Remembering Supernatural and the Magic of the Mullet – with Chad Lindberg

Chad Lindberg is one of the first Supernatural actors that I got to know well, way back in the early seasons of the show. When Kathy and I were researching and writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, we sat down with Chad to chat one day at a very early convention, and immediately hit it off. In fact, in the middle of our interview, after we’d gotten into a deep discussion of fandom and why it’s so compelling, Chad jumped up and said “You have to meet my friends – they’re making a movie about the same thing you’re writing about in your book!”

That’s how we met Tony Zierra and Elizabeth Yoffe, the filmmaker and producer behind the film “My Big Break,” which starred Chad Lindberg and Wes Bentley among others. We partnered with them and Chad to screen the film and share our thoughts on fandom and stardom in multiple cities, which meant some wonderful dinners and a wild time on Bourbon Street and lots of great conversation. Some of our adventures with Chad are in the pages of one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. On occasion, he’s even helped us out at convention vendor rooms and with impromptu livestreams!

So let’s just say, I really miss Chad! He contributed a chapter to the new book by the actors and fans of Supernatural that celebrates the legacy of the show, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, which was released in 2020. I hadn’t spoken to Chad since he put that chapter together, so we connected by phone near the end of the year.

Chad: Good to hear from you!

Lynn: OMG you too! When I talked to you last year about writing your chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, the world was a completely different place.

Chad: It certainly was. Every day continually astonishes me. And not in a good way.

Lynn: I know what you mean. I’m wondering, because you wrote your chapter a year ago and it’s about your personal journey with Supernatural and how it impacted you, how has your journey continued over the past year?

Read more

Happy New Year, SPNFamily – Dealing with Loss and Hanging Onto Gratitude In 2021

Supernatural ended six weeks ago, but the cascade of emotions its ending brought to its fans is still feeling pretty raw for many people, including me. One of the most difficult things for me is that my emotions are all over the place – I’m devastated about losing the show, missing it painfully, wishing I knew it was coming back, and dismayed at the fandom infighting that’s been happening for six weeks. At the same time, I’m excited about Jared’s new series and Jensen’s new role in The Boys and Misha’s new movie part – and happy for all of them that they’re being productive and sinking their teeth into new roles. (At least a big part of me is; there’s another part that just wants to be a two year old and stomp my feet and say NO you can’t move on from the characters that I love!)

It’s not that often that we have conflicting emotions about something that’s truly important to us, so we don’t have a lot of practice with it, and it can feel jarring. Supernatural was a television show, but it was so much more to so many people. So those emotions we’re processing are a big deal and it takes time to work through them. Maybe that’s part of why there’s still so much contention going on about the finale – it’s like a bad breakup that’s got some ambivalence around it. As long as you’re still arguing with your ex, is the relationship really over?

Whether the emotions that are lingering for you are sadness, grief, anger, or fear of more losses (combined hopefully with some anticipation for the new things coming our way), Supernatural fans head into the New Year with a lot to process. So I thought I’d do myself a favor and try to sift through my own conflicting emotions and not-always-rational thoughts here, and try to figure out some ways I can deal with those emotions and find as much joy as I possibly can in 2021. Sharing my thoughts and feelings here in the hopes that it might help you do the same.

So, what am I feeling? First and foremost, there’s sadness. Supernatural ending is a loss for me, and not a trivial one. Whenever you care about something deeply, losing that something hurts – and unfortunately there are no real shortcuts to get around feeling that pain. Instead, I’m allowing myself those feelings – telling myself that it’s okay to mourn. Whether you’re mourning the show itself or the death (temporarily anyway) of one or all of the main characters, those feelings are valid. Experiencing grief isn’t dependent on how you felt about the final episodes – we are ALL losing something important to us so we’re all grieving. Even if you loved the finale, you’re still losing the show and the fictional characters that enriched our lives and inspired us for a very long time. So, I’m reminding myself that my feelings are valid and letting myself feel them.

We all grieve differently and on our own timetable. For some fellow fans I know, avoidance and denial are still the most commonly used ways of coping. For me, I need to titrate my exposure to the things that make me feel that loss the most. I find myself alternately wanting to distract myself with other things, from work to zoom chats with friends or family, to little forays into the new things the Supernatural cast is up to, and then feeling pulled to sink back into Supernatural and remember why I’ve loved it so much and do some grieving. That might be with a tear-jerker of a finale fan vid, or a nostalgic one from 2007. It might be reading some fanfic that leaves me sobbing or indulging in some posts on Tumblr that are devastating yet validating in how much they ‘get it’. Whatever ‘puts me in my feels’ as we used to say back in the day. I need to feel it for a while, cry a few tears, and then I need to pull myself back out. Maybe by sharing what I’ve watched with a friend who I know will validate my feelings. Maybe by watching some gag reel videos or one of my favorite convention moments that will make me smile. Maybe by reading the actors’ words in Family Don’t End With Blood or There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, to remind myself that they love this show and these characters too, and that this has meant just as much to them.

As we grieve, it’s helpful to go back and forth between really ‘feeling it’ and then backing away and escaping and avoiding for a little while. Your brain knows you can only take so much before being overwhelmed, and tries to help you forget about loss and grief for a while as a coping strategy. I’m trying to relax and let the healing process happen, little by little by little. There’s always a part of us that’s reluctant to let go of our grief for something we’ve loved and lost, as though if we start just being happy again, that will mean we have truly lost it. That’s not true though – when you love something, that love doesn’t have to go away. It just gets integrated, but it’s always there to be celebrated. That was our reason for putting together There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, so we never have to forget and can hang onto something tangible to always remember how special this has been.

