New Jersey is my “home con”. That means I can load a bunch of boxes of books into my car and drive there – and then hope I can find someone to help me get them all up the long long ramp and into the convention center!
I didn’t really need to worry, because as always, fandom comes through. I was on my own in the vendor room officially, but dozens of people came by on a regular basis to check on me and see if I needed a bathroom break (to the ONE bathroom for the entire convention center….don’t get me started about how much I hate this venue…) or a hot dog or another bottle of water. Two of the nicest women ever helped me wrangle a luggage cart from my nearby hotel and load and unload the boxes of books to and from my car. Another lovely woman delivered my photo ops right to my vendor table so I wouldn’t have to go grab them at the end of the con. The entire weekend was full of the best of SPNFamily, honestly. I met so many people who have read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by it. I got to have dinner with my friend Trish from Attitudes in Reverse (one of the charities that the book benefits) and with a fellow acafan who’s teaching a course on leadership and Supernatural and her inspiring student.
As we got ready for the final season of Supernatural to kick off, everyone seemed to want to just relish our time together while we have it.
Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, who always starts the con off with smiles and sparkles and words that inevitably make me feel better about people and life in general. I love the chapter that Rachel wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, and the way she looks at the world.
Rachel on what it’s meant to be part of the SPNFamily: Everyone in this group are abnormally good humans.
Rachel advises to keep reminders of whatever it is that inspires you. She keeps pictures on her computer, some of them from fans.
She also talked about the importance of finding community and being able to help each other, something that Random Acts has done for many fans.
Episode two of the fifteenth and final season of Supernatural was called ‘Raising Hell’. I’m not sure why it was called that, since Hell was ostensibly already “raised” in the first episode, but it turned out to be sort of fitting anyway, since the episode raised a fair amount of disagreement and infighting amongst the stressed-out-because-we’re-about-to-lose-this-show fandom. As a fan, I sometimes agree with all the sides. I understand the fans who don’t want to hear any complaints or criticisms, who desperately want their last 19 episodes of the show to be something that feels good, a celebration without critique that brings only joy and lots of good memories. I understand that feeling; I tend to be good at forgiving, handwaving and even ignoring in order to appreciate the good parts of what I love. On the other hand, I also understand the fans who are critical of an episode. When you only have 19…18….episodes left, having one of those feel unsatisfying is tough to swallow. I’m somewhere in between the extremes.
The writers of this episode are not always my favorites, as I’ve said before. They have written some good episodes, but there are quite a few that haven’t worked well for me. Whether it’s because they’re seasoned television writers or because they just enjoy juggling, these are the writers who often are given the episodes that include everything but the kitchen sink (which I’m sure, in all fairness, is challenging). Some people like that and are happy to greet each new revelation with a more is better attitude. That’s not me. I like to savor each little bit of this show. I like the show to spool itself out without too much rushing, and for every moment to be invested with depth and a meaning I have to work a bit to figure out. I’m not just here for the action; I expect the show to give me insight into the characters that are why I love it. I start to get a headache when there’s too much going on that isn’t well connected to the main characters or when there are too many characters jammed into one episode.
We’ve been told that lots of ‘fan favorite’ characters will be coming back this season, which makes sense. It’s the last season, our last chance to see some of our favorites and perhaps to give them a proper send off. I’ve been on board with that revelation, and at the same time concerned that it would be overdone, so that each return wouldn’t have the gravity it’s due. For me, that happened in this episode. Rowena and Chuck were back, which was expected, so I won’t consider those a “return” as much as a they’re-part-of-the-current-storyline. But in addition to Rowena and Chuck (and new character Belphegor) in this episode, we had three other returns: Amara, Ketch and Kevin. That’s a lot of returns in one episode!
I like all three of the returning characters, and the actors did a wonderful job with their portrayals. While I initially wasn’t a Ketch fan, I’ve warmed up to the character over the seasons, partly I suspect because David Haydn-Jones is an awesome human being and a talented enough actor that he brings a vulnerability to Ketch that’s unexpected and interesting. Most of fandom was spoiled for all three returns, which also dilutes the impact considerably, and while I don’t entirely know if it made sense for Ketch to turn up there in the nick of time, I could go with it.
Then we had the return of Amara, something fandom also knew about. I loved Emily Swallow showing us Amara’s evolution (and her snazzy new wardrobe) but by the time we saw her and Chuck, the episode was already feeling a bit crowded.
