Happy 40th Birthday Jared Padalecki!

It has been a wonderful week of celebrating Jared Padalecki’s birthday for his fans – every day was a different hashtag so we could highlight something else, from photos and videos of Jared with other celebrities, or exercising, or smiling, or with pets, to his best performances and fans’ favorite photos. The hashtag #JaredPadaleckiWeek trended all week long, and my timeline was full of good feelings and positive posts and it felt like all the best things about fandom.

Then the week got even better – Jared popped onto twitter, shocking the fandom as he enjoys doing, to shine some light on a teacher trying to get ready for the next school year and without funding for things her students needed. So many teachers have a list of needed supplies that they often have to spend their own money to get, so #ClearTheList was a call to action for anyone who wanted to help. And help the fans did! People retweeted, donated, sent messages of support. Jared hopped on and thanked fans for the help, and then later in the week highlighted another person in need of help for a very sick cat, once again shining a light that allowed others to help if they could. The collective endorphins that we get from being able to help others just added to the good feelings already there, and made this a really special week.

When I started putting this post together, it was because I’d been reminded of some of my favorite Jared performances over the years. He has brought so much joy to so many of us, first as Sam Winchester and now as Cordell Walker, so I do want to post a few of those moments. But this week also reminded me that I value so many things about Jared that aren’t about what he does for a living. He’s a good soul who genuinely wants to help others – we saw that again this past week. More about that in a minute – but first let’s look back at a few of those performances that really demonstrate Jared’s powerful acting.

The first one that came to mind was one of the two episodes that made me fall in love with Supernatural, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’.

I’d been watching, but I wasn’t head over heels, and then there were a few episodes in a row in Season 2 that just blew me out of the water. Jared’s performance as Sam possessed by Meg was one of those things that made me realize just how special Supernatural is. He was somehow so NOT Jared, not sweet smart caring Sam Winchester – he had an edge to him, evil, sadistic, insecure. Those scenes with Alona Tal as Jo and then with Jensen Ackles as Dean tries to exorcise his brother were breathtaking. Literally.

The second Supernatural episode I thought about was another opportunity for Jared to play a different version of Sam, this time as Lucifer’s vessel in ‘The End’. It’s a short scene, but it’s one of the most memorable in the entire series, Jared making Lucifer absolutely terrifying without ever raising his voice or appearing angry at all. His soft spoken manner nevertheless radiates horrible power, his almost affectionate oh-you-poor-thing reaction to Dean’s tearful resistance enough to turn my stomach. Jensen has talked about how blown away HE was by Jared’s performance, and it came through powerfully on screen too.

There are lots of other great acting moments in the fifteen years of Supernatural, but a few from the later seasons stand out too. One is from ‘Red Meat’, one of my favorite episodes of the entire series – largely because of Jared’s incredible acting. From the moment that Sam gets shot, he makes you believe how much agony Sam is in, and at the same time, makes his almost superhuman persistence believable too. His every facial expression, his every bodily movement, radiates the pain he’s feeling and the struggle it is just to keep going, and that makes the episode one of the most compelling of the series. It literally hurts to watch – and yet I love it.

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Supernatural Rewatch: Supernatural Goes Meta with Hollywood Bablylon

As my friends and I make our way through a Supernatural series rewatch, I am so struck by the quality of these first few seasons. Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons – maybe my favorite of all. There are very few episodes that don’t feel like classics now, and this is certainly one that fits that description. Hollywood Babylon is extra special because it’s the first “meta” episode of Supernatural – something that the show would become known for over its 15 year run.  I LOVED its wink wink nudge nudge making fun of itself and the industry when I saw this episode then and I loved this episode just as much rewatching it now.

Written by the brilliant Ben Edlund, also the mind behind ‘The Tick’, and directed by the venerable Phil Sgriccia, of course Hollywood Babylon was going to be both entertaining and creepy and just plain weird. Which is ALL good in my book!

The opening teaser is a stereotypical horror film, so dimly lit it’s almost black and white, a young woman (Elizabeth Whitmere) with a flashlight searching for her friends in the woods in front of a creepy looking house, the porch swing swaying, scary music playing.

