This was the last Supernatural con in Minneapolis (at least for now) so it seemed like everyone in attendance was determined to make it the very best one. The cast and the band love the giant theater with its for-real stage, complete with floor to ceiling (like 100 feet up ceiling) thick velvet curtains. There are layers of them, so finding your way onstage from backstage is a bit of a challenge – but it also makes everything seem like real theater and adds a feeling of professionalism to everything that happens.
It was also a great place for taking pictures, even for a non-photographer like me, so this post will be broken into two. First up, Thursday through Saturday, including Misha Collins and the Saturday Night Special!
Minneapolis is a funny city, interconnected by indoor walkways that tie all the hotels to the convention center like a network of human hamster habitrails. I was outside the first day I was there and then never ventured out again as the weather took a turn for the cold and rainy.
Thursday, after setting up in the vendor room, I got to watch the new Supernatural episode with some fellow fangirls at the honors floor guest suite in one of the hotels. There was wine and cheese and crackers and even sandwiches custom made by the lovely gentleman in charge of the suite. I’m not sure what he made of the four women shrieking with screams and then doubling over with laughter, but he seemed to be amused enough to want to make us sandwiches, so that’s a win. And we were grateful!
Most of the “vendor squad” was there, so I spent a little time catching up with friends, and then met lots of new people who hadn’t yet read Family Don’t End With Blood or any of our other books. And some familiar people who I haven’t seen in a while too, one of the best part of cons.
Predictably, I stayed up way too late chatting, then grabbed a bagel and latte and headed back to the convention center for the start of the con on Friday. SPNMinn kicked off with our hosts Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict.
And then with Rachel Miner, who is always a ray of sunshine every time she takes the stage.
Last week’s Supernatural episode, hopefully titled ‘Optimism’, was one of those episodes that fandom didn’t agree on. And that’s okay. Like most episodes of this Show, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I’ll get to the elephant in the room thing in time, but first, a look at some of the things that worked for me and what didn’t.
Richard Speight Jr. directed the episode, and I tend to really enjoy his directing, so that was a point in this episode’s favor. I like his pacing, and his editing, and I really really like the way he embraces the quirkiness of Supernatural that has always been one of my favorite parts of the Show. Writer Steve Yockey is a good partner for that quirkiness and the two worked well together here. From the first frame, the weirdly upbeat music presents the small town as too-good-to-be-true, including Harper the perky town librarian. She’s got at least two quirky suitors, one of whom seems dangerously jealous and slightly unhinged, so we immediately are suspicious that something bad is going to happen to too-good-to-be-true librarian.
Sure enough, it does. Winston, the nice guy suitor who Harper clearly isn’t into, saunters down the street feeling good about himself after Harper agrees to dinner, and the familiar strains of Stayin’ Alive start to play. Speight mimics the view of John Travolta’s iconic walk in the opening of Saturday Night Fever, which comes off as amusingly ironic when applied to Winston.
And also announces to us that poor happy Winston is probably not long for this world. Yep. Splat.
I loved that whole opening, and it had Speight’s directorial touch all over it.
Back to the bunker, where Jack is piling a ton of sugar into his coffee (ewww) and Dean is looking for Sam. We find out that Sam and Charlie have gone off on a stakeout because Dean was somewhere else and that means we’re not getting Sam and Dean hunting together for a little while. Not something that makes me particularly happy, but I’ll roll with it.
Jack about Sam and Charlie: They’re probably doing something really exciting…
Cut to Sam and Charlie, sitting in a truck and looking bored to death.
These are the edits that Speight is excellent at, the juxtaposition and Jared and Felicia Day’s acting skills making just that little bit hilarious. It was the first time I laughed out loud during this episode but not the last.
Something exciting is happening tomorrow – Supernatural actor and new director Matt Cohen (also well known for General Hospital and South of Nowhere) begins production on his short film “Mama Bear” and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with! I’m especially excited because Matt’s passion for this project is contagious, and I was happy to catch it when I chatted with him yesterday. To see a filmmaker so on fire to make a film, and a bunch of incredibly talented actors on fire to make it with him, reminds me of why we all love movies and television shows and books and all the ways we tell stories. Reminds me that those stories make a difference and help shape our views of the world and each other. They also entertain us, and I think ‘Mama Bear’ is definitely going to do that!
