Happy 44th Birthday, Jensen Ackles!

I can’t let March 1 go by without wishing a happy birthday to Jensen Ackles, who has made a significant impact on so many people’s lives, including mine.

I love so much about Supernatural, but I don’t think I would have been as captivated by Dean Winchester as I was 16 years ago if someone other than Jensen had played him. The way he cared about that character, making him nuanced and complicated, imperfect and heroic, and achingly real, made all the difference. Add to that, the way he and Jared Padalecki became brothers on set and off brought the Winchesters to life and created a relationship and a story so unique and powerful that I will literally never get over it.

It’s been a rough few years, and a really rough last month – I recently lost my OG partner in crime Kathy, who fell into Supernatural with me way back in 2006, so I’ve been thinking a lot about those early days that we wrote about in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’. We were both ‘Dean girls’ which means that Kathy and I spent a lot of time appreciating one Jensen Ackles.  We spent whole weekends binge watching Jensen’s earlier shows and movies, rewinding (yes, it was that long ago) favorite scenes from Dark Angel and Dawson’s Creek and Blonde and even Devour (yes, you know the one), sipping cold drinks and occasionally swearing or slapping each other on the knee because DAYUM.

We loved all of his performances, but he drew us in with his brilliant portrayal of Dean Winchester, and that ended up changing both of our lives. Half of our story in ‘Fangasm’ was the two of us propelled by some permutation of “how can we meet Jensen Ackles” into roadtrips and flights and online communities and all kinds of unlikely adventures. How do you thank someone for inspiring something like that??

Over the past 16 years, my appreciation for Jensen has evolved –not that I’m not still a Dean girl, because that is FOREVER, but I also have a lot more genuine appreciation for how hard Jensen works and how much he cares about what he does. Because I care so much about Dean too, I am incredibly grateful for that. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the set and watch him work, and to talk with him about the show and the character many times over the years (and to play an ongoing game of guess-what-was-an-adlib which even he will admit I got frighteningly good at). Dean fascinates me as a psychologist, and I have loved discussing what makes him tick with Jensen – who invariably gets him better than I or anyone else ever could.

I’ve seen how much he puts into a performance, and witnessed firsthand how emotional he is when he’s just gone through something traumatic as Dean. It’s striking, and for me as a non-actor, frightening in how much it clearly takes out of an actor who embodies a character like that. I’ve seen how much he cares, and how much he puts into trying to make a scene ‘right’ – for Dean. I’ll appreciate that always.

I’ll be over here mourning Supernatural forever, which will surprise exactly no one reading this, but as I write this in 2022 I’m also so excited for all the amazing new things Jensen’s doing – if anyone thought all the Supernatural actors wouldn’t be a success after the show ended, they were certainly wrong! I can’t wait to see him bring a new character to life on The Boys, reunited with Eric Kripke on a show I’ve been watching since the start and loving (and enjoying dissecting of course).

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Supernatural’s First Mention of Angels in Season 2’s Houses of the Holy

The unlucky number 13 episode of Supernatural’s Season 2 is actually another iconic one. It’s one that was striking at the time because it was so beautifully directed and filmed (by Kim Manners) but it’s even more striking now as we’re doing a rewatch in 2022 because it’s the first episode to mention something that will become integral to the show – angels. Kripke famously didn’t want to include actual angels in the show originally, thinking that would be too much of a stretch and a venture into religious territory the show wanted to mostly avoid, but the writer’s strike changed the ending of Season 3 and Dean went to hell and they needed something to quickly pull  him out – voila, an angel! That decision changed the course of the show, but at this point in Season 2, angels were still something outside the realm of Supernatural.

Of course we don’t know that for most of this episode, which makes it a nice tease – and then a crushing disappointment for Sam. Knowing now, post series, that the God who Sam desperately wants to have faith in turns out to be a real dick, makes young Sam’s desperation to find something good to believe in even more heartbreaking. Sam is just plain good himself throughout the show, but he can’t see it, and religion/God/angels bring him some hope. Unfortunately that hope is misplaced – it will take Sam and Dean a while to realize that they need to put their faith in each other instead.

The opening segment is scary, a young woman watching television alone, smoking a cigarette (which was probably a little more common on network television in early 2007 than it is now). I’m not very observant because I didn’t realize she was supposed to be a sex worker, but I guess the heavy makeup and smoking a lot were supposed to convey that?

In typical Supernatural uh oh something’s wrong fashion, the lights start flickering. The woman changes the channel to a televangelist proclaiming that “the Lord is with you, look up and see the light” and even when she turns the TV off, it comes right back on. That is never good!

We see her alarm through the angel figurines in her apartment, in one of many striking Manners shots.

“The lord is talking to you right now, you have a purpose, it’s time to receive the message he’s sending,” the TV says. The camera pulls in closer and closer as everything starts to shake, furniture falling over, lamps crashing down. An angel figurine on the end table spins around madly as the woman becomes more and more terrified. Suddenly there’s a bright light, and then a figure appears in the light. The woman’s mouth falls open in awe.

