Lynn and I should be meeting this weekend, in Nashville. At the Salute to Supernatural Convention at the Grand Ol Opry Hotel/Resort. Instead, we are locked down. Quarantined. The convention has long been canceled. (Rescheduled for August and Chuck knows we are beyond excited at the thought of attending another convention!) Rather than sit and worry about the state of the country, the world… rather than be sad we don’t have a convention this weekend… we thought we should remember the good times we’ve had in Nashville over the years. So without further ado, here’s a quick look back at the Salute to Supernatural Conventions in Nashville!
[Kim] One of my favorite parts of these conventions is listening to the Rules and Regulations as presented by our host, Richard Speight, Jr. alongside Rob Benedict and Louden Swain. Do they discuss what they are going to do each time? Do they write it, plan it, rehearse it? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. Their version of the Rules and Regulations are different at each convention, usually laced with indirect or direct innuendo about the host city, and always laugh-‘til-my-cheeks-hurt funny. I may or may not have laughed ‘til I cried at more than one of these presentations.
[Lynn] I miss Rules & Regulations! I miss the theme song, and the fabulous showcase that it is for Rich and Rob’s hilarious sense of humor and mad improv skills. Just sayin’.
[Kim} This convention began on Friday with Richard bringing us yet another fresh, new version of the Rules and Regulations. In typical fashion, he managed to explain these to us all while making fun of southern sayings; he referenced so many that I could not possibly include them all – and yes, I reckon I laughed so hard I was fixin’ to cry.
(Ugh. Eww. Look at the ridiculous watermark. Look at the blurry photo. *sigh* I had so much to learn back then.)
Friday panels began with the dynamic duo of Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster.
They danced their way onto the stage, and immediately began to tell us about their conversation from the night before – one that included both periods and trying on underwear – because that’s how best friends roll. Listening to their panel, watching their interaction, I had no doubt they share an epic friendship, and it reminded me of my own real life best friend. (You really don’t want to read some of our texts either.) I don’t know if Wayward Daughters will ever be picked up as a spin off, but if it isn’t, can someone please give these two besties their own show already?
[Lynn] Ouch. That one’s hard to read now…
Gil McKinney had a solo panel on Friday. Always smooth and sexy, he talks effortlessly about his life on Supernatural and beyond. He also reminds us how much the show and the fandom have impacted his life. Oh, and he discovered and now loves Cracker Barrel… and y’all know you’re gonna eat there for breakfast every time there’s a con in town.
This is a tough time for everyone. For fans of Supernatural, it’s also the countdown to the ending of the show that has gotten us through our toughest times for the past fifteen years. I’ve seen the fandom and the cast come together online to try and offer ways to help each other get through this, from posting adorable family home videos to organizing rewatch parties to Stage It shows to virtual cons. For our part, we’re really hoping that our new book, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, that celebrates the legacy of Supernatural will also be a help to this SPNFamily we love.
We planned the book because we knew this would be a hard time for Supernatural fans and cast – hoping that a book to hang onto that celebrates the legacy of the show and its importance would be a help getting through. But we had no idea just how hard this time would truly be. Our hope is that getting There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done out in early May will be a bright spot for the SPNFamily both for the show’s ending and the painful position all of humanity is in right now. Preorder link is at the end – and you get some freebies right now to amuse you until the release date.
We’ll try to do our part here on the blog too, with more features from the new book and its authors – both cast and fans – in the coming weeks. Here’s our first offering of ‘bright spots’ to give Supernatural fans something positive to hang onto – our adventures at the last Supernatural convention for who knows how long, SPNVegas. And some pretty pictures.
Everyone knew that this year’s Vegas Supernatural con was going to be an emotional one. For one thing, there hadn’t been a con since November, so cast and fans and vendors were all missing each other a great deal. Even more impactful, this was the last convention during which Jared, Jensen and Misha were still filming Supernatural. The last con at which they still *were* Sam, Dean and Cas. (Or at least that was the plan – who knows what’s going to happen now!)
As I boarded my flight on Wednesday morning – more than two weeks ago as I write this – (clutching my hand sanitizer and incredibly thankful that there was no one sitting next to me), I kept thinking that this was the last convention that would be the same as all the ones before it. I’ve been going to these cons for 13 years, since 2007, and all this time, Jared and Jensen have been Sam and Dean. If you know me at all, you know that my questions are always show questions. I am always dying to know what they thought about their character’s emotional reaction to whatever was happening on the show, or what their head canon is about the latest episode. This would be the last convention where I could ask those sort of questions and still have ongoing canon to spool out before us. The last one in which the Winchesters’ and Castiel’s stories are not yet over; not yet fully told. At this point as I post this, we don’t know when they will actually be able to film the last two episodes, but it will certainly be different, and not something that happened organically, with the crew that has been family for fifteen years, in a continuous season of filming. There will never be a convention quite like this one ever again.