Graphic Offlarjun

It’s not just sadness. I’m also feeling fear, and in a way, that’s more upsetting than the sadness. As humans, we all fear the unknown, and that’s what 2021 brings as far as the Supernatural fandom. For 15 years, this has been such an important community for me, one I’ve been happily immersed in. I could hop on any social media at any time of the day or night and find other Supernatural fans there and plenty of new posts and photos and content. I am perfectly aware that I’ve been spoiled in this fandom, with so many of the actors being active on social media and conventions happening so often and so many talented, creative fans putting out such amazing creations. It’s inevitable that this will change now that the show is no longer filming and there are no new episodes to conjecture about and analyze ad infinitum afterwards. No more behind the scenes photos from set or fans on filming locations or PR events. I worry every day that the Impala emoji that temporarily graces the show’s hashtags will have disappeared, knowing that – like so many things we wish we could hang onto – it won’t be there forever and there’s nothing I can do about it. I know that the fandom won’t disappear, but that will change too over time, as fans find other things to love and post about and create for. That’s as it should be, I know, but it also scares me. I tend to be a one-fandom-at-a-time type of fan, and that’s been Supernatural for a very long time. I don’t fall in love easily, in any sense of the word.

So far my strategies for dealing with the anxiety are mostly using a little cognitive behavioral therapy on myself, challenging irrational thoughts like OMG I’m gonna lose all my friends or OMG nobody will ever make a video about Supernatural ever again! I have to keep reassuring myself that while some changes may not be wanted, change itself is inevitable – and that this particular change isn’t as catastrophic as I sometimes start to imagine. Three zoom get-togethers with my fandom friends in the past week helped a lot to calm my catastrophizing. (At least temporarily – alas, anxiety has a way of creeping back in – and then it will be back to CBT for me!)

There’s also some anger and disappointment, as I know there is for many fans. For me, that’s not about the last episodes themselves – and I feel very lucky that they worked for me, because there’s extra anger and disappointment for those who didn’t like them – but more about the relentless arguing and infighting that the fandom devolved into post finale. All those feelings people are having are valid, but it’s been hard to see fans attack other fans or the actors or writers of the show itself. I know how proud Misha was of episode 18 and how proud Jared and Jensen were of episode 20, and they’re real people who are impacted as well. That said, one of the things that keeps us all sane is knowing that other people’s feelings aren’t our responsibility. So I’m trying to focus on my own feelings and leave others to their own as much as possible – we all loved this show for different reasons, and our own histories both with the show and in our own lives determine our reaction to the story, so of course those reactions are going to vary widely. That’s okay. Let’s just give each other room for our diverse feelings as much as we can, because we’re all dealing with lots of emotions.

And finally, there’s that incongruous feeling of anticipation – incongruous because I never feel it without it being tied up with simultaneous grief. I’m so happy for Jared, Jensen and Misha and their success in taking on new projects so quickly. I know in their business, that’s crucial, and I genuinely care about them, so I’m relieved. I’m so glad they’ll be on our screens again so soon and that they aren’t going to disappear never to be heard from again. That would be a whole other loss on top of the loss of the fictional characters and the show itself. I never watched Walker Texas Ranger, so I’m going into the new Walker without any preconceived notions. They seem to be very thoughtful in putting it together, in terms of representation and diversity not just in front of the camera but behind it as well. The teaser was not only beautifully shot but intriguing in the emotional arcs it sets up. And Jared is putting his heart into it. So I’m excited to see where Walker takes me. I’ve been watching The Boys since the start, because I usually love whatever Eric Kripke creates, and this show is no exception. I was already a fan, so Jensen joining the cast is super exciting and I cannot wait to find out what insane adventures Kripke and company have in store for Soldier Boy. I don’t know much about Misha’s new film yet, but it’s got a great cast, so looking forward to that too.

That’s all good. At the same time, the selfish part of me that isn’t ready to let Supernatural go keeps wanting to be irrationally annoyed with J2M for moving on and becoming some other character, and leaving Sam, Dean and Cas behind. It feels like some kind of weird betrayal, as though they should have given up acting for a year to mourn the character they left behind or something. Yes, I’m totally aware that this isn’t rational (and wouldn’t have been a good idea), but grief isn’t always rational. It’s emotional, and sometimes illogical, but that doesn’t mean you can easily talk yourself out of those less than rational feelings. My strategy here is to acknowledge that flash of annoyance as the understandable thing that it is, and then try to find some enjoyment in the pure anticipation of all these new things and to feel good about being happy for those three real people.

Which, I guess, brings me to the last thing I’m feeling. Gratitude. No matter how much sadness or grief or fear or anger I’m dealing with, underneath there is always so much gratitude. If I had never had this amazing, incredible, life-changing show to love, I wouldn’t be feeling any of those things right now. But I also would never have had the past fifteen years that have been full of so much joy and inspired so much creativity. Supernatural and its unforgettable characters enriched and expanded my life in countless ways and brought me experiences I would never have had otherwise. Friends I wouldn’t have met. Books I wouldn’t have written. Travels I wouldn’t have gone on. Inspiration I wouldn’t have had.  I became more me than I’d ever been thanks to this show, and nothing can ever take that away. However Supernatural has changed you and whatever it’s meant to you, that’s here to stay.

Graphic Offlarjun

There’s always the question of, do I let myself love this thing, knowing that at some point, I’ll have to let it go in one way or another? I’m so glad I took a chance on Supernatural and let myself fall head over heels. In spite of the pain of losing it, I’m so thankful I had something so special – and I fully intend to never forget it and to keep right on loving it.

My guess is that in 2021, while it may not be how it was in the 15 years prior, Supernatural and its actors and fans will still have something important to teach me.

Happy New Year, SPNFamily!

— Lynn

You can always remember Supernatural with There’ll
Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End
With Blood, links here or at peacewhenyouaredone.com

 

Supernatural Pilot: A Look Back At How This All Started Post Series Finale

When some of my friends decided that the best way to cope with Supernatural ending and having no more new episodes was to just go back to the beginning and start a rewatch with the pilot, I honestly wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to do that. I was still grieving the ending of this show that has meant so much to me for fifteen years, and just thinking about it brought a fresh round of tears every time my favorite fictional characters crossed my mind. Could I really go back and see where it all began? Remember a time when I had 326 episodes to look forward to and had no idea where the story would take Sam and Dean – and me?

It was one of those decisions that you make and then second guess immediately, but luckily for me I wasn’t watching alone – I was on a zoom call with three friends who share my love of the show and my grief that it’s over. Who wouldn’t make fun of me if I started to tear up or got emotional over a scene in the pilot that had a call back in the finale. Who get it. If there was any way to dare to do a rewatch, it was with these people. So we made drinks, chatted about the pandemic and the weather and life in general, and then we dove in.

Although I’ve been watching Supernatural from the beginning, I didn’t fall madly in love with it until the beginning of Season 2, and I didn’t start writing reviews until Season 8, so as long as I’m doing a rewatch, I figured I might as well catch up on those reviews I missed. The first seven seasons will be reviews with the benefit of hindsight, while the last eight will be fresh from a first viewing – but maybe that will be an interesting diversity of perspectives. So, from an emotional state still raw and grieving from the finale, here are my thoughts (and a whole helluva lot of feelings) about Supernatural’s very first episode, Pilot.

(Because these reviews are with the hindsight of the rest of the series, spoilers ahead up to and including the finale)

It took me approximately .5 seconds to get overwhelmed by emotion. Toddler Dean leans over his baby brother’s crib and gives him a kiss on the forehead, saying with so much affection, “Goodnight, Sam” and I am immediately thrown back to the finale, grown up Sam leaning his forehead to his brother’s as Dean says a final “Goodbye, Sam” with just as much love, after all these years and all they’ve been through together.

The first time I watched the pilot, this was just a tender scene, a happy family with a baby in a crib and a young boy in his father’s arms, everyone safe and warm and together. I had no idea what was to come, either in the next few minutes of that episode or in the next fifteen years. I had no idea how much the Winchesters would come to mean to me, or how excruciatingly painful it would be to lose them.

There’s such a sense of innocence now, watching the pilot – my own innocence reflected in the innocence of those two little boys, that short-lived peaceful moment before Sam and Dean’s happiness was shattered. From the first five minutes, Supernatural has never been a show about happily ever after.

I remember thinking that the Pilot was scary as hell too, as I sat in my dark living room watching with my three closest friends, one of whom had already decided Supernatural was the next thing we would all be fannish about. She was so sure about that, she brought VHS tapes of the show to our get togethers (yes, VHS videotapes. That’s how long this show was on the air). One of our foursome pronounced the Pilot “way too scary” and stopped watching halfway through; the rest of us stuck it out. Fifteen years later, that scariness still holds up. The show is so deliciously dark in the pilot episode, shot so beautifully, dimly lit by moonlight or flashlight.

We also get so much background in the pilot episode, although it takes barely any time at all to convey and at the time, we don’t realize just how devastating it will be to know what the Winchesters’ life was like before the event that changes everything. We get little glimpses that seem innocuous – toddler Dean’s love for his daddy, the family’s joy in new baby Sammy, John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) a loving father, the sheer normalcy of their lives with hugs and goodnight kisses in a nondescript house in suburban America.

We have no idea that we’re seeing the origins of the trauma that irrevocably shaped Dean Winchester’s life, yanking away his happy childhood and loving family at a time when he was just old enough to always remember, but not old enough to ever make sense of it without heaps of undeserved guilt and unacknowledged longing that would plague him almost his entire life.

Even 15 years later, knowing what’s going to happen, the opening sequence works to put you on edge – the ticking of the clock, the slowly spinning crib mobile, the baby monitor crackling and the hall light flickering. We don’t know what that means yet, but watching it now? It’s all I can do not to yell at Mary, “you know what that means!!”

At the time, we had no clue that she knew (and neither did the writers or Samantha Smith, whop played Mary, so her lack of suspicion about the flickering light seems logical then, but odd now – Mary grew up a hunter, we now know, so she might have been a little more alarmed). Even with that knowledge, the scene works so well, building up the suspense and letting the viewer know that something is just not right. And that terrifying moment after Mary sees “John” leaning over Sam’s crib and starts down the stairs, when she rounds the corner and sees the real John sitting in the living room watching TV and OMG THAT ISN’T JOHN IN SAM’S ROOM!

The pilot is brilliant in its rollercoaster of ups and downs, the look of terror on Mary’s face as she realizes someone else is leaning over her baby – and then John’s pov as he hears her screams and runs up the stairs, bursting into the nursery to find it quiet, Sammy in his crib. For a moment we sigh with relief along with him – even now, even knowing. John looks down at his son, Jeffrey Dean Morgan showing us all the tenderness that will soon be wiped away in John Winchester’s quest for revenge.

Read more

Carry On – Supernatural’s Final Episode and My Emotional Goodbye

It has taken me four days to stop crying long enough to sit down and write something about the Supernatural series finale, which aired last Thursday, November 19 on The CW. After fifteen years of loving this show, writing about this show, publishing six books about this show and its fandom, and making forever friends through shared love of this show, to say that its ending was monumental for me is still an understatement. Supernatural changed my life, both personally and professionally. Its message to always keep fighting inspired me to fight to be myself and to be real when life had taught me the opposite for all the years before this little show came into my life. Its cast supported my writing when I first dipped my toe into the waters of a new venture, contributing to my books with courage and candor and humor – even writing their own very personal chapters – and being just as real as I was struggling to be. Its fandom became my community of like-minded people who validated every moment of my this-is-me journey, challenged me to open myself up to different perspectives, and joined me on adventures I never dreamt I’d go on.

And I’m not the only one. This little show has changed so many people’s lives. That’s exactly what the last two books I’ve published are about – in the actors and fans own words, why Supernatural has been special to them. How it has changed – and even saved – so many of us.