And pretty terrible acting as the woman (searching for her sister, because Supernatural) is deserted by her cowardly male friend and then hears a twig snap behind her. Slowly she turns….and unleashes a bloodcurdling scream into the camera.

That…fades out.

We hear a rather annoyed “cut” and realize we’re on a film set as the camera pans out. She’s been screaming at a suspended tennis ball, which at least partly explains the lack of conviction in her scream.

The meta kicks in instantly, as we meet the director, named McG after the very real producer of Supernatural and many genre shows. He’s as insincere as can be, critical behind her back and then fake oh that was great but let’s do it again and dial up that scream to Tara Benchley’s face. He assures her that the tennis ball will be replaced by a monster and look great “once Ivan and the FX guys are done with it” – an in-group reference to Supernatural’s real life VFX supervisor Ivan Hayden.

For fans who were paying attention, the episode was already leaving us grinning – and I have no doubt it did the same for the cast and crew who were also in on the jokes. Showrunner and creator Eric Kripke has loved playing with meta and in-jokes from the start, and he’s still enjoying doing that on his new show The Boys – and I’m still enjoying it too.

A long-haired crew member named Frank wanders around the set spreading suspicion that there’s some kind of real haunting going on, adding to the fun. At least it’s fun until poor Tara is walking through the fake woods trying to master that scream and is confronted with a dead and bloody Frank up in the scaffolding.

She screams for real, and on the other end of the set, McG happily announces “now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

Enter Sam and Dean and our title card. The meta picks right up again, Sam and Dean on the Warner Brothers studio lot taking the trolley tour that many of us have taken in real life, myself included. Dean is in excited fanboy mode, telling the unimpressed kid next to him that ‘Creepshow’ was filmed over there.

The camera pans up to Sam as the tour guide announces that Stars Hollow is to the right, the setting for the TV show, Gilmore Girls.

Tour guide: And if we’re lucky, we might even catch one of the show’s stars.

Close on Sam, who looks suddenly wary and hops right off the trolley.

The joke, of course, is that Jared also played Dean on Gilmore Girls, so he could have been that star she was mentioning. Poor Dean is upset not to be able to finish the tour, but reluctantly follows his brother. He’s convinced he sees Matt Damon on the lot, undeterred when “Matt” is pushing a broom and insisting he’s probably researching a role while Sam rolls his eyes.  Sam’s trying to work the case while Dean just wants to have fun, saying he wanted to come to LA for a vacation, swimming pools, movie stars.

Sam: Does this seem like pool weather to you, Dean? It’s practically Canadian!

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Supernatural Breaks All Of Ours with Season 2’s Powerful “Heart”

The 17th episode of the second season of Supernatural is one of the best, most emotionally impactful episodes of the series. That’s no surprise when you realize it was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Kim Manners. Together, Manners and Kripke and Gamble shaped Supernatural in essential ways, and the team of Gamble writing and Manners directing was bound to be incredible. Add to that Ackles and Padalecki knocking it out of the park and guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier keeping pace with them every second and you have one of the episodes that fans often use to lure unsuspecting new fans into the Supernatural fold. I’ve seen this episode many times, and it still brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart a little every time. That’s good television!

The episode begins in San Francisco, an attractive woman named Madison (guest star Emmanuelle Vaugier) laughing in a bar with friends. She blows off some guy Nate who wants her to come back to the office with him, and then sees an even more creepy looking guy staring at her through the window. It understandably freaks her out and she leaves – though walking out into the dark alley to get to her car seems like a bad idea to me, but what do I know? I would have at least had someone walk me to my car!

Nothing happens, though, other than the creepy guy watching her drive away. And some gorgeous Kim Manners mirror shots.

The next morning Madison makes coffee in her office when she notices a smear of blood on the wall – and then more on the floor. She walks with trepidation toward Nate’s office, and we see his hand covered in blood before we see him. When she rounds the corner, Nate is lying dead on his desk, torn apart. She drops the coffee pot, screaming. The pot shatters.

All of us: Now that’s a Supernatural opening if I ever saw one!

