for right now as the pivotal Episode 18 airs tomorrow.
Castiel’s deal with The Empty has not been forgotten and will play into the show’s final episodes. Uh oh.
Andrew Dabb: It’s something we introduced last year, knowing to a degree where it was going. The story can always take twists and turns. But obviously, The Empty’s been a little bit more of a character this year, played by Rachel Miner, who’s done a great job. It has still got a grudge against Cas, and that will not go away.
To say we’re nervous about tomorrow’s episode is a gigantic understatement. Personally, I’m so anxious at this point, for multiple reasons, I can barely sit still long enough to type this.
Last Tuesday, Jared started filming his new show, Walker, and the SPNFamily tweeted #GoodLuckJared to him all day to start him off with lots of love.
On Wednesday, EW had an article on Supernatural’s unofficial theme song, Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son. I swear, everything about our show is special – what other show has a theme song like that, 100% embraced by the band itself to the extent that they came to Comic Con a few years ago to kick off the Hall H Supernatural panel??
Supernatural creator Eric Kripke explained how the song came to be used in the show.
Kripke: Those weren’t just classic rock songs, those were the songs from my collection. At the end of season 1, we were cutting the first of the ‘Road So Far’ trailers. We wanted to do a recap to remind everyone what happened all season but we really wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t the same old avalanche of exposition. [Producer] Phil [Sgriccia] and I looked at ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ and set it to this long recap and it just came to life because the lyrics seemed to fit what the brothers were going through. What people don’t remember is that in season 1, that was the second-to-last episode that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ played. And then we tried to do another ‘road so far’ for the finale set to Triumph’s ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and it was just obvious it just didn’t take the way that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ took. You could just tell from fan response that people were not digging it.
Luckily, Kripke was really good at going with his instincts, and it’s the Kansas song that was retained over all these years. I still can’t sing along to it at the end of convention karaoke without tearing up. And I am 100% certain it will destroy me in the finale.
TVLine also ran a story and video about what Jared and Jensen will miss about working together, which I imagine is ALOT.
Jared: Acting opposite Ackles for 15 seasons has given me the confidence that I can push myself. I don’t want to say I baby it with other actors and actresses, but I pull my game back. If you’ve been playing tennis with somebody 15 years or basketball or doing jujitsu or something, you know how hard you can push. Whereas if you just walk in onto a court with somebody you’ve never played before, it’s like, ‘OK, well, I’ve got to feel them out, because I don’t want to just start dunking on the guy, and it’s not a game.’ And so with Jensen, I know I can push as hard as I possibly can — and harder — and that he’ll push back just as hard, and we’ll bring out different aspects of a scene, different facets of what the characters are going through.
When Jared talked about how he tried to leave “Jared out of it” and let Sam have all the emotions during the last scene, Jensen laughed – clearly neither were able to leave their own emotions out of it at that point.
Jensen talked about the shorthand that he and Jared have constructed over the years, which I’ve heard him mention many times before, saying that it helped them really flesh out the bond between the brothers.
Jensen: There’s a nuance, I think, that he and I are able to tap into, not only with our characters, but with the relationship that these characters have with each other in every scene. A lot of times, those nuances are not written on the page, and that is, I think, something that we pride ourselves in being able to bring to the character, to the story and to the show. And that’s something that he and I don’t really even need to talk about. It’s stuff that presents itself to us, almost in the middle of a scene. We’re so comfortable and available to each other for letting those kinds of moments happen that they happen all the time. I’m going to miss having that confidence with somebody that I can just allow those moments to happen and you can seize them.
I’m going to miss those moments too, Mr. Ackles. More than I can even put into words.
When I said I was going to try to document everything Supernatural related in the weeks before the show returns to the air for the last time, I had no idea just what that would mean. I’ve watched this show since the beginning, and I remember wishing for more media coverage, trying to get people interested in the show, telling anyone who would listen that Supernatural was the best show ever. Fifteen years later, the world has figured that out. That was never more obvious than in the couple of days leading up to the show’s return, when it seemed like every major outlet from Variety to TVGuide to CNN had an interview with Jared and Jensen and an article about the show, and every CW local outlet had their 10 minutes of questions with the boys. It was incredibly overwhelming trying to keep up with the constant onslaught of coverage, and I was constantly emotional – so proud of the little show that could which, now that it’s coming to an end, is recognized for how special it is and what it has created.
There were also bits of news every day, all of it exciting. Jensen and Danneel struck a deal to form a production company under the Warner Bros. umbrella called Chaos Machine Productions. Not gonna lie, I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that they’ll helm the next Supernatural project. Come on, Ackles, it’s a no brainer!
Jared got a hair cut, which left fandom in a collective panic about how short Walker’s hair was going to be.
Turned out to be a fruitless worry, because – in my humble opinion anyway – the new haircut is every bit as hot as the previous one! Fandom then turned its considerable attention to wondering what the new tattoo is that Jared’s sporting and what it might mean. Hmmm.
Jared started a new AKF campaign with Stands that included a plaid AKF charm and a stuffed AKF moose, which is seriously adorable. He did a facebook live about the campaign, which he hasn’t done in one million years, and posted a gorgeous photo in the You Define You hoodie and with his new Walker haircut. Mmm.
Jensen bought a new car, which does not do a damn thing for me but which he was clearly very excited about.
The company he bought it from was equally excited. And clearly Supernatural fans!
Not gonna lie, I’m laughing at the Ackles family tooling around Austin in either their ’67 Impala (they took it to Starbucks the other day) or this new ‘beast’ of a car.
Misha went naked to get out the vote, to fandom’s sincere appreciation, used his text line to help get the vote out, and made sure water and snacks were handed out to voters in Georgia standing in insanely long lines to vote, and generally kept on working to save the world. And look adorable doing it.
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.
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.
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.