I mean, you can’t really go wrong when this is the premise: “A gritty, high-octane punch of absolute awesomeness, Mama Bear follows a regular, everyday soccer mom with a hidden, violent past who has 24 hours to save her dying son in need of a transplant — but it means hunting down her powerful crime lord ex-husband and taking his liver.”
Mama Bear stars Cohen’s real-life wife Mandy Musgrave as a mother who will do whatever it takes to save her child. In real life, Musgrave is mom to the couple’s four year old son Macklin, and I have a feeling she’s just as fierce as the character she plays when it comes to her son (hopefully without any liver theft involved).
One of the scenes that really crackled in last week’s Supernatural episode was the intense power-struggle-disguised-as-flirtation scene between Michael and the beautiful but dangerous werewolf Melanie. Although it was a relatively brief scene, Andrea Drepaul managed to bring Melanie to life and make me even care about her a little (despite the fact that she was intent on eating Michael and therefore Dean Winchester!) Okay, maybe I don’t care all that much…
Andrea had shared a few enthusiastic posts about her experience on the show, so I was eager to ask her about her guest role and her take on Melanie the werewolf. But before we go there, in case you’ve forgotten (which is highly unlikely), here’s a brief reminder of the scene. Michael is dressed to the nines, charming as he offers Melanie a glass of wine.
Melanie: Mmmm, very elegant. But then, so are you.
Everyone watching at that moment: (nodding enthusiastically)
They banter, and Michael tells her that Duluth is nothing like his hometown, which is windswept and barren and oh, there are lots of dead bodies lying around.
Melanie, instead of running away like I would have in about two seconds flat, giggles.
Melanie: You’re so funny…what a nice surprise meeting you.
Not what my reaction would have been, but then again, this is Jensen Ackles in a tux.
Their banter takes on a darker tone as it goes on, Michael’s cruel streak coming through as he assures her with a hint of derision that he most certainly does know why she was in that bar alone. They each think they’re playing the other, but Michael has the upper hand – he knows she’s a werewolf, but she has no idea she’s planning to eat an Archangel. Nevertheless, nothing he says discourages her or frightens her – this is one badass werewolf.
Melanie shows her (rather substantial) teeth, and Michael picks her up by the throat like she’s nothing and tosses her across the room, coolly ordering her to summon her master.
So much for the power struggle!
I had a few questions for Andrea about her portrayal of the fearless werewolf and her experience on Supernatural.
Lynn: You were able to make Melanie a memorable character even with the short amount of time she had onscreen – it was a well written scene but you also invested her with a great deal of personality. How was the character described when you auditioned for the part?
Andrea: This scene was my audition piece. From the first moment of reading the scene I felt very connected to Melanie. The character description was very limited. I believe they do this to see what the actor will bring in the room. It made no mention she was a werewolf, or monster of any kind. The one thing that stood out for me was they had mentioned she “Seemingly had an ulterior motive.” As I dug a bit deeper, the writer mentions in the screen direction that she was sophisticated, and the location was a high end hotel. I saw right from the the get go she was a very complex woman. This scene was in fact a ruse. A tactic that Melanie was using to get what she really wanted. As a performer, I find leaning into the strength of the character is really what makes her exciting. Also because she loses in the end of the scene, I wanted her to be in control until the end. So in fact the scene becomes a dark twisted power struggle between Michael and Melanie.
Lynn: Yes, that’s exactly what came through in the scene! I loved how sassy and confident Melanie was (even if she was wrong about being the baddest monster in the room). Was your personal take on the character that she was attracted to Michael (even if she planned on eating him…)? I mean, it is Jensen Ackles we’re talking about…in a tux no less…
Andrea: Oh definitely yes! But I feel that her attraction came from feeling his power. In a sadistic type of way. Because Melanie is always in control, always in power, she relishes in a man who can hold the same power as her. Her sass and confidence comes from the fact that she believes she is stronger than humans.
Lynn: That definitely comes through, even when confronted by the likes of Michael. Melanie and Michael’s interactions were very flirtatious. Was that a fun vibe to play or is it challenging to enact that sort of vibe with another actor who you may not know very well?