And then it’s some time later, the same woman sans makeup and cigarettes sitting on her bed and reading a bible. The psych tech in very attractive white scrubs (aka Sam Winchester) comes in to ask her some questions, and she asks if he wants to know if she’s stark raving cuckoo for cocoa puffs (which is a reference some people watching the show now might not even get!)

Sam’s empathic.

Sam: I didn’t say that.

His empathy (and that adorable shy smile most likely) allows her to open up, and she says that she thinks that what she saw was real. Sam closes the chart and makes eye contact instead of writing notes – he’s so good at making people feel at ease so they’re comfortable confiding in him – and says he’d like to know what she saw. Did God talk to her?

She says no, but he sent someone – an angel.

Sam is skeptical, but he listens.

The woman insists that what she did was important, that she helped the angel smite an evil man (who she stabbed to death). That even though the angel didn’t give her the man’s name, he told her to wait for a sign – and then she saw it.

Sounds like a very dangerous way to go after evildoers!

Sam goes back to the motel and finds Dean enjoying the bed’s Magic Fingers. He’s lying on his back looking super happy, trembling all over with the vibrations and listening to his iPod, mouth gaping a little because, as always, Ackles is very good at conveying what Dean’s feeling. In this case, pleasure. Mmm.

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There’s “No Exit” from Supernatural (for me!) – Supernatural Rewatch Episode 2.06

The sixth episode of Supernatural’s second season, ‘No Exit’, was aptly named – aptly for me, personally, at least. Because by the time this episode aired, I was head over heels in love with this show and these characters, and for the next fifteen years (which brings us to 2021 as I write this), there would indeed be no exit. I was a Supernatural fan and would stay that way.

‘No Exit’ was directed by Kim Manners, whose brilliance made every single one of his episodes memorable and the ‘look’ of Supernatural so distinctive. This episode is also personally relevant for me because it takes place in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA. I’m a proud Philly resident, and it was extra exciting to see Sam and Dean be in my hometown even if Jared and Jensen were still filming in Vancouver.

The recap reminds us of that amusing moment when Jo asks Dean if he’s really afraid of her mother, and Dean admits with a nervous smile, “I think so.”

Damn right.

As this episode opens (in Philly), a young woman comes home to her apartment, annoyed by the lights flickering. She doesn’t realize she’s on a horror show, so instead of immediately getting the hell out of there, she calls her landlord to complain. Even when black goo starts to drip onto her and pour out of the light sockets, she does not leave, as all of us doing the rewatch start yelling “Time to go, lady!”

Instead she leans in close to the dripping light socket – and sees an eyeball looking back!

Finally she screams, but of course by then it’s too late. All the kudos, Mr. Manners, for making that scene horror movie levels of scary and creepy! There are so many brilliant shots in this episode – Kim had dramatic sweeping crane shots in some of his memorable episodes, but in this episode he uses these ultra close up very boundaried shots to create a terrifying claustrophobic feel, like evil is right up against you and you can’t escape it. Gives me chills in the best horror movie kind of way!

Cut to the Winchesters discussing a girl kidnapped by an evil cult, snarking at each other in between job related talk.

Sam: Girl got a name?

Dean: Katie Holmes.

Sam (laughing) That’s funny… and for you, so bitchy…

Snarky Sam is the best. Jared Padalecki got a few comedic moments in this episode, and he always uses them so effectively. I don’t know if he thinks of himself as talented with comedy, but he really is.

The brothers park outside the Roadhouse, hearing raised voices and the sound of breaking glass from inside, which immediately attracts Dean’s attention.

Dean: On the other hand – catfight!

Oh, Dean.

They find Ellen and Jo in the midst of a mother-daughter argument that rings true for every mother who has had to come to terms with not being able to keep their child safe 100% of the time, and also has something to say about the way Ellen is raising Jo compared to the way John raised Sam and Dean. Jo insists that her mother can’t keep her there; Ellen counters with a ‘don’t bet on that, sweetie.’ The option of tying Jo up in the basement is not entirely shot down, but Ellen does encourage Jo to leave and do something productive, i.e. go back to school.

What a contrast to how John reacted to Sam’s desire to go to college!

Jo protests that she didn’t belong there, feeling like “a freak with a knife collection”, which is something we know Sam experienced too, no matter how much he wanted to fit in and get away from the hunting life.

Ellen: And getting yourself killed on some dusty back road – that’s where you belong?

At that moment, they see Sam and Dean – whose life has just been vividly described.

Ellen: Guys, bad time…

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The Episode That Made Me Fall In Love With Supernatural – Rewatch 2.04

The fourth episode of Season 2, “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”, is as creepy as the title suggests, and at the same time undeniably sad. Like almost every episode in the first seasons, the case of the week is a mirror for Sam and Dean and what they’re going through. The death of their father is hanging over them and they’re struggling with it, both of them, and no doubt spending a lot of time wishing their dad was still alive. That’s why the events of this episode hit them hard, and us as viewers too.

