Supernatural Director Jensen Ackles Hits It Hard with Atomic Monsters

Supernatural’s fourth episode of its fifteenth and final season reminded me of all the reasons I’m going to be a sobbing mess when the show wraps – and I don’t have this sort of episode to dig into and enjoy! Written by Davy Perez and directed by Jensen Ackles himself, ‘Atomic Monsters’ ran the gamut (as some of the most enjoyable Supernatural episodes do) from action hero sequence to humor to meta to tear-your-heart-out boys in the car conversation. In other words, exactly what I want from my Show.

I was bouncing with anticipation for the opening sequence after hearing Ackles talk about it so excitedly and hearing some of his original ideas (never doubt that the man can write), and then reading some of his interviews about the sequence. Jensen sent a full pitch to showrunner Andrew Dabb, who came back saying he loved it but it wasn’t possible unless they were doing a full length feature film. (Um, who’s on board to watch that film? Line up to the left).

Ackles and stunt coordinator Rob Hayter posted the two of them practicing some of the John Wick type moves in the studio. Jensen’s conversation with Rob: “Let’s go hard here. We’re gonna go big, we’re gonna do like a full Dean Winchester as John Wick.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

All the applause for triple threat writer/director/actor Ackles for creating the perfect showcase for the character he loves so much, making Dean badass (and bearded) and showing off his own smooth stunt moves in the process. He filmed the sequence red lit, much like the  scenes of demon Dean tracking down his brother in the bunker, with the lighting giving it all a surreal feel and somehow accentuating the violence and desperation.

We get the feeling this is Dean, but not our Dean, as he takes down demon after demon, stalking the familiar halls of the bunker. The dread builds as he encounters a fallen comrade – and we realize it’s Benny.

I’ve complained already about too many characters being brought back in one episode, but this time it worked for me, in part because Ty Olsson was in a short but emotional scene. Despite his few lines, the chemistry between Ackles and Olsson was clear, as was Dean’s genuine affection for Benny, and the lines that he did have hit right in the heart. The show is understanding and leaning into the power of the call back this season, as we all try to prepare ourselves to wrap it up. Benny’s words to Dean echoed his words from many seasons ago, as Benny once again dies.

Benny: I’ll see you on the other side, brother.

Well done, Ty Olsson and Jensen Ackles.

Jensen also shared that it was he who wanted someone memorable to be killed in the fight sequence, and suggested Olsson. Although Ty was working elsewhere, he was able to fly in for just a few hours to do the scene, and he killed it. And we got another fan favorite character back before the show ends! Interestingly, in this sequence – which seems to be an alternate reality – Benny is human. But it seems like in every universe they’re in, Dean and Benny care about each other.

Our sense of dread builds as the body count increases, and when Dean finally demands “Where is he?” I think we all knew who he was looking for.  It’s still shocking to see Sam standing there, lit in red, a halo of beautiful hair around that handsome familiar face – which looks totally unfamiliar because of the cold expression. All Sam’s empathy, which Jared Padalecki is so skilled at showing us, is gone. Erased. Sam’s voice is cold, even in the face of his brother’s pleading. Long before his eyes go black, we know that this Sam is not going to hear Dean. And that is profoundly terrifying, upending the one thing that we all count on for this Show. The Winchesters always, always care about each other.

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Supernatural Returns to Toronto – An Emotional Torcon 2019

 

Toronto is always a special place for the Supernatural gang to come back to. It was the con where long ago Jensen came back onstage after everything had wrapped up and picked up an acoustic guitar and sang a few songs for those of us lucky enough to still be in the ballroom. It was the con where Rob Benedict had his stroke, and his fellow Supernatural cast members saved his life. It was the con where, the very next year, Rob’s friends all put on a concert in his honor as he continued to recover and the Saturday Night Special started to become the emotional thing that it is today.

I love the hotel where it’s at and the hot dog carts and Tim Horton’s right outside and getting to see some fellow fans who I only encounter at this particular con. This year was no exception – and we got more Ackles songs, not exactly laid back and tentative anymore though.

Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, as always. It’s a good way to start the day.

Rachel: I chose acting because it seemed like the best way to get to magical realms is the most Rachel Miner thing to say ever.

She also had some interesting things to say about the show and about the way in which fans interact with the show, which I always appreciate.

Rachel: I think Cas will be happiest if he feels he’s done some good in the world, so that’s what I want from him.

But she was quick to point out that’s her interpretation, just like the fact that she enjoys the idea of Megstiel.

Rachel: When it comes to shipping, my imagination is not your imagination, and it’s all okay. I like Meg and Cas together though!

And if you ship something that’s never on the screen?

Rachel: If you don’t like the way writers take something, you have the creativity to imagine the story the way you like it. When I was younger, I’d get very emotional about characters I loved, and that helped me.

My phone was on the wrong setting so I got absolutely no decent photos of Rachel, which makes me sad :/

Next up was Jason Manns. He and Rob and Billy did some Station Breaks, but at first Jason was oddly reluctant to hand over his guitar to Rob – turns out it was to cover up the sweat spot!

That threw Rob into a fit of laughter, which was adorable.

Rob and Jason were so pleased that some of us sang along to the “three ibuprofen headache” line in “Gone”, which was also adorable.

Then we had some Jason “quoncert”.

Jason on picking the songs for Covers With Friends: I keep a running tally of songs I think would be fun and who might sing them.

Next up were the OG Friday fluffers, Chad Lindberg and Gabriel Tigerman.

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Supernatural New Jersey 2019!

 

New Jersey is my “home con”. That means I can load a bunch of boxes of books into my car and drive there – and then hope I can find someone to help me get them all up the long long ramp and into the convention center!

I didn’t really need to worry, because as always, fandom comes through. I was on my own in the vendor room officially, but dozens of people came by on a regular basis to check on me and see if I needed a bathroom break (to the ONE bathroom for the entire convention center….don’t get me started about how much I hate this venue…) or a hot dog or another bottle of water. Two of the nicest women ever helped me wrangle a luggage cart from my nearby hotel and load and unload the boxes of books to and from my car. Another lovely woman delivered my photo ops right to my vendor table so I wouldn’t have to go grab them at the end of the con. The entire weekend was full of the best of SPNFamily, honestly. I met so many people who have read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by it. I got to have dinner with my friend Trish from Attitudes in Reverse (one of the charities that the book benefits) and with a fellow acafan who’s teaching a course on leadership and Supernatural and her inspiring student.

As we got ready for the final season of Supernatural to kick off, everyone seemed to want to just relish our time together while we have it.

Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, who always starts the con off with smiles and sparkles and words that inevitably make me feel better about people and life in general. I love the chapter that Rachel wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, and the way she looks at the world.

Rachel on what it’s meant to be part of the SPNFamily: Everyone in this group are abnormally good humans.

Rachel advises to keep reminders of whatever it is that inspires you. She keeps pictures on her computer, some of them from fans.

She also talked about the importance of finding community and being able to help each other, something that Random Acts has done for many fans.

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‘Raising Hell’ With Supernatural 15.02

 

Episode two of the fifteenth and final season of Supernatural was called ‘Raising Hell’. I’m not sure why it was called that, since Hell was ostensibly already “raised” in the first episode, but it turned out to be sort of fitting anyway, since the episode raised a fair amount of disagreement and infighting amongst the stressed-out-because-we’re-about-to-lose-this-show fandom. As a fan, I sometimes agree with all the sides. I understand the fans who don’t want to hear any complaints or criticisms, who desperately want their last 19 episodes of the show to be something that feels good, a celebration without critique that brings only joy and lots of good memories. I understand that feeling; I tend to be good at forgiving, handwaving and even ignoring in order to appreciate the good parts of what I love. On the other hand, I also understand the fans who are critical of an episode. When you only have 19…18….episodes left, having one of those feel unsatisfying is tough to swallow. I’m somewhere in between the extremes.

The writers of this episode are not always my favorites, as I’ve said before. They have written some good episodes, but there are quite a few that haven’t worked well for me. Whether it’s because they’re seasoned television writers or because they just enjoy juggling, these are the writers who often are given the episodes that include everything but the kitchen sink (which I’m sure, in all fairness, is challenging). Some people like that and are happy to greet each new revelation with a more is better attitude. That’s not me. I like to savor each little bit of this show. I like the show to spool itself out without too much rushing, and for every moment to be invested with depth and a meaning I have to work a bit to figure out. I’m not just here for the action; I expect the show to give me insight into the characters that are why I love it.  I start to get a headache when there’s too much going on that isn’t well connected to the main characters or when there are too many characters jammed into one episode.

We’ve been told that lots of ‘fan favorite’ characters will be coming back this season, which makes sense. It’s the last season, our last chance to see some of our favorites and perhaps to give them a proper send off. I’ve been on board with that revelation, and at the same time concerned that it would be overdone, so that each return wouldn’t have the gravity it’s due. For me, that happened in this episode. Rowena and Chuck were back, which was expected, so I won’t consider those a “return” as much as a they’re-part-of-the-current-storyline. But in addition to Rowena and Chuck (and new character Belphegor) in this episode, we had three other returns: Amara, Ketch and Kevin. That’s a lot of returns in one episode!

I like all three of the returning characters, and the actors did a wonderful job with their portrayals. While I initially wasn’t a Ketch fan, I’ve warmed up to the character over the seasons, partly I suspect because David Haydn-Jones is an awesome human being and a talented enough actor that he brings a vulnerability to Ketch that’s unexpected and interesting. Most of fandom was spoiled for all three returns, which also dilutes the impact considerably, and while I don’t entirely know if it made sense for Ketch to turn up there in the nick of time, I could go with it.

Then we had the return of Amara, something fandom also knew about. I loved Emily Swallow showing us Amara’s evolution (and her snazzy new wardrobe) but by the time we saw her and Chuck, the episode was already feeling a bit crowded.

And then we got the most emotional return of all – Kevin Tran. Again, most of us knew he’d be back, which diminished the impact, unfortunately. I was happy he was coming back; It’s no secret that I love Osric Chau to bits and that I adored his character. But by the time Kevin appeared, I think I actually exclaimed “Kevin too??”

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Happy Birthday Rob Benedict – And Here’s to Season 15!

 

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:

Looking Back – Rob Benedict and SPNFamily

He’s pretty special.

Happy birthday, Rob – here’s to much much more of your beautiful music and inspired acting, and to an amazing Season 15!

— Lynn

You can read Rob’s heart-stopping chapter in

Family Don’t End With Blood, links at the

Home page!