Like so many things I’m emotional about that have to do with my favorite show ending, it sounds silly to be so worked up about this kind of ‘never again’ – but it’s not. This show, these conventions, these actors, have been a big part of my life and the lives of most Supernatural fans – whether you’re there in person or not, everyone enjoys the panels and getting to know the cast of our favorite show better. And while some things won’t entirely change going forward, some most definitely will. There are cons planned throughout 2020 (assuming COVID19 allows any), but they will still be different. And now that the entire world is on the brink of apocalypse, I need the healthy escape and inspiration of my favorite fictional characters more than ever!
So let’s just say I arrived in Vegas already a bit teary eyed. It seems weird to write this now, only two weeks later, but at the time we didn’t know just how serious and widespread COVID19 would be. Nevertheless, I followed an air hugs only rule at the con, washed my hands constantly, and kept a bottle of hand sanitizer at my vendor table throughout the con. I’m now very glad I did!
Luckily my good friend Laurena met me at the airport so we could share this entire experience, and ensure that neither of us totally decompensated from being emotionally overwhelmed at some point. We caught an Uber and consoled each other with a plan of an afternoon lounging in the sun beneath the palm trees at the Rio’s beautiful pool. Ahhh, just what two people escaping from Philly and Chicago needed in early March!
I have a love/hate relationship with the Rio. It’s always where the Vegas con is, and that makes me fond of it in that nostalgic way I have of being fond of everything that’s familiar in my life and can anchor me to the good stuff. On the other hand, there was that year the entire bathroom overflowed with sewage in the middle of the night – literally bubbling up out of our sink and tub and toilet – that sent me and my roommates out onto the casino floor in our PJ’s with a luggage cart of all our hurriedly stacked up belongings to move rooms at 3 am. Not one of my best memories.
So when Laurena and I arrived and were informed that the pool was CLOSED, it was like a flashback to that earlier trauma. Closed??? For the entire time we’d be here? What’s worse, it wasn’t just the pool – it was the entire outside area. There was literally nowhere to sit outside and enjoy the Vegas warmth. We ended up sitting at the shuttle stop on a metal bench, feeling pretty forlorn, just to get some fresh air for a little while.
First it was the announcement that this would be a “no-touch” con, thanks to COVID19, which was upsetting to many fans who were looking forward to hugging their faves in a photo op, even if everyone was starting to understand that it was probably very necessary. Then no pool??
Late lunch at Hash House, which is always a treat, made us feel a bit better. Then it was time to open our table in the vendor room, and to reunite with all the awesome vendor squad people I hadn’t seen in way too long. I was so exhausted from the time change and travel that I almost crashed right after, but luckily I decided to join my friend Lisa and a bunch of her friends – all of them writers – for a late dinner. Well, really for some delicious milkshakes. YUM! And writing talk, which I always enjoy.
Thursday the convention itself kicked off. Vegas is four days long (five if you count Wednesday evening vending and events), so it’s really more like an endurance marathon. The walk to the convention area of the Rio is approximately ten miles long, so endurance really is the right word. My knees have still not recovered.
There were SO many friends at this con, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to catch up with so many people since I have no clue when we’ll all be together again. HR was there with his newest awesome sculptures – I’m always blown away by the talent in this fandom!
Can’t you just hear Jack saying “Hello…”?
Thursday kicked off the con itself. After an intro by Rob and the band, first up was a panel by DJ Qualls, who hasn’t been to a con in a while. It was wonderful to see him, and heartwarming to hear the SPNFamily’s enthusiastic support of DJ, who had recently come out as gay.
DJ: Everyone knows I came out, right? I really was never in to anyone who knew me. But I learned at the time I started in this business that Hollywood wanted you to be quiet about it.
I’m in an entirely new headspace for watching the last episodes of Supernatural, which is making writing a recap and review an entirely new challenge. There’s a big part of me that just wants to watch and drink it up, absorb every last morsel of experience with my favorite fictional characters and savor it, no matter what. I am acutely aware, every single second that I’m watching, that my last minutes with the Winchesters and company are ticking down. The other part of me is aware of the same thing but reacts instead with “omg please don’t waste a single moment of these last minutes!” That part is more likely to get frustrated when it seems like those precious moments are indeed wasted.