It’s pure Kim Manners brilliance, from the way Madison at first sees just a small smear of blood and isn’t sure what it is, to the tentative way she comes closer. The shot of just Nate’s arm and hand, bloody, all she can see as the realization of what this is slowly sinks in, and then the full on shot of Nate very very dead, torn apart and bloody. The close up slow mo shot of the coffee pot dropping and shattering is just perfect. Chilling.

Teaser ended, we cut to the boys, as we always did especially in the early seasons. They view poor Nate’s corpse in the morgue, Sam using his puppy dog eyes to charm the attendant into saying that off the record it looks like Nate was attacked by a wolf.

Attendant: But unless I know that the zoo is missing one of their lobos, I’m going with pit bull. I like my job.

Sam: (smiling) Yeah, I hear you.  One more thing – was this guy’s heart missing?

Attendant: Yeah, how did you know that? I haven’t even finished my report.

Sam: Lucky guess.

These boys though, who could resist giving them the information they’re after? I mean, look at them!

Then we get a little glimpse of Winchesters on the road, iconic in its simple familiarity. Early seasons Supernatural life in motel after motel, sleeping in the Impala in between, is the stuff that fanfic is made of. It warms my heart today, fifteen years later.

Dean cleans his guns as he and Sam discuss a new case – “hookers” murdered in the week leading up to the full moon, their hearts missing.

Dean: Awesome.

Sam: Could you be a bigger geek about this?

Dean’s excited about the prospect of “badass” werewolves, which they haven’t seen since they were kids.

Sam: Okay, Sparky. And you know what? After we kill it, we can go to Disneyland.

Gamble was so good at exploring the dynamic between the brothers – the affection beneath their bickering and teasing especially. Sam and Dean are very different, but at this point in the series, they’re accepting their differences and starting to appreciate each other’s strengths more. Most of the time anyway.

Rewatching this episode now in 2022, we all started giggling as soon as this scene began – because it is also one of the iconic gag reel moments, as Jared and Jensen start bickering just like their characters while Jensen has trouble with the prop gun.

Jensen: I’ve got a line, you moron!

The truly wonderful thing is that there’s just as much affection beneath Jared and Jensen’s teasing as there is Sam and Dean’s. At this point, they had already become brothers on and off set. And that chemistry powered the show for 13 more seasons!

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Supernatural Orlando Con 2022!

The Creation Supernatural convention tour returned to Orlando for the first time in a long time last month, in a new hotel with a very lovely pool and lots of palm trees. I got there just in time to catch some of David Haydn-Jones and Adam Fergus, David looking very Florida indeed. Without any context when I arrived, Adam was saying to David, “you like to go deep!” and David was agreeing. They like to joke that their panels are mostly innuendo, but I for one enjoy that thoroughly.

Someone asked who their characters were closest to on the show, and Adam said that there was a special bond between Mick and Sam – but that Mick also wanted Dean’s approval.

David said that Dean and Ketch grew close – after all, “I’ve tended Dean’s wounds…”

Kim and Briana were up next. Kim said she’d started watching Supernatural again and was up to season 4.

Kim: I forgot how much I loved the Ghostfacers!

What was the first time they met Jared and Jensen like?

Kim: The first time I saw them, they were riding mini bikes around the set playing catch with each other.

She thought oh god, they’re not going to be helpful at all when she had to do a big emotional scene after Jody lost her family, but the boys surprised her.

Kim: But when my scene started, they were both like, “what do you need?”

Briana: Jared and Jensen are amazing hosts. They’re so aware that they’re only as good as the people they work with.

Briana: I was introduced to Jensen and I just kept on walking because I saw his face and said, uh oh, that’s pretty…

Understandable.

Kim: For some reason, Jensen makes my upper lip sweat and all I hear when he’s around is mmmmmmm.

Also understandable.

Briana: Phil Sgriccia told Jensen that I was a professional comedian, so he took it as a challenge to try to make me break in the donut scene.

He failed.

Kim said that her character Jody had a special bond with Sam, because he saved her from having to shoot what had been her son.

Kim: That was the foundation of her trust in those boys. She would have died for Sam.

