The Last Supernatural Con of the Decade – Jacksonville 2019

 

Jacksonville is a great venue for a con, with the vendor room in a gigantic brightly lit room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I was fortunate to have my friend Christina with me at the vendor table all weekend, along with other friends who stopped by to chat or bring food and a latte or give me a bathroom break. I always leave conventions feeling so warm and fuzzy about this fandom, and this cast, and this show. Maybe because we all knew this was the last con of the decade, there were even more warm and fuzzy feelings than usual – along with some anticipatory sadness, knowing the end of the show is coming.

The con kicked off, as it often does, with a panel by Rachel Miner. Rachel always makes me smile, so it’s a good way to start the day.

One of the things I love most about Rachel is that she’s a bona fide geek, just like so many of us are. She spent a few minutes sorting her colleagues ala Hogwarts.

About Billy Moran?

Rachel and Rob: Slytherin for sure!

Rachel: I’m a big Dr. Who fan. I’d love to be on that crossover. I feel like that’s why we all connect, because I’m such a nerd.

She’d also love to see Meg team up with Rowena.

Fan: Double sassy!

Rachel: Meg and Dean are also alike in some ways. Snarky and afraid of their feelings.

I also love that Rachel is a proud shipper – of Meg and Cas – but also a vehement supporter of ship and let ship (or don’t ship at all).

Rachel: Everyone should ship who you want, but I ship Meg and Cas and in my fanfic version she would never turn on him.

Rachel l had some kind words for Rob and the work he’s doing as Chuck.

Rachel: I think Rob is doing such a great job. We should all be extra nice to him, because he’s still a great guy – he’s just a good actor!

She also had nice things to say about the Supernatural set, and how special it is.

Rachel: I’ve never had that feeling of being taken care of on another set, and that feeling like you’re doing something important, but not self important, as on the set of Supernatural.

She’s also very excited to have Shoshannah Stern back. Shoshannah has written another project for her and Rachel, which is doubly exciting!

On a more serious note, Rachel acknowledged that life is sometimes hard.

Rachel: It’s okay to feel like life is really hard because sometimes it is, and don’t beat yourself up about feeling that. And then you can move on and notice what joy there is right here. It’s work to find that joy, though. It’s not easy. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and also take time to find the joy in even moments that are difficult.

How can you describe the SPNFamily?

Rachel: We take care of each other, and that’s a model for the whole world.

Jason Manns did his traditional “quoncert” next, playing some tunes and answering some questions.

Someone asked him how he got Jared Padalecki to sing on his Christmas CD.

Jason: I was up in Vancouver recording Jense, and Jared was hanging out and I was like, well, you’re here if you want to record a song…no pressure…

Good job, Jason!

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It’s The Last Mid Season Hiatus for Supernatural!

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode was the mid season finale, though only the 8th in this 20 episode season. However, it ushered in the month long holiday hiatus, so it still felt like the big mid season cliffhanger. Luckily, this episode fell to Richard Speight Jr. to direct, so although the episode’s writers don’t always tend to be my favorites, I knew I’d enjoy the way Speight brought the story to life at least. He didn’t let me down – and neither did the amazing cast.

My perspective on the show this season is different than any other, because every episode that airs brings us closer to the last. Fans and cast are acutely aware that we only have a limited amount of time with these beloved characters, so emotions are heightened about what we’re all hoping for from these last moments with them. In previous seasons, if there’s a part of a season that doesn’t really work for me, it’s been relatively easy to shrug it off and say oh well, it will get better. After all, there are always things I love and moments that are profoundly satisfying when it comes to Supernatural. This season, though, it’s harder to shrug.  So I was really happy to enjoy this episode. It was a solid episode that moved the story along and took us to a sort of tipping point. And the acting performances – every single one of them – were magnificent.  Maybe it didn’t make me jump up and down and scream OMG I love my Show (which is what I always hope for when watching Supernatural) but my mantra has been cherish the things you do love while you still have them, so that’s the lens I watched with. And there was a lot to cherish in this one.

The first scene was pure Speight, a visual example of why I like his directing: a decadent casino, the floor littered with dead bodies. A terrified cocktail waitress carefully steps over her former colleagues and customers, balancing a drink – which she serves up to Chuck (of course). I loved the way the scene was filmed, full of dark humor and an undercurrent of genuine fear because it’s clear that Chuck could snap at any time.  God is bored, engineering constant wins but without any surprises, and that’s making him cranky.

