The Last Con While Supernatural Is Still Filming (Maybe) – Vegas 2020!

This is a tough time for everyone. For fans of Supernatural, it’s also the countdown to the ending of the show that has gotten us through our toughest times for the past fifteen years. I’ve seen the fandom and the cast come together online to try and offer ways to help each other get through this, from posting adorable family home videos to organizing rewatch parties to Stage It shows to virtual cons. For our part, we’re really hoping that our new book, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, that celebrates the legacy of Supernatural will also be a help to this SPNFamily we love.

We planned the book because we knew this would be a hard time for Supernatural fans and cast – hoping that a book to hang onto that celebrates the legacy of the show and its importance would be a help getting through. But we had no idea just how hard this time would truly be. Our hope is that getting There’ll Be Peace When  You Are Done out in early May will be a bright spot for the SPNFamily both for the show’s ending and the painful position all of humanity is in right now. Preorder link is at the end – and you get some freebies right now to amuse you until the release date.

We’ll try to do our part here on the blog too, with more features from the new book and its authors – both cast and fans – in the coming weeks. Here’s our first offering of ‘bright spots’ to give Supernatural fans something positive to hang onto – our adventures at the last Supernatural convention for who knows how long, SPNVegas. And some pretty pictures.

Happy reading!

Everyone knew that this year’s Vegas Supernatural con was going to be an emotional one. For one thing, there hadn’t been a con since November, so cast and fans and vendors were all missing each other a great deal. Even more impactful, this was the last convention during which Jared, Jensen and Misha were still filming Supernatural. The last con at which they still *were* Sam, Dean and Cas. (Or at least that was the plan – who knows what’s going to happen now!)

As I boarded my flight on Wednesday morning – more than two weeks ago as I write this – (clutching my hand sanitizer and incredibly thankful that there was no one sitting next to me), I kept thinking that this was the last convention that would be the same as all the ones before it. I’ve been going to these cons for 13 years, since 2007, and all this time, Jared and Jensen have been Sam and Dean. If you know me at all, you know that my questions are always show questions. I am always dying to know what they thought about their character’s emotional reaction to whatever was happening on the show, or what their head canon is about the latest episode. This would be the last convention where I could ask those sort of questions and still have ongoing canon to spool out before us. The last one in which the Winchesters’ and Castiel’s stories are not yet over; not yet fully told. At this point as I post this, we don’t know when they will actually be able to film the last two episodes, but it will certainly be different, and not something that happened organically, with the crew that has been family for fifteen years, in a continuous season of filming. There will never be a convention quite like this one ever again.

Like so many things I’m emotional about that have to do with my favorite show ending, it sounds silly to be so worked up about this kind of ‘never again’ – but it’s not. This show, these conventions, these actors, have been a big part of my life and the lives of most Supernatural fans – whether you’re there in person or not, everyone enjoys the panels and getting to know the cast of our favorite show better. And while some things won’t entirely change going forward, some most definitely will. There are cons planned throughout 2020 (assuming COVID19 allows any), but they will still be different. And now that the entire world is on the brink of apocalypse, I need the healthy escape and inspiration of my favorite fictional characters more than ever!

So let’s just say I arrived in Vegas already a bit teary eyed. It seems weird to write this now, only two weeks later, but at the time we didn’t know just how serious and widespread COVID19 would be. Nevertheless, I followed an air hugs only rule at the con, washed my hands constantly, and kept a bottle of hand sanitizer at my vendor table throughout the con. I’m now very glad I did!

Luckily my good friend Laurena met me at the airport so we could share this entire experience, and ensure that neither of us totally decompensated from being emotionally overwhelmed at some point. We caught an Uber and consoled each other with a plan of an afternoon lounging in the sun beneath the palm trees at the Rio’s beautiful pool. Ahhh, just what two people escaping from Philly and Chicago needed in early March!