That’s complex enough, but I am also acutely aware that there are competing motivations here. As a fan, I want the last eight episodes to be satisfying – to continue the story that has meant so much to me and to wrap it up in a way that makes sense and honors the characters I love. For the people who actually make the show – the cast, the crew, and the writers – the motivation is different; more personal, more idiosyncratic. I value the fictional story and characters; they value their workplace and their colleagues and perhaps their legacy with this show. I’m most concerned about wrapping the story; they may be most concerned about saying goodbye to friends and coworkers, or about wrapping their own part of the story instead of the holistic one. Nobody is right or wrong, but it means we’re going to want different things and respond to things differently as we head toward the end.
And as if all that wasn’t complex enough, COVID19 has changed the entire landscape of the world and made Supernatural ending even more emotional than it already was – and much more complicated. Some days, it seems like the world is crumbling around us, and I realize that I need Supernatural more than ever. Yes, I know it’s “just a television show”, but it has been a lifeline for many fans for a decade and a half. I don’t know when we’ve ever needed that lifeline more than right now, in the grip of a global pandemic that is attacking people’s health, safety and livelihoods. When this beloved show is gone, the world will seem that much colder and scarier. I think we’ll make sure the lifeline is still there in terms of the fan community and continuing to engage with the cast in whatever they’re doing, but we won’t have the ongoing story itself to immerse ourselves in. That just means my emotions are running higher than ever about Supernatural ending!
And finally, the ending itself is all up in the air right now. Filming was suspended at the end of last week, as it had just begun on the penultimate (I know, nobody says penultimate…) episode, 15.19. The last one to finish filming was 15.18, which likely left us in a cliffhanger situation without an end. Yesterday producer Jim Michaels reassured a worried fandom that once it was safe to resume, they would “finish what we started” but the uncertainty just adds to the anxiety of impending loss. Will the crew who has been a part of this family since the start be able to be there to resume too? I’m trying to take heart from what Michaels said and not worry, but it seems like worry is a lot of what I’m doing right now!
That said, I was glad to have Supernatural return on Monday night with episode 15.12, Galaxy Brain, written by Robert Berens and Meredith Glynn, and directed by Richard Speight, Jr. It wasn’t a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your seat episode by any means, but its last scene did set up the foundation for how the rest of the series will go. I didn’t jump up and down and scream about how much I love this show as I was watching, but it had its moments that were satisfying – as well as a few head scratchers. Mostly, it made me aware that we all participate in this show for different reasons and have different motivations, so for some, this episode satisfied, and for others, it frustrated.
I had a few emotional moments, so I always count that as a win.
Rob Benedict returns as Chuck on ‘Earth 2’ as the episode begins, in a Radio Shed with a hapless and very relatable employee trying to sell him a universal remote. I had to laugh at how right they got it, memories of once-beloved Radio Shack stores making me all kinds of nostalgic.
I enjoyed the nod to Rob’s actual band, Louden Swain, as one of their songs plays in the store – with a lyric that includes “I had a dream that I ate your heart” that is just too perfect considering Jack’s charge from Billie this season. In fact, the fake store was so well done by Jerry Wanek and his amazing crew that director Richard Speight, Jr. tweeted that a few people came in off the street to try to buy a phone!
Chuck then goes full on meta – a little too on the nose for me at this point, even though I usually enjoy the meta. I enjoy it less now that we have so little time – I just want episodes that focus on saving people, hunting things, the family business. And I find myself wanting to stay ‘in the story’ more, knowing I have so little of it left.
Chuck: It’s monologue time.
Me: Okay, Show. We get it.
Employee: Sir, this is a Radio Shed.
That was one of the best lines in the episode and it made me laugh out loud. Kudos to Nicco DelRio for that delivery and Speight’s directing.
I don’t usually do conventions back to back, which explains why I wasn’t going to do the Supernatural Denver con – because there was a Supernatural con in Charlotte the very next weekend and I already had tickets. But some of my friends (you know who you are…) are filthy enablers, and I ended up going to Denver after all. That turned out to be a wild and wonderful weekend, but let’s just say that I arrived in Charlotte already pretty tired – and that’s before the con had even started! Luckily I was too busy having fun to really feel the exhaustion until Sunday rolled around and the adrenaline rush that always happens at a Supernatural con was over. (Then I pretty much slept for 12 hours in an attempt to avoid con crud – so far, successful!)
Thursday I flew in and got to meet a friend and fellow fangirl (and fellow writer) who I had only known online – which is always such a treat! Gail Martin is a talented writer whose fantasy genre novels are very popular with the Supernatural fandom, so I couldn’t wait to talk writing and SPN with her. She’s also a Charlotte local, and that means we had delicious barbeque for lunch – and hush puppies! YUM! If you know something better than sharing your mutual love of Supernatural with a new friend over great food, I’m listening.