Supernatural was an unexpected, unanticipated blessing, and I wouldn’t trade this wild ride for anything. But when you love something that much, it’s hard to let go. I can’t really imagine the pressure on the writers, producers, cast and crew to try to wrap up fifteen years in a way that will satisfy the fans to whom they owe so much. There’s never going to be something that satisfies everyone, especially not with a fandom known for its wildly different takes on the show and its characters, who are all watching for their own personal reasons. Because Supernatural was personal. It fulfilled something for each of us that was important; something we don’t want to let go of. The last episode was going to hurt no matter what, but if it didn’t go the way you were hoping it would, then there’s the sadness and anger of the ending not being what you wanted, on top of the awareness that now it never will be. And that hurts even more. I have so much empathy for my friends who didn’t like the way the show ended and who are in alot of pain because of that. Those feelings are valid just as my friends who loved every minute of it have valid feelings too. I hope we can all have empathy for each other, because love it or hate it, we’re all trying to cope with the end of it and we’re all  hurting.

As Rob Benedict (Chuck) reminded us yesterday, endings are hard, right?

I’m having my own very real emotional response to the last episode, but I’m also inevitably viewing both the episode and the fan reaction through the lens of what I do – I’m a clinical psychologist who studies fandom and has primarily researched this show and this fandom for almost fifteen years. I teach graduate courses in grief and loss, and I’m well aware of how indescribably difficult it is to lose something or someone that has been this important. It’s hard to figure out how to go on when what you counted on to get you through is no longer there. It’s terrifying to think of what will be like without what you lost, knowing all little ways that it was so present in your life, constant and continuous. Something to be counted on through the toughest of times and to share your joy in the best of times. Something so BIG that it defined all your moments, good and bad – that it felt like an integral part of who you are, a mirror that reflected back your own identity so you knew who you were in the world. A constant companion, a source of validation and comfort, and sometimes a challenge that changed your perspective whether you wanted it to or not. Supernatural and its unforgettable characters were all those things. Losing that is almost unbearable.

But not quite. And that, in a way, is what the finale was all about. I didn’t realize it while I was watching, curled up in a ball drowning in my own tears, but with time to process and put my soaking wet psychologist hat back on, the meta message alongside the equally important fictional story is clearer. This episode was like a master class in loss and grief, taught not only by the creator of the show and the writers, but by the fictional characters and the incredibly courageous and talented actors who played them. I understand some people wishing for a “happy ending” for the Winchesters and for Castiel before they died. It’s what they deserve after all they’ve been through. We’ve watched them battle monsters and angels and demons and God himself for fifteen years, enduring trauma after trauma, suffering horrifically, getting back up again and again and again to keep fighting. I too envisioned the last frame of the show being Sam and Dean driving toward the sunset in Baby, Cas with wings unfurled above watching over them. That’s literally the cover of my last book, aptly titled There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. I would have felt content with that, like I did at the end of the penultimate episode, which ended like that (except we feared Cas was still in the Empty). My guess is that was the ending that Jensen Ackles originally wanted too, because he loves Dean and doesn’t want to lose him any more than we do – and because we all desperately want this to be a story that can eventually be continued. I would have been fine with that ending, and while I would have sobbed a lot anyway just to be losing the show, it probably wouldn’t have been me crying so hard I nearly made myself sick. Or not being able to stop for too long for the past four days.

This show has always made me feel so much more than any other show ever has, because I have truly loved it. I know this episode was hard to watch in a lot of ways, and some of my closest friends are really struggling with how their favorite show ended and I have so much empathy for that struggle. This is real to us; when we’re hurt and sad and angry about it, those emotions are as valid as our feelings about any other loss.  We all need to feel what we feel, and deal with loss in our own way. The actors, writers and crew who created this show are also entitled to their genuine feelings about its ending, and I hope that we as a fandom can give them that space to feel their own emotions just as I think they’re trying hard to give us ours. The story, ultimately, is ours to take in and hold onto, however we need to. So I’ll try to share my own thoughts on the episode and what worked for me about it, in the hopes that it might validate your own feelings or help you figure out what your own thoughts are, whether similar or very different. As humans, we all need to make sense of our own experience in order to integrate it into our sense of self and our life story – so talking about it helps! As fandom used to say back in the day, your mileage may vary.

We all want to avoid loss and pain whenever we can; that’s just part of being human. It’s unfortunately also part of being human that we can’t avoid it, and one of the things that media does is to help us process that pain and loss when it comes. Supernatural from the very start has not been about happy endings. What has made the show so compelling to me is that it has always been based in reality – gritty, imperfect, unpredictable, sometimes tragic reality. Eric Kripke’s brilliance in creating this world and these characters is that they could tell us a story that would go right to our hearts (often breaking them) because the story was REAL. All the Winchesters were flawed, slogging their way through horrible circumstances that they didn’t deserve and then coping (often poorly) with the aftermath, hurting each other in the process. The show didn’t shy away from showing us the darkness of the life they had chosen, and the ways in which it shaped them – just as or own real life tragedies and challenges shape all of us. It’s not always pretty, I know that from being witness to the lives of so many of my clients and from living through my own challenges. We have all done that. Castiel may not have been human, but he followed the same path as the Winchesters on his own journey, having to endure failures and make mistakes and ultimately become who he really was despite (or because of) those.

The thing that made Supernatural so powerful is showing that journey in an unflinching way, not glossing over the harsh realities of the world the characters live in. The Winchesters’ lives were difficult – a million times more difficult than most of ours. Their lives were never perfect, and they were never perfect. Instead, their lives were real – and ultimately so were their deaths. They weren’t superheroes with super powers wearing super suits – they were real human beings who were vulnerable to being killed every single time they went out on a hunt. That’s what made them heroes, because they did it anyway. Maybe Chuck was manipulating their circumstances some of the time, but it doesn’t matter – they didn’t know that, and their courage came from their willingness to go out there, saving people, hunting things, even at great cost and risk to themselves. They were a lot more heroic than someone with super powers because they only had themselves and they did it anyway. (That was Kripke’s initial brilliance, and a theme he’s carried over to his new show The Boys, which is all about how the ordinary humans keep taking on the superheroes even when they’re ridiculously “outgunned”). What could possibly be more inspiring than that?

What kept Sam, Dean and Cas going – and what keeps all of us going – is the relationships we make along the way. That has always been the hopeful side, the light in Supernatural’s pervasive darkness. That love, ultimately, is what can save all of us. It can keep us going through the most horrendous failures, the most unbearable pain, the most overwhelming of tragedies and losses. It’s the way we find the strength to pick ourselves up and keep going even when we think we can’t. It’s the way we still TRY even when it feels like we’re going up against fate itself. These characters showed us that, week after week, month after month, year after year. They make sacrifices for each other that could never happen out of anything but love, as Castiel demonstrated so vividly in ‘Despair’. As the Winchesters have shown us time and time and time again.

It’s not always easy to watch. Sometimes it tears our hearts out.  I still remember sitting on the floor sobbing when Sam was stabbed in the back and died in his brother’s arms way back in Season 2. I can’t even watch ‘Abandon All Hope’ because when Ellen and Jo died like that – so tragic and so REAL – I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. (Just like I’ve never been able to watch the Buffy episode ‘The Body’ ever again). But those episodes are, indisputably, brilliant television. I think this was too.

I know some people wanted Butch and Sundance, or a more big screen Marvel showdown, or something more “epic” or “dramatic”. Those endings are, as Rob Benedict said in his Stage It panel yesterday, what Chuck wanted. He wanted to be entertained, he wanted Sam and Dean’s endings to be grandiose, and he wanted to be a part of making that happen. But you know what? Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack defeated the last big bad when they took down Chuck. So instead, Dean died on a hunt like he’s gone on a thousand times – and every time he does, he knows it might kill him. He and Sam walked into that barn with machetes, human and mortal, and faced down more than twice as many vampires, knowing that they might not make it out of there this time. People saying Dean didn’t die a hero? What is more heroic than that? It was a vivid, stab-you-through-the-heart reminder that every single time Dean Winchester walked into a situation like that, it could have meant his death. It was a vivid reminder that Dean was utterly mortal, always vulnerable, completely HUMAN, and they still managed to save the world a time or two. Even at the very end, they killed the monsters. They saved the kids. And Dean gave his life to do that. That the monsters themselves didn’t directly kill him was a bit of poetic justice that I like to think Dean Winchester himself would have enjoyed just a little.

I’ve also seen some people say that Dean gave up, or that Sam gave up because he didn’t call 911. If you listen to the dialogue (that Jared and Jensen helped create for their characters) I don’t think that’s the case at all. Dean knows he’s dying, as people often do when they’re mortally wounded. He’s an experienced hunter; he knows what being impaled means. He just witnessed it himself earlier this season when his old friend was impaled on a pool cue, living long enough to share last words before Dean’s pulling it out ended him. He knows.  He’s not giving up at all, and he doesn’t want to die and he desperately doesn’t want to leave Sam – but that’s the reality of life sometimes. It doesn’t go the way we want, and it’s messy and tragic and so fucking sad. Dean does the best he can with the time he has left, and is given the gift of being able to tell Sam what’s important to him for Sam to know. He accepts the reality because he can’t change it, not because he’s given up.

Sam is in shock, but he is also an experienced hunter who has seen more than his share of death. When he puts his hand behind Dean and feels what he’s impaled on, and his hand comes back covered in blood, he also knows. (Just as Dean did in the parallel scene in All Hell Breaks Loose, as his hand comes back equally bloody)  Sam doesn’t want to believe it, of course, but when Dean calls him back and asks him to stay, Sam knows and eventually accepts this is what he can do for his brother. By the time emergency responders got there, they would have found Dean’s dead body and Sam standing among a bunch of beheaded people, and Sam wouldn’t have been able to carry on at all.

Sometimes life doesn’t go as you planned, and you have to always keep fighting anyway. Even when it hurts like hell. That’s been the theme of the show since the beginning.

The question of ‘where’s the character development’ is tossed around a lot in this fandom, and it was tossed around at the finale too in terms of Dean especially. But to me, there was tremendous character development here for Dean. He showed that he was able to be vulnerable, to let Sam know that he’d been scared and desperate when they were younger no matter how much bravado he’d put on, letting Sam now see his real feelings. He’s able to tell Sam right out that he loves him, just as Castiel did with Dean before he died, showing us some of his own character development. It’s what Dean wanted to be sure Sam knew — that for Dean, it’s always been them.  In his last moments – and in the years before his death – Dean Winchester changed so much. He went from a lonely, repressed young man, full of self loathing and constantly afraid of being left alone, to someone who was in his words “okay with who I am” and able to enjoy a pie fest and love a dog and appreciate all the little mundane things in life that make it satisfying to all of us. Able to show his real self to his brother. He could see Sam for his real self too, in the nuanced way that we can when we mature and don’t see in black and white anymore. He could see Sam as the strong competent equal partner – and still, always, Sam his beloved baby brother. Dean could integrate all those feelings; his relationship with Sam had grown to a place where it enriched and sustained them both. He had come to an integrated view of hunting too, it seems. Sam and Dean weren’t only about hunting; they had joy and laughter and pie eating and friends and maybe even a part time job, as the application on Dean’s desk suggested. Dean had become his own person; he could own doing what he wanted to do, and he was courageous as hell in going out there and living his life the way that gave him purpose and satisfaction. (And later we see Sam’s success at integration too, perhaps with hunting and also being a good parent to his son or at the very least by not allowing a drive for revenge and an inability to set healthy priorities to keep him from raising his son in a healthy way). That’s real character development for both of them. It took a long time, but that’s how it works in real life too.