I have a love/hate relationship with the Rio. It’s always where the Vegas con is, and that makes me fond of it in that nostalgic way I have of being fond of everything that’s familiar in my life and can anchor me to the good stuff. On the other hand, there was that year the entire bathroom overflowed with sewage in the middle of the night – literally bubbling up out of our sink and tub and toilet – that sent me and my roommates out onto the casino floor in our PJ’s with a luggage cart of all our hurriedly stacked up belongings to move rooms at 3 am. Not one of my best memories.

So when Laurena and I arrived and were informed that the pool was CLOSED, it was like a flashback to that earlier trauma. Closed??? For the entire time we’d be here? What’s worse, it wasn’t just the pool – it was the entire outside area. There was literally nowhere to sit outside and enjoy the Vegas warmth. We ended up sitting at the shuttle stop on a metal bench, feeling pretty forlorn, just to get some fresh air for a little while.

First it was the announcement that this would be a “no-touch” con, thanks to COVID19, which was upsetting to many fans who were looking forward to hugging their faves in a photo op, even if everyone was starting to understand that it was probably very necessary. Then no pool??

Late lunch at Hash House, which is always a treat, made us feel a bit better. Then it was time to open our table in the vendor room, and to reunite with all the awesome vendor squad people I hadn’t seen in way too long. I was so exhausted from the time change and travel that I almost crashed right after, but luckily I decided to join my friend Lisa and a bunch of her friends – all of them writers – for a late dinner. Well, really for some delicious milkshakes. YUM! And writing talk, which I always enjoy.

 

Thursday the convention itself kicked off. Vegas is four days long (five if you count Wednesday evening vending and events), so it’s really more like an endurance marathon. The walk to the convention area of the Rio is approximately ten miles long, so endurance really is the right word. My knees have still not recovered.

There were SO many friends at this con, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to catch up with so many people since I have no clue when we’ll all be together again. HR was there with his newest awesome sculptures – I’m always blown away by the talent in this fandom!

Can’t you just hear Jack saying “Hello…”?

Thursday kicked off the con itself. After an intro by Rob and the band, first up was a panel by DJ Qualls, who hasn’t been to a con in a while. It was wonderful to see him, and heartwarming to hear the SPNFamily’s enthusiastic support of DJ, who had recently come out as gay.

DJ: Everyone knows I came out, right? I really was never in to anyone who knew me. But I learned at the time I started in this business that Hollywood wanted you to be quiet about it.

He shared the whole story to lots of cheers.

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Supernatural Returns For Its Final Run with Galaxy Brain 15.12

 

I’m in an entirely new headspace for watching the last episodes of Supernatural, which is making writing a recap and review an entirely new challenge. There’s a big part of me that just wants to watch and drink it up, absorb every last morsel of experience with my favorite fictional characters and savor it, no matter what. I am acutely aware, every single second that I’m watching, that my last minutes with the Winchesters and company are ticking down. The other part of me is aware of the same thing but reacts instead with “omg please don’t waste a single moment of these last minutes!” That part is more likely to get frustrated when it seems like those precious moments are indeed wasted.

That’s complex enough, but I am also acutely aware that there are competing motivations here. As a fan, I want the last eight episodes to be satisfying – to continue the story that has meant so much to me and to wrap it up in a way that makes sense and honors the characters I love. For the people who actually make the show – the cast, the crew, and the writers – the motivation is different; more personal, more idiosyncratic. I value the fictional story and characters; they value their workplace and their colleagues and perhaps their legacy with this show. I’m most concerned about wrapping the story; they may be most concerned about saying goodbye to friends and coworkers, or about wrapping their own part of the story instead of the holistic one. Nobody is right or wrong, but it means we’re going to want different things and respond to things differently as we head toward the end.

