As we head into the last season of Supernatural, we know there will be lots of familiar faces returning for one last time. I think we’re all agreed that we’re grateful one of those familiar faces will be Rob Benedict, returning as Chuck or God or The Writer or whoever the hell he really is. We all have mixed feelings about his character right now, but no one I know has mixed feelings about Rob himself.
Whether he’s kicking ass with Louden Swain or the Station Breaks in concerts all over the world or waxing eloquent about The Bachelor on Will You Accept This Rose podcast or showing off his acting chops on multiple projects (how does he have so much energy??), Rob makes us happy.
I’m forever grateful that he took down all his defenses and wrote the inside story of what happened when he had a stroke at a Supernatural convention six years ago in Family Don’t End With Blood. Not only did his story inspire many others to ‘always keep fighting’, but his chapter saved some lives for real because people who had read his story recognized when they were having a stroke and got help right away. Talk about making a difference!
The fact that we almost lost Rob has made us even more grateful that we still have him as the heart and soul of the SPNFamily. He is every bit as passionate when he takes the stage for a Saturday Night Special and brings us all together to celebrate Supernatural, the fandom, and life itself as he was the very first time I saw him play a decade ago. I watched that concert sitting in the back with Richard Speight Jr. – and we all know how that turned out! What a gift to have Rich and Rob together for all these years, making magic onstage at conventions, emceeing at Comic Con, and immortalizing a tongue in cheek (and hilarious) take of what this has all been about in Kings of Con.
It seems fitting that Rob would rejoin Supernatural for its final season. He’s been an integral part of the family since his first appearance on the show over a decade ago – and a force for good in the lives of so many. I wrote a retrospective of the many chats I’ve had with Rob last year, with lots of great quotes from Rob and lots of Kim Prior’s pretty pretty pictures, which you can read here:
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:
Part 2 of what was an epic trip to Vancouver, a city that has had incredible meaning for Supernatural fans since the show has filmed there for 15 seasons. We all knew this was the last time there would be a convention there while the show was still filming, which meant it would be the last time that so many of the cast and crew and production office would come to the con to greet the fans. It was also our last opportunity to thank them all for making this show that has meant so much to so many of us. So was it an emotional weekend? Absolutely.
Sunday started early for the Jared and Jensen gold panel. I say this every single time, but damn, they looked good. Jared wore the Comic Con tee shirt they gave out at the Supernatural panel in 2018, which made me smile because I’d been there when he asked Holly from WB if he could have one – clearly she came through! I love when they wear shirts that show they’re just as much fans of Supernatural as we are.
Someone asked early on how they will “shed” Sam and Dean when the show ends, kicking off all those emotions right off the bat.
Jensen: I’d be happy to never shed Dean.
Jared: Cut my hair?
But seriously, we’d love you with or without hair, Jared.
They were both a little teary eyed at the beginning there, then resolutely pushed it aside. I think they – like all of us – are vacillating between letting themselves feel and start to mourn and pushing it aside to just enjoy this last season.
Jared: There have been a lot of emotional “last first” days on set.
Also Jared: I get emotional every time I hear “Carry On”.
Jensen: I’m not thinking about the end yet because I’m still in the game.
Jared: We reached out to some directors who did some of our iconic episodes to come back this year.
Jensen: Of course now Charles Beeson is wondering why he agreed to do this, because we’re all messing around so much!
I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.
Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.
Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.
The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.
We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.
The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.
The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.
“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”
“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”
I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.
Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.
A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!
Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us). But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders – (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!
That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!
Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.
After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.
Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)
They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help. They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.
(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)
After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.
I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.
Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.
Rob: (sheepish) Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…