And then we got the most emotional return of all – Kevin Tran. Again, most of us knew he’d be back, which diminished the impact, unfortunately. I was happy he was coming back; It’s no secret that I love Osric Chau to bits and that I adored his character. But by the time Kevin appeared, I think I actually exclaimed “Kevin too??”
The experience of watching Supernatural for this season is going to be very different than the fourteen seasons before. It’s Season 15, the final season of the show I’ve been loving for fourteen years and reviewing for almost as long. I usually write an emotional, bouncing-with-anticipation review of the season premiere after waiting impatiently, my heart in my throat and overflowing with gratitude that I get another twenty plus episodes with my favorite fictional characters. I’ve never watched a season premiere and thought ohgod, we’re one episode closer to the end – until now.
I wanted desperately to just watch the episode and savor every second of it, every moment with the Winchesters and company something to cherish now that I know we won’t have that many more moments with them. I didn’t want to think about how it was the last time I’d sit down to watch a season premiere, or that now we have one hour less with Supernatural than we had the day before. I just wanted to squee, but I couldn’t shake the knowledge that we’ll need to say goodbye soon. One down, nineteen to go. Somebody stop me from counting!
I’m sure my reviews will be a little different this season too. I can’t be cavalier about anything – not about my intense love for the show and the characters, and not about my frustration when any of those 42 precious minutes of an episode are squandered. So expect even more passion than usual (if that’s possible) and a little more rage than usual every now and then. I’ll try to temper it, honest.
‘Back And To The Future’ wasn’t the strongest season starter we’ve had, and there were things that made me grind my teeth or scratch my head, but there were also things I enjoyed. I selfishly – and perhaps unfairly – want every second of the last season to be exactly what I want to see, and I recognize that’s not going to happen. I’ll still likely rail against it anyway.
‘The Road So Far’ had Bob Seger’s ‘The Famous Final Scene’ playing, which is not only melancholy and dramatic (which I thought was fitting) but meta as hell, cueing us into the fact that this season is probably going to be very meta indeed.
And then we got the last title card. Sorry, I couldn’t help the L word. It made me instantly emotional to think we’ll never hold our breath waiting to see what the title card will be and then gasp at how bloody awesome it is.
For Supernatural fans, this has been a day we won’t forget for a very long time. Today was Supernatural Day, the fourteenth anniversary of the airing of the very first episode way back on September 13, 2005. It’s also the last Supernatural Day we will ever have when the show itself is still on the air. As Supernatural begins filming its 15th and final season, that makes every milestone something that kicks off a flood of conflicting emotions for its devoted fans. Me included.
On the one hand, I’ve been smiling all day, enjoying the constant posts on social media – articles about the show’s longevity and legacy from all the media outlets, tweets and Instagram posts from the cast, past and present, about what the show has meant to them.
The network itself showered the fandom with gifts, from the official Season 15 poster…
… to the first promo pics for the new season, which knocked the breath out of me when one of them was a half shirtless Sam and a protective big brother Dean patching him up.
A more iconic Supernatural moment I can’t imagine.
Also we’re starting off half shirtless right off the bat? Chuck help me.
They also released the Season 15 promo trailer, which ended with – wait for it – Sam and Dean slamming the trunk of the Impala saying “We got work to do.” It’s a brilliant call back to the phrase that started it all fourteen years ago, and hearing the Winchesters say it now as we start down that road one last time – it literally made me gasp and choke, and then reach for the tissues. I’m so grateful though, because this is what I need. I need the show itself to realize how much this means, and give me the full circle wrap up that these characters deserve.
It felt good.
The cast has spent the past decade launching multiple charitable campaigns and helping with everything from natural disasters to mental health support, and for this last Supernatural Day they came through with another in a big way. Jared, Jensen, Misha and the show teamed up with Hot Topic to sell an “End Of The Road” tee shirt with 100% of profits from all sales today going to Random Acts to help the victims of Hurricane Dorian. So many fans went online to buy it that it sold out within HOURS. Talk about a show going out at the top of its game! I jumped in the car and drove out to my local Hot Topic when I couldn’t get one online and luckily they had a few left – it felt so good to join in and do some good and celebrate Supernatural Day in a tangible way. More smiles.
The SPNFamily felt bigger and stronger and more cohesive today than ever – #SupernaturalDay and #SPNFamilyForever were trending on Twitter for most of the day. We may be small, but goddamnit, we are mighty.
And I will miss that. I’ll miss my timeline being FULL of Supernatural posts and Supernatural content and my fellow Supernatural fans celebrating this little show we love so much, overflowing with it.