Chuck to terrified waitress: And you don’t want me cranky.

It’s still hard to look at Rob Benedict’s adorable face and be scared of him, but somehow Rob pulls it off.

I haven’t been to many casinos, so this one reminded me of the Rio, where the Supernatural convention in Vegas is held every year. The Rio always seems surreal to me with its smoke and decadence and pervasive sense of desperation mixed with boredom, and it almost seemed like Speight and Rob Benedict amplified all that a thousand fold.  It gave the whole scene a feeling of emptiness and sadness. (Sorry, Rio, but I haven’t entirely forgiven you for that time our toilet spontaneously combusted in the middle of the night while we were all asleep and gushed something putrid and horrible that escaped the bathroom like a brown plague and sent us running out of the room in our PJ’s.) Anyway…

Flash to the next scene, Eileen hunting – and doing a bang up job of it. She’s badass and kickass and doesn’t need any help, taking out the bad guys alone, and I’m here for it! I’m also relieved that she’s not only still alive, but still a hunter in every sense of the word – even dying on the job couldn’t change that.

As she goes after the last one, she nearly stabs Sam Winchester instead, not expecting him to be there. Once the monster is dispatched (by Eileen who literally did not need any help), she turns to Sam.

Eileen: Were you tailing me?

Sam: You could’ve left a note… You think I’m being over protective?

Eileen: Little bit.

Shoshannah Stern is so good, just that little line was priceless. But seriously, she’s right – Sam is maybe being a tad over protective. The Winchesters were used to their mother hunting on her own and letting them know when she needed backup, and they’ve known and respected many other kickass female hunters, so I don’t think they treat female hunters any different than male hunters. Sam knows she’s a hunter; it’s who she is and what she does and what we love her for. So why was Sam tailing Eileen and not even letting her know? That seems a) dangerous, as in he almost got himself killed and interfered with her hunt, and b) not entirely in character.  I’m assuming we’re supposed to believe it’s because he’s romantically involved with her and that’s affecting his judgment. But damn it, Eileen was doing A-okay on her own and I love her independence and her mad hunting skills.

Back at the bunker, Dean – whose newly found sense of motivation has stayed intact from last episode – excitedly tells Sam and Eileen that he’s found a way to maybe get to Chuck. He unwraps the demon tablet, they share some exposition about what it means and why it was created, and then get to the bottom line – maybe Chuck isn’t untouchable after all.

Dean is so cute when he’s hopeful – it’s like he becomes twenty years younger.

Sam: So he has an Achilles’ heel.

Dean: No, I’m saying he has a weak spot.

Sam: (looks frustrated)

Me: (looks positively murderous)

Seriously? You want me to believe that Dean Winchester doesn’t know what an Achilles’ heel means??

I know some people decided to head canon that Dean was just faking not knowing in order to mess with Sam, but I’ve rewatched it several times and that is not how either of them played it. There’s no comic tell from Ackles at all, and I think there would be.

It wouldn’t be so egregious if Dean hadn’t said such an iconic line himself using that exact expression.

Dean: The point is, maybe we are each other’s Achilles’ heel. Maybe they’ll find a way to use us against each other, I don’t know. I just know we’re all we’ve got. And more than that, we keep each other human.

He knew what it meant then!

It’s a small thing, but it threw me out of the moment.

Castiel goes off in search of someone who can read the tablet – the soulless prophet Donatello.

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Last Call! Supernatural Lines Up for The Last Mid Season Finale

 

Last week’s Supernatural was the first written by Jeremy Adams, who I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with at Comic Con last summer. He’s a great guy and a big fan of the show and the genre, and his enthusiasm for what he was writing came through in the episode – and was largely what I liked about it. The episode was split between more serious moments and pure fun, and it was the fun parts that will be most memorable about it for me.

Jeremy’s excitement about being on the Supernatural set was also infectious, and he was kind enough to give us all sorts of behind the scenes goodies too. Here’s Jeremy being appreciated by the cast…

From Jeremy’s twitter

We also got some lovely behind the scenes content from guest star Shoshannah Stern, who was back as Eileen. It’s no secret that I think Shoshannah is awesome, and she understands fandom and our love of this show.

We got the cast practicing signing videos, and this priceless between scenes rest time photo with Jared and Misha. Awww.

Even Jensen got into the act, sharing some photos of him and guest star (and long time real life pal) Christian Kane relaxing between scenes and practicing some stunt fighting too. Still got it, boys!

Let me talk about the fun stuff first, because that’s what I enjoyed the most. The episode wasn’t actually a meta episode, but I don’t know that I’ve ever watched an episode thinking more about what was happening in “real life” and less about the characters and the story. To the extent that I couldn’t see Dean singing with Lee as much as Jensen singing with his old friend Christian Kane.

Usually that wouldn’t make me happy, because it’s the characters and the story that I love with all my heart. But it’s the last season, the last chance that this cast has to do some of the things they’ve wanted to for a long time, and it was infectiously joyful to see Jensen so happy to be able to finally have Kane on his show – both of them were clearly having the time of their lives. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jensen sing live, and some of those little mannerisms of seeming indecision were definitely his, and it made me smile.

I was oddly nostalgic myself about Jensen and Christian singing together on Supernatural, because one of the first times I saw Jensen sing (not in person, I wasn’t that lucky, but god bless the fans who filmed it) was at a Kane concert for Christian’s birthday. It was so rare and so special to see Jensen sing back then – and I must have watched that little clip… well, probably a lot. So seeing them perform together on the actual show was a reminder of how long they’ve known each other and how long I’ve been watching this show!

It’s rare we get to see Dean Winchester that happy, which was another reason it kept looking like Jensen to me instead of Dean – at first. I mean, look at that FACE!

Toss in a few little meta commentaries about lip synching Eye of the Tiger and that whole first scene in Swayze’s Bar was all about reality instead of fiction. (If that was all the episode was, I would’ve been sorely disappointed, though).

The other part of the episode that worked for me was Dean’s journey from apathy and feeling mostly hopeless to rediscovering his “always keep fighting” determination. The classic hero’s journey, with Dean coming out on the other side of his trauma and hopelessness, realizing who he is and what he wants and resolving to go after that. Lee is a mirror for Dean, at one point even saying “I am you – I just woke up and saw that the world was broken.”

That’s what Dean was on his way to becoming, to giving up just like that. But faced with who he would be if he did give up, Dean finds his motivation to keep going. Yeah, the world is seriously effed up, and it would be tempting to give up like Lee did and just look out for yourself. But that’s not Dean Winchester.

Dean: Then you fix it! You fight for it!

And that’s exactly what he’s now determined to do – or at least I’m hoping that’s where he is now and that he’ll stay there. I liked the way the character of Lee, a gifted hunter and fierce fighter who had gone dark side, provided the spark for Dean to make a decision about how he wanted to end up – a hunter, now and always. That’s my Show.

After all, as he says, someone’s gotta kill the bad guys.

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Our Heroes Find A Little Hope with Supernatural 15.06 “Golden Time”

I didn’t get to watch last week’s Supernatural episode live since I was on a plane flying to Jacksonville for a Supernatural convention when it aired. That meant avoiding spoilers until I finally had a chance to watch, which was well after midnight after the Saturday night concert at the convention, on a friend’s laptop in her hotel room. While we also lettered a sign for a photo op the next day. (Just a typical 2 am at a Supernatural convention…)  This was a bit of an unusual episode and not a very emotional one for the most part for us, but it had some lovely moments. Maybe this review won’t be ten pages long like my usual ones though – I hear sighs of relief from out there!

The episode opens with a music video-esque montage of someone we don’t know breaking into Rowena’s apartment and trying to steal her magic supplies. It was well done but it wasn’t Sam or Dean or Cas and it’s the last season so time with them is precious and it went on way too long. At some point my friend Alana announced “oh, she’s gonna die” – and sure enough, she did.  Just not quite quickly enough.

Cut to the bunker, Sam on his laptop, wondering if he’s hearing things. Dean in his dead guy robe – and hot dog pajamas because Dean Winchester.