I’ve also seen the complaint that Dean died right after they finally defeated Chuck and didn’t get any time to enjoy living life free from Chuck’s machinations. I liked that the show left it up for interpretation just how long Sam and Dean lived in the bunker, hunting and taking care of Miracle and doing laundry (Robbie Thompson we finally got a glimpse of your day-in-the-life episode), but they were in such a well established routine, it seemed clearly meant to be a while. Someone apparently asked Jared at one of his weekend Q & A’s how long it was and he said about five years, which is about what I was thinking too. I don’t think they meant to imply at all that Dean died on the very next hunt they set out on – hence the montage. He had the opportunity to live free, as a big old fuck you to Chuck and in honor of Castiel’s sacrifice, doing what he loved and doing it with his brother.

There are also some who don’t like that Sam lived for a long time without Dean but was still clearly grieving. To me, that’s part of what made this a master class on loss and grief. We don’t ever forget the people we’ve loved and lost, and a part of us will always miss them and long for them. We see Sam’s pain vividly; we see his tears, we see him glance at the guns on Dean’s bedroom wall and then resolutely walk away. The ‘Always Keep Fighting’ message that’s explicitly called out in the barn scene is a real life reminder that this is what we all have to do. Sam was still able to keep his promise to his brother and make a life for himself. He felt joy raising his son, and he was clearly a good father, breaking the intergenerational transmission of trauma cycle that had held the Winchester family for so long. The episode foreshadowed all this in the pie scene, with Dean telling Sam, “that pain’s not gonna go away. But if we don’t keep living, then all that sacrifice is for nothing.” The montage of Sam’s life without Dean is purposely vague, left open ended and blurry (sometimes literally), with the invitation to fans to interpret it however works for you. Did Sam marry Eileen? Did Sam hunt for a while and then later settle down with someone else? Were there some other circumstances? We don’t know; fill in the blanks as you will.  It was like the show acknowledged that its diverse fandom all wanted and needed different things from it, so it left plenty of openings as an invitation to make it what you need. (A fan asked Jared in one of the Q&A’s about who the blurry person was supposed to be and he said it was left open as to who Sam’s partner or co-parent was, and that Sam’s sexuality and gender is whatever speaks to us)

(In fact, there’s even an interpretation going around that the montage was really Dean’s fantasy of what Sam did while he was in Heaven waiting; that in reality, Sam died in that werewolf hunt in Austin and followed right after Dean. It’s not my interpretation, but even that one can work if you need it to!)

The point is, in my interpretation, Sam did carry on. He didn’t make a deal or beg Jack to intercede. He didn’t bring his brother back, just like none of us can bring back the people we‘ve loved and lost no matter how badly we want to. He lived with the loss and though he continued to grieve, he also went on with his life and lived it to its natural conclusion – that character development again. At the same time, the nuanced way Jared and the writers showed us Sam’s grief was so poignant, and again, so real. As Matt Cohen noted in his Stage It on Saturday, the way Sam looked around sometimes at the empty space beside him, hit hard. The way he sometimes had to go sit in the Impala and clasp his hands around the steering wheel that his brother always held, needing to feel close to Dean again. The way he wore Dean’s watch and his hoodie and carried his duffel when he left the bunker. Every second of the scenes in the bunker after Dean had died rang so true to me, it brought a fresh round of choking sobs. If you’ve ever experienced a crushing loss, so much was familiar to you. The way Sam wandered the halls, looking so lost, picturing Dean around every corner. The way he left Dean’s bedroom just as it was, beer bottles on the table and bed unmade. The way he sat on Dean’s bed and cuddled his brother’s dog, a tear trickling down his face. I understood when Sam made the beds and closed the doors and climbed the stairs of the Men of Letters bunker for the last time, turning off the lights as he left. Sometimes the reminders are just too painful; sometimes adapting to the loss means something new, even as you carry with you something that you’ll cherish forever.

I think Supernatural did that brilliantly. Like I said, a master class on grief and loss. And the final bit of brilliance, to me, was that the episode worked on a meta level too, as so many Supernatural episodes have over the years. Because in real life, we are all dealing with the momentous loss of the show itself. We are all feeling the pain that Sam Winchester did as he looked around and realized that his life was so much emptier now, without what he loved so much in it. In all its themes, the finale reflected what the cast/crew/writers/fans are actually going through in real life — as we feel the pain, grieve the loss, and ultimately Carry On.

The episode title was not just an homage to Kansas and the show’s unofficial theme song, though of course it was that too. It was also the theme of the episode – what Sam did, and what we all will do as well.

Carry On.

The story itself, as a story, also works for me, and worked for the people telling the story according to Jared, Jensen and Misha. There was a strong need, for the people who made this show, to bring it to an ending that felt right. To come full circle in some ways, to find the end of the heroes’ journey at the same place, but changed forever. There were lots of callbacks and Easter eggs to this end. The final hunt takes place in Ohio, in Eric Kripke’s old stomping grounds. The words the brothers say to each other as Dean is dying are a call back to what they’ve said to each other before. The first words they said in the pilot when they’re reunited, other than ‘easy tiger’, were Dean’s “heya Sammy” and Sam’s “Dean?” and also what they said to each other when Dean came back from hell; these are also the last words they say at the end of the finale. The clothes they’re wearing are a mirror of those they wore in the pilot. Many of those call backs were Jared’s idea, or Jared and Jensen together. They may not have been credited as creative producers, but there’s no question that’s what they became over the course of fifteen  years. And this show – this ending – was so important to them that they had incredible input. That’s how much they care.

That was a four page explanation of why the episode worked for me, with the explicit acknowledgement that it might not have worked for you. It seems to have worked for the cast, who have all talked about their own emotional reactions and love of story that they see reflected in it. (Misha watched it as an audience member and I think cried almost as much as I did).  I know there are plenty of people for whom the episode didn’t work, though, for multiple reasons. Life is hard right now and some people just wanted a happy ending for their favorite fictional characters, because in the midst of a pandemic there aren’t many of those. For some, it was a little too real when they just wanted an escape. For some, their favorite characters not being in the last episode was painful, for whatever reason they weren’t there. (Apparently there was supposed to be a brief scene at the end where all the people Sam and Dean had cared about over the years were there in Heaven with them, but Covid restrictions interfered). That would have been a lovely scene, and it was what I expected honestly. I would have loved to see beloved characters – and actors – have a chance to hang out with Sam and Dean one more time. That said, Covid made the finale episode a much more quiet and intimate story, and I think that ultimately worked to make it even more emotional. For some, an ending that was more traditionally ‘romantic’ was hoped for, but that has never been the show’s main story. It’s a shockingly subversive thing even in 2020 to tell a fifteen year story that’s all about platonic love and celebrate that bond so joyously in the final episode. Supernatural has never, ever, been like all the others.

So, five pages later, let me go through the episode as I usually do. Because hey, this is the FINAL Supernatural episode, so if this is long, so be it. Maybe I just don’t want to finish this review, knowing it’s the last one I’ll write…  Sometimes grief is temporarily about some denial and avoidance, after all.

Read more

Losing Supernatural – We’re All In This Together

Tomorrow is the last day that Supernatural will be on the air. The last time I’ll wake up in the morning and think oooh there’s a new episode on tonight! The last moments I’ll get to spend with the fictional characters who  have meant so much to me and the show that has changed my life. I don’t think I ever could have been ready for that, to be honest. And I know I’m not alone.

Whether you’ve been watching Supernatural for one year or fifteen, most of us are not what you’d call ‘casual viewers’. We don’t just watch this Show, we live it. Many of us found our closest friends here. We fell in love with the richly drawn and brilliantly portrayed characters, and they have been our inspiration for real life change and real life determination to keep on fighting whenever something threatens to knock us down. We spend alot of time here, immersed in the community that formed around the show, sharing thoughts and feelings and hilarious memes and heartbreaking confessions on every social media platform imaginable.

We all found our niche and our people, and we count on that support system every single day. All because of a little television show on the CW that drew us together. Even when we’re railing about its plot holes or inconsistencies or canon not going where we wanted it to go, Supernatural is the thing we have in common. The fact that we’re still railing and meme-ing and posting and stocking up on tissues makes it pretty clear that even after all these years, we’re passionate about this Show and its incredible cast.

Photo: Rob Hayter IG

The impact that Supernatural has had goes beyond watching a tv show. The theme of the show has always been one that fans have taken to heart and used as an inspiration in real life too. The Winchesters have never been traditional superheroes – they’re human, and their flaws and challenges have never been glossed over either by the writers or the actors. For fifteen years, Supernatural has showed us that ordinary people can make a difference, just through their determination. The Winchesters have lived the “always keep fighting” mantra – even when it means they’re often bloodied and bruised and beaten down — and showed us that we can too. When real life beats us down and leaves us bruised and bloodied, we can pick ourselves up like Sam and Dean did after God himself put them through a literal beating. Castiel taught us something similar – he may not have been human (for most of the show), but his journey mirrored the journeys of many of us as he fought to become himself and rebelled against forces conspiring to prevent that. So many other characters have also inspired us to be who we are, from Ash to Kevin to Bobby, from Charlie to Eileen to all the Wayward women letting us know we all can embrace our wayward too. Supernatural changed most of us in some way, for real.

And that means that knowing it’s ending is hitting us hard. I’ve had television shows end before and I’ve been sad – I remember gathering with friends to watch the last episode of the X Files back in grad school, all of us going out drinking afterwards to drown our sorrows. I remember watching the final episode of Buffy, and Angel, and then talking long into the night with friends who had been invested in those stories. This feels different. Somehow, although we all always knew that the show would end sooner or later, when it kept on going (and going and going) it started to seem like Supernatural would really never end. That we could keep on joking about it being the never-ending show and look forward to Jared and Jensen calling out “Sam! Dean!” gray-haired from their rocking chairs. That we’d always have this show to talk about and argue about and care about – and the vibrant communities within which to do that. I’m still having a hard time getting my head around the fact that tomorrow really is the last episode – it’s been a part of my life for so, so long.

Graphic Offlarjun

It’s hard to believe, after all this time, that Supernatural will, in fact, end.

Every time I do manage to get my head around it, the realization hits me like someone just punched me in the stomach. You would think I’d be good at this – I’m a psychologist. I teach graduate courses on grief and loss, in fact. I should know how to cope for myself, right? Not gonna lie, I’m pretty worried about Thursday night. So I thought I would sit down and pull my thoughts together to remind myself how I can get through it – and how we all can get through it.

First, we need to allow ourselves to call this what it is. This is not just “a silly television show going off the air” – this is a real and genuine loss. Supernatural has been important to us, not just as a sci fi fantasy show we enjoy watching, but as a real life inspiration and a source of great satisfaction and belongingness. Losing it is going to hurt like hell. Allow yourself to frame this as a loss and accept that you’ll need to grieve that loss, just like any other. Don’t let anyone’s “oh get over it, it’s just at tv show” invalidate your feelings. The loss of the show itself is difficult enough, but secondary losses can be just as painful – the constant media coverage we’ve grown used to, with new photos and updates all the time, the vibrancy of the communities, the passionate conversation created every week around new episodes, the frequent conventions where fans meet not only the actors but other fans who have become forever friends.

Like everything else in life, the pandemic has made what would always have been a deep loss even harder to take. Many of us had planned to be surrounded by fellow fans when we watched the series finale – to be with people who also “get it”. The fact that Supernatural is ending in the middle of a global pandemic means that’s not possible for most of us. However, we can still pamper ourselves a little. Maybe that means a slice of pie ala Dean Winchester or wrapping yourself in a warm fuzzy blanket. Maybe that means having a zoom call open with your friends or staying on social media in between scenes so that you don’t feel like you’re watching alone. I’m hoping it will make me feel a little better to share in the communal expression of feelings that will be going on in every corner of the internet. Even if you’re watching “alone”, know that you won’t be – all over the world, the rest of the SPN Family will be watching too.  When ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ starts to play for the final time, we will all tear up together. Every time you grab a tissue from the box(es) you have at the ready, know that you won’t be the only one.

Once we’ve made it through Thursday, give yourself time to grieve and permission to do that in whatever way feels right. We all cope with grief differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do that. Some of us are what we call “instrumental grievers.” We need to DO something in order to feel better. Organize a rewatch, put together a playlist of funny moments at Supernatural conventions, post your own personal tribute to the show. Plan a get together with other fans for once the pandemic lets us travel safely. Tweet your thanks to a cast member who inspired you or another fan who got you through a tough time. Celebrate all the things that Supernatural has meant to you.

If, on the other hand, you’re more of an “intuitive griever,” you need to feel your emotions and express them in order to grieve the loss. That means it will probably help you to share your feelings with other like-minded people. Talk about how you’re feeling in whatever community you feel comfortable in; the validation of ‘OMG I feel that way too’ really does help. If losing Supernatural is the icing on the cake in a year full of stress, do what Jared Padalecki has been candid about doing that helps him – make an appointment with a therapist. Most of us who are therapists have a broad understanding of loss and will understand what that loss means to you.

Here are a few coping strategies that are helpful when we’re grieving a loss that might help with this one:

Objects of connection. These are symbolic objects that help you feel connected to whatever or whoever you’ve lost. Wear your favorite piece of Supernatural jewelry or clothing. Make a scrapbook, physical or virtual, with photos that are meaningful to you – actors, characters, photo ops from cons, or fun times with fellow fans. Put your Pop Funko Sam, Dean and Cas where you can see them and smile. Construct a memory box that holds items that remind you of the show or of the experiences you had as a result of being a fan of the show. If you’ve collected way too many Supernatural tee shirts, sew them together into a quilt that you can snuggle up under as the weather gets colder. Whatever object lets you feel close to the show and remember it, keep it close and let it keep you connected to what you’ve loved.

We put together two books which include the actors’ feelings about the show in their own words specifically to help us stay connected to Supernatural and what it means to us as the show comes to an end. I guess you could say they’re objects of connection too.  There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End With Blood are intended to be a reminder that this show has changed the lives of both its fans and actors. A reminder of the characters who have inspired us, and why they’re so important both to the fans who love them and the actors who brought them to life.  Something you can hold in your hands and hang onto while you read their words and know that we were never in this alone.

Share your story. Especially if you’re an intuitive griever, sharing what the show has meant to you and what the loss feels like can be helpful in adapting to the loss. Write your own ‘chapter’ like the actors and fans did in the books; share it in whatever space feels comfortable to you. Writing is therapeutic in itself, helping us make sense of the loss and express whatever feelings are associated with it.

Resilient image. If the feelings of grief start to seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to create an image of resiliency that can remind us of the strengths and supports that we do have. It’s a way of self-soothing when our emotions are strong enough that we feel temporarily helpless and out of control. Create an image of a time and place when you felt safe, comfortable and in control even though there was chaos or danger around you.  Maybe you’re in the Men of Letters bunker, running your hand over the names carved into the library table. Maybe you’re in the Impala, who always kept her boys safe in the midst of even a literal apocalypse. Maybe you’re wearing Dean’s leather jacket, or huddled beneath Castiel’s wings.  Visualizing that resilient image when there are lots of emotions and stressors can be calming and comforting.

Gif jaredandjensen

Ecotherapy. Being immersed in nature helps us make meaning of our life and our losses, making us more aware of the here and now and less stuck in our heads, and helps us experience our emotions more fully. Take a walk in the woods or on the beach. Notice the sun and the clouds and the wind and the smells and sounds around you. If it’s safe to go barefoot, dig your toes into the sand or the grass.  If there’s a labyrinth near you, walk it. Being in nature makes us feel more connected, both to ourselves and to the rest of the world, so this can be especially helpful if you’re feeling some of that loss of community.

We’re a diverse community of fans, and we’re all going to grieve differently. We sometimes tend to think that everyone should process loss the same, and if someone doesn’t, maybe they’re not “really” grieving. But there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and no timetable for how long it takes each of us to adapt to a loss and for the hurt to lessen. Some people want to be distracted and move on as quickly as they can, maybe finding another show to love and another fandom to join. Others need to sit with their feelings for a while and just FEEL them before they can adapt. Both are valid ways of grieving a loss.

graphic elisemichellex

The hopeful thing about grief is that it doesn’t mean forgetting. We never forget the people and things we’ve loved, and we don’t need to stop loving them. They become part of us, cherished memories that eventually bring smiles. We can celebrate what the show has given us, how it’s changed us. The friends it’s brought into our lives, the courage that the story and the characters have inspired in us. The ways Supernatural and the SPN Family have kept us going and gotten us to where we are in life – to who we are in life. There’s a lot to celebrate and cherish about Supernatural and what it’s meant to all of us.

Most of all, know that you’re not alone. Even if you’re sitting in your living room watching a screen by yourself this Thursday evening, there will be people all over the world doing the same thing. People who love Supernatural, who have been inspired by its characters and its message. Whose lives have been changed by this little show and who are going to miss it when it’s gone – but who will keep on celebrating all the things it gave us for a very long time.

In the wise words of Castiel to Jack, about losing what you love…

Eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on. So what’s the point? The point is, that they were here at all and you got to know them. When they’re gone, it will hurt, but that hurt will remind you of how much you loved them.

Oh, we loved them. We’ll always love them.

And maybe, just maybe, as the final words of Jensen Ackles’ chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done remind us, “nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.”

Graphic: SammyTheMetallicar

Graphic: Offlarjun

Gif michaeldean

This video linked below kinda says it all… See you on the other side!

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done Video

– Lynn

You can hang onto Supernatural forever and

remember it in the words of its actors and fans

with There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and

Family Don’t End With Blood. Links in banner or

at peacewhenyouaredone.com