Andrea: It’s a funny thing when a scene is written in a certain way. Because I would say that it reads flirtatious but I definitely didn’t feel that way when we were shooting. I was more locked into the certainty that I could have some fun and eat him too! Boy oh boy was Melanie wrong! Jensen is an incredible actor — he was very generous in his performance so I felt completely comfortable working with him. There’s definitely a salt of the earth quality he has that allows a performer to feel safe.
After a season premiere that kicked up conflicting emotions for me, the second episode of Season 14 of Supernatural was a different kind of episode – but once again, it kicked up some conflicting emotions. I had a lot of anticipation for this one because I enjoy Richard Speight’s directing and always look forward to hearing his thoughtful take on how he brought a script to life. On the other hand, my track record with enjoying the episodes from these particular writers is spotty. So I guess I went into this with conflicting emotions!
Speight is proficient at juggling the back and forth story lines that Supernatural sometimes serves up, and he did an admirable job here, but I tend to get whiplash if we’re bouncing back and forth between too many stories no matter how proficient the directing is. That was the case here to some extent, though Speight managed to keep the transitions smooth enough that I didn’t feel too jarred. Because there are so many story lines going on, I’ll touch on each scene briefly here, but with the through line of what worked and what didn’t in each one.
I pay more attention to the “Then” montage than ever before these days, because it usually gives a clue to what will be foregrounded in the episode, or at the very least what they don’t trust us to remember (of course we all do) or what they think a viewer who has somehow avoided seeing Supernatural for 14 years would need to know to just step right in and pick it up (totally and completely impossible at this point, give it up, Show!) The “Then” this week features the final showdown with Lucifer and the moment of Dean’s possession, and a reminder of Jack’s trauma and his hatred of both Michael and Lucifer. With that frame set, we enter the episode through Michael and what he’s up to now – no disposable characters or case of the week for the beginning minutes. The opening scene is visually striking and sets the tone for who Michael is and how we should feel about him. Speight likes to set up close up shots that are like works of art and emotionally evocative – this time it’s done in flashes, like there’s a thunderstorm outside, and the fact that you only get glimpses adds to the feeling of trepidation. A flash of heavy chains, broken statues, a church organ covered in cobwebs, light filtered through age-dimmed stained glass windows. A church defiled. The last close-up shot is of blood slowly dripping from the cut throat of a restrained man, leaning over a chalice that’s slowly filling as he’s drained. The musical score is full of foreboding, fear mirrored on the faces of the chained up people waiting their turn. (The slow drip of blood will be a recurring image in this episode).
It was a strong opening, and a fitting frame for Michael, still dressed impeccably and as implacable as he was last week (though he has donned an imposing leather apron because clearly he loves his nice suits staying impeccable). It makes him look like a butcher, the leather and straps both terrifying and (perhaps because this is Jensen Ackles) also an oddly sexualized image. Michael seems to pull for objectification, a fact not lost on fandom.
Michael heals the vampire’s slit throat and adds a pinch of archangel grace to the blood.
Michael: A little of this, a little of that…
He then grabs the vampire’s head and forcefully makes him drink. When the vampire acquiesces, Michael does nothing to reduce the erotic vibe of the scene by crooning, “Yes, good boy” as the bound vampire follows his orders.
Unfortunately for the compliant vamp, no sooner has he done so than he burns out and dies, much to the other vampires’ horror.
Michael remains unemotional.
Michael: Huh. Too much that…
It’s our first glimpse of Michael having a sense of humor, albeit a twisted dark one. Ackles did flesh out the character a bit more in this episode, which at first threw me a bit. Last week he was so unemotional he was almost flat, disturbingly so. This week, he showed some humor and some other emotional notes, including pride and a sadistic enjoyment from wielding his power over others. I felt like that was consistent with Christian Keyes’ portrayal of Michael, but it was more personality than Michael showed last week.
There’s another visually effective shot of the dead vampire’s feet dragging across the floor as Michael pulls him over to a pile of other dead vampires; the camera pulls out to show just how many, with lots of impact.
Michael flips the curved blade he’s holding, cocky.
Michael: All right, who’s next?
I might have needed a cold drink at that moment. There’s something hot about the cocky expression and the facile skill with which he flips that blade. Actually the same thing happens when Ackles flips his mic onstage with equal agility, which he has a habit of doing quite often. But I digress.