And as if all that wasn’t complex enough, COVID19 has changed the entire landscape of the world and made Supernatural ending even more emotional than it already was – and much more complicated. Some days, it seems like the world is crumbling around us, and I realize that I need Supernatural more than ever. Yes, I know it’s “just a television show”, but it has been a lifeline for many fans for a decade and a half. I don’t know when we’ve ever needed that lifeline more than right now, in the grip of a global pandemic that is attacking people’s health, safety and livelihoods. When this beloved show is gone, the world will seem that much colder and scarier. I think we’ll make sure the lifeline is still there in terms of the fan community and continuing to engage with the cast in whatever they’re doing, but we won’t have the ongoing story itself to immerse ourselves in. That just means my emotions are running higher than ever about Supernatural ending!

And finally, the ending itself is all up in the air right now. Filming was suspended at the end of last week, as it had just begun on the penultimate (I know, nobody says penultimate…) episode, 15.19. The last one to finish filming was 15.18, which likely left us in a cliffhanger situation without an end. Yesterday producer Jim Michaels reassured a worried fandom that once it was safe to resume, they would “finish what we started” but the uncertainty just adds to the anxiety of impending loss. Will the crew who has been a part of this family since the start be able to be there to resume too? I’m trying to take heart from what Michaels said and not worry, but it seems like worry is a lot of what I’m doing right now!

That said, I was glad to have Supernatural return on Monday night with episode 15.12, Galaxy Brain, written by Robert Berens and Meredith Glynn, and directed by Richard Speight, Jr. It wasn’t a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your seat episode by any means, but its last scene did set up the foundation for how the rest of the series will go. I didn’t jump up and down and scream about how much I love this show as I was watching, but it had its moments that were satisfying – as well as a few head scratchers.  Mostly, it made me aware that we all participate in this show for different reasons and have different motivations, so for some, this episode satisfied, and for others, it frustrated.

I had a few emotional moments, so I always count that as a win.

Rob Benedict returns as Chuck on ‘Earth 2’ as the episode begins, in a Radio Shed with a hapless and very relatable employee trying to sell him a universal remote. I had to laugh at how right they got it, memories of once-beloved Radio Shack stores making me all kinds of nostalgic.

I enjoyed the nod to Rob’s actual band, Louden Swain, as one of their songs plays in the store – with a lyric that includes “I had a dream that I ate your heart” that is just too perfect considering Jack’s charge from Billie this season. In fact, the fake store was so well done by Jerry Wanek and his amazing crew that director Richard Speight, Jr. tweeted that a few people came in off the street to try to buy a phone!

Chuck then goes full on meta – a little too on the nose for me at this point, even though I usually enjoy the meta. I enjoy it less now that we have so little time – I just want episodes that focus on saving people, hunting things, the family business. And I find myself wanting to stay ‘in the story’ more, knowing I have so little of it left.

Chuck: It’s monologue time.

Me: Okay, Show. We get it.

Employee: Sir, this is a Radio Shed.

That was one of the best lines in the episode and it made me laugh out loud. Kudos to Nicco DelRio for that delivery and Speight’s directing.

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Louden Swain Rocks Austin!

When Louden Swain announced two shows in Austin, Kim immediately suggested we go. It was two days before the new semester started, but on the other hand they were playing on my actual birthday, so – what better way to celebrate! Great music and a much-needed weekend away with lots of my favorite people. So off to Austin we went!

Kim and I have been there a few times before, once for the first Supernatural Day and once for our friend Alana’s birthday (Austin seems to be the SPNFamily birthday destination in my little corner of the fandom). This was the first time Louden Swain would be playing there while we were there, though! What I didn’t count on was injuring my back – and then my knee because of my back – long story, but suffice it to say my doc and PT person said “no long flights, not too much walking or standing, no uneven ground.”

Errrr….okay? So I flew to Texas, went to two back to back concert shows, and walked all over Family Business Beer Co, which happens to have pathways made of rocks and uneven ground with tree branches everywhere. Everyone SHHHHH. The things you do for fandom….

Kim and I met up at the Austin airport and our friends Bev and Betty picked us up before we headed out to FBBC to squeeze in a delicious gyro before the Shawarma food truck closed – yum!

Then it was on to the spacious house a whole bunch of us were sharing – gotta love Airbnb! Eight fangirls, a fully stocked fridge, mimosas and pan fried bacon and eggs in the morning and good company – does it get better than this?

Alana and Liz picked us up after breakfast and we headed out to FBBC again – if in Austin, there is no better place to hang out. It was a beautiful day, and we sat under the trees and did some filming that you’ll see on Alana’s youtube channel very soon announcing what we both hope is some exciting news. Kim played director (watch out, Ackles and Speight and Cohen, Kim is good at this!)  I also filmed a little “Who wrote this” video for the #GuessTheSPNScene youtube. Well, Alana filmed it, I just read a passage from Family Don’t End With Blood.

We chatted with the many other fannish friends who were there, had some more delicious food, took alot of selfies and generally enjoyed having lots of Supernatural inclined folks all in the same place. It’s a luxury and I relish it every single time! What better way to spend my birthday?

Then we drove into Austin and to The North Door to wait for the doors to open. Doors opened a bit late, so there was alot of standing in line in the alley, which of course was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. For a while, I sat on the wall beside the door, only to realize that was a dangerous spot to be in – there were HUNDREDS of birds perched on the scaffolding right above my head, and they were doing what birds do when they’re above you. Everyone covered their heads and tried to get out of the way. A few times, a loud kazoo chorus scared them away temporarily, but they figured out pretty quickly that kazoos were not dangerous and returned to stalk us all.

The Birds!!
Photo Liz Madsen

Finally the doors opened for the VIP meet and greet – yay! I had made arrangements to be able to sit up in the balcony because of my injuries, so I hobbled up the stairs and pretty much stayed there other than a few trips to the ladies room. It meant we couldn’t stand close to the band to ask questions, but it also meant my injuries didn’t worsen too much over the weekend.

Anticipation was building!

Pre Show – Photo Liz Madsen

Someone reminded the band it was my birthday, and they were sweet enough to wish me a happy one. The questions were good ones and the band’s answers were sometimes insightful and sometimes downright hilarious. I particularly enjoyed Rob’s blow by blow story of how they got into the wrong Uber, loaded ALL their gear, found out it was the wrong one, got into another IDENTICAL vehicle, and somehow all their gear no longer fit.

Rob is a gifted story teller – if you haven’t read the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood that takes you moment by moment through the time he had a stroke at a convention and how he survived with the help of his fellow actors and the fandom, you’ll be shocked at how compelling a read it is. And he’s always hilarious doing ‘stand up’ whether at a meet and greet like this or onstage with Richard Speight at a con (or doing Kings of Con, for that matter!)

Jensen Ackles joined the spectators for the meet and greet portion of the show, standing on the balcony right across from us and waving to the crowd in greeting. He seemed to be enjoying Rob and Billy and Stephen and Mike’s answers as much as the rest of us, and the fans just let him be a part of the audience as we all focused on Louden Swain. The green room and backstage area was also across from where we were, and Jensen headed there after the meet and greet to chat some more. At some point, Jared and Gen Padalecki also arrived – it made me all kinds of emotional seeing how much this group of actors supports each other, always.

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Supernatural Returns From Last Mid Season Hiatus with ‘The Trap’

 

Supernatural returned from its very last mid season hiatus with an episode that fans waited for with a wide range of emotions, which is probably going to be par for the course for the last eleven episodes of the series. I have mixed feelings every time an episode airs, because it’s one episode closer to the end, and because it’s one more chance to take the show somewhere I may not want to follow, knowing there’s no time for that to change anymore. This is not an easy thing, staying with a show you’ve loved for fifteen years to the bitter end! It feels like an emotional and psychological risk, which is something I’ve never experienced before with television.