Written by Raelle Tucker, who I wish had stayed with the show longer, this is a Kim Manners episode, so it’s brilliantly directed – and breathtakingly gorgeous. The iconic crane shot, the moonlit cemetery, the beautiful Vancouver vista at the end, and of course the ultra close ups of the boys that rival any other beauty Vancouver can conjure.

It’s also the episode that made me fall head over heels in love with Sam and Dean Winchester and Supernatural.

So needless to say, I was excited about getting to this point of our post-series-finale rewatch.

The recap reminds us of John’s death and that Dean is, in fact, not all right, ending with him punching Sam for asking about it. This episode begins with a nice seeming guy named Neil trying to cheer up a sad woman, who pronounces him a ‘good friend’, which is always a warning sign when we can all see within ten seconds that Neil is pining for her.

Guest stars Tamara Feldman and Christopher Jacot are memorable as the doomed Neil and Angela; she is brilliant at being creepy and we don’t know whether to be furious at Jacot’s Neil or feel sorry for him, or maybe a little of both.

Her ex boyfriend Matt barges in trying to explain something, but Angela runs out and gets in her car, distraught, which never ends well. She then makes the mistake of picking up her ex’s phone call while she’s driving at night in the rain and crying and…you can see where this is going. Head on collision, shattered windshield, blood dripping onto the phone, Angela’s dead eyes open and staring while her ex on the phone asks “Angela?”

Creepy creepy beginning of a Kim Manners episode that is true to Supernatural’s horror roots. Look at that shot!

Cut to the Winchesters in the Impala, arguing. Dean says it’s stupid to go visit their mom’s grave, since there’s no body left after the fire.

Dean: It’s just a slab of granite put up by a stranger.

Sam: It’s about her memory, okay? After Dad, it feels like the right thing to do.

Dean pronounces it irrational, they should be hunting the demon, and Sam retorts that no one asked him to come.

Sam: Go ahead, drop me off and go on to the Roadhouse.

Dean: (scoffing) Stuck with those people making awkward small talk til you show up? No thanks.

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In My Time of Dying – Supernatural Rewatch Kicks Off Season 2!

It’s the summer of 2021, pandemic still hanging over the world, and our little Supernatural rewatch slowed down a bit as all of us headed out for much needed family vacations. I’m glad we got a little of that in while we could considering the arrival of the Delta variant – and once again, I need my comfort show more than ever. So, it’s back to Supernatural!

Now that September is on the horizon, we’re back to making our way through the early seasons of our favorite show little by little. We finished Season 1 in the beginning of the summer, so we picked back up with Season 2’s memorable premiere, In My Time of Dying, which features a whole lot of Dean in a white tee shirt and scrub pants, a deepening connection between the brothers, and an emotionally devastating goodbye to John Winchester.

Directed by the brilliant Kim Manners, the episode kicked off with an awesome rock montage recap of the whole first season, ending with that cliffhanger crash, and when the ‘NOW’ title card comes up, it’s CCR once again. I have never listened to Creedence Clearwater Revivial’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ the same way ever again – it literally gives me chills now.

The stunt driver who accidentally became an actor when he ended up in the scene had to come back for Season 2. (The Impala didn’t move like they expected it to so his face was clearly visible – it was supposed to flip over but got hung up on the truck so you could see the driver through the windshield). He had to come back and film the first episode of the next season too, but he did a great job. After Sam gathers every last bit of his strength and raises the Colt to shoot, the demon smokes out of him and the traumatized guy gasps, “did I do this?”

Sam fucking Winchester, right from the start. Damn.

The demon may be gone, but the aftermath is terrifying. Sam calls out desperately for his dad, and then for his brother, his eyes catching on his unconscious bloodied brother in the back seat, as we all sat in horror and waited to find out if either of them were okay.

Sam: Dean!!

Then it’s the next day, paramedics putting an unresponsive Dean on a stretcher. Sam, distraught, yells “are they okay? Are they even alive?!”

Jared is so good in this entire scene, the only Winchester conscious so the weight of portraying all the emotion and horror is entirely on him – and he shows us every bit of it.

At the time, we didn’t know for sure what the answer to that question was, and that made every moment an edge-of-your-seat one. The media landscape at the time was vastly different than today, and Supernatural was entirely under the radar, so there were no paparazzi shots or website leaks or even any articles. I love that we eventually got so much, but in those early days, we were genuinely terrified that one of our favorite characters was going to die and be gone for good, and that added an extra layer of suspense to the story telling.

Every time Sam yells for his brother, I tear up.

When the next scene begins, Dean wakes up in the hospital, everything seeming quiet and surreal. He gets up, clad only in a white tee shirt and scrub pants with bare feet, praise the powers that be, and wanders down the hall, calling “Sam? Dad? Anybody?”

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