I’ll miss the cast all coming together to celebrate with us, posting messages of gratitude and love, and the network and media joining in with new photos, new posters, new videos. So many gifts, so much to squee over. That’s the “on the other hand.” Knowing that next September 13 won’t be the same; that this part of my world won’t be the same. It’s so hard to love and enjoy something so much and want it to stay exactly the same and know that it can’t.
So there were some tears today, often mixed in with the smiles. Jared and Jensen and Misha and company have already filmed four of the episodes of Season 15. They’ll film 16 more, and then they will be done. By the beginning of April, these characters I love will have had their stories told. (Sometimes I’m so damn grateful that fandom is so creative, because I’m counting on fanfic to continue those stories). But it will be different; it won’t be like today.
Mostly I’m grateful, as I sit here wearing my new tee shirt and staring happily at the new promo pics and reading everyone else’s posts about what Supernatural has meant to them. Some people expressed gratitude for Family Don’t End With Blood today, because it gave the actors a chance to write down what the show and the fandom have meant to them in a book that we can all keep forever. I’m so grateful to all of them for doing that, for baring their souls the way they did and telling the truth – for caring so much. I’m so grateful to them for making this show for all these years, for bringing these characters to life so vividly that I fell in love with them, and I let them change me.
That will never end. What this show has meant to me, and to so many others. That’s forever.
I tweeted my gratitude to Eric Kripke this morning, in response to his tweet for Supernatural Day expressing his own gratitude. Every time he likes one of my tweets, I squee. Nope, I’ll never get over it. He CREATED this world and these characters, how can I get over that?
Happy Supernatural Day, SPNFamily.
Tonight we’ll keep sharing our joy and celebrating everything that we love about this little show. Tomorrow we’ll watch Jensen Ackles play soccer for a good cause and eagerly await photos from the lucky fans who will be there. And on October 10, we’ll tune in one more time and go along for the wild ride as Supernatural premieres for the fifteenth and final time.
As a psychologist, I’ve had the privilege of helping many people come out on the other side after considering suicide. As a psychologist who researches fandom, I’ve experienced firsthand how the television shows and films and bands and books and celebrities we love can also inspire us to keep living, and how the supportive community of fandom can provide a safety net while we fight through those difficult times. What those two realms of experience have in common is someone else encouraging us to talk about it. Not to keep those thoughts and feelings and hopelessness to ourselves, but to share it so that someone can help us through. There is still a tremendous amount of stigma and shame around talking about suicide, and there’s nothing more important than changing that. I teach my students who are learning to be counselors every the importance of creating a safe space within which their clients can share ALL their feelings. I’m honored to work with Attitudes in Reverse to try to erase that stigma and start the important conversation. I was also honored to be able to work with some of the people I proudly fangirl (the cast of Supernatural, my favorite television show) to put together a book that shares their most private, difficult to talk about, even shameful feelings – to inspire those who read the book to also share theirs. None of us can find the help we need without first opening up and letting someone else know we need that help.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, I wanted to share some of the messages from that book, Family Don’t End With Blood, that people have told me have helped them to “always keep fighting”. Some are from the chapters written by the actors and some are from the chapters written by the fans, because there’s tremendous wisdom in both. It can help to know that even the celebrities who we idolize have fought through debilitating self doubt, depression, insecurity and anxiety. It can help to know that other fans, who are just like us, have struggled with the same – and how they managed to keep going anyway. Every time someone tells me, or tells Jared or Jensen or Misha or anyone else, that reading what they wrote in this book saved their life, it means so much. So here are a few of those messages, in the hopes that they’ll keep inspiring us all to keep fighting.
The chapter that Jared Padalecki wrote is the longest one in the book, by far. More than 30 pages long. He worked on it for almost two years, repeatedly wanting to add to it and edit it even though I kept saying that it was already amazing. He knew, I think, that if he didn’t have the courage to share the depths of his own experience with depression and anxiety honestly, that his chapter wouldn’t help anyone. And so, courageously, he did. I still can’t read it without crying. Over the years, countless fans have told me the same – and that Jared’s words are the ones that inspire them to ‘always keep fighting’.
Jared writes about how the fandom and the show have changed him, about his struggle with anxiety and not feeling good enough, about the times he’s broken down. In one powerful part of his chapter, Jared writes about the time he pushed himself to go to Europe for a convention at a time when he knew he wasn’t okay, but didn’t want to let anyone down. When he found himself with one day free and looking forward to going to the watch museums in Geneva – only to realize the one day he was there was a national holiday and they were all closed – the pressures that had been building for a decade overwhelmed him. Here are a few small excerpts from his chapter: