As we head into the last season of Supernatural, we know there will be lots of familiar faces returning for one last time. I think we’re all agreed that we’re grateful one of those familiar faces will be Rob Benedict, returning as Chuck or God or The Writer or whoever the hell he really is. We all have mixed feelings about his character right now, but no one I know has mixed feelings about Rob himself.
Whether he’s kicking ass with Louden Swain or the Station Breaks in concerts all over the world or waxing eloquent about The Bachelor on Will You Accept This Rose podcast or showing off his acting chops on multiple projects (how does he have so much energy??), Rob makes us happy.
I’m forever grateful that he took down all his defenses and wrote the inside story of what happened when he had a stroke at a Supernatural convention six years ago in Family Don’t End With Blood. Not only did his story inspire many others to ‘always keep fighting’, but his chapter saved some lives for real because people who had read his story recognized when they were having a stroke and got help right away. Talk about making a difference!
The fact that we almost lost Rob has made us even more grateful that we still have him as the heart and soul of the SPNFamily. He is every bit as passionate when he takes the stage for a Saturday Night Special and brings us all together to celebrate Supernatural, the fandom, and life itself as he was the very first time I saw him play a decade ago. I watched that concert sitting in the back with Richard Speight Jr. – and we all know how that turned out! What a gift to have Rich and Rob together for all these years, making magic onstage at conventions, emceeing at Comic Con, and immortalizing a tongue in cheek (and hilarious) take of what this has all been about in Kings of Con.
It seems fitting that Rob would rejoin Supernatural for its final season. He’s been an integral part of the family since his first appearance on the show over a decade ago – and a force for good in the lives of so many. I wrote a retrospective of the many chats I’ve had with Rob last year, with lots of great quotes from Rob and lots of Kim Prior’s pretty pretty pictures, which you can read here:
Part 2 of what was an epic trip to Vancouver, a city that has had incredible meaning for Supernatural fans since the show has filmed there for 15 seasons. We all knew this was the last time there would be a convention there while the show was still filming, which meant it would be the last time that so many of the cast and crew and production office would come to the con to greet the fans. It was also our last opportunity to thank them all for making this show that has meant so much to so many of us. So was it an emotional weekend? Absolutely.
Sunday started early for the Jared and Jensen gold panel. I say this every single time, but damn, they looked good. Jared wore the Comic Con tee shirt they gave out at the Supernatural panel in 2018, which made me smile because I’d been there when he asked Holly from WB if he could have one – clearly she came through! I love when they wear shirts that show they’re just as much fans of Supernatural as we are.
Someone asked early on how they will “shed” Sam and Dean when the show ends, kicking off all those emotions right off the bat.
Jensen: I’d be happy to never shed Dean.
Jared: Cut my hair?
But seriously, we’d love you with or without hair, Jared.
They were both a little teary eyed at the beginning there, then resolutely pushed it aside. I think they – like all of us – are vacillating between letting themselves feel and start to mourn and pushing it aside to just enjoy this last season.
Jared: There have been a lot of emotional “last first” days on set.
Also Jared: I get emotional every time I hear “Carry On”.
Jensen: I’m not thinking about the end yet because I’m still in the game.
Jared: We reached out to some directors who did some of our iconic episodes to come back this year.
Jensen: Of course now Charles Beeson is wondering why he agreed to do this, because we’re all messing around so much!
I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.
Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.
Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.
The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.
We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.
The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.
The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.
“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”
“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”
I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.
Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.
A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!
Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us). But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders – (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!
That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!
Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.
After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.
Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)
They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help. They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.
(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)
After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.
I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.
Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.
Rob: (sheepish) Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…
To say that the final Supernatural panel in Hall H was emotional would be a serious understatement. Supernatural fans, myself included, alternated between trying to stay in denial about the upcoming ending and getting unexpectedly overcome with feelings at other panels for soon-to-be-ending shows. By the time Sunday morning came around, most of us had packed extra tissues as we filed into the giant Hall H.
We waited for the panel with mixed emotions, staring at the familiar name placards that have been there every year at Comic Con. I still remember the very first panel we were at, in the much smaller 6BCD room.
Excitement ran high as it always does. Fans who sacrificed sleep to wait in line and get their Hall H admission wristbands were nevertheless filled with energy as soon as those doors opened. Several cast members had come through the lines like they always do, including Misha Collins, Rachel Miner, Alaina Huffman and Osric Chau. Jared and Jensen stood out on the landing to greet the fans before the panel. Coffeed up or not, everyone was wide awake as they filed in and hurried toward the front to get the best seat possible.
WB gave out special edition Impala models, which are awesome. (In the press room that afternoon, Jared was wishing he had one too). As we settled in to wait, I chatted with some Supernatural crew and with Osric Chau, one of my favorite people in the universe. I love that he was as excited as we all were!
It was a good thing that the woman next to me brought an entire BOX of tissues because just the very start of the panel made me tear up. Warner Bros publicity person Holly Ollis, who has kicked off every Supernatural panel I’ve been at since way back in 2007, took the mic to talk about how special this little show and this incredible fandom have been. Her voice broke for the first time and I had to choke back tears. I didn’t even get through her intro, folks!