They both talked about how knowing the Supernatural fandom taught them that being on the ‘celebrity side of the fence, they still saw fans as loving – and that, for Kim, let her feel okay about loving Neil Gaiman as a fan herself.

The caption: weapon of choice or sex toy?

I’ve been watching too much of the boys, so my instant reaction was: both??

Friday night I had dinner in the outdoor courtyard under the palm trees and then joined a bunch of other fans in the ballroom to watch the Supernatural pilot. It was so much fun to watch it all together, everyone clapping at all the iconic moments. Damn, I love this Show.

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Fathers, Sons and The Power of Choice – The Boys Explosive Season 3 Finale

The season finale of Season 3 of The Boys has been one of the most anticipated ever. It’s honestly been so much fun watching the excitement ramp up each week for each episode – it was a brilliant decision on Eric Kripke and Prime Video’s part to release the episodes over five weeks instead of all at once, especially with the insane promotion we were treated to each week. I watched the whole season before it streamed in the press screeners, but I still felt entirely swept up in the anticipation and excitement (and, let’s face it, dread!) each week.

The cast traveled to Brazil for four wild days of promotion, which only served to amp up the anticipation even more. We were treated to interviews and red carpets and the cast all having a bloody good time. And Jensen Ackles looking like this.

Now that everyone has had a chance to watch it, this is the spoilery recap and review of the season finale, so SPOILERS ahead. LOTS OF THEM!

I’ve been watching this show since its beginning and have loved it since then, but Season 3 has been a whole different ballgame. As a passionate Supernatural fan, the addition of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy meant that I was even more excited about this season, but even I wasn’t prepared for just how much I’d be drawn in by the character or just how complicated my feelings about Soldier Boy would be. He’s an asshole and a bigot and a bully, but Ackles also portrays him with vulnerability and humor and at times he’s almost charming. I feel like I should not have been hoping for any kind of redemption arc for Soldier Boy, and yet I found myself nervous as hell going into the finale, hoping that a) he wouldn’t be killed off and b) he might find at least a little bit of redemption. Help save the day, maybe?

Well… I should know Eric Kripke better than that by now!

I’ve been writing a lot about this season of The Boys being all about choice, and the season finale sees every main character have to make some difficult ones.

Passing It On From Father To Son – Or Not

This season is also about the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and the toxic masculinity messages that are passed down from fathers to sons. One of those messages is about strength and power. All the men whose fathers were abusive, with either physical or verbal violence or both, have a hard time not repeating the cycle.

Butcher’s father was both, and those toxic messages are ever-present in his head, bleeding out of him in eruptions of physical violence and caustic, cruel barbs thrown at enemies and friends alike.

In this episode, he vacillates wildly between giving into those violent impulses, laser focused (heh heh) on taking down Homelander and willing to use anyone as a weapon to do that, and trying to hang onto the caring part of him that wanted to protect Lenny and now wants to protect Hughie.  He never does tell Hughie about the Temp V being fatal, but he unceremoniously knocks him out with a punch and shoves him in a convenience store bathroom to keep him from taking it again. So, a few points at least in his favor?

On the other hand, he’s been fine with using Frenchie and Kimiko and now Soldier Boy to get the revenge he wants, and he’s as manipulative as ever in this episode, as he repeatedly tells Soldier Boy that Homelander is not really his son. We see Soldier Boy’s ambivalence several times, hesitating to kill his own son and emotional about having a child – but Butcher knows to play to the rage he feels at being tossed aside and replaced, focusing that rage on Homelander by telling Soldier Boy that he is his replacement and the reason he was tortured. Well played, Butcher, but chillingly cruel.

Homelander was not just abused but neglected, deprived of not just a father but a mother too. A sensitive boy like Butcher seems to have been, he too had that knocked out of him with cruelty, absorbing the same message that to be “a man” you must not only be strong and powerful but unfeeling too. Showing vulnerability is weakness, unmanly. Both men struggle to have any kind of healthy relationships – even Butcher’s with his wife was doomed once Ryan existed – and both have been increasingly isolated and alone as this season progressed.

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