I’m actually really looking forward to next week’s episode, which will be a ‘funny’ one – at least in parts. I feel like I need a break from all the angst and stress! To think, this used to be my stress reliever!

So here are the things I liked and the things that didn’t work too well for me. It was a kickass ‘The Road So Far’. I watch those beginnings and am always in awe of just what a remarkable show this is. We also had an amazing Shaving People Punting Things video the week before, which made this next string of episodes look truly epic. I think sometimes those editors get the show better than anyone!

Anyway, the episode was split into two story lines, as it so often is. Sam and Eileen wake up tied to chairs, captured by Chuck. I’ve said before that I thought Chuck had a hand in manipulating Sam and Eileen and it turns out that yes, he put her in Sam’s path and made that spell fall out (that was obviously too much of a coincidence) and let Sam being a good person do the rest. What an awful thing for Eileen and Sam to find out. How do you have any hope of sorting out which of your feelings are real and which aren’t? Worse yet, did you really have agency (and the capacity for any kind of consent) when you acted on those feelings? Chuck really is a bad bad guy. I’m still confused as to why Sam looked so conflicted about his relationship with Eileen the entire time, though. Side effect of Chuck’s “nudges”? Was he somehow sensing the interference? We may never know.

Chuck’s explanation is particularly cruel.

Chuck: I couldn’t see you. I needed eyes and ears on the inside… well, eyes.

Ouch. If you wanted to turn Chuck into an irredeemable villain, Show, that’s a good way to do it. So vicious and pointed. Rob delivered it perfectly; I could appreciate that even as I literally cringed hearing it.

I love that Eileen shot back, “Screw you.”

Shoshannah Stern delivers the line with all the venom and badassery it warranted.

Yeah, screw you, Chuck! (But not you, Rob, I still adore you)

Meanwhile, Dean is worrying about not being able to reach Sam, not knowing that Sam and Eileen are captured. I also love that Eileen almost did screw Chuck over by managing to place a call to Dean (more badassery). I’m assuming her phone has a convert to text feature because Dean kept yelling “Eileen?” into the phone.  Unfortunately, Chuck realizes and picks up.

Dean: Chuck, you dick!

Chuck: Bye, Dean.

Dean tracks Sam’s phone, and smart Winchesters make me happy. Cas is also doing something smart – making Leviathan bullets out of Borax.

Dean: We need to go!

Cas: To Purgatory.

Not what Dean meant; he’s understandably focused on saving Sam and Eileen. They argue, and Dean says he’s not leaving Sam, because he’s Dean.

Cas: Stop being so stupid!

I was taken aback by that. Castiel in this episode is written as had-it-up-to-here, bristling with anger and resentment. We don’t always see Castiel’s emotions come to the surface, but I think he’s every bit as angry as Dean has been, to the point where he’s harsh and sometimes cold. It’s not the “badass Cas” which we’ve seen before, it’s as though he’s so angry that he’s put up a wall.

The episode had a lot to say about anger, but not all of it was easy to decipher. We saw Dean’s anger come spilling out in his initial fight with Cas, in which he lashes out with some hurtful things. Everyone expresses anger differently, and in this episode we saw Castiel’s anger too. I think he walked out on that fight with Dean because it was just too painful, but it was also clearly because he was angry. Otherwise he would have picked up Sam’s phone calls. His response to anger is to withdraw and then to put up a cold shoulder and refuse to be reached, literally or figuratively. Maybe I can’t stop my psychologist brain from kicking in, but this is a familiar pattern. One person goes on the attack, spewing hurtful words, then the other withdraws and puts up a wall. Both are expressions of anger and intended to hurt. Often one of those people is very afraid of abandonment; in this case, that applies to both of them, so the withdrawal and stonewalling is an effective counterattack (that probably impact Dean’s later breakdown).

Cas points out that they have no way to kill Chuck and that going to Purgatory and doing the spell is the way they’ll save Sam – and the world.