Holly has been a champion of this show from the start and it’s been a long and winding journey, with lots of ups and downs for the show — and for me. I’ve written thousands of articles and episode reviews, and published 6 books on Supernatural. Knowing this was the last time I would sit here and listen to her introduction, after 12 years here at Comic Con…it was a lot. It’s been a lot to be privileged to experience, and it will be a lot to give up.
Whether you’ve been on this wild ride from the very first Supernatural appearance prior to its airing in 2005 (as were several fans I spoke to) or you discovered the show in Season 14 and binged to catch up, every fan has their own shared story with Supernatural. Everyone has a reason why the show is special, their own history with Sam and Dean and Cas and company. We each know what the show and the cast and the fandom have done for us. And as we start the journey through the “last year”, that makes it an emotional journey indeed.
The panel kicked off, as it usually does, with a filmed compilation. I’ll never forget the epic year that WB installed surround screens ALL OVER Hall H and it was Sam and Dean in the Impala racing around them, followed by Kansas performing Carry On Wayward Son LIVE.
But this compilation was also special – because it was a look back at the ENTIRE series. And it began with this sign.
And yes, it made me cry.
The montage then began with those iconic scenes from the pilot, “We got work to do” and then took us on a wild ride through the seasons, each one introduced with its number. FOURTEEN seasons, countless special moments flashed before our eyes, a visceral reminder of how incredible this show and its cast and crew have been.
The audience cheered our favorite scenes and our favorite characters, and if we were filled with emotion before, it was overflowing now.
And the video ended with this.
Which made me cry even more.
And then the last Hall H panel began – moderated by the only two people who could possibly do it justice: Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict. I feel like we are the luckiest fandom ever to have two actors from the show, who play iconic characters, and who happen to be super talented at improv and at emceeing panels (which they do constantly at Supernatural conventions). They came out wearing trench coats, then quipped, “We’re cosplaying…. Sam and Dean in the rain…”
They got us to laugh so we could temporarily put down the tissues.
Rich and Rob were also emotional though – not only have they been on the show since its early seasons, but it has changed their lives in countless ways. Rob and Louden Swain have their own passionate fan base. Rich is now an accomplished director who’s directing three episodes in Season 15. It was so much more meaningful having them anchoring the panel; they’re part of the family. They get it.
Rob and Rich introduced the panel – showrunners Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb, writers and exec producers Eugenie Ross-Leming, Brad Buckner and Robert Berens, and Alex Calvert, Misha Collins, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. The actors were all clearly moved as they took the stage, trying to take it all in and remember this unique experience of being applauded by a room full of 7,000 some people. Jared and Jensen stood side by side and paused for a few photos, physically anchoring each other through all the emotion.
Misha sat down and just smiled, looking out over the crowd. Alex was clearly trying to take it all in.
Rich and Rob kicked off the panel by asking the first question – where are your heads at? You grew up with the show, and now it comes to an end, how are you feeling about it all? What’s your grand take away from this?
Jared: That’s so mean to start with, I’m trying not to cry, can we all just start crying?
Most of us: We’re way ahead of you!
Jensen said that what he’s gotten from the show are lifelong friends, experiences of a lifetime, and this (gestures to crowd).
He paused, looking out at the sea of adoring fans.
Sunday is always a fun day at a Supernatural con – also always the most hectic! It’s alot more fun (and a bit less hectic) if you have a ton of friends there to help out in the vendor room and to share the special moments with during panels and photo ops and autographs. Some of my favorite people in the entire universe were at Dallas con, so Sunday was extra fun.
And Jared and Jensen were there too, which definitely makes the day special.
The gold panel kicked off the day at 10:30, which felt much too early to both of us. And to Jensen, who savored his customary cup of Starbucks in between answering fan questions.
Lynn: The floof is impressive from the side, isn’t it? (Okay, who am I kidding, it’s impressive from any and all angles. Jensen’s recent back-to-work selfie proved that beyond a doubt)
Jared wore his customary gold panel beanie, which I think is as much a security blanket as Jensen’s coffee and allows them both to wake up and get comfy with the crowd as they settle back into con space.
Jared’s beanie really brings out his beautiful eyes, doesn’t it?
A fan asked about their Saturday routine when they’re at a con. Jared prefers a steakhouse dinner, which he says they often have the night before a con in whatever city they happen to be in. Jensen said that he works out in the morning, so he sleeps in as late as he can.
Lynn: I’m with you, Jensen. Also, the floof is out of control in this next photo – and eye crinkles! And that little boy grin! Kim captured some of my favorite moments, which always makes me happy because I can just concentrate on my live tweeting. I no longer even bring my actual camera when I know Kim’s going to be sitting next to me – why bother?
They were also asked about advice for planning a wedding.
Kim: I especially loved Jensen’s answer; as a wedding photographer, I take it as my responsibility to make sure the bride and groom have a quiet moment to themselves. Jensen said someone had given him that advice, to make the time to sit back and take it all in and enjoy the moment.
Lynn: I’m sure someone else more memorable gave Jensen that advice, but I got momentarily excited because I gave him that advice too. Shortly before his wedding, I was at an album release party in LA and Jensen was there. I must have had one drink too many, because I ended up giving him unsolicited wedding advice about the importance of making sure that he and Danneel had FUN, and not getting too caught up in worrying about all the details. I guess I kept patting his shoulder enthusiastically to emphasize the importance of this advice, to my great embarrassment when a friend helpfully pointed that out after the fact.