Gail dropped me off at the con hotel and I had time for a quick dip in the pool, then it was time to set up my vendor table. My friend and partner in crime (and brilliant photographer) Kim Prior and her bestie arrived by car (which means Kim also brought a car full of food and a cooler full of drinks, so yay!) This con was at the Embassy Suites in Charlotte. I think every Supernatural con should be at an Embassy Suites – not only do you get a little mini kitchen in your room and a separate bedroom and living area with sleeper sofa, but you get FREE breakfast and dinner time snacks every day!!! Not one to ever turn down free food, I set my alarm to get up early enough to partake of the buffet breakfast every morning – they even had an omelet bar and a waffle station! Friends, fangirls, free food – I was in heaven. Oh, and the Supernatural cast too…
Thursday night in the vendor room I got to meet lots of people who had read Family Don’t End With Blood and been touched by it. Over the course of the weekend, dozens of people confided to me that the book had changed them in some way, or had even inspired them to keep living. I hope that I somehow convey how much that means when someone says that – that is what we hoped the book would do, that it would inspire people to “always keep fighting”. That’s why the fans who wrote chapters and all the actors who wrote chapters were brave enough to share their own struggles with depression and anxiety and addiction and so many other things – to validate others’ struggles and inspire them to keep fighting. I know it takes courage to walk up and say that to me, a stranger – but I am so honored by it, every single time. So thank you.
Friday morning, after the free buffet of course, the con kicked off with Rich and Rob, who showed off the traditional new Borja shirt for the con. Charlotte, get it?
And then we had a panel with the adorable Rachel Miner.
I will never get over how Rachel’s face lights up when she comes onstage and hears the roar of applause. She has become one of our favorite guests, and has inspired so many people to look at life in a positive way and to keep going no matter what the obstacles. I am so so glad she wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood — she’s a role model to many in the fandom, and she understands the importance of representation. At Charlotte, Rachel reiterated something she’d talked about the weekend before in Denver.
Rachel: If I was back on the show, I’d want to be in the chair. Representation is important.
I’ve been a fan of the Hillywood Show since I discovered their parody videos with their first Supernatural video several years ago. Hannah and Hilly Hindi, the sisters behind The Hillywood Show, were kind enough to chat with me about that video and to also contribute some insights to the documentary film on fandom I co-wrote, Squee! I’ve been eagerly awaiting their second Supernatural parody with high expectations, but the reality surpassed them when it was released last week – Supernatural Parody 2 is a loving tribute to the show, its amazing cast, and its incredible fandom. As I took some notes on why I was enjoying it so much, I realized it’s because once again, they totally got it right – even for someone like me, who adores Supernatural and has written five books on the show and the fandom!
I was at the Supernatural convention in Denver last weekend, and there was quite a bit of talk about the new parody, which both fans and Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles had high praise for. Jensen in particular was impressed with the production value and the professionalism of the set and the shoot, and especially with the realistic proton packs that he and Jared got to wear – they sometimes had to take them off between takes because Jared kept bumping into the door and other things. Jensen seemed excited that the blasters really worked too, which I think means they were having a lot of fun playing with them! I shared those reactions with Hannah and Hilly when we chatted.
Hilly: He did keep bumping into the door, we can confirm that one. Hannah: I just know that Jared really likes to push buttons!
Hilly: The pack, though, really was the coolest toy. They were like the real deal, so it’s the ultimate toy and Jared was like, yes! I could just see his eyes light up.
[There’s a great moment on the behind the scenes feature where Osric shows Jensen how to pull out his blaster, and he does. Then Jared pulls out his, with significantly more flourish, and Osric grins and whispers to the camera.
Osric: The gentle giant…
Jared makes the blaster light up and then asks, with his eyes all hopefully lit up, “do you want this on?”
Hilly: No, cuz that means you’re killing us…]
I laughed out loud at that.
Hilly: We haven’t been able to talk about it or hear from them since the shoot. They asked, “When can we mention it?” I told them you can’t until the video is out. So, weeks down the road now, it’s really cool to hear them talk about it.
Lynn: They definitely enjoyed it. So, after thinking about this a bit, I’ve identified ten things you got very right. I’m gonna go through them one by one, and you can comment, okay?
Number 1. One of the things that makes your parodies so brilliant and so loved by fans is that you really GET the show you’re parodying, maybe Supernatural more than even the other shows you’ve parodied. You were able to reproduce the show itself with the level of detail that fandom relishes – the kitchen set from Changing Channels, the library in the Men of Letters bunker, the proton packs with Dean’s little army man and the Colt and Sam’s with Ruby’s knife. Some of the scenes looked so eerily similar, like that iconic moment when Dean fires the Colt and kills Azazel in slow motion. How do you decide what scenes and what details to include and how much detail to put into it? It must take so much time!