Apparently Dean has been hiding in his room again, this time eating his feelings (and cereal) and escaping by watching the show that reminds him of his childhood, Scooby Doo. He’s still feeling pretty hopeless, locked into what he calls Chuck’s story of “Cain and Abel 2.0” and feeling like he’s just waiting for God to find them and make them kill each other. No wonder he feels so depressed and helpless, when you think of it like that. Sam, on the other hand, keeps researching and keeps trying.

It’s the dynamic of the entire season so far – the Winchesters take turns, one of them hopeless and the other trying to pull them out of it. It’s been the dynamic of the show as well, but now it’s intensified, alternating episode to episode in a way that sort of makes me dizzy.

Sam goes out for a jog (in the beautiful rainy Vancouver weather) and Alana and I stop what we’re doing to appreciate Jared Padalecki’s grace when he’s running.

My friend Alana: It’s like he’s floating!

Seriously, it’s a beautiful thing.

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And We’re Off!  Supernatural Proverbs 17:3

 

We’ve never had a Supernatural episode named after a Bible verse before, but considering how this season is shaping up to be all about God, I guess it’s appropriate. Proverbs 17:3 was the swan song episode for writer Steve Yockey, who has written some of my favorites, and another directorial stint for Richard Speight Jr. With that combination, it’s not surprising that I liked it a lot – but it was an unusual episode in many ways. Proverbs 17:3 is all about how “the Lord trieth the hearts”, and that’s certainly fitting for what happened to the Winchesters in this episode. But it’s not that simple; this entire episode worked on multiple levels, so it’s equally fitting for what keeps happening to the fans. My heart is definitely being tried!

Let’s dig in, shall we? (There’s nothing I love more than feeling like I have a lot to dig into the day after an episode airs, and for the millionth time I have to say that I’m going to miss this day-after-conversation-speculation-discussion SO much)

The episode starts off with a quintessential Supernatural opener, three young women (who look so much alike half the fandom thought they were triplets) on an ill-advised camping trip and one of them being silly enough to go OUTSIDE the tent when they hear scary noises. Only one survives, and the case of the week is kicked off.

Meanwhile, Sam has been texting Cas (which he erroneously spells Cass like everyone on this show) and it’s sort of heartbreaking. I understand why Cas left so abruptly, but I doubt Sam really does despite whatever explanation Dean gave him.

Dean returns with supplies, including ghost pepper jerky, and we get a pricelessly funny brothers scene which I loved. Only Supernatural can seamlessly transition from people getting murdered to Jensen and Jared making us laugh over ghost pepper jerky. I think most of us suspected that we were seeing as much Jared and Jensen as Sam and Dean in that scene, and wondered if Jared was reprising his spike-the-eggnog-and-not-tell-Jensen bit from the Christmas episode, this time with super hot actual jerky. There’s a moment when Jensen definitely does his half hidden OMG laugh, and the throwing the water all over himself felt a lot like his ad libbing too. Meanwhile, Sam’s knowing taunting of his overly macho brother by withholding the water was so perfect – and could have been Jared too.

It’s wonderful to have a familiar and beloved colleague directing so much for the final season, and Richard Speight Jr. does a great job with this one. He understands the fandom differently than any other director would (except Jensen himself and another of this year’s directors, Matt Cohen) thanks to doing so many conventions for the past decade. He knows what gold Jared and Jensen are when he gives them some free rein and I think that’s what he did here. He also recognizes that gold when he sees it, and knows how to edit to make sure that comes through. I’m grateful!

On the other hand, Speight also knows how to make a moment visually stunning and powerful, perhaps thanks to his love of Tarantino and film in general. That fits well with this last season, when much of the show is subtext and meta, and when there are call backs to earlier seasons that have impact thanks to the way they’re presented. Speight has a unique style, and occasionally it jars me, but I think that also works most of the time. We’re supposed to jarred at this point, just like the Winchesters, our collective footing swept out from under us.

And lastly? Speight understands just how beautiful we think these characters are. Like Kim Manners, he’s not afraid to linger on their expressive faces, up close and personal, or to showcase their fighting as the oddly erotic thing it can sometimes be. He also is very aware of how demon Dean and Lucifer Sam affected the fandom, and just how powerful it will be to see them again. And see them we do, gorgeously.

In this moment, he knows what to linger on.

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