Surprisingly, Dean goes along fairly quickly, which I didn’t expect. I had a little trouble with that instant capitulation, much like the scene in the tunnels in Season 13 when Dean tries to go after an in-peril Sam and Cas stops him. Dean seemed a little too easy to convince here too. However, Cas does have a point, so maybe Dean just reluctantly agreed. The pacing (or the editing?) was wonky in this episode, so perhaps some things that were meant to be conveyed just didn’t come through.

Back to the casino (isn’t it interesting that Chuck has taken up residence at a casino? He loves rolling the dice and playing the odds, especially when it’s with other people’s lives.)

Chuck does a lot of dialoguing in this episode, which Rob Benedict pulls off quite well. He decides to dig out the god bullet in Sam’s shoulder that he realizes is keeping him weak, but hesitates. (I at first thought it was because it would hurt Chuck too, because isn’t that exactly what we’ve been told in canon? But no, that’s apparently been discarded, because Chuck calmly plays guitar while Sam has a knife dug into him). For some reason, Sam thinks it would be a good idea to taunt God while he’s holding a knife to him, ridiculing Chuck for not being able to get his hands dirty.

Sam: You just like to watch.

Oooh, Sam. Good one. But still not sure it’s a great idea…

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The Last Supernatural Con of the Decade – Jacksonville 2019

 

Jacksonville is a great venue for a con, with the vendor room in a gigantic brightly lit room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I was fortunate to have my friend Christina with me at the vendor table all weekend, along with other friends who stopped by to chat or bring food and a latte or give me a bathroom break. I always leave conventions feeling so warm and fuzzy about this fandom, and this cast, and this show. Maybe because we all knew this was the last con of the decade, there were even more warm and fuzzy feelings than usual – along with some anticipatory sadness, knowing the end of the show is coming.

The con kicked off, as it often does, with a panel by Rachel Miner. Rachel always makes me smile, so it’s a good way to start the day.

One of the things I love most about Rachel is that she’s a bona fide geek, just like so many of us are. She spent a few minutes sorting her colleagues ala Hogwarts.

About Billy Moran?

Rachel and Rob: Slytherin for sure!

Rachel: I’m a big Dr. Who fan. I’d love to be on that crossover. I feel like that’s why we all connect, because I’m such a nerd.

She’d also love to see Meg team up with Rowena.

Fan: Double sassy!

Rachel: Meg and Dean are also alike in some ways. Snarky and afraid of their feelings.

I also love that Rachel is a proud shipper – of Meg and Cas – but also a vehement supporter of ship and let ship (or don’t ship at all).

Rachel: Everyone should ship who you want, but I ship Meg and Cas and in my fanfic version she would never turn on him.

Rachel l had some kind words for Rob and the work he’s doing as Chuck.

Rachel: I think Rob is doing such a great job. We should all be extra nice to him, because he’s still a great guy – he’s just a good actor!

She also had nice things to say about the Supernatural set, and how special it is.

Rachel: I’ve never had that feeling of being taken care of on another set, and that feeling like you’re doing something important, but not self important, as on the set of Supernatural.

She’s also very excited to have Shoshannah Stern back. Shoshannah has written another project for her and Rachel, which is doubly exciting!

On a more serious note, Rachel acknowledged that life is sometimes hard.

Rachel: It’s okay to feel like life is really hard because sometimes it is, and don’t beat yourself up about feeling that. And then you can move on and notice what joy there is right here. It’s work to find that joy, though. It’s not easy. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and also take time to find the joy in even moments that are difficult.

How can you describe the SPNFamily?

Rachel: We take care of each other, and that’s a model for the whole world.

Jason Manns did his traditional “quoncert” next, playing some tunes and answering some questions.

Someone asked him how he got Jared Padalecki to sing on his Christmas CD.

Jason: I was up in Vancouver recording Jense, and Jared was hanging out and I was like, well, you’re here if you want to record a song…no pressure…

